The Genocide Condition Part 3 – Hunter’s Return
Regrouping at the bridge site took little time as we piled the casualties into the stranded vehicle. The blood of our kills soaked our clothes and armor, and the smell of battle still lingered in the air. We tossed the dead bodies of the ‘dogs into the river, letting whatever lurked in the murky green water feed on the carcasses. There wasn’t enough of us left to bring back trophies. We needed the room for casualties and wounded.
While sorting through the dead, I bent to lift a body near the front of the transport. I suddenly stopped in shock, realizing the body was Jaque’s. Only I could tell. The face of the body was cleaved in half by the ‘dogs blade, making it almost impossible to recognize. However, I knew Jaque’s earrings, and I had given him this particular set which he fashionably wore on one ear. I silently paid my respects to an honorably companion, and prepared to venture on through this hell alone.
Five dead, and the rest of us were wounded except for Tresh. I nursed a few cuts and bruises, and the field medic, the alien Shoteek who also miraculously survived with the little wounds, was treating the bad injuries of Hog. Hog fell unconscious not long after the battle, the poison of the beasts taking control of all his muscle activity. He lay in a makeshift gurney, twitching as death’s grip slowly tightened. Two others were in the same situation. The medic had a limited supply of the serum to fight the poison, and so their survival depended on our ability to get the transport off the bridge. It was up to two aliens and I to get us back to the encampment safely. Standing back on the opposite side of the river facing the front of the transport, realizing my situation, I barely heard the snapping noises coming from the bridge. The sounds got louder and more frequent when I saw thath the bridge was collapsing!
“Shoteek!! Tresh!! The bridge!! We have to get the transport off now!!!”
Shoteek stopped his treatment as he felt the bridge shutter. Tresh leaped from the rear of the vehicle to the top as a second shutter and a loud crack brought the bridge down to a visible sag.
Shoteek suddenly ran from the rear of the truck, past me and onward. It was as though he was running in fear; coward. Before I could say anything, he stopped a few meters behind, and turned. I suddenly felt a palatable electricity in the air as he stood and stared at the transport. I turned to the transport to see it suddenly shutter as if gripped by a huge fist. The bridge immediately completely collapsed below it, as the transport stayed where it was, floating in midair above the river. High level telekinesis; impressively high. The Gothrin then moved the transport with some effort to solid ground. Tresh leaped from the vehicle as it landed.
“Did you register that?” I asked referring to the Fleets Psionics registration laws.
“What Fleet does not know, will not hurt them… unless I want it to.” Shoteek smiled defiantly.
“Now what?” I said as I looked across the river, “We’re on the wrong side…” The situation was getting more disheartening by the second.
“Head up stream.” the feline warrior stated, almost to sure of herself, “There may be a way across farther north, maybe a shallow area to cross.”
“No one’s ever gone more that a few kilometers up stream. Scouts are still mapping that area.” Shoteek said as he peered up stream hoping to see some sign of hope float down.
“Well, it looks like we’re gonna save them a job. Load up, and hope Tresh is right. Shoteek, take care of the wounded.” I didn’t realize I had shifted into my Fleet-take-control mode until it was too late. The two aliens stopped suddenly, looked at each other then at me, and shrugged. They seemed to accept it.
The travel was rough. The jungle seemed to thicken as we went farther north, but no wardogs seemed to be near. Tresh rode shotgun with me, this time armed with a Hulfman 560 Assault Gauss, just in case a wardog decided to take its chances at being road kill. The river didn’t seem to get any shallower, only wider and deeper. After about an hour and a half, Terran standard, we lost site of the other side to the horizon.
“Where’d you get the idea that there was a chance in hell there was a way across upstream?” I said in almost angry frustration.
“Instincts… keep driving. There must be a way.”
The Pahkteel growled something I did not understand, and probably did not want to. I relinquished my trust to the creatures instincts and continued up stream along the beaches of the now tremendous river.
Another hour later, Shoteek was peering through the rear portal into the cab of the transport.
“The other human, Gret, just died. He didn’t put up much of a fight. That leave Hog and the last glahnite. Their not looking too good either.”
I was about to give up on Tresh’s wild hunt but I didn’t say anything, in fear of harming some kind of alien honor. Tresh looked too sure of herself.
A half hour later, I wasn’t so sure she was so sure anymore.
“THERE!!!” Tresh suddenly cried.
At first I could not see what the alien was pointing to, but off in the light of a setting sun, I saw the silhouette of a tower on the rivers edge. That was all I saw.
“What the hell is it?” I got no answer.
A few meters further, I realized that the jungle no longer ran abreast of us. Looking to our side, I saw the remnants of a very ancient city; crumbling ruins of an alien society. The damage to them seemed severe. Many of the buildings had collapsed and some still had scorch marks. What caused this city to be ruined was definitely more than the ages and the weather. The river tower was in similar shape. As we pulled up to the tower, I saw the gaping entrance that seemed to lead straight down into the river… a tunnel. I stopped the vehicle in front of the stone tunnel entrance.
“Jesus H CyberChrist… who the hell built this baby.” I looked from the cab at the massive structure. It apparently, at one time, had ornate carvings of likenesses of the makers, but I could not make them out from there. I thought for a moment to get out, but my thoughts were interrupted by Tresh’s voice.
“Don’t. These ruins are infested with wardog packs. One move and they’ll leap on you. They’re out there, waiting for us to make a move.” Must be telepathic, I thoght.
“Tresh… I’ve been meaning to ask… How do…” I was cut off by a sudden thud from above that shook the truck violently. It was immediately followed by a bone-wrenching roar of the wardog that had jumped on the transport. Reflexively, I gunned the vehicle straight towards the tunnel entrance. This was immediately followed by several thuds as the creature was thrown off from the vehicle. I heard Shoteek firing several bursts from the rear. I looked at my rearview monitor. A large group of beasts were converging from behind. I could see Shoteek’s muzzle flashes from the rear gun emplacement he was able to unpack, downing two ‘dogs instantly.
The lights from the vehicle revealed a cavernous tunnel of indeterminate age, leaking form many places. I just hoped that the tunnel hadn’t collapsed ahead. The straining engine’s roar echoed just above the resounding battle cries of the wardogs. They flooded into the tunnel after us, dozens, hundreds, almost thousands. Something was drawing these creatures to us by astronomical numbers. I glanced at Tresh suspiciously.
“You know something, damn it!!! Now spill it!!!” I screamed.
Tresh growled something again as she leaned out to get off a few shots.
“There’s a lot I know, Fleet man, that you don’t.” There was an odd familiarity to the way she said that.
“What the hell do you know?” I swerved the transport to the left to avoid a large portion of ceiling that had fallen ages ago. The truck jolted violently as the rear tires caught the edge of the pile. I heard Shoteek yell from the back for me to take it easy.
“These wardog’s are part of the Enemy’s plan of racial destruction on this planet. These beasts are not just indigenous lifeforms, but weapons dropped here to clear out the people that lived here and built this tunnel!” She leaned out again to get off more shots.
The roadway was getting more difficult to navigate at the high speed we were at, but any slowing would have brought the ‘dogs on top of us. Tresh continued to fire towards the on coming stampede of ‘dogs, not returning to the unfinished explanation. It wasn’t a good time anyway. The lights of the transport bounced across the walls and floor of the tunnel ahead, revealing very little to help the rough navigation. Just as I thought I had a clear road, it suddenly became obstructed…. by another stampede coming straight at us.
“Tresh!!! In front.”
“Keep driving. I’ll keep them off.” She turned her AutoGauss’s attention forward, laying a solid suppression line of hi-velocity, armor-piercing rounds, every third round being high explosive. The roadway became rough to navigate again, with bodies of wardogs instead of racks and debris. The 100 round clip in her rifle then ran down to zero, giving the beasts an opening to assault the transport. I braced myself, as I watched them like a huge wave come at the vehicle.
The high-tension treated plasti-steel windshield held for the moment, though it looked as though it would give any second. Tresh reloaded in seconds and began firing at the ones that managed to latch onto her open window. The transport strained to fight the added weight of the wardog wave, but we broke through to the other side in a few seconds, leaving the majority of that wave to mix with the one behind us. Tresh was able to scrape off the few stragglers that hung on the sides and top by climbing out side. As she climbed back in, we reached the bottom of the tunnel, and began our ascent up to the other side of the river.
“Acid-man, I got something back here we might be able to use, but I don’t know how! I was shocked to here Shoteek’s voice for a few seconds. I had almost forgotten about him. He handed a small box up through the portal. It was marked with the Quadrotech symbol on it and had a few warning labels…. “High Explosive: Use Only As Instructed”…. QuadBombs!!!”
“What the hell?!… Where’d he get these things. Those are Fleet use only. “, I took the box and handed the transport controls to Tresh. “These things can blow a hole in a dreadnaught hull if set right!!! How many we got?”
“About twenty, I’d say!”
“TWENTY QUADBOMBS! Start handing them up.” I said as I opened my side windows. As I began programming the detonator, I remembered the Fleet report on these babies. The clock chips in these things tended to count down a little quick at times, sometimes skipping numbers. If you weren’t careful, it would start counting down in Octal numbers. Unreliable timing mechanisms for a very powerful explosive. I swallowed hard as I set the timer for an estimated amounts of time and tossed it out the windows. I did that for each one he handed to me, shortening the time for each one by a fraction.
“Get ready for a shock,” I said to Shoteek. “these things will bring the roof down. Speed it up Tresh. I don’t want to be in this thing when …” before I could finish, the first of the bombs went off… early, “Damn timers…” another went off, also early. I could here the roar of the river filling the tunnel behind us. “We might get a little wet, boys!!!”
“We’ve got open ground. I can see the end!!!” Tresh yelled, triumphantly. The Transport rocked as she kicked it into its top speed.
The sun had almost set by the time we exited the tunnel. Tresh swerved to one side as the final bombs went off behind us. Huge plumes of water from the river gave evidence to the explosions power. The last surviving wardogs came up after us, and were immediately gunned down by Shoteek.
Tresh stopped on the now quiet beach of the river to take a breath.
“These things were a weapon?” I asked after we had a chance to gather our selves and check the transport and the passengers.
“The Enemy’s weapon, sent down to wipe out the people of this planet… my people. The corporations don’t know this. They just want to wipe out the vermin that is preventing them from making a profit.”
“So they are trying to commit genocide…”
“Destruction of a disease, not genocide. This planet is infected, and the corps are the cure my people are looking for. Once the planet is clean, my people can return to this home; can be freed from their tombs that scatter this planet. My people have been in hiding for too long. Choosing between the lesser of two evils, my people would rather fight their War with the corps than a disease that was designed to kill us. They have to be destroyed. It’s not genocide, despite what some might think. It’s cleaning up after the Enemy.”
Although, I wanted to inquire more about this Enemy, I thought it was the wrong time to ask. We traveled in silence from then on. I sat in wonder, imagining who this Enemy was. Considering the Pahkteel’s Way of Life, fighting the War of life, it could be anything, but I had a feeling that one day, the Pahkteel and the Consortium will have a common Enemy.