Chapter 58

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FINAL SHOT

Dekker looked away from the Paladin’s crippled Cat and watched the other three continue their retreat as the Second Brigade converged on the Pyramid. He couldn’t wait any longer.

He stood up and yelled at the Marines standing guard next to the carriers, “Get over here!”

As the rest scrambled to join Dekker, one of the Marines standing on top of the command carrier smacked his head and pulled his knife from its sheath. He placed the flat of the blade between the antenna post and the flange of the swivel that wouldn’t latch. He nodded and the other two eased back from the post. It swayed back, but stopped and then held fast. Satisfied it would hold, they climbed down from the top of the carrier and ran to join the rest as they assembled in front of Dekker.

Jommy peeked out from behind the carrier.  The hem of the utility battle dress trousers he had borrowed were folded up past his knee with the fold bloused around his ankle by an elastic band. A field utility blouse hung on him like a tent, the bottom hem hanging down by his knees with the sleeves cut just above his elbow. He and Shahn’Dra stepped out from behind the carrier and walked up to stand at the end of the line.

Dekker stood up and faced them. He caught Jommy’s eyes. The boy’s face, already aged by the years spent at his father’s side tending their fields under the Shoahn’ sun, had aged even more since Dekker had seen him in his shelter just days before.  Dekker wanted to tell him to go back inside, but the boy’s eyes told him that he would not have listened. He looked away and set his gaze on a point in the distance somewhere beyond the men standing in front of him.

“Honor that man,” he said. “Present – ” He waited for each Marine to unsling his rifle and line it up next to his right leg, holding the sites between his thumb and forefinger. “Hut.” In one motion, they hoisted their rifles up and held them in front of their faces to point at the sky.

Dekker turned around and stared down at Walker’s crippled Cat. He unlatched the STI grip from his belt and held it out with both hands.

Through his headset, Lt. Simmons reported, “Shot ready sir. Five seconds.” Dekker watched the second hand on his watch sweep the time away and then squeezed the trigger.

In the carrier behind him, Simmons pressed the transmit button to relay the release signal from the STI grip to the satellite they could only hope was in position to receive the signal.

Dekker tapped his headset and said, “Two Bravo Delta, Enforcer Six Actual. Shot. Out.”

A hundred miles above, a lone satellite floated through the silence of the space just beyond the outer atmosphere of Shoahn’Tu. Constructed on the orbital factories of the Exodus fleet and hauled across the cosmos to be placed in orbit around Shoahn’Tu, it had sailed quietly for years, waiting for an instruction to fulfill its mission one last time.

The covers protecting its mirrors opened up like the petals of a flower.

Inside a service compartment, Tank valves opened to fill concentric combustion chambers with a mixture of gasses. The valves shut off as the onboard computer measured the mixtures and timed the ignition of arc coils to ignite them. More valves were opened to pass the explosion through a set of nozzles which were controlled by the computer to optimize the flow rate and control the temperature drop as the heated gasses flowed from each chamber and past a series of finely polished mirrors.

For the smallest instant of time, the gasses released their energy states to produce just a flicker of high powered light that shot down through the sky in a flurry of focused rays forming a precise shotgun pattern that blanketed the ground below.

In less than the blink of an eye, the shot was complete and the satellite vented the spent gasses through concentric venting portals to minimize their affect on its orbit. It closed the covers, not knowing that it had spent the last of its fuel to conduct the last STI shot the Shoahn’ sky would ever see.

It would be years before its nuclear power system would finally die out and let the systems on board finally sleep, never knowing that they had been built a lifetime before to come to the world of the Shoahn’ and forever change the course of – nothing.

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©2016 Michael J Lawrence