The Ashes Of My Brief Existence

The Ashes Of My Brief Existence

Jojo to Ground Control

I’m the last of Wow’s Walkyries still alive.  Got five of the robot anti-matter bombs myself: the other ladies killed maybe two dozen.  And now I chase one last bomb heading for the Migration Ships.  Each with upward of 100,000 people, good people looking for a new life among the stars.  I have to stop it.

Please, take off my safeties.  The shit bomb has shielding: I need to shoot from closer, 100 metres.  Close enough to kill me, obviously, so ask whichever settlers I save to make me a nice memorial.  A park with flowers, nice kinds.  I never got to know most of the flowers’ names, but I see the beauty.  Flowers are no damn use to us, but we see still cherish them.  Must be something right with the universe.  The ashes of my brief existence will make a lovely light.

Testament of Sarah Moroni

When all of the living have died, let this secret archive be read.  Things too hurtful to be told now can become part of history…

People ask, ‘why was your niece Jojo neglected till she was 13’?  In public I say: I could not stop my brothers tomcatting around, and they quite fairly reckoned that no modern woman need get pregnant if she doesn’t want a kid.  Here, in the awful truthfulness of secrecy, I say I wish I had kept a closer watch.

Getting control was easy enough: her mother was glad to be rid of her.  Civilising Jojo was another matter.  It helped that I was a former Warrior Scarlet of the Three Kingdoms and could have easily carved up the local thugs that she’d once respected.  But though she didn’t openly defy me, she did a lot of sneaky things.

Many sneaky things and one uncontainably criminal thing.  She wandered into a bad bar, a thug laid intrusive hands on her and she stabbed him dead.  Almost got jailed, but I got her drafted into Blue Fleet instead.

The Blue Fleet seemed the right spot for someone prone to violence, but controlled enough not to slap an officer or otherwise go beyond bounds  And we were at peace, and expected to remain so.

That we in the Dogstar Corporation would shortly be attacked by lethal drones never occurred to me.  And she was just 18: anyone below 21 is not supposed to go into combat.

Memoir of Melanie Smith

I was an also-ran in the last flight of Wow’s Walkyries.  Just a cadet, like Jojo, but it never occurred to me to get my Mentor drunk and take her place.

It was unforgettable watching them take off.  The norm was to play Ride of the Valkyries, but The Boss decided she didn’t need Wagner’s bombast when she was almost certainly taking them all to their deaths.  ‘He’s good for peacetime heroics’, she said, and I’ve never forgotten that.  So instead they played a 20th century ballad, and we watchers wept at the lines “now the carnival is over, we may never meet again”.  At which the little boy-child of Alice, Jojo’s Mentor, he started bawling loudly.  Whereupon the lady herself turned up, staggering and well out of it but saying things like “never leave you again”.  Meantime I was dumb enough to say “if Lieutenant Alice is here, who just took off in her Wrathcraft?”, as if it wasn’t obvious.

Someone quick-mindedly communicated to The Boss that Cadet Jojo was illegally with them and must be stood down using Command Override.  “And if I don’t they take away my pension?” she answered, which pretty much settled it.  She’d never like Jojo, who was a smartarse.  An irritating cadet who was too talented to throw out and too fierce to humble.  And maybe a successful murderess was just what was needed for their first and last time in real combat.  As indeed she was.

Oddly, I knew Jojo before we freakishly ended up in the same small unit.  Both teenage extras in an astronomy program about how stars are born.  Most of us were little red, orange or yellow stars and we sang comic songs.  The one I like best was

“My old man’s a dustcloud”.

I was a modest G-type star like the sun of Old Earth.  Jojo was a huge and greedy star that lived fast, died early and made a beautiful stellar corpse.  And then in a ghostly voice she said the lines she could not have composed, but that included her very smart passing remark:

“My fiery death gives birth to elements that normal stars would never make.  The ashes of my brief existence sends forth iron, silicon, calcium and gold, so that new worlds and new life can be made.”

That she would do something like that in real life, I never expected.  Though I had expected her to die young.

But Jojo was lucky, or maybe one of Fortune’s Favourites.  The shielded anti-matter bomb was a superior Bunker Buster: most of the blast was directed forward.  Jojo shooting from behind survived, and lived to become the First Hyperpilot, a big hero.  But I never did like her, and we’ve not kept in touch.

Copyright © Gwydion M. Williams
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