First Sergeant Xelos Nesteroy’s Christmas List, care of Admiral Almay, Seventh Fleet, Interstellar Navy

A Christmas list from a prisoner of war.

Dear Admiral Almay,


I hope this letter finds you in good health. To help make my involuntary stay on Kr’nur’ch IV more palatable, the Interstellar Red Cross-Crescent-Sun has provided me with materials to write this list of items. As the senior leader in charge of the Kr’nur’ch operation, I felt that you were the most suitable recipient.

  1. A board game – Something to relieve the tedium of being a prisoner of war. Chess or backgammon. Maybe a real wargame, one that has interplanetary bombardment and special forces missions to rescue missing soldiers. Something so clearly fictional that the arachnids couldn’t possibly believe it was a secret message.
  2. Insecticide – Industrial quantities that would rid this planet of the arachnids holding me prisoner would be ideal. The ability to melt spider webs and arachnid carapaces would be a nice bonus. Something that will keep the scavenger beetles away while I sleep. The Red Cross-Crescent-Star representative says they can’t let me request the crossed-out part. A man can dream.
  3. Antivenom – Something that would stop a whole squad of Marine Raiders from succumbing to cellular rot and dying painfully from the inside out. Rumor on the dropship was that leadership knew of the threat, but apparently it wasn’t worth briefing the troops at the pointy end of the spear. It’s too late for the rest of the squad, but I’d like to have at least a fighting chance of seeing Christmas.
  4. Combat knife – Preferably one of those premium, cold-forged steel jobs from the Luna Base armory, but at a minimum, something suitable for cutting through the webs holding me suspended above the arachnid base. The Red Cross-Crescent-Star representative says they can’t let me write that, either. Send a shovel, instead. Maybe the arachnids will let me use it to give my squad the burial they deserve.
  5. Chocolate – One of those giant boxes from a warehouse store with plenty of dark, bitter chocolate that won’t go bad during shipping and will wash the taste of scavenger beetles out of my mouth. Please replace all the chocolate-covered nuts with truffles or fruit. I can’t handle any further crunchy meals.
  6. Air freshener – Lavender, mint, or kerosene. I’m not picky, but the smell of decomposing Marine is starting to get to me.
  7. Time machine – You might think it’s to go back and join the Interstellar Navy so I could be part of the “strategic withdrawal” that saved your skin and left the Raiders here on Kr’nur’ch IV to die in the cold. You would be incorrect. Even knowing what I do now about your orders for the Seventh Fleet’s retreat, I would enlist again. My brothers here needed me. No, it’s to tell you, Admiral, that it’s not worth it. The arachnids don’t understand the concept of intimidation. They don’t understand morale-breaking losses. They don’t care if they lose a ship or a moon or a planet. They don’t care about us, either, as long as we leave them alone. Too late now.
  8. A holovid terminal – So I could record messages to Shini and my mom to tell them I love them. So I could tell Shini to buy the ruby earrings I was going to give her for Christmas. So I could tell her that she was worth everything to me and that my only regret in the universe is that I won’t be there when she opens them. So I could tell her that I won’t be coming home, not for this Christmas or any other. The venom has me, too, but the arachnids won’t let me die until I’ve finished this letter.
  9. An ansible – I know it defies the laws of physics, but the thing I want most right now is a way to call across interstellar distances in real time, letting me bridge the light-years so I can watch you read this letter. So I can tell you that our sensors never detected this new venom. So I can tell you that the arachnids are far more subtle than we ever expected and have surely impregnated this paper with contact venom. So I can see your face when you learn that the time you’ve spent reading this letter is more than long enough for you to be infected, and there’s nothing you can do about it.


I declined the Red Cross-Crescent-Star’s offer to send paper letters to Mom and Shini.

The arachnids are coming, Admiral. Coming for every sailor and Marine who dared attack their home. Maybe it’s fortunate you won’t be there to see them arrive. I hope your final hours are just as painful as mine.


Kindest Regards,

First Sergeant Xelos Nesteroy
Last Survivor of Second Marine Raider Battalion
Kr’nur’ch IV

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First Sergeant Xelos Nesteroy’s Christmas List, care of Admiral Almay, Seventh Fleet, Interstellar Navy

A Christmas list from a prisoner of war.

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