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art by Steven R. Stewart

Blessed are the Sowers

Robert Lowell Russell, a native Texan, lives with his family in southeastern Ohio. He is a former librarian, current trophy husband, and future nursing student (say "ah!"). He holds a MLS from Kent State and worked toward a Ph.D. in history at the University of Georgia (until he decided that it was more fun to invent worlds). He has stories upcoming in Loco-Thology (Loconeal Press) and FrontierTales.com. His stories have appeared previously at Abandoned Towers, the Cynic Online Magazine, and Naughtygirlx.com (not what you think, they sell t-shirts) He received an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest (2nd Q., 2011) He is working on his second novel, "Shadow Knights," after the smashing success of his first novel. (Well, there was smashing involved; RLR now has a new computer.) For links to more of Robert's stories, or to see him dressed like a ninja, go to: robertlowellrussell.blogspot.com.

***This story features nudity and violence. It is intended for adult readers.***
I said, "Let me tell you a story."
The Twil's eyes widened in surprise--the one expression its kind shared with ours--its face a gray mask.
"Yes, I know your words... You have a lovely family."
The alpha Twil's nostrils flared--a sign of fear--its beta and its two young huddled behind it. The three armored women around me kept their rifles trained on the Twil.
"Once upon a time, we came to your world in a rain of iron and fire; one hundred kinetic rounds wrecking your cities; a thousand of us riding with them, hidden in the flames."
"Of twenty drop-ships, your sats stopped three." I clucked my tongue. "Either you're getting sloppy, or our stealth-shields are getting better."
I held my hands like scales. "One hundred and fifty of mine for how many of yours? Millions? Dying in clouds of ash and dust."
"Our first day was a good one. Of the fifty in my crew, thirty-seven of us made it to the first night. We destroyed...?"
Santiago said in English, "A water purification plant, a weapons depot, a manufacturing facility, a school, and a temple."
I nodded to her, unsure if the alpha had caught it all. "Anyway, it was a good day. But our night was better. We land in groups of pairs, you see? Our own alphas and betas."
I went to Yancee and brushed her bloodied cheek. She held my hand to her face, wincing, smiling. She had such a beautiful smile and the bluest eyes.
"We spend our nights together, all of us." I made a circle with one hand and pushed a finger through it. "Do you understand, together?"
The alpha did not respond.
"Doesn't matter. There's no armor, just flesh on flesh, all those who can manage."
I laughed. "It would be quite a sight--if you could ever find us--all of us tangled in a mess of limbs and sweat."
"We share with everyone... if only for a few minutes. It's not just the sex, though that's important. We know our duty, though we all have our preferences...."
Santiago and Jacobs had drifted together, their fingers now entwined, their rifles still rigid in their opposite hands.
"It's about contact, hearing another's heartbeat, tasting another's taste, breathing another's breath. Odds are we'll never get another chance."
I closed my eyes. "My father, my alpha, died on the second day. He didn't know he was my father. We aren't supposed to know. We're all family by choice, if not always by blood."
"It didn't matter that I knew, or how I knew. Sentiment makes you sloppy, careless. He was just a soldier who'd lost a step over the years. But his instincts were still good. He worked point without complaint until he took a blast that might have killed dozens. My sister held his hand as he died. I don't think she even knew who he was." Or who I was.
Santiago gasped and shook her head, confirming it; a tear trailed down her face.
"Twenty-one more fell that second day--most when you Twil destroyed that town around us." I nodded my grudging respect. "Ruthless."
"We still managed with sixteen. By day, we destroyed your crops, burned your orchards, smashed your towns, slaughtered your people... and sowed our seeds. At night, we loved whoever was left. Other crews no doubt did the same."
"It's been ninety days now. Long enough for our transports to slingshot around in your system, aimed toward another Twil world. There were five of us left when we came today..."
Four really... Digby just barely alive, but he'd taken the bullet when he was supposed to--so that Jacobs didn't have to. I'd kissed Digby on the mouth and had given him a little squeeze--where I knew he liked it. He'd smiled a bloody smile, and I'd said, "See you soon, you tubby poof." Then his eyes went blank.
The alpha stared as I muttered, "Digby was a lazy piece of shit..." The three women laughed, nodding. "But he was family."
"Those Twil who killed our man today were going to be our seed, before... Well, their loss, your luck."
I put my hand around the alpha's throat. "Say what we are."
The alpha croaked, "Human."
I clapped my hands. "English! Wonderful!"
I nodded to the others and held my rifle on the Twil while Santiago, Jacobs, and Yancee stripped away their armor.
"We had just one world, and you Twil destroyed it. We can't stand against your fleets, so now we hide in the darkness, running at the speed of light. Some of us just keep running, too fast for you to catch, living and dying between the stars, making sure some survive. Others, like us, visit your worlds, one after another, reminding you that we're still here."
The women stood now, bare from the waist up. Jacob's breasts were small and pink, Santiago's large and dark. Yancee had a griffin inked across hers--and a mole I'd said looked like a comet.
I put my hand on Yancee's swelling belly, her hand pressed over mine; Santiago and Jacobs rubbed their own rounded stomachs. I asked, "Do you understand what this means?"
The alpha nodded.
"Good. You may have beaten us, but know that you can never kill us. Not all of us."
The women dressed as we prepped for the run to the hidden extraction ship. With a little luck, we'd make it to one more rendezvous, just in time for another trip between the stars.
I leaned close to the alpha. "We're tired... But we've fought extinction for so long that we don't know how to give up and die. Just stop chasing us... Please. Until you do, we'll keep keeping coming back: me, my children, my children's children. As long as it takes. Leave us alone, and it all goes away. Tell whomever you can. You're the seed."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Author Comments

My ideas usually come to me when I'm listening to music intended to evoke a strong emotional response (Grendel's "End of Ages" in this case). When the ideas come, they're in the form of visual scenes, short fragments that I have to make some sense of. For this story, I imagined two scenes: 1) Families on ships, traveling through space with nowhere to go (I was on an elliptical machine at the time, talk about a miserable trip to nowhere). 2) Soldiers on transports hurtling toward a planet, all the people on the planet see are streaks of fire in the sky. By the end of my personal journey to nowhere, I'd come up with something I thought fit those two scenes perfectly: smashing anthills. If you decide to smash an anthill (maybe an ant bit your kid, maybe it's the one blemish on an otherwise perfect lawn) there's not a thing those ants can do to stop the destruction. But even as you smash that anthill, you know, with absolute certainty, that: 1) Some of those ants are going to run and make it to live on somewhere else. 2) At least one of them is going crawl up your ankle and sting the hell out of you. That's humanity for you. Smash us up, and we still find a way to live on. And even when we've lost everything, we still take the time to connect with one another (and more often than not, break stuff).

- Robert Lowell Russell
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