domingo, 27 de febrero de 2011

A Leap Of Faith - Chapter Five

Planet Goldburn
3rd Eclisiarch Protectorate

Soldiers filed silently between the eerie remains of the city. They had been dropped at first light, their Regiment tasked with investigating in detail a disturbing report. The city appeared empty, devoid of any human life. Papers tumbled aimlessly in the wind, calls echoed without answer and now the men and women gripped their weapons tightly, more in fear than readiness. A shutter banged and a volley of laser fire followed. Officers called their men to order and the anxious procession continued.


Trooper Toni Alcaraz spat the dust from his mouth, grinned at his companions and followed the non-com’s hand signals. Men and women took up defensive positions, rifles scanned the surrounding area and they waited. There was nothing. The square in which they had stopped, the blank windows of buildings and the darkened alleys stared back at them.

“Come on...”

Alcaraz mouthed his words silently, his vigilance high as around him his fellows began to relax. A Captain approached, spoke with their Corporal and people began to relax. Not so Alcaraz, there was something ....
Boiling plasma erupted from a nearby doorway, cooking the Captain into cinders. It was followed by the crump of grenades, the bark of high-explosive rounds and the screams of dying men.

“Frak!” Toni cursed, as he tracked a flitting shape. Two quick squeezes of his trigger and he was rewarded with the disappearance of movement. He could not be sure he had hit his target, but this did not dissuade him. All around there were the cries and moans of injured soldiers. His appeared the only rifle spitting venom towards the enemy and a quick glance confirmed his worst fears. The platoon had been decimated.

Again he saw something and fired, more out of reaction than intent and scuttled backwards under cover. His leg thumped into flesh and was answered by a groan. He could see a free hand which he grabbed, dragging the unfortunate with him. They took cover behind some burning wreckage and he squatted next to his erstwhile colleague. It was the Corporal. One side of his body had been melted away and Toni gagged. His heroics had been useless. She was dead, the groaning only the air trapped in her lungs escaping.

More dark shapes snapped his head back and he unbuckled the pistol from the Corporal’s waist. It seemed as though he was definitely on his own. He flipped the body over and a quick search of the dead woman’s backpack revealed a couple of fragmentation grenades. These he hung from his combat harness and turned to the front.

What he saw shocked him. Strange, winged creatures skulked in the shadows. They hugged the protection of the darkness, using the scant cover religiously. Alcaraz stifled a gasp when he saw they faces; taut yellow skin clung to their skulls, it looked as though it had been added as an afterthought. Long teeth filled their grinning mouths and clod eyes surveyed their kill. He took careful aim at the first to reach the human corpses, held his breath and then released it slowly. His shot was instinctive, the brilliant beam searing through the hideous visage and the monster collapsed to the ground. Now for the first time he heard new noise, a weird whooping call which attracted all attention to him. En masse they came and Toni rose from his shelter, rifle discarded and with a grenade in each hand.

“Come to Poppa.” he said, as he casually primed and threw.

Blood and brains, bones and gore. Toni laughed manically as he was showered with the detritus of the explosion. A torn wing whistled above him as it span away. He unslung his rifle and on semi-automatic cut his foes in half. That they would kill him never entered his mind, he was submerged in the joy of battle. Bolts whizzed by him, exploding brickwork, metal and glass. Alcaraz did not care.

Step by step he advanced, dropping charges, reloading and killing in numb fury. When there were none in front of him, he span left and continued. It was then shells started to drop, he though, was oblivious. His rifle clicked empty and he drew his pistol, the rifle tossed aside. The roar of engines was lost on him, shouts of command and volleys of laser fire followed. He dodged a flailing arm, swayed and then clubbed the stock of his now empty pistol down onto an alien head. A hand grasped his arm and he whirled.

“Whoa, Trooper!”

Reality returned with a bang as a meaty hand slapped across his face. The red mist of battle evaporated and Toni saw the Officer in front of him with his flanking troopers.

“Sir! Sorry, Sir!”

The man grinned and glanced around at the carnage wrought by this single man.

“Been busy, haven’t we?”


Toni too gazed silently at the shattered bodies, both alien and human. Reaction set in and he began to shake. The hand on his shoulder felt heavy and unwelcome. Alcaraz had survived but could not lose the resentment which flooded his senses. They had been sent in here, their task obviously to flush out whatever was waiting for them and the grinning Inspector represented the worst of the Command structure. A low growl started deep in Alcaraz’s throat and his fists clenched. Fear crossed the dark-coated figure in front of him as Toni took a step forward. Something crashed against the back of his skull and he crumpled to his knees, before falling headlong into the dirt.

“Another one,” grumbled the Inspector, “take him to the Staging Post with the others. There’s a smell of demon about this one.”

The Inspector sniffed and then studied the corpses. This scene had been played out in other areas of the city, men and women turning into mad beasts as they slaughtered. High Command had been right about this place and it would be best if the rest of the troops knew nothing more than the heroics of their comrades. A quick execution should take care of everything, but not here in front of the cheering Guards. No, it would be done quietly when they had gathered them all together.

High upon one of the buildings nearby, wreathed in shadows, a miniscule figure watched the scene being played out. A communicator was raised to thin lips and commands barked. The plan was working, the Seeding having its required effects. Soon they could begin the Harvest.


When Alcaraz woke, he found himself in a small dark cell. The smell was rich with sweat, vomit and fear. He rolled to one side and pushed with his hands. It took a little time, but at last he rose to his feet. Mumbled curses greeted him and he was bumped to one side, his shoulder finding the wall.

“Where am I?”

“Hell.” came the mumbled reply. A woman, the chevrons on her uniform identifying her was knelt next to him.

“What happened?”

“You were too efficient, like the rest of us. It doesn’t pay to stand out from the crowd. At least not in a coin we were willing to be paid.”

Alcaraz squinted, the woman Sargeant was small and lithe, yet the scar on her left cheek spoke of experience.

“I remember the firefight, then a frakking Inspector and … nothing.”

“Yeah, we did a lot of killing and were given a lovely reward too. We’re behind the front lines and waiting for judgement. It’ll be quick, final.”

“Why?” Toni was confused.

“Stop whining man. We’ve seen something, done something, screwed up somehow. Who cares?”

Toni cared. He remembered the aliens, their horrid faces and their blood. The Inspectorate were rigid in their ways, but this did not sit right. Whatever plan they were following, Toni did not agree. He was not prepared to wait for an arbitrary decision. Getting out of here was the priority.

His hands fumbled against the rough walls, eventually finding the bars of the cell. There was always one opportunity and Toni was determined to take it. He felt down into his boot top and found the handle of his hidden blade. A grunt of satisfaction escaped his lips and he hunched down, waiting.

Time passed slowly but he was patient. He was rewarded by the clink of metal against metal, as soldiers approached. Tense, coiled, he let himself relax. A buzz of energy filled his muscles, the knife how concealed in his hand, the blade tucked flush against his sleeve.

Voices snapped and the door was opened and they were herded out into the daylight. Alcaraz squinted as the bright light struck him and a surreptitious glance showed him the soldiers lined up, rifles at port as they waited for their orders. A pock-marked wall was their destination and Toni knew that they had been judged and found wanting.

“Frak this!” he cursed, exploding into action. His right hand lashed outwards, splitting the skin of one of his Guards. A swift kick to a knee was rewarded with the crunch of bone and he was free, a rifle in his hand. Pandemonium followed and he fired, determined that he would not be the only one to die today.

No-one heard the hum of the engines until it was too late. The fighters had risen slowly from their concealment, boosters kicking in with a roar. Plasma bolts announced their arrival to the struggling mass of soldiery and their indiscriminate fire followed. They screamed across the sky in run after run and laid down a curtain of fire. Alcaraz and the other prisoners had once more devolved into their murderous state and were oblivious to the unexpected aid.

Without conscious thought they were drawn together, those survivors of the first encounters with the enemy. Where rifles were unavailable, they used nature´s own weapons and their mad attacks sowed fear amongst the Guard around them. They did not flinch but pursued their violent attack until there was a partially cleared area around them. Toni heard the call, which started as a low buzzing which tugged and gnawed at him. Like a wild animal his head rose questing for the source and at last he saw the small craft settle to the ground nearby.

Fighters streaked past, carving a clear path for the vehicle. The buzzing became more insistent and marionette-like he lurched towards the opening door in its side. The others followed, ignoring the shouts of the Guard as they reformed and prepared to attack. Laser bolts struck some of Toni’s new companions but they ignored them and one-by-one walked crawled or dragged their way into the beckoning darkness of the craft’s entrance. With a clunk the metal cover fell into place, engines whined and they took to the air, the fighters forming a protective cordon all around.


Toni regained consciousness in the darkness once more, he could feel the movement beneath his feet and hear the whimpering of injured men. He remembered little but the all-consuming rage. His skin itched and burned and he had an almost irresistible urge to scream. He scratched at his arms, his face and his neck in monotonous repetition until he bled.

Bubbling through everything came his anger as he searched the darkness for more foes. It was then he saw the red lights begin to appear; small intense pin-pricks of brightness, evenly spaced. The others looked back and cowered until they too were overcome. None approached Toni, even when they changed. They could clearly see his face and the flames which crackled deep within his eyes.

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