I am DREAD QUEEN SALLY. DEMON LORDESS OF THE UNDERWORLD. MY WINGS ARE MIGHTY AND STRONG, MY MINIONS COUNTLESS, MY MAGIC UNPARALLELLED, AND MY BLADES STRONG ENOUGH TO SLAY THE IMMORTAL ONES. I AM in line at pizza hut, waiting for my pizza.
You majored in journalism in college, which was a surprise to a lot of people. Both your parents were doctors, so they had expected you to go a similar route. But if they had only LISTENED to you instead of giving you a FUCKING STETHOSCOPE FOR YOUR FIFTEENTH BIRTHDAY, then MAYBE it wouldn't be such a SHOCK, UNCLE JACK. SERIOUSLY, A STETHOSCOPE??? YOU ASKED FOR A PONY.
Eventually you scored a job at CBC. You were so excited when you were given your first assignment...even if it was just covering a coloring contest done by second graders at the local library. You were a little less thrilled when it got cut for an expose about pigeons.
You thought about quitting for a while, but there was a, uh...well, let's not talk about him right now. Focus, Deborah.
The cameraman gives you your sixty-second warning. You can't help but smile as you take one last swing of your coffee. It's true that you had spent most of your time at the CBC so far shoveling shit, but you've paid your dues, and now you're ready to give a live report of your first big story. (You try not to think about the fact that three of the senior reporters all called in sick.)
You stand between the camera lens and the news that is happening behind you. You raise the microphone to your lips as the cameraman raises three fingers, and lowers them one by one. The light on the camera turns red and you begin your report on...
"This is Deborah Chang, live for the CBC, on board the Nautilus in high orbit above the planet Methuselah. In a final act of desperation, the humans have retreated to Scorpius to escape the Allied forces and regroup. We have unconfirmed reports that they were attempting to develop their own antimatter weapons technology, but..."
"Wait." The cameraman lowers the camera. "We've lost connection with the station."
"Solar flares. Sorry, Deb."
Oh goddammit. You look around the observation deck where other reporters had set up, and you are relieved to find that the solar flares have affected all of them, not just Cronos Broadcasting.
You closed your eyes for a moment to think about what to do next. If the humans had the good sense to surrender, they would be spared, and under the Allied Act of Protection of Species, would immediately be given special treatment in an attempt to allow their continued survival as a race from a lost planet. If, as expected, they were to try to fight back with their hopelessly inferior technology, humans would be officially extinct. Either way, it's bound to be the biggest story in centuries.
And here you are, unable to report it because a fucking star thought now would be a good time to go apeshit.
"Hey Steve," you say, turning to the cameraman. "Does the camera still work?"
"Uh, it can film stuff, we're just cut off from broadcasting until the flare clears."
"Okay. If we can't do a live report, an exclusive interview will have to do."
"Okay, sure," says Steve. "But we're on an observation vessel. Who are we gonna interview?"
"I'm sure we'll find someone important SOMEWHERE."
You remember a trick you learned from your first reporting gig at the CBC--it's how you found out that the secret behind Kevin's mastery was the liberal use of firetruck red. You head straight for the nearest bathroom.
"Whoa, hold on," says Steve when you arrive at the door. "Really, Deb?"
"We'll get a story here, Steve," you assure him. "Trust me."
"You know we can't film in there."
"We don't have to. We just need to find out what's going on before anyone else does." You tell Steve to wait outside and enter the men's room.
A quick glance shows your impropriety has once again paid off--a man dressed in an Allied uniform. You politely cough to make your presence known. He turns his head to look at you and a worried expression falls on his face.
"Please," he says pleadingly, "please tell me I'm in the right one."
"You're standing at a urinal," you point out.
"Oh thank god."
"I'm a reporter for the CBC."
"Can you tell me what's going on?"
You're not sure if that was genuine confusion or not. You clarify anyway. "I mean in the battle."
"I don't know anything."
"Come on, I just need--"
"No," he interrupts, "I really don't know anything. I'm just an engineer. Fourth class."
"I'm not leaving until I get something useful."
He sighs. "We do have a need-to-know communication with the military, but it's down from the flare. Now would you PLEASE--"
It's the engineer's turn to be interrupted, this time by an audible collective gasp from the crowd outside the restroom. The entire room vibrates for a moment, as if a passing earthquake is stopping to say hello before hurrying off to an appointment it has nearby.
"That's...probably not a good thing..." says the engineer insightfully. He is obviously no longer the story. You rush out of the bathroom to try to find out what you just missed.
You find Steve waiting for you outside the men's room.
You are interrupted by an ear-piercing screech. You instinctively drop your microphone and cover your ears. You see flashing lights in several locations throughout the observation deck, each of which is labeled "ALARM" in large letters.
Well, there's no point in asking what's going on now. No one would be able to hear you.
You notice the engineer emerge from the restroom. He doesn't seem to notice the alarm. Instead, he stares blankly at the giant observation window. You turn to see what he's looking at.
From behind the planet obstructing your view of the battle, you can clearly make out some curving orange streaks, seemingly choosing their paths at random in space. They looked almost like the light trails of a sparkler being waved around by a child.
The alarm, having served its purpose of gaining the passenger's attention, quieted down. The lights, however, continued to flash.
"Oh no," says the engineer. "Oh no no no no."
"What?" you say. "What are those things?"
Before you can ask what the fuck kind of drugs this guy is on, the captain's voice booms from the PA speakers.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Torquemada, Captain of the Alliance. Please remain calm. A brief atmospheric disturbance caused by the recent solar flare has caused some turbulence, and has set of our alarm system. We will repair it momentarily. Thank you for your cooperation."
"Well," says Steve, "that was certainly--"
"The ship is on fire," says the engineer. "Why wouldn't he tell us the ship is on fire?"
After a brief awkward pause, Steve asks you who this weirdo is.
"A fourth class Alliance engineer," you say. "I didn't catch his name, and I suspect he might be crazy."
The engineer seems totally oblivious to the fact that you're talking about him while he's right there. In fact, he seems lost in thought.
"So," says Steve, "are we gonna--"
"We're the lamb. Oh my god, we're the lamb!"
"He seems to have a habit of interrupting people," you say.
"We have to get off this ship. Now."
"Why, are the witches gonna get us?"
"The witches already GOT us, haven't you been paying attention?"
"Wait a minute," says Steve. "What witches? Are there witches?"
"We don't have TIME for this!" yells the engineer. "The ship is under fire, and Torquemada's lying. WE NEED TO GET OFF THE--"
The engineer is cut short by another rumble. Maybe this guy isn't so crazy. It'd help if he stopped talking about witches, though.
But if he is crazy, you'll miss the story of a lifetime. And even if he's not--this is your whole career, this is what you've been building your life working toward. Are you going to let the slim possibility of certain death stand in your way of something you've fought tooth and nail to achieve? THIS is where Deborah Chang makes a stand. THIS is where you distinguish yourself from any other reporter in the field. THIS is your chance to prove your true dedication.
You easily make the no-brainer decision to get the hell out of dodge.
"All right, engie," you say, picking up your microphone. "Let's blow this time bomb."
You make your way to the nearest escape pod and perform the required launch procedures. It's just you, Steve, and the engineer. Thankfully, Steve has his camera.
As you sit down to strap in, Steve pauses.
"Wait," he says. "Shouldn't getting in here set off alarms or something?"
"They must've disabled them," says Engie. "We need to get out of here."
"What about everyone el--"
"NOW!" The engineer forces the launch.
There's something off about this guy, you think. It's not just that he was okay with leaving behind so many others, even when this vessel has five empty seats. What was it? He said something, or did something...
Your thought process is interrupted as the space around you lights up with orange streaks. Before there were about fifteen, maybe twenty of these...whatever they are. Now, by your estimate, there looks to be at least several hundred. As you gain distance from the Nautilus, you can see that it is, indeed, on fire. A few dozen of the orange streaks, after whizzing about seemingly at random, eventually make their mark and collide with the ship.
"Witches," explains Engie. "Space age descendants of sidewinder missiles. Human weapons."
"Why aren't they evacuating?"
"They're the lamb. A sacrifice. Staying to take the hits while the battalion regroups."
"But...it's a civilian vessel."
The Nautilus remains still as another wave of missiles drive themselves into its side. If you weren't seeing it yourself, you would never believe it. You still don't want to.
Three small Allied attack ships approach from behind the planet, their path made clear by a group of witches following them. As the witches slowly close the gap, the attack ships fly by the Nautilus at close range. The witches, in response, take the larger vessel as a new target, and crash open the observation deck.
You look on in horror as the Nautilus silently explodes.
When it's finally broken, it's with a cracked voice.