Science Fiction, Short Story

Previous chapter : The Habitat

First light of the morning was finally shining over the tired defense unit. They had been on trigger all night, taking turns to sleep and eat, waiting for this moment to attack. The creatures were still wandering just outside the stationary weapons’ firing range, carrying the advantage of not needing any sleep or food for another five or six days. It was still a mystery how they had known where exactly to stop, or how they had developed these series of actions that had frighteningly resembled a perfect siege tactic.

She, as the commander of the unit, planned to attack straightforward and “break the siege”. There were a lot of rocks and holes on the terrain, which would provide sufficient cover as they were advancing towards the creatures, and if they could manage not to be detected, a surprise attack could give them the upper hand. She took her radio and spoke;

“Defense unit advancing to attack.”

“Good luck, captain!”

Said the mayor of the colony. This was also the necessary order for the rest of the unit. They stormed out of their bunkers and ran for their first line of cover. The unit was divided into three teams, and they were taking turns to run from cover to cover, as the other two provided overwatch. This way, they advanced silently until the creatures were in range. After every team took its planned position, she whispered through the radio;

“Wait for my order and maintain radio silence.”

For a moment, she turned to look back. The colony stood defenseless far away, before the sunrise at the horizon from where they came. “This is reckless” she thought, “this has to end soon”.

She could see the creatures very clearly from where she stood. They looked like wolves, but much bigger and stronger with a dark yellow skin. She observed closely to find something different in their moves. But everything seemed to be ordinary, except they were constantly turning their heads towards the colony, as if they were waiting for something. If they had been dumb animals, with the mayor’s words, this kind of behavior was very unlikely. They were not feeding, not breeding, not escaping. Just waiting.

Although everything seemed wrong, orders were orders and they did come this far. It was now time to fall on them and finish all this. She gave the order;

“Open fire.”

In a split second, simultaneous firing of weapons turned the silence into a chaos. Bullets ripped through the air and most of them ended up tearing past the skin of a creature, resulting with a loud cry. By the time the creatures knew what was happening, one of them was already dead. The other two immediately started to run back.

“They’re wounded, let’s take’em down!”

Shouted sarge. She turned to look at the defenseless colony for a second of hesitation, but her instinct to hunt the wounded siege layers that kept them on their toes for almost a day now, came stronger.

“Go!”

She gave the order. The whole unit went out of cover and started moving after their wounded and slowed down foes. After chasing and shooting for a few hundred meters, the creatures were finally down. One of them let out a big howl just before it took the last bullet into its neck.

The tension was finally gone, along with the mystery it had been carrying. She sat down on a rock to catch her breath, still observing the dead bodies of the creatures. What were they doing? Was it intentional? If one thing was certain, there was something different this time.

“Let’s get back”

She said. The unit started to prepare their portable litters to carry the bodies to the colony. They were a valuable resource both for kitchen and science.

“Our attack was successful, we’re preparing to return.”

She reported calmly through her radio. But after a few seconds of silence, she heard the loud and terrified response of the mayor;

“Captain! Get back here ASAP! We’re under attack! There are dozens of them!”

She immediately stood up and took out her binoculars to look back at the colony. There was already black smoke rising mixed with a huge dust cloud! The colony had already been stormed! “How could they? …” she thought. there was a lot of endings to this question; how could they get past the pre-warning system? How could they know the defense unit was out? How could they assemble in dozens, like a “strike force”?

There was no way the colony could withstand an attack of this magnitude, nor the unit could repel it without their stationary weapons. She had nothing to do but watch helplessly. In minutes, the colony was torn apart, and the few population scattered just to fall prey to the creatures before her eyes, as her radio kept screaming with the mayor’s call for help. She slowly pressed to the power off button on her radio.

“What are your orders?”

Said sarge with desperation. They all knew there would be no colony anymore, and going back was pointless. She was right with her very first guess; the creatures evolved intelligence. Only it was a lot faster than how it would have been on earth. They wanted to hunt down these new protein-rich guests; and as they attacked and fell, patiently over years, learned how the defense process works, and found ways to get past it. They used a small “siege” force to lure the armed unit out enough, and a bigger “strike force” slowly walked past the pre-warning stations, making them unable to detect any rising body temperature or approach vector. Although the tactic was not the most brilliant of all, the effect of being unexpected was catastrophic.

Now the defense unit, nineteen soldiers, was the only remaining human life on this planet. And it was obvious that, they would be the next target.

“Get the bodies and start moving, we have to find a shelter.”

She said looking at the doomed colony, still being pillaged by the attackers. The first thing she could think of doing was to get out of this obvious location where they had been an open target. Next? She did not know. All the communications equipment, along with the power generators, were in the colony. They could try to salvage later, but it was very unlikely to find those delicate equipment in working condition.

They started walking to find a shelter.

-End-

Science Fiction, Short Story

HorizonLoud voice of the sirens echoed inside her head, as she looked through the visor of her weapon towards the horizon. It was a bit hard to concentrate with all this noise. It seemed ironic; the most obvious measure of security in an emergency situation like this, had a slight chance of decreasing the efficiency of the key element of security, which was her.

In the past three years, which she had been the commander of the small defense unit of this remote colony, she had been through this process many times. A hundred maybe. This experience perfectly guided her eyes as well as her hands, as she looked towards the crimson color of the setting sun at the horizon through the visor. She knew what she was looking for, like every single member of her unit.

Soon enough, a silhouette appeared. Than another, and another in a matter of seconds, just before her radio screamed;

“We have visual!”

The hostility of the creatures of this planet showed itself in a regular basis, as they assembled to attack the colony every now and then. Although they were no more intelligent than a pack of earth wolves, they posed enough threat for the colony to assume an all defensive situation. Those who were unlucky enough to be out on expedition or harvesting, had only some time to make themselves inside before the hell had broken loose. Although rarely, the colony have given victims among them to these attacks.

As the creatures approached, their skin started to gain its dark yellow color, inside the rising smoke they left after them. Smell of dust was filling her nose as she was breathing deeper and deeper with rushing adrenaline in her veins. Hot climate was not a thing she was not used to, but mixed with the tension, a drop of sweat fell from her forehead on her weapon. Each shot had to be precise, as the bunkers of the unit was not enough to withstand a direct physical assault by these strong creatures.

An impatient, but formal voice came out of the radio;

“Sir! Awaiting your orders to open fire!”

“Hold it sarge! Just a few more steps.”

She responded. If she could catch the right moment, all this tension could end in seconds.

She pulled her weapon into her cheek, squeezed the trigger and made herself ready to fire. In the very moment she was about to give the order, something strange happened. The creatures stopped! All the motion, except the dispersion of the dust cloud after them, just stopped in a split second! This never had happened before, thus no one could think of any meaning.

“Are you seeing what I am seeing?”

Said the sarge from the radio. The creatures looked like they suddenly decided not to attack the colony. They stopped just outside the effective range of her weapon, just as if they knew! A sign of intelligence? Something that they had seen but the unit could not see? Unknown to her. They were just standing there and observing, but not retreating either.

After minutes, which felt like hours to her, there was a voice on the radio. It was the mayor of the colony.

“Captain, what’s going on over there?”

“Sir, they just stopped attacking, and are wandering just outside our firing range!”

It was hard to believe, at least in the first hearing.

“How can they determine your firing range?! We’re talking about a pack of dumb animals here!”

“I don’t know sir, may be a coincidence, but they seem to be observing us.”

“What in the world is happening there captain? What is your plan? We cannot take a lot more of this tension!”

“Sir, I recommend the colony to go into silent alarm state. Everyone should stay in and wait. We will continue observing the creatures and act if they resume their attack.”

This was all she could think of in the past brief amount of time. The annoying voice of the sirens were not helping, and the primary thing in her mind as she said that, was to make this noise stop as soon as possible.

After ten minutes, the noisy panic state of the colony was replaced by a dead silence. She ordered her unit to stay on trigger and keep their eyes on the creatures. They could not afford any surprises.

As hours past and the night fell, the creatures still did not move. They were awake, observing and wandering, but they did not show any sign of attacking or retreating. It was undoubtedly a siege now. She knew that these creatures could live for a week without food or sleep, and they could not wait that long; as the colony had to go outside for harvesting, especially water, for the few people that live in to survive. Seemed she was not alone with the impatience, as her radio sounded again with the voice of the mayor;

“Captain, we cannot afford to wait. First light in the morning, your unit will attack and terminate these creatures!”

“Sir, I understand your concern, but I have to report that our mobile weapon range is much shorter. We will have to approach them very close, leaving the colony defenseless.”

She knew that this had been the inevitable action to be taken, and seemed most reasonable. But this whole thing was not right. How could these creatures use something that looked frighteningly like a siege tactic? Did they develop intelligence? Did they learn from their casualties? For decades, they had been acting no different than a pack of wild animals back on earth, and attacking the colony occasionally. The pre-warning systems stationed at a large perimeter had been almost always able to warn of the attacks in time, using the detected rising body temperature, correlated with approach vector and speed of the creatures. They had always attacked head on, and eventually fallen victim to the stationary weapons of the defense unit. What was different now? A mystery. But her senses told her not to make the obvious move. Mayor, on the other hand, seemed to disagree.

“I know captain, but if there were more of them around, they would have been detected by the pre-warning system. Besides they would have attacked by now.”

Now she had to explain her senses, which did not make any sense even to her.

“I don’t know sir… I sense… Intelligence!”

“What?! Nonsense! We cannot afford this captain, you WILL attack and finish this!”

“Understood, sir.”

Continue : The Habitat 2