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She had learned first aid while in the shelters, over two years ago. It had mainly been diagnosing the average sickness that cropped up, even with the nanotech scouring the air to destroy harmful biological life forms. During the year she spent in the shelter, deep underground as the war for her planet and her people raged on the surface, she had learned to treat burns, sickness, minor injuries, and had twice helped deliver a baby.

After the year of living beneath the ground, she had returned to the surface, returned to school.

Her family was still well to do. It had been, even when the Overseers had ruled over the system, but several of her family members had helped the Terrans defend her home planet and because of that, they had connections and respect that money couldn't buy.

At the advice from the family member she admired the most, she had kept up her first aid training, keeping up her certification.

Then the Slorpies had returned.

"Melinvae, get in the car!" her father yelled, trying to be heard over the howl of the graviton engines of the combat lifter that was bobbling in the middle of the street.

"I'm sorry!" the girl yelled, turning and running after her uncle. "Uncle Erylve, wait! Wait for me!" She waved her first aid pack over her head, the dark OD green bag had a white circle on both sides, one side a red cross in the middle, the other a red crescent. The white caught the lights of the street, of the cars pulling out of driveways to speed toward the shelter only a mile away, and the lights of the grav-lifter she ran toward.

Her uncle paused, looking at her as one of the Terrans in the back handed a helmet to him. He looked up, nodded, and waved at her to hurry before putting the helmet on his head.

Melinvae barely reached the lifter before her arms were grabbed by powerful Terran hands and she was pulled up into the grav-lifter. The grav-engines howled as the combat craft tilted and took off, Melinvae almost stumbling before someone grabbed her and pushed a vest into her arms.

She pulled the vest on, noting that it had a clip to a strap connected to a loop on the ceiling. Someone gave her a helmet and she put it on, a human hand helping close the strap under her chin. She pulled her aid bag over her head and grabbed the strap, pulling it taut and using it to hold herself.

"We're heading for Fort Targeth, Terran Army and Telkan Marines," her uncle's voice came over the helmet. "Keep your head down, the Slorpies somehow made planetfall without being noticed."

A Slorpie combat craft took that moment to rise up out of a field. Melinvae screamed as the door gunner opened up, the solid looking shafts of light raking the Slorpie flying, blowing chunks off of it with white-blue flashes that dazzled her helmet's visor.

Her uncle was handed two injectors. He slammed one into his own thigh, throwing it out the open door, then swung next to Melinvae. Before she could protest he slammed it against hers and she screamed again in pain as a needle punched deep into her leg.

"Anti-rad treatment! They're using anti-matter and atomics already!" her uncle yelled. "You shouldn't have come."

Melinvae shook her head, gritting her flat teeth. "People are going to get hurt! They need me!" she yelled back. "I'm a medic!"

"You're a civilian first aid assistant!" her uncle yelled back. He looked outside as words streamed across Melinvae's visor.

ATOMIC ATOMIC ATOMIC

The flash was almost at ground level, miles away. Melinvae could see the horizon light up as the white flash turned night into day. A trefoil radiation marker appeared in her visor, telling her she'd taken rads, but nothing to worry about.

Yet.

The grav-striker suddenly dropped, rolling slightly, and her uncle grabbed her tightly.

The guns toward the ground raked heaving surging forms on the ground. Melinvae had the impression of spines, teeth, heavy chitin armor, lashing tentacles, and roaring.

The guns exploded all of it in a slurry, some of it splattering the battlescreens of the grav-striker.

The striker leveled out and seemed to pick up speed.

"You shouldn't have come," her uncle repeated.

"Then why did you let me?" Melinvae shot back.

He looked away. "Because they let me fight last time."

--------------

Melinvae couldn't have told anyone that the ride in the grav-striker had only been two days ago. The Slorpies had arrived in force and she'd been rushing from one critically injured patient to the next in between shoving food in her mouth and sleeping wherever there was room enough for her to curl up.

"LET ME GO, PHILLIP STAB YOUR EYES! MY PLATOON IS OUT THERE!" the Telkan yelled as she used the pressor-assist to hold the Telkan Marine down. His legs were missing at the knee and he had plasma burns up his thighs.

"THEN THEY'LL HAVE TO FIGHT WITHOUT YOU!" Melinvae screamed back at him as she locked him down. She grabbed the auto-heplock and slapped it against his throat. It auto-removed his fur, stunned the nerves, and slid a large bore IV needle into his neck.

"Let me go, please, let me go," the Telkan wept as the sedation beam took affect.

"Melinvae, I need you!" a Welkret nurse called out. She was wrestling with a one armed Telkan Marine, who was trying to get off the stretcher. His eyes were glassy and his whiskers drooped, same as his ears, showing he wasn't quite sure where he was.

"Slorpies! Slorpies in the bush!" the Telkan gasped, grabbing at the nurse with one hand. "Slorpies in the bush!"

Melinvae rushed over and grabbed the Telkan with one hand, grabbing his armor's collar and pulling him backwards with one hand even as she reached up and grabbed the pressor emitter. His armor beeped at the recognition of her wristband, showing she was medical, and she was able to push him down on the stretcher as the strength assist cut out. The pressor beam emitter whined and Melinvae held him down, reaching up to grab another heplock.

"They're invisible, sir. You can't see them till they move in for the attack, Lieutenant," the Telkan said, staring at her with wide glassy eyes. "Watch for the grass moving, private. Recon by fire or grenades."

The Telkan's eyes fluttered and Melinvae watched carefully.

The Telkan suddenly lunged up, grabbing at the Welkret nurse with his one remaining hand. "IT'S AN AMBUSH!" He screamed out.

The anesthetic beam took hold and the Telkan slumped back.

"Melinvae, I need you!" a doctor, a Russent mantid cried out.

She turned and rushed through the triage tent.

Outside the grav-striker she had arrived in settled down and the Tukna'rn litter bearers moved, quickly for them, to the striker. She glanced over and saw a single Hesstla manning the door gun.

She recognized him even before her visor tagged him and waved.

Her uncle waved back.

She turned away, rushing to help the doctor.

The wounded streamed in.

-------------

Aunt Fenn had dealt with a lot of shocks the last week. The sight of the military aircraft tumbling from the sky and destroying the family car bare minutes after she had chased her nieces and nephews. The panic inducing flight to the campground.

The male trying to hurt her.

That still haunted her dreams. Not how her niece had quickly and efficiently butchered the male. Not how she had done it silently, without speaking, with no more emotion than she would have shown cutting wood for the fire.

That the male had enjoyed Fenn's dismay and fear and emotional pain in some sadistic way.

She knew her husband was horrified by other things.

How their nephew took their oldest son out to 'check the perimeter', an act that seemed to involve checking on booby traps and building more, as well as looking for anyone attempting to hide from the Slorpies nearby.

You can't trust anyone. Not anymore. All that matters is surviving, she heard her nephew say.

He's just a boy, she thought to herself, holding back tears. Her nephew was thirteen, her sons fourteen and eleven, and her nephew had led them outside to follow the instructions of a horrible book.

She didn't glance at the book. The Terran Confederate Army FM 5-31, had been hidden in the cabin and the boys had been encouraged to memorize it. Encouraged to memorize how to kill, how to create traps that killed, how to hunt, how to track, how to identify plants and animals and navigate in the wilderness.

It had only been two weeks, but her life before seemed like a hazy dream.

One of the littles, which still had not been named, screeched at another over a bug that the other little had found and promptly eaten.

"No!" the oldest of the littles, Nee, shrieked from where she was standing up, holding onto the windowsill and watching out the window at Fenn's husband and daughter and youngest niece working outside.

Fenn picked up the pitcher from beside the tub, dipped it in the water, and poured the water over her niece's back, washing away the gently smelling thick medicinal foam.

Her oldest niece shuddered as the water poured across her back.

Fur no longer washed away to expose burned skin.

Now the skin of her niece was marked with twisting scar tissue from the burns. Her fur was gone in patches, thick burn scars beneath.

"Are you all right?" Fenn asked gently. "Is the water too cold?"

"I'm fine," Dambree said softly, her head hanging down. "I'm starting to get tired."

"You need to eat after your bath," Fenn said.

"I know," Dambree said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Fenn finished rinsing Dambree off, helping the teenager out of the bath and wrapping her with a drying cloth before escorting her to the couch.

She reached for her pistol before even getting all the way out of the tub, holding it in one hand the whole time.

Nee, her eyes still slowly going from feral gold to green, stagger-walked over to her sister, grabbing the sheet and laying her head down on Dambree's knees. She had stopped going for the pistol after it had gone off in her hands.

"Nigh-nigh," the baby said.

"I know," Dambree yawned, reaching down and pulling Nee up onto her lap.

Fenn watched as Nee squirmed, getting comfortable on her sister's chest as Dambree turned and laid down on the couch.

Fenn knew that the almost 3 year old Nee was a little behind in her maturity, but after having to stay in the cabin, she understood why. Gone were the nannies, the creches, the schooling.

Eat or be eaten, Fenn thought, moving over to the stove. The nutriforge that Dambree had gotten sat on the side counter.

Dambree had insisted it only be used when there were missing vegetables or meat or other meal components, that it be used as sparingly as possible.

Fenn began making dinner. Open the cans, the self-heats, the jars, the steri-packs. Normally babies stayed on milk for the first year, but Dambree insisted that they be fed soft food and chewed/tenderized meat as soon as they started drooling from teething.

Fenn watched Dambree doze off as she prepared dinner.

Mister Mewmew watched it all, in his metal form, the black triangle in the middle of his head giving no hint to his thoughts.

------------

"INCOMING AIR SUPPORT!" the Staff Sergeant, a big Treana'ad warrior caste, bellowed out over the links.

It was a good thing he did, most of his troops were half deaf, even if their helmet's sonic baffling was holding tight.

On top of Undrat's fighting position the massive Warbound were firing point blank into the screaming churning mass of Dwellerspawn that just seemed to thicken no matter how many rounds were put downrange. They were roaring as they fired their heavy dual barreled autocannons, plasma ejectors, and missile weapons into the very faces of the enemy as they just kept swarming forward.

The Ultion Knight, the Dread Corporal Stenpi'irlik, had moved outside the bunker, claiming their weapons were too dangerous to use.

Undrat could see the Dread Corporal firing their weapons from the side monitor on his gun.

The Dread Corporal was wreathed in a nimbus of black and deep purple. Any dwellerspawn that touched the field flickered and vanished, black dust and ash wafting away on the air. Their weapons fired dark purple and black tears in reality that shredded whatever was touched in the slightest way. A bare nick by those terrible black beams caused the entire creature to explode in gobbets and thick liquid slurry. The missles and grenades detonated with cold black energy, a purple halo, edged with whitish gold, flashing out from the bubble of darkness. The halo, which would flash out for up to a hundred meters, would cause everything it touched to explode into superheated steam. When the black bubble faded there was only a crater with a flattened bottom and a center dimple that remained as the air collapsed into the vacuum the bubble left behind.

Undrat only paid attention to the Dread Corporal's fight enough to keep track of what was happening in his field of fire, although he had made a personal note to consult with the Ultion Knight to find out their weapon's capabilities.

He was holding down the trigger of the Madame Three-Eighteen, letting her pound out her aria into the faces of the Dwellerspawn.

On his right the Treana'ad gunner was firing his massive cannon at a rapid fire rate of 12 rounds a minute, the huge gun blowing apart cones of Dwellerspawn a thousand feet deep and five hundred yards wide at the far end.

Undrat was holding his own, even if the heat and slush on the Madame Three-Eighteen were rising. His rounds scythed them from the air and ground, shattered armor, vaporized internals, exploded structural chitin.

The fight had been raging for eight hours.

TEMPORAL TEMPORAL TEMPORAL appeared in his vision.

The weapons cut out even as Undrat unclenched his aching hands and raised them. The shutters closed and Undrat could see that the power consumption for his temporal stabilizer had jumped to 124%.

Everything seemed to suddenly expand out even as it contracted to a pinprick.

Then it exploded and contracted at the same time, leaving him panting.

The shutters rolled up even as he grabbed the firing handles of Madame Three-Eighteen. Her slush and heat had dropped and he took the time to stomp the bar that sprayed the nanoforges with liquid nitrogren.

Outside was nothing but a carpet of inverted flesh, some of it gagging and convulsing, with a fine mist of vaporized tissue and miniscule droplets raining from the sky.

"I AM FILLED WITH THE LAUGHTER OF PODLINGS!" the massive Warbound Kappa on the roof of the fighting position roared out.

"WE WILL NOT YIELD!" the Ultion Knight bellowed back.

"HERE THEY COME!" the Staff Sergeant yelled, kicking the loading bar for his massive artillery weapon.

The Dwellerspawn crossed the 6,000 meter engagement zone.

Undrat squeezed the trigger.

-------------

"MY MEN ARE OUT THERE!" The Telkan snarled, tears running out of his remaining eye.

"THEN LIVE TO JOIN THEM!" Melinvae yelled back as she pinned his remaining hand to the table. The Pressor beams grabbed his arm, even as she let go and grabbed a slap patch.

"LET ME UP! LET ME UP!" the Telkan Lieutenant yelled, trying to get loose of the pressor restraints.

Melinvae slapped the patch on his shoulder with one hand and triggered the sedation beam with the other.

The Telkan Marine fought it for almost the count of thirty.

Once she had him stable, she moved on.

Outside, the Tukna'rn rushed toward the striker that was setting down, blood running out the doors, the floor awash with it, carrying stretchers for the wounded.

"Melinvae, I need you!" the russet mantid called out, backing up as the Tukna'rn Infantryman suddenly sat up and looked around, blinking his large eyes in confusion.

The Second Battle for Hesstla roared around everyone.

--------------

It was night. The insects had started to make a comeback, more resistant to the radiation and black rain that had come, and they sang with an almost obnoxious tone, as if mocking everyone less resistant.

Dinner was finished, everyone was in bed, split up between the two bedrooms.

Holding one of the Terran combat rifles, Elu let the edge of the curtain fall and turned away. He moved over and sat down on the coffee table, staring at the couch.

His sister Dambree was asleep there. Elu stared at his sister Dambree, looking at her where she was laying on the couch with a sleeping Nee on her chest. If he squinted he could see the tiny little bristles of her hair growing back on her face and head in weird patches. Her face was scarred from radiation exposure, her fur gone, revealing the scars on her head and face.

He remembered every scar she had.

He remembered how afraid he had been, how useless he'd been at first.

Which is why he wasn't mad at his cousins.

"I love you," Elu said softly, reaching out and touching her hand.

"I love you too," he heard his sister say. He looked up and saw her eyes were open.

"I'm sorry," Elu said. He was proud of himself, the tears didn't come. "I'm sorry you're so sick because you had to save us again."

"I'm not," Dambree whispered. She closed her eyes. "I'm just tired. Mister Mewmew said I'll get better eventually."

"I'm sorry," Elu repeated.

"Shhh, don't," Dambree said, turning her hand over to hold Elu's. She squeezed it. "I'd do it again. I will do it again if I have to," her eyes didn't open as she whispered. "I love you, so it's all worth it."

Elu just nodded.

Mister Mewmew just watched from where he sat, motionless, next to the fireplace.

Outside the insects mocked everyone else.

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A note from Ralts Bloodthorne

Word Count: 3,033

Total Count: 70,993

Edit: Hey, if you like romance, go to https://www.royalroad.com/profile/193207/fictions and give this author a little shout out of encouragement.

They're plugging right along in the writing contest, but Romance isn't exactly one of the more popular genres. Just say Hi and let her know you see her and her efforts.

May the laughter of podlings encourage them to write.

EDIT TWO: I'll be showcasing a different writer's link down here every day, I'll pick them at random here and there, until the end of the writing contest. I know not everyone has a burning obsession with writing like I do to pound on the keyboard for hours at a time, but every writer likes a little love.

Don't feel obligated to click on the links or anything. :) Just do it if you have the time and inclination.

As always, I remain: The Mad Arch-Angel TerraSol, the Wordboi, the Wordborg, the Creation Engine, Ralts Bloodthorne.


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About the author

Ralts Bloodthorne

  • Terran Confed Space
  • The Mad Arch-Angel TerraSol

Bio: The Wordboi, the Creation Engine, the Mad Arch-Angel TerraSol. I am Warlord Ralts Bloodthorne, the crazed speaker, the dark whisperer, the chronicler of dreams who's mind's eye peers into the spaces beyond for the sights to show you, such sights I have to show you, should you choose to look.

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rarrar ago

Thank you for the chapter!

EmpireofTrust ago

I'm not crying, you're crying, it's just dusty in here.

OntoSomethingGood ago

Hey, thank you so much for the shout-out. I have gained three new followers in just a few hours and many more views! It's really heartening to see it, I was almost about to give up on my book. Thank you so much again. You have gained a follower yourself :)

Epic Reader ago

Stupid Atrenka temporal warfare bringing back onions from the past.

--

'At the advice from the family member she admired the most, she had kept up her first aid training, keeping up her certification.

Then the Slorpies had returned.

"Melinvae, get in the car!" her father yelled, trying to be heard over the howl of the graviton engines of the combat lifter that was bobbling in the middle of the street.

"I'm sorry!" the girl yelled, turning and running after her uncle. "Uncle Erylve, wait!'

Ok - so, first invasion, Queen Bunny Melinvae gets shoved in a shelter with her parents - no credit there. In the shelter, she volunteers and serves as a medic while the other children sit around bored - mad credit there!

 

Post-sheltering, Queen Bunny Melinvae spins her family name and especially her Uncle's who stayed in a Terran surface camp, even fought with the Terrans, into Queen High School Bunny status. Teen high society girl, sure, whatever, kids social ladders - but as Queen Bunny, she noticed Old Lady Dambree, pays attention, investigates with her parents, listens to that Uncle whose name she throws around... and then she lays down the law; Old Lady Dambree is to be left alone RESPECTFULLY. So - she's using those social powers for the benefit of others who ask nothing of her.

She keeps up first aid training and certification - I have to think she's not just doing recert classes, but she's actively taking additional medical classes. She's got a pretty serious medical kit in the house, too - full adult level credit there.

She's cool and collected when Dambree gets the epileptic fit/psychic warning, protecting Dambree and then getting the warning out.

And then she skips the shelter deliberately and goes with her Uncle to the surface camps.

That girl is something special - she'd Dambree's age - still too young for even driver's lessons, and she's heading to help out on the surface. Lucky for her it's a part Telkan base.

--

'How their nephew took their oldest son out to 'check the perimeter''

Elu's taken over security and security training, which means Tru's likely handing the fishing and foraging and organization that Dambree used to, but now for a much larger group.

--

'It had only been two weeks, but her life before seemed like a hazy dream.'

Two weeks. So, a couple three days on the road, and another 10 or 11 with Dambree recovering from terminal rad poisoning. Having watched chuncks of the HBO Chernobyl (2019) feature recently, that's still pretty horrifying.

Most importantly - it looks like nobody serious has challenged the Masked Killer's claim over Sparkling Lake (HIS LAKE!) in nearly two weeks, which means Dambree's display of sneaking up, chucking the severed head with the note, and sneaking back worked properly - fear is keeping her lake secure and her family safe from major Red Ears raiding parties while she's unable to protect it physically. A random black eyes or four, her siblings can handle.

--

'Her fur was gone in patches, thick burn scars beneath.'

Yikes. She's going to look like something else next school year - I really hope Melinvae survives, too.

Terran rad treatment I expect'll keep her in fighting shape; whether she'll ever regrow her fur on those patches, who knows, and if she does, what color and texture it'll be, who knows.

--

Wow. The kids from that generation are going to be fantastically sure the universe is malevolent, after two nasty nasty invasions back to back like that.

--

'"Melinvae, I need you!" the russet mantid called out'

This was a really good segment.

We see four different categories and know of a hidden fifth for the local bunnies.

You've got the Black Eyes.

You've got the (hidden category of) local civvies in shelters - they went, they trusted their safety to others, now they're just riding it out, a few volunteering to help the shelter.

You've got the soldiers - apparently all foreign - all fighting and dying to save the civilians.

You've got the local civvies helping out in surface camps and fighting themselves to save civilians and soldiers - Melinvae and her uncle. Very rare for her people, it seems, but when they come through, they come through.

You've got the survivors out there looking out for their families - Dambree and crew.

 

The soldiers are fighting for others, people they don't know - people not of their planet, not of their species.

The local civvies helping out in surface camps are fighting for others, people they do know, people of their own species and planet as well as outsiders come to help them.

And the survivors as a whole occupy a very interesting middle niche. They're not - very definitely not - out to save anyone else. They're not heroes, they're not rescuers or protectors of civilians. They're taking up less resources than all the civilians in shelters, but they're not really helping anyone else.

Dambree and her family were in that niche solidly First Invasion - and at Dambree's age, the fact that she kept 3 people out of a shelter, away from needing anyone else to care for them, and put down what had to be high double or low triple digit black eyes, she helped out, but in a small way.

This time, at Elu's reminder, her little group collected at least 5 other random littles - no small thing in and of itself, and she's already whacked a couple dozen black eyes.

For the survivor category, that's pretty big.

 

With just that, we can look at the scales, and see that Dambree and her family is a net good for their planet, but a very small one. Melinvae and her Uncle are a greater good, clearly so.

 

But... Dambree and her family isn't like the other survivors. She and her siblings whacked the Atrenka Planetary Governeor in the First Invasion, and she personally ran over, shot and killed and ran over again an Atrenka high muckety-muck in the middle of summoning a vast number of dwellerspawn. Given a large portion of the population never made it to shelters, and the Terrans are down, that kill there almost certainly saved more people than most of the locals helping out fighting - because it's a sole kill. No orbital assist, no large groups of soldiers contributing. Just Dambree, and her stolen car, and her rage.

 

I'd still have to tip the hat to Melinvae for deliberately putting her life on the line to help others, knowing the Atrenka will deliberately target shelters and camps for brain harvesting, but Dambree deciding to save the babies is amazing, and frankly I completely understand Dambree taking her family and hightailing it, especially after her Uncle completely flubbed getting to the shelters.

 

--

 

ETA:

'Dambree had insisted it only be used when there were missing vegetables or meat or other meal components, that it be used as sparingly as possible.'

I have no idea why this took me by surprise - I imagine the cheap crap generator's being run on a need to run basis only  with spare generators and nutriforged underground to protect them from atomics screwing them up.  Dambree, as always, is in it for the long term.

--

The scene with Elu at the end was heartwrenching - at least he understands not only that his cousins are useless, but how to teach them as Dambree taught him, without being mad at them for being useless and dangerous to themselves.

 

Poor Elu and Tru - they just want Dambree to take care of herself better.  Unfortunately, that really means Dambree spends the rest of her life in Terran Confederacy designed armored and rad-shielded clothing.  Probably a good idea for her, honestly.

--

P.S.

'"Nigh-nigh," the baby said.

"I know," Dambree yawned, reaching down and pulling Nee up onto her lap.

Fenn watched as Nee squirmed, getting comfortable on her sister's chest as Dambree turned and laid down on the couch.'

Aww. 

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