The Promotion

Okay, remember when I said there be two posts today?

I lied. I lied hardcore. But according to Chuck Wendig, that’s what we writers are.

Liars.

So can’t help it apparently.

So anyways, I guess I’ll do what I always do when I don’t have something prepared and time has run out.

Provide an old story I wrote ages ago.

(I was actually going to post a brand spanking new story, but it just wouldn’t come.  Hopefully tomorrow it’ll make its beautiful appearance).

Let’s see what’s buried on my hard drive…

Here’s something. This was my one of first serious attempts at a standalone short story. I’m a novel sort of girl and even then I can’t leave it at one novel (my novels come in threes), so it was definitely difficult to write an entire story with a definite ending in 1000 words. It has gotten easier with practice.

I liked this one, though others didn’t apparently since it was rejected. Ah well.

Fair warning, some mild violence ahead.

Enjoy!

 

AN OFFICER’S PROMOTION

 

 

Officer Zane had a bad feeling. He stood on the bridge that led to the entrance of the Guerra colony. A grunt of no rank worth mentioning was waiting for his electronic signature. It was for the cargo ship that just delivered the new battery plant. According to his official report, the old plant had broken down due to a soldier’s negligence.

Actually it had been Zane’s duty to inspect the plant, but he didn’t have the time to take care of it. The probation of an insignificant soldier was a small price to pay to keep his own record clean, but the malfunction left every weapon on the colony without power. They were defenseless.

Zane usually read every official letter he received, but this time he pressed his thumb onto the screen without even looking. The shadowy trees that enclosed the colony held his attention and he couldn’t look away.

It had been months since he had been stationed on this primitive planet and there never had been any problems. He was diligent and patient, expecting a promotion.

But now, something seemed off.

The day seemed normal. Most of the soldiers were on leave. Zane shoved aside a Private and his sweetheart and ignored the Private’s clumsy salute as he strained his ears. What was that sound? It was hard to hear over the mindless chatter around him.

The wind blew and the sound came more clearly. Screaming? He saw movement in the trees. A soldier staggered out and collapsed dead, back studded with spears. Zane watched as a swarm of children poured out of the trees like provoked army ants. Brown skinned boys wearing loincloths brandished bloodied spears. Their small bodies thundered down the clearing, their faces alive with excitement.

By the time Officer Zane’s sharp mind had processed the situation, he was running in the opposite direction. It would take hours before the new battery plant was installed and their power restored. The primitives on the planet had been declared harmless. An attack had never been expected and the soldiers had no training in killing hundreds of bloodthirsty children. They were doomed. It was time retreat.

At the opposite end of the bridge, a tunnel led to the docks. Zane ran for it. He didn’t look back as the couple on the bridge screamed in agony. He couldn’t save them even if he wanted to—which he didn’t.
There was no time. The only spaceship on the planet was the cargo ship. It had been unloaded a few minutes ago and would soon take off. Zane had to make it. He had worked too hard to die now.

The narrow tunnel was crowded with new settlers and they slowed him down.  Zane had to dodge crying children and parents demanding answers. He didn’t bother explaining. They would soon get their answers from brats no older than their own. He knew abandoning his post was career suicide, but surviving was more important. He’d start over if he had to. It didn’t matter how long it took.

Once he left the tunnel, brilliant sunlight and chaos greeted him. The ship waited thirty feet away in the center of a lake. Along the shore, civilians and soldiers alike fought over the small boats that would take them to safety.

As the cries of the killing frenzy in the tunnel reached Zane’s ears, he raced down the everglade, prepared to fight for a boat. It wasn’t necessary. As the murdering swarm spilled out of the tunnel, panic erupted. Settlers abandoned the boats, throwing themselves into the lake.

Zane didn’t hesitate. He jumped into an empty boat and started the engine, but a hand grabbed his arm. A dying woman, impaled by a spear, stood in chest-deep water, holding up her child with the last ounce of her strength.

“Please… Please, take her!”

Zane was ready to hit the throttle and leave them both behind when he made eye contact with the little girl. Large, watery blue eyes looked at him with fear and confusion. He cursed and grabbed her.

The moment the girl left her mother’s arms, she began to cry. Zane sat her down on the bottom of the boat and did his best to ignore her. The ship was taking off. He zigzagged his way across the lake, dodging spears and floating bodies.

A shadow loomed over his boat. Without thinking, he threw his body over the child. Pain struck him as a spear sank into his shoulder, splattering the toddler’s face with blood. She screamed. Zane wanted to apologize and wipe the blood away and beg her to stop crying—it was giving him a headache.

There was no time for that. He looked up. The cargo bay doors were still open. Gathering the child in his good arm, he stood on the edge of the boat. Spears whistled by left and right. The doors started to close. He jumped.

The cargo doors snapped shut as Zane rolled across the metal floor. The spear twisted in his shoulder and the child bawled in his ears. His vision swam and shadowy figures appeared at his side. Someone took the little girl from his arms.

“Thank you,” he gasped, ears still ringing.

Zane grunted with pain as they removed the spear. He couldn’t see them, but heard them speak in hushed tones.

“Damn. It’s poisoned.”

“Do we have the antidote?”

“Use the broad spectrum stuff. Hopefully it’ll work.”

Dread washed over him. Was he still going to die? After everything he’d worked for? Everything he’s suffered?

At least the child is safe, he thought. The only noble deed he’s ever done in his life. Would it be enough to get into heaven?

“That child… Is that Marianne Sinclair?”

“Wait, General Sinclair’s daughter?”

“His wife and daughter were on the roster. They came on vacation.”

“My God…”

There was a sharp pain as the antidote was injected. His vision darkened, but Officer Zane smiled.

His promotion was secured.

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