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This is the first installment of a little fan-fic I'm starting up. I don't really have a title yet, but I've had this idea for a while now. Hope y'all enjoy it!

Part One - Reluctance to Kill

Richter reached toward his face, dragging his fingers across his cheek, feeling the rough stubble from an almost-clean shave. He closed his hands and brushed the knuckles across the other cheek, staring off into the red horizon. He took a slow, deep breath, letting the cold air heat through his nostrils before entering into his chest, then let the air out slowly.

Almost peaceful.

He glanced to his left, and was reminded that this thought was just a daydream inspired by the sunset. A Crucio siege tank towered beside his small human form, the deployed shock cannon silently scanning the horizon. For once, the silence of the tank didn’t seem brooding or malicious. It merely became another shard of the harsh environment, another pillar of stone jutting defiantly into the sky.

His hand moved back to his neck, and he rubbed at the stiffness there. How long had he been in his heavy power-suit roving the harsh terrain, searching for caches of minerals that broke their way through the surface of the planet? The iridescent minerals were the whole reason this expedition was here. The planet Century Nu had been discovered on the fringes of known Terran space, and the surface of the planet was rich with the minerals that would bring the expedition the funding it needed to continue operation. Minerals needed to keep his men and their families alive.

The planet had seemed empty, but it was known to be close to a swath of planets that an intrusive, bug-like, alien species had obliterated as it cut across the cosmos, pushing back the Terran settlers, and smashing all attempts at resistance. It was a risky place to be, but with risk often came reward. If only they had had a few months of unobstructed mining, they could have – Richter was brought out of his doldrums by the sc!@@@%! of metal on metal, an entry hatch on the Crucio had been wrenched open.

A grizzled man with a thick chest poked out of the hatch and said in a gruff voice, “Captain, sorry to bother you, but we’ve picked up movement about three-hundred meters out. What do you think?” The man reached inside the tank and pulled out a pair of binoculars, and lobbed them towards the captain. “About two-thirty.”

Richter caught them, and grunted, ignoring the grin on the man’s face. Swinging the binoculars up and adjusting the focus, he looked into what his men called ‘the field of spikes.’ It was a forest of black stalagmites that jutted up towards the bleak sky at strange angles. Impassable without removal by mechs, and forbidding for men on foot, it was not a place anyone he knew liked wandering in. It was, however, a good place for some hostile creature to take refuge in.

He scanned the areas between two and three o clock. Sure enough, there was something out there. He almost hoped that it wasn’t what he thought. Flicking a switch on the binoculars, the red of the sunset dimmed as the machine swapped visual to audio imaging, displaying surfaces reflecting sound instead of light. As if aliens were the problem. It was a marine power-suit. Richter shook his head grimly. Normally the tank crew would have resolved this issue on their own, but they knew Richter changed equations slightly.

“Sir, how shall we proceed?”

Richter felt anger building up inside his chest. It was the fools fault for being sloppy. Normally scouts could stay outside of visual range, but this one seemed reckless, or stupid. Wasn’t it bad enough that there were two alien races pressuring them on both sides? He was tired of hearing horror stories of alien engagements, then walking outside to see his fellow Terran pointing their weapons at him. If anything, this should be a time for unity.

Richter turned his back, and nonchalantly tossed the binoculars back to the sergeant as he walked away. It was such a waste. “You know what to do.”
He didn’t want to see the smirk on the man’s face. With Terran being so willing to kill one another, it was amazing they weren’t skidmarks on the two alien races warpath. He dimly heard hatch on the Crucio sc@%@% shut, but didn’t look back. He looked down as his shadow stretched out in front of him, making him look thin and distorted. Suddenly a bright flash stunned his shadow into momentary oblivion, and the ground shook as the Crucio’s shock cannon hurled a super-hot bolt of energy at the poor soldier creeping out in the spikes.

He didn’t need to look to know to know the man – and anything around the man – had been reduced to a scorched impact crater a meter and a half wide. He didn’t need to look inside the tank to know the crew were chuckling and smashing their hands together to celebrate the perfectly delivered shot. At least the man hadn’t had enough time to feel his power-suit superheat and cook him alive inside. He probably didn’t even know the tank had fired.

Fool, he thought bitterly. He could have kept a safe distance and gone home tonight, but decided he needed a better look. Richter passed a bunker set up to provide support for the Crucio up close, and heard the marines inside cheering. “Hell of a shot, huh, captain?!”

“Pretty good shot,” was all he could bring himself to reply to the enthusiastic marine. Sometimes he wondered why they bothered calling themselves marines, after the old Earth soldiers. He thought the Marauder power-suits were more aptly named. These men would give their lives for him, and he would walk into a storm of C-14 Impaler rounds right beside them, but their hunger to shed the blood of those around them was beyond him.
The chill bit at his face, and cut through his clothes. He almost regretted not wearing his power-suit out to the defensive line. What would take him mere minutes in his suit had taken the better part of an hour. The cold air was helping to clear his head about the scout that got himself vaporized. Richter shook his head, and in a moment of temper kicked at the gravelly terrain underfoot. Why were they fighting each other? There was plenty here for both of them, wasn’t there? No wonder the humans from Earth chose to call them Terran rather than human. ‘Unity’ and ‘brotherhood’ were things that only went as far as those closest to you, or those under your control.

The radio on his hip chirped to life. “Captain Richter, come in please.”

He pulled the radio off his back pocket, and mashed the talk button. “Richter here.”

“Sir, this is checkpoint four. We’ve got visual on a squad of those Delar marines hot-footing it past here like somethings after ‘em. Want us to take them out?”

“No, four. Monitor them. I’m heading your way.”

“Copy.” The radio went silent.

Storing the radio away, Richter took his bearings, then headed east at a quick trot. Wasn’t just having a scout enough? Did they really want to frontally assault a defended position? He heard gunfire in the distance. The rapid report of several C-14 rifles ripped across the darkening sky. Richter broke into a sprint, grabbing his radio from where he had put it earlier. “Four! Report!”

Nothing but the crack of rifles for a moment, then the radio chattered to life. “Sir, we’re fine. Not sure what the Delar boys are shooting at, but they’ve mixed up with something. Pretty small, I’d put my money on a pack of zergling. We can take em both out, just give the order.”

Richter could almost feel his blood boil. “Do not fire on the marines. Hit the zerg if you can get a clean shot, but don’t, repeat, do not, hit the marines! We’re all out here together!” His jog turned into a sprint, then felt the ground shudder as a Crucio opened fire. Checkpoint four was just around the corner.

He jumped between two huge stone spikes, and slid the leather strap off his sidearm. Rifle fire, right ahead of him! He could hear shrill screams, and they weren’t human. He ripped the sidearm out of its holster, and sped around a stone outcrop.

There must have been a dozen of the swarming creatures. They had surrounded the tank, tearing and clawing hardware and wires from it with each strike. The nearby bunker was doing its best to put them down, but it looked like they were going to lose the tank. One of the zerglings had somehow climbed onto the back of the tank, and was clawing at the still-smoking shock cannon. The cannon belched to life, and the shockwave blew the creature hurtling away from its pack. In the distance, Richter could see a pack of the creatures glow hot white before they settled into burning heaps of bone.

Before Richter could celebrate, the thrown zergling caught its feet. Normally, the zerglings would swarm, but the creatures were not stupid, and they knew an easy kill when they saw one. The creature turned a baleful face his way, and Richter stopped in his tracks, bringing his sidearm to bear.

Normally, he wouldn’t have thought anything of a lone zergling, but normally, he could have crushed the creatures skull with a well-placed boot. Without his power suit, however, the bug towered over him. It was covered in a thick gray carapace, only exposing thick red muscles around joints in arms or wings. His sidearm was going to have a hell of a time trying to find purchase on the creature without some luck. Without the suit, it was more like looking down the muzzle off a rabid, armor-clad bear than a moody dog.

Without warning, the creature bounded his way, leathery wings throwing the creature forward. Richter pulled the trigger, and grimaced hearing the .44 magnum round ricochet off the plated carapace. There was probably only time for two shots before the creature could bisect him with one swipe of its hard-as-steel claws. Another shot from his sidearm caught the creature full on the face, ripping off one of the zerglings mandibles, and causing it to stumble, but only for a moment. It leapt into the air, twitching its huge wings and letting loose a chilling cry. This was it. Stop it now, or there would be pieces of him all over the battlefield.

He dove sideways twisting his gun and firing another round. It hit, but merely delivered the force of the bullet without penetration. It saved his life, though. The creatures head was slammed away by the impact of the bullet, and it barely missed catching him through the chest with a giant claw. Its momentum carried it forward, driving it into the ground face-first, causing the zergling to tumble onto its back. Richter wasted no time in sending the remaining bullets into the creature’s softer underbelly, ripping apart vital organs. The zergling gurgled, and lay still, oozing dark blood from several holes.

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