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A Child's War

The dangerous strategies of a galactic struggle

By E.J. RobisonPublished 4 months ago 5 min read
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A Child's War
Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash

Alarms blared. They always did, nowadays.

Sarai pushed away the weariness, the annoyance clamouring for attention in the back of her mind. She couldn't be tired; that was a luxury war didn't afford.

She jumped out of bed and swept a hand over her bodysuit. In an instant, it morphed into a perfectly tailored grey and black uniform. A brief pass of her fingers through her hair was all that was needed to tame the short, curly locks. Sometimes she missed the variety of long hair, the many different styles she'd practised and perfected growing up... But this was better. More efficient.

Without wasting another breath, Sarai breezed into the hall outside. As usual, she was the first one up, though to his credit, a soldier jumped out of his cabin not thirty seconds later. Monroe, wasn't it?

Sarai gave him a curt nod, speaking at a level volume as her brain filtered out the familiar alarms. “Well done. A moment sooner and you might have beaten me.”

A smile twitched at Monroe's lips as he fell in step beside her, hands clasped behind his back. “It was one of my cabinmates, ma'am. I tripped over him.”

Sarai blinked. “‘Tripped,’ private?”

Monroe nodded. “Well, tripped over that weapon of his, more like.”

Sarai inhaled a sharp breath, a reprimand on her lips. Then she remembered.

“Ezzie.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Sarai glanced back over her shoulder, but the hall was now filled with soldiers scrambling to make their way toward the briefing room. Even if Ezzie had emerged, she wouldn't be able to see him.

“What do you think of him, Monroe?”

The soldier was silent for a moment, his gaze fixed straight ahead. “He's...just like he is anywhere else, ma’am."

She caught the meaning: odd.

The briefing room was empty when Sarai arrived. She went straight to her computer and keyed in her passcode. A flash of red on the screen warned her of an emergency situation and she quickly scanned her eyes over the readout.

By the time she’d absorbed the information, the briefing room was packed full of soldiers standing at attention, chins high and proud as they pressed their fists to their hearts.

Sarai glanced back at the computer. She wondered how patriotic they’d feel after she briefed them on the situation.

She allowed the group to rest at ease and got straight down to business. She announced that a robo-vessel had just emerged dangerously close to their cloaked station but didn’t seem to be targeting them. A few squads were sent to ready combat ships while others were posted around the station in case they were boarded or put on lockdown.

And before Sarai could take a single breath alone, the other ranking officers arrived.

“This is an opportunity,” Robertson said, eyes flashing with a sort of crazed hope. “They don't know we're here, and it's a control ship. We could shut down every robo between here and Ilian.”

“How?” Sarai demanded. She spoke before realising that her brain had already neatly analysed the situation; she was awake enough for that, at least. “We'd have to sneak a strike team onboard the ship without revealing our location. It’s a miracle they haven’t isolated our energy signatures already.”

Jakes waved a hand. “That’s the easy part—getting to the bridge is what would stop us. Any ideas?”

They all glanced at each other in silence.

150. The number danced around in Sarai's mind. On average, there were 150 robos that guarded the control bridge. Nothing short of an entire troop would be able to overcome that many—but a company that large would be target practise within seconds. There was no way they’d get to the robo ship before being obliterated.

“I tripped over him.”

Sarai sucked in a breath. All eyes snapped to her. Waiting. Sarai bit her lip.

“There's always Ezzie,” she said quietly, almost wishing no one would hear her.

Silence.

“He's still…untested,” Robertson hedged.

Sarai raised an eyebrow. “Have you forgotten how we found him? Surrounded by fifty dismantled robos?”

Everyone in the room shifted uncomfortably. Doubts crept into Sarai's mind. They were right; he was too young, and he'd shown a lack of discipline in following orders.

He was just a boy.

“He does have the Master Weapon,” Jakes said slowly.

“We can't count on some morphing mystical star wielded by a boy.” Cabrillo spoke up for the first time, her jaw set in annoyance.

“We don't have time to mobilise a whole troop,” Sarai pointed out. “By the time they're ready, the robo-vessel could be long gone. We need to send a strike team. Now.”

A door swooshed open, almost silent. At a single glance towards the entrance, Sarai snapped to attention. The officers around her stiffened a second later.

“At ease,” General Reg rumbled in a deep voice that sounded perpetually on edge.

Sarai relaxed only minutely. She felt sweat dampen her neck underneath her collar.

“Captain Forrest.”

Sarai nodded. “Sir.”

“Report?”

Sarai swallowed. Her fellow officers found anywhere else in the room to look but her.

“We need to send a strike team immediately, sir.” She paused only briefly, pushing out the rest before she could lose her nerve. “I think we should send Ezzie.”

The general's face was unreadable. Sarai tried to keep her expression just as neutral.

“An...interesting suggestion.” He paused, nodding sagely. “Have you asked the boy?”

“Asked?” Robertson echoed, a touch of incredulity in his voice.

The ghost of a smile adorned the general's lips. “He's only a boy; I don't think we can make him do anything he doesn't want to, orders or not.”

“I’ll go.”

No one had heard him enter. No one had seen him past the tall, commanding presence of General Reg.

And yet, there he was, a boy with uncombed brown hair curling around his ears and a rumpled uniform that had both pant legs and sleeves rolled up several times; they hadn’t found a bodysuit to fit him yet. But by far the strangest thing about him was the feline creature draped across his shoulders, its purr of contentment blending in with the energy humming throughout the station.

A shiver crawled down Sarai’s spine despite her efforts to remain still as a statue. Some people used to worship the stars, and now here one was, kneading its claws on Ezzie’s shirt.

The Master Weapon.

While the officers seemed to collectively hold their breath, the general turned around with a curious frown.

“Private Ezzie?”

The boy nodded, his expression too grim for one so young. “You don’t have to order me. I’ll go.” A touch of a smile graced his lips as he reached a hand up to scratch the cat’s head. “We both will.”

“Very well.” General Reg’s gaze swept across the room, but Sarai couldn’t tear her gaze from the brave young boy playing soldier. How had it come to putting their lives in the hands of a child?

“It’s time to see just what kind of weapon we have on our hands.”

Sci FiShort StoryYoung Adult
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About the Creator

E.J. Robison

Ever since I could first form words and hold a pen, I've been telling stories - from the sloppily scrawled tales about getting ice cream with my exotic pets to full-blown sci-fi and fantasy epics. Soli Deo gloria!

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (1)

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  • ThatWriterWoman4 months ago

    I loved this! How awesome! I'd be interested in reading more about Ezzie and his star-cat!

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