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.
Aagar watched silently as his subjugation forces began waves of attacks after their artillery softened up the city’s defenses. He knew Acriend methods were predictable, but so far they had proven highly effective. But the course of the war had been changing, their enemies adapting to the Acriend fighting style in ways that threatened the Acriend efforts. They refused to lose this war, so the Acriend adapted, too.
His real name was Throtnu, an ancient Onyalum with eons of experience behind him, and Aagar was his fifth possession since being recruited by Hammot before he’d even heard of the wars. He’d been tempted by the god with opportunities to wrought destruction on an epic scale only Creators could fully understand. He was an Onyalum of great viciousness, and the thrill of such a grand war could not be resisted. He’d accepted the god’s offer, starting low in the ranks before moving up as his great experience set him apart from the non-Onyalum.
He absently scratched his head as the new helmets irritated his scarred dome. The helmets were one more adaptation thrust upon them as their enemies invented new and ingenious ways to kill. Microwaving the brain cavity would be humorous if it weren’t so damned effective. The new helmet didn’t protect, but it gave one an early warning so one could move before the damage was done. Acriend slaves were still working on a permanent solution.
The smell of artillery exhaust was exhilarating, and Throtnu walked along the line admiring the efficiency with which they could deliver death. But he was always on guard as the new Trilliu became an effective force to contend with. Although this world was uncharted in their conquest records, the Trilliu had an uncanny way of getting their first, undermining their efforts as they helped the local inhabitants fend off an Acriend invasion.
Hammot had warned about this technique used by the Leran, a species the Acriend hoped to face after vanquishing the Trilliu in this contest. He shook his head, clearing thoughts of a future so far away, he would likely never survive to see it. But he would do his part to usher in that future, a future of Acriend dominance across two galaxies.
“Aagar,” a voice called through his helmet, “we have penetrated the first level of defenses. Should we consolidate or continue pressing our advantage?”
Throtnu smiled, Horok was a fine leader if narrow in his vision. “Well done, Horok, but dig in and send half your troops back to our lines.”
“Half?” Horok said in a tone that indicated his concern at holding the hard won possessions if half his troops were pulled back.
This was not the time for weakness, and Throtnu was never weak. “You have your orders, Horok!” He softened slightly. “I sense a trap, my friend, trust me.”
Horok obeyed as he had during hundreds of such invasions. “It will be done!”
Throtnu signaled his artillery to stop firing, their initial mission completed. He eyed the landscape both in front and behind his lines, but nothing stood out of the ordinary. Still, he sensed danger and he was rarely wrong about those things. The Acriend had been foolish in the past, and the Trilliu had taken advantage of that arrogance, dealing blows to the Acriend forces that stung deeply. He would not repeat those mistakes.
The silence after the artillery ceased was eerie, and Throtnu felt a sense of dread that only pumped him up for battle. Fear was a drug that united and lifted one’s soul to levels of violence and destruction only a true warrior could appreciate. Focus the fear and you focused the instincts. Kill or be killed, and Throtnu refused to be killed.
He relayed new orders. “All artillery units switch to anti-aircraft weapons and prepare to defend. All ground forces remain where they are until I signal. Nobody fires or moves until I give the command or I will personally eviscerate them!”
He watched as the nearby artillery units unveiled their latest additions to the weaponry, an anti-aircraft gun of formidable capabilities. If the Trilliu were planning to spring a trap, they would use their new craft to take out the carriers overhead and the ground forces below. They would be surprised. The spinning barrels of the weapons coming online brought Throtnu a feeling of contentment. He would not be arrogant, but he knew they would not give in easily.
A strange vibration moved through the ground, and Throtnu knew it was the beginning of the real battle. He pulled out his blade, it size and cutting surfaces scarring him as he practiced with it religiously. Rifles and pistols were still the weapon of choice for many, but a blade would be called for today. He could sense the hunters gathering, marching forward as their camouflage hid them from all but the best sensors. But this time, Throtnu was ready for them.
He signaled his units as half the invasion force rolled back into line, taking up defensive positions. “They are coming, but do not fire until they are upon us. Let them believe their ruse has worked. Ground forces wait for my signal.” He growled.
He turned back from the city scanning the horizon. Dust and haze filtered the late day sunlight turning the distant horizon blood red. Throtnu hit his chest in an ancient display of a warrior’s readiness. Those down the line following their leader, the sound of pounding a dull thud against the eerie silence preceding the battle.
Underneath the sounds of their bravado, a strange clicking coupled with a hum grew louder as the enemy approached. There was no artillery to hide their deceit, and the Acriend were prepared to welcome them onto the battlefield. Soon. He thought wildly.
“Artillery fire when you spot any aircraft.” He ordered ominously.
He gripped both hands around the hilt of his blade and prepared to meet them head on. His senses were heightened as his focused fear pumped hormones throughout his body. This would not be flight, this would be fight. He ignored the sounds of the Trilliu aircraft streaming into the area, the Acriend weapons spitting a wall of projectiles to intercept them. But Throtnu stood solid, his eyes spotting an imperceptible shimmer against the distant ground.
He spread his legs, posturing in a defense stance as he prepared for his enemy approaching at incredible speeds. They would be faster, but he would be stronger and wiser. He sensed more than saw the three hunters as they sped towards him with blades drawn. With perfect precision, he leapt above their attack, his twisting motion bringing his blade down on the three unsuspecting hunters, decapitating two while the third parried the blow.
Throtnu hit the ground, rolling upright before the third could turn to face him. They charged each other, Throtnu’s blade larger than the two held by his enemy. He dodged the caustic stream of chemicals spewed by the insect before they collided, the metallic sound of their blows a sharp contrast to the peppering spray of anti-aircraft guns in the background. The force of their momentum threw both to the side, but their steady feet maintained balance as they turned back to face each other.
The Trilliu hunter rose on its back legs, grabbing Throtnu’s arms with its middle limbs as it thrust blades with its forelimbs. Throtnu’s strength prevailed and he blocked the thrusts with his own blade, only one edge cutting his cheek as he executed a rollover that brought his enemy with him. One thing about Trilliu, they were terrible wrestlers.
With precision and strength, Throtnu wrapped up his enemy, breaking its lower legs with his weight as his blade came up and down on the creature’s neck. The balance of his weight pushed the sharp edge into the insect’s armor, the crunching sound satisfying as warm blood sprayed into his face. He rolled to his feet, his blade held ready for another attack. The twitching of limbs of his foe told the story, it was dead or dying.
He signaled his troops. “All ground forces emerge and clean up this mess!”
The earth rumbled as ground forces surfaced in new submersible, armored behemoths that crushed everything in their path. Like the crust of the planet split in an earthquake, the ground erupted with Acriend forces emerging from their hiding, startling the hunters, cutting them off with massive treads the Trilliu could not flee. The sound of exoskeletons being crushed beneath the tanks brought a smile to Throtnu’s shredded face. This is what he had signed on for.
Explosions rocked the battlefield as enemy aircraft hit the ground in glorious fireballs as fuel and ordinance ignited from the impacts. A few of Throtnu’s anti-aircraft guns were silenced in barrages of counter fire, but many more aircraft fell from the sky as new Acriend weapons worked flawlessly. There would be no defeat today.
He eyed the battlefield through a haze of dust, its torn crust interspersed with crushed Trilliu. He looked down at the lifeless form of the hunter at his feet, stepping on its form in another ancient, symbolic ritual. The blood of his enemy mixed with his own, the deathly scent filling his nostrils with the stench of victory.