The last of mankind is caught in between the crossfire of two ancient races
|Man’s Last Hope
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Prompt: A cross between Si-Fi and Fantasy set in future Utopia
Kol stared absently off into the distance, ignoring the bounty before him. Ripe fruits and warm, succulent meats dripped their juices as they hung from the large stake. A roar shook him from his reverie, and he reached over towards Chiara, stroking her smooth dragon scales. “Yes, I know, girl. The sky traders are coming. I’m just as excited to meet her.”
Chiara responded by sticking the tip of her nose under his shoulder and pushing him toward the saddle.
Kol caressed his dragon a little and put his foot in the stirrup. He was about to press himself up when his communicator in his ear beeped. Two small ones and one long one. Dola. She was arriving tonight. They had only spoken over the video confab. It was the first time that they would meet.
He activated the link.
“Hey, Dola.” He smiled, remembering her doll-like face. “How far…”
“Help!” Dola’s voice came in a whisper. “We… we… we are attacked.” She spoke in between breaths.
Kol looked up at the sky. Those tiny dots were the vessels from Earth carrying the last band of the Earthlings.
“You are about to enter our atmosphere,” Kol argued.
“Santurns.” Dola kept her voice low. “They have taken over, imprisoned us. Don’t be deceived.”
“Inform the stations. Don’t let…ah!” Dola’s voice broke off in a scream of anguish. Kol tore the communicator from his ear. It hurt, both ways.
Kol looked up at the sky once more. The Earth had been in trade with the Uranions for centuries. As the conditions on that planet declined, it became necessary for them to import food from out of space. So when the live-giving Sun started to die, it threatened to char the planet after devouring Mercury and Venus. The sun had turned into a Red Star, killing most of the life on Earth. Humans were already an endangered species by then. Uranus offered home which the Earth gladly accepted.
It was not a hand but a paw. The fingers were like hotdog buns and the nails sharp and bent like an eagle. The man, if she could call him that, was ten feet tall. His chest looked like a nose of a truck with arms like a limb of a crane. And to her horror, he had four of those. The face was black with a pair of red orbs for eyes and a crack for lips. There was no nose, just nostrils above the lips.
Dola had only heard about these Santurns but seeing them so close crushed her heart.
The fingers were clasped around her neck. He was speaking over his communicator.
His other three hands had weapons Dola had never seen.
These Santurns, the hideous beasts from Saturn, were the Uranions’ ancient enemies. They had been trying to take over Uranus because of the bountiful nature of the planet. So far they had been defeated by the Uranion army. An army that sored heights and could breathe helium without a hitch. A species that could breed massive beasts called dragons and fire-breathing dragons at that.
“Ya,” the Santurn said and turned to Dola. She shrunk under his gaze. “You, Earthling. Who you call?”
“No… no one,” she stammered. “No link.”
A small pen like thing jabbed the side of her torso making her scream. Bolts of electricity ran through her body, tingling through the bones.
“Who you call? Uranions?”
Dola coughed, tasting blood in her mouth, and clawed the rocky hand to free her neck but her strength had abandoned her. Trying hard to keep her eyes open she continued to gasp for breath.
The Santurns had captured and overpowered their fifteen ships. They had no defense to stop the Santurns. The Uranions were expecting friends. They would immediately recognize these to be the sky traders and let them through. The Santurns were counting on the surprise element and if that failed, they would user the humans as shields. There’s no telling what havoc they would unleash over the unsuspecting Uranions. Did she get her message through? Did Kol understand her? Could he inform the army in time? He better. Thirty thousand Earthmen were depending on it. The last of all mankind.
Chiara tore through the sky, the clouds, the wind, covering miles with one flap of her leathery wings. Kol held on with both his hands, head buried in her neck. Cool air rippled through his clothes, yet he felt sweat on his forehead.
Dola’s words rang in his ears. ‘Santurns’ she had whispered, ‘they had taken over.’
The chill ran down his spines over and over again at the mere thought of what the beasts did to the humans who were nothing more than mere flies to them. His body gave an involuntary shiver to think of the torture that Dola would need to endure. She was caught, Kol knew. Would he see her alive, he doubted.
Wiping the tears he didn’t know an Uranion was capable of shading, he urged Chiara to fly faster. The dragon bellowed and forced herself further.
He tried his communicator to reach his father, Hal, time and again but he found the link busy. Well, fifteen ships carrying thirty thousand Earthlings were almost ready to touchdown. The commander of the Army would be busy. Kol tried another link.
“This is Lola,” a female voice said. “Officer in charge at station four.”
“I know who you are, sister,” Kol said. “Now listen very carefully. The… Santurns… have… taken… over… the… Earth… vessels.” The wind snatched words from his lips flying them away. He just hoped that Lola had been able to hear and comprehend.
There was an unending silence of five seconds.
“Meet me and father at station five.” The link disconnected.
In a cold corner of a hold, Dola crouched and shivered. Lips torn and bleeding and bruises and cuts all over her face, she waited for her agony to end. Her dress was soaked in blood and so was her hair. She had heard Kol’s voice for the last time. She wished she could see him, feel him before she died. But it is a lost dream now. If Kol had understood her then their ships would be blown out of existence before they entered the atmosphere. The Uranions would never risk an invasion for the sake of an endangered species, that too from another planet. She sighed letting the pain take over her and closed her eyes, oblivious of the vibration in the ship, the friction on the hull or the fire cone that covered the tip of the vessel as it plunged into the thermosphere.
Commander Hal listened to his daughter and looked up at the sky.
“Father,” Lola said. “We must stop them.”
Hal nodded. His brows were still knotted tight.
“Father. We must destroy the ships.”
“No Lola.” Hal’s calm voice almost touched Lola. “I gave the Earthlings hope. I’m not going to shatter them with my own hands.”
“But the Santurns would just torture them and use them as a shield. They might try and barter the lives of the humans for Uranus.”
“I understand.” Hal turned and put a hand on Lola’s shoulder. “Ready every man on duty. Call back those on leave. Gear up the dragons. Gather every weapon. We congregate at the landing site. Go.”
With her orders clear, Lola scuttled to fulfill them, hoping against hope that things would pull off. Or else two worlds would perish in the fire.
Chiara stopped all of a sudden almost throwing Kol off her back.
“What is it, girl?” He asked passing his hand over her silver scales. She started going in circles. Chiara raised her head and roared.
Kol followed her gaze and found blazing stars in the sky.
“Blessing Oberon! They have entered the atmosphere,” he mumbled.
“Kol,” Hal’s voice cracked through his communicator. “Meet us at the landing site.”
Before Kol could reply the link was gone.
“Towards the landing site, Chi,” he patted her and she rolled and disappeared under the clouds.
Quarm, the Santurn lord, stood behind the pilot and watched as the vessel carefully hovered over the landing pad. Through the windscreen, he could see about twenty Uranion army-men standing in a semicircle with Hal at the center. The grip around his trident tightened and lips stretched in a sneer. His plan had worked. The Uranions didn't suspect a thing. The army commander appeared unarmed.
The vessel settled on the pad like a feather landing on water. The hatchway opened with a hiss.
Outside the Uranions waited in frozen anticipation. Hal stood facing the fifteen ships standing in three neat rows. The hatchways yawned.
Hal’s fist tightened.
One by one the Earthlings started to descend. Children, men, women, old and young. They huddled together looking uncertain. Those scared and tearstained faces told their tale.
Hal ground his teeth and watched the hatchway.
At first, there was no movement. Then all of a sudden a loud yell came from inside. Feet clambered and tall and wide figures of Santurns came flowing out of the hatchway carrying deadly weapons in four hands. They took places in between the groups of Earthlings. Last came Quarm.
Seeing the Army weaponless Quarm smiled in satisfaction.
“Now you surrender,” he spoke to Hal. “Or we kill humans.”
Hal eyed him for a while and nodded lightly.
“Men,” he said quietly. “Destroy them.”
Quarm got time enough to widen his eyes before streams of fire rained on them. Dragons, black, red, grey and silver that had remained hidden rose and breathed on them. A few flew over them picking them up and dropping them from heights. Army-men swarm in from all sides with swords and shields.
The Earthlings screamed in fear, men protecting the women, the women protecting the children. Minutes later they realized that the fire didn’t reach them in any way. They were quite safe in an invisible enclosure that shielded them from the fire and Santurns’ weapons.
Quarm bellowed in anger as his men burned and charred in front of him.
He drew his trident and jumped for Hal. Hal stepped back but a sword swung chopping Quarm’s top right arm. Quarm screamed and turned to find Lola with her sword dripping his inky blood.
From above Kol could see the crossfire at the landing site. Chiara, retracting her wings, nosedived zeroing in on the battlefield. Kol scanned the human groups for Dola but he couldn’t see her. Just above the field, Chiara pulled up breathing over the Santurns who defied the other dragon’s fire. Her breath stunned them, freezing them in place. The army-men cut them into pieces. Inside an hour the landing pad was covered in the red blood of the Uranions and the black blood of the Santurns.
The field was littered with scorched bodies, severed limbs, and heads. Quarm stood alone in the field. After losing two of his top hands he looked smaller. Lola stood posed with her sword. Chopping Quarm’s arms had given her great pleasure.
“I come back,” Quarm threatened but sounded hollow. He knew there was no coming back. He didn’t have a single man alive. The army-men tightened the circle around him.
Hal extended his hand. Lola gave up her sword.
“You are a threat not to my people alone, but to all sentient being existing in the universe. I, the commander of Uranion Army and the master of Uranus, would do what should be done. But before that I would give you a chance. Surrender and live.”
"I not scared." He growled and then sprang upon Hal. The commander took a step back and drove the sword into Quarm’s chest piercing his all three hearts at once.
The battle over, the Uranions ushered the Earthlings towards their villages. Chiara landed and Kol leaped off her back.
One after the other he combed the vessels in search of Dola. He couldn’t even pick up her heat signature. Fourteen ships had turned him down. With his heart thudding in his ears he stepped into the fifteenth vessel. After scrutinizing whole of it, he came to the hold. In a cold corner, covered in blood was lying a girl. There was no movement in her. Kol picked her up in his arms. With trembling fingers, he held her wrist. More imagined than felt, he could sense the faint beating of her pulse.
Written and won in : "The Science Fiction Short Story Contest"