JT Austin stood on a rock overhang at the entrance to the Founders Mine where he had lived for almost a week now. An automatic rifle hung at his side, carelessly held one-handed as he stared east into the sunset. The sky above had turned deep purple with a riot of red and orange hugging the distant horizon.
“Watcha watching?” said a female voice.
JT turned to see a small slender girl, dark-skinned and maybe two years younger than him, climbing up the rock toward him. He waved with his free hand. “Good evening, Davra. Are you on guard duty tonight? Or getting claustrophobic?”
“Why can’t it be both?” she said. “A girl’s gotta have options, you know.”
JT laughed. “We seem to have so few these days.” As soon as the words came out of his mouth, he realized how old he sounded. He was having a hard time believing he had only turned sixteen two weeks ago. Or was it three? Time had started to lose its meaning as the resistance spent its time underground. “I don’t even know why I’m up here. The Gelt don’t like the mountains, and we haven’t seen hide nor hair of Kray since he fled.”
“Someone’s gotta keep watch,” said Davra. “What if lycanths come looking for food?”
“Let them eat Gelt.”
The two laughed until they heard a low rumbling sound cut that laughter short. The familiar shape of a Gelt Colonial transport, appeared above the eastern horizon, dimly lit by the fading sunlight. The leading edge of the giant saucer glowed red, probably from the heat of reentry. JT and Davra saw flame and smoke trailing from various sections of the saucer. The giant craft roared overhead and toward a mountain range to the northwest. The kilometer-wide vessel appeared to shrink as it crossed the sky, then exploded when it hit a distant mountain. The fireball looked like a volcanic eruption.
“Holy shit,” said JT. “What did that?”
“It looks like it was attacked,” said Davra. “But who would attack the Gelt? Unless…”
Before either of them spoke, they heard a second roar. They spun and saw another ship in the sky. This one had a shape familiar to JT. Someone once described it to him as looking like a blue-water fleet aircraft carrier. Like the saucer, this one glowed red. Also, like the saucer, this one trailed fire and smoke.
“That,” said JT, “is a Woodrow Wilson-class cruiser. The Compact must be trying to take back Amargosa.”
“We’re saved?” said Davra.
“Well, that ship doesn’t look like it’s saving us. In fact…” JT stopped, noticing the debris trailing from the ship was falling. He also noticed the ship’s path would take it directly overhead. Off in the distance, he saw bright yellow pieces of ship falling into the central plains. When they hit, fires blossomed. Occasionally, a piece exploded as it hit some object they couldn’t see in the dim light. “Um…”
“Shouldn’t we head back inside?” said Davra.
JT did not wait to respond. He charged back down the rock to the compound entrance. “Come on! You don’t want to get hit by that stuff.” At the mine entrance, he waited for Davra to catch up. Keying the lock that restricted access to the Founders Mine, he got the door open and pushed Davra through just as debris started falling inside the mine’s closed off entry yard. It sounded like a cross between a hailstorm in an artillery barrage until the door closed behind them.
Inside, JT and Davra met Major Quan, who did not look pleased to see them inside.
“Ship overhead coming out of orbit, said JT, out of breath. “Trailing debris. It’s one of ours.”
“And we saw a Colonial transport crash in the mountains northwest of here,” said Davra. “Maybe we’re saved.”
Quan looked at JT, smiling a humorless smile. “Does this mean I’m finally rid of you?”
“It means I’m taking back my cabin,” said JT. “As long as I can be a hermit up there, yes, you are rid of me.”
Quan frowned. “I was kind of hoping you’d leave the planet.”
“Not sound like a bad idea, Quan. I’ve had enough of Amargosa to last me a lifetime.”