Monday, 26 May 2008

Closing in-page 2

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I lead my team down the corridors to the habitational area. I think Jensen is right, we are probably too late, and the Intuitives are probably dead. They alerted central command two days ago that the Slashers were coming. It’s what they do, the Intuitives; they sense things. They know things nobody else knows. Or actually, that’s not strictly true. I’m told that they only know things by sensing the intentions or the feelings of others. So what they sensed was the horror and the pain their protection unit up in the orbit satellite went through as they were massacred by the Slashers.

Central command took no chances; the Intuitives are too valuable an asset to lose. There are twenty battleships circling the planet now, ready to attack once we identify a threat.

My team is an elite recon unit, but we are combat ready. I hope we have the opportunity to face the Slashers. We know next to nothing about them, only that they kill viciously, that they arrive without warning and leave no survivors, and that everyone fears them. Go to any bar in this galaxy and you’ll hear incredible tales – legends even – about these monsters. The fact is that nobody knows how they look, or how they always go undetected or how they manage to kill everything they touch. I want nothing more than to face them and – even if we die - to send information about them, intel that will give humanity a standing point from which to defend itself. For this opportunity I am grateful to the Intuitives, however weak or pampered they may be. If the Intuitives die, we may never get advance warning on the Slashers again.


Soon it will be dawn. We will have to wait until night comes again before we leave for the surfface. I am ready to report the station as empty when Li calls.

‘Major, you’ll want to come to hydroponics.’

The corridors echo the sound of my boots as I run. I arrive to find Li’s team surrounding a small, thin boy dressed in a nightshirt, holding an apple in his hand.

‘He hasn’t spoken, sir.’ Li tells me as I arrive and then makes room for me to approach the child. I make my way through the hanging vines in the warm and moist lab. I kneel next to the boy.

‘What’s your name?’ I say in the gentlest tone I can manage.

The boy doesn’t reply. He is looking down, and his hand is pressing the apple so hard, his knuckles are going white. He has already taken a bite. The soft inner flesh of the apple has gone brown and sticky juice is dripping down his hand.

‘Don't worry,’ I say. ‘We are here to help you and your people. Intuitives are precious to central command, and we care about you very much.’

One of the men behind me lets out an involuntary snigger. The situation becomes clearer to me. If I can see the contempt my men have for him, this young intuitive must experience it as if insults were being shouted directly at him. I try to concentrate on how much I want to save them, on how important a part of humanity the Intuitives are, and on how crucial, if we are to stand a chance against our enemy. I try again.

‘Don’t be afraid; pay these fools no mind. We’re here to help you. We will take you to a safer place.’

The boy stands up a little straighter under his night shirt and looks up at me. As he looks into my eyes, I can see him relax a little.

‘I just wanted an apple,’ he says.

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