Category Archives: Story of a David

First Blood

Tragur was excited. On one hand he finally earned the right to witness a first blood but on the other hand the privilege of participation passed him by in favor of a cat in the same litter as he. Tragurs mood soured at the latter. Only a year ago he despaired at not being old enough to witness the early morning ritual. Now the child like enthusiasm of his peers was only mirrored on his face. Inside he was a miasma of envy and jealous ravings.

Tragur was six years of age, full grown by the standards of his tribe and by extension his race. As far as Tragur was concerned he was ready to hunt when he was four. Nevertheless he and his litter comprised of cats of mostly rival prides, they jockeyed endlessly for status and recognition since there grouping at the age of one. The reward for their hard work, besides begrudging recognition from their lord fathers, was standing in the hunts. Standings that despite Tragur hard work, was probably rather low. A fact Tragur was coming to terms with as the hour of first blood approached and the sleek approach of the chosen one hushed the jitters of the crowd.

As tradition would dictate the warrior approached the circle early and bare of any weapons. The crowd would hush to consider their representative, though he was no more than six, his reputation among those who oversaw his progresses within the litter preceded him like thunder before torrential rain. Rumors spoke of his speed, which was undeniable even to his peers and some even regarded him as the best in his litter, though no self-respecting cat would admit that out loud. To his non-handlers he was the black cat of the Azeroth, and with the name came the rivalry of men many years his senior. Envy has never been his stranger; his parents as a hunting pair bring belts from all cross the peninsula, and new lands to the north and across the seas, if rumors be true.  To his friends he was Pant, his birth name, and he kept his friends close, a lesson drilled into him by his father. As Pant he was generous head strong and fair. Never shying from opportunities to lead, and yet never overbearing. Within his inner circle Pant regaled his friends with stories of his parent’s exploits, which more often than not exceeded even the most outrageous rumors surrounding Pride Azeroth. Tragur of course, heard none of things camp fire tales; he sat on an opposite circle of friends, whose defacto leader was one of the many prides that fervently opposed the Azeroths, which is often the way of school litters.

But in this day the litter cheered the son of Azeroth, though some did so with more enthusiasm than others. Tragur, who was more concerned with being skipped the honor, cheered the chosen one with tepid enthusiasm.

“I wonder what manner of beast have they prepared for the Azeroth?” whispered Wafelia, her bright ember eyes and somber expression greeting Tragur as he turned to acknowledge her.

“Probably a river rat.” joked Tragur, which elicited a chuckle from the less serious members of the litter, Wafelia included.

“Those things are dangerous; my mother lost a brother in the amazon hunting a family of them.” At this the group nodded somberly, Carl being Carl killed the joke and as usual from the back of the group, where his wide face and height made his otherwise silent presence unmistakable.

Granted he was right, to the many that lost family and limbs to hunts in the river lands and densely wooded areas found further south, the two ton creature was no laughing matter.

“It’s probably a rabbit, it’s always a rabbit.” Alphonese said sagely. He was close to Pant and cheered him with enthusiasm despite his usual reserve. “But it looks like I’m wrong.”

Whereas before the crowd was merely hushed to a murmur, the silence that wrapped the witnesses of First Blood was such that nothing else but the shuffle of reluctant feet echoed inside the open circle. Slowly but surely the whatever the son of Azeroth was to face moved toward the center, passing men and women that would have normally hissed at its presence if it wasn’t for the sacred nature of the ritual. To Tragur to anticipation was maddening, he had reasoned it was too short to be rabbit yet made too little of a dent in the circle of onlookers to be on four legs. Curiosity was stinging his feet and traveling up and down his legs, prickly his spine for motion on each relay. He bite down the urgency to act the fool and resolved to be the adult, forcing every fidget and inpatient twitch of the tail to a mere slow grit of his sharp teeth.

And then it emerged through the throng of furry bodies, four burly cats in his tow. Two of which held his arms separate and behind his back with leashes held with both hands, and a third holding a rope tied to a contraption that held his mouth shut while pulling the rope forward to the extent that his body bent low as he moved forward at the urging of the fourth cat keeping pace in front of him. When the monster was inside the circle to the satisfaction of his escorts, they let go of the ropes and darted back into the crowd. It was at this moment that Tragur face shifted rapidly, from impatience, to puzzlement, to distaste, and then finally serious concern for the son of Azeroth.

This was the first time Tragur has seen a green devil and it didn’t take long to understand why First Blood was forbidden for the young and untrained. It was this shock and similar shocks to come that awoke Tragur to the seriousness of his new position, as a child to man, from house cat under the safety of his parents Pride to a hunter. What he saw, the green scales, the brown shell that protected its back and looked impossibly heavy, and the beady black eyes that stared at the son of Azeroth and nothing else, was extremely unsettling. It was 5 feet and a few inches and about the size the average cat if only a little shorter. But most importantly to Tragur, the green devil was like a living statue; his scales resembling hard plates of brick baked at odd shapes and made thin enough for the creatures massive muscles to move, if only barely, underneath.  In his mind to slay such a beast unarmed and worst head on was suicidal.

But none of his compatriots shared this view. All cheered with blood-lust as the beginning of First Blood was rapidly ending as the sacrifice to the hunt was safely delivered before the tribe’s representative. The son of Azeroth, bounded up and down in a flurry of swipes, lunges, and kicks. However despite the impressive showing, Pant was not trying to intimidate the green devil as much as he was trying to relieve his own impatience. For the match cannot occur unless the beast, if it is capable of reason, removes all disadvantages, the muzzle and the rope around his hands. For a moment the creature stood observing the young Azeroth, unblinking and to the crowd uncomprehending. Then as slow as one would expect a living statue to move, the green devil removed the muzzle first, gnawed at his rope till it fell apart in a heap to be dragged away by cats delegated for the task. It was then that the casual display of martial skill ended, and the young cat stalked his prey, shuffling his feet deliberately between the different stances one takes before the all-consuming lung.

“He plans to end this in one stroke.” whispered Alphonese, appreciation cracking his otherwise monotone speech.

It was in these seconds that the devil mind sharpened, his body tensed, and his breath held in anticipation of what was to come. His capture hung heavy in his mind, having witnessing his scouting party slaughtered, only 6 days before. In the midst of the battle, the helplessness of being taken completely by surprise feebled his response and shattered his resolve against an enemy that leaped from previously harmless shadows at the dead at night, where his kinds vision was rather excellent. In the days preceding his capture, he naturally wondered why he was kept alive while the rest of his troop was butchered, some hacked to pieces in front of him and packaged. These thoughts filled him with understanding that came with despair, he was to be tortured, and executed once they have gathered the information that they need. No known attacks by the cat race left much in the wake of survivors and few could confirm if they bothered taking live prisoners. Their continued success at wiping out scouts and small caravans must be due to the intelligence they gather from captives like himself. Though that much he couldn’t confirm because his captors kept him in a cage, not a prison cell, which was by and large exposed to the elements and lacking in neighboring cages. Worst his theory was slowly falling apart as the cats didn’t torture him, or ask him pointed questions. They spoke the northern tongue when around him, something he found disconcerting, and fed him regularly with cooked meat, local vegetation, and cups of water.

Much to his surprise this unusual treatment went on for many days. This measure of kindness however didn’t lower his guard, but raised it, though not to the point that he abstained from sleep. Expecting to be slaughtered with little chance to fight back, he was more than comfortable with the thought of never waking up again and felt sleep was a reprieve from an otherwise cruel world where his wife and four daughters will never be seen again. On the fifth day the first and only question to be asked of him was his name. To this the scout responded with his name, rank and nation: Henry Butchwater, 2nd Scout of the Expeditionary Legion, Proud citizen of The Black Water Bay, respectively.

On the sixth day, he was selected for first blood, and he woke up to ropes and a muzzle. In his heart Henry Butchwater resigned to his fate, and handled the indignity with meekness and resignation. It was only once he entered the circle, and realized what the cats had in mind, that his heart stirred with cold furry. He was kept alive for sport. His friends slaughtered for sport. The fuckers make light of a turtle.

So when the young Azeroth, the chosen one, the Lead hunter of his litter, charged the turtle, the crack of life entering Henry’s eyes was mostly unnoticed, as he went for the kill. And how textbook the attack was, perfect execution, managed by painstaking calculations of his speed, height, arch of his swing, the resistance of the soft grass that covered the plains of his homeland, made in a precious moments of calm before the storm… and how it all calm to a halt as the turtle backhanded the blow with ease of a seasoned soldier of his experience and pedigree and carried the assailant off balanced and surprised into the dirt. Having bet the entire ritual on that one strike, he was both surprised and criminally off balance, only the instinctive ability to right himself mid tumble allowed him the grace to see the next attack coming in a hammering knee to the sternum that nearly liquefied his internal organs if it wasn’t for a timely twist of his hips and sudden shift of his weight assist by his tail. Panic however didn’t set into Pant, as he counter attack while falling away from his foe only managing to scratch his shell. Rolling and popping back into stance, Pant contemplated what went wrong. According to his mother these creatures are criminally slow, if not dimwitted. Surely only coincidence of raising its arm out of instinct and enough wherewithal to attack while he was off balance was the only logical explanation.

The turtle was content with not pursuing, for he knew he couldn’t run the cat down. The son of Azeroth paced the creature, his self-confidence and fighting spirit hardly affected by the earlier exchange. A smart hunter always stalks his prey, and his father’s words and the training of his task masters training echoed inside of him as his plan of action took shape.

“No more gimmicks.” whispered Pant in his native tongue, which to Henry was no more than a barely audible sharp hiss.

And that’s when Pant went in again, rushing as before, but as Tragur and many of his peers would note, from a much different stance and footwork. For to the casual observer, Pant was merely doing the same thing again, but to the multitude of trained eyes, Pant was slightly slower and more balanced, so when he attacked he planted his feet before darting to the right while swiping with his left paws. Henry however, while not anticipating the cats actions, instinctively trusted the attack patterns he had learned to defend against from his nation’s footmen; lessons reinforced during campaigns against his neighboring nations like the Red Shells and the Sons of the Sire. With practice and focus he took a back step as the young cat lashed out with right, the blow catching him but not stunning him as he ducked under the left paw while pivoting on the planted foot. As the cat went right he met the out stretched arm of Henry, having intended to end the fight with the left paw in a vicious strike that carried his entire weight, he realized his mistake quickly enough and intended to escape before being yanked to the ground with brutal efficiency. For it only took a second for Henry to catch his quarry, fling him to the ground as he pivoted in the other direction. As the cat bounded for freedom, a cry only matched by newborn kittens in mortal danger escaped his lips as a loud resounding crack was felt more than heard by the entire audience.

It is to be said that having grabbed his opponent, Henry could have pulled the young cat into his muscular embrace and did much worse. And maybe it was because Henry did not take the speed and strength of young Pant for granted that he chose to fling him to the ground. But when Henry planted his foot hard and deep into the cats right leg, there was no doubt that the Black Water Bay soldier took some vindictive pleasure in crippling the son of Azeroth first. And as the son of Azeroth limped away, the pain of his lost leg made every attempt to put some distance between him and the green devil, a near comic effort if not sight, though no one found it funny. A slow and steady hiss started to build in the crowd as the turtle leisurely stalked his prey. It’s meaning foreign to the turtle soldier and too ancient to translate in the northern tongue. But in a second the hisses will be eclipse by a deafening roar from with the crowd, as a black cat with white spots marking her face and underbelly, leaped into the circle with murderous green eyes.

Time for a second froze as everyone knew who she was but few were willing to cross her, even for the sake of the ritual. But few is not all, as a taskmaster caught her leg with a whip as she was in midair. The resulting break in momentum crashing her in the plain grass, her murderous eyes now burning even brighter with a feral rage as she clawed desperately toward the turtle advancing toward her son. However the sound of her rage and the subsequent crash as her peers desperately stopped her, did get Henry’s attention. And Henry as he turned to see the new attacker, he bellowed in rage. For this wasn’t just any cat, but the cat who murdered his friends and brought him to the hell. So with speed not thought possible he bounded on the Lady of Azeroth, and nearly was on top of her if she wasn’t dragged back into the safety of the circle. Though for whose good, no one will found out as all the previous escort cats rushed the turtle, netting him before knocking him off balance with long poles made of harden wood. As Henry bellowed and cursed, the crowded dispersed; first blood was a failure and the hunt will not be blessed for this day and many days to come.

*******

When Tragur walked home, like so many other cats, he moved with a shuffling gate that betrayed in his downcast spirit. Whatever feelings he had toward the son of Azeroth, no cat deserves to be a cripple. Yet beyond that was another feeling, the question of whether he or god forbid one of his friends would have ended up the same or worse? It was a terrible thought, an angery thought, and Tragur shuffled through the front door yet again betrayed by his conflicting feelings.

Now Tragur home was not the largest, or the smallest in the Tribe. He was the third son of three litters, and his family wasn’t short on food or pelts to batter with. In this way, his family had the luxury of expanding on their humble home, which was originally one lonely shack facing the east river. In time however their manor grew to the size of eight shacks, as was the cat way to expand their homes by building a second home adjacent to the last. Tragur was fortunate enough to live in a home with four litter-rooms and lodge room two huts long, where cooking fires burned meat brought from the six meat lockers his parents kept stocked, as his siblings watched mouths drooling from the sweet aroma.

Of course such memories were far from his mind as he rubbed his feet against the patch of dry grass, maintained at the front door, before giving way to a rich network of white furs that still smelled of treated prey.  He wanted to cry out for his mother, but decided against it, not wishing to interrupt his father in the middle of his pleasure time with his mother. Judging it best not to announce his presence and at the same time avoid any doorways that crossed too close to the master bedroom, a lesson he learned the hard way on two occasions which encompassed two of his three near death experiences. So after taking great pains not to make too much noise, and alternatively not too little, Tragur finally entered his lodge room only to find his father waiting for him, with one bored eye watching him enter while his fingers worked away at the imperfections in a wood carving of some type of lizard.

“So how was your first First Blood.” His Lord Father said with a sigh. Having spent the morning indoors and working on his favorite hobby, he was only half interested in his sons account of the ritual. But to Tragur his father’s question nearly made him gush uncontrollably with words describing the fight in its bloody detail, the despair of the morning events nearly leaping from his lips. But instead with a calming breath, Tragur leveled his voice its most monotone, choosing even the northern tongue for the maximum dryness.

“The Black of Azeroth is no more.”

“That bitch died?” Tragur’s father nearly jumped out of his seat in excitement, “Wait your talking the Runt of Azeroth, the one half the town been raving about.”

“Be more respectful dear, the boys a cripple.” chimed Tragur’s Mother sharply.

“How do you guys know?” Tragur spoke with astonishment

“How could I not?” retorted his Father, “Practically everyone who walked by here was talking about how that turtle cracked that boys bones. Sad story he’ll tell his cross eyed children one day over the morning fire.”

“Garris!” Tragur’s Mother cracked.

“What!” her husband replayed “Everyone knows those Azeroths are brother to sister. “

“Baseless rumors” his wife countered.

“Baseless my ass. And now the son a crippled? Boy tell me, which one of your sisters will want the runt now”?

Tragur let the question roll over his head, his usual revulsion at the thought, numbed by today’s events.

“Exactly. The only hope he has for a life partner is one of his sisters… and needless to say what the resulting offspring will be like.”

“Still Garris, must you profane the Azeroths on a day like this?” sighed Tragur’s Mother.

“Jiilian everyone is saying it.”

“You don’t have to join them.”

“Why weren’t you at First Blood” Tragur interrupted, having learned early in his life to change subjects before his father and mother started their endless bickering.

“No real hunter needs it.” His father replied, not the least interested in the conversation.

“Isn’t that an affront to the gods?”

At this his father sighed.

“No son. An affront to the gods is an empty meat locker. Starving children. A Pride Lords unable to protect their family –“

“A husband unwilling to give his wife a fourth litter” Garris wife interrupted.

“A woman who won’t shut the hell up.”

“What’s that dear?”

“Nothing” Tragur’s Father sighed, “Nothing….Those things are affronts to the gods. Souring the meat of good prey and carving it up in front of the entire tribe proves nothing but some Pack Leaders vanity.”

Tragur took in his dad’s words and turned to his mother,

“You feel the same way mom?”

“Tragur, I’m 29 years old and the mother of three litters, I sleep as much as your father does.” At this his father hissed something in the native tongue even Tragur didn’t understand, though going by the daggers emitting from his mother’s face, Tragur committed not repeating the hiss within earshot of his queen mother to memory.

“Though Tragur I can’t say I’m not entirely un-thrilled that you wasn’t participating personally. Especially after what happened to that Azeroth boy. I know you worked hard for the privilege but still, I’m glad your home and safe. “ At this his mother crossed the room to give him a hug and a nuzzling, and being too emotionally drained to feel embarrassed he finally let his mother’s act of tenderness warm him, something he hasn’t allowed in quite some time since declaring himself a man in his heart.

“Tragur, you realize what this means right?” His father shouted over his mother embrace. Tragur mind, having finally begun to bring the pieces together, starting to think again with his usual Tragur like thought processes.

“No dad.” Which was the honest truth beyond his mental exhaustion.

“Just as well… Tragur a Azeroth has been made a cripple in combat and the beast that crippled him will be made to go free tomorrow.” His father gave Tragur a minute to soak in the words before continuing, “Please tell me the implications.”

Being the third son of three litters, his lord father, while not overly friendly, has never been unbearably antagonistic either. Nevertheless he has learned over the years that his father regarded him as a son because his mother convince him to do so and that his best chance of reaching adulthood, as he rightly reason, was staying out of his father’s way. Because of this approach to his father, and his father’s seemingly disinterest in him, he had very very few opportunities to genuinely disappoint him.

But as Tragur will come to learn, being an adult and more importantly a hunter will bring his every action and inaction into razor focus. A lesson his mother knew her son have to learn as she went back to her own carvings, a hobby Tragur’s mother shared with her husband, though her wood miniatures had very little resemblance to anything on earth.

“Son,” his fathered sighed, “I’m too tired to beat the runt out of you. However, since this directly affects you, I’m going to give you this freebie, lash free. “

At this Tragur gulped, his mind finally awakening completely from its stupor and today’s events cast under the measured eyes of a cat’s intellect. At first Tragur’s thought drifted toward the standings. His most importantly, but than his mind flicked that aside for a more terrible thought, for while on one hand the importance his own positioned was nearly all consuming it was battered by another image, the image his father was alluding to despite not being there to witness it. In his mind Tragur replayed the son of Azeroth’s last moments as a hunter, but not in its grizzly detail, but as a casual observer. And in this frame of thought came one image that brought chills to his spine. First was the roar, then the razor claws, sharp fangs, the blur of a muscular body, night black fur with a white underbelly streaking into the demonic circle, only to be stopped, though barely by the crap of the whip.

“The law of first blood present a problem that the bitch of Azeroth cannot avoid.” His father began.

“But if the Azeroths control half the tribe as you say…” replied Tragur, half in thought, half in horror.

“The superstitious fools won’t let her. Not that way.”

“No father…” the horror dawning on Tragur as he spoke, “she can’t make us.”

“Your father is right,” Tragur mother started somberly, “she can. Unless the Lord of Azeroth stops this madness.”

“He is no Lord.” His father grunted.

“Despite the unsavory rumors surrounding him, he is still a Lord to Caitlyn’s Lady.” To this Tragur and his Father raised an eyebrow. For calling the Lady of Azeroth by her first name implies a friendship at odds with the disposition of Pride Greyfish. Though this is merely a coincidence; before Juillian became the life partner of Garris, her school litter housed many great names, one of which was to be the Lady of Azeroth.

With a sigh, Tragur dad continued, “That’s maybe so, but few husbands deny the wishes of grieving mothers. The Silverstreak of Azeroth may not be inclined to avenge his whelp but the same can’t be said for the Black. If the cuddled runt had only fallen during a hunt, she would be free to charge into a pack of green devils as many times as she likes, saves the tribe from her madness all the same. But this…”

“This is war father,” Tragur said soberly.

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Samson : Note 1

I was born in a test tube. Can’t say I feel any particularly way about it, maybe some base distaste for being a crime against nature from the day I was slated to be conceived.  I have no brothers and especially no sisters, for I am a clone and the term brother couldn’t begin to describe what it feels like to be around one of me. Humans talk about love, love for family, love for strangers. But they don’t know respect, understanding, knowing someone not by word or action but by smell and thoughts unspoken. This “respect” is fostered in the litters in which we were born. 24 man-made souls, from 872 capital ships, raised over a period of 14 years, and taught all the basic essentials of life, mostly what we are, what we are meant to do, and the meaning behind doing so. The meaning is the most important, not because having a purpose in life is important, but because that’s what you’re suppose to understand to avoid being weaned from the litter. Out of 24, seven of us are bound to wash out and those bound to wash out rarely turn the age of 10.

“For we are the glory of mankind.

We fight in their footsteps and through the mouths of angels.

We bring the rains of hell upon the foul things that pollute the motherland with their very existence.

We make life short and bleak for those who fester under the sun and below rocks and even under the sea if there is yet more evils to be found there. ”

And so on and so forth until our lives are ground into dust by the reclaimer protocol that claims our corpses when the enemy has finally slain us. It is, as we like to say, a brutish existence not becoming a softer toned men. Softer tone being that of our human handlers, some too anxious to join the battlefield in glistening armor and flaming sword. We try to discourage the spirit the best we can in those that seem a bit too, “into it”, as the softy’s would say, so at least only those fully trained and ready in body and soul can stand in the darkness and freedom as we do, as we have been born for.

Some of our a soft tone handlers, most from divisions not considered to be part of Noah but part of a greater slice of the government with many branches that my kind are vaguely privy to, would often go through great pains to personally ask why us Samson’s, lauded for our great intelligence, seem content with our “grim fates.” Why we don’t rebel? Which even now, several years into this war, is a primary concern of those who distance themselves from the institution that is Noah.

I have answered this question a few times. Usually with a wizened laugh, stating their concerns are drowned under several facets and sufficiently buried underneath several layers of reasons and understanding. The soft tones have misconceptions about the nature of intelligence, inherently so being very much far removed from what is necessary for survival. For humanity intelligence is merely the sum of facts gathered purposely under a keen mind. In mans natural habitat, the universe simply yields results and the only wall to overcome is the ignorance of the unknown. But for the rest of us, archiving facts means little, and nothing “yields” unless savagely broken. To know, to study, and to ultimately overcome an intelligence keen enough to evade your pursuit, or better fight back, is the greatest show of mental prowess. So they (not all) inherently misunderstood what it means to have a firm head on ones shoulders, at least from our perspective.

Now you can blame our ‘nature’ on the weaning, or our indoctrination from a young age. Maybe its the genes, though no one can deny we were bred to be aggressive, if not eager to spill and cause mayhem. Each layer of reasoning has its toll, though I’ve never meet a Samson to complain about it. The assumptions that we’re either happy to be used or seething with bitterness, is a misconception. To rephrase, we are tools, that much is obvious, but we do not take orders for the love or hate of it. It’s not the adrenaline that rides our veins, or any particular high or thrill that ultimately allows us to swallow the heavy pill of our fates. As a Patriarch is a man, not of science, math, or reading, but of necessity, if not mere students of disciplines long forgotten to time and the Exodus, we Samson’s are students of war. And like any good student, it is not the pleasure, or the ease that drives us, but the necessity of the subject in question. Because someone must learn it, we are merely the volunteers.

Can anyone imagine? Full war-time production of Samson’s can reach, 20928 at any given time, with a six-month delay between batches for each ship can only contain at max 3 litters of potential troops. Not including the ones who are weaned, this method of thinking, some may call even twisted, is shared by each and every one of them. Through potentially 20928 life experiences, or 62784 souls at max capacity. This is why we are clones, not brothers. Clones can differ in behavior, temperament, thought process, and can even deal with variations in environment, but eventually…. you are what you are. And if the core is right, ultimately they’ll avoid getting weaned, and the soft tones will declare another victory for the glory of man.

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Chapter 5

“Primed and ready!”

The first bug dies in a burst of napalm.

“Not enough”

Is there hope? No room for gambling, since the odds are already less than zero. No, as long as I’m not downwind I can keep the odds at zero … of course I’m covered in swarmling blood, feces, and other material … so it probably makes no difference. But who cares.

So a bug approaches low from the corner of my eye. I lunge at him; first smashing it under the forward momentum of my goliath armor before rolling to my feet in an instant to burst down, one bug, three bugs, twelve bugs in time to turn around and roast two dozen more. Not enough; the explosions attract more bugs, the corpses attract more bugs, I attract more bugs. How long ‘til I’m swarmed?

Am I in hell? The demons don’t care. Brother, sister, living, dead? Eat, attack, lung, gorge, buffet their stomachs until their wings are forced to unfold. It makes no difference: one blind sides the other, and buries its face into the loser’s underbelly, chewing and ripping its way inside. The loser fights back, smashing his assailant’s head three times with its claw and cracking its armored back, but it makes no difference. Natural selection in full display and we evolved from this? The ones I cut with the sword become food to his brother; the ones I burn with the torch are feasted on by his sister. I’m chest high in death and goo, as the wanderers and the curious come at me by the hundreds and soon thousands.

No escape. I duck under the leap of a swarmling, cutting it in half as I twist away from his raining organs. I recognize one heart in the mix – funny what you notice in crisis situations – before I bash the nozzle of my II into the gaping mouth of a fast-approaching swarmling. My timing’s unreal! As it tugs at the metal, I shove the barrel deeper into its mouth and swing the creature into his brothers, who take no notice of him as he is quickly trampled under the weight of the armored sea. The swarmling I just cut in half gets beset on by his brothers as it struggles to regain some sort of balance. And the battle moves as I move, forward and away, but never far enough.

The fight goes until the ground is soppy with the lickerish they call blood. It sizzles and pops with each release of napalm. Swarmling blood at boiling point releases gasses that rapidly expand the swarmling’s body until the pressure becomes unbearable for the rigid insect body. This process is aided by the four hearts that pump blood into the swarmling’s seven foot body at extraordinary speeds, a necessity to keep all of the organs and extra organs filled with nutrients and the keep the muscles oxygenated.

One bug rears up on four legs, allowing his other four to act as claws capable of punching dents into the pride and joy of human war engineering. I could already see the complaint form I would file as I dodge the first swing with a step back, twist around to let the swarmling behind me lunge at my attacker, and then watch them tackle and fight each other as they suddenly found better things to eat. I lit the dueling pair on fire as one finally got the advantage over the other after a 0.512 second life-and-death duel that saw the loss of 3 limbs, the snapping of one mandible, and multiple puncture wounds that must have caused the failure of four to five important organs.

“Endless.” I cut down three swarmlings in a frenzy of haphazard swordsmanship.

“Axe-Hand,” the name of a Samson I’ve gotten to know since my 10 years of being assigned to the 122nd mixed infantry, “Why do you insist on taking melee weapons when range combat is safer and more effective?”

He looks at me and shrugs, “Well, when your tech boys invent a gun that doesn’t run out of ammo, I’ll leave my axe at home.”

I rip a female swarmling from her head to egg-sack; some eggs are large enough to hatch, pop, and spill out into the ground, some crack on impact, while others bounce. I take a moment to step on one, taking note of how hard they become when exposed to fresh air. The Sword of David, or SoW, sizzles with the blood of the slain. I drip sweat despite the suit’s best efforts to keep me cool. My vision takes a lapse as my conscious slips for a precious moment. I feel the sudden weight of a swarmling, I shrug it off, another swarmling, I knock it aside, I stumble forward feeling dehydrated for the first time in my life.

Too much! The smell alone; of the living, the dead, and the burning, is too much! Oh mercy, if anything was to kill me right now it would have to be whatever manages to seep through the air filter. The smells are poignant even to my soul. Of all the creatures on God’s green earth, the cockroach, despite its order in the food chain, is the one insect that elicit the most hatred. And now I see why as I smash one with a back hand swipe of my sword hand. It stumbles without a head, but turns toward me despite having no eyes to see, and claws with every limb. I shove the sword inside its mid-section and let the blade rip out its side, effectively folding the creature’s carcass upon itself. I take another backhanded swipe as something approaches from behind, it’s cleaved in two with no effort, I choke on bile as its inwards spill mere inches from face.

But carnage doesn’t stop and neither will I. With a turn I let a cartridge of napalm go before doing an odd one-handed reload procedure that required me to hook the II between my shoulder-blade and elbow, swipe a fresh cartridge, and jam it in when I let the Industrial Incinerator fall. How I manage to do that while on the run I have no idea, but I burst down a group of swarmlings before they approach within 50 yards of me and twist sideways to torch a flanking party without missing a beat.

I dive and roll to send a few bugs sailing over me, experience with humanoids must have taught them to aim for the chest. Or to be more exact, “experience” is more like the genetic memory of the ones that survived long enough to breed. I wonder what this experience will teach them. It’s probably not the fear of fire. I press and swing the flamethrower into mob, blood and liquefied guts shortly follow. I take a step and meet a swarmling, I cut it down, avoiding its claws as it twitches, and nearly step into the fury of another bug before I incinerate it out of frustration. “Too many!” and I’m exhausting my supply of napalm. I could have insisted on getting some smokers or mountain poppers, but I only managed a SoW because they forgot to remove it from the scabbard.

“Think!” I look around, forcing my eyes to see past the smoke and my own tears to see the chaos unfolding before me. I see a vision of hell; of chaos and death eating death, raping death, and spilling forth more death. I won’t sleep after this; if I survive, I simply won’t sleep. Who thinks of rest in this vision of hell? When life is obscenity that causes the eyes to bleed? But here stands the reaper man armed with lance and fire, surrounded by smoke and abominations, baked in the blood of the profane things. The smell dries and drips down the naval cavity, allowing me to taste hell.

“Enough!” As my adrenaline levels spike, letting the heart explode while everything becomes a blur of red and orange, black and yellow, screeches and roars, both human and demonic. Hell burns and I step through the carnage into the bosom of more beast. Why don’t the demons flee before the reaper man? The question taunts a response from hell’s denizens; they collapse on me from all sides, mandible click and chip at steel, both arms are trapped before the tide that sweeps away forty tons of war machine.

But who am I if not the reaper man? They meet fire, if only for a second, before the cartridge ejects; but I’m not defenseless. One meets my elbow as I pull out the fresh catch of napalm while another meets the back of my right hand. They attack from all sides and there is no end to this sea of black in site. The swarm is focusing on me now; the dozens is now hundreds and soon thousands.

“Come try to eat me demons!” because it’s reassuring to shout at things that don’t speak English. They come at me in one push, but I’m ready this time and lunge into them like 40 tons of inedible space hull approved steel. Their bodies of flesh and fat shatter under my weight; the armor that evolved to handle the hardest blows any living creature is capable of producing splinters like dried wood.

I drive my SoW into a swarmling before it can rear itself up to my height, disarming myself for a second to reach for another cartridge. I twist with my hips to avoid one lunge before shattering the exoskeleton of another attacking swarmling with my right knee, snapping three mandibles off the face and driving the fourth into what’s left of its compound eye.

I catch a shallow breath before driving my elbow into the mid-section of another bug, knocking it off-balance, as I pull the cartridge out of my ammo pouch, only to hammer the same fist into the face of a diving swarmling, sending it sprawling.

I even bash my head into swarmling just as it rears up to claw at me, forcing its body to cave inward due to the pressure, while I complete my reload. I dive to ground, rolling past and under swarmlings as they dive for me, before resting at the spot where I left my sword. I clenching it with my left hand; I spray the fire of man into the crowd, scorching the blood soaked ground along the way.

“Primed and ready!” The SoW rips through three swarmlings in one swift horizontal slash that parts mid-sections, heads, and legs from body. I twist and high-step to avoid being weighed down by the bugs. I wade through them with fire, and check my six with blade in hand. The barely living that I leave behind crawl desperately to their next meal before being eaten by healthy and hungry; the cannibalism won’t stop! Even I’m just another swarmling to them. Baking in their stench for god knows how long now … some have probably tried to mate with me …

Then that thought goes away with one thrust of my SoW. The bug is skewered from the side, I lift and toss him as he screeches, his brood devours him before he meets the ground. I have to keep moving, but hell seems to have no exit. The nest is stupidly large, the mounds seem to go on and on for miles. God help me, I’m going to die here.

I let out a jet stream of napalm, making sure to cover a wide area, as the bugs come dangerously close to surrounding me before letting go of the trigger at the worst possible second. Before I can raise a hand, a swarmling comes and nearly tears my overworked helmet from head with a quick swipe of his front claws. I only manage to twist my head in time to avoid his blade embedding itself into my visor. The crack impairs my vision for a second as I stumble in wake of the hit. I flail the II frantically to ward off the approaching swarm while my sword hand zims and zips through empty air. I get my bearings in a breath before a swarmling latches itself onto my back. I twist and turn violently in the hopes of shaking it off, but its legs are wrapped tightly around me in full embrace.

In rage I break three legs to no effect. It pecks and rams its head against my helmet in a vain attempt to find an opening. But that’s not entirely true there is a self release button around the back of the neck…

And that’s when I took a running leap into the air twisting myself mid-air in order to land squarely on my back. Smashed beneath my goliath armor lays the one swarmling that made me piss my pants. I roll and push myself up to my feet, thanking whatever divine providence saw fit to allow me to get up unmolested, before coming face-to-face with a swarmling’s moving mouth parts. Two pairs of mandibles click to my helmet as it attempts to pull me down.

“Oh look, we’re kissing!” I land an uppercut with my sword hand that ruptured it so fast into the air that it forgets to take its lips with it. With callouse efficieny swing through four and burn down several dozen in a long screeching ark of fierier death in my rage.

“Not any closer …” then I notice a ridge not so far away from where I’m currently standing and compel myself forward two meters in an outburst of joy.

“How did I miss that little detail when I looked over the Swarms’ nest? Was I heading for it the entire time? Does it matter?”

“Say goodbye to the reaper.” Then I notice a mound’s worth of swarmlings moving in unison; ignoring their imperative to eat each other in the face of a meal that smells like mother of all meals – me.

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Chapter 4

The thing about falling from 40,000 feet is that you die. Not from the fall, I’m confident this won’t even break my legs, but from what’s waiting for you when you reach the ground. Naturally I’m implying that there are things in this life worse than going splat from a 40,000-foot fall. Well… maybe I have to survive one to know for sure….

0.51 seconds till I go splat

Two tons of metal should never be allowed to free fall to the Earth without a solid plan. Fact is dropping from “bomber” height is routine for Samsons; though their ability to survive the fall is not entirely due to their ridiculous muscles and bone structure. No, a special shock-absorbing jell, that accounts for multiple layers of both the Goliath and Samson’s armor, allows this impossible feat. The relationship is simple, if not farfetched: as the jell absorbs the energy of the fall, the energy moves rapidly through the armor, generating heat as it travels up. The heat rapidly changes the jell’s state from solid to gas, as large quantities of kinetic energy travel up the armor. Gas is vented out immediately, as the jelly filled layers rapidly expand to accommodates the increasing volume of gas. This same gas is then expelled, once the jell filled layers hits pressure based external facing vents.

Or that’s how it’s supposed to work.

0.33 seconds till I go splat …

After the venting process is complete, the remaining shock travels though the numerous layers of fibers muscle; several layers inside layers of wire, that mimic actual muscles, allow the David inside to move the Goliath with ninety percent of his own strength and without the assistance of the various power systems. Through the muscle fibers, energy is fed into the shock motors; their spinning burns the excessive energy while generating reserve energy. Even then, what does manage to penetrate past the muscle fibers and landing jelly naturally triggers the David’s adrenaline glands, which brings another one of the Goliath’s system into full focus. As the human body pumps adrenaline and endorphin to cope with the pain, the Goliath Armor prepares its first injection of the superman serum. Derived from a Samson’s own adrenaline glands, Noah scientists found the chemicals and hormones inside a Samson several times more potent than anything similar in a lab. Potentially addictive in large quantities, its main side effects are increased strength and improved reflexes, along with pain resistance and improved fight-or-flight responses. Landing would simply jar the brain too much without this simple drug.

0.0001 seconds till I go splat …

When I was five years old, I took the Academy test. The line was long and my parents looked nervous. I was a commoner then so at the time, Patriarch, Noah, Wise Men meant nothing to me. I was five and I wanted to spend my day playing video games. So when my turn came up, I refused to take the test. So my dad yelled and my mom yelled and the Patriarch instructors prodded me, but I just “didn’t wanna.” I wanted to go home; it was hot and smelly with all the people and the kids still in diapers. And besides, I had better things to do like beating level 9286 of Tetris. Faced with the prospect of never knowing my full potential, my dad for the first time took me by the ear and put a world of pain on my bottom that left me unable to sit without fidgeting for the better part of two days.

0.00001seconds till I go-

Ka-boom …

The ground splits, my legs turn to liquid, and the world becomes a brown and yellow haze. The headache follows next as the teeth rattle out of my gums, the armor is pelted with newly displaced rocks and the air smells of sulfur and methane. I heave in one breath, thanking God that the air is filtered as the super-heated landed gel releases itself in a burst of vented steam. Not disoriented, not hurt, I lift my leg gingerly; I can still walk and that’s when I finally look down. Buried under the dirt is a black carapace; the cracks in it seep a mixture of brown, yellow and white goo. The color of its blood and the remnants of his organs are liquefied.

Scattered all around are the remains of the creature that once occupied the same space as where I stand. It being a swarmling, obscenity given proper form: long by at least 8 feet, plenty legs on either side, and a sideways mouth rowed like a chainsaw with teeth and possessing two sets mandibles, one cracked from my landing. And it wasn’t alone; I feel more than see or hear the movement all around me.

“KREEEEEEEEEEEEEACCCCCCCCCCTCH”

I turn to face it.

“KREEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAACHTCH”

My II lets out a jet stream of napalm at the seven o’clock position as I turn. I’m alone in the crater, more screeches, more scuttling, the dust hasn’t cleared, and then-

“CRRRRRRRRRREAAAAAAAATTCCCCCCCCCCCCCKTCK”

And the smoke parts before the bullet of armored flesh, otherworldly fast for a hundred pound of insect. It doesn’t bother to dart out of the way as I swing the II to check its advance. It doesn’t know fear, nor does it have any concept of prey and predator. No, in its mind there is only “full” and “starving,” which makes it the purest binary machine in nature. Oh, and it explodes when set on fire. Ignoring the fire or any thought of self preservation, it pushes past it before exploding.

Taking a step back, I admire my second kill before I’m hit hard from behind. Stumbling, I regain my balance before being hit again from the opposite side. Unable to down me, they shake off the daze before resuming the attack. I take note of how few of them come to attack me. A relief, but not reassuring; the stench of a fresh corpse will attract more of them, but only the curious, the wanders, are paying me any attention. For now anyway; eventually the mounds will displace themselves as millions start to inquire about the funny smelling tin can, and when that happens, the Goliath armor won’t hold against a million set of claws and teeth.

I avoid the attack of one as it rears up on its four legs.

“Cockroaches don’t do that.”  A swarmling is for all intent and purposes a seven-foot-tall cockroach (females are nine to ten feet tall with egg sack included) with eight to ten legs and four mandibles. The first set of legs are its claws: short, hard, and sharp. They can dent steel, and are ideal for rending flesh as quickly as possible with as many strokes that are necessary. Its other legs aren’t specialized, except its back legs that are capable of holding its weight, and are generally sturdier than the other pairs, which alternate between fast travel and tearing into flesh with its jagged edges.

Unlike other insects worthy of extermination, the swarmlings are thankfully not self aware; unfortunately, their weaknesses end there. The Swarm numbers in the billions, possibly trillions, worldwide. Those black hills I mentioned earlier are their homes.  The “mounds” are not constructs, but thousands of swarmlings eating and mating in one spot. Each mound contains over one million swarmlings. I was dropped in a nest containing dozens of mounds.

Three more explode, five more explode, and then a dozen screech and roast before my II. The curiosity phase is rapidly ending; the shadow of one mound disappears, and the smoke gives away to a black tide that approaches from all sides.

“Say hello to the reaper man.”

And I charge forward, guns literally blazing as the Industrial Incinerator becomes a dragon consuming swarmlings by the dozen. But it’s not enough; they come crashing in, biting at shoulder pads, helmet, ripping away the cape and trying to rip apart my arms and legs. One swarmling tugs me by my left ankle with such ferocity that I smashed my head against the carapace of the adult swarmling, cracking it in the process. My II was on full automatic as I blindly shot in any direction with one hand, while my left hand smashing heads, claws, and anything in-between. I was drenched in brown blood as each explosion drenched me more and more in swarmling body fluids.

Then the napalm cartridge ejects without warning and at the worst possible time. I jam the trigger in desperate plea to save my soul before finally realizing the dragon has gone silent. I reach for another cartridge, but the lack of an attacking hand gets taken advantage of in an instant, knocking me flat.

Within seconds, I’m twisting and turning within the mass of bugs. Claws and teeth attempting to dig their way through my armor to get to the sweet flesh inside and rapidly my world stops making sense as the air becomes too shallow to breath. The world has become black, brown, white, and yellow, and it makes no sense. Below me is the swarm, above me is the swarm, and when I look ahead I see the ever moving machinery of a swarmlings underside moving tirelessly in the darkness.  Nauseating! The stomach churns away a response that I barely bite back.

So on all sides is moving wall of armor and carapace and I can’t move. The slip and drip of blood, feces, the insides of their stomachs, and god knows what else surrounds me, and I can’t move. “Can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t think,” and something punches into my armor. I force my fist through the armored flesh and undersides until I reach the handle of my side arm, and with one swift stroke I hear the ’Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakkkccccccccccccck’ of a dozen bugs bucking the blade in agony.

A space opens for a second, so with empty flamethrower in my right hand and blade in my left hand, I pushed and slash to proper footing but not escape. The swarm has made a mound on top of me, an orgy of blood and mating is all around me, but the lack of air will get me killed first as my filter is taxed beyond usability. Out? I slash widely and haphazardly at the world around me, dispersing my anger into this cruel dark world devoid of light and air. I find space to move my right hand properly and hook my II before the chance is lost. The space closes, within moments, but with my newly free right hand I strike out blindly, and grab onto what I assume is something’s mouth because I feel thousands of rows of teeth grinding at my gauntlet. And pull. And push. And pull. And Push. Forward, I move my sword with purpose, as the blade cracks through armor and carapace like chewing through tender meat. Forward; with the barely-conscious swarmling as my shield, his brain bashed into a dozen times and his second or third brain only capable of making his claws and legs fight me out of muscle memory.  The head finally comes off as I crunch the flailing body as I press forward. No I charge, using a cross guard, I bull-rush into mound; using my two-ton body to make the wall armor flesh yield to my will.

But is it good enough? The smell, the air, the weight of thousands, more like millions of swarmlings pressing my feet into the ground, slowing my step, slowing my breath, my consciousness …

“NO!” And I take another step, but the momentum is gone and my armor is being assaulted on all sides. Not even a swing of my sword will clear this, it ends here.

“Too many … Was never a soldier … Can’t breathe …”And then I lunge forward, god help me, and I break into fresh air at least. Coughing up blood and bile, I automatically switch my sword out for a napalm cartridge, plug it into my II, and unleash on the new mound, killing thousands of swarmlings as the mound collapses in on itself and into the fire. The smell of that many dead swarmlings nearly takes me off my feet. It was that bad. I couldn’t breathe for a moment because the smell drafted right into me. Tears ran uncontrolled for the first time and my god why was I laughing even as my eyes burn despite the filter. Then the sound of too many legs scuttling in too close to my ear cleared my mind of all other thoughts, but the one thing to remember about the swarm.

“They are always attracted to the smell of their dead, Andrew.”

“And why would that matter, don’t we kill them all anyway.”

“In war yes, in battle no.”

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Chapter 3

How do you project the will of man, what is holy and just, upon the unholy and the abominable? With a big gun? Easy answer, but you wouldn’t pass the first class of tactics 101 thinking like that. Big guns require either big men or big enough platforms; in which case, guess which one is cheaper than the other? Simple answer: if genetic engineering matched the expansion of weapon research, – both arts running in perfect parallel of the other – then warfare, now infused with man’s ego, would look much different. We may have never invented firearms. But thank the ignorance of man that we invented the hydrogen bomb long before we invented computers capable of mapping the genetic code of millions of species.

This isn’t a course on, “Why we have Samsons,” but an explanation for the Goliath in the age of large guns capable of piercing, roasting, and flailing a man alive. It must be considered, with great gravity, that the best of mankind is being sent to do battle and expected to return home all the same. We engineer the defense of these assets with the utmost resources made feasible; assuring ourselves that the life of one David is worth many times the combined martial prowess of a full battalion of Samsons.

In this think tank comes the Goliath; not just a two-ton life preservation suit, or merely plates of armor slapped on top of already near-indestructible skin and hardened muscle as the mighty Samson, but a full-combat suit that brings the wearer to superhuman levels; combining high-grade armor, machinery, and regular injections of stimulants and hormones to keep the David as battle-ready and fatigue-resistant as possible.

“I’d thought you’d drop me on top of the closest swarm mound,” having confirmed a thousand times that the big red dot we were approaching was not a swarm mound by heat, historic, and live data. In fact, passing one gave my curiosity the extra push I needed to overcome my intense hatred for conversations with Patriarch Gecko.

“Oh you are. That red dot is only your next assignment.”

“Are you serious?”

“Very. Assuming you survive of course, your first supply drop will be a week from now at that location.”

So I’m still a military asset to these people.

“Surprised?”

“No.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that Noah wouldn’t agree to treat me like common garbage to be disposed of casually. Well no, they would agree to that: sending me down with one of the highlights of human engineering to be torn apart for the Wise Men’s leisure. Not so much.

“Getting their money’s worth huh?”

“What was that?!”

“Nothing.”

Black dots in the horizon tell me the time to drop is near. The correlation between the rows of black hills and the absence of any sign of life since I started staring at the display map of South-West North America, does not go unnoticed. The amount of kilometers between the Swarm and the next indigenous population are measured in the hundreds.

“You make light of your sins Patriarch Matchworth.” He pitches the ship sharply to the right, and then rolls to the left. My poor balance and loose grip nearly sends me plunging to the earth below.

“Son of a —-“

Another sharp pitch followed by a barrel roll in the opposite direction.

“My, my, are we getting angry?”

The Michael takes a sudden nose dive; I let go of the handle bar, cursing my idiocy for not strapping myself in to one of the six available seats, when I go crashing into the back of the Michael before sliding into the door of the captains compartment. I reach for the door slide, when I go sliding in the opposite direction when the plane banks. I scramble to my feat as the plane levels, reaching for the II holstered on my back.

“Are you angry yet?” Silence, “Still mocking us I see. I always knew something was wrong with you boy. Two hundred years of cryo wasted and for what? FOR WHAT!!? You’re nothing more than a cow with horns.”

I lower the II.

“Prepare to drop in fifteen seconds.”

I look out the open door and see the lush green, the gentle tops of hills, and the mountains that line the distance further west. But not the black, as if the brain refuses to acknowledge something of that scale and horror could exist in a world so peaceful and serine. The black hills almost look natural, unless you refuse to consider what they represent.

“Remember this Matchworth, you have no brothers in Noah.”

I nearly bite my own tongue to hold back the desire to argue. Gecko makes sense, I am not a Noah.

“You have 5 seconds to decide to jump yourself. Five.”

I back up a little.

“Four.”

And bolt for empty space.

“Three.”

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Chapter 2

“If you wanted me dead, you should have dropped me naked,” a simple fact I spit in the face of an indignant Patriarch of the Plant Life Research Division. More unhappy to be here than concerned with the fate of an accused murderer, his suggestion to remove the “smirk” off my face is his own way of showing it. He doesn’t bother me, in fact most of the room doesn’t; the Wise Men purposely stuffed the East Wing with civilians whose opinions, by default, doesn’t matter frankly.

It is still a strange sight to see none of my brothers and sisters in Noah moving about carrying on their regular duties for the glory of man. This skeleton crew of volunteers and the unlucky are so tense and clueless, fumbling about with no aim and purpose, half wondering the difference between their left shoe from their right. Most look pissed, whether at me or at their petty misfortunes, while others attempt to not trip over themselves and each other avoiding the Samsons, who now make up a startling amount of foot traffic especially in the eyes of the nonmilitary personnel. Fear, not damnation, is the name of the game. Some save that fear for me, not the man, but the David in Goliath armor. They hide behind smiles, keeping their anxiety at a surface level, well masked by the pointless insults and comments on my morality.

But they are not Noah; and no man, woman, or even new blood from the academy could wear Goliath’s armor and have the insignia of a David carved into his breastplate with his name gleaming in the blood sliver, without a hint of a shameless pride. I was two tons of manmade evil, or justice depending on which end of the barrel you stand. Since the formation of our war department the concept of Davids has always been there, only made obsolete by the need for Samsons. In truth, we had no idea what we would face when the Wise Men and all breathing Patriarchs at that time decided to return to Earth. Noah, the closest thing we have to a department of war, was original a self-defense force in case of dire emergencies or merely the need for a human footprint on foreign soil, so naturally the idea of pure-blood men and women trained for combat was on the table from the beginning. In fact each Patriarch currently working as officers in Noah would have been the equivalent of a small counties special forces if the need were to arise.

However, what we thought The Scientist may have left behind gave little pause to seriously pursue said option besides token readiness. Subsequently Noah evolved to become research, development, and planning and little else… until we discovered the Earth was teeming with sentient life – a beyond worst case scenario for Noah… and all of mankind. In which case a simple self-defense force – no matter how well-trained and equipped – risked unnecessary casualties; a single death would be the equivalent to 100,000 of theirs. From that crisis came the Samson’s: sixty percent man, forty percent other. To many, the overwhelming advantage of a clone army composed of genetically altered super soldiers placed the need for human-beings to step down from the stars and wage their own wars unnecessary and worse unpractical.

To draw contrast, all decisions regarding the war are made unilaterally by Noah. Any debates regarding the war are made internally inside the umbrella of Noah. Even a new blood on his first assignment has more to say in what gets researched, where the next hot zone will be, and how many resources will be needed, than a Wise Man. At most, the Wise Men rein in Noah by setting budget, though even the budget can be called into question by referendum. However, Davids, though considered a part of the military complex have been under debate since the first Patriarch expressed desire to step foot on Earth clad in whatever protective armor he managed to weld together and two Goliath Slayers in each hand. To become a David is beyond the boundaries of physical training or military discipline often given to elite Special Forces in the past. Extensive psyche evaluation followed by a private hearing before the Wise Men, among other test, restrict the pool of Davids to only a select few Noah who feel obligated to subject themselves to the opinions of others. The only other shortcut was self-promotion by becoming a General – a pain in the ass by itself.

No, for me the honor was out of reach; my only serious attempt at moving toward that rank has been my practice rounds with a personally decommissioned Goliath Slayer. To be an actual David – all prevailing circumstances considered – was a cause for celebration, if only privately behind my grim mask. Again, they chose the wrong punishment for a true Noah– I plan on enjoying this thoroughly.

“Well, well, Commander Matchworth; no, David Matchworth is it now?” speaks a man approaching 323 by my last count as he materializes himself next to me, matching our pace stride for stride.

“Gecko, you’re my pilot? Go figure.”

“They had to make sure they’d found someone willing to tip the plane over in case you suffer from cold feet.”
My senior takes this opportunity to pat my left cheek three times; bold move, considering I’m the man with the flamethrower.

“My, my, is that the same look you gave Steward before the ‘you know’…”

“No.” I flash my pearly whites, which he can’t see, as I say this, “I was much more relaxed.”

“Oh my, no regrets huh?”

“Not few you can have, especially in Goliath armor.”

We both exchange shark-like grins.

“Well you’d be the first to die in one.” Gecko shakes his head, “I’d rather drop you naked.”

I take a second to laugh out loud; the Samsons were undisturbed so I laugh even louder and harder until I remember Mr. Gecko unimpressed, impassionate face staring at the spectacle that is David Matchworth newly minted warrior of mankind.

“You must excuse me,” I chuckle, “my senses are starting to take their leave.”

Sighing Commander Gecko pushes on past me, like a bored cat leaving behind a new toy. I’m glad his company will be saved for the drop; the safety on my Type-52 Industrial Incinerator may be disengaged by then.

A slight rap on my left shoulder pad signals the need for the oxygen masked to be engaged. An unnecessary precaution, but I’ve heard enough hanger bay horror stories – some of which are well documented – that I don’t hesitate to do myself the favor when reminded. Hanger B-7 is one of 4 sets of hangers converted into force projection platforms, and doubles as an R/D lab on the weekends. In here, my fellow Noah are busy at work, too busy winning a war to be concerned with the fate of a disgraced Patriarch. To them, I’m just another David, which works out for me.

“David Matchworth, right this way.” My escorts tug my arm in the desired direction; I was wondering unintentionally, too caught up in the sounds and memories to remember that I’m an enemy of mankind. The little boy in me cranes his neck to see his squadron, the 122nd. I shake his heart still. First, my unit has always been deployed in Hanger B-2 or B-5. Secondly, the Wise Men are far too paranoid of the rippling effects of my sins to let a man so heavy-laden with his crimes anywhere near his own men. And third, they aren’t my men. A desk jockey is no more a commander than a squire a knight. An attachment to a Samson unit is an exercise in vanity. Seeing them would just remind me of what I’m not … a soldier. And if you look past the bravado and honor of merely holding the title of David…solely wearing the armor doesn’t “make” you one. But why am I torturing myself?

Nonetheless … the alien nature of this old world I’ve always been a part of is starting to encompass me. As a soldier, not an officer, I find a new sense of nervousness that I haven’t felt since I first started as a new blood. I hid it better under arrogance and bravado in those days; I can’t help but laugh with myself at that. For example, the first time seeing a Samson: 9 feet tall, 400 pounds of muscle, and eyes capable of seeing your every detail, access your worth, and grunt it back before you have time to automatically blink… I couldn’t imagine not taking note of them when I was a new blood, a mere volunteer to the cause, like I do now. Yet, the most startling thing about them– what draws you away from the elegant dove-like design of the drop ships, or the massive scale of the hanger itself– is how human they look. Not a mask, or a few common features, but common an ancestry that if one didn’t know better, may have stretched millions of years. Something beyond looking past what is obviously not human, and more like staring into the mirror called a distant cousin, who is 9 feet tall and built like a semi-truck. It’s not hard to believe that the Samsons are only 60% human on average.

No, the curiosity stems from the small scientist in me, wondering how far away from humanity can we go before crossing the threshold that divides “enhanced” human and walking monstrosity. It is their undeniable humanity, despite being physically un-human in every proportion, which makes their alertness; and the undeniable feeling that they will kill, and worse, prepared to be killed, much more subduing.

So of course, if my memory served me right, I wanted to have a conversation with one at the first opportunity. I planned a thirty minute interview, badgering my superiors for the opportunity of a lifetime. It didn’t last five seconds. Children in the academy often pass rumors of Samsons being mere brutes incapable of even speech. This assumption, which is held by even some Patriarchs (A minority, a minuscule minority, I assure you, less all of humanity be shamed!), is due to the heavy use of nonverbal communication and natural assumptions we humans, who use our brains to do much of the hard work, make of the more physically endowed. A Samson’s voice, which I quickly learned, was deeper than anything a human voice-box could possibly produce casually. But it also possessed another quality: a sound that went completely unnoticed by the human ear, but felt in the nerves. That is what ended the interview – which started with me fidgeting like an 8-year-old visiting the dentist, and ended with me running at full speed to the safety of my bed and blankets. Dubbed the ‘predator frequency,’ our ears pick up some sounds, though they can’t technically be heard, and will register in our minds as the personification of fear. Since hairless chimps spent a good part of their time being on the lower end of the food chain … we’ll needless to say it took much discipline and frequent trips to the bathroom to avoid treating an ARK ship like the hot plains of Africa.

A second tap on my right shoulder pad; the Michaels are ready for me. I turn around, almost with some hopes to burn a good picture into my memory. Only a squad of Samsons with guns at the ready met my longing gaze; I flush in my stupidity and embarrassment.

“I’m not going back; I shouldn’t look like I want to.”

Not the best self advice, but it must suffice. My home. I take a single step towards the Michael, originally a line of civilian vessels designed for scuttling between places of interest. Not truly fitted for long term space travel, but at the very least it can go in and out of a planet’s atmosphere with repairable wear and tear. They weren’t called Michaels until we turned them into scorch earth military aircraft. Though the outside looks as friendly and weapon-free as you would expect of a civilian vessel, it is only for the sake of practicality that its array of weapon systems aren’t hanging out every wing and free space. Trust me, nothing says “kaboom!” like a bunch of missiles and MM cannons being exposed to dropping in and out of the atmosphere where metals easily reach temperatures that could make the Atlantic Ocean sizzle. Like a dove folding her wings, her true size isn’t truly understood until it’s ready to fly. Troops, like me, are loaded in from the sides, while munitions, supplies, and drones are loaded in and simply dropped from the back.

I take another step. The deck looks inviting. Step. I know how many Samsons I’ve watched climb in without hesitation. Step. And the few that don’t return. Step. Made for war, not made for war. Step. Born to die, groomed to live. Step. I could just disengage the safety and … Step. I shot a man, this is what I deserve. Step. He deserved it, I’m a hero! Step. The fools. Step. I am better than this. Step.

I hold out a hand to the side of the door: the armor that turns my merger-sized fist into something capable of delivering 20-50 tons of force when wielded by even a moderately fit Patriarch looks otherworldly to me. I was prepared to die, prepared to be stripped of all freedom and privilege. But was I prepared for Earth? I let out a howl: am I ready? I grunt and scream: am I ready? The sound of the Samson’s terrors, priming for action, send chills down my spine, not of fear, but giddy.

“I AM THE REAPERMAN!!!” Laughter possesses my body and I can’t control the otherworldly howls.
“I mock you all! Justice, man, demon, I reap you all!”

Is this insanity or awakening? True acceptance: No regrets, no hesitation. Pull the trigger. For what is holy, for what is human. But the blood…so much blood! Can’t hide . No need to hide! Wrong isn’t so easy … Why was this so easy?

I stepped into the Michael, a warning shot was fired, my eardrums did pop, but that wasn’t what made me go.

“It was so easy …”

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Chapter 1

“Murderer,” they mutter. Some whisper as if saying the word too loud will spread some airborne disease. Maybe it will; in the countless centuries or maybe even millennia since the ARK ships floated in the dead womb of space, we Patriarchs– or whatever form of government that established order before– never had to proceed over a murder. Even to my own ears – the accused, the guilty – the word seems so … alien… yes, alien would be right word to describe it. The act by itself; the 40 millimeter bolter round to the chest, leaving a hole you can stick your hand through and a mess that is still being cleaned up to two weeks later ….that felt all too familiar. Primal even, which makes this mummers farce of a trial even more annoying, but a trial they must have. A swift execution maybe? Was that what I was walking all too swiftly to? Is that what all my brothers, sisters, and fellow Patriarchs came to see?

I turn the corner. The curious eyes end as I walk into the central command cathedral. The new eyes are hard and stern and belonging to the Wise Men. Though all Patriarchs have a say in our government, it is the Wise Men who set the topics that we vote on if the matter requires one. Increasingly, more matters seem too small to bother the larger body of Patriarchs; details that haven’t been missed by most Patriarchs, but haven’t caused much protest– yet.

“We should close the whole department.”

“To what end?”

“Are you mad? We are in the middle of war.”

“The end of a war; the Samsons are efficient enough to suffer the burden of this conflict without spoiling the minds of Patriarchs with this bloody business.”

“The Samsons will win us the war, sure. But soldiers need commanders.”

“Bugger the Samsons, we can settle this decisively from the comfort of our seats.”

“And we ruin the only inhabitable planet in the Milky Way?”

Arthur Dreadfoot’s last words ended the debate before it truly began. I heard these arguments before – the longer versions – but in the end Noah has always been the necessary evil that holds our war for Earth together. But to what end? Awe, I’m afraid I won’t be here long enough to find out though as the room stands at attention when the oldest of the Wise Men take their seats. A smile crosses my face as I watch our forerunners take their rightful seats of honor amongst us. Seats made during the lesser generations, before Patriarchs numbers swelled. The True Men, or Adams, are the first to enter the cryo and are the ones that remembered when our ARKs hobbled along space, maintained by the unlearned masses too stupid to read and write let alone maintain the very systems that allow us to breathe. It is a wonder how we managed to stay alive in the countless centuries before a true Patriarch system was maintained.

Being tried by such men is too much of honor. I bend the knee out of respect and disgrace, my sin feels less natural and I less smug.

“Patriarch David Matchworth, 92nd Noah Commander of the 122nd Samson mix infantry, you stand accused of the brutal slaying of Patriarch Kevin Steward of the Library of Earth Natural Archive and History, using standard-issue Goliath Slayer …” kicked like a bitch without plate armor to absorb the shock, “… death by gunshot wound through the chest. Do you plead guilty?”

“Yes.”

“Can you speak of the motive, if any, for this senseless crime?”

“For the good of all things holy, decent, and human”

“Elaborate.”

I take note of the speaker. She doesn’t look past the age of 40, but those eyes, those eyes told a different tale. A thousand years? Maybe two? Inhumanly old and sure, not hard, not cold, or even judgmental; just sure that I am wrong and she is right– not opinion, but straight fact. I hated those eyes, but understood the logic behind them. Too old; I am 217 years old, six cryo’s and one of them a long cryo at least by the standard of someone my age and rank. Are her eyes my fate as well?

“He wished to communicate with the godless demons below.” I nearly croak. I forced my voice to come out sure and true; the first lesson I learned 205 years ago when I was learning the basis of Newtonian physics– no one believes a shaking, stuttering voice and I have taken that lesson to heart; even now where most men will break into tears under the eyes of the Wise Men or in the presence of an Adam.

“A Patriarch attempting to communicate with the savages on the surface!? Are we to believe this madness? Should we give you a medal for your bravery?”

She mocks me.

“If you had knowledge of Patriarch Kevin Steward’s intentions to travel to the surface with such a foolish idea, why didn’t you simply report to us?”

He accuses me.

“He was stealing a shuttle.”

I silence them for a moment, though not a long one.

“Then arrest him. Surely a man of your prowess can subdue an untrained man in single combat?”

“My martial prowess doesn’t grant me superhuman facilities, especially without armor. It was a split-second decision to kill him before he closed the door, as the place you found Patriarch Kevin’s body should attest to.”

“Who goes patrolling the ARKs hangar with a loaded Goliath Slayer? Did you recently become a David?”

“I was coming from the target range when I saw Patriarch Kevin moving toward the hanger bay, so I followed him until I could ascertain his purpose.”

“So you stalked him with a loaded weapon until you found a good place to dispose of him with minimal witnesses.”

“I confessed to the murder.”

“A whole day after you committed the crime.”

“I was in shock,” a lie, “our people haven’t killed our own since …”

“Enough. If you knew of Patriarch Kevin’s intentions you should have told us first, obviously you knew his plans beforehand or else you wouldn’t have followed him. You also felt he was serious enough to actually commit the folly or his trip near the hanger bay wouldn’t have raised alarms. So why didn’t you make the obvious choice, if that was the real reason to have killed Patriarch Kevin in cold blood?”

The truth is, Kevin wasn’t alone in this fool hardy plan, but he was the one who voiced his opinion to me, believing that laughing together 200 years ago was going to earn sympathy for his cause. He wanted me to come with him. Even when I pointed the gun inches from his chest, he still argued for his “humane” approach to this conflict. Conquest was a bloody business, we all knew that, but with the Samsons, well, we didn’t have to know firsthand how bloody it can be. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t be so quick to exterminate all of the works of the Scientist with such zeal. Kevin argued a point that anyone in Noah knew already, but only mattered when we judged the difficulty of a campaign. We all knew that they were intelligent, as he often pointed out. Sentient species occupy the surface of our motherland, not mindless beasts that should provoke no more sympathy than a cow being maimed for beef. The ‘gifts’ the Scientist left behind to inherent the Earth are but distorted versions of what used to be humble animals we learned about in Earth biological history. But Kevin … he believed that these creatures were redeemable. The bugs, no, he agreed they must die, but what crawled with two legs instead of six could be reasoned with.

So what did I do when my friend of 200 years past decided that he must steal a shuttle and travel to the surface to “come in peace,” taking with him whatever experimental devices he could smuggle to help translate the clicks and growls considered a language by the savages below? What did I do when he waved away the danger of presenting our technology to the aliens? When he waved away the idea of presenting this plan to the Wise Men so they can give him an armed escort and contingency plan, in case something inevitably goes wrong – “when you get careless,” I remember pointing out. Oh yes, I could have brought him before the Wise Men and they would have laughed and hollered about the foolishness of this “mission.” They may even convince Kevin to concede his point, no doubt, letting him go to his own quarters, thinking all is well, dropping their guard, my guard.

And that wasn’t going to happen. It was treason, against the state, against humanity, against all god-fearing creatures still alive in this cold dead universe. They may say and rightly that the study of the martial, of war and its history, has awakened some deep primal desire for blood mayhem that encompassed much of our early history as humans young in this universe. That the Davids were irredeemable men too filled with blood-lust to rejoin a humanity that survived the emptiness of space for millennia without spilling a drop of blood. Noah will probably be broken down and its memory left only to archives, and that may be for the ultimate good of mankind.

Once the war is over.

But when there is a war, a war that demands the sacrifice of faceless soldiers who are bred for battle and nothing else, then why should we Patriarchs risk the balance between victory and defeat by endangering our one advantage against the demons endless numbers? What right did Kevin have to risk undoing the work of countless men never to have children or live past the age of 30? Rights even the masses that waste space on the ARK ships are afforded, even though all they do for the betterment of mankind is empty their bowels in the designated holes and pop more screaming mouths to feed.

“I’ll take your silence as proof of your guilt. That you committed your crime in cold blood with no just cause.”

I keep my silence; truly what else is there to say? The fools would have never tried Kevin for treason, even if one of the Adams was among their number!

“It is by our right, for the betterment of mankind and the future of humanity, to punish you in proportion to your crimes.”

“However,” a different voice takes over, a grey hair sitting above ageless black eyes. A face that was once dark brown is now a shallow brown leaning to a type of grey because of all the years in artificial lighting. He almost looks his age, if the human lifespan elongated unnaturally over a period of a thousand plus years could even be remotely represented in the long grim face of this man.

“The normal precedent for your crime would not satisfy this court. Life internment would just waste the valuable time of a Patriarch, and no doubt a man of your cunning could easily gull a commoner into slacking his guard just enough to allow your escape, if a commoner could be trusted with such an important task. Some Wise Men suggest we use a Samson for your guard … that is unwise. There is also a matter of what cell would we waste to keep you? Hmm, truly there is a dark corner somewhere on this ship unsuitable for even a commoner to live in. But I ask of you here, my fellow Wise Men, should we debase ourselves to subjecting a Patriarch to inhumane conditions?”

I watch the heads shake in silence, some more bitter about agreeing with the grey Adam than others.

“Nevertheless, there is a precedent to be set here; if imprisonment is not practical, should we partake in your sin Patriarch David Matchworth? Murder one of our own? Find a humane way to end your sin? By our hand I think not. I say nay, we leave your fate to the sword, as you lived by. For killing a man, a Patriarch, not in war, or defense, but in cold blood, with gun in one hand and sword in your heart, this council banishes you to the surface,  to spend the rest of your days amongst the godless and abominations. We grant you the rank of David, a rank of honor given to Patriarchs that wish to face the enemy with pistol and lance in hand. You will meet the surface as a David in Goliath armor, armed with the holy flames of napalm with two tanks to sustain your wrath. Understand that this is a mercy, afforded to you by a merciful court that heard your arguments and pleas and judged righteously. When you die by the hands of creatures as abominable as your sin, do know that even your death is an honor, for you to die as a David, and that your soul is cleansed, as you slay the demons of mankind with flame and steel. “

“Any last word before the court, Patriarch David Matchworth?”

“Oh joy.”

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