The thrilling conclusion to the winner of writingforums.org weekly short story contest, and the story from which this blog took its name. Enjoy!
Taco was assailed by visions. Falling to his knees, he saw the Liriads extending their hand for friendship after a Federation craft landed on their home-world. Then fire. In a moment, he experienced the two hundred year conflict between his own kind and the Liriads. Liriad children, cut down by machine gun fire, women raped, men enslaved and driven by laser whips into gas mines. Liriads racked by diseases introduced for the soul purpose of annihilation. Gun ships tearing across Olier, their home world, a blue world, with soaring cliffs and crashing oceans. A beautiful world. A beautiful world on fire. Flesh sizzling over the faces of men, women and children. Children screaming. Children crying, their parents lost. Interplanetary missile strikes incinerating cities, annihilating villages and burning… So much burning. He felt hot, like he were there. Amongst the flames. The collective sorrow of a race enslaved was not imparted, but felt. Felt like it were Taco’s own.
Taco cried. Heavy, streaming tears, he clawed at his helmet. He needed to wipe his face. If he wiped his face the tears would stop. That didn’t make sense. He curled up on the ground, clasping his head. Screaming, he begged for the creature to stop.
His spine tingled as the visions faded. They stopped and he was filled with longing. Like a toy, taken from a child, he wanted them back. Why did he want them back?
Eyes twitching, he looked up. Sweat covered his stubbly face and the involuntary tears had ceased. Wracking mental pain persisted. Taco no longer felt human. Or perhaps he felt more human than ever. The Liriad looked at him from the air lock’s interior door. Her ethereal eyes simmering in the distance. As he’d experienced the suffering of a race, she had casually strode past him.
‘Thank you,’ said the echo. Not his mothers voice, nobody’s voice, he simply knew that was what she said. Like the notion of thanks. The very idea of it had been conveyed.
Taco shivered as he watched her step into the chamber, locking the door. A momentary flicker of the lights told him that when he opened the airlock, it would be empty.
Six months later…
Taco dusted the remnants of freeze dried Chilli Con Carne from the glowing dash of the Battle Hammer II. The glossy display glowed as he lit a cigarette and the photo of a woman with potent green eyes and dyed green hair appeared with blip. He tapped the photo, accepting the call.
‘Yo, Taco my man, how’s the new girl working out? Over.’ April’s sultry voice slid through the speakers, clean and smooth.
‘Stella, a real treat. Over.’
‘Well it was about time. Anyway, mate, heel it. Nowhere’s gone. Feds are evacuating. Over.’
Taco narrowed his eyes, scratching at his matted hair. ‘I haven’t heard anything about it – ‘With a blip the image of a letter, with an exclamation point at its centre appeared on the dash. ‘ – Scratch that, just got it now. Hold? Over.’
‘Affirmative. Over,’ April said.
Taco tapped the letter, the the screen filled with text:
E.F.D.F. [Earth Federation Defence Force] Order, to the attention of: All
All craft ordered to exit Sector H123453443D6. Status amendment 3245: No Fly.
Taco wasn’t one for military reports, they didn’t make a lot of sense to him. But he clicked it anyway… And it made perfect sense.
Sector H123453443D6 Status: Code Red.
System S88743 Status: Code Red.
System S88745 Status: Code Red.
System S88746 Status: Code Red.
System S88747 Status: Code Orange.
System S88748 Status: Code Red.
EFDF Fleet CODE X1123 – 125th Marines: M.I.A.
EFDF Fleet CODE X3398 – 1023rd Marines: M.I.A.
EFDF Fleet CODE Q4432 – Archer Class: Stricken
EFDF Fleet CODE Z3245 – 1922nd Airborne: M.I.A.
EFDF Fleet CODE Q9983 – Excalibur Class: Stricken
EFDF Fleet CODE Q8402 – Excalibur Class: Stricken
It went on, and on and on. Hundreds of ships destroyed and countless divisions missing. Something horrific had happened in Nowhere.
Lighting a second from the tip of the first, Taco dragged on the fresh cigarette. A thick plume of smoke whispered through the cabin. ‘Well fuck it,’ Taco said indifferently.
After a short moment of silence April’s voice came through: ‘What? Over.’
Taco chuckled, remembering he did not have to hit a switch to communicate on his new craft. ‘Nothing, April, I got it. Turning back now. Over.’
As the Battle Hammer II swung in space like a tossed stick, Taco popped the lid to yesterday’s bottle of Mic Mannigan’s Wiltin’ Whiskey. Taking a swig, he looked out into the star studded void and wondered what, if anything, he had to do with plight that had befallen his race’s expansion.
Taco smiled as the cabin shook, the thrusters propelling him back towards Somewhere.