©2011 D. Paul Angel
His Highness, Lord Admiral Jennar Excelsior, stood rigidly still in the center of the bridge. Awash in the cascade of blinking lights and undulating system sounds, he was the living embodiment of human nobility. Only the minor twirlings of his cape at the capricious fingers of the ship's AC gave an indication he was real and not a statue of Man's highest ideals. His eyes, steeled by the smoldering hatred of revenge, and burning with the intense fire of command, focused on the view screen. The twin stars of the Avajj 9 system, A and B, were no longer specks now, but near enough to appear as motionless disks. All around him the crew's tension was like the taught strings of a Grand Piano. And Excelsior was the Composer, Conductor, and Pianist of it all.
"Helm. Time to H'Rung Tertiary." Such was the Lord Admiral's voice that even the simplest of questions was spoken like a command from God himself.
"Three Days yet, My Liege," The Helmsman answered as sharply as he could, overpowered as he was by merely being in the presence of the Lord Admiral's force of will.
"Generals Bakker and Gmion, with me."
"Yessir," his two top Generals answered in unison.
The strode out of the Bridge and into the heart of the ship. Down a labyrinth of corridors bathed in the dull red glow of the artificial night time lights, they passed through bays of clever machinery, Knights still practicing their skills, and, of course, the housings of so many of their orbital weapons. It was at the last that they stopped. Excelsior removed his gauntlet and ran his bare hand along one of theVengaza's plasma laser tubes.
"God himself brought us here, Generals, you understand that, do you not."
"Of course my Liege!" the Generals both said, bowing before him.
"Understand, Generals, Understand. Not know, but 'Understand,' you must understand." The Generals gave each other the slightest of glances. This might not be a new question, but it was certainly a more intense version of it.
"God spoke to my father, and told him of the coming of the comets. How for 40 days and nights they would scream through our atmosphere." Excelsior regarded them with hooded eyes. "yes."
"We know this, My Liege," they answered just off syncronicity.
Excelsior struck both General's across the face with his gauntlet. "I didn't ask if you knew it," he said coldly, "I asked if you understood it. Do you?" The added inflection of the question warned the Generals of the its direness.
They looked at each other, and looked upon the fresh red pain on each other's faces before answering. "I do not, My Liege," General Bakker answered finally, summoning up the courage to almost look the Lord Admiral in the eye.
"Nor I, my Liege," added Gmion, remaining bowed.
Excelsior turned and walked to one of the few portholes in the ship. It was the last of all redundant guidance systems for the tubes, and a small reticule was etched into the transparent molybdenum. It wasn't accurate enough to target anything smaller than a Moon, but the weapon immensity meant that there wasn't anything much smaller than a moon that would be targeted.
"God warned my father to build an Ark with the most truest of believers, and DNA samples of every living thing necessary. Both Male and Female. God knew that the comets would destroy us completely otherwise, but he knew something else." Excelsior turned to the Generals still kneeling, bowed, on the ships ultrasteel grating, "He understood.
"When we return, our civilization will be destroyed. The only advanced technology will be the Ark, whose dedicated systems will be repopulating the Earth with randomly mutated clones. All else, will be gone. We will be back to to scratching our food from the very dirt of the Earth. Yes dirt," he added to the grimace on the General's faces at the thought of eating something grown from something so unwholesomely unclean and unengineered, "and it will taste the same.
"Our mission is different. We sail the Stars in the Vengaza because we are His people. And the blow, once struck, must be returned. Stronger! Let me be clear. Our mission is not one of simple destruction; it is of conquering. We go to the H'Rung to take the planet, and make it our own. For Him."
Excelsior watched their faces with satisfaction. They were, in their own narrow minded, zealoted way, quite intelligent. But they could not see the Forest for the trees. That this mission was beyond mere retribution; was far more than a return blow, had been deliberately held back from all so as not to weaken their ferocity. It was too late to change the strength of their focused hatred now, but he could certainly bend it. Ever so slightly, as the Master Pianist at the keys.
He left hem abruptly to deal with the Enchantress in a decidedly different, but equally effective, manner.
~ ~ ~
It was three days later Lord Admiral Excelsior stood ready in the Bridge as the Vengaza tore through the H'Rung atmosphere. Their welcome waited in a savage, purple plain far below. Behind him, all at attention, were his senior commanders. The Air General Bakker in his finest dragon skin flight suit, goggles at the ready with his atomic dragon goad in hand. General Gmion stood replete in the shining ceramosteel exo-armor of the Grand Knights, and bewtween them both stood the demure Enchantress. Her robe of translucent silk barely contained her otherwise naked, heaving breasts.
With the flames of entry into the hostile atmosphere finally dissipating Excelsior dismissed them to their charges. General Bakker climbed the towards the Dragon roost atop the ship, his thick, toughened riding boots dully echoing as he climbed. Gmion saluted once more in a way that seemed to foretell his own soon death. Excelsior had not thought Gmion would make it, but was pleased to know that Gmion knew it, too. He would fight all the harder to bring glory to his posthumity. The Enchantrass glided more than walked towards the Unicorn hold in the Vengaza's nose. Her bosoms swayed rhythmically with her stride, momentarily enchanting even the iron discipline of Excelsior's Bridge.
Tension filled the air.
Smoke still rose here and there from the hull as it touched down in the alien field, singing the undulating violet grasses. A ring soon formed a quarter mile from the ship: the H'Rung waited. Watched.
Through the view-port Excelsior looked out and quickly espied his counterpart. The large, offish looking H'Rung were both stronger and faster than the average man. Their thick, tough green hide was easily the equal of the lightly armored human foot soldiers. He could feel the blazing blackness of the enemy General's eye; almost smell the decaying meat still coating his tusk-like teeth.
It was time.
Excelsior's fist struck the console as he bellowed, "ATTACK!"
The top door to the Vengaza and three entire Legions of Dragons emerged. Intentionally semi starved on the trip, they saw a ready meal before them in the H'Rung, and swooped onto them breathing fire almost immediately.
Before the H'Rung could even finishing bracing for the Dragon's attack, the nose lifted and a thousand strong herd of Unicorns bearing the Enchantress and her Sisters across the plain in their silken robes. Their Unicorn's horns were shod in gleaming steel and their hooves in polished platinum, but no Unicorn would allow any cover to their silvery white hides. They rode across the plain forming a wedge aimed at the H'Rung General himself at the very heart of his Death Guard.
Behind the Unicorns the normal war horses rode. Clad in the same ceramosteel plates as their riders, the knights split into two to drive a wedge into the H'Rung. Their rider's lances shone in the midday light, glistening with their sharpened points so eager to extract the death of their foes. They, with their General, rode towards almost certain Death. Death, but for the Glory of God and Earth. Behind them came the lesser fighters. The Archers with their plasma infused, grenade tipped arrows, the men at arms with their atomically charged Halberds, and the lightly armed skirmishers who used their Shrieking Spears to sow confusion in the enemy ranks.
The Earth's mightiest of calvary was finally ground to a halt by the overwhelming mass of the H'Rungs they had slaughtered. General Gmion's Knights were soon pulled from their horses and, stripped of their armor, eagerly killed by uncivilized green hordes. Even though they took twenty or more of the savage H'Rung for each of their own killed, there were simply too many of the enemies. And being in such close proximity, not even the deadly accuracy of General Bakker's Dragon flames could effectively be used in their aid.
Instead, as planned, the Dragons split the barbarous defenders into thirds. The front third, although the most strategically important, but was deeply entrenched with the charging Knights and Unicorns. It was to the rear that the battle would turn, just as Excelsior had foreseen. He emerged in from the ship in a Chariot towed by twin Balrogs to marshal the foot soldiers to victory. Emboldened by the mere presence of their Liege, Lord Admiral, the foot soldiers, feeling the very will of their Commander and God course through them, could abide naught but victory either.
The rear left and right thirds were soon overwhelmed by the bravened foot soldiers and, so far from their own General, the Shrieking Spears soon broke the enemy's ranks, even as the plasma arrows rained down exploding, searing splotches of plasma amongst them. It was the these two rear flanks that eventually broke, just as Excelsior knew they would, running away in panic. Excelsior himself grabbed a bow and plasma arrow from a humbled foot soldier, and, from near half a mile away, aimed for the heart of the enemy General.
It was at that moment that the Enchantress herself, riding bare back on the lone remaining unicorn, stood on his hard, rippling back. She looked towards the H'Rung General and opened her arms to the air. Just as her Unicorn succumbed to a score of harsh swords, his golden blood spraying glitter across the trampled plain, she lept into the air. Her deep red hair swirled in the wind around her, enrapturing the H'Rung General in her beauty. Even as he stopped fighting and let his guard down that he could gaze longingly upon her unfettered, Lord Admiral Excelsior's plasma arrow fell from the sky, burying itself deep into his heart before exploding with a heat rivaled, only just, by the Sun.
The twin dawn of Avajj 9A and 9B cast a pale, cleansing light over the harsh battle scarred scene. The Unicorn's death throes had scattered glitter far and wide, and rainbows sadly swept to and fro, seeking for the lovers who would never return. The dragons too were dying, poisoned by the richness of the H'Rung's coppery blood. With the violence over, the Balrogs soon dissipated back into Shadow and Malice, leaving only the living humans and the dead of both Worlds. If not for the complete capitulation of the H'Rung after their General's prominent death, the Human's position would have been untenable.
As it was, Lord Admiral Excelsior alone knew just how close it had been as he walked the field. But he knew as well that God was truly on their side. General Bakker, as expected, had survived, but was morning the losses of his Dragons. It was in many ways an even harder blow after such a desisive victory for them. Excelsior had also found the body of General Gmion, alone save but for hundreds of dead H'Rung surrounding him. He ordered the General's body to be given great honors, and a statue to be erected on the spot of his death proclaiming his great deeds.
He was most pleased, however, when he found the Enchantress, alive but stunned, "I am sorry for the loss of your Unicorns and Sisters, but victory would not have been without them." She smiled at his compliment, and now that the battle was over, allowed herself the freedom to blush.
"I know, my Liege, I may also, finally, be a full woman, if you would do me the honor," she added, blushing even deeper.
"And so you shall, my Queen, and so I will," he said to her surprised face.
As they kissed, amidst the sullied ground of the purple field, the hope in their union overwhelmed the men, and it was long before the cheering ceased.