May 30, 2020

Chapter 5 - Godkiller

Skiz still remembered the claustrophobic feeling from the shaman's hut. The smoke he had inhaled in that hut was not any natural smoke. It felt like there was something stuck in his lungs and every time he took a breath, that something took more hold of him and his own ability to understand and act felt diminished. 

Even with the lightheaded feeling in his head, Skiz knew he had to act bolder for his tribe. All his warriors were looking up to him to lead them in the charge against the invaders that had dropped from the sky on pillars of smoke and flame. The rest of villages had also sent their chiefs with a pick of their best warriors. While many of them chose to lead from behind the lines, Skiz would not do anything like that. He meant to lead from the front. If there was blood to be spilled on the battleground, he would rather he was the first to bleed. 

He had counted the invaders. There were twelve of them. He knew that the numbers were in his favor, but he had doubt that the odds were in his favor. Skiz gripped his spear tight as he heard the booms of the invaders landing on the earth of his home. One by one, twelve loud sounds, like thunder and falling trees. 

From the corner of his eye, he saw the shaman scuttle out of his hut. The old bastard squinted in the bright sunlight of the day, quickly dropping a hood on his face to shade his eyes. He held a stone tray in his hand with a small mountain of white powder. From beneath the hood, Skiz could see the smile on the bastard's face. 

"What is this, Shaman?" Skiz nodded toward the powder on the tray. 

"This is battlelust, honored dimwit in chief. Tell your warriors to take a pinch of this powder and inhale it. But only a pinch and nothing more."

Skiz was doubtful, but he took the tray from the shaman. "Why should I?" he hazarded. 

"Because if you don't, we are all dead." The shaman turned around and hobbled towards his hut. Skiz stared at the small mountain of white powder on the tray. Then he lifted a pinch to his nostrils.     

His second took the tray from his hand, took a pinch and passed the tray on to the next fighter in the line. 

Skiz squeezed his eyes tight and then opened them wide as a wave of lightning hit his brain and his blood boiled in his veins. A rage against all that was wrong exploded in his belly, traveled up to his lungs, traversed the tunnel of his throat and galloped up his tongue and exited his mouth as an animal yell. 

His ears were pounding with blood, or he would have heard the yells of his fighters joining in with his howl. He raised his stone-tipped spear and pointed to the place where the invaders had landed. 

They might be gods, but even gods died. He had faith in that much at least.  

May 27, 2020

Chapter 4 - Landfall

Sub-orbital drops were nothing new for Tiberius and his pack. 

But every time the bay doors opened and the empty void between them and the planet below greeted them like an open maw, it made his belly sink. 

He rose through the fear and fell into the atmosphere every time without any complaints. The friction heat of the atmospheric entry turning his exoskeleton suit a burning orange. Once they were clear in the atmosphere, the jets engaged and the suit cooled down with thermobaric shells that exploded all around them, balancing the whole squad for landfall. 

This planet was like all the others they had landed on and their orders were simple. Exterminate the native populace and prepare the landmass for rehabilitation. It was but a small step in the winning of the war that was being fought in the skies above them. 

Tiberius III landed with a soft whump as the jets in his suit engaged on sensing proximity to the ground. He felt the right leg of the suit vibrate uncharacteristically and made a mental note to ask the techs to take a look at it once they were back in orbit. 

One by one, the whole team came online as the network nodes re-established after the atmospheric entry.

"Team, groups of four. Onus, Raster, and Skull, you are on me. Spread out in spear formation and let's clear this son of a bitch."

A rudimentary map of the landscape appeared on his HUD as the network nodes spread out with the team moving away from each other. He could see the location of each member of the team as a green blip on his screen. Each set of four suits moving away in formation. 

The planet's vegetation was similar to what they were growing on their ships in the orbit. The large trees with wide leaves to gather more sunlight than their smaller brethren. Inside his suit, he could not feel the oppressing humid heat of the outside as the cooling systems worked to their optimal capacity. In the years gone by, the operatives used to cook in their own sweat in these suits, but now comfort was the name of the game. The gun turrets mounted on his shoulders and forearm shields moved with abandon seeking heat signatures and any targets they could decimate. So far, the locals had not shown up, but Tiberius III knew it was only a matter of time. 

Their entry through the atmosphere would not have gone unnoticed. 

He saw movement in the corner of his HUD. Somewhere from the east. 

He didn't realize, but a smile had crept up on his face. 

They were coming. 

May 26, 2020

Chapter 3 - Teeth

The slap cracks across his face like a thunderbolt. 

A sliver of blood snakes out of the corner of his mouth and drips on the mud floor of the hut. He is on his knees in front of the shaman, head bowed, eyes staring into the smoky gloom of the hut. The herbs burning on a brazier in the corner sting his nostrils every time he takes a breath. 

The shaman stares at him and then slaps his other cheek. 

His face is numb but not even a sigh of protest escapes his lips. 

"How dare you?" the shaman's voice croaks in the silence of the hut. The crackle of the flames in the corner add to his misery. 

He says nothing. 

"How could you think we will give up in the face of steel and thunder? Do you think the gods have abandoned us yet?"

He says nothing. 

"We will stand our ground. We will not step back. If they have to gain an inch, they will have to snatch it from the jaws of death."


The word falls from his lips like a hammer, his voice rough like gravel, torn with pain and anger. He needs to say no more. The question demands an answer. 

It's the shaman's turn to stare at him. The stare turns into a rotten toothed grin. 

"How, he asks. Why? with magic."

In a blink, the hut is filled with a light so bright that even the warrior is forced to shield his eyes with his forearm. The light creates afterimages on his closed eyes in which he sees the shaman turn into a wolf, a tiger, a lion, an eagle, a dragon and several other shapes that his primitive mind cannot decipher. The light is almost painful now and he stumbles out of the hut on his arms and knees. The afterimages make his eyes water and he rubs his eyes to get some sort of vision back in them. 

The torrent of blazing white light still pours forth from the hut. He dares a look into the darkness of the night and sees twelve blazing forms falling towards the planet. They look like meteorites but in his scared heart, he knows what they are. 

He hears the shaman cackle madly from inside the hut and he hopes that the magic would be enough. 

May 24, 2020

Chapter 2 - Gods Among Us

Tiberius III flexes his fingers in the power glove. The forcefield around his fist crackles with a violent energy. The machine system around him slowly fixes the secondary armor on his body, bolting it in places and tightening it to keep his enhanced body protected against the ravages of driving a suit that would act as a primary armor.

In the years gone by, the tech department handling the war had done everything to minimize the damage to human operators. From using mental links to going for android replacements inside the steel suits, but nothing compared to the level of efficiency brought in by a live operative inside the suit. After all, they all knew that the only way to win the war was to be more efficient than the enemy. 

Tiberius III did not give a single fuck about what the tech boys thought. He was an old school warrior who believed that enemy needs to be looked in the face before his bullets take their head off. He believed in ancient notions of honor on the battlefield. He knew in his heart that winning this war would take the heart of a lion and the courage of a man who has run out of plans. As long as there was an option of retreat, they would not win. But he was also a warrior who knew how to follow orders. When he was told to kill, he killed. When he was told to retreat, he retreated. His beliefs did not stand in the way of his duty. He still wondered on the trips back to base how he would have handled things had he been in charge. 

The machine around his head pings as it puts the helmet on his broad head and he knows the time for doubts is gone. Now it's time to follow orders. Now it's time to kill. Now it's time to become the holy sword of their gods. The magnetic hooks of the crane attach to his shoulders and lift him up to lower him into the steel encaged machine. His hands and feet latch into place in the exoskeleton and the display comes alive with data readouts and summaries of important systems doing a test run. 

In the corner of the screen, he sees eleven of his brothers and sisters come online. The pack instinct fills him up with pride and a sudden desire to unleash hell on anyone who'd dare to threaten his pack. Tiberius III takes a deep breath. The big machine shudders in anticipation of the commands he would relay and the hell he would unleash. 

"Ladies and gentleman," he whispers into the vox channel, "the killing hour is here. Godspeed."

May 23, 2020

Chapter 1 - Cockroach

The screwdriver is slick in X2's hand. Blood, sweat, and grease make the tool slip in his grip and no matter how many times he wipes his hand on his dirty overalls, it's always the same story. At times, he feels like the machine is bleeding into his hands and only if he could twist the screws tight enough, he might be able to stop the bleeding. 

His earpiece crackles. 

"Is the suit ready, X2?" His superior officer has a tone dead voice. But he can sense the urgency in the clipped cadence of his voice. 

"Almost," he replies through gritted teeth. He is done. He is almost done. Another turn of the screwdriver and the nut is fixed in place. As tight as he could do it. He stabs it once with the screwdriver for good luck and hopes it will hold in the heat of the battle. 

"I am done, sir" he replies to the team leader. 

X2 stands back to admire his handiwork. The screw he tightened holds the shell plating in place to act as a shield against anything from enemy spears to plasma bolts that the team leaders might encounter in the heat of the battle. He lovingly strokes the shield plating, whispering a prayer to the gods of blood and oil to bring the machine back safely to the hanger. 

A rotating siren snatches him out of his reverie. The loading time is here. X2 scrambles to collect the rest of his toolset so he can get out of the way while the loading teams set up the machines for the next step. The siren gets more urgent and louder. He knows what's coming next. His tools are in his box. X2 picks up the box and makes a run for the lift doors that will start closing soon. He is still a few feet away from the lift doors that are showing signs of movement. He speeds up, but he knows he is not going to make it. The doors move closer to each other and in a fit of desperation, X2 slides his tool box towards the closing maw of the lift, hoping against hope it will not slide all the way in. 

The toolbox jams the lift doors and that extra second is all X2 needs to slide his way inside the lift and snatch the toolbox from the straining doors. The doors close down with a hiss. The pressure outside is equalized and inside the lift, his ears pop. He would have been in trouble if he had not made it to the lift. His superior officer would have his hide for delaying the loading process. The lift moves up towards the barracks and through the glass window, he sees the loading team float towards the assembly of humanoid machines that are ready to be joined with the neural network. Tired, he slumps down on his bottom, like a sweaty slug against the metal wall of the lift. 

X2 does not know the reason for the war. He does not know when the war started or when it will end. He does not know who is winning or who is losing. All he knows that he is a small cog in the colossal machine and it is his job to keep turning the screws. 

May 21, 2020

2020: Year of the Plague

As is tradition, this is a non-story post to tell my non-existent readers that I am still alive and well, contrary to the beliefs of my enemies and those that want to see this blog go down into the gutter. Well, that's not happening on my watch. 

What is happening on my watch is the extensive lockdown that's caught the world unawares and bent it over the so called barrel. The world economy is in shambles, our leaders are irresponsible and corrupt, and the so called human beings that surround us are stupid and impatient. Which should not surprise anyone, because what else the fuck were you expecting?

I am no stranger to wholesale misery on this blog. Hell, I have probably written about worse things, but when it happens in real life, it hits differently. To be honest, this whole Covid-19, Coronavirus, the Rage of Batman thing was probably in works and we all had it coming. And if my pessimist mind is thinking on the right lines, there are going to be other things this year that will pale in comparison to Covid-19, but they will be a pain the ass anyway. 

Sure, one can say that these little pain in the ass things happen every year, but it will hurt more in the ass that's already been opened up like a rotten watermelon by the virus. How much pain can the world take? We shall see any which way. 

There are often talks about cancelling 2020, but I don't think we should. This year will be the wound on the decade that will scar badly, if it ever heals. And it will take a long fucking time to heal. In the meanwhile, we will deal with shit like designer masks, all-equipped bunkers for the super-rich, and social distancing from everyone that we know on a no-need-to-know basis. All I know is that the world got a little bit more painful and interesting than usual. 

But you are hanging in there, right? What other choice do you have? We are all stuck here with each other. At least till some country develops a Covid-19 vaccine or Elon Musk finally ships some of us to Mars.