Author's Note: This story only exists because I was thinking about how there are plenty of stories about brothers being on opposing sides, but nowhere near as many about sisters. And even fewer of those stories are sent in space.
This is the result: a sort of Star Wars-inspired one-shot about a war between sisters. It's very short and choppy, and I'm not happy with a lot of it, but hopefully someone will enjoy it.
Just a Dire Game
Can we call it fair?
Or was it just a dire game?
Who's the winner now
When I can't even speak your name?
– RED, Part That's Holding On
This is how it ends.
Two figures facing each other across a battlefield, with an army of corpses between them.
This is how it begins.
The Chaonnis sisters are never close. Calair is seven years older than Elior, and she has no time for a child who tags along behind her. She hardly notices when Elior stops following her.
Calair gets the best of everything. She gets the best clothes, the best room, the best education. When she becomes a spaceship pilot she gets the best spaceship. She's the oldest child, so this is only fair. That is the custom on the planet Telantes.
Elior has to make do with second-best. She gets Calair's old clothes, a small room, a less expensive education. Her parents won't let her be a spaceship pilot like her sister. And that's fine with Elior. She wants to be a politician. But her parents won't let her be that either. She becomes an engineer at their insistence.
Anyone with eyes could have seen what was coming long before it happened.
Calair wakes up one morning to the news that her sister has left her job and disappeared. For the first time in her life she worries for her sister.
Years pass and no one hears anything of Elior. But new rumours reach Telantes. Rumours of an army gathering, recruited from the outcasts and downtrodden, intent on conquering the galaxy. Calair pays no attention to these rumours.
Until her spaceship is attacked.
The leader of these pirates – there is no other word for them in Calair's mind – is a surprisingly young woman who her followers treat with mingled fear and respect.
And Calair knows her, in the same way she knows a place she hasn't visited for years but dimly remembers.
The woman smiles at her. No, the woman bares her teeth at her, for there is no kindness in her smile.
"Sister. How nice to see you again."
Calair can never remember much about that first reunion. Perhaps she fainted. Perhaps she simply doesn't want to remember. But she wakes up in a hospital in a planet she's never heard of.
"You suffered a concussion caused by a blow to the head," the doctor tells her. "No space travel for you for at least three months."
"I can't stay here for three months!" she protests. "I have to–"
She stops. What does she have to do? Tell her parents that their long-lost daughter has become a pirate? How can she tell them? It would destroy them.
No. She must try to find Elior. She must make her see sense.
Elior is not a pirate. She is a soldier, a commander of a small fleet of spaceships. They plan to bring order and justice to the galaxy.
But first they bring chaos, and war, and theft, and all manner of injustice.
Calair tells her all this the next time they meet. She's sneaked on board one of Elior's spaceships. They stand face to face in the cockpit. A battle rages outside the viewport. Elior is commanding an attack on a colonised moon. The colonists are fighting back. Calair knows nothing about battles, but she can see they're losing. Elior's soldiers are better-armed and better-trained, flying better spaceships.
"I'm sure you mean well," she says. "But can't you see you're only making things worse?" She holds out her hand. "Give up this war. Come home with me."
Elior bares her teeth at her. "And what are you doing to make things better? What gives you the right to criticise me?"
"You've been corrupted!" Calair shouts. She hardly knows what she's saying, but she wants her sister to bloody well listen. This is not the sister she remembers. There has to be an explanation. "You would never have done anything like this of your own free will! Someone is controlling you, manipulating you, telling you lies!"
"Ah, so you're here to redeem me, to rescue me from a shadowy figure your imagination has conjured up." Suddenly there's a gun aimed right between her eyes. Elior grins at her. "Can't you see that there is no puppet-master in the shadows? Only I control my actions."
Calair tries to find someone, anyone who can tell her more about the woman her sister has become. On a distant planet she finds an aged soldier who once fought in Elior's "army".
"The General's a visionary," this woman says. "She won't stop until she's built the world she dreams of. The world as it is will never be good enough for her."
"But she must understand that she's bringing war to the galaxy, not peace!" Calair protests.
The old soldier shakes her head, looking at Calair through her one remaining eye. "When has there ever been peace without a war first?"
If Elior is mad, there is a method to her madness. She conquers a planet, finds someone wise enough and sensible enough to rule it, puts them in charge, and moves on to the next planet. On the surface this would appear to be a good way to stop bad government.
But all it does is solve immediate problems while creating new ones that will appear months or years down the line.
Why can't she see that? Calair wonders as she reads about another of her sister's victories.
Ten years have passed since Calair first learnt of her sister's campaign. They have met at different times and in different places. Their meetings always end with Calair trying to convince Elior of the error of her ways. Elior always loses her temper. It always leads to Calair waking up on a planet whose name she doesn't even know.
Her sister hasn't killed her yet. From that fact, she clings to the hope that she can still reach her.
"You never give up, do you?" Elior says when they meet for the hundredth time in the aftermath of a battle.
"Not until I've saved you from yourself!" Calair shouts as her sister walks away.
It's only a matter of time until they move from verbal to physical fights.
This is when Calair finally realises that Elior sees their meetings as a game. Elior is always two steps ahead, and Calair is left to blunder after her.
Calair gradually realises that she'll never talk her sister into sanity. Sometimes force is needed. So she joins a resistance army.
"Why do you want to join us?" the general asks. "You aren't from any of the planets that madwoman has attacked."
"No," Calair says. She thinks of her sister holding a sword to her throat. "But I have my reasons for wanting to stop her."
This is how it ends.
Two figures facing each other across a battlefield, with an army of corpses and a lifetime of quarrels between them.
"Let me guess," Elior says. Her gun is aimed at Calair's chest. Calair's gun is aimed at hers. "You're here to talk sense into me. Or to rescue me."
Calair looks at her. Elior's smile is too wide, too sharp, too cruel. How has she never noticed before that her sister is dead? This stranger wearing her face is far past rescuing.
"No," she says. "I'm here to capture you."
Elior shakes her head. "I'm not here to be captured."
They stare at each other silently for some moments longer.
Then two gunshots ring out, at almost the same moment.