Mendin drummed his fingers along the bony ridges atop his head. He exhaled violently, fighting off a yawn. It was too cold, suspended high in the air on the massive, diamond-shaped artifact.
It now belonged to the Curtani. The damnable humans and their Metamorph ally had crashed and were vulnerable on the planet’s surface. However, the battle was not won. The Curtani cruiser that had pursued the Terrans here had already reported the hyperspace signature of two Terran starships on route.
Mendin and his squad were onboard the transport that intercepted the first humans. The battle had been fierce, glorious. In the end, their damaged transport had to deploy Mendin’s squad for repairs. A second transport was undergoing preparations and would reinforce Mendin soon. Ten stalwart warriors were left on this floating, metallic diamond to protect their claim. After all, it was in interstellar space, out of the jurisdiction of the Terrans and their pithy alliance.
Mendin heard an energy shot from his second’s rifle. Inagrin fired a few shots down onto the plateau the Terrans were using as a staging area. Her eyes were consumed within the scope, but her toothy grin widened with every pull of the trigger.
“Look at ‘em run!” She cheered.
Mendin’s fingers slid to his ridged snout. “Would you mind conserving ammo, unless you actually plan to hit something?”
Inagrin pivoted the rifle and fired another shot down into the valley. Consumed in her play, she replied, “I do mind. They are never going to make it up here anyway, might as well make a day of it.” Her grin lessened. “This one doesn’t move. He’s calling my bluff. Maybe I should just—”
Mendin reached forward and pressed his hand down on the rifle. Inagrin couldn’t budge it. She pulled away from the scope, scampering to attention. Mendin lifted the rifle and returned it to her.
“Conserve ammo, we have work do to. We need this place fortified.”
Inagrin pointed behind Mendin. “I wish we could get inside. Probably be easier for defense.”
Mendin turned, responding to her gaze beyond him. A massive rhomboidal door—perhaps, a door—stood glowing and impervious at attempts to open it. His team needed heavy explosives.
“The gods do not grant wishes,” Mendin responded. “Strength through adversity.”
Inagrin muttered under her breath. “The gods don’t do much at all.”
Mendin growled. “Only the arrogant ask of the gods. We simply serve, even if we do not understand the purpose.”
Inagrin chuckled from her throat. “Sure.”
Mendin stepped among his soldiers. They looked upon him with hungry eyes. They were waiting for orders.
“Soldiers, we are victorious in claiming this artifact before the Terrans. However, this is not the end. Some humans survived the crash, and they have help on the way. We still have a dreadnought in orbit and incoming reinforcements. For now, we have the advantage.” Mendin took a deep breath and shook off the cold. “However, the tide may turn. The Terrans will outnumber us in a few hours.”
“One of the Curtani are worth five of them!” bellowed one soldier over the wind. The others cheered.
Mendin held up his hand, obedient silence followed. “Agreed. However, they are still coming to take what is now rightfully ours. We beat them here. Now they wish to take it from us, like they have taken so much from us already. They denied the Curtani’s entry into their precious alliance. They cut off all diplomatic and economic ties and convinced other sentients to do the same. They effectively banned us from the galactic economy. Well, this is our moment to bring the Curtani back into prominence. My soldiers, you are the vanguard of our people’s future!”
The soldiers cheered once again.
Mendin smiled, his forked tongue licked the length of his sharp incisors. “Now, I want a team to hold position at the entrance. The rest of you will hold this position and pull back should the Terrans advance too quickly. There are 200 meters between this position and the entrance to the artifact. 200 meters with only pillars for cover.”
“Two hundred meters that will be filled with dead Terrans,” bellowed another soldier.
The other soldiers cheered again in agreement.
“Mendin,” Inagrin said, once again looking through her scope, “those damn Terrans have a plan. That Metamorph can fly now. I had wondered where it was hiding.”
The cheering stopped, only the roar of wind through the pillars could be heard.
It could fly now? Mendin hated those things.
“All right, mobilize!” Mendin shouted.
While still consumed in her scope, Inagrin said, “You know there was a reason behind that whole banning mess, right?”
Inagrin looked up from the scope. “The Eater Faction caused that horrific massacre at the Cetus 3 colony. Terrans and other sentients did not understand the meaning of the cleansing ritual and tried to stop it. They thought it was a gang war between our people, not a traditional passing of leadership to the new generation. It spilled over, so many died.”
Mendin leaned down. “A moment ago you were gleefully shooting at them as if it were a canned hunt. What’s with the change of heart?”
Inagrin shrugged. “I like to shoot and kill Terrans. Doesn’t mean I like the shit our superiors spin.”
Mendin grinned. “Well, then just do your job. Hold this line. Kill that Metamorph.”
© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.