The Last Stand
“We’re talking about a last stand here,” Chief Commander Gill said, slamming a fist on the table, “We do what we have to do in order to win!”
“Yes,” First Commander Sanders replied, “I would expect no less, Chief Commander. But…”
“There are no civilians,” Gill continued, “Not anymore. Every man and woman picks up a weapon and fights! I’m aware of the rules of engagement, believe me I am, but with our extinction from this planetliterally being a possibility, the rules of engagement become a bit less of a primary concern!”
Gill sat back, young face flushing with the glow of an outburst.
“I’m not questioning your ethics, Chief Commander,” Sanders said deliberately, “God forbid. All I’m saying is that when we begin putting weapons in the hands of untrained farmers and engineers, and tell them to fight for their lives side by side with trained soldiers, unforeseen circumstances arise. It is possible that more is not necessarily the best option in this case, sir.”
Joe Gill stood, hands clenched at his side. For a long time they both said nothing.
The small command outpost they occupied, a squat, ugly building, was a virtual sauna, with the inch-thick walls doing little to aid the situation. The structure had been designed for strength, not to create comfortable living conditions in alien climates. Both men’s faces dripped sweat.
At last the Chief Commander composed himself and sat. He wiped his face with an already drenched hand towel.
“Look, Sanders,” he said, taking a calming breath, “If you want to dig up Abraham’s corpse and punch it in the face, be my guest. I would completely understand and maybe even take a swing myself. He was arrogant and he underestimated them, and now we’re left staring down the barrel of a gun. But it is what it is. I’m also aware I’m a stranger in your outpost, taking command in a highly volatile situation. But the fact of the matter is I’m all you have right now. So, let’s just stick to the reality of the situation, and let my word be final for the sake of getting things done. Agreed?”
Sanders cleared his throat and nodded. “Agreed, Chief Commander.”
“Fine. Then your first order of business upon leaving this command office will be to round up the remaining engineers and farmers and put weapons in their hands. I see little point in having terra-formers hanging around aimlessly with hell breathing down our necks.”
“Good. Then,” Joe paused to riffle through papers, “Second; we have no more deep reconnaissance capabilities, the entire unit and all the equipment have been lost. Is that correct?”
Sanders nodded. “Yes, sir. When Charlie-Delta was overrun the equipment and team were on site.”
“So we’re basically blind. Fine, noted. Next; the last deep report made, some two months ago, said that the Martians are in as precarious a position as ours; likewise on the brink. Is that also correct?”
“Yes, sir. They lost the majority of their forces during the capture of Charlie-Delta and Charlie-Beta.” Sanders paused, frowning. “Chief Commander, a question.”
“Of course, Sanders. Forget formalities; I’m not that kind of officer.”
“How long will it be until the next reinforcement drop, sir?”
“Long enough it doesn’t matter, Sanders. The Martians will inevitably attack us, if what I understand about these Martians is true.”
“It is, sir.”
“So then we dig in, stand firm, and let their remaining forces crush themselves against us. We cannot rely on cavalry. Either way, the war for this planet will be over once and for all.”
Sanders nodded. “As you say, sir.”
“So then, first commander, what is your advice?”
Sanders thought for a moment, stroking the scruffy forest of grey hair on his chin. He was Joe Gill’s senior in age by two and a half decades.
“I request a pre-emptive operation,” Sanders said.
Joe’s eyebrows shot up. “I beg your pardon?”
“A pre-emptive operation, Chief Commander; a selection of our finest sent in to perform a reconnaissance and possible strike at the hive.”
“You want me to withdraw men from our already strained defences, and send them on a mission to the hive?”
“Just hear me out, Chief Commander, if you would. I have a theory I’d like to discuss.”
Joe, bemused, turned his eyes up to the tactical map on the wall behind him. He picked out a large red dot, its position surrounded by dozens of other red dots.
“That’s practically a suicide mission with the soldiers we have left, Sanders. Why would we possibly do such a thing?”
“Not that hive, Chief Commander,” Sanders said. He stood and touched a finger to a second red dot, this one smaller. It was hidden on a corner of the map, standing alone. “That hive.”
“Sanders, what in God’s name are you talking about?”
“I believe, Chief Commander, we may have been misunderstanding the Martian threat entirely. Ever since this war began. I’d like the chance to confirm or debunk my theory.”
A new voice rang from outside. “Chief Commander.”
Sergeant Farrows entered the office and saluted. The man towered over the others by nearly a foot.
“What is it, Sergeant?” Joe responded.
“Enemy incoming, sir. A lot of them.”
I raise my head and survey the landscape. Here the terrain is jagged, harsh and inhospitable. It is not suitable for conflict. It is not appropriate for war. I know this is why the enemy has chosen to build its last remaining base at this location. But then, they do not know. They are not yet aware of my Ultimate-Soldier, to whom the difficult landscape is nothing, and their defences almost meaningless. I have won; the final endgame is finally at hand. The enemy is defeated. It is only a matter of time.
I move my left arm, creating a fist, and punch it towards the front of the base; the side with the strongest defences. Then, with my right hand I scoop up Ultimate-Soldiers, enough to end the war, and stretch this arm around the flank of the base, where the terrain is harshest and defences least sufficient.
It is only a matter of time. The final battle of this war has now begun.
Joe paced before a platoon of farmers and engineers, their expressions bordering on panic. Some were barely out of their teens. From a few hundred meters away came the sporadic thump-thump-thump of an automated defence turret, its deafening reports echoing between surrounding canyon walls. The sound drew involuntary flinches from the platoon.
“The hour of the human race is it hand,” Joe bellowed to the staring faces. The medals on his breast flickered under the scorching orange sun. “It is no exaggeration when I say we are all that is going to stop our race being cleared from this planet entirely. Understand, ladies and gentlemen, there is no cavalry riding in to fight this battle for us. If we fall here, we are going to fail not just Earth, but the entire human race.” Wide eyes followed him as he paced. “Now, I know you are not soldiers, and I know you are not trained to engage in war. But I also know that it is not training that makes a good soldier, but the heart that beats in his chest; the human heart. And make no mistake, the human heart beats strongest. You ask what we have that will keep the invaders from our doorstep, and the answer is simple; human courage and determination! That’s what sets us apart from them. And today our combined hearts will burn with such passion, that every invading bastard coming over that horizon will scorch in the fire!”
A cheer went up from the ragtag soldiers.
“We will give them hell,” Joe roared, “And we will wipe them from this God forsaken planet once and for all! For Earth! For the Entire human race!”
Another cheer. One enthusiastic man fired his weapon into the air. Under normal circumstances Joe would have had the man disciplined, on the spot, with the harshest penalties possible.
Automatic gunfire rattled, accompanied by staccato bursts that punched into the night sky like camera flashes. The front defensive wall of the base, standing eighteen feet tall at its highest point, was a frenzied hive of activity. From the battlements spotlights speared out to illuminate the canyon approach.
Joe and Sanders marched side by side, towards the armoury where clusters of men were hurriedly organising ammunition crates.
“The supplies are not getting to the wall fast enough,” Joe said, raising his voice above the crackling gunfire, “We need to help carry the ammunition.”
“Yes, Chief Commander,” Sanders responded, “As you say.”
There came the boisterous screaming of an amateur soldier from the wall. The sound made Sanders grunt.
“Should not have mixed trained soldiers with regulars,” Sanders said as they arrived at the armoury, “That’s what I was explaining, sir, they’ll just get in each others way.”
“The enthusiasm of the amateurs is a boost to the moral of the trained soldiers,” Joe snapped, picking up a crate, “That’s all we have right now, Sanders; high moral. And keeping it high is the best I can do, short of strapping a bomb to myself and throwing my body at the enemy ranks.”
Sanders recognised this sentiment, word for word, from Academy textbooks. He bristled in annoyance.
“I suppose that would really impress them, eh, Chief Commander, going out in a blaze of glory?”
Joe spun, his face blazing. “Yes, Sanders, it would impress them! And God help me, I would do it if I could still run this outpost with my limbs scattered across this God forsaken landscape!”
Sanders inclined his head briefly. “Apologies, Chief Commander, I was not trying to be facetious. I was simply agreeing with your observation. I am under no illusion as to what is at stake here. I was simply trying to keep your own moral high, sir.”
Joe simmered and nodded. “Fine, Sanders. Grab a crate.”
“If I may, Chief Commander.”
“There are fifteen bodies currently operating the armoury…”
“Only six of those are trained soldiers who have experience working with weapons and ordinance, the others are regulars.”
“What are you suggesting, Sanders?”
“Send the nine regulars to reinforce the wall. The trained soldiers will operate the armoury faster and more efficiently unhindered by the inexperienced. Your supply chain will then be fast enough.”
Joe paused, gazing at Sanders. Across the base gunfire continued its endless chatter, each report followed by an accompanying echo from the canyon walls. There came a distinct thump-thump-thump as a turret kicked into life, picking off a stray Martian that made it too close to the wall.
At last, Joe nodded.
“Agreed. Do it.”
The enemy pours out its resources. My left arm, my fist, endures. They tire themselves, weaken themselves, and I wait. The enemy has limited resources, and should have as little as possible for the finishing blow. I can endure, barely, but fear their ability to receive new resources by air. I cannot endure much longer; the war has taken its toll, and my body is weaker then it has ever been.
My right arm stands poised and ready, curled around the rear of the base, where the terrain is harshest and virtually unprotected. It is eager, this arm, twitching with anticipation, ready to strike. But there is no rush. My Ultimate-Soldiers are patient. I calm and reassure the arm, telling it its time will come in due course. The arm relaxes.
It’s only a matter of time and patience. Keep them pouring out their resources.
“They just keep coming, Chief Commander,” Sergeant Farrows reported, snapping off a salute.
The barrel of his automatic weapon still glowed white hot. Outside, the sun was again preparing to rise. The sky was the colour of fresh beetroot.
“The ammunition supply is now steady and arriving quick enough,” Farrows continued, “But we’re burning through it quicker then anticipated. The regulars are not disciplined.”
“Fine, thank you, Sergeant Farrows,” Joe said, returning the salute, “Keep me updated.”
Farrows turned and marched from the bunker. Joe began to pace, his face reflective.
“They just keep crushing themselves against our defences,” he said, half to Sanders, half to himself.
“Not what you expected, sir?” Sanders asked.
“Exactly what I expected, of course. But the reality is just so… striking.”
“At this rate we’ll have thinned their numbers, probably their entire remaining population, in a matter of Martian days.”
“Can the ammunition supply hold out?”
“I’m not sure, Chief Commander.” Sanders lowered himself into a chair. Behind him the tactical map blinked with red dots. “I can’t say for certain without reconnaissance. But we still have an entire supply cache untouched. And the turrets have hundreds of rounds remaining. Based on the final recognisance reports from two months ago, I would venture to say they will run out of soldiers before we are unable to defend. Consider that a guess only, however.”
“Then we’ve won,” Joe said, daring to crack a smile.
“It would seem so, sir.”
Sanders frowned thoughtfully.
“Why don’t you look convinced, Sanders?”
For a moment Sanders said nothing. His hand went to the scar on his cheek, running its length with an index finger.
“How long have you been involved in the conflict, Chief Commander Gill,” he asked.
Joe narrowed his eyes. “What are you getting at?”
“I’m not questioning your competence, sir, simply making an observation. Do you know how long we’ve been at war with the Martians?”
“Four years? Five?”
“Since the very first terra-formers landed here and established the mining operation. Sure, Earth did not send actual soldiers until the Martians posed a real threat, later, but the official length of the war is nearly a decade. Most don’t realise this. Likely because it has been such a filthy, unglamorous affair, on a planet with all the appeal of a dead fish.”
Joe shrugged. “Some would say all war is filthy and unglamorous.”
Sanders threw back his head at let out a guffaw. “If only that were so, sir, it really depends on the marketing. I, personally, have been on this rock for three years now. In my time here we’ve killed scores of them, and they’ve killed scores of us. More battles and skirmishes have happened then I could possibly hope to count.”
“Again, what are you getting at, Sanders?”
“The official report is that the Martians have no tactics or military awareness, hence the location of the base with the funnelled approach. But,” Sanders looked up, “I’ve watched them, sir. I’ve witnessed moments in my time here, fleeting, but indications that they are far more intelligent then we assume.”
Joe frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve seen handfuls of enemy grunts sweeping around an outpost during an attack, studying the events, and scurrying off again. Assumedly to make reports to some kind of over-watch. I’ve seen, at the last battle of outpost Charlie-Delta, an enemy grunt playing with one of our men.”
“Toying with him. One of our fallen soldiers, completely helpless and beyond our retrieval, left to die by our own. The Martian prodded him, pressing his wounds and squeezing his ears, watching the result, studying how we experience pain.”
“I’ve never heard about this,” Joe said.
“Few have. Because it all seems insignificant and random where these creatures are concerned. Broken reports of apparent intelligence are far outweighed by the fact that they have simply swarmed us during every single conflict.”
There was a silence. Outside the gunfire continued, punctuated by the screams of a regular in the thralls of a bloodlust.
“Sanders, just what are you suggesting,” Joe said, “That they have been swarming us like mindless zealots, all this time, on purpose? Years of throwing themselves at us to die in their thousands? For what reason, for what purpose? That would be…”
“Inhuman,” Sanders agreed, nodding.
The Martian sun floated lazily upwards, ushering in another scorching day on one of the most inhospitable planets that could support human life. The endless leagues of brown landscape baked. Not a breath of wind offered relief from the suffocating heat.
Another Martian scurried out over the landscape and into the open. On either side of it, a few hundred meters away, were immense canyon walls, towering up like skyscrapers. But it did not seek cover at the base of these walls, where fallen rocks could have offered protection. Instead it ran directly at the outpost without restraint. Seconds later a dozen simultaneous puncture wounds exploded across its exoskeleton, sending spurting jets of black blood to sizzle on the ground. Its body hit the dirt, kicking up a cloud of dust, and its limbs contracted briefly before it died. All around hundreds of nearly identical soldiers did the same.
But further up the canyon, near the mouth, clutches and groups of Martians were gathered, hidden in grooves and behind boulders, trickling in via a seemingly endless stream. These groups of Martians were careful not to be observed by the base, some being mere meters from exposure. But they never did expose themselves; they simply stood their ground and waited. When it was their turn, they broke cover and charged the base.
Sometimes the soldiers would click and snap at each other, other times they stood in complete silence. But always they remained part of the bigger body of soldiers.
On the third day a female engineer stumbled while descending the defence-wall steps, accidentally letting off a burst of fire and injuring a fellow soldier. In ordinary circumstances she would have seen a thunderous storm of disciplinary action. On this occasion she was put to bed and told to return in two hours.
On the fifth day a young farmer was seen pitching over the battlements and plummeting to his death; the first casualty. Sergeant Farrows at first assumed the man had been accidentally shot by one of his peers, but soon realised the exhausted fool had simply fallen asleep.
Beyond the base the canyon floor was a carpet of dead Martian soldiers, in some places standing several meters high. They never stopped coming, and the living were forced to precariously pick their way through forests of jutting dead limbs, making them easier targets.
“The soldiers are exhausted,” Farrows reported in the command centre, “We just can’t keep this up, sir. Not enough soldiers can be cycled for anyone to get a decent bit of shut eye.”
Joe rubbed a hand over his own tired eyes. It had been nearly thirty six hours since he had slept.
“I guess it can’t be put off any longer,” he muttered, “Remove fifty from duty and let them sleep for two hours.”
“Yes, Chief Commander,” Farrows said, saluting.
“That means you as well. Get some sleep.”
“I’m fine, sir.”
“Not a suggestion, Farrows.”
Farrows left. For a while the inside of the command centre was still. On the tactical map, red lights continued to blink. After a few minutes the air thundered with thump-thump-thump after thump-thump-thump of automated turrets, each picking up the slack of missing soldiers. Joe took a deep breath, counting the spent rounds in his head. Sanders said nothing.
“This isn’t how I imagined it,” Joe spoke up eventually.
“It’s never how an Academy Cadet thinks it will be, sir.”
There was another long pause.
“Why didn’t they put you in command,” Joe asked.
Sanders did not respond.
“It is considered rude for a Chief Commander to ask that of his First Commander, sir.”
“I’m not looking to judge, Sanders. Just curious.”
“There was an incident when Charlie-Delta fell, sir. I was denied a commanding position for the remainder of my career.”
“You were Chief Commander at Charlie-Delta? I didn’t realise. What happened?”
“Nothing I think I could have avoided, sir, even if I had wanted too. But someone needed to be punished.”
“Why were you assigned to this rock, Chief Commander,” Sanders asked. “Surely better places for a young man who must have been cream of the Academy crop.”
Joe diverted his eyes and shrugged.
“It’s considered rude for a First Commander to ask that of his new Chief Commander, Sanders.”
“Fair enough, sir.”
“It was a punishment,” Joe said, “They wanted me somewhere far away. Out of sight, out of mind.”
Sanders nodded. “I thought as much, Chief Commander.”
Joe cleared his throat noisily.
“Have you seen them up close, Sanders?”
“What do they look like?”
“I heard a soldier once describe them as the unhappy marriage between a lobster and a pray mantis, sir. I thought that was fitting.”
Joe frowned, wiping sweat from his face.
“I wish they had sent someone else,” he said, eyes fixed on the ground, “Someone better than me, Sanders.”
“I think perhaps everyone has similar thoughts in such circumstances, sir.”
Joe tilted his head.
“Have the turrets stopped?”
“They’re being reloaded, sir. Three reloads remain.”
The men exchanged a glance, but both were too considerate to verbalise the obvious.
I watch, I wait, the time draws near. The resources of the enemy grow thin, the soldiers grow tired.
My losses have been great. My body has sustained much damage, as it has for a great deal of time already. But the moment draws near, and the end is upon us at last. My body will endure. It always has.
My right arm has been patient, but now I flex it in preparation, letting it know that it can at last prepare to strike the finishing blow. The Ultimate-Soldiers awaken.
I wait, and when the war has been won, my body will heal.
“You mentioned something before,” Joe said, “About sending men to confirm or debunk a theory. What was that about?”
Sanders sat up in his chair and uncrossed his arms. One hand absently wiped away sweat.
“Yes, sir, I have a theory.”
Sanders stood and crossed to a side table. He poured coffee into two mugs and handed one to the Chief Commander.
“It has always been assumed that the Martians have their remaining base of operations here,” Sanders began, pointing to the heavily guarded area on the tactical map, “Every offensive operation we’ve mounted has been directed at that point. Which would seem logical.”
“It would,” Joe agreed, sipping his coffee.
“But I suspect that if the Martians have any kind of real central command, a leader, or any such thing, it will be here.” He indicated the small, inconspicuous dot in the corner of the map.
“Why would you assume that?”
“Because, sir, it would be a genius rouse of misdirection, ensuring we never get close to their real Commander.”
A hundred black shapes moved silently down the canyon wall at the rear of the base. Each of these specialised Martians, the size of an African elephant, clung to ragged rock surfaces with hook like appendages, reminiscent of the forelegs of a pray mantis.
One lost its grip and fell, plummeting a hundred meters to the ground below. Its crab-like legs took the impact and bounced its enormous armoured body, like the suspension of an off-road vehicle. Unharmed, it scuttled to the base wall and began to climb.
“Have you mentioned this theory to Command Central,” Joe asked, draining the remainder of his coffee.
Sanders nodded. “They took it under advisement.”
“Have we observed this hive cluster?”
“Yes. It was reported to be a small insignificant cluster, assumed to be the result of messy, nonsensical Martian base building.”
Joe frowned. “I’m not sure, Sanders…”
Sanders looked up.
“Do you hear that, sir?”
A sound approached, like the clopping of horse hooves on a hard surface. Sanders realised first.
“Oh no,” he gasped, “Sir, run for the armoury!”
Joe had made it twenty meters before the first Ultimate-Soldier leapt down into the courtyard, its pointed legs sinking a foot into solid cement. It pivoted on the spot, each beat of its legs creating a sound like a sledgehammer into rock, and spotted the Chief Commander. He heard it coming and glanced over his shoulder.
“Oh my God,” he breathed.
The men stationed at the armoury heard it next.
“One inside!” Farrows shouted, “One inside the base here! Gill, get down!”
Joe fell to the ground as gunfire rattled. Bullets whipped over his head, followed by singing whines as they ricocheted off the exoskeleton. The Martian continued its advance.
“Keep firing, keep firing,” Sanders bellowed, advancing on the Martian from the rear. His own automatic weapon shuddered.
At last, less then twenty meters from Joe, the Martian fell.
“What the hell is it?!” Farrows spat. “How did it get in?!”
“New breed,” Sanders said breathlessly, stepping forward to inspect the creature. “Took over a hundred rounds to put it down. Thicker shell; first twenty rounds hardly even cracked the surface.”
The clip-clopping sounded again.
“Another! Up there!” Farrows roared.
The second Ultimate-Solder scrambled out over the rooftops, defensive structures visibly buckling beneath its weight. It dropped into the courtyard beside its fallen comrade.
“Into the armoury, Joe,” Sanders shouted, “Into the armoury! Now!”
Joe was on his feet and running before the second Martian fell. But by then ten more were ready to take its place. He sprinted, arms pumping at his sides, and flew through the enormous double doors. He passed the soldiers, passed the weapons rack, and huddled at the back of the warehouse, chest heaving and eyes bulging. Behind him gunfire roared, and a man screamed.
“Get those turrets reloaded,” he heard Sanders. “Fall in beside me!”
Joe spotted an ammunition crate, a large sturdy rectangle that had held automated turret rounds. He climbed into it, body trembling, and pulled the lid shut.
At some point the turrets were reloaded, and for a while Joe heard their powerful, shuddering reports above the chattering of smaller weapons.
But even these reassuring sounds were punctuated by frantic screams and agonised cries. Some of the soldiers fell back into the armoury, one of them sounding like Sanders. There was more gunfire, more screaming, and the distinct thunking of Ultimate-Soldier legs on hard ground.
“Where is the Chief Commander,” one man cried. “Where is Chief Commander Gill?!”
Joe did not respond. He squeezed shut his eyes and clamped a hand over either ear.
And then it was over. The gunfire died down, and the automated turrets ran themselves dry. Joe stayed in the crate for a long time after.
The beats of Ultimate-Soldier footfalls could then be heard, exploring the base. Some came into the armoury, and Joe heard them approach his crate. He bit his lip and held his breath, but part of him hoped he would be found. After a few moments, however, the footfalls receded and disappeared. There was silence.
Then for a time he simply lay still, eyes open and body motionless.
“Coward,” he said to himself, “Coward, coward, you God damn coward.”
After an hour he opened the lid of his crate and stood. Around him were the scattered corpses of his soldiers, their bodies so broken that the exact number of casualties was a mystery. He let out a strangled groan.
A thought hit then, making his entire body flinch. He was, literally, the last living person on the planet. His face drained and legs threatened to buckle, suffocating dread threatening to overwhelm him. But one of the bodies moved. His head snapped around, relief rushing into every limb. He jogged over to the body, having to pick his way among loose body parts.
“Oh God,” the body gurgled. “Oh my God…”
It was a soldier Joe did not recognise, a regular. One of the man’s legs were missing, the other twisted beyond recognition.
“Soldier,” Joe said, crouching, “You’re okay, you’re okay.”
The man looked around, face pale and glistening with sweat. His mouth opened, but he was unable to form more words.
“Just stay with me,” Joe said, removing his belt and fastening it around the man’s gushing stump, “Just stay with me.”
But the regular lived only another few minutes. And then Joe Gill really was the last human on the planet.
He sat with his back to a wall, hugging his knees and watching the alien sunrise through the open armoury doors. He planned to make it the last sunrise he ever saw.
He knew no one was coming for another six months, minimum. Earth had long ago given up on the planet. The mining operation had barely run a few months before the Martians, having scurried out of their burrows on day one, had become highly aggressive. The blame for how the deep space survey team had missed the Martians was yet to be assigned, though conspiracy theories were numerous.
The cost of the war had become astronomical. For all means and purposes, the powers that be had hoped for a justifiable excuse to abandon the planet. Hence his assignment there. He had delivered exactly what was wanted.
He stood, dusted off his pants, and headed for the command office. A pistol in the desk drawer would be his means of escape. But as he stepped from the armoury into the open, he came upon Sanders. The man had died in an embrace with a Martian three times his size, his fingers still wrapped around the handle of a knife he had driven into the creature’s head, moments before death. The Martian, black blood still dripping from its mandibles, clung to life.
Joe stared, his eyes moving over the scene with mouth hanging open. The Martian raised its head to look at him, and all at once rage was burning in the Chief Commander’s eyes. He stormed forward and grabbed the hilt of the knife, his fingers wrapping over Sander’s cold hand. The creature shrieked as he drove the knife deeper, up to the hilt. When it stopped moving he stepped back, chest heaving. He put a hand on his chest, over his heart, and all at once he was alight with determination.
Victory is at last mine. The enemy is defeated. The plan, one in motion since the beginning, has come to its end. The planet is again mine.
The soldiers have returned to the hive and are already beginning expansion, readying for the new larva I will soon birth. It will not be long before my body again stretches to every part of the surface.
The remains of the enemy soldiers will serve as a food source for a time, after which we will turn to my fallen body parts, after which we will return to our normal primary sources; the underground oceans. All in all, the war has served no purpose, detracted nothing from my body, and I am content to continue as we were, prior to their invasion.
Joe Gill walked.
The worst part of the journey was over, the part having to navigate through the immense carpet of dead Martians still littering the canyon mouth. He had had to crawl, climb, and even slither on his stomach, to finally exit out beyond the canyon walls. Several times he had cut or accidentally stabbed himself on a Martian limb or foreleg, but never once did he stop.
Now, face red under the orange sun, he took off his shirt and wrapped it around his head. Before him the dust, rocks and sand seemed to go on forever.
He continued walking.
An enemy soldier enters my home and stands before me. It speaks, soft body animated, tiny limbs flailing at is attempts to communicate.
I call my left arm into life, drawing it from the hive. But the soldiers are deep underground, tending to the expansion. It will take time for my arm to strike.
I watch the soldier, helpless, and see it is angry. I do not understand anger, I have no equivalent, but I understand that anger makes the enemy dangerous and aggressive. I urge my arm, my soldiers, to move faster.
Now the enemy soldier is putting one hand on its chest, indicating something as it screams at me. I do not understand what it is saying. But, it reaches into a bag, withdrawing an object I do understand. It is an object I recognise, I have seen before. I call and call to my arm, urging the soldiers to move quicker.
Now the enemy soldier walks forward and places the object before me, pressing buttons on its surface. I want to communicate with the soldier, tell it to stop, tell it that if the object kills me, my body will die, and I will cease to exist. I attempt to call out to it, but know it does not understand. It turns and leaves. I cry out after it, begging, pleading.
I am afraid, I am afraid, I am afraid...