Loy and two others dropped from the wall and bolted into the city. He glanced to the sides at his fellow soldiers. Private Axer on his left. Corporal Harni on his right. He didn't know these two very well, but they were human, which made them family. They ran down the streets, taking turn after turn from one street to another, knowing it didn't matter if they stayed out of sight. The kesvek could smell them. They knew exactly where they were, how fast they were running, and that they were running for their lives.
Loy heard crashing footsteps turn a corner behind them. He stole a quick glance back. The three kesvek charged down the street like rampaging dinosaurs. He'd heard soliders use that analogy before. A typical kesvek was only about half a meter taller than a human, so the expression had nothing to do with physical size.
Loy felt like a little mouse scurrying away from a trio of T-Rexes. Deep throaty growls and snarls gained on them. Loy picked up the pace, fully aware the armor that should save his life was now weighing him down, but he dared not ditch it to pick up speed now.
Loy felt heavy footsteps slamming closer and closer to him. A kesvek warrior caught up from behind and ran Harni through the chest with his claws. He disappeared from Loy's side. Axer turned white. Loy's blood froze as he heard the kesvek tearing Harni's body apart through his armor.
A few seconds later, Axer's skull exploded as another warrior's claws speared it from behind. Loy didn't look back, but changed direction just in time to avoid the claws of the third warrior, which chopped empty air instead. Loy turned the corner and booked down the open street, hoping to be in sight of a human soldier with ammo.
Before him was an avenue with twenty kesvek in it. Loy's heart stopped, but his legs kept moving. The lizards saw the lone solider running towards them and turned to face him, claws out and tongues flicking the air. Suddenly Loy's body caught up to his mind. He skidded to a stop, reached to his side and grabbed his knife. It was the last desperate act of a soldier.
The kesvek behind Loy shouted something to the others. The Kesvek language was almost unpronounceable to humans, but Loy had learned it like everyone did in basic training. Loy could only make out the word clash.
The other warriors halted and watched. Loy turned and faced the reptiles chasing him. Two of the kesvek had blood on their claws. The third had none, and he was the one who had claimed Loy.
Loy heard no radio chatter. Not even the commander. They were dead. Just like that the reptiles had destroyed everyone. They never took prisoners. Civilian, military--didn't matter. The Kesvek killed them all just the same, except for the children. They left the young to starve to death.
Loy was pumped full of rage. His childhood fantasies of making these people pay for what they'd done came back to him. Now, with nothing to lose, he faced the lizard that claimed him and held his knife up.
The kesvek flicked his tongue around. It was long enough to reach down to mid-chest. He was smelling Loy from a distance. The warrior removed his armor, let it drop to the asphalt, and stood before Loy naked. Loy had no way of knowing if his attacker was male or female, as their genitals were hidden inside the body The sight of it filled Loy with disgust and he charged the lizard, screaming.
When he was less than a pace away from the scaly monster, Loy reached out with the knife, shoved it into the lizard's belly and continued his charge, beyond his opponent.
At the same time, the lizard's hand reached out to the side and the claws raked across Loy's abdomen as he tried to run by. His armor plates burst apart, his uniform turned to ribbons, and his skin opened up. The claws penetrated to his ribs, pulling a few of them free. They sank deeper and deeper, finally scratching the lower spine and exiting the body. Loy leaned into the wound and teetered over. He fell on his arm and rolled four times before resting on his back. He couldn't feel his legs. The damn lizard had pierced his spine with only a glancing scrape!
The lizard stood over him. He leaned down, tongue dangling over Loy's face. Loy swatted it away with one arm, clenched his other fist shut and punched the lizard across the snout. His knuckles shattered. The kesvek's body was solid as stone. Loy screamed, channeled the pain into rage, wound up with the other hand and threw another punch at the kesvek's snout. His hand connected with solid scale, bone and muscle, and broke. The kesvek didn't even flinch.
Loy dropped his arms to his sides and screamed at the lizard. He wanted to make him suffer, make him pay for what his people had done to mankind, but he couldn't even hurt him.
The lizard's tongue flicked over Loy's face. He muttered something in their language, but Loy couldn't make it out. The warrior raised his claws and plunged them into Loy's chest. It pierced his armor and his skin. His ribs snapped like toothpicks in the kesvek's grip, and the lizard wasn't even putting effort into it. He could break Loy's body just brushing up against him it seemed.
Loy's heart stopped. The warrior withdrew, flicked his tongue over Loy again, and got up. Loy lay still, blood gushing out in torrents. He couldn't move. He wanted to move away from the pain, but nothing responded.
Blood. Lots of blood.
The kesvek were walking away. Loy thought they'd eat him, or drink his fluids, or take a trophy. He'd heard they did that often. Maybe he wasn't worth it. Maybe they were pressed for time. Maybe some of his battalion survived and were going back to their supply cache. Sooner or later, the Kesvek would fall. They had occupied this planet for more than standard year. It was on the leading edge of human/kesvek territory and mankind wanted it back. They would not let the kesvek advance any further. Loy lay alone as life drained from him.
He had an amusing thought as his vision flickered. For thousands of years man wanted to know if he was alone in the universe. Then, forty-six years ago they found life. Intelligent life. Idealists heralded it as the greatest day in human history--bigger than the discovery of faster-than-light space travel--greater than teleportation--more important than the construction of the first artificial planet--more far-reaching than man's success in terraforming and colonizing other star systems.
But all it wanted to do was kill them.
Forty-six years of constant war. Humans settled on a planet, the Kesvek would land and take it. There never were survivors except for the children, and a few stragglers who managed to wiggle between the dead bodies and take word of the invasion to other colonies.
Loy grew up listening to these stories. He heard recorded pleas for help played back again and again. One of them he‚Äôd had to memorize, the immortalized testimony of Don Traversa, who escaped the invasion of Apparatus 8 on an FTL and delivered the first distress message to neighboring colonies. It was the first time a colony had been invaded, and the first of thousands of conflicts.
Loy's vision flickered. He saw his wife, Emma. His daughter, Jill...
Loy had served his mandatory term in the military, and then reenlisted voluntarily to keep them safe. To drive the reptiles back where they came from so they could never hurt anyone again.
Loy knew when he reenlisted what he was up against. Every kid grew up learning about their enemy, and ever since he heard about the atrocities they committed on mankind's colonies in other star systems, Loy wanted to do something about it. His mandatory service began when he was ninteen standard years old.
Loy was proud of what he had accomplished since then. They may have lost this city, but Loy helped win dozens of others. He himself had been there for the retaking of colonies on Kreno 3, Taurus 2 and many others.
So many planets. So many battles. So much death. But he drove the Kesvek back. He killed thousands of reptiles. He made a difference. Someday someone would find his dogtag and know he died defending mankind.
His wife was prepared for this, and so was Jill. They'd know he died for them, but more importantly he killed for them. When she was younger, he always told his daughter he was out killing monsters. It was the truth. He killed more monsters in his life than he ever thought existed, and it made him feel good to know that he kept them from harming her. Loy was happy knowing he made a difference. His eyes closed.
"I'm coming, Father. Jesus forgive my sins... I'm ready..."
His mind faded in and out. His body went numb. He had no regrets.