Back to Before
Part 4

by MAC


Lillith of Velor, Copyright, 1997, 1998, Infinity Bridge. All rights reserved.

Arion Headquarters, Tetra Theatre of Operations, Office of the Commanding General

Life on occupied Tetra quickly settled into a routine.

The General did not understand why they were even there. The conquest of this planet had gone so quickly that they had thrown away their original timetables. There was no resistance, no sign of any Velorian Protector, no great battles, and no glory. Just some moron superpowered Terran whose vocabulary amounted to only “Fuck you”, “Eat shit”, and his evident favorite “Kiss my ass, you Arion muthafucker”. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to torture and interrogate this Terran about the Velorian Protector, he was finally turned over to that persistent female captain from the Rahjtke. She insisted that she had first rights to him and was a pain in the interrogator's sides throughout the sessions. “Do not kill him! Do not disfigure him!” That was all she kept repeating over and over until the interrogators wanted to give the Terran away just for a moment's peace! The General closed his eyes to rest them a moment at the memory of it all. Pain-in-the-ass ship’s officers!

The General paced slowly across the room. His hands clasped behind him, his head turned slightly down, he was burdened by his thoughts. This place. What was the point of this place? Ordered to take the planet, he took it. Now it seemed as if no one knew what to do with it. Even the conquest was without any true value for him. Well, without glory, at least few died needlessly. Their only real loses had been that stupid effort in the Latitudes. Well, live and learn. They were mostly Betas anyway. No big deal.

The General came to the large desk and rested his hand on the high back of the chair. It squeaked slightly as it rotated a bit. The General had little reason to sit in that chair with so little to do. There had been no opposition to the landings. There was no insurgency or resistance to the occupation. The Arions were free to kill at will and all the damn Tetrites did was stare at them in silence. Those damn stares! It was all so unnerving! What were those goddamn bugs thinking!?!! You want to stare? Here! Stare down my boot you STINKING EIGHT LEGGED RATS!! I’LL ......The General found himself squeezing the chair so tightly that he had completely shattered the wood backing. He opened his hand to let the slivered remnants fall to the floor. He sighed deeply to try to calm himself, turned, and paced back to where he had started for the hundredth time today.


Outside, across the vast central continent of Tetra, his troops lingered with little to do except to get into trouble and try to stay dry in the incessant rains. The fleet remained on station overhead, cutting down even more on the tiny amount of sunshine that would flicker insignificantly between drenching downpours. The light that did make it through that huge armada had a gray cast to it. The planet was dreary anyway with these monsoons, but it seemed as if their presence only served to make it worse.

Arion Underground Bunker, Third Sublevel, Female Officer’s Club

<slap><slap> “Come on, baby. Come on.” <slap>

William slowly opened his eyes to see the face of a beautiful brown-eyed, dark haired woman kneeling over him as he lay on the cold, stone floor. Her long hair fell forward to tickle his chest as she leaned overhead, slapping his face lightly to revive him. At first, he didn’t recognize her smiling face. Then, suddenly, he did and his fist flashed upward to hit her squarely on the jaw!

The Arion woman was flung back into the steel cables that surrounded the small, shallow, square pit. All around the pit were shouting Arion Prime females that hooted loudly at the sight of the stupidity of the half-naked woman. The idiot had a chance to finish the contest and chose to play around instead! They booed her as she hung on the steel cables, her eyes unfocused from the blow she had just taken.

William jumped to his feet. The gold collar around his neck was burning like hell! He could not get the damn thing off, no matter what he tried to do. Grabbing at it only made his hands burn and they became too weak to pull the gold apart. The pure gold collar left him weaker than normal, but still strong enough to finish off this Arion!

The female was slowly coming around when William planted his feet solidly in front of her and slammed a roundhouse right across her chin. The violent blow flung her head to the side as her eyes closed tightly from the pain. As her head slowly turned back to him, his left fist blasted her head the other way. Her mouth fell open as her hands fells limply to her sides. Her eyes became unfocused as her wobbly head finally found its way back to center. The last sensation the woman felt was a fist smashing up into her chin. She was unconscious before her body cleared the top cable as it arched out into the crowd. Half the room booed, the other half cheered. Money changed hands as William staggered back a few steps. He looked up to see a tall, extremely muscular, black haired woman step into the ring. It was her. It was Vatar, the officer who had captured him. William did not speak Arion and had no idea what she was saying, but it was plain to him what was going on.

“Warriors! Is he not wonderful?! Who’s next? Who wants to play with my Terran?!”

No takers stepped forward. A husky voice from the side boomed through the room.

“What else can he do besides fight well? Is there a cock on a Terran?” Everyone broke up laughing at the joke as Vatar looked scornfully at the heckler. Putting her hands on her hips, she walked seductively toward William. She had a wide smirk on her face. Standing in front of him, she turned back to the heckler.

“A cock? Do you think I would bring you only a gelding when I could have.....” She gripped the front of William’s leather shorts and ripped them away in a single motion. “......a stallion!” The room burst out in cheers and whistles! The heckler smirked as she nodded her approval. Vatar slinked away from William, spinning the shorts briefly before flinging them into waiting hands among the crowd. To William, clothed or naked, it was all the same. He glared at the women around him, waiting to see what would happen next. The heckler stepped forward. She was Sienla, commander of the Kurrntu Twe, and one of the most powerful Primes, male or female, on Aria.

She was an incredibly built woman. Tall and so lean that her body had the appearance being the product of imaginative stonecutters. Her breasts were tight, firm, and obviously capable of storing vast quantities of energy. Lighter brown hair than most of the others made her stand out in the homogenous sea of black haired others. She was different, and difference in Arion society drew attention. Her body was such a mass of deeply carved muscles that there could be no doubt that she was quite capable of dealing with whatever form of attention her difference might bring. William was different too and now the attention of Sienla was coming to him.

The overhead lights reflected off broad shoulders that gave her a wide, v-shaped appearance. Her hair was straight, pulled back tightly into a long, thick braid that reached down below her hard ass. Her high cheekbones and rugged features gave her a distinctive sexiness not lost on William. As she stood before him, her long legs caught William’s eye just as she was now looking him over. Her voice betrayed an appreciation of what she was seeing, but within an agreeable price point.

“7 tarns.”

Vatar shook her head. Negotiation had begun.


Sienla laughed at the counteroffer. “He’s probably not worth a tarn, Vatar. Get out of my way and I’ll tell you what he’s worth when I’m done.” Sienla took a step toward William, making him pull back and raise his fists. But Vatar moved quicker. Whipping a pistol out of her boot, she grabbed Sienla from behind by her braid and jammed the barrel firmly against the back of her neck. Vatar spat her menacing words through her clenched teeth directly into the ear of the huge woman.

“12 tarns, you fuck the Terran. Anything less, you die. What are you in the mood for?”

Sienla hesitated a moment to consider the possibility of killing Vatar before finally reaching into her hip bag. The coins passed over the shoulder resulting in the disappearance of the gun. Another Arion transaction completed normally. William knew he had just been leased again.

Sienla rotated her massive shoulders in a wide shrug to loosen them as she cast a menacing glance back at the smiling Vatar. But her mind returned quickly to William. He was hers.

Her eyes filled with seduction as she stepped toward him. The grace of each step she took belied the fact that she possessed more raw power in her body than most Arion males. She wanted this Terran. They said he had been a concubine of the Velorian. How delightful! A Velorian toy! She could hardly wait!

As she approached, William caught the first scent of her. Wildflowers and honey. The effects of Sienla’s pheromones were electric on everyone in the room! Every female stopped whatever she was doing to stare in silence at the scene in the pit. Two incredibly muscular Supremis beings facing each other. The female moving with a mesmerizing seduction. The male standing proudly, his growing erection rising steadily upward. No one in that room could prevent a reaction within themselves to it all. For some, it was a hand discreetly slipped under a uniform, a light touch on a nipple or gliding along the filling lips between parted legs. For others it was the touch of another, an appreciation from another being to the sights below them.

Sienla stopped a few paces from William. She was looking at William almost playfully from a slightly bowed head. Her smile broadened as she slowly unsnapped her vest. William followed her hands as they tended to each fastener. When the last one was opened, Sienla slid her hands up to sweep the clothing away from her body. William felt a warmth rush through himself at the sight of her. Sienla could hear his heartbeat quicken as she continued her seduction.

Closing her hands slowly into fists, Sienla raised her arms, curling them into a gigantic flex of her entire body! Her body exploded in a sea of carved muscle that stunned William to look at it! He could not take his eyes off this woman! He could hear gasps from the some of the other women around him as they too were dealing with this sight. Many were now openly pleasuring themselves as Sienla put on a show. William suddenly had a thought.

Taking a step forward, he took a wide stance and swung his arms up into a flex too. Completely naked, every muscle of his body could be seen to massively grow into huge proportions. Sienla’s jaw dropped open as groans and even a few whistles filled the room. In the front row on William’s right, a Prime female was having an incredible orgasm as her hand blurred between her legs. Around her, smiling women applauded wildly to her screams of pleasure! These gals sure know how to party, thought William as he relaxed his body from the flex.

Sienla was breathing quickly as she moved in front of William. She was in full Prime arousal now. Nothing short of a nuclear blast would keep her from mating! By the gods! She would have him!

Sienla’s hand slowly moved to grip the huge cock aimed at her. Just as she was about to surround it with her slender fingers, William slapped her hand away. The surprise in Sienla’s face quickly changed to amusement as she thought he might just be playing with her. Again she reached for his cock. Again William slapped her hand away. The defiant look on his face removed any misunderstanding from Sienla’s mind. Within her passion, a spark of rage occurred.

Her fist whipped backward across William’s jaw with a loud CRACK! The blow flipped him back against the cables surrounding the pit. Stunned, he dangled momentarily against the cables. Sienla was on him instantly. Grabbing his face with her left hand, she violently shoved his chin back with the palm of her hand, bending William’s body over the top cable. Her right hand swept in wide circles over his chest and belly as she pursed her lips with appreciation. Finally, the sweeping hand plunged once more downward to surround William’s steel.

She did not care anything for pleasing William. She was pleasing herself. She liked the feel of it. The smoothness of a Terran cock was a luxury next to the rough, leather-like, callused texture of an Arion male member. Sienla never forgot the first time she had raped a Terran. How wonderful he was! Yet so delicate and brittle that the experience left her unfulfilled and his body shattered. She yearned all these years for a Terran lover with the durability of an Arion. Now, one fell right into her lap. The frustrating years of wait came pouring out of her uncontrollably.

William was held completely immobile in the grip of this woman. He could feel her other hand caress him, feel him. It was......pretty damn nice! She seemed to like the feel of him. This was certainly better than fighting these bitches all day long! William relaxed a bit to enjoy himself. But Sienla was not paying money for him to enjoy anything.

Pulling William violently off the cables by his shaft, she fired three rapid jabs into his face and screamed at him.


William shook his head quickly to clear it and yelled right back at her.

“OH, FUCK YOU TOO!” His fist caught her squarely on the jaw, but all she did was smile. Holy shit, he thought. She WANTS me to fight while she screws around with me!

Sienla buried William’s face in her tits as he struggled against her. She loved the way he fought her, always moving, always fighting! Marvelous!

She was becoming frantic in her desire to feel everything about him, to have him completely! Her hands were everywhere now as William half-wanted to kill her and half-wanted to do the same to her.

With a yell, Sienla effortlessly pressed William over her head in a show of complete dominance before slamming him back down on the thick, steel cables. He was still bouncing on the cables when she clamped her mighty legs around him to take her prized Terran cock into herself.

What a feeling it was! What a glorious feeling to these Terran cocks! Sienla stroked slowly at first, savoring her long awaited treat. Her face fell to the side and showed her absolute ecstasy as her mouth formed new shapes with every stroke. Her eyes were closed, but would flare open momentarily when some random sensation would grip her libido tightly and make her moan. The sight of her, the sound of her, the scent of her - all affected everyone. William could not resist anymore. Now he wanted this too! He started to pump his hips. He grabbed her hard, contoured ass with both hands and pulled her even harder to him. His sudden activity brought her memories back even stronger! “Ta! TA!!”, she screamed!

Sienla wanted more! More of everything! That collar was holding him back! It must be the problem! The collar!

Sienla breathlessly motioned for her first officer to remove the collar from William’s straining neck. Vatar jumped to her feet when she saw what going to happen.

“NO!!” she screamed as she lunged forward. The first officer pulled her pistol and jammed it into William’s temple. Vatar froze. The first officer knew exactly how the game was really played. You do not threaten your victim. You threaten to take away what your victim wants. She would make a fine captain someday. Her long fingers manipulated the lock mechanism momentarily and the collar fell away to the stone floor with the distinctive clink of pure gold.

The room suddenly exploded with a swirling windstorm of plasma and lightning as energy from the matrix roared back into William. His chest glowed bright blue as his already broad pecs were restored to their former massive size. His body levitated into the air at the center of the storm as purple arcs slashed repeatedly throughout the room! The roar was deafening!

Sienla was a blur on William as she screamed wildly from the incredible pleasure! Inside her, William’s cock was arcing bolts of energy into her, heightening an already immense experience! She had never even HEARD of anything like THIS before! These Terrans are WONDERFUL!!

For William, the experience was just as intense. He was experiencing thousands of feelings all at once, not the least of which was a building orgasm that was starting to seem incredibly huge! There was a problem about having a sexual orgasm during a large energy transfer from the matrix that every Supremis is taught in their early schooling. It can cause a gigantic surge.

That wasn’t mentioned when William was a boy.

The maelstrom continued throughout the room as William could hear Sienla scream. Orgasm after orgasm was slamming through her, racking her entire body with waves of raw pleasure! It was William’s moment too as he let himself fall deeply into his own onrushing orgasm!

An explosion rocked the room as Sienla rocketed off William on a three-foot wide column of blinding white light! The energy blast drilled her head-first into the stone ceiling as William was slammed hard to the ground. Everyone else in the room was blown backward from the force of the discharge!

In an instant, it was over. The winds subsided. The arcing quenched away. Silence returned.

William staggered to his feet as every Arion female just stared at him. Overhead, a lifeless leg dangled from large hole. Brushing himself off, William looked around and smiled nervously.

“Well, that was fun. Gotta go.”

Still unsteady on his feet, William turned to leave. When he did, he noticed the same Arion female that had been continuously giving herself so much pleasure through all of this was still at it! He shook his head and spoke to her as he passed by.

“Don’t you have any OTHER hobbies?” Her sweaty face just smiled as she ran her tongue seductively over her teeth at him.

A little voice in William’s mind told him to keep moving. He thought if he could just brass his way to that door while everyone was still confused, he just might be able to get to a shuttle and....

“You no go.” The voice of Vatar behind him speaking broken English made William stop cold. He turned to see the black haired beauty glaring at him in front of all the other Arion female officers.

“Oh, I’m leaving, bitch. I’ve given you too much of my time already.” Don’t let her know you’re scared shitless here, man! Make her think you hold all the cards! Just a few more steps then run like hell!

Vatar smiled slightly and snapped her fingers once. Every Arion woman pulled out a weapon and pointed it at William.

“Shit! No wonder you gals don’t get dates!”

Vatar slowly pulled an immense Gar “Sturm” assault pistol out of her leg holster and leveled it at William. There were at least 150 weapons in that room. Even the “hobbyist” was pointing a Taiphun rifle at William, although she did have the butt of the rifle tucked neatly between her legs. Vatar snarled menacingly.


William hesitated a moment, turned his back to them, and closed his eyes before taking a step.

His foot never touched the ground as the room erupted in a firestorm of Arion weapons.

Arion Collection Kamp#3, District 48

There was something going on. Calcinidus had been in this camp since the first day. He knew the routines and the habits of the Arions like his own. There was something going on.

At first, the Arions were only interested in where the Protector was. Since no one knew, no one lied. Yet the Arions killed scores of Tetrites in an attempt to intimidate the others. The tactic could not work because no one knew. The Tetrites simply told the Arions the truth until the Arions finally just gave up or were, perhaps, finally convinced. Whatever the reason, the Arions ignored the Tetrites now. Food was slow in coming; water even slower. Dehydration and starvation were affecting everyone. It only made matters worse that the Arions were bringing in so many more Tetrites every day. Shuttles full of Tetrites arrived almost hourly. The Arion guards would begin separating the living from the dead even as the shuttle hatches were still opening. The pile of dead Tetrites would grow quickly, some of the “dead” still slowly moving. The living would be flung over the wire by their legs to land hard on the dusty ground. Sometimes, their injuries would be so great that they would end up piled by the gate the next day as dead.

Something was definitely happening. It was too crowded in the compound now. One could hardly sit down without disturbing another Tetrite. Yet everyone was too weak to argue and too sick to care. They bore their burden and lived for one more day.

After almost a month of constant incoming Tetrites, the arrivals ended. Summer had arrived and each day became incredibly hot. The Tetrites could do nothing but wait in the sun to see what would happen next. They did not have to wait long.

The Commander of Kamp #3 was a short, arrogant Prime named Klek. He felt he was destined for great battles and much glory, only to find himself nursemaid to hundreds of thousands of bugs! The duty more than annoyed him. It was a resentment that Klek felt free to take out on the Tetrites at every opportunity. But not today. Today, Klek had a speech to make.

The diminutive Prime approached the wire with his full entourage in tow. No less than 27 staff officers and Betas clustered behind him as he walked. When Klek stopped a few paces from the wire, one of the Betas placed a small black box down in front of Klek as a stage. Klek took one step up, hooked his thumbs in his belt, and surveyed his “little pets”, as he liked to call the Tetrites. Finally, he snapped his fingers once to prompt another Beta to hand him a microphone. The speech was about to begin.

“Friends.” A small pebble arched toward Klek from the Tetrite side of the barbed wire. When it rebounded harmlessly off Klek’s boot, a large officer took a few steps forward, pulled out his Gar pistol, and disintegrated a small Tetrite immediately in front of Klek. The Tetrites nearby shuffled back away from the smoldering remains as Klek nodded once to the officer and cleared his throat to speak again.

“Friends. Your glorious liberation from the tyranny of the Velorian Protector is finally complete! She has been driven from the planet forever!” Klek paused in anticipation of a thunderous ovation. It did not come. Hundreds of thousands of pairs of beady eyes merely stared in silence back at him. Klek simply decided to continue.

“In celebration of this great day, it has been decided that you will be relocated to the south where you will rebuild your homes and live ideal lives as subjects of the Arion Empire!” This time Klek would not tolerate the lack of proper response from these obviously moronic creatures. He gave them another chance.

“.......the Arion Empire!” Still no response. Klek snapped his fingers once more as he glared at the Tetrites. Every guard swung his rifle down to point it at the clusters of Tetrites. When they did, a timid smattering of applause could be heard. It was enough to placate Klek and he waved away the guards.

“So, my friends, prepare yourselves for an adventure of a lifetime. We are going to move to the south and your new paradise!” Klek’s broad smile and enthusiastic voice was lost on the starving creatures listening to him. Someone in the back of the Tetrites yelled out. “There is nothing in the South! Nothing! There is no food! No water! Nothing!” Another voice could be heard nearer the wire. “His information is quite valid! I have seen it down there! There’s nothing!”

Klek raised his hand to silence the increasingly noticeable murmurings among the Tetrites. The smile never left his face.

“My friends. The Arion Empire will provide everything you need. Food, water, medicines, all will be provided to you. All we ask is your loyalty in return. Will you not at least see how well we can do for you? What is there to lose, my friends? What is there to lose?”

The Tetrites thought a bit and talked a bit among themselves. Klek ignored it all as stepped down off his stage. Their discussions would not affect a decision already made. Klek turned to his staff and simply said “Move ‘em.”

The Arion soldiers scattered all around the front of the camp as orders were shouted out to be obeyed. Weapons were at the ready as the long main gate was swung aside. Shrill whistles burst loudly as the Tetrites were ordered out of the compound. Calcinidus looked around him. There were no vehicles, no shuttles, nothing to transport this many Tetrites anywhere! How were they going to get them to the South?


Klek’s staff vehicle and some support trucks roared by the limping mass of Tetrites. It had been days since they all left the camp. How far had they walked in this blazing sun? Calcinidus could not even begin to guess. The Arions did not feed anyone. There was not even water. As they walked on, Calcinidus found that he had to stay awake so as not to trip over the bodies of Tetrites who dropped dead ahead of him. That was a major challenge sometimes. He wondered if it would just be simpler to drop dead himself. His body would not yet give in so easily, so he lived on.

Occasionally, someone would try to scamper off from the group in some wild effort to escape. They would last only long enough for one or more of the guards to take aim and fire. If you simply sat down and refused to move, you risked being shot or worse, stomped by one of the larger guards. That prospect terrified the Tetrites. It was better to walk and take your chances than end up under the boot of one of those creatures.

Calcinidus never looked behind him. If he had, he would have seen a trail of dead Tetrites all the way back to the horizon. Of the 576,000 Tetrites who left Kamp #3, less than 5000 would reach the southern coast alive.

The south coast of the central continent, three weeks later

Calcinidus could feel the cold wind on his face as he approached the shoreline. The sea was gray and pounded the rocky coast loudly. All around him were sharp, jagged outcroppings of rock that reached deep inland from the furious sea. No one could harvest seaweed from such a terrible place. No one could possibly live here.

All around Calcinidus, Tetrites collapsed. There were so few left now. So few. Calcinidus tried desperately to cry at the scene around him, but his body had no water to use for tears. So, like the others, he merely laid down to rest. The long nightmare was over.

It was only a few moments before Calcinidus heard a large ship descend to the surface behind him. Could this be the food and water that they had promised? He stood to see the dark gray hull crunch the sand as it settled. Two large hatches opened noisily. Calcinidus could hardly wait! He struggled toward the craft to see how much food they brought.

The Arion troops that had escorted the Tetrites began to board the ship. They were laughing and joking as all of them filled the huge cargo area. The empty cargo area! Calcinidus could not believe his eyes! They brought all of us here for this? He suddenly saw Klek walk up the ramp to board the ship with his men. Calcinidus, for the first time in his life, shrieked angrily at another being!

“Are you insane? Are you going to leave us here with nothing? How do you expect us to survive?” Klek stopped and turned toward Calcinidus. Klek was smiling.

“It’s simple. I don’t.” Klek quickly raised a Gar pistol and fired point blank into Calcinidus. The blast flung the Tetrite out into the surf where his body sizzled momentarily before being swept out to sea.

The Faldref Mountains, 11 days later

“They are waiting.....”

“Give me a collect my thoughts, please.”

“Certainly, Philanthropithitatus. I will await you with the others.”

Phil was feeling the pressure these days. Keeping his people alive meant moving them constantly. The entire Faldref range was honeycombed with pockets of Tetrites that moved randomly to avoid being targeted by the Arions. Whatever the Arions wanted on this planet, it was down in the desert. The mountains just were not worth the effort to them. But they would never pass up a target of opportunity.

It was sometimes hard to stay one step ahead of the Arions. The vast size and complexity of the Faldref mountains worked in the Tetrite’s favor. That and the fact that the Arions were sometimes stupid and usually unimaginative. The Tetrites found that they could outwit the Arions nearly every time they needed to. Or, rather, that Phil could outwit them. All orders of movement came from Phil. He moved them. He fed them. He encouraged them. He was the leader in every way, except in his mind.

Phil never wanted to be a leader. He was quite accepting of the direction of others. Yet, in these unusual times, everyone just looked to Phil for the answers. He didn’t even notice how he naturally ascended to the position. It was as if everyone just assumed that Phil would take care of it all. Tonight, Phil had become too aware of his responsibility. The weight of it all increased ten-fold as the realization of what he had become bore deeply into him.

It had been months since the William had been captured. Where he was now, Phil had no idea. He did not even know if the William was still alive. It had been even longer since he had seen Lillith. There was no word, nothing. His faith in her remained. Yet, maybe from the fatigue, a small doubt began to materialize. Maybe, just maybe, they were indeed on their own.

The rains outside the dim cavern had let up a bit. The rain, although continuous, just fell now rather than being driven by the winds. The sky over the central desert glowed from the lights of the Arions. Phil could look out at the ridgeline and see the outline of it perfectly against the glow. How tired he felt. The pressure to keep his people out of the reach of the Arions was starting to have an effect on him. So many mouths to feed. The infants were the worst - they were always hungry. Many Tetrite adults went without to feed the young. Many starved themselves to unconsciousness. Phil had to put a stop to that to keep casualties down. It was all well and good to feed the young, but not if everyone else had to eventually care for you as well. Then there was the sickness.

Normally healthy, the Tetrites had fallen out of the old habits that kept them so. Sanitation could not be maintained in the usual fashion and so they suffered for it. Phil was watching his people die by the hundreds and there was nothing he could do about it. They followed him and they died. That was the way he saw it. What could he do to stop it? He knew that was what the others were waiting to discuss with him. They had had enough. They wanted to come down from the Faldref to reason with the Arions. To stop the death of their species. No one wanted it all to end more than Phil. Yet, he could not forget. Didn’t the others remember anything? The Arions would kill them just as fast if they stopped running. They habitually flung grenades into suspected hideouts without warning. Nearly every cave that could be accessed reasonably easily now smelled of Arion high-explosive residue. Of those that were inhabited, they also smelled of death. No, they could not rely on the mercy of such an enemy. If only there was another alternative. The choice to die or to die did not do much to fill a being with hope.

It looked to Phil as if the fates of Tetrites were to die of disease, hunger, and Arion disruptors on these cold, wet mountains and the thought devastated him. Yet, they still had life easier than the Tetrites still down in the desert. News of the Death March had just reached Phil and the Tetrites in the Faldref.

Phil remembered seeing the vast columns of Tetrites slowly vanish into the distant haze, but he had no idea at the time what it was all about. When reports finally did come in, it was, unfortunately, too late to do anything about any of it. He heard how, when the remnants of the column reached the coast, there was nothing there. The Arions just left them to starve. Phil had no further information on their fate. Later, when Phil and a few scouts entered the desert to see for themselves, they found a trail of Tetrite skeletons bleaching in the sun that extended from one horizon to the other. It was a memory that will always haunt Phil, as it was haunting him now.

The rocks were slippery from the evening rain. The green moss that grew on everything here only made the experience of sitting on a wet Faldref rock that much more uncomfortable. How he missed the smooth, weathered rocks of the desert. They absorbed the heat of the day so quickly and gave it up at night so slowly. His bed in the habitat was his favorite rock on the planet. Situated in just the right position to capture the sun’s heat through the window, Phil never suffered from lack of sleep at night. The thought of its warmth against his belly made him smile momentarily. If only he could go back to before. Before the Arions. Before the escape. Before the cold rain in the high mountains. But there was no going back to before. No going back because there was no longer a before. Life started and ended when the Arions came. So Phil merely endured his situation as his only alternative. He sat, and thought, and trembled, and cried. The stress of it all was finally taking hold of him tonight. He felt the cold. He felt his failure. He felt alone.

Suddenly, he saw a silhouette of a biped humanoid appear on the ridge. Arions! He froze at the thought. They never came up this high. Besides, his pickets would certainly have warned him! Phil remained motionless, partly to remain hidden, partly out of fear. His eyes flicked to his weapon that he had absentmindedly set down only a few yards away. If he made a move for it, he would be seen. Death would be instantaneous. The Arions are amazingly fast on the trigger. No, he would hold position to see what....

By the William! The figure is coming toward him! His eyes grew larger as he fought the panic down. Maybe they don’t see him. Maybe they’ll walk by and ..... The figure stopped a few paces from him. The black silhouette outlined by the orange/yellow glow of the Arion camps stood motionless.

“Phil? Do you not know me?” That voice!

“MISTRESS! Is it really you?” Phil was shaking with excitement! It was only now that he noticed her long hair and cape moving gently in the wind.

“Yes, my little friend. But remain quiet. The Arions are everywhere.” Phil sat back down, his eyes blinking as he fought to control himself once more. The touch of her gentle hand on him drew even the smallest doubt from him forever. He leaned into the familiar touch.

“Have you returned, Mistress?”

“Soon, Phil, very soon. The preparations are nearly complete. Is William well? I could not find him.” Phil hesitated before deciding just to tell her.

“He was taken, Mistress. Those beings have him. I do not know if he lives.”

Lillith did not respond. Phil noticed her hands close briefly into fists. They relaxed just as quickly.

“We......we will know soon enough. Listen carefully, Phil. We must make preparations.”


Back to Before continues..........