Many Faces

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.
Picture of LeranThrask watched from the command post while the battle waged endlessly on the open plains at the base of his mountain fortress. The damned lizards had been trying for weeks to overthrow the Leran occupation of this world, but they met heavy resistance both in space and on the ground. Thrask, his Onyalum name, was Commander of the planetary forces controlling the Leran armies from a heavy range of mountains that proved difficult for the Issgire to assail.

Nonetheless, the damned lizards kept throwing assets at it, most not from their own populace. They were obviously willing to spend a lot of precious resources to free this system. Thrask didn’t understand why.

The Leran had taken over the system five years earlier after they’d successfully planted one of their worms. He shuddered when he thought about those damned Leran; nothing more than a brainstem with stolen DNA. He checked himself as those worms were in charge. Actually, their god, Kiirgatt, was his boss.

He’d agreed to work for Kiirgatt after a difficult time choosing which side to join in this conflict. Though the fighting had already begun when he’d decided to join, all the Creators vied for his assistance after a demonstration of his powers. The Creator, Kiirgatt, likened Thrask’s skill to that of the Leran. Still, it had been a difficult decision, especially considering the technological prowess of the Issgire. He had nothing against lizards, hell, many of the Leran forces were reptiles. In the end, the versatility of thousands of different species gave the Leran an edge that Thrask couldn’t ignore.

He currently possessed the body of a Del, an intellectually powerful race infiltrated by the Leran many centuries before. Indeed, they were one of the few species who understood who their bosses really were. The body was owned by one Lale Hatit, but Thrask refused to grant him any freedoms. This was Thrask’s prized skill, the ability to possess live flesh, not the dying husks required by other Onyalum. He didn’t know whether other Onyalum possessed his particular talent, but he’d mastered it millions of years earlier.

True to his Onyalum disposition, he repressed the owners of the many faces he acquired. When he was finished, he released them, but by then, they were typically infirmed if not dead. He had no compunctions about stealing their bodies and doing with them as he wished. In many instances, he’d even possessed people simply to force them to kill themselves. A frightening way to die, but you’ll get burned if you play against an Onyalum.

He turned back to the three dimensional display of the battle and spotted a weakness forming in the line of jumpers on the left flank. Damn bugs! He thought bitterly.

The jumpers were another versatile species the Leran had brought with them from their home galaxy. An insectoid race with enormously long rear legs that provided incredible speed and jumping abilities. They were generally effective fighters who often ate their conquests. Though Thrask found this personally disgusting, the psychological impact was priceless.

A heavy armored battalion was breaking through the jumper’s lines, weakening the overall front. The damned lizards had incredible machinery at their disposal, and they were throwing it against the insects in large numbers. Thrask uttered a curse in another language, and prepared to go to the failed flank.

He hated leaving his host’s body, even for something this important, but he hadn’t enjoyed combat for some time and felt a little out of practice. It would be good for him to rally the troops from inside their ranks—show them that all technology could be defeated, usually with simple tried and true techniques. He entered the isolation chamber and set the door lock for three hours. If he was not back by then, it didn’t matter what happened to his host, the battle would be lost.

In a painful burst of energy, he ripped his Onyalum essence from the body that held it. It was a painful process, one he assumed the host did not enjoy. Freed from the fleshly bonds, he transitioned to the jumper command center. Floating above the silent battle, he watched the commanders screeching orders through radios to troops being decimated by the heavy armor penetration. He ignored the inept command staff and located a non-commissioned officer ready to take his squad into battle.

With a force that knocked the soldier to the ground, he forced his spirit into the sergeant’s flesh. Within a few moments he was standing before the squad ready to lead them into battle. He took charge without hesitation. “All right troops, we can beat these damned lizards with simple demolitions. I want each soldier to grab ten sticky charges and secure them to your backs!”

One brave soldier raised his hands, confused. “Sergeant, I thought we were reinforcing the forward bunkers?”

Without thinking, he pulled out the sergeant’s sidearm and shot the insolent jumper. “Any other questions?”

Within minutes, each solider was equipped with the proper charges secured to their backs. Though the species was tall, they were like locusts and difficult to shoot when at full speed. Their endurance was legendary, but so was their cowardice. They preferred sneak attacks to all-out frontal charges. Too bad. Thrask thought darkly.

“These tanks are like any other, hit their weak points and you can take them out. “ He instructed as a private installed charges on his back. “The key is getting to the weak points. I’ll lead everyone in a single line until the tanks come into view. At that time, everyone splits off me in alternating left-right lines to take on their own tank.” He paused to make sure they understood. He was thankful for the nearly programmable instincts inherent in insect species. Give orders to the workers and they usually followed them flawlessly. “Plant two charges on each tank and then move on to another further behind their lines. When you have exhausted your charges, turn on the afterburners and move back to the safety of our lines. Do you understand?”

The soldiers nodded as they readied their gear. Since they possessed six limbs but traveled on only the two large rear ones when sprinting, that left four limbs to use for weapons and planting charges. Thrask pulled two sidearms into his forward limbs and demonstrated the middle set’s ability to plant a charge when needed. They were built for this mission.

“Now, watch for lizards on the exterior weapons on top and behind the main turret. Use your sidearms to take them out or distract them while you plant the charges. One charge on the tracks, one on the main turret. We disable their primary weapon and prevent them from using it as a battering ram. Am I clear?” They nodded once more.

Thrask loved the feel of the powerful hind limbs as he built up a head of steam leading the soldiers into the thick of the battle. Detonations from the armored tanks didn’t deter them as they moved like lightening into the first line firing on this flank’s bunkers. He closed on the tank directly ahead as the others spread out as instructed to the rest of the vehicles lining the field.

He was moving in a blur as he approached the behemoth directing its fire at the rear command center they’d just left. One of the lizards spotted him approaching and pulled its exterior weapon in his direction. He was too fast for the soldier to hit him and easily took out the lizard with multiple shots from his sidearms. Another quickly popped up from the hatch just as Thrask finished planting the charges. They would explode in a matter of seconds, and he didn’t want to be around when they did. He left in a blur as the lone solider attempted to dislodge the device from the main turret. The lizard was too late.

Thrask grinned inwardly as the explosion ripped the hapless soldier into fiery shreds, disabling the turret as the other charge ripped off the right track and its protective paneling. One down, four to go! He thought as another came into view. He rounded the left side and secured the track charge as a lizard scrambled onto the exterior weapon far too late to be effective. The lizard’s limp body fell to the ground as Thrask planted his turret charge.

Within seconds, he was off to the next target as a fury of heat and sound blew the tank into a useless hunk of metal. He would finish them off with aerial weaponry now that they were disabled and vulnerable. Explosions around him told a tale of other troops successfully deploying their own ordinance. As he approached the next tank, he spotted a line of soldiers on the ground mounting weapons to protect their precious vehicle. Word had obviously spread to the other tanks about the tactics they were using.

It made his job harder, but not impossible. Feeding Onyalum strength into the insect body, he flashed into their midst before they could fire. He planted the charges before their bodies fell to the ground dead. He laughed out loud in a screeching sound that would damage normal ears. He’d forgotten how much he enjoyed hand-to-hand fighting. Nothing like getting your feet wet to remind you of what your troops go through.

Within minutes, he’d planted the rest of his charges, putting a large dent in the battalion of heavy armor the lizards had thrown against them. He was heading back for jumper lines and spotted others doing the same. If those soldiers had also been successful, Thrask tallied at least a hundred vehicles disabled. A true victory using nothing more than ordinary charges with extraordinary soldiers. This is how fighting is supposed to be!

He was nearing the final line of bunkers when a bright light ripped through the sergeant’s body, releasing Thrask into the silent world of the Onyalum. He hovered over the smoking crater and looked back at what had caused the explosion. It was a single tank that had escaped their attack. Oh well, the sergeant had died gloriously, and his troops would celebrate his victory.

He hovered for a few more moments as their success rallied the rest of the jumpers into a mad rush to shore up their lines and dispatch the rest of the heavy armor. That’s more like it! He thought wildly, wanting to race back into battle with them. But alas, a commander’s duty was never done, and his host was nearing its freedom from the isolation chamber. Better return and send in the aerial assault to assist the troops. He decided.

Before transitioning to his host, he hovered silently, filled with a sense of satisfaction from the destruction around him. Hell, he loved being Onyalum!

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