• Kelsey Garber

For the Moon: 3

If you missed parts 1 and 2, find them here.

I flattened myself to the curve of the wall, giving myself a moment to survey the scene. Even from this unencumbered vantage, the chaos proved hard to follow. Our soldiers stood at half the size of the Treecians, even at our tallest. The russet of our clubs blurred through the air from every angle. Rivers of blood and sweat already trickled along the metal floor in endless veins. I followed the source of the drips from our men and realized with dismay that no fluids seemed to fall from the Treecians.

No renderings in books could have prepared me for the striking visage of our enemies. As promised, they seemed to wear their skeletons on the outside with jet black skin peeking through the crevices. The pale enamel of their bones was smudged and cracked from the wear of their environment on Treecia, one of our sister planets and one of less civility. With their makeup already designed for impenetrability, all of the warriors, once they came of age, had solid steel permanently fused to the bones of their forearms, their fingers hardly able to peek out from the encasement. These were their weapons, homemade battering rams and bludgeons that could never be dropped in the midst of battle or taken from them. Treecians were a race built for combat. These warriors could use violence and force with these enhancements, but not much else, nothing that required finesse. At the moment though, in this tiny shell of an enemy ship, this gave them the upper hand.

As our men smashed into them, their skeletons splintered and fractured, but no pain seemed to touch them. If it did, they refused to show it. No form of blood spurted from any wounds. I wondered if they actually possessed a vascular system.

I searched for my opening to jump into the fight but couldn’t find one. Every other soldier knew his place. He locked eyes with a Treecian and they squared off. The stretch of carnage somehow played out like a perfectly choreographed dance of hatred and gore. Where I fit into the tango remained a mystery.

Sneaking along, my hand eventually collapsed through the air, no more wall behind to grip. Without being aware of it, I had inched all the way to the bay door, wide open and mangled from the Treecian’s forced entry. Outside, a new moon awaited. A glance across the vast, sparkling white surface suddenly made the battle in front of me feel miniscule. But I was no coward. I would never abandon my battalion on a fanciful whim.

Then I realized I could have it both ways. A Treecian stood guard, making sure none of us ever set foot off this ship. If any of us tried, we would be pummeled back into our metal tomb, into the hopeless battle. The Treecians set the perfect trap upon arrival.

But it would be imperfect if the guard outside the door were to fall.

Using my undersized proportions to my advantage, I swung myself through the opening and beneath the crumpled ramp of the bay door within a blink. The dark hickory of our armor came in handy only this instance, blending into the shadows. Once we tread across the purity of the moon, our camouflage would end. This design was definitely intended for a battle on our home turf, with no time to create new ones.

The Treecian guard failed to spot my stealth through the mayhem, still scanning the battle for any enemy soldier endeavoring to flee. I crept along the shade of the ramp until only feet distanced us.

As silent as possible, I scooped up a handful of moondust, squashing my desire to revel in the marvel of it. After releasing a breath, I tossed it behind the guard, the sand particles hissing against one another on impact. The Treecian whipped around and I seized the moment to spring from hiding and drive my club into his heel.

His knee buckled, but his cry echoed with more indignation than pain. As I reared my hefty bat back again to strike the fatal blow, the Treecian proved much quicker with his own weapon, whisking his steel arm around and crashing against my gut.

My lungs seized up and I tumbled backward, the weight of my club carrying me over until my back planted into the ground. I coughed through my trembling diaphragm and begged myself to get up, but my muscles refused.

The Treecian limped over to me with a sneer and slammed his foot onto my chest, pinning me in place. His fused bludgeon raised with no hint of hesitation or remorse, ready to punch through my skull.

His metal fist drove into the ground where my head should have been. Even being anchored, my lean muscles could bend far enough to save my life.

I fastened my arms around his ram like a vice, not allowing him to pull it out of the sand without lifting me with it. With a roar he slid his foot off and yanked me skyward, acting as if my weight hanging off him was equivalent to that of a bug alighting on his arm. He shook until my grip shimmied away and this time, I kept my footing and ran.

My instincts careened me back toward the ship. He would catch me if I took off any other direction. Diving into the battle onboard would only immerse me into more guarantee of death, though. Out of options, I plunged into the tight space beneath the bay door ramp again, seeing that this was truly my only place of usefulness to my brigade.

I waited for the Treecian to squeeze in after me, though we both knew very well he wouldn’t fit. He never showed, but no way did he give up.

Then the ramp groaned and quivered. The hydraulics had busted when the Treecians breached, which meant the weight had to be in the hundreds, if not thousands. But inch by inch, it lifted. My stomach dropped as I experienced the full capabilities of my opponent.

Going by the slow progress, though, this was no easy feat, even for him. I realized that his own bravado put him in a place of vulnerability. He exerted himself with no alternative protection.

I clambered forward on hands and knees, swallowing my fears and setting my sights on the calves and knees that were visible where he lifted. At his feet, I halted and stayed still as a statue, not risking a breath. The ramp continued to creak and rise. All I needed to do was stay within its shadow.

His waist became visible, then his broad chest, his shoulders, his neck. A few more seconds and the ramp would pass his eyes and he would have an unhindered view of me cowering before him. My timing would have to be perfect.

Eyes, forehead, top of the skull swept into sight in a matter of seconds and I leapt forward, bashing my club into his achilles one more time.

He collapsed to one knee again, this time with the mass of a thousand pound metal ramp poised above his head. As his balance faltered, he pitched forward, his hold gave way, and the bulky bay door ramp crashed down on his upper half. I rolled out of the way, only a foot from harm.

No more movement came from him. Whether this killed him or not didn’t matter. Either way our fight was over.

I grinned up from my first victory, unable to contain my merriment. By instinct I scanned the battle for Samson, always looking to him for encouragement. My eyes always drew me to him, even if I didn’t initially know where he was. And my heart stopped.

Within the tumult, my friend laid in the rivers, covered in rivers of his own, eyes unseeing, staring back at me.

All qualms with cowardice and all cravings for glory dissipated into nothing. None of this mattered. None of this was worth it. My feet pounded in the sand of the moon, my ship and my team disappearing behind me.

To be continued in For the Moon: 4...

© 2021 by Kelsey Garber

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