Harnish completed his orders as instructed by the Echelon High Command. The main order was under the habitable planets order. The killing of supposed innocents did not phase him as it had in the past. He wasn’t bothered by the fact it didn’t bother him. He set every village around the outpost aflame. Every man, woman, child, human, Pteryn, even the animals fell to his careful aim, his precise marksmanship.
He drew on his cigarette, examining the skyline. Dusk was nearing and the second sun was setting.
“You don’t want to be caught out after dark,” he could hear the old prospectors say. It was less of a warning and more of a dig. There was no one, nothing, left so what did he have to fear. He stared at the ramshackle hut
He flicked his butt out into the dried out dirt and gravel. Caught after dark. What did the superstitious know anyway? He breathed in, though the air was barely fresher than the smoke.
The wind moved through the trees and grass and shrubbery. Harnish thought it was less relaxing than unnerving. The wind carried the smoke away from him, away from the village. His worries were not so easily discarded.
Odd was the fact that he did not fear. No man made him tremble. Death was not a concern. So what was it about this assignment that was making him wary? Everything was gone, down to the ground rodents.
He would camp at his ship tonight and lift-off in the morning. Harnish moved his gear back to the ship. That uneasy feeling would not subside.
Elsewhere, Celeste communed with the spirits of the elders. They would not be placated until the interloper was eradicated, gone from more just the planet but this plane altogether.
She gathered her familiars, the ones the man had not slaughtered. She sent them out to the places of hiding. He would be staying the night on planet it seemed and she wanted to keep an eye on this one. An intruder attack now would leave this planet as devastated as he thought it was. She expected he would be more useful than he planned.
She should take time to weep for her grandmother, the only person who truly cared for her, but now was not the time for tears. Much work to be done if anything were to be salvaged.
She would make the man redeem himself for all the lives he took, including her grandmother’s.
She sent her creatures to find him.
Before midnight, Harnish could tell something was amiss. He felt a presence. He could not see Celeste but she could see him.
She intensified her spirit near him.
“Who are you?”
She gave him a sad look. Her voice came as a whisper. “I am the spirit of those you you slayed.”
“I had orders.”
“Orders to kill innocents?”
“Those codgers shot at me first.”
“They only shot to protect what was ours.”
He was no longer in his ship but in one of the caves. He started at the skittering around him.
“There’s only one way this ends happily.”
He pulled his blaster.
“That will do you no good.”
He aimed and fired at shadows.
“You will find no peace as long as you breath.”
The air thickened. As long as he struggled, the air became thicker.
“Do not panic. It’s a shame you chose it to be this way.”
He voted on his last breath.