Voice of the Martyrs
by Maurice Broaddus
A mist rose from the cool waters stretching out in front of me. For all of my training, open water
terrified me. I viewed open water the same way I thought of God: majestic and mysterious from
a distance; holy and terrifying when caught up in it. My body trembled, an involuntary shudder.
The migraine following me regaining consciousness meant I was at least alive. Then I vomited,
confirming it. My biomech suit was a self-contained unit long used to handling my various
Even in the gloom of the graying twilight, my surroundings danced on the nearly artificial aspect
of my holo-training sequences. The large fern leaves, a shade too green, undulated in the wan
breeze and water dripped from their undersides to splatter on my visor. My arm clung to a piece
of bobbing driftwood, a pillow tucked under it and clutched to in my sleep. Water lapped just
under my chin, but my seals were intact. A tired ache sank deep into my bones and I suddenly
felt my true age. Remaining the physical age of twenty-seven every time I re-upped for another
tour with the Service of the Order factored into my decision for continued duty. Vanity was one
of the many sins I worked on.
I tapped at my wrist panel. The action caused me to slip from my precarious perch. I re-adjusted
myself, half-straddling the shard of log, and bobbed in place. The seconds retreated, collapsing
into a singularity of eternity as I waited for it to lock onto the beacon of my orbiting ship, the
Templar Paton. I used its navcom signal to map my position relative to our colony site. The
terrain's image splayed across my visor view screen. I paddled toward the shore.
Memories returned in fragments. Thundering booms. Balls of light. Clouds illuminated against
shadowy skies. Ground explosions scattering people. Heat. The confusion of artillery bursts.
Targets acquired. Chasing someone. Shots fired. A shelling run toward me. Bolting across a
field. The sudden pressure in my chest.
My biomech suit sealed me off from the world, shielding me from the errant breeze or the rays of
the sun on my skin. It filtered sound through its receivers, the noise of which became muted
when navcom channels engaged. The world appeared to me on my visor, scanned and digitized.
Set apart, I was a foreign intrusion and like any other pathogen, the world organism raised up
antibodies to fight off my presence.
I pushed through the thick canopy of leaves whispering in the breeze. A series of sinkholes
replaced the metal cabins where our camp had been. Our fields burned to the ground with
methodical thoroughness. Animal carcasses torn asunder by blade, the occasional limb scattered
here and there left to rot. Insects worked over them in a low-lying cloud. The ways of death and
reclamation were a constant throughout the universe.
Even without the proximity detector, I knew I wasn't alone. Despite the isolation of my suit, my
psi ops enhancements functioned at high alert. A Revisio. Their eyes, too big for their head,
their skulls smooth and higher, they studied us with their critical gazes, a mixture of curiosity and
mild disdain. The Revisio sentry skulked about the remains of our camp with a stooped gait as if
he carried an invisible burden. Turning over scrap metal, scanning the rubble, it hunted me. It.
Once a mission required judgment protocols, thinking of those about to be judged as an "it"
made the work easier.