WHERE THERE’S A WILL
“You must be completely insane to think we can win a war against them!”
Nolan of Bergen blinked. “You must be completely insane to think we have a choice.”
The burly arms of Kanden of Varth thrust out, partly in anger, and partly, the kafeth saw, in despair. “They number six, seven thousand units. We barely amount to 200. We cannot win!”
The kafeth stirred, a low rumble running through the cave’s dark niches. Nolan turned to trace the stirrings, letting his rival’s words sink in. With a mild shrug, he spoke softly. “You say we cannot win. I say we have no choice but to win. Your way means we run until we are hunted down in whatever hole we hide in. My way means we fight to stay alive.” He stopped Kanden by raising his voice. “And we keep hoping a solution appears to end the war in our favor.”
Kanden snarled. “And what if no solution appears? What then?”
Nolan let the stirrings die down. “And what if one does?”
Long past the final debate’s end, the kafeth was already planning. Split into eight saskereth of roughly 25 members each, the groups had plunged deeper into the caves to discuss their plans to defeat the enemy, or plan a way to survive. Lalery of Conat slipped quietly next to Nolan and leaned close. “Did you arrange Kanden’s group?”
Nolan smiled. “No. He did it himself, with his words and fears.”
Lalery pulled her long hair back under the furred hood of her heavy parank. “You know his saskereth left the cave? And they took most of the dried food and water skins.”
Ureg of Bergen squatted next to Nolan. “He knows, Lalery. The foodsacks they took were full of bark and straw. And as for the water skins, they are full of piss.”
Lalery’s mouth dropped open as Nolan shared a laugh with kinsman Ureg. The first action to end the war had begun...but not against the true enemy.
Two of the remaining seven groups were destroyed in the cave-riddled mountains, the strongholds they thought they’d built becoming death traps as the Mecataks sliced rocks to make their kills. Nolan told Lalery that at least three groups needed to survive, to avoid inbreeding creating a much weaker race. Ureg’s group became the third saskareth destroyed when the Mecataks ringed the deep havenath forest of the north. But Nolan’s deep howls of mourning were touched by tones of pride because Ugen’s dormant volcano trap had taken almost 3,000 enemy to a hellish end. Four saskereth left, barely 100 and nearly 2,000 Mecataks remained on the world. Nolan knew the war was near its end, needing but one final action to settle Fate.
A captured Mecatak artifact lay next to an odd array of metal panels and mirrors. With trembling fingers, Nolan flicked the equipment “on” and raced, chest thudding, across the clearing knowing that the attack would come in mere seconds. The first blast landed behind him and he ran in terror, across grass and onto rocks, scrambling as he moaned in fear of death. Another blast tossed him amidst rubble, his chest broken and thus he saw the end of the war. Suddenly the Mecataks above turned to form a circle, landed and mistakenly blasted each other as enemies with actinic rays that sizzled air and earth. In a minute, the remains of more than 600 machines littered the Juvenar Plain. And Nolan smiled into the darkness that blanketed him.
“Sir. Over 750 Mecataks were destroyed. We’re down to 1,154. Planet still shows active indigenous life in several quarters.”
Commodore Langley cursed silently. “Recall the Mecs, Ensign. This planet ain’t worth it. On to the next one and let‘s make it happen, okay?” While I still have a command, he thought.