The insect legions of Urz descended from the sky. I watched as thick black clouds of wasp troopers descend from the wombholes of writhing white maggots, tunnelling through the sky and screaming their hate for us.
I ran back to my nest, found my spine launcher and rolled in a barrel magazine before testing the light beam trigger and adjusted it for maximum range with a slow stroke of my index finger. I stood outside and aimed it at the centre of a cluster of them as they fired stingers at us. One slow breath, then onto my knees and looking not at where they were but where they would go next.
I stroked the trigger and fired an explosive spine, studded with pods of hypnotic drugs which put them under my command. It covered them in a fine green dust and made them turn to fire on anyone who was not under my control.
I turned and called Keira. She had a bag over one shoulder and our daughter wrapped against her chest in a sling.
I vowed I would save her. I kissed my wife on the cheek and told her to go to the observatory.
She drew a thunder pistol and thumbed the safety off. I felt sorrow for anyone who crossed her path. I kissed her again, and told her to run. I adjusted the load on the launcher, it would produce high explosive mines which floated in spheres of anti-matter, held in sheathes of engineered sheep gut. It rumbled as it loaded the first spine.
I dropped to my knees, aimed and fired at one of the maggots. I watched it explode into wet chunks of white, jellied meat and rain to the ground before I turned and ran after my wife and daughter.
I heard the scream of her pistol and readied another hypnotic round into the launcher as I sprinted up the hill to fight alongside her. I fired it at the beetle tank which splashed streams of acid around it and watched it explode against its exoskeleton before it turned and cleared us a path through the village, bombarding wasp troopers with teeth rounds and chemicals.
I caught up with her and we traded weapons as she swiped down the light trigger and changed it to a electrochemical pulse and started firing to clear us a path ahead.
We saw the observatory ahead and doubled our pace, relieved to find Urz had focused its attentions on the civilian population. War had been part of our lives for entire cycles, but somehow Keira and I decided a child was a statement of defiance against the future. I believed my studies of our planet, Folium, would offer up a strategy to force peace with them, and I devoted hours to solving the problem.
When my calculations were proven correct, I wept for what might have been.
We made it through to the observatory and I activated the electrochemical security system with a wave of my hand. The marble floor opened up in tandem with the roof, revealing my final work of engineering.
A small rocket, no larger than a crib. Keira stared at it and I nodded.
‘But we could all go, couldn’t we?’ she said.
My eyes blurred with tears as I shook my head.
‘There is a better world for her than here, my love. The odds are in her favour, not ours.’
She lifted Kala from the sling and kissed her on the forehead. I went over to the rocket and placed my palm against its cool, smooth surface. I had carved it from the Envoy Trees, made it resistant to the pressures and dangers of space flight and programmed a destination which would deliver our Kala to safety.
She would have power there, raised under a different spectrum of radiation which would activate a genetic mutation, giving her a variation of tactile telekinesis. I had loaded a cradle of liquid information, detailing Folium’s history, culture and philosophy for when she was old enough to seek an understanding of the world she would never know.
We took Kala to the rocket and laid her in the recessed seat as metallic tentacles crossed over to hold her in place. She would absorb nutrients through her skin and undergo cosmetic procedures to alter her physiology so she resembled the species who would raise her.
Keira kissed her on the forehead, told her how she was loved. I kissed her on each chubby cheek, whispering for her to be brave and good. I stood back and removed the small round launch disc from my belt and aimed it at the rocket. Keira put her hand over mine and we pressed the button together.
The rocket emitted pulses of kinetic energy, like slapping a newborn’s bottom to make it cry and it shot upwards, disappearing into the sky above Folium. It disappeared into the sky and our hopes went with her.
My calculations were not about Urz. There had been a prophecy in our culture, The Descending Phoot, and my environmental studies had foretold its fruition. Keira and I went outside, looked up at the flat, black slab of matter coming down to crush us all.
As the world ended, I kissed my Keira, welcoming a chance to die on my own terms, in the arms of someone I love.
Dave stood on the green shoot emerging from the crack in the sidewalk, ground into it with the heel of his shoe as he jammed his hands into his pockets and waited for his mother to finish talking with the headmaster. It gave him a small measure of satisfaction to destroy something. He looked at the green smear on the ground and felt a tangible sorrow for his actions, which lasted until his mother came out from the school offices, her eyes hard and dark with anger.
Josie and Lenny drove back from the fertility clinic, both of them were debating how much another round of IVF would cost them when they saw the silver object crash into the fields.
They stopped the car and went to investigate.
The silver object opened like a flower caressed with sunlight and they stared down at the pink, perfect infant laid there. She reached out a soft, chubby hand and smiled at them. Josie reached down and picked her up.