Back to Before
Part 5

by MAC


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

Atop Serenity Hill, central desert of Tetra

“I believe that mechanism will not serve our purpose. Perhaps if we were to depress this device it will function as desired.” A large brown Tetrite lightly tapped the top of a safety cover marked with bright yellow letters on a red background. The word “AUTOFIRE” was printed on it in English, German, and Spanish. Beneath the spring-loaded cover was the button in question. The dark gray Tetrite disagreed.

“If you recall from the information that we acquired, there are a number of additional mechanisms that must be manipulated prior to that device. You simply must make use of the valid information provided!” The brown Tetrite took on an expression of annoyance that anyone would suggest that he did not make use of valid information! His fur raised slightly.

All around the two arguers, hundred of Tetrites scurried to complete the assembly of the gun before daylight. Many had worked throughout the night to complete it in time. Lillith had placed the gun tube and all of the various mechanisms on the hilltop, but could do no more. She had to leave the planet immediately. The Tetrites did not sleep nor eat in order to finish the gun before the sun came up. Each one could feel the importance of it, the incredible significance of this moment. The numbers who volunteered were overwhelming. Many had to be turned away. This was something with purpose, something with meaning, and something...quite interesting!

Two miles away, in the darkness, four huge mounds of sand and Vendorian steel-reinforced concrete bulged from the otherwise flat desert floor. Arion Beta garrison troops milled around the mounds, but most were asleep in the quiet hours of the morning before dawn. All of them were oblivious to the activity just two miles away on the hill to the southeast.

On the largest of the four mounds, a tiny Tetrite crept to the apex of the roof in total silence. Once there, she placed a three inch square plastic card in a small dab of clay to hold it in position vertically. Peering through a small hole at the top of the card, she sighted the hilltop where her fellow creatures were feverishly laboring. Satisfied that the card was aligned correctly, she slid silently back down the mound and disappeared into the darkness.

On each of the remaining mounds, other small Tetrites completed the identical task without disturbing the slumbering Arions. Each mound now wore a small, plastic card sitting upright in a dollop of gray clay.

The sun was not yet up, but a faint red glow on the horizon warned of its coming. Time was running out. With the quiet trading of signals that all was ready, the gray Tetrite flipped a single circuit breaker up. A slight whirring sound signaled that power was flowing through the thousands of intricate circuits and mechanisms of the huge weapon. An electroluminescent display of orange letters on a black screen faded into focus in front of the brown Tetrite. Watching the system perform it’s ritual self-test successfully, the Tetrite was rewarded with the urgent message



The system was ready, but no targets had been acquired for it’s use. Touching the block on the screen labeled as TAR ACQ, the Tetrite was startled to see a small targeting cylinder rise quickly out of the console in front of him. When it stopped it’s upward travel, the top third of the cylinder hinged ninety degrees into position and slowly, silently rotated repeatedly through a 120 degree arc as it scanned the area ahead of the gun with a modulated, low-power, solid-state laser. Down at the mounds, the infrared laser pulses found four reflectors with identifying marks that it scanned like a barcode. The system knew these reflectors belonged to it from the content of the encoding. In a way, the encoding was saying “Look at me! I am here for you!” The system acquired the distance, coordinates, azimuth, and elevation to the reflectors and stored the information in PRAM, an optical form of RAM using light photons. Having acquired all targets in front of it, the system retracted the targeting cylinder and placed a simple statement on the screen.





The brown Tetrite’s face reflected the orange glow of the electroluminescent screen as he pondered the deeper meaning of these messages. “MOT TAR” meant motion targeting. Yes, thought the Tetrite, that would be most interesting to see! He touched the YES selection. The display rewarded him with yet another variation of it’s last message.





Unable to recall any additional activities to perform, the brown Tetrite turned to his companion.

“I do believe it is ready.” The gray Tetrite peered at the same screen with beady black eyes and came to the same conclusion.

The gray raised the red cover, exposing the autofire button and the keyswitch. Inserting the cylindrical key, he turned it once to the right. A hooded red indicator, located just above the keyswitch, illuminated to tell him that the system was now armed. He stared at the autofire button, but could not bring himself to touch it. The brown noticed his reluctance and approached.

“You hesitate.”

“Yes.” The gray couldn’t take his eyes off the button. “I was in error. I do not wish to harm beings or destroy...I cannot....” His voice trailed off as he sat motionless, unable to speak further. The brown sensed the problem.

“Do you have a mate?”

“Yes.” The memory of her made the gray close his eyes.

“Where is she?”

“She was killed on the first day.” The gray’s eyes slowly opened as his memories became less comforting and more painful. He turned to face the brown Tetrite. The brown spoke again, but with a softer, more personal voice.

“Did you produce infants?” The question seemed to brighten his sullen gray friend.

“Yes, many! The youngest, little Mina, would love to tuck her legs and tumble down into the nest. How she would giggle! It was such fun for her! I recall when she...” The gray Tetrite interrupted himself as another thought invaded his consciousness. His smile quickly faded. The bright enthusiasm in his eyes vanished. He was back to his former dark mood. “They...Mina and the others...they were all lost that first day.” He looked at the brown Tetrite as if he was pleading with him. “I was offshore on the Nortrunda in the harvest. I could not traverse the distance to my nest in time. I...” He lowered his head as his guilt at not being with his family tore at him. The brown placed a leg around him to give what little comfort he could. His voice dropped to a whisper to tell of a shared experience.

“My mate was in the camps. I tried to get her out, but I could not find a way before they marched them to the sea. She lies somewhere in-between. I do not know where. She is out there and I am free to retrieve her. But there are only bones in the desert. How am I to know her when there are only bones. So, she awaits me. She is there, but I can do nothing to find her. She is so much like so many others now. As we too are like so many others.” The brown Tetrite had to stop speaking for a moment to collect himself. The idea of it all was destroying him inside. Talking about it didn’t help and he sometimes felt as if he would break down completely. He finally regained his composure and spoke with a deep intensity.

“Those creatures did these things to our mates, our infants, and our friends. I have considered what possible reason that the creatures might have for doing such things, but I can determine no justification. We must not allow such behavior to continue. We must stop them here. We must, and others like us must. Do you concur with my evaluation?”

The gray Tetrite nodded slowly. His tears matted the fur on his face. “Yes...yes, I concur. This must be done.”

The brown gently took the gray’s leg and placed it on the button. He then placed his own next to it on the same button. Turning to look into the eyes of his friend, the brown spoke to someone with whom he shared a common bond now.

“For the memory of those lost and the love of those living.” The gray nodded slowly, never taking his eyes from those of the brown.

“Yes...for all of them...and for tiny Mina.”

Two legs pushed until the button clicked in response.

The giant 470mm Traynor-II rail gun instantly came to life as the pumps and servos shrieked loudly! The rail swung up, then to the side so violently that the movement flung the Tetrites off the control cab. The other Tetrites scattered to the rocks in panic! Within seconds, the Traynor centered on the first target and erupted.

Gigantic flashes of blue flame over 100 feet long flowed from the rail! Each discharge shook the ground, making the desert sand bounce high into the air all around the gun! The concussions upended Tetrites repeatedly as others held on to anything they could find! Discharge after discharge fired with such a deafening sound that the Tetrites ears went deaf momentarily from the compression of the air around the gun. It was as if a terrible storm had broken loose right in front of the Tetrites! As each target was dealt with to the satisfaction of the targeting computer, the rail would swing to the next rapidly. The gun did not linger on any one target for very long. It would pump a number of discharges into one, move to another, do the same, and move on. It was engaging four targets simultaneously, giving each a devastating treatment in turn that would last only seconds before retargeting.

Down in the desert, the top of each of the mounds was being visciously torn away by the terrible impacts. Explosions flung sand and concrete debri hundreds of feet into the air. The ground shook like a level-6 earthquake! Designed to withstand the attack by almost every known heavy weapon in the universe, the mounds were proving to be vulnerable to the powerful bombardment of the huge Traynor-II.

The initial shock of hundreds of particle weapon explosions right on top of them caused panic among the Arions. When the Arions reacted to the attack, their movement was captured by the secondary motion detector on the gun which processed the movement as a new threat. The computer prioritized the movement higher than the static targets of the mounds and the gun reacted. Arion after Arion was torn to pieces by the merciless weapon. If an Arion moved, the gun swung to target him and fired. Within minutes, the mounds were torn open and all Arions of the garrison were dead - except one.

The last Arion, a older veteran, recognized a motion triggered weapon and froze in place. The Traynor ceased fire and slowly swung from side to side as it waited to process more targets. All of the Tetrites still watched in awe from the safety of the rocks behind the gun. Slowly the gun stopped traversing, beeped twice, and the pumps and servos whined down. The Arion veteran, not seeing a discharge for many minutes, knew that the weapon had probably reset. If that was true, then he could move now, but he had to do it quickly! The Arion took a chance and broke into a run.

The Traynor immediately switched back on and leveled the rail! It was whining so loudly that the Arion could hear it clearly two miles away. A cold shiver burst through him as he ran as fast as he could for the safety of the bunker. Just a bit more! Almost there!

When the particle discharge hit him in the back, his body burst open to sprits a blood cloud over the desert sand just before his remains flamed into nothing. He never even had time to scream.

The Traynor gun swiveled a few more times before switching once more into standby mode. Climbing gingerly up onto the now motionless control cab, the brown Tetrite rapped his leg down onto the “ALL STOP” mushroom-shaped button. The pumps shut down immediately and the screen went black as the tip of the rail settled slowly toward the ground. Turning from the console, his eyes once again met the eyes of his friend, the gray Tetrite, who was just coming up the ladder. He was shaking from the excitement.

“This is indeed a terrible weapon! Are we done with it’s use?”

The gray nodded. “Indeed!“

All around them, hundreds of Tetrites scampered toward the smoldering mounds in the distance. The gray urged the brown to descend the ladder quickly. “Let us complete our work!”

Landing with a thud on the ground, the two friends joined the others and headed rapidly toward the mounds. The first rays of the dawn were streaming overhead.

Arion Headquarters, Office of the Commanding General

“WHERE IS MY TERRAN!!” Vatar stormed into the outer chamber of the Commanding General’s office, scaring the devil out of the male Beta secretary. Recognizing the uselessness of the frightened male, Vatar continued her reckless onslaught directly through the door to the General’s office.

Vatar had just stepped through the door and had her mouth open to begin her demands when a massive hand gripped her throat and lifted her up off her feet. Vatar was stunned at the sheer power of the grip around her throat. The powerful compression was heating her throat as a dull red glow appeared beneath the thumb and fingers of the hand. She glanced down to see the General nonchalantly holding her there, his face as calm and collected as if he was holding an umbrella. His voice was anything but calm. It had an intensely menacing quality that shook Vatar as she heard it.

“Do you know why I am the Commanding General, Captain?” Vatar could barely speak.

“Yes, sir...”

“SILENCE!” Vatar stopped struggling and simply let herself hang by his hand. She suddenly realized that she had made a grave mistake. “I am the Commanding General because I never put up with arrogant Primes who think they are supreme gods on these yellow-sunned planets! There is only one supreme god, Captain, and he has you by the throat.”

“My apologies, General. I...”

“APOLOGIES? I DON’T WANT AN APOLOGY, YOU PIECE OF FILTH! I WANT YOUR PITIFUL ASS!” The General blinked as if suddenly remembering to regain control of himself. “Shall I take your worthless life, Vatar? Shall I twist your neck and end your existance right here?”

This was not what Vatar came all the way to Headquarters for. She had to get out of this! She crossed her arms before her chest in the traditional sign of submission. “My life is yours, if you wish it, my General.”

The General slowly lowered her until her feet just touched the uneven stone floor. Turning away from the woman, he returned to his chair. The sweat on Vatar’s hands hissed into steam as she rubbed her red hot neck. A passing thought of gutting the huge male found a welcome place in her mind, but she kept that to herself. She remained where she stood and did not make eye contact with the General.

Sitting down calmly, he turned back to Vatar with a slight smile.

“Now what can I do for you, Captain?”

Vatar could barely speak, but her anger was not totally driven out of her. “My Terran. He was taken from me. I wish to know his whereabouts.” The General just stared at her without a word until he heard her say the one word he needed to hear.


“Captain Vatar, the alien that you refer to as ‘your Terran’ has been requisitioned by the Research Section for testing.”

Vatar’s eyes widened. “Those amateurs playing with my Terran? They’ll ruin him! Sir, I need to speak to someone in the Research Section immediately!” The General shook his head slowly and spoke calmly.

“No, Captain Vatar.”

“Sir, I...”

“No, Captain Vatar. The Empire required your property. You know you have no voice in the matter. Tend to your ship, Captain, and leave this alone.”

“Sir! I must...” The General exploded to his feet and boomed angrily at the surprised Captain.

“TEND TO YOUR SHIP, VATAR! You’re lucky I didn’t turn YOU over to the Research Section after that little escapade down in the Officer’s Club! It’s bad enough to discharge a weapon in the complex, but to fire one hundred and fifty heavy hand-weapons at once is INCREDIBLY STUPID! You obliterated an entire wall, nearly caused a major cave-in, and killed four Betas who were being entertained by your female antics through a crack in the wall!” The General leaned forward and lowered his voice menacingly. “If you don’t get your shipborn ass out of my office in two seconds, I’ll have your command, your rank, and your lands on Aria in my hip pocket! Do you understand me, Captain?” The General was seething as he listened for an answer. There was only one sad conclusion for Vatar. Her wonderful Terran pet was gone.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“You only have one second left, Captain.”

“Thank you, sir. Good day, sir.” Spinning sharply around, Vatar made for the door and her ship.

The episode was over, but how she will miss her pet.

Arion Arms Storage Depot 21, Central Sector. 1350 hours, local time

The Sector Commander was looking over the wreckage of the arms depot. The shattered remains of Arion Betas from the garrison littered the area. He merely kicked the remains out of the way rather than step over them.

“What did they get.”

“Here is the inventory, sir. They pretty much cleaned it out. Well over 18,000 Taiphun rifles, 12,000 Gar sidearms, 4780 T-5 thermite charges, 15...”

“Pretty much? What did they leave?”

“The food tins, sir.”

The Commander smiled. “Just like our own troops. Nobody can eat that shit.” He looked around the ground for tracks or signs of who might have done this. “What are we doing about this, Lieutenant.”

“Sir! We don’t know for sure, but we suspect a Tetrite band of marauders.”

At that, the Commander burst out laughing.

“A bug army?! These creatures are passive nothings! They talk and talk and do NOTHING!” On the last word, he kicked a Tetrite prisoner that was found foraging for food among the mounds. “These lambs wait only for slaughter! They haven’t the stomach for this! Did I miss something or did you not find a Terran Traynor weapon up on that hill? Where are the Tetrites going to get such a weapon, much less be able to move it up there and fire it? Well?” The Lieutenant shrugged as the Commander grunted in true I-thought-so fashion. “Check out the area once more for signs of Scalatran thieves or any other known raiders, Lieutenant. This was just too fat a target for those scum to pass up.” He turned to leave then spun back around with another thought. “And get these damn depots spread out more! This one was just too big!”

“Yes SIR!” The Lieutenant gratefully watched his Commander storm away. He had his orders. There was no need to think about anything.

Arion Headquarters Motor Pool, Tracked Vehicle Repair Works

Two Arion Beta mechanics worked together under an engine access hatch of an armored troop carrier. Paired together as friends, they served together, worked together, and ate together. If there was anyplace to go for rest and relaxation on Tetra, they would surely R’n’R together.

“Hey, did you notice there aren’t any Tetrites ‘round anymore? It’s kinda creepy, ya know? I mean, they’re all gone!”

“Yeah, usually they’re all over the place, askin’ their stupid questions. Always with the questions. It’s enough to make you puke, that’s for sure. An’ they’re always gettin’ into shit!”

“You don’t suppose...oh, shit! Primo!

The two Betas snapped back to their work as a huge male Prime, walking with his hands clasped behind his back and a scowl on his angular face, walked without purpose by the men. He stopped briefly, looked into the engine compartment with only a vague interest in any of it, and continued on his informal way. The Betas continued working for a few moments longer before both felt that the Prime was no longer a threat.

“Shithead Primes.”

“Hey, knock that noise off, man! The Primes’ve got everything under control. They’re assholes, but they make things work, that’s for sure!”

“I dunno, man. It’s all kinda creepy. This was s’posed to be a protected planet, but have you seen any sign of a Protector? They’ve never been THAT wrong before ‘bout somthin’ like that! And now, where are the bugs? It’s creepy, man! This ain’t right. I’m tellin’ you, things ain’t right.”

Both Betas looked around nervously for a moment before getting back to work with a shrug. The Primes would surely see to the problem of the missing Tetrites without any more worry from two Betas in the motor pool.

Beside, they had an engine to repair.

The 48th Arion Mechanized Regiment, bivouacked at the foot of the western Faldref Heights

It was the first day in months without rain. The Arions seemed so relieved that they took the day off. The mud was drying quickly on everything only to be constantly brushed away to return to the ground. In the foothills of the Faldref, a regiment of Arion troops looked expectantly toward the sky, waiting impatiently for the sun to appear.

With their attention turned toward the change in weather, no one noticed four Tetrites sneaking along the far side of the line of armored vehicles parked on the edge of the regiment’s encampment.

Two of the Tetrites were brothers. One of them had been the first to “hear” of the invasion. They argued endlessly about everything. If one said up, the other said down. There was no compromise and, unfortunately, little agreement. They were busy placing T-5 thermite charges on every vehicle in the column. They argued in whispers about each placement, yet hurried along as fast as they could.

“Did you place it with the label outward?”

“Of course I did. The label is plainly seen.”

“I do not believe the first device will function correctly. You did not place it correctly.”

93"Would you like to place the devices?”

“Why yes I would!”

“Well, you may not! I am placing the devices!”

“Your query was a trick! That is most rude!”

“Please provide another device.”

“Certainly... you really must watch the orientation of the label.”

“Is the label not plainly seen?”

“Yes, it is. Are you using enough adhesive?”

“The quantity of adhesive is adequate.”

“Perhaps I should apply the adhesive, to be sure.”

“You may not. I am applying the adhesive as well!”

The third Tetrite was the Wirer. He strung the wire from charge to charge without a word before running quietly back to some nearby rocks. Wire trailed behind him as it unspooled freely. Once in the relative safety of the rocks, the Wirer pulled an ancient Arion plunger detonator out of a knapsack and busied himself attaching the wires.

The smallest Tetrite was a young male adolescent who came along only because the other three couldn’t chase him away. He was the self-appointed lookout and his reports were coming in frequently.

“They are over there!”

“We know, little one, that is why we are over HERE!”

The work continued as the charges were discreetly placed under the thin armor plate of the belly of each vehicle. Each charge canister was held in place by a splotch of adhesive since a magnetic attachment would trigger flux detection alarms in each vehicle.

“One of them just stood up!”

“Is he coming over here?”

“No! He is urinating.”

“That is not a problem for us.”

“Oh, my! A big one just stood up!”

“That is not a problem for us.”

“He is looking this way!”

“That is not a problem for us.”

“My goodness! He is coming toward us!”

The two brothers stopped immediately, looked at each other, and looked under the vehicle to see for themselves.

“That is a problem for us! We need another moment to complete this installation. Do something!”

The young Tetrite rotated his head out of curiosity. “What would that ‘something’ be?”

“A distraction from our work would be most suitable.”

“Perhaps I could talk with him! It might be suitable to simply ask him not to disturb your work!”

Before the brothers could stop him, the little, inexperienced Tetrite scampered up onto the hood of the armored vehicle and tapped his foot loudly. The noise made the huge Arion turn back toward him and scowl.

“The warmest of good mornings to you! Might I inquire about this vehicle?” The Arion grumbled an annoyed response.

“What about it?”

“I was most curious. Do these vehicles ever simply detonate?”


The wires were fitted to the plunger.

“Do they ever spontaneously explode?”

“Um, no.”

The handle of the plunger was raised.

“My goodness, that IS good news! Thank you for making me more comfortable to be in the vicinity of such a safe vehicle!” The little Tetrite tumbled from the armored vehicle to the ground and scampered toward the nearby rocks as fast as he could. The Arion leaned on the hood, spat on the ground, and muttered “Stupid bugs.”, just as the plunger was forced quickly down.

Every armored vehicle and truck in the column erupted into flame and shattered metal. The Arion leaning on the lead vehicle was shredded by steel fragments and vaporized by the force of the explosion. Black smoke coiled into the air from each of them as it rained debris over the entire area. The mechanized cavalry had just become infantry.

All four Tetrites broke from their hiding spot in the rocks and ran toward the nearby canyon. They were immediately spotted as shots from Arion weapons tore at dirt and rocks all around them. Not waiting for orders, the entire Regiment took off in anger after the fleeing Tetrites.


On the top of a high, vertical cliff, the leader of the Tetrites waited patiently.


A constant torrent of disruptor fire was ripping up the desert landscape around the frantically running Tetrites. They were instructed, and tried desperately, not to run in a straight line for more than a count of two. This made it difficult for the Arions to get a clear shot. But with over 600 armed Arions after them, luck would wear thin quickly.

The Wirer was hit squarely. His body shattered as he shrieked from the pain. His legs spun away from where moments before they had carried him so rapidly over the rocks. The three survivors had been told to keep running, to run no matter what happened. They did. They were nervously yelling “One, two!” as they zigged and zagged up into the canyon. A flurry of disruptor shots tore two legs away from one of the brothers as he spun wildly and tumbled over the rocky ground. His brother skittered to a halt before frantically clambering back to help him. He almost made it to his brother when he looked up to see hundreds of green muzzle flashes. Both brothers were torn to pieces by multiple hits. Their remains were instantly trampled by the hundreds of Arions still chasing the last Tetrite.

The little youngster had run out of canyon as he tried desperately to clamber the sheer wall before him. He slid defeated down its craggy surface as the tramping sound of boots filled his ears. He spun around to see hundreds of angry Arions aim their weapons directly at him. An officer, amused at the shaking Tetrite before him, walked confidently forward. His Gar pistol was pointed directly at the face of the frightened little creature.

“Perhaps we will not kill you yet. I have always wondered how long you bugs would live when we pluck your legs one by one.” A voice suddenly came from the cliff overhead.

“That would be a pointless exercise in brutality, sir.”

All Arion eyes and weapons immediately swung upward. The tiny Tetrite, seizing the opportunity, swiftly retreated through a crack in the rocks. A scraping sound made the Arion officer look down just in time to see the child’s little behind disappear into the rocky wall - an unmistakable sign that his prisoner had just escaped. His anger rose as he shouted back up at the voice.

“Who the hell are you?”

Phil tapped his foot thoughtfully before responding.

“We, sir, live here!”

At that, hundreds of thousands of Tetrites appeared along the three sides of the rim of the blind canyon. Even the Arions were impressed. Phil continued.

“You will be required to separate yourselves from your weapons in order for us to accept your surrender.”

Cursing under his breath, the Arion officer fired a single shot that kicked the dirt up along the ledge in front of Phil.

“My goodness! I see no point in further communication.”

When Phil raised one leg, 19,845 Arion Taifun rifle barrels swung down to point at the Arion soldiers in the canyon in one rapid movement. Some of the Betas dropped their rifles, some even dropped to their knees. Many called to their god. Every Arion had only a brief moment to be stunned at the sight. When Phil dropped his leg, every rifle simultaneously discharged into the canyon. The roar was deafening! Arions vaporized in place. The energy discharge was so immense that even the Primes were overcome! An entire regiment of Arion troops was completely wiped out in a sea of boiling green plasma! When Phil finally peered down into the canyon, the only bodies left were charred Primes. The Betas were vapor. The sandy ground was black glass.

Phil spoke softly, as if to himself.

“It has begun, Mistress. As you wished.”


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