Command told us that it would be an easy mission; patrol Sector 7 for any signs of Arkellian activity. Intel had reported zero movement in the sector for the last week. Apparently, a quartet of Medium Assault Drones qualifies as “zero movement” in their book. Out of a group of thirty resistance fighters, only Sammy and I got out alive. It was dumb luck, really; I was covering our rear and Sammy had come back to take over when we heard their 50mm rail guns open up. We both knew what was happening, that there was no hope, so we took off running. It was the only thing we could’ve done; either that or stay and be slaughtered along with the rest of the team.
We ran for about a kilometer before I spotted the cave. It isn’t overly large, it’s just a small hole in the side of a cliff, maybe six or seven feet tall and five or so feet deep, but at least we can hide from the drones in it. For a while, at least; everyone knows that it’s nearly impossible to escape an Arkellian Assault Drone.
I cautiously lean out of the cave and quickly sweep the surrounding terrain through my rifle’s scope. “I think we’re clear for now,” I tell Sammy. She nods as she checks the charge in her rifle’s pack. Sammy doesn’t say much when she’s in mission mode. “How long do you think we have?” I ask.
“Ten minutes, if we’re lucky,” she replies in an emotionless voice. That’s about what I figured, although the way today’s been going, I sincerely doubt we’ll be lucky at all. “How do you think they found us?”
“They’re Arkellians,” I say, shrugging, “Does it really matter?” Sammy nods again, her eyes growing hard.
“Twenty-eight killed,” she says to no one in particular, “And for what?”
“An Intel screw-up,” I reply bitterly, “I thought they said ‘zero activity in the sector.’ So much for their data.” If looks could kill, Sammy’s gaze would incinerate me.
“You think this is funny?” she demands, anger creeping into her voice, “You think this is all a joke?”
“No,” I reply, “I don’t think it’s funny in the least. And you know why they died.” She nods again.
“Because they were human,” she says, “Because they were ‘uncooperative.’” ‘Uncooperative’ is how the Arkellians describe the resistance fighters, the ones who stood up and fought back after their invasion and the government’s subsequent surrender.
“Do you think it will ever end?” I ask. I’m being metaphysical here; we both know that the resistance will end one way or the other.
“Definitely,” Sammy says with an affirmative nod, “We just have to stay ‘uncooperative’ for a little bit longer; we’ll see the end of the invasion one day soon, you’ll see.” I smile, suppressing a mirthless snort. That line’s been repeated countless times since the resistance began. ‘A little bit longer and it will all be over.’ I have to agree with that, though half the time I’m sure it will be the Arkellians that come out on top.
“Looks like we got lucky,” Sammy’s sudden remark interrupts my thoughts and I check my wrist chrono. We’ve been in the cave for exactly ten minutes and twenty-three seconds. Lucky indeed.
At that moment, blinding spotlight suddenly lances into the cave.
Did I just say something about luck?
“YOU ARE TRAPPED, HUMANS! COOPERATE OR DIE!” The electronically-modulated voice of an Arkellian thunders in our ears. Sammy and I look at each other as the order is repeated, our hands instinctively flying to our rifles.
“So much for seeing the end,” Sammy says, her voice mirroring my thoughts as I nod in agreement.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “I should have kept us moving.”
“It had to happen sometime,” Sammy says, shaking her head, “Better sooner than later, I guess.”
“HUMANS! COOPERATE AND YOUR LIVES WILL BE SPARED! RESIST AND YOU WILL SUFFER A MOST PAINFUL DEATH!”
I look over at Sammy, who responds to my gaze by yanking back the charging handle on her rifle. The weapon immediately powers back up with a slight electronic whine. “Are you feeling cooperative?” she asks after a moment. I grin and yank back my rifle’s charging handle.
“Never,” I say as I flip the weapon’s safety off.
“HUMANS! THIS IS YOUR LAST OPPORTUNITY! COOPERATE OR YOU SHALL SUFFER!”
For a long moment, Sammy and I stare at each other. It feels like eternity as my mind fills with things I wished that I’d done, places I wished I’d gone, words I wished I’d said. Then, as one, we leap from the cave with weapons blazing, defiant battle cries roaring from our lips.