1455 Confederation Common Time
30 June, 2011
“I’m telling you right now, you little weasel, this is it! No more kids!” a woman said as Eric entered the medical ward. The woman was leaning up in the bed nursing her newborn infant, brown curly hair about shoulder length down her shoulders.
“Julie, we’ve got to start repopulating,” her husband, a short, stocky man named David said.
“Let me put this in terms you can understand, Mr. West Point Man,” the woman replied. “There will be no more sex for you until one of us gets fixed. Three is enough, especially when they’re all boys.”
“Don’t you want a little girl that can grow up to be as beautiful as her mother?” Dave asked sweetly.
“No, and flattery isn’t going to get you laid.”
Eric shook his head. Julie Donze had to be the most stubborn woman he knew. After receiving her Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from University of Missouri, Rolla, she had been set up with Dave by some crazy friend of hers. Dave had been an Army officer, a veteran of Iraqi Freedom and Crescent Justice, the war with Saudi Arabia. Neither one of them knew the ultimate fate of their friend, but the survivor’s rolls were still being compiled across the Confederation Fleet.
“Hey Dave, Julie,” Eric said, moving past the bed.
“Eric,” Dave said, then turned back to his wife and child.
Eric continued walking down the nearly empty medical bay. There hadn’t been many wounded during the final evacuation, and what there had been had been quickly fixed up by the Dominionites medical nanobots. Only four other beds besides Julie’s were filled, two of them with expectant mothers. For all their medical technology, the Dominionites couldn’t speed up the labor process. One more bed was filled with a vacant-eyed psychotic casualty, the stress having finally made the man snap.
It was the occupant of the fourth bed that Eric was interested in. Lying flat on her stomach while the nanobots continued to work on her back, Jessica Banner had not regained consciousness since her injury. The doctors had run out of ideas, but then had heard she was somehow known to a Star Colonel Eric Walthers, apparently her only close friend that had survived Earth’s demise. Upon further review, the doctors had realized that it was Eric ‘Lightning Rider’ Walthers, Hero of Earth that the bedraggled members of 1st Shock Brigade had been referring to in the aftermath of their own personal Little Big Horn. The one that had killed the Crown Prince and personally rode a Griffinfull of assault troops into the ground, then recovered from the heart of the explosion to charge his badly damaged mecha into a flank assault of Praetorian Guards. Apparently he had even survived that despite several eyewitness accounts that stated his mecha had exploded, starting the galaxy’s largest dead man’s switch.
The actual truth was a bit less heroic. The Praetorians had fixed the majority of the 6th and 7th Shock, their massive advantage in numbers being somewhat helpful. If Eric hadn’t destroyed the third Griffin, the battle would have been lost. As it was, a Praetorian detachment had been hustling towards his still active transponder, expecting to avenge their Crown Prince’s death, when Karin had arrived on the scene with a scratch detachment of Powell’s from the 2-70th Armor led by Jason. Utterly outclassed, the men from the 2-70th had fought and died bravely, allowing Jack enough time to shift forces to deal with the threat. With the Praetorians in a temporary retreat to await reinforcements, reinforcements that were already burning into the Earth’s atmosphere, Karin and Jack had extricated Eric from the wrecked Nikita.
With the enemy closing, Karin had made a snap decision. Working quickly, she had attached Eric’s transponder to her own mecha. She had given Jack a direct order to find Jessica, dead or alive, and given him the required information. Then, kissing the unconscious Eric goodbye, she had revved her hovertank up to its maximum speed and headed north, away from the Praetorian landing site. Predictably, the movement had the desired effect, the Praetorian and the incoming vessels starting to give chase. Karin had met her end, her Grizzly shattered under a tidal wave of battle armor.
Her death left Jack to carry out her last order, and quickly. Jack had found Jessica almost bled out, but had stabilized her. Spinal injuries were relative child’s play for the Dominionites, and she was expected to make a full physical recovery. With both Eric and Jessica strapped to the stop of his mecha in its hovertank mode, Jack had hauled ass back to Fort Riley. The last ship, the Valhalla, had been just preparing to take off when he pulled onboard. Lighting off her propulsion units, the Valhalla was followed out of orbit by General Connelly’s ship, the delay for the latter caused by a detour to Washington, D.C.. General Connelly was always a man of his word.
Not that it particularly mattered. With the destruction of Eric’s transponder, a massive time bomb had begun ticking. General Connelly had directed the Tectal to surreptiously place anti-matter warheads on the Earth’s major faultlines during their recovery operations. Triggered by the destruction of Eric’s transponder, the bombs simultaneously triggered forty-eight hours after the destruction of Eric’s transponder. The result had gone much like General Connelly had expected. Earth was no more.
With a heavy sigh Eric sat down in front of Jessica’s bed. He had just come out of the body and fender shop himself two days before. It took awhile to get used to alien technology. Reaching out, he stroked Jessica’s hair. Tears began to run down his face as he looked at her sleeping.
“You know, you really need to wake up,” he said softly, sobbing. “You don’t need any more beauty sleep.”
“You said that yesterday and the day before,” Jessica replied softly. “A girl gets tired of hearing the same lines over and over again.”
Eric nearly jumped out of his seat in joy, suddenly unable to speak. Jessica’s next words stopped the celebration.
“The first day, I thought I was in heaven,” Jessica said. “To hear your voice again…it was one of the most powerful emotions I’ve ever had. Then I realized that I was still alive, and I suddenly didn’t want to be anymore.”
Rolling over, Jessica met Eric’s eyes, her face set.
“I don’t know what’s happened to you for the past six years. I don’t care. I never want to speak to you again, Eric. Ever. Go back to wherever the hell you’ve been and stay there. Leave me alone.”
Feeling as if he had been sucker punched, Eric stood up. Taking one last look at Jessica, he turned and headed for the door.
So for those of you who read this far, what’d you think? I’ve always debated going back to this universe and fleshing things out. I will say that I got about another 10,000 words into a longer version of this, but stopped when I realized that it really did seem like I was channeling John Ringo plus had grad school to worry about.
I’ll be honest–I didn’t want to end the story so abruptly, especially after introducing new characters. At the time, it was being written for short story markets. Since I submitted it, I’ve come to realize that it’s really a full novel trying to wear a novella’s outfit. (“High waders! Get your high waders here!”) With the Vergassy, Usurper’s War, and Scythefall Universes all vying for time, this will likely stay somewhere in the back of the cupboard. At any rate, hope you enjoyed.