• Kelsey Garber

For the Moon: 2

If you missed part 1, find it here.

The metal framing around us rattled as the shift in atmosphere berated the outer shell of the ship. My breath hitched to the rhythm of the turbulence. The journey was a short one, since the moon orbited not too far from our takeoff and our ship could travel at speeds that I couldn’t even fathom. In less than an hour we were descending toward our destination. I would have enjoyed a view of the moon’s surface, but Captain had all the windows shaded. Our minds needed to be on the battle, not on sight-seeing. Captain and all my comrades refused to let me escape my anxieties for even a moment.

“Coming in for landing. Be ready, gentlemen,” Captain echoed over the intercom.

As if on cue, the side of our ship boomed and jerked us off course. I hooked my wrists into my seatbelt to keep from being thrown around and my skin flushed cold with terror. The other soldiers mumbled to each other in concern, but I only looked up ahead at Samson’s seat. I hoped for a glance back of affirmation, but I never seemed to cross his mind in the moment.

Captain crackled over the com again, “Treecian’s are already on the ground and firing. We expected this. Stay calm and focused, men. The first hit didn’t breach us and Pilot Matthews assures me he can evade the rest.”

“Freaking Treecia,” the soldier next to me muttered.

My vocal chords quivered. “Have you ever met one? A Treecian, I mean?”

He sneered at my ignorance. “I’ve bashed in the heads of a hundred of ‘em, kid. The secret is to jump ‘em from behind. The junction between their head and neck is the softest spot. They’ll drop instantly. Don’t even bother striking from the front. The bones in their face and chest are basically natural body armor. Impenetrable.”

“I remember that from lessons. But thanks.”

He snorted. “Don’t thank me. Even at their weakest spot, you won’t be strong enough to take one down. I should really be telling you to take off running in the other direction.”

I locked my jaw in defiance. “I can take care of myself.”

“You ever been in a fight before?”

“Captain trained me.”

He rolled his eyes. “But Captain wasn’t actually trying to kill you. How old are you?”

My confidence wavered. “Sixteen.”

“So you’re not even required to be here, you’re just a stupid kid with wild dreams.”

“I’m old enough to be here.”

“That doesn’t mean anything. Corsius will take just about anybody that’s willing. The problem is we need quality, not quantity,” he carped.

“I’m a quick study,” I defended. “Treecian’s weakness is back of the neck. Got it.”

“You probably can’t even reach their necks.” He skimmed me up and down.

“I can if I take out their achilles first,” I proudly recited. “If you want to take down a Treesha without killing it, their heel is the spot to target.”

“Look at you,” he patronized. “I guess I missed that part of the lesson when I was out here actually fighting them.”

“You should try to know everything. You never know what’s going to save your life out in the field.”

“Right out of Captain’s mouth,” he scoffed. “Don’t act like you're insightful. You read books and follow orders. That’s all you’ll be good for, kid. Once we climb off this ship, you won’t last ten minutes.”

I straightened up in my seat. “My name’s Nolan.”

“Did I ask?”

“I thought you might like a name for the man you’re condemning to death after one conversation. Just a small reminder that I’m a person, not collateral.”

He pursed his lips and cleared his throat. “I’m Wes.”

I tugged at my straps, feeling especially cocky. “Nice to meet you. I wish you all the best.”

“Right,” he mumbled.

Another hard hit cracked against the bow and we rocked off-kilter before Matthews straightened us out again.

Captain updated us once more, his voice more stern than before, “Landing in 5, 4, 3-”

We jarred to a sudden stop, every soldier around me flung against his straps in the exact same manner, like hundreds of mirrors reflecting the movements of one man. Our expressions of readiness, adrenaline, and fear matched as well. All of the murmured conversations ceased and we all sat stockstill, awaiting orders.

Through the silence, a jarring bang shook the walls, originating from the bay door. Another bang followed. And another. We held our breath as one, collected unit, as if all of us shared one set of lungs, one heart, one mind.

The intercom sputtered Captain’s voice, this time strain and stress apparent. “The Treecian’s are forcing their way in. Everyone assemble at the bay door, armed and at the ready.”

We all fumbled with our buckles at once, each soldier leaping from their seat one by one and sprinting to the door with their clubs. Soon ten were stationed, then fifty, then a hundred. The number of us in the seating bank diminished by the second.

I fiddled with the nonsensical straps, struggling to release them as much as I struggled to secure them. It seemed that every belt I popped open still connected to another fastening. My agitation grew with every passing second that I remained seated and the battle commenced in the bay.

Wes leered at me with annoyance and disapproval, but hesitated in the aisle before joining the troops. As I cursed, he finally growled deep in his throat and hurried back to me, swiftly clicking all the buckles in my way. The second I was free he shoved the back of my neck out of the chair and toward the action.

“Moron,” he muttered under his breath.

I ignored his insults. There were more important things now. Shouts and crashes thundered up ahead. My feet tinged against the metal floor at max speed, much faster than the elongated strides of Wes behind me. We were only moments from the action. The cries and bone-cracking became more distinct with every step. The battle had begun.

To be continued in For the Moon: 3...

© 2021 by Kelsey Garber

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