Zone of Conflict
Tauran Disputed Zone
Walters stood on the makeshift platform Berbatov had raised, with the help of his boys, in a cleared area in front of the outpost. His men, a concept he still found hard to believe, waited patiently for him to speak. He had tried writing a speech along the lines of those he had heard from other officers, but they really did not seem to apply. In the end, he had decided to just say what he was thinking, what he felt.
Right now, though, his mouth was dry and his palms were wet. His head ached and he wanted to be anywhere else but here. Taking a deep breath, he began.
“There are those who would question our right to be here, who wish to see us fail. There are others, waiting to forcibly take not only this right, but our lives, our very souls.”
He watched them, their reaction, the shuffling of feet, the nervous glances and forced laughter and continued.
“We have lived through much in a short time; fear, betrayal, death and the loss of an ideal. But we have also found anger, courage, strength and a belief in ourselves and those by our sides.”
Walters saw the change as they straightened, nudged the men by their side and how their interest was quickened.
“Today we will need that courage more than ever as we face an enemy who will spare no-one, whose only thought is pain and chaos. Who believes in nothing but the destruction of all we have come to stand for.”
Now he saw flickers of fear in their eyes but also a stubbornness, born of adversity.
“I am proud to lead you into this battle, proud that you have honoured me with your loyalty. Strengthened, that we are together as one, and that we will let nothing stand in our way.
“When this day, this battle is over and the field lies covered with the enemy dead. We will mourn our lost comrades, but we shall also praise them. They will have given their lives in defence of not only their freedom from the repression of others, but our own.”
Walters shook with the strength of his emotion, the pride he felt in these men and resolved not to let them down, not to fail in his quest to lead them out of this situation, off this planet and away from retribution.
He forced himself to breathe more easily and smile.
“There is only one more thing I have to say, and I cannot claim credit for this. In the famous words of Sargeant Berbatov, it’s time for some fun!”
Silence greeted his words and then came the sound. Low at first, but then gathering in momentum, the roar of men and K’ran augmenting the volume as they shook their fists, raised their weapons, and shouted their defiance so that all could hear.
“……Walters …….Walters …….Walters!”
Sargeant James has chosen well, thought Major Walters, as he studied the battle field. Patrols had been sent to harry and concentrate the enemy here, a valley between two small hills. His men were dug-in on the hillsides, ready to pour covering fire into the flanks of the oncoming K’ran and stop them bypassing his main force.
Wilson led the troops on the left hill, James on the other, with Berbatov here by his side. Walters knew that there would be little advantage from the terrain, but it was the best he could do. This would come down to a direct confrontation between the two sides. It was going to get bloody.
The silver furred K’ran moved back to join him, Walters smiling again at this morning’s surprise. He had at last found out what Berbatov had been up to. Each of the ‘puppies’ had been fitted out with a harness of sorts and were sporting an almost jaunty green bandana. In his unassuming way, the Sargeant had again corrected a potentially fatal tactical error. Now there was absolutely no way that they could mistake their allies for their enemies.
He heard the muted crackle of laser fire in the distance and unconsciously checked that his sword and pistol were in their accustomed places. Reassured he nodded to Berbatov and they moved forward as one.
General Wolfe read his tactical report with an almost inhuman glee. ‘Major’ Walters was engaging with the Enemy, soon it would be time.
He turned to the communications operator, “Transmit the message to Captain Arnesson.”
“But Sir!” protested the man.
“Just do it!” screamed Wolfe and the soldier turned to obey his General.
Zone of Conflict
Tauran Disputed Zone
Walters dived sideways, avoiding the snapping teeth and fired his pistol into the K’ran’s side. He had no time to appreciate the damage the round had done, as he ducked under another’s razor sharp claws. The blow was so close it scraped the top of his head, flipping off his cap and drawing blood. Screaming in defiance he struck upwards with the sword, the blade smashing its way through teeth and bone as he wrenched it from side to side, finally emerging from the top of the beast’s skull.
There had been no respite and, as he had predicted, the battle had devolved into a mass of screaming and twisting bodies. He had lost sight of Berbatov, but the welcome flash of green, accompanied by a howl of triumph announced the arrival of the silver K’ran and his group.
Taking time to look around him, Walters found it difficult to determine how the fight was going. It didn’t look good though. They were heavily outnumbered and now that the advantage of their firepower had been negated, things could only get worse.
Initially, the ordered volleys of laser fire had taken a terrible toll on the K’ran attackers, who had relied on their speed and agility to counteract the superior firepower of Walters and his men. Everything had changed when Wilson’s position had been overrun and the men driven like cattle down into the valley below. Within the rock covered hillside there was too much cover for the K’ran, who had pressed their advantage. James still held the right hand side hill, but was retreating steadily, determinedly reducing the K’ran numbers.
Then he heard a tremendous roar from the rear ranks of the K’ran and using the corpse of one of the dead beasts as a step, he climbed momentarily above the crowd around him. And wished he hadn’t.
Pushing its way through the Tauran Forces was the biggest K’ran he had ever seen, its silver fur covering a body of titanic proportions. The muscles under its skin bunched and rolled as it barged its way through.
“Oh, frak!” he muttered to no-one in particular.
K’san heard the roar and knew that his father had arrived. He felt the momentum of the battle swing and the renewed energies of the opposing K’ran, as each attempted to outdo the other in the ferocity of their need to impress the all-powerful leader of their pack.
“It is time,” hissed K’san, and to K’rantu, “stay with W’ratr, keep two of our brothers with you and protect him with your lives!”
K’rantu gave a short bark and stood watching as K’san tilted back his head and howled. His pack brothers gathered around him and as one they charged in a tightly meshed group, smashing their way through their enemies.
K’shir heard the howl and spoke, “He comes, My Lord. His heart is yours!” He felt the presence of The Lord joining with him, the elixir of his ravening spirit intoxicating him. He too howled, and the K’ran parted as a wave before him.
Fighting ceased around Walters as the K’ran allowed their leader to pass. It continued near both hills, where the engagement was brutal in the extreme. The Major rested on his sword, taking advantage of the brief respite, but then he saw the fatal charge, and ran closely followed by K’rantu and his brothers.
K’san skidded to a halt in front of his father, unable to repress a shudder of awe at the spirit-imbued beast.
“Father,” he growled softly.
“No longer, traitor. It is time you pay the price for your treachery. I want your still beating heart in my mouth and there I will extinguish you for good.”
This thing was no longer his father, the spirit of The Lord had corrupted him further. With a roar K’san leapt.
Walters saw the blow, heard the ribs break and the concussion of sound as K’san hit the floor. He saw the almost sedate approach of the huge silver beast, whose tongue swiped too and fro across its line of sharp teeth. Without stopping his run, he drove his sword full into the thing’s back, using his momentum to its fullest.
There was an ear-shattering roar and the beast turned, the still singing sword buried deep within it. The force of its turn ripping the weapon out of the Major’s hand. It rose up on its hind legs and struck. Its claws punched through the greatcoat, drawing Walters in towards the grinning maw above him. At lightening speed it withdrew its formidable weapons and struck again.
This time it enfolded the Major in a bear-like hug and tightened its grip. Walters felt the claws entering his back inexorably and smelt the terrible stench of its breath. The pain was intense and there was nothing he could do to stop it, his arms were crushed against his sides and he was held in a vice-like grip.
He had thought the agony could get no worse, but he was wrong, the beast used the claws embedded in his flesh to lift him and he screamed. Walters felt the touch of its saliva on the recently opened scratches on his head, and mewling in pain, buried his face against the rank fur before him.
Unbidden, the animal in him took over and Walters bit. At first K’shir felt nothing, then an annoying nip like that of one of his playful offspring, then true pain. He roared and tried to throw the human away, but in his Lord’s ecstasy he had dug too deep. His claws were entrenched in the body of the human below him, locked between skin and bone.
The realisation that he was dying hit Walters, but he was beyond caring. His only focus was on boring his way into the beast’s throat, chewing and gnawing he kept on. He was rewarded by the spurt of black arterial blood and felt the thing’s life pumping into his throat and he smiled. Then he swallowed, and his throat constricted as he felt the thing’s blood scald his flesh. It burned, oh how it burned.
Berbatov looked on in desperation, tears streaming down the big man’s face. They could do nothing for the Major, the beast in its frenzy to release its hold on him had opened huge gashes in Walters’ back. The Sargeant could see the white of bone, flashing amongst the mixture of red and black. He snarled and rammed the point of his halberd into the thing’s back, again and again.
K’rantu knew he had failed, but he would not let W’ratr die unavenged. Snapping and snarling he used his claws to drag himself up K’shir’s back and sank his teeth into the K’ran’s neck.
Deep within the Fortress, The Lord cried out in pain and rage. He had been so close to victory, but could feel it draining away as the K’ran’s blood spilled out onto the ground. Removing his connection with K’shir he shook his head from side to side, slightly disorientated. When he raised his head once more, his face was contorted in a expression of pure fury. This time there would be no mistakes, he would take care of the Church scum himself.
K’san limped up to join Berbatov, who continued to strike at K’shir’s body. He knew it was futile, but he could do nothing else. It was then they saw the change as K’shir’s body physically seemed to diminish and the K’ran fell back onto all fours, burying Walters beneath it.
Although its blood now ran only a darker shade of red, wisps of smoke still curled from the Major’s mangled body. His head and upper arms were black and charred. All noise had ceased but as K’rantu finally unlocked his jaws, the sound of power cells being replaced and angry growls echoed across the battlefield. It was then it happened.
The thing that had once been Major Walters began to writhe, thrashing from side to side and then the body of the now dead K’shir exploded off it in a rain of blood and gore. Wounds began to heal before their eyes, the body began to swell and it stood. The eyes opened, sparking a feral green and yellow, it opened its mouth and howled.
The sound uluated across the field of battle, reverberating in the chest of each and everything there. All fell to their knees, except Berbatov who stared stoically into its face, as the eyes changed back to their normal colour and it turned and spoke.
“Major,” nodded the big man, pulling a battered officer’s cap from his tunic pocket and twisting it back into an almost recognisable shape. He meekly offered it to Walters and grinned, “Now that was fun!”
Guest post with D.P. Prior
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