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Small Comfort

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The asteroid loomed into view. With a touch of a button on my craft's control panel, the forcefield that disguised my home as a tiny, lifeless rock shimmered, allowing the shuttle to pass through. The lush, green grassland of this tiny terraformed oasis welcomed my return as I brought the shuttle in to land. I couldn't operate the doors fast enough, and fidgeted as the airlock opened with painstaking sluggishness.

I'd never been so happy to see two faces in my entire life, or breathe the crisp, fresh air of my home world. I'd witnessed the wars first hand that were tearing the galaxy apart. I'd seen fields of bodies—human, robot, and alien—lives thrown away as if they were no more than ears of corn to be harvested for the Gods.

My wife Elaina and my husband Jace stood at the bottom of the ramp. I almost fell in my rush to meet them. Elaina held me steady as Jace wrapped his arms around both of us. We needed no words—they were fully appraised of the ongoing situation. I would not speak of such horrors here, and sully my sanctuary with the violent politics of warring worlds.

They led me inside our large farmhouse, and we wasted no time getting reacquainted with one another. I needed their human touch to remind me I could still feel. Their beauty erased the mental images of entrails and their perfume chased away the stench of rotting corpses still fresh in my mind. When I came, Elaina's fingers caressing me and Jace buried deep inside, the whiteness of my climax felt like a new beginning—as if the calamities I'd witnessed had been nothing more than bad dreams.

"Come in, Captain." The unwelcome voice intruded into my space, but I knew I couldn't ignore it. I pulled the virtual-reality headset off and my gut clenched as a wisp of smoke drifted into the field tent.

"Go ahead, Lieutenant." My voice was husky, but I cleared my throat and repeated myself. A nearby mortar blast startled me. I imagined Elaina clutching my shoulders, giving me strength. Jace looked on from across the room, offering me support with his presence. They may not be real, but they reminded me of what I was fighting for, gave a purpose to the endless death and destruction I bore witness to every day of my life.

It would have to be enough to see me through the barbarity to come.

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