"If you fuck with the universe, it fucks back." - Pre-Diaspora Astrophysicist.
"I don't have to explain shit." - Universe-chan, Meme of 2nd Millennia Post-Diaspora
"If you mess with time, the universe brings in all the dicks. Dicks until the end of time." - Temporal Researcher, unknown era
"If God plays dice, they're loaded." - Alberto Einstein, Pre-Diaspora Physicist
"If you make the universe angry, it will crush you like a bug. The problem is, the Universe is always annoyed." - Unknown
"WHEEEE!" - Terran Descent Humanity
There are always military theorists who will espouse their pet theories to anyone who will listen.
From those who said that tanks spelled the end of infantry to those who claimed drones spelled the end of tanks to those who stated that the nanoforge ended the need for logistics lines at all, everyone all has their pet theories.
Of course, they usually espouse them from the comfort of their lavish homes or from far back from the front lines where any soldier will tell you the one simple fact:
Kill the enemy, break his shit, and convince his population to end the fight.
Hesstla was a small planet, only 80% the size of Earth, originally populated by a small people only a meter and a half high compared to the Terran and Treana'ad and Rigellian two to three meters. They were covered in soft fur, they had little whiskers, they had long sensitive ears, and their legs had a hock joint.
The first few Terrans who met them said that they looked like someone taught a bunny to walk upright.
They were a peaceful people. When they had discovered the radio they had rapidly progressed to the Information Age and had been edging on the Atomic Age.
The Lanaktallan had arrived only two hundred years after the people of Hesstla had discovered the radio. The people of Hesstla had found out that their planet was claimed by a MegaCorp over a million years before the Hesstlan people had discovered fire.
To their credit, they tried to fight.
It took the Lanaktallan nearly twenty years to put down the last of the rebellion.
Four hundred years of debt peonage had followed. Crushing poverty, their resources exploited, their cities rebuilt for Lanaktallan comfort and aesthetics, their planet no longer alone.
Then had come the Precursor Autonomous War Machines.
They had come into the system, most of them damaged, fleeing a greater threat. They had destroyed the Lanaktallan military forces and seized the extraction and refining facilities. They had landed mechanical horrors to destroy those that lived on the modest little planet.
As the first machine landed the entire population of Hesstla had heard the roar. HEAVY METAL INCOMING!
The foe that the Autonomous War Machines were fleeing was arriving.
The Hesstla, running and hiding, had frozen. A prey's response to the roar of a predator.
Then the predators had arrived. HEAVY METAL IS HERE!
The Autonomous War Machines had screamed at the foe that was harrying them. THERE IS ONLY ENOUGH FOR ONE!
The Hesstlan people had huddled down, scurrying to basements, storm shelters, underground parking garages, wherever they could take shelter surrounded by their own kind.
The predators screamed back. THEN DIE ALONE!
In less than a week it was over. The AWM's that did not flee, pursued by the predators, were destroyed.
The Lanaktallan returned or left their own shelters, immediately demanding that the new people, the predators, leave the planet, that it was the Unified Neo-Sapient Council's property and property of the corporations.
The predators had said one simple line: "Make me."
The Lanaktallan had fled, promising dire retribution, telling the Hesstla people that the predators would destroy them.
Two years had passed. The damage was repaired. The Hesstlan people consulted about what they wished, and the Terrans had built several military bases and helped the Hesstlan people build orbital structures.
Then the newest ones had arrived.
But still with a scream that told the Hesstlan people where they stood. YOU BELONG TO US!
The predators, those confusing chaotic primates, the Terran Descent Humans, and their allies, had raised up their voices as one to the newcomers. EAT A DICK!
The fighting had been fierce. Atomic weapons had been used. Cities reduced to rubble. Farms burnt to the ground. The newcomers had swarmed Hesstla, a seemingly endless stream of enemies that had pushed the Hesstlan people to the brink.
The Terrans and their allies had pushed back.
Step by bloody step they pushed the newcomers, the Slorpies, back even as they destroyed them.
Four months of bitter fighting on the ground and, somehow, seventy-five years
in orbit, the Terrans had thrown themselves at the enemy guns, had smashed their machines, had raised their voices in defiance. EAT A DICK!
On the afternoon of the first month of the year, on the nineteenth day, at approximately 1750 Hours (Out of 28) Local Time, the last of the newcomers was finished off by a single shot from a pistol's accidental discharge.
Not that the fighting was over. That raged on. The newcomers Autonomous War Machines kept fighting, even without supervision, attempting to open up a portal to bring in reinforcements. To harvest the living brains of the people of Hesstla in order to generate enough psychic energy to open a gate to allow more of the newcomer race, the Slorpies, to enter the battle and change the course of history.
The only problem was, for the first time in a hundred million years, the Slorpies were facing a race that did not crumble before psychic assaults. That replied to the cold logic of their psychic powers with feral screams of red hot rage.
In orbit, the fighting came to a slow stop. Even with the loss of the Black Fleet, the remaining Terran vessels managed to smash the enemy from the skies. On the ground, even with the loss of the Enraged Ones, the ground forces managed to rally, managed to deny the Slorpie machines landing zones, scattering their forces into packets and smidgens. To jawnconnor them into nothing more than smashed junk.
Not without a price.
There was valor and sacrifice. Too much to count.
From a Terran that gave his life to stop the Slorpie machines from getting into a shelter to the Telkan who stood defiant at the gate of a hospital base to the black Mantid fire team that had boarded a Slorpie command and control AWM to destroy the linked brains at the cost of their own lives.
There was tragedy too. Too much to count.
There always is in war.
But there is always hope. Perhaps small and flickering, but still hope.
Elu watched as the door opened after the two-three-two knock. He had covered the shotgun with a cloth, making sure it was pushed back to where Nee couldn't reach it, when the knock had come. Still, it was close enough for him to grab if he needed to.
His sister, Dambree, came inside, quickly turning to close the door behind her and block out the snow and wind.
She was wearing heavy boots, thick coveralls, and a grav-skiiing mask to protect her face from the cold weather outside. She wore a thick leather belt with a heavy Terran pistol in a holster. In one hand she held winter tubers, in the other hand she had four fish on a lead. She moved into the kitchen, setting the fish in the sink and the tubers on the counter, then took off her thick gloves and stripped off her mask.
Elu saw the scar on his sister's head and winced. It had been a month since that thing
had come in to attack them. It had somehow split his sister's skin open from right between her eyes, up over her head between her ears, and halfway down the back of her head. The scar was an angry upraised purple thing.
And a reminder of why they stayed in their little cabin.
"Gunka roots and fish for dinner tonight," Dambree said, taking the pistol out of the holster. "Lock," she ordered.
The telltales on the pistol switched from green to red.
"Can we have the roots fried?" Tru, Elu's sister, asked hopefully. "I like them best when they're fried."
"I know. That's up to you. It's your turn to cook dinner," Dambree said, taking off the belt. She moved back to the doorway. "It's snowing again. It's going to be a long winter."
The roar of jets went by overhead and off in the distance.
"Fried roots and baked fish," Tru said, standing up from the couch.
Mister Mewmew looked up from his little nest and made a plaintive complaining sound.
"Everyone's OK, Mister Mewmew," Dambree said, hanging up the mask, her gloves, and starting to strip off the coveralls.
Mister Mewmew laid back down in his nest, flashing a ":-)" on the display on his forehead.
Dambree went into the bedroom and changed out of her heavy outside clothing, putting on a dress and changing her shoes. She came back out and put her boots next to the door, the heavy leather belt acting as a belt or sash to her dress.
The pistol went back in the holster.
"How's Nee?" Dambree asked.
"Sleeping," Tru said, sharpening the knife and trying to decide whether she wanted to slice up the tubers first or clean and bone the fish.
"She's cranky," Elu said helpfully, moving over and sitting down on the couch. He reached over and petted Mister Mewmew, who began to rumble happily.
"I know. Growing does that to you," Dambree said. She opened the cold box and pulled out a fizzybrew, cracking it open and taking a long drink before sitting down. "Lake's almost completely covered with ice."
Elu felt a little despair. He missed his friends, missed school.
Missed his parents.
Mister Mewmew opened his eye, the other one always stayed closed, and rubbed his head against Elu's hand to ease the young Hesstlan's stress.
More jets roared by overhead.
"Where will we live when that stops?" Elu asked quietly. His sister Dambree didn't like to talk about the future, just saying none of it mattered till those noises stopped.
Dambree stared at the lip of the fizzybrew bottle for a long moment.
"I don't know," she sighed. She took another drink. "Part of me thinks I'll just stay right here, in this little cabin, for the rest of my life," she said softly. "People in charge will probably want us to leave, go to a camp or a foster home."
"I want to stay here, with you," Tru said, slicing open the belly of the first fish.
"I know," Dambree said. She gave another deep sigh and took a long pull off the bottle. "I want you to too."
Elu moved over and opened the curtain a tiny bit, staring outside. He could see the markings from the snowshoes his sister had worn on the snow but the tracks were starting to disappear as more snow came down to add more to the waist high snow.
At least it was white and not gray or black.
"Remember when we used to play in the snow," Elu said quietly.
"We'd make snowmen and throw snowballs," Tru said, smiling. "We'd go to Aunt Fenn's house and have a snowball fight with Ultrek and Ellaf and..."
Tru's smile vanished and she sniffled. "I miss Aunt Fenn."
"I know," Dambree said. "I do too."
"I wish we could go back to how it was before the gross things came," Tru said softly, staring at the fish as she sliced away the flesh.
"I know, but we can't. Babies wish," Dambree said. She got up, drinking down the last of the fizzybrew. She dropped the empty in the garbage and grabbed another. She sat back down. "Babies wish, we're not babies any more."
Mister Mewmew jumped down off the couch, staggering slightly, then limped over to Dambree, putting his front paws on her leg and meowing. Dambree lifted him up and set him in her lap, petting him with long strokes.
Mister Mewmew didn't walk or jump so well since the Slorpie had come in the house.
She could still remember it. The horror of not being able to move, her brother and sister crying out in pain and confusion. The way the Slorpie had lifted her up, had started to peel open her head, had touched
her brain somehow with a long and disgusting tongue.
Dambree closed her eyes tightly and shuddered, then took a long drink off of her fizzybrew.
At least her headaches had slowly eased up.
She sat in the chair, feeling tired, closing her eyes. She sipped at her fizzybrew without opening her eyes, even when she heard Tru start to fry the fish and tubers. She wasn't as tired as she had been, but she still got tired easily and the effort to catch fish wasn't as easy as it had been.
Her eyes opened when she heard it. The sound of aircraft outside. It wasn't flying by but instead was getting louder, changing sounds.
Mister Mewmew looked up as Dambree stood up, setting Mister Mewmew on the ground as she looked at her siblings.
"In the basement, now," Dambree said. While her little brother and sister grabbed their emergency bags and hurried into the basement Dambree put a lid of the pan of frying fish and sliced tuber rounds and moved them off of the heat.
The roar changed pitch, getting softer, but not because it was moving away.
Nee bit her when Dambree grabbed her but Dambree ignored the pain, cradling the toddler as she hurried to the kitchen. Dambree picked up the shotgun and hustled after her brother and sister, closing the basement hatch behind her. She had tacked the carpet to it so it would hide the basement access so now all she could do was hope.
Mister Mewmew was held tightly by Tru as they sat quietly in the basement.
Dambree aimed the shotgun at the opening, moving her finger to take the shotgun from safety mode to killing mode. The button went from red to green, colored plastic instead of lights.
The door opened upstairs and Dambree heard Elu suck in his breath.
"Shh," Dambree said.
There was footsteps upstairs. Strange sounding footsteps.
"Someone's in the cabin," Tru whined.
"I know, shh," Dambree said.
There was the noise of a chair scraping on wood.
Dambree moved her finger from beside the trigger to the trigger, putting light pressure on it, pulling it tighter into her shoulder.
"There's a lot of them," Tru said helpfully.
"I know, shh," Dambree said. She could hear that both bedrooms were being searched as well as the front room and the kitchen. She heard the back door open, the little chime she'd rigged up ringing on the door and in the basement.
The footsteps stopped. Complete silence upstairs.
"I'm scared," Elu said, his voice tight.
"I know," Dambree said. She licked her dry lips and wished she could take a drink off her fizzybrew.
The hatch started to lift, hit the chain lock, and stopped.
Dambree's scar ached.
A black segmented and insect looking hand reached in, grabbed the chain, and yanked.
The chain popped free.
Dambree pulled the trigger.
The shotgun roared, blowing off part of the hatch.
"YOU WON'T HURT THEM!" Dambree screamed, ignoring the pain in her shoulder and neck as she pumped the action on the shotgun and stood up. She fired again, into the ceiling, blowing a hole as big as her fist in the wooden floor. She cocked it again, moving up to the base of the stairs.
"HOLY JESUS FUCKBALL SHITTING CHRIST!" someone yelled when she blew a hole in the floor on the other side of the hatch.
"FOR FUCK'S SAKE, STOP FUCKING SHOOTING!" another voice yelled. Fuck?
"Terran Army! Hold your fire," another voice said, much more calm.
"Terrans?" Dambree asked, still looking down the barrel at the top of the stairs.
"First Cavalry Division. One of our search and rescue flights saw the smoke from your cabin," the voice said. "How many of you are there?"
"Stop biting me," Tru told Nee.
"Four of us and Mister Mewmew," Dambree said. "I'm coming up. Anything funny and I'll blow you in half."
"I'll bet you will, kid," the voice said.
Dambree slowly walked up the stairs, her finger on the trigger. Six more shells, counting the one in the chamber. Extras are in the kitchen drawer and on a belt hanging next to the back door.
At the top she looked around.
Six large figures in black armor were in the room, three of them aiming heavy black rifles at her.
One of them tapped the side of his helmet and his black faceplate turned clear.
Dambree sagged slightly, lowering the shotgun. "You are."
"So you're the masked killer of Sparkling Lake?" the man asked.
Dambree nodded as she slowly walked over to the table, setting the shotgun down. She sat down and picked up her fizzybrew and took a drink.
"Yeah," she said. The exhaustion filled her again and she took another drink.
The Terrans looked at each other and the one she could see the face of, that she assumed was a male, looked at her. "We're here to save you."
She took another drink.
"I know," she said, getting up. She moved the pan back to the heat.
The human shuffled for a second. "Do you need assistance?"
Dambree took another drink as she slowly turned and looked at them, looked at the shotgun, then at the Terrans again.
A flight of jets went by overhead.
Dambree jerked her thumb up at the now receding jets. "As long as I hear that, we're staying here."
The human nodded slowly. "Is there anything you need? A doctor to look at that scar?"
Dambree shook her head, backing up to lean against the counter. "Mister Mewmew fixed it up."
"Food? Water? Anything?" the Terran asked.
Dambree shook her head. "No."
"Are you parents still alive?" the Terran asked.
Dambree shook her head. "No. They got shlorped."
"Any relatives alive?" he asked.
She shook her head again. "Probably not."
"I'm supposed to take any unaccompanied children to a refugee center," the Terran said carefully. Dambree wondered why his eyes seemed to glow a cold amber.
"You will try," Dambree said. She could hear the faint roar of approaching aircraft again. "I will not allow anyone to take away my siblings until," the jets roared overhead and receded. "Until I do not hear that any longer."
There was silence for a moment before the human nodded. "We'll drop you a survival pack."
The humans turned and started to leave. The one with the transparent visor waited until they were gone.
"The Terran who that pistol belonged to?" he asked.
"Slorpies got him. Sucked out his brain. He killed the Slorpie from inside of it. He gave me the pistol, told me to save the last four shots for my siblings and myself."
The Terran nodded. After a moment two Terrans came in carrying backpacks. They dropped them on the floor and left.
They hadn't turned their visors clear.
"Good luck, kid," the Terran said, his visor going opaque. "You might be here a long time."
Dambree took a long drink off of her fizzybrew as the Terran left, closing the door behind him.
"I know," she said to the empty cabin.