For the Moon: 4
Hours elapsed before I slowed, my body finally giving way to fatigue and tears. The ship disappeared into a speck on the horizon. The battle was so small. Meaningless.
I collapsed into the sand, taking in the empty expanse, so pure and untouched. This moon was the best of all the planets surrounding it, which is exactly why no one was allowed to settle here. We could all share in it. We were supposed to share.
My eyes fixed on the skyline to the south and I clambered back to my feet, in a daze. From here, I could see Corsius, my home. I never knew how it looked from a distance, but the sight proved unmistakable. The russet of our lands, the sparse areas of habitation and resources. A humble planet, but beautiful.
Just around the edge of its sphere I spotted the blue-white glow of Treecia and cursed at our twin. If only our neighbors weren’t so selfish, Samson would be alive. We would be racing along the treeline on Corsius, kicking dirt up to foil each other’s progress. We could live on our third of the moon’s resources. Treecia ruined everything.
Then, a shadow in the distance, our last allies-turned-enemy, Kraikanatowahau, more well known and pronounceable as the Kraiks. As much as I wanted to despise them, their part in this war was as involuntary as ours. They were more peaceful than us. The only reason they possessed blades at all was to slice through the foliage of their planet, visible as a brilliant green coating on the surface even from this distant view. But the only reason they even needed the moon was for fresh water from the reservoir. Their crop life was sustainable, unlike our hardened, mineral-less ground and Treecia’s icy mantle. They hardly deserved a place in this fight.
For the first time in my life, I stood where I could see our entire system. I should have loved it. Instead the people tarnished the beauty with their own agendas.
I realized, as a soldier fighting for it, I had never seen the reservoir we killed for. I had a relative idea where it was. A discolored patch on the surface could be seen from Corsius and Samson would always point and say, That holds all our lives. That blotch is our salvation. We were to land only a handful of miles east of it. Our goal was to secure the area before the other planets. It seemed that Treecia beat us to it.
Utilizing my impeccable internal compass, my desertion took me northwest, which meant I merely needed to head southwest and I would eventually happen on it.
In several more hours, a line of speckles dotted the distance. Then the line became solid. Soon swaying plant life stood out and water glistened, paradise in the middle of a desert.
Suddenly I discerned a figure among the outline that strode toward me, much closer than I realized. My belly flattened onto the ground by instinct, but I had to be the only color bobbing along the colorless plain. He noticed me long before now and walked straight up to where I sprawled. It had to be a Treecian, barricading our lifeline. I buried my face in the sand, every muscle clenched in preparation for the fatal strike.
Instead a slim, cold metal alighted against the side of my neck. The tongue of the Kraiks growled down at me, “Get up.”
I blinked at the unexpected language and stumbled up, tossing my club to the ground as the Kraik kept the blade poised at my throat. As much as I read about them, I believed this to be a female, though with their race it was difficult to tell the difference. Covered in shaggy dark fur and ringed horns, they appeared more like wild beasts than a civilized society of people. The only reason I suspected her to be a woman was the pitch of her voice, which sounded a lot less low and gruff than the recordings I heard in the past.
I stumbled over my speech, botching the grammar and pronunciation of the Kraik’s language since I only ever read it. Conversational use proved much more challenging. “I am alone. No threat.”
Her black nose twitched as she sniffed at me, only ingraining her animalistic appearance on my mind even more. “You are a warrior, though.”
“You have come to take the loch.”
“My company has. Not me.”
“Then why are you here?”
The strange cadence of a question in her language knocked me off-kilter a moment and I squeezed my eyes shut to concentrate on translating. “I ran.”
A glare of disgrace berated me. “You abandoned your company?”
I swallowed. “Yes.”
I cleared my throat. “Lost a friend.”
“Because you want the loch.”
“I do not want anymore.”
She finally nodded. “You are against war.”
“I am now.”
She lowered her blade and beckoned toward the reservoir. “Come.”
“Wait,” I called her back. She slung her blade around at the outburst and I held up my hands in peace. “You come from the loch? Your people are there?”
My heart fluttered. “You made it to the loch before Treecia.”
“We stand guard. We protect the water.”
A laugh bubbled up my throat before I could stop it and I staggered after her, my feet sliding around in the sand as I tried to keep pace.
We reached the giant oasis that brought life to three planets and my hopes suddenly plummeted. Many of the crops surrounding it had been trampled, browning from the lack of care, and sludge replaced the lake where fresh, clear water should have streamed.
“What happened here?” I keened in my own language. When she gawked at me in confusion, I repeated in her native tongue.
“War,” she retorted. “Fight for life and you bring death.”
“You fought here?”
“Treecian’s came. We pushed them back. They fled. Not without cost.”
Crouching down at the edge of the reservoir, the muck within suddenly reflected back as a deep, dark red. Our drinking water was polluted with blood.
“If we keep killing each other, we will kill everyone,” I muttered in horror. “We have to stop.”
To be continued in For the Moon: 5...
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber