The street bustled around him, simply enveloping him as one of them. He was no different on the outside, identical to any of the other blank faces that filled the street. He was a man marred by his history, he had betrayed those he had loved, he had given in to his desires. Although he knew he could never fix completely that which he had broken, he yearned for a way to redeem his name
James Reilly swore under his breath as he looked at his watch, realising he was running late for his interview. Surrounded by people, he still felt completely alone. He needed this job, without it he would have absolutely no way to support himself, and would have to bend his pride to ask for assistance in order to survive. That was something he did not want to do.
Reilly reached the door of the office with barely anytime to spare. He straightened his tie, and flattened his hair before knocking on the door firmly. The face of Dr Hugh Farth greeted him. He looked far from impressed. ‘Late Reilly, late. Get in here and take a seat, and try and convince me I need you in my company’. Reilly glanced at his watch. He didn’t even think to tell Farth that it was 11.58, and his interview was booked in for 12.00. He leveled his shoulders, and walked into Farth’s office.
‘You love to test me don’t you Reilly? Tell me, why do I need you in my company, what do you have to offer?’ Farth growled. ‘Well, I believe that…’ The floor rumbled beneath Reilly’s feet. ‘What the hell is that?’ Farth rumbled. Reilly looked out the window, and had to stop himself for crawling underneath the desk. Metallic pods slammed into the Earth, hundreds of them peppering the ground around him. Farth looked out, and said almost nonchalantly: ‘They’ve arrived’
Reilly heard a bestial roar as the door was shattered before his eyes. A hulking armoured lizard man rumbled into the office, holding a horrific looking sword. ‘Follow. Now’ he said in a guttural rendition of the English language. ‘Or die’. Not given much choice, Reilly and Farth followed the terrifying alien out of the room, and down on to the street. Reilly was surprised that he was able to hold himself together.
The brute lead Farth and Reilly outside the building, and pushed them into line along with hundreds of other civilians. Any who tried to resist were killed mercilessly, and thrown to the side, without a degree of emotion. The aliens didn’t even notice, continuing to march onwards, towards a looming spacecraft that had landed in the large park at the centre of the city. Storm clouds began to gather. Earth was under siege. All across the planet, similar situations were taking place-Earths people were being taken hostage.
* * *
Reilly was terrified. He had never felt fear quite like this. Farth had already given up. He was curled up in the corner of the cell, quite literally having given up on the world, and on life. Yet Reilly felt no such desire. He for one wanted to keep hold onto life for as long as possible, it was not something he was willing to give up. He had thought Farth to be a hard man, one who would not collapse under such pressures. Yet he had. Whilst fear filled Reilly’s heart, this seemed to only make him cling to life more tightly.
Every morning the lizard men patrolled the corridors, looking for those who had passed through the night. Without fail, there were some carted past Reilly’s cell every morning by these aliens, the Ghear as Reilly overheard one man. Yet, after a couple of nights, there were no more bodies. Only the strongest remained. And Reilly, the man who had been close to having no job, no one in his life, was amongst them.
* * *
They reached the Ghear’s planet as the sky was dark outside. A humid, tropical planet, it was as a close a replica to Earth in the galaxy as possible. Large trees covered its surface, the brutal Ghear paling in comparison to the other inhabitants of the planet Kazaldor. The Ghear needed slave labour to help mine a precious mineral out of the earth, so they set out to find sentient beings to fulfil such a role. A man kind was the first they found
* * *
Reilly stretched his shoulders, coughing as he inhaled dust from the air around him. He had been down the mine for over a week now. Farth had died yesterday, his body taken away by the Ghear. Reilly was surprised that on the very basic level he had survived, that his body had even made it this far. Something deep within him allowed him to keep fighting, and Reilly suspected that his tremendous pride, although coming close to being broken at times during his lifetime, kept him alive. And although he had first doubted that he would get this far, he now had no doubt of one thing-he would fight on.
“MOVE FASTER MAGGOTS, WE NEED TO BE AT LEAST THIRTY METRES DEEPER BY THE NEXT CYCLE” Gharthor bellowed at the weakling humans. “IT’S YOUR HEADS ON THE LINE IF WE DON’T!” Reilly swore under his breath as he wiped the sweat from his brow. His body was screaming for a rest, almost unable to take any more punishment. His arms ached as he swung the pick axe back down again, the impact sending shocks through his already weakened arms. He fell to his knees, nearing complete exhaustion. “GET BACK ON YOUR FEET YOU MEWLING MORSEL” the brute roared. A scaled hand reached down to grab Reilly by the neck. Without even thinking, almost completely instinctively, Reilly heaved the pick axe around, striking the reptile clean in the neck, the sharp pick embedding itself deep inside the scaled neck.
The mines burst into action. Whilst the Ghear were physically superior to the humans, in the tight mine shafts they struggled to swing there weapons around to full effect. However, those they did hit were instantly killed; their body’s broken by the immense swords of the Ghear. But numbers were on the miner’s side, and they soon overwhelmed their guardians, their reptilian faces pockmarked with holes from the picks. Reilly panted heavily, his actions fully fuelled by adrenalin now. He turned around to see similarly weary faces, some still holding bloody pick axes. Reilly bent down next to a dead lizard, and yanked the dagger out of the sheath. A much more fearsome weapon then his battered pick axe, he grabbed the sheath as well. At least the size of a sword in human hands, it certainly showed the sheer size of the beings. Hefting the weapon on his back, he trudged up towards the exit of the mine. Instinctively, the others followed him. Without even realising, James Reilly had become a leader.
Light shined into his eyes, something he hadn’t seen for over a week, its rays enriching his light deprived skin. Nigh on immeasurably tall trees were around him, the sounds of the jungle filling his ears. He had no idea what was out there, what residing amongst that dense foliage. He had limited skills, limited physical prowess and no knowledge whatsoever about this foreign landscape. He had no idea if he could survive out there. He turned to see the mass of people. He had no idea if we could survive out there. He hoisted his weapons, called for those who wanted to come to follow him, and took his first step into the jungle of Kazaldor.
The foliage closed around him, dampening the noise around him. Despite being surrounded by people, he felt like there was literally nobody near him. Sounds of the jungle filled his ears, sounds he had never heard before. Relief flooded over him as the group burst through into a wide open field, a lake in its centre. However, this relief was soon replaced with terror as a primal bellow burst forth out of the undergrowth.
The ground shook beneath Reilly’s feet as a monstrous creature burst forth from the undergrowth. Rippling with muscles, its fur covered body shuddering with every stride, claws fully unsheathed. It roared once more, its feline mouth revealing full set of terrifying teeth. Reilly set his shoulders as he stared into the creatures yellow eyes, the terrifying eyes staring back at him. He bounced the sword in his hand, and as the ferocious creature reached him, stepped aside. He swung the sword down with a roar, the sound coming from deep within him, seemingly unsolicited. He cut the lion like creature deep, eliciting a howl of pain as the weapon tore through the beast’s flesh. It tumbled to the ground, its forward left paw dangling limply. The ligaments and such essential for its movement were severed by Reilly’s blade. It stumbled around on the ground, kicking up dust as it tried to get to its feet. However, Reilly wouldn’t allow this to happen, and with a tremendous stab, drove his sword deep into the beast’s heart. A cheer rose up behind him. He wasn’t just a leader. He was now a hero.
Once again the ground beneath him began to rumble. Reilly prepared himself to fight once more, his lip turning into a snarl. But this time, it was something much less threatening, as Reilly gasped at what came into view. A herd of brachiosaur like creatures were plodding past, their heads high above the canopy, heading towards the lake near the centre of the vast opening. Smaller creatures ran about their legs, some as small as a chickens, but instead of feathers, were covered in fur. Night was closing in around him, as his stomach began to rumble. ‘Food’. ‘We need food’, he thought ‘as well as water’.
They reached the lakeside before true nightfall, the sun-like object still sending light over the horizon. He was worried how they would survive through the night, with minimal shelter and no light. They had gotten lucky though, as some had been able to catch some of the smaller creatures that had been scuttling around the feet of the larger brachiosaurs. Some irked at the thought of eating raw meat, but that quickly dispersed when the realised how hungry they were, the Ghear having rarely fed them whilst down the mines. Reilly was beginning to realise the extremity of his situation. He was on an alien planet, with no ‘back up’, no way even out of here. He had little shelter, little light. Luck had presented them with water and food, but one knows not to trust luck. And night was about to set in. He hoped the worst wasn’t yet to come
The sounds of the night filled Reilly’s ears, darkness closing in around him. The sun had set, the last vestiges of natural night disappearing. They had managed to set up a fire; a man had saved a packet of matches, luckily, the light creating shadows that danced across the nearby lake. He had set up a watch system, but Reilly planned to stay up all night anyway. A tall, muscled black man, who went by the name Frank Jones, was ex-Marine and his official second in charge. He saw shadows prowling around the edges of the light, much smaller than the monstrous Saber he had killed early today, but he could tell by the way the moved, that they wouldn’t mess around if they caught him. They would kill efficiently, and with ease.
Reilly prayed to whatever lived up there, whatever they called God on this planet. Nothing had bothered the camp during the night, none of the horrific creatures daring to breach the barrier that the fire had formed. Now the challenges of surviving through the day presented themselves. He had to find not food just for one, which would be an unenviable task in itself, but for a group of thirty. They had to figure out a way to make a more permanent house. Trees were all around him, but they had few tools, only a dozen or so pick axes from the mines, and Reilly’s seemingly eternally sharp knife from the Ghear. Water, luckily, was no issue, with the lake at their side. One less challenge, he thought to himself, but there was still plenty to do.
He set the men with pick axes to bring down some of the smaller trees, and if they couldn’t lug it over, to chop it into parts in order to allow them to carry them. If they still couldn’t do so, then they were to simply chop it up into firewood. Made for smashing their way through earth and rock, the pick axes were far from ideal for tree chopping, but like the sword that Reilly wore around his waist, were sharp, and very strong. The people with him were strong too. It sounded terrible to say, but the mines had weeded out the weak. All these people were fit, able to work. As such, they kept a good pace bringing down the trees. It was tough work, no doubt, but was absolutely necessary.
* * *
He followed the herd of Brachiosaur as they strode across the plain. He stalked silently through the tall grass, the monstrous herbivores immune to his presence. And rightly so. He was no threat to the creatures, but he was interested in ones the size of ostriches. With long necks and larges eyes, they were like the antelope of this world. They were bipedal, and moved with immense speed. The only way Reilly would ever catch them was through surprise, catching them off guard and as the dumb creatures tried to flee, cutting their throats. The creatures were so big that they could feed the troop for at least two days, and they would be eating well. He crouched lower, preparing his sword. One had split from the herd, stopping to graze. Reilly swore it would be his last action, as he leapt to his feet.
Reilly’s legs pumped underneath him, quickly traversing through the long grass. A bellow echoed through the air, the larger Brachiosaurs having spotted him. He didn’t care; his eyes were completely focussed upon the frightened looking Runner, alarmed by the Brachiosaurs braying. It was isolated from the herd, an easy target. It started to run, but Reilly was already on its back, tearing at it with the ever-sharp knife of the Ghear. With a ferocity that surprised himself, he brought the once majestic creature down, dead. He roared in delight. Food.
They had managed to keep the fire going. There was always someone stationed at it, always somebody to add more firewood. They only had limited matches, and they had no other way to start a fire. Therefore, the fire was always blazing. Reilly arrived home a hero, dragging the beast behind him. The men had been surprisingly efficient, with the camp surrounded by large logs, at least offering them some protection