Tum-ta-tum. The fist drums on Siena’s door.

“Ten minutes to combat, and you’re not ready.”

The combat-soprano stiffens at the woman’s voice and hurries into her sensor-suit and gown.

“Apologies, Conductor-General. I will be right there.”

She does not want to do this again, but she must. GaltSpaceOperaero flies today.


The Conductor-General steps into the spotlight and raises her arms. Viewers on a hundred worlds sit forward in their seats. The staging screen lights to show the location of tonight’s combat. Puccini sector.

The Conductor-General begins.

Tracers fire, a tympani rumble that crescendos into trills of strings. Red and blue lasers explode on screen in bass drum bursts. The Conductor-General signals oboe and clarinet drones to join the hunt. Flutes weave a communication network around all.

At first, the orchestra lights nothing but stars. A scout detects gravity distortions in the upper left quadrant to the tenor trill of English horn. A flourish of coronets and trumpets deploys fighters, the low brass of cruisers and destroyers close behind. The full spectrum of strings scans the suspicious point.

The enemy fleet shows black against the scan, a dark void shaped like a giant, grasping hand.

The enemy fleet shows black against the scan, a dark void shaped like a giant, grasping hand.

Recitativo corale

The Conductor-General cues the chorus from the wings. Siena breathes deep as she takes her place with the others. Applause echoes.

They sing.

“The star-born emissary fell to Terra-Seven, dying as she fell. As she died, she breathed her words of warning. ‘The Enemy comes, riding clouds of darkness. Beauty will save the world.’”

Siena watches the screen. There.

Galtero’s ship, the Turandot, flies at the heart of the attack. The chorus sings forth the first wave of missiles. Violin flashes of yellow and violet crash against the enemy shields. The dark shape advances, no longer a hand, but tentacles reaching for prey.

“The lords of knowledge could not understand the emissary’s craft. A lowly apprentice, singing as she worked, unlocked the mysteries with her song. Beauty will save the world.”

A tentacle strikes a cruiser. Bassoon and clarinet surge, then fade as the ship dies, taking its support craft with it. The chorus sways, feedback from the explosion, but stays on its feet.

“The darkness came, insatiable hunger devouring millions while the lords of knowledge worked. Now the ships are launched and the performers ready. We fly the fleet powered by the music of the human spirit. Our song stands between humanity and the void.

“Beauty will save the world.”

The tentacles lash out. More ships fall. Cymbals crash, fighters dart about in a cacophony of horns. The chorus falls silent.

The Conductor-General wipes sweat from her brow and cues the soloist. Siena.


The chorus gives way as she steps center stage. Strings and flutes signal her arrival. Under her black and chrome gown, her bones and nerves thrum. The control systems of the entire fleet flow through her. Eyes on the Turandot, she sings.

“I stand between the light and dark, guardian of humanity’s song. Champion of a thousand worlds.”

Her voice starts low and resonant. Every movement of her hands is precise. A crook of the finger and gun ports open, a trilling melisma activates defensive screens. The notes come faster and stronger, bursts of song. Lasers and missiles weave around the enemy. Tentacles writhe in their light.

“I am the hope of our race. My fleet and my song are one. Nothing dark shall escape.”

She is the fleet. She is the Turandot. Does Galtero hear the song she sings? Does he know she sings for him, and him alone?

“Strike me down, and two will rise in my place. For I sing the song that will never die. I am the song that will never die.”

Her fingers strain, her throat tenses. She must fight on. She must protect Galtero. Her voice strains, finding tones beyond human hearing. She draws the web of weapons closed.

Dark pseudopods break through her trap. They strike the Turandot again and again. The orchestra aids her, but feedback sets fire to her every nerve. With a cry, she falls to the floor.


After an eternity of three seconds, she forces herself to her feet. Ignoring the uncertain applause, she scans the screen.

The Turandot limps to safety. The chorus picks up her song, recreating her web of destruction. The enemy retreats.

A triumphant chorus lifts their battle-soprano onto their shoulders. The Conductor-General ends the performance with a wave of her hands. Applause thunders. The Conductor-General frowns her disapproval at Siena. Later, they will speak about her weakness.

Siena does not care. She watches the Turandot until the screen dims.

Siena does not know whether beauty will save the world. But she has saved her brother, and that is enough for tonight.

Meet the Author

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt lives on neither coast of the United States, but mostly in a haunted memory palace of his own design. His short fiction has appeared in print and online venues, such as Havok and the forthcoming anthology Mark of the Beast. He also regularly serves as a judge at the weekly one-on-one writing contest at TheWritersArena.com. If you enjoyed “Space Opera,” let him know at his webpage http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter: @haikufictiondju.