Prologue

The elevator hummed as it neared the top floor.

The General took a deep breath; the future of humanity in the intergalactic conclave rested on his ability to persuade the council. The door slid open and the aide to senator Galian stood waiting for him.

“Good evening General, Are you ready to enter the chamber?”

“May I have a moment please?” the general asked quietly.

“Certainly, but I caution you don’t take too long, the council does not like to be kept waiting.” The aide said as he turned and walked into the council chamber. The general turned to look out of the window. The conclave’s council chamber was located on the top of the tallest spire in the massive citadel. The citadel spanned what seemed like the entire horizon, but in reality it was only 200 km2. Which is still massive compared to anything on earth, but then again they weren’t on earth.

The citadel was built by the Carians, a race of space travelers whose physiology closely resembles that of a lion.  Each Carian stands roughly nine feet tall, they have muscular arms and legs, their hands and feet end in sharp retractable claws and their mane of hair flows down to their shoulders. Their body is covered in a very fine fur that keeps them warm even on the coldest planets.  The Carians are considered to be the bravest warriors in the entire galaxy. In battle they fight to the last man, they will never give up and they will never surrender, in schools the children are taught to equate them with the Spartans of ancient Earth. As the general stared out over the citadel, he recalled the battle that brought humanity to the grim realization that they were not alone in the galaxy.

He was just a sergeant at the time, in charge of training the new recruits, on Beta Earth, in extravehicular combat in zero gravity; they were in the middle of a training exercise when the first ship appeared. They were sleek and black in colour, very metallic looking, which gave credence to their origin as synthetic species. The ships began shooting at the orbital defense canons and the fighter launch hangars of the training grounds of the facility. They demolished with very little opposition. They used an unknown form of technology to make a subspace jump into the atmosphere of the planet, thus rendering the satellite defense platforms useless. They started with the major defensible positions and then moved to the barracks. They used underground, aerial and land assaults to overwhelm the defenders before they even had an idea of what was going on. The attackers looked like machines, but their bodies appeared to be a liquid. They moved with a grace equated to deer as they bound through the woods, and their shape never stayed the same. The only thing that was constant in their form was a large metallic weapon that looked to be, somehow, grafted to their liquid frame. He and his men were returning from a field training exercise when they stumbled upon the attack.  They watched as their friends were cut down in front of their eyes by an overwhelming force, like a dark metallic wave was washing the base clean. He grabbed his men and hid behind the mess hall. They all looked at him wondering what was going on. Their eyes were filled with sadness and confusion; they looked to him for guidance.

“I don’t know who or what is attacking us boys, but I do know this, they picked the wrong planet! They think that we’ll just lay down and let them wash us clean off the face of this planet? I say we show them what humans are made of”! He hissed as he hefted his weapon.

“But Sarge, the only weapons we have are training rifles with blanks, we don’t have anything that can hurt…whatever they are…” the medic said meekly.

“First thing’s first, we can’t kick ass without our ass kicking gear. Wolfe, I want you Michaels and Brown to get to the armory and bring us back all the weapons, ammo and ordinance you can find.”

“HOO RAH SARGE!” they whispered as they skirted around the mess hall building and bee lined it for the armory.

“We need to find out where these things are weakest so we can kill them”. He told his men as they peered around the corner looking to find a dying alien.

“Got one Sarge! He’s still kicking, but it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere” the rookie said as he and the corporal dragged the alien over. As they dragged the invader, over they could finally get a good look at them. Their body was indeed liquid, but they appeared to be encased in some sort of armour that held them in a solid form and allowed for the attachment of the weapon to the right forearm. The face is what intrigued the sergeant the most, it didn’t have any features. It was a swirling blob of metal, no eyes or nose or mouth. He pulled his knife out of its sheath with a click; it would appear the creature heard the click because it started flailing it’s arms and writhing on the ground.

“Hold it down boys”! The sarge hissed at the men watching the alien writhe on the ground. Four of them jumped forward and held the alien down, one on each appendage as the sergeant approached. The sergeant used the tip of his knife to poke the armour that held the creature together; he discovered his knife slipped right through it as if he was slicing through butter at Thanksgiving dinner. As the tip of the blade touched the swirling metallic liquid inside the armour, the creature let out a very high pitched screech. “SHUT IT UP BEFORE IT ATTRACTS MORE”! The sergeant hissed at his men. His men looked at each other confused; the creature had no mouth so they had no idea where the screech was coming from.  Eventually, Jenkins, the one holding the arm with the weapon attached to it, held his hand on the face where the mouth should have been and the screeching quieted but it did not stop. The sergeant pulled the knife out of the alien’s armour and the screeching stopped altogether. “We can hurt them boys! Get in close if you have to and use your knife, but they bleed when you cut them! Which means they can die!” he pointed down as he said this, the metallic looking liquid was oozing out of the hole and onto the ground.  The liquid appeared to shimmer with ever colour but when looked at it directly it appeared a very dark grey. Jenkins stood up and looked at the alien as it lay on the ground bleeding from the wound the sergeant had made, he stepped over it letting the sweat drip off his chin. As some of his sweat hit the ground a drop of it landed on what was oozing out of the alien, there was a sizzling sound and some foul smelling smoke as the ooze bubbled until it was gone.

“What did you do Jenkins?!” Sarge asked astonished.

“Nothing Sarge! I swear! I just stepped over it!” Jenkins said defensively.

“You didn’t put anything on it or drop anything on it?!” Sarge inquired.

“I mean, maybe some of my sweat dripped onto it, but that’s it” Jenkins said.

“Rollins!”

“Sarge!” Rollins replied

“Give me your canteen!”

“Sure thing Sarge” Rollins said as he handed over his canteen. The sergeant unscrewed the top of the canteen and poured some water over the wound he had caused with his knife. To his amazement, the creature began to writhe on the ground with its limbs flailing. The weapon that was attached to its arm started to fire as the creature flailed.

“Jenkins! Stop that arm from moving…” the sarge yelled but even as the words left his mouth he saw the weapon point at him. He could feel the shot hit him, it seared through him, like a hot coal through ice; clean cut no shrapnel. The shot imbedded into the wall behind him for a couple of seconds and then disintegrated into dust. He dropped to his knees and keeled over onto his face. Blood began pumping out of his body at an alarming rate; with every heartbeat he could feel it leaving his body. He was rolled over onto his back by Jenkins, he yelled for the medic; as he tried to stifle the bleeding, but the Sarge knew it was no good. He had sent the medic to the armoury to grab them weapons and he could feel he wouldn’t last much longer. Jenkins tried to stop the bleeding as much as he could, but it seemed to do as much good as trying to stop a colander with your hands. The blackness was clouding his vision, he rolled his head to see Rollins taking the knife to the alien and tearing into it like a rabid dog. The alien finally stopped flailing and layed still, Rollins emptied the rest of his canteen onto the corpse and watched as it sizzled and bubbled. Sarge was snapped back into alertness by Jenkins, who had injected him with a shot of adrenaline out of his field pack. This brought pain, pain he had never experienced before, a white searing pain that was non diminishing, that seemed to intensify as pressure was applied to the wound.

“Stop Jenkins!” the Sarge managed to say. “Just stop, help is not coming; you’re going to have to find a way to do this without me.”

“Don’t say that! Michaels will be back soon and he’ll patch you up, just you wait.” Jenkins promised.

“I’m done son, I’m tired of fighting, I’ve fought all my life, and it’s time I let go.” He could feel the darkness coming back with a vengeance his vision clouded; he could feel cold hands gripping him. He looked up and he could see a doorway covered in a curtain emerge out of the black. He tried to get a bearing of his surroundings, but it was just pitch black, no light except for the glow the doorway gave off. He began to walk towards the doorway, each step he took he could hear different moments from his past. He heard his parents calling him for dinner on his sixth birthday, he heard his older sister saying her graduation speech and he even heard his grandfather telling him how proud he was of him for enlisting.  As he got closer and closer to the doorway it got colder and colder, he could see his breath rising in the air before him and he felt like he was suffocating under ice. As he neared the doorway a hand reached through to grab him. When it made contact with his skin he felt a sharp pain and the sound of an aerosol can, he looked around and the hand retreated back into the veil. Suddenly, everything came back, all the light, the colour, the smell of blood and dirt and the pain. That unbearable pain that he felt; when Jenkins was putting pressure on his wound. He felt a sharp sting in his leg and the pain started to leave, like the ocean tide as it retreats back into the vast sea. He turned his head to see Michaels standing above him, a can of quick clot foam in his hand.

“Please tell me you didn’t waste the quick clot and morphine on me, Michaels…” Sarge whispered as he layed on the ground.

“We need you Sarge, more than you know.” Michaels replied in a quiet tone. “Let me finish patching you up before we do anything stupid” he added as the Sarge attempted to stand. Michaels went to work with his med kit. He stuffed the wound with extra quick clot powder, covered it in a waterproof bandage and then wrapped it in gauze. It wasn’t pretty, but it would do. As Michaels finished patching the sarge up he stood up and faced his men.

“What do we do now sarge?” Rollins asked as he stared at him

“We are going to take back this base! We are going to break these aliens here and now. We will send them back to where ever they came from and WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS!” The Sarge stated

“But there are so many of them! They’re unstoppable. They took out the entire corps, what are we going to be able to do?” Jenkins said defeated as the rest of them murmured in agreement.

Sarge sighed as he looked at their faces. “I’m not going to lie to you; it’s not going to be easy. We are outmanned and we have no knowledge of the enemy. We will fight, we are the only ones standing on this rock to stop them from conquering, and we might not make it. But we will not give an inch, we will stand where the others have fallen, I have faith in you men, I have faith that we will prevail. And as long as we have faith in each other, we can win.” His men looked at him again, the defeat on their faces replaced with cold hard resolve. Even in the face of certain death, they never lost their faith in him. “Alright boys, what kind of ordnance are we looking at?”

“We grabbed everything we could Sarge, a lot of it was untouched. It didn’t look like anyone had been there. They must’ve been killed before they knew what was going on.” Brown stated. “We got a rifle, two pistols, 6 extra mags, 4 grenades and a tactical knife apiece. We have 2 shotguns between the 5 of us as well as 2 grenade launchers with 12 rounds each. We have a Kevlar vest each as well as optics and radios.”

“Alright boys… Let’s go to war!” Sarge stated as he racked the slide on a pistol.

“HOO RAH!” was the resounding cry as they all suited up. Sarge gave the sign for radio silence as they moved out around the side of the building. He peeked around the corner to see what they were dealing with. Most of the aliens had disappeared, there were at least 30 still picking through the carnage around the base. He spied an overturned supply truck and motioned for everyone to follow him. They moved swift but with very little sound, it only took 15 seconds for all 5 of them to cover the open ground between them and the truck.

“Alright, we know that knives hurt them and water really messes with their shit, so put your bayonets on and keep your knives close. We’re going to go with 2 squads, one squad to my left and one to my right; I’ll go straight up the middle.  Each squad takes a shotgun and a grenade launcher. Use the launcher sparingly; make sure there is at least 2 in the kill zone before you fire. Ill head over to the water tower and drop that son of a bitch on their heads. Standard attack procedure, staggered fire and when you have to reload drop to the ground. Only use the shotguns if they get close, they’re loaded with 12 gauge buckshot, so they should punch a nice hole right through them. Don’t get hit by their weapons, you saw what one shot did to me; DO NOT get caught in the open, use the bodies as cover if you have to. We know they can feel pain and we know they can bleed, this means that they can die.” He paused as he looked at each of them individually and nodded. “I want you all to know that it has been an honour to have trained you men and to fight by your side.” He put his hand into the center of the circle. Each of them put their hand on top of his in turn. “Through Blood and Sand…” he whispered to them.

“We will prevail!” they all replied in unison. With that, they broke into their squads and spread out across the battlefield taking cover behind overturned vehicles.

“Radio check!” Sarge barked over the radio.

“One good! Two good!” was the reply from Jenkins and Michaels.

“Three good! Four good!” came the reply from Rollins and Brown.

“Comms are reading five by five” Sarge replied. “Everyone grab a target make sure there’s no overlapping, but hold your fire. Two clicks of the comm when you have a target.” eight clicks resonated through the comm link and the Sarge knew the men were ready. “I’ll start this off; wait till you hear my shot before you open up.” Sarge warned as he hefted his rifle. He picked his target; he could see it clearly in his scope. It was beside a blown out barracks picking through the corpses of his fallen brothers and tossing them aside looking for something. He took a breath in to center his crosshair on the alien’s head, or what would’ve been the head if it had a face, and squeezed the trigger. He felt the recoil of the rifle and watched as the round tore through the alien’s head. There was a scream and the alien fell to the ground and began flailing. He heard 4 distinct other shots and saw 4 other aliens drop. “Weapons free! Let ‘em have it!” he shouted. He started forward at a jog, popping rounds off at any alien he could see. As he ducked to reload he heard his men opening up and shouting “GET SOME!” as alien after alien dropped. As knelt to reload he couldn’t help but think that this battle sounded an awful lot like the great displays of fireworks they used to have in the U.S.A of the old earth. He’d seen video recordings of them in school, but nobody had celebrated like that for a long time. He popped back up and started running towards the water tower, he could see three aliens in front of him and they had turned to face him, he grabbed a grenade from the back of the vest where he had tucked them. He pulled the pin and pushed the primer button, then he threw it at their feet as he continued running forward firing his rifle. One of the aliens looked down at the grenade and a screeched in anger. The grenade exploded and rendered them into a silvery grey mist. Sarge reached the water tower and turned around to see the last of the aliens fall to the ground.

“Looks like we don’t need to water after all Sarge!” Rollins shouted from his position at the blown out barracks. As Rollins turned to check that there were none sneaking up on him, the one that Sarge had tagged to start the fray off stood up and pointed its weapon at Rollins.

“GUN!” was all the Sarge had time to say before he watched Rollins get ripped to shreds by the mysterious rounds from the rifle. The rest of them emptied their mags into the resurrected alien just to be sure it was actually dead. Michaels was sprinting over to Rollins to check on his status. The sarge dropped the emptied mag out of his rifle and watched it hit the ground. As he saw it fall into the dirt he noticed some of the silvery grey liquid the aliens were made of sliding across the ground to one of the dead ones. It filled the bullet hole in the chest and it began to move and get up.

“They aren’t dead! Blow them up! Sarge yelled as he fumbled for a new mag on his vest. He spun his rifle around so the bayonet was pointed at the alien and drive the bayonet through its face. He looked up and to his horror all the aliens they thought were dead began to move and start to rise. He loaded a fresh mag and began shooting them as they started to stagger up to their feet. “MICHAELS! DROP THE WATER TOWER WITH THE GRENADE LAUNCHER! NOW!” Sarge shouted over the comms.

“But Sarge you’re in the blast radius!” Michaels warned.

“DO IT NOW OR WE ALL DIE!” Sarge barked back.

Michaels Raised the grenade launcher and squeezed off two rounds at the support beams of the water tower. Sarge felt the intense heat from the high explosive rounds and was thrown from his feet into the bushes 15 meters away. The water tower tipped and then collapsed, causing a veritable tsunami of water onto the battlefield. The water washed over all the bodies, human and alien alike. There was an ear splitting screech that pierced the air as the aliens began to bubble and sizzle. Michaels, Brown and Jenkins were knocked from their feet and the force of the water knocked the sergeant unconscious as he was thrown around like a rag doll. The men stood up and coughed over the smell the aliens made as they dissolved; then splashed through the water until they found the sergeant face down in the water. Michales flipped him over immediately and checked to make sure he was breathing. To his astonishment the sergeant opened his eyes and smiled.

“Good thing there’s no brass left on the base.” The Sarge said with a wry smile. “They’d have your ass for hesitating to follow a superior’s orders.”

“I think you have a concussion…” Michaels laughed as he sat the sarge up.

“Well one thing is for sure” sarge said as he plugged his nose. “They’re definitely dead now.” They all laughed in unison until they heard a noise in the buses behind them. They all whipped around, Sarge having lost his weapon when he was thrown quickly drew his knife, and aimed at the source of the noise.

“We know you’re there! Come out now!” Sarge shouted towards the bushes. They were amazed to see a giant lion like creature walk out of the bushes and face them.

“I mean you no harm.” The creature said to the team

“What the fuck are you?!” Michaels shouted.

“I am a scout from the Carian battle cruiser Pride and Justice. I was sent to scout the battlefield before our combat force arrived.”

“So you’re an alien too?!” Brown asked as he moved is finger onto the trigger.

“My species is at war with this affliction and has been for quite some time.”

“Affliction? Are these aliens that we killed today a disease?” Sarge asked.

“They are not of my species’ creation” the scout replied. “They are from the blackness that births all other darkness.”

“Very poetic… wait a minute. If you’re alien how can we understand you?” Jenkins asked.

“We have a tiny machine that is implanted in our throat that acts as a universal translator. This allows us to communicate with all forms of life.” The scout replied.

“Alright then. One last question… Can we trust you?” Sarge asked.

“You have nothing to fear from me.” The Scout replied.

“Stand down men. He’s obviously not here to kill us; he could’ve done that when we were all standing in the water.” Sarge said.

“Are you the only scout here?” Brown asked.

“Yes I am.” The Carian replied.

“You’re a huge space faring civilization and you only send one scout to an entire planet? Seems like you guys need to learn some things…” Brown laughed.

“You misunderstand me; I tracked your radio signal from orbit and found you.”

“Our radios are encrypted against every type of signal we know of.” Brown stated.

“But not every signal my people know of.” The Scout replied.

“That still doesn’t explain why you would only send one scout to an entire planet.” Brown replied snidely.

“ Yours was the only signal I detected that was not of their origin.” The scout stated pointing at one of the dead aliens.

“You mean to tell me that we’re the only people with radios on the entire planet?!” Jenkins inquired.

“No, I mean to tell you that you’re the only life form on this planet that is not of their creation.” The scout replied. The team all looked at one another; they all had a look of horror on their faces. The sarge was the one to ask the question that none of them would.

“Are we the only ones alive on the planet?”

“Yes.” The Carian responded. “Come with me to my ship and you will get the answers you seek. You will also be able to contact your people to let them know what happened here. My commander will want to speak with the leader of your planet immediately.” The sergeant looked at the men, they all looked right back at him and nodded. He turned to the Carian and with conviction he said.

“Lead the way my friend.”

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