Not Too Late Forever-Shepard’s World

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Posted by Jodi | Posted in Novel excerpts | Posted on 20-12-2011

A halo of doom hung in the air.  Ghostly walls of an abandoned fort, with large chunks missing, shimmered in the near distance.  The few left of the fighting group struggled along the path of defeat.  Not the first time Baret C’Hase had failed, but the first time it had been at such a cost.  He moved up the line, then back, motivating his exhausted troops.  Humanoids from various worlds, their similarities overpowered their differences.  Their bipedal attributes had served them well, until now. 

“Come on, the transports are waiting.”  Baret shivered.  Not from cold.  It was oppressively hot here.  Near and far, screams of pain stabbed the silence.  Groups, much different than his, shuffled toward the gaping holes of the stronghold.  At regular intervals a red glow grew from inside the compound.  It faded, then began again.  Small blue globules sprinkled across the landscape blended eerily with the cold dark.  Their glow spread up into the atmosphere.  . 

“Stupid squirts.”  A crewmember, with a single stripe imprinted on her tunic in bright green, kicked a bunch of cerulean pods.  They broke and spewed against Baret’s leg and up the front of the female’s uniform. 

“Don’t,” his command betrayed nothing of the tension that rippled through the ranks.  “Just get to the departure point and get out of here.  If you keep doing that, we’ll be the last to transport.”

The color of her eyes indistinguishable in the faint light, tears that spilled down her grimy cheeks reflected to him.  “I… I just want to go home.”  With a roughness he understood, she wiped her face.

“We all do.”  His tone softened.  “Move on.”

“Yes, sir.” Her back stiffened. 

“Keep going,” he called to each member of his group.  He moved back along the ranks encouraging their forward progress.  The strength in his voice surprised him.   At the wall he motioned everyone closer.  “Inside, put your packs in the circle with all the others.  Then wait for the order to advance.”

Pride in his troops swelled as they obeyed.  Injured helped over the barrier by their comrades, were pushed to the front.  Inside, they grouped together to wait. 

“Squad 135 come forward.”  A metallic voice commanded.  “Injured first.”  

“That’s us.”  Baret motioned everyone ahead of him.  Before he could make sure his command passed through to the interior, a bright flash lit the darkcycle. Sparksdrifted down around them.  “Troop 135.”  The metallic voice whined, grinding to silence. 

“Hurry.”  Baret motioned everyone toward the now glowing circle.   Outside the shell of shattered walls, embers fell all around.  Inside was no less chaotic.  A shower of sparks grew in a cone against one wall before it collapsed. 

Pop.  Pop.  Puffs of soil billowed from small explosions. 

“Drop your packs now,” Baret hollered.  “Get to the debarkation point.  Over there.”  He pointed deeper into the enclave.  Everyone did as he commanded.  Dark green lights circled from head to foot of each his command as one followed another through the transport sequence.  Each faded from sight.  

The final member of his troop stepped into the circle.  Her single stripe glowed brilliant green, as the transport process began.  Before the light could proceed down to her legs, her face twisted in agony.  She held her arms out to Baret.  Her mouth tried to form words, but no sound came out.  She grabbed her chest, where the goo from the globules had splattered.

Is that the cause?  Baret’s thoughts were drowned out.   

Even though her form faded, screams lingered in the silence.

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