Oberheim (Voices): A Chronicle of War

Copyright 2002 by Christopher Leadem

OBERHEIM (Voices)
a chronicle of War

Science Fiction,

Approx. 90,000 Words

Copyright 2002 by Christopher Leadem,

All Rights Reserved.

to Hemingway

ACT ONE

Andersen Sector

Months X through XII

International Year: 2410

OBERHEIM

The dawn came cool and pale. Looking down from the balcony he watched
the white sun rise slowly, lighting the valleys and stalk forests
below, the dark mountains behind. The only sound was that of
transplanted birds in the distance, seeming unnatural in this
altogether alien landscape. He heard his name called from within, but
did not answer. Elonna came and stood in the glass doorway behind him,
wrapped in a blanket.

“What’s the matter, Eric?” He did not answer but only shook his head
without turning. She stepped out onto the balcony beside him, opened
the blanket with her arms and wrapped it about his shoulders. Her skin
felt warm against him, but could not displace the emptiness and anxiety
he felt.

“What’s wrong?” she asked again, curling up against his chest.

“I don’t know. It’s too quiet.” The girl turned her face to look out
into the wind, her long hair flowing behind. She looked out at the
sun, warm and sleepy-eyed, then drew back from him with a start.

“Eric, look!” Three black specks had just cleared the horizon, and
were moving swiftly toward them. They flew in tight V formation, but
their shapes could not yet be distinguished.

“Oh, damn. Elonna, get inside, down into the shelter. I’m going to
try to contact the city.”

She hurried inside. He looked back then moved to follow, but too late.
A shaft of yellow light shot down from one of the ships, now nearly
overhead, and he slumped to the balcony floor. Then they were gone.

She cried out and rushed and knelt beside him, lifting his shoulders.
“Eric, no! Don’t leave me here.” She wept and put his head to her neck
and rocked him back and forth, but he only lay there unmoving.

From behind the mountains came a blinding flash, followed after several
hushed breaths by a deep rumbling in the distance. Then all was quiet
and the city, too, was gone. She knelt holding him still, trying to
remember what he said to do if this happened, but for a time could only
cry. She heard the sound of smaller ships approaching but it did not
register. Suddenly she knew she was in danger and must act.

She ran inside, quickly zipped into a coverall, grabbed a flask of
water as she passed out of the room. She ran down the stairs, was out
the door and flying toward the forest while a part of her was still on
the balcony.

She reached the first stubble-shoots, four to six feet high, their blue
branches like thick hair at an angle toward the sun. Brushing past
them, she was just entering the cover of the trees when a small
troop-deploying ship landed amidst the cluster of houses from which she
had fled. Screams broke out but they were cut short, one by one. Her
eyes welled with tears and she stumbled many times but kept going.

After what seemed an eternity she came upon the narrow path, branching
left and gradually rising toward an outlying spur of the hills. But by
now she could go no further. She had just strength and wits enough
left to move a short way off it and collapse into a long dry rill,
overhung with bushes. There for a time, dizziness and fatigue pinned
her. She was too physically spent to feel much sorrow, but at
intervals the knowledge of her husband’s death came back to her like a
hollow blow in places she could not defend. At last grief wholly
overcame her.

“Oh, Eric. What am I going to do without you?” She lay there weeping.

 Then slowly, like a memory, his words began to come back to her.

“If you get to the deep woods and I still haven’t come, you’ve got to
hide.” I’M HIDDEN ERIC. “But that won’t do for long. They’ll be out
with heat sensors, so you’ve got to get to the graves.” She started to
rise, then fell back. ERIC, I CAN’T. “You must.”

She staggered to her feet, found the path, went forward and began
looking for the cluster of gray stones which marked the turnoff. She
found it just as she was ready to quit.

Leaving the path once more, she picked her way through vaguely familiar
landmarks till she came to two bare oblong mounds of earth. THEY DO
LOOK LIKE GRAVES. She fumbled about the edge of one till she found the
handle. It took all her strength to lift it, and the thick red earth
on top did not move. She slid her way into the opening and lay in the
shallow hole, the lid thudding to above her.

She felt for the dead-blanket, covered the length of her body with it
and shivered in the darkness. The cutting whir of a search-ship
overhead sounded dully around her. She clutched together like a child,
hardly daring to breathe. But the ship passed over and was gone.

She was alone.

*

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