“It is no question that the most lethal entities to walk this earth are man made. The instinctual need for justice, too, is a man made thing. Now, an artificial society created by man, birthed with the sole purpose to pursue this justice…would be a fearsome thing indeed.”
-Philosopher Kleider Scorpius, shortly after Libra’s secession from the Sierram Empire
Life was a pendulum, and death the counterweight.
It was an unfathomable night in the forward operating base. A pervasive darkness surrounded the complex on all sides, turning it into a little island where light found refuge in the absence of the sun.
The base itself was flanked on all sides by an array of airstrips, some for landing and others for takeoff. These bare rays of concrete were illuminated by harsh, sweeping spotlights placed strategically in high positions to cover as much ground as possible.
On one of the airstrips stood two girls, one young and one old.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they were both young; the larger of the two was a mere sixteen solar cycles old, the little girl standing by her side a negligible five. But to the younger of the two her companion was vastly old, worlds and universes apart from her.
Both females were gazing at something in front of them. There, at the far end of the airstrip, the hulking shadow of a warship loomed like the shoulder of a giant. It dominated their field of vision no matter where they looked, rising so high that the spotlights could not reach over it, plunging the entire vessel within a silhouette that spoke of mystery.
The younger girl curled her fingers against her chest at the sight. It was everything she had imagined and worse; a big metal monster that had come to take her friend away from her, wearing a mask of darkness.
The older girl, meanwhile, was focused on something else. From her fingers dangled a pendant that she had worn for her entire life. It was fashioned from a glittering metal chain, and at its end hung the emblem of balance, an omega symbol over a straight line.
The pendant swung hypnotically from her fingers, drawing her companion’s attention. The makeshift pendulum enslaved her eyes, matching with her heartbeat.
Just then, a hatch opened in the side of the warship. A swarm of men and woman poured forth from inside it, dotting the airstrip with a dozen more nameless silhouettes. Snatches of conversation began to float across the concrete, one of them containing the older girl’s name.
Understanding that the time had come, she turned and knelt before her friend.
“It’s time for me to go, Prism,” she said gently, taking the girl’s hands.
The younger girl shook her head violently, squeezing her friend’s hands tightly. “I don’t want you to go, Eon. I want you to stay with me forever.”
The older girl twined their fingers together, fighting to stay composed. “I know, Prism. Trust me, I know. But I have to go. You can’t escape the draft.”
Prism began to sob quietly, unable to wipe her tears for fear of letting Eon go.
“But who will protect me from the bad people? Do I have to fight them alone?”
The older girl bit her lip, taking in the bruises mottling her friend’s arms and legs.
“You shouldn’t try to fight them,” she said softly, drying Prisms’s tears. “Violence solves nothing.”
“Then why do you have to go? Why are you fighting?”
Eon smiled gently, leaning up to kiss her friend on the forehead.
“Because I have a duty to my country. Because I want to protect people like you.”
One of the silhouettes barked Eon’s name again, cutting her off. The warship’s engines had been activated and were beginning to gain momentum, whipping up a vicious wind that tore at their hair and clothes.
Shielding her face from the vortex, Eon took Prism’s hand and dropped the balance pendant into it.
“This is so you won’t forget me.”
Prism stared at the emblem cupped in her palms, her clothes rippling around her. “But this is the symbol for Libra. Aren’t they the enemy?”
“It can be whatever you want it to be,” Eon murmured. She pulled the girl into a tight hug. “Goodbye, Prism. I know we’ll meet again.”
The younger girl watched as her best friend left her, breaking the hug to approach the massive bulk of the warship. The engine wind caused the pendant to flail wildly in her grip, and yet it still matched her heartbeat, quick and fearful.
The dark silhouettes were swallowed by the warship one by one. Soon Eon was just another vague outline, stepping into the hatch at the end of the line.
Once they were inside the engines began to spin in earnest, and soon enough Prism could not hear her own heartbeat over the dull throbbing of the turbines. The engines became her pulse, because her heart was not in her chest but on that very warship, the very same one that was rising slowly into the air.
Prism watched as the warship amended into the sky, becoming a tiny dot in the night sky. Even now she could hear her new heartbeat. She stood there as it gained momentum and flew away, heading north, into the wastelands.
A moment later it grew silent, and Prism’s heart stopped.
The pendulum in her hand came to a stop as well, trumped by its counterweight.
Eon knew not what fate awaited her at the front lines. All she knew was that, like most things, it was inevitable.
The Sierram warship flew across the barren wastelands of the north, over the ruins of a civilization from ages past. As the weeks wore on, Eon watched the landscape change from that of her homeland’s, as they entered a strange and alien world.
Meanwhile the warship pressed ever onward, searching for an enemy who had until then refused to be found.
Months passed, and yet the enemy still was not spotted. The crew became languid inside the ship, even Eon, who watched quietly as the landscape outside became blanketed with snow.
Wondering how Prism was doing, she closed her eyes.
Fate struck while she was blind.
There, outside the window of her cabin, a city appeared out of thin air.
It should have been impossible; her mind failed to understand it, and so she almost did not witness the phenomenon at all, as adamantly as her consciousness resisted it. A great shockwave erupted outward from the city’s location, ripping across the tundra and closing in on the ship.
Eon’s eyes widened, but it was already too late.
The shockwave struck the warship, knocking it clear out of the sky.
As gravity sent them towards the ground, Eon thought that she had broken her promise.
Fire and ice.
She was laying facedown in the snow, mind slipping in and out of consciousness. Around her, the flaming wreckage of the warship melted the surrounding snow, the bodies of the dead slowly disappearing beneath the wrath of the blizzard.
Clinging desperately to her last light, she tried to get up but couldn’t. She couldn’t move. From here she could see the glittering lights of the city. A flame among the permafrost.
The strength left her body, and she lost consciousness.
As her face hit the snow, a lone, mechanical figure appeared from beyond the wall of white. It approached her still form, embracing her within its cold, metallic arms.
Turning, the drone quietly returned to its home with the requested cargo, dutifully reading the girl’s vitals on the way.
The blizzard quickly swallowed the wreckage, erasing all evidence of her past.