Moral Imperative 0.5

“I said open fire, damn it!”

The unfeminine voice on the radio crackled with distortion as the Lord Admiral shouted.

Captain Jim Keery stood beside the helm of the airship Powdered Maiden, a swift but lightly armored cruiser. The leather of his gloves groaned as he tightened his grip on the radio transmitter. Despite the overcast weather, light poured through the ballistic glass at the fore of the bridge, but the brim of Keery’s peaked cap cast shadows below his brow. They melded into the trim brown beard that followed the contours of his jaw from temple to temple.

From behind him, a man in a similar, though less adorned, dark blue uniform stepped forward, his boots echoing on the steel floors. “Orders, Captain?”

“Commander Doget,” Keery said, hesitating with a command.

After a moment, Doget prompted him, “Sir?”

The words fell out of Keery’s mouth like lead weights, “Order the forward battery to open fire.”

“Aye, sir,” Commander Doget said. He stepped to the back of the bridge and lifted the mouthpiece of the ship intercom to his mouth. “Forward battery, fire at will!”

Keery stepped toward the ballistic glass at the front of the bridge and raised a gloved hand to his chin. The bow of the ship stretched dozens of yards ahead, but the bridge was situated high enough to treat Keery to a stellar view of the massacre. Fifty feet below the iron-sided airship, a beautiful sea of green foliage surrounded a sizeable encampment of refugees from the Azurian countryside.

A few moments passed before the forward guns rotated toward their targets, but soon shockwaves from the muffled blasts shook the ship and delivered death upon the civilians below. The canvas tents erected by the refugees erupted in flames, while shells tore people apart. Some were lucky to be struck directly, while others received terrible wounds from shrapnel as the ordnance exploded into thousands of shards. Keery hand slide to his mouth to hide the horror on his face.

A few minutes of carnage were enough. Keery turned to Doget, “Cease fire.”

“Aye, sir,” Doget responded, and relayed the command to the ship. The firing stopped.

Keery grabbed the transmitter to the radio, “The main camp has been destroyed, Lord Admiral.”

The voice came through the receiver with more clarity than before, “Excellent, are there survivors?”

“Some, my Lord,” Keery said, trying to maintain his composure.

“How many are there, Captain?”

“A few hundred remain, my Lord. They are scattered, but most are dead or dying.”

Without a delay, the Lord Admiral ordered, “Notify the Army of their location and return to Laurel for debriefing.”

“Aye, my Lord. We’ll return at once.” Keery hung the transmitter on the side of the radio then turned to Commander Doget.

“You heard him, Commander. I’ll be in my quarters.” Keery did not wait for acknowledgement.

Continue reading Moral Imperative 0.5

The Hand of God

Paige drew the copper cable along behind her as she stepped off the banks of the Yakima River. The earth beneath her feet was pale brown and dry. She stopped short to untangle the cable from the leafless shrubs that filled the landscape. As she struggled with the branches of the shrubs, her messy brown hair slipped into her eyes. She stood a moment, pulled her hair back, wrapped it into a bun and secured it with a screwdriver from the front pocket of her faded blue-grey boilersuit. In the distance she could see the hills and mountains that once were covered with lush forests, now only forests of rot. The sky was drab, dirty clouds hanging low and spanning from one horizon to another. The comet had changed everything.

It wasn’t one of those events commonly seen in movies where a giant ball of rock strikes the Earth and causes massive ocean waves to crash over cities. This comet had a more subtle method of destruction. Paige had seen it wreak all the havoc one might imagine, without ever touching the planet. As it passed by with a calm disinterest, its wake left humanity in ruin.

Paige looked up toward the foot of the hill a few meters ahead. Her green eyes scanned the base of it for her indolent partner. The hill was covered in brush, much of it brown and lifeless, but some of it showed a hint of green. The hill inclined at a sharp angle and peaked two hundred feet above the river level. From a distance, it looked like any other dry, empty husk of the once green landscape of the valley. However, upon closer inspection, one might notice a pile of litter – empty boxes, broken appliances and other useless junk – about fifty feet from a small entrance to an abandoned mine in the hillside.

“Liam!” Paige called and waited a moment. Nothing stirred. “Hey Liam! Are you gonna sit on your ass all day or what?” Continue reading The Hand of God