This story was first serialized in 30 daily parts during November 2020 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.
I produce fiction bi-weekly on my Patreon: this includes flash fiction (250 words) which is being put together to form a long-form narrative, plus a bi-weekly full novel presented in episodic format.
I woke as the 8am Shuttle docked: that most imperceptible of nudges to the station’s superstructure is always enough. My first thought is always of you, as is the last one before sleeping. You are the constant, implacable reminder that a life exists after war ends. Checking Field Reports, there is reassurance: not much has changed since I slept. A constant wish remains, to know more than the NewsNets allow, their sanitized version of truth. War’s reality is not lost on a doctor whose task it is to tend to the wounded who return from it.
Except there are no patients. The last transport carrying casualties arrived a month ago, and was virtually empty. I am employed at present as a record keeper, an organizer of other people’s equipment, to run and exercise at the pleasure of the United Nations Task Force. I am alone. The news is scant, and heavily redacted, for reasons I understand yet still despise. The aggressors maintain their hold on our planet, nothing more than symbolic dust and ash. Occasional flashpoints take place above its orbit, in the System. Right now, it is calm between storms.
I’ve been watching the holograms we made before you left, remembering back to those last weeks when we both knew what was coming, but didn’t care. All that mattered was the moments, our intimacy, and the spaces in-between filled with laughter, constant companionship. I miss you. Staring across the stratosphere, I can’t grasp only a year has passed since your carrier was deployed. Time does strange things to perception; alters sensation, re-arranges priorities. I miss sand between my toes, surf and salt as distractions, your warmth beside me each morning.
If my scheduled screen time is cancelled again today… I won’t lie, there will be concern. The longest we have been without communication has been seven rotations. Today would make it eight. There is no point in worrying however, my work must continue, because we must be prepared.
It is hard to believe it has been a year since I learnt. No time at all has passed, only yesterday that hope and belief were real. A steady stream of casualties shows no sign of dimming: I can but hope it will not be long before our masters accept, we are defeated. These injuries are damning; undisputable taint of chemical weaponry. The enemy had dispensed with any pretence of civility or care. Our science teams work flat-out, attempting to ascertain what the agent is, so we can more effectively treat its effects. This is truly disturbing.
Being high enough up the chain of command to be considered important, I am already hearing word of imminent surrender. Planets in the system are now being evacuated. If true, our location will soon be considered the notional front line: it will be time to leave, never to return. For us to be woken so early this morning, an alert is not a surprise: scouts have been spotted on our long range scanners. If they are bold enough to approach even when terms are being negotiated, it is fair to assume nobody is safe. Sirens pierce the early dawn, and we scramble.
To hear that you’d been found, prisoner of war amongst this chaos, makes everything so much more frightening: there is no time to check the validity of these reports, only to make sure patients are evacuated. As we board the last transport out, fighters blink into the atmosphere. The station is engulfed by green flames, a chemical compound that begins to disintegrate our structure before the ship is able to reach the hyper-portal: as an unarmed medical vessel there is real belief we too will be fired on… but it doesn’t happen. The fighters show no interest.
In the safety of the hyperlane I can digest more details: you will be sent back with others, only if we leave this system for good. There is no timescale placed on repatriation, only that it will happen when our enemy considers taint cleansed from within. Their words frighten me.
I sit, looking out over a new planet, new home, and the past seems reassuringly that: no longer a worry, stress from another time. You are outside, still walking with the stick, but your prognosis is excellent. It is wounds that doctors cannot see that concern more. You are not the same person who left me, all those years ago. The spark within you has been extinguished, removed by incarceration. There are moments when that joy still exists, but they are brief, tempered by horrors I can only imagine that you lived through. I miss your smile.
War has not been kind to anyone. The scale of loss is only beginning to become apparent: seemingly healthy individuals manifesting chemical weapon’s taint, unexpected birth defects, mental health issues that may take decades to effectively address. Our society is disintegrating. In the end, to have you here is all that really matters. We must find a way, as was always the case before, and our love will sustain. There must be a belief that life will improve, or else what is the point of being here at all? Together, we will endure. Together we will evolve.
Our child, growing inside me will make sure of that: something good from the chaos, a means by which our world will rebuild, endure. All who are capable have been asked to reproduce, such is the scale of this loss. To survive as a race, we must now rely on life’s building blocks. Our daughter is already bringing joy, possibilities to a future that will be tough for us all. She is genetically protected from the scourge that killed so many of our kind, so if our enemies should choose to return they will find us already prepared. May it never come to this.
Whatever this future may bring, we will face it as a family, with love and care before hatred. My new posting, our home in the stratosphere of this planet is already secured, where medicine again will become my task, and our passion. Together, a new and better existence awaits.
Both died as they lived, with passion and voracity. To do so together, defending this planet, seems only right and proper. To triumph and simultaneously liberate us from the yoke of oppression seems doubly appropriate: except part of me is disappointed it happened. You might think as their daughter I’d feel more than simply a frustration at this turn of events, but their generation didn’t ask the right questions, just assumed superiority before destroying another race’s sacred place in the name of progress: subjugation was fair penance.
Too often our ancestors refused to learn, arrogantly assumed their expansion bettered any other race’s rights to their homes, or to maintain their own existences without interference. My parents cared, but only to a point: accepting destruction on their terms, which I refuse to. Reading my mothers’ journals, it is apparent all that mattered was their relationship, a love that blinded both to damage wrought by their superiors. Yes, these feelings were valid, important in individual context. In the wider scope of history, they were selfish and destructive.
We were left a legacy that might have been untenable, were it not for the forgiveness of what once was our enemy. They have taught lessons our own kind forgot, assumed were worthless and weak. They demonstrate even in dominance, there can be understanding. Aliens comprehend us. The land we took and destroyed has returned to its natural state: that we thought was uninhabitable is literally teeming with life again. The toxins that killed us are building blocks for a far more complex form of symbiotic growth that extends life, far beyond its normal bounds.
Unintentionally I have become a hybrid, as have millions of others across three systems. The race which our superiors set to eradicate is now inextricably linked to our own survival, and the time is coming where those who only see an Enemy will themselves become what they fear. Standing here as ambassador, with insectoid brethren, we both understand the value of grasping a wider context.
This new station, looking down into the stratosphere of their redeemed planet, is built as testament to a future where all life, however it presents, is sacred.