On a secluded Paradiso road, a squad of Morats ambush a PanOceania convoy carrying precious cargo. It falls to the Morat Vanguard, codenamed Razor Three, to do what every Morat was born to do: complete the mission at all costs.

 Knives in the Dark By Christopher Willett

On an abandoned road on Paradiso, the convoy trundled around the bend. The heavy trucks were loud and obvious, crashing through the oppressive silence of the night. The engines growled as the trucks splashed through the deep muddy rivulets from the rain. From their high vantage point on the hill overlooking the road, the eager hunters watched them approach.

The five Morats had been lying in wait for hours, the time had finally come. “It seems the intelligence was good. The humans are using this road for supply transport.” Razor Two racked his shotgun. He was a grim and paranoid old warhorse. The raktorak was a veteran from the EI-Tohaa Campaign, he had already seen combat on several alien worlds. The left side of his face was a pale melted scar that twisted as he grinned. The old raktorak turned to his three vanguard and gave the order “Load missiles, high explosive.”

Ze Geruk Razor Three crawled up to remove the front-end cap and ensure the path launch tube was clear. “Enough waiting, we will finally see these pale apes in action!” He gleefully whispered. He was the youngest of the vanguards, still a private first class, fresh from training.

The Haza Geruk known as Razor Four loaded the warheads into his shoulder-mounted missile launcher. He took a kneeling position, hoisted the launcher onto his shoulders, and pressed the sight to his eye. “Missile armed.”

The hacker, Razor Five, sat cross-legged off at a distance. His combi rifle was set to the side as his fingers jittered aggressively in the air. His hacking visor was down, and he seemed to stare absently in the distance as he worked his hacking device. His dull eyes were illuminated by the lime green glow of his screen. “Scrambling their communications, they will not be calling for help.”

Razor One held up one giant gauntleted fist. “Silence.” The deep bass of his voice cut through their chatter. He was a living legend, a captain or hamak of the fabled Suryat Regiment. His bulky frame was encased in the new massive assault armor. The powered suit was painted a brilliant red like one of the glorious heroes of old dripping in the fresh blood of their enemies. Razor Three knew (for he had counted them once when he was tasked with cleaning it) that there were over a hundred hatch marks scratched into the captain’s massive heavy machine gun, one for each filthy Tohaa Razor One had personally slain.  

            The headlights of the convoy shimmered on the rain slick road ahead of their position. There were four vehicles and they were close enough now that Razor Three could see the humans driving them. These humans were lazy soldiers, their eyes only on the road oblivious to the danger around them Razor Three noticed the lead truck suddenly pulling away from their position. “Uh… Hamak? They are getting away.” he turned his eyes to their leader. Razor One dropped his fist, “Fire.”

            Two missiles shot forth racing towards their targets. The back blast from the launch tube ripped a small tree out of the ground and threw it back with a splatter of mud. The first missile smashed into the engine block and exploded. A massive fireball engulfed the truck. The second missile collided with the rearmost vehicle. The concussive blasts shook the trees and sent a flock of strange jungle birds squawking into the sky Razor Three could feel a dull thump in his chest as the warheads rocked the jungle. The remaining two trucks rear-ended one another as their drivers panicked. The prey was wrapped neatly in the net.

            Razor Four moved out of the way to reload the missile launcher while Razor Three fired his rifle at the remaining truck drivers. The humans ran about trying to find some sort of cover from the onslaught but it was useless. Razor Five took up a position, his hacking visor pushed up on his forehead and his combi rifle raining bullets.

            Razor One unleashed the full power of his heavy machine gun. Raindrops sizzled and steamed off the gun barrel as it belched hot death down on the trucks. Fist-sized holes appeared in the truck’s cab as Razor One put an end to all resistance. When the shooting stopped, the jungle resumed its oppressive silence. The only sound was the fall of raindrops. “Move in.” Razor Two barked as he scanned the trees for surprises. The Morat soldiers fell in to a marching formation behind their raktorak.

            Razor Three felt a thick heavy hand grasp his shoulder. He was spun about quickly to face the looming Suryat. The great crimson bulwark grabbed a hold of Razor Three’s chest harness. The younger Morat was hoisted from the ground and brought to the officer’s eye level. He was pulled in so close that the Suryat’s face was only inches from his own. All he could see in his officer’s red eyes was cold, dead hate.

            “Question me again, private, and I will step on you until you pop like an over ripe melon.”

            “I- I did not think…”

            “No, you did not.” The young vanguard was dropped unceremoniously into the mud. “Take your position.”        The five Morats scrambled down the hill to survey the carnage they had wrought. Large pillars of smoke rose high into the night air. When Razor Three returned to his comrades he received a sharp elbow in the ribs from Razor Four and an eye roll from the hacker.

            “Check for survivors.” Razor Two ordered the Vanguard. “No witnesses.”  A hot blast from his shotgun punctuated the order, followed by the clacking of the raktorak racking another round. The Morats began checking the bodies for signs of life.

            Razor Three found one driver still in the cab of a truck. It was the first human he had ever seen and it certainly looked dead. It was slumped over in its seat, a large piece of shrapnel jutted from its side. The Vanguard spotted the metallic glint of a knife. “Ooh!” Razor Three said to himself, his eyebrows dancing in excitement. “You will not need this anymore.” He reached for the knife and removed it from the human’s vest.

            The human suddenly shot upright and awake, a gasping breath coming from its blood-stained lips; its eyes wide open and white. They both stared at one another for several terrified breaths and then the human muttered something in its strange chittering language. Instinctively, Razor Three jammed the knife into the side of the human’s neck and yanked the blade forward, ripping its throat open. The young vanguard wiped the knife clean on the human’s uniform and went looking for the rest of his team. He saw Razor Four holding a box and rifling through it, the missile launcher slung over his shoulder, and asked “What have you found?”

            Razor Four grinned greedily as he held aloft a yellow bar of spongy cake. “It’s human food, want some?” Razor Three took the golden ingot and bit into the strange fare. There was a white pudding inside. The intense flavor made his eyebrows shoot up and mouth pucker. Razor Four guffawed at his reaction as he popped the remainder into his own mouth.

            “Whooo boy. It is certainly rich.”

            “It is an acquired taste I suppose.” Razor Four was unwrapping another gold bar as the old raktorak came upon them.

            “What are you fools doing? Do not eat that! It could be poisoned!” The two vanguards exchanged unconvinced looks.

            “That makes no sense. Why would they poison their own food?”

            “Hamak! I found it.” The Morats all crowded around Razor Five who had pulled a large steel safe to the edge of a truck bed. The heavily armored Razor One set one gauntlet on the box.

            “Step aside.” He braced his hand on the safe to rip it open.

            “Wait!” the hacker shouted. “With respect, hamak, the safe may be trapped. The humans are a species of unscrupulous schemers. Brute strength may destroy the contents. However, they are using a biometric locking mechanism, it should be easy enough for me to open.”

            The officer considered him for a moment. “Proceed.”

            Razor Five lowered his hacking visor and began to access his database of hacking programs. The raktorak came close to the captain to whisper in his ear. “The enemy is close, hamak, we must not linger.” The Suryat acknowledged the comment with a grunt. Four loud pops ended the silence of the night punctuated by the whizzing whine of ricochets bouncing off the trucks. “Enemy contact!” the raktorak shouted.

            Hell was unleashed upon the Morats and in response they fled to cover positions. They were caught in their own trap. Shadows moved on the same ridge they had used earlier when attacking the convoy. The enemy was keeping to the concealing cover though, and seemed to blend in with the darkness of night. Only their responding muzzle flashes gave any hint of their location.

            “I thought you scrambled their communications.” The Suryat growled at Razor Five.

            “I did Hamak,” The hacker replied, not breaking his concentration. “No message was sent out I swear it. They must have been following us.”

            Razor Four poked out of his cover. “Missiles loaded!” he shouted as he unleashed two volleys. They exploded in the jungle, sending trees, underbrush, and mud flying. The enemy seemed unaffected and immediately returned fire. The first bullet caught the haza geruk under his collar bone, another hit his throat. He collapsed backwards into a gurgling heap. The raktorak unleashed two shots from his shotgun, lighting up the area with incendiary rounds. The jungle began to catch fire.

            “Razor Three! Grab the missile launcher!”

            The vanguard private looked over to his comrade’s corpse, a friend with whom he had just shared the spoils of war, and sprinted over across the open ground. He slid down low into cover and grabbed the missile launcher. He started rifling through his fallen comrade’s ammo pouch. All he found were more snack cakes. “He’s out of missiles!” The raktorak cursed loudly.

            An audible click and a whoop of success came from inside the truck. Razor Five had been using the safe as cover. The thick door of the safe swung open to reveal its contents: a single human constructed cube.

            Razor One saw the advancing enemy and began to lay down suppressive fire. His heavy machine gun cut down trees and bushes, tearing them apart into collapsing splinters. One of the approaching shadows cried out and fell, rolling down the hillside. Suddenly, the suryat’s mighty gun fell silent. “They are hacking the armor. Deploying counter measures.” The tone of his voice cut Razor Three deeply, this was the first time he heard fear in his hamak’s voice.

            The hacker began to move his fingers and hands rapidly, deploying various programs and counter defenses. “I’m trying to counteract them, Hamak.” When the enemy cyber-attack failed, Razor One began firing again.

            Razor Three tried to focus on the fight, shooting at shifting shadows. He noticed that the various guns all had their own unique call, like song birds. The satisfying heavy staccato of the Suryat’s heavy machine gun danced with the marcato of the raktorak’s vulcan shotgun. Razor Three’s lighter combi rifle added its own pop to the symphony of chaos. Their ferocious orchestra was rattled when a terrifying crack echoed through the canyon. It was followed by a crash and ripping of metal. Razor One’s machine gun fell silent once more. He wavered, and took a step back.

            “Protect the hamak!” Razor Two shouted. “He’s bleeding!” The Suryat lifted his gun with a grunt and began ripping the jungle apart again.  

            “It is nothing, just a wound. You treat me like I have never been shot before.” He continued to fire at the oncoming enemy, but his movements seemed more sluggish than before. Razor Five continued his hacking from his hidden position.

            “Hah, this human work is shoddy. I think I have— wait a second.” his boasting was cut off suddenly with a wet and audible squelch. He slumped over, blood and brain matter leaking from beneath his hacking visor.

            “Complete the mission!” The Suryat shouted over the cacophony of battle to his raktorak. The grizzled sergeant ran over to the truck and snatched the cube out of the safe. He stuffed it in his belt pouch. The heavy machine gun fell silent again. The raktorak and the private shared a haunted fearful moment as they looked up to their hamak in horror. Their mighty war hero, bedecked in his glorious armor, was frozen solid as a statue. The Morat inside was trapped, unable to move, the movement servos of his suit were completely locked.

            Razor Two ran to the immobilized Suryat “We have to get him out of there.” The raktorak reached for his captain, just as another terrifying crack ripped through the canyon and the suryat’s head. The suryat fell to the jungle floor like a tree cut down by lumberjacks. Razor Two kneeled beside his fallen hamak, the sergeant’s head hung heavy with defeat.

            “Razor Two?” The young Morat called out, concerned. “Raktorak? What are we going to do?” The older Morat did not move. “Lorak!” he shouted, breaking with operational security, and using the sergeant major’s real name to snap him out of his fugue. “What are we going to do?”

            The raktorak rose to his feet, hoisting the heavy machine gun with one arm. “We are going to do what we were born to do. We are going to complete the mission.” He removed his leather satchel holding the cube and handed it to the young private. “Take this to the extraction point. I will cover you.” The vanguard nodded solemnly as he took the package and slung it over his shoulder. Before he could leave Razor Two grabbed his arm. “We will see each other again, in this world or the next.”

            Razor Three scrambled up the other hill, the rapid beat of the heavy machine gun rang out again. In between the shots, the vanguard heard singing. The raktorak stood tall laying down cover fire over the oncoming enemy, while singing the Battle Hymn of the Suryats.

            Razor Three ran through the underbrush, clutching his combi rifle close to him. Every so often he would stop to listen for his pursuers. The sounds of gunfire had ceased returning the night to its silence. He tried to use the stars as a guide towards the rendezvous point, but their layout was alien to him. It was unnerving to gaze at the night sky and not see The Warrior or The Sabre watching over him. Instead he had to rely on his communication instrument, a small disk shaped device with an arrow pointing towards the rendezvous. He was still twelve units away.  

            Razor Three stopped for a moment. He heard something. It began as a low buzz, like from a large insect but then it became a roar. The noise became even louder until an object streaked out of the night sky and crashed into the ground. A human rose to its feet from the small impact crater left in the mud. The Morat ducked into the hollow of a tree and set the satchel down. Slowly he peaked out to see the new threat. It was some sort of drop troop. It wore a heavy backpack and an antenna jutted from the top of its green helm. Razor Three watched as it scanned the area. He tried to retreat further into the hollow when a branch he was pressing too hard against snapped. The glowing light blue eyes of the helmet turned and immediately latched on his location. It started walking towards him, racking a round into its shotgun with an audible “cha-clack.”

            Razor Three poked out of his cover and snap fired his combi rifle, missing his target. Two shotgun blasts punched into the tree next to him. Soon the human was upon him. It said something to him in its strange alien language. When it shot two more shotgun blasts at him the Morat leapt out of the way. With two sweeping steps, he had closed in on the human and tackled him. They fell into the mud and the human punched Razor Three several times in the face. The Morat ignored the pain and drew the knife he had taken earlier.

            He drove the knife into one of the blue glowing eye sockets of the human’s helmet. The human spasmed violently until Razor Three gave it a hard jerk, the force of which snapped both the human’s neck and the knife. The Morat stood up over the corpse, holding the shattered handle of his trophy and tossed it to the ground with disgust. “It seems your knives are as soft as your food.”

            He followed the tracker arrow for hours, stopping every so often to listen for pursuit. Soon he found the rendezvous point where he would await evacuation. He activated the beacon in his communication device and found a large drain pipe to hide in until help came. He was exhausted. He felt the adrenaline and energy seep out of his body and he drifted into sleep.

            He awoke when he heard a voice call out to him. He was shocked. How long had he been asleep? How did he not hear any footsteps? He was trained to wake from even the deepest sleep if he heard enemies nearby. Maybe he was more tired than he thought.

            “Morat!” a tinny voice called out to him. “Morat out-come-now-please.” The speaker left Razor Three scratching his head. Whoever was talking was speaking Morat, but the words seemed to be confused and not sure of themselves. “Out-come-now arms-up-please or cease living.” Razor Three slowly crawled out of his pipe and held his hands up. In front of him stood a thin creature holding him at gunpoint. It was not a human, but Razor Three recognized this foul creature immediately. He could smell the stink coming off of it from where he stood. It was a filthy Tohaa. It held a small machine gun trained on him.

            “What does a piece of trash like you want with me?”

            “You are in possession of what I want-need. Give now or cease living.” The Tohaa jutted its submachine gun in his direction to reiterate the severity of its demand.

            “Hey, watch where you are pointing that thing. I have no idea what you are talking about.”

            “The cube. Give cube now or cease living. Final offer!” The Tohaa was becoming more agitated and shrill.

            “Ok, take it easy friend. I have it right here in my bag. What is it? Why do you want it so badly?”

“It is a customer. NO! Me first! Me first!” the Tohaa demanded as Razor Three slowly reached into his satchel for his back-up pistol. As the Tohaa came closer, the Morat moved quickly, his hand gripped around his pistol, as he tried to bring it to bear but was too slow.

            The loud kablam of a shotgun rang out, and the Morat closed his eyes in rage. He could not look upon the face of his hated enemy. It was not enough that he was to die. What shamed him was that he had come so close to completing his mission and still failed. It was over for him. Another kablam ripped through his reverie. Strange. He thought that death would hurt more.

            The young vanguard opened his eyes, his muscles untensed. He was fine. The Tohaa in front of him was lying dead on the ground with two huge holes in its chest. He turned, to find his old raktorak standing above him, shotgun in hand. His pale scar was twisted into a wry grin.

            “What are you doing? Taking a nap?” Razor Three was overcome with joy, he scrambled up to the grizzled veteran and gave him a crisp salute. “At ease private, do you have the package?” The vanguard handed over the satchel.

            “Who was that?”

            “Some filthy Tohaa mercenary garbage. Our ride is here.”

            One of the large human trucks pulled up to the two Morats. A human with a blue beret leaned out of the drive side window. “Hey fellas, going my way?” he said in Morat with a wink and a jaunty salute. The Speculo’s disguise shimmered gently, setting Razor Three’s concerns at ease. When he opened the passenger door a human corpse slumped out. Its throat had been cut. Razor Three spotted the familiar metallic glint of a combat knife on the dead human’s vest. His eyebrows danced up and down as he reached for it. “Ooh, you will not need this anymore.”

Epilogue

            Ze Geruk Korr (codename Razor Three) was promoted to Basek and received a transfer to the glorious Suryat Regiment for his dedication to his mission, his courage in the face of the enemy, and his actions on Paradiso. He killed three Acontecimento Regulars, two Bagh Mari, and an Akalis commando in single combat.

            Raktorak Lorak (codename Razor Two) continues to serve with distinction with the glorious Suryat Regiment. He received a commendation for his actions on Paradiso. He killed five Acontecimento Regulars, three Bagh Mari, and a Tohaa Cube Jaeger.  

This is an entry for the Infinity Writing Contest, take a look at the post if you want to enter the contest and participate for the prizes.