B. Morris Allen

C B B – 566 words

The boat jagged suddenly to the right, passing over the duraplex dome of the base. With a triumphant grin, he triggered the nozzles, and a specially designed compound sprayed out. A light beige in color, it settled on the dome with no evidence of effect. Soon enough, he knew, it would react with the caustic atmosphere. Victory! And he, Abed Reynik, had brought it to them! He’d be in the history books for sure, now. He did a tiny jig in his place, strapped to the command seat. Now, to get out of here.

It was almost an anti-climax when the first missile struck, taking out the bulk of the controls. That victory dance had cost him precious time, allowed the bastards to target him. They’d get their own soon enough, though. He made good his escape from the falling boat. Even as it burst into flame, he knew the reprieve was only temporary. It was worth it, he thought, to put things in their place.

Above her, a faint crackling sounded. She glanced up at the dome. Duraplex was proof against anything, the engineers said. Surely it could withstand a few fragments falling on it. It was dirty, she noticed now; perhaps the result of that one ship that had passed above them before being shot down. It had leaked something on them, she supposed. Strange, how it lingered. She supposed it must be some kind of oil, to cling like this even to the impervious dome.

She lowered her gaze back to the thin saplings in her section of the arboretum. An absurdly grandiose term for a handful of trees, she often thought. Better than ‘forest’, though, and it did give them some focus – gave the little band hope, that someday, somewhere, they might put down roots themselves. The trees were a reminder, at least, that life awaited them, that it meant more than concrete and duraplex and defense perimeters.

The trees were flourishing, she thought with no little pride. Partly it was because the dome and the filters kept out the deadly atmosphere, but at least part of it, a big part, was her devoted care. The trees were her family. A little trite but true enough. It was hard, sometimes, to keep a friendly, or even civil, attitude toward her co-… Co-what, she wondered. The conspiracy was over, the secret out. Rebels? A hundred people were hardly a rebellion, amongst the trillions of people under the Union. Whatever they were, though, they were under stress. Even Gerda… They had hardly spoken in days, Gerda busy with defensive preparations while she herself spent more time with her plants. Polishing the leaves, she thought; pretending to work.

The crackling came again, louder. There was no mistaking it this time – it came from above, and there was nothing above but the dome. She looked up, to see a dark point directly above her. As she watched, it lengthened rapidly from a small line to a lightning jag. The lightning forked, and forked again, and with a shrill cry, the dome itself began to fall.

The shard of dome pinned her down, snapping the young growth she had instinctively tried to protect. Her head bounced once, hard, against the concrete floor, before coming to rest amid a crown of twigs. Even as the glossy leaves trembled with her last breaths, they began to curl and die.