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As the ships decelerated from relativistic velocities and the enemy readouts came out on his holo display, the pilot's heart sank. Hundreds, no thousands of ships swarming in front of the distant inhabited planet, and it was his job to destroy them all. Humanity depended on it. The message "Standby" flashed on his holographic Heads-Up Display and his stomach began to knot up as he realized the commander did not know what to do. What if after all this time they had not even ever found a commander like they had promised? He realized it did not matter. No commander could possibly defeat such a vast array of forces.

He had left Earth almost right after the end of the second invasion knowing he could never go back. Seventy years here and seventy back, only sixteen years would had passed for him-if he survived. All that time in transit training, planning for the day when he and the 79 other pilots would be called upon to defeat the Formics, the Buggers, once and for all, but the old commanders had not anticipated this, they had had no idea what they would find. But know he knew that he would not survive. Not in his worst nightmares had he imagined such an impregnable shield of ships guarding the enemy homeworld, and he knew that his loss would be in vain.

Soon though his selfish fears expanded to cover those he had left behind. Surely his parents and siblings were dead by now, or would be soon. But what about the other 8 billion people left in the solar system who could never in 70 years build a force to stop the one before him. The war had to be won now or it would be lost forever. A voice started coming over the tactical net and his fighter was launched out from the belly of the cruiser with his three wingmen.

He felt a slight glimmer of hope. At least somebody up there had a plan, and no he was no worse off dying with one doomed plan than another. All eighty fighters that the fleet carried formed into a javelin and began racing towards the constantly shifting enemy patterns. As they neared the enemy formation he realized how large those ships actually were. They were bigger than anything he had seen during the battle around Saturn so many years ago, and even dwarfed the cruiser he had rode in on. But he was not afraid. He remembered that size was his ally as he fingered the button that would rend the starship into such much interstellar dust.

Suddenly they were among the enemy fleet and the fighters began weaving around in tight controlled formations, forcing the enemy ships to shy away lest they be caught packed too closely and annihilated. Lasers and missile detonations flashed all around him but his estatic shield was holding up-for now. Suddenly a new order came in and he broke off on an individual trajectory shooting up through the Bugger formations grimmacing as ship after ship disappeared from before him in a flash of light, and the number of his comrades remaining decreased steadily. He dodged the double-edged Doctor time and time again, juking and twisting madly to avoid getting caught in the field of death and the labyrinth of fire.

The wing commander initiated a new order from deep within the belly of his cruiser and the pilot reformed with the mere dozen starfighters remaining. He was momentarily suprised at the progress that had been made. They had, at a high cost, managed to maneuver their way through to the other side of the most intimidating Formic formations. The ships left behind continued to close in to cut off their escape and he knew that though they had hurt the Buggers badly they would never be able to finish off the remainder of the fleet, not with twelve fighters. And then a voice came over the tactical channel loud and clear, as if it was from the next room, but it was not coming from any one of the ships in system, it was coming from the master ansible...

"O my son Absalom," the voice came through; the voice of a small child. "My son, my son Absalom. Would God I could die for thee, O Absalom my son. My sons!"

A single tear rolled down the cheek of the pilot as a new order flashed in straight from the master ansible. And he realized that they were not going back. The enemy ships behind them meant nothing and there were not enough ships in front of them to stop them. There couldn't be! He pushed the throttle to full and nosed his fighter straight down towards the planet looming in his visual display. The 11 fighters beside him dove also.

He was jammed into his seat as the inertial compensators were overloaded and the g-forces began to pile up. He strained against the blackness creeping around the edges of his vision as the numbers scrolled downward faster than his eyes could track on the range to fire display. There was an explosion to his port side and a fighter winked off of the holo display. Two more disappeared to his aft, and then the fighter directly in front of him took a missile impact and detonated brilliantly. He flew unflinchingly through the vapor cloud of his former wingman as dozens of starships raced in behind him trying desperately to destroy him. There was now no hiding what was about to be done.

It was beginning to get hot inside the cockpit. He was entering the atmosphere and he would surely burn up soon. How soon? His ecstatic shield was constantly shrinking, missiles detonated all around it. The final fighter remaining burst into flames to his starboard side and the pilot, the last pilot, pressed the fire button desperately as the rangefinder creeped closer to zero. He screamed a scream of primal fear and anger and hatred that tore his throat raw and then he choked and stopped. The surface of the planet bubbled up towards him in a fury of disassociating molecules and as the bright light reached him the last pilot screamed the scream of a victorious warrior and shielded his eyes as he was enveloped by his own child of death. At last it was all over.

*Note: This writeup is a short story based on the single fighter left at the end of the final battle in the Sci-Fi classic Ender's Game as well as it's counterpart Ender's Shadow.

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