Ready for Action
Dots of light flashed on the planet Nemayr, followed by swelling plumes of destruction rising from the atmosphere. The end result was a giant cloud of dust covering every location that once held a major Sekaran city. No more. When Drin’s dropship hit dirtside, there would only be fire and destruction.
The dropship entered the atmosphere, rattling on its way down. Drin held onto one of many dangling chains so he wouldn’t flail around the cabin. Not that he would go far, as the dropship was packed with his fellow Templars. They all had the veneer of the armor the nanites provided them, though none had formed weapons in the close quarters of the dropship.
To the average Sekaran eye, the technology they used looked like magic, but Drin understood how the tiny machines created the weaponry. A dangerous technology if it fell into the wrong hands, but fortunately, the priesthood had tight controls on its programming. It took the will of one Templar to bestow nanites upon another, and one only did so with the blessing of the priesthood.
The nanite technology had been brought by Lord Yezuah over a thousand years ago. Its secrets had been safely kept for the faithful by the Elorians, who would one day retake Eloria from the Sekarans. The Elorians’ vile enemy spread like cockroaches across the galaxy. System after system, they pressed forward corrupting civilizations with their heresy and creating subjects to bow to their false prophet. Just thinking about it made Drin clench his fists. He turned to look at the others. Most had their battle armor fully formed—jagged helmets with reflective visors so the enemy couldn’t see their faces. But the chaplain stood in robes, walking the small center aisle between all of the Templars, and showering them with holy water. His scaly green Elorian skin shone, and his black ponytail swayed behind him. Drin regretted cutting his own hair, seeing long hair as a sign of strength, but even with the assistance of nanites, it tended to get in the way during battle.
The chaplain muttered prayers aloud as they came closer to the ground. Drin had heard it a thousand times before, but he was too focused on the pending battle to listen to the words.
“Power and glory to Yezuah!” all of the Templars shouted in unison. That rousing cry was enough to quicken the pace of Drin’s heart.
The orbital bombardment had softened the planet for Elorian invasion, but there would be enough Sekaran fighters to greet them that it would be inadvisable to underestimate them. Drin only hoped he wouldn’t see an EMP-suicider, one of the crazed Sekarans who sacrificed himself in order to disarm the nanites temporarily. He’d met with one before, and though Drin was a perfectly capable warrior without nanite assistance, he didn’t relish the thought of fighting against Sekaran hordes or meeting a battlemage, without his armor.
The dropship landed with a jolt. The whole left flank of the cabin dropped and clanged onto the ground, creating its own ramp. The Templars pressed forward, shouting and crying out to Yezuah to deliver them victory. Their battle armor flashed and shimmered as they departed the craft, adjusting to the dirt-brown of the dust that littered the air, providing camouflage for the warriors. Their helmets filtered the air for breathing, another tactical advantage against the Sekarans.
Drin’s face reflected beneath his visor as it adjusted to night-vision mode. His face looked somber, high cheekbones, a strong chin, and dark eyes far too solemn for this glorious occasion of liberating a world. His frame was wide enough that with the armor, he had to sidestep through the small opening in the craft.
He gazed ahead at what had once been a population center. Great skyscrapers were now rubble. Buildings had collapsed, toppled, or cracked into single walls. Nothing could withstand the Elorian bombardment once planetary defenses had broken. God willed their dominance. The Sekarans relied on their vast numbers and ruthlessness to counter the Elorians’ precise strikes. It was the difference between barbarism and civilization, or so Drin had thought before trudging forward with his compatriots.
But the destruction he saw here broke his heart.
Not just buildings and infrastructure, but people lay littered on the ground. Civilians. Dozens of them were spread out before him, trapped in the rubble of what once had been tall buildings. Women grabbed onto their former lovers, bloodied and crying their eyes out. Children cried with them. Dirt and blood were caked everywhere. Some had missing limbs. The devastation could pierce through anyone with a soul.
Was this what God meant when he said he’d bring peace to all? Would those who converted outweigh the cost of life here? For the first time in Drin’s life, he wasn’t sure.
A slap jolted his shoulder, the clang of armor on armor ringing through the air. “Hey, buddy. Let’s keep going. Gotta wipe out the rest of these Sekaran scum so the missionary teams can come and rebuild,” said Jellal, a Templar who had been raised as an apprentice knight along with him. Anyone who had an aptitude to control the nanites was plucked away from their parents at an early age, sent to seminary and knight-training. Control of the little machines required an incredible mental aptitude as well as physical prowess. Those who couldn’t control them succumbed to the machines and died horrific deaths. Drin had never seen such a case, but he had heard of them.
“I’m coming,” Drin said, his voice shaking despite himself.
“Good. Scout units say there’s a platoon of them up ahead,” Jellal said. He formed a light sword in his hand. From hilt to blade, it pulsed with energy and would be deadly to the touch. “I look forward to severing a few of their heathen heads.”
“God protect us,” Drin said. He concentrated and formed his own light sword with the nanites’ assistance. They projected energy and also drew in heat and sunlight from the world around him. His stores were full. He was ready for action.