Waiting

The sky was dark, and he knew he was dying.

Alone, frightened, unable to stand or even move his legs (did he still have legs?); he continued to lie on the ground of this alien world. The first planet he'd ever been on besides Earth and in all likelihood, probably the last. He gazed up at the night sky, looking for something...anything. He saw quite a bit-unfamiliar constellations, plasma trails, the occasional blossom of fire in high orbit, but nothing comforting. Nothing to stem the fear. Klendathu's sky was as alien as the planet itself.

How much longer? he wondered. How long do I have?

He was unable to find an answer to that question and nothing around him provided such a thing. No Arachnids crawled out of their holes, no dropships touched down to give him treatment or final judgment. None of the bodies around him, human and bug alike, rose from the dead to do such things. In a sea of the dead, he was the only living thing, and barely at that.

How much longer? he wondered. How long do I have?

Klendathu was a rock, no question about it. A bleak, barren world, even if he could fight through the pain and move (admittedly his pain was fading for some reason), the chances of him finding anything to help keep him alive were somewhere between slim and nil. He'd seen no native life apart from Arachnids or sources of water. Not to say that they weren't there, but the mission briefing hadn't covered such things. All he and the rest of the Mobile Infantry were meant to do was touch down, kill every bug in sight and establish a position, enjoying a few cold ones in the aftermath. The possibility of running into a slaughterhouse and being wounded so that you couldn't follow your comrades back to the dropships hadn't even been mentioned.

How much longer? he wondered. How long do I have?

Strange really, how the claw of the Arachnid that had fucked up his right leg (or torn it off, he couldn't tell) had caused him such intense pain at first that he thought he'd die on the spot, how instead the pain had slowly faded over the hours. His eyes had adjusted to the dark over this time, could see the full scale of the carnage, yet could not bring himself to look at the damage the bug had done to him. He knew where the bug was, specifically a few feet away from him, but it was dead, killed by MIs that could stop running away long enough to kill it, but not long enough to help him back to the dropship. Oh, he'd taken his vengeance of course, had fired round after round of his MORITA into the creature's corpse, but it had soon got old. Besides, he'd quickly come to the conclusion that he might need the bullets for more bugs or...other things.

How much longer? he wondered. How long do I have?

Continuing to lie there, he wondered if he should pray. He'd never believed in God or any other deity and the Federation wouldn't have been happy if he started to. Religion wasn't exactly banned, but it wasn't encourage either-citizens and civilians should dedicate themselves to society rather than a vague being or set of beings that in all likelihood didn't exist. Besides, since Earth was a utopia (at least that's what the vids said), there was simply no need to start believing, no unpleasant aspects of reality to escape from. Right now however...

How much longer? he wondered. How long do I have?

Apart from the knowledge that he was going to die, the worst part of waiting was the silence. When he'd landed, there'd been no escaping from the sound of battle. The gunfire, the explosions, the screams of creatures both human and inhuman...Now however, there was nothing. No groaning from the dying, no hisses from wounded Arachnids...hell, not even the sound of crickets or whatever equivalent Klendathu might have. It was just...silence.

How much longer? he wondered. How long do I have?

When the silence had first descended upon him, he'd fought the urge to scream, to curse, to do anything to break the silence. He'd resisted each time, still holding onto the hope that the dropships would return, that a retrieval operation would be made. All hope of that had faded quickly however-after all the carnage seen in the invasion, it was likely that the brass had decided that the few souls left stranded were not worth saving, that it was not worth risking more lives to save a few. An understandable assessment, but being one of those stranded souls (or hell, perhaps the only one); he could not help but be slightly bitter. Sure, he'd signed up to get his citizenship and all that, but that was before Buenos Aires had been wiped off the map and the Federation decided to travel to the other side of the galaxy and commit genocide, deciding to send him as part of such an endeavour.

How much longer? he wondered. How long do I have?

Even now, he was still fighting. Not a conventional battle of course, but one of will. He was tired...so tired...tired enough to fall asleep right here and never wake up. The only reason he didn't do this was because he knew that if he fell asleep, this would almost certainly happen. On the other hand, what did he have to stay awake for? What did he have to live for? Why bother fighting when the battle had been lost as soon as the invasion of Klendathu had begun?

How much longer? he wondered. How long do I have?

He didn't have an answer.

No-one did.