They fanned out into the small cluster of buildings that made up George’s Town. Weapons at the ready, they slowly picked their way through the buildings, clearing every one in turn. Captain Sebastian Foster cleared the side of the last building on the east side of the town, and saw Lieutenant Kristina Hesten waiting with a private from her platoon of Infantry.
 
He slung his submachine gun over his shoulder and approached, trying not to smile as she brushed a loose piece of her red hair back over her ear. “Well, looks like the Commonwealth troops haven’t been here, or if they were, they pulled out.” He said as he came to stop only two feet from her.
 
He made sure he stood where he could see the hills behind her. That and he always loved being able to see her face, the regs may not allow for it, but they had been lovers for the last two years. He was Space Force, she was Infantry, they’d met upon the Alliance star cruiser Hornet.
 
He watched as her platoon spread out into the hills and began to check for any sign of the enemy. He admired how easy they made it look, moving so fluidly over the terrain as if they’d lived in it all their lives. Of course, after three years of training they should be able to.
 
 He smiled as he watched her check her rifle. He loved everything about her. She was beautiful, smart, funny, caring, loyal, and hard as nails when needed. He stopped smiling when he heard the crack of a rifle. He saw one of her men drop, a hole the size of a man’s fist in his chest. “Sniper!” He shouted, ducking down, grabbing her by the shoulder and forcing her down to her knees as well.
 
They both brought their weapons up, scanning for any targets in the area. There were none, so the sniper had to be in the hills somewhere. One of the Infantrymen pointed to a spot about ten meters from the crest of a hill, apparently he’d seen movement there. Sebastian aimed that way and used his scope to zoom in and see the sniper.
 
A young man, boy really, was there in a gilley suit, his face covered with fear as he realized he’d been spotted. There was the dull thump of a grenade launcher, all combat rifles having them attached under the rifle barrel. The ground around the boy erupted, throwing him down the hill. As he rolled twenty rifles barked out their fully automatic song of death, spraying him and the ground with bullets as he rolled.
 
“Cease fire!” Kris shouted over the comms in their helmets. They did so, one of them checking to make sure the sniper was dead. He gave the hand signal for confirmed dead, dragging his thumb across his throat. Sebastian remembered how he’d first mistaken that for the signal of a finger acroos the throat which meant use the knife on an enemy.
 
He slowly stood, Kris also rising. Then they heard another dull thump. This time it wasn’t one of theirs, nor a grenade launcher. “Mortar!” Shouted one of the Infantrymen. Everything seemed to go into slow motion at that point. He heard and felt the wind whistle between Kris and himself.
 
Then the world seemed to explode in a deafening roar and dirt flew. He felt shrapnel biting into his neck, shoulder and chest. Then he was flying through the air, he hit a wall with such an impact that he blacked out, the breath being knocked from him as well. When he came to she was lying across his lap. Blood was spurting from a wound in her chest, right where her heart was.
 
He ignored the pain in his body as he pulled her up to him and buried his face in her hair, crying and shaking, he knew he was going into shock, but he had to help her first. “Please, Kris, no, no, no. You hold in there girl, that’s an order, damn it.” He was begging, pleading with her to stay alive, even though deep down he knew the wound to be fatal.
 
She only had minutes left. “Please, stay with me, I can’t lose you too.” He pleaded, he’d been left by his wife who’d taken their son and moved out while he was on his first duty station, millions of miles from Earth.
 
She spluttered something he didn’t hear. Lowering his ear closer to her mouth he heard what she was saying. “Bastian, I’m dying. I know it. I’m sorry.” She whispered. He let out an animal cry of pain and sorrow. All around them mortar rounds were still falling, but it was as if they were the only real thing in this landscape of death and destruction.
 
The sound seemed to come from millions of miles away. “No, you’ll be ok, we just need to get you to a medic.” He lied. “Medic! Somebody get me a God damn medic over here!” He shouted, as much a plea as an order. “Bastian, it’s ok. I’m not afraid, so long as you hold me. I love you, my darling confused man.” She whispered, he closed his eyes tight against a spasm of pain from his right leg. “I love you Kris, please, God, don’t leave me.” He begged, opening his eyes. She smiled at him, Bastian was her loving nickname for him, she being the only one who ever called him that.
 
He tried to smile, but didn’t know if he was or not, the pain in his whole body becoming unbearable, and atop that the pain of her slipping away from him. She gently brushed his cheek with a hand, resting it there. He rubbed the side of his face against her hand gently, feeling the tenderness and love there. He gently kissed the palm of her hand, then lowered his lips to her and kissed her. That one last kiss of a love he would miss.
 
As he slowly pulled away he saw a wave of pain flash over her face. “Bastian?” She said, fear in her voice for just a moment. “Everything is dark, I can’t see. Hold me tight, I’m so cold.” He felt the tears streaming down his face as he squeezed her even more tightly to him. Damn the pain, he would not let her go, no matter how much it hurt to hold her to him. “Bastian, hold me.” She said, a far away look entering her eyes slowly. “I am, darling Angel. I am” He said, his voice thick with pain and sorrow.
 
 The tears burned his eyes as he cried. Then she smiled again. “It’s beautiful, Bastian. I’ll wait there for you, always.” She said, gasping in pain one last time, her right hand taking his and squeezing so hard as to break it. He squeezed back, rocking back and forth now. As he looked back into her eyes he knew, he knew, but didn’t want to face it, not now, not yet. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no!” He shouted, a denial and a plea all at once.
 
He sat there for what felt like an eternity rocking back and forth with her in his arms. He didn’t notice that the mortars had stopped, nor the small arms fire. He came back to the world when a group of Infantrymen gathered about them. A medic slowly checked her pulse, already knowing the truth. The others had tears in their eyes, she had been a beloved officer to them. They felt his pain, and shared in his sorrow for her death.
 
 The medic slowly and gently put his hand on his Sebastian’s shoulder. “Sir, she’s gone.” He said, as gently as he could, trying not to make it worse than it already was. Sebastian shook his head from side to side. “No, no.” Was all he could say. The medic signalled for a couple of the others to help with moving her. As they gently pulled her away Sebastian kissed two of his fingers and touched them to her lips. “Good bye, my love, my Angel.” He said, still crying. Then he felt the pain come back even stronger. He saw the medic’s face as he saw the extent of Sebastian’s wounds and slowly looked down. “Sir,” the medic said, trying to distract him. Sebastian looked down and saw holes through his armor and into his chest, through the lungs and his lower left side. Then his eyes rested on his right leg, or where it had been. Just above the knee was where his leg stopped and turned into a mangled mess of flesh, bone, and blood. “Oh, God.” He whispered, the pain hitting him so hard he blacked out for a second or two.
 
 The medic reached in his bag and pulled out a morphine ampule. He slammed it into his shoulder, squeezing the blessed pain killer into him. He used another before even trying to touch Sebastian. The morphine came over him in a fog and made him feel very distant. He slowly moved his left hand towards the side of his belt, feeling the grip there. He unsnapped the carrying catch and then, in one motion, drew his forty five caliber semiautomatic sidearm and placed the barrel against the side of his head. “No!” Shouted the soldiers around him, a brunette named Lisa reaching forward quickly and grabbing the weapon from his hand, the morphine making it impossible for him to fight.
 
 He watched, as if from outside his body, as the medic put a heavy duty bandage on the stump of his leg. Then he slowly drifted into oblivion, darkness creeping over him. Just before the morphine put him out he heard the medic telling someone, “he’s going to have to go to a military mental hospital. After he gets healed up from these wounds. I’m surprised he’s even alive now.” He drifted into the darkness, into oblivion, welcoming it, wanting it to take him to her, to release him. “He’ll be ok, physically. Psychologically, well, you know what they were to each other, add in the loss of a limb and I don’t know.” The medic said, as if discussing a close relative’s illness.
 
“He’s tough, he’ll make it. He knows she wouldn’t want him to give up like that.” Lisa said. Then he was gone, his snoring a signal to move him. The medic wiped the blood onto his uniform and looked at Lisa. “I only worry that removing him from people he knows will do more harm than good.” He said, stating a very valid point. “I wish we could keep him with us, but the ship doesn’t have the right facilities for that kind of thing, and especially with a suicide attempt, he needs to go to a hospital.” Lisa said, she knew it sounded cold, but she was concerned for him.
 
She had secretly loved him since first meeting him. Now he was being taken away, and he may never return. That evening, after Captain Sebastian Foster had been sent back up to the ship via an assault shuttle, Private Lisa Grimes sat with her back against a building, smoking a joint, marijuana being legal now, and crying over the losses that day.
 
Kristina Hesten was a good officer, and a good friend. She’d known how Lisa felt about Sebastian, and hadn’t been upset about it. She smiled at the memory of Kris when she’d told her, taking another drag off the joint. Then there was Sebastian, he wasn’t dead, though he may wish he was, but he was just as lost at this point as if he were. He’d loved Kris more than anyone else in his life, now she was gone. He felt he had no one, and he’d been mangled in the mortar attack in a way that would make any man long for death. She looked up at the stars, he’d lost a leg, but more than that, he’d lost his soul, lost his only comfort in this whole shitty war, lost his will to live. “Where oh where can my baby be?” Lisa muttered to herself as she inhaled deeply from the joint again.

By BF Hirleman

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