Friday, April 26, 2013

‘W’ is for ‘Armed Conflict,’ or, ‘Escalating Hostilities,’ or, ‘Police Action.’



‘W’ is for ‘Armed Conflict,’ or, ‘Escalating Hostilities,’ or, ‘Police Action,’ or... what's the word...?

First he heard them. They were late, two hours since dawn, before crawling out of their holes, camps all hidden under the palm canopies, all out of sight. Three days of failed attempts to siege his position and their smartest decision had been to sleep where his crew couldn’t see them. The humans came groaning, and rustling over brush they couldn’t name, and scratching at infections they’d never seen, and hid. Hees heard them hide in the great walls of foliage below his hill, and glanced three eyes down into their pocket of the valley, at the lip of the only slope leading up the only high ground for a quarter of a league. It was a bump in the terrain compared to the canyon walls east and west, but it was the only foothold available if your empire wanted to siege across to the Uncanny Valley’s western cliffs.

Hees remained at the precipice, flies crawling through his hair and ears, and raised up the sauropod leg that ought to have been his breakfast. It sweated more than he did, and he smeared it across the trees around him, painting their bark with gore. So did Matou and Yaw’s crews, and Alpee and Hamam, even though they’d been up the entire night butchering. Further up they burned pyres of the stuff, dispersing a stench unbearable even with gum stuffed in his nostrils, and he glanced between all the panting and painting triclopes, then up to the southern sky. Only the faintest hint of smoke over the pissavas, and no rumbling yet. Doa was a day late.

Ten, then fifteen, then eighteen green and yellow uniforms in the basin below, their petty two-eyed lives leading them to believe they were hidden amid tall brush. The Empire’s soldiers wore trousers and sleeves, not at all suitable to this boiling climate. Yet they judged Hees and his crew as savages for painting the trees with carrion in their underwear. He heard them. They had the same number of ears as Hees and yet seemed to think he couldn’t hear them.

“Superstitious…”

“What is that smell?”

“I can hit that one.”

And the creak of a bowstring. Two bow-strings amid the leaves, distinct while attempting harmony. He prayed south for Doa to hurry, and for the smoke to hasten.

He jerked the stump of leg up and caught the arrows with two wet thucks. Then the foliage below parted, from the ground to the canopies, and his three eyes drowned in hundreds of humans. They unleashed a swarm of gilded arrows, glittering as they sailed up the slope. Hees rolled inland, but Yaw was struck in the shoulder, and their crews cried, and everyone reeled from the slope, leaving access bare. Into that nudity rushed flanks of humans behind tower shields, beating rhythms with spears, beneath the watch of their archers in the trees above.

Hees fell to the pens, but husky Alpee was already there, yanking an arrow from the wood and drawing its head to slash the bonds. Hees yanked open the cage and hollered inward, two heavy hoots, and their theropods spilled out. Three days of siege and they knew where they were allowed to feast. Twice as long as he was tall and tails erect behind them, swaying and sibilating, snapping their fangs. He spanked one in the hindquarters and snatched its head-crest, riding along its side back to the cusp of their ridge. The monolophosaurs didn’t care about archers, and they considered tower shields good landing spots. Hees had to release as his steed leapt off the ridge and on top of three humans, craning its jaws over their crumpling shields to gnash at them.

"Monolophosaurus" by Michael Skepnick
The monolophosaurs didn’t care about archers, but they felt pain, and they soon shrieked with it. The ground palpitated as the Empire’s specialized archers peeled through, spitting lightning up the hill. Three days their wizard snipers had finally arrived. All Hees could do was swing his sauropod arm and hurl it over the ledge, smashing one of the bastards in the face and painting him with gore.

The throw earned his perch a blast from their snipers, and the ground beneath his feet exploded. Alpee’s crew had to catch him, and two looked in his eyes, and he blinked assurance that he was alive, and they dumped him in the ferns. Good men and women, one and all.

His triclopes went to the ledge with javelins, and loosed the trebuchets, made from trees and launching stumps. He felt their impacts in his guts, a satisfying alternative to breakfast, until one half-fossilized stump froze still in the air. Then another, and a third, an insult to all triclopes, as those wizard snipers caught projectiles. In the next instant, they reversed and plummeted into the ranks of triclopes.

He inhaled in shock, and the stench of carrion painted everywhere made him retch. He must have wretched south, for several strings of smoke greeted his watering eyes, thick in the nearground.

“About time,” he muttered, rubbing a fist to his lips. A three-eyed banner waved briefly above the pissavas before it was ditched, and its triclopic owner ran for his life from his cattle. Doa. Three days was long for her to find and goad automatons into chasing her crew, but this close, autos would stay for the smell of biologicals.

Hees backed from the slopes, tugging at anyone near him, and hollering for them to fall back. The first Auto Drones punched through the tree-line, perfect spheres of rust and steel, smoke billowing their asses. They rolled at him, but he had high ground, and so they rolled at the Empire of Gold and Jade first. Wizard snipers sprayed them with lightning, and some drones stuttered, but were immediately climbed over by their kin. Dozens climbing upon dozens, fiery ports opening in their hulls, sucking in spears and arms and bodies.

Some Auto Drones ignored the feast of humans, spiraling spherical bodies up the slope and heading immediately for his fragrant high ground. They’d probably never smelled anything so appealing, and he left it to them. Already the jungle trembled for the crane arms of greater automatons, Mammoths and worse tearing near, who would soon impregnate this entire league of the Uncanny Valley. No one was going to be able to cross it. What a shame. He saluted to the scurrying humans before departing to find and congratulate Doa.

29 comments:

  1. That was certainly some conflict.

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  2. Sounds like you can't tell the teams apart without a scorecard :)

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  3. Quite a battle! This, I assume, is part of the Empire's attempt to bridge the Valley? Empires do have a way of overreaching, and it sounds like they're overreaching here.

    Minor edit: "wretch" should be "retch," if the stench is making our triclopes hero gag.

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  4. Remarkable, instensely dramatic yet very REAL post. I was there!
    Wonderful writing!

    jean xox!!!

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  5. This was like a 150-proof glass of Chaos of War.

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  6. Wow, great battle scene. Very intense.

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  7. Where does this all come from!! Very intense is right!
    KaTy Did at: Life's Ride As I See It

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  8. Very well choreographed, and a nicely grim battle. The names Hees and Yaw made me giggle, but that's because my grandparents watched Hee-Haw when I was a kid. I guess it's just one of the uncanny things about the Uncanny Valley.

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  9. I would never want to face one of those things, good thing I don't live in your world :)

    As far as the length goes, smaller paragraphs might have helped a little, but the picture did a great deal to break it up. Pictures and dialogue are awesome for blog posts!

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  10. I think the word you are looking for is Whoa!
    (uttered like an impressed Jeff Spicoli)

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  11. damn I backed the wrong side again. Stuck with my own species...

    marc nash

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  12. Wow, you've packed a lot into this one! Such visceral writing.

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  13. The grounds were trembling and I was shivering despite the heat.

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  14. As a blazing example of my sheer level of fatigue, at one point during the reading of your post, I thought the "monolophosaurs" said the "menopausosaurs". That's an entirely different beast from what I hear. Jennifer a.k.a Urban Gypsy Girl

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  15. Dang, that's some battle! It was interesting how much of their battle plan consisted of getting other species to do the killing. Seems like a very smart strategy to me.

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  16. Stunning! Your writing style reminds me very much of Roger Zelazny's short stories.

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  17. Your writing flows beautifully, and what a great battle scene!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  18. What a battle! Really amazing, the scene you create.

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  19. Blown away, too much to critique. Just awed.

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  20. Good bit of epic battle there and I liked the back and forth of it. One minor thing, after Hees is caught by his fellows he says "...good men and women, one and all." Are Alpee's crew human or triclops? It's very clear how different triclops consider themselves so I'm wondering if they'd want to share a descriptor with humans.

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  21. It's a good thing Doa showed up when she did otherwise the Empire was poised for victory.

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