Edge of Extinction

Lieutenants Bill Hansen and Debbie Pluto crouched in EV suits at the portal of the wreck and covered Captain Spire while she jimmied the “bugbox” loose from the alien console. With superior technology, the Bugs had pushed humanity to extinction’s edge and treated any survivor of their devastating attacks as a bug snack. Finally, the Solar Spacefleet had shot down a bugship on Mars, and the data in that box was possibly humankind’s last chance.

Spire secured the box in her backpack. The team maintained radio silence as they crept from the wreckage and sprinted toward cover behind a ridge of rusty Mars rocks. Their ship rested another three hundred meters away on the closest ground suitable for landing. On the horizon, Earth gleamed like a blue star above the swirling dust.

Hells broke loose in their helmets. Their data overlays flashed with alarms. Proximity. Atmospheric turbulence. Massive radiation alerts. From their ship, Sgt. Li shouted in their earbuds, “The Bugs are coming! Run, Captain, run!”

As the mission team raced across the red, shifting gravel to their landing site, Hansen toppled, mask first. “I’m shot! Go, Captain!”

Spire kept running in the thick-treaded boots of her suit. She felt sluggish like she was running in a dream. Beside her, Debbie screamed. The lieutenant’s vitals winked off in Spire’s overlay. Hansen’s were fading. His comm crackled and closed.

The captain focused on her ship. Her breath rasped over the comm. The oxygen indicator blinked a warning. The suit’s cooling fans whirred, whisking heat from her sweating body.

“Engines are ready, Captain. The others are dead.” Sgt. Li’s voice was grave.

Spire didn’t look back. The only way to honor the sacrifices of her team was to reach her ship before it was too late for the human race.


Meta-story:  This piece was first place in a daily flash fiction contest for which the required words were late, snack, and dream.  The word limit was 300 with 24 hours to write.