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The button was a simple thing.

It sat patiently inside its metal shell, upon its designated console, in the depths of the research compound. As with most buttons of its kind, it was red, circular, and perfectly palm-sized. The button awaited a day the residents of Outpost 26 had hoped would never come, but come it did.

The outpost had been peaceful for so long.

The attack had begun with no warning. One moment, the sensors detected the ships, the next moment they were unleashing all hell upon the small settlement. First came the bombs, then the combatants. So many had died in the blink of an eye.

Maya sprinted into the reinforced room, hastily sealing the bulkhead behind her. Covered in blood, she limped rapidly toward the console at first, but reluctance slowed her steps. She slowed to a lopsided jog, which became a jerking, hesitant walk. At last, she took the final step that brought her within arm’s reach of the bullet-proof casing.

The building trembled, and the machinery in the room rattled as the fighting continued on the surface. Standing before the console, Maya drew in a shaky breath and closed her eyes.

The people of Outpost 26 hoped never to need the button. It was a fail-safe, a “just in case,” an “if”—not a when. The button was meant to be included in training manuals, to live forever behind its high-security covering, to be the butt of the technicians’ jokes.

How easily we forget why we plan for the worst.

Metallic squealing echoed through the halls, dulled by the bulkhead, but Maya could tell they were getting close. The door wouldn’t hold for long. She opened her eyes and placed her hand upon the security scanner.

The protective casing opened, leaving the bright yellow warning label the only obstacle. This moment should never have come. It was only meant for Maya’s nightmares. This had to be a nightmare.

Explosions wracked the room, but Maya kept her footing. The enemy was nearly through the door. They must know what she intended. They could not be allowed to use the outpost as a launching point.

Maya took a deep breath and placed a hand upon the button.

People were still alive on the surface, she knew. She could name them all. Some two hundred souls were under her care as Director of Outpost 26.

The bulkhead screeched open. There was no more time.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, pressing the self-destruct trigger.

Ariel Cross

Ariel Cross is a fantasy author and blogger with a love for representation and subversion. To them, happiness is a warm glass of mead on a cold day.

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