Ma Sue was an imposing, broad-shouldered, pale-skinned female. She stood at least 200 centimeters tall—taller than most Trainees, male or female. Her frame balanced that height with a muscular yet statuesque figure that seemingly every other female Trainee secretly desired. Her yellow hair was unusually long for a Guardian, and she kept it high and tight with a dazzling array of loops and braids.
Esther noticed that Ma had swapped her usual PT t-shirt and sweats for dark green and black camouflaged fatigues. She was leaning back in her chair, idly cleaning her fingers while intently reading a tablet placed flat on her desk. She also noticed that the bunk behind her desk was not yet made. A small pot of coffee on the desk was still warm. Her silver back up .500 caliber revolver pistol and sleek black ASR rifle were visible in the open weapons locker, and they both smelled of propellant gel. Ma must have just run back from proficiency training. Esther glanced over at the tablet, but all she could make out was, “Condition 3: Approaching Unidentified” on the display. Continue reading
“Did you hear that?” Joshua whispered intently. “Trucks. Heavy. A lot of them. Let’s go.”
Esther dropped another tuber in the bag, shaking a bit of dirt off her left hand. Out of reflex she cupped that hand over her forehead and scanned upward into the blue horizon then down toward the enormous forest lining the opposite tree line, about five kilometers off—left to right—in a pattern that didn’t miss any areas.
The only things she could see in that blue sky were a couple of swooping brown hawks. On the ground was the usual scenery: an unnaturally flat and desolate clearing extending into a vast forest of aspen and pine in the far distance. The air was almost warm, but she could feel that warmth surrendering to a fading sun in the western sky. The shadows of the pines were growing longer, brushing their backs.
Soon enough, it would be dusk. Continue reading
She held the rifle steady for him. He was barely conscious, propped against the unforgiving stone, unable to feel his legs.
She was leaning back on his chest, and felt each of his shallow breaths giving way to a slump. He could feel her warmth rapidly fading.
The entire world seemed to be turning red—the burning palace, the sky, the stars, even the light in the sky sweeping the ground.
The light in the sky, approaching. Continue reading