On the far-flung planet of Hayveon Blaze, a plucky army commander, is fighting a seemingly hopeless battle. In a universe where empires span solar systems, a great war has split the galaxy into three. UCEF, the Union of Creature Energy Force, is an alliance of aliens fighting for freedom and justice. But set against the Cosmaratic Empire and the Barrens, an empire with mind-controlled citizens, UCEF must achieve the impossible in order to win peace.
The room rang with the sound of boots on metal and marching feet as the valiant defenders of Hayveon made their way to the lower levels. Blaze scanned the entrances to the main room, trying to gauge via which the Barrens would enter first. Several Dinos with larger energy weapons had stayed behind with him and were taking up positions, covering the corridors their paws nervously clenched around triggers. Blaze himself stood in the middle of the room at the top of the stairs, footpaws braced and energy cannon at the ready. He would buy those beneath him as much time as he could. If the majority of their force could reach the caves they would last for longer than if they tried to fight here.
“Point the lamps down the corridors, blind the Barrens as they enter; force them to march into the light,” Blaze instructed. Six of the Dinos jumped to obey his command, repositioning the large lamps so that they aimed directly down the corridors, so as to dazzle any intruders.
“We’ll regroup shortly,” Blaze said over the comms channel to the Dino at the caves. “We’re going to slow the Barrens here for as long as we can before joining you.”
“Okay sir, I’ve marked the location of storeroom L3 on your map so you know where to fall back to,” came the reply. Blaze nodded in satisfaction as a marker blinked into existence on the tactical overlay of the base displayed on his visor, it highlighted a room two floors down. “We’ll see you soon,” the Dino added, almost as if he was reassuring himself that his commander would survive.
Blaze took a deep breath and returned his full attention to the main room whilst trying to ignore the pain in his leg. A hushed silence fell as the noise of footfalls receded into the dark depths below. All that was left was the sound of shuffling soldiers as they readjusted their positions and the rasp of nervous breaths. The boom of artillery and explosions had ceased; the Barrens knew they had their foe cornered and trapped.
Quiet voices drifted into Blaze’s mind during the silence, what was the point? What would he achieve by protecting the Dinos, just so that they could make it to the caves? It only meant they would die further underground. They were simply prolonging the end in a desperate bid to bring just a few more Barrens down with them, but it would only be a mere drop in the ocean, there were far more Barrens where they came from.
Then the answer came to him, reassuring in its simplicity, he was a soldier, he was trained to fight and he would not stop fighting until he exhaled his last breath. As long as they fought there was hope.
A dull explosion echoed through the corridors, bringing a shower of dust from the already abused ceiling. The Barrens were coming in.
“Remember, we don’t die here! Give them all you have, but as soon as they push forwards we move to the caves,” Blaze ordered, his amplified voice booming in the darkened room. Heads bobbed and the gathered Dinos lined up their sights with the leftmost corridor from which the noise had emanated.
Shouts sounded in the dark as orders were yelled, then the first blue uniform appeared. The Barren squinted like a milce caught in the headlights of a hover vehicle, highlighted by the bright light from a working lamp. A single shot sounded as one of the Dinos squeezed his trigger, punching the Barren down with a stab of green energy. Then more came and the Dinos opened fire, heavy guns unleashing a torrent of energy blasts into the oncoming Barrens. Blaze scanned the other corridors, knowing the Barrens were likely to try and rush them from all directions at once.
“Watch the other corridors, this is probably a distraction!” Blaze’s voice shouted over the discharge of energy weapons. Sure enough Barrens appeared in three of the other five corridors. Guns roared, energy blasts spat back and forth, the Barrens firing blindly into the main room.
Blaze aimed his cannon down the rightmost corridor and let drive, adding his firepower to the killing zone. One Barren pointed a grenade launcher round the corner, firing wildly down the corridor. His aim was off and it exploded against the corridor wall with a bright flash, hurling shrapnel in both directions.
“Aghh!” One of the Dinos cried out caught by a piece. Still the Barrens came, picking their way over the bodies of their fallen comrades.
“Sir, they’re bringing energy shields!” A Dino yelled. Blaze flicked his head round and saw a group of Barrens advancing behind the cover of a portable energy shield, green blasts splashing harmlessly against it.
“Okay, everybody back!” Blaze ordered, he pointed his cannon at the wall above that corridors entrance and unleashed a torrent of blasts. Stone cracked, another Dino added to his fire, blasting the wall with a volley of green shots. With a thunder of falling concmetal it gave and the roof came down, temporarily blocking that corridor. “To the caves!”
The Dinos hoisted their weapons, retrieving them from their rests, before running from cover to the stairs. Blue energy blasts shot into the room as the Barrens were finally relieved of the suppressive fire. Blaze waited until all of the Dinos had run past him, then began walking backwards down the stairs, firing as he went. He was pleased and relieved to note that none of his brothers had fallen, one had a shrapnel wound on his shoulder but nothing more. Being careful not to put too much weight on his right leg he followed his soldiers into the darkness of the lower levels. He hoped he had bought the others enough time to reach the caves and to get dug in, because he could not give them any longer. The Barrens would swamp the main room now. As soon as he had gone too far down the stairs to be able to shoot into the main room, he turned and began a limping jog after the Dinos as they hurried downwards, down towards the caves and the final stand of the defenders of Hayveon.
Look out for Part 24 of Mathew Gill’s story!