2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rust Red Rebirth

Wait! This story is a sequel to "Coming Out Fighting" just below.

 

The remains of the Third Space Fleet have made it to Deimos Station. We’re here to resupply, which is Navy-talk for ‘lick our wounds’. Our supply ships are all destroyed and only two carriers, Zambia and Deutschland, are still spaceworthy. Cambodia is repairable, but is going to be out of action for months if we’re lucky. Our butts have been duly presented to us on a silver platter.

Mars hangs below us like a dusty jewel. I hate Mars. It’s not the planet itself, it’s the damn Martians. They’re telepaths, which would make our command-control system unbreakable and instant, but they’re also effing cowards. They say they value all life, and yet they hide on this rock while the human race is being annihilated.

I’d volunteered to play a concert at the planetside base, partly because six weeks of running combat have left me emotionally drained and partly because the Martians detest hard rock. I should have known better.

I was just finishing my first set when they came in. Quiet, serene people who looked totally out-of-water on a military base. Martians in disguise. But one of them had chosen the wrong disguise. I stopped in mid-note.

“Aggie?” My girlfriend. She’d been killed when the Garridans blasted DC. I hadn’t even had a chance to say good-bye. Now here she was, her memory being worn casually as can be by some damned Martian. I jumped down from the stage, ran over and slugged her.

“How DARE you do this to me? HOW DARE YOU?”

She stared mutely at me with those doe-eyes that always tore a hole in my heart. I tried to hold my rage at the cowardly Martian that was doing this, but all I could see was Aggie. Walking by the Lincoln Memorial Aggie. Kissing in front of the White House Aggie. Aggie lying next to me with her soft breaths caressing my shoulder...

“Mindy.”

When she said my name my rage evaporated. I knew it was a trick, but the Martian had chosen the one face I couldn’t be mad at.

“Aggie,” I sobbed, “Why couldn’t I protect you?”

Soft arms wrapped around me, holding me lightly as my shoulders jerked in time with my tears.

“You did, Mindy. I’m not dead.”

“What?!”

“I’m not dead. You and the others bought enough time for a couple hundred of us to get out of Washington, down into the marsh. We’ve joined up with others and are getting organized. The Martian Ambassador is helping me contact you.”

“No! This is a trick!”

“It’s not a trick, Mindy. It’s me.”

She kissed me, and I knew. A hundred million miles apart, but I knew it was really her.

“God I’ve missed you, Aggie.”

“Shhh. It’s all right.” We held the kiss for a few moments, then she pulled back. “We’d better stop now. You’re still on Mars and, nice as the Ambassador is, I’d rather kiss you in person.”

That was when the tide of battle turned for me.