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Winter Light

by on December 17, 2011

We thought we were ready.

Knew the rules. Prepared. Read the books. Even watched the cornball TV shows. We’d planned.  Plans didn’t help. Nothing helped.

They were supposed to be killable. That’s what the book said. They couldn’t run. They couldn’t climb. Shot to the head, another one to be sure. And when they’d risen before, that was how it worked. Katy knew, because she’d done it. Lived through the Rising of ’93, she had. Shot thirty-five of them. ‘Course, Amy knew too, and she’d shot twenty-seven in the Rising of ’95, and she didn’t make this one, but Katy had. Not that it made sense why one made it and the other didn’t. Not that anything made sense. Because this Rising wasn’t like all the others. This Rising….this one had him. That’s why I’m recording this. have to explain. have to w-


The captain swore. He had hoped the battery would last longer. But he’d gotten caught up in the monologue, of course, and now, now he’d have to wait another day before he could draw a battery from their precious, rapidly dwindling supply. And he didn’t even know if he had another day.

Katy looked sympathetically at him as she wiped down the barrel of her rifle with an old cleaning rag. Not that there was any real reason to polish the barrel till it shined; they had so little ammunition left that she wouldn’t have the chance to use it much longer anyway. But Katy was a neat freak, always had been. The captain, wildly disorganized in the days before, had counted that as one of the reasons why he had meant to marry her. Of course he hadn’t, he’d waited just a day too long…

“I’m sure you’ll be able to finish that in the morning,” she said.

“If there is a morning.”

“Oh, don’t be like that. We could have lots of mornings. You’ll see!”  her falsely cheery voice rang tinny and hollow off the walls of their bunker.

“Yeah, and I could turn into a yellow-tailed dolphin,” growled Boots, their sole remaining comrade. No one could remember his real name, and he was never in the mood to say himself.

Katy winced and motioned rapidly for him to shut up, but it was too late. The captain had heard the words. He turned away from the dead recorder and looked disconsolately towards the wall. His hand drifted to his pocket, where a small glass figurine of a dolphin shone glittering in its own yellow light. He could still remember his sister, little Elena. She had so loved the sea, splashing about in its waters, spluttering as the salty waves hit her and then popping back up in irrepressible delight. And she had most loved the dolphins. He hadn’t seen them for a good long while. Almost as long as he had missed El-

The alarm cut into his thoughts. And just as it did, he saw them. Advancing in a tight formation across the field outside the hideout. They were quiet, not moaning or making so much as a screech. They were careful, staying together, keeping their heads down. They climbed neatly over the stone embankment that had once been guaranteed to keep them out. And, of course, they were dead.

No one spoke as they gathered their weapons. They all knew what this meant. Once the enemy found prey, they just kept on coming and coming and coming. Chances of survival were practically nil, and that was assuming he didn’t show up. The captain knew he had something to do with it, knew he’d figured out how to control those creatures, and he had meant to record his knowledge as a warning, but there’d never be time now. He cleared his mind from everything except the cold determination to take as many of those things with him as he could. Then he glanced at Katy, coolly siting down the barrel of her rifle as she took aim, and he forgot his determination entirely. He considered speaking. Maybe, if by some miracle they did get out of this…

Her rifle cracked, and one went down, but still they kept on. His rifle cracked, and Boots’, and the enemy hesitated, and for one shining second they thought maybe they could win….then two beams of white fire blasted down from the sky, and the roof above them crystallized and exploded in shards of ice. The three of them looked up in blank despair. And there he was.

His blue cape snapped in the same breeze that ruffled his pale blonde hair. His eyes shone with cryonic power. His face twisted into a grating laugh that didn’t sound at all pleasant. “Well! Captain! I thought we’d never be able to track you! And yet here you are, like rats in a trap!”

Boots didn’t waste time with a clever retort. His rifle went up, and cracked, and he never had a chance as the bullet shattered in midair, and then he shattered two seconds later. “You people really should learn not to do that,” the enemy leader said, still laughing. “Ammunition is precious, you know, and you’ll want to save it for my friends out there!” he gestured to the army gathering silently beyond him.

Katy snarled, “Oh, go to-” but she stopped as his eyes blazed blue-white.

The captain was still holding to the dolphin with one hand. Now his other hand pulled a small control rod from his pocket. “I suggest,” he said quietly, “that you take your friends and leave. Now.”

Their tormentor laughed even harder. “And why should I?”

The captain’s finger lightly brushed the button. “Because if you don’t, I will destroy this planet. Even you, in all your invulnerability and power, couldn’t survive an explosion like that.”

“Perhaps not,” he said, “but in the second after you push that button, I shall destroy your lover there with my ice-beams. And do you really want the last sight you see to be her freezing into ice and shattering into a million tiny pieces?”

The captain looked at Katy, and she understood him, and her own hand moved towards her pocket. “No,” the captain said, “I don’t.”

“Excellent!” the enemy said triumphantly. “Which is why you’ll now surrender like good little-”

“Which is why I don’t have the real control. She does.”

Katy’s hand clenched tight. The planet buckled beneath them. The enemy leader, his face even paler then normal in sudden fury, blasted the both of them, and they died thinking they’d won. But they didn’t know that he’d built an emergency teleporter that snatched him from the midst of the shattering fire of the planet’s destruction and into a waiting escape pod, which then rocketed away into the empty blackness of space. The pod’s coordinates had been set long before. It flew now, unerringly swift, towards the only other planet in the known quadrant that currently supported life and yet hadn’t discovered space travel for itself, a deceptively peaceful blue-green world with its own troubles and its own heroes, a world little knowing that he was coming. They did see the light of the planet’s destruction in the sky. Some thought it was a sign from heaven, a portent of evil omen. They had no idea how bad it really was. Especially for them.

Note:  this story was written for Prompt 47 of the Chrysalis Experiment. Thanks for reading!


  1. Catching up…slowly? hehe

  2. You can’t afford to get complacent when you’re a starship captain, can you?

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