Author : Aaron Koelker

They came like mountains in the night. Great behemoths of lumbering shadow that walked with thunderous grace. With beards of moss and fur of grass, they looked down upon the intruders without a hint of malice. Their great round eyes of polished stone showed only apathy as they descended into the valley out of a starlit horizon, striding over the peaks of the mountains in a single breadth.

With the ferocity of a gardener tending to the weeds, the titanic creatures swept aside portable aluminum buildings, flattened tents over their sleeping occupants and hurled their vehicles into the surrounding sea of stumps and unsightly crags; what had once been a lush forest teeming with life only days before.

At a height equal to that of the giants, the world remained relatively quiet. A low booming here and a distant wail there, but the upper night remained stubbornly calm. Far below, however, among their thick splintered feet armored in dark bark; there was complete chaos.

Men screamed as hell fell around them. Screeching metal and shattering glass formed a chorus of discord while the fuel stores erupted into a destructive beat. A handful of the victims managed to gather their weapons, though they proved useless against the colossal assailants.

On the side of camp furthest from the chaos, the USSV Artemis rumbled her engines into their start-up cycle. Her small pale pilot whispered a frantic prayer to his unseen god, light-years away on earth, he thought, and safe from the terrible wrath of these earthen creatures.

Through the Artemis’ exterior cameras he could see an approaching mass of men scurry beneath the ship’s hull and into the safety of her belly. Scientists and mercenaries alike, armed and unarmed, clothed and naked, all fled before the might of quiet giants.

Despite the ship’s natural thrumming and vibrations, the pilot could sense the rhythmic tremors of the approaching behemoths. The quakes were so unnerving that the pilot wanted nothing more than to flee into some dark recess of the ship and leave his job to some other, braver soul. Other pilots had been brought along for the expedition, though all of them had yet to appear on the bridge, and he realized he was too afraid to move regardless. He stayed and monitored the start-up cycle for the next few brief, endless moments.

No sooner did the console light up green across his board, the mercenary captain appeared on the bridge. A thick, aggressive man with a red face.

“We’re clear to fly! Go!” he screamed, sweat and spit dislodging under his jerking movements.

“Are they all on b-b-board?” said the pale pilot.

“As many as we’re going to get! Go! Go!” He flailed his arms upward.

The pilot leaned over the flight console, flipping a lever that retracted the blast-shield from the forward viewport. The curtains rose on the tragic show that had once been their research camp. A heap of aluminum that had once been a field-lab lay against the bow of the ship. The massive stocks of lumber and local fauna they had mined for research had already been completely scattered or flattened.

The USSV Artemis groaned as she left the alien soil, shrugging off the wasted field-lab.

“Faster!” the captain screamed, pointing. “It’s coming!”

The pilot didn’t bother to look, opting to push the engines to their limits.

No!” the captain cried in anguish.

The pilot looked up then, into the polished stone eye of the beast. A servant of this alien planet’s own Mother Nature, her wrath incarnate. Her thousand-foot, stone justice.


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