Star Brink: The Crash

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Chapter 21: Delta

Captain Alexander “Metal” Steele held his breath and tightly gripped his rifle as he peered through the bushes he and his team were hiding behind. Around him were members of his Delta Force team, all armed with both combat and recon gear. Lying in the dirt and brush beside him none spoke a word and barely moved a muscle. They were perfectly concealed in the bushes as they offered excellent concealment, particularly in the low light of the rising sun that was just starting to rise over the nearby mountains. The rising sun allowed him and the others lying in the dirt to see the true devastation of the city around them that they were not able to fully witness when they infiltrated the area. However, they quickly pushed that thought to the back of their minds and focused on the recon mission at hand.

Though it certainly wasn’t Metal’s team first time performing a mission in the United States, let alone in a heavily ruined warzone, none of them were comfortable being in their current environment. Since they were hiding in rubble and debris caused the aliens being called the Xulons destruction it made each member of the team feel a little comfortable. To know that they were lying among the American dead and their homes was not the ideal situation but something they were all willing to do to accomplish their mission. It was a truly disturbing thought for Metal to contemplate how many lives were lost along with the fact nothing was being done to search for survivors or to repair the damage. Such a thing wasn’t possible with the Xulons still in the area, posing a major threat to anyone and anything they encountered. That made their mission to recon and observe the Xulons, not engage, a nerve-wracking experience. Though it was the first time any of them had done it in the presence of an alien race, let alone a race as aggressive and destructive as the Xulons.

What made the situation even less ideal was the fact that Metal and his team were only a couple yards away from the local sports arena were the Xulons were temporarily holding out. Though they hadn’t directly seen any Xulons yet, it wasn’t something any of them looked forward to and hoped that it didn’t lead to a standoff. All it took was a quick glance around the area to see just how destructive, and powerful, the Xulons were. Metal could still see the wreckage, and bodies, of the ground force sent to respond to the Xulons and that didn’t feel him with a lot of hope. He was thankful their mission was strictly recon, not engagement as he was certain they’d end up worse than the previous forces who engaged them.

Metal suddenly felt one of his teammates tap him on the shoulder causing him to turn slowly from the ruins of the counterattack force to his teammate Sergeant First Class Derek “Trench” Logan and softly whispered. “Looks like we finally have eyes on some targets.”

Metal looked through the bushes to see a what appeared to be a couple of Xulons stepping out of the arena and started walking in their direction. Due to the rising sun, and the distance between them, a little over a hundred yards, it was hard for him to get a good view of them. Even with the binoculars Metal was looking through he couldn’t tell much. What he was able to see the two Xulons were busy carrying out what appeared to be performing manual labor, and they certainly didn’t seem to be happy about it. Metal and the others remained as silent as possible so they wouldn’t alert the Xulons but kept their focus solely on them, particularly since it was the first time any of them had seen an Xulon with their own eyes.

Despite the distance and the lack of sunlight, what Metal and the three around him found themselves looking at had all their mouths dropped, even though they remained calm and ready for any action. They knew from reports and the briefing that the Xulons were big, muscular, and weird looking, but what they saw working just a short distance away was a sight to behold. If Metal had to guess they were easily seven feet tall and appeared to be very muscular. All their four arms seemed to be strong enough to throw a large human like a rag doll if they wanted to. Their two upper arms were certainly their stronger two, but the lower arms still looked threatening with their length, being able to touch the ground if they bent over slightly. Their strongest limb was certainly the tail as it was longer than their longest arms and Metal guessed could probably shattered a small human if they swung it with full force. The distance between them made it hard to tell but looking through binoculars they appeared to have four years and a set of mandibles. He couldn’t tell if they had fur or not but given how strong they appeared to be that seemed to be a minor detail. Both appeared to be wearing red military uniforms that could be considered a mix of cargo pants and a short sleeve t-shirt that. They carried strange looking rifles that appeared too quite effective and powerful. Metal assumed they were plasma-based weaponry, but he’d prefer not to find out, or experience it, firsthand.

Metal turned to Trench to see he was just as shocked as he was to have finally laid actual eyes on an Xulon. Prior to that moment they had only seen them in pictures and videos. He didn’t know they’d be so big and muscular in person, despite being at least a hundred yards away from them. It was certainly a terrifying presence to be so close to such creatures but not one of his men moved a muscle. They remained calm and closely watched as the Xulons began lifting what appeared to be crates of supplies, that probably weighed hundreds of pounds, effortlessly, a task that would have taken several strong humans to achieve. The Xulons were quick to perform their tasks and carrying the crates back inside the arena. Metal and the others around him only watched as they were not sure of the Xulons’ hearing and sight capabilities and wanted to remain undiscovered throughout the entire mission if possible. The last thing the Delta Force operators wanted was to get into a firefight with a significantly larger force, particularly when the Xulons’ physical strengths and technology were unknown.

“So that is what an Xulon looks like.” First Lieutenant Zack “Rock” Sharks whispered as soon as the Xulons were out of sight, Metal seeing the shock on his camouflage painted face. “They certainly are a nasty looking bunch.”

“Indeed, Pig, these are some of the ugliest mother fuckers I’ve ever seen.” Metal whispered back with a smirk. “And they look strong as hell too.”

“Like they could easily rip us apart with ease using their two upper arms alone the devour us with their mandibles.” Sergeant First Class Zane “Snake” Dark spoke. “They look more like monsters than aliens.”

“Agreed, no wonder the PDF agents were so nervous in the briefing.” Metal spoke, remembering how the PDF agents acted, at least one was clearly terrified. “Be glad we are just a recon team, or we’d end up just like the counterattack force.”

“I prefer not to get slaughtered today.” Pig stated. “Fortunately, they don’t seem to have any idea we’re here so we should be fine”

“We shall see.” Metal exclaimed loud enough for Rock, Trench, and Snake to look at him. “These Xulons are clearly a race we should not underestimate as they could probably kill us with ease. So, we take this like we always do, carefully and methodically.”

“Of course, Metal, they will never know we are here.” Rock said as they watched a couple of Xulons stroll past on the arena’s balcony.

The four Delta Force operators remained silent and watched closely as two Xulons slowly strolled on top of the balcony. The way they acted gave Metal the impression the two Xulons were either simply out for a stroll or on guard duty. Though they were a considerable distance away from the Xulons, and the arena, Metal couldn’t shake some uncomfortable feeling. They knew very little about the Xulons and their capabilities, particularly when it came to their senses. For all he knew they could have heat vision and see better than Eagles, given they had four eyes that was believable. He was aware the others around him felt the same way and as a result were being even more silent than usual. Not one moved a muscle, instead kept their attention on the Xulons till they disappeared.

Once the two Xulons were out of view Metal slowly radioed the rest of his team to get more information. “Sharp, you and Sights got eyes on anything valuable? We have a very limited view here so give me anything you got.”

Metal slowly turned his head towards a forest covered hill nearby a short distance away from the arena, at least two thirds of a mile from his position and half a mile from the arena. On that hill, effectively hidden somewhere that no eyes would be able to spot them, was one of the best sniper and spotter team Metal had ever known, Sharp and Sights. Where exactly they were was impossible to know, especially in his location, but he knew they had eyes on something important. Though with daylight just breaking, and the sun at their backs, even they were probably just getting a good view of what laid before them.

“Nothing yet, Sir.” Sharp’s calm, soothing voice flowed through Metal’s earpiece. “We have seen a few Xulons walk outside but they see me do be either getting some air or doing some completing a manual task.”

“Ah, so all you’ve seen is just a few Xulons wandering around?”

“Pretty much, Sights saw a few on guard duty he could have easily taken out but given our mission we chose not to. At least there’s a couple we can take out immediately if there are any . . . complications.”

“Already planning ahead, good.” Metal resisted the urge the smirk. “Have you spotted any high value targets?”

“Not sure sir. We don’t know their chain of command so it’s hard to tell. So far all we’ve seen appear to be low-ranking personnel. But if we do than I will let you know immediately.”

Metal internally sighed, hating that they had very little information on the Xulons, preventing them from being able to operate to the beat of their ability. “Alright, just do what you can and keep me posted on any developments.”

“Yes Metal, we’ll let you know immediately.” Sharp replied as the connection was silenced.

Metal softly groaned as he shifted positions, a bit frustrated that they had very little information. He wasn’t too disappointed as they hadn’t been in position for only a couple of hours, and it had been dark when they arrived. Since the sun had just risen there hadn’t been much time for them to observe much of anything. Metal wouldn’t be surprised if most of the Xulons were just waking up. He hoped the other group had a better view and was determined to radio them as maybe they could provide some information.

Metal reached up to his mouthpiece and radioed. “Ranch, you see anything where you’re at?”

Metal slowly turned his head and looked towards the ruins of a tall apartment complex about two blocks away from his current position. He focused his attention on the fifth floor of the seven-floor building where a large hole had been blown by the Xulons when they arrived at the city. Debris from the explosion in front of the hole, the balcony allowing the debris to be piled up, had created a protective barrier that could offer excellent cover and concealment. The hole was the perfect spot for an overwatch position that offered great inconspicuous opportunities for those who knew how to conceal themselves, such as Metal’s Delta Force team. It was an even better spot with it being located a short distance away from the arena the Xulons currently operated from; being only a couple blocks from the arena. Since it was a college dorm, probably used by those on the college’s sports team, it almost certainly offered great comfort as well for anyone using it to hide.

During the planning phase of the mission Metal had made several notes that the dorm would make a great vantage point for a small coupe to occupy and not only safely observe the Xulons but also provide good defense if things got hairy. So, under the cover of darkness the previous night he had Second Lieutenant Damion “Ranch” Wilkins small team of three, including Staff Sergeant Roger “Water” Hutchinson on the M60 and Sergeant Brad “Rook” Durkans sneak inside and set up. There hadn’t been much word from them, only what was necessary, since they finished setting up. Given the sun was just starting to rise that was to be expected. Metal knew they were well dug in and hidden so he wasn’t concern much about them being discovered. But he was curious if they could see anything even though he was certain they could since the Xulons hadn’t ventured outside much and seemed to operate almost strictly inside the arena.

“Not much here, Metal.” Ranch’s deep voice called out through his earpieces. “We got a full view of their operations area, even have a clear view through the arena.”

“You can see inside the arena?” Metal blurted out.

“Yes sir, from our position we have the perfect view through a hole on the arena’s wall that allows us to see inside.” Ranch was quick to reply. “Unfortunately, the hole isn’t very big and the angle we are doesn’t allow us to see much so I’m afraid the information you receive from us will be quite limited.”

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about that.” Metal let out a soft sigh. “Well, what can you see?”

“Through our optics sir, I got a clear view of a couple of their ships but that is really it. I can make out some movement but nothing beyond what appears to be the Xulons running maintenance.” Ranch answered. “At least we will know ahead of time if they leave.”

“Indeed, at least it’s something.” Metal responded as he turned his gaze back towards the arene. “Keep me posted if you see anything.”

“Will do Metal.” Ranch stated before returning to silence.

Metal silently groaned as he turned to Rock and softly spoke. “Might as well dig in and get ready to be here for a while.”

Metal shifted his prone position, as did Rock, Trench, and Snake, to get more comfortable for their prolonged stay. Their orders were to observe the Xulons were twenty-four hours, till another Delta Force team arrived to essentially what could be considered a shift change. As his team was the first on sight that meant their job would be the hardest since they’d have to establish secure positions for the team that came after them. Fortunately, each member of his team was experienced at recon and was used to spending hours, if not days, observing enemies. But, since it was their first-time observing aliens, it meant to Metal that things could potentially get interesting, or disturbing.

As time slowly passed Metal and the others began having trouble staying alert. Much to his surprise not a single Xulon appeared or was even slightly visible to him or a single member of his team. Not even a guard was seen patrolling or anyone going out for a stroll. After an hour of no one spotting any movement his team and him started getting suspicious. Metal started expecting the Xulons were up to something but wanted to confirm it before any move was made.

Okay, this is getting weird. Metal thought as he slightly raised his body. I thought the Xulons would be more active than this. They strike me as a VERY active race.

“Uh, Metal, I think we got something unusual happening.” Sharp’s voice echoed in his earpiece after what felt like hours but was only a small fraction of that time.

Metal quickly reached for his mouthpiece to reply. “What do you see Sharp?”

“Left balcony corner, there is some kind of movement that appears to be a satellite-like device.”

Metal looked through his binoculars but couldn’t see much of anything. Though the corner was within view of his position there was too debris for him to see much of anything. At best he could make out the top of an object that could be what Sharp was talking about but without a clear view he couldn’t be certain.

“Sorry Sharp, there’s debris blocking my view. I cannot see much of anything at the . . .” Metal started speaking but stopped when he saw a light glowing behind the debris that had to be the device Sharp was speaking about. “Wait, what is it doing?”

“I don’t know Metal; it seems to be powering up for . . .” Metal heard Sharp gasp. “Oh shit!”

Before Metal could say anything, he saw the device shining bright and an instant later it released what appeared to be plasma blast, right towards the hill where Sharp and Sights were hiding. The blast hit the hill on the top and exploded violently unlike anything Metal had seen before in a massive display of plasma and explosive force in all directions. The explosion rocked the entire area and blew the hill to pieced, showering rock and dirt debris everywhere as well as smoke making it nearly impossible to see what had happened. The blast appeared to have a bigger impact than bunker buster bomb, leaving Metal to assume his team members had to blow to smithereens.

“What the hell just happened?” Metal silently blurted out.

No sooner did Metal speak he heard the arena doors opened and what sounded like engines starting up. He spun his head to see what looked to be a multitude of Xulons pouring out of the arena entrances and exits, all heavily armed, coming right towards their position. There was no doubt the more than a dozen Xulons were headed straight towards them as if they knew exactly where they were hiding. The way they roared made each of his teammate shiver as they stormed towards them like a hoard of lions ready to devour a carcass. It left no time for Metal to contemplate what just happened to Sights and Sharp as he switched his rifle’s safety.

“Oh shit, did they know we were coming?” Metal exclaimed as he and his team opened fire.

The Xulons were quick to take cover behind debris and crates in front of the arena. They were quicker than Metal assumed as most found cover before his team could get accurate shots at them, turning the firefight in their favor. Seeing as his team was outnumbered six to one, and heavily outgunned, Metal’s hopes were not high but that didn’t slow them down as they fought for their lives. Fortunately, just as the Xulons took cover and really started firing on their Ranch and his team started shooting at the Xulons from their location in the dorm. From their location they had the perfect position to fire upon the Xulons, particularly since they were using heavy machine guns and accurate fire. But much to Metal’s surprise the Xulons barely acknowledge their presence, instead focusing almost solely on his position.

The return fire they faced answered the question he had about their weaponry with it being plasma based and certainly high powered. He felt a couple rounds fly past his head and the heat was certainly intense. Getting hit would not only do severe damage but also cause extreme burn damage, making a third-degree burn look tame. On top of that, watching the enemy fire shred the environment around them, setting some of the branches on fire. If it wasn’t for Ranch and his team providing support they would have been screwed and had to pull back, which they couldn’t with all the enemies right in front of them.

Metal quickly got frustrated when he shot an Xulon in the face and it didn’t go down. He watched through his optics as the Xulon shook his head as if he only had a headache before it recovered and returned fire. Trench and Rock were clearly in the same boat as their rounds weren’t doing anything either, even the M60 was hardly doing anything beyond causing minor injuries. Given how big their targets were, and the distance between them, it was hard not to get accurate shots and ray to find a weak spot. But no matter where Metal aimed, and hit them, they were barely slowed down.

“What the hell, are they wearing armor or are they just thick skinned?” Rock shouted over the gunfire.

Metal softly grumbled as he fired a shot that hit an Xulon in the head but only caused it to stumble a little. His guess was the Xulons had both thick skin and armor, making tori projectile weapons ineffective. From what he was observing it would take a very high caliber to put one down, let alone successfully kill it. The Xulons seemed to know it and push towards them no matter how much rounds they fired, though they did so tactically, using techniques that reminded Metal of the bounding maneuvers they used in combat. It wasn’t till he saw one drop to the ground that the Xulons stopped their advance and took cover, making Metal somewhat confused but he didn’t relent on firing at them.

“Huh, they appear to be weak at the throat.” Trench exclaimed as he reloaded. “I put a round through one’s throat and it dropped immediately. That must be their weak spot.” Trench finished reloading and fired another burst. “Either their armor or hides or weak there and their necks are big, so we got something to aim for.”

“Easier said than done, Trench.” Rock exclaimed as he fired a burst of the M60.

Suddenly, just as Metal was attempting to aim at an approaching Xulon’s throat a nearby explosion got his and the others attention. The explosion shook the nearby area, but Metal and the others didn’t stop firing, they couldn’t afford to hold back or pause their fire. It wasn’t till he had to reload that he glanced in the direction of the explosion to see that it came from the building where Ranch’s team was positioned. From a quick glance he was able to see that the explosion was exactly the floor his team was held up and had been providing fire support. It was a massive explosion, probably caused by high-powered, plasma weaponry, that had completely decimated the floor, leaving Metal to assume his men were at the very least injured.

“Ranch, you guys alright?” Metal’s shouted into his mouthpiece but got no reply. “Ranch, do you hear me?”

Metal got nothing but static on his earpiece which only added to his rage and desperation. From the explosion he had high doubts any of the team were alive, let any left unscathed. That kind of explosion, combined with a direct hit, made the chance they survived next to none. Despite the almost nonexistence chance they ever alive Metal didn’t give up hope, not with the operators he had served alongside for so long. He waited a moment or two for a reply and when none came, not even a moan to indicate life, Metal had to give up hope on the team somehow being alive. If he waited any longer, they the rest of his team would be in increasing danger, and they needed their commander focused.

“Rock, Trench, Snake, we’re retreating.” Metal ordered. “We stay here we die.” Metal growled as he looked through his scope and fired a couple shots at a nearby Xulon. “This is way too coordinated for it to be a sudden attack, they had to know exactly where we are to take out the other groups so quickly.” Metal kept his eyes on the enemy as he continued to give orders. “Rock, Snake, you two bound backs while Trench and I provide cover.”

“Yes Metal!” Rock and Snake replied in unison as they rose to a kneeling position while Metal and Trench unleashed accurate firepower on the Xulons.

Metal heard Snake and Trench take off running only to hear something heavy landed on the ground nearby. He turned his head to see what appeared to be a round, black ball a little bigger than a baseball near Snake and Trench. Smoke rose from the top as Metal quickly realized what the strange object was and how much trouble they were in.

“GRENADE!” Metal shouted as he dived for cover.

Metal dove to the ground just as the grenade went off and blew plasma, debris, and his men, in all directions. What he experienced was not a typical grenade as it packed way more of a punch along with a fiery touch that burned everything around him. The heat was so intense that he felt the clothes on his back being burned off and his Kevlar plate getting so hot it burned his back. On top of that he was nearly knocked unconscious, and his ears rang intensely as he was thrown against a tree. His vision was blurred, and he couldn’t hear anything for what felt like forever as he laid there against the tree. Eventually his hearing and vision started to recover to the point he was able to hear and see what was going on around him.

“Metal, Snake’s dead . . . And I got some . . . shrapnel.” Rock screamed back as the ringing in Metal’s ears lessened.

Metal shook his head as he quickly recovered and rose to a kneeled position behind a tree. His ears were ringing harder than ever before to the point he could barely think but was still able to move. He couldn’t hear anything but intense ringing and everything around him was a blur. Due to the situation, he shook his head to return his cognitive abilities as quickly as possible, which only took a few moments. Once Metal had recovered enough to comprehend what was going on around him to see Snake and Rock a short distance away. Snake’s body was shredded and blown to pieces, with most of his limbs and lower half gone and blood everywhere. Rock didn’t appear to be much better as he was badly burned from the plasma explosion and shrapnel visible all over his body. He knew there was nothing he could do for Snake but at least for Rock he could get him to cover with the Xulons closing in on them. He wasted no time to reach for Rock to pull him to cover and managed to grab his arm to drag him to cover. But as soon as he started pulling a plasma round struck Rock through the cheat and penetrated through his Kevlar chest plate like scissors through paper. Metal could only watch as his men’s life quickly left him with a final huff.

“DAMN IT!” Metal shouted as he let go of Rock’s arm.

Metal wanted to shed a tear and scream in rage but restrained himself. The situation they were in was not the appropriate time, even though the fact that he just lost nearly all his team, in such a short time span, weighed heavily on his heart. If it wasn’t for his experience, he probably would have broken down right there. Instead, he tightly gripped his rifle, took a few deep breathes, and readied himself mentally for the continued fight.

Unfortunately, Metal had no time to feel any remorse as he turned to see a few large blurs jump from the balcony to the Xulon position. What landed was four giant Xulons that stood quite a bit taller than the others and dressed what appeared to be heavy armor, almost like black plate armor knights in the medieval ages would wear to battle. Even their faces and arms were completely covered in the armor with visors over their faces allowing them to see. Instead of guns, they carried two long spears in their upper arms. They seemed to be looking right at Metal and Trench as the Xulons around them cheered or seemed to in a roar-like manner.

“Oh shit, those are some big ones.”

Metal loudly sighed. “And it’s just us to deal with them.”

Metal nodded as he and Trench kneeled and focused on the new, massive Xulons. The four Xulons barely flinched as their ends impacted their armor. It didn’t seem to do anything. The largest of the four Xulon raised one of his spears and roared loudly with such intensity that Metal could feel it in his spine. Immediately the four Xulons charged towards Metal and Trench, rushing past the others, ignoring the volume of fire they faced. Their rounds did next to nothing against the Xulons’ heavy armor, barely leaving a dent if not bouncing off. Even the M60 rounds did nothing as three of the four large Xulons broke off and charged towards Trench. As if their armor wasn’t enough the Xulons were incredibly fast, covering the distance before Metal had time to blink. He was hardly able to react as the three Xulons closed in on Trench with their spears raised, ready to run him through.

“OH SHIT!” Trench screamed as Metal turned to try and assist him, but he wasn’t fast enough, not when one of the Xulons was almost with striking distance of him.

In a flash, two Xulons thrusted their spears into his body with one piercing through his throat. Though he was a short distance away all Metal could do was watch as his last remaining teammate was brutally killed right in front of him. He had four large spears buried deep through his body that were quickly withdrawn as he collapsed to his knees. But before he could land on his knees one of the Xulons thrusted another spear through his chest and lifted him off the ground.

“TRENCH!” Metal shouted as the Xulon tossed Trench’s body aside,

Metal barely had the time to feel any rage as he heard heavy footprints fast approaching from his left. He spun around just in time to see one of the large Xulons, the last one he had seen yet, rushing him with a spear-like weapon. However, he had no time to respond as the Xulon closed the distance between them before he could shoulder his rifle. The next thing Metal knew a spear was being thrusted through his side, his Kevlar plate doing nothing to stop it. He gasped and almost screamed in agony as the Xulon effortlessly lifted him off the ground and threw him of his spear by just swinging it. Metal found himself flying towards the Xulon position so quickly everything was a blur. A crate stopped his flight as he crashed into it with such force it nearly knocked him out.

Metal blinked and spat out blood as he recovered and looked around him and gasped loudly at what he saw despite the pain in his side, knowing the spear piercing something vital. Forming a semi-circle in front of him was well over a dozen Xulons that seemed to be angry AND possibly hungry. All their eyes were on him; it quickly became uncomfortable with each of them having four eyes, as he just laid there, nervously shifting positions. He was certain each of them could smell his fear even though he remained stoic on the outside. That made it shocking for him to see that not even one of them was even slightly attempting to move towards him. They simply remained where they were standing eyeing him for some strange reason. He expected them to be all over him like wolves on a carcass, so for them to be just eyeing him was beyond weird for him.

Why aren’t they attacking? Metal thought as the Xulons remained where they were, eyeing him as if they were waiting on something.

Metal’s answer came in the form of the large Xulon that had stabbed Trench waking past the other Xulons straight towards him. The Xulon soldiers parted as he confidently strides past them, making Metal assume that he was the leader of their forces. How they parted and stood at attention as he made his presence known to the others were the clear signs of a leader, as well as how he carried himself. Not one of them said or groaned a word as he made his way to Metal as if they respected him; since he did charge Metal’s team with nothing more than a bladed weapon it made sense if they respected his combat abilities. The Xulons stopped in front of Metal, well within striking distance, and stared down at him, not making a move. Either the Xulon was full of overconfidence, or he truly had command of the situation as he certainly appeared to have entire Xulon force under his authority. Whatever the case, the Xulon clearly had the advantage and Metal had no true options that wouldn’t end in his immediate death.

“So, you are the leader of this . . . scouting team?” The large Xulon asked out of the blue, in near perfect English.

Metal spat blood as he glared up at the large Xulon who simply starred at him, seeming to be awaiting a response. It caught him a little off guard to find the Xulon simply staring down at him AND speaking in his own language. So far, he had only heard them grunt and growl at each other, leading him to believe it was how their race naturally communicated. Apparently, he was wrong, or their species could speak in multiple languages. Though with well over a dozen well-armed Xulons surrounding him, none looking happy, if anything they appeared to be hungry, that thought was not at the front of his mind. The only thing keeping them back seemed to be the large Xulon who Metal was certain had to be their leader. The way he carried himself, confidently and in a military-like manner, proved it to Metal who knew the type quite well from extensive service.

“Yeah, I am . . . was the leader of the team.” Metal finally replied as he adjusted his position, show no emotion or fear. “What is it you want? Why are you here?”

The large Xulon just stood there and shook his head. “I hate it when they get straight to the point, it is always rude.” The large Xulon placed both hands on the ground and kneeled to Steele’s eye level. “All I want to do is carry on a simple conversation, which is hard to do when the individual spits in my direction.”

Metal leaned up and spoke politely but also sternly, knowing he was not in a situation where he could be aggressive. “That’s what happens when wipe out people and their friends. They will not exactly be receptive to you.”

“True, but just once it would be nice to speak to another race and them not be angry.” The large Xulon shrugged. “So far you have been the nicest, of at least the politest.” He bent over and spoke softly to Steele.” So, what is your name?”

Metal looked straight into the Xulon’s eyes and spoke confidently. “Captain Alexander Steele, but everyone calls me Metal.”

The Xulon’s mandibles formed what Metal would consider a smile and replied. “Commander Vadam Gerald leader of this squadron.”

“That is, it surprising at all, you carry yourself like a commander.” Metal sighed loudly, glancing at the ruins of the city around him. “And a rather demented one.”

“If by demented you mean carrying out the will of Destruction then I will take that as a compliment.” Vadam replied with what appeared to be a twisted grin. “I bet you are wondering why you are still alive, why we have not killed you yet.”

Metal gazed back at Vadam a bit shocked at the sudden change of subject. “Hm, so you were keeping me alive on purpose?” Vadam nodded as Metal smirked. “Hm, I had a strange feeling when I noticed the shots directed at me were surprisingly inaccurate.” Metal gave Vadam a stern smile before calmly continuing. “Alright, I’ll bite, why haven’t you killed me yet?”

Vadam barely moved as he replied. “Because you are the leader of your little team.”

“How did you and your men know that I am . . . was the leader?” Metal calmly asked, though on the inside he was shocked, not only because of the answer but for the confusion over how they knew. “You had to know that before the battle even started.”

“The smell, leaders have a very specific smell that even the least experienced Xulon can pick up.” Vadam’s mandibles twitched in a creepy manner. “You have one of the strongest leadership scents I have detected from an opposing race.” Vadam laid his upper right arm on Metal’s shoulder. “For that, and how well you responded when we attacked you, my respect is yours.”

“Uh, that’s a. . . . appreciated compliment.” Metal kept a composed outward appearance as a shiver traveled down his spine. “But what does that have to do with why you keeping me alive? You do not strike me as the type of alien race to take prisoners.”

“Very wise assumption, and I guess we have made that pretty obvious.” Vadam looked straight into Metal’s eyes and spoke sternly. “Because it is one of the oldest Xulon traditions, even before we started following the Destruction’s will, for the commander of an engaged unit to kill the opposing force’s leader.”

“Ah, that explains ALOT.” Metal responded as he gave Vadam a smile, surprised to get a valid answer, which didn’t really surprise him. “You wanted the honor of doing it yourself.”

Vadam nodded as he slowly drew what looked to be a plasma-like pistol. “It is my honor and responsibility to be the one to end your life. Fortunately for you it will be a quick and painless death due to my respect for you.” Vadam raised his sidearm and aimed it at Metal’s head. “A warrior such as yourself deserves that much.” Vadam quickly glanced at the other Xulons around him before focusing back on Metal. “Do not worry about being eaten, Xulons do not eat warriors, your bodies will properly dispose of with honor.”

Metal strangely remained calm as he looked found himself looking down the barrel of Vadam’s plasma sidearm. Despite death being evident he didn’t feel any fear. He didn’t need experience to know there was no way out; not with well over a dozen Xulons surrounding. There was no outcome that would work in his favor, even if reinforcements somehow showed up out of nowhere. Victory was clearly Vadam’s, and Metal’s death was inevitable; making any option to fight back pointless as it wouldn’t accomplish anything. In his line of work, having served the military in near impossible situations for well over a decade, death was something he was prepared to face. As a result, he remained surprisingly calm and at ease, simply smiling back at Vadam as he awaited his death. Even with the barrel of a plasma pistol inches from his face Metal felt no fear, only patience and at ease, with some anger thrown in.

Metal looked into Vadam’s eyes and gave him a smile. “I hope you enjoy your time here because not one of you will not leave this planet.”

Vadam gave Metal a warm, and surprisingly friendly, smile before replying and starting to squeeze the trigger. “We shall see Metal, or I will remember you as, Captain Alexander Steele.

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