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Lillith of Velor, Copyright, 1997, 1998, Infinity Bridge. All rights reserved.
The planet Tetra
The seas of Tetra rolled under the passing breezes. Their white capped waves moved endlessly to a landless horizon. The dusts of the great desert swirled and coiled into dancing devils amid fields of weathered rocks. The surf flowed quickly up onto the white sand beaches, allowing the sand to melt into itself as each wave retreated back into the sea. Through the Latitudes, as the air boiled in the humidity, hungry Kilil watched and waited, as they have always watched and waited, for a passing meal. Today was a day as similar to yesterday as tomorrow will be to today. Or so it was meant to be.
In the heart of the central desert, a young mother Tetrite tended to herself as she preened her fur back into place. She had just finished the morning feeding of her insistent infants and was enjoying a few quiet moments to herself. The children tumbled, laughed, and played down inside the nest, their bellies full. Suddenly, the mother noticed a very subtle, low-frequency rumble lightly shake the land under her feet. She stopped her preening to look down at the ground curiously. The tiny dust particles pranced and danced along the ground all around her. The rumble grew louder as the ground shook harder. The vibrations rattled the nest as the children squealed with fright at this unusual feeling beneath them. The mother shushed them, urging them to stay silent as she continued to be mesmerized by the flurry of dust around her. The overcast sky offered no help to solve the mystery as the worried mother looked around frantically for an answer, a reason for the quaking. The solid gray cloudcover seemed to boil and turn as if it was all affected by the rumbling as well. The sound came from everywhere as it grew so loud that it became deafening. The ground shook so hard that it became difficult to stand.
Over the horizon, red flashes appeared without warning to capture her attention. Slowly at first, then rapidly as they increased in intensity. Within moments, sounds like thunderclaps reached her ears - the delayed related sound from the flashes. What strange storm makes such lightning, she thought. Very curious!
As if in answer to her thought, an immense, black, Arion warship broke through the overcast as it settled out of a slow turn! All around it followed hundreds of other ships in escort! Smaller light-attack craft shrieked from behind the large, ominous ships. They sheered around in an arc that took them into the vanguard of this huge fleet. The mother was stunned at the massive size and the sheer number of ships that seemed to be descending on top of them! They were appearing everywhere! Her frightened children gathered around her for comfort and she pulled them close. She could feel each one quiver with fear from the sights and sounds around them. Fear that flowed through her as well. All of their faces, all of their eyes were turned upward. Eyes that saw the space-worn hulls of massive warships pass eerily overhead. Eyes that saw mechanisms swing rapidly, the whine of servos stopping abruptly when the mechanisms locked in place, pointing down at the surface of the planet. Eyes that were immediately blinded by the muzzle flashes of thousands of guns as the fleet opened fire!
For the mother and her children, the universe ended in a millisecond of explosions, fire, terror, pain, and finally silence. Their screams ended as soon as they had begun. The only sign that they had ever existed was a smoldering bit of leg from the mother laying a few feet from a deep crater.
The strange storm had come - a storm of war.
Clusters of warships began to maneuver in preplanned attack protocols. Their shields were up fully with primary weapons charged and standing by. Their secondary weapons fired continuously with an intensity not seen in many campaigns. Targets were selected quickly - anything that even looked as if it might be a structure. With a furious intensity, the entire fleet was decimating the surface of Tetra.
The impact of the energy pulses from the Arion weapons was explosive. Huge columns of the planet plumed into the air. The surface impacts cratered the normally smooth desert landscape in a preprogrammed saturation pattern. Inch by inch, with a combination of methodical precision and frenzied blood-lust, the Arions tore away at Tetra. Nothing more than a meter tall escaped their destructive attention. The remains of the habitat, the hangar with its aircraft, all the newer outbuildings that William had labored over for so many years, were torn to pieces and reduced to fragments. Clusters of Tetrite communities with clear evidence of nests were obliterated in a storm of energy weapon discharges. The largest community was targeted with the primary weapon cluster of the huge battlecruiser, Fantag. In this first and only momentary discharge of this gigantic weapon on the planet, six and one-half miles of territory was obliterated in a blue flash! The sandy surface of the impact area was converted to black glass in the time it took to give the order to fire. Whatever and whoever was alive in that area at one time, were now only atoms carried on the wind.
The smaller attack vessels moved rapidly among the larger capital ships. They mission was to take on targets of opportunity. There were surprisingly few. Most of their attention was focused on simply avoiding collisions and friendly-fire hits.
Every Arion watched nervously. Some watched panels that would indicate specific energy signatures. Others watched the horizon and above the ships. Still others scanned the surface for any unusual movement. They knew there was a Velorian out there somewhere. A powerful Protector about whom they had been briefed. There was a rumor that she had destroyed a smaller task force years ago, but no official word confirmed nor denied that rumor. They all knew what it would mean if one of those damn Protectors showed up right now. A glorious battle and a glorious death!
The Fleet Commander paced the bridge of the Fantag intensely as orders cracked loudly from his lips.
"Nothing, sir. No signatures."
His tone became menacing as he murmured to himself. "Come on, you blonde bitch. Show yourself." The whole situation pissed him off. No word from the special ops team that was supposed to deal with the Protector problem, so they had to assume that they were unsuccessful. Yet there was no sign of a Protector! Did they eliminate her while getting themselves killed as well? He could not assume that. No one could. There was something very wrong about this place. That feeling gnawed at him. An Arion ship within the atmosphere of one of the protected planets drew a Velorian to it like a Philine bug to honey. Now the largest task force in Arion history was blowing this planet surface to hell and no sign of any Velorian at all! It was not normal; it was not correct; it worried the Fleet Commander like hell!
The Fleet Commander spun to face the Energy Signature Officer. Yes! Finally!
"What is it!"
The ES Officer was almost apologetic. "Sir? Could you ask some of the other ships to mask their fire? The amount of discharges out there is overloading my collectors."
The volume of fire that blanketed the entire continent was so high that the smaller fast-attack vessels had withdrawn to above the main fleet. Without specific targets presenting themselves, everything on the surface became a target for no other reason than it existed. Large clouds of tan dust filled the air, making visual confirmation of passive targets impossible. Everything killable on the surface of the planet was, evidently, already killed.
The General of the troops stood solidly on the bridge of the Fantag. He knew the barrage was running out of steam. It wasn't needed and as soon as these Fleet sonsavelorians figured that out, he would be able to get on with his work. To help persuade them, he cleared his throat loudly. The Fleet Commander turned to face the General and smiled.
"Eager as a recruit, I see. Are you bored, General?"
The gravelly voice of the Arion Prime General filled the bridge of the flag ship. "With all due respect, sir, you people fucking bore the shit outta me with your `stand back and blast' shit. If you don't mind, sir, I'd like to take my people down there and kick some ass! ....... Sir."
The heated glare of the Fleet Commander suddenly melted into a wry smile.
"Get your fucking ass off my ship, General. And take that troop shit with you."
The General smiled and saluted. "Thank you, sir." He turned to go when the Fleet Commander stopped him.
"My son was here before." The General was struck by those words. He too had heard the rumors, but no one had ever talked of it. He knew the Fleet Commander's son was dead, but how he died was classified. He wasn't sure what he was hearing.
The Fleet Commander's face hardened as his eyes narrowed to cold slits. His voice took on a hard edge of hatred.
"Kill `em all."
The General's smile returned as he now understood.
"That's what I do best, sir."
The General turned smartly to leave the bridge. Just as he did, he barked orders to the young Prime standing at attention nearby without even looking at him. The General's commands were always crisp. The response had better be just as crisp.
The young Prime spoke into a communication device clipped to his uniform, spun about, and followed the General down the corridor, matching his rapid pace.
With no sign of opposition, the fleet finally held fire and swept to the flanks as huge troop ships hove down toward the surface through the center. Thousands of shuttles seemed to fall like snow onto the cratered surface as the troops disembarked rapidly to spread out from the landing zones. This scene was happening simultaneously all around the planet. As more troops arrived, the sound of random Arion Taifun rifle discharges could be heard. In any military operation, the first moments are confusing. In an operation as large as this one, the first moments were frenzied! Rifles were fired when motion was perceived -whether anything moved or not. One shot triggered hundreds as nervous Betas shot first without questions. If a Tetrite was the target, the volume of fire would disintegrate the small creature. There were no wounded Tetrites that day, only dead and missing.
As the thousands of Arions troops occupied the planet, the swirling dust around the remnants of the habitat area slowly receded. As if appearing out of the mists, the stone fountain still stood. Scorched by the sweeping Arion firestorm, yet still defiantly whole.
The occupation was remarkably efficient. The Arion troops moved out in sections to take control of every inch of the desert territory. Holding pens of barbed wire were set up to hold any captured Tetrites that they did not simply shoot outright. The pens filled quickly. At first, the Tetrites were forced through gates into the holding area, but after a while, the creatures were merely flung over the wire walls by their legs. Thousands of Tetrites suffered dislocated legs and worse from this treatment.
Worse was yet to come.
The landings in the desert went quickly, but the landings in the Latitudes were a complete disaster. The Arions did not have a clue about the landscape. Thousands of troops were lost as the shuttles attempted to land on the spongy surface, only to quickly sink. Those troops that did get out of the shuttles were just as quickly lost on their own as each step took them lower into the sandy mass. The Kilil ate hungrily in a frenzy of attacks as trapped Betas were suddenly devoured by the huge creatures. The few Primes among the troops were also attacked. Most of the Primes tore the Kilil apart to free themselves from being ingested so quickly, but even they were soon drawn down into the soft ground to be buried alive. It took quite a while before the local commanders made adjustments, but the troop landings were finally diverted to the central continent.
The Kilil and the mud saved the Latitudes from occupation.
The high Faldref Mountains
"Shit! Those assholes are really doing a number down there. What the hell are they shooting at? Nobody has weapons! It's an open planet!" William was becoming agitated as he watched the Arion invasion. The sight of the incredible barrage had left him somewhat awed at the amazing power of the Arions. Yet it was the sounds of random rifle discharges that angered him now. Why did they continue to kill when no one fought back?
William, Phil, and over a thousand refugees watched the landings from the relative safety of a small cave high in the mountains. Their unobstructed view was panoramic, but it was also very dangerous to prying eyes from below. They stayed back away from the entrance. The Faldref Mountains contained a great deal of lead ore, which prevented the Arion Primes from seeing through the walls of the caves. This also rendered their usual scanning devices onboard their ships just as useless. It was interesting to William that the Arions seemed to stay away from the mountains for that reason. They did not seem to be comfortable with not knowing what they were getting into.
"It would appear that those creatures will remain in the desert, sir. Your retreat to the mountains was quite a valid strategy." Phil was very impressed.
"Not a retreat, Phil, a `strategic withdrawal'."
Phil tapped his foot in thought.
"That suggests a broader strategy with possible offensive operations included within it." Phil looked back behind him at all of his fellow Tetrites huddled in the darkness of the cave. Most were exhausted from the long climb. Many of those shook from the cold dampness of the cave. None had weapons and all looked afraid of what might come next. He turned back to William.
"Perhaps today would not be a good day for a counterattack, sir."
William and Phil ducked reflexively when a low-passing Arion warship rumbled by quickly overhead.
"No, Phil. We had nothing scheduled for today." William's smile made Phil turn his fuzzy head slightly out of curiosity.
"That is a good thing, sir?"
"A VERY good thing, Phil."
The two continued to watch for a few more hours as Arion operations dragged on in the desert valley below. Finally William moved away from the opening and motioned Phil to join him.
"Look, Phil. There are pockets of Tetrites all along this range right now. We have to contact them and let them know we're here. I'm going to move down the Faldref and let the others know what's up. We have to keep in touch with them. Alright?"
"Much too dangerous, sir. You should wait for nightfall before moving."
"Shit, Phil. They can see just as well at night as they can in the daylight. At least in sunshine I can see them too."
"Valid observation, sir. Still, You are much too large to effectively remain covert."
William shrugged. "I've got a few tricks left. Besides, I want our folks to see me, Phil. They have to know we're still here."
"Point taken, sir. Perhaps with the Mistress gone we should....."
"Forget Lillith for now, Phil. We're on our own. Got it?" William sounded rather stern.
"Yes, sir. Still, she...."
"Later, Phil. Who's with you here?"
A large number of the biggest Tetrites gathered behind Phil. "We are all here, sir."
As William looked slowly around at the Tetrites, his eyes met fixed, unwavering stares in return. These creatures were the finest beings that he had ever known. A deep rush of pride filled him as a subtle smile and a nod acknowledged their presence. If only he could have gotten more of them out of the desert before the invasion. Many would not leave their homes. Some did not understand what was coming. If only he could have gotten more out. If only.....
"Tetrites. Your planet has been overrun by your enemy. I am not Tetritian, but I will fight to free it!" He paused. "Will you?" A mumbling discussion finally developed into nods of agreement. They were willing! A young Tetrite stepped forward. He was very nervous speaking like this, but he needed to say something to William.
"Sir? You have lived with us. You may die with us. You are Tetrite as well, sir. You are one of us!" The nods and a words of agreement from the others made William try to clear a lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat. He placed his hand gently on the young Tetrite.
"You are right. I am Tetrite. My soul is Tetrite and I am with you always. Do you wish to know of the Protector?"
The Tetrites shook their heads. Again the young one spoke.
"We do not question the Protector, sir. Our faith in her is absolute!" Everyone again voiced their agreement. William looked around him, looking deep into the faces that stared unwaveringly back into his. Faces that he may not see again.
"Then we shall fight them. We shall fight them until the last of them has been cast off our beloved planet! WE SHALL FIGHT THEM IN THE NAME OF TETRA AND FREEDOM!"
"And in the name of our Protector, LILLITH!" shouted someone from the back.
The cavern erupted in cheering Tetrites! It was settled, the resistance was formed.
William turned once more to Phil.
"Phil, I need you here. Alright? Keep them together?"
"Yes, sir. I will see to them." William nodded his understanding and moved toward the cavern entrance.
William turned slightly toward Phil to hear. His eyes did not turn up to look back at the Tetrite until Phil hesitated to speak. When William met the eyes of his friend, Phil spoke in a hushed voice.
"Do not leave us too soon, sir. I would find that personally upsetting." William smiled warmly.
"I'd miss you too, Phil. See you in a few days."
He paused to let a passing light cruiser leave unseen overhead and he was gone.
William passed safely down the ridgeline. His great speed worked to his advantage. When the Arions thought they saw something, he was gone. To the naked eye, he was just a blur. The electronics continually misdiagnosed his sensor return as an anomaly. Usually, his entire sensor return was filtered away by the electronics as noise. He covered 1500 miles in 3 days.
In each place where Tetrites huddled together in the cavernous Faldref, he spoke to them, heard their support, and told them that they would get word soon. Pass the word, he would say. Pass the word that you are not alone. His visit comforted and reassured them at a time when they needed it most.
Some groups were huge - over 4000 Tetrites gathered in one cave on the backslope of the high Faldref! And more were moving up the Faldref from the desert valley every day. Tired, hungry, dirty - they struggled up the mountain trails in blinding rains and winds. Not everyone completed the journey, yet none stopped trying.
The high Faldref, day five of the invasion
William was moving rapidly back to the original cave that he had left just a few short days ago. When he got back, he, Phil, and the others would plan out how they would keep these fugitive Tetrites up here alive. Maybe even form a resistance movement! Well, maybe. The main thing was to keep them alive. As many as possible. It had become all too clear that the objective of the Arions was to kill as many as possible. That had to be stopped!
With blinding speed, William moved silently along the ridgeline. Just as he turned the corner of a blind rock wall, he nearly ran right into the hull of an extremely low-flying light-attack vessel. For a split-second, William hesitated. That split-second was all it took.
Every Arion vessel in the area sensed his presence as their displays updated rapidly. The automatic targeting systems on board these ships locked onto him with calculated range and angle data. There was no information in the computers about friendly forces in the area, so the weapons were free to kill anything they locked onto. From all directions, weapons fired.
William was rocked violently around the mountain ridge as the ships blasted him mercilessly. Again and again, direct hits flung him in one direction, then another. The hits weakened him gradually until he collapsed onto the ground. Laying face down with the grass and bushes afire around him, he fought to remain conscious. With the last of his strength, he struggled to raise his head, only to look into the eyes of a Tetrite peering out of a crevice in the rocks. The Tetrite moved toward the entrance of his hideout as if he was determined to rush out to help William! As the Tetrite was about to step out, William threw his hand out to warn him away. The Tetrite immediately stopped and lowered himself back out of sight. Agitated that he could not help William, the Tetrite constantly peered out of his hideout as he scuttled back and forth in nervous frustration.
Struggling to be heard above the roar of an Arion ship descending so low overhead, William finally just mouthed the words "Tell Phil" just before a blast from that ship enveloped him again. William's head dropped to the ground with a loud thud.
The Arion ship was a small cruiser commanded by a very capable and opportunistic female Prime. As it descended and held position above the unconscious William, a single Arion Prime female jumped to the surface next to him. Reaching down, she pulled his head up by the hair to see what they had captured.
"My, you're a different one, aren't you."
She waved to the ship and a hatch opened on the underside. Picking William up without any effort at all, she flung him up into the hatch to waiting hands. Using her powerful legs, she then jumped up into the same hatch. It immediately closed with a loud metallic bang. The roar of the engines grew louder just before the cruiser turned and accelerated away toward the desert floor.
Unseen by the Arions, the little Tetrite carefully came out of hiding to watch the departing ships. He waited only for a moment before he abruptly turned to run toward where he knew Phil must be. His voice betrayed his worry.
"The William! They have the William!"
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