The planet stood still.
Azkrots and Krubians waited on their respective side of the planet, muscles and nerves tended to spasm, for the moment the sun would reach its zenith over the middle line. The moment it would all begin.
Methalog, the Krubian leader, finished checking for the fourth time the position of his 999,999 fellow creatures; everyone was in the right place, ready to do what he was expected to. There was nothing more he could do for now.
To pass the remaining few seconds before the beginning of the war, he decided to use a small part of his attention to reconsider the facts of the last years; how it had all begun:
About fifteen years before, after many new acquisitions on both parts, the Azkrot and Krubian empires had become too close to each other.
Small acquisitions by great empires were well tolerated by the United Systems, but the clash between two of the most powerful coalitions of the galaxy could not be accepted. After a few minor struggles in open space, the US discussed the problem and came out with the famous Resolution XJD3244:
“as war between the two parties was unavoidable, it would take place in a controlled environment, under the supervision of an external committee.
The chosen battlefield would be the recently discovered planet Guizenistar, the battle would take place in ten years.”
As an armed conflict would blow away the entire planet in a few seconds, it was decided that the war should be fought without weapons; technology was banned. The empire whose species would prove to be physically and mentally superior would be the winner. One million units on each side would be transported to the system, naked. One hour before the beginning of the battle, they would only use the tools they could find on the ground or build during the war, in addition to their natural weapons. The external committee would watch the entire struggle from the space to guarantee a fair conduct on both sides.
The first army to lose all its units would lose the battle.
The winner of the war would rule both empires.
The two empires couldn’t but accept the resolution. As weapons were banned, the composition of the army would be of utmost importance; both sides started a quest for the species with the best characteristics and genetic engineers were commissioned to enhance them to their extreme limits.
In the following ten years millions of soldiers were created, trained and selected: lahsahs who could fly ten times faster than sound, muokers who could lift a thousands times their weight, sniprols who could pierce one meter of lead with their rays. And obviously Azkrot and Krubian officers with psychic powers beyond any imagination. Every possible situation was considered and analyzed, every strategy taken into account.
It was to be natural warfare at it’s best.
The hour before the battle had been frantic; both armies had done their best to exploit the elements and geography of their half of the planet to their advantage.
Nothing more could be done now.
One second before the beginning, Methalog terminated his considerations. He quietly observed the lahsahs who had begun to accelerate to pass the mid-line a few milliseconds after the signal. He mustered all his psychic abilities to be ready to lead the troops at his best; the first seconds of the battle would be crucial.
He took a deep breath and gave the signal.
The war had begun.
The dark side of the moon
Zkabiy, First Admiral of the Azkarot army, was covered in sweat.
She knew their position was a losing one. Ten years of intelligence reports confirmed that the Krubians’ genetic and nanotech trickery was way too advanced for them. Azkarot spies, infiltrated into Krubia, had seen the enemy training camps, full of enormous, scary, overpowering creatures that could easily pierce more than three feet of lead with their eyes.
Simply put, they had no hope. Therefore, the Council had agreed that they could not afford to fight a fair battle. Their only hope was taking the enemy by surprise. Stealthy and deceitful, like ninjas ambushing the rival /daimyo/.
During the last ten years, the preparations had been a masterwork of craftiness on their side. They set up dummy training camps in which fake soldiers trained their physical abilities; running, lifting weights, pumping up their strength as much as they could. They had the enemy believe that they were going to take a million marines, of the brawny guerrillero kind, ready to wrestle their way into victory.
But the real preparation took place in an underground lab, on the other side of the planet, far from the eyes of the inevitable Krubian infiltrators.
Our story begins with a small squad of Krubians soldiers crossing the border line in sector H4–9qJ-South. Definitely a team too small to engage an open field combat, but very threatening anyway.
Bhen-Kalu, eleventh rank officer and leader of the team, gave his men the order to assault the primary Azkarot outpost located in that sector: their objective was to move as near as possible the base, and then detonate a half mile radius nuclear bomb. A suicide, erasing mission. At the same time hundreds of similar Krubian squads were leaving their positions to perform identical operations, aiming different border sectors. Methalog’s opening plan was to exterminate the maximum number of enemy forces during the starting phases of the battle. A quick massive bombardment.
And Bhen-Kalu’s body was the bomb itself.
Like many other Krubian fellows (not much more than few thousands), his entire organism was genetically transformed to be the perfect weapon of mass destruction. K-Bombers, they were called. The more relevant mutations were made on the gastrointestinal tract: they had four stomach-like sacs, every of these holding highly reactive chemical composes. With the rapid contraction of a voluntary muscle in the abdomen, a chain reaction would have been triggered; this was the detonation system of the fusion nuke. The hydrogen, necessary for the final explosion, was kept liquid and unstable at a tremendous pressure in particular holes located inside the bones. The bones themselves were enhanced to support such pressures and to catalyze the nuclear reaction. In addition, their endocrine system had the ability to produce a special hormone that could wash away the fear of death, just like many other Krubian military species.
Bhen-Kalu was the shortest and smallest in the team. The other components of the unit were a K-Shield(Metal), a K-Runner, and a K-Supplytank. Expendable forces; especially if their death would have meant hundreds of front-line enemy troopers killed. Their task was to protect the K-Bomber leader and assure him to reach the target.
They had just crossed the cliff which was the last natural obstacle before the Azkarot border camp. Less than an hour was passed after the war started. Bhen-Kalu was incredibly excited, his only wish at the moment was to go boom and pulverize the highest number of those Azkarot bastards.
A few more dozen yards, eventually covered on the K-Runner’s back, and the party would have been ready to start.
But just a second before Bhen-Kalu triggered his self-explosion, he felt a strange feeling. Like if something was wrong. Something with the enemy base. He couldn’t go further in the detonation process: he had to understand what was happening right there first.
The development of powerful PSI enhancements in the last century had changed greatly the role and importance of intelligence agencies during wartime. Information gathering had become increasingly easy as recog agents could pierce enemy minds and every barely sentient soldier could broadcast eir perception-log to higher ranking officials with only a few seconds delay.
Contrariwise the task of sorting and interpreting all collected facts and discriminating relevant informations from the shapeless mass of foggy data was getting more and more time-consuming, and far too complex for a biological mind; Parhalog-A knew it well, but there was nothing e could do about it.
Azkrot counterintelligence had been undeniably superior in the past years, but this hardly bothered the overconfident Krubian leaders because the US resolution, forbidding technology, deprived the Azkrots of their best weapon, the DNI nanocomputers. In this war you could count only on naked flesh, and Krubian gengineers were the best in the whole galaxy.
For this reason the INTelligence COMmand of the Krubian army on Guizenistar comprised only three creatures.
Parhalog-A was one of them, and was ready to do all the work by emself as e didn’t expect any help from the other K-INTCOM members.
Kisp was Parhalog’s working partner, although “tool” was a better suited word. E weighted half a megagram and the cerebellum occupied most of eir huge body; if required, and provided with huge quantities of pre-digested food, e could contact the mind of any allied soldier on the planet, or store in eir synapses any information Parhalog deemed worth of it. E was just a big piece of wetware, PSI-linked to Parhalog’s mind, with a few useless limbs and the laughable consciousness required to dodge the restrictions on “technology” imposed by the US resolution. Of course whether e qualified as a sentient creature, a lower biont or an expert system was not clear, and Parhalog doubted e complied with the ethical directives of the US gengineering commission, but the legal corps existed just to handle this kind of problems.
Unfortunately Kisp was not able to sustain an interesting conversation, and this observation applied to most of the Krubian army; undoubtedly a consequence of the fear-washing hormones or the memengineering treatment.
The third K-INTCOM member, and only other Krubian soldier gifted with some sense of humour, was -B.
Parhalog-B was -A’s clone and was sleeping in eir cocoon to be awakened only if a replacement were needed; a disposition which made a conversation with em both unlikely and unlikeable.
‘It will be a long war’ sighed Parhalog as e received a report from a K-bomber in sector H4–9qJ-South.
It appeared that, although the nearly perfect precision that Krubian genetic engineering had reached, during the in-lab creation of a new organism some random variables, due to quantum mechanisms, might slightly change the result wanted. As a consequence of this, sometimes a soldier in the Krubian army happened to show fenotipic traits a bit different from the standard model he was meant to reproduce. Usually, these were insignificant details, like bigger eyes, or longer noses or fingers.
The relevant fact is that, according to the post-birth tests made on him, eleventh-rank officer Bhen-Kalu also showed an atypical deviation from the normal K-Bomber series. He had exceptionally sensible perceptions, which made him develop an unusual insight intuition. Maybe it was this special characteristic that allowed him to sense something strange about the target Azkrot camp. The military battalion that was assembling for battle in the middle of the valley, in plain sight of the four-unit Krubian assault team, did not behave, nor smell, nor shake the ground as it should.
‘Too bad’: Parhalog-A tried to establish psychic contact with all the K-Bombers sent on their respective suicide missions, as soon as he received this information from sector H4–9qJ-South. ‘Operation suspended | Retreat and meet the nearest open-field battle forces | Survival priority to the team leader | END’, this was the message that K-IntCom intended to send. But, unfortunately, very few Krubian kamikazes could get that order: Bhen-Kalu’s was one of the furthest targets among those chosen for the bombardment, and when the message reached the border sectors, most of the K-Bombers had already accomplished their mission. Just one or two dozens of them, including Bhen-Kalu, were late enough in the timetable to hear the incoming order and suspend the mission.
‘Commander Methalog | 978 Azkarot border sectors erased | Entire operation probably made useless by enemy foresight of the threat | Casualties taken from Azkrots maybe much lower than expected | I advise to consider the long-term-war plan | END’; the Krubian commander received this psychic message about ten seconds later. This could have been a serious problem, but Methalog’s military genius had taken this possibility into account.
‘New orders | Retreat to nearest friendly sector >OR< scout the area and report any enemy movement | Second option only if class-C terrain advantage is available | Nuclearize only on direct order | END’.
‘Boss, what shall we do?’, asked Golph-4m6, K-Supplytank model private soldier in Bhen-Kalu’s team.
Story by Phiandark (Franco Pellegrini), fph0 (Federico Poloni), Ossido and Psilvi (Pietro Silvi) · March 2007 · Originally published on novlet.com