It had become the nightly ritual to read the Verlustliste each night before trying to shut his eyes for a scant few hours sleep. To glimpse the latest list of all those who had fallen in the name of His Divinity and the Unendliche Grenze that allowed them to fight. It had started as that last connection Verwüsten had to his squadron mates of old, long after they’d separated across the many units of the Imperial Kriegsflügel and the thousands of worlds now under their dominion. When the war began, the ace pilots had kept in correspondence as much as possible, passing between the feats of heroism or anecdotes of conquest or even love. But those times, those faces, had died away slowly as the years crept on and the engine of war perpetually turned.
Rasierer had been the first to fall, leading his new squadron in glorious battle. All the royalty came out to decorate his coffin with medals and sashes of valor, which made Verwüsten laugh at the time. “The only thing with a higher kill count than Rasierer’s flying is his lust!” he’d toasted to uproarious laughter at the fallen ace’s funeral.
Wild was next to fall, much to his surprise. For the indomitable ace fell not to an enemy, but to poor maintenance that sent his starfighter blazing into an asteroid. On his own order, Verwüsten had personally headed to his old comrade’s unit to lay down the Order of Execution against the ground crew that had failed Wild.
Hyäne and Schakal died together, as everyone knew they would. The Revolt of the Horsehead Nebula took three years to quell, but his comrades never tired of the battle. Thanks to their efforts, the final rebel line was broken and a million wayward citizens were brought back into the hands of His Divinity.
No one had expected Hera to die how she did. Someone who’s blood ran so cold, but falling to a heart attack one night in the arms of her wife while on shore leave?
For this, Verwüsten felt the years finally collapse on him, driving him down deep into the darkness of the bottle and the void of anger. There were no more letters now, no more stories to tell among pilots and warriors. Against such emptiness and isolation, the last standing ace dared to blaspheme in a night of drunken rage. In so doing, he cursed the Almighty to rain down mercy in the form of death so he could fly the infinite night with all those fallen. When nothing happened, Verwüsten drove his fists though the viasge of His Divinity, a crime often punished quickly by death for the lesser plebs and common worker. Only his rank and his service had commuted the scythe for now, so graciously leaving him to wither and rot in a furnished prison cell.
“Pardon me, Herr General, the Holy Order have arrived for your nightly confessions.” the sentry to his cellblock informed him, to which the elder man only nodded. Looking down at the list one last time for the night, Verwüsten felt the break in his soul as the tears began to trail down his cheeks like they never had before.
“A prayer for the dead to be forgiven?” the guard asked him while securing the officer’s leg chains.
“Nein, Gunter. A plea for them to forgive me. All the good ones die young, leaving only the wicked and the vile to shamble on in this mortal realm, bartering entry into Heaven, Hell, or nothing at all.”
Another week, another great prompt challenge from the Team Writer FB page! So far,, I’m noticing with these that, while I can crank out starkly different characters or moments in time, I’m not sure yet if any of them are destined for greater things yet. Perhaps one day, once Akula and Draco finish up their stories, one of these will be what I revisit.
I hope you all enjoy.