The Last Three Minutes of War

Ruger hunched in the foxhole.

Wet, black heat seeped from the smouldering crater in his Electrum breast plate; hydraulic fuel, mingled with sweat, mingled with blood. He cursed. The suns were going down, and he was a hundred miles from nowhere. His android spotter was a sparking, ruined junk heap at his feet. The rest of his platoon was scattered across the moonscape battle ground like smoking chunks of rocket crash. He cursed again. The blinking red display on his wrist warned him sepsis was snaking a poison path through his spleen, two of his ribs were fractured, his orbital socket was broken, and his nanomedics were completely offline.

Ruger spit out the shattered incisor that had been grating his gums. It plinked off a jagged gash of shrapnel before coming to rest in the burnt orange dust. Where in the hell were reinforcements? With a charred fingertip, he sent the S.O.S signal for the seventh time. For the seventh time, there was no reply. Nothing but white noise static, like the empty, quiet hum of deep space. Was he the only one left?

A distant howl—part war cry, part sobbing jag—roused him, brought him back to the present like an icy slap in the face. Ruger got up, winced, spit blood. He peered over the rust colored dune. The sound was coming from across the battlefield, from a foxhole not unlike his own, from the lone soldier climbing out of it. The soldier looked like Ruger felt. Half his mangled body was limp, scorched, smoking like a forgotten camp fire. He held no weapons. He wore no armor. He left a gory slug trail in the dust behind him, staggering forward like a burning man in the dessert.

Ruger was out of ammunition. No shells. No grenades. No fusion charge. Even his bayonet was missing, forgotten an eternity earlier in an enemy sternum. He tossed his useless weapon aside and struggled out of his sparking armor. The soldier drew closer, barking, frothing, stalking towards him. With steady, battle calloused hands, Ruger emptied a hypodermic into each thigh. Morphine in the left, adrenaline in the right. They stung like wasp stings, but he suddenly felt twenty feet tall and made of steel. He slapped himself across the face. Hard.

The last two soldiers, on a planet with no name, countless light years from home, were about to fight to the death with their ruined bare hands. Fight to the death for a cause, that for the life of him–as he rained blood, and mucus, and tears into the dirt–Ruger couldn’t seem to recall. He closed his eyes, patted the locket that dangled next to his dog tags. Inside, his wife and baby daughter smiled.

The enemy howl was close now, right on top of him. Ruger opened his eyes, clenched his fists, gnashed his teeth. He didn’t believe in God, yet that didn’t stop him from hissing a prayer as he clambered up out of the alien dirt to meet his fate.

“Lord, give me the streng—

Ruger froze.

The enemy–poised to bludgeon him with a chalky orange stone the size of a cantaloupe–froze as well.

In the alien sky, a miles high countdown appeared, ticking down with an ear splitting klaxon, displayed in digital blood red.

10, 9, 8

If Ruger or the enemy soldier had any consciousness left, they might have stared up and wondered at it, or puzzled at the monstrous shadows it cast across their battleground.

7, 6, 5

With a blast of ominous trumpets, colossal letters appeared below it. Horizon to horizon. Letters that the Zandalarian-speaking enemy soldier wouldn’t have been able to read, even if he was still self-aware. Ruger could have read it though, had he still been cognizant and able to sufficiently read backwards.

INSERT ONE DOLLAR TO CONTINUE PLAYING

–4, 3, 2, 1

Ruger’s God ( Taylor, a ten year old girl who didn’t even want to go to the stupid Arcade in the first stupid place but her stupid brother made her ) was a merciless, vengeful God.

She picked her nose as she watched the countdown expire.

She didn’t have another dollar, and this game was stupid anyway.

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