An essay by Eleanor Bradley, as provided by Annika Sundberg
Art by Leigh Legler

My name is Eleanor Bradley and I am the reason you are alive.

How do I know this, you ask? Anyone could be reading this. But here’s the deal. I saved all of you. You’re welcome. Too bad I didn’t make it to be celebrated. Oh well.

I know, I know. I doubt you even remember impending doom. That’s a good thing. That’s how my team wanted it. Although I also have this drive to have people remember me, so that’s why I’m writing this. Just kinda thumb my nose at my own rule of secrecy. Bet the rest of my team (who made it back, thank heaven) is still silent, resting on their laurels with the knowledge of a job well-done. Good for them. I’m just not that kind of girl.

Ok, sorry. By now you’re pulling your hair out to know what it was I saved all of you from. It was–wait for it–tardigrades. Giant, sentient tardigrades. Turns out the little ones we all thought were so cute, water bears, they were just nanobots from the big guys sent out to find a new place to live. Survive anything you throw at them? Yeah. By design. The big guys aren’t so cute. They’ve got crazy technology we don’t even have the beginnings of understanding for.

So they want the Earth. Turns out all the stuff we blamed on people–climate change and all that–was again by design. The tardigrades’ little nano-buddies made it all happen and made sure we all blamed one another so we would kill ourselves off, so they could just waltz in and have zero resistance.

Art accompanying "Sacrifice"

It was–wait for it–tardigrades. Giant, sentient tardigrades.

Good thing for us they didn’t realize exactly how good we humans are at ignoring things and doing utterly nothing about it. So when they arrived, we weren’t gone. They contacted the leaders with the Earth in some secret-secret kind of technology and told them that we needed to evacuate their planet. Yeah. Their planet. Hah! Of course, again discounting the humans’ ability to laugh in the face of danger, they didn’t expect us to say “Yeah, yeah. Sure. Let us just kinda pick up some stuff first so we have it on the trip.”

They really didn’t want to have to do the dirty work of killing us themselves, so they replied, “Ok, just be quick.” (These are obviously not direct quotes.)

As one of the most accomplished Chief Petty Officers in the Special Ops, I was called upon to bring my team to the enemy. We would have some experts from NASA with us, but they were just to make sure we got there and back safely.

They did their job well, except when it came to me.

I won’t make it back. Oh, come on, don’t get sad now. You knew from the beginning I will die for you. Let me just explain the circumstances of why.

So, we got sent, like I told you. We’re flying in an old hunk-of-junk antique NASA craft, because it’s the only thing we have that we know will make it to the ship where the tardigrade baddies are. This one scientist we have is researching like crazy while we’re on our way, and she suddenly shouts, “Stomach acid!”

We all look at Melody Cruz like she’s gone off her rocker, because who wouldn’t at this point in their life, on a ship headed to aliens really interested in killing us all? But it turns out she’s come up with a solution of what would kill off the tardigrade baddies. Stomach acid.

We all look at one another and I shrug and say, “Ok, tell us what to do.”

Since the big guys are bigger and thus more frail, just a little bit will kill them. So, the plan is to, well, get sick on them. Or at least it was. But there isn’t enough acid in vomit. And blood messes them up too. So, it turned more into a suicide mission. Only one person had to go, but they would have to essentially eviscerate themselves in order to take out the population.

I, of course, couldn’t make any of my team or any of the scientists do this, so it’s up to me. You’re welcome. It’s going to hurt for me, sure, but you get to live. So, there’s the bonus.

And so, we’ve come to the end of my letter. I’ve written this not only because I’m nothing if not humble, but also to remind you that maybe you should do something about the environment before any other tardigrade ships show up. Don’t let my death be in vain.

Time to go.

Love to all.

Eleanor Bradley worked her way up through the ranks of the Marines until reaching Chief Petty Officer in 2361. She lived in Florida with a roommate until the time of the time of her last mission, detailed within.

Annika Sundberg lives in Pennsylvania with her herd of rabbits. She has her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill. Official Secret Keeper.

Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at

“Sacrifice” is © 2018 Annika Sundberg
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Leigh Legler

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