Saturday, 9 August 2014

Short Story: The Return

To celebrate the release of the Resistance, I thought I would do something a little different, and have decided to share with you a short that I have penned. The guys at Hawk seemed to enjoy it, so I hope you do too!

The Return

The sun had forced its way through a pocket of weak cloud, and shone down on Warlord Vance, casting him in an almost angelic light. He squinted momentarily, then as quickly as it had appeared the light was forced away by an oppressive dark cloud. The sound of approaching thunder echoed in the distance, and Vance surveyed the courtyard from the top of his battle tank 'Ruin'.
The courtyard was central in a small town called Rockward, which his clan, The Pack, called home. Rockward was deep in the swamp land on the fringes of Old Olympia, and was well hidden by vegetation and a lack of direct roads to the city. Below him, the final checks and changes to his force were being made. Dozens of mechanics were working on reconfigured trucks and buses, looking to get the best out of their dated machines. Their assistants pushed trolleys up and down the lines, which were full to the brim with vehicles parts, fuel tanks, and ammunition. One of the runners tripped on an uneven paving slab, and spilled the cargo he was ferrying. Before being allowed to tidy the mess, his mentor had grabbed him by the collar and was urging him to be a little more careful, through the discipline of blows to the back of the head. Pack Leaders, the grizzled and hardened veterans of the army, stood in front of their respective squads, barking orders and drilling tactics in to their soldiers for the upcoming battle. The dull light of the day reflected from the parts of their armour that had been polished, or not rusted, and he knew that when the battle came he would be able to rely on every man and woman. Pilots and drivers sat in their vehicles and aircraft, running silent tests to make sure all necessary functions were working, while children sat in groups, studiously working to clean the soldiers armour and load their weapons. His troops were the most organised mess he had witnessed, and he felt proud to be their Warlord.

Vance sat down, cross legged on Ruin's turret and turned his gaze to the city in the distance. The towers of Old Olympia stood tall, dark and monolithic, disappearing up into the ominous clouds that hung low in the sky. From here, you could almost mistake the city for being new and kept, and not the decimated hell hole which it was. He hadn't been born when the occupation by the Scourge had happened, but his grandfather had told him of the attempted genocide. The horrifying stories from his childhood had planted a deep hatred within him towards the alien, even before he had seen their atrocities first hand. Vance had been forced to kill old friends and even his brother in combat, during the assault on the UCM armoury. Of course, he knew it wasn’t his brother any more when they met for the last time. It was a zombified husk of the man being controlled by a dark puppeteer, but it didn't make jamming the grenade in his mouth any easier. So much loss and pain, simply for the acquisition of the dozen tanks now in his command; it had been worth it though. He turned his attention back to the teeming hive of activity below him. The Pack were more ready than they had ever been. They had spent the last three years bringing new vehicles and weapons from less fortified towns and cities nearby, and the battle to reclaim Old Olympia was at hand. If they could reach the defence systems, which the aliens either hadn't discovered or hadn’t bothered to use, they would finally have the upper-hand in this damned war.

The warlord looked down at the back of a large man wearing tarnished spiked armour. He was stood to attention, facing out to the courtyard in front of him.
“Grazz.” beckoned the Warlord.
The large man turned to his leader, and stared up at him attentively.
“Warlord.” Grazz replied, bits of spittle flying from his mouth and catching in his thick, black beard.
“Have the scouts reported back?”
“Yes Warlord” he boomed in reply “They have reported a small number of crabs on the outskirts, but no solid defence.”
“Were there any casualties?” Vance asked.
“No Warlord, the soldiers kept their discipline and their arms holstered, as ordered.”
Vance reached into his inside jacket pocket, and withdrew an old pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He placed a cig in his mouth, while relaying orders to his favourite Pack Leader.
“Now is the time, friend. We take back what is ours in two hours. Spread the word.”

Vance flicked open his lighter and lit up the yellowed stick, blowing out a few puffs of sweet stinking smoke. Grazz didn't move, seemingly caught in thought and then looked back up uncomfortably.
“What about the strange radio signals we have received? Our comms specialists tell us they aren't Scourge. They could even be human!”
Vance glared down at Grazz.
“What did I tell you before Grazz? Alien tricks and deceptions to try and bring us out of hiding.”
Vance stood and flicked away his cigarette, then shouted to the clan, who immediately stopped what they were doing and fell silent.
“We are alone. Don’t you think I hear the murmurs from the deceived among us, telling of other clans, or the return of the Coward!”
Veins on the warlord’s temples throbbed as he screamed.
“We are orphans of the human race, left to rot by our fathers and mothers. It has been two hundred years since we were abandoned; an act which should have broken us, but has instead united us!”
Soldiers within the group began to cheer, and children began to clap.
“We are better off for their treachery. Our common enemy is no longer ourselves, but the scourge which tears through our land. We have been united to face the ultimate horror, and live through hell. Where many thought we would fall, we have risen stronger than before. This is the day we take back what is ours; this is the day we take back Old Olympia!”
Every member of The Pack were now on their feet, cheering and screaming towards the Warlord. Vance turned back to his Pack Leader, who was now clapping and shouting with the rest of the clan.
“Grazz, prepare the assault. The reclamation begins in two hours,” he said as he sat down once more, “and Grazz, I want to speak to Riff.”
“Yes Warlord!” Grazz roared in reply.
He then thumped his chest in salute, and galloped off, shouting commands at nearby soldiers, who began to rush along with their duties again. In the back of his mind Vance knew the radio signals were not a Scourge deception. They had tried a similar trick when he was young, and he had been around to hear the transmission first hand. That message had been undeniably different to the ones they had been receiving over the last few months. The thought of the Coward returning to the planet filled Vance with anger. They have no right to return. Nothing but madness and destruction would follow in their wake. Vance was under no illusion that there were bound to be more of the Scourge out there, off-planet, and the arrival of the Traitor would only bring them to his world. Vance watched his Pack Leader as he walked up to a young boy tending to a battered, rusting bus, and patted the lad on the back. The boy turned and saluted to Grazz, hand clenched against chest, listened to the man momentarily, and then sprinted over to Ruin. He reached the tank out of breath, but still stood to attention and placed his fist against his chest.
“Warlord” he puffed.
Vance looked at the teenage boy and smiled.
“Son, climb up to me.”
Riff did as asked and clambered up the large, khaki hull of Ruin, and sat on the turret with his father.
“Riff, things for you will change today. While I am away, Viron will be Warlord. He may be old, but he is very wise, and when you are of age and strength to challenge for the title he will hand it to you.”
Riff nodded to acknowledge his father’s wish.
“Do you understand why you cannot come today, Riff?”
Riff nodded again, although unenthusiastically. Vance looked away from his son, and starred at the madness of the preparations below.
“Tell me why.” Vance demanded.
Riff sat silently for a moment.
“For the future of the clan, it is better for a boy with warriors blood to grow into a man in his own time, rather than be rushed into it“ Riff picked paint of Ruin with his fingernails in frustration “I am not a boy though father.”
Vance turned back to his son, the smile lost from his face.
“Have you killed your first zombie, Riff?”
“No.” Riff replied solemnly.
Distant booms from the heavens echoed across the swap lands, almost drowning out his answer.
“Then you are a boy still. We were all boys once, and a boys first and hardest task is to learn patience. It is with this skill that we have survived, and managed the preparations for today’s re-conquest.”
Vance looked back to the courtyard.
“Riff, why do we bother to fight, after being abandoned?”
“To show the courage that our ancestors never could; to take back what is rightfully ours. To bring back to humanity what the invaders stole and destroyed.” Riff studiously replied.
“And why must we fight alone?”
“Because our fathers and mothers were cowards and left us to die.”
“But what has this taught us?”
“That we are stronger than the traitors who left us behind and that we do not need them.”
Vance turned to his son and grabbed him by his shoulders.
“We are the chosen few that were left to grow, and nurture this planet to blossom as it once did. For all of these reasons, it is why you must stay behind. I may die today son, but the battle will be won, no matter what the cost. You must lead The Pack from this city, and onto the next.”
The rolls of thunder grew louder, coupling with the din below, forcing Vance to raise his voice over the cacophony.
“The Coward may return one day,” Riff's face filled with surprise to hear his father say this
“But we must not accept them back. Pathour is our world and ours alone. We must fight all who oppose our right.”
Riff nodded, and opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by an explosion so loud, it engulfed the entire camp. Both Vance and Riff turned their heads to the sky to witness the clouds turn a deep red, and light up into an orange so bright it hurt the eye to stare. Riff shielded his eyes with his hands, but Vance's focus stayed fixed on the clouds, which now flared so bright and violently the sky itself seemed to be on fire.
Two dark, pointed silhouettes penetrated the cloud layer, followed by a colossal rectangular body. The impression of thunder had now been replaced by the roaring din of engines. The enormous ship blocked out the sun, and cast a black shadow over the camp. Vance turned to look at his son, who stood staring, mouth gaping open, and then at his clan, who were mirroring the boy. He looked back to the ship, which had now fully broken through the cloud, and gazed in disbelief as dozens of smaller ships began to launch and peel away from the larger carrier. Like a flight of birds, they started to split into several different groups, but one in particular caught his attention. They appeared to be heading straight towards them, and Old Olympia. The warlord gritted his teeth in fury and screamed. He jumped down from the turret of Ruin, and yanked open the driver’s hatch, where he pulled out a handset connected to a console by a curved cable. He jabbed at a few buttons and dials on the console, and spoke into the handset.
“The arrival of the Coward changes nothing brothers and sisters.”
Vance's words erupted from the tanks loud speakers, and shook the clan out of their trance.
“Together we stand, to take back what they abandoned, what is rightfully ours! We leave for Old Olympia in one hour!”
Vance let go of the handset, which snapped back into position on the console, and howled in defiance at the approaching ships. His clan echoed their leader’s movements, and went back to work, at double the speed. Vance stood on Ruin, a shaking rage filled figure, and grinned wildly. He turned to his son, who sat still on the turret.

“We spoke of devils, and they came. Never forget today son. Today is the day we go home, and begin a new war!”

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