Author : Connor Harbison

The villagers accepted the occupation as a fact of life. After all, where were they to go? The spaceport was heavily guarded, the surrounding jungles were filled with ravenous monsters and cannibal tribes, and beyond them the jagged mountains offered even less safety.

The soldiers knew the plight of the villagers. They knew that high command would never learn of any abuses committed in this backwater. Their discipline grew lenient. Soldiers frequently pilfered the food stores or kidnapped the pretty daughters of the villagers. The people were powerless to stop the soldiers, who were armed with plasma rifles and advanced armor. By and large the villagers submitted to the tyranny.

There was one boy for whom the injustice was too much. Though he had not yet hit puberty, the boy had more resistance in him than the rest of the village put together. Each transgression fed the fire burning in the pit of the boy’s stomach.

One day it was too much. A squad of soldiers pushed the boy’s neighbors about, stealing the food for which they had toiled. The boy picked up a rock from underfoot and lunged at the nearest soldier, aiming for his head. The rock bounced harmlessly off the soldier’s helmet, and the boy was the laughingstock of the squad. The sergeant thought the boy deserved a lesson, so the soldiers entered the boy’s house, dragged his family into the street, and executed them one by one.

Through blinding tears the boy fled the village. The soldiers took aim, but the sergeant called them off. The wild would take care of the boy. They had the family’s house to loot.
Years passed, and the village remained under the iron grip of occupation. The sergeant rose through the ranks, until he was made captain, in charge of the entire garrison. It was not a bad position. He ruled like a king, the village his own fiefdom.

One rainy night a stranger, dressed in rags, wandered into the village. The sentries were confused; the only way into the village was by air. Travel over land was impossible. The stranger approached them, though their laser sights hovered over his heart. When the stranger was two paces away the sentries heard a whistling sound, then nothing more.
The stranger reached down to relieve the corpses of their weapons, taking care to avoid the poison darts that protruded in the crack between helmet and breast plate. The stranger tossed a plasma rifle to one of his companions and kept one for himself.

They worked through the rain-soaked streets of the village, dispatching soldier after soldier with silent poison darts. Soon the stranger and his whole band were armed with plasma rifles. They began to converge on the barracks.
The captain was sleeping when a soft knock came from outside the door. He roused himself from bed, cursing whoever had the temerity to interrupt his slumber. Opening the door, the captain found himself staring down the barrels of half a dozen rifles.

By the time the captain reached the main square a small crowd of villagers had gathered. Heavily armed tribals stood menacingly on the periphery. The captain looked to the center and saw the stranger, and a spark of recognition flew through his synapses. The boy had returned, after long years in the jungle, having gained the friendship and loyalty of the cannibal tribes. As the captain faced down the firing squad, he knew he would only be the first of many.

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