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[Fiction] Singularity - War


z-Carver

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Thick, red blood crept down his body, dripping down his chest to soak into his hair. He tried to move again, but his body wasn’t responsive to his desires and he continued to lie motionless. Flashes of light – both normal and fantastic colors – blazed across the horizon, destroying night vision and overwhelming the stars. “We should have taken the treaty,” Franklin said, or rather coughed. His throat closed on the words, choking him. Or maybe it was blood choking him.

,,

His feet stretched before and above him, his head perilously close to the dirty water running in the ditch. He could feel the water stir his hair occasionally. The metal tiger had tossed Franklin there after cracking his spine, though Franklin was sure that he’d broken his neck as well. I’m sorry, darling, he thought as a brief break in the fighting let him see the stars. I’m sorry that I broke my promise to you.

,,

No one was sure where they had come from, only that one day they had been found in the mountains. However long they had been there, they had been there long enough to burrow out an extensive system of tunnels. They themselves would not say how long it had been, only that this was their home now, and they would not leave.

,,

Perhaps using the words “ours” and “will not leave” had not been so wise, but the first of the creatures to talk to the world had not been the most socially adept – a star-field woman and a Tiger-man. It would only be a few hours before a golden god would join them, but by then, the world had seen the Monsters, and that was the image that that humanity carried henceforth in their minds – and their hearts.

,,

The humans had turned to their Psion masters to save them, and the defenders of the planet had been the first to face the Monsters. That had been a disaster; the Monsters had met with humanity calmly enough, agreed to peaceful co-existence and even had agreed to meet for a treaty. It was at the first peace counsel that the innate incompatibility was discovered, but even that hadn’t been what had destroyed the peace attempt. Fate and chance had actually been the ones to kill peace. And Franklin, though that had not been his intention.

It had been quite the tableau: a massive white tiger-man and his star-field wife, the secretive person who seemed either male or female in turns, the young man with the blue skin and hair who had moved so fast he was a blur, the fragile-looking Asian woman covered in fine scales, the blonde man who moved with the dignity and presence of a god, the white-haired man with fangs and pointed ears, the massive griffin-creature who claimed to be Ogdala, his harem of woman and so many more. Monsters and gods and people fantastic, filling their part of the room despite being outnumbered, their mere presence pushing others away.

,,

It was stuffy in the room, even for the Legionaries. But it wasn’t heat or humidity that was crowding the conference arena; it was the power of the assembled beings, both Monster and Psion, flooding the room. Franklin was having trouble drawing breath, his eyes locked on the fearsome creatures of myth and nightmare.

,,

“Alden,” General Sykes stopped beside him. Franklin snapped to attention and saluted, a little unsure of what the man wanted. His tone had been… sympathetic? “Quite an array of creatures, aren’t they?”

,,

“Sir,” Franklin replied, his tone questioning and cautious both. He silently prayed that his commanding officer hadn’t seen something… a sign of failing or something else to cause this unexpected empathy.

,,

Sykes smiled coldly, his expression far from amused. “They scare the shit out of me, Alden,” he admitted, his strong voice somehow making the statement bold instead of weak. “They’re inhuman, even the human-looking ones. Even with our powers, they seem so strong. How are we to survive them, if we should make peace with them?”

,,

“Sir?” Franklin replied, and this time, it was clearly a question. I’m just a soldier, he thought, a man who keeps the peace. Give me an order, sir!

,,

Sykes studied him closely. Franklin met his gaze without flinching, only a soft gleam of respect for his superior in his brown eyes. “Just thinking aloud,” Sykes finally sighed, his eyes roving around the room. “I hear that you’re going to be a father soon.”

,,

Franklin’s face immediately slips into a grin, just as it always did at even indirect references to Regan. “Yes, sir!” he grinned. “Next June, the doctor says.”

,,

“Congratulations, Alden – it’s a brave new world, fatherhood,” Sykes smiled back. “That is the only saving grace about these strange, new beings.” Franklin’s smiled faded as he looked at his commanding officer, unsure what he was talking about. Sykes’ cold gray eyes met his as he said, “Well, they’re sterile, according to the doctors. If they’re not lying, if there are no more of them coming, then your children’s children should see the last of them die off, God willing.”

,,

Franklin tried to not feel a flutter of hope at that news.

,,
* * *
,,

Peace is always a trying thing, and it’s no more trying than on the soldiers who will bear the blunt of the backlash should the peace attempt fail. So Franklin reminded himself in the long days of the process, to remember to be patient as the ambassadors and the envoys fought for the terms they wanted. And he reminded himself of that when his long shift was over, and he went home. There, he can put work away for a while, hug Regan and marvel that he has his simple life.

,,

Things were not always this way. When he had joined the Legionaries, he had been a brash, arrogant bully. It had taken a very special man a great deal of work to show Franklin the folly of his ways, to teach him that peace was the true power of the body and the mind.

,,

Now… now all he wanted was Regan and the baby to be safe. “Are they really as bad as they seem?” Regan asked, curled up under one arm.

,,

Franklin put down the book he was reading on the philosophies of the Three-Fold law and glanced at the television. He had been ignoring it and he hadn’t realized that she was watching coverage from the peace summit. “They’re… stifling,” Franklin finally said, not sure what else to say about them. “They take up more than their far share in a room, I’ll grant them that.”

,,

“How many of them are there?” Regan asked in the soft, strong voice he loved so much.

,,

“No one knows,” Franklin admitted, hugging her a little closer. His free hand moved to rest on her stomach, resting over the slight bump that was their child. “Every day of the summit, there’s a new one, but no one has been inside the Fortress. They’re protecting it from the clairvoyants, so no one’s really sure what they’re up to or what their numbers are.”

,,

And Regan didn’t say anything; she didn’t need to, because Franklin was thinking the same. Who were these creatures, and what did they want?

,,
* * *
,,

It would be a while before Franklin realized what he’d done. It had been so innocent, so meaningless to him at the time. But it had changed everything.

,,

Hearnes was a quiet, unassuming man with a fake smile; Alden used to be good friends with him, before his encounter with the Old Man. Hearnes had not come to the same enlightenment, and they had drifted apart. It was a sign of the times, Franklin reflected bleakly, that a man like Hearnes received promotion while better, calmer men were passed over. And Franklin wasn’t even thinking about himself when he considered that; there were three or four men in his regiment he would have promoted over Hearnes.

,,

But none of that mattered. Hearnes was his immediate superior, under Sykes, and Franklin was honor-bound to obey him. So when Franklin’s HUD flared to life with Hearnes’ image, Franklin paid attention. “Alden, two of the Monsters just left through that door,” Hearnes grunted as an indicator arrow flashed to life, pointing at a door swinging closed. “Follow them; don’t crowd them. Make sure they stay out of trouble.”

,,

“Yes, sir,” Franklin replied with crisp perfection, snapping a sharp salute. Spinning on his heel, he marched out the door and fell into step behind the couple at a discreet distance. They knew he was there; their sensory perception was just incredible. They were talking; the occasional sound of their words reached his ears. Still, he made no effort to eavesdrop on them.

,,

In truth, he didn’t need to overhear; they showed him the evidence that damned them.

,,

They looked so human – her hair was an unusual color, but he appeared to be normal. The woman stopped and leaned against the railing, looking out over the garden stretching below them. The man moved to her side, slipping his arms around her; Franklin could see their lips moving. A lover’s conversation… Her hand came to rest on her stomach; his folded tenderly over hers.

,,

Franklin frowned at them… something about their gestures were familiar. It came to him in a rush; Franklin himself had done that maneuver many times to Regan. The Monster’s pregnant. But they’re sterile!

,,

“Alden.” His HUD snapped to life, and Franklin jumped. Hearnes could see what he was seeing though the group uplink, and Franklin could hear the frown in his voice as he asked, “What are they doing?”

,,

“Nothing, sir…” Duty and a gut instinct dueled briefly, and duty finally won. “Sir, the woman? I think she’s carrying a child, sir.”

,,

A long silence stretched over the uplink. “Alden,” Hearnes voice was tight with fear. Franklin regretted telling Hearnes the truth, but he was deep into it by now. “Alden, are you sure?”

,,

“No, sir,” Franklin answered honestly, “but the way they have their hands on her? I do that to my wife all the time. It’s… one of those things you do, sir, when your wife is pregnant.” Franklin didn’t mention that it was due to the awe of the tiny life growing inside, a life created just by two bodies fusing together for the briefest of times.

“Don’t tell anyone else about this,” Hearnes said. “I’ll pass the word up. Keep an eye on them for now, just like you have been.”

,,

“Yes, sir,” Franklin replied as a feeling of sick dread rolled through his gut. He remembered the look in General Sykes’ eyes as the man had said, “That’s the only saving grace about these strange, new beings. They’re sterile.”

,,
* * *
,,

The alarm bellowed loudly, and Franklin jerked awake. He grabbed for this communicator, settling it over his head with long-practiced movements. “Alden here,” he said, half-asleep still. Regan stirred fitfully next to him.

,,

“Alden, the Monsters are attacking! Get your ass down to HQ and report!” Wolcheik, his regiment’s communications officer yelled through the device, his normally composed voice raw with fear.

Franklin wasted no time. He jumped to his feet and began to struggle into his gear. He was nearly dressed before Regan sat up and frowned at him with sleepy fear. “Frank-”

“They’re attacking,” he gasped as he pulled his helmet over his head and snapped the chin strap. He didn’t need to say who.

Regan’s eyes went wide with terror; her mind touched his and she thought at him *concern… fear… alone… baby… Franklin-love… home…*

“I’ll be back,” Franklin said, shaking off the intense, distracting mindspeak. He snatched his wife to his chest and kissed her, tilting his head so that the helmet wasn’t in the way. Her lips and body were so familiar to him, yet he still longed for her.

He had promised that he would return. And he meant to. He really did.

And now he was dying, in a ditch. “I’m sorry, love,” he whispered. The battle was moving away; he could hear it drifting away from him, and the beautifully deadly lights in the sky fading away, leaving only stars. Then the stars were blocked by a form.

Franklin stared up at his death; he could tell that despite the human physique that one of the strangers was looming over him. The form bent down, revealing silvered hair and pale eye orbs. “You look bad,” a calm voice said, and then Franklin was carefully lifted. The stranger moved him carefully, shifting him until he was more comfortable.

“Why?” Franklin groaned when the stranger was done moving him.

“Because, we invaded,” the stranger said calmly, sitting on the ground next to him. Strong and gentle hands removed his shattered helmet and gently set his head down carefully. “Because one of my friends likely put you here.

“You see,” the silver-haired stranger continued, “we had nowhere else to go. Timeslip got lost in the streams, and we ended up here.” His voice was sad as he added, “We didn’t want to take over your world; we still don’t.”

Franklin was feeling better now that the blood wasn’t pooling in his brain. “I don’t understand why you attacked us, if you wanted peace,” he said shakily. He was so tired; he had exhausted himself in battle before the tiger had broken him, and now he had lost so much blood.

“We didn’t attack you,” the stranger answered. “You attacked us.”

“No…” Franklin protested, but even as he said it, he remembered the expression on General Sykes face when he said sterile, and Hearnes’ voice, tight with fear. “No,” he said again, but he knew the truth, and wrote it across his face.

An explosion sounded nearby, lighting up the stranger’s face. The flash of light revealed the rough features of his face; Franklin tried to see him, but couldn’t tear his eyes away from the stranger’s silver orbs. Then the light was gone.

The stranger moved suddenly; there was a hollow clang and the sound of something reverberating off into the darkness. “Just a bit of shrapnel,” the stranger said conversationally.

There was a long moment of silence and Franklin tried to recall something, something related to what the stranger had said. “Why did you… you come here? What was wrong with your home?” he finally whispered.

“War,” the stranger said quietly. “And I might have stayed anyway… but she is pregnant.”

Another flash of light lit up the night, this time putting the stranger’s face in profile. Franklin stared in dawning awareness; it was his father’s chin, his uncle’s nose on the stranger’s face. “Regan,” he choked. “Regan is pregnant.”

The stranger looked surprised before nodding. “Yes,” he said softly, “I guess that would be her name here, too.”

“My… Regan… pregnant,” Franklin wheezed, aware that he’s dying. Sorry… love…

“I’m… sorry. I’ll… watch over her. And your child. They’ll be safe, I swear,” Franklin promised his Psion counterpart, but this time, there is no answer… no sound, save the distant rumble of war.

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