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The Gathering Storm

Part Fourteen

General Kelda looked at the reports coming in. After nearly a week of hard fighting, it seemed that the Ithkul were nearly defeated. They still controlled most of the city, but it seemed that their resistance was breaking down. The Godzillas, as they had come to be called, were a force to be reckoned with. Three of them – along with a smattering of his infantry – had held back a determined Harvester counteroffensive a week ago for nearly two hours before reinforcements had come to push the enemy back. Two of them had to be pulled back for repairs, but they had dished out much more than they had taken.

Kelda looked at the holographic display of the battlefield. In a few hours, the final assault on the city would start. His units were in position, ready for the coming battle. The General was almost disappointed at the Ithkul. The stories the deep-space traders told spoke of the Harvesters as being unmatched in combat by anyone. Although the fight had been difficult at times, the war as a whole seemed to be almost too easy. Only in a couple of quick engagements had the Ithkul come close to turning the tide, but they were beaten back every time. The mechanics had put up a better fight than the Harvesters, thought Kelda.

An explosion rocked the command post. Followed by a second.

The General ran outside to see what had happened. The two Godzillas that had been brought back for repairs were knocked over, burning on the ground. People were running around in confusion. Kelda grabbed a lieutenant.

“What happened?” he asked.

The lieutenant stammered for a minute, shocked at seeing the General outside. “Th-the Ithkul are at-ttacking from the w-west, General, sir. L-looks like a-at least division s-strength.”

Kelda was not pleased. Somehow an entire division of battle-hardened Ithkul had managed to sneak up on his command post. He only had a strong battalion infantry in the immediate area, and most of his forces were committed to the imminent assault on the city. Well, that will need to wait a bit, thought the General.

General Kelda ran back inside his command center and picked up the communications gear. “This is General Kelda. The command post is under attack by a division of Ithkul. Send reinforce…” the General jumped a bit as another explosion knocked his hyperspace antenna out. He hoped that someone had gotten his message.

Colonel Elethiomel staggered inside the command post. “Your orders, General?” he asked.

“Gather your men up to pull back,” ordered Kelda. “I called for reinforcements, but it will be at least two hours before any arrive. Prepare for a fighting retreat to the southwest, toward the mountains.”

“Yes, sir,” replied the Colonel, who immediately ran back out of the command post, barking orders in his radio.

The General pulled his plasma pistol out of its holster and checked the charge – 100%, as he expected. He placed it in his mechanical hand and headed back outside.

The Harvesters had started shelling his base. Globules of plasma began to rain down, burning the ground. Kelda ran to the nearest vehicle and jumped inside, activating its shielding. With a few more button presses, he started moving and activated the fusion beam weapon, setting it to fire in the general direction of the Ithkul advance. As he started moving, he grabbed the radio. “This is General Kelda. All units, prepare to move out.”

The General hunkered down in his seat and started driving. A plasma explosion only a few meters from his vehicle nearly knocked it upside-down. Kelda looked at his shield status – weakened, but still holding.

With the same suddenness as the initial attack, the shelling stopped. However, this was just the calm before the storm. Within minutes the Ithkul would be pouring into his base, just as his people were leaving. The momentary quiet allowed him to survey the damage. He counted at least twenty dead soldiers in the smoke. His two Godzillas were destroyed, along with several of his landed transports. The ground was burning and littered with debris.

A shell landed perilously close to his vehicle. Kelda swung his fusion beam around, firing. He was pleased to see an Ithkul tank explode.

But the General knew that he couldn’t linger any more. He had to get away, rally his troops, and make the Ithkul pay for what they had done.




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