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The Broken Clock - Time for a Last Stand


Sedrin Belasi
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The rain poured down the outside of the small hut. The squad huddled in the tiny structure, trying to get some respite from the tempest lashing all around them. Lieutenant Weyland looked out of the cracked window. He knew his foes would not let some inclement weather dampen their bloodlust.

The war was going badly, very badly. It had been several months now since the alien ‘Army of Execution’ had landed on Byzatium, and systematically marched across the planet, laying waste to everything and everyone they had come across. These giant, ruthless Pythron warriors – trained for war since birth – were the most formidable fighters in the sector. By contrast, Byzatium’s motley assortment of armed civilians, raw cadets, aged veterans and mercenaries were no real match for the blond war machine. Nevertheless, the Byzallians had no choice but to resist and fight to their last phaser charge.

The storm slowly but steadily abated as the sun began to sink lower in the sky. A blood red glow began to form along with the growing shadows. There was a sound reminiscent of distant thunder, booming beyond the dark ruins that surrounded the small encampment.

“Not long now” whispered Weyland to himself, looking at his grandfather’s pocket watch. Soon their last serviceable craft would ferry their people across the wide ocean to their last redoubt. They just needed to hold off the Pythron advance long enough to allow them to launch the ships from the hoverport, at 5.30am, local time!

The young officer wiped the sweat from his forehead, and exited the ruined hut and went a few steps up the grassy bank next to the building. He scanned the horizon for any hint of enemy movement, but even with keen eyesight, he could see nothing. Not a thing was alive out there. Had their artillery been that accurate? Impossible! The enemy was hiding.... somewhere. Waiting to pounce.

The weary crimson sun neared the hill tops, taking what little comforting warmth it gave with it - apparently deserting the ruins and battered forests to their fate. A cold wind rushed down the valley, howling around the bombed-out building where the small squad of soldiers were awaiting their orders. It had been nearly a week now since they had seen sent on their mission, and all were getting anxious. There had been minimal communications with their superiors. It was now just a matter of basic, animalistic survival for them. Weyland sighed, replaced his gun in his belt and scrambled back down the rubble-strewn slope to his patrol. He found them huddled around a small fire, trying to keep warm. Their ragged uniforms did little to help keep out the cold, and their hunger went beyond anything they had experienced before, their bellies almost stuck to their backbones.

Weyland himself had only joined the partisans a few months ago, and he was already an officer – with ten men (or more accurately boys) under his command. At twenty, he was the oldest by three years - no match for the opposition they now had to face.

“Get some sleep guys. Tomorrow, I feel, is going to be show time” he ordered.

“Shall I take first watch?” asked Corporal Gryphon, eagerly.

“No thank you corporal” replied Weyland, “I’ll do that, you get some rest.”

As his patrol found what little space they could around the dying embers of the campfire, Weyland turned away to look once again at the dark hills. He knew it was going to be a long night…

* * *

At about 5am, Weyland sprang to his feet. The sleeping bodies of his troops still lay about him, but there was definitely something amiss. The lieutenant’s intuition sensed something in the air that foretold danger. He reached for his binoculars, and ran back up to the look-out on the old ruin building, desperate to check the horizons for the enemy and cursing his commanders for not keeping him informed of the latest developments.

Standing tall, he strained his eyes through the lenses – searching for the slightest blip. The darkness meant that he needed the night vision function on the binoculars – but after weeks of being dragged through mud, they were malfunctioning.

“How the hell can we stop ‘them’ if we haven’t got the tools to do it?” growled the young officer to himself in desperation. Indeed, ever since the day when ‘they’ had come, all meaningful Byzallian technology had become obsolete. To be honest, all civilisation was on the brink of collapse. Cities had crumbled, people destroyed in the most sickening ways imaginable. It was also on that Day that the life he had known died forever.

“What’s the verdict sir?” came the voice of Sergeant Tyndall from half way up the slope.

“Nothing so far, Sergeant.” replied the lieutenant. “Just the usual devastation and.....”

He hesitated.

“Darn it – they’re coming! Get the men up!” he barked to Tyndall.

“Yes sir!” came the muffled reply, as the boy scampered back down the hill to the camp.

“So this is it.” mused the lieutenant. “Time to meet the family…”

He followed Tyndall back down the slope, charging his gun as he went. Upon reaching the camp, he quickly checked that everyone was ready. The gloom hid the anxious looks on their faces. This would be their last action.

“Right lads. This is it. This is what we’ve been waiting for. We are going to stop those Pythron scum in their tracks. They’ve taken our homes, our families, our lands – but blast it – we’ll make them pay! You know the drill – good luck everyone!” bellowed Weyland, with as much firmness as his own shaky nerves would allow. The patrol scrambled to the cover of a low wall, with the remnants of a hedge on one side. Little vegetation grew on Byzatium.

“Right lads. Hold your fire.”

“I can see them now sir.” whispered Gryphon, his numbed finger pressing slightly on the trigger.

“Hold your fire. They haven’t seen us yet. They are still reconnoitring.” replied the officer.

BLAM!

Corporal Gryphon’s rifle let off a string of phaser shots at the dark loping shapes in the distance.

“Darn it corporal. I told you to wait.” shouted Weyland, but it was too late. The horde had been alerted – and the black mass began stalking towards their position.

“Let ‘em have it!” barked Weyland, and his troops opened fire on the enemy. Rows of the black shapes fell, or appeared to fall, in the gloom. Were they simply being replaced by more and more? In what little light there was, the lieutenant could make out the hideous onslaught. Giants in gleaming armour, and motorised transports – relentless - lurching towards them, momentarily silhouetted against the moon light and phaser flashes.

For about twenty minutes the gunfight continued. The Byzallian lads were starting to get low on charges – and still the dark foe continued towards them. Weyland scooted up and down the line, shouting encouragement – and letting off the occasional shot with his hand gun.

Suddenly something whistled past his ear. Spinning round, the lieutenant saw a group of ironclad warriors approaching from cover of the buildings behind him. They were also firing what appeared to be poisoned darts – judging by the effect it had had on at least one of his patrol.

“Quick men. Rear attack!” he called, but it was too late. Through stealth and superhuman abilities, the frontal attack had already reached the Byzallian’s position in only a fraction of the time expected. Cries of pain were briefly heard over the howl and cheers of the attackers.

“Fall back!” shouted Lieutenant Weyland, but the situation had already become hopeless. In the gloom he could barely make out anything of what was happening, but he had already thought he’d counted more death cries than he had soldiers under his command. Just then, in a flash of gunfire, the Weyland saw Sergeant Tyndall wrestling with some Pythron behemoth with metal spiked gloves. The lieutenant began to run along the hedge, trying to reach Tyndall, but the muddy ground slowed him considerably.

Wham! Wham! Splut!

A hail of projectiles erupted around his feet as he continued running. He had almost reached his struggling second-in-command when a razor dart found its mark. Weyland fell to the ground, clutching his shoulder. Desperately, he tried to crawl along the ground – in a defiant yet pointless effort to reach what was left of his patrol. Blood was trickling down his arm, staining his khaki and grey uniform. Weyland’s head spun as the toxin took effect, while the Pythrons surrounded his prone form, talking to each other in a harsh guttural language, their weapons all aimed at his head.

“What you waiting for? You got what you wanted? Our planet stained with our blood?” he shouted. A rifle butt to the head silenced any more protest.

Spotting a shining piece of metal poking out of Weyland’s jacket pocket, one of the Pythron’s knelt down, and picked up the young man’s pocket watch. The glass front was smashed and the half the internal workings were hanging out the back, the time forever stuck 5.32am.

In the distance, there was another roar. This time of hover engines. Looking up, the Pythron warrior scowled as several large Byzallian craft hovered on the horizon and then disappeared into the haze to safety.

Edited by Eyas Wulfantine
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