Science Fiction, Short Story

The Habitat 2

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-

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