The grenade hit the top of the stone wall. The force knocked Exodus Tonn to the ground, knocking him out for a quick bit. When his head stopped spinning he felt his arm. It was missing. Five inches of upper arm was all that remained. Blood flowed.
Oddly, it didn’t hurt. Every nerve ending, every cell on his body was on adrenaline overdrive. A voice called out his name. His wingman lay in pieces in the mud twenty feet away. It was the commander shouting, checking he was okay. He couldn’t see where she was.
The whine of another incoming round had him clawing and kicking to get away. The wall took a full hit and exploded, lifting the ground under him, throwing him across the muddy ground. Into merciful blackness.
Now, a setting-up look back.
The year is 2263. Space is as big as ever, if not bigger. It’s also as dark and inhospitable as ever. Every now and then a celestial body goes up in a puff of smoke, seemingly at will. As if taking upon itself to bring a change to galactic monotony and forms something else in the same spot. Generally not improving things.
The occurrences never fail to give the global Earth community of astronomers a new lease of life and a fresh reminder that drawing a salary for being exceptionally patient doesn’t go without its occasional reward.