Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Stuart lost his footing scrambling over the shattered garden wall and fell, hard. As he struggled to his feet, his head still ringing from the tumble his pursuer caught him up and knocked him back down harder still.

“You frickin bastard,” Stuart spat blood and dust, rolling away from a second blow as the infantryman swung the butt-end of his rifle down, narrowly missing him. Managing to get some traction in the rubble, he sat up as best he could and shuffled backwards, the seat of his pants dragging in the dirt, hands and feet scrabbling for purchase until his shoulders met the outer wall of the car shed, and there he stopped.

The soldier stayed still, its seven plus feet of arms and legs bent at obtuse angles as it crouched low to the ground, watching, waiting.

There was a throaty gargling noise, with a tinny mechanical voice following in broken English a few moments out of sync.

“Show other soldier units.” The tall figure leaned forward, shuffling its feet and free hand to keep balance, still leaning the butt end of its rifle in the dirt. “Show other soldier units to surrender.”

Stuart grinned, teeth red through a split and already swelling lower lip.

“You know, you’re really overestimating your chances here mate.” He watched as the creature cocked its head to one side, waiting no doubt for the translator to approximate Stuart’s language into something it could understand. “You seem wholly unaware of how much we like living on this rock, and we’re not going to just let you waltz in here and take it.”

The soldier advanced, raising its weapon first into a firing position, then above its head to bring it butt-end first down hard between Stuart’s legs: He narrowly avoiding the impact by yanking his knees up just in time. The soldier pulled its arms and weapon out of reach, perilously counterbalanced on its backwards bending knee joints to bring its face so close to Stuart as to make him nearly vomit.

“Prisoner shows soldier units or prisoner terminates.”

Stuart kept talking, noting the slight retreat as the soldier struggled to understand the translated dialogue.

“My great-grandfather fought the Nazis, nasty bunch of blokes as you’d ever want to meet. He fought them so his son, my grandfather could raise a family in a free country.” The creature clicked and gurgled as Stuart spoke, though the noises didn’t translate. “My grandfather fought the Viet Cong, a bunch that made the Nazis look like pussies. He didn’t have a family then, but after, when he raised my dad, and told us grandkids stories, he’d never speak of the war, just remind us never to take what we had for granted. Always respect our freedom. His friends died for it, he’d tell us, and we owed it to them to never forget that.”

The creature shook its large flat head violently from side to side, spit flying as it clacked its heavily toothed jaw open and shut repeatedly, shuffling with apparent agitation.

Stuart pressed his luck.

“My dad used to tell me that freedom and family were the two most important things a man could have, and you think we’re going to give that up without a fight?” Stuart drew up a mouthful of blood and saliva and spat at the looming creature, causing it to jerk back away from him.

“You know what I’m going to tell my son when this is all over?” Stuart pulled his lips back into a bloody smile.

“Prisoner shows soldier son…” The grating translated dialogue was cut short as Stuart Junior, having silently flanked his opponent, unloaded both barrels of his plasma cannon through the side of the enemy’s skull, scattering blood and bone across the back yard.

“I’m going to tell him to be a little quicker with the artillery in future,” he groaned, pulling himself to his feet, “and don’t ever let your enemy monologue, that shit can get you killed.”

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