Surely Justice He followed the tunnel cautiously since they had no maps of this area- it had been constructed

after the occupation attempt. Suddenly his helmet was full of heat signatures and he almost pulled the trigger from sheer surprise. He bit his tongue and pulled the barrel of the pulse rifle up quickly as the bright blue-clad boy gaped like a stranded fish at him. Another older boy pulled the first out of Joshua’s line of fire and stepped in front of him. “We are unarmed, sir.” He said cautiously. “Where is your caretaker?” Joshua’s eyes flitted warily over the small crowd of children in varying shades of primary colors, some of them small and still carrying comfort items. The oldest boy gulped and gestured to the side. Joshua gritted his teeth at the sight of the row of bodies laid out so carefully. The last in that row wore the stark black and white uniform that he had been expecting to meet the moment he’d set foot in this burrow. He swallowed hard. To lay the bodies out must have been hard for them, but to arrange the body of their teacher and caretaker must have been the hardest thing they had ever done. He stood quietly for a moment or two, mind spinning, wonder what the hell to do now. They watched him silently, eyes gleaming in the dimmed illumination from above. Then he bowed his head, slinging his rifle over his shoulder and pulling his helmet from his head. It clipped neatly to his belt as he walked to the center of the room, the crowd of children parting before him and closing in behind him silently staring. Finally the older boy gulped again and asked timorously: “What to you intend, sir?” Joshua grimaced. “I’m trying to figure out a way to get you kids out of this section safely.” He grimaced. “We’ve cut this section off from the main hub and intend to blow the seals soon.” All their eyes went wide at that statement and what had seemed like a great victory only moments before now tasted of ashes in his mouth. The smallest little sniffled and clutched her bright orange comfort animal tightly. He closed his eyes. He could not, would not, take these children of another people back to his commander. He knew all too well what would probably happen to them. But how could he get them back to their own people without getting himself killed or court marshaled? Biting his lip, he pulled his helmet from his belt, setting it to the wide scan display of the maps they had of this area, including his own small contributions traced in flickering low grade holo lights. The scattered shimmering maps caught and held the attention of the frightened children, giving them something to focus on instead of the still bodies in the alcove behind them. The display flickered as it updated every so often, showing where troops were deployed and what sections had been mapped and taken. Joshua scrubbed his hands over his face. More and more sections were being taken, cleared and locked down in the cold vacuum of the lunar landscape above. He opened his eyes and examined the crowd of nearly silent children carefully. Three older boys in varying shades of blue faced him, respectfully wary and two of them held a few of the smaller littles too small to see the map well from floor level. Two older girls in the pre-teens held other littles, one of whom slept quiescently amid the crisis going on above her little head. He wished he could sleep also. He had not slept for days it felt like, although he knew it had been only hours since they’d dropped from space to this strange land. One of the older boys coughed. “Sir, could be go through the ventilation systems? Some of us used to play there and know the routes.” Joshua shook his head. “B squad was assigned to gassing the vents for that very reason.” He eyed the map. “Do all of you have suits?” “Yes.” This time one of the older girls answered. “We take them with. But they’re not for long trips Above. We only have about an hour of air per suit.” He nodded, calculating, tracing the route he thought they could take in his mind. “But once that runs out, an alarm beacon sounds.” She said softly, adding: “Mother was working on improving them before the war.” “Here’s what we’ll do then,” he said, tracing the route against the holo map. <~> For some reason he kept glancing up at the starkly silhouetted cliff’s edge. The air gauges were more of a concern than any ambush, however. He had taken the lead, watching his routing map carefully so as not to get them stuck in a cul-de-sac or drop them off a cliff. Now they were approaching what his map said was a lightly guarded entrance to one of the remaining secure burrows and he prayed he’d be able to

get the children into it without getting himself or them killed. They bounded up the small incline and then he signaled for them to halt, putting the little that he had been carrying down gently. “You wait here, I’m going down to check the entrance.” He said, hoping their weak suit to suit communication would not be heard. “I’m going with,” the oldest boy said, stepping forward. “Incase there’s anyone down there.” Joshua almost shook his head, then changed his mind. The boy had a point. “Alright. Stay behind me though, I don’t want them shooting you by mistake.” The boy nodded and followed him down. Again Joshua glanced up at the ragged cliff’s edge and then set his attention on the invitingly empty airlock ahead. There was no-one in it and no obvious traps. His helmet scans found nothing out of the ordinary as they approached it slowly. Waving for the other to wait, he stepped cautiously into the airlock. The last thing he remembered was his breath rasping painfully as darkness descended with a thud and his fervent prayers to any god that was listening to take care of the children. <~> He opened his eyes blearily, wondering what the hell had hit him. The first face he saw filled him with relief. The older boy in blue stood beside his medbed. At the boy’s nod, the other two boys came up to the bed, followed by the rest of the children from the burrow. Even the littles, comfort items clutched in tiny hands watched him from their perches on older children and amazed adults. “Alright, now you’ve seen him. Satisfied, Aaron?” The dry voice made Joshua wince. They’d booby-trapped the airlock. How the hell had they done that? Why hadn’t he seen it. At least the kids hadn’t been caught in it- his fevered thoughts spun. “Yes and no, sir. He saved us at the risk of his own life. I don’t think it would be right to punish him for that. Do you?” The oldest boy in blue- Aaron, Joshua’s mind supplied the name, said sternly. The older man who stepped into his field of vision made him want to run away as fast as he could. Bright piercing blue eyes evaluated him carefully. “Perhaps not, Aaron. But we need any information that he can provide. How do you suggest we gather this information from him, since his suit systems will not answer to any of us?” “Ask, sir. Any plans they would have are most likely changed by now, as would their codes. And his rank was low enough that he would not know anything that important, I believe.” Aaron smiled and winked at him. He just stared and automatically took the little that the older girl handed him, settling the small girl up against his shoulder, passing her the orange bear she had clung to throughout this nightmare. She quieted and wrapped her arm around his neck, placing the bear under his chin and leaning against his head for balance. Somehow his inherent fear began to seep away and while he did not feel exactly safe here, he knew somehow that he would survive. The elder man raised one space-bleached eyebrow and asked cautiously: “Care to share what you know, sir?” Aaron nodded encouragingly to him and he closed his eyes, trying to think.