The air was crisp on the home of the Original People, now called New Strata. Long gone were the days of the Natives, destroyed by Ridran when he took this place under his rule years ago. When Palisade was toppled by Orion, all was left in disarray, but all was rebuilt stronger and greater than before. The many who ventured to this world seeking all manner of pleasures would surely find it. The city had grown exponentially, but still couldn’t conquer the vast wilderness of trees that again encompassed most of this now baron planet. Even so, given history’s past, guards were ever at the ready, just in case anyone ever dared surge through with reckless might once more.
“It’s cold,” one guard complained as he rubbed his hands, rifle at his side.
“Shut up and keep patrolling!” his superior demanded.
“But why? No one ever attacks us anymore.”
“If I say you patrol, you patrol! Do not defy my orders again!” the superior demanded.
With a huff, that soldier began another sweep of the vast perimeter that never saw a reason to be guarded. It was colder than usual and all the guards, bored, found ways to keep warm. Whether in the quick step they used to continue their mundane rounds, or in the soft arms of the beautiful but wayward young women who gained only enough to survive by exploiting their sexuality for those who would take advantage. And here, on New Strata, many did.
Cold and annoyed, the guard walked briskly to one point, then the next, waiting for a chance to escape the cold snap he was unused to. As he stopped to relieve himself before calling his rounds quits for the day, a whiz through the air caught his attention. He looked. With a sharp pain, he dropped before he could scream, crumpling into a pile, still relieving himself while his eyes closed, dead.
Another arrow pierced the eye of another unsuspecting guard as he stepped back and forth trying to find warmth in his movement.
Then, another hit the wall, inches from the head of yet another guard. It shook slightly with the force that had delivered it. Then, another took that soldier down.
A yawning guard at his tower post looked on, then did a double take. Three of his comrades had fallen. Then another. Then another. As he tried to signal his superior, an arrow to the throat made him choke on his words as he drank his own blood, unable to breathe.
Then, as the world they had stolen long ago lay quiet, a rustle in the trees around them stirred many other unready guards.
A single war cry was followed by many more. Then, with a might like only the wind could produce, a wave of scantily clad warriors with long dark hair, weapons in hand, and paint on their faces, stalked out of the cover of the trees and rushed for the city.
“We’re under attack!” one guard shouted as he tried to ready his rifle. A siren blared but most took no notice, assuming it was another drill, and they weren’t ready to move so quickly in such frigid weather.
As the small mass rushed the city, gunners at the tops of the towers looked on. As they watched the unbelievable unfold in front of them, they roused themselves and manned the guns they believed unnecessary for the task they were given. Protect a conquered world.
With a click of their fingers, bullets began firing out quickly with a deep echo. Each rapid round blasted the cold ground with many thuds and explosions of dirt, eager to kill whatever this was.
“Sir! We have advancements!” A soldier called.
“I see them!” a general called as he nodded for his gunners to continue firing. He looked on through his looking glasses as he raised his brow. “Savages? But that’s impossible!” he said to himself as he gave the order to fire at will.
Multiple gunners mowed the ground around them into paste, chasing a swift and silent foe. Sure of their might, they fired endlessly until all was still again, crimson pooling around the fallen. When nothing moved, the general took a battalion to investigate. As they stomped the crisp ground, they grabbed the closest fallen. “Original people,” he said in disbelief. Without a plan or guidance from his distant superiors, he had to give orders to the many unsure eyes that looked to him.
“It’s nothing but a shabby group of savage lookalikes!” he demanded. “Return to your posts!” he ordered as he began to take the journey back into the safety and warmth of the city.
Just then, more loud war cries filled the trees around them once again. An arrow hit the general in the back, then one in the leg. He winced as he fell. As his soldiers looked on wide eyed, proud and fearless warriors poured from the trees, weapons in hand, ready to battle on with teeth gritted.
“Retreat to the towers!” the general called as the soldiers ran. Bullets again pounded the ground the advancing fighters raced across. As the general pulled himself to his feet, he was taken down with a powerful blow of a war club.
Arrows took down the soldiers as they fled while bullets ripped through the warriors that advanced, now close to the city. As the soldiers on the walls and in the towers unloaded their weapons, wave after wave of Original People warriors flooded into the clearing around the city, advancing with great skill and speed.
“Sir!” a shaken soldier announced as he burst through the doors of the commander’s chamber.
The commander stood with a furrowed brow.
“Sir, savages are advancing! They’ve killed a number of our soldier and one of our generals!” he announced.
The commander looked amused a moment, then annoyed. “Soldier, you know you are not permitted to drink while on duty.”
“No, sir! I mean, I know sir! But this is real, sir!”
The commander took the soldier and headed for one of the walls. As they looked on, the advancing warriors continued to rush in. Many fell under the blaze of gunfire that now directed aimlessly about the mass. Others weaved past as they headed into the city. Arrows rained down with deadly accuracy, killing soldiers that fired into the advancing crowd.
As one arrow just missed the commander, he ducked. “Keep the siren blaring! Warn the people to get to safety!” he demanded.
With that, the soldier nodded, then raced off.
“They’ve breached the city!” one soldier shouted as the siren roared its eerie warning.
The commander, head lowered, made his way quickly to one of the towers. He ordered the stunned soldiers back to their guns. He fired up the city spot lights and cracked open a loud com. “Invaders! You are outmatched and out gunned! Surrender, and you will be given a quick death!”
The warning was ignored as warriors began filling the city and climbing the walls.
“All gunner soldiers to the walls and towers! Remaining troops to the entrances to the city! We will end these savages swiftly!” the commander ordered as he took a gun and fired into the crowd.
“Sir! We need backup!” one scared soldier said.
“Son, we’re on our own out here!” the commander yelled back as he picked off as many warriors as his gun and skill would let him.
As the fighters of the Original People stormed throughout the city, they laid quick waste to the soldiers that tried to battle them. They were no match for the painted advancers.
People ran and screamed as they tried to flee the planet. Ships roared to life as many piled in.
Gunfire from the walls and towers were now directed away from the endless mass that advanced, and into the warriors that quickly scaled the walls of the city.
The commander and his gunners stopped a moment and watched another tower. The warriors had scaled it and were now throwing the soldiers out. They screamed as they fell to their deaths. Quickly, members of the Original People took hold of the empty guns and began firing at the walls and other towers.
The commander dropped to the ground as bullets ripped through their tower. “Return fire!” he demanded. He and his soldiers readied their guns again and fired back at the tower. With rapid recoil, the commander and his squad destroyed those in the taken tower. He fired with a hatred that burned across his tight face. The tower began to crack as it came loose, then fell into the advancing army.
The commander chuckled with delight as he watched the fallen tower crush many advancers, then he turned his gun back into the mass of advancing warriors.
As the wall that connected his tower to the fallen one was overrun, soldiers were quickly killed and tossed over the side as the advancing army took more of the city.
The commander fired into the fighters that still climbed the wall, and those now atop it who were shooting arrows into the soldiers in the city. As he ripped through the invaders, the scream of one of his gunners caught his attention. A fierce warrior had just killed one of his men and tossed him out.
The commander roared as he grabbed that warrior and pulled him in. He began pounding on the young fighter. “Die you filthy savage!” he screamed as he mercilessly pummelled the boy with an almost hateful pleasure.
A second warrior jumped on his back. The commander stood, then rushed backward, crushing that warrior against the wall. He quickly turned and smashed his head into the fighter’s face. With his bare hands, he choked the life out of the warrior, a pleased expression crossing his face as his adversary fell limp in his hands.
He dropped the warrior and looked out of the tower quickly. The seemingly endless wave was still advancing and the tower he was in was covered in climbing warriors. He looked to the walls. None of his soldiers remained. He listened. The only gunfire left was another overtaken tower that unloaded into the soldiers as they rushed around the city trying to fight and survive.
As his tower was overrun, he ran from it for the last remaining stronghold. One tower was still empty. No soldiers or warriors had gone near it. If he could take it, he could continue to fight back. He forced his large and skilled frame into the throng of warriors between him and the tower he sought to control.
A hard elbow dropped a warrior about to launch an arrow. A strong fist stunned another who had just scaled the wall. As the fighters of the Original People watched, the commander was in full swing pounding, shoving, headbutting, and shooting his way through as his feet quickly took him to the last tower.
As he dodged a number of strikes and arrows, he took one to the back of his shoulder as he quickly headed in and secured the remaining tower. Without a flinch, he jumped for an unmanned gunner and began unloading everything it had into the warriors that had attacked him on the wall.
Once he had shredded each and every one of them, he turned his fire for the city. Anyone and everyone in that city who got in the way of the rapid fire he unleashed in no real direction felt their quick end. Soldiers, civilians, and warriors alike fell under the ringing bullets from the commander above.
Stray bullets from an overtaken tower destroyed his last remining gunner, and a few landed in the soft flesh of his arm. He grunted as he took cover. “Damn savages!” he mumbled to himself as he broke the arrow that stuck out of his back. He had lost. They all had. New Strata had fallen to the ones who had originally owned it. He knew he had to flee or he’d end up like his subordinates.
As the city was overtaken, the last few ships began to part with those not interested in the fighting. The commander quickly and silently made his way towards them.
A scream from the war chief of the Original People made everything come to a quick halt. The remaining soldiers had surrendered. Their weapons were placed on the ground and their hands were raised. Civilians also stood in surrender.
Warriors quickly made their way around the city, looking for any soldier that remained with a weapon raised and ready to use.
The commander saw a break and ran for the ships. When he arrived, he tucked himself behind one of them and peeked out, just to make sure he hadn’t been seen. Only a few remained. None had pilots or were powered up. Unable to fly himself, he tried to come up with a plan. Right at that moment a warrior wandered over, looking to see if any armed soldiers remained. The commander hid.
The painted fighter looked around one side of a ship, then another. As he checked another ship, the commander came around the other side and grabbed him around the neck. As the warrior struggled, the commander squeezed his arm tight, choking the life from the fighter of the Original People. As the warrior fell, the commander beat his face until he was unrecognizable, then spat on his almost dead frame. “Filthy animal,” he cursed. Now unable to escape the planet as he had hoped, he quickly made his way back to the city walls.
“I am Gray Sky, war chief of the Original People!” the leader of the warriors announced with a powerful voice that echoed his surroundings.
Everyone remained silent.
“We have come not to destroy you, but to reclaim what was taken from us long ago!” he continued and his many warriors shouted and cheered.
As he strolled about, he went on. “None of you are prisoners, nor will you be harmed! You are all free to leave and may go in peace!”
The people looked confused.
“But be warned that if you, or anyone else in this universe, should ever again try to take from us what is rightfully ours, you will be met with the same ferocity and determination that you saw this day!” the war chief warned in conclusion.
With that, the civilians and soldiers were escorted to the remaining ships.
A small flash of light sparkled a moment from one of the walls. Before anyone could react, the sound of gunfire rang out once more. One warrior fell to his death. Then another. Then a third. As bullets found homes in the warriors of the Original People, fighters took up their weapons and tried to find who was firing upon them.
As his warriors fell around him, the war chief threw one to safety as he stepped in front of a young fighter, shielding him from the fire. He was hit a number of times in the chest and stomach, then dropped to his knee.
People on their way to ships looked back at the commotion that had unfolded once again. Quickly they rushed for the ships that would take them to safety.
As the bullets continued to ring out, warriors, with weapons at the ready, and eyes locked on the lone gunman who fired on them, rushed for the wall. As they ran, many dropped under the marksmanship of this seasoned commander.
With a bellow, Gray Sky stood, turned, then mightily threw a blade he had pulled from his belt. As the knife quickly whizzed through the air, it hit its target. As the rushing warriors stopped, the lone gunman fell from the wall with a grunt, then died as he landed hard on the ground below.
“The commander!” one soldier shouted in shock as he continued for a ship.
The war chief curled his lip a moment, then went to investigate. The crumpled mass of the leader of this wretched place lay still, fear and hatred on his face and in his open, lifeless eyes.
The war chief, injured but unfazed, turned to address his people as the remaining soldiers and civilians entered ships, fired them up, then flew off. “The Great Voice has given us victory this day!” he started, then the people cheered.
“What was once taken from us has now been reclaimed!”
Again, the warriors cheered.
“Where we were beaten, and broken, robbed of our home and our culture, now we stand proudly again on the land of our ancestors!”
Cheers continued to ring out as the remainder of the tribe joined their warriors in the city.
“We will tear down this accursed city and rebuild our home! We will be a greater nation than we ever were before! We will return to our old ways, and our traditions! We will welcome anyone who comes in peace but will never again be the victims of outside aggression! We are proud! We are free! We are the Original People!” he finished as everyone roared and danced and chanted.
Titian, with an ethereal glow, squinted his white eyes proudly as he nodded from the shadows of the trees...
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