Wing Commander in Real Time - Day 4 - 1900 Mylon Time

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MARCH 18, 2654
1900 HOURS

At thirty-three, few things delighted William Santyana more
than spending a Sunday afternoon with his wife and
three-year-old daughter. He stood on the back patio of his
farmhouse, breathing in the wonderful aroma from the hot dogs
and burgers cooking on his grill. He wondered just how many
fathers out there were doing the same thing on a thousand
other worlds, in a billion other backyards. Santyana let his gaze
wander past the patio to a green carpet of corn that unfurled to
the twilit horizon. Tiny flashes of light appeared in the violet
haze that banded the sky, and he stared curiously at them a
moment, then lifted the cover on his grill.
"Will!" his wife cried from inside the house. "Just another
minute, Pris. We don't want to eat 'em raw."
"Get in here. Now!" Her horrified tone sent him racing
toward the open patio door.
Inside, he found her seated on the sofa, balancing little Lacey
on her knee. The holoplayer was tuned to the news channel, and
a life-sized holographic anchorman stood on their rug, pointing
back to a computer-animated globe that showed dozens of red
dots encircling it.
"We're under attack," Pris said, visibly trembling. "Listen."
"… And the planetary defense net has been shut down. MyGov
officials have yet to respond. We do know that the ship is a
Confederation-class carrier, now in low orbit, but any other
insignia have been removed from her hull. She's already
dispatched hundreds of fighters, bombers, and troopships. We
go now to George Okoee, who's standing by at Blue Mountain
Spaceport. Can you hear me, George?"
The holovid switched to a wavering image of the young,
teary-eyed reporter, hunkered down near a row of seats in a
vast terminal. "Got you, Rick. Ladies and gentlemen, just
outside this terminal, a wing of Confederation Broadswords is
descending upon this, Mylon's largest spaceport. The people
here are in a state of shock. We'd expect this from the Kilrathi.
But from our own forces? Still, there's no confirmation yet on
who's piloting those ships. A major evacuation is in progress,
but estimates put the bombers at just a few minutes away.
We've received word that two dozen more Broadswords are
headed toward the Confed Strike Base in North Hills County.
Wait. I think I can hear them…"
"George, get out of there!" The anchorman's image returned.
He placed a hand to the tiny receiver in his ear. "George?
George!" He looked off-camera. "What's that?"
Distant booming piped in through the farmhouse's open
windows. Santyana looked beyond the patio door and saw a
dozen pillars of black smoke fencing off the western sky. A
humming noise came from the south, and he frowned even as it
grew into a sudden, excruciating roar. Gale-force winds keened
through the house. Pris and Lacey screamed as with burning
eyes he fought his way to the door.
A long shadow bled across the patio. He looked up as the
menacing-looking troopship passed just three meters above his
house. Shaped like an arrowhead, the craft pivoted and ignited
retros, blasting up clumps of grass as it set down.
He bolted back into house, already picturing himself and his
family climbing into their beat-up hover and fleeing. "Pris!
C'mon! C'mon! C'mon! We gotta go!"
"Ohmygod," she said as he sprinted past her. "What's
"Daddy?" Lacey called. "Daddy?"
In the kitchen, he scooped up his driving card and turned to
go when an amplified voice struck him motionless. "Mr.
William Santyana. Please come out."
"Will?" Pris cried. "They know you."
He returned to the living room, and out of the corner of his
eye he saw dark-clad figures lurking outside the windows. He
stroked his wife's cheek, kissed his daughter, and muttered,
"Stay here." With buckling knees, he moved toward the patio.
Outside, two people dressed in fancy Confederation Space
Force uniforms came forward, flanked by a half-dozen
rifle-toting soldiers. Santyana figured the duo for officers. One
of them, a trim woman about his age with moss-green eyes and a
confident gait, raised a thick eyebrow and evaluated him with
her glance. "Mr. Santyana?" she asked.
"What the hell is this?"
Her shoulder-length black hair whipped like smoke in the
lingering thruster wash. "Are your wife and daughter still
"What do you want?"
The woman nodded to her troops, who jogged toward the
"Pris! Run! Run!"
"No, William," the woman said. "We're here to save you."
"Are you people from the strike base? Wait a minute, even if
you were, you wouldn't know my name."
He glanced back. Pris carried Lacey as two soldiers led them
"You're from that carrier, aren't you," Santyana said. "Why
are you attacking us?"
"Not you, William. Or your family. We're only killing the
humans who live here."
"Humans? Than what are you?"
She reached under her uniform and withdrew a Pilgrim
cross. "Do you know what this is?"
He did. His parents had carried them, and they had died
because of what those crosses represented. "You people…
you're fanatics. What have you done?"
"It's what we're going to do, William. We're taking back the
stars. And you're going to help."
"You mean I don't have a choice."
"You couldn't choose your blood, no. And you'll never change
who you are."
The other officer, an old man whose hazel eyes seemed
forever distant, spoke in the alluring lilt of some Border Worlds
tribesman. "William. You're a fine man, a wonderful father.
Amity here asked me to come out because I fought with your
parents. We're bringing everybody home now. You need to
"Home?" he asked incredulously. "This is my home."
"Just leave us alone," Pris shouted. "We don't want any part
of you Pilgrims."
Amity tightened her lips and nodded. "I understand. But in a
few hours, every living thing on this planet will be dead. Maybe
you'd like to be a part of us—at least for now."
Santyana looked to his wife, searching for an answer, but she
seemed lost in a blur of fear. He faced Amity and sighed. "We'll
come. But you'll never take the stars."
She lifted a condescending grin. "We've been waiting nearly
twenty years for this moment, William. We lost that war. We
won't lose this one."