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The Battle of Tributon
The PT22 streaked across the treetops of Southern Tributon hoping to avoid radar detection. Aboard the small transport jet was Captain Leek Lanzia on his way to join up with the 3rd Loyalist Army, the new name for the old mutant army, which was about to engage the enemy along the Rini River. On Earth Leek Lanzia was known as Peter Turner, and many on Tarizon believed he was the one the Prophecy had predicted would come to save Tarizon from the tyrant, Videl Lai. Nobody knew the source of the Prophecy, but it first surfaced shortly after the unification of Tarizon under the Supreme Mandate by the holy one, Sandee Brahn. The Prophecy forewarned of dark, desperate days for Tarizon and the rise of a ruthless dictator who would enslave anyone who refused to abide his will. Thirteen cycles later a series of super volcanic eruptions enshrouded the planet in dark poisonous gases that killed billions of humans and other life forms and threatened the very existence of life on Tarizon. Fortunately the Prophecy promised an eventual end to the planetís doom.
When the sun and the moons align,
amongst the Earthchildren will come
one wise and pure in heart.
A man of humble birth,
who'll tame the savage rhutz,
unite those who'd have liberty
and justice restored to Tarizon,
and rid it of its evil tyrant.
Known as The Liberator,
he'll restore the Supreme Mandate
and free from bondage
The mutants, seafolken, and nanomites.
Even though the enemy outnumbered the Loyalists ten to one and theyíd likely be slaughtered in battle, Leekís mind was not on that imminent peril, but on his mate Lucinda whoíd recently fallen into the hands of the enemy. Since that tragic event heíd been scarcely able to think of anything else but the urgent need to rescue her and the baby she carried in her womb. He played the words of Videl Laiís closest confidant, Rupra Bruda, over and over in his mind. "... youíll never see your darling Lucinda again. Videl plans to parade her through the streets to show the citizens of Tarizon how impotent you are. The crowds will spit on her, and then they'll hang her in a public place so everyone will know what happens to traitors! ..."
He had learned that Lucinda was being held in the capital city of Shisk on the continent of Turvin. He had lived there for a while when he first came to Tarizon and knew it well. To rescue Lucinda in the deepest, most secure part of the enemyís territory would be suicide, yet it had to be done, because, to Leek, death would be preferable to a life without Lucinda and their child.
Joining Leek on the PT22 were Lt. Loonas Levitur from Merria, known by his friends as Red, Lt. Tamurus Lavendar from Serie, who everyone called Tam, and Rhin, a life form known as the rhutz, who had bonded with Leek soon after they first met over a cycle earlier. Their destination was a small town called Gulh where the 3rd Loyalist Army had hastily built a military base.
"So, how do you plan to take command of this army when you know nothing about it?" Red asked cautiously.
"Oh, Iím not really going to command it. Iím sure they have capable officers who can do that. Iím just here to reassure the soldiers that the Prophecy is real and that Sandee is behind them."
"I donít know," Red replied. "While you were off giving speeches at the investiture, I spoke with several mutant officers and, believe me, they have higher expectations of you."
Leek sighed. "Well, they may be in for a disappointment. The only knowledge I have of the mutant army comes from the memories Threebeard gave me during my brief telepathic training."
"Well, thatís a start. What do you remember?"
Leek closed his eyes. "The armyís been in existence for less than a cycle."
"Youíre kidding?" Red gasped.
"I know. It gets worse. There were only about ten thousand seasoned soldiers with military training when they began to organize it. Out of necessity these ten thousand were made officers and given the task of training the other 990,000 or so soldiers. Since the TGA didnít allow mutants to be officers, none of them had leadership or advanced training of any sort."
"Wonderful," Red moaned.
"The biggest problem, though, has been outfitting the soldiers. Videl Lai has been monitoring all military supply outlets, so Threebeard had to go to the black market to get uniforms, equipment, weapons, and supplies. As a result, most of what they have to offer is old, outmoded stock."
"What kind of weaponry can you get on the black market?" Red asked.
"Rifles, pistols, power knives, impact grenades, gravel mines, bayonetsóoccasionally a portable Muscan missile launcher, if youíre luckyóthatís about it," Leek replied.
Leek laughed. "A fewóa thousand or so if weíre lucky."
Red shook his head. "Weíre going to get slaughtered."
Tam, whoíd been sleeping, sat up and stretched. "You forget that many mutants have gifts and powers that will be more valuable than any laser."
"Thatís true," Leek said. "They did an excellent job of getting us into the TGA detention compound to rescue Lorin and General Zitor."
"That was an elite group that assisted us," Red noted. "You wonít see that kind of talent throughout the mutant army."
"Maybe not," Tam replied, "but we must carefully assess those kind of skills and use them to our advantage."
The pilotís voice came over the intercom. "Weíve got a couple TGA fighters on our tail. Taking evasive action."
The jet abruptly began to climb, banked sharply starboard, and then dropped into a narrow gorge.
"How much farther, I wonder?" Leek asked evenly, not seeming to notice the planeís violent lurch and downward plunge.
Tam looked down at his data pod and said, "Just two or three loons according to my calculations."
"Whereíd you get a data pod?" Leek asked.
"Lorin gave it to me before we left. Iíve got one for you and Red too."
"Good. They will come in handy."
The pilotís voice came over the intercom. "A missile has locked on! Ejecting decoys."
Red peered out the portal and swallowed hard. "Oh, Sandee! Have mercy."
There was a explosion from behind them. The plane accelerated and then rocked wildly. "Hold on," the pilotís voice said. "Prepare for landing."
The three soldiers braced themselves as the small jet hit the runway hard and rolled to an abrupt stop. They were up on their feet quickly as it was apparent the base was under attack. Leek pushed a button, the cabin door retracted, and a disembarkation ramp slid into place. Rhin rushed down it to the ground and began sniffing around. Leek stepped out and gazed over the battle zone.
A small contingent of mutant soldiers rolled up in personal transporters, normally referred to as PTVs, and jumped out. "Captain Lanzia! You must leave immediately. The base is under attack and the enemy is less than a kylod away."
Leek looked out at a panorama of explosions, burning buildings, and heavy smoke billowing into the sky. "Whereís Lt. Leode?"
"Heís in an emergency meeting with his command staff trying to keep them from taking their men and fleeing to the Doral Mountains."
"Why would they do that? Are they a bunch of cowards?"
"No. Itís just that weíre not ready. We werenít expecting an attack for thirty days. This has taken us completely by surprise. Iím afraid if we try to engage them, it will be a slaughter."
"Whatís your name?"
"Iím Sergeant Hawkh."
"Well, Sergeant. I appreciate your concern, but we came here to fight."
"The situation is hopeless. Canít you see that? If you donít leave now youíll be killed and, with you gone, the war will be over."
"I think you overestimate my importance. Iím just but one soldier."
Sergeant Hawkh looked at Leek and then back at the battle scene. "All right. Iíll take you to Lt. Leode, but heíll be angry. My orders were to get you back on your plane and out of danger."
"Thank you, Sergeant. Iíll tell the lieutenant it wasnít your fault."
Sergeant Hawkh shrugged as Leek, Tam, and Red disembarked. Just as Red stepped onto solid pavement, a low-flying fighter, bearing markings of Tarizonís Global Army, or the TGA, streaked by dropping a string of cluster bombs. About twenty feet off the ground the cluster of twenty bombs shot out in every direction. Fear gripped Leek as a bomb narrowly missed him and his companions. There were explosions all across the runway turning it into a heap of concrete and rubble. Leek turned and looked on in horror as the last bomb headed straight at them.
"Run!" Leek screamed just before the bomb hit the PT22 and it exploded. Red, Tam and most of the soldiers managed to dive into a ditch beside the runway, but one of the mutant soldiers was hit by shrapnel from the exploding plane before he could find cover. The piece of mangled metal severed his spinal cord, killing him instantly.
Sergeant Hawkh ran over to him and felt for a pulse. Leek dusted himself off and staggered over to help out. "Heís dead," the sergeant said.
"Iím sorry, Sergeant," Leek replied softly. "Is there anything we can do?"
"No. The medics will be here in a few tiks and theyíll take care of him."
Leek nodded and then looked over at the burning PT22. "So much for turning around and going home."
Red suddenly appeared out of the ditch holding a blood soaked handkerchief on his arm. He was sweating profusely and breathing heavily.
Leek rushed over to him."Are you okay?"
"Itís nothing. Iíll live. What are we going to do now?"
"Whatever weíre ordered to do," Leek responded.
"Sorry about all this," Sgt. Hawkh said. "Youíre lucky you got here at all with the number of fighters the TGA has in the sky today."
"How long has this attack been going on?" Leek asked.
"The fighters have been softening us up for two days now. Command expects two armored divisions here in a few kyloons and six infantry divisions right behind them."
Leekís stomach turned. He looked at Tam and Red and shook his head. "I sure hope Lt. Leode convinced his men to stay and fight."
Tam and Red didnít respond but just stared out over the vast camp of mutant soldiers readying for battle. There were endless rows of camocubes, transport vehicles, piles of armaments and supplies of every sort. As they were surveying the camp, a PTV pulled up and Sergeant Hawkh motioned for them to get aboard. Rhin jumped in and the others followed. The PTV began to move slowly along the crowded roadway that led through the base for some time until it finally reached a large bunker. Sgt. Hawkh got out and led Leek and his friends inside.
They went down several flights of stairs until they were deep underground. A soldier met them at the bottom and escorted them to the battle room. Lt. Leode was talking excitedly to one of his junior officers when he spotted Leek step inside.
"Captain Lanzia! What are you doing here? I told the sergeant to send you home."
"Iím afraid the TGA has destroyed our PT22 and your runway as well."
He shook his head. "Youíve come at a bad time. Weíre about to go into battle. Thereís no time to deal with you."
"Deal with me?"
"Right. I canít be distracted right now. Sgt. Hawkh will have to look after you until this battle is over."
"Canít we help?"
"Thereís no time," he replied angrily. "The enemy is pounding at our door."
"Of course," Leek agreed. "Weíll stay out of your way."
"Thank you," he said and then rushed off.
Leek scratched his head and looked around. Many of soldiers were staring at Rhin.
One of them asked, "This is your rhutz?"
"Yes," Leek replied. "Meet Rhin."
The soldier raised his eyebrows and backed away.
Leek smiled and looked at Sgt. Hawkh. "I donít think Lt. Leode is happy about our arrival."
"No. Iím afraid not. Heís not a believer in the Prophecy, but the soldiers will be glad to hear you have arrived."
"Yeah, a big help weíre going to be. All our gear blew up in the plane."
"Donít worry," Sgt Hawkh said. "Weíll have you refitted immediately."
"Thank you. Itís doesnít sound like we have much time."
"Yes, Iím afraid not."
"So, do we have any chance at all of stopping the TGAís attack?"
Sgt. Hawkh forced a smile."Well, now that youíre here the morale of the troops will go up a notch. Iím sure weíll give them a hell of a fight."
Leek glanced over at Red and Tam, then back to Sgt. Hawkh. He wasnít surprised by Lt. Leodeís obvious resentment at his arrival on the eve of battle. He knew heíd feel the same way if the circumstances were reversed. He wondered if there really was anything he could do at this late date to change the mutant armyís fate. "Can you give me a quick assessment of the situation?" Leek asked.
"Certainly," Sgt. Hawkh said, strolling over to a map of southern Lamaine Shane. He pointed to the southeast border between Tributon and Quori. "We are here near Gulh. Just to our south is the Rini River. It runs from the base of the Doral Mountains some two hundred and fifty kylods to the Coral Sea. About a quarter million troops are positioned along that border. To the north, the Liehn River runs approximately fifty kylods from the Doral Mountains to the Dark Sea. We have about a hundred thousand troops there. Another fifty thousand troops patrol the Doral Mountains. The rest of the army is in Northern Tributon and Southern Rigimol."
"What about the TGA?" Leek asked.
"They have nearly a million soldiers along the Rini River and another half million north of Gallion along the Liehn River. Troop concentrations suggest a three pronged attack in the north across the Lienh into Rigimol, just below the Doral Mountains across the Rini River toward Rizi, and in the southeast across the Rini River toward Gulh."
"What kind of armor do they have?"
"Their standard armored vehicle is the Lutzva Hovertank. Itís very fast, equipped with a long range turbo laser blaster, twin Muscan missile launchers, and with its lemdinium shell is nearly indestructible."
"What about air power?" Leek asked.
"The TGA has a squadron of two thousand fighters based in central Quori near Mapi. They have another smaller one near Gallion to the north."
"What do we have?"
"Ah, not much, Iím afraid. Just the fighters you and your friends stole from Pogo Island and the ones that made it up here after the battle of Lortec. Iíd say a hundred at best."
Leek felt sick but tried not to show it. He forced a smile and asked, "So, whatís your command structure?"
"Colonel Shanziba is in charge of the 3rd Loyalist Army. Heís touring in the north today. Like I said, we didnít expect the attack to begin so soon. Major Linz is the second in command and is on his way here to meet you."
A wave of despair washed over Leek. He wondered what he would say to Major Linz when he showed up. Heíd expect brilliant ideas and insights into how to meet the TGAís imminent attack, but Leek didnít think he had any. He wondered what Tam and Red thought about the situation.
"While we are waiting for Major Linz, is there somewhere we might get a bite to eat?" Leek asked.
"Of course, I apologize for not offering you anything."
"Itís no problem. I just think better with a full stomach."
Sgt. Hawkh led Leek, Rhin, Tam and Red to the officersí dining hall where he excused himself to go arrange to get them outfitted. A sober-looking chef gave them the dayís standard rations and a cup of luri. Leek stared at the red liquid in his cup.
"Luri," Red advised. "Itís a drink made from the luri berry which is very common in these parts."
"Hmm." Leek said as he cautiously took a drink. He raised his eyebrows. "Not bad. Kinda like our cranberry juice back on Earth."
A loud thunderous clap shook the building. Red and Tam looked up nervously.
"So, you think theyíre going to run over us?" Red asked.
"Not necessarily," Tam replied. "You keep forgetting the mutantís extraordinary abilities."
"Oh, I doubt being able to read someoneís mind is going to stop a hovertank."
"No, but being able to strangle the driver with your thoughts might do it," Tam retorted.
"Sure, but not every mutant can do that. Iíve only heard of a few with that kind of talent."
"Stop it," Leek said angrily. "Iím sure the command staff will be putting the mutantís talents to good use. We can ask Major Linz about it when we see him."
"Speaking of hovertanks. We need to learn more about them," Tam said. "They must have a weakness. No hardware Iíve ever seen is perfect."
"Weíll ask Sgt. Hawkh about them when he returns," Leek replied.
"What are we going to do when the battle begins?" Red asked.
"Maybe theyíll let us borrow some fighters," Tam replied. "Weíd be a lot more help in the air than on the ground."
"I donít know what plans Major Linz has for us," Leek said. "I guess weíll just have to wait and see."
When they got back to the battle room, Major Linz was waiting for them. "Captain Lanzia, itís so good to finally meet you. I heard your address at the investiture. It was quite moving."
"Thank you. It was such a shock to have the Chancellor assassinated right in front of our eyes. Iím afraid I went a little bit crazy."
"It was just what was needed to keep the people committed to resisting the TGA and defeating Videl Lai and the Purists." He looked at Rhin and smiled. "And Rhin. How remarkable it was that she sensed the traitor and stopped his attack."
"Yes, sheís done that more than once."
"So, Major," Leek asked. "How can we help when the TGA forces get here?"
"Youíve already helped. Your presence during the battle will give the soldiers great confidence and hope."
"But we want to fight."
"No. No. That would be too dangerous. Sgt. Hawkh has a vehicle with your gear packed up and ready to go. Heís going to take you out of the battle area until we can arrange transport out of here."
"Weíll do as you order, of course, but weíd be happy to fight. Weíre all pretty good pilots. We thought we might be of greater value in the sky."
Major Linz shook his head. "No, your death would be a disaster to our war effort. We canít afford for anything to happen to you."
Leek let out a sigh of disappointment. Major Linz shrugged and said, "But we do need pilots, so your comrades would be welcome to take up fighters."
Tamís eyes lit up and Red smiled. Leek gave them an envious look. "Well, can I at least get a briefing on the enemyís armaments and equipment, so Iíll know what we are up against?"
Major Linz gave Leek an irritated look then managed a smile. "Of course. Sgt. Hawkh will see to it. But youíve got to leave soon in order to ensure your safety."
"I will. Thank you, Major."
"Now your friends will need to go with Lt. Virga to inspect the aircraft theyíll be flying and be briefed on our battle plan."
"Sure," Leek said, turning to Tam and Red. "Iíll see you two after the battle. Good luck. Give íem hell for me."
The three embraced as Major Linz motioned to a soldier standing near the door. When he got up close Leek noticed he had four ears, two on each side, and a lumpy spike on his forehead. He glanced at Tam and Red and noticed them stifling smiles.
"Gentlemen, this is Lt. Virga. Heíll escort you to the airstrip thatís being repaired as we speak."
"Very good, sir," Tam said. Red nodded and they both followed Lt. Virga out of the room.
Major Linz spoke into his communicator and a moment later Sgt. Hawkh approached.
"Take Captain Lanzia to see Sgt. Mohr for an intelligence briefing. Then get him out of here as we previously discussed."
The Sergeant saluted, turned and they left the room. Sgt. Hawkh led them through a maze of corridors until they reached a small waiting room. Inside a tall, lean soldier with very large green eyes stood up.
"This is Sgt. Mohr. Heís attached to our intelligence section and can tell you what we know about the enemyís arsenal of weapons. Iím afraid you wonít have much time, though. Iíll be back at 0600 kyloons and then weíll have to leave."
"Thank you. Iíll see you then."
Sgt. Hawkh nodded and left. Sgt. Mohr moved quickly to the door and motioned for Leek to follow. "My office isnít too far from here. Come on. We have a lot to cover before you go."
Leek hustled to catch up. They went to an elevator and went down two levels. Sgt. Mohr said nothing as they left the elevator and turned left down a long corridor. When they were nearly at its end, Sgt. Mohr stopped and peered into a retinal scanner mounted on the wall. There was a beep, a click, and then a sliding door opened and the two soldiers walked into Sgt. Mohrís office.
The office was furnished with a steel desk at one end and a small conference table at the other. Along the far wall were computers and other electronic equipment. Maps and aerial reconnaissance photos covered most of the exposed walls.
"So, what exactly do you want to know?" Sgt. Mohr asked.
Leek took a deep breath and replied. "Well, Iím particularly interested in the hovertanks, because I understand they are the biggest threat to our army."
"Yes, thatís a fair assessment. A hovertank can destroy anything in its path and theyíre difficult to take out."
"Do you have pictures of them? I donít think Iíve ever seen one."
"Yes, pictures, schematics, specifications, reportsóweíve got it all."
Leek poured over the voluminous information as Sgt. Mohr pulled it out and placed it before him.
"So, what makes the hovertank so invincible? These pictures and specifications donít mean much to me."
"Unlike a conventional tank that moves quite slowly on the ground, the hovertank travels above the ground on an air pulse. It doesnít need roads or even a hard surface and travels quite fast."
"A missile will still take it out, wonít it?"
"Well, a direct hit would, but the hovertank comes with an array of defensive abilities that make missile destruction difficult."
"It has a detection device that tells it when a missile has locked on. When that happens the tank can accelerate or change course rapidly. It has an incredible ability to maneuver itself behind cover too. And, as a last resort, it can shoot out decoys to draw the missile away from it. In the few encounters weíve had with the hovertank, less than two percent of our missiles have destroyed their targets."
"What about their crew? Doesnít it take many men to run a hovertank?"
"No. The few that weíve captured have had but two or three men inside. We suspect one operates the craft, one handles weaponry, and the other keeps in communication with command."
"So, if missiles are not effective, what about disrupting their communications?"
"Weíve tried that, but they have a very sophisticated communication system that we havenít been able to jam or disrupt."
"What about their air pulse. Canít you break that somehow and make them crash?"
"I donít know. Like I said, weíve only had a few encounters with them."
Leek looked at his watch and frowned. "Well, I guess Iím out of time. Now, at least, I have something to think about. Thanks for your help, Sergeant."
"No problem. I hope you come up with something."
They returned to Sgt. Mohrís quarters and found Sgt. Hawkh there waiting anxiously. He shook his head.
"There you are. We must leave, the enemy has penetrated our perimeter."
They rushed outside where a PTV was waiting. It reminded Leek of one of the monster trucks that he watched on TV back in Texas. A driver and one soldier rode in the front seat, Sgt. Hawkh and Leek were in the crew cab, and two more soldiers rode outside on the rear cargo bed.
As they sped away planes screeched overhead, bombs fell around them pelting them with debris, and the smoke was so thick it was all Peter could do to breathe. But soon they reached the opposite perimeter of the camp and were leaving the battlefield behind them. When they reached the top of a nearby hill overlooking the base they stopped and watched the TGAís assault on the Loyalist army. One Loyalist fighter after another was taking off and flying into battle.
To their horror a line of hovertanks came swooping in and decimated everything in their path with lasers, machine guns, and endless streams of fire. Thousands of soldiers perished in just a few tiks. Those who miraculously survived the first wave of hovertanks ran for their lives. Nothing the mutants threw at the hovertanks seemed to phase them as they advanced forward with hordes of TGA infantry in their wake. Leek watched in disbelief as the command bunker where heíd met with Major Linz and Sgt. Mohr exploded into a fiery inferno. He wondered if either of them were still alive.
Within an hour the battle was over and TGA was marching northward without resistence. Leek and his escort pressed on to the northwest toward the Doral Mountains where theyíd planned to hide from the TGA. As they continued on, Leek looked toward the sky wondering what had become of his friends. Had they been able to get airborne before the enemy assault or were they lying dead in a ditch somewhere? He prayed to God theyíd somehow survived.