– by Xideinis
*As a note, I recently entered this story into Silver’s fan fiction contest. I feel that it has a better place in Roc’s contest as it deals with a moment from the life of a young child who has been thrown unwillingly into the middle of a massive, planet side conflict. I have revised a few words here and there but most of the story is the same as the original. Without further ado, I present to you The Child of Dust.*
A small child stands before the burning ruin of everything she had known and loved, the tanned skin of her cheeks glistening in the hellish glow of the fires of war as her tears burned a trail of grief down to her chin, only to fall into the dust and ashes of her beloved home. She was so alone, so lost, and, despite the blazing fires, so cold. These grim thoughts intensified her anguished sobs and she fell to her knees, unable to hold herself up anymore.
Above, the giant silhouette of a starship could just be made out in the night sky hovering just below the blanket of clouds marring the stars. The low humming of its engines was a constant reminder that war had indeed come to the world of Ostingele IV. Explosions blossomed along the ship’s hull as ground-to-air missiles impacted scattering large fragments of the ship across the battlefield and lighting up the dismal, war torn landscape.
In the far off distance, crackling gun shots and the impact of mortar shells could be heard, adding to the din of war. A small personnel ship full of fresh soldiers for the front line roared abruptly overhead. It had an escort of two fighter jets who fired a salvo of missiles at a distant enemy lighting up the horizon. The poor girl turned her head slowly and watched the glow evanesce back to darkness.
A shout and the sound of a purring motor sounded behind her, and she glanced over her shoulder, face suddenly pale with fear. A company of soldiers was marching towards the front, a burly tank in their midst. Even in the darkness, she could see plumes of exhaust emanating from the rear of the tank. She could just make out the factional emblem in the dark which was painted on its side. They were Gallentean mercenaries by the looks of them. The good guys.
Slowly, the small girl stood and mustered all of her strength. Her short little legs were very unwilling, but slowly, she began to shuffle towards the column of soldiers. A dry breeze brushed her long dark hair from side to side as she walked with heavy footsteps. Her sobs were noticed by one soldier, a mere silhouette against the rest of the column.
“Get out of here, girl!” A deep voice shouted over the noise of the distant battles, “It’s not safe for you!”
The girl’s strength left her again and she stumbled and fell to her hands and knees. She could just make out the put-put-put of the soldier’s swift footsteps as he ran toward her. Before long, a strong hand grasped her upper arm and pulled her up sitting her easily upright in the soldier’s arms.
“There now,” the soldier said softly. The girl’s sobs subsided as the soldier reached into his back pocket. He held up some sweets and she took them, but did not eat.
“What is your name, young child?” The soldier inquired. The girl just stared. “A quiet one, eh?” The soldier asked, smiling tenderly. She looked into his green eyes framed by the chiseled features of his scarred face and found a sweetness that gave her a sense of security. “Well then,” the soldier started, “where are your parents?”
At the mention of her lost parents, the girl felt a fresh wave of silent tears coming on, and saying nothing, she buried her head into the soldier’s comforting shoulder.
“I see,” the soldier said solemnly patting a soothing hand on her small upper back.
Suddenly, there came a shout from the rest of the company. “Incoming!” A harsh female voice intoned loudly. The kind soldier swore under his breath and braced a firm hand on the girl’s back as he began to run towards a row of abandoned buildings. His, rifle which was slung across his back, clacked as he ran and the impact of bullets around the soldier’s feet made a sffp-sffp noise as he dashed toward a gaping hole in a towering sky scraper.
They entered the building unscathed as a hail of bullets occupied the area that the two had been in only seconds before. They waited together as the intense gunfire died down. The soldier, panting, looked at the girl.
“Are you harmed?” The soldier asked worriedly. The small girl just stared, tears momentarily stopped due to the terrifying excitement of almost being killed. He gave her another kind smile and set her down on a staircase adjacent from the bullet riddled hole that they had darted through.
“Stay here,” The soldier commanded over the clamor of gunfire. He unslung his rifle and turned back to the hole.
“No!” The tiny girl ran to the soldier and grabbed his muscular wrist, fresh tears streaming down her face, and began pulling him away from the danger which was his duty. He looked back at her, and smiled caringly. He allowed the girl to pull him back to the stairs where she sat clinging to his arm.
“I must go little one, and you must stay here. You will be safe. I will protect you,” the soldier said reassuringly. He pulled his wrist away and brushed the girl’s tear laden cheek with one thick finger. She hugged his neck and he chuckled, a little surprised at the girl’s attachment.
“And now, I must go,” he said, and rose brandishing his rifle. The girl hugged her knees as the soldier walked away. He reached the hole, resting one hand on its ruined surface. He paused to look back at her and smiled.
Suddenly, a spray of red erupted from the soldier’s head. A wet smack sounded as his blood splashed against the shattered wall. He fell and did not rise. The girl just stared, mouth completely agape as her mind attempted to register what had just happened. Upon realization, she couldn’t help herself. She screamed as she buried her head into her knees and wept as her whole world came crashing down around her.