Darkest Hour – Chapter 2

They say we are the lucky ones, we who survived the first cataclysms. To live a life alone amid so much loss is to die a hundred thousand deaths. Those who perished in the beginning and did not know this suffering, they are the lucky ones.

– from The Cycle of Rebirth, Chapter 1, Verse 8

Chapter 2

Three days ago Leah and I had dinner with Rachel and Elani across the hall. Rachel was a biochemist working for the University of Pennsylvania. She was an amazing cook, blending local custom with off-world traditions in ways I couldn’t begin to understand. We had prime cuts of sirloin marinated with butter and Seguthi sauce from Thessia, Elani’s home world. I could still taste it if I allowed myself.

We found them in the bedroom, Rachel’s hand still grasping Elani’s. Ebony skin intertwined with light blue, coated in dark blood. They’d put up a fight but it was clear they’d been overwhelmed. Several husks lay around the bed, and I could feel the latent residue of eezo in the air. Elani’s biotics weren’t strong by Asari standards and Rachel was only a lab tech. They hadn’t stood a chance.

I finally tore my eyes from the sight when Leah put a hand on my shoulder. A deep sense of loss came over me, not just for losing new friends but that two lives so intertwined would be removed without reason or need. Elani spoke with me just last night about their plans to travel once Rachel had sabbatical. She wanted to take her to Thessia and then to the Citadel. I reached for Leah’s hand, reflexively, but she moved away.

“Come on,” Leah said and we left the room. On the way to the door I found an image recording of the two of them in John Kennedy Park, standing in front of some old piece of art that simply said “Love.” The simple cliché of the image made me smile and I tucked it away into my belt. If there was ever a memorial here in Philadelphia, I’d make sure it was added. Continue reading

Darkest Hour – Chapter 1

I stood amidst the corpses of friends and allies, their blood everywhere soaking the walls and fields. The gore was so unimaginable I was helpless before it and fell to my knees with shaking hands and uncontrollable tears.

The world cracked and fell away. There came a light, a brilliant, blinding light to erase our world. I stared, transfixed, my gaze torn away from the face of my mother. My memory yet burns with the memory, her lips frozen in that terrible light with the last syllables of my name upon them.

From the heavens, came our Hell. I saw them as great shadows with one giant eye. They descended and fell upon the land and I knew the face of death.

The end had come.

– from The Cycle of Rebirth, Chapter 12, Verse 14

Chapter 1

 Just when I’d thought my day couldn’t get any worse, the world decided to end.

The bastard came down right over City Hall, digging giant tentacle appendages into Penn Square like an omni-blade through butter. I watched, dumbstruck, as the damn thing obliterated William Penn’s bronzed visage from the face of the Earth. I raised my M-3 and fired at that red eye until my thermal clip was full. The act of ejecting it woke me from my idiocy just in time to grab the nearest gawking civilian and haul him bodily into the cafe I’d just come from.

The street exploded into a million fragments of superheated polycrete and old fashioned masonry. I kept my head down and managed to kick over a table just in time for the shards to embed themselves in its plastic exterior. Another blast ripped through the air with a deafening sound that ripped a scream from my throat.

The world went red and burned away to a stark white nothing. I felt something pop in my ears and a sudden silence overcame me, followed by a high pitched ringing. For a heartbeat I thought I’d died, but my vision returned enough to see the world through flashes of light and darkness.

The cafe no longer had a wall and the ceiling was gone. I could see daylight above me, several hundred stories of building ripped open like a serrated can. Debris fell all around me, crashing into the street, into parked cars, and worse… into people. Continue reading