The blow hit Nathan with such force he thought the shock alone would trigger a heart attack. He felt a spearing pain in his chest, heard a sharp crack as the butt of Lieutenant Kaliss’s rifle slammed against his rib cage. Nathan went down, field-comm flying from his grip, hands clutching his chest. Writhing on the roof of the hover tank, feeling like he’d just been kicked by a mule, his vision began to spin with stars as he strained to breathe.
As Kaliss had approached, Nathan fully expected to be shot dead as he continued transmitting to the rest of the team, ignoring his shouted orders to cease. Even though he was pretty sure field executions were technically against ESAD military regs, Nathan didn’t figure that would prevent Kaliss from taking the shot.
Peering from his fetal position, Nathan managed his first gasp of air. He winced. The inhalation eased his body’s craving but the movement brought excruciating pain. Through patchy vision, he saw Kaliss standing above him, panting, eyes inflamed with barbaric ire, the business end of his pulse rifle aimed squarely at Nathan’s forehead.
Aha, Nathan’s mind submitted in pointed insight, he just wanted to be sure he didn’t miss.
Nathan closed his eyes, took another breath of the dusty air and envisioned his reunion with Helen.
It was time.
As good a time as any, he thought as he lay atop the crumpled war machine waiting for the kill shot, mind bleary, body broken. Given his injuries and the perilous escalating events, his life expectancy could be no more than a few hours anyway, so might as well get it over with. Plus, his actions had filled him with a deep calm that he had not experienced in some time. For he had accomplished his goal, he stepped up to inform the team of what he knew about the storm, its strange behavior, and how they could possibly use it to their advantage. So if he had to go, better to go now, ride off into the sunset with contentment saddled to his final flickering brainwaves.
With death likely seconds away, there’d be no way to know if the information he provided would do any good—whether the others would stand up to Kaliss, or not. He had done all that he could to save them, putting his own life on the line in the process. The deed gave him no personal self-glory, but it was not without gratification, the reward ascending from his heart in swelling intuition—warm and fulgent—igniting a signal fire that glowed through the gloom of his shipwrecked psyche.
Helen would be proud.