Publication Date—Apr 18, 2011
In this short story by T.C. McCarthy, one ordinary woman with nothing to lose joins the French Foreign Legion and finds herself, and her comrades, pinned down in a bunker surrounded by enemies. Thousands of the mantis-like creatures swarm towards them and with no communications and little ammo, survival is a desperate hope. She is a volunteer and a soldier, and to save herself, her squad, and the refugees they defend, she must remember the life she left behind.
Twenty children huddled in a corner. “We’re the Legion, grandmother,” Toly said to me, “not a damn orphanage. This is a military post.” “What else was there to do?” I asked. “Tell those things to go away until we can ship the children off planet? This was going to be a resort posting, five-star.” When we initially landed in the Lavigne system all of us had been giddy. Who wouldn’t be? It was the first world with optimal conditions: the perfect climate, perfect star type, and a soil chemistry almost identical to the south of France, just right to re-establish vineyards. A dream assignment. Nobody wanted Nimes Lointain again, the Legion’s training planet where if you enjoyed marching all day with a full kit under two g’s, it was the ideal place. We had just come from Nimes; Lavigne was supposed to have been our vacation. “How do they see?” I whispered. Out the firing port you could see an ocean of them, mante religieuse (French for praying mantis), huge insect-like things that had shown up that morning and slaughtered every single colonist — except for the kids in our bunker.