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July 15, 2024


By Frederick Foote

The horrendous United Freedom Front attacks with the warship UFWS Nina, and the resulting incomprehensible, indefensible total destruction of the planets Augusta and Frieden broke the back of the UFF. Allied nations and planets turned their backs on the UFF in utter disgust, disgrace and shame.

The opposition, Peoples' Self Defense Force (or PSDF), was unable to take advantage of this singular opportunity. The PSDF troops, their nations and their peoples were unable to even contemplate any more mass destruction of life or large scale killings of humans. PSDF troops on the battlefronts stood down and were almost immediately withdrawn from the field.

For a moment, a second, a blink of an eye there were no interplanetary wars in the human universe.

A Chronicle of Our Times
Arafa Nakamora-Sanchez, PhD
University of the West

∇ ∇ ∇

She's complete, unique, a creature born of love and need, my seed, our seed. She's my heart and my hope, for if not, redemption, for understanding that there is more to me than my work on the UFWS Nina.

She's a tan softness with deep brown pools for eyes and chubby hands and a kind of peace and serenity ... traces of my distant past.

I have detailed orders from her mother, in her mother's voice, about care for Nina and me. I replay our instructions every day.

Goat's milk, herbal tea, a drop of olive oil and lots of attention and holding and, and laughing. "She will thrive on your laughter and happiness. She could almost live on that."

Nina almost never cries, but she is far from quiet. She has a series of purrs, sighs, clicks and whistle like sounds that make up her chatty vocabulary.

"What did you just say, Nina? I didn't get that. You look so serious. I think you can talk. I think you are just waiting for your body to catch up with your language skills. That's what I think young lady. Awww, now you're laughing ... you are too much ... too much at three months."

She makes me laugh and ache for her mother.

"Come on, get ready. We got to fix a broken impeller shaft or the village water tank will run dry."

∇ ∇ ∇

The Sterilization Crisis is ebbing into human consciousness on a few worlds. It starts as a puzzle to be solved, an anomaly, an interesting quirk noticed among returning troops and on and around space and shuttle stations.

The scope, intensity and severity of the problem is almost reluctantly mapped, as if the researchers do not want to understand the enormity and voracious appetite of the beast they will confront and that will eventually devour them all.

There are a few far-flung prophets forecasting the apocalypse, but they are rudely and sometimes violently dismissed.

A more urgent issue is adjusting to a universe without war between planets.

A Chronicle of Our Times
Arafa Nakamora-Sanchez, PhD
University of the West

∇ ∇ ∇

It is a glorious day. Scores of people make their way to the banks of the Blue River across from the Intake Station to watch the pump repairs. They bring spicy food, colorful blankets, joyous drink, loud, active children and precious babes in arms.

Nina is with Sunflower and her four-month-old son and six- and twelve-year-old daughters. They have a good safe spot from which to view the repairs.

Maybot, the City Engineer and Sunflower's mate hired me for this job. I have tools in my hand, the sun at my back and Nina just a glance away. I could not ask for a better day.

It takes our repair crew of four six hours to repair the shaft, test the pump and put it back online. The repair crew gathers at Maybot and Sunflower's to celebrate.

It is after dark when Nina, in a front sling swaddling cloth, and I are about to turn onto our street from an alley just two blocks from our quarters. Suddenly Nina hisses. It is an intense, fierce sound that no human could ever make. It is a sound I have never heard from Nina or any other creature. It freezes me in place and makes my blood turn into ice water. I look down into a face I have never seen: feral, sharp angles, slits for eyes in a dark mask of menace.

I yank my attention from, from her, this horribly mutated version of my daughter. I squeeze my eyes shut. I breathe deep. I look again. There is no change but, Nina seems to be listening. I tear my eyes away. I listen. I look behind us and up the street. I stare at the door to our apartment -- it has no outside light on. The lights on the other apartments are all lit.

I crouch against the wall. I'm on sentry duty again. I kiss my daughter. I stroke her cheek. She will not relax or change back. Can she change back?

I don't want to move as long as Nina is in this, this state. We wait five minutes, ten, fifteen and finally a shadow steps out of my doorway, a male, average size and height. Another, taller, thinner figure from across the street joins him. They talk for a moment. The average size figure pulls out a communicator. He talks to someone for a moment then puts the communicator away and the two start to walk in our direction. I start backing down the alley.

There is nowhere to hide and I'm unarmed. We need to clear the alley quickly, find a place to hide.

Shit, some one is coming in the other end of the alley. I duck into a pile of empty wooden boxes. I work off an eight-inch long wooden splinter. I hear voices approaching. I tuck the splinter in my belt.

I untie Nina. "Nina, ssshuu, baby. I'm going to put you in the box here. I'll never leave you, never let anyone hurt you. I love you."

Nina looks angry and confused. I kiss her, place her in a crate and cover it with other crates.

I move a little ways away. I sit. I pull out the splinter. I wait.

A squat big-handed man from the other end of the alley spies me.

I plead with him. "No, no please don't hurt me. I don't have any money please."

He reaches me in a few quick steps. He kicks me in the leg. "Hey, where is the half-breed alien bitch, fuckface?"

I whimper and cower. He reaches down to pull me up. He doesn't see the splinter. It slips right through his eye into the brain. I push it home. He falls back with an ear-wrenching scream. I smash him into silence with a wooden crate to his head.

The other two are there instantly, the slender one with a stun weapon. I toss the crate at him. He ducks. With a quick I kick dislocate the other one's left kneecap. Another starling piercing scream, I can do this, two down, one to go.

The stun hits. I can see, but I can't move. I can't avoid the three quick kicks to the head and ribs.

There is a wail from Nina. No! No! Nina no!

The kicker turns to the source of the crying and moves quickly to pull the boxes away from Nina. "Awww there you are, you million-credits doll. Come to daddy. I'm going to be your new daddy." He chuckles as he picks up Nina.

He holds her out in front of me. "You messed with us pretty good, took Kirkland's life and crippled John. Look good, because this is the last thing you will ever fucking see."

I look at Nina. She looks like her old sweet self. I can't stop the tears. Nina opens her mouth, mouth full of teeth like a shark, dozens of teeth. She twists her head and bites through the shirt into the thug's arm. The man is paralyzed instantly. He is dead before he hits the ground.

My stun is fading off just as limping John struggles toward Nina.

Nina hisses.

John stops, shudders, almost pukes, turns with a groan and limps quickly away.

I sweep up Nina. I cover her with kisses, my strange, strange child.

Her mother China said it. I forgot it. "Hold each other close and protect each other. Nina will be able to contend with difficulties. Estrada, she's going to be special in so many ways."

I won't forget again soon.

∇ ∇ ∇

The Sterility Crisis had come to Angola Three. There are people willing to pay millions of Universal Exchange Credits for a mixed-blood child. They believe that the blood or flesh or cells of these children can reverse sterility. The three kidnappers were all off-planet thugs hired to kidnap Nina.

There is no place to hide on Angola Three. We found the would-be kidnappers body within thirty minutes of the attack. Someone had broken his neck.

Nina and I spent the night with Sunshine and Naybot.

Other adults joined us. We spent much of the night planning on ways to protect our children. I feel the shadow of a long dark night descending on us all as our doomed future becomes more apparent.

I do not have a lot of time left, seven or eight years at best. I have to use that time wisely. I need Nina to be ready. I have to find a guardian for her.

Even without war the world is once again becoming a dangerous place for us all.

Article © Frederick Foote. All rights reserved.
Published on 2014-11-17
Image(s) are public domain.
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