Pinned 4th Short Story Contest! ~Entries~

  • The OGame Nebula

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  • Heres My Story.....Doesnt have to do with space but yeah here you go. :)

    Warning: To anyone wishing to read my journal. I am in veracity when I say that what is about to be said may permanently scar anyone who dares read this tale. The story of my experiences is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.

    This story starts out just as any other. It involves death, torture, and people. My story may sound quotidian to many other scary stories you’ve heard, but what sets this one apart is that it is entirely true. This is my story of something that happened in my life. What happened will eternally haunt me. To this day, exactly thirty six years later I am tormented still by the thoughts that plague me. As I ruminate over these grim thoughts one last time I will write them here for future generations to understand.

    My story commences as I was in the first grade. I was a normal boy; I went to school every day and got B’s and C’s, I watched cartoons when I got home, and I was afraid of the dark. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Buttercup. She was probably the nicest, most ideal teacher one could imagine. You could imagine why the whole class was upset when she announced on Friday that she would be going on maternity leave for the remainder of the year. The class was devastated. That weekend I was so nervous. What would the new teacher be like? Would they be nice? Would I have lots of homework? Little did I know that these minute details were the most trivial of my soon to come predicament.

    Monday thru Thursday we had a substitute until, according to the principal the new teacher would take over on Friday. I was so nervous Friday morning. I pretended to be sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school. My mother knew that I was giving just a feign sickness so she inhibited me from staying home. As soon as I arrived at school my eyes were drawn to our new teacher. On the board in messy calligraphy I could see my new teacher’s name. Mr. Lucifer. I almost wet my pants upon first seeing him. He was a stocky little man, no more than four foot five inches. He was wearing blue jean suspenders and a white dress shirt. His hair was long and grey, tied back into a ponytail. He had on a sailors cap. Mr. Lucifer had the stench of burning hair mixed with Old Spice. Less than one minute after walking in he yelled at me in a surly deep voice to sit down and look at the wall. I could not believe that such a voice could come from such a little man. Instantly I felt hapless. I wanted nothing more at this point than to just ensconce in my nice safe bed at home and pull the covers over my face. Only four other students came to school this day. I forgot today was Good Friday which just happened to fall on Friday the thirteenth this year. I could feel something was wrong about this whole situation already. After taking attendance, Mr. Lucifer paced over to the one and only door and locked it. He also put a piece of thick cardboard over the one window in the center of the metal, fireproof, soundproof door. He did the same with the two hurricane safe windows on the other wall. One student named Jeremy asked him why and he responded with a gruesome countenance and a stern “Shut your mouth imbecile. Do not speak in my classroom. You will bear the cost for your actions.” I didn’t know what he meant by those words at the time but now I realize that this was just the beginning of a long terrifying day.

    Out of nowhere Mr. Lucifer walked over to Jeremy in a boisterous manner. He yanked the dark brown hair of the terrified young boy. Then Mr. Lucifer tied Jeremy to the dilapidated dunce chair in the back of the classroom. The remaining four of us let out a cacophony of screams. We had no idea what would happen next but we did know that if we didn’t get out fast we’d all be dead in an instant. Mr. Lucifer said in a deep, steady voice, as he reached into his duffle bag “If any of you little brats make one move or say one word this shotgun will be down your throat.” Stunned, we all nodded our heads simultaneously in accolade of Mr. Lucifer’s threat.

    As Mr. Lucifer strode back to trembling Jeremy he mumbled “You will be my first victim, you are the example.” The sociopathic teacher then pulled an iron out of his black duffel bag. After it was done heating up he pressed it against the side of Jeremy’s face. He continued to torture Jeremy until the helpless boy was deceased. It agonized the rest of us to watch our classmate die in such a wanton manner. Then Mr. Lucifer took a spoon out of his bag. With the help of a scalpel he scooped Jeremy’s eyes right from his defunct face. He then put the eyeballs into Mrs. Buttercup’s classroom blender. Shortly after, Mr. Lucifer announced, “The rest of you will be joining Jeremy momentarily.” Our new teacher then dragged Jeremy’s body to the back right corner of the classroom. He sat the lifeless body on a chair. He pulled up a desk and folded the arms up into a studious pose. Almost as if the body would be eternally listening to what our cold blooded teacher had to say. Mr. Lucifer stood near the body for a few minutes, possibly to admire his grim work. None of us dared to ask any questions or make any comments. Not that we could anyway. Our bodies were already paralyzed from witnessing such an atrocity.

    I can still to this day see the body of our classmate Jeremy. His opaque eyes still stare at me in nightmares. The smell of his rotting body comes back over and over. The worst part is that I can still feel the presence of Mr. Lucifer’s voracious desire for human flesh anytime I step into a classroom.

    “That is it! I can’t take this terror any more”, a girl nicknamed Rose shrieked. “If I’m going to die just get it over with now.

    “Whatever pleases you, darling”, replied Mr. Lucifer.

    With a ludicrous, almost joking countenance, Mr. Lucifer once again reached into his intimidating black duffel bag. This time he extracted a small needle from the sack. Upon looking up, with the precision of a sniper, he launched the needle at Rose. Rose was stuck square in the forehead. Less than twenty seconds after impaling her forehead, Rose was unconsciously lying on the ground. Needless to say, we all knew that this single needle couldn’t have killed her. The needle must have contained a small dose of anesthesia, but enough to put her down.

    In that awkward moment when Rose thumped against the ground there was a dead silence. Not just in our classroom but it felt like the entire world stopped at that one little moment. To this day I still feel contrite for not helping Rose up and running away. Even if I died that would have been the right thing to do. I just couldn’t. At that split second everything just stopped. Was I dead? What was happening? Soon, my brief period of disorientation was over. The others still seemed to be perplexed at the situation. I remember looking down to see the blonde hair, blue eyed girl named Rose. Her eyes closed. I knew she couldn’t be dead. Then I looked up. Mr. Lucifer was standing a hair away from my nose. He hoisted Rose over his shoulders. Then he wrapped her in a cocoon of saran wrap. Oddly enough he didn’t cover her face. Then it dawned on me. He was saving her for later. Then Mr. Lucifer got close to her unaware face. With a swift movement of his jaw, Mr. Lucifer lacerated her left ear lobe. Holding the bite sized piece in his hand he ate it in without even chewing. The other three of us were shocked by this vile act.

    Mr. Lucifer then walked over to us, while blood was still steadily streaming out of Rose’s ear. He told us to step back into the teacher planning room where he locked us in. Mr. Lucifer mentioned that he had a little bit of “cleaning up” to do and that he would return to us later.

    As we walked into the teacher planning room, we felt a sensation of contentment swarm over us. Soon after, our feeling of ease was over. We knew that we had to rescue Rose and get out of here. In fear that Mr. Lucifer was still watching us we checked that he was not ubiquitous in the form of video cameras. There was a table and some chairs in the room, an ancient, rusted coffee pot, an empty book shelf, a white refrigerator with some Diet Coke inside and a filing cabinet which contained various teaching supplies. I turned left and that is when I saw it. A telephone hooked to the wall with the mouthpiece dangling by the wire. The killer couldn’t be feebleminded enough to leave a working phone. Could he? I prepared for melancholy because I figured that we were in a real horror movie. In any good horror movie the killer always cuts the phone line.

    I picked up the phone. It was working! I dialed 911 immediately. At first they didn’t believe me. Then I heard footsteps. It was Mr. Lucifer. They must have heard the footsteps too because they said “Hang on in there, I’m sending everything I’ve got.”Then the phone line went dead.

    Mr. Lucifer was holding the cut line in his bloody hand. I knew I was soon to be inert. “What do you think you are doing?” Mr. Lucifer chuckled. “Get to my desk now!” Mr. Lucifer pulled out his shotgun and held it to my temple. “You’re about to be…” With that Mr. Lucifer was lifeless on the ground. The SWAT team had come and sniped him through the door. Mr. Lucifer was too preoccupied to realize that another student had detached the cardboard sheet. That was it. It was over. We were all so excited that this miserable experience was over. Jeremy was dead. Even though one of us was dead, the other four of us had a feeling of fortuity for surviving. Rose though, ended up losing her whole ear. She was also incapacitated form the waist down from her fall.

    However, no story ends this benevolently. For my life since this incident has been haunted by the gory, monstrous things that my eyes witnessed. I have nightmares every night. I am not living. I can’t live. I hope that my story has touched you. However I can’t live like this anymore. That is why I am forced to end it, end it all…end my story.
  • me and my friend wrote this a while back

    this is part 1 i need another post to continue it

    A blade fell, and the human’s shield rose to meet it.
    An arrow, fired by a young huntress, glanced off a breastplate, leaving a neat line across half the width of the body that bore it.
    A fireball flew from the hands of a robed sorcerer smashed into a steel helmet, the metal glowed red for a moment as a scream rang out from the helmet’s occupier.
    From the shadows, a strange looking little man barely three foot high plunged a dagger into the leg of the target that the blade, the arrow and the fireball had all failed to meet.
    And a funny looking tree whose hands glowed constantly green sent his spells after his allies, knitting wounds back together as fast as their enemies could cause them.

    They fought long and hard against the armour plated monster of a demon as it called its minions forth from the pits of flame that surrounded them, until finally the gnome took an opportunity and hopped onto the demon’s shoulders then plunged one of his many daggers deep into its shoulder. As it threw back its head and roared in pain, the human took up his sword and drove it into the demon’s exposed mouth so hard that it ran through the top of the skull and sent the helmet flying, the gnome only avoiding it by a hair’s breadth. The huntress loosed an arrow into its chest and it growled one final time before it slumped back, dead.
    They stood panting for a moment, than the warrior raised his sword and shield to the air in a long cheer, the gnome and fellow human joining him. The huntress smiled as she stroked thet young nightsaber at her side, and the tree stood in quiet happiness at another demonic taint removed from the face of Azeroth.
    “Come on,” said the warrior after a minute, “we ought to leave before the remaining demons escape. Just ‘cause their leader is dead, don’t mean they’ve given up.”
    “Alright, Moe, let’s finish this fight,” said the mage with a grin.
    The huntress stood up and the five of them exited the cavern back into the tunnels that lead back to the light and the tranquillity of Ashenvale forest.
    They ran into little opposition, and what they did was easily taken care of, and soon they arrived back on the grass and the armour plated human dropped his helmet on the ground and flopped to the ground. The others sat in front of him, facing towards the forest as they recuperated a little from the day’s battle.
    With the peace around them, it was little wonder they were sluggish when the demon struck.
    Insanely loyal, the demon had been unable to accept the defeat of its master and had sought vengeance, no matter what the cost to it.
    It moved silently from the cavern and before any of the bold adventurers could react to the shadow that loomed over them, a dagger had been driven into Moe’s chest.
    The mage stared in shocked silence.
    The tree was yelling something incomprehensible.
    But the gnome was first to react.
    He drew a dagger even as he threw himself at the demon, driving it into his eyeball, and a moment later an arrow from the huntress buried itself into his other eye with terrifying accuracy.
    Once it lay dead, they ran forward to Moe who was choking up blood as a foul darkness spread into his flesh from the dagger the demon had used. The tree looked on helplessly, knowing he could do nothing for his friend, that he was doomed to a slow, painful death.
    “There’s … There’s nothing I can do for you, Moe,” a single tear dripped down his bark onto Moe’s stomach.
    “No … There’s …There’s nothing you can do … But,” he stopped to cough then spat blood into the grass before continuing, “but Thera can …” He reached into his shirt and pulled out a pendant that they knew to have been his mother’s, clutching at it like a lifeline.
    She nodded solemnly, her night elven composure retained even as her friend died. She stood up and drew an arrow, fitting it into her bow.
    “No!” Iggy, the gnome, jumped in front of her. “No, surely there’s something can be done!” He tugged at Thera’s trouser leg and slapped the tree’s bark. “Surely you can do something, Cal!”
    Cal placed a rough wooden hand on the Iggy’s shoulder, “if only, my friend … I would travel to the stars and demand a cure from Elune herself, but alas, I forgot my flying machine …” His eye twinkled as a quiet joke left his mouth. Even at a time like this, his greatest concern was in keeping spirits up. Iggy screamed and punched the wooden stomach, kicked Thera in the shins, then jumped up onto the demon’s corpse and stabbed him, stabbing until his face was covered in a mix of blood and tears. Only when he stopped and sat sobbing in the grass did Thera raise her bow and release an arrow into Moe’s chin, ending his suffering.
    “Goodbye …”

    “Cal … Cal! Cal, are you okay?” Thera took a seat on the riverbank next to her brother.
    He opened his purple eyelids slowly. “Yes … I was thinking … About Moe.”
    The smile on Thera’s face was swapped for one of concern at his mention. “It was a long time ago. But he was a good man …”
    Cal simply nodded in agreement, hugging his legs to his chest as the river flowed past beside them and birdsong idly filled the trees.
    “I still miss him … Every day. His jokes, his bravery, his smile, his loyalty.”
    “We all do …”
    After a minute, Iggy walked over and waved some contraption in front of them.
    “Look what I got from a travelling merchant!”
    It was an odd, silvery box with a slot at either end and a couple of switches and dials, the kind that seemed to drive gnomes crazy with excitement.
    Cal took the box and examined it. “What in the name of the goddess is it?”
    Iggy grinned, “it’s the all-new Walnut Polishomatic 3000! They’re all the rage in Ironforge … Or so he told me, anyway,” he raised an eyebrow in thought for a moment, then returned to look at them. “What d’you think?”
    “It seems kind of … Pointless. We don’t have money to waste in the name of frivolity or fasion, Iggy.”
    The gnome looked genuinely hurt. “Well what, say, what if we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, right, with nothing but walnuts to eat, yeah, and they were all dirty?! Hmm? Are you gonna wanna eat nothing but some dirty walnuts? Is that what you like?!”
    “… Iggy …” Thera looked exasperated, “when is that ever going to happen? It’s just ridiculous!”
    “It could happen! And then who’s prepared, eh? Me! You won’t get any of my clean walnuts! You will eat yours dirty!”
    “Iggy, there’s being prepared, and then there’s … Being a bit stupid,” Thera smiled.
    “Well next time you want your walnuts cleaned, don’t come to me.”
    “… Fine, I won’t,” Thera suppressed a giggle.
    “Anyway, elves! Enough staring at water, it’s time to get on the road! It’s far back to Darnassus! …Where’s the magey guy?”
    “He said something about teaching the rookie a lesson in water torture. I’ll go find them.”
    Cal heaved himself from the ground and walked off in search of them, shouting their names as he went.
    “Mase! Rookie! Where are you!”

    The four adventurers walked in a line down the road, the rookie, Brayh, stumbling behind under his heavy pack.
    “I know he needs to learn what it is to travel as much as we do, but was it right to stuff some rocks at the bottom of his bag?” Cal whispered to Thera.
    “Right? Yes, remember when that priest, Hal was with us for a while? It’s the same as what I did then.”
    “… You put a venomous snake in his bedroll to see how he reacted to sudden danger.”
    Thera snickered quietly, then called out, “keep walking, Rookie! It’s not even midday yet! Far to go!”
    He didn’t respond, just carried on puffing and panting.
    The group walked on silently as they made their way across the flat, sandy terrain of the land known as the Barrens, all around was sand, sand, sand. Depressing amounts of sand. Almost no features. There was a mountain in the distance, a small pile of orange rock jutting out from the ground, and the road beneath them was nothing more than a track worn into the rocky ground by the kodo that merchants marched up and down between the port of Ratchet and the Horde controlled lands.
    Eventually, they came to a fork in the road and Mase fell to a halt, the rest of them following suite.
    “What’s that …?” Asked Mase.
    In the ground in front of them, sticking up perpendicular and glinting in the late morning sun was a sword. It had a bright, silvery blade, a brass hilt, the handle wrapped in slightly frayed leather. The pommel was set with a single ruby of low quality. It was nothing special, perhaps a family heirloom, but Mase recognised it instantly, and Brayh looked from person to person, trying to discern what was going on.
    At last, Mase stepped forward. He walked once around the shining anomaly and then knelt before it.
    “It’s his,” he said.
    The rest of the group stared at him in silence.
    Mase stood up, then slowly reached out to it. His hand began to close around it – then suddenly recoiled. He reached out again and drew it from the sand, then convulsed in pain, and fell to the ground, writhing and convulsing as he was gripped by a vision.

    There was no up and no down here. All around were colours, so many, so vast and so varied that it was impossible to fix one in his gaze and the overall impression was just insane. What he could make out, however, was a cage of purple light. And what made him gasp was what was in the cage.
    Moe was there. He was completely naked and his skin was sagging and grey, though he was no older than when he had died, that was plain. His cheeks were sunken and his hair was limp and dry.
    And the look on his face. It was terror. Pure, animal terror. He kept looking over his shoulder, and even that looked like it was horrifying enough.
    Moe kept looking around and finally his eyes settled on Mase. And then Mase thought to examine himself.
    He too was naked, but his body was as it always had been. He yelped and looked around, embarrassed despite the setting. Then he thought to try and go to Moe. He started to swim over awkwardly, for it was nothing like trying to swim in water. There was no resistance so he moved much faster, and the cage was not far away so he swam into it.
    The bars were not solid, for his arm moved through them, but he roared in terrible pain and withdrew his pain-wracked limb, and the agony slowly subsided.
    Then he turned to talk to Moe.
    “What’s going on? Where in the name of the Light are we?”
    Or at least that’s what Mase tried to say. No sound came out and he stopped midsentence.
    Then with sheer desperation filling his eyes, Moe yelled back, but equally as noiselessly. Mase could glean nothing from the motions of his mouth, but for the two last words.
    “Help me!” Moe had yelled, the pleading in his eyes so intense that Mase found himself moving to wipe away a tear that didn’t exist.
    Then Moe started shouting again, but a roaring filled Mase’s ears and suddenly he was lying beneath the Azerothian sun, his companions peering down at him. He squinted in the bright sun and moved his hand to shield his eyes from the bright glare.
    “What the hell just happened, Mase?” asked Cal, a look of concern in his bright yellow eyes.
    “I … The sword, I touched it and …” Mase sat up and looked about. “Where’s the sword gone?”
    “… What sword?” Asked Brayh.
    “I touched it! And then I had this vision and …”
    “There was no sword, Mase,” said a confused Thera.
    “Then …”
    “Tell us what happened,” suggested Iggy.
    He explained the vision from start to finish, the strange world of impossible colours and dimensions and most importantly, Moe.
    “Mase … I know you’re still upset about his death, but you need to let him go,” said Thera in a kind, firm voice.
    “No! I saw it!” he insisted.
    Iggy looked thoughtful, then decided it was time to bring his theory into the open. “Heat stroke,” he said, “he’s had too much sun. I know you always wanted us to be some of those big time adventure guys, taking on the masters of the Burning Legion, felling hordes of undead before us, but we’re just small time. Visions of dead friends and relatives are above us. We’re just simple mercenaries.”
    “No, it’s –“
    “Snap out of it, Mase,” said Cal. It’s just a bad daydream.
    Mase was defeated and he knew it, but he would prove his story, somehow.
    “I know what I saw,” he said finally, then stood up, “oh never mind, let’s just get going.”

    And so they walked through the day, Cal insisting that Thera tell Brayh what had happened or he would tell him himself, Thera responding with a friendly punch on the arm, insisting that they both knew he wouldn’t grass up his big sister, as Brayh struggled behind to Iggy’s amusement and Mase walked on in silence, and each of them couldn’t help wondering if their might have been more to his story than any of them had thought.
    As the afternoon wore on, they reached the end of two day trek through the Barrens and on the edge of the forest, they flopped down onto the grass. They rested for a minute, then Mase stood up.
    “I’ll grab some firewood,” he said, walking off.
    “I’ll find some berries to eat,” Cal said, walking another way into the forest, inhaling deeply of the forest air and gently stroking the bark of a tree, smiling at the feel of leaf mould between his bare toes.
    “I’ll scout the area – make sure we aren’t all about to end up in some troll’s cauldron,” said Iggy with an wicked glimmer in his eye.
    “I’ll find us some meat, we can’t all live of berries, brother.” said Thera, unpacking her bow a quiver and heading off into the forest with the cat, MidouBan at her side.
    “Wait – what can I do?” called Brayh.
    “I would suggest you take the rocks out of your bag,” said Thera, turning to look at him. She turned away, leaving him with a look of confusion.

    Cal inhaled deeply of the forest air, glad to be feeling at home again. A young deer walked up to the druid, he petted its muzzle and fed it one of the berries he had collected, selecting one he knew that most deer went crazy for. She ate the berry, the walked back off into the forest. He smiled and carried on absent mindedly picking berries from bushes and from the forest floor, thinking things over as he always did when he had time to himself. He bent over to reach a particularly fruitful bush and was startled to see something lying beneath the bushes.
    Through the branches, he could see it was square shaped, but pointed at the bottom to form a pentagon. Pushing aside the branches, took in the metal plating over it, the hundreds of individual dents, the simple crest; a collection of plants formed a wreath around a hare which stood proud as it looked over its shoulder at him.
    But he didn’t see that.
    He saw Moe’s shield.
    Barely breathing, he reached out to it and placed his fingertips gently over it, scarcely believing it was real.
    And suddenly he was swept away.

    He knew no up, no down, and the colours around him were mixed so closely that no individual one could be focused on. And where were the colours? How far would he have to go before he reached them? His mind was ablaze with questions, but most prominent was, “where in the name of Cenarius am I?”
    He spoke the question aloud but heard no sound. And directly beneath his floating purple, naked body was a cage of purple light, unnatural compared to the purple of his own skin. And in the middle of the cage was a terrified, white ball of flesh and bone.
    He moved his limbs, trying to move himself over and settled on an awkward swimming motion, breast stroking until he was level with the terrified man.
    Though there was no sound, the man must have sensed him, for he raised his head and shook with terror as he gazed at Cal.
    Cal looked back and as the image of Moe poured into him, the memory of what Mase had said came flooding back to him.
    “He was right …” muttered Cal.
    Moe floated in the centre of the cage, rocking back and forth as an endless stream of tears fell down his face. Cal hated to see one of his dearest friends like this and reached out to touch him, only to recoil as the bars sent aching, burning agony through his forearm. He rubbed the afflicted area and watched Moe whimpering in pain. Who knew how long he floated there for? Seconds? Or days? Time was meaningless, and he watched the flood of liquid sorrow stream down Moe’s face until finally a roar filled his ears and he was lying face down in the bush.
    He pulled himself to his feet, back aching and tiny scratches marking his face all over. He looked down at where the shield had been, where now there was nothing. He looked about, disorientated and stretched. The sun had was sinking behind the horizon, and it was nearly dark as first MidouBan, then Thera ran up to him.
    “Where in the name of Elune have you been?! We’ve been so worried!” she look frantic.
    “I … I think Mase might have been right.”
    “Right? About what?”
    “About Moe … I saw his shield, and when I touched I was in the place, it was so weird, just as Mase described it!”
    “Or, you ate the wrong kind of berry and passed out. You’re meant to know about plants – honestly, call yourself a druid? Come on …”
    Cal stretched again and followed her wearily back to the camp, the delight of the forest now gone.
    As they entered the camp, Iggy looked up.
    “Ugh, where’d you find him this time?”
    “He got high on berries and passed out, had some kind of Mase-related hallucination,” said Thera.
    “That’s even worse than the time he got us kicked out of that upmarket tavern for smoking that sungrass pipe!” he exclaimed.
    “This is nothing like that, I told you, a dwarf planted it on me! And I wasn’t eating berries, I –“
    “You had a bad dream, dinner’s nearly ready so let’s eat and get to bed. More travelling tomorrow.”
    Cal glanced at Mase who was sitting cross legged, staring at the ground. He would have to find some opportunity to discuss this, but not while Thera was around.
    He didn’t eat much of the rabbit stew Brayh had prepared, despite him being an excellent cook – one of the reason’s they’d taken him on. He stirred it about with his spoon and picked it over, but ate little, and as night came, he crawled into his sleeping bag.
    It was too hot, the position of the moon told him it was past midnight, but still he couldn’t sleep, he lay awake, uncomfortably hot as he tossed and turned, thinking of the terror and sorrow that had filled his friend in the vision. He removed his clothes one by one in effort to cool down, but still he didn’t sleep. Sweat drenched his forehead, his hands stick and damp, his dark blue hair ruffled and moist. How could this have happened to Moe? He thought back to the moment of his death. Had they been to slow? Had the infection of the dagger spread faster than they thought? If there was any possibility that Moe could be trapped in some nightmare world, afraid, naked and alone, then he couldn’t sit idly by. But on the other hand, what could he do? All he had was a vision. Moe’s body would be long rotted away, and yet maybe they should look at it. He remembered well the spot where his friend had died, he felt sure he could find it. But then what excuse could he give his friends to dig up and thereby desecrate his grave? Mase might understand, but that was it. Thera was convinced they were both crazy, and Iggy, the rationalist wouldn’t take it. As for Brayh … Brayh was still finding his place. He turned over again in his boiling, sticky bedroll and came to a decision. One way or another, he had to open the grave, see the body and reclaim the knife, and he needed to talk to someone with knowledge of demons. He didn’t like to consort with demons or anyone who associated themselves with them, but he would do what it took to free his friend.

    Cal wasn’t the only one not sleeping. Mase was thinking over his own vision, coming to much the same conclusion. Mase knew better than any of them the taint that dagger had contained. It had been the foulest thing the mage had ever come up against, it had sent shivers of fear down his spine, primal fear had almost made him go running from the object. And he had always suspected that his friend had not died, at least not fully, that somewhere, somehow, in some way he was still alive.
    And yet he had never thought for a moment that he might be the captive of demons.
    And what would the demons want with him anyway? Since when did demons take prisoners? It had been two years since Moe died, why would demons have kept him all that time? What use was he? So many questions, and no answers he knew of.
    When he finally slept, he sank into dreams of darkness, demons, and Moe, and when he awoke, he was shivering despite the fact that the night had never been cold.
    Cal, on the other hand looked like he had never slept, his face and bare arms were glistening in a thin film of sweat.
    Iggy scowled in distaste, “I think before we leave, sweaty here is gonna need a quick wash.”
    Cal glared back, irritable from a night without sleep, but a cool bath sounded like a good idea.
    Thera nodded and held her nose in mock-disgust as he walked off, Brayh watching in his usual awkward silence.

    Cal left them preparing breakfast and packing up their things and went into the woods, bright in the early morning sun as the quiet trees stood still, the bird song non-existent. He knew there was a stream nearby where they had collected water from.
    He reached the stream and slipped out of his light travelling robe. He knelt before the water and scooped some onto his face, let it drip down, then despite its icy temperature he slid in and lay back in the water, thinking over the events of the past two days. First Mase, then himself. What was going on? Moe was dead. All of them knew that. And yet he was growing more and more certain that he wasn’t. There were dreams, hallucinations, and then there was the vision. It had burned itself into his eyes, when he closed his eyes, that was what he saw. And he felt quite sure that when he slept, that was what he’d be seeing in his sleep. No, he had to get to the bottom of it.
    He dried off in the grass, basking in the warm sun, put his robe back on and returned to the camp. They ate a breakfast of dried meat, then packed the rest of their gear, put out the fire and got back onto the road. Brayh said nothing about his considerably lighter pack, but he seemed to be keeping his distance from Thera, who was making conversation with Iggy, a recurring debated over the merits of her favoured alchemy or the new gnomish science of using robots (TechnoMeds, they called it) was better. Cal and Mase stood a few paces behind, quiet and thoughtful as they walked slowly through the forest. It wasn’t often they got chance to take their journeys at any relaxed speed, but they currently weren’t under hire, so their journey to Darnassus was unhurried, which suited the druid and the mage just fine.
    They continued on for a couple of days, walking and sleeping, Thera and Iggy trying to convince Cal and Mase that they had seen nothing, Brayh staying out of it. He seemed to be satisfied enough with travel, the alternative having been a life toiling in fields and raising cows in the hot Elwynn sun.
    They reached the small town of Astranaar one morning and agreed to take a couple of days in proper beds, with proper food.
    After booking rooms at an inn and leaving their gear, they split up to look around the small settlement.
    Thera approached a travelling market with MidoutBan at her side. It was the type of market that sold everything from candles, clothing, exotic trinkets, and a strange, hooved blue man was selling fine jewellery. She approached a hooded human who was selling travelling clothes in the hope that he may be able to fix her boots. She examined idly examine some cloaks for a moment, then turned to speak to him.
    “Ishnu-alah, friend,” she said brightly with a traditional night elven greeting, “I was wondering if you do repairs,” she continued when he didn’t reply, “I have this tear in the top here where I had a run-in with an angry squirrel and I’d like to address the problem before it tears further and ruins the boot!”
    He stared at her for a moment from beneath his hood, then swept past her back to the cloaks.
    “Perhaps you would like to buy one of my cloaks?” his voice was monotone and quiet, and it sent a shiver down her spine.
    “... No, I want my boot repaired,” she said slightly impatiently.
    “I insist, look at the craftsmanship on this one,” he selected a brown cloak and held it out to her, and she gasped as she recognised it. It was like any other, but for a crest. It was a hare that looked over its shoulder at her, dark green plants surrounded it in a wreath.
    “Where did you get this?” she asked, the pitch of her voice raised slightly as a lump formed in her throat.
    “Ignoring her question, he pressed on, “beautiful, isn’t it? I’ve been meaning to do something about the crest, but if you leave it with me, I could have it done by this afternoon. Look, feel how tough it is here!
    Hardly breathing, Thera reached out towards it. She let out a small howl and everything went black for a moment.

    And when she opened her eyes, it was just as Cal and Mase had insisted it was. The colours were just insane and they hurt her eyes. When she looked up, it made no difference, and were it not for her silver hair tickling her back she wouldn’t have known she’d looked up at all. She looked down, gasping as she saw she was naked, then gasped louder at the sight that floated below her.
    Swimming awkwardly over, she floated before the purple cage, and her heart leapt in joy as she registered Moe, then ached as she saw the broken man before her.
    He simply sat in mid-air, legs huddled to him, head pressed to his knees and his back moved up and down as he sobbed into them. She reached out to him, to let him know he was not alone, and recoiled suddenly as the bars repelled her with a wave of agony. Once it passed, she tried to call out to him, but could make no sound. What really hurt was being unable to comfort her dear friend, and she was just wiping a tear from her eye when a roar filled her long ears and she was lying on her back, staring up at the midday sky.
    She registered the people standing a few feet away and curled up instantly, before realising she was now clothed again in her leather tunic. She rubbed her aching head, which she must have knocked when she fell, and ran a hand through MidouBan, who stood beside her, growling menacingly at anyone who tried to approach.
    “Are you okay?” asked a young human, one of the market people, “we tried to help but that beast wouldn’t let us near!”
    She looked around, bleary eyed, “his name is MidouBan. And I’m fine, please, go back to whatever you were all doing.” The crowd murmured amongst themselves and slowly dissipated back to work.
    She turned to confront the stallholder on what he’d done, only to find that he, the stall and all his wares were simply not there. There was nothing in the ground to indicate he ever had been, no flattened grass, none of the litter that humans were so fond of leaving, not even any tent peg holes.
    She decided the best thing to do would be to go back to the inn for some lunch and a rest, so she slowly picked herself up and returned to the open-sided pavilion of wood and stone that was their in.
    She took a table and MidouBan curled up under the table, purring gently. She smiled; it was an odd sound coming from a nightstalker, but one that always brought comfort to her.
    She ordered some moonberry juice and sipped it quietly in the quiet building.
    What the in the name of the goddess had just happened to her? It was exactly as Cal and Mase had described it, and yet it couldn’t have been real. She didn’t know much about magic – even the simplest of spells were above her, but what she did know was that Moe was dead, and Cal and Mase were simply not over it. Yes, that was it. Mase had started a chain reaction, heatstroke had caused him to hallucinate, and when Cal had eaten those berries (honestly, a druid should know better) and ... There must have been something in her water. Yes, it all made sense.
    That was what her brain told her, but deep down, her mind wasn’t having any of it. It had been so vivid, so real, that the lie wouldn’t hold up within her for long, and the worst part was she knew it. But she wasn’t about to admit that, stubborn as she was.
    She drained the last of her juice considered asking for a refill, and then walked up to the waitress.
    “Could you serve me a glass – no, a bottle of strong wine please? Screw the quality ...” she asked with a sheepish smile.
    The waitress raised one long blue eyebrow, then leaned under the counter and handed her an unmarked bottle. Thera took it, along with a glass, back to her table without another word.
    She was just letting the last drops of the bottle fall into the glass when Iggy sauntered in. She hid the bottle at her feet, but not fast enough because when he walked over to her, it was with a wicked grin on his face.
    “Bit early even for you, isn’t it?”
    She wondered why it didn’t hurt, smiling that wide.
    “Yeah, well …” she mumbled something incomprehensible.
    “What was that? What’s shaken you?” he attempted sympathy, but only succeeded in sarcasm.
    “Oh … Nothing. Shall I get some more wine?” she said dismissively and gave him a condescending pat on the head.
    “I am a gnome of taste, so in exchange for fine night elven wine, I shall overlook your condescending pat and the fact that you are clearly hiding something from me.”
    She sighed, “alright then,” she then went to the waitress, “something better quality this time, please.” The waitress bordered on disgust at such abuse of her wine so early in the day, but did as requested and handed over a bottle with a carving of a hippogryph rearing back on it. Not a great carving, its claws looked like hooves, its antlers like horns, and the artist hadn’t bothered with feathers. Her slightly addled mind laughed, it looked almost like a demon!
    khaos - Here to help
    Ex-GNN Reporter for Universe 1
    Ex Mod

    bibob wrote:

    *imagines khaos sitting on Leif's lap, dressed in a cat-costume*
    wait.....what ?( 8o

    The post was edited 1 time, last by khaos ().

  • part 2

    “So,” said Iggy as he finished pouring his second glass, “what happened? You can tell me, you know? What’s brought this drinking on?”
    “I … Was sober?” she tried lamely.
    His flat look gave her all the reply she needed and she sighed with defeat.
    “Alright, but you can’t tell Cal, Mase, or … Well, Brayh, or anyone about this!”
    “ ‘Kay, go on then.”
    “Right, well you saw the market at the edge of the town?” he nodded, “I went over, just to see what was going on. Anyway, there was this clothing merchant so I went over and said hello,”
    “Clothes? You told me off for buying that walnut polisher! And look at this!” he cut in, as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a walnut that she could actually see her reflection in.
    She was a little taken aback, “I didn’t think that was even possible. Still pretty pointless though, anyway,” she pressed on, before he could interrupt again, “he didn’t answer so I told him I wanted this tear in my boot fixed, and instead he tried to make me buy a cape. A cape exactly like … Like Moe’s was.”
    Iggy looked stunned for a moment, then broke into a grin, “ah, Cal and Mase got to you I see!”
    “No, I’m serious! I know I was sceptical, but it definitely happened! I went to this crazy world of colour and it was exactly how they both described it! It was completely unmistakable. Like – do you remember when you met mine and Cal’s granddad?”
    “Yeah, I wouldn’t mistake him … That robe, just ridiculous.”
    They both smiled.
    “So anyway, what do you make of all this? Me, Mase and Cal all having visions of the same thing within the space of a week?” she asked.
    “Hmm? Oh, I’d say you’re all loosing it.”
    “That’s pretty heavy stuff, coming from a gnome,” she said with a hint of spite.
    “And what’s that meant to mean?!”
    “It’s meant to mean that maybe you should open your mind!”
    “May I remind you that you thought the same as me until this little ‘vision’ of yours!” and then Iggy hopped off his chair and left the inn without another word. Thera slumped forward onto the table, knocking her half-full glass to the ground with a crash and lost consciousness not too long after as too much alcohol in a short period of time took its toll.

    And she awoke to another world of nightmare. But this time, there were no sickly, mesmerising colours and no purple cage. There was only darkness and flames of foul green, and though among such fire she should have been hot, but she was cold and huddled into herself.
    She hung in the darkness, waiting as she had trained to do for anything to happen. And happen it did.
    In an explosion of more green flames that made her let out an involuntary gasp, and as the flames vanished a split second later, as before her stood some four legged, hoofed monstrosity with cruel horns and massive jaws that salivated before her as it cackled into the darkness, a terrifying sound that had her reeling back from it. Then it pounced and she was thrown back into consciousness, sitting up, narrowly avoiding a collision with Iggy who was standing over with a worried expression.
    “Are you alright? You collapsed, and your skin is all cold. I think you’ve had a bit too much of the wine,” he said.
    “No, there was …” she mumbled sleepily, then yawned, “alright … I’m going to take a nap, it’s been a hard couple of days.”
    “That’s right, off you go,” he said encouragingly.

    Later in the night, as Cal and Iggy lay sleeping in their shared room at the inn, all was calm throughout the building. The sounds of gentle breezes crossed the trees outside and kissed their moonlit faces through the open walls of the night elven architecture, strange, almost alien buildings built of strange colours of wood that seemed almost as though they were still alive. Mase and Brayh shared the room to one side, and Thera took a room to herself opposite, though they weren’t so much rooms as sections with pillars across which one could pull a canvas sheet to hide nakedness or keep the furious rain at bay. Crickets chirped, an owl hooted, but all this seemed to silence instantly, eerily, as Cal the druid sat up suddenly in bed, breathing heavily, his chest glistening with sweat and he cried out.
    Iggy, always alert, jumped up in bed, a comical sight as a dagger appeared from nowhere.
    He cocked his head as he looked at Cal, the smell of dread emanating from Cal clear in his nostrils, “bad dream? Or are you headed down Thera’s route?”
    He stood on his bed, staring at Cal in silent, who continued to sit on his bed, still-wet chest rising and falling more regularly now, though his face still bore a look of pain and fear.
    “Well?” said Iggy quietly after a time.
    “I must meditate on this,” and without another word, Cal disappeared into the dark forest, though it was the early hours on the morning, and he was virtually naked.

    He walked for a while beneath the familiar trees, to a glade where the moonlight shone through. A deer watched him with a mixture of reverence and weariness, for though it recognised him as a sworn protector of nature, it also knew he dined upon the many diverse fruits Nature provided.
    But after a time, it decided he was not hunting it, and lay down to sleep.
    Cal stood for a while, and then threw off his loincloth and sat down cross legged in the moss, paying no heed to the rough twigs that scratched at his body as he reached out to the forest.
    Most mortals ignored the signs around them, but Cal knew better. A druid knew the value of listening to the trees and those they sheltered beneath their boughs, so now he asked their advice on the strange messages he had been sent.
    He sat for hours, mind empty but for that one thought, that request.
    And finally, as the moon was setting, he received a message, an answer.
    You were right to come to us, druid, for that which plagues you with fear threatens all Life. Those you call dead may yet have chance to be born again, and enemies of old still seek to take their vengeance. Much rests on you and your friends.
    Rarely did Nature provide an answer, and according to records, this one was uncommonly clear.
    He gave thanks and rose slowly to his feet, stretching off and shaking his aching legs, then started back home, replacing his loincloth as he went.

    The sun was rising when he re-entered the inn, and Iggy must have woken the others, since they were all sat around at table with hot drinks in hand. They looked up as he entered with exhausted expressions, except Thera who jumped up and hugged him.
    “You had us worried, little brother!”
    He nodded, “I’m sorry, I had important matters to attend to.”
    “At three o’clock in the morning?” demanded Iggy.
    Cal smiled but said nothing and took a seat next to Mase. The upper-class human wrinkled his nose.
    “Excuse me, but had you considered what a robe or a tunic might do to your appeal?”
    “Ah, Mase! You’re in druid country now, get used to it!” said Thera with a smile.
    “I don’t see why closeness to nature requires such indecent exposure.”
    “It’s not required, it’s just comfortable,” said Cal, “what was it uncle Minh used to say, Thera? ‘A robe may provide comfort, but it’s got nothing on the suit your fine parents gave you!’”
    “Ah yes, so he did!” smiled Thera, “and then he had to go and get caught in a kodo charge …”
    “Mm …” said a solemn Cal, “anyway, I’m going to go back to bed,” then he swept from the room, deciding it best not to mention what he had been told just yet.

    Two days later, they were back on the road, heavy packs on their backs, weapons stowed within them, for there was not history of bandits or robbers in night elven lands.
    The mood had been good just a week before, but now there was mistrust and rivalry.
    Iggy seemed lined up against the others because for some reason they’d all had visions and he’d been singled out not to. It was like visions were fashion and he couldn’t have one.
    Cal and Mase both thought them real, not that either of them knew the other thought so, and as such, they felt scorned.
    Thera was in a state of passive-aggression; she wasn’t willing to admit that she thought there was more to what she had seen.
    And Brayh, as usual, seemed left out.
    He gave the impression of wanting to try and bring them back together, he knew how good friends they had all been.
    And no one was willing to talk about it.
    So it was ignored and as such a void began to grow between them.
    Then they reached a fork in the road, one way was to Darnassus, the other was a rough track that led deeper into the forest, (a third, imaginary road led to a shameless metaphor :P) “we should go and see Moe’s grave,” said Mase almost in monotone, “you remember we buried him up here?”
    Cal nodded a silent agreement, while Iggy took on a look of outrage.
    “Why, so you can dig him up, poke around and try to vindicate your crack-pot theories?!” Iggy came out with instantly.
    Mase looked panic-stricken, then quickly switched to a look of what he could only hope was some outrage of his own.
    “Why, you barbarian! What do you think I am?”
    “Barbarian? You mages, you’re so far up your collective arse you can actually lick your own tongue!”
    “Hey, uh, calm down!” tried Brayh.
    “Yeah, Iggy, what’s that even supposed to mean?” demanded Cal.
    “It’s meant to mean that the two of you had some scary dreams, and that’s fine, but now it’s time to accept that it was just that; scary dreams.”
    “Or are you just jealous that you have not had one yourself?” said Mase, quite slyly.
    “Ugh, that’s it!” yelled Iggy, then stormed off down the path to Darnassus.
    Mase glared after him for a second, then took the road into the forest.
    Thera watched them both with a pained expression, then ran after Iggy.
    Cal glared about, then followed Mase at a distance.
    Brayh looked about with a knot in his stomach
    “Hey, what am I supposed to do?” he shouted at anyone listening. “Hello?” he tried after a moment.
    He stared after them, then sighed and sat down.
    “They’ll be back,” he mumbled to himself. “They’ll be back …”
    khaos - Here to help
    Ex-GNN Reporter for Universe 1
    Ex Mod

    bibob wrote:

    *imagines khaos sitting on Leif's lap, dressed in a cat-costume*
    wait.....what ?( 8o
  • Its a bit odd, but people have said they liked it so I thought I'd give it a go. My little entry:

    Radiant flashing lights stream past like an avalanche of candles. A loud rush accompanies each torrent as the air is ripped open before crashing together back into place. Between each flurry a smooth untainted river of jet black onyx extends towards the beckoning horizon. Black velvet lines the sky muffling distant sounds and closing in upon the ground engulfs the ever-advancing lights. Icicles plummet down from unseen clouds to guild the landscape in silver. By the edge of the onyx river, miniature cliff faces constructed out of tiny congealed mud flaps washed on top of each other with each fresh rainfall. These mark the boundary between the world of straight lines an light, with the one of towering monolithic trees that obscure create an uneasy sense of twilight even in the middle of summer. Illuminated by a brilliant silver moon unfathomably high above untouched by wisps of moisture, pure white light radiates down onto the streaming road that ferries people inside their sardine cans, without seeing or thinking.

    On the horizon, almost touching the sky rests a line of gently undulating grassy hills. From the top of these, a brilliant panoramic view of the surrounding valley is presented, stretching from the small harbour town in the east, to the vast pine forest in the west. Any hope of seeing the mighty sea beyond the town is removed by the still constant drizzle that natives are accustomed too. A faint wisp of pine scent wafts up the hills as it is carried by a dainty breeze. Looking onto the tops of the trees they appear as minute evergreen bonsai trees interjected by gorges of black and grey that have been torn out, and are rarely filled with motion. Ornately decorated Danish roofs are one of the few signs that people have ever lived here, save for the busy arterial road, there is not much that would suggest the presence of life.

    Light, pure and bright begins to top the edges of the valley bowl. Forcing its way through the clouds it annihilates the rain and disperses the dreary clouds. As it cascades down the hillside, the darkness recedes into holes and crevices. This singe moment of sun marks the end of a long winter for life in the valley. Permanent darkness takes its toll on life and a new start is a much-anticipated thing. Deep inside the bowels of the monoliths, something stirs and they prepare to once again become the mighty and intimidating occupants of the valley. The lowness of the sun casts almost infinitely long shadows on anything that stands up, creating an odd sensation of day in one half and night in the other. At the highest peak of the ridge of hills a solitary figure casts the longest shadow of all. Joints groaning, the wizened old artefact begins to slow down his great mountain.

    Long straggly white hair is thin on his scalp and looks well beyond its expiration date. His sunken grey eyes have a glimmer of hope and life in them, but this dulls with every groan of his old frame. His face is wrinkled and sagging beyond recognition, and a crook in his back makes him walk almost bent over. Old mangled clothes that have lost all colour they may have once possessed hang limply from his long shrunken body. Anyone who saw this man would have thought that all functions of life should have left his body many years previous, but something deep down inside him did not want to let go of what once was. A driving impulse had animated this worn out man, and it was pushing him towards this valley.

    Past the towering trees, past the flood of candles and past the quaint little houses he continues, almost to the sea, when he stops. His neck strains upwards and he looks out through the layers of age and illness to a time of deep regret and shame. Shame that has driven this man away for all but a short time in his life. Nobody notices as he hobbles onto an old decrepit peer, which, like the man, should have long since crumbled to nothing. Narrowly missing a rotten hole he silently continues to the end where he finally reaches journeys end. The sun dips back down behind the hills, to leave the valley in darkness for another day. The clouds tentatively start to creep onto the horizon and reassert their dominance over the port. The man stares out to sea as a fog starts to roll in, and his eyes stop looking and start to remember his shame...

    A distant speck on the horizon glitters in the morning sun. As it approaches it is occasionally obscured from view by a cold light reflecting on the morning water. Two sails now clearly protrude from the boat, and their slightly battered sails seem to shimmer in the wind. A cry of joy erupts in a wave over the anticipating crowd as they see a two arms waving in the distance. As the almost retired boat limps into harbour, its two brightly coloured hulls show signs of decay. Now close up it is obvious to the crowd of the substantial damage sustained on its rough voyage home. A rope is thrown and caught. A plank extends, and a single man descends into the crowd. His glistening grey eyes fight to hold back a flood. A faint snivel can be heard amongst the people as the single man marches solemnly though the downturned faces.

    The fog rolls over the decrepit jetty and a tear descends from a grey eye. Fighting hard to try and forget those long months at sea, the man finally succumbs to the ravages of guilt and age. As the fog disperses the decrepit peer stands alone.
  • Romance and Responsibility

    Holden woke to the sound of his son wailing . . . as he did most mornings. Little Trevor was hungry and, at five weeks old, was not subject to logic or discussion on the subject. Holden rolled out from under the warm covers and slipped his rough feet into the well-worn slippers. Groping his way through the darkness, he made a bottle with practiced hands and headed back to the nursery. With soothing coos to Trevor, he scooped up the small bundle from his bassinet, laid him in his lap as he sat in the glider, and popped the bottle into the newborn’s mouth.

    Trevor sucked contentedly on the bottle until he drained it. His father swung the small boy over his shoulder and patted him softly on the back until the baby expelled the built-up gas in a soft burp. Holden gave his son an encouraging smile at his accomplishment. Trevor gave no response, nor did Holden expect the child to respond to a smile for a few more weeks, but he still tried.

    Trevor was still too young to support his own weight, amuse himself, or be left alone for even short periods of time. So Holden was tethered to the small bundle of joy except when Trevor was sleeping, something that rarely lasted more than a couple hours at a shot. Holden changed Trevor’s diaper and then strapped the little guy into a harness so that Holden could move around freely and get things done.

    He started the morning by gathering up the laundry and starting to wash the first of several loads. It still amazed the young man how much dirty laundry a ten-pound infant could produce. After loading the first pile into the machine and starting it, he headed back to the kitchen to make himself breakfast. Some cold cereal, a banana, and some juice hit the spot. Once the dishes were cleaned and put away, Holden set about cleaning up the small house that he and Eleanor had picked out. It had seemed like a fairy tale when it was all going on, but the ending had not been what he had expected.

    * * * * *

    Holden had first seen Elle at the beach two years ago. Holden and a couple of buddies had gone for some sun and sea, to drink some beer, play a little football, and watch the pretty women. Elle was with a bunch of other fighter pilots playing volleyball on the beach near the parking lot. Holden was immediately struck by Elle’s lithe form. Space Academy training had done wonders for an already athletic build. It seemed that every muscle was well toned and perfectly shaped. She jumped at the net with a fluid grace that almost took Holden’s breath away. He stood staring with his mouth agape, until by happenstance the ball was hit wide and came to a rest by his feet.

    “A little help?” the bikini-clad siren called.

    Holden bent over and picked up the ball, throwing it to Elle with a practiced motion.

    Elle almost missed the ball as her own attention was drawn to Holden’s swimmer’s physic. She slid her eyes up and down his form with a gentle caress, pulling her attention back to the ball just in time to avoid letting it hit her in the nose. “You want to join us?” she queried.

    “Sure” he replied, a little too enthusiastically.

    Volleyball was not really his sport, but Holden was pretty athletic and extremely motivated, so he was able to hold his own. Elle, on the other hand, was really in her element. She had lettered in volleyball for four years in college, and basketball for three. Her jump serve was pure poetry in motion and Holden found himself wondering how the opponents could concentrate on returning the ball given the beauty of the server.

    The afternoon wore on, and Holden and Elle exchanged flirtatious small talk, coquettish glances, and the occasional, and ‘accidental,’ rub, touch, or bump. Their skin burned at these chance encounters. By the time the players were ready to break up and head to the local watering holes, Elle and Holden were feeling a heat completely unassociated with the waning sun.

    The pair went back to Holden’s dorm, thinking the barracks would not be a particularly private place for conversation, or other things. Holden’s roommate, Donny, had gone home for the week, so they had the place to themselves. They ordered some pizza and sat talking and looking deep into one another’s eyes. When the pizza was gone, they moved to touching, caressing, kissing, and finally, clothing strewn about the room, a naked triathlon on Holden’s small bed.

    Afterward they lay in a tangle of limbs, listening to the beating of each other’s hearts, not wanting, or needing to say a word. For both it had been better than any prior intimacy and more profound than they had ever expected.

    * * * * *

    Elle absently checked her displays, already knowing that nothing had changed. She and her squadron were parked around some hunk of metal and rock, which was cloaked in a thin atmosphere that was barely capable of sustaining life. They had been sent to this system two weeks ago in the hopes of catching the enemy’s fleet on the ground, but to date, no such luck. The boredom was almost overwhelming at times.

    The cockpit of the light fighter was pretty cramped. It was only meant to be occupied for a few hours at a time during combat. But the Admiral had taken to leaving his flights in their ships for days at a time. Fortunately, their flight suits were equipped to handle waste storage and removal, and they were provided snacks, food, and beverages to sustain them. Even so, bodies got pretty stiff after more than a couple of hours cooped up in one of the tiny craft.

    Elle looked forward to getting back to the lunar base from which they were currently patrolling. Although there was not much to do there, at least there were people to talk to. Alone in her cockpit, without authority to chat on the communicator, the isolation was palpable. Not to mention the fact that the fighter had no windows, only a screen showing the formation of 10,000 light fighters of which she was a part. In addition, there were a few hundred capital ships and some recyclers as part of the fleet, but even at base she tended to hang out with the other fighter pilots.

    For the tenth time in the last hour, Elle checked her fuel and heading, verified all systems, and checked all of her backups. Everything was in perfect working order. Her eyes stopped on the picture of herself, Holden, and little Trevor that had been taken the day their little miracle was born. It seemed much longer than six weeks ago. It seemed more like six years. Just three weeks after the birth she had shipped out with her squadron on a six-month assignment in the Outer Rim. It had taken some time to get out here, and then they had spent a week or two at a time patrolling various systems looking for targets. So far, lots of waiting, but no action.

    She was so absorbed in thoughts of Trevor that it took a moment for the blinking red light to register in her consciousness. Looking over, Elle saw that the enemy had launched a fleet to attack her squadron! It looked to be 1000 Battle Cruisers, 1000 Cruisers, and 1000 Battleships. Such a formation would tear through her mates in devastating fashion. Although they had numbers on the enemy, the enemy’s fleet had much more firepower and armor.

    Fortunately for Elle and her companions, the Admiral was prepared and immediately launched 5000 Destroyers to join Elle’s formation. The additional ships would arrive just seconds before the incoming fleet. The enemy had assumed, because Elle’s flight had shown no activity during such a long period of time, that they were not prepared. As the heavy war ships neared, probes arrived, but Elle’s wing mates ignored them. Seconds before the attacking ships arrived, the Admiral ordered the recyclers to detach from the fleet and head toward the soon-to-be-formed debris field.

    The battle itself was brief and confused. Elle saw an enemy Cruiser appear on her display and fired at it with little noticeable effect. Fortunately, two Destroyers were nearby and they not only took the return fire from the Cruiser, but also finished it off with alternating beams from their guns. The light fighters simply didn’t have the firepower to overcome the armor and shields on the enemy ships, unless several were able to hit the same ship. But the Destroyers made short work of the enemy heavies and soon there was nothing left but to wait for the recyclers to scoop up the debris of the enemy fleet.

    The fleet headed back to the lunar base. As often occurred after these engagements, a number of Elle’s friends did not appear at the mess that night. Over a thousand fighter pilots were listed as missing or dead. It was unlikely many of the missing would be found if they did not make it back within the day. If the computers or engines on the ship were down, there was no way a fighter could find its way back through the infinite reaches of space to locate the lunar base. Better to be killed in action than to starve to death in the cockpit.

    As she sat in her bunk, Elle thought longingly about her husband and son back at home. She could not imagine how she had grown so attached to Trevor in just the few short weeks she had known him. And yet, her chest tightened when she thought about him cooing, or when she looked at the pictures Holden had sent. In a way, her feelings for Holden had grown at almost as quick a pace. To be away from them both for six months was almost more than she could bear.

    * * * * *

    Elle and Holden spent the day following their chance meeting walking hand-in-hand and talking. Elle told Holden about how she had ended up a fighter pilot and Holden explained his plans of finishing his last two years at the University before becoming an architect. He showed her drawings of his projects and she explained the realities of space warfare. They talked about growing up, places they had been, and things they had seen. Each delighting in the other’s experiences and insights.

    The days turned into weeks, and still they saw each other every chance they got. After six months, they decided to get married and started saving for a place to call their own. The wedding was everything of which Elle had always dreamed. They managed to keep costs down and still make it special. A month later, the couple moved into their new home and two months after that Elle became pregnant with Trevor.

    The couple fixed up the house for their new son, painting the nursery, buying furniture, getting toys and clothing from friends and family. Everything was turning out as planned. The dream had come true. Holden would be finishing his last semester at school and Elle would be moving from Active Forces to the Reserves, while taking a job with a local company that manufactures flight simulators.

    Then, a week before Trevor was born, the notice came in the mail. Elle was being deployed for six months. Holden’s plans to finish school were scrapped as the young couple did not have the money to pay a nanny and none of their family members were available for such a long period. Instead, Holden was left to stay at home with Trevor while Elle went off to war.

    * * * * *

    Holden packed Trevor into his stroller and took him out for his morning walk through the neighborhood. It was good for both of them to get out into the fresh air. Although Holden looked forward to brief conversations with neighbors on these outings, he felt distanced from those around him. He could empathize with the stay-at-home mothers, but somehow it wasn’t the same. He always felt the other men in the neighborhood looked down on him as someone who couldn’t cut it.

    And so the weeks turned into months. Holden was endlessly fascinated by Trevor’s growth and development. However, at the same time he felt trapped by Trevor’s constant need for attention and supervision. He longed for the carefree days after he first met Elle, but those days were gone, perhaps forever. He spoke to Elle when he could and Holden noted the strain in her voice. He knew that it was not from the work but from the distance from her son. So he related every story and adventure of Trevor’s development and sent pictures when he could.

    At last it was time to pick Elle up from the Space Port. Holden dressed Trevor in a dark green outfit that brought out Trevor’s emerald-green eyes. They stood waiting as the crew began to file through, meeting their own loved ones. Through a break in the crowd, Holden spotted Elle and held Trevor aloft. Elle, scanning the crowd for her men saw the little guy above the crowd and wondered at his resemblance to Holden. She rushed over and held Trevor and Holden to her in a grip that threatened to remain clamped until none of them could breathe. She could hardly believe how big Trevor had grown and how tired Holden looked.

    The three piled into their small car and drove back to their cottage. Holden and Elle talked and talked, retelling every story and anecdote from the past six months. When Elle had nothing else to say she wondered aloud at Trevor’s size and pinched his chubby little toes. It would be days before she could tear herself away from caressing his auburn locks or kissing his little hands. Slowly, the three came back together as a family and the wounds of absence slowly disappeared.
  • 0100 Hours, January 08, 2309 (Military Calendar)
    Phi-Chi Star System, Mining Basin-093, Keption-02

    Sergeant Greg Mitchells slung his HV Type 87 Sniper Rifle over his shoulder and stared off into the dark endless night time sky. Gently and quietly he slid his hand into his chest pocket as a gust of wind rustled the leaves at his feet. The cool breeze was refreshing to Mitchells as it rushed over his dampened, unprotected face. Even though it was fifty degrees outside his thermal insulating armor, it was over eighty in the suit and he hated the heat. Extruding a pack of mint flavored cigarettes from the breast pocket of his armor, the sniper popped out a single white stick. Mitchells locked his already up visor in place to make sure it wouldn’t slide down on his cigarette while he was enjoying its pseudo-mint flavor. His team had always warned him that his smoking would be the end of him, but if they killed him before the Jakari’ then he felt it was a worthy death. Gently he raised a lighter to the tip of the stick and shielded it from sight; he ignited the edge with a small yellow flame and took a puff of the palatable cigarette. The smell of mint laced tobacco filled the air. Mitchells removed the cigarette and exhaled a long string of smoke into the cool alien air that played with the midnight moon light. He placed the slender roll of tobacco back into his mouth, but it was in there no more than a few seconds before a heavily armored hand hit Mitchells on the back of the helmet, sending the cigarette onto the midwinter ground below. A boot stepped on it, shutting off the dim light it exhibited on its tip and sending a flurry of hot embers into the air. Lieutenant 1st Class Hugo Smith looked down at Mitchells and even though his face was masked by the golden reflective visor, Mitchells knew he was pissed.
    “God damn it, Mitchells.” A voice whispered over the Team Communication Relay. “Do you know that that little cigarette you had there was glowing hot! You could have visually or thermally given away our position!”
    “Sorry, Sir.” Mitchells replied as he pulled his rifle off his back.
    “You remember the plan, we recon the alien encampment until oh five hundred hours then fall back to extraction point.”
    “Roger, Sir. Eyes on enemy camp as we speak, no movement detected.”
    “Good and Mitchells…lower your dammed visor.”
    “Gotcha, Sir.” He replied and slid the molecularly altered ‘super-glass’ visor down over his face.
    Mitchells unlatched his rifles bipod stand and rested it on the barren earth. He swiftly adjusted the scope until the enemy encampment was in clearly his sights. Like before, the camp was dead, a ghost town of dying fires outside rounded, hastily made barracks. As of that moment no guards were on patrol due to the changing of shifts that occurred every half hour.
    Looking up at the sky Mitchells watched as clouds moved swiftly in the upper atmospheric winds. The alien moon loomed high in the sky, becoming eclipsed periodically as the clouds covered and passed over its glowing sphere. Ghostly shadows danced joyfully over the valleys surface performing their midnight waltz with graceful silver lined strides.
    With an exasperated sigh, Mitchells looked back at the enemy camp; the barracks were still quiet as a cloud passed quickly and silently over head, eclipsing the base. When the cloud passed, activity erupted within the bases perimeters moments before a second cloud came and went and once again the base was transformed into a ghost town.
    “Sir...” Mitchells said over the TCR. “I think we have a problem.”
    “What you got, son?” Smith replied instantly.
    “There was activity but it quickly dissipated.”
    “Anything now?”
    The ground next to Mitchells exploded, sending rocks and debris into the air around the soldier. Scolding plasma washed over the thermal armor, burning through it like rice paper. Mitchells barely had time to get out of the melting armor to save himself from severe burns. Blisters bubbled over his left arm and legs, and even though he couldn’t see it, he could feel that his back was raw.
    “Sir, hostile fire!” Mitchells bellowed over the radio.
    “Do you have a fixed location on the fire?”
    “Negative, Sir.” Mitchells picked up his rifle and began a dead sprint towards the thick of the forest. “I’m falling back to base.”
    “Roger, laying out a welcome mat for those in pursuit.”
    Mitchells wasn’t exactly the fastest in his platoon, though he was the best sniper, he was by all means one of the worst runners. The one thing he was good at though when it came to movement was silence and when a branch snapped behind him, he knew the alien was gaining fast on his rear. In an instant the man turned around, swung his rifle off his back, and leveled it with his shoulder smoothly, releasing an armor piecing round into the alien creature that had sprung itself into the air at Mitchells. The High Velocity round pierced through the creature’s unprotected skull at the crown of its head, spewing blood into the air behind it. In the black of night one cannot see the thick blue blood as it explodes outward from an alien, but you instead see just a spray of dark liquid against the black of night.
    Sounds erupted around him; clicks, chirps, and growls filled the seemingly endless dark forest. Mitchells withdrew his pistol, clicked on the flashlight, and searched the area around him. Alien creatures had encircled him and slowly began to approach their surrounded prey.
    “Drop!” A female voice yelled over the TCR.
    Mitchells dropped to the alien blood soaked ground quickly as bullets occupied the air over his head and the sounds of rocket rounds finding their lightly armored targets was a sickeningly pleasurable sound. Looking ahead of him, he quickly jumped back in horror as he came face to face with the alien he had shot. Blue blood oozed from a small entrance wound on its elongated snake like head and created a puddle around its wide open mouth. By time he looked up to see how the battle was going, it was over and Team Omicron was repelling down from the dense foliage above.
    Standing up slowly, Mitchells quickly checked for signs of injury, but to his avail, there was nothing to report. A body dropped next to him and even through the thick armor and reflective visor, he knew it was Green-3 or also known as Cassandra Wilson. One of the best looking members out of the three teams that make up the Omicron platoon, she was a force to be reckoned with in hand to hand combat. Next to her stood Blue-2, Jacob Patterson, and Red-4, Jonathan Patterson, or better known as “The Blood Brothers”. The two of them, twins, worked with 100 percent efficiency alone, but together no one on the team was able to compete with them, even if the sides are eight to one in the other teams favor. Mitchells had once seen Jacob take a non-fatal shot to the chest in a combat zone and his brother Jonathan went berserk, leaving the foxhole in a mad rush. He came back minutes later with melted armor, plasma burns across his legs and chest, blood dripping from his mouth, a broken left shoulder and hand, five broken ribs, and a somehow bent in half MKZ98 Assault Rifle with spent every shell in his eighteen clips spent. When the commander asked what happened, he denied that anything happened and asked how his rifle was bent in half.
    “Up.” Cassandra said and pointed towards the tree canopy. Mitchells didn’t hesitate but instead took hold of the rope and began to climb three stories into the air.
    Upon reaching the point where the leaves became an obstruction, a massive gloved hand reached out for Mitchells and helped to pull him up into the makeshift camp. In the darkness Mitchells was unable to tell the physical features of his comrades but he was able to count the shadows of all of the remaining eleven members. A blood curdling cry came from the forest below, marking the final moments in one of the creature’s life as well as making every other creature aware of its location.
    “Blue-5 patch me through to command.” Smith demanded.
    “You’re on, Sir!” He replied moments later as a breeze rustled the leaves around the team.
    “Mother Goose this is Team Omicron do you read?”
    “Roger that, what is your situation Omicron? We weren’t due to hear from you until oh three hundred.” A voice crackled over the TCR.
    “Our location has been compromised and we need extraction on the double.”
    “Negative, Omicron. All drop ships are currently out picking up other teams and the closest empty ship cargo ship is located on the opposite side of the planet.”
    “Damn, how long until extraction, command?”
    “The fastest we can be there is three hours. We can send drop pod supplies and reinforcements if you need it.”
    “Negative, we’ll maintain. Omicron, out.”
    “What’s the plan, Sir?” Blue-1 asked.
    “Green-2, what’s the current location of Gamma?”
    “They are about three clicks south of our current location gathering intel on the alien refinery.”
    “Can you get me a direct TCR with their preceding officer?”
    “Negative, shortly after entering atmosphere Gamma went into radio silence.”
    “Damn, well they better be ready, were moving out.”
    “Sir?” A voice questioned from the shadows.
    “Those buggers aren’t just gonna give up because we are in trees. We need to move out of this damn forest and meet up with Gamma ASAP.”
    “What about command’s orders?”
    “Command is up on a cozy ship, we are down here on the front lines. They can’t possibly know what is going on down here better than we do. Send an encrypted message, Priority Indigo, and state that we will be rendezvousing with Gamma and we are to be extracted posthaste.”
    “Roger, sent Sir.” Blue-5 responded.
    “Okay then…” Smith looked around at his team. Many of the soldiers had begun to pick up and load their weapons. Satisfying clicks filled the air as clips of armor piercing rounds snapped into place with the MKZ98 Assault Rifles. “Load up and move out.”
    “Sir!” Green-1 responded and snapped to attention. “Requesting to descend first and scout area before team descent.”
    “Granted head down and scout at full speed. Don’t want you getting clipped down there.”
    Green-1, or better known as Blaze Morrison, was the fastest member of team Omicron. His top speed reached at approximately sixty kilometers per hour with winds on his side and fifty-three with winds against him. He quickly walked over to the edge of the platform, repelled down the rope, and seconds later a low toned whistle cut through the darkness.
    “Okay team, go, go, go!” Smith yelled and watched as the team rushed down the trio of ropes.
    As soon as the entire team was safely on the ground, Smith turned and looked at his team. Blue-1 and Green-1 were crouched with their rifles leveled to their shoulders as they scanned the area; Red-5 and Red-2 clicked on their helmet’s thermal sensors, even though the aliens did not emit thermal imagery, and cocked their rifles.
    “Okay team, spread out; I want red left, blue center, green right. One whistle for ‘halt, enemy spotted’, two for ‘enemy down’, but do not engage unless necessary and three whistles for ‘under attack’ but I’m sure we’ll hear the gunfire.”
    There were no responses, but silent nods from the faceless helmets. One man, Green-3, pulled a metallic cross from his armor and after lifting his visor, pressed it against his lips. He savored the taste of the steel icon that had been his source of “luck” in over eight engagements. The metal taste filled his lips and even though there were no deep emotions shown, he knew that the soldier’s moral went up after kissing the holy icon. He quickly put the cross back into his armor, closed his visor and hit himself over the head, showing that his helmet was locked in and he was ready to begin the mission.
    “Alright then…” Smith said to the platoon. “Move out.”

    For about an hour Team Omicron had moved like ghosts through the dark forest. Wind rustled the leaves overhead sending the trees into an occasional sway that allowed brief strands of moonlight to appear from the endless black, but the members of the elite team were never caught in the light. Omicron was often chosen for high priority missions due to their impeccable ability to be less than shadows and more like ghosts. They never left signs of their presence behind and were often put in relationship with the Greek goddess Artemis, for they were the militaries stealthy hunters of the night.
    A twig snapped and Smith held up his fist, signaling Red team to stop. Quickly he pointed to Red-3 and Red-5 and pointed down to the leaf covered ground. Red-2 and Red-4 silently loaded their HV Type 87’s and scanned the area. A long low whistle erupted from the right of Red teams position, followed by three and then gunfire.
    “Go Red team, go!” Smith yelled and led a blind charge into the darkness.
    Plasma lit up the air around him, slightly charring the left side of his helmet. The tree ahead of him caught fire as plasma washed over its thick alien bark. The sky seemed to be raining plasma as Smith’s team neared Blue team’s last known location. A grenade went off meters away, sending small rocks ricocheting off of Smiths visor.
    “Man down! Man down!” A voice erupted over the TCR. “Blue-2 is down!”
    Red-4 perked up at that, strapped his sniper rifle to his back and began a dead sprint towards the fire zone. As he ran he withdrew a twelve inch knife from his armor and held it ready to kill anything that stepped in his way.
    “God damn it Jonathan!” Smith yelled over the TCR. “Get back here!”
    It was too late, Jonathan had disappeared into the darkness of the forest and yet again everything was silent, lack the sound of wood crackling from the fires that burned behind Red team.
    “Blue team come in, this is Green-1.” Blaze barked over the TCR. “Come in Blue leader.”
    An eerie static filled the side of the communication relay where Blue-1 was supposed to be. “Come in Blue team.” Blaze repeated, but there was nothing but white noise.
    “This…” A voice said and coughed violently. “Is blue…” Static filled the air for seconds until the voice of the member returned. “Dead…they’re all…” The TCR died and the eerie silence that had been there moments previous was back and still as chilling as before.
    “Green-1 did you catch that? Who’s dead?” Smith asked over the TCR.
    “Negative, Sir, but we are at Blue teams last known location and it’s a mess Sir. You better…oh my God…Green-2 check the body over there, I think he may be alive. Sir it’s a real mess, please hurry!”
    “Sir…what about Red-4?” Red-2 asked.
    “Jonathan can fend for himself; he’s killed these things before. Red-3, try to bring up a TCR with Gamma...”
    “Negative, Sir. I just tried moments ago and they were still on radio silence.”
    “Well damn, try again!”
    “On it, Sir.”
    “Approaching Blue teams last known location, Sir.” Red-2 stated as they neared a small meadow. Glass patches littered the area where Blue team had stood, due to recent plasma scorching. Trees rained fiery leaves that hit the meadows pond and erupted into a cloud of steam. Blue and red blood alike was seen plastered against trees, rocks, grass, and various patches of water seemed to be bleeding themselves.
    Green-1 sat around a steaming charred corpse of a member of Blue team. Smith was hardly able to distinguish the female’s facial completion but after seeing the KZM90 Heavy Machine Gun rounds next her corpse, he knew it was Blue-3, Marie Catcher.
    “Sir…” Blaze stated as Smith approached. “The corpses are scattered all over this meadow, it’s a mess Sir.”
    “Anything from the member you sent your troops to secure?”
    Green-1 sighed slowly and shook his head. “He died moments after we found him, it was Blue-2. Poor Jonathan will be a mess…speaking of which where is Red-5?”
    “He disappeared moments after Blue teams distress call. We haven’t seen him since.”
    A blood curdling scream erupted from the darkness, silencing the leaders and causing the troops to look around to search for the source of the sound. Pistol fire reverberated through the forest and then it was over. Again for the fifth time that night, the team was shrouded in a dark eerie silence.
    “Green-2, Green-5…check out the source of the sound. Meet up at Gamma squad’s location, we will continue on.” Green-1 commanded and turned back to Smith. “Red-1, I believe we should continue on with our remaining platoon…it is hazardous to remain in here too long.”
    “Agreed, Omicron move out!”
    The team began its march onward towards the silent location of team Gamma. For another five minutes the two remaining groups, who were highly handicapped with the loss of the entire blue team as well as Red-4 and the absent green members, moved forward cautiously with open ears. They listened for any hint that they were going to be ambushed like Blue was, but luckily made it to the target location without further engagements.
    “Um…Sir?” Red-2 asked.
    “I see, son.” Smith responded and looked back to Gamma’s base camp.
    Twenty men lay askew through the camp site with thin plasma wounds across their necks. The fire at the center of the camp slowly breathed its last breath as a gust of wind quelled its dim flame. The leaves rushed amongst the corpses making the camp site seem even eerier then before. The bushes rustled behind Green-1, causing him to turn around with his rifle ready to fire. Two armored figures jumped back in fright, fearful they were going to be an addition to the chaos that was laid out before them.
    “Whoa there commander!” Green-5 stated his hands up in the air.
    “Status?” Green-1 demanded of the duo.
    “We found him…”
    “Part of him at least.” Green-2 interrupted. “His upper body was severed from the lower at the stomach. The lower was missing; the upper was impaled to a tree with this.”
    Green-2 handed over Red-4’s sniper rifle and gagged as a piece of intestine still dangled freely from the stock of the bloody weapon. Green-1 shook his head and handed the rifle to Red-1 who, upon holding the rifle in his hands, cleared his throat and looked up.
    “Green…” His voice cracked. “Green-2 I want a TCR with command ASAP! Red-5 locate the nearest allied force and radio for reinforcements. Green-2 do you have a TCR yet?”
    “Negative, we seem to be in some sort of a dead zone, Sir.”
    “Five are you able to get out?”
    “Sir, there…seems to be a problem…”
    “What is it son? Damn it command, you just had to screw us over!”
    “Sir, I’ve ran the sweeps over and over again. I don’t think they’re right, let me…just once more…”
    “Damn it Green-2! What do you have?”
    “They’re all dead!”
    His voice echoed into the endless woods. A breeze swooped down as if summoned by Red-5’s voice and moved the leaves across their feet and sent more raining down over them.
    “What do you mean…dead?”
    “I’ve ran satellite sweeps over and over again. The missions across Keption-02 have been met with heavy resistance; all engagements have proven catastrophic on the human sides. Omega platoon was first to go over near the mining colony, most recent was team India about eight clicks south of our current location.”
    “Do you have a position on enemy locations?”
    “Working on…damn, satellite went dark.”
    “That’s not good, Green-2, top of the trees ASAP. I need you to try to get a contact with command; we need immediate extraction priority Epsilon7a.”
    “Epsilon…7a, Sir? What is that?”
    “Classified, command will know though.”
    “Roger!” Green-2 responded and began to shimmy up the nearest alien oak.
    By this time, the alien moon was beginning to set on the northern horizon and within moments the remaining human forces on the planet would be shrouded in perpetual darkness for a remaining two hours.
    “Red team, I want you to check all the corpses of Gamma. I want dog tags, weapons, ammunition, everything.”
    “Sir!” The remaining members announced.
    “What do you need of Green team?” Green-1 requested.
    “Take watch in the trees and on the ground, report anything you see that seems out of the ordinary even if that’s nothing.”
    “Sir! You heard the man, Green team spread out!”
    Smith looked up towards the foliage as a bead of sweat ran down his oily skin. He had been awake for two days, working dual shifts on the planet’s surface with his team. The war with the alien race had really begun to wear on them, mentally and physically. The United Earth Defense Core had been working for years to defend Earth against invading enemies, but as of lately the war had really began to heat up. After the loss of Washington, Beijing, and Moscow, the world unity began to break down, fearing the aliens were winning. So the government decided to finally stop being on the defensive and in turn created an offensive counterforce. For five long years, UEDC forces tried to attack and regain control of outer human settlements and most of the time was able to take hold with severe losses. Within the last three years the human forces regained all military strong holds on outer human controlled space and have began to create more warships to fight the enemies and to train marines to be prepared to take on the alien race. The last three months, refueled and filled with eager young recruits thirsty for alien blood, the UEDC has began to try to take alien outposts. Humans had tried to capture three outposts within the time and not captured one, but lost millions of military lives and thousands of UEDC ships. Military officials decided to revise their ideas and send in elite reconnaissance squadrons to map out planets, find weak points, and expose them for human forces to hit. The planet Smith’s team had been assigned to, along with twelve other platoons, was a mining planet in which the aliens received their precious metals to create their ships and weapons. Destroying or capturing such planet would cripple the aliens momentarily, hopefully long enough for humans to take charge and hit various other targets.
    “I have a direct link with the command ship, Sir!” Green-2 announced over the TCR. “Sending coordinates and request for extraction…code Epsilon7a.”
    “Sir, we have contacts; lots of contacts!” Green-1’s voice erupted over the chat relay. “Ready your boys, we are getting over run and need to fall back!”
    “Roger that, fall back Green team. Red team ready up, we have Green returning and they’re hot!”
    Members of the green team emerged from the bush, few with armor nearly burnt through to the third level of coolant. Plasma burned through the air around them as they approached; screams and hisses filled the area around the team as the heated ball of ionized material violently tore through the air, leaving a streak of heat in its wake.
    “Where’s Green-1?” Smith asked one of the Green team members.
    “I don’t know…” The man replied and looked around uneasily.
    Green-1 fell through the brush with a small object in his hand. Red-2 and Red-3 quickly ran out and grabbed the wounded captain, dragging him back to the center of firepower the team had formed. The soldier laughed and looked at the small black, reflective sphere in his hand. He twisted the top half and yanked it apart, exposing an even smaller yet burning hot blue core. With a groan of pain he slammed the two halves of the sphere back together and an explosion erupted nearby, followed by another and yet another explosion. The intelligent leader of Green team had strategically set up mines in various hot locations on his way back to the rally point with the hopes of slowing down and thinning out the enemy forces. Cries emerged from the forest as the aliens were either engulfed with flames, shrapnel or crushed by falling trees.
    A stray plasma bolt cut through the dark night and splashed over Smith’s armor, immediately starting to melt it away. Ignoring the burning that flooded over his system he spewed bullets in the general direction that that shot had originated from.
    “Hang tight Omicron, this is the UEDC Jeremiah in route.” A voice stated over the TCR as a bright light flashed overhead.
    The UEDC Jeremiah jumped from orbit into the alien atmosphere and was descending at an extreme rate of speed; fire rushed along its metallic structure slowly melting its Titanium-A plating.
    “Commencing in three, two, one…”
    A blue light surrounded the team and an instant later they found themselves in the hanger of the UEDC Jeremiah. There was a sudden flux in power and the sound of alien upper atmospheric winds pounding on the ships outer plating was gone.
    “Omicron, this is Admiral Jacobs of the UEDC Jeremiah, please report to the bridge ASAP.” A voice sounded over the ships TCR.
    Smith pulled his helmet off and looked down his raw arm. Plasma had burned all the way to the flesh and left third degree burns on his chest, left shoulder, and arm. His blue eyes stared at his remaining members, who followed his lead and took off their concealing helmets, and he wondered what was going through their heads. He shook it off, put a hand through his short brown hair and made his way to the ships elevator. The sixteen year old leader and his platoon of teenagers were the only ones to make it off the planet, but was it because of luck or was it because they were the best trained troops in the UEDC fleet? He didn’t care; all that mattered right now was meeting with the ships Admiral and a few days of rest and relaxation.