The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scene from WC: End of Worlds

Captain’s Office
TCS Absolution
Granita System

Maxwell Powers loathed these meetings. Staring at the multi-screened monitor, he understood the need for teleconferencing while behind lines. The last thing Task Force 212 needed was a lucky strike by a Strakha on the Gemini to kill all the captains. That was not the issue. Each time he saw Commodore Harris on the screen, he was reminded of the personal snub to himself, and his ship. Abby was designed to be a flag ship, to service an Admiral and their entourage. She had the quarters as well as the work space. Instead, Harris chose the TCS Gemini as his flag. Powers could not deny the ship was newer; he could see that just by looking at the sleekness of the Ceres-class cruiser, compared to the bulky and ungainly figure of an Odin-class ship. And yes, it did have a modern sweep of optronics and communication arrays. All that was not the point. Gemini was not a battleship, or even a carrier. It was a cruiser!

As he fumed over the injustice, he vaguely listened to the status reports. He already knew most of this. Epsilon Prime was pasted and the task force took the closest jump point out of the system. The former capital of the Epsilon Sector would have to be quarantined for centuries, just to ensure the Kilrathi virus never escaped. He was briefed on the Life-Eater Virus, and knew it spread and killed fast. What was not clear, was what happened after the virus ran its course. Intel had some evidence that it went dormant, and had a half-life of five hundred years. The virus killed fast enough that there was little worry of a ship reaching any jump point before the crew died. After that, it would keep on drifting, shooting out of the system at around three PSL.

He visited Epsilon Prime before, earlier in his career, during the Enigma Sector Campaign. From their little quarter of Epsilon Sector, Confed struck at Kilrathi supply lines. Nothing as successful as what those escort carriers did a couple of years ago, but look what that lead to. Powers fought an urge to shake his head at the memory. Peace with the Kilrathi? It was laughable. The only way their could have been peace was over the Emperor’s, as well as the entire Kilrah Pride’s, dead bodies. Eliminating the top of their system would bring it all down. Intel discovered that from the various defectors over the years. The two Cats on his own ship agreed entirely. With the Kilrah Pride gone, the other big Prides would go at each other and forget all about humanity.

Instead– well, he did not have to relive that episode in his life. It was not the first time a politician made a mistake, but it was almost the last. Now he, and every other captain in the Terran Confederation Navy, were stuck with the consequences. It was another reason for the teleconference. This was a meeting between the Commodore and his captains. Here, with frequencies scrambled and offices secure, they can talk candid about the war. Which is to say, they can openly admit just how screwed humanity was in 2669. It was something a captain could never admit to his crew, despite the fact his crew knew the truth of war. Nonetheless, hearing such defeatist talk from their captain did the crew no good.

When the Commodore finished his own brief, and asked for questions, Powers was the first to speak up. “Of all the jump points we could have retreated to, why Granita? We’re effectively behind the Cats’ lines with no support.” Again, when it was just the captains, he could call their withdrawal from Epsilon exactly what it was.

What he said about lack of support was utterly true. If the Kilrathi struck in force, they would all be dead. Powers already ordered patrols flown out to ten light-seconds distance by his Epees. Hopefully, they would detect any cloaked fighters headed their way. Just why the Kilrathi would station such valuable fighter here, was beyond him. The chief technician even told him that extended patrols would just waste fuel, and he would be sorry if they ever needed it. Powers could only shrug to that. Better sorry than dead. Coupled with that, all passive sensors were set to full sensitivity. If even a simply hand radio were used in the system, Abby would pick it up.

As long as the fighters all came back, he would be happy. He was already down to eight pilots. He considered transferring a shuttle pilot to the fighter compliment, but the wing commander shot that idea down. None of the shuttle pilots were qualified on the Epee. Powers still ordered all his shuttle pilots to spend time on the simulators, getting themselves familiar with the point-defense fighter. When the Cats came, he wanted all of those fighters out in space. Confed should really supply its ships with backup pilots. If any other pilot decided to end his life, Absolution would be even deeper in dire straits.

Powers almost wanted to pray for no more suicides. Zollern just reported on a fifth one an hour before the Captain’s Meeting. This time somebody in the technical staff, thankfully. Technicians he had plenty. He was not sure about the situation on the other ships, save the Monrovia. Captain Sydney spoke of her first self-inflicted death a couple of days ago.

Speaking of Sydney, she spoke up after Powers. “Captain Powers raises a valid point. From here, it is a long way back to our lines.”

Captain Sydney was alright in Powers’s book. She was another vet of raiding in this sector. He met her before, while both were still junior officers. Since then, her face has put on many bags beneath her eyes, and her pulled back blonde hair was already streaked with gray. Powers knew he did not look much better. Nothing like the responsibility of command to double a person’s age.

Harris, his own face far more aged than any of his captains, answered. “Task Force two-twelve, like all others, has standing orders to track down any Intel on the Life-Eater. The Cats jumped in from this system.”

Powers frowned. Was this supposed to make him feel better? They have been in-system for well over a week, and the Kilrathi had not pursued them. That only made him worry more. “Commodore, are we expecting that Kilrathi fleet to jump back in anytime soon?”

Harris shook his head. “No Captain. I suspect the Cats will move on to another system, most likely Locanda.”

“You sound fairly confident, Commodore,” Sydney mirrored Powers’s own thoughts.

Harris shrugged. “Why waste time on a few ships trapped behind enemy lines. It’s not as if they couldn’t turn around at any time and destroy us. Besides, if I were their admiral, I’d be cutting through every Terran world I could.”

That was even less comforting. Powers ran through his mind everything he knew about Locanda. Was it the third or fourth planet that was populated? So much fighting occurred in that system, it seems like a waste of biological weapons to attack its planet. A type of area denial perhaps? Nothing left there to deny humanity anyway. Looks like that fleet will be Eisen’s problem. Powers knew Eisen only professionally. He was a steady captain, and at least his task force was built around a carrier– even if the Victory was almost as old as Abby.

“We’ll have to trust that the Victory’s task force can neutralize the threat to Locanda IV,” Harris continued, reminding Powers of the planet’s number. “We have more pressing matters to attend to,” he paused for a second while a map of the system appeared on a second viewer, this one built into Powers’s, and presumably the other captain’s, desk.

It was a standard star chart, nothing impressive about it. In the middle it showed Granita, a reddening star that recently– in astronomical terms– left its main sequence. Orbiting it were five planets, and a lot of debris. The system had jump points connecting with five other systems. A flashing red line appeared on the map, connecting the jump point to Epsilon with one to the K’ta Mek System, which was deeper inside the Empire. On that line, another flash of red, this one the icon of an enemy target.

“Intel has reported that the Mandarins are operating out of this system, and the only known base lies upon this trade lane. It’s likely the Kilrathi stopped off their to refuel; it would be far quicker than scooping fuel from a gas giant.” Which was exactly what the task force was currently doing– heading to Granita V to scoop up some hydrogen before carrying on with whatever mission Harris had planned. “The base is lightly defended, and relies upon camouflage for protection. Don’t ask me how Intel knows this, but they do. We’re going to hit this base, snatch up their computer cores and mine it for any information about Life-Eater.”

It seemed logical to Powers. Those traitors on that rock were biologically human, though their hearts were clearly tied to the Cats. They might have some sort of protection from the Life-Eater virus, especially if the Cats found them useful. If Mandarins do anything, it was make themselves useful to their furry overlords.

“What if the Cats are still lurking around this base?” asked the captain of the destroyer Kaitan.

Powers glared at his image on the map. What’s wrong, Montier? Can’t handle it? Powers and the Paris-born Montier, were bitter rivals, dating back to their years as junior officers. As with many rivalries among men, it started over a woman. At the time, both Powers and Montier were stationed on Fort Arnold, orbiting high above Earth. The object of both their affections was staffer in the Defense Department, working at Confed HQ in Damascus. A long story short, she chose Montier, and to this day, Powers can not think about them together without the acids in his gut boiling.

He long since quit carrying about her. Why should he? She was years dead, as were other staffers down on Earth, personnel on Fort Arnold, and even the city of Damascus were all long gone. Looking back, he would not have changed anything. Back in 2660, he was young and ambitious. Now, nine years later, he was married six years, had two children, and a nice house in Gatestown. Or what was left of it. As best as he knew, Montier only had the navy.

Despite candor, Harris was not impressed by this timidness. Destroyer captains were suppose to have a little more moxie than that. “Simple, Captain Montier. We destroy them. The Kaitan and Monrovia will join Gemini in keeping any enemy assets off the Absolution.” From the grimace on his face, Powers could tell Montier did not relish the fact of covering him. The disrespect between the two was fully mutual. However, since he only had the navy, he would carry out his duty to the end, no matter how distasteful.

Harris turned his face back to Powers. “Captain Powers, are your grunts up to it?”

Powers smiled. “Fear not, Commodore. Lieutenant Colonel Zollern will make sure the Marines do their job,” Even if he had personally to drag them off the shuttles and into the Mandarin base. Despite declaring he was nothing but a glorified sheriff, Powers had no doubt that Zollern might even lead the raid. If for no other reason than to escape the suicide reports.

“Excellent! That’s the sort of attitude we need right now, if we stand any chance of surviving the year.” All Captains duly noted that Harris said survive, and not win. None were of the delusion that an outright victory was possible. “Now, I’m going to have my staff beam over the plans for this operation. After I get your input, I’ll finalize it and we’ll brief division heads. If all goes well, we’ll be on our way back to our own lines within a week.”

Powers did not need to add the obvious, that if all did not go well, they would be too dead to worry about it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Scene from Warriors' Pride #2

Chandler’s Front
Repleetah II

Kruq’nov knew it was but a matter of time before the Apes learned about the replacements. This time, more than two days have passed. It was slow for them. Whomever was on watch must have fallen asleep on his feet. Too bad he did not know that two days ago; a good raid would have lifted the dreadful monotony that smothered the trenches. Warfare was suppose to be glorious, not days worth of boredom punctuated by a few moments of sheer excitement and terror. Kruq’nov sat up against the wall upon a cushion he took during one of his raids on the Terran lines. The Apes sure were soft if they used this for bedding. Now that did not mean it was not comfortable, especially compared to the stone wall his back leaned against.

While cleaning his rifle, he kept one eye on the replacements. As he predicted, they were thoroughly convinced of their own superiority and that the Apes are nothing more than prey beasts, to be cut down where they stood. Kruq’nov could only shake his head at such foolishness. They will learn that Repleetah is a great equalizer; it butchers all sides equally. They will learn, that is if they live long enough. Of the five replacements, the youngest, Nrsah, had the most potential. His mind was still young enough that Kruq’nov could mold into a respectable soldier. The other four– no, there was little point in thinking about them. They would be dead soon enough.

A slight stab in his left arm brought down his right hand upon it. His claws searched through his short and dense forearm fur to find the culprit. The tiny bug crawled deftly from hair to hair. The Second Claw quickly ended the creatures life with the slash of a claw. Kruq’nov looked up from his rifle and arm, and sought out the barrack’s engineer. Krenka stood against the wall, his chin resting on his chest. His hair and mane had a distinct reddish hue, giving him an alien look among the mostly golden haired warriors of this barracks.

“Krenka!” Kruq’nov roared loud enough to shake his own mane. “The curtain is on the blitz again. Fix it before it lets in something more annoying than fleas.”

His ears perked up at the sound of his name, and Krenka slowly raised his head, shooting Kruq’nov a look of supreme indifference. “Nonsense. You probably caught those things when you went outside.”

Kruq’nov glowered at him. “You spawn of a rodent! Nothing can live in the trenches.” Not any more. He remembered when the Terran vermin called rats use to infest the trenches. Now days, they have only a few enclaves within shielded barracks. Annoying little creatures, with their squeaking, but they were far better eating than the rations the army gave him.

Krenka bared his teeth. “Those Sivar-cursed parasites can! I think nothing short of a direct hit from a fusion bomb would exterminate them. The only thing worse are cockroaches, and they can survive nuclear warfare.”

Typical parasites, surviving anything that would easily kill the host. If these fleas did get in, perhaps they came in on the backs of rats. Rare were the days when any creature could be seen outside and not be seen choking. He decided to lift himself off his cushion and search for any potential snacks running around on four legs. He worried not about anyone taking his seat; the last soldier who tried lost half his ear in the fight. Kruq’nov has not seen that soldier in a while, and assumed he was one of the anonymous dead littering the planet’s surface.

He began his search, only to be interrupted by a commotion on the other side of the atmospheric curtain. All the replacements quickly leapt to the feet, grabbing rifle and slipping on breather, before rushing outside. Kruq’nov shook his head, grabbing his own weapon. Stupid cubs; it was probably the Apes trying to bait the inexperienced out into no-man’s land. He slipped on his own breather across his muzzle and followed them outside. He might not be able to smell his enemy while wearing the mask, but at least he could not smell the reek of his own kind. Nothing makes a Kilrathi male want to kill more than being locked up with several other males for days on end.

As with so many times before, three of his replacements, as well as those from other squadrons, have already gone over the top. Nrsah was about to join them, both hands and a foot on the ladder, before Kruq’nov could stop him. The Second Claw ran to the cub, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, and threw him to the ground. The cub landed with a thud in the dry caked earthen floor. He looked up quizzically, as well as slightly menacing, at his squadron commander.

Kruq’nov decided to let the disrespect slide. The Terrans killed enough of his warriors for him to take out any martial reprisals. “It’s a trap,” he told Nrsah in a flat, as-matter-of-factly tone.
Kruq’nov offered the young warrior a hand. “Get up. Watch and learn how these Apes play.”
Nrsah took the offered hand, and Kruq’nov jerked him to his feet, as if he was little more than a sack of jerky. “Second Claw, they are only prey, What is their to learn, other than more effective ways to kill them. I did not enlist to sit in a trench while others gain glory.”

This time, Kruq’nov did laugh. It was a dark and sinister laugh, one that a cub of Nrsah’s age might only hear in a horror movie. Sivar damn those propagandist back home. They probably killed more cubs than the Terrans. “Answer me this, Nrsah; if the Apes are nothing but prey, then why were they not slaughtered before either of us were born? Or even before your own father was born?”

“But, they are prey,” Nrsah spoke back, as if that one sentence contained all the answers.

Kruq’nov shook his head. “Have you ever hunted a Terran creature called a boar? No? I didn’t think so. They are prey too. But they have razor sharp tusks, and when cornered, they can eviscerate a predator. The Apes are the same, but they are cunning. They are sneaky. And their weapons are superb. Stick your head out of the trench at the wrong time, and one of their snipers will remove it. Never sell short your enemy. It could be the last mistake you ever make.” Kruq’nov glanced up at the rim of the trench. With an ambush in the works, the Terran snipers were probably watching it as well. Not to shoot, but for its entertainment value.

“It should be safe for now,” he said, poking his own head above the trench. When he was still breathing a few seconds later, he decided he was right. “I told you to look and learn!”

Nrsah slowly climbed the ladder high enough to see the rest of the world. The land that lay between opposing trenches could have been scooped off an airless moonlet and dropped on Repleetah. Octaves of craters, many as big as a Kilrathi, lay scattered in completely random patterns. A whole campaign’s worth of artillery bombardment destroyed the planet’s already fragile soil. Nothing would grow here again, not without intensive reclamation, or millions of orbits of natural healing.

As with so many times before, a pair of Terrans moved back towards their own lines, slowly and deliberately limping. Kruq’nov knew it was a ruse. They tried this shortly after he landed. Most on his replacement shuttle took the bait, and were killed. He did not. Even at the time, when he was just skeptical and not cynical, he knew something did not smell right about the situation. Why would Apes be out in the open like that?

The current batch of replacements— cannon fodder, did not think this. They had so little regard and respect for the Apes, that they have strapped their rifles to their back and were running them down. Not on two feet, like warriors would face off, but on all four, the way a Kilrathi would run down fleeing prey. It gave them greatly more speed, but took away their unnatural weapons. This was not an announced push, so the cubs were not wearing full E-suits, not like the Terrans. They had sense enough to do so.

Even if they had, they would still be dead. Kruq’nov has seen even veteran warriors reflexively extend their claws and tear their suits. That was why he fought hand-to-hand with the blades on his rifle. Keeping the enemy distant helped him control his own blood-lust. Terrans took full advantage of that as well. Any offense a Kilrathi warrior could throw at them, the clever Apes had a defense.

Both he and Nrsah watched as one Terran stumbled and fell, only to be picked up by his comrade. Kruq’nov knew it a ploy, one they have used often enough. Other veterans watched the spectacle, a few even laughed at the foolishness of the cubs. Yes, really fun watching all those sought after replacements throw their lives away. The three from his squad that leapt after them, Kruq’nov had not even learned their names. He gave up trying to match faces to names until after the recruits survived their first battle.

Halfway between the trenches, both Terrans went down a second time, this time into a crater. The recruits continued their pursuit, not even noticing the two-eights of Terrans popping up, eight on each of their sides, and opened up on them with their assault rifles. Plasma pulses at point-blank range seared the flesh of bones, and vaporized large portions of the replacements. All the cubs were dead in seconds.

With the Apes exposing themselves, Kruq’nov brought his rifle to shoulder level and decided to take a few shots at them. He squeezed off a burst of ionized gas, missing the Terrans, but catching their attention. Nrsah mimicked his Second Claw, taking his own careful aim at the Terrans. A beam rifle would be a more precise weapon at this range, or even an auto cannon. Nothing like hypersonic projectiles to turn flesh from living to dead. Within seconds, his whole section of the trench opened up on the Apes in no-man’s land. The section’s auto cannon went to work, chewing up the land around the Apes.

About an octomak away, the Terran trenches began to return their own ranged fire, attempting to cover their own people’s retreat. Kruq’nov watched with some satisfaction as three Terran ambushers went down, one in several pieces. He only hoped it was not the Ape Second Claw, or whatever they called the rank, Mac’Fearson. He was a sly one, an excellent leader of raids. If anybody in this trench would kill that Ape, it would be Kruq’nov. He only hoped they went hand-to-hand. It would be a great honor to kill such a warrior in single combat.

Almost as suddenly as it started, the firefight ended. Kilrathi climbed down from the rim of the trench and went back to their daily business. Nrsah looked up at Kruq’nov, disbelief on his face. He had just survived his first firefight. “I never imagines the Apes fight so fiercely. They fought like–“

”Warriors?” Kruq’nov offered. Nrsah bobbed his head in agreement. “You don’t need to imagine, you simply need to accept it. What they lack in brute force, they make up in cunning. Stop thinking of the Apes as prey, and start thinking of them as enemies. You do that, and you might even survive this place.” Kruq’nov would not tell a replacement that there was no hope for victory on Repleetah. Only survival.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Scene from WC: Warriors' Pride

Forward Trench
Chandler’s Front
Repleetah II

Second Claw Kruq’nov fitted his breather over his toothy muzzle before stepping out of the underground barracks. Exposure to Repleetah’s already marginal atmosphere, after orbits of war upon this world, was detrimental to one’s health. Given that there were an octave ways to die on this gods-forsaken planet, Kruq’nov was not about to go and kill himself through stupidity. The recruits landing this morning would have ample opportunities to do that.

His own squad was short three warriors, two of which died after their bloodlust got the better of them, and a third was tagged by a Terran sniper. They might be smaller and weaker than a Kilrathi, but those Apes sure could shoot. He request five replacements, expecting at least two of them to go charging into no-man’s land and into one of the Ape’s infernal ambushes. The Apes were clever too, sneaky little creatures. Certainly not the prey that the Imperial Pride’s propagandists keeps dumping on the airwaves. Any cub old enough to stand knew that prey was suppose to die when you attacked it, not fight back for over seven shr’ik.

At the force field that partitioned his barracks from the external atmosphere, Kruq’nov ran into Second Claw Tshruk, a male who has been on this planet a couple of kahr’ik longer than himself. “Fresh meat lands today,” he said dryly. Like Kruq’nov, he had little hope for these young cubs that the Empire keeps sending to Repleetah. After a shr’ik of fighting on Repleetah II, the big manes back on the homeworld should know better.

The Battle of Repleetah thus far lasted long than any complete war in the Empire’s history. It was by far the longest battle during the Ape War. The battle raged for so long, that Sivar has given it a life of its own. Kruq’nov was not even sure why they were all fighting for this rock. It was no longer useful, its atmosphere and soil being poisoned by constant bombardment of chemical agents. He doubted that even the Emperor knew the value of this world. It probably has some strategic value in this sector ages ago, but no longer. Even the fleets of both combatants have moved on to bigger and better things.

“Care to place a wager on how long these cubs asked?” his comrade offered.

Kruq’nov growled, bearing his teeth. “Gambling’s for the hopeful.” Unlike most veterans, he first arrived on this rock skeptical, and not as eager as the rest of the veterans, back when they were cubs. He arrived skeptical, was now cynical, and would probably leave the planet in spirit only. His body certainly would never see the light of a different, perhaps less bright, sun. He would not venture to guess how many millions of his race already lay dead, fleshless skeletons, scattered across the fronts of this world.

Both Kilrathi warrior stepped through the curtain and out into the world. Even with breathers filtering the air of deadly toxins, he swore that he could still smell the stench of death permeating the air. It was one of countless trenches that scared the dying planet, deeper than a Kilrathi was tall. The Apes had the advantage in trenches, being smaller. Kruq’nov has seen the inside of more than one Terran trench, and had to move forward at a crouch in some places just to prevent his head from getting blown off. More than a few warriors forgot to duck, and their headless corpses litter many eighties of abandoned trenches.

Even while heading back towards the local landing pad, some four octomaks away from the front, he still carried his rifle. It was a standard pulse rifle, shooting bolts of plasma super-heated half way to fusion, and was tipped with four long spikes. When too close to fire, he could easily impale his enemy with those spears. It was doubly useful on Repleetah, a planet were even exposed claws could absorb poison. During the past eight-and-three raids into Terran trenches, and last two big pushes, all warriors were decked out in full environmental combat suits. He could not even smell the fear of his enemy in those things.

The last eighty of days were relatively quiet. In that time, he need not suit up once. The previous time was during a chemical bombardment, followed by an attempted Terran push, and that was nearly a whole kahr’ik ago. Walking towards the landing pad, he passed many fellow veterans in the trench. All were grizzled, and more than a few sported nasty scars. One even had a prosthetic eye, one that, instead of seeing with natural night vision, could actually detect infrared radiation emitted by all warm-blooded animals. He leaned against the dirt wall of the trench, his own rifle leaning within easy arm reach. The company commander assigned him, with his heat-seeking eye, as a sniper. Tralkar had more than four-eights of marks scratched into the butt of his rifle, one for each Ape killed by his rifle.

He snarled a greeting as Kruq’nov passed, and told him not to bother checking on replacements. They would a be dead in less than eighty days. Kruq’nov agreed wholeheartedly; he did not expect any of them to survive the next eighty of days. Nonetheless, his unit was short three warriors, and he wanted to be at full body count when the storm clouds return to his trench. If the Apes figured out replacements arrived, they would set up one of their insidious traps again. The last ambush killed half the replacements, including all that were allocated to his own squad. Damn Apes and their trickery. He could not blame them; being half the size of a Kilrathi warrior, one had to result to underhanded means to survive.

Survive– once upon a time, Kilrathi warriors on this rock thought of victory. After so many millions dead, and so little gained, warriors dreamed only of surviving Repleetah. He had little time to dwell on his own prospects, as he made good time to the rear area. Amazing how fast one could walk during the dry season. When the rains fall, not only are they now toxic, but they turn the floors of the trenches into a soup of morass and glue. Boots sink to the ankles, and sap a warrior’s strength as they tried to pull them free. Two things were certain after a good rain; one’s feet would get stuck, and the Apes would attack. They apparently had little trouble moving through the quagmire.

The local landing pad was built on solid concrete. Engineers built this thing, basing it on designs off Kilrah. One thing the homeworld seldom had to deal with was rain. The concrete was cracked in many places, and dead weeds sprouted from those cracks. Given enough time, they could have grown into trees, and broken the landing pad further. The shuttle upon the pad was a small one, nothing like the monestrous invasion craft that put down on this planet ages ago. The two shuttles sat on the pad, their angles looking fierce. The cockpit windows looked like demonic eyes staring him down. The razor sharp hatch was already down, and a stream of lost looking recruits took their first steps upon Sivar’s dungeon.

These replacements at least had sense enough to wear breathers. More than once, a recruit would tumble to the ground after taking in an unprotected breath of the atmosphere. All were squeaky clean, a condition Kruq’nov had began to believe was but a fable. Their packs were clean and in one piece, and their rifles looked as if they have never seen action off a shooting range. Unlike bladed weapons, all Kilrathi warriors required days worth of target practice to shoot straight. It was a field of ground combat the Apes would always be ahead of the Empire. When a Terran behind a pulse rifle wanted you dead, you were.

All of those who debarked looked little more than cubs. Kruq’nov thought back to his own first day on Repleetah, and decided that he was never so young. One caught his attention. One of the last to debark the shuttle, and looked around as if he sought out his Pride. Not the one he conquered, but the one he was born into. He was so young that his mane had no even fully developed. That was hardly a distinguishing mark, since most replacements were still youths, with a few kahr’ik to go before they have a mane as magnificent as Kruq’nov.

The cub must be straight out of the house and into the army. He held his rifle shouldered, just as they teach recruits in basic. Kruq’nov snorted. The way they teach, he wondered if the instructors ever seen combat with the Apes. It would be a good four seconds before the cub could aim his weapon, which would give the Apes three seconds to kill him. No matter; he needed replacements, and he might be able to make something out of this one– assuming he has not been brainwashed by periodical doses of propaganda that the Imperial Pride called news.

Kruq’nov approached. “What’s your name, soldier?” he asked in a fierce growl. It was the sort of growl that all Second Claws developed before they were promoted to the rank. His own squadron commander on Repleetah was the same way, though his face carried far more scars. He was either more veteran than Kruq’nov is now, or just not as careful. Seeing how he has been dead for over a kahr’ik, he decided on the later.

The cub halted and came to rigid attention. Kruq’nov’s voice left no doubt who was in charge. He shot off a perfect parade-ground salute, which Kruq’nov casually replied. “I am called Warrior Nrsah nar Ch– er– Warrior Nrsah, lord commander.”

“Second Claw,” Corrected Kruq’nov almost laughing. Lord commander? His blood was not thick enough, or inbred enough, to be a lord. Nor was he head of any Pride. He was correct in his earlier assessment; Nrsah was fresh out of the house, so fresh he still wished to use his birth name. “I need replacements, and you’re one of them. Gather four of your comrades and report to me. I’ll be your new squadron commander. Follow me back to the barracks and I’ll get you all orientated and settled in. Maybe even wash off some of that propaganda newscasters excrete.”
Nrsah blinked at him. “As you command, Second Claw. Anything else?”

Kruq’nov smiled. It was not a friendly smile, but a bitter and predatory one. “Yes; Welcome to the underworld.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Girls

Ginger is the only dog that I know who had a pathological hatred of her own tail. She has since mostly outgrown it, and will only chase her tail to get somebody to look at her.

Cinnamon chasing Ginger some years ago.