The snowfall was heavy. The flakes were large enough to be feathers, like a flock of white-winged sky-spanning birds was on a migratory path just above the battered tree tops, the rhythmic pulsing of the wind further evidence of beating wings. It was a pity about the trees; trees don’t even grow here.
Wreckage. Hull plating wrapped in BiGSiC—bilayer graphene on silicon carbide—sticking out of the frozen ground at sharp angles.
Saanvi was intermittently aware that she was starting to hallucinate.
A quarter moon hugged the horizon, but between the low clouds and the snow there was enough reflected light that it didn’t feel dark, though there wasn’t much to see. The highest reaches of the scattered, blackened debris disappeared in the fog, and everything else was an expanse of white, save for the dark trail she left in her bootprints. Her trudging revealed ash just beneath the fresh white blanket.
She kept stumbling over bodies. Sometimes she could make out the lumps ahead of her and skirt around them, but more often than not they sent her careening. She caught her toes on one such lump again and went face down into a drift. This lump was different though. It coughed when she tripped on it. This one was still alive.
Saanvi scrambled to her feet as quickly as she could, but her joints were sore and slow to respond. As the Allegiance was launching into the fray it was rammed by a downed rebel dropship, and the two vessels disgorged their contents like ragged piñatas just north of Mount Hartigan. The bodies must have scattered from the range to the sea. Difficult to tell which ones were friendlies, but she wasn’t much worried about dead rebels. Live ones though…
So which was this; friendly or rebel? She instinctively reached for her sidearm but it wasn’t there; lost it in the crash. And when she looked back to the body she had a view down the barrel of a pulse rifle—didn’t tell her much; the rebels used the same small arms. The man holding the gun—if it was indeed a man—was in rough shape. Swollen face wrapped in burn marks and dried and frozen blood.
“Where’s your loyalty lie?” they asked in a thin strained voice.
“Who cares?” Saanvi responded. “You shoot me and you’re as good as dead yourself. But if we work together we might live long enough to have a proper fight later. What do you say?”
They held each other’s eyes for a long moment. The stranger’s finger shivered and brushed against the trigger a half-dozen times before they dropped the rifle with a deflated sigh. “Help me up.”