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The Last Outpost

by Frederick G. Soper

“We’re leaving space station Andre Norton in two hours!”

Keeli was watching his family in the monitor. Eric, his ten-year old son on one side of his mother; Bobby-Jo, his twelve-year old daughter, was on the other. “That’s great, you’ll be here sometime tonight then?”

“Yes, if all goes well.”

“Sorry I won’t be here when you arrive, I’ve got to go on patrol, but I’ll be back as quick as I can.”

“That’s okay, Daddy, we understand,” Eric replied, trying to smile.

“We love you Daddy,” Bobby-Jo joined in.

“We all love you honey,” his wife made an attempt at a smile. “We have to go now,“ she said with tears in her eyes, “They’re signaling our time is up.”

Keeli replied, “I love you too,” then the screen went black.

Keeli stared at the monitor, feeling guilty. His family had never really had a home. All they had were hardships, separation, little pay, and constant moves. His children were not even in high school yet, and they had already been in four different schools. Now his tour of duty was almost up, and things were going to be different: they would have a normal life: no more military.

The last fourteen years had changed Keeli. He no longer could or would live alone. After a year alone at Charon base, the family would finally be together again. He silently made a promise to himself that this time they would be together forever.

Keeli had a smile on his lips and a spring in his step. He even found himself humming a tune as he climbed into the little scout ship. He punched the flight coordinates in the computer. “God, I feel great,” he said aloud, rubbing his hands together.

Keeli liked to use the old style horizontal takeoff. He smiled, reached over and pressed the ignition button. Both nuclear engines kicked in and the scout ship was down the runway like a shot.

Keeli saw the small artificial sun that warmed Charon’s bright sky. He felt the pressure of acceleration as it pushed him back in his seat; he felt the spacecraft lift free; he pulled the stick toward him and went straight up, like being shot out of a cannon. “God,” he said smiling, “I am the luckiest guy in the world.”

Keeli sat back in the leather pilot's chair and and engaged the hyperdrive. The scout ship was equipped with a few weapons, but not enough for a pitched battle. The warbirds, out of Triton 1, would attack if need be. His responsibility was to give advance warning.

Charon was the last outpost in the Solar System and a first line of defense against the Dorain. Its mission was to keep the invaders out of the Solar System at all costs. Keeli and six other scouts flew surveillance twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, or 24-7, to use an old expression. But the past year had been completely uneventful. Not a single sighting. All the action was at Uranus, currently on the other side of the Sun.

As Keeli emerged from hyperspace, a blue laser cut across the bow of his little ship. It came from the cannon of a Dorain transport. He immediately pushed the scout to full throttle, punched the coordinates of Charon in the computer and hit hyperspace. Another Dorain laser flashed at him, but he was already gone.

Keeli hit the comm button. “Charon base, this is scout ship 1,” he said. All he heard was the eerie static of the hyperbeam.

“Charon base, this is scout ship 1,” he repeated.

Keeli switched frequencies. “Triton 1, this is scout ship 1.”

“Scout ship 1, this is Triton 1, are you out of Charon?”

“Affirmative. I can’t raise Charon, and I’ve spotted an armed transport.”

“The Dorain have taken Charon base in a surprise raid. Everyone is being held hostage. All our warships are fighting on the other side of the Solar System. Your orders are to destroy the base and as many Dorain ships as you can. You are the only pilot between Triton 1 and the Dorain.”

“Has the civilians’ transport arrived?”

“Yes. They are among the hostages.”

“Roger,” he slowly answered. He put the ship back into hyperspace, headed for Charon. He thought briefly about a rescue attempt but knew it was futile: one against so many... And the Dorain, well, they might trade hostages for a base from which to attack the Solar System, otherwise they didn’t keep prisoners alive for very long.

As he dropped out of hyperspace he had no more time to think: he found himself next to the Dorain transport and surrounded by almost thirty enemy warbirds.

Keeli immediately launched one of his conventional missiles into the transport; it instantly burst into a ball of flame. At the same time he shot one of his nuclear missiles into the artificial sun. It went black.

A laser sliced into the rear of his scout ship, cutting all power to his engines. Keeli's finger pressed the red button on the console. His second and last nuclear warhead slammed into Charon base. Keeli did not see it. He was blinded by the tears in his eyes.

Keeli’s ship, disabled and out of ammunition, lit up space with a tremendous ball of fire.

Keeli was finally with his family, forever.

Copyright © 2006 by Fred G. Soper

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