“Get up!” My roommate, Dylan shook me. “Something’s going on. We’re taking off, all crew-including you and me-are supposed to be at station. Get up!” We ran to the sub-deck, lights flashing red then yellow,a warning. The announcements blasted through the communication systems, some overlaying the others so that it was frenetically garbled. “This is not a drill. Report. Report. Report.” “Battalion two to launch deck A and B.” Dylan and I got knocked down by a group of front troopers. One of them, Moll, stopped and picked me up by one arm, helping me to my feet. “Sorry, Leeber. You guys know what’s going on?” “No, not a clue. I was asleep, where I would like to be right now.” He snorted in agreement and ran ahead, the sound of his heavy boots clanging on the metal floors seemed amplified. When we made it to our stations, a sub-level of the commanding deck, all we saw was red lights flashing on the monitors around us and chaos on the upper deck. That’s when I saw her. Our commander, calm, beautiful Beal’Anolay-Jergen. I always stopped, sometimes for only a half a beat, and stared at her. Even with the insanity around us it was the same reaction. She was in my dreams and fantasies and she probably had no idea who I was. Directions came through, chopped and rapid. Navigation, ship allocations, first stage orders- then we were off. Suddenly it was quiet and we heard her voice, steady, slow, and distinct. “You are now, in this instant, my fellow warriors. We are on a mission that you will never speak of, that you will not question or you will be imprisoned and likely executed.” I could feel a huge, terrified gasp from the entire ship. We were young, we hadn’t signed up for this. “We are about to attack a planet, actually its capital, and there will probably be few survivors.” All I could think was “no, no, no, I didn’t sign up to kill.” “There will be collateral damage. You will follow command. You will kill. We will begin with land strikes, then six squadrons will ship and drop down where we will eliminate as many of our targets as possible. Some of you, perhaps many of you, will not survive. Squadron leaders will now communicate with you and define your next actions. I am counting on you all, each one. Together we are strong. I cannot tell you why we are doing this except that we know of our future and of the vicious killers, this warring planet, that we must stop. The future is not yet written. There are as many futures as we can imagine. Destroying this threat is what we have to do. I give you my strength, each of you, I give you my heart and soul. I will be with you. Be true and be strong!” Dylan looked at me, his entire body trembling, tears over flowing. “Cut it out!” I demanded. “Leeber, I can’t. I absolutely cannot do this! Kill me now, please. I will not!” I walked to him and he held his arms out as if I was going to hug him. I slapped him, hard. “Life is not, never, not…fair, or as we expect. It is our time to grow up! This is happening. We have to do this. Take each moment, moment by moment, don’t think ahead or back, just right now.” We heard our section being called and I shoved Dylan out the door, feeling pity for him but knowing that if I couldn’t let him sink into it. Our squad leader was Jaze Stillwater, a person of renowned for his, or her’s depending on the day and the mood, who was a security leader and was known to bite people to death. Watching Jaze filled me with more terror than the war we were about to face. Instinctively we all tended to hold our hands over our faces, particularly our noses. It seemed she liked to start at the nose. Jaze handed us weapons that most of us had never seen and had no idea how to operate. He pointed one at each of us and we swallowed hard, trying to look brave and calm. He passed them out, they were lightweight. Lighter than they looked. “When we land you will fire yours as quickly as possible. This way, with this firing cylander, or, if you do not follow my directions you will blow your fucking, ugly assed faces off. Suck it up, here we go.” Screaming. As soon as we landed, being shot through transport beams, some people vomiting with the rapid descent, we had to let our eyes adjust to the darkness around us. It was difficult to see what was happening but all we heard was screaming. Behind us a field light flooded the scene and I wished I had stayed in the dark. The inhabitants of the planet were humanoid, some were tiny, obviously children, some were almost wisps of light racing through the battlefield. There was no escape for them as our weapons fired. Hundreds dropped, some bursting into flames yet still fleeing, the flames streaming behind them until they screamed no more.. Screaming. “Fire!” Jaze flew around us, one of his powers being flight, hitting some of the crew in the back of the head. Then two of our squadron pointed their weapons at him. Jaze stopped. “We can’t do this. We are peaceful…” Jaze blasted them, their heads bursting, arms and legs dismembered flying back toward us. Dylan huddled on the ground weeping, his arms wrapping around his head, tucking in. “Get up, fire, just fire into the sky if you have to. You’ll die if you don’t!” Without warning two more joined us and wrapped themselves around Dylan, huddling and weeping. Jaze was coming and I saw Dylan slip his weapon out of his jacket. He was going to fire, to kill Jaze. Traitor. Mutiny. But Jaze had killed two of us, of the commander’s warriors. Then I saw her moving at great speed toward us. It was her, Commander Jergen. “Jaze!” Jaze glanced over, snarling at the Commander. “Stop, now, you are to drop that weapon.” “Yes, just one more duty, to teach the crew that there is no escape." He dropped down and casually strode to the three who now begged him not to hurt them. He was going to kill them, Dylan and the other two would be dead in an instant. I aimed my weapon at Jaze. “Soldier, stand down!” Jergen ordered him. Now it is your turn, what should Leeber do next? Should Leeber simply step back, out of the scene, wait for what will happen next? Should he fire on Dylan and he other two? Should he kill Jaze? Email your choice and we'll send the next installment. Thank you for helping to decide Leeber's fate. email@example.com Check out the next 2 books, The Chi, and The Mac, now on Amazon. And we thank you for leaving an honest review!