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Posted: 27-01-12' (10 years ago)
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He awoke in the ashes of a dead city. The cruel sun glared, its gaze flaying the atmosphere with heat. He shook himself. It was no dream. Not even a nightmare. His skinned burned beneath the unending solar furnace and the radiation lacerated the dead city causing its towering metal tatters to scream out as they were tortured by the heat. He shielded his eyes with a cracked palm and gazed out across the arid landscape, squinting through the haze and toxic fumes that rose from the decimated skulls of buildings. A gust of dry wind tore past, blowing grit into his eyes blinding him. Theros was not his home city, nor was Exthelon his native planet. How he had arrived was a misted blur of lights, sound; and blinding pain. He could not clearly recall any of the events immediately preceding his arrival. Random memories drifted about his head like leaves on a breath of wind, twisting to avoid his feeble grasp. He touched the wound on his temple and winced.

When he had first awoken on the planet he had managed to drag himself to the relative shelter of some old buildings, the sun-blistered carcass provided some small protection from the endless heat. He was not meant to be here he thought bitterly. This planet was a small detour on his flight back to his base and he had agreed to stop by investigating reports of attacks by roving bandits, who traversed the system, raiding, pillaging and destroying everything they could place their hands on. Obviously the reports were no mere idle gossip. He picked himself up and began to stumble, hunched over, towards the centre of the ruins. On his back he carried a rucksack, packed with food supplies he had rescued from the burning wreck of his ship, a short ranged beacon and the small, tarnished gold ring he had not worn for two years but had never been able to let go. As he continued through streets lined with withered, brown trees and the smells of scotched paint and metal he heard a rustle. He spun around but saw only the empty sockets of sightless windows and the burnt husks of vehicles. Suddenly his head was full of pain and flashing images of spinning, smoking fire blasted its way across his vision. The voice screamed, “Help!” Echoing like a razor off the inside head. Then the pain was gone and he was left gasping for breath feeling drained and weak.

He reached down and felt his pistol holster for reassurance and he took solace in the cold hard metal of the weapon. He neither felt safe nor secure in this broken, desolate place. He was not alone. He knew that as soon as he heard the rustle again, like sandpaper on stone. This time he saw a dark shadow flit across the edge of his vision. He loosened the clasp holding the gun in place. He kept walking, keeping his eyes fixed forwards, not giving any outward signs of having noticed anything; but another spasm of pain forced him to his knees. “Help!” Her voice shouted in his head the memory chiselling at his resolve. Fighting to stay alert he pressed on, his temples throbbing. He brushed sand from his eye lashes and blinked as dust swirled around him in eddying clouds. He pulled a hood up over his head to try to prevent his neck blistering. The ultra-violet radiation would soon take its toll on the planet. When the attackers left they seemed to have taken the ozone with them, stripping the planet of its protection. His sweat beaded on his forehead and he wiped at it only to find that it had evaporated almost instantly.

As he progressed and the sun rose higher into the sky he found that the streets narrowed and many parallel routes were blocked off, almost as if he was being hemmed in, herded by an unseen force. He was tense and the air around him hummed with a sort of anticipation. Then there was a dead end. Shocked, he tried to find away around the fallen rubble but to no avail. He swore to himself for walking into this obvious trap. The rustling came again and he slowly turned. Behind him stood a creature, its agile canine jaw protruding from a contorted leathery mask which was twisted in the likeness of a grin. It stood upon its hind legs like a man but hunched, beastlike, as though its arms were used in both running and manipulation. The monstrous talons curled and uncurled in barely concealed anticipation, its skin was a sickly orange hue under the light of the sun and its cruel, deep-set eyes were flecked blue and gold shining with an intensity that was not entirely alien. He tugged the blaster free and aimed at the creature’s ravening maw. He grinned manically and stood his ground. Like he had always said “laugh in the face of fear ...”. Had he always said that? He couldn’t quite remember the phrase and it made his head pound.

In a soothing voice he spoke to the thing.
“What big teeth you have. Take it easy. That’s right. Easy.” He slowly circled the creature. The scent of the creature was unbelievably foul, fetid meat and decay oozed from its very pores and stung his eyes. The beast let out a long low growl, booming out and echoing around the empty streets, filling the silence with thunderous cacophony of noise. It was an animal of both instinct and of a larger intelligence, he realised, watching closely for the slightest movement. It leapt with surprising speed and agility and he had barely enough time to dive clear before it jumped again. Two swift shots of blue energy blasted from the pistol in his hand. The monstrous thing yelped with surprise and pain. It scrabbled away with an almost comical expression of resentment on his face stumbling and falling backwards and he felt a sudden surge pity the thing. The noise of the discharges had attracted attention and the empathy drained away. He saw in the distance figures, leaping from roof to roof with feral ease, their orange hides shimmering in and out of focus. “Help… Help me!” The distant voice cried out. Then, almost so faint he could barely sense it. “Run.”

He turned and hurried away, stumbling in his haste on the blackened remains of a military officer, lying near the charred shell of his vehicle. The dead man still held a weapon, a weapon which was better than his own. He ripped it from the frail grasp and winced as the digits on the hand crumbled to dust. He checked the magazine in the weapon and he hurried on while behind him the ashes of the officer were whisked away on the acrid wind. They were gaining on him and whatever these things were they were not native to this planet. He knew he could not outrun all of them. He must find a defensible position from which to turn and fight. He saw the rising dome in front of him. He hurled himself onto the sloping sides and hauled himself hand over hand upwards. The scorching metal seared his palms and the sharp edges cut his fingers. “Run!” The voice urged, sending his senses reeling. His cracked skin bled as he laboured on but he ignored it, he had never bought into the whole death and glory, famous last stand propaganda but he had one last chance to leave something behind. Of all his mistakes he had made in his life, this was the one he least regretted. The automatic hung from a strap across his back and the pistol was safe in its holster. Reaching the lip of the small, flat platform at the summit, he heaved himself, panting, onto the baking surface. The creatures were almost at the edge of the dome by now. He paused, pulling a water flask from the pack taking a few swigs. Pulling the beacon from his bag he snapped open steel container and the screen inside lit up. Activating the recorded he said, “Do not come, Danger.” The beacon was not designed for long messages. He felt in the pocket of the rucksack and pulled out the ring and his guilt. He placed it carefully inside the beacon and snapped it shut again. By now the orange beasts had begun climbing soon they encircled the entire structure. Wave after wave of them grasped the lower edge and began the ascent. He would run out of ammo before he ran out of enemies he realised, his face sliding into an unwanted smile. He thought of having to go one on one with these huge creatures and how it would feel to be caught by a talon and thrown from the dome. “Goodbye” The voice was soothing now and he felt himself relax. “You will be ok. Forget me.”

The first of the beasts were in range, mouths wide open, calling and screeching with blood lust. He pulled the gun from his back and nonchalantly slung it in front of him. He opened fire. Bullets zinged and whistled, creatures plummeted thrashing and screaming until they hit the cracked earth below and were trampled beneath the seething mass. He turned in a slow circle, blasting at anything within firing distance. Slowly but surely the monsters gained ground. They were coming closer and closer and the loss of their fellows simply made them climb faster. As far as the eye could see there were shapes flitting about the desolation wreaked upon the land. His arms ached from the powerful recoil and prayed he would have ammo for a few more minutes. The clip emptied and he threw the weapon at the nearest beast, smacking it in the glinting eye and sending it spiralling backwards. It flailed as it fell, slashing many of his kind as it tumbled past.

Pulling the pistol out he continued to shoot. He sent of blasts of energy towards the surging tide of ravenous teeth and swishing claws that glinted in the deadly sun. Quicker than he realised that too was emptied of its ammo and he let it drop to the ground. The creatures receiving no opposition clambered up faster talons shrieking on the tortured metal structure. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He was hit with such force that the breath was knocked from his lungs. He was surprised that he did not feel the gouge of the beast’s claws and opened his eyes. The wind whipped past him as he sailed away from the platform. He was flying backwards off the dome. Creatures on the dome snatched at him and snarled as he sailed out of their reach. Those down below howled in excitement as their prey tumbled outwards and down towards them. He thought how beautiful everything looked now he could no longer feel the heat. That heat like fire which ripped through his home. His fists had scorched as he had hammered on the door, had numbed as he was dragged away by the officials. “Goodbye” still ringing in his ears.

The ship's hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don't.
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