The Defence of Tukon
It was a familiar but most unexpected feeling for Malthus. The pain told him that he was still alive as he tried to fully regain consciousness. As he his eyes slowly opened he could see that he was surrounded by Coosanians in a stone walled chamber and he felt a shiver of fear run through his body.
But as the moments passed without a bullet piercing his body or sword cutting off his limbs, he began to relax. A full sense of security came when a female poured water on his lips and speaking Martanian told him that he was safe and not to worry.
As he slowly flexed his arms and legs, he could tell through the relative ease of movement that he was no longer on the gravitationally strong planet Coosan. It only took him a few minutes to sit forward and address those surrounding him. He wryly thought to himself that he was getting too used to coming out of stasis. This time his main concern was his friends Rosaleen and Socrates and he got straight to the point.
“Where are Rosaleen and Socrates?”
The door then burst in and Rosaleen ran to him embracing and kissing him. She informed him that Socrates was fine too and Malthus felt overjoyed. Then the story of what had happened was relayed to him.
The Emperor had laughed and joked for months about what he saw as a preposterous request from his three prisoners deriding them at every opportunity. Then years passed and the communications to Venetia on Martan seeking payment for their release went unanswered. As each year passed, he started to laugh about it less and less. As the Emperor aged, he grew increasingly paranoid and saw enemies and danger coming from every angle.
Your tale of the fall of Martan started to leave him restless. He never cared about Martan itself but he feared that the Mullinarians might attack his star system. For this reason, he decreed that special attention was to be paid to the three prisoners in stasis in case they became allies in some future war. This order was never revoked.
The Emperor grew old and was replaced by his heir, the flamboyant Emperor Anthon II who spent most of his time with his harem and partying. The growing power of the Mullinarians became apparent as more systems fell under their control but he merely sought to appease them and signed a non-aggression pact. The population under his control gradually became restless about his inaction fearing an invasion. However, he managed to maintain power through the standard process of killing his opponents and lowering taxes until he died of old age.
His successor Emperor Magnus was relatively young when he came to power and suffered from ill health. He was a weak leader who was out of touch with his people. The Mullinarians increasingly violated Coosan space but there was no response. The Emperor was more interested playing games on his computer as he lay sickly in his bed rather than running his Empire.
Then the Mullinarians attacked Quibet, the outermost planet in the star system. The small colony, which possessed very little military strength, was obliterated and its people massacred. The feeble Emperor immediately sued for peace.
The population was in disbelief. Their once proud reputation as warriors stood in tatters. It was not long after that the revolution began. There was little blood spilled as the army quickly left the Emperor’s side. He had long since lost their respect.
A crowd pulled the Emperor from his bed and out of his palace onto the street outside. The Emperor was torn apart limb by limb by the angry mob and a General called Lathos declared himself the temporary ruler with a promise that elections would be held at the earliest opportunity.
The Mullinarians were unimpressed with the change of leadership and declared the peace treaty totally void and started to attack trading ships, which has now cut off the Ciesta star system threatening the lucrative arms trade.
Both sides are now gearing for war. From communications received by Coosan, it appears that there are still human resistance movements on some of the planets conquered by the Mullinarians. One of the planets putting up some of the fiercest resistance is on Martan.
The General now wants to reach out to these movements and create a trans world human federation to push the Mullinarian presence back deep into their own space. Together humanity has a chance to defeat the Mullinarian presence.
The name of the resistance movement on Martan is the Martan Freedom League. It’s mostly involved in carrying out guerrilla actions against the occupying Mullinarian forces. From communications with this movement, it became clear that Martan is of huge importance to the overall Mullinarian plans.
The Mullinarians come from low gravitational worlds. Martan has an intermediate gravity between these worlds and high gravity worlds like Coosan. It appears that as a species they are slowly evolving to be able to naturally live on Martan. When they first invaded, they required special exo skeleton and breathing equipment in order to survive in what was an alien environment. But they are gradually adjusting their bodies, almost definitely through the use of genetic engineering.
It is assumed that once the Mullinarians are able to survive on Martan unaided, they will seek to invade Coosan & repeat the process. The faiths of Martan & Coosan are now intertwined.
The General now sought a way to solidify the alliance between his star system and the Martan Freedom League. A lieutenant brought to his attention what had now happened many years previously and that the three prisoners had been adequately kept in stasis.
The General then immediately contacted the Martan Freedom League to see if they were interested in the release of the prisoners. It turns out that they were considered heroes by the League. The tale of their courageous journey to Coosan seeking military aid for their beleaguered Martan had entered its folklore and gained mythical status.
A Venetian General on Phobos had played a crucial role in ensuring that their deeds were not forgotten and used their story and the promise of military aid from Coosan to motivate the human resistance in the star system against the Mullinarian menace. The story of the quest to Coosan outlived him.
When the cultural and strategic significance of the three prisoners in the cryonic capsule became apparent to the Coosan General, he immediately ordered their release and requested their assistance in a planned attack on Martan. However, it was decided to take the former prisoners to a more gravitationally friendly world when he heard of the difficulties that they had experienced on Coosan prior to stasis. There they would be taken out of stasis and take a spaceship to join a military expedition to Martan. The full details of the mission would then be relayed to them.
The closest planet to Coosan, Tukon was selected. Its gravitational pull is only a fraction of that of Coosan. It has no atmosphere and its natural surface consists of regolith. Malthus and his companions were on an underground military base near its north pole.
Rosaleen had already informed the Coosanians that they would cooperate with the mission.
Unfortunately, Tukon was turning out to be a poor choice of location to bring them out of stasis. A Mullinarian ground force was already on the planet and the bases radar had already picked up an armada en route. Unfortunately, Tukon was an ideal staging post for the eventual conquest of Coosan. Its low gravity was perfect for the ant like species and its conquest would seem to them to be relatively straight forward.
Malthus` new companions informed him that he and Rosaleen should immediately go to the spaceship where Socrates was waiting for them. They immediately left the room led by a Coosanian female called Zena and entered a series of tunnels, which they had to weave their way through. They could only travel slowly though as Malthus and Rosaleen who were still holding hands had to crouch profusely as the tunnels were made for Coosanians not Martanians.
Zena was a typical Coosanian; small and stocky with rough brownish skin. Unlike the previous Coosanian female Malthus met Beatrice, Zena was a warrior who quickly informed Malthus that she had learned how to speak fluent Martanian as an optional extra as part of her military training. She was not interested in how Malthus was feeling after coming out of stasis only that he should move as fast as possible in order to complete the mission without delay. Malthus got the impression that she wanted to be somewhere else, probably on one the battle lines risking her life rather than merely showing him around. She may have regretted gaining her proficiency in the language of Martan.
It was apparent that she wasn’t overly concerned about the Coosanian base coming under attack, which surprised Malthus. He hoped that her confidence was well placed because if their star system fell, he imagined all hope for Martan would be lost.
Even as he tried to make headway down the cramped tunnel, he was happy that he was off Coosan. He found it such a relief to be able to move freely. There had been a fear in the back of his mind while on Coosan that he would live the rest of life in a wheelchair and never again be able to do things for himself.
The tunnel led them to a big chamber, where Malthus and Rosaleen could finally stand upright. It seemed to be the command centre, the nervous system of the base. There was much commotion as everybody all in white military uniforms seemed to be running from one place to the next. There was a giant screen on one of the walls. Malthus stopped and looked and stared at it for a moment. It showed a huge number of dots, which Malthus took as enemy spaceships approaching a circle, which he presumed to be the planet and it made his heart tremble. Rosaleen tugged at his hand to get him to start moving again and he obliged.
But he only managed to take a few more steps when a silence fell over the chamber and the group along with everybody else turned and faced the screen. Then just a second later it depicted multiple explosions occurring in the middle of the alien fleet and half the dots disappeared to a great cheer in the chamber. Then the commotion restarted and the group restarted their journey. Malthus now knew that they had a fighting chance.
They left the control chamber through a side exit and went down another cramped tunnel for a few hundred metres. Holding Rosaleen’s hand drove any thoughts of discomfort from his mind. Then he could see that the tunnel led to another chamber ahead of him. Zena informed them that this was the hanger bay where the ship was waiting for them.
Sure enough when they entered the chamber, a sleek, black ship of medium size was waiting for them. Although it was smaller than the Merideth, it looked far more space worthy. It was heavily armoured and had large cannons. Socrates appeared from behind it and ran to Malthus embracing him.
“How long have you been here scratching your ass?” Malthus jokingly asked.
Socrates replied in a far more serious tone that was usual for him, “Man, I didn’t think I’d get to see you again. I thought we were well screwed on Coosan. The ship is already prepped and ready to go. She’s a beauty. Her official name is N-Delta but I prefer Nancy. We should get on board immediately and try to get off this planet before the Mullinarians destroy the place.
“We won’t be destroyed, we are warriors!” Zena proudly interjected.
Socrates briefly looked at her and laughed, much to her annoyance.
They followed Socrates advice and boarded the ship, heading straight to the navigation room to the front. Malthus was immediately impressed with the ship. The seats were comfortable, it was spacious & the onboard computers and screens looked as if they had only just been fitted the previous day.
Socrates sat in the main navigation chamber flanked by Zena who seemed anxious to make sure that she was at the centre of what was happening. Malthus & Rosaleen sat behind them showing some interest in what was happening but mostly gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes.
The ship was brought to the launching site on a track system similar to what Malthus had experienced previously on Martan. It slowly aligned the ship with the tunnel its thrusters were going to shoot it through. As the ship came to a halt, Malthus tightened his grip on Rosaleen’s hand. Then the thrusters ignited and the ship was propelled through the tunnel. Malthus felt far more as assured than the first time he experienced take-off. He noticed that the tunnel seemed very long so he had been very deep underground.
Then just a second later the ship was in space and in zero gravity. Malthus looked at Rosaleen and smiled to reassure her that everything was fine as he watches some of her long hair appear to stand tall on her head. There was a sense of relief on board the ship. Finally, they were on the way back to Martan.
The sentiments were not echoed by Zena however, who immediately requested to know if she could go to look back at the battle occurring on Tukon. Socrates informed her that he could turn the ship onto autopilot and project the battle on the screen in front of them. Zena immediately told him to do it. Malthus suggested that they should look at it with their own eyes from the rear of the ship hoping to get some time alone with Rosaleen but to no avail.
They were able to magnify the images to see the Mullinarian ground forces, which consisted of tanks approaching one of the entrances to the Coosanian base. Then a series of explosions started all around pumping dust into the atmosphere obscuring their view.
Zena started laughing. Socrates offered her his congratulations, telling her that her people were worthy of their reputation as great warriors. Malthus was happy at the turn of events but was confused about how they were so well prepared. It didn’t tie in with what he had been told.
He asked Zena if there was something, she had left out in the story she had told him earlier. She replied that he and the rest them had been told the same story that every Coosanian is told. But Malthus didn’t let it go and kept prodding her with questions such as how were they so well prepared.
Eventually she relented and said that they had been told the official story but that there was also a second unofficial one. When the General assumed power it was discovered that Emperor Magnus was not the coward that the population thought he was. He had appeased the Mullinarians like his predecessor but only so that he would have more time to build up his army & fortify his planets. There had been rumours that Mullinarians had bought the allegiance of some of his military so he was wary of divulging his plans to anybody. Each General only knew his or her orders for their own battalion so the overall cumulative effect of all his orders was not fully appreciated.
General Lathos decided that there was no point in telling the Coosanian population that they had rebelled against a virtuous Emperor. His slaying had united them and this would be of vital importance in the forthcoming war. Maybe at some point in the future, historians will inform the population what really happened.
Mathus asked her how she came to know what really happened. She laughed and told them that she had her source which only aroused further interest from the rest of the crew. After much prodding from Socrates she said that a female lover who was close to the General had told her. Any chance of further rational conversation was now lost as Socrates started quizzing her about her sexuality and the number of Coosanian women she had bedded, eagerly awaiting her response.
Much to Malthus` amusement, Zena was all too happy to tell Socrates that she was bisexual and the number of her conquests. Socrates was glued to what she was saying making Malthus wonder if he was attracted to her. Coosanians had rough scaly skin and were dwarf like in stature but they did have feminine features and it must have been a long time since Socrates had a woman in his arms.
Either way Malthus now realised that with Socrates and Zena engrossed in each other, he had de facto alone time with his sweet Rosaleen. He looked into her eyes and he could tell that she seemed to be thinking something similar. He leaned over across his chair and kissed her passionately for several minutes swirling his tongue around her mouth and gently sucking on her upper lip. Her hair flowed through his hands.
Intermitted he would open his eye to make sure that Socrates and Zena were still busy talking to each other and hadn’t stopped to stare at what they doing. The third time he knew that he had nothing to worry about as he saw that they had started kissing too. Although he was a bit surprised, he was happy that he could now relax and enjoy his time with Rosaleen.
He began to move his hand inside her shirt and then up towards her left breast, caressing it while he kissed her. It felt soft and tender and he wished that he was alone with her in a bedroom rather than on a spaceship.
The kissing continued for several minutes until it abruptly stopped with the two women breaking into a fit of giggling. Socrates glanced back to Malthus with an embarrassed look and he responded with a wry smile.
The crew then spent hours talking in idle conversation. Zena was particularly interested in Rosaleen’s history as a Princess of Venetia and all about her father. She talked glowingly about how great Venetia and her father were. It almost turned Malthus` stomach as he was aware of the darker sides of both but decided there would be nothing to be gained by dragging up the ugly truth. So, he listened to what a great father she had and how all the other countries on Martan tried to keep up with its technological, scientific and military achievements.
Then the conversation switched to Zena’s remarkable rise up through the military ranks. She was an only child born into an impoverished one parent family in a small village on Coosan. Her father had died in a military exercise just prior to her birth. He was to be her inspiration in life and she always wanted to follow in his footsteps. Her mother never approved but she followed her dream although the boring village life may always have proved ample motivation on its own.
Her early military training didn’t actually go that well and she had serious discipline problems including getting caught sleeping with fellow cadets. However, things changed for the better when her language proficiency skills were discovered. She was now seen as a special kind of soldier and a blind eye was now turned to minor indiscretions.
Martanian was one of many languages in which she was now fluent. In fact, she didn’t think Martanian was worth learning as she had thought that all of its former speakers were probably dead and she would never get to use it. However, fortunately her commanding officers insisted that she learn it.
As Martanian had all the appearances of a dead language she had to learn through the very tedious method of talking to Coosanians who had learned it as a second language, listening to old transmissions from Martan and any video recording where the language was spoken.
Normally she would have expected to learn a language in just weeks but learning Martanian using this method took months. To make matters worse for her most of the Coosanian speakers who knew Martanianian were old professors whom she struggled to say anything constructive to.
But at least it was all worthwhile, as this was turning into an interesting and exciting mission for her.
They kept chatting for hours more until they started to run out of things to say and the noisy banter gave way to a sleepy silence. After falling asleep for a few hours, Malthus woke and spent hours looking through the screen at all the different stars wondering if one of them was the Martan system.
Then the silence was broken by the siren of an incoming message. Rosaleen jumped out of her seat startled. Zena could barely contain her excitement while Socrates was impressed with how quickly the ship had reached its destination. Socrates looked around at the rest of the crew to make sure they were presentable and that none of them were asleep before switching on the holographic communicator.
A Coosanian General appeared before them as if standing in space outside of the ship and began to speak. Zena translated at the end of each sentence.
“As you should now be aware, you are part of a mission to Martan to strike back at the Mullinarian menace. Due to security concerns mainly the threat of capture the exact details of the mission have been kept from you until now.
Our strike consists of twenty vessels including your own and four thousand troopers of the Coosanian Elite Guard.
We are heading to the command centre of the Martan Freedom League. You will use your good standing with them to show that we are trustworthy and will be useful allies. You will leave the actual military actions to us.
The Mullinarians reproduce through the use of queens. Each queen can potentially spawn millions of Mullinarian soldiers. The Martan Freedom League has located a science laboratory where the Mullinarians are conducting experiments on queens so that they can produce soldiers capable of withstanding the powerful gravity of Coosan thus allowing an invasion.
By the time of our arrival they may already have succeeded. Our mission is to destroy these queens and any larvae they have produced using tactical nuclear devices. The Martan Freedom League is currently in the process of constructing a tunnel into what they call the nest.
Once this mission has been completed, we will be returning to Coosan.
I know you probably have questions but this is the end of the communication.”
With that, the Coosanian General disappeared from view. Malthus immediately felt angry. There was no mention of the re-conquest of Martan. He had not risked his life to save Coosan. But he knew that there would be little point in flying into a rage.
“What about Martan & the League?” Rosaleen pointedly asked Zena and in the process saying what everyone else was thinking.
Zena said nothing as if ashamed by the mediocrity of the mission’s goals. Socrates quickly came to her defence stating that she was not to blame for the faults of the Coosanian Army.
Malthus took charge of the situation fearing that a split could occur in the crew. He pointed out the futility of arguing with each other about it in deep space. All crewmates would do their utmost for the mission because the goals of Martan and Coosan were at least for now interlinked.
“However,” he continued and looking directly at Zena, “if that were to change our ultimate loyalty is to Martan. Furthermore, I for one will not be leaving any resistance movement on Martan to go back to Coosan.”
Rosaleen and Socrates nodded in agreement and Malthus immediately changed the subject to who would be first into the cryonic capsule so that Zena would not feel too isolated. He also enquired with Socrates if someone would have to come out of stasis again at refuelling points.
Socrates said of course it would be necessary but to the relief of Malthus, Zena volunteered to do it. She said that Coosanians were easily able to come out of stasis and there was very little pain involved for them. The last thing Malthus wanted was to be going in and out of stasis again although it had been quite the adventure last time.
The four crewmates went to the back of the ship where the capsules were held. Rosaleen faced Malthus and kissed him passionately before entering her capsule. Malthus felt far more relaxed than any other time he faced going into stasis. At least this he was returning to the world he loved and he wasn’t under threat of dying in stasis.
Still as Socrates closed the door on Malthus` capsule there were still doubts and worries in the back of his mind. He wondered how much he could trust his new Coosanian allies. After all, even though decades had passed to him it had only been a few hours since the Coosanian Emperor had laughed at Martan’s plight.
He also knew that that the Mullinarians would have had a lot of time to adapt to the conditions on Martan and would be a formidable fighting foe. He pondered if this strike force he was part of could really do any serious damage to the enemy.
His fellow crewmates likely harboured similar thoughts and as he felt his limbs begin to freeze, he knew that he needed to be strong for their sakes as well as his own.
Return to Martan
As Malthus struggled to regain consciousness, he could hear Zena whispering in his ear that he was fine and to take his time. But he was getting used to coming out of stasis and it seemed to pain less because of his anxiousness to see his home world once again.
He struggled to open his eyes and he could see Zena opening the door to Rosaleen’s capsule. There was no sign of Socrates so he instinctively knew that he was at the navigational controls of the ship. Soon he was able to move his limbs and he pulled himself out of his capsule and floated over to Rosaleen. They would set eyes on Martan together; it would not be the same without her.
As he lovingly put his hands through her hair as her eyelids slowly opened, he thought about how much she meant to him and how much they had gone through together. Now they were nearing Martan with their Coosanian allies to strike back at the Mullinarian menace.
As Rosaleen began to move her limbs she embraced him and they kissed passionately. He savoured the moment and then turned around holding her hand in order to go and see his beloved planet. But Socrates was there blocking their way.
“What’s wrong Socrates?” Rosaleen said noting the anxious look on his face.
He replied looking both stressed and sorrowful, “Martan is not the world you remember, the Mullinarians have changed it. You need to brace yourselves.”
Malthus` heart plummeted. He needed to see what had happened to his beautiful world. Letting go of Rosaleen’s hand he pushed his way past Socrates and using the ladder system went straight to the navigation centre. He could hear Rosaleen behind him, trying to catch up.
Nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to see. Martan stood there through the screen before him but it was not the world he remembered. Rosaleen let out a shriek behind him.
The world he remembered had looked like a reddish blue island alone in the blackness of space. But he saw a world with a yellow atmosphere and it was not alone in space. There was a large thin structure the length of the planet floating in space beside it.
“What is that?” Malthus asked Zena who was strapped into one the seats beside him in astonishment.
“It’s a large solar array; they are using it to heat the planet and to turn it into a warmer world. The yellow atmosphere is from biological processes they are carrying out to the planet to make it more suitable for them.”
Malthus` heart sank. The beautiful world he once knew was no more. Its unique environments with specially adapted flora and fauna were no more. They mattered as little to the Mullinarians as the people who once inhabited it. It was as if the Mullinarians wanted to destroy everything that was dear to him.
He knew then that not only did he want to exterminate the Mullinarians from every world that humans formerly inhabited but from the Universe as a whole.
“How did they construct such an enormous structure?” Malthus asked Zena while he put an arm around Rosaleen to try and console her.
“I’ve no idea,” she replied admiringly, “but it is working. It has changed a barren and cold world into a warm and moist one. The Mullinarians will now be able to easily breed.”
“We must destroy it!” cried Rosaleen to which Zena replied that they already have a mission and there would be no deviation. The world was still inhabited by a human resistance and they would work with them to strike back at their common menace.
Malthus and Rosaleen strapped themselves into their seats and tried to console each other about the destruction of their planet. Within a few minutes they received a general communication from the Coosan commander.
N-Delta and the command ship would now leave the rest of the fleet and land on Martan at the designated lo
Also, if the plan with the Martan Freedom League failed completely, the fleet was to launch an all-out attack on the Mullinarian base.
That was the end of the transmission.
Socrates immediately logged the new destination into the ship `s navigation controls. He told the rest of the crew that it would be hours before they actually landed on Martan. He also told the crew that they were receiving encoded messages from the command ship telling them that they would be able to breathe unaided in the atmosphere and to only communicate directly with the command ship through encoded messages. This was to be a covert operation and they didn’t want their presence becoming known.
Malthus spent hours holding Rosaleen’s hand watching Martan grow closer. It appeared to be an alien planet with its yellow hazy atmosphere and Malthus was unsure if he would grow to love the planet again.
Socrates and Zena were far more concerned about each other than Martan and didn’t even mention it till the final approach. It was not their home-world and even Socrates had little emotional attachment to it.
Rather than get angry about it, Malthus took it as a sign that Socrates was fiercely loyal to his friends and was prepared to risk his life on a crazy mission for them.
As they approached the atmosphere of Martan, Socrates told them to make sure that they were properly strapped into their seats and to make sure that there was nothing left floating around.
He warned them the atmospheric density had greatly increased since their last trip. They would be landing beside the commander’s ship.
Malthus held Rosaleen’s hand tightly as the ship entered the yellow atmosphere. It rattled fiercely but Socrates shouted that this was normal for a planet with this increased atmospheric density.
Soon the ship had descended below the yellow hazy clouds to reveal a reddish atmosphere underneath.
Malthus was aghast at what he saw at the surface. It was covered by green forest. The planet he had known would never have been able to sustain such a thing.
The ship landed in a clearance in just a few seconds. As the crew left the ship, Malthus wondered what other surprises awaited him. The Mullinarians may have created a wonderful new world after all.
He noticed the changes to the planet almost immediately. The Martan he remembered was cold, desolate and sometimes you had to grasp your breath due to the low oxygen content. The new Martan was entirely different.
It felt warm, even balmy and there was organic life everywhere he looked from dense forest to a green moss that covered the surface. Much to his own surprise he was easily able to breathe the atmosphere although it had quite a bad smell.
It was the sky that had changed the most though. The old Martan had a uniform purple but the new one was multi coloured. The sky was mostly red but it morphed into yellow at the higher levels. It was impossible to tell where the planet’s star was as the light seemed to come from every direction in the sky. This had the peculiar effect of leaving them without a shadow.
Socrates led his crew on foot to the other ship which had landed nearby. He commented on how strange it was that although the place was teeming with plant life, there didn’t appear to be any insects or animal life in the vicinity.
It didn’t take them long to reach the commander’s ship. It brought much amusement to Malthus & Rosaleen to see what seemed to be a group of children in army uniform in the distance. However, Zena was not impressed at them joking about Coosanian’s height.
As they drew closer, they could hear the Coosanian Commander shouting at them to hurry up. He started giving out to them. Zena translated it as if they don’t hurry up the Mullinarians would surely find & destroy them.
They quickly ran over to him in response. The Commander was wearing a green uniform, with plenty of medals attached whereas the rest of the troops wore plain red uniforms. One of the troops was using a hand held device to try to communicate with the Martan Freedom League.
He asked Socrates for the coordinates of their ship and ordered a band of troopers to its location.
The Commander reminded Malthus` group of why they were there – They were considered to be heroes by the League and they were to use this influence to help them aid the Coosanian war effort. Socrates and Malthus smiled at each other. They knew why they were there and it was for Martan. They were united only by their common hatred of the Mullinarians. Malthus wondered if there would be a conflict of interest at some point in the future.
The Commander then continued that if the mission was successful, he would be granted an audience with the Supreme General. He would make sure that they would be rewarded handsomely for their efforts and the liberation of Martan would remain a central goal of Coosan.
It took a long time for the League to respond to the Coosanian communications. Whereas the Coosanian troops had to spend the time setting up a defensive perimeter and patrolling against a perceived imminent Mullinarian threat, Malthus and the rest of his group rested in the Commander’s ship away from the heat. It was the best and most comfortable ship Malthus had ever seen. It had comfortable leather seats and an on ship entertainment system which could play 3D holographic action fighting games. For instance, you could choose to fight hand to hand combat against your most despised alien species at different difficulty levels.
Socrates and Zena were most enthusiastic about fighting Mullinarians on the system albeit on an easy level where they couldn’t actually get hurt. Malthus and Rosaleen just sat and watched them laughing at their mistakes.
Malthus decided not to check out the weapons system on the ship or its flight capability in cased it irked his allies. He wasn’t sure if they were trusted by them.
A considerable amount of time passed without anything happening. Once the initial excitement of playing the holographic games began to wear off, the group gradually became very tense. This was after all a planet that was probably swarming with Mullinarians.
The was much relief when a Coosanian trooper ran on board the ship to tell them that communications had been established with the Martan Freedom League and that they were to follow him at once. Malthus and the others quickly jumped out of their seats relieved that things were back on track.
On their way out of the ship they were passed by a different trooper going back in. Socrates got Zena to enquire with the trooper about what was happening. He informed them that the ships they arrived on were leaving the planet on the advice of the League and that they must hurry as there was an imminent threat.
They followed the trooper at a fast jogging pace. In truth it was easy for the rest to keep up with the pace set by the trooper’s and Zena’s little legs. He led them up a hill close to the ship. There they were met by the Commander and his remaining troopers, which numbered about two hundred.
Already they could see a small band of the League approaching them. After a couple of seconds, they could tell that there were seven of them; all of them in green uniforms which provided excellent camouflage. Malthus suddenly felt nervous for the first time. He wondered how they would react to him and if he should have something profound to say.
He had little time to think about it as they were now in front of him. He was relieved when he heard them speak in the Martan language.
The leader of the group walked straight passed the Coosanian Commander and instead embraced Mathus, then Socrates and finally Rosaleen.
“You are heroes to all the peoples of Martan. Welcome back to your world. My name is Zultan, leader of the Red Brigade.”
Zultan was a fine man who exuded charisma and commanded respect. He was obviously their leader. Although relatively youthful in appearance; his face bore the scars of battle and loss. The rest of the group stood behind him. Their faces weather beaten, clothes torn and fear etched in their eyes.
He then turned to the Coosanian commander and told them that they must go at once. The intermission was coming to an end. As they began to follow their new allies, the Commander enquired through Zena translating about exactly the intermission was.
A different member of their group spoke up; he was scrawny and bespectacled. He explained that they were not sure what caused it but every half orbit the sky goes dark; the temperate falls and the Mullinarians leave their underground nests to find food. They strip huge areas of the landscape bear. The area of land affected has vastly increased over the years as their population exploded. They destroy everything in their path – trees, animals and even the odd human who failed to retreat to base for the intermission.
It started many orbits ago. The world became much warmer just before its first occurrence and had stayed that way ever since.
Socrates pips up excitedly turning to Malthus knowing that he had a good idea about what was causing the intermission.
“It must have something to do with the large mirror like structure we saw in geostationary orbit around the planet.”
The League was immediately interested in what we had seen and Socrates described it to them. There were gasps as they began to fully appreciate how much control the Mullinarians had over the planet.
“How has humanity managed to survive on Martan under such heavy alien domination?” Malthus curiously asked.
Their leader Zultan responded sternly that first came the extermination, then the alteration and only then the fight back. The story has been passed from generation to generation so that no aspect of the struggle against the Mullinarians will ever be lost.
The extermination occurred after the asteroid impact. The Mullinarians landed killing squads to kill any remaining humans. As most of the humans were unarmed, they typically ripped them to shreds using their mandibles and would feed on them afterwards. Millions of the remaining humans perished this way. Fathers and mothers had to watch as their children were ripped apart knowing that the same fate awaited them.
There were pockets of survivors. They retreated to the dark side of the planet or to remote mountainous areas. They had to battle freezing temperatures and starvation. It was a hellish existence, a living nightmare. It is thought that they even resorted to cannibalism and all traces of civilization were almost lost. It was then that the tale of Malthus and the Princesses great quest to Coosan seeking military assistance from Coosan brought hope to the people. It is thought that the story came from the soldiers of the last army to try to resist the occupation.
It is unknown how they survived the initial bombardment as they were a very significant fighting force.
The Mullinarians though made a critical mistake; they underestimated humanity and began the next phase of their operation before they had successfully wiped the last human from the face of the planet.
The next recognisable phase of the Mullinarian plan was the alteration of the planet’s atmosphere. Suddenly the planet started to become far warmer. People thought the Mullinarians were going to boil the remaining humans but fortunately the temperature stopped rising long before that.
The heat was good for humanity though. It helped the human population to grow. It became obvious that the Mullinarians were recalibrating Martan for their own habitation. They began to drop seeds from the sky rather than bombs and death squads.
The new forests provided cover for humans and allowed them to venture over a greater extent of the planet’s surface than had otherwise been feasible but they were still careful to flee whenever Mullinarians were in the vicinity. The new landscape also made it much easier to find water and food.
The human population began to rise and eventually became bold. Some people had the military insight to see that the tactical situation had changed and that a guerrilla war was now feasible and could be highly effective. The Martan Freedom League was born.
The first phase of the campaign was to set up divisions in each fragmented human settlement. Then the old military bases on the planet were scoured for weapons. Slowly a credible fighting force was established.
The enemy was studied extensively and its weaknesses pinpointed.
Then the war of freedom commenced and operations against the Mullinarians began. It was mostly a bombing campaign. Although initially a lot of damage was inflicted, the Mullinarians refocused their efforts on killing humans.
When they discover a human settlement, they leave no trace of life. They gorge themselves and what they cannot eat they bring back alive to their colony to be eaten by others. They show no mercy and see humans as nothing but vermin.
Malthus and Socrates had heard enough for now but the Coosan commander through his interpreter Zena requested to know what he had learned about the Mullinarians and he responded as follows.
The Mullinarians are a highly advanced social species. They live in underground colonies, each approximately 6km apart all over the bright side of Martan. Each colony consists of long tunnels which connect different chambers.
Their society is highly stratified consisting of a queen, male drones, workers, general soldiers, shooters and researchers. The soldiers are the ones the League is most familiar with. They are much larger than the workers and have huge mandibles that can easily slice through human flesh. They are strong and fast but have very poor eyesight and use vibrations to detect movement. This has proven to be a key weakness. If a person can hold their nerve, they can go undetected even when they are in the middle of a group of this type of Mullinarian.
Shooters are the other part of the Mullinarian war machine. There is generally only one shooter to every four or five Soldiers. They are similar in size and appearance to Soldiers but they have excellent vision making them and their lasers or other projectiles far more dangerous. It is not known how they acquired their sharp vision.
Workers are similar to the soldiers but only a third of the size and much more numerous. They are responsible for harvesting food, the maintenance of the colony and the construction of things as diverse as infrastructure to spaceships. A properly trained man is able to kill a worker using his hands only. They are afflicted by the same poor vision as the Soldiers.
Researchers have only been observed in Mullinarian colonies to date. They appear to be the brains behind Mullinarian technology and military tactics. Their bodies are a similar size to those of Workers but they have far larger heads, presumably due to having larger brains. Relatively little is known about Researchers to date due to the very fact that they rarely leave the safety of their colonies.
Queens are the reproductive engine of the Mullinarians. They are far larger than any other type of Mullinarian. There is at least one queen in each colony. Her role appears to be solely a reproductive one and she gives birth multiple times each hour. They are revered by the other types of Mullinarian and are an obvious target for the human resistance. Usually they reside at the centre of the colony and are difficult to attack.
The male drones are the other part of the Mullinarian reproductive process. The exact number of male drones per colony is unknown at present. They are the only ones who are able to mate with the queen. They appear to have no other function in the colony.
Zultan had nothing further to add. As Malthus was walking up the slope and surveying his surroundings, he realised that there was something familiar about the place. Despite the increased vegetation, he could tell from the rugged landscape and valleys that they were heading towards that he was back in what was his old country of Galthusia.
He was surprised that it had taken him so long to realise it; he was now fully at home. He pondered to himself that the resistance was probably using an old underground Galthusian military base but he said nothing to the others fearing that he would come across as pompous if he was correct and look like a fool if he was wrong. It would be better to err on the side of caution.
They kept on walking for what seemed like an eternity. It was difficult terrain and they had to traverse steep slopes. Malthus spent the time chatting to Rosaleen. She was a beacon of strength. Malthus knew that he was falling in love with her. Sometimes he felt funny when he looked into her eyes. She was so beautiful and all he could have ever wished for.
She felt the same way about him. His dashing good looks, sense of humour and bravery had long since won her over. Sometimes she felt guilty that she was so happy to have met him in such a dire situation for her country.
Eventually the group reached their destination, which was a ravine that had been etched into the side of one of the mountains. There was a false wall at the back of it that opened when the word “Freedom” was said in Martanian.
Then suddenly they could feel it getting darker and the temperature dropping. In the distance, a huge marching sound could be heard. The League members shouted at the others to hurry up and there was no hesitation among the others in doing so.
There was a sense of relief as the false wall closed behind them. They now found themselves walking through a narrow dimly lit corridor Malthus was now certain that they were in an old Galthusian base and knew that they still had some distance to travel.
Socrates who was just behind Malthus whispered to him that there didn’t seem to be much camaraderie between the fighters in the League. Since they had met them they hadn’t joked or even talked to each other much unlike the Coosanian troops who were much more boisterous. Malthus told him not to worry that they were probably behaving normally for humans who had suffered and endured so much.
After walking about a mile in the tunnel they came to a lift that Malthus knew would take them to the central control area. It could only take ten people at a time so they had to wait for a while in the cramped tunnel. Socrates had by now guessed that they were in an old military base and joked with Malthus that he may be about to bump into a very old flame.
Soon they were heading down the lift into a very large nerve centre. There were monitors on the wall with their controllers’ eyes glued to them. Unlike the League members they had met up to now, they were immaculately dressed in and they were mostly young Martanian women. Surprisingly to both Malthus and Socrates their entrance didn’t seem to register with any of them. Deep down they had expected that there would be at least a few cheers and amorous women and Socrates looked into each others eyes. They knew something just wasn’t right but couldn’t tell what it was. Disappointed they followed the rest into the centre of the complex Malthus. There was still plenty of space even when all the Troopers had entered. Malthus reasoned that because of its large area and high ceiling it was probable one of the main storage areas for the former Galthusian Army at one point in time.
Zultan now addressed the crowd with Zena frantically translating aloud to the Coosanians. He welcomed them to the centre of the Martanian Resistance. They would be shown to their temporary lodgings where they could rest and relax. This was now their temporary home.
But then he continued raising his voice and pointing to Malthus and Socrates that he would be prepared to give some of his new friends a tour of a Mullinarian colony if they were brave enough. Much to Socrates dismay, Malthus nodded in agreement without hesitation. Zultan gave a wide smile in reply and motioned for them to leave the rest of the group and follow him. It was clear that he didn’t want them to bring anybody else.
Malthus turned to Rosaleen and told her to find nice quarters where they could have some time alone later and that he didn’t want her to follow him. She looked worryingly at him but he assured her that everything would be fine.
Socrates seemed a lot less interested in securing a private area with Zena telling her that maybe it would be a good idea if she stayed with the rest of the Coosanian military. He was undoubtedly being swayed away from her by the beautiful women in the surrounds. Zena with a small stature and rough skin was no match for them. But she seemed oblivious to his wandering eyes and promised to find private quarters for them.
With that Malthus slapped Socrates’ back and pulled him in the direction of Zultan. He was anxious to leave the Coosanian Commander who he still didn’t trust behind so that he could talk to this leader of the Le ague in private. Fortunately, the Commander had gotten tied up by trying to organise lodgings with the local Martanians and didn’t notice them slipping away.
Zultan led Malthus and Socrates down a narrow side corridor into a second smaller chamber and brought up a 3D holographic display right in the middle of it and could control it to zoom in and out and turn left and right by simply waving his hands. It showed the base they were in and there was something truly terrifying. They could see that the base covered an area inside the left side of the mountain but on the right side of it there was a Mullinarian colony. Its intricate chambers weaved in and out covering a huge internal area on the right internal side of the mountain and one chamber even continued off screen presumably onto a different mountain or maybe underneath a valley.
“Are you people crazy? What are you doing so close to them? One of those chambers isn’t even that far from breaking through to your base!” laughed Socrates echoing Malthus’ sentiment.
“Oh contraire!” replied Zultan enthusiastically “surely you’ve heard the expression that one should keep your friends close and your enemies even closer?”
It was a rhetorical question and Zultan didn’t even pretend to wait for a response. Instead he outlined what he saw as the advantages of living so close to the enemy with almost fanatical religious zeal.
It was a twist of fate that this old Galthusian base was so close to an important Mullinarian colony but they had grown to appreciate this quirk of faith.
He stated that they were now able to study their enemy more closely and learn about their strengths and weaknesses. If it had not been for the League, the Coosanians would have no idea that their home world was under threat of invasion.
There was also another reason for living so close to the enemy. The Mullinarians had burrowing missiles armed with medium strength nuclear warheads that were used to devastating affect against other human underground bases. But they would not use them against this one for fear of killing their own kind in the adjacent colony. It is much better to die fighting even if it is by the mandibles of Mullinarians than to be obliterated in an instant without being able to offer any resistance.
Zultan then zoomed in to their present location and showed them a narrow passage way that linked the current chamber they were in to the Mullinarian colony. He told them that its construction had taken much effort and was too small for a Mullinarian to pass through. That was where they were going with him.
Malthus who had kept his counsel up to this point questioned why Zultan had not said all of this to the Coosan commander.
“I do not trust them yet,” Zultan said dismissively, “Their main concern is not the freedom of Martan but protecting their hide from the same fate.”
Switching off the holographic display, he then walked over to what seemed like just another solid stone wall at the side of the chamber. Getting on his hands and knees, he reached out and touched it revealing that there was a small tunnel. He then proceeded to go through it. Socrates looked at Malthus seeking guidance on what they should do next.
Malthus felt uneasy and could feel his heart beating fast but he knew that Martanian freedom would require great risk taking, so he got on his hands and knees and followed Zultan into the tunnel. Socrates followed suit without hesitation.
The tunnel was pitch black as there was no light. They travelled in single file as it was too narrow to crawl side by side. The stone surface tore at their hands. Zultan kept continuously talking probably to stop them from panicking, but he need not have worried. Their epic adventure had hardened them and given them the strength to continue into the unknown. After a while they wished he would stop as his diatribe consisted mostly of his own self indulgent boasting about his exploits and how important he was to the League. He quickly broke Socrates off when he tried to tell him of their exploits.
When Zultan told them that they were a third of the way there, he warned them that it was of the utmost importance that they stay as quiet as possible lest they make the Mullinarians aware of their presence. Their bodies thoroughly ached and progressing each meter was unbearably slow but they continued on into the darkness.
Eventually Zultan whispered much to the relief of Socrates and Malthus that he could see light in the distance and that they nearing the secret entrance to the Mullinarian colony. It still took another few claustrophobic minutes to reach it but soon they were able to crawl out of the tunnel and stand back up albeit in an enemy base. It was quite cool and a lot smaller than Malthus thought it would be. There were rays of light coming through very small holes in the adjacent tunnel wall.
Zultan then spoke very softly and informed them that they need not be afraid once they remained quiet. They were in what was known as an air passage. The Mullinarians use them to ventilate their colonies. Each air passage is directly beside one of the arteries of the colony including this one. Fortunately, once these air passages are constructed Mullinarians no longer pass through them. The League hypothesized that each air passage was guarded at ground level but this had yet to be confirmed in this case.
“Come over here,” whispered Zultan waving his hand for them to follow him, “and look through these holes.”
Malthus and Socrates nervously followed his example and peered through the holes. They were amazed by what they saw. There was a much larger tunnel on the other side. Then they saw a Mullinarian soldier pass by them on the other side. It was oblivious to their presence. Zultan informed that even the sighted Mullinarians seemed unable to tell that there were humans in an air passage once they remained quiet.
Malthus excitedly turned to Zultan and asked him how much of this air passage had the League explored. He replied that it had been explored extensively. This air passage linked into other ones so the League had been able to maintain surveillance on almost the whole of this Mullinarian colony. This was how the League was able to determine the Mullinarian plan to alter their genetic structure in order to attack Coosan. Malthus was immediately excited at the prospect of using this advantage against the Mullinarian menace.
Socrates stopped Zultan much to his annoyance and asked him why the League had not already attacked such a vulnerable colony.
His riposte was swift.
“Why would we? Each day we learned more about the enemy that conquered our world. They have no idea how close we are so at the moment, the only people under threat from this colony are on Coosan and they have cared little about the fate of Martan up to now.
But now that has all changed. This Mullinarian colony is a curse on Coosan but a blessing to Martian freedom and the League.”
Socrates smirked in agreement with Zultan. He knew that he probably even owed his life to this colony. Zultan then proceeded to show them more of the colony. They walked down the air passage deeper underground for about ten minutes.
The small holes were now underneath them. Zultan told them to brace themselves for they were about to see something truly horrific, but he knew not how to describe it so they would have to see it for themselves.
They got on their bellies and peered through to see a truly terrifying site. There was a large chamber underneath them. The surface appeared to consist of a web like structure. It contained human bodies of different ages and sex that appeared to be meshed into it. They seemed to be motionless and gaunt, staring at the ceiling of the chamber.
Mullinarian workers were scurrying back and forth over the web. There was a woman screaming in one of the side chambers before she suddenly stopped bringing about an abrupt silence.
Malthus felt rage and disgust flowing through his veins. Socrates was too shocked to say anything.
“What are they doing to those people?” Malthus said angrily.
“Is it not obvious?” replied Zultan in a serious tone, “Those people are being farmed to provide food for the colony.”
Malthus had to fight the urge to vomit at the thought that humans were little more than cattle to the Mullinarians. Zultan felt their immense discomfort and urged them to move on, that there was still much more to see.
Malthus and Socrates slowly picked themselves up looking despairingly at each other and then continued onwards. By now, they were covered in the grey dust of the tunnels. Every inch of Malthus’ body was telling him to panic after the horror he had seen but he just about kept his composure.
He need not have worried for the worst was past them. The next chamber of the colony was the most important they had seen to date and the reason for their adventure back to Martan. It was a huge chamber where tests were being carried out on Mullinarian queens. The queens were some of the largest creatures Malthus had ever seen. They were arranged in columns, each at least three deep. Research Mullinarians who were tiny in comparison were scurrying in between them. Their mandibles appeared to have evolved into something like a human hand in functionality as they were able to manipulate tools and use computers which were located at the walls of the chamber.
Every few seconds each queen excreted a whitish blob which was quickly taken away by a Mullinarian worker. Zultan informed Malthus that this was Mullinarian larvae. Each queen was capable of reproducing hundreds of Millinarians per day. In this case, however the viability of the larvae was questionable due to the genetic testing being carried out.
“We should just blow it to pieces.” Socrates said just slightly too loud.
One of the researchers below them seemed to stop as if they had heard something. Their hearts pounded ferociously as they waited to see if they had been discovered. Fortunately, the researcher quickly returned to his normal duties. There was a palpable sense of relief among the group. When they walked a distance away, Malthus slapped Socrates on the back and berated him for being so careless.
Much time had now passed and Zultan was anxious to return to base so they turned around and retraced their steps. The mood was solemn.
As they left the Mullinarian air chamber and re-entered the small tunnel that led back to their base Socrates tried to lighten the mood by asking Zultan what he would do when they had eventually defeated the Mullinarians.
“Much will change. I will be the absolute ruler of Martan and will no longer have to share this planet,” he replied sternly.
Malthus found his response disturbing. It was the response of a megalomaniac. It contained no empathy for the ordinary Martanian. Instead it was like the struggle for freedom was all about him and it did not seem to have been said in jest.
However, he decided that he would keep his apprehensions to himself and remain silent, unlike Socrates who gave a nervous wry laugh.
As they returned to the base and were finally able to stand upright again they could hear shouting and arguing in the distance. They hurriedly set off to see what was happening and were met by a scene of utter commotion in the chamber where they had left everybody. Everywhere they looked Coosanians was arguing with Martanians. In some cases, it was getting very heated and Malthus had a feeling that they had arrived back just in time.
His eyes met Rosaleen’s and she ran towards him gripping him in a strong embrace. Socrates immediately asked her what was going on.
She replied that it began shortly after they left, “One of the Martanians told the Coosanian commander that each of his soldiers would be given private living quarters. However, he objected stating that this was against military protocol and that they would prefer to stay exactly where they were in one group.
However, the Martanians would not let it go and the bickering started.”
Suddenly things took a sinister turn as a Martanian threatened to shoot one of the Coosanian soldiers. The room fell silent as bloodshed over an apparent trivial matter seemed imminent. Malthus turned to Zultan and demanded that he order his soldier to stand down.
For a brief few seconds Zultan appeared to be deep in thought oblivious to the situation. Malthus shouted at him again and this time he ordered his soldier to drop his weapon to a palpable sense of relief. His soldier complied without hesitation.
Then the Coosanian commander whose face was red with rage and a disgruntled Zena appeared from the crowd and immediately began a verbal assault on Zultan questioning why the League were trying to separate the Coosanian troops.
Zultan replied angrily that this was a League base and Coosanians would do as they were told. It was League procedure for troops to remain thinly spread in case the one bomb would kill them all. Also, this was one of the nerve centres of their base and they didn’t want it clogged up by Coosanians. There was no other suitable chamber for such a large group.
As the debate over rules and procedures gradually began to heat up again, Malthus tried to take evasive action. He said to Zultan that as a gesture of the League’s appreciation for what he and his friends had done for Martan to allow the Coosanians their request.
Although Zultan looked at Malthus with contempt, he granted the request. Malthus feared that he had already exhausted whatever goodwill they had as Zultan brushed past Socrates without uttering a word exiting the chamber with the League fighters following close behind. The Coosanian Commander half-heartedly thanked Malthus for his intervention and returned to his troops ordering them to set up camp.
Zena jumped into Socrates arms & kissed him passionately. He assured her that he was okay and seemed happy to pay her attention again now that all the League women had left; telling her to set up a tent for the two of them. Malthus asked Rosaleen to do likewise and pulled Socrates to one side.
“Do you find Zultan to be a bit strange?” said Malthus tentatively.
Socrates’ reply did little to allay Malthus’ fears.
“A bit strange? He’s very odd altogether. But we would be too if we had to endure what he has. Everybody in the League is probably a bit strange at this point!”
The encampment was thrown up remarkable quickly. It was circular in shape and took up the centre of the massive chamber. The troops in the outer tents had defensive responsibilities, each having to man a particular machine gun for a certain period of time and before resting.
Malthus’ and Rosaleen’s tent was situated close to the heart of the encampment. This didn’t stop Malthus feeling nervous about the situation as images of what he had seen in the Mullinarian colony flashed through his mind.
But there was something he could cling to. It was Rosaleen; he was transfixed by her beauty. Her brown hair flowed through his hand as they gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes. This was the first time they had been alone together. Rosaleen could sense his inner turmoil and tried to soothe him gently kissing his upper lip. Malthus responded in kind and soon they were locked in a tight embrace.
Soon they were frantically undressing other but trying not to make too much noise so as to alert their companions. Malthus held her soft breasts in his hand as he grew increasing aroused. Rosaleen was trying to kiss and feel every part of his body. Then he took the initiative and got on top of her slowly thrusting in and out of her body as she moaned with pleasure silently to herself. After just a few minutes they collapsed exhausted into each other’s arms and fell soundly asleep.