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Chapter 5 - The First Wave

The First Wave: Twelve Months Earlier

At coordinates .43 .33-92 .2209-002 in sector three, many things were directing Thomas Sprint’s attention from the battle at hand. First, the sight of a Kulze up close was a terrifying thing. Although this particular Kulze remained at a distance of fifty yards from where Sprint huddled with his crew, the size of the thing lived up to the enemy-specification reports distributed prior to him accepting this god-forsaken assignment.

Dinosaur-sized, they had said. Closing in on two stories they had said. They had said one of these things could rip off the roof of a commander’s hut, reach inside, and extract said commander quicker than a tumbler of whiskey could fall from said commander’s hand and shatter on the ground. So many people had said so many things of the Kulze, but after detailing the size of these things, only one or two people had reported on their speed. Sprint thought this was likely because whoever obtained first-hand knowledge of a Kulze’s speed probably did so with wide eyes and shat pants and under such dire circumstances as to never to see nor shit again, never mind issue an enemy-spec report.

As this Kulze lumbered in from the outer ridge of the post’s perimeters, three more of these giants made their way chaotically from the west surveillance towers. Another one was making quick work of the mess hall while two more disassembled with fury a gunner’s post. Only one of these creatures was now crumpled dead near the central gate.

Worse: in the distance, Sprint could count eighteen ships descending from the stars.

Worse still: each ship carried several squads of eight Kulze.

Out of the initial squad that had descended upon the outpost, sixty percent of the post’s ammunition managed to bring down only one of the eight. Being that this was a minor outpost in sector three, Sprint only oversaw four-thousand members to begin with. Four-thousand trained soldiers. At this point in the skirmish, it was easier to count the survivors than the dead.


That was what it seemed to these creatures. For Sprint, this was all-out war. If he attempted to imagine all-out war from their perspective, what might that look like? He had no damned idea. In what environment did these things exist? From what pool of competition had they evolved? Where did they get the daily calories necessary to keep a society of such creatures alive? He didn’t know. He didn’t want to know.

Then--in four quick steps--one of the goddamned things was upon the command post. Its body absorbed the laz-emissions. Everything but fifty-caliber bullets ricocheted off its armor, but the fifty-caliber machine gun that had managed to take down one of them had been quickly targeted and disassembled with a vengeance. The poor gunner was gripped by shoulders and knees and just fucking yanked apart. As a bit of stress relief, perhaps, the assaulting Kulze slammed the remains on the ground, and as if to communicate its new hatred of fifty-caliber weapons, it commenced to stomping the remains. Each stomp had reverberated through the command hut. Long after the gunner could have been anything other than a layer of something that used to be, it kept stomping. It. just. kept. stomping.

Long after it should have stopped, it just kept on.

Stomp Stomp Stomp Stomp Stomp Stomp Stomp.

And now, just as the reports predicted, it ripped off the roof of Sprint’s hut. The eyes of this thing. The teeth that protruded like some prehistoric caveman. The sinews of muscles along arm-sized fingers that reached forward. All Sprint could think was that he was certainly wide-eyed, and he was glad he had already shit this morning.

Then--it happened.


Two-hundred light minutes away, Colonel Patricia West was experiencing eighteen Kulze attempting to breach the outer walls. Outside the gates, fourteen Kulze lay dead, their bodies forming a massive heap of flesh and rock and armor. Their weapons, many of them massive steel posts, were strewn across the landscape. However, what served as their infantry was thinning as four laz-guns focused their blue beams on the attacking creature’s mid-sections.

The sound of dying Kulze was a strange thing.

It was not the body armor’s noise that was strange. The body armor was actually quite thick, and it took much longer to penetrate than one might think necessary. Upon contact, the laz-gun’s ray fizzled. Eventually, the entire thing exploded like pre-heated rock might when it comes into contact with water. This was to be expected, and the soldiers were becoming quite adept at aiming, holding the aim, and finding another target just as the body armor’s internal elements boiled over and exploded.

The sound of the body hitting the ground was a little more surprising as these things were big. The sound was like a landslide. First, a crack of ancient earth breaking free from its substructure then a brief rumble before silence. The first time West had heard it, she felt a simultaneous sense of awe and relief. However, these normal sounds of battle were not extraordinarily surprising. What was surprising was the brief utterance. Each and every time a laz-gun reached a critical hit, there was some type of vocalization. Something like a brief, mumble. A deep guttural, “huh?”

This, West found disturbing. The noise was as if the things had made a deep and unpredictable miscalculation. She never saw one look down at the injury prior to its dying, so it might not have been the vocalization of mortal shock. Then again, it might have been. What made this sound worse was that it had been her side that had started this entire affair.

Two weeks ago, one ship had landed three miles north of the fort. A few hours passed, and another had landed two-hundred yards from the gate. The Kulze had done nothing to indicate either belligerence or diplomacy. The ships simply remained parked where they landed.

That night, as this planet’s red moon swept high in the sky, they had emerged.

They had approached the gate where they were met by two-hundred soldiers. Colonel West had found this entire meeting about as tense as you might expect, yet she strode out with reinforcements, preparing to make first contact. Over the last year since phase one had been initiated, they had colonized this planet with remarkable ease, and the native creatures, Aztelli, as the soldiers called them, were more or less humanoid and more or less peaceful. There was no artifact on the planet, but that failure point aside, the two species worked in surprising unison to make the overall colonization attempts a pleasant success as both species shared basic technologies and information and existed in what many considered to be an unspoken and, perhaps, welcome partnership.

Then a nervous private had coughed.

The Kulze, as the Aztelli called them, stiffened. These beasts were huge. They were already cautious. Now, they seemed on high alert. The private coughed again, and this time he coughed heartily, again and again against the dust that swept in as the creatures shifted uneasily. When his coughs became uncontrollable, these creatures simply lost their shit.

One of them was carrying the equivalent of a steel I-beam. It was equal in height to a Kulze, and it might easily have been a central support beam for the floor of any space station. The sonofabitch swung it like a baseball bat.


The entire fourth, fifth, and sixth rows of West’s reinforcements were mowed down.
In response, rows seven through twelve opened fire. As did rows one through three. As did West. As did the four laz-guns mounted to the main wall.

In a matter of seconds, this war was unstoppable. In a matter of a few more seconds, West and approximately twenty solders were the only survivors out of two hundred. All the Kulze lay dead, smouldering from laz-gun fire.

Within a day, more Kulze ships began arriving. More infantry attempted to breach the gates. They were largely unsuccessful, but West did not like the looks of a different type of ship now breaking the horizon. On this ship was mounted a massive forward gun and what appeared to be several smaller guns along the ship’s sides. A single ship on the horizon was a massive and troubling thing, yet West was now faced with several of the things. At this point, West knew she and her soldiers were in big fucking trouble.
That had been two weeks ago.

As the first Kulze ship opened fire, the entire northern wall of the command post was
obliterated. This was not a war she would survive. She knew this.

Then--it happened.


Karl West, Colonel West’s husband, manned an Aztelli space station, which lay four light minutes away from the fort under his wife’s command. Across the expanse of space separating the space station from the nameless planet, he had watched the blue bursts of laz-guns, and all he could hope was that his wife was okay.

An administrative participant in phase one, Karl did his job, which was to oversee planetary resupply to human troops as well as to the native Aztelli population. In the last minutes since the battle had begun, he noticed a sudden change in the laz-gun fire. The new firing pattern was not blue. It was orange. It came in bursts of what seemed like angry Morse Code, yet he knew Morse Code, and this was not it. Fast shots. One right after another. Then a longer one. Then a few fast ones. These blasts were massive compared to the blue laz-guns of his wife’s soldiers.

In fact, it looked as if the planet was taking extra-planetary damage from some large ships hovering in orbit. However, Karl took comfort knowing that no ship could be that large.

Then--it happened.

Karl couldn’t really say what it was that happened. All he remembered was that some sort of metal entity appeared across the supply deck. It was not the strangely communicative and peaceful Skroku, whom Karl had actually met. Skroku had a carbonite metal body and wore a strangely contrasting red cape. This one, whoever it was also was not one of the carbonite-gold Guldark with whom the Aztelli partnered for protection. Nor was it one of the steel-copper Bheve that comprised an army of worker droids, which he had witnessed on one of the relay stations on his way to this place.

No, this one was draped in a bluish robe with orange trim. The robe was fitted with a hood, and this hood draped down over the android’s head. Like humans, it was a biped. Like the Kulze, it had four arms, but these arms were thin and bronzed, dark with what looked like damage from fire. Its upper abdomen was covered by the robe. It’s lower torso housed what looked like a pulsating star. Energy ribbons rotated about the star, and as Karl took an amazed step backward, the android looked his way. When it pointed at him, Karl raised an outward palm.

There it stood on the supply deck in the middle of unbreathable space. Uncertain what to do, Karl just stood there. Later, he would not be able to determine if he was showing his outward palm as a gesture of peace or whether it had been a defensive gesture meant to ward off what might be coming. Whatever had been his intention, the thing turned away and pointed at the planet.

It happened.

A shockwave that might occur across the surface of water shimmered through space toward the planet.


Far away from the main battle, Sprint's struggles were going poorly. Just as the Kulze reached in from the opened expanse of the collapsing command post, he raised his laz-gun, which he knew did not have the energy to dispatch his enemy. Nevertheless, as the outstretched fingers reached for him, he squeezed the trigger.

As he did, his eardrums burst.

The Kulze seemed equally surprised, and everything was frozen in place. Sprint, the Kulze, even the energy beam that emitted from the laz-gun—all of it--frozen.

Paralyzed, Sprint could not move.

However, the electro-chemical pulse that would usually carry the information of his burst eardrums to his brain was also frozen in place. As such, he somehow knew he had been injured though he could not feel it. All he could do was somehow attempt to make sense of the single droid standing out in the center of battle. A robed droid that seemed to have a star or a singularity for its lower abdomen. It pointed at the air above, and a shockwave spread outward from its position through space. Everything on the visible horizon was now held in place.

Seemingly content, this thing turned and took in all that had been happening.

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