It had come, the day had really come. The day that they had prepared for, that he had fired a thousand bullets in preparation for, the day had really come. And he was not sure he was prepared to meet it.
If we are mark'd to die, we are now
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
He ran across the field, dodging around both bullets and spells, wondering how he managed to be so terrible at both. He didn’t fire his gun--no, instead he looked down at his sword, his sword given a single, powerful blessing by Those who had Battled Before. They had lost, but had blessed him in hope that he might win. As he headed into the fight against both organic and inorganic, he prayed. Prayed with all of his might that he might somehow win. And all the time it rang in his head, as it had been ringing in his head the day he found out when the enemy would be invading.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold.
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
“If I fight for my Friends, then I do fight for my honor!” The blood pounded in his head, but he felt calm this time. So calm. Why? Why would he feel calm now in the heat of battle against these monsters? Because now was the time that the vote of who was to win this last battle—humanity or invaders—would be decided! He would be completely calm, completely ready for whatever happened next.
The war had been going on for almost ninety-nine years—so close to a century now! Why was it that he had to be born a decider, why did he have to be part of the generation to either take it all back or give it all up? Because someone had to fight the glorious battle that could either strip or restore the hope and honor of humanity!
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
Fellowship? Brotherhood? Surely cowardice was not something necessary in this war but neither was fellowship or brotherhood. Depending on who you talked to the war was a result of his “brothers,” fellow men and women opening a portal or alien signal. Aliens, Demons, Fellow Men, who was it all against? Who was it all for? What was it all for?
The answer was survival. No matter how much man was torn away from brotherhood, from fellowship, he would never be torn away from Survival. Bashing through those . . . things . . . on the field made him wonder if that was how he did everything; why he bore through the harsh training, the rough civilian life before, making sure that each and every person was cared for, fed, clothed.
And all before the age of twenty, he thought, dropping his gun and feeling his magic draw thin as he attempted to ration it evenly.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
The enemy seemed to be waning, their last wave—was it weaker than normal? Could it be that it was the last of this mysterious invader, that he and his troop of only twenty had managed to accomplish what one hundred years of soldiers had failed to achieve?
He looked down and realized that the flickering of the light meant that his magic was dwindling. There were only a few shells in the artillery, and he and the other troops were armed with only their swords and a collection of rag-tag weapons, like hammers and spears. The men had been free to choose what weapon they wanted for hand-to-hand, and he could see why. It was because when the time came for hand-to-hand, then there was truly no chance at winning. No chance at any kind of survival.
Let the men die carrying whatever weapons they wanted to. After all, it was a special day.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
It seemed to him that he had lived a thousand lifetimes as the enemy rushed near. The cross around his neck dangled, but instead of grasping it he grasped his long, heavy-handed sword to swing at the nearest attacker. A lucky scrape at the organic side of the body—and a piercing screech that nearly made him collapse
Slice, slice, slice again and he found himself shaking as he looked around. Only five left. Five men and women left out of an army of five hundred million. Yes, there were another three hundred back at camp, but for all intents and purposes, five remained of the army.
The last stand.
The last of the three hundred, standing against the invading spartans, attempting to defend a home and an empire that they worried was fading.
But they would stand.
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
He hefted his sword up and looked at the ragtag weapons brought by his compatriots. A woman with a hammer and shield. A man wielding two long daggers, each about a foot in length. Another woman with a long, heavy axe held in both hands, and a man with an oriental katana, holding it back in its sheath.
These four and him, holding onto whatever they could.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd-
One Hundred Years, and it came down to these men, the five.
He knew that they would be remembered, would be heroes even at some point, but in this world or the next?
“You have done well, you men.” It seemed worthy praise, since they were the last five. The last five fighting a war that had been unevenly matched since the beginning.
The thing marching towards them was all cybernetics, wires and tubes and only a single organic hand visible. He saw the suit, knew it was the general, and giggled a little bit. A single patch of organic skin. A weak spot.
The other four soldiers looked confused at his laughter, as surely this general and these four enemy officers, though they be the last, would be the strongest.
“You have done well, but it all ends right here.”
And then the Five Heroes rushed forwards, him crying the loudest that his hoarse voice could as he took in the desecrated earth.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
He slashed blindly at the general, clouded over by not rage, but by fear. Pure fear and adrenaline. The general swiped most of them away with his cybernetic hand, that morphed into a sword mid-swing.
Left, right, parry, swing.
The woman with the hammer and shield on his left hit her target over the head, and the officer went down. She kept beating, however, until its death was clear and her adrenalin slowed. Then she sat down, breathing heavily, and looked at him.
The man with the two knives plunged through steel, wires, and skin alike. The cybernetic warrior came down into the dirt, and he only stabbed once or twice more. Then he sheathed his knives, and sat next to the woman.
A long, double-headed battle axe went cleanly through the shorter enemy officer, a long vertical slice in half. Was the resulting fluid oil, or could it be blood? Would there ever be a way to know? The woman who dealt the blow finished the enemy, face tight and bleak.
The man with the katana jumped back and forth, waiting for the enemy to be just off balance enough. Then a single slash, straight through the officer, who fell to the ground. He released a deep exhale of a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He shook and had to sit down and stop himself.
In the middle, he found the point with his sword, seeing that all others had been taken down.
Three. A slash through the head, barely deeper than a graze but enough to put him off balance.
Two. Cutting off the organic hand, the one place there would be surefire pain—the screech following verifies that it worked.
One. Plunge the sword straight in and drive, drive, DRIVE.
Looking around he has found himself twenty meters from his allies, who are sitting in dazed disbelief. He walks back to them and recites the final piece out loud, looking down at his watch and thinking through what is left.
Each of the men whispers into their watches, recording the time and date of their last battle. One last action report.
Hidetaka, sheathing his katana, manages to smiles as his final nervousness fades.
Nessa’s axe is stuck in the ground and she knows she does not yet have the strength to get it back.
Julian’s knives, sheathed and gleaming, remain still as he goes up to Elouise and comforts her.
And in the middle is him. Colin Dorian Cloud.
He recites, openly and plainly, his voice somehow coming out crystal clear as he looks across the now-barren land:
“And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their dignities cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's Day.”
October 25th, 2199.
The day we finally did it.
St. Crispin’s Day.
Kekoa is a 15-year-old from California.