Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

SSG Ray Mansfield raised his rifle and glassed the valley below with powerful optics. His men, stretched out behind him, were virtually invisible, their chameleon skin armour blended seamlessly with the sparse vegetation and oily, rocky soil.

He clicked his teeth and opened the teams freq. The weak signal barely reached 25 metres before it disappeared into the background radiation rendering it undetectable. “I know it will be hard, but we have to take at least one of these fuckers alive. Everybody clear?” Mansfield received five confirmations. None were enthusiastic about the idea of bringing one in still pumping air.

The men called them “Sticks”, an appellation given for their too tall, too thin appearance that was only exaggerated by their complex body armour. They made their presence known with a barrage of nuclear weapons dropped from orbit.

They attacked areas of intense population, They extinguished fighting potential. Asia had ceased to exist within minutes. Europe quickly followed. The central United States, northern Canada, the interior of South America and Australia was all that remained relatively unscathed. Despite Africa’s low population density and negligible military importance, the Dark Continent was wiped clean. Maybe the Sticks just hated elephants.

“On me. Zalar, Brunson, twenty metres left, ten forward. Winder, Fromholt, right, same. Walker, my six, ten metres.” With intense slowness, the six men moved out. Their armour lagged mere microseconds behind the changing background.

The Stick encampment was small. Only twenty observed enemy moved within the protection of a complex perimeter screen. Recent minor victories had allowed the Sticks password technology to fall into the hands of the all but vanquished humans. The men penetrated the deadly screen with impunity.

They moved into their positions with a practised ease. They had surveilled the camp over the past week and knew it’s every inch. Cpl Walker’s mission task was a simple one. Protected by fire from Mansfield, he had only to locate and “paint” an enemy soldier with an x-ray laser visible only through their helmet optics. That one would be spared for study; possibly interrogation.

Though fearsome in appearance at nearly 3 metres, the alien warriors were quite fragile despite their body armour. The armour had been designed to protect them from the blasts of energy weapons, not the crude human Heckler & Koch G3’s spitting 30 calibre death. The copper jacketed lead cores tore through the creatures, literally ripping them to pieces.

Within ninety seconds, all enemy resistance had been neutralized. Corporal Paul Walkers mission to protect a Stick from elimination had been performed beyond the pale. The young soldier received a mortal wound and died saving the intended prisoner from the withering fusillade.

The last remaining Stick, it’s four upper limbs tightly secured behind it, hurled what were undoubtedly scathing invectives in it’s incomprehensible tongue. Staff Sergeant Mansfield approached the towering creature. Gripping the muzzle of his weapon like a baseball bat, he struck the beast across it’s mouth. It did nothing to halt the verbal assault.

A loud report silenced the creature. SSG Mansfield’s face and chest were showered with viscous, ochre blood as the aliens head vaporized before his eyes.

The massive frame of the Stick slowly slumped to the ground. Behind it stood Private Winder, his weapon still raised. A thin trail of smoke issued from the barrel.

“Winder, what the fuck?” Mansfield screamed, wiping the alien goo from his mouth, “What’s the matter with you. We needed this bastard alive.”

Slowly PFC Eric Winder lowered his weapon. He stared past his squad leader. “Sorry Sarge. I couldn’t help it. Paul was my friend.”

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