12 Jul Chapter 41: Unstoppable
Trenauk orders his soldiers to cuff me and then take me to a personnel carrier parked on the barren field by the prison building. They throw me in and load in after me. We bounce on the hard benches as we’re driven on a bumpy unpaved road. The truck stops, and I’m taken up a wooden stairway that leads to the top of a dirt hill. It’s the first time I’ve been outside in ages, but the cold grey skies do nothing to cheer me up.
At the top of the stairway I see an alarming sight. Oliot soldiers. Thousands of them. I’m in the middle of a huge platform covering the top of the hill, with formations of soldiers on each side. I’m told to walk forwards, and as I get closer to the edge an even more horrifying scene reveals itself. An endless field stretches out beyond the platform, filled with military equipment arranged in a grid. There are tanks over there, two-person machine guns stacked up in front of me and piles of mortar shells to the side, and that’s just a fraction of what I can see from here.
Near the front of the platform a soldier backs me up against a large wooden crate and attaches my handcuffs to something behind me.
Various officers are taking their places on either side of me. Two soldiers carry a podium to the edge of the platform. The last of the officers seem to have taken their places. A horn blast sounds—I see that the officers and soldiers are now standing at attention.
Trenauk walks up to the podium which faces me and the formation of troops. He clears his throat and begins.
“Never has a more glorious day cast its light upon us, for this is the day our invasion of Threa begins.” I notice his voice is being amplified through old-style bullhorn speakers mounted on poles.
“Through our perseverance and cunning, we have secured the most powerful weaponry and fleet that has ever been assembled. The fighting force created by the historic Oliot-Plutoch partnership is unmatched. It is unstoppable!
“Listen to my words: this is the day you will spill blood for the glory of the Almighty, our Lord of Peace. This is the day you will conquer Threa and revel in her spoils. This is the day you will ride to victory!”
Another horn blast, followed by two quick cheers from the soldiers. There are so many of them the sound is deafening. Trenauk leaves the podium and stands right next to me.
“A sight to behold, isn’t it?” He’s looking out over the field filled with equipment. “It was so important to me that you be here today. I didn’t want you to miss seeing the agents of your planet’s defeat leave on their fateful journey.”
I feel really sick right now. All my worst nightmares, the fears that tormented me in that prison cell, all made real right here.
Trenauk smiles that slim smile of his, then looks up. “Oh, here they come.”
Here comes what? I squint and can just make out what looks like a faraway flock of birds. They get closer and I hear a faint noise. Now I can see they aren’t birds. They’re Bavul shuttles. Hundreds of them. The noise morphs into a low roar. Soon the sky is filled with shuttles—passenger models, cargo shuttles, and even larger types I’ve never seen before.
Each cargo shuttle heads towards a square on the grid; the passenger versions fly over our heads. The sight of them would be quite beautiful and awe inspiring if it wasn’t so bone-chilling.
Trenauk turns towards me. “Magnificent, isn’t it? There are over eight hundred shuttles in our—”
He’s interrupted by a flash of light and a loud cracking sound that reverberates through the air. I look towards the field and see another flash—it’s from a beam of light emanating from one of the shuttles. The beam hits a tank on the ground and splits it into two glowing orange halves. The accompanying noise hits us a fraction of a second later.
More flashes from more tightly focused beams of light run across the ground, cutting apart and scorching everything in their path. Explosions flare up all over the field sending waves of heat in our direction.
Trenauk looks around in a panic, his mouth dropping open. He’s hyperventilating. Some of the officers run away from the mayhem happening right in front of them.
All the shuttles are blasting the Oliot’s military arsenal now. White beams crisscross the field, destroying whatever hasn’t already been hit. The formations of soldiers break apart as hundreds run for their lives.
Trenauk has his hand up to shield his eyes from the blasts of heat. He faces the unfolding scene, then slowly turns his head and glares directly at me. Hate is in his eyes.
“What have you done? This is your fault, I know it!” He’s shrieking now. “If I cannot have my victory, you will not have your life!”
He pulls a knife out of his belt holster and holds it at waist level. He takes a step towards me, his face is pure rage. The knife blade is heading straight for my stomach. I try to flatten myself tight against the crate, but I can’t move back any further.
A blinding white light burns my eyes and a noise like all the surrounding air has torn open hits me. I blink, but the afterimage is so strong and I can barely see. My ears are ringing loudly.
I can just make out Trenauk in front of me, but he doesn’t look right. One of his arms and half his chest is missing. The skin next to the missing area is charred black and burning with embers. Trenauk looks down at himself, blinks, and then falls to the ground in a pile in front of me.
The few remaining officers on the platform turn and run, and I see that all the troops have fled by now. The field ahead is a burning wasteland. The shuttles hover above the destruction, a few still blasting beams at what remains below. Then like a synchronized flock of birds, all the shuttles rotate and rise up into the sky at once. They shrink in my view until they’re little black dots, fading into the grey gloom above.
Except for one. To my left, a passenger shuttle has just landed on the platform. The door swings open and five people exit. Two of them walk towards me and I notice they are very short and completely bald.
One reaches behind me and I feel the handcuffs being removed. I gingerly stretch my aching shoulders and rub my wrists. A woman who looks older than the rest comes to a stop in front of me. She’s a full head shorter than me, and I see she has a tiny metal curved plate embedded in her skin right above her ear.
“I am Hroepal of the Bavul Security Council. We wish to thank you for alerting us to the Oliot plan.” Her voice is strangely melodious.
“You got my messages? I thought that was a lost cause.” I’m in such a state I’m amazed I can get any words out at all.
“While investigating several anomalies we discovered your coded communications. The information you provided pointed us down certain avenues that we would have not thought to explore on our own. Because of the help you provided, an immeasurable tragedy has been avoided… as well as a public relations catastrophe for us.” She coughs after that last part.
Hroepal bows her head and continues. “We humbly ask if there is any way we may repay you. We apologize in advance if nothing we could offer will equal the debt we owe.”
I don’t have to think very hard about my answer. “Well, there is something you could help with…”