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"Unlike grown-ups, children have little need to deceive themselves."

- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, German Poet, and novelist.

Author's Preface: Originally finished on Nov 07, 2011 and nearly a decade later it's still one of my favorite stories. Not just because it's the first big written project I've ever completed (It's like 80 pages long!), but it was such a joy for me to write. I think many of my readers noticed that too since it has become a fan favorite for most. It's brutal, funny, and explores the themes I love to most write about in SC. Not to mention this is the first story that's set in my post-WW3 storyline. I think it's fitting it would be the very first story to be corrected, rewritten at parts, and uploaded onto the new SC website. Thank you all for being here.

2/18/18 - Michael Mangual, NYC

CAS Lady Liberty, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik] 08112098

“You are men?” The hulking nine-foot tall creature said to the soldiers standing in front of him. The creature had no visible mouth on its long slender face, but everyone heard it loud and clear inside of their heads. The creature's voice sounded different to everyone assembled on the hanger of the Colonial Alliance battleship. Some heard it as the voice of a dead loved one or an old friend. It clearly unnerved them all. A few broke their military bearing and began to weep at the sound of the dead brought back to life. The creature moved forward on its two long legs and towered over the leader of the humans. “We are glad to see men. Fulfill man's call to the march.”

The man breathed heavily in an attempt to calm himself, he was trying hard to focus and brush off hearing the voice of his dead wife. “You're the Voorik military adviser?”

“You are correct.” The Vooriks large gem-like eyes fixed themselves on the human leader.

The angelic voice of his dead wife contrasted sharply with the hideous alien standing before him. It was certainly a bipedal humanoid, but its similarity to humans ended there. It wore a crystalline body armor that looked almost like black quartz with white “veins.” The armor gave off a slight glow and a low hum. In one of its large three-fingered hands, it held a large man-sized stick that seemed to pulsate with churning white light. The creatures only bare skin was blue, rough and blotchy. It was the first Voorik he had ever seen in the flesh. He had only seen them on television, like almost everyone else when they first arrived in human airspace a decade before. “I am Major Jacobs of the Colonial Alliance. I have with me 10,000 soldiers representing all of the colonies in the Colonial Alliance. We are the first of many.”

“Good.” The Voorik lifted his staff up into the air and the hanger changed. They were now standing on some alien planet. The green sky and four visible moons were evidence of that. The ground below them was black and charred. A strange series of howls could be heard in the distance. Just beyond the crystal-covered alien structures that were shattered and in ruins all around them. “This is a world of the Voorik. Now gone. The beasts overwhelmed it and cut the Voorik down.” A Voorik “child,” based on its size, ran from one of the structures towards the humans. The howls grew louder and a hideous creature burst out of the building and grabbed the “child.” It spun around and dragged the Voorik back into the structure. The humans tried hard to catch a glimpse of the other alien, but it moved so fast that they only got a clear view of its snakelike tail. “The world was one of our colonies near the southern border. A region we had never seen the beasts enter and the region closest to men. They know about man and they are trying to find man. It is better that man find them first and help the Voorik crush them.” The Voorik waved his staff and the alien world around them disappeared back into the Colonial ships hanger.

“What are these beasts? What exactly are we fighting?” Major Jacobs asked.

“The beasts are the blight of the universe. We Voorik have been at war with the beasts since man was hiding in the trees of your birth world.” The Voorik turned and moved further from the formation of Colonial Alliance soldiers.

“We need real intel. We need to know if these things can die. If they bleed. What their military capabilities are. Hell, what they look like would help.” Jacobs said angrily, he was thinking that the Voorik wasn't taking them seriously.

“We Voorik assure you that these beasts can die, but you will have to find out much on your own. We Voorik have never successfully engaged the beasts on the ground. That is why man is here. To help the Voorik and possibly save your birth world from the beasts.” The Voorik continued down the hanger until he reached a small scout ship that matched his armor in color and appearance.

Before the Voorik could enter his ship the Major called out to him, “You're not much of a military adviser! We can't fight YOUR war in the dark!”

“This Voorik does not advise man. This Voorik advises Voorik. This Voorik is only here to observe man.” The Voorik touched the side of the ship with his hand and it split itself open. “This is now your war. It would not have been long before the beasts found man.” The ship closed around the Voorik and it lifted off the ground slowly with no visible means of propulsion. It disappeared down one of the many launch tubes for Colonial Alliance fighters.

“Do you think it can read our minds? How else would it have been able to project the voices of our loved ones.” One of the soldiers behind Major Jacobs said out loud.

“If it can. I hope it did because I had some choice words for that fucking walking crystal pecker.” Major Jacobs said sneering.

Victorious Ember Mountains, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Mazza stopped to catch his breath and placed both of his arms over his head desperately trying to regain air back into his screaming lungs. “Holy shit. Can those fuckers run.” His running partner slowed and walked back towards his partner.

“You okay Mazza?” He asked genuinely concerned.

“I'm good. There is no way I can keep up with these guys.”

“The Indians?”

“Yah.” He gasped.

“Well, these guys were born, raised and probably fought in the Himalayas during the Great War. So they are probably used to this thin air.”

“Goddamn Chen. How the hell are you keeping up with them?”

“I was based out of Fort Ares on Mount Olympus for nearly ten years. You get used to this mountain air after a year or so.”

“A year? Shit.” Mazza said as he spat on the ground. “I hope the war is over by then,” he said as the long line of Indian soldiers ran past them.

Chen laughed at the stupidity of that statement. The Voorik and Huellok had been at war since “men were in trees.” As that Voorik military adviser put it, the introduction of a few hundred thousand human soldiers wouldn't tip the balance. Chen really hated that damn alien. It acted like it was a god amongst men and only offered the barest minimum of help. It took almost a month for it to reveal that the Voorik actually had very little forces defending this world and that the bulk of its defense would rely on the humans assembling here. “I highly doubt that Mazza.”

“You Marvins having trouble keeping up with real men?!” One of the Indians shouted at them from inside of the long formation of running men. Chen just shook his head as Mazza stood there flustered and out of breath. Mazza wanted to shout something back, but before he could another Indian shouted in a booming voice, “JAI MAHAKALI, AYO GORKHALI!” The other Indians repeated it together in a loud chorus that made Mazza flinch. Mazza looked around half expecting the commotion they made to make a landslide that would crush them all.

“Last time I run with these guys,” Mazza said with every intention to follow through with it.

“Most people from Earth are assholes,” Chen said as if stating a well-known fact.

“I guess those are the only kind that survived the Great War,” Mazza said as he watched the formation of Indian runners disappear into the distance. “You better go on without me if you want to keep pace with them.”

“What about you?”

“Don't worry about me. Gonna walk it back and enjoy the scenery,” Mazza said bitterly. Chen nodded and ran off towards the Indians far off into the distance. Mazza spat again on the ground, “Fuck this place.” He looked up at the green alien sky with its large red sun and strained to find all six of its moons. He could only find five. It was probably hiding behind one of the other larger moons, he thought. After an hour of walking, he reached the outskirts of a small Voorik village with a name he couldn't hope to pronounce. The Voorik inhabitants jerked up and noticed him as he walked past their small farms stinking of sweat. They were used to the humans by now, but not to their smell. Most of the Voorik who were anywhere near him backed away in revulsion. He chuckled to himself since for all he knew the Voorik had no nose, but somehow they could still smell him. Mazza chucked as he let loose and the aliens backed up even further. “You guys smell that?! Cause I do!”

The Voorik farming village had no more then twenty buildings if you could call them that. They were large hollow crystalline structures that seemed to sprout out of the ground. The thing that never failed to bother him was the fact that these Voorik looked like they lived in the middle ages. Mazza could not see how this could be the same alien race that suddenly appeared over Earth ten years ago without being detected by either the USEA or the Colonial Alliance. The same race that crossed space on faster-than-light ships and built the great interstellar wormhole gate in orbit around Earth. That gate, a gift from the Voorik, connected humanity with the entire Voorik Empire. Shortening the travel time between Sol and the Voorik Empire from twenty-two years to only a few weeks. Now Mazza compared those Voorik he had seen on television ten years ago with the Voorik of this village. Poking at the hard ground with dull rusted poles to plant seeds while looking sickly or hungry. He couldn't tell which. He was no expert on the Voorik.

Mazza made it out of the village and after another hour of walking, he reached the outermost perimeter of his home away from home, Camp Tiny Titty Ann. That wasn't its real name of course, but most English speakers had difficulty pronouncing the actual Nahuatl word for the camp so it was unofficially renamed something which sounded similar. The entrance to the base was abuzz with military vehicles coming in and out and military personnel doing PT in big groups by the side of the road. Mazza approached a guard at the entrance, a Mexican MP from the looks of his uniform, and presented his identification card. The Mexican took the card and ran it through his ID verification machine and then handed it back to Mazza with a glare. “What you doing outside? You no have leave Cabrone.” The Mexican said in halting English.

“I was running. That is allowed.”

“Where your running group? Where running partner? Explain Cabrone.” Other Mexican guards appeared and started to surround Mazza.

“I was running with the 9th Gorkha Rifles and my friend Corporal John Chen from the 16th Martian Armored Division. Didn't they come back here?”

The Mexicans talked amongst themselves in their language and turned back towards him and said, “No. Not back.” Another man ran up to the same gate, in sweaty PT's and shouted to the Mexican guards in Spanish. They all broke into laughter and the guards let the man through without so much as looking at his ID card.

Mazza was frothing inside from the obvious double standard these guards upheld. “Goddamn! Why didn't you stop that asshole?!” The Mexican guard's eyes widen and they pushed their rifles into his face.

“Say something else, Cabrone!” The original Mexican said as he pushed his rifle against Mazza's nose.

Another man in an American uniform spotted the trouble brewing and ran up to them all and started shouting at the Mexicans in Spanish. The Mexicans argued back and the man snatched the ID verification machine and looked it over. He turned to Mazza and angrily said, “Get the fuck inside. You stupid Marvin, you're on a death wish.” Mazza said nothing as the arguing continued between the American and the Mexicans. Inside the walls, he walked past long lines of Colonial and Terran tanks of all varieties. Every so often he spotted the distinctive towering figure of an Armored walker.

“Mazza!” A voice called from one of the Colonial tanks. Mazza immediately recognized it as his gunner Groves. Groves walked up to him and slapped him on his back. “You look like shit. Whats the matter?”

“I don't want to talk about it Groves. Do you know if Chen is back?”

“Chen? He's here. He came back like three hours ago with those Gorkhas. Not going to lie. I'm impressed he kept up with them.”

“Goddamn Mexicans.” Mazza bitterly said out loud to himself, “they lied to me.” Groves gave him an odd look and Mazza continued, “Do you know where I can find him?”

“Last time I saw him, he said he was heading to the Colonial Mess Hall. The one across from the soccer field.”

Mazza mouthed a half-hearted thanks and stormed off to find Chen. He passed a large group of Terran soldiers who were doing PT outside of the Amritsar Gymnasium. He felt them eyeball him as he walked past them. On one of the concrete walls of the Colonial Mess Hall were the words, “The Colonists are cowards. They won't fight.” Just below it, the counterargument read simply, “Fuck Earth.” Mazza smiled in agreement with the second bit of graffiti and continued on into the Mess Hall.

CAS Lady Liberty, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

The movie ended and the room's lights automatically brightened. The six military officers sitting at a small table in the center of the room said nothing until one of them said, “You have got to be shitting me.” The man who first spoke wore the black uniform of the USEA military and the rank of General on his collar and shoulders. General Arena was the Supreme Commander of the Terran forces on Via Van'viok and every other world in the Voorik Empire which had Terran defenders. General Arena's vast collection of medals and ribbons on his chest shone brightly in the harsh artificial light of the small conference room. These medals glittered as he shifted forward in his chair to speak again. “Where did this happen?”

“Vashar'at Torra,” Colonel Joon Lee the Commander of the Chinese forces on the planet said slowly and with some difficulty.

“Holy shit! A Voorik word that doesn't start with a 'V!'” General Arena said out loud in genuine surprise, his New England accent coming through. The other officers on the table laughed and nodded.

“I think its one of their 'things.'” Joon Lee said as he put his hands up to make the “quote on quote” sign.

“Is one of their 'things' also being cryptic assholes? The price we paid in lives unnecessarily lost to get this video...” General Arena was so angry he couldn't continue speaking. He was clearly frustrated with the support or lack of support the Voorik have been giving humanity lately.

“They are aliens, General. We know as little about them as they probably do of us. It could be a cultural thing or they probably aren't used to having allies. As far as we know we're the only other race in the Voorik-Huellok War.” Colonel Jacobs of the Colonial Alliance said without looking up from a pile of papers sitting in front of him on the table.

“You met their military adviser in the flesh, Major Jacobs. Whats your take on them?” General Arena asked.

Jacobs looked up and frowned, “It's Colonel Jacobs now.” Jacobs waited until General Arena nodded in acknowledgment and then continued, “Honestly I don't know what to think about the Voorik. I think they're holding back. That's for sure.” Jacobs tried hard to suppress the memory of his wife's beautiful voice coming out of that devilish looking creature. Her voice brought him back to that horrible day more than twenty years ago when New Eden was razed to the ground by Earth. He could still remember the hot sensation of his wife's blood flowing out of her body and over his arms as he held her. He could remember the smell of burning flesh and smoke. The screams of his neighbors dying in the inferno and the horrifying gasping sound of his wife trying hard to breathe with lungs flooded with blood. He missed her so much and twenty years later still cried for her when he was alone. Jacobs willed himself to put the thought of his murdered wife back in its dark prison inside of his mind. It was best that he banished those thoughts because the other men at the table were no longer the enemies of the Colonial Alliance. Yet, he couldn't help but wonder if Arena had a hand in the raid that killed his wife. Jacobs leered at Arena's wall of ribbons and focused on the black, blue and green ribbon that symbolized his involvement in the Second War of Independence. The Terran's called that war the Second War of Secession and he knew the Terran's had a special ribbon for the “heroes” of that raid on New Eden that ended the war in a stalemate. After it seemed certain Earth would be defeated by his people. He didn't know which one it was. Arena had so many damn ribbons.

“Colonel Jacobs anything else?” Arena asked.

Jacobs refocused himself and said, “No. Gentlemen you all have my report about the event. I do suggest you read it if you haven't yet.”

Arena nodded and moved on, “What did we learn from this video?”

“The Huellok are the ugliest damn things I have ever seen.” Brigadier General Lakshmikantha said with scorn. Lakshmikantha was the commanding officer of the Indian forces on the planet, the largest single group from Earth on the planet. “Aside from that. They have shit tactics. It's like watching soldiers line up and shoot each other up like it was Waterloo. It's madness.”

“Exactly. How the hell the Voorik participate in these 'war games' with the Huellok is beyond me. Apparently, both sides have been fighting that way for thousands of years and they probably think that is how everyone does it.” Arena said.

Joon Lee smiled and bared his teeth like a wolf preparing to lunge on a wounded animal. “This could give us an edge.”

“Let us not forget that the Huellok have far superior weapon systems then we do.” Colonel Cabeza paused and continued, “When they choose to use them. What's to say if we don't play by their rules that they won't use them on us? It could be why the Voorik fights this way on the ground, they're scared of those weapons. Most of which we have no idea what they are since the Voorik won't talk and the Huellok haven't used them for thousands of years” Colonel Cabeza the Commander of the Latin American forces on the planet said as he nervously twisted the ring on his left hand.

“Those are legitimate concerns Colonel Cabeza, but that is also probably why the Voorik haven't won a ground battle since the time of Pontius Pilot. What the Voorik are doing isn't working and probably helping the Huellok. We'll risk it. We have to because fighting like that will give us no advantage and play right into the Huelloks clawed... hands?” Arena paused as if to contemplate if that was the right word to describe the Huelloks large bladed spike at the end of their massive arms. “This will be our first major encounter with the Huellok and we have to prove to them that we're no pushover. With luck, the Voorik will take note of it too.”

A Colonial soldier knocked the door and entered the room. Her tight white and gold armor contrasted sharply with the dark and bulky armor of the soldiers of Earth. The CA soldier saluted the assembled officers and then spoke, “Via Voltar has fallen to the Huellok and the Voorik report that the Huellok fleet is heading this way.”

“Does the Voorik have any fleets nearby to assist us?” Arena asked the shapely Colonist.

“No Sir. We're on our own.”

“I could have predicted that happening.” Arena turned to the other officers and ordered them, “Gentlemen, inform everyone we have hostiles incoming and to make final preparations for an invasion.” The CA soldier quietly left the room in a hurry as Arena removed copies of the video from a manila folder in front of him. He handed one to each man on the table. “Show this to your men, They need to know everything they can about their enemy.” They all stood up and Arena turned to Jacobs, “thank you for hosting us on this ship.” Jacobs nodded politely. Arena slipped his seat back under the table and smiled, “Gentlemen, let's show these E.T. fucks how to fight.”

All of them gave the salute of Earth and shouted together, “Under Earth! All People's!” Only Jacobs said and did nothing. He knew what the phrase meant for his people. An Earth that wanted to subjugate the colonies under its power, or more specifically under the power of De-Tierra. The madman who ruled Earth, Venus and the Moon with an iron fist and dreamed of ruling over all of humanity. Jacobs left the room sick to his stomach. He pulled out the disc Arena had given him and stared at it. He wondered which was the bigger threat to his people. The men from Earth or the “men” from Huellok Prime.

Camp Tenochtitlan, CA Building 251, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“Who the hell keeps posting this shit around the base?” Jacobs lifted up a tattered poster of the old U.S. Bill of Rights written in the five major languages of Earth; English, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, and Russian. Scrawled on top of it in red paint was the words, “COLONIAL LIES.” Jacobs looked around the packed room and continued, “this is the last warning. Anyone brought to me for posting this shit is going to be sent to the Terran's for a good whipping.” The assembled Colonial Alliance soldiers murmured loudly amongst themselves.

“That's crazy!” One of them shouted from the middle of the crowd.

Jacobs scanned for the heckler but didn't find him. “What's crazy is how some of you are trying to start a third war with the Terran's. Let's not piss them off when they outnumber us here ten to one and back in Sol a thousand to one. I understand you all want to see a free Earth, so do I, but we can't do anything about that. De-Tierra and his lackeys have gone to a lot of effort to erase this from history.” Jacobs lifted the poster up and pointed at the Bill of Rights. “Do not give the Terran's a reason to wage war on the colonies.” Jacobs paced back and forth as he contemplated what to say next. “More then half of our armed forces are being assembled to fight the Huellok. Some are already in the Voorik Empire and what will be left to repel the Terran's once those forces are all here? We are leaving ourselves damn near defenseless. The Terran's can easily commit millions of soldiers to this war, we can't. So everyone, cut the crap.” Jacobs crumpled up the poster in his hand and tossed it on the floor in a fury. “Spread the word. Dismissed.” Jacobs stormed out of the room and the assembled Colonists broke up and went off in every direction.

Camp Tenochtitlan, CA Building 041, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Mazza awoke from a nightmare by a violent tremor that tossed him off his top bunk and onto the hard concrete floor of the barracks. Mazza picked himself up from the floor and looked around trying to find the source of the tremor. The entire room was empty except for one man still asleep in one of the bunks. Mazza approached the snoring man and shook him awake.

“Sorry. I was snoring again?” The man said half awake.

“No. That wasn't it.” Although the man had a tendency to snore so loud that he could put a chainsaw to shame. “There was an earthquake.” Mazza stopped speaking and chuckled to himself. They were further from Earth then any men could possibly be, the word didn't seem quite right now to him.

The man hopped out of his bunk and stretched with an almost feline grace. “Where the hell is everyone else?”

“You're right. I never thought of that.” Mazza looked at the clock at the far end of the room and said, “Its twenty minutes before revile. Did you hear anything about an early formation?”

“No.” The man said after trying to recall such an order, but couldn't. The ground beneath them suddenly shook again and the flags of the Colonies came crashing down from their place on the walls.

“Aftershock or we could be under attack?”

“If it was an attack the sirens would have sounded.” As if he had reminded the world about the sirens those sirens began to wail. “How shit!” Mazza instinctively ran back to his bunk and grabbed his weapon. He then ran to his locker and strapped on his PCA, a heavy gray backpack, that instantly expanded over his body and encased him in the white armor of the Colonial Army. Mazza snatched up some grenades, his helmet, and sprinted out of the room. The hallways were jammed packed with Colonial soldiers in all states of combat readiness. Some had their armor and weapons on while quite a few looked around with wide bewildered eyes still in their pajamas as if they had just woken up. Mazza spotted a few of the men from his room trying to push through the crowd and called out to them. “Hey, Nebi! Where the hell did everyone go this morning?!”

The man spotted Mazza and yelled back, “to see the lights in the sky! Turned out to be the Huellok blowing the fleet out of the sky!” Nabi pushed a man in front of him against the wall, “let me through. I got to get my shit!” The man pushed back and swore at him.

Mazza ignored them and pushed through the crowded hallway and almost slammed against a door that opened up in front of him. A small blond woman came out of the room clutching her clothes with one hand and used her other hand to hold up a blanket that was covering her body. She ran off into the crowd and a naked man came out after her. “Baby! Where are you going?!” The man saw that she had disappeared and screamed, “GODDAMMIT!” He punched the wall and retreated back to his room. Mazza reached the exit and put on his helmet as he exited. The sky above was a dark green, almost jade, that was full of meteors streaking down towards the planet. He recognized that from the video, those were the Huellok entering the atmosphere, but he also knew that a few of those meteors were bits of human ships making their final descent. The area around the Colonial barracks was in complete anarchy and the Colonial NCO's tried in vain to restore some sort of order. Maaza knew what he had to do when the Huellok attacked, he had done the drills dozens of times before, he went straight for his vehicle on the far side of the base. Maaza had to pass through the Terran side of the camp and dreaded the idea. The Terran's paid no mind to him as he ran past. They were all business. The Terran's were all formed up in their armor and stood in formation checking and double-checking their weapons. Mazza couldn't help but admire their discipline and begrudgingly wished the Colonial soldiers were more like them.

Maaza reached his tank and nodded at Chen who was already by the tank checking its ammunition. Chen nodded back and then preceded to inspect the tanks fusion reactor which was hidden away in the rear shielded by a foot of reinforced composite alloy. Chen slowly pulled out the fusion core and once satisfied that it was in working order he slipped it back in. Maaza climbed aboard the tank and entered from the turret. He sat down in the driver's seat and pulled out his checklist. He quickly checked off each part of the list and waved up at Groves as he entered the tank. Groves took the gunner seat and dropped his rifle next to Mazza's without saying a word. Chen climbed inside and shut the hatch behind himself. Chen took his place in the commander's seat above both Groves and Maaza and linked his helmet up to the back of his chair.

“Take her out Maaza,” Chen said to Maaza through the AIMS (Alliance Integrated Management System), which Maaza heard inside of his helmet.

Maaza started the tanks fusion reactor and the tank lifted six feet off of the ground. The area around his seat seemed to turn transparent and he was able to see outside of his tank as if he wasn't surrounded by six inches of reinforced composite alloy. “We have a stable hover. Moving out.” Maaza slowly moved the tank forward to avoid striking other tanks or their crews. The tank took its place in a long line to leave the base. Maaza settled behind another Colonial Alliance hover tank and to the right of it was an American hover tank patiently waiting to move forward. He couldn't help but smile to himself. He had never seen a Colonial or Terran tank so close to one another without one of them being a burning wreck. He had served in the Second War of Independence more than a decade ago and was a tanker then too. During the war, he had fought against the Terran's on the vast plains of Mars and the great craters of Earth's Moon. After the war, he spent all of his time training to fight them again. Now they were no longer the boogeymen, but Allies against an enemy that looked a lot like the boogeymen of his nightmares.

A Chinese tank pulled up beside his tank to the right of him and he shook his head. The tank was an old Type Zero-60. It was new during the Great War forty years ago, but now it just clearly showed how technologically inferior the Terran's were compared to the Colonists. The Type Zero-60 was ten feet tall, its hull was twenty-five feet long, and had scaly black armor that draped over its wide treads. The Chinese tank was armed with a “Long March” 200mm smoothbore cannon and two automated “Ghost Gun” 10.5mm machine guns. Maaza half expected the Chinese tank to be running on diesel, but they had long since been upgraded to use fusion reactors. The American tank was a big improvement, but not by much. He recognized it to be the “Malach” HT-AT v.04 because of the strange wasp-like stinger it had in its rear. The “stinger” was supposed to be some sort of communication antenna, but he suspected the Terran's probably made it that way to enhance its psychological impact on its enemies. The American tank floated three feet off of the ground and was made up of four parts. Its central hull which held the crew was thirty feet long, narrow, and made up of bulky depleted uranium armor. It was flanked by two smaller pods that stuck out of the central hull that held the tanks hovering mechanism. The last component of the HT-AT was its oversized turret which sat near the rear of the central hull. The turret fielded a 177mm MAG gun and four smaller 50mm cannons, that was attached to the main gun, which shot specialized rounds.

The Colonial Alliance tank he drove was the CAMBT-3 or “Apollo's Chariot” as it was affectionately nicknamed throughout the Colonial Alliance Army. It got its name from the golden hue of its reinforced composite alloy armor, its unmatched top speed, and its unique “Zeus Cannon.” The main weapon of the CAMBT-3 was the “Zeus Cannon,” a powerful laser cannon that could slice through everything human-made. The CAMBT-3 was also armed with two anti-air missiles on the side of the main turret and two miniature turrets loaded with two automated machine gun barrels located near the front of the tank. The tank resembled a sleek floating snail to Maaza, but moved nowhere near as slow. The CAMBT-3 was twice as fast as the fastest Terran tank and could turn on a dime in midair. Something most Terran tanks couldn't do.

The Colonial Alliance had survived Earth's wars of aggression only because it had an impressive edge over the Terran's in all fields of technology and research. When the colonies seceded from Earth during the Great War it continued progressing in all fields of scientific study while Earth tore itself apart. The colonies survived the Great War with barely a scratch, compared to Earth, and when the war did finally end a large number of Earth's best scientists and most innovative people (who hadn't fled before) fled to the Colonial Alliance instead of living under the oppressive regime of USEA President De-Tierra. These best and brightest from Earth along with the naturally brave and independent people that made up the colonies helped push the Colonial Alliance some fifty years ahead of the Terran's in terms of technological progression. The Terran's may be in a huge technological disadvantage going up against the Colonists, but they were still greatly feared and respected by the Colonial Alliance. They had sheer numerical superiority in men, equipment, weapons, and vehicles. The Terran's were also ruthless, suicidally brave, efficient, and extremely competent soldiers.

Maaza remembered a time when he thought the Terran's would be a pushover. This was before his first battle with them in the Plains of Utopia. Maaza remembered how he laughed when the Terran's rounds bounced harmlessly off of his CAMBT-2 and then everything went black. He awoke seconds later to the screams of his gunner being cooked alive in his seat by the flames from an explosion. The smoke clouding his vision as he felt around for the escape hatch with the bloody stubs that used to be his hands. He somehow turned the hatch and jumped out of the burning CAMBT-2 only to be greeted by the smiling faces of some Terran soldiers. Maaza shivered in his seat at the memory and felt his surgically attached cloned hands nervously.

“Maaza! Wake up! Move Forward!” Chen screamed over AIMS. Maaza hadn't realized that the tanks in front of him were now gone. Maaza pushed forward on the steering wheel and it lunged forward at breakneck speed. Maaza slowly down once he caught up with the tanks in front of him and just followed them. “Maaza keep with these tanks. We've been ordered north to assist Camp Mekong. The Huellok have made landfall east of it and from the sounds of it are getting their asses kicked.”

“Yes, Sir.” Maaza said happily at the news of humanity winning its first major engagement with an alien foe. Maaza recalled how the video he had seen of the Huellok showed them lining up in tight formations and blasting away at the Voorik who did the same thing. Both sides would then charge one another and enter into melee range, which the Huellok were masters of. The Huellok seemed to be completely oblivious of combined arms or any other tactics of modern war. Maaza couldn't believe it when he saw it, but it had to be true. Maaza laughed and thought to himself, “this may just be a walk in the park.”

Camp Mekong, Underground Bunker 2, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“They lined up in a fish scale formation and then moved forward towards the camp. There must have been five to ten thousand of them. As soon as they reached our kill box we opened up on them and blasted them into chunks of meat. The aliens kept pressing forward as we leisurely picked them off with artillery, mortar and sniper fire. The Huellok didn't even make it to the minefield or barbed wire. We killed them all.” Captain Zuang said with a beaming smile that looked unnatural on his pockmarked face.

“What were our casualties?” Colonel Joon Lee asked.

“As the Mexicans would say, 'nada.'”

Colonel Joon Lee smiled and said, “Not one?”

“One man burned his hand on a hot arty shell, but he's back at work again.”

“That's fantastic news. What about the dead Huellok?”

“I sent out the Indians to police the bodies.”

“Good work Captain.” Colonel Joon Lee turned towards a large computer map of Via Van'viok and zoomed in around Camp Mekong. “We have a few UAV's flying over the Huellok LZ and it looks like they're forming up for another assault.” Colonel Joon Lee zoomed in on the alien invaders and watched in real time as they slithered out of their ships and formed up into big neat squares. “Captain, you see those big formations of Huellok?”

“Yes, I do Colonel.”

“So should use our bombers. Blow those alien formations to whatever alien hell they come from. Use plenty of tactical nukes.” Joon Lee waved the Captain away and continued to stare at the computer screen as he impatiently cracked his knuckles. After twenty minutes had passed the entire LZ went up in dozens of bright flashes of light as bombers crisscrossed the area from every human base on the planet. The bombers unleashed their nuclear bombs over the large gathering of alien troops and then sped away back to base. Joon Lee flinched at the bright light and then watched as the small mushroom clouds rose up into the atmosphere. The smoke cleared after thirty minutes and the surviving aliens flopped around on the ground with flames covering their snake-like bodies. It didn't take long before the last of the aliens stopped moving altogether. The entire area which was once full of thousands of alien hostiles was now nothing more than a cluster of burning craters. Joon Lee turned from the computer screen and sat down at his desk with a heavy thud. He wasn't a God-fearing man, he had been raised a communist, but he prayed to whatever deity that watched over mankind that the battle for this world would continue to be an easy fight. He learned from his experience in North America during the War Against Imperial Aggression that there was no such thing as an easy fight.

Huellok LZ, Vib'ak Forest, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“Keep your eyes open. This is supposed to be the Huellok LZ.” Chen opened the hatch and stood up on his seat. He was half inside of the tank and half outside. From his commanding view from the top of the hovering tank, he could see nothing but smoldering fires, fallen trees, and charred alien bodies. Chen couldn't help but notice how similar the burnt bodies of the Huellok resembled those of a burnt human body. The Huellok were all mangled and distorted in death, blackened by fire, and covered with horrible fist-sized blisters. The only way Chen could tell they were aliens, and not misshapen humans, were for its two bulbous heads and long snake-like tail. The tank drifted aimlessly around the site of the Huellok LZ until Chen slapped the side of the turret and said over AIMS, “I'm getting off to check them out for myself.” Chen climbed out of the turret. Balanced himself on the front of the tank and jumped off. Easily making the sixteen-foot jump down with the assistance of his armor, which absorbed the impact of his jump. The Colonial tank backed away from him and began to slowly turn in place to provide security for Chen as he strolled among the heaps of alien bodies.

Chen stood over a large pile of fallen aliens and stared at their smoldering bodies in awe. Fifteen years ago he would never have imagined that he would be standing on an alien world thirty-something light-years from Mars facing an alien enemy. These aliens were dead, but they still looked fearsome and like something out of Dante's Inferno. As ugly as they were, it looked like evolution was kind to them. Evolution had created a being that was entirely geared to kill. These alien beings were covered entirely in a tough natural carapace with two long muscular arms that extended nearly to the ground. Each arm ended in a single flat blade that was as big as his thigh. They had no legs like humans or even like the Voorik, but instead, it had a freakishly large snake tail. Chen assumed they moved around like Medusa from Greek mythology and like Medusa they had multiple heads. Two primary heads on its wide shoulders with three spider-like eyes on each head and another set of eyes just to the side of its only mouth which was centered in the middle of its chest. This mouth spooked Chen the most. The mouth was wide enough to easily fit his entire head and had hundreds of small scalpel shaped teeth.

Chen activated his armors melee blade and a two-foot-long blade shot out from his right forearm. The Colonists nicknamed the blade “Wolverine's Claw,” after the Marvel superhero although Chen felt it resembled the Katara daggers that Kroenen wielded in that ancient movie “Hellboy.” Chen shrugged. People are always going to name things after heroes and not villains, although the villians usually make the most interesting characters. Chen raised his blade and started to poke the dead Huellok with it. The blade had no effect on its hard carapace, but the Huellok had weak points on its shell. He cut one of its necks and the soft charred flesh gave way and a gush of black blood poured out. Chen stepped back in fright and then composed himself. He approached the body and poked it some more with his blade until he was satisfied that he had found all of its weak spots.

“Playing scientist?” A voice called out from right behind him.

Chen jumped up and turned around. Swinging his blade towards the voice. The man met the blade with a khukris sword and easily deflected the blade. “Watch where you're pointing that thing, Sir.” The man wore black body armor that covered his chest and groin and his black uniform underneath was standard issue USEA camo's. On his face, he wore a black protective mask that covered his nose and mouth from the smoke and radioactive particles in the air. The man wore no helmet, but instead wore a Terai hat that was tilted so far to the right of his head that Chen wondered how it stayed on his head. “Sargent Delhi, Republic of India 8th Gorkha Rifles.” Delhi gave him a crisp salute and Chen returned the gesture of respect.

Chen had pissed himself when the Indian startled him and he cringed slightly as his armor cleaned the mess. “Sorry about that. You gave me a good scare when you crept up on me.”

The Indian looked around the barren landscape as if saying with his body language, “how could I sneak around in this?” “You need to be more aware of your surroundings. A few of my boys found several of these things alive in this heap and if they aren't hurt bad... they can be a handful. What are you doing out here? Out of your tank?” As if an afterthought he added, “Sir.”

“I should ask you the same thing. Isn't this place still highly radioactive?”

“We're policing the bodies as ordered and no. We used low-yield tactical nukes. Something developed in World War 3, but you Colonists wouldn't know anything about that since you didn't fight in it. Now here you are. Jumping at shadows and pissing your pants.” Chen looked at him and didn't know what to say. Embarrassed and unable to figure out if the Indian somehow knew or was just being an asshole. Another Indian soldier ran up to Delhi and spoke to him in rapid-fire Punjabi. The two men nodded and Delhi turned to Chen again. “We found another one of those beasts alive. I have to go. May Mahakali smile upon you and give you good hunting.”

Before Chen could say anything the two Indians disappeared beyond a large heap of smoldering alien bodies. He approached his hovering Colonial tank and pulled himself up on top of it. He entered the tank through the still open hatch and sealed it behind himself. As he sat down in his commanders chair the contaminated air that seeped in from outside was filtered out by the tank. The air quality light on his control panel switched from red to green and he took off his helmet. He took a deep breath and checked his computer screen. They had new orders to move and support an assault against a new Huellok LZ near Camp November. “Maaza move us back to Camp Tenochtitlan for redeployment.” Chen waited for a reply or the tank to begin moving, but neither of that happened. “Maaza! Wake the fuck up! Groves, get him moving.” Chen looked over his seat and down into the bottom compartment of the tank. He didn't see Groves but could see movement in Maaza's seat. “What the fuck?” Chen leaned closer and saw the floor of the tank covered in a thick layer of blood and entrails. Maaza was still strapped in his seat but was slumped towards his rifle as if he had tried to reach it. Maaza jerked violently in his seat and a small green creature crawled from underneath him. Chen had no way to describe the creature, to him it resembled no earthly creature he had ever seen. It was the size of a dog with transparent tentacles and green skin. The creature climbed on top of Maaza's back and wrapped its tentacles around his body and placed its “mouth” over his armor. The creature had no real mouth that Chen could see, but instead, it had a strange transparent pod. This pod slowly corroded through Maaza's armor and it started to feast on the soft meat and tissue underneath. Chen could see the bits of flesh, bone and blood sizzle as the pod touched it. The transparent pod mouth of this creature slowly absorbed Maaza and it horrified Chen to see it consume his friend. Chen slowly leaned back and pressed the self-destruct button on his command panel. The lights inside the tank started to flash red and he swung the hatch open. The creature jumped up and latched on to him with its tentacles as he tried to pull himself out of the tank. For its small size. It was surprisingly strong. His armor amplified his strength, but this creature was still holding him down. He pulled as hard as he could and finally freed himself from its grip. Chen slammed the hatch down on the creature and threw himself off of the tank and fell on top of a dead Huellok.

Chen looked down at his legs and screamed in horror as he saw that the tentacles of the creature had eaten through some of his armor and his bare bloodied right ankle was exposed to the elements. It didn't hurt, but he had trouble walking on it. He dropped to his knees and crawled as far as he could away from the tank. Chen knew he had only a minute to get to a safe distance from the tank if he hoped to survive the explosion. He crawled behind a charred alien “vehicle” and peaked his head out from behind his cover to get one last look at his tank. A small dime sized hole appeared on the tanks gold color armor. The hole rapidly expanded and the creature that was trapped inside now pulled itself out of the hole. Chen pulled out an HE grenade from his belt and wished he had his rifle on him. If that thing came, he had no way to outrun it. He thought to himself that if he had to decide on how he would die, he would choose getting blown up over being eaten alive. Fortunately for him, he didn't have to make that decision. The tanks fusion reactor went critical and exploded in a mushroom cloud. The blast wave hit Chen and he slammed his head into the ground with such force that he passed out with the entire world ringing.

Leigh AF Base, CENTCOM Command Bunker, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Colonel Jacobs knocked on the door and entered the office of General Arena, the Supreme Commander of the Terran forces in the Voorik Empire. Jacobs quietly closed the door behind himself and silently stood by Arena's desk. Waiting to be acknowledged by the Terran General. Jacobs noticed the room was small and spartan in its features. It had no noticeable luxuries and even the desk itself wasn't a desk. It was a thick slab of cement held up with milk crates. The top of the desk was piled high with folders and files marked “TOP SECRET.” One wall was covered with a big plain map of the planet that showed the six major Voorik cities and the five human bases built to protect them. The map was covered with handwritten post-it notes and flag pins that noted unit locations. The other wall had a large portrait of USEA President De-Tierra looking sharp in his military uniform. The portrait was flanked by the flag of the USEA and the flags of the fourteen Terran nations participating in the defense of Via Van'viok. Behind the desk right by a large map of Earth itself stood Arena. He was turned away from the door and staring at a picture that he was holding in his hand.

“I am glad you made it out alive, Jacobs.” Arena said without putting the picture down. “Please, sit down.” Arena turned around and placed the picture on top of his desk. The picture showed Arena in his U.S. Army uniform and a blonde woman embracing him in what looked like New York City. They both looked happy and in Arena's case much younger.

Colonel Jacobs sat down and accepted the shot of whiskey that Arena poured for him. Jacobs gulped it down and placed the empty shot glass on the table. Arena reached for it and poured him another shot. “Thank you, General Arena.”

“You're welcome.” Arena poured himself a shot and raised it to the air. “To the brave men and women of the Colonial Alliance Navy who lost their lives above Via Van'viok today.” Arena tossed the shot back and Jacobs did the same. “I am also truly sorry for the CAS Lady Liberty. She was a fine ship, but she went down a hero. Scoring a killing blow against a Huellok Mothership.” Arena picked up the picture of the woman again and frowned. “Almost the entire human fleet assembled in orbit was lost, but the Huellok paid for it dearly. If we had the Voorik fleet here... we could have saved some ships. Now there is no way we can leave this world. It's either fight or die. That is if the Voorik arrive.”

“When do you think that will happen?”

“No idea. They should have been here days ago. The Voorik knew this attack was coming. When Via Voltar fell, it was obvious the Huellok would come here next. They keep giving me the same old tired bullshit that the Huellok are attacking all along Voorik space and that they feel that their core worlds are threatened. So they refuse to send their fleets here. All I know is that they're supposed to be sending something soon, but they won't tell me when.” Arena placed the picture face down on the desk as if to prevent it from hearing what he had to say next. “We're here dying for these alien pricks and they act like we're the enemies. I swear to Jesus H. Christ that as soon as I get back to Earth that I will personally recommend to President De-Tierra himself that we end this alliance.”

Jacobs didn't say anything. He would have recommended the same thing to the Colonial Alliance President, but he also knew that this war was a blessing in disguise for humanity. The Terran's always needed someone to fight, if not themselves, then some outside force. If that outside force wasn't the Huellok then it would certainly be the Colonial Alliance. Jacobs changed the subject by saying, “This is the list of the surviving 4,212 Colonial sailors and 2,579 marines from the 28 Colonial ships destroyed in orbit.” Jacobs removed a small disc from his pocket and slid it on top of the desk towards Arena. “I have decided against your recommendation to have them broken up and attached to shorthanded Terran infantry units. Instead, I will form them into a reserve Infantry battalion.”

“You're the boss of the Colonial Alliance forces here, but why would you do that? The colonies don't exactly churn out the best warriors. No offense. Your soldiers could use our hard earned combat experience. Hell, it might actually help our two people's mend some fences and forget the past.”

“What do you know about mending fences Arena? You're a goddamn killer of innocent people, one of them my wife. You stand there finger fucking a picture of your girlfriend and talk about how we need to forget the past. I cannot forget the past because it haunts me every goddamn day. What was done to her, to my people is unforgivable. I loved her and she died like a fucking animal.”

Arena shot Jacobs an angry looked, then calmed and shook his head. Arena lifted the picture of the blonde woman and showed it to Jacobs. “Her name is Leigh and she is my second wife. You ask me what I know about mending fences? If you lived through the shit storm that was World War 3 on Earth like I had, you were forced to become Saint Francis by its end. If we 'Terran's' didn't forgive our former enemies, the war would still be raging today. That is if we 'Terran's' hadn't snuffed out all life on Earth by this time. When the chinks hit the United States with its nukes my first wife and my four beautiful little angels were in Los Angeles visiting her parents. I lost them all that day. I didn't have anything to bury, I buried her wedding dress and my children's toys instead. Years later when the U.S. was slowly pushing the chinks out of North America I found the woman that would become my second wife in a PLA comfort camp. Do you know what they did to her there? They brutally raped and terrorized her eighteen times a day, every day of the week, for their sick pleasure. Do you know how fucked up she is because of it? It took me three years before I could touch her without her going into a nervous breakdown. When we tried to have a child together. We couldn't. I thought I had gone sterile from radiation exposure, but it turns out those chinks fucking burned her uterus. They burned her uterus so they could fuck her bareback and not worry about producing roachborn children. The war ended in an armistice and the sins of almost everyone who fought in the war was forgiven. Just like that!” Arena snaps his fingers in the air and continued speaking, “Now I lead those very men into battle who were once my enemies. I sometimes wonder with every PLA chink I see today on Via Van'viok if he was one of those men who fucked my wife and beat her to an inch of her life. They did unforgivable horrors to me, my country, my Leigh, and still, I do my job. I do my job and let it all go for the future of mankind and the future of my unborn child. If I can control my emotions. You can do it too.”

Jacobs burned inside. He wanted to pull out his pistol and shoot the Terran in his mouth. He didn't care about his life story, the man still had his wife. His own wife was dead and buried under a tree outside of New Eden. Jacobs was certain this Terran had a hand in her death. He didn't know how he knew, but he knew. A gut feeling. Jacobs stormed out of the room without saying a word. He slammed the door behind himself and as he passed a small potted plant in the hallway he kicked it in with his boot. A Terran soldier ran down the hall with his gun drawn towards the racket Jacobs made. When the soldier saw Jacobs standing over the broken plant he lowered his weapon and just laughed. Jacobs wished that he had shot him.

21 km North of Camp Mekong, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Colonel Joon Lee couldn't believe what he was seeing through his binoculars. The Huellok were forming up again for the fourth time. New Huellok soldiers from dozens of landing ships just behind their decimated lines reinforced the gaps in their mile-long formation and once they were ready they moved forward. They slithered towards the human defenders who had marched from Camp Mekong to contest the Huellok's third attempt at landing on the planet. The Huellok made it halfway through the mile-long no-man's land before the leading Huellok started toppling over themselves dead. The aliens pulled back in disarray and gazed around in confusion looking for their invisible killer. Finding nothing, they moved forward again with the same results. Colonel Joon Lee just had to laugh. The Huellok had no idea what was killing them and in their stupidity kept pressing forward into the invisible kill zone of a rupture bomb. “This was entertaining, but it is now time to end this sad display of alien incompetence. Fire at will.”

The entire human line gleefully opened up on the Huellok who were caught in the middle of no-man's land. The aliens were torn apart by small arms fire, tank shells, and artillery rounds. The Huellok's long blades at the end of their arms glowed green and they shot back at the humans. The Huellok fired a strange green energy from their arms which blew large holes in the human's sandbag fortifications. Unfortunately for the Huellok the humans were excellent shots and shooting from the safety of a dense sandbag wall. The dense formation of thousands of Huellok, now trapped in the middle of no-man's land, did not retreat they just stood and kept firing until they were all dead.

“Sir, they appear to be retreating.” Captain Zuang said as he pointed towards the teardrop-shaped ships of the Huellok. Two dozen black ships lifted up into the air and immediately came under human artillery fire. The artillery rounds detonated just feet from the ships hull and had no effect against them. Captain Zuang had expected that “It's those shields of theirs. We still can't get through them. Can we use tactical nukes Colonel? The Colonial Alliance fleet had some success in using them against the Huellok Armada.”

“The nukes they used were a lot bigger than the artillery nuclear rounds we have.” Joon Lee thought for a second and then said, “Of course... it may be worth to try. Send the order. One nuclear round per ship. Quickly, before they get all their alien comrades on board and leave.”

The Huellok ships started to disappear one by one into the night sky as they became full of retreating alien soldiers. Suddenly a few of the ships still slowly hovering over the ruined forest became engulfed in a blinding blast that lit up the entire area with unnatural daylight. Joon Lee's helmet automatically darkened his viewing visor, but even with that, he had to avert his eyes after only a second. The bright light of the man-made sun had given him star bursts and black spots in his vision. After a minute of temporary blindness, he looked back at the direction of the blasts and saw the smashed burning hulls of many Huellok ships which had crashed into the ground. The nuclear rounds had worked and more then half of the ships it hit had fallen. A few Huellok ships still remain floating, but they were either gravely wounded or had been lucky enough to be missed by the artillery barrage. They didn't wait around for another salvo, the ships all shot up into the night sky.

The human defenders behind their sandbag walls let out a loud cheer and shot randomly into the air in celebration. Joon Lee gave out a loud sigh of relief. “Report to General Arena that the third LZ has been cleared. Tell him how we did it.” Joon Lee looked out into the artificially created open field that was no-man's land and saw hundreds of dead alien bodies. They were mostly clustered in large neat heaps along the invisible borders of the rapture bombs kill zones They didn't even make it anywhere near the human line. “I cannot believe the Huellok can be that stupid. They seem to be like children playing war. How else would you explain them willingly running into that invisible wall of death FOUR times? We Chinese learned quickly about those damn things after the Americans deployed those nasty bombs against us. We soon developed effective countermeasures and certainly didn't stupidly run into it more than once.”

Captain Zuang said nothing. He was distracted trying to communicate with CENTCOM. He couldn't get a signal or even static. “Sir, I cannot hail CENTCOM.”

“You think it's the COMM?”

“It was working a minute ago.”

“Well...” The colonel didn't finish the sentence. The ground beneath him shook and he dropped to his knees. “What the fuck?!” He tried to lift his arms, but they were so heavy that he couldn't move without exerting maximum effort from his armor. Captain Zuang wasn't in any armor and was pressed against the ground screaming. The COMM's headpiece was pressed against his head and the ground with such force that he started to bleed. The ground shook violently and then it shook again. Joon Lee looked up and saw that a shimmering Huellok ship had appeared high above them and was blasting away at the artillery firebases in the rear. More Huellok ships appeared above the human defenders and they began to glow and shimmer. Joon Lee could see the humans on the ground firing up at the ships, but soon they were all slammed against the ground unable to move. The Huellok ships then began to neatly bombard the human positions from the air. The Huellok took special care to destroy any tanks and artillery they spotted on the ground.

Joon Lee could barely make out a strange green rain coming out of the ships over the humans below. He looked up towards the shimmering ship above him and it also began to rain green football sized droplets. The green balls slammed against the ground and began to stir. The balls broke open and a small dog-sized creature erupted out of it. The creature looked like an amoeba with tentacles and had a large ugly transparent ball on its “face.” More of the creatures broke out of their balls and started to scurry around towards the humans crushed against the ground by an invisible force. The creatures wrapped themselves around the humans and consumed them with their transparent faces and tentacles. They made a sloppy mess of it and flung blood and entrails around as they ate the pinned humans alive. Joon Lee forced his armor to swing his arm up and he blasted away at the creatures with his arm-mounted cannon. Others who were lucky to also have powered armor did the same. The creatures exploded in a large gush of white and red fluid similar to popping a pimple when they were hit.

The creatures turned towards the firing humans and rushed towards them. Many more green balls started to land from above and broke out more creatures. Joon Lee kept shooting at them, but couldn't kill them all. They overwhelmed him and a dozen of them wrapped themselves around his armor. One of the creatures jumped on top of his viewing visor and he could see it press its ugly ball against the bulletproof glass of his viewing visor. The alarms in his armor wailed and he immediately knew that the integrity of his armor was slowly being compromised. He could feel actual air near his belly and then he felt a stinging pain coming from that area. The pain was unbelievable, he tried to move his arms towards the opening but he could not move. The armor's power had failed and now these creatures were breaking through the armor. He felt as one of the creatures entered his belly and started to thrash inside of him. He tried to scream, but blood poured out as he did. Joon Lee looked straight ahead and saw that the creature over his visor had melted through it and now they both stared at each other. Joon Lee weakly chuckled. “I would never have thought I'd die to an alien,” he thought to himself. The creature pushed forward into his helmet and the last thing he ever thought was that the creature smelled a lot like orange juice.

Leigh AF Base, CENTCOM Command Bunker, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“All communications are down except for some backup hard lines we placed between key bases and cities. Reports are pouring in from all over the world that the Huellok are using super weapons. One was reported to be some sort of gravity manipulation that just pins everything to the ground. Another states that the Huellok deploy these ravenous green creatures that just consume everything. There is also one which says that they have a special ship that bathes an area with light and everything with modern transistors and electronics gets shut down.”

“That sounds like an EMP. Doesn't our weapons and equipment have protection against that?” General Arena told the young Australian Captain who was giving him the days SITREP.

“Yes it does, but these are aliens we're fighting. It may be something else entirely new to us that is messing with our electronics.”

“Please continue.”

“The Huellok orbital bombardment of the planet continues for the sixth straight hour and is mainly focused in and around our bases on the planet.” As if to put emphasis on that point the lights flickered and the room shook.

“Any word from Camp Mekong or Camp November?”

“No Sir. Neither has reported in and we assume they have fallen to the enemy.”

Arena leaned back in his chair and frowned. If it was true he had lost tens of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles from all corners of the Earth. He tried to recall the exact armies that would be lost, but he knew that those two bases were made up heavily of Americans, Chinese, Indians, Southeast Asians, and Australians. “Has aerial surveillance confirmed this?”

The Australian Captain pulled some pictures out of a folder he was holding and placed it on the generals concrete desk for Arena to look over. Arena began looking through the pictures and could see hundreds of dismembered human bodies scattered throughout the open areas between buildings. “Which base is this?”

“Camp Mekong. These pictures were taken by UAV. The Huellok keep shooting our birds out of the sky. They have complete dominance of the air and space above.”

“Any confirmation of Camp November's status?”

“Nothing official, but we can't get anything near it to confirm that it is lost.”

“So the north part of the planet is in enemy hands?”

“Yes, General Arena.”

“That allows the Huellok a secure beachhead from which to land their shock troopers.” Arena stood up and walked to the large map of the planet on the wall. He removed the numerous flag pins and post-it notes around Camp November and Camp Mekong and tossed them on the floor. He backed up from the map so he could see the entire planet and contemplated in silence for a few minutes. “We cannot fight the Huellok like this with those weapons of theirs. We need to retreat our forces into the major Voorik cities. That may negate those weapons. Not to mention all of our soldiers are highly experienced in MOUT warfare. The capital city of Vortanik and the city of Vasi are to be fortified immediately. All military and logistical assets from Camp Blighty and Camp Tenochtitlan are to be also moved into them.”

“What about Leigh Air Force Base?”

“We need to maintain whatever air power we can. So everyone except command and control must stay. This base must hold for as long as it can.” Arena felt ashamed that he was giving that order. He was signing the death warrant of thousands of brave men and women. The Huellok would certainly swarm over that base and smash it like it did Camp November and Camp Mekong. He was giving them up to the Huellok to buy himself and the defenders of Vortanik time to fortify their positions. “Anything and everything that may give away Earth's location must be destroyed. Remind the individuals who have been entrusted with that information the importance of keeping it secret. By any means necessary. If they give you even a hint of being unwilling to carry out that final order I want you to have them shot in the back of the head.” Arena stood up from his chair and handed the Australian a sheet of paper with the names of the people who knew Earth's location in that base.

The Australian nodded briskly then snapped into an open-palmed salute. “Under Earth! All People's!”

“Under Earth! All People's!” Arena replied with a salute of his own. The Australian turned smartly as if on a pivot and walked out of the office. The room shook again and the picture of Arena's wife fell on the floor. Arena picked up the picture of his wife which was now covered in shattered glass and broken frame. Arena sighed and placed it back where it belonged on his desk. He sat back down and looked at the picture of Leigh. He wondered if he'll ever see her again or if he would ever hold his miracle child. Then shame washed over him. He had just issued an order that would kill tens of thousands of people all in the slim hope he'll see his family again. He stared at the picture of his wife and flipped it over. He poured himself another shot of whiskey and gulped it down.

Vib'ak Forest, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Chen had woken up in a daze. He didn't remember when exactly. His hearing started to come back as he walked south towards Camp Tenochtitlan. He found it easier to walk now that his armor had repaired itself and patched up the wound that the alien creature had given him. He knew that the armor on his leg was now significantly weakened by the repair. He needed to get a new one as soon as possible. He wouldn't want to know just how fast one of those creatures could go through the armor on his right leg in its current state.

Chen arrived at the outer perimeter of Camp Tenochtitlan after more than half a day of walking. Everything was quiet and dark. This struck him as unusual because the camp was normally buzzing with aircraft and the light drone of sentries talking to each other at their posts. The floodlights that normally illuminated the clearing before the treeline was flickering on and off. Chen cautiously moved forward as his armor's helmet displayed a safe path for him to walk through the minefield that surrounded the base. He didn't want to accidental step on these Terran made anti-personnel mines. The Terran's were masters of making weapons that maximized the amount of pain and injury a person went through before they died. Those Terran mines would either blow off your leg, armor or no armor or spring up and smash you with a small radius of intense pressure. Literally crushing a man as if he was an air-filled paper bag. Sometimes a man would survive those mines, but if he was in an armored suit, which was common these days, the suit itself would crumple in on the person. He had seen the pictures of what was left during basic training and cringed at the memory. Normally he wouldn't be able to sense them because the Terran's made them in undetectable plastics, but the Terran's were kind enough to implant little signaling devices on them so that the Colonists could know where they were. The Colonists and the Terran's weren't enemies at the moment and as Chen crossed the mile stretch of mines in the dark he was so glad for that.

The Railyard, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“I want snipers there, there and there.” Brigadier General Lakshmikantha pointed to each distant location with his outstretched hand. “The roads into the city must be mined, blocked and booby-trapped. The roads inside the city, especially the major intersections must have fortified roadblocks with armor and ghost guns. The Huellok are going to hit us with everything they got and we need to prepare a defense in depth for them.” Lakshmikantha stared off into the distance, beyond the Railyard and the forests south of Vortanik and could see the dim green glow of Huellok orbital strikes bombarding Leigh Air Force Base.

Lakshmikantha turned back towards the assembled officers from all corners of Earth and the colonies of man and continued speaking, “Every block must be as hard as the last one for the Huellok to take and hold. We will slow their advance in this city and if the gods are good to us. The Voorik will come to our rescue.”

“Da. As you wish comrade General.” The Russian Colonel nodded and asked, “Is there anything else?”

“All the major buildings and defensible positions in the city must be garrisoned. The positions are marked on the map, but I want your men to hold the Railyard and the south of the city at all costs. The Huellok will most likely attack us here after they finish off Leigh. You'll have high fire support priority. I am also going to attach the Israelis, Australians, Colonial Group 1 and a contingent of STF troops to this area and 'Building 112.'”

“Do not worry comrade General. We will break the Huellok at the Railyard's like we did the Nazis in world war two and then the Islamist hordes in world war three.” The Russian smiled with pride as he spoke of Russia's bloody, but triumphant history against vastly stronger invaders. He wanted more than anything to add another name to that list of failed invaders. The assembled officers were on top of building in a complex that the Russians nicknamed “the Railyard.” The complex got its name from the strange alien patterns on the fish-shaped buildings in the area which looked a lot like train tracks. The nickname was also a fitting name for the Russians since the two other Railyards in their history were desperate last stands which the defense of Vortanik was quickly becoming.

“I have no doubt about that,” Lakshmikantha said with a grin.

“The north part of the city will be defended by the Europeans, Brazilians, Argentinians, Multinationals and Colonial Group 2. Your defense will be focused on the 'Amusement Park' and the lake edges. You will have second priority and I will attach the 9th Gorkha Rifles as a reserve to deploy as you see fit.” The affected officers nodded and all said they understood in their respective languages. “Now the eastern part of the city will be defended by the Chinese, Americans, Japanese and the Koreans. I do not expect the Huellok to attack in force there since they'll have to pass through the mountains to reach it. They may attempt to seize 'the Airport,' but do not let them have it. If we lose it, we lose the last of our air support. The Huellok may also attempt to take 'Hill 1949,' but as long as 'the airport' holds we will hold that mountaintop. We will need the fire support its guns will give us in Vortanik's defense.”

“There is no way those two-headed freaks will take 'the airport' from us General Lakshmikantha. Hoo-ah! Hoo-ah! Hoo-ah!” The American officer who said it suddenly hugged the ranking Chinese officer and smiled. The other Americans in the group responded the same way to the dismay of the Chinese officers. They looked confused and muttered to themselves in Mandarin.

Lakshmikantha chuckled. “Cut that shit out there's more. Now the center of the city will be the second major line of defense in case any part of the outer ring is overwhelmed or needs to fallback. The second line of defense will be R21 in the north, R20 in the west, R22 in the east and Second Avenue in the south. The line will be manned by Indians, Mexicans, South Africans and the Colonial reserves. The last line of defense will be along 'the Ring' which surrounds 'the Palace.' It will be staffed by a skeleton crew of reserves from all nations. Should we retreat there, the survivors from the first and second line will shore up these inner defenses. Let us pray it doesn't get to that point.”

The other officers grimly nodded in agreement. A Mexican Colonel then spoke, “Senior, what of the Voorik civvies?”

“Were moving them into the center of the city, within the ring. The buildings designated 'palace,' 'outhouse,' 'parliament,' and 'library.' The buildings are sturdier then the other buildings the Voorik have in this city, and that is saying a lot, the only way to take down any of these crystal buildings is by nuking them. These central buildings also have a deep network of tunnels that can hold the cities twenty million citizens. They should all be moved there by the end of the hour. Now let us get moving. There is much to be done.” One of the officers from Earth gave De-Tierra's salute and was about to scream out “Under Earth! All People's!” But Lakshmikantha stopped him. “Now we aren't on Earth and we aren't even in Sol. We are not enemies here and the question of the colonies independence from Earth is of no importance here. We are simply men on a hostile alien world with no way out except to fight. We will leave with another note, from Shakespeare. 'For he who shall bleed with me to day, will be my brother.'”

The assembled officers all snapped into their customary salutes and screamed together. “FOR HE WHO SHALL BLEED WITH ME TO DAY, WILL BE MY BROTHER!” They turned and left back to their commands.

Lakshmikantha had seen a few angry faces in the mob and he was sure they would report his lack of commitment to the cause of Earth to President De-Tierra, but he didn't care. De-Tierra's time would surely come to an end. Someday soon if the gods are kind. He just hoped he would see that day, but that day was in the future. He had to worry about today and the prospect of surviving it didn't look too good.

Camp Tenochtitlan, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Chen carefully crept over the barbed wire and jumped into the defensive trench. It was completely abandoned. All the weapons and equipment that could be carried out was, anything else too big to move was destroyed. He looked around for a rifle or pistol but had no luck finding one. He then entered one of the service tunnels and exited inside of the base just outside of the Terran Mess Hall. The Mess Hall had a strange graffiti picture sprayed on it of a bald man looking over a wall with the words, “Kilroy was here.” “Who the fuck is Kilroy?” Chen thought to himself.

Chen heard a loud moan and he ducked behind a dumpster. He landed on a pile of rotten “Vinny fruits,” a native red fruit that tasted like wheat grass that the Terran's fed their troops as a cost-cutting measure. The moan grew louder and from around the corner came a hulking Huellok shook trooper. Its black armor shimmering with a pulse of green energy that radiated from its scythe-like claw. Its small secondary arms were carrying a horribly disfigured man. The man in the alien's arms was missing his arms and legs and moaned loudly. Another smaller Huellok appeared and this one didn't have the black carapace of the soldier Huellok. Its carapace was green and its black eyes were easier to spot, unlike the black armored soldier. The two came together and just seemed to “talk” for a few minutes, completely ignoring the moans of the human in their midst. The soldier placed the disfigured human on the ground and then slithered away. The small Huellok used its claw to gently poke and prod the man who groaned in agony from each touch. The creature did that for almost an hour until it must have gotten annoyed or bored with the man and just sliced his stomach open with its claw. The man screamed and stopped moaning. The Huellok started to pull out the mans organs one by one with its small worm-like secondary arms. It laid out the organs neatly to the side of the body after it carefully inspected each one. It pulled out the intestines and seemed to be surprised at its length. Giving out a sound that almost sounded like a screech of relief once it pulled out the last bit of it. The Huellok pulled out the lungs and started to flap it around in the air, it placed the lungs over its big central mouth and blew into the trachea. The Huellok squealed with delight as it inflated the lungs and then carefully placed it on the side. Another two Huellok appeared and watched the dissection of the man with interest.

Chen had had enough and slowly backed up. He turned and ran smack into another man. “You really have to work on your situational awareness, Marvin. Follow me. This place isn't safe.” The American soldier said in a whisper. The American crossed the street silently and beaconed him over. He clumsily followed, almost tripping on himself, but he made it. The American entered a small hole under another dumpster and he followed. Once inside the American pulled the dumpster back in place and then ran down the underground tunnel.

Chen limped after him and said, “where are we going?” The American said nothing but did wait for him to catch up to him. At the end of the tunnel, the American opened a door that led deep into the Vib'ak Forest. Once outside he found himself surrounded by a dozen Terran soldiers.

“You've just joined the human resistance.” The American said with a smile and a fake German accent.

“Thank you, Mr. Terminator,” Chen said with a stupid grin.

Hill 1949, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“Nineteen Huellok ships have broken off from the main armada over Leigh and are heading towards south Vortanik.” The ranking Chinese artilleryman said over the hardline as he peered into the distance from his mountaintop outpost with his binoculars.

“Acknowledged Watch Tower. Fire for effect. Tactical nukes once they come in range.” The voice of General Arena said back to the man.

“Fire for effect in range. Tact rounds. Over and out.” The ranking Chinese artilleryman said out loud over the COMM so his comrades could hear. They rapidly loaded their cannons with the nuclear rounds and waited for the alien ships to come closer. Hill 1949 was a Chinese fire support station that was built inside the summit of the largest mountain closest to Vortanik. The native Voorik called the mountain “Voo'tansh,” which meant ancient sentry. The mountain dominated the local skyline and gave the humans an unobstructed view of the city in all directions. It also gave them the ability to provide fire support in all directions. The mountain was designated “Hill 1949” by the Chinese to honor the year that the People's Republic of China came into being. The name didn't go well with the Americans or Indians, but the station was completely Chinese manned and built so it retained its name. The Americans in turn spitefully designated the ugliest phallic looking building in the city the “Asian Station.”

“Range?!” The ranking Chinese artilleryman yelled.

“Ten more klicks until they are in range.” The Chinese soldier replied as he looked over the computers in the watchtower which was built on the very tip of the mountain's summit. The artillery cannons suddenly appeared out from caves in the side of the mountain and pointed towards the alien ships. “We have one shot and only one shot. After that, they'd know we're here.”

The Railyard, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“Here they come. In their big testicle ships. Nineteen of them.” Private Anrep said from behind his Proigryvatel J-12 Light Machine Gun. He had placed the gun behind a pile of sandbags inside of a balcony. Private Anrep looked at his gun and then up at the rapidly closing Huellok ships. “Whats this supposed to do against those beasts?”

“Shut up Anrep. You know what they say. Prochai Rodina!” Another man shouted from inside the building. The other men around laughed at the dark humor.

Anrep didn't. He didn't like it. He knew he was going to most likely die fighting the Huellok, but he didn't want his life to go to waste. He wanted to take out as many of those two-headed freaks as he could for the Rodina. He prayed for the first time he could remember. “God, if you do exist and aren't some sort of superstitious figment of the imagination created by weak minded individuals. I ask that you help me right now to get a fighting chance against these demons.” He prayed silently behind his gun with his eyes closed. The ground beneath him shook and a bright light filled his eyes, even with them closed. He opened his eyes after a minute and to his amazement the ships were now smoldering wrecks in the middle of the forest south of Vortanik. Anrep looked up towards the sky and said: “I would also like to add that I would like to be back home and that you have a virgin supermodel waiting for me.”

The Airport, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“Shit. They are really really pissed off.” Daniels said as he reloaded his rifle with another clip. He shot off a burst of fire down at the Huellok and their green lapdogs that were attempting to scale the side of the plateau that the airport was built on. The airport wasn't actually an airport. It was actually some sort of agricultural research facility for the Voorik, but since it had the largest concentration of open ground in the vicinity of the city the humans had converted it into an airport. The real Voorik spaceport was well beyond the city and most likely in Huellok possession. The Chinese soldier next to him said nothing as he too poured rifle fire down at the enemy. The east side of the plateau was lined with hundreds of human soldiers just hosing the Huellok with bullets. The Huellok tried in vain to climb up, but couldn't under the intense fire. “Like shooting fish out of a goddamn barrel!”

“Why would you ever want to do that?” The Chinese soldier asked.

“It's an American expression. Just means its easy.” Daniels said.

“It's a stupid expression.”

“Fuck you Chink!” Daniels screamed.

The Chinese soldier whipped up his rifle towards Daniels and yelled, “You fucking cockroach!” Daniels saw the rifle and shit himself inside of his suit. His rifle was still pointed down towards the Huellok and he closed his eyes expecting them to never open again.

He opened his eyes and saw that the Chinese soldier was dead at his feet. The entire side of his head blown off. Daniels looked around and spotted a sniper waving at him from atop of one of the “Terminal” buildings. The sniper raised his hand up to his mouth and made the “shush” symbol. Daniels nodded and pushed the Chinese soldier off of the plateau's edge and onto the climbing Huellok. The body tumbled down and landed on two of them and took them with him. The body landed on the bottom and was quickly consumed by the green dog creatures of the Huellok.

The Railyard, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“You're doing a good job young lady. Where are you from?” Colonel Jacobs shook the hand of the Colonial Army soldier as he spoke.

“Ceres. Born and raised, Colonel.” She replied with pride.

“'The Golden Belt Buckle.' Never been there, but I want to visit it one day.”

“You should. It's hard to reach, but well worth the trip.” She smiled at him and Jacobs moved on to the next person on the front line.

“What is your name young man?”

“David Santos.”

“Where are you from?”

“Mars, Sir.”

“That's where I am from. Whereabouts?”

“Ares Metro by the Northern Seas.”

Jacobs opened his mouth to speak, but he gagged on thick hot blood that splashed on his face. He spat the blood out of his mouth as gunshots and alarms blared all around him. He wiped the blood out of his eyes and looked around. The woman who he was speaking to just seconds earlier was now leaning against the wall of the trench without her head. Just to the left of her was the body of a small red colored Huellok. It had two black gem-like eyes and it was smaller than the average human. “How the fuck did that thing get in here?”

“That thing just ghosted eight of our guys,” Santos said shaking out of fear. He picked up the head of the decapitated woman and removed her helmet. He stroked her hair and whimpered. Behind him, another red Huellok appeared out of thin air and raised its left blade up in the air. Santos saw the creature appear and did nothing. He just stood there staring, sobbing, and stroking the woman's hair. The creature sliced his head in half. His brains sliding out of his helmet like the yoke spilling out of a broken egg. The creature without wasting a second moved towards the nearest batch of Colonial soldiers and sliced them to pieces. Its blade glowed red as it cut through their armor as if they were covered in paper. The other Colonists in the trench, including Jacobs, just stood there and watched horrified. Completely paralyzed in fear. The creature disappeared again and a shot rang out. The creature appeared again. Lifelessly dangling from the top of the trench as it tried to climb out. A Russian sniper from the building behind the Colonial trench slightly stood up and nodded at Jacobs. The sniper then went back to his old position and disappeared from view like the red Huellok had. Jacobs pulled the dead creature into the trench and tossed it on the floor.

“Those eyes. They look almost Voorik.” Jacobs looked closer at the red Huellok's tail and noticed that it had two underdeveloped legs growing out of it. “Oh shit.”

The Airport, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

The artillery from Hill 1949 was still going off, but not as often as it had before. The Huellok had figured out where the rounds were coming from and started to smash the mountain from orbit. Every few minutes a streak of green light would swoosh down and take off entire chunks out of the mountain. Somehow the Chinese up on that mountaintop were still firing their guns and each new round they fired refocused the Huellok's attention on that mountain. Daniel was grateful for that. As much as he hated those slanted eyed scumbags he had to admire their bravery. If the Huellok were bombarding the mountain they weren't bombarding him or the airport.

The airport wasn't entirely untouched by the Huellok bombardment. The Huellok still hit them every time they made an assault on the airport. Those assaults haven't had much success for them, but it had turned the entire airport into a pile of rubble, broken aircraft and open craters. The assembled human soldiers could no longer just pick off the Huellok as they climbed up the plateau, they had finally started to get smart. Now the humans had to take refuge inside of the airport's rubble to avoid the Huellok orbital bombardment during an assault and the occasional strife from Huellok fighter crafts. The human defenders of Vortanik started to call the stingray-shaped aircraft the nickname “Hummel” or Bumblebee in German because of the loud buzzing sound it made as it flew. The Huellok didn't seem to have many of the stingray-shaped vessels or they probably would have used them more often against the humans. These Hummel would fly low and smash the human defenders with its near infinite payload of green plasma fire. It stayed in the air until it either ran out of whatever fueled its weapons or was shot out of the sky. Which rarely happened since the Hummel carried a nearly impenetrable shield like the large Huellok ships. The humans couldn't waste the last few tactical nukes they had on just one Huellok fight craft, they were reserved for Huellok spacecraft or troop carriers.

Daniels moved from his cover behind a charred Chinese helicopter and raced to better cover behind a crystalline wall that used to be part of the main terminal. He looked out towards the open field of the airport and shook his head. The field was full of dozens of obliterated helicopters and fighter jets who had been caught in the orbital strikes or Huellok fighter craft strafes. The few helicopters that survived all had moved into the city itself and were now based around the Palace. It didn't take the Huellok long to gain control of the skies over Vortanik.

Daniel's thought to himself, “how could mankind hope to compete in the skies against an alien civilization that has been traveling through space for thousands of years?”

“What's your name American?” A voice in horribly accented English said from a nearby pile of rubble.

Daniels looked toward the area looking for the source of the voice, but couldn't find him. “Sargent Daniels, U.S. Army, 25th I.D.”

“Why you here?” The voice asked again in its harsh English.

“What?” Daniels raised his rifle and pointed it towards the area where the voice came from. “Identify yourself!”

“No. YOU identify yourself!” The voice came from behind him and Daniels turned to face it. He still saw nothing but shadows. “Why you here?”

Daniels didn't know what to do. He was afraid and had no idea who or what was around him. He let out a few short bursts of his rifle all around him and heard a high pitched squeal with a loud crash. He cautiously moved towards the sound and saw a small wounded Huellok thrashing like a fish left out of the water. Daniels had been lucky enough to hit the alien in one of its heads. The Huellok had two heads which the eggheads assumed were separate entities, but they shared the body and made it run together. If one of the heads was destroyed, half of the body died and the rest of it soon afterward. All of the human soldiers were trained prior to the invasion to aim for the heads or necks and avoid the rest of the heavily armored bodies. Daniels stepped closer to the being in curiosity and immediately noticed that this Huellok was different. It was red. Unlike the black shock troopers and green Huellok regulars. This Huellok was also human-sized and had a totally different face with just two of those creepy gem-like eyes that the Voorik have. Daniels also noticed it didn't have that big mouth in its chest or those worm-like secondary arms. Instead, it had two real arms with three fingers, it reminded him of the small arms that the Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur had.

The creature stopped thrashing and stared at him, “Friend of the Aggressors, is our enemy. We will consume.” It was the last thing the creature said before it began mumbling something in an alien language over and over like a prayer until it finally died. Daniels shot the creature in its other head to make sure that it had really died. Daniels now realized that the voice was in his head, the Voorik bigwigs tended to do that when they wanted to communicate with humans, somehow they projected their voices and thoughts into your head. Daniels hated when they did that, and they always used voices of dead loved ones as if to purposely fuck with you.

“That's fucking crazy. I need a cigarette.” Daniels pulled out a cigarette from his belt and was about to light it when all hell broke out. The incoming alarms blared and he heard hundreds of guns go off at the same time. Daniels rolled his eyes and killed the entire cigarette in one inhale. He tossed the cigarette stump to the side and found himself a rat hole to fire from. He set himself up and looked for a target. It looked like the whole Huellok army was heading towards him. A Huellok troop carrier had landed in the open field and was now lifting off. A few human anti-aircraft guns shot at it to no effect, but it was mainly to stubbornly tell the Huellok that “we are here.” Daniels knew for the Huellok carrier to even get this close to the airport that the Huellok must have neutralized the artillerymen of Hill 1949. Daniels took his first shots into the line of approaching Huellok troops and hit one of the black shook troopers in its right head. Every bullet connected and went into its head. The creature slumped over and died and another Huellok quickly replaced its spot on the line. “Shit.”

The Temple, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Arena looked over the map of Vortanik with Lakshmikantha and smiled approvingly. The human lines were holding out much longer then anyone had expected. All computer simulations had predicted that the Huellok would have long since overwhelmed them by now, but they hadn't. Only until recently had the human lines started to disintegrate under the relentless Huellok assault. “Lakshmikantha you have done a fine job of defending this city.” Lakshmikantha graciously bowed his head after Arena spoke. “Lakshmikantha you've been to the front. Tell me what's really going on?” Arena asked Lakshmikantha, his right-hand man and second in command.

Arena had liked and highly respected Lakshmikantha, ever since they met in Taiwan all those years ago just before Operation Scorch Garden. There the two young officers met while the plans to invade mainland China were finalized. Arena had already heard of Lakshmikantha before they met, almost every Allied commander had, he was one of the heroes of India. Lakshmikantha was instrumental in creating India's impressive fluid defense after the Hegemony poured into its borders. He also led the defense of Amritsar. He was a defensive genius, an Indian Stonewall Jackson. Arena learned a lot from Lakshmikantha during the Allied powwow in Taiwan and they quickly became friends, especially after they both learned that they were both Gentlemen Cadets. Lakshmikantha had attended the Indian Military Academy in Uttarakhand and Arena the Bunker Hill Military Academy in Pennsylvania. They were both proud of their military schooling and even today still wore their graduation rings. Those first days of their friendship they would swap stories about their time in the Academies and as the Third World War ended they still kept in touch. As others grew apart in the chaos and turmoil of the years immediately following the war. Arena's had made Lakshmikantha his best man when he married Leigh and he hoped Lakshmikantha would be there when he finally met his daughter for the first time.

“The Huellok are hitting us with everything they got. The outskirts of the city will fall within a few hours.” Lakshmikantha said as he motioned his hand around the edges of the map. “The Airport has already been overwhelmed and the surviving defenders of the Airport have made a makeshift fortress out of Building 871. Hill 1949 has also been completely wiped out. The Amusement Park is on the verge of collapse with those red Huellok running rampant. The Railyard and Building 112 is holding surprisingly well, but eventually, they will break. As stubborn as the Russians are they can't hope to stop the main Huellok advance into the city. I estimate 100,000 Huellok soldiers are advancing from the south and 50,000 advancing from both the North and East. There are still dozens of Huellok troop carriers in orbit and they may contain a reserve of another 100,000. The estimates obviously don't take into account those little green creatures which may number in the millions.”

“What do you recommend?” Arena asked.

“I suggest we slowly fall back into the second line of defense and fight them in the city.”

“Do it, my friend. We will make the Huellok bleed in these streets. Vortanik will be an open wound that will eventually kill them.” Arena stopped speaking and picked up the picture of his wife on his desk and frowned. “Lakshmikantha Hill 1949 may be lost, but we still have one last strategical option if all else fails. Not every ship was destroyed in the battle for Vortanik's orbit. The USS Angel Fire survived and is hiding deep in Lake Montreal. The ship has a Super Nova Missile on board and if the city falls or either of us gives the order it will launch the missile and destroy the planet.”

“There are still twenty million Voorik taking shelter under the city and many millions more outside in thousands of villages.”

“If the Huellok overwhelm us, it will not matter. They consume everything that falls into their claws. Those Voorik outside the city are dead and the ones under the city will be too if we fail. If we fail, it is better to take out an entire Huellok invasion fleet with us.”

Lakshmikantha was never at ease with the weapon that destroyed Io and ended the Second Secession War. The weapon was too powerful. It was extremely dangerous. It was a weapon created out of desperation. It had been created by the Americans during the Third World War to destroy the world if the Chinese Hegemony had won. It had never been used for that purpose, but who's to say it didn't come close. “We shouldn't use it. If we fail... we fail, but do not use that weapon.”

“Why do you say that?” Arena asked curious to hear what Lakshmikantha had to say.

“Think about it. Neither the Voorik or the Huellok know we possess such a weapon. If we use it... they will know. The Huellok will be inclined to use a comparable weapon on Earth when they eventually find it. The Voorik may even break the alliance and declare war against us and they certainly know where Earth is.”

Arena thought for a long time and spoke again, “Lakshmikantha you make a lot of sense, but we are at a serious disadvantage against the Huellok and the Voorik. Our struggle here shows them both that we are capable of fighting and holding our ground. If we are defeated the bomb will show them both the measure of our resolve. The bomb will make them think twice about going after Earth itself. I would rather keep it secret until the most opportune time, but what other opportunity will we have a Huellok invasion fleet above us? When its hovering above Earth? I'd rather take one out over a Voorik planet than Earth or even a human colony.”

Lakshmikantha still didn't agree with Arena, but he was still going to carry the order out if the city fell. He just hoped that it never got to that point. “I understand General.”

“Lakshmikantha I know you hate the idea of using the bomb, but we have to do everything in our power to protect our loved ones back home. I want there to be a Boston thirty years from now and I am sure you want Amritsar to be there too.” At the mention of their hometowns, they both bowed their heads in silence as they thought about their homes. Arena broke the silence, “Lakshmikantha, I don't know how I know, but I will never leave this place.”

“Come on. Don't talk like that.”

“I've had that feeling since I got here.” Arena put down the picture of his wife and his hands shook violently as he lifted his hand off of it. “Lakshmikantha please promise me that you will look over my family. That you will protect my daughter.”

“My brother. You will see her again and you will hold your daughter in your arms,” Lakshmikantha said as a man reassuring his friend.

Arena hands trembled as he outstretched it towards Lakshmikantha and asked again. “Promise me that you will protect them. Please, Sid.”

Lakshmikantha nodded and shook his outstretched hand. “I promise I will watch over them.”

A heavy burden seemed to lift off of Arena and he smiled once again. “Thank you, my friend.”

Route 1 (R1), Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Sargent Blair threw himself behind a small crystalline wall. He hit the ground just as a superheated blast of green energy shot right above him. Another green blast shot over him and then dozens of bursts followed it. Sargent Blair sat up against the wall and checked his ammunition. He had only a few rounds left. Blair turned his head and saw another soldier sitting further down the wall eating an apple. The soldier calmly ate the apple with his knife and seemed completely oblivious to the advancing enemy. Blair recognized the soldiers black and green camos as the uniform of the multinationals. The soldiers from nations that no longer existed. Nations that had been overwhelmed, overrun, and completely destroyed during the war and some of its citizens happened to survive to serve in the armies of the USEA. Blair shouted out to the soldier but the sounds of the battle raging all around them drowned him out. Blair grabbed a loose rock and tossed it towards the soldier pegging him on the temple. The multinational soldier lifted his rifle, but seeing Blair waving at him he lowered it again. Blair used hand signals to speak to the man. “I need ammo.” Blair signed.

“What type?” The man signed back.


“No-Go. Low ammo.” The man signed and added a shrug as if to say “it's okay, we're fucked either way.”

Blair cursed loudly and signed to the man. “Move out. I-K-E-A.”

“No-Go. Enemy holds approach.”

“Approach R-3?”

The multinational simply nodded and pointed up towards a doorway between them that led into one of the crystal skyscrapers. “Move out. A new approach to I-K-E-A. High Danger.”

Blair looked up and saw small flashes of gunfire coming from the windows and knew it still had a few human defenders stranded in it. Blair nodded at the multinational and crawled towards him. As Blair got closer to the soldier he didn't recognize the flag on his uniform. It had a single yellow star on a red field. Blair crawled into the doorway and the multinational followed him in. The multinational skillfully set up a series of booby-traps on the doorway with a few grenades. Once that was complete they headed inside the structure and found the stairs. Everything in the structure was made from crystal including the stairs. As they ascended the stairs the steps automatically illuminated as they stepped on it. The steps were much bigger than those made by humans since the Voorik were taller and had longer legs. Going up the endless flights of stairs was tiring and dangerous. They found, disarmed, and then rearmed sixteen booby-traps. The multinational was a genius when it came to them. He seemed to be able to detect them and work with every single one of the traps. Blair was glad he was with him since he would certainly have been killed by the sixth floor.

Blair lost count of the floors after he passed the fortieth floor. They reached a doorway with a large ghost gun that guarded the door. It reeled up and zoomed in on them. Its red “active fire” light flashed as its barrel began to spin. The automated ghost gun's light then changed to yellow and its barrel stopped spinning. The machine had recognized them as human and returned back to its dormant position. The two men walked into the floor and heard the sound of gunfire echoing through the long crystalline hallways. Blair peeked into a room and a bullet whizzed by his head. Blair screamed, “We're human you fuck faces!” He heard two voices speaking in German to each other in the room.

“Oh yeah? If you're human what is the capital of Earth?!” One man called back in a thick German accent.

“Just let us pass!” Blair shouted.

“Not until you answer the question!” The German let loose another shot to let them know he meant business.

“The Huellok don't speak bloody English!” Blair screamed clearly annoyed.

“How do you know that? You a xenobiologist?!”

“New York City!” Blair answered.

“Wrong answer scheiβkopf!” The German unleashed a hail of bullets into the hall and both Blair and the multinational hit the floor to avoid the ricocheting bullets. The other German in the room starting screaming and the firing stopped. “You guys okay?” The two Germans walked out and lifted them both off of the floor. “Sorry. I thought it was Geneva. Who the fuck knows, right? There is like five of them.”

Blair dusted himself off and politely nodded. “Pretty sure it's New York City now since that Yank De-Tierra runs the show from there.”

The German who shot at them smiled and said, “It should be Geneva. Or better still. Berlin, the cultural capital of the universe.” The two Germans nodded and said together “Ja. Berlin.”

“That's great, but we're trying to get to IKEA. The entire ground area around this building is swarming with Huellok. Is there a plank or some other way to another building?”

“You can always jump.” The German said with a chuckle.

“That's not a bad idea,” Blair said. Blair walked toward the large open slot that was the window for the room and poked his head out. He gauged the distance and did the math in his head. “If we go a few more stories up we can jump to the next building and its well within our suits safe jumping distance.”

The Germans talked to one another in German and then the man who had tried to kill them before said, “That's a great plan, but what about him?” The German pointed at the multinational who was staring at them with no idea what any of them was saying. He was wearing just a regular camo uniform with kevlar body armor, unlike the three EU soldiers who wore the powered suits worn by almost all of the old Allied forces of Earth.

“We can always toss him.”

Vib'ak Forest, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Chen laid perfectly still in the tall purple grass surrounding the road that the Huellok was using to move up food to their soldiers besieging Vortanik. The Huellok had a voracious appetite and constantly needed large amounts of food to sustain their armies and bodies. The Huellok were carnivores who could easily eat their own weight in meat and needed to eat to keep up their energy. The Huellok normally ate the green creatures when there was no other food around, but they didn't seem to like too. Chen had seen the Huellok do it, but not with the same relish they had when they feasted on Voorik flesh. Chen had yet to see the Huellok eat any humans. Instead, they set them aside in isolated places as if the Huellok were afraid of catching something from the bodies. Chaplin the American Master Sargent who had assumed command of their small guerrilla group hypothesized that the Huellok still hadn't acquired the taste for human flesh and were probably worried that we were poisonous to them. It made sense to Chen, you wouldn't eat anything you had no idea what it would do to your body. The Huellok may not have been eating the human corpses, but they were clearing out the entire planet of Voorik. Chen and the guerrilla group he was in had set up numerous ambushes in villages that had been completely cleared of Voorik. Those Voorik had most likely been cut up and consumed by the Huellok.

A loud gurgle resonated through the trees. The same sound that a large local rat-like animal made when it sensed danger. The sound wasn't the real thing, it was actually a scout telling them that a Huellok convoy approached. It didn't take long for the Huellok to come around the bend. Chen counted eight vehicles and thirty Huellok shock troopers slithering beside them. The Huellok had gotten smarter and started to attach ground support to their convoys. Human guerrilla groups all over the world had been massacring Huellok convoys with just a few mines and some anti-tank weapons. The Huellok didn't really seem to use vehicles except to transport food and supplies. It seemed like the Huellok had no equivalent to the tank or APC. The Huellok transport vehicles were bus-sized cornucopia shaped vehicles that instead of treads or wheels slithered on a blob of slime. It reminded Chen of the way snails propelled themselves, but this vehicle moved much faster than one.

The first vehicle passed Chen's position. Chen looked around and didn't see anyone, but he knew the Terran's were all around him. They were masters of guerrilla warfare and in the few days he had been fighting with them he had learned enough about unconventional warfare to fill a book. He had to learn fast or he would have been dead by now. The first ambush he participated in he had almost gotten them all killed by setting off one of the explosives too early and screwing up the entire plan. Another time he did a poor job of concealing himself and the Huellok spotted him, got away, and called a hummel down on them. The Terran's still didn't trust in his abilities so his only task in the ambushes was to stay far back and set off the secondary explosions ten seconds after the first bombs went off. Chen waited anxiously for the first bombs to go off and nervously tapped the trigger against his face as he waited. The third vehicle passed his position when a pile of rocks on both sides of the road exploded just between the third and second vehicles. The blasts lifted both vehicles in the air and they both came crashing down on top of the shock troopers covering them in shrapnel who were now laying on the ground bleeding out. Chen began to count to ten as the forest opened up with small arms fire from both sides of the road. The surviving Huellok scrambled to find cover behind tree trunks and large rocks, but their large bodies made it impossible for them to do so. The Terran's were excellent shots and shot at any exposed body part that peeked out from behind cover. Chen had counted to ten and set off his explosives. The final blast tore through the second to the last vehicle and it flew high in the air. Its contents rained down on them like flaming black rain. The vehicle was full of cut up Voorik remains so that hot black sludge that rained down on them was a mixture of Voorik blood and diced meat. The Terran's appeared out of their concealed positions and rapidly advanced on the convoy from both sides in small teams. Some Terran's went up to the dead or dying Huellok and shot them two times in each head with such efficiency that Chen was sure they had done that very action thousands of times before. Other Terran's ran to the surviving vehicles and tossed grenades inside. Destroying a vehicle and then moving to the next. One vehicle had thirty living Voorik that the Terran's set free and pointed towards the area of the forest that was safest. The Terran's hated to free Voorik civvies since they always wanted to stick with them, but after a few harsh words and pistol whips, the Voorik got the message to leave them alone. The Terran's didn't want excess baggage and when on the hunt didn't tolerate incompetence. The only reason Chen suspected he was still in the group or even alive after failing twice was that he was an officer and the only Colonist in the group.

“Wrap it up!” Chaplin screamed as he looked at his watch and spun his pointing finger in the air to emphasize his words. The Terran's had figured out the response time of the Huellok to an attack on a convoy to roughly eight minutes and fifteen seconds from the first explosion. The Terran's usually finished their work in under five minutes and used the last three minutes to scatter and disappear into the forest. The Voorik civvies had cost them two valuable minutes. Time was running out and the humans quickly finished searching the now dead Huellok for Intel. They then scattered into the forest.

Chen broke off and ran into the forest and heard the loud buzzing of a Huellok fighter flying overhead. It hovered high above the forest and started to randomly rip the forest apart with its guns. The blasts were nowhere near him, but he soon ran into one area that was hit by it. There he almost tripped on the body of an unlucky Terran who was hit by the alien fire. His body was charred by the heat like an overcooked steak and he was peppered with shrapnel from the trees. His head was full of chopstick sized pieces of wood and Chen found it impossible to make out who he was. Chen flipped the body over and saw a large patch that said “Republic of India” in English and in another language that looked alien to him. Chen shifted through the man's bloody uniform and found his dog tags and ripped one off. Chen stashed it in his pocket and backed away slowly as he saw dozens of small green creatures galloping towards him. He broke into a full run and prayed. The sounds of the creatures gaining on him and thrashing behind him made him cry. Chen didn't want to die. He didn't want to be consumed by those horrible alien abominations. Chen remembered the horror of discovering his tank crew consumed by these monsters and how one ate through his tank's armor. He screamed like a wild man for help and he knew that he was as far from help as anyone could be. He was on an alien world thirty-plus light years from Mars and this world was overrun by monstrosities from hell. Chen in his panic ran headlong into a tree and fell backward. The creatures leaped on him and he slashed at them with his “Wolverine's Claw,” but it only killed one or two of them. Chen could feel the open air as the creatures melted through his armored suit with their ungodly transparent pods. Chen whimpered as they entered his body and he passed away. His last thought being not of his mother or his home, but that he hated dying a virgin.

The Asian Station, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“That is one ugly looking building,” Daniels said in disgust as he took up a position in front of the largest building in Vortanik. It was truly awe-inspiring, but not because of its size or because it was a marvel of alien engineering. It was awe-inspiring because it had an uncanny similarity to an erect human penis complete with two smaller buildings at its base that the humans nicknamed “testicle one” and “testicle two.” The original nickname for the main structure was “Black Stallion,” but the Americans renamed it the “Asian Station” to piss off the Chinese who named the highest mountaintop “Hill 1949.” The name offended the Americans who still hated the old Chinese communist government that almost exterminated them, so the Americans renamed the phallically shaped structure in such a way to offend the Chinese who were still very culturally sensitive to any mention of sex and sexuality. “My God. This has to be the gayest structure in the universe,” Daniels said as he settled into the seat of an M2HB heavy machine gun behind the concrete barrier that the Indians put up all throughout the center of Vortanik. The six-foot-tall concrete barrier that surrounded the city was reinforced by barbed wire, watchtowers, dug-in armor and bunkers. The Indians with the support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the entire second line in just four days. Ever since the Huellok first hit the outskirts of the city. The long concrete line ran through R20, R21, R22, and Second Avenue. The line did divert in three places. It diverted around “Ikea” in the North, the “Asian Station” in the East, and the “Temple” in the south to include the three largest buildings in the city into the defense.

“The Voorik made this building centuries ago. There was no way for them to know they were making a giant crystal dick. It could be possible that this is like the shape of a flower from their homeworld or one of the biggest coincidences in architectural history.” Sergeant Delhi said as he sharpened his khukris against the concrete wall.

Hundreds of soldiers from the broken Eastern front began to trickle into the second line of defense little by little. Daniels had been one of the first to reach the second line of defense since the Airport was overrun and in the chaos, he had slipped out and headed directly to the Asian Station. Not because he was a coward, but because his entire immediate chain of command was killed and in that scenario, he was supposed to head directly to the Asian Station. Some other men braver then he decided to stay behind and fight the Huellok in the maze of buildings, streets, and rubble that made up Vortanik, but Daniels felt he could do much more good reinforcing the new line of defense. “I hope to God this isn't everybody,” Daniels said as another small group of Korean soldiers came to the barrier carrying two of their comrades on stretchers. The Gorkha's pushed aside one of the concrete blocks in the wall and let them through. Indian combat medics rushed to the wounded and carried them off to the field hospital deeper in the city.

The Indians, Gorkha, Mexicans, and assorted survivors from the Eastern front silently patrolled this section of the wall in silence. No one said anything as fewer and fewer survivors came to the wall and the ones that did were injured or missing limbs. They could hear the sounds of the battle getting nearer to the wall until it sounded like it was just down the street. Delhi pulled out his binoculars and looked down R16. He saw a large column of black Huellok shock troopers slowly advancing up the street from cover to cover. One of the lead Huelloks head exploded as a sniper round from one of the buildings hit him. The alien reeled back and flopped on the floor until another sniper round ended his misery. The Huellok scattered and fired wildly into the windows above. Another Huellok was hit in his giant gaping chest mouth by the same sniper and died before he hit the ground. Yet another Huellok was hit and the Huellok started to focus their fire on one of the buildings. A group of shook troopers entered that building and a large explosion cut them all down. A second group entered the building, slithering on top of their charred comrades to get inside, and disappeared for ten minutes. The Huellok came back outside dragging a battered American holding a sniper rifle. The Huellok tossed him before the leader of the group and he struggled to stand up. The American used the rifle to prop himself up as the Huellok circled around him slashing at the air around the soldier. Two Huellok shook troopers grabbed the soldier's arms and lifted him high in the air. The leader raised his claw and came down on the soldier's belly. The American's guts poured out from his belly and collected underneath him in a bloody heap. The leader stuck his smaller worm-like secondary hands into the man's open wound and started to pull out his intestines like a man would unroll a fire hose.

“Dios mio.” A Mexican soldier said as he made the sign of the cross after seeing the brutal execution of the American sniper. “Santa Maria, Madre de Dios...”

Sergeant Delhi was on the comm trying to strike back. “No air support? How 'bout mortars? Out of range. I see. Well, we have to hit them with something. Okay, that will work. Over and out.” A Colonial CAMBT-3 came hovering into their part of the wall and lifted itself higher into the air so that its barrel was high above the concrete wall. It's Zeus Cannon glowing white and unleashing a long laser burst into the Huellok mass. The white laser instantly reached the Huellok leader and neatly cut it into two pieces. The Huellok leader crumbled onto the floor and landed on the heap of guts from the dead American sniper. The laser continued to sweep over and kill other Huellok who were desperately trying to run behind any cover that would protect them from the hover tanks main weapon. The Zeus Cannon stopped firing and still glowed white hot for some time afterward from overheating. Delhi looked through his binoculars again and frowned. Another vastly larger column of Huellok shook troopers were coming down the street with thousands of those green squids galloping all around them. Those creatures were even running on the outside walls of buildings and hopping from one structure to the next. Above the advancing column was a Huellok starship which flew low between the buildings with several Hummels flying around it. “Shit. Now they decide to use combined arms.”

Ikea, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

He held his breath and lined up his shot. He pulled the trigger and felt the gun kick back into his shoulder. The 7.62mm bullet hit the alien target more than 2500 meters below. The Huellok shook trooper he was aiming for died in a mist of blood just as it was going to behead a wounded Italian soldier below. The entire area around the structure known as “Ikea” was now a giant abattoir of severed limbs and mutilated corpses. Thousands of Huellok and Humans fought along the second line of defense. The Huellok trying to breach the wall and the Humans doing everything they could to hold them back. He loaded another round into the chamber and selected another target. He spotted a red Huellok inside the wall that had just cut a Colonial soldier in two. Both parts of the Colonial soldier fell on the ground and her upper body struggled to crawl away with just her arms to propel her. The Huellok slithered up to her and finished her off by stabbing her to death with its claws. He was too late to save the woman, but he would avenge her. The red Huellok took a round to the side of one of its head that blew through both heads. It slumped over on top of the dead woman with its claws still buried deep inside her.

“Ikea situation critical. Asian Station holding. Railyards in danger of being overrun. Numerous alien hostiles breaching all along the line.” A Russian sounding voice called over the command COMM inside the sniper's helmet.

“Reserve 1 and Reserve 2 to Ikea. Reserve 3 to the Railyards. Reserve 4 and Reserve 5 begin to prepare for possible fallback to the ring.” A man who sounded like General Arena called over the command COMM.

“We're getting slaughtered by Huellok air support. We need to take their birds out.” An American called out over the command COMM.

He turned down the COMM and focused on the task he had before him. He quickly scanned the chaos for targets and literally found hundreds of them, he could keep killing Huellok at random, but he was determined to assist his fellow soldiers below and save them if possible. He loaded another round and shot a red Huellok that had just appeared behind a German manning a EUMAG heavy machine gun that was tearing through the little green pets of the Huellok. The German didn't seem to notice that he had just been saved and continued blasting away at the creatures who were trying to Zerg rush the line through sheer numbers. He loaded another round and scanned again. He focused on a Mexican soldier that was being overwhelmed by a mob of green squids and even though his armor and flamethrower offered him protection it wouldn't hold them for long. The Mexicans flamethrower ran out of fuel and the creatures pounced on him. The Mexican kicked and rowed on the ground but they clung and ate through his armor. He couldn't save the man with so many of those things on him, so he put the man out of his misery. “Forgive me, Lord.” He said to himself before he shot the Mexican in the heart. The Mexican stopped moving when the bullet hit him and the creatures finished consuming him. The sniper felt sick to his stomach, he never had a problem shooting another man before, but now things were different. He couldn't bear it like he did before and he hoped that it would be the last time he ever would have to shoot another human being.

He heard a loud crash in the other room and left the rifle on its perch and pulled out his pistol and went into the room where the sound came from. He lowered his weapon and put it back. He lifted the man who made the noise off the ground and dusted him off. He was a German from the looks of the large iron cross on his powered armor. “What the hell was that noise?”

“Me jumping from that building.” The German pointed to a building across from the window. “To here.” He said pointing to the floor.

Another soldier burst into the room from the window and rolled into the wall. “Fuck!” He screamed along with numerous other insults, but in German.

“How much more are there?” The sniper asked.

“Two. Here they come now.” The two Germans ran to the window and leaned out of it with their hands out in the air. They caught another power suited man with a small Asian soldier clinging to his back in midair. They pulled them inside and they all laughed.

“We're alive!” They said all together including the Asian man who said it with much difficulty but meant it all the same.

“For now.” The sniper turned and left the room. He went back to doing what he did best.

The Temple, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

The building shook violently as it took another hit from the orbiting Huellok armada. Arena seemed not to notice as he studied the map of Vortanik. The northern human lines no longer existed and the defense around Ikea was on the verge of collapse. Arena saw more red (enemy) then he saw blue (friendlies) on that area of the map. The Eastern line was also in disarray. The Huellok had cut off the Asian Station from the rest of the second line of defense and was hammering the building and its defenders. The south had held out longer than the other fronts but had now collapsed under the weight of the main Huellok assault on the city. The southern defenders had created a new temporary defensive line on “Main Street,” but no one could say how long it would hold.

“We need to give the Ring more time. Every extra hour means more fortifications and more defenses along our final line.” Colonel Jacobs of the Colonial Alliance said as he looked the map over trying to figure out how to do just that. Solid red lines on the map showed the path of the Huellok columns into the city and they snaked through most of the major routes to hit the humans along the second line. Thousands of individual red dots which represented known individual Huellok were scattered throughout the city, but amassed mostly on the line. There were only a few hundred blue dots left sprinkled almost at random in the city. Those dots meant humans who were still alive and fighting behind alien lines. The vast majority of them being snipers and special forces.

“Our UAV's show that the Huellok has landed their reserves in the recently captured Airport and in the open areas just south of the Railyards. The reserves from the Airport have reached the intersection of Second Avenue and R8. For the moment they have stopped advancing. While the reserves from the Railyard are making their way up to R8 as we speak. Most likely to link up and crush the eastern part of the line.” Arena pointed to the map and showed Jacobs what he meant.

“How strong is this force?” Jacobs asked as he watched the red blob on the map slowly move towards the other stationary blob in the intersection of Second Avenue and R8.

“Roughly 150,000. Give or take a few thousand.”

Jacobs' mouth dropped. “There is no way the Asian Station can withstand that or even the eastern line. We don't have enough forces, firepower or ammunition for two major assaults on the line. Does the Earth Authority?”

“No. Neither do we.”

They both looked at the map in silence and then Jacobs said, “the Asian Station will fall and all the assets and armor we have there will go with it. My God, I wish we could save them.”

“Me too.” Arena said softly.

“We could really use their help to crush the Huellok along the line.”

Arena straightened up and looked at Jacobs with a devilish grin. “That's a wonderful idea. We may not be able to save them, but we will crush the Huellok with their help.”

“What?” Jacobs said baffled.

Arena pressed a button on the intercom on the wall and said, “Corporal, I need you to connect me to General Lakshmikantha, Captain Rowland of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Captain Nigel of the Corps of Royal Engineers and Captain Dawa of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers.”

“Yes, General.” A voice said back through the intercom.

“Colonel, I need you to contact your boys in the Colonial Alliance Corps of Engineers. Only volunteers because I don't expect anyone to come back from this.”

“What is it that your planning?” Jacobs asked curious to find out.

“We're going to bring down the Asian Station right on top of those two-headed fucks.”

VIS The Arm of Vaka, The Voorik Empire, Vashik Asteroid Belt [Vashik]

Third Executioner Va'ar entered the Imperial chambers and bowed low as he entered. He was now in the presence of the High Imperial Executioner, the second most powerful Voorik in the Empire. Only the Emperor himself had more power, but the Emperor never left the Imperial Center. It was the High Imperial Executioner who carried out the will of the Emperor across the void and was the real authority outside of the Imperial Center. Va'ar dared not look up when he finally mustered up the courage to speak. “Bringer of the Emperor's Will, Grand Enforcer of the Law, High Imperial Executioner Vaka. This enforcer of the Emperor's will comes before you as requested.”

High Imperial Executioner Vaka sat high on his throne on an elevated platform towards the end of the large oval shaped room. He was watching a whole wall of monitors that showed surveillance footage from Vortanik. Vaka did not turn around, but simply said, “you may look upon me.”

“I am not worthy of such an honor, but I am blessed that you have granted it to me.” Va'ar looked up and immediately noticed how extravagant and beautiful the room was. It was like a slice of the Imperial Center placed on top of a starship. Its walls made from the rarest crystals in the Empire and its floors made from the rarest metals in the known Universe. The walls had the faces of Vaka's ancestors carved into them, with their achievements going back to before the Voorik expanded beyond their birth world. Those faces were there to remind Vaka of his Imperial bloodline and to inspire him to add more achievements worthy to be added to the sacred wall. The center of the room had a large floating map of the Voorik Empire, the systems under its control in purple and the systems under the beasts control in green. There was a time many centuries ago that the Voorik Empire controlled most of those systems now under the beast's control, but the beasts have been steadily taking them away from the Empire. No one dared speak of it, but the Empire was losing the war against the beasts from Huellok.

“Va'ar is my armada ready?” Vaka said as he continued watching the monitors before him.

“Yes, High Imperial Executioner,” Va'ar said bowing low again. The armada had been ready to fight for some time. It had reached the Vashik system in secret before the Huellok Invasion Fleet and hid inside of the Vashik Asteroid belt while the Huellok invaded Via Van'viok. The High Imperial Executioner ordered that the Voorik Armada stay hidden until he ordered them to move in on the beasts and assist the Hu-Mans. That had yet to happen, but now that he summoned Va'ar, that could change?"

“What do you see?” Vaka's throne moved to the side and it gave Va'ar a better view of the wall of monitors.

Va'ar stared in fascination at the monitors both because it was alien technology and that it also showed those very Hu-Mans fighting the beasts in the streets of Vortanik. When the Empire established contact with the Hu-Mans there was a large exchange of technology between the two races. The Empire gave them the gate and other non-military advances and the Hu-Mans shared their secrets in entertainment technology, hover technology, terraforming, and other trivial technologies. “High Imperial Executioner, I see Hu-Mans dying for the Empire.”

“Look closer. I have been watching these Hu-Mans since the Huellok invaded Via Van'viok and you know what I see? I see a THREAT to the Empire!” Vaka stood up and his regal white robes flowed like a mist as he moved from his throne to the other side of the platform. He stood over a computer console and started pressing buttons on it. The screens numerous images merged into one picture and a Hu-Man came into focus. This Hu Man wore a bulky black body armor with cold red eyes. He carried a large weapon that was as long as himself and he was using it to single-handedly tear a hole through a column of Huellok shook troopers. The Hu-Man ran deep into the column and kept going even as he was horribly wounded by the beasts. When the Hu-Man finally went down he exploded in a large fireball that consumed many of the beasts around him. The picture shifted to another image and it showed a wounded Huellok troop carrier over Vortanik trying to lift off into the safety of orbit, but the Hu-Mans kept shooting at it with their projectiles. The Hu-Man projectiles had little effect on the heavily armored belly of the wounded carrier, but suddenly a couple of Hu-Man fighters appeared. They unleashed their payloads into the carrier, wounding it further, but it didn't go down. The fighters spun around at full speed and the first slammed into the carrier in a blue explosion that tore the ship in half. The other fighter pulled up in the last second and disappeared as the carrier came crashing down into the city. “There are thousands of these examples. These Hu-Mans are more dangerous then the Emperor had thought. More dangerous than even the beasts. They must be destroyed or in time they will destroy the Empire.”

“High Imperial Executioner, they fight for us now and they have severely weakened a Huellok Invasion Fleet. Something that hasn't been done since the time of Varatash the Great.” Va'ar knew it was better to stay silent, but he had never seen a Voorik warrior fight like these ugly little animals did. They fought with courage that was inspiring and that shouldn't be common in a race that was physically and technologically inferior to the Huellok. These Hu-Man soldiers fought with a tenacity that was uncommon to the Voorik soldier who normally fought until the enemy gained the upper hand then surrendered. Even when surrendering meant certain death and consumption by the beasts. These Hu-Mans fought even when there was no hope of winning and sometimes willingly gave their lives to take many of the beasts with them. It was madness.

“For how long will they fight for the Empire? How long until they too want to create an empire of their own? They are an aggressive, competitive, and expansionist species who nearly destroyed themselves because of these same qualities. Even in this self-created weaken state that these Hu-Mans are in, they are a huge danger to the Empire. What will happen if they further unite? If they recover from their wars? They will sweep us aside!” The image on the wall of monitors changed and it turned into a group of Hu-Man soldiers in brown and red armor shooting from behind a metal and stone fortress that they created. These Hu-Mans slaughtered the Huellok as they attempted to reach them and as more Huellok then they could handle attacked, a hulking machine created in the alien's image arose from behind the fortress. This machine walked on two powerful legs and its arms were weapons which unleashed a storm of projectiles into the Huellok. Absolutely decimating their numbers and forcing them to retreat. “These Hu-Mans must never get that far! They must be destroyed before they get too strong!”

“High Imperial Executioner I do not understand. These Hu-Man make excellent soldiers for the Empire. Why destroy them entirely? We can enslave them.”

“Even if we had the strength to enslave them... they are dangerous in other ways... to the very foundation of the Empire. So by the Emperor, they must be destroyed. The destruction of the Hu-Mans will also bring the beasts down with them and herald the return of our glorious past empire, which encompassed the entire known universe. The Emperor will rename me 'Vaka the Conqueror of Worlds' and I will be greater than even Varatash the Great.”

“How will the destruction of the Hu-Mans also destroy the beasts?” Va'ar asked.

“I didn't expect a Third Executioner to understand. We will tell the beasts where to find the Hu-Man birth world and the Huellok will rush all their armies and fleet to destroy them. Once the beasts reach the Hu-Man birth world I expect the Hu-Mans to fight with even greater suicidal tenacity. The beasts will win and eliminate the Hu-Mans, but the Hu-Mans will greatly diminish their armies and fleet. Afterward the armies and fleet of the Empire will push into the Huellok Empire and utterly destroy them in their weakened state.”

“High Imperial Executioner, but the beasts hate us more. They won't stop their war with the Empire to fight the Hu-Mans, an inferior race, in their birth world.”

“Why do you think I delayed the fleet? I knew the Hu-Mans would fight as they do now. We have been watching these creatures since they nearly ruined their world fighting amongst themselves. The beasts now will forever know how dangerous of a foe they are, but there is one other thing.” The image on the wall of monitors changed again. It showed a molten covered moon that orbited an unremarkable gas giant. This moon was a mix of red, orange and white. Like so many other useless worlds in the known universe. The moon suddenly disappeared behind a bright blinding flash of light and when the light subsided it was no longer there.

Va'ar looked on in horror as the remains of the moon fell into the gas giant or settled into orbit around it creating a new planetary ring. Va'ar never thought it was possible to destroy a planet like he had just seen. He also would have never thought an inferior race that has been in the void for only the lifespans of two Emperors could surpass the Empire in technology in such a short period of time. “That couldn't have been the Hu-Mans,” Va'ar said still unbelieving and completely forgetting protocol by not saying Vaka's title for the second time.

“It was and imagine where they will be in another two lifespans,” Vaka said coldly. “When the Huellok see what the Hu-Mans can do and what they can become. They will have no choice. If just 250,000 Hu-Mans can nearly destroy a Huellok Invasion Fleet. I can't even imagine what billions of them could do against the full might of the beasts. When it's all over the Empire will be there afterward to pick up the pieces.”

“High Imperial Executioner, shall I order the fleet to engage what remains above Via Van'viok?” Va'ar said bowing low as he spoke.

“Yes, it is time to move the fleet.” Vaka walked back to his throne and sat down, the throne returned back to its position in the center of the elevated platform. The single image on the monitors disappeared and changed back to the numerous surveillance footages of the battle raging in Vortanik.

“High Imperial Executioner, it shall be done,” Va'ar said bowing again and nearly ran out of the Imperial chambers.

Vaka scrutinized the images on the monitors as someone with a microscope would study creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. “When the time is right for the Empire. The Hu-Man race will be no more. So says the Emperor.” Vaka said out loud to no one in particular.

The Palace, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

The forty-five Hornets that lined the front of the building designated, “the Palace” represented the last of mankind's air power in Vortanik. These sleek European made helicopters were filled with sappers and engineers from all parts of Earth and the Colonies. All volunteering to go on a suicide mission to bring down the largest structure in Vortanik. Hundreds of human soldiers swarmed around the hornet shaped helicopters and loaded them with missiles, ammunition, and explosives for the mission. The soldiers brought up the last three tactical nukes in a special harness and bolted them underneath three of the helicopters at random.

General Lakshmikantha inspected the helicopters with the four Captains in charge of the volunteer sappers and engineers within them. After reviewing each helicopter he was satisfied with the preparations and then said, “I know you all want to go with them, but we still need engineers to finish the defenses along the Ring.” Lakshmikantha stopped and thought for a moment. “Captain Rowland and Captain Starr will go. They both have living sons to carry on their family names.” Both men saluted Lakshmikantha and went off to find an open seat on one of the helicopters. As soon as both men were on board the helicopters effortlessly lifted into the air without making more noise than a loud hum. The black helicopters zoomed towards the east and straight for the black awkwardly shaped structure known as the “Asian Station.”

“I have a son. Why didn't you pick me to go?” Captain Dawa of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers asked General Lakshmikantha.

“Your wife also lives. It's a blessing many of us don't have. You still have a family to go back to and you should.” Lakshmikantha smiled and turned. Lakshmikantha walked back towards the Ring, much work needed to be done.

The Asian Station, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

The Hornets flew between the tall crystalline skyscrapers of Vortanik and reached their target within minutes. The streets below was swarming with the enemy and the human defenders of the Asian Station were desperately trying to hold them back behind their concrete fortifications. The Hornet's were all equipped with four Gatling guns and forty venom strike air-to-ground missiles which they unleashed on the Huellok below. The missiles rained down on the Huellok besiegers who were stunned by the sudden appearance of human aircraft. The surviving Huellok looked up completely dumbfounded and were cut down by the Hornet's Gatling guns. As soon as the Huellok got over their shock they began to shoot up towards the hovering Hornet's. Taking out a few. The Hornet's exploded in a gigantic fireball that was amplified by the explosives that each one carried. Huellok fighters also known as “Hummels” scrambled from a couple of Huellok starships that hovered high above the Asian Station and started to tear through the human helicopters.

“Get us on the ground!” Captain Rowland of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers screamed to the pilot of his Hornet from inside of the cabin.

“Not yet! The LZ is small and we can only land two at a time!” The pilot screamed with a thick Swedish accent.

The helicopter jerked to the side and avoided most of the incoming fire of a Huellok Hummel. A stray bolt of green energy sliced through the cabin and cut through the man next to Captain Rowland. The blast of energy ripped through the man's body and blew off his genitals, stomach, and face as it passed through the cabin and out of the helicopter. “Land for fuck sakes!”

“We're clear to land! The LZ is very hot so you're all going to have to jump off!” The pilot screamed as the engineers in the cabin nodded to let him know they understood.

The helicopter dove straight down and then straightened as it reached the LZ. The back door swung open and the first engineers jumped out holding all of their gear and explosives. An engineer who was part of the second batch to jump out was hit by Huellok fire and screamed as he fell on the ground bleeding like a fountain. A Japanese combat medic rushed to him and dragged him out of the open LZ. Captain Rowland jumped out of the helicopter in the last batch, completely weighed down by explosives and his tools. As soon as he stepped off of the helicopter it lurched up into the air and began circling around shooting at anything that wasn't human. Another two Hornet's hovered over the LZ and it's aft doors swung open. One of the Hornet's had a tactical nuke strapped to the bottom and as the first engineers jumped out they immediately went to work removing the nuclear device. A stray bullet slammed into the head of one of the engineers and his brains splatted on the bomb, but the others ignored it and finished removing the nuke. They lifted the bomb on their shoulders and ran into the Asian Station. These Hornets finished unloading and lifted off as another two landed just seconds after. A batch of engineers made it off before a Huellok Hummel strafed the helicopters and the two Hornet's exploded in a furious explosion that shook the area. When the smoke cleared the LZ was a smoldering crater and completely ruined.

Captain Rowland felt the explosion from inside of the structure known as the Asian Station as he was working on finding where to place the explosive charges to bring it down. One of the soldiers by the name of Daniels told him it was caused by two Hornet's exploding on top of the LZ. From his explanation, Rowland knew that the LZ had been ruined and that he wasn't going to get any more explosives, but fortunately, he had more than enough. In fact, he had enough explosives to level every skyscraper in downtown New York City and that didn't include the two tactical nukes that the engineers managed to unload from the Hornets. The crystalline structures that the Voorik created were incredibly strong and required near nuclear bomb force to bring one down. Even the Huellok orbital bombardments did nothing more than scratch the outside walls of the buildings.

The engineers quickly went through the entire structure and made up detailed blueprints of the structure. Captain Rowland and his Colonial counterpart Captain Starr poured over the blueprints and started calculating and debating where to place the explosives so that the building would collapse over R8 (Route 8) where the Huellok reserves were amassing. Both Captain Rowland and Captain Starr came to an agreement and drew up their plans and passed it out to their subordinates to carry out. Now all that was left to do was wait for them to set up the charges and nukes and hope the Huellok didn't break through before they were ready.

Captain Rowland left the lobby of the building where they had drawn up their plans and entered the Voorik equivalent of an elevator. It was a large circle on the ground that reminded him of the teleporter that the aliens in that ancient movie Stargate used to get around. Except instead of a bright light and de-materialization the person just shot up to the floor they were thinking about. Captain Rowland reached the top floor and walked down its empty hallways until he reached the observatory. He was surprised to catch two soldiers up there making out in the glow of the red sun. Rowland smiled and observed them for a moment and then coughed to alert them of his presence when they started to remove their armor.

“Captain Rowland?” A man he recognized as Daniels said as he broke from a long kiss with his new friend. Daniels partner put her hands over her breasts to conceal them from Rowland. “I am sorry, Sir. It just happened. I guess we figured in a few minutes it wouldn't even matter.”

Rowland nodded and said, “It's okay son. In the end of things, we all find our own ways to make it a more comfortable transition. What is your new friend's name?”

Daniels was about to speak, but she spoke instead, “Alexandra Fry. I am from Daggerbay, Mars.” Daniels leaned forward and caressed her. He gave her a light peck on her forehead and she smiled as she looked into his eyes.

The woman reminded Rowland of his own long-dead wife. She had long beautiful brunette hair, blue eyes, a slender body, and a smile that could tame even the wildest beast. “Pleasure meeting you Alexandra,” Rowland said as he bowed. He turned to Daniels and shook his head while chuckling softly. Rowland walked out of the observatory and started to hear Alexandra giggle and moan. As he walked further away from the sounds he almost cried. “There goes two people who found love in hell and will never have the chance to see where it will go. Never go on a real date. Never marry or have kids together. Or know the joy of seeing those kids grow up to be strong capable adults,” Rowland thought to himself.

Rowland returned to the lobby and found it in chaos. The lobby was full of horribly wounded soldiers with medics attending to them and other soldiers barricading the door. Rowland didn't need anyone to tell him that the Huellok had broken through the defenders outside and were now beating against the door. More soldiers rushed to the door and pressed their bodies against it pushing back the Huellok who were trying to force their way in. More humans came until there were nearly one hundred people pushing the door closed. The Huellok were naturally stronger than humans and they greatly outnumbered the humans at the door so soon the door opened a crack. Dozens of green creatures squeezed through the crack and managed to kill a few people before some of the wounded shot those creatures dead. The door opened further and a man tossed a few grenades through the crack. His arm was cut off as he did it and he bled out in seconds. The grenades went off and the door shut closed. The humans at the door took a moment to stretch then went back to the door as the Huellok attempted to push through a second time.

“It is ready, Sir.” An Indian Sapper said mournfully as he handed him the detonator to the explosives spread strategically around the structure.

Rowland looked at the detonator in his hand and placed his hand on the Indian's shoulder. “Thank you, young man.” The door burst open as the humans pushing against the door were overwhelmed. A bolt of green energy hit Rowland in his chest and he fell on his back. He couldn't breathe or talk, but he still held the detonator. He lifted it high into the air and slammed it on the ground and the entire world shook.

The Temple, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

General Arena of the United States Earth Authority and Colonel Jacobs of the Colonial Alliance watched in silence as the Asian Station was consumed by surgically placed explosions. The building swayed and danced in place until a blinding explosion ripped it off of its platform and it fell right on top of R8. The titanic black structure came crashing down and knocked a dozen Huellok starships down with it. Their shields unable to protect them from the weight of millions of tons of crystal and metal. The building not only destroyed those ships it also squashed tens if not hundreds of thousands of Huellok soldiers and their green pets.

“They did it.” Arena said sadly, knowing full well that many thousands of humans died within that tower.

“They did it.” Jacobs echoed.

Both men continued watching the UAV's video footage in silence until it was shot down. The screen went black and they went back to the map. Even with the “victory” at the Asian Station, the situation for the human defenders of Vortanik had worsened. All transmissions from Ikea in the north had ceased and it had to assumed that it had been lost. The east was safe, for now, but the Huellok were regrouping and eventually they would continue their attack. In the south, the temporary “Main Street” defensive line had fallen and the real defensive line along “Second Avenue” was on the verge of collapse. Ammunition of all kinds was in short supply and would run out entirely by the end of the day if the current pace continued. Armored walkers, hover tanks, mortar launchers, tanks and armored APC's that survived up til now had no ammunition left and with some of the older models no fuel left to run on. Most of them were pulled from the front because the only thing they could do at this point was run over Huellok, but the Huellok could tear the armor apart in minutes with their claws or green pets. Getting close to a Huellok was suicide, especially for armored vehicles and walkers. A few armored vehicles stayed on the line, those that they could find ammunition for and those that were in strategic defensive positions with lasers. All the Colonial vehicles stayed fighting on the line since the CAMBT-3's all had a large laser cannon as its primary weapon, it needed neither ammunition or fuel. A few Russian armored walkers stayed in reserve after being modified by the sappers to carry scavenged laser cannons from downed Hornets and CAMBT-3's.

“We're out of options. We have to pull everyone to the Ring.” Arena said as he looked at the chaos of red and blue on the map.

“What? Why?” Jacobs said startled.

“We don't have the soldiers to man the entire Second Line anymore. Not to mention that the Huellok probably reached it already in the north.”

“We don't know that. We may have lost a lot of soldiers, but we can reinforce the lines with those on the western line. The west hasn't been hit yet and they're probably itching for battle.” Jacobs said.

“The western line has been cannibalized for ammunition, vehicles, and men for the other fronts. If the Huellok weren't so naïve in the art of war they would have hit it by now and easily broken through. We can't risk them getting lucky or smart and doing just that. We have to pull back. Are you with me?” Arena said looking Jacobs directly in the eyes.

“I am with you. I'll order my people to the Ring.”

“Thank you, Jacobs.” Arena smiled as he said it. Since the beginning of the battle for Vortanik Jacobs had changed drastically. Jacobs used to hate everyone from Earth and Arena most of all, but no longer showed that resentment. Arena had no idea what inspired the change, but he was glad he did. Jacobs was now a lot easier to work with and if they weren't in the middle of a deathtrap he would consider him a friend. “I am planning to send one last message out. Do you want to send one also?”

“Who do I send it to?” Jacobs said with a pained look on his face.

“I am sorry. I didn't mean to offend.”

“I know you didn't.”

Arena pressed the button on the intercom and said, “Final orders. All forces retreat to the Ring. Designated defenders will hold on R22, R21, and the Temple as a delaying action until they DIP. General Lakshmikantha will assume command from me.” Arena walked towards the transmitter in the room and stared at it not knowing what to say. The battle had turned so badly and now he and thousands of other men and women were going to die in this structure. Their lives added to the countless tens of thousands that had already died in this Godforsaken alien world.

“Yes General.” A voice behind the intercom repeated the orders to confirm and went off to relay them to the other commanders in Vortanik.

“You know you can't send that directly to Earth. The Huellok could use it to find Earth.” Jacobs said as he patted Arena in the back.

“I know. I know. I will send it to a nearby system. Hopefully, the human race will still be around when it reaches it.” Arena knew that the transmitter sent out messages at light speed so it would be at least thirty-three or so years before it reached Alpha Centauri. He just hoped his message was picked up and got to where it needed to be. He had no idea what to say or where to begin, but he had to send something.

R16 (Route 16), Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

The street was full of severed bloated bodies from both races and was also full of human soldiers running from cover to cover towards the last defensive line. The Huellok shot wildly as they advanced and blasted many of the fleeing humans. Many of the humans weren't killed but purposely wounded. The Huellok were extremely angry at the humans for fighting without honor and killing so many of their comrades. They wanted vengeance. They wanted to make the humans die in as much pain as possible. The Huellok knew that the humans felt pain to a greater degree then they did and it made the Huellok feel vastly superior to a race that evolved to be weak, fragile, and fearful. The Huellok also knew that the human's weapons were failing them and they didn't have any more of those circular bombs that they threw around so they could approach the wounded humans without fear of them blowing up. The Huellok slithered up to the first wounded human and stabbed it to death. First, they would give it superficial, but painful pokes, then they would go in deeper. The humans would sometimes kill themselves before the Huellok came to finish them off. Like they preferred to die by projectile than to the claw.

Gor Hajik spotted a small white armored human running from behind a destroyed vehicle to another. Gor Hajik lined up their shot and blasted the creatures foot off. The human went down and hit its head against a wall. They slithered up to it and sliced its weapon hand off before it could recover. Gor Hajik extended their secondary arms out behind the fallen human's neck and found the button that deactivated the white armor's helmet. Gor Hakik had seen many dead humans, but they wanted to squeeze the life out of one and watch the fear in its eyes build up as it realized it was dying. They wanted to avenge Jig Hajik, Koaik Hajik, Jiad Hajik and many others of their brood that died to these ugly fearful creatures. Gor Hajik watched with fascination as the human's armor extended over the creature's wounds and stopped its bleeding. Gor Hajik inspected the human and realize that this human was different from other humans they had seen. It was smaller, had long yellow hair, and its face was softer. Gor Hajik also wondered what was that bulge on its upper armor, a weapon perhaps? Gor Hajik stopped caring and went back to the task at claw. They wrapped their secondary arms around its neck and tightened their grip. They didn't need to use a lot of force to choke it, if they used their full strength they would have snapped its fragile little neck and there would be no satisfaction in that. The creature woke up and started screeching so loud that their ears rang. Gor Hajik lifted the creature and shook it like a doll in the air. Gor Hajik looked into its useless dual eyes and felt happy when its face changed colors to a sickly white. The human struggled in their grasp and kicked at them to no effect. Gor Hajik laughed in its face and let their own faces smile. Of course, the human had no way of recognizing the subtle muscle movements on their faces, because they were a stupid species who sided with the aggressors.

“You're doing it too hard Hajik. Let us relish this.” He told his other half.

“Gor, we have to move on. The who-mans are on the run and they probably have more surprises for us. We can't waste time.” He told his other half.

“When this is all over. We have to have fun with the prisoners.” Gor said to his other half.

“That sounds fair,” Hajik replied.

Gor Hajik felt a sudden sharp pain that knocked out Hajik and dropped his entire body to the floor. Gor couldn't control the whole body by himself and turned his head to see that Hajik had been hit by a human that snuck up on them. Hajik wasn't dead, but he was hurt. This human wore a strange hat that tilted over half of its face and carried a long strange looking sword that was dripping with Hajik's blood. The large brown-skinned human jumped on top of them and it tried to go for Gor with its sword. They struggled on the ground until another Huellok arrived and cut the human in half. Their Huellok comrade helped lift them onto their tail and they turned to find that the other human had vanished in the struggle. They looked, but could not find it. Gor Hajik continued advancing up the street and found the missing human, it had made it a few blocks before another Huellok caught it and killed it. “Good riddance,” they thought to themselves.

The Temple, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

“They're inside the building.” Corporal Goldstein said as he sealed the door into the command room. The other five soldiers in the room were hard at work burning papers and destroying computers. Anything that might lead the Huellok back to Earth.

“This is General Arena of the United States Army signing off from Vortanik.” General Arena sent the message and turned off the transmitter. He took out an ax and smashed the machine into a hundred pieces. As he swung the ax he started to cry softly. Arena pulled out the picture he always carried of his wife Leigh from his pocket and kissed it.

Jacobs put his hand on Arena's shoulder attempting to comfort him and said, “it's okay to cry. I miss my family too.” A loud series of bangs and screams came from the other room behind the sealed door. Twelve soldiers volunteered to stay behind in it and hold the Huellok as long as they could. Soon enough the sealed door began to bang as the Huellok unsuccessfully attempted to force their way in. A loud hissing sound came from behind the walls, much like the sound of ice cracking as it melted. “The Huellok must be using those green squids.” A small dollar coin sized hole appeared on the wall and it grew larger. Within seconds it was large enough for the green creatures to squeeze through. Corporal Goldstein and the other soldiers opened fire on them and killed the intruders, but more holes started to appear all over the walls.

“Jacobs. I need you to do one last thing for me.” Arena handed Jacobs his pistol as he pointed to his head.

“What?! I'm not going to shoot you!” Jacobs said as he held the gun as if disgusted by it. “Do it yourself.”

“I cannot. I am a Catholic. I want to be there for my family when they meet me in heaven. I am one of the last people on this planet who knows exactly where Earth is. The rest are dead and I know you don't have that information since that is why they sent only a Colonel instead of a General to run the Colonial operations here. Less chance that information would fall to the Huellok. You have to make sure you destroy my brain. I have no idea what the Huellok are capable of in the field of information extraction.”

“Have one of these men do it. I won't.”

“You deserve to kill me.”

Jacobs looked at him like he was mad. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I carried out the destruction of New Eden. I was in charge of the entire operation. I am responsible for your wife's death. I am sorry.” Arena said unable to look Jacobs in the eye.

Jacobs stood there stunned with the gun in his hand. His anger and rage coming back like a tsunami. He always wondered what he would do to the man that killed his wife and know he would know. Arena had his eyes closed as he prayed the “Ave Maria,” Jacobs lifted the gun and shot him in the stomach before he could finish the sentence, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our deaths.” Arena fell on the floor wide-eyed with pain and Jacobs stood over him and unloaded the entire clip into his head. Jacobs stood over Arena's body and watched as the blood and brains oozed out of his head. Arena still held the picture of his wife in his hand as Jacobs looked at the still smoking gun in horror and tossed it to the ground. He had finally avenged his own wife, but it didn't make him feel any better. Instead, he hated himself more and missed her still. Jacobs turned to see the soldiers losing their struggle with the Huellok who had broken through the walls. His armors "wolverine blade" shot out and he recklessly charged into the mass of Huellok and died before he reached them.

The Palace, Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

The human survivors all fought bitterly against the Huellok along the last line of defense. Their heavy weapons were all out of ammunition and much of the fighting had reverted to hand-to-hand combat. The Huellok seemed to relish it and stopped attacking the humans with their Hummels, starships and green squids. The Hummels and other weapons just lazily circled the Ring as if watching. The Huellok shook troopers proudly slithered up to engage the nearly defenseless humans and started to cut them down. The humans fought back with swords, knives, rifles wielded as clubs, makeshift weapons, and the occasional laser rifle. The humans started to retreat up the stairs of the large four remaining superstructures in the center of the city. Hoping that the high ground would give them an edge.

General Lakshmikantha recovered and stood up again completely covered in blood that wasn't his own. A red Huellok appeared before him and he unloaded his last bullets into its twin heads. The creature flipped backward and fell down the stairs taking a few other Huellok down with it. Lakshmikantha pulled out his Khukris sword and rushed behind a Huellok that was slashing at a rifle-wielding American. The Huellok nimbly turned, hit him with its tail, and turned back towards the American. The American smashed the rifle against the Huellok and it decapitated him as he came in close for another hit. Lakshmikantha stood up and the Huellok rushed up to him. It never reached him as it was hit by a laser that cut off one of its head.

“You okay General?” An English accented man holding a laser rifle asked as he shot at another Huellok in the distance. “Love this shit. Got it off a dead Colonial bloke.” He lifted his rifle and shot another one. “The names Blair. You shouldn't be out here in the shit General.”

Lakshmikantha smiled and replied, “might as well go down fighting.” They both moved down further down the stairs to join up with seven Chinese STF who were carrying helicopter propellers as if they were greatswords. Lakshmikantha stopped for a moment to take it all in, the scene was something he would expect from a fantasy movie. Thousands of men with swords and makeshift shields clashing against beasts twice as large as them. The grass was soaked with blood and was soft from the severed limbs of thousands of people. The Huellok could easily have crushed the human defenders by now with their modern weapons, but the Huellok instead chose to fight them the old fashion way. Lakshmikantha knew that it was stupid of the Huellok, but it brought them more time as long as they fought. Yet there was no way mankind could win this battle and this world would have to be destroyed. Lakshmikantha patted his chest and felt the slight bulge that signified the heart monitor that would tell the crew of the USS Angel Fire that he was dead and that the world must be hit with their planet shattering payload.

Lakshmikantha spotted a large group of knife-wielding humans fighting in a circle with their backs to each other trying to fight off the Huellok who had them surrounded. Lakshmikantha waved his sword around in a circle to rally the men on the stairs and he shouted, “JO BOLE SONELHALL! SAT SRU AKAL!” He rushed forward and the men on the stairs followed him. Lakshmikantha moved against a red Huellok that appeared from behind one of the charging STF soldiers and stabbed it in the side of one of its head. The creature fell backward wildly and as it thrashed about it cut Lakshmikantha across his face. Lakshmikantha screamed as the claw cut him from his left eye down to his chin. Blood streamed into his mouth and he spat it out. An Israeli combat medic materialized out of nowhere and started to tend to his wound. The medic spoke to him in a language he had never heard before, but he just nodded to let the medic know that he was alert.

The Huellok started to screech like he had never heard them before and they broke from the fight. Even leaving their wounded behind. The Hummels, starships and green creatures that had circled the battlefield before now broke off and headed back into the city. The surviving humans stood around bloodied and cleaved. They retreated back up the stairs in case the Huellok came back for another assault.

Vortanik, The Voorik Empire, Via Van'viok [Vashik]

Third Executioner Va'ar couldn't believe his eyes, it was one thing to see it on a surveillance screen, but it was another to actually see it and smell it in person. The entire part of the city he had strolled through with the Third Army was filled with the dead, mutilated and decaying bodies of Hu-Mans and Huellok. The smell was unbearable. The Hu-Mans smelled awful while alive, but they smelled far worst dead. Every corner he turned there were ruined Hu-Man vehicles or destroyed Huellok starships. The Huellok units they encountered were decimated and beaten. These beasts in Vortanik easily fell to the Empire just like their fleet above Via Van'viok did. The Huellok Invasion Fleet orbiting Via Van'viok were just as battered and beaten as their soldiers on the ground. Many of their ships were wounded and half destroyed from battling the Hu-Mans. It took the Empire's fleet little time to destroy the greatly weakened fleet and begin landing its armies on the ground around Vortanik. It was easy work clearing the city, but he had yet to find a living Hu-Man.

The army advanced through the city from all four sides until they linked in the middle after clearing the city. Third Executioner Va'ar reached the center of the city at the head of the Third Army. A few surviving Huellok slithering away from them towards the city center but didn't make it far. Va'ar watched as one of the beasts had its head blown off and another was ambushed by a group of Hu-Mans hiding in the tall grass with swords. The Third Army stopped along the borders of the city center and only Va'ar advanced alone. Thousands of Hu-Mans seemed to appear out of thin air and came out of hiding when they saw the Empire's Third Army. The Hu-Mans looked exhausted and the vast majority of them were wounded or missing limbs. The Hu-Mans just stood and watched Va'ar as he advanced, being careful not to step on any of the dead Hu-Mans. A brown-skinned Hu Man with a large fresh deep cut on his face that was covered by a makeshift bandage walked up to him. He wasn't alone. On one side was a female of his species in white and gold armor who carried a large tattered red, blue and gold flag. The female's armor was torn and burnt, but she stood proudly as if she was getting a medal in her best uniform. On the other side of the wounded brown-skinned man was a yellow-haired man in a heavy blue armor that had a large black and white cross on it. The man also carried a flag with him its red, white and green colors clear, but the strange bird in the middle nearly impossible to make-out with the large blotches of blood on it.

The brown-skinned Hu Man lifted his right arm up in a rigid motion and put his hand over his forehead so that Va'ar could see his open hand. The two flag bearers also lowered their flags and lifted them again when the man spoke, “General Siddhartha Lakshmikantha of the Republic of India in command of the Joint USEA-CA Expeditionary Force on Via Van'viok. I assumed command from General Benjamin Arena and Colonel Elijah Jacobs. The city has been held and its inhabitants protected. I ask that our forces be relieved and that we may be allowed to collect our dead.”

Third Executioner Va'ar was a psychic like many of those with Imperial blood and he understood what the man told him. He could feel a profound sadness and a deep lingering pain inside the man as he spoke of his soldiers and friends that surely died against the beasts. The Hu-Mans must have told the citizens of Vortanik that the battle was over because they started to stream out of the four major structures in the center of the city. They reacted first to the horrendous smell of the Hu-Man dead then quickly corrected themselves once they realized just how many Hu-Mans died fighting on their behalf. The evidence was strewn all over the blood-drenched grass and severed bodies that decorated the stairs and open fields. Third Executioner Va'ar telepathically spoke to Lakshmikantha and said, “Third Executioner Va'ar of the Voorik Third Army relieves you and your forces. You may collect your dead.” Va'ar bowed low to the Hu-Man and the Third Army bowed also.

The HuMan known as Lakshmikantha sternly said, “I stand relieved.” His flag bearers rolled up their flags and walked away as Lakshmikantha picked up the severed arm of a Hu-Man nearby. Other Hu-Mans, including their walking wounded, began to pick up their dead and place them in neat rows on the grass. The citizens of Vortanik watched with bowed heads and silently joined in the search for the Hu-Man dead.

33.3 Years Later, Liberty Two, New York City, The United Systems of Earth, Earth [Sol]

Emily sat behind her large concrete desk and finished her work for the day early. She looked it over one last time to make sure, and indeed she was done. She was so happy that she landed this job. Millions of recruits applied for it and only a few dozen were selected for it. She had amazing MAGE scores, but there weren't stellar. She was conscripted into the U.S. Military, everyone was, but she was lucky to get her first choice MOS after basic military training. Not only did she get to be an architect she also got to work in the newly built U.S. Capital Building. Probably the safest place to be in the entire universe for anyone in the military. She switched off the computer and turned in her seat. The wall opened up and revealed a large window that let in the harsh yellow sunlight into her office. She stared at the New York City skyline and noticed that quite a few buildings were now nearing completion. It looked like every day the buildings in the city got taller and more popped up next to them. It had been more than fifty years since the Great War, but the world was still recovering from it. The world had entered a new period of history that everyone was calling, “The Great Reconstruction.” Every day something new was being built. Every day a new forest was being planted. Every day a new animal was resurrected from extinction. Many young people of the day like herself were excited since they were tasked with the awesome responsibility of literally restarting the world. They could build entire cities and remake old ones. They could build a world that their ancestors would have wanted for them all. A world free from war, poverty, injustice, disease, and hate. They were a long way from making Earth a utopia, but all the people born after the “New Dark Age” felt it was within their grasp. Those born before or during the “New Dark Age” let them run the show. They mostly left Earth for the outer colonies or to serve in the armed forces. They left Sol almost entirely to the younger generations.

It wasn't always like this, the people of Earth weren't always so positive about its future. The years after the war were the hardest since mankind was still divided and Earth was under the tyrannical rule of President (in name only) De-Tierra. His regime crushed the spirit of man and fanned the flames of hate between Earth and the Colonies. His regime eventually collapsed from within and mankind united and with his fall the burning spirit of hope that exists today erupted. Although the universe was a very dangerous place full of unknown perils, the people of her generation were positive that mankind would continue to prosper. The wars against the Huellok and the Griantier showed the universe that mankind could hold its own and that man was determined to not only survive but flourish.

A Marine entered her office and placed a small envelope on her desk. He wore his brown office uniform of the USCM and tried to walk out of the room without saying a word. She smiled at him and said, “Thank you, Captain Mendoza.” She tried to look into his eyes, but he refused to look back.

“You're welcome, ma'am.” Captain Mendoza said meekly and left the room. He had always been a strange quiet man, but that was because he was born during the Great War. There were hundreds of millions of people exactly like him who were greatly affected psychologically by the war. People like him hated personal contact and seemed to walk around as if they were ashamed of themselves. He never looked anyone in the eye, never talked, ate like he was starving, and would jump at the slightest loud noise.

Emily picked up the envelope and inspected the words on the outside of it. It was addressed to her, but it came from the “United Systems Department of Defense: Office of the Zone of Interior.” Emily looked at it and had no idea what the OZI wanted from her. She opened the letter and it only contained the location of a shuttle hanger and a time to be there. She looked at the time and saw that it was only twenty minutes away. Emily double-checked her uniform in the mirror and made off for the shuttle hangers on the top floors. The shuttle was exactly where the letter said it would be. The pilot helped her into her harness and blasted off into orbit within seconds. It flew past satellites, orbital shipyards, orbiting cities, and hulking starships. The shuttle slowed as it approached a titanic bottle shaped space station that was still being built in the Moon's orbit. Emily recognized it as the USS Archangel, the first human mothership. The USS Archangel would be the first of many new mother ships and this one was being built specifically to defend Earth. The shuttle landed inside of the mother ship and her pilot escorted her through a maze of hallways, construction areas, and doors.

The pilot finally stopped in front of a large door and then smiled at her. “Please wait here. General Lakshmikantha will be here with you shortly.” The pilot turned and disappeared down the hallway.

Emily stood alone outside of the door and read a large placard on the door that said, “General Siddhartha Lakshmikantha, Commander of the Zone of Interior.” The door opened and she entered another shorter hallway that was filled with framed newspapers, medals, uniforms, and pictures. She glanced through them and read a few of the newspapers, “The Hero of India,” “Operation Scorch Garden: Hitting Back,” “The Guns Fall Silent,” “Mankind Holds Vortanik,” and “The New Guardian of Sol.” She looked at the pictures and saw Lakshmikantha as a young cadet in a military academy and as a young officer. She noticed that many of the pictures of Lakshmikantha had the same man with him. She stared at the proud officer in his U.S. Army uniform and instantly was attracted to him. She felt like she knew him somehow.

The door opened and General Lakshmikantha stood up from his seat and pointed her to a seat. “Thank you for coming. Please sit down, Lieutenant Arena.” General Lakshmikantha was a tall man who wore an old khaki uniform that Emily did not recognize. It had modern insignia and rank, but it was definitely a uniform from another time and place. Lakshmikantha had a weathered face from a hard life of fighting in the field with a large nasty scar that started at his forehead and ended at his chin.

Emily smiled and took her seat. “Thank you, General.” Emily looked around the room. It was a simple room with a desk, two flags, a library, and an altar. The desk was made of real wood and the flags on each side of the desk were of the United Systems and India. The library was impressive since books no longer existed in the paper format and he had many of them. The alter was also very striking since it was made of wood and gold. It had numerous hand carved statues of Hindu deities with flowers draped over them. Behind his desk was a large window that showed the curvature of Earth and the space beyond filled with artificial and natural stars. “Why am I here?” Emily asked.

“Because of your father,” Lakshmikantha said after a moment.

“My father? He died before I was even born...” Emily said trying hard not to cry. It was a sore topic for her.

“And your mother died when you were very young,” Lakshmikantha added.

“Is this what I am really here for? Because I don't really want to talk about it.”

Emily stood up and was almost at the door until Lakshmikantha spoke up and said, “Your father was a good man and I loved him like a brother.” Emily looked at him suspiciously and sat back down in her seat. “We met during the Third World War and became fast friends. I was there at his wedding with your mother and I was there with him in his last days alive. You weren't even born yet, but you were all he thought about. He knew he was going to die on that alien world and I didn't believe it. He made me promise to take care of you and your mother.” Lakshmikantha voice started to shake and he continued after some effort, “but I failed with your mother. His death was too much for her. You see. Her life during the war was brutal and he brought her back from the brink of despair. Without him, she fell apart. Your mother was such a beautiful soul and I cried when she died. I should have done more. I am so sorry I didn't save them. I could have saved your family.”

Emily placed her hand on his and said, “you did what you could. I see you loved them very much.” Emily had figured it out. She had always thought herself lucky growing up. Others starved, but she never was without food or shelter. Even though she was alone. She smiled and spoke again, “Its been you that has been watching over me all these years. Switching me from that awful foster home. Getting me into those schools. Getting me my job. Thank you.”

Lakshmikantha smiled and nodded. “I always wanted you to know your father. He was an amazing man that did everything to give you a future. I felt it was wrong that you never got to know just how much he loved you.” Lakshmikantha removed a small disc from a drawer in his desk and slipped it into his computer. “I can't bring him back from the dead, but I can at least bring him back for a moment.” Lakshmikantha pressed a button on the computer and the room went dark.

Emily watched as a hologram of the USE emblem floated in space above the desk. It had large bold words over it which read,

“Recovered Transmission: Alpha Centauri // Source: Via Van'viok. // Unknown, Unknown, Unknown.”

“Hello, Emily! I really do hope Leigh calls you Emily because if she doesn't, this message is going to be really awkward.” Emily couldn't believe it, it had to be her father's voice. The voice in the transmission laughed and his laughter filled the room. He spoke again, “Emily by the time this message reaches you, you will be an adult. In fact, you will be probably married by now. You may even have kids, but I will never know them and I am sorry for that. As my time draws near I've wondered what it would be like to see you grow into a beautiful strong woman. I've also wondered what you would look like on your wedding day, on your graduation, and on your baptism.” The man stopped speaking and seemed to be choking back some tears. “I am sorry I won't be there for any of those things, but I do hope to God that you get this message since it'll mean that my sacrifice was worth it. It'll mean that there is still a world for you to grow up in. That there is a future for you to have.” His voice cracked and he continued, “I love you Pumpkin. I may never get to hold you or know you, but I love you unconditionally like a father should. Like the love God has for his children.” He paused and spoke again, “We will meet. Not in this life, but I will be waiting for you in heaven.”

Another unknown voice filled the room, “They're inside the building.”

Her father's voice returned and he said sternly, “This is General Arena of the United States Army signing off from Vortanik.” The audio turned to static then ended.

Emily couldn't help but cry after hearing his voice. She never knew that either of her real parents loved her. They both died before she could remember anything. She had only assumed, hoped that they did while she grew up alone, but now she knew for certain. Emily smiled and through her tears, she simply said, “I love you too Daddy.”

Jo Bole Sonelhall. Sat Sri Akal. - Hail the mighty land. Hail the mighty Lord.

Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali – Glory to the goddess of war, here come the Gorkhas.

Prochai Rodina – Russian. Lit. “Goodbye Motherland.”

DIP – Acronym. “Die In Place.” Order to fight and hold a position until death.


Type: Regular

Lifeform: Humaniod

Homeworld: Huellok

Status: Extinct