Mendin drummed his fingers along the three bony ridges atop his head. He exhaled violently as he fought off a yawn. It was too cold suspended this high into the air on a massive artifact of unknown origin.
But it now belonged to the Curtani. The damnable humans and their Metamorph allies crashed crashed somewhere on the surface. But the battle was not won. Spy satellites had already reported Terran starships on route, and they were in a hurry.
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 and then return to the mothership for reinforcements.
So a team of ten, cold, but stalwart, warriors were left on this floating metallic crystal to protect their claim to it. After all, it was in interstellar space, out of the jurisdiction of the Terrans and their little alliance.
Mendin heard a release from the energy rifle his second was using. Inagrin fired a few shots down into the valley. Her eyes were consumed within the scope, but her toothy grin was evident.
“Look at ‘em run!” She cheered.
Mendin’s fingers moved to the bony ridge of his 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.”
Mendin reached forward and pressed his clawed hand along the center of the rifle. Inagrin couldn’t budge it. She pulled herself from the scope and turned her attention to Mendin. She stood rigid at attention. Mendin lifted the rifle and returned it to her.
“Conserve ammo, we have work do to. We need this place fortified.”
Inagrin motioned behind them. “I wish we could get inside. Probably be easier for defense.”
Mendin gazed in the same direction. 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 down below, and they have help on the way. We still have a dreadnought in orbit and reinforcements on the way, so we have the advantage.” Mending took a deep breath and shook off the cold. “But 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 other soldiers cheered.
Mendin held up his hand, silence followed. “Agreed. However, they are still coming to take what is now rightfully ours.” Mendin slammed his foot onto the crystalline platform. “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. Not only did they deny us entry, 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 with this artifact. All of 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.”
“And lots and lots of dead Terrans.” Bellowed another soldier.
The other soldiers cheered again in agreement.
“Mendin,” Inagrin said. “Those damn Terrans have a plan. That Metamorph can fly now.”
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.
The commander turned to Inagrin, once again consumed within her scope.
Without addressing him directly, Inagrin said, “You know that whole banning mess had a reason, 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 ritual and tried to stop it. They thought it was a gang war between our people, not a ritual sacrifice. It spilled over, so many died.”
Mendin leaned down. “A moment ago you were gleefully shooting at them as if it was a canned hunt. What’s with the change of heart?”
Inagrin shrugged. “I like to shoot and kill shit. Doesn’t mean I like the shit our superiors spin.”
Mendin grinned. “Well, then just do your job. Hold this line.”
© 2016 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.