Planetarum: Chapter 1, Mars

Drums steadily grow louder, closing distance between dreams and silence. They’re the drums of battle and the sun has just begun its climb up the zenith. The horns call the soldiers out of their bunkers, blowing, low and slow with the droning of the men. But this is war. There’s no time to moan, no time to slouch with the groans of their wounds. Breakfast is quick as the men have no appetite. Soon they’re in formation, beginning their march back to their home base. The  morning call of drums and horns transition into the steady pace of feet stomping in unison. Their boots stomp across the flat rocks of the canyon bed which is wide enough for the front two battalions to march alongside one another. The third group is large enough on its own to march solidly behind.

Despite their survival from last night’s battle, the army looks beaten. The last time the sun had risen, the men were strong, bold, and nearly bored with their border patrol routine. They had chanted a marching song with the drums the day before. But that was before they had been struck by the Scyen, who had been nothing but allies until that morning. Each battalion had been spread far apart along the border, but they gathered and fought together after the first alarm. Now the men are quiet, with steady feet and eyes toward base camp to give the signal of approaching war and for needed recovery.

Lieutenant Potens pauses his march alongside his soldiers to survey his battalion as they round the top of an incline. His portion is just a couple hundred men, cut down to a fourth of what it was the morning before. Glancing across the canyon to his fellow lieutenant’s group, he’s grateful to see fewer losses. Yet to gain additional confidence, he looks behind to Captain Fortis’s army. His army could afford more advanced weapons and casualties are few among them. While the men of his and his fellow lieutenant’s battalions must choose between swords and electric guns, the Captain’s men are allowed glicers.  Lieutenant Potens eyes them with envy.  These weapons give the double edged sword a new meaning. Two blades are crafted linear with just enough space between for an electric current to be guided through. Tapping the trigger releases a single bullet of electricity, while holding it ejects an electric current through the blades to zap any contact. The glicer’s rubber handle protects the holder of the weapon while electrocuting the opponent. Though it requires a recharge, the glicer’s the best weapon available for one on one combat.  Being a Lieutenant credited him to carry one, but Potens refused to be armed more than his own men.  Some called him brave and honorable.  Others called him stupid.    He simply thought of himself as capable.

Lieutenant Potens is called away from his observation.  The scout they had sent above the canyon walls is returning with haste to the captain, shouting the alarm.  Tension ripples through his men when the shout comes again, “Scyen!” The scout did very little for a warning. By the time he’s crying hoarse “Foes! Foes!” the enemy’s army is already sounding their trumpets of war from the front. Row by row, Scyen emerge from the edge of a canyon wall. Their marching line stretches completely across the canyon, so Potens hopes their columns are short. As they continue their march toward each other, he hopes the captain will give his orders quickly. They had hesitated yesterday; they hadn’t suspected their allies to attack them. But it’s a new day, and they have a new enemy. “Foes! Foes!” the cry spreads through the army as the scout runs further away but the whispering among the men grows into an audible wave of fear.

If they’re to attack, the lieutenant doesn’t want his men to see the large scale they’re up against, in case fear creeps further into their hearts. If they’re to retreat, the sooner the better still, with more distance between them.

A sign of surrender comes from the Scyen and orders come from Captain Fortis: continue marching forward, we’ll meet them in the center of the canyon for a hopeful truce.

Potens doubts the sincerity of the surrender. Through man’s colonization of space, they warred with inhuman tactics. Yesterday they approached as allies, completely mingled with his army.  Then the attack was called. This group ahead of them is fresh and unwounded. Apparently they already have back up armies, marching offensively to finish the job they were unable to complete. Teetering on the edge of rebellion, Lieutenant Potens gives the captain’s orders to his men, and their march toward certain death begins. The trumpets blare louder hoping to drown out the hammering within their chests. Strings of men sway as wind tunnels through the canyon. The horns grow stronger blowing harder with the wind against their backs. Potens hopes this energizes his men; whether it’s to battle or flight, they will need all the strength they can muster.

The enemy army continues to leech from the canyon wall and Potens’s own battalion is gaining speed from the rocky slope downward. It’s harder to handle weapons with movement, so he commands his men to slow down. His shout is barely heard over the chaos of the band and the army’s stampede. They take their approach toward the enemy with rustled haste and prepare their swords and guns with clumsy hands, clattering, fumbling, but urging forward nonetheless. His men’s pace continues to accelerate with their fast pulsing hearts, pumping as much as they can, as though they’re trying to do a lifetime’s work in these few minutes prior to battle, knowing these may be their last.

With no official declaration needed, it becomes a race among his men and they’re charging for their lives toward death. Potens estimates how this must appear to the enemy army that still shows no end from the canyon edge and has lowered their sign of surrender. Even if they had been planning on surrendering, they wouldn’t likely do so to a wounded army that was insanely charging at them. Instead, as Lieutenant Potens nears shooting range, he recognizes the patterns of the Scyen. They’re taking aim.

“Gunmen ease off! You’ll be of better use from afar.” He quickly turns around to warn the other battalions, but all goes black with a thunderous boom.

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