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Excellence

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Every time I closed my eyes all I saw were the horrors of the battle, could hear the screams and gun-fire. Smoke and mud everywhere.

And that’s why I didn’t sleep in three days.

It made my run a bit harder. My body was so tired, the pulsing pain was shooting into my left hand and my legs hurt from nonstop walking, but I kept going. The farther from that shadow-damn battlefield the better. The farther from any signs of Aurora the better, too.

I was hungry, too.

All I could manage to catch were some small animals hiding in the pits in the sand. They didn’t taste good, but it was better than starving to death.

I didn’t know where I was going either. Just away.

When I ran away from the battle it was at night, so I didn’t need to worry about the Sun for a few hours till the morning. Only when the first rays started to peek from the horizon I used one of the many canyons as my route. This canyon was pretty wide, and the path was visible near one of its high walls.

Path means people. Or migrating animals.

I wasn’t sure what I would prefer at this moment. Animals mean trouble most of the time. The wildlife on Mars is, well, wild and even the smallest of creatures are troublesome. I learnt this lesson the hard way.

And I didn’t feel like meeting people either. People mean questions. Questions like, why am I here in the middle of nowhere, who am I, where am I came from and where am I going… I was too tired to answer any of these.

The canyon led my tired legs to the south. The Sun visible from the canyon only in the middle of the day but I could keep walking in the shadows of its walls even then. Most of the times.

And then suddenly, after four days, it ended. It was middle of the day and all I could see was an endless plain of sand and rocks. Rocks were too small to provide a satisfactory shadow. Plus, I would have to run from one spot to the other. Two days back I made a makeshift hood out of my long and useless cape but that won’t be enough against the Sun.

No. This is not good. I had to wait until night to continue on my travels.

I sat down and leaned my back against the wall and my body immediately thanked me. The tempo I had was slow but steady these past few days. And I only rested for a few hours in the deepest of the night when I couldn’t see on my own feet. And when I fell asleep I didn’t sleep for long.

The images always returned.

The young soldiers with nailguns too big in their shaking hands are laying in the mud. Their eyes big with fear or eagerness, that depends on the personality or experience of the man. I with others of my kind are few meters behind them.

The young ones are expendable. More than you are.” That’s what the oldest of the officers said. I don’t like him.

I myself am not much older than the kids in the soldier’s uniforms. The fact that neither of them went through any kind of training is alarming. I maybe have more in my sleeve than them, but I still feel unprepared for this.

And then there are the men and women on the other side of the line. How can they win against the biggest and better-trained army on Mars?

I woke up with a start. My heart was beating with a speed of a running ostrich. When I looked up at the sky I saw it was getting darker. I ran my gloved fingers through my short hair and stood up.

Time to go.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Why did you stop?” a teenager on her right protests. He’s laying on his back, his only hand under his head. Looking up at the stars while listening to her story.

They exchanged a little about their lives when they met so Andrew already knows some of it. However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t listening.

“Because it’s getting late and we need to rest. Don’t worry I will continue,” Shiro promises and stands up.

“Did the memories from the front disappeared?” he asks, now sitting and looking at her. His hair ruffled.

"Some, yes. But not all of them. But hey, I would skip these parts if I wasn’t comfortable with talking about them. Now go to sleep, Pumpkin,” she says and smothers the fire.

Meanwhile, Andrew grabs their sleeping bags to put them farther into the cave they found to spend the night in. Thanks to his "job" at that piece of shit Marcello, the kid is very experienced in how things work and what must be done while on travels.

It was only by a small miracle she managed to persuade the trader to let the teenager come with her. One more minute of talking with him and she would punch him right in the gut and the poor kid must work under him nonstop.

That was a month ago.

Andrew, who is now the same age as she was when she ran away, needs this more than he thinks he does. Not only because he needs to learn how to have his powers under control, but it will also help him survive the rest of his years he will spend with that jerk. He’ll have nice memories he can cherish.

She looks around their camp one more time and then walks into the cave. Despite the complains only a few minutes ago, at the time Shiro lays down, Andrew is already sleeping.