The sun was a slow bubble of molten slag pulling away from the horizon. Nored watched it rise, all the while aware of the body behind him. The warmth of the new day was starting to make it smell.
Finally it was time. He sighed and touched the metal band on his thumb to his lips.
‘Jaiin?’ his own voice rang loud in his ears, hollow. The Synbatec satellite would be in range now, but his ring hissed static.
-ored? --epeat.’ Between bursts of white noise he could make out his commanders voice. He held his ring higher as if that would help.
‘I lo-ca-ted Ta-cer. Tar-get down.’ He spoke each syllable separately, slowly. ‘Re-bel a-gent is down. Re-peat. A-gent is down. I am rea-dy for pick-up.’
As he waited for Jaiin’s reply, the breeze brought the smell of the body to his nose. He could almost taste the burnt flesh.
‘Nore-- --reter--t,’ The static made her words nonsense. ‘-- was to –-- --- pan-e- -- er--'
‘Ple-ase re-peat. Did. Not. Copy.'
'Tac— is ---e—-‘
He sighed again. The nuke must have wiped out more comsats than command had foreseen. He swore, looking up at the moon. It was a pale disk in the dawn but the mushroom cloud had drifted with the rotation and looked like scar on the ancient cratered face. That would teach the rebels not to fuck with earth. He started to laugh.
‘Nored.’ Jaiin’s voice came as clear now as if she sat beside him. ‘Tacer is infected. He was to release a pandemic on earth. He is the prime vector. Virus is airborne. Do not engage. Repeat. Do not engage. Over.’
Nored turned around. Tacer’s charred lips were pulled back from his remaining teeth, almost smiling.