Conflict

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Sci-fi relationships can get tricky...

The explosion was so far off in space it was only seen from the surface of the planet as a dull flash in the grey cloudy skies. So unimpressive was the conclusion to the thousands of years of fierce conflict it failed to faze a small heard of yaks gazing at the top of the hill. A few animals raised their heads briefly, to glance at the skies, but as nothing else happened they used the opportunity to scan for predators and returned to grazing.

 

A portal opened on the top of the hill about a minute after the explosion. It wasn't a very dramatic occurrence. There was no thunder or lighting and no swirly glimmering blue void. The air just went blurry for a moment and smelled strongly of ozone. It was perhaps the unfamiliar smell that finally got the yaks to move. They trotted down the hill but didn't go far, stopping about halfway down, chewing the cud: it would take more than blurry air and an unfamiliar smell to make them leave such a nice pasture.

 

A young man dressed in white uniform walked out of the blurred air. He took a few unsteady steps away from the portal and waited anxiously for it to close. The animals watched him curiously; he was a far cry from a predator and didn’t smell like one, but perhaps it was worth shifting a little further down the hill to avoid trouble.

 

The young man watched the yaks as well, his expression was hard to read. You would not describe him as handsome, well the yaks certainly wouldn't, individually his features were quite attractive but put together they created a bit of a mismatch. His nose was too wide, his eyes a little too large and his thin lips looked like a horizontal scar across his narrow face. His platinum blond hair was a mess; contrasting sharply with the accuracy of his uniform everything about his clothing was prim, proper and polished, as if he just stepped out of a parade. In his hand he held a large handgun.

 

He spent his time taking in his surroundings and catching his breath. After a while he calmed down enough to stop shaking and noticed his woolly audience.

 

‘I guess this is it.’ He told the nearest yak.

 

As the dozy herbivore didn’t offer any comments, he looked at his handgun as if only noticing that he had it. Then after a slight hesitation he raised it at the animal. The young man was clearly not used to the gun, and looked like he had no idea what he was doing, he held it awkwardly and took aim unsteadily with a look of slight bedevilment pasted on his pale face.

 

The gun fired with a loud bang, scarring a flock of unidentified birds out of nearby trees and sending the yaks bolting down the hill. He did not need to worry about his aim. The shot took a massive chunk out of the nearest yak. It looked like the poor beast stepped on the land-mine: his entire head and a sizeable portion of his shoulders was missing.

 

The young man walked in closer and examined the carcass.  

 

‘Well’, he said a little queasy, studying the damage, ‘this should do it.’

 

He paused for a moment looking at the rest of the yaks running down the hill, then pointed the gun at his head. Then he hesitated. He lowered the gun, shook his head, took a deep breath and raised it to his temple again. For a while he stood perfectly still.

 

‘Will you hurry up already!’ ,a rather cheerful voice, hampered by static, demanded.

 

The young man was so startled it was a miracle he didn't pull the trigger. Instead he whirled around pointing the gun at the intruder.

 

The newcomer behind him was wearing a heavy armoured suit, completely concealing the creature inside it. The young man swallowed, his gun hand shaking.

 

‘The enemy’, he muttered under his breath. But it's impossible, they just destroyed them all.

 

The suit opened up with a quiet hiss releasing the air inside and the enemy climbed out.

 

‘I haven't got all day, you know’, the occupier of the suit informed him.

 

It wasn't as deformed as he was told they were. True its odd, bulging chest and thin, willowy complexion was a little unsettling, but it wasn't the hideous monster he was expecting. Its face, looked amazingly manlike, hardly any different from his own. The enemy, much to his discomfort was studying him as well, looking amused.

 

‘Some people say it's easier to put the gun in your mouth’, the creature pressed together its long manicured fingers imitating a gun and opened its mouth.

 

‘Likhe sho’. It spoke with its jaw opened. ‘Although it is quite a large gun you’ve got there, it may not fit...’

 

‘How the did you find me?’, the young man squawked, keeping his gun pointed at the creature.

 

‘Please’, the creature rolled it's awfully manlike eyes, ‘the whole fleet goes up in flames. Nothing but static on all frequencies and then wham, whiz someone opens a portal. You ought to notice that, especially if you are desperately listening for survivors.’

 

The creature sighed. ‘No offence, but I was hoping to find someone from my side.’

 

The young man smiled, lowering his gun.

 

‘So we succeeded!’ He said triumphantly.

 

‘If that's what you call a success’, the creature smirked. Your own fleet is floating up there in orbit in chunks not much larger than a fat atom. I was going to vaporise you on the spot, but since you’re already half way there, why waste energy.’

 

‘Well do you mind then?’ The young man frowned, ‘This is a rather private matter, so I would prefer not to have a company.’

 

‘Sorry’, the enemy grinned, ‘no way. I am not missing the last of the mankind blowing off his head.’

 

The young man sighed and glanced at the gun.

 

‘Fine, stay if you must’, he allowed graciously, ‘just don't talk.’

 

He walked down the hill away from the creature and resumed his position with the gun pointing at his temple. But after a few minutes he was still standing there finger jumping at the trigger.

 

‘Is it like pissing?’ The creature shouted after him

 

‘What?’ The young man turned around, with a tortured expression.

 

‘I heard that man can't piss when other man are watching, so just wondering if it's the same with snuffing yourself?’

 

The young man thought about it for a moment.

 

‘You know what’, he said, ‘I think I am going to kill you first.’

 

‘Go ahead and try it soldier boy’, the creature lowering itself back into the fighting suit.

 

They stood facing each other until the young man began to wonder if his handgun could even damage the suit. After all those things were built to fight opponents much larger than himself.

 

‘Actually you don't look much like a boot’, the enemy said as the young man hesitated. ‘Too skinny for a start.’

 

‘I am not an infantry man! The young man said with the emphasis on the word infantry, ‘I am a first class navigator.’ He pointed down at his uniform as if such a thing would be obvious.

 

‘You are not a clone then’, the creature said, its eyes, which the young man had just noticed, were blue and strangely captivating, and sparkled with interest. ‘I thought they didn't have any incubator material left after we smashed that Luna base.’

 

‘I've never seen an actual man before, only clones. But if you’re not conditioned to suicide at the drop of the hat, like the clones, then why the gesture?’

 

The young man blinked, confused. How the hell he was supposed to explain something like this to the enemy, when he had trouble explaining this to himself.

 

‘What else am I to do, he said finally, I get to follow my comrades in glorious death! It's my duty as the last man!’

 

‘That's kind of sad’, the enemy shook its head, ‘do you really believe that or is it just the conditioning talking?,

 

‘None of this should have happened.’ The young man snapped. ‘Our flagship was protected by a stasis field, but it collapsed, except the portal bay where I was programming the portal for general evacuation.’ He closed his eyes. ‘The stasis field functioned long enough for me to see the rest of the ship destroyed and my comrades die. I was going to follow them in death, but I panicked. And jumped through the portal. It's a good thing that all officers were issued with weapons for this mission. So I can put things right.

 

‘But what's the point,’ the enemy shrug its shoulders. ‘It's just pure nihilism. Can't you think of some better way to honour the lives of your mates, apart from snuffing yours?’

 

‘You don't understand’, the young man shouted, ‘Our ideas! Our beliefs! Everything we stood for has died! I don't want to outlive it! And what kind of life would it be! Out here on some empty planet with no one for company?

 

‘Now if you excuse me’, he raised the gun again.

 

The enemy stepped out of its suit. Underneath the metal it was dressed in fatigue overalls just like their own armoured troops. It had two arms and two legs, slightly odd shaped hips but, apart from that, it looked so much like a man it was bizarre.

 

‘I suppose I can understand you’, it said. ‘Most of my comrades were of the same suicidal disposition. None are keen on your kind either. We were always told to kill you lot on sight. Instead of talking. I always was a talker, you see, got into a lot of trouble for that. But I couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been different if the mankind and us tried to talk instead of fighting.’

 

‘Is that what you are doing now? Trying to talk me out of killing myself?’ The young man inquired.

 

‘Don't get me wrong’, the creature insisted, ‘I'd be positively delighted if you dropped dead right this instance, you are an enemy after all, although not as bad looking as your clone troops. But that's in the short term, in a long term I would appreciate some company, if I have to live here.’

 

Live here, the young man looked around the hill and the surrounding valley. There was not much to see apart from a few tall conifers and a lot of grass.

 

‘You must be mad.’

 

‘And why not’, the enemy shrugged its shoulders. ‘It’s not like someone is going to come to the rescue. And I want to live. Besides it's not that bad. There are clouds, so there must be enough water in the atmosphere to form rivers, possibly seas. And look, you have already taken care of dinner.’

 

It pointed at the smouldering remains of the yak.

 

‘You are going to eat that?’ The young man grimaced.

 

‘Can't be much worse than a stim-pack.’

 

‘I think I am going to shoot myself.’

 

‘Look you've been taught history?’ The enemy creature insisted. ‘Us and men used to live together for centuries and seemed to get on. I am not saying it's going to work, but maybe we should try it. It might be an improvement on blowing your brains out.’

 

The young man hesitated. He was sure the creature was the enemy, but it wasn't at all what he expected. A bit unsettling to look at, but he could probably get used to that.

 

‘The history doesn't have much good to say about your kind’, he said finally.

 

‘That's because it's your history’, the enemy replied. ‘Our history has plenty of nasty things to say about your bunch.’

 

‘So why try it at all? I mean our scientists proved a long time ago that man and, he hesitated remembering the word, women cannot coexist. It's something to do with genetics.’

 

‘Genetics’, the enemy rolled it's eyes, ‘where do you think all the incubator babies come from? The non-cloned variety?’

 

‘I don't know, I suppose the scientists figure it out, that is they used to, before you blown the Luna base. I just navigate ships.’

 

‘And I am just an armoured suit grunt, but I guess I could teach you a thing or two about genetics. Or’, the enemy paused poignantly, ‘you can shoot yourself and be none the wiser.’

 

The young man thought about it and hoisted his gun. ‘You weren't serious about eating that thing?’ He pointed at a yak.

 

‘My escape pod is just at the other side of the hill’, the enemy replied, ‘it stuffed to the gills, so I don't think we will be troubling the local fauna for a while.’

 

‘I guess we could give it a go’, the young man said, ‘but I am keeping the gun.’

 

‘Fine, and I am keeping my suit.’ The enemy smiled. It, no she had a wonderful smile.

 

‘My name is Eva by the way’, she said, ‘what is yours?’

 

‘It's Michael’ the young man said forcing himself to smile. ‘Pleased to meet you Eva.’

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