Beginning of “Edge Is the New Center”
“We’re alive! We survived! We won!” Lucky Buck held aloft the power gun taken from the dead hand of the Kaark commander, when the Hunters’ last stronghold had fallen.
“We’ll be dead soon enough,” retorted Rock with a growl. He had come here from Wales. “You’ve assured that, o mighty commander.”
“No, we can make it work,” said Gran, originally a school teacher from Kansas, now the leader of Mothertown. “We can build a new world for ourselves here. It’ll be much better than the horror of the last few years, and we survived them.”
“A few of us survived,” said Rock, looking around at the remaining survivors. “So many died that the living can’t dig graves for them.”
“Look at us, people,” Lucky shouted. “We prevailed. As weak and untrained as we are, with the lousy weapons we have, we defeated the vile Kaark killers and their vicious Hunters.”
This bedraggled bunch sure did not look like a triumphant army. Dirty, exhausted, half-starved, wounds and injuries patched with rags. How many? Hundreds, but not thousands. Hard to tell, because they were scattered throughout the woods. No count had yet been done.
They clustered around the huts and bunkers they called Mothertown, sitting on logs and rocks. Hulks of captured Kaark space vessels were scattered amongst the trees, cannibalized of all usable parts and materials.
“And we made it so they can never attack us again,” said Lucky, the former fortune hunter turned leader of this ragtag clan.
“Oh yeah?” Ms. Bren, born and raised in Georgia, stood up, wrapped in rags and supported by a walking stick. “But you did this by marooning us forever on the godforsaken world half a galaxy away from our home.”
In the recent spring, as the snow melted and they counted those that had survived the harsh winter, they knew they would soon be overwhelmed by ship after ship of soldiers and hunters coming in from the Kaark worlds to punish them for defending themselves last year and staying alive.
Out of desperation, they had finally listened to Lucky’s crazy idea. “Let’s send one of the spaceships we captured from the Kaark and crash it into the jump site orbiting above the planet, so their vessels cannot get here. Then all we have to do is defeat those already here.”
“No, we can’t do that!” many had said. “Because then, we can’t leave either. We’ll never be able to get home. We’ll be marooned here on this primitive, naked world.”
The crazy idea had worked. They had taken out the jump site, preventing reinforcements, and defeated the remaining Hunters. How? Because they were fighting for their lives, and the Hunters were unaccustomed to facing organized, armed opposition. Also because the various allied world races worked well together, and made an effective fighting force.
But despite guessing right, Lucky had not been honored for long.
“The worst of it is,” said Rock, “we’re stuck here with a bunch of non-human aliens that mumble weird languages.”
“We’re all aliens here,” protested Lucky. “And if we want to survive, we’ve got to get along and work together.”
The band of survivors was mostly Earthers, but also many Tarchi and Oorna from Kend, plus others that had fled the Hunters.
“I don’t want no stinkin’ aliens as my neighbors,” said Bren with a spit. “Like as not they’ll stab us in the back as we sleep.”
“If you hadn’t brought that captured power cart here last year,” said Badwind, who had been in Mothertown since the beginning, “they would have left us alone. You stirred ‘em up so they had to come after us.”
“Ha! And then we had the gall to defeat them and drive them off!” laughed Oz, one of Lucky’s two wives, who had come here from Adelaide, Australia. She stood next to Penelo, the physician from World 8 of the Confed who had gladly switched allegiance when she was captured. Her medical skills had been the difference between life and death for those of many worlds.
“They would have come after us in any case,” said Oz. “They would wipe us out. Our rotting corpses would be the food of the night beasts. Now we have a chance to survive.”
“Not sure it’s worth surviving,” muttered Bren.
“That’s up to you,” said Oz. “You can just wander off into the deep woods and the hungry beasts will take care of you.”
Whiplash, originally from Chicago, who had the loudest voice, climbed up on top of the Telling Stone, and shouted out, “All of you who are certain you want to survive, and are willing to work together with other Earthers—and other world peoples—to build a decent life here, you step over here now. Cluster around the Stone. Don’t come unless you’re willing to make that pledge and commit your life to do this.”
Tiny Helen, formerly from Vermont, grabbed Stinky Hank by the hand and dragged him over to the Telling Stone. Whiplash raised her hand for silence, and Helen said in her quiet voice, “We have to survive. We have to make the best of it. We must make this world our own.”
She looked up at Hank and they smiled at each other. “I’m pregnant.”