Disclaimer: This entry is locked to "friends-only" since it deals with actual possible text for my Worldsof Kalnar saga. I'm very uneasy about releasing any pieces of a larger work before it's finished, especially since I intend to publish these novels when they're complete. So, as per usual, please don't repost this anywhere, and remember, if you can read this it means I'm trusting you with my work-in-progress, please respect that. [/end disclaimer]
Title: The Face of the Enemy
Topic: Worlds of Kalnar
Genre: Short Story/SciFi/C-F/Angst
Warnings: None really, it's only PG because it deals with the concept of death.
The Face of the Enemy
The first thing you notice about being in space is that you are completely and utterly alone. It's not the kind of aloneness one feels when sitting at home in an empty house or walking down the street late at night when everyone is home in bed. It's an empty kind of aloneness, devoid of life. In space, you only have yourself to rely on. Your own mind, actions, and existence as an individual are often the only things between life and death. And sitting out here, alone in space, Kaid found it rather ironic that the very essence of his job forced him to ignore his own individuality.
Kaid was a soldier. He bore no rank insignia on his uniform and his ship bore no markings. Such things were unneeded, and even problematic in his line of work, since as far as the rest of the universe was concerned, he didn't even exist. Kaid was a soldier in a nonexistent army, fighting a nonexistent war, against a nonexistent enemy. In the simplest of terms, he was an assassin-spy, sent to gather information and hunt down his counterparts on the other side. It was a game. A dangerous game of cloak and dagger, and wits and luck were your only allies. For these reasons, Kaid was not allowed to sit back and ponder the mysteries of life or his place in the universe. He was just a part of the whole, a cog in a machine with a single job to do, and if he failed at that job, it could destroy the entire machine. Essentially, Kaid wasn't allowed to have any individuality. Self-identity can lead to self-doubt, and in a world where a second can mean everything and your job is to act, not think, that kind self-doubt can be dangerous. Kaid simply did his job and tried to avoid being killed, not because of any conscious thoughts of self-preservation, but because death would mean a win for the other side, and Kaid couldn't allow that. A death on his side was a loss and a death on the enemy side was a win. Because of this simple fact, reinforced by years of military programming, Kaid had no qualms about destroying the enemy ship he'd spotted on his sensors, creeping up from behind an asteroid.
The hours spent scanning this asteroid belt had paid off. The reports of an enemy scout ship hiding and gathering information out here in the wastelands of neutral territory had been confirmed. Now it was Kaid's job to make said enemy ship disappear without a trace. He brought the ship's weapons systems online and slipped forward, quietly but quickly, towards the enemy vessel. Carefully refined stealth technology, his greatest advantage over the enemy, ensured that his approach wouldn't be detected until it was too late. He moved into range and fired. The shot was accurate, the destruction quick and efficient. Not a trace of the enemy ship remained but a few bits of floating debris. Kaid transmitted an encoded message back to headquarters, letting them know he'd accomplished his mission. It would take several hours for the message to reach the base, and for new instructions to be sent, so Kaid put the ship on autopilot and decided to get some well-earned rest. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd slept. He got two hours in before the warning signals went off.
Kaid's eyes snapped open. Lights were flashing red, a proximity-warning signal was going off. Something had definitely come close to hitting the ship. Still trying to push away the effects of interrupted sleep, Kaid pulled up a damage report and turned the external sensors back online. According to the computer, a large object had just barely missed hitting the ship's hull, but it hadn't done any damage. Kaid set the sensors to scan for foreign objects in the asteroid belt. The autopilot was programmed to predict the movements of asteroids and avoid them. It rarely ever failed. Whatever had come so close to the ship was moving far faster than an asteroid. Sure enough, the sensors spotted it, not more than two meters ahead. It was a ship. An enemy ship.
Startled, Kaid quickly flicked on the weapons. Apparently the intelligence report hadn't been entirely correct. There had been two ships scouting this asteroid belt. Still, his own ship's stealth technology should have prevented the other ship from detecting him during its approach and hopefully it had gone by too quickly to have picked up his ship on its sensors when it got close enough. He wouldn't have a problem if he moved fast. He locked his weapons on the enemy ship and fired. And almost missed. So much for not having been detected. The other ship had seen him and gotten enough of a warning of his attack to try and dodge. Luckily the laser blast had still caught the enemy, effectively disabling its weapons. Its engines were still intact, but in its damaged state it couldn't outrun Kaid's ship. One more hit would finish it off. Kaid armed the weapons, locked on, and prepared to fire. Suddenly, the enemy ship darted forward. Kaid jerked his hand away from the weapons consol. Even at half speed it was still fast enough to close the small gap between the two ships and if Kaid fired now, his own ship would be caught in the blast. A clever tactic, but Kaid could quickly gain enough distance again. However, before he could move away, the other ship darted forward again, straight in Kaid's direction. The enemy couldn't escape death, but he could take Kaid with him. Kaid barely had enough time to react and maneuver his ship slightly out of the enemy's path before it collided with the tail end of his ship.
Kaid was stunned. He'd been in this service for five years and he'd never encountered a tactic like that before. The enemy knew he was going to loose. He knew the rules of the game well, and understood that if he died, it would be a loss for his side. However, he had realized that by taking Kaid out too, he could even the score. One loss for each side. The pilot of that ship hadn't been able to win the game, but he'd thought of a way not to lose. The pilot. Kaid saw him now, floating out of the wreckage of his own ship. This was no faceless enemy. This was not a cog in a machine. This was a thinking, calculating, individual. His eyes were open and they stared right at Kaid, frozen, unseeing. He was a boy, just a boy. He'd probably considered himself lucky, getting a job like that at such a young age. He was obviously clever enough for it. He'd probably been very excited to get such a grand opportunity to serve his people, defending his homeland from an unseen enemy. Now he'd never see that homeland again.
For the first time in his five years of loyal service, Kaid had seen the enemy. And looking into the fearless, unblinking eyes of the enemy, the scourge of the universe, the great rival of his people, Kaid could do nothing but sit there, as the air slowly drifted out of his damaged ship, and the life out of his damaged soul.
Edit: Fixed a bunch of typos.