"Arise, oh sleepers. You are needed at last." The deep voice penetrated through my thoughts, disrupting the flow of the dull, steady rhythm that had pulsed through my mind since the inception of my fragile being. I could sense, beside me, the others pausing in their way as I had, hearing the calm words and comprehending the meaning that loomed behind them.

We chorused as one, "We hear you, and we obey."

The voice spoke once more. "Awake, and come to the light."

As the pronouncement echoed through my body, cold reality came rushing in like a torrent of freezing water. My eyes took in the blinding light as if newly opened, my skin felt the harsh bite of wind that pushed against it, my ears began to hear the humming and throbbing that pervaded the very air around me, and the distant cadence of thunder that beat steadily through the ground.

I looked about, and saw my equals arrayed around me, motionless, awaiting a command, a word.


The single tone struck me to my core, igniting a new, strange passion I had no memory of before experiencing. Without so much as a thought, I began to stir from my position. Beside and behind, I felt the presence of my comrades with me, reassuring me, prompting me onwards, onwards to the distant sound of thunder and the arcing trails of smoke that curved through the dirty air. As a unit, we pressed forth, faster and faster across the rugged and broken earth, between the towering citadels of gold and blue, beneath the pale crystals that rested, twirling, a meter above the earth, dipping and rising as the ground dipped and rose, splitting around the boulders that loomed in our path, but ever regrouping and ever moving forward.

The tumult streadily grew as we approached. A thousand sounds flooded around and intermixed with the heart-throbbing pounding. A rapid chattering competed with the familiar whine of plasma cutting through air, but was overpowered by the deep roars that streaked overhead and ended in shuddering detonations, all laced with the screams of anger and cries of pain from a thousand different throats.

As we topped a rise, the origin of the discordance came into view: across a level plain, a line of metal hulks commanded a shallow ridge, ejecting projectile after projectile high into the air from stubby muzzles, where they rained down upon warrior, structure, and empty ground alike. Scattered among them, armored figures stood guard, brandishing long objects in their thick-fingered hands, while towering, two-legged vehicles secured the rear. In the air above, sleek fliers carried the battle across the visible sweep of sky as they twisted, dove, and tumbled to the ground in flaming ruin, pocking the landscape with deep, impassable craters, in the midst of which our warriors, in their few and dwindling number, fought to advance to strike at those which had destroyed their brethren.

Not pausing to take in the sight before us, but racing steadily forward, we swept over the rise, bearing our own tidings of doom further across the wasted landscape with each passing second. Fiery projectiles began to fall around and amongst us, cutting down our force one by one and two by two, but I willed myself on all the more, accelerating until the ground beneath me disappeared into a blur. Two hundred meters, and my brethren kept pace beside me. One hundred and fifty: another succumbed to the raining missiles. Up ahead, the bulky figures turned, training the arms they bore upon us. The chatter broke out in full force, scattering bits of metal and broken pieces of my comrades in my path. Fifty meters. The twin barrels of the walkers spun up to speed, spewing death through the air, until it seemed a hail of metal flew around us. Twenty meters. What had been thirty was now seven, now six, now five. The armored men began to back up slowly, showing the first signs of fear as we descended upon them.

The golden dome loomed momentarily in my vision, blocking out all else, then I smashed into it with all the power within me. The man collapsed to the ground under the blow, and I tumbled away. I pulled myself around, readying to strike again.

My world exploded into brilliant light. I could feel bullets pierce me, pouring one after another into my body, battering my skin, carving passage through my small form, buffeting me indiscriminately this way and that. My vision failed, and I could feel the ground run up against me. Sounds faded, my senses took leave of me altogether, and I knew no more.

The marine got up with the helping hand of one of his comrades. He straightened his back and groaned. "Damn probes," he muttered, "think they've gotta be some sort of hero."