Note: This story appears in the chapbook, Salt for the Journey, available on Smashwords.com.
by Will Wright
The brute was going to die but he didn’t know that.
Myra circled and spun in a corkscrew flight. A hand swung through the air, snatching at a spot of air she’d flown through an instant earlier. She stifled a laugh. He’d been quick enough to kill Phoebe like that earlier. Humans looked clumsy, but it was a mistake to underestimate the species.
The sound of paper movement cautioned her to stay low. He was alert and armed. She trolled through the shadows, blending with the carpet.
She’d requested canine work for her squadron this morning. They were more pleasant smelling and less likely to kill.
“I’m sorry, Commander, this is top priority: pre-cancer. We need at least five effective doses today or we’ll lose him.”
“I don’t suppose we could just let him die? He’s a mass murderer after all.”
“He is one of the nasty ones; there’s no doubt about that.”
The brute was seated again. Myra spun around to see if the weapon was still in his hand. He wasn’t holding it but it was nearby. Daphne’s wing and one leg still hung off the edge.
Daphne had been a friend. Myra didn’t know how many sorties they flew together. She could only count to nine and it was more than that. At least Daphne had brooded. There would be many more than nine just like her. Myra wanted to live to see them.
With Daphne’s death, Myrtle was now her second: a solid veteran. “Report, Myrtle.”
“I have confirmed three solid injections, Commander. There are two other partials. There may be more.”
“Daphne, Phoebe and Rosemary, Commander”
“Did you see how Rosemary died?”
“Invisible barrier, Commander, she tried to fly through it.”
The humans called the barriers, windows; invisible and frequently mobile, their flat impenetrable surface exposed flyers to the swat and the spray.
“She dodged his first attack,” said Myrtle. He stunned her on the second pass and then crushed her against the barrier. I don’t like it, Commander. Canines don’t use invisible barriers.”
“No, they don’t. I think the humans use windows just to kill us.”
“I heard it was to keep killer birds away.”
“Maybe, but I know this one’s type. He likes to kill. I think he moves the barriers to trap us.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t fly for the light when we hit a barrier,” said Myrtle. Maybe we should just bounce off them.”
“Just do what the trainers tell you, Myrtle. I have seen more than nine sorties. The advice of the trainers has kept me alive all this time.”
“Have you saved a human before, Commander?”
“Two, they are disgusting and dangerous creatures but our purpose is a noble one.”
“I wonder,” said Myrtle. She buzzed the human’s head and it’s large grotesque turned, exposing the bald blunt features of it’s face.
The brute’s hand swung through the air. Myrtle rode the wind current up above the hand but Myra was knocked from the air to the body of the brute. She found an opening in his clothing and burrowed in. He wouldn’t attack if he didn’t know she was there. The clothing was a dark and dangerous place. Few lived who found themselves who so entangled but the mission came first.
“Damn mosquito, where’d you go?”
Did the brute expect an answer?
Myra wondered what was so important about these creatures anyway. Dogs, horses and deer were admirable. Their fur made good resting places. Their manure enriched the soil. Their blood brought strong broods. They even tasted good.
Humans acted as if the planet was there for them alone. How could they think such a thing? There were many more than nine of her kind for every one of them. How did the humans explain that: a mistake?
The humans erected barriers and traps. They released murderous gasses. If they could, Myra thought they just might kill every one of her kind.
Of course, if they did, the humans would die as well. Without midges, biting flies, ticks, horseflies and especially mosquitoes cancer would run rampant, human males would go sterile and their bowels would malfunction. Surely creatures who could build barriers and create killer gasses would know a simple thing like that.
They certainly didn’t act like they knew. A human blessed with life giving attention cursed and killed and sprayed and whined as if they were being wronged.
It wasn’t her place to question her mission but she could tell Myrtle was having her doubts. There were mosquito factions intentionally transmitting disease, instead of curing. It was a reasonable response to the abuse they suffered. Similar rebel factions rose whenever humans desecrated swamp lands.
The rebels would stop. They always did. The mosquito was a noble breed. In the end, the great calling always brought them back. They were the keepers of life, not takers, even when the value of the life the protected was hard to understand.
Myra heard a buzzing. Myrtle used her wings to send code. Of course the human could hear it too. Myra hoped that Myrtle was being careful.
“Forth dose confirmed; Yvette badly mauled; will not survive.”
Only one more dose was required to save the brute.
Myra knew what would happen if she dosed him now. He could reach this spot easily. She would die soon after she saved his life.
Her chances of escape were remote. It didn’t make sense to ask her squadron to take more risks. She could finish the mission from here.
Myrtle knew this. She would hold the rest of the squadron back waiting for the slap that would tell her the human would live even as Myra died.
Myra was glad she had brooded. Because of her, nines and nines and nines again flew the swamp land, saving lives and doing the good work. She wondered if this human would ever do anything to justify her sacrifice and those of her squadron.
She hoped Myrtle would lead them well. Surely, in spite of her doubts, she wouldn’t join the rebels.
There was no time to worry about such things. It was time to do as she must, as she was born to do. Duty was paramount.
She poked, injected. She went ahead and took blood though she knew she’d never brood again. She moved her wings in code.