Holidays on the Chickenworld Pt 1

26 07 2010

It was Rear Admiral Voshal Hreen-Garlds’ idea. Amongst the officer classes of the more civilised Nuur Clans it was understood that such professional and glorious defenders of True Humanity needed to unwind in ways more fitting to their demeanour. So instead of debasing themselves with simple “civilian” amusements Worriunt lead his most trusted staff and some others who heard of the expedition out on what was boisterously known as a “Jaunt.”

Much of the preparation was just for show, the exercise and equipment maintence in the hanger, the bawdy fighting songs as they swaggered into the dropship and the cheeky sexual innuendos as they slipped into the individual landing pods. Some even felt cocky enough to joke on the way down through the atmosphere, the re-entry flames and jarring motions of the descent rockets so mundane for these hardened warriors as to be almost fun.

The planet they were falling towards like a drunken rugby team on tour was a secret, or rather an oddity that had almost been forgotten, far out beyond explored space. Halfway between the hellish Tarantula Nebula and the sphere of Humanity in the Large Magellanic Cloud lay that rare of worlds, a home for intelligent life that had evolved on its on. Those few humans that knew of it’s existence called this rare and precious thing “Chickenworld.”

It shouldn’t be named “Chickenworld” of course. The intelligent inhabitants of the world had many names for their planet, and should the day come when all the tribes that made up the tool using species became nations and those nations start to bicker among themselves as to who’s name should be used to refer to their planet in the wider cosmos they would choose a nomenclature less demeaning than that of a simple minded and somewhat comical farm animal from a planet they had never heard of and a species whose existence would forever be cursed amongst the short and colourful multilimbed bipeds.

The resemblance to chickens was passing anyway; chickens don’t have a sensor head linked to a brain deep within their own bodies for protection, nor four prehensile limbs where their wings would be. Nor do chickens wear shawls and adorn their bodies with beads and tools. The intelligent beings of the planet were the size of dogs anyhow, and no group of chickens (except that horrific experiment and art project at 37 Geminorium) could ever hope to create a wealth of culture and technology comparable to Terra in the 15th century.

Sadly when angry and about to attack they dance, wave their limbs around and squawk like an alien chicken, a sight which struck fear into the beasts of Chickenworld but which looked hilarious to the occasional human visitor to the world.

The Nuur Clans prided themselves on their notion of honour, fair play and honest humanity as they went about their business defending Homo Sapien affairs. Sadly, this was not a charity passed onto the other intelligences in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Anything which had the audacity to speak not through a human mouth or not to have been created by the wise hand of humanity was The Enemy.

It was The Enemy which had lead to the downfall of Humanity ten thousand years ago, The Enemy which had turned humankind’s machines against them in an orgy of megadeath and self destruction and therefore where-ever The Enemy cropped up (even if that particular species or culture had never even heard of the Tri’Ef’Fid and their war with the humans) they must be smacked down before they got a chance to strike first.

Sadly it was  this rapant xenophobia and genocide which kept the Nuur Clans such a viable empire throughout the millennia. Descendants of the Ashenar military forces that survived the Nanopocalypse which destroyed the first human civilisation in the Cloud, the Clans had cornered the market in playing up to people’s fear of the unknown and alien. Thousands of worlds, habitats and outposts had sworn fealty to the Clans in return for their protection form enemies real and imagined (though sometimes after a degree of coercion and gunboat diplomacy.)

More demons, from the sky” noticed Frontaar Eldestson and using his sensor head, gestured towards the shooting stars in a motion that sadly could only be described as “chickenlike.”

The King fluttered his neck dongles (a sign of his great age) which in most of the cultures along the southern coastline of this particular continent was considered a dignified and wise expression, much the same way an old human male would thoughtfully stroke his beard. “This day comes sooner and sooner as the years proceed ” the King consorted to his eldest son. “Why it was barely three seasons ago when the great port city of Efralm was smited from the land by the sky demons. I had always said they never hid themselves from the heavens as they should but it was so difficult to hide a city as large as that and the merchant classes just would not take head of the blessed teachings” said the learned being as he hung his comical head in dismay.

“You were right father, but we shall punish those wicked giants for their bloodlust with the new sciences we obtained from the Eastern Lands” replied the eldest son, his youthful neck dongles erect and clearly fired by the chance of vengeance. “The townsfolk will already be as aware of demons coming as we are, they need their king to lead them in their darkest hour and no doubt in your absence the nurse-brooders will be interfering as is their way these days.”

“And you, my most wise and passionate son must attend to your duties, remembering all that I have taught you about the sky demons and their thousand cursed ways.” The King’s throat dongles quivering with rage, he spat the words out in a rare display of primal emotion, of the sort not seen since his queen had died of the pox three years. Composing himself for the Masses he descended from the watchtower of his castle to where the chicken-like townsfolk were already extinguishing their fires,switching off their steam boilers and hurriedly flapping around in fear of the sky demons.

“Dawn is in an hour you fucktards so realign your assholes after that rough landing and lets break out the morning after pills!” barked Worriunt over the local net. The battlesuited Field Marshall enjoyed the lack of informality and casual vulgarity associated with Jaunts. So much of his professional life was an exercise in front, culturing his public image as a stoic and noble transhuman guardian of Humanity with the legacy of ten millennia behind him. Allowing the civilians of the numerous worlds the Clans “protected” to see this side of the Nuur would lead them to notions of running the show for themselves and should that fruitless exercise in democracy be allowed The Enemy could sneak up behind them in the night and slit their throats.

“Maybe Chorlee needs a bit of extra realignment from you, Worri” winked Psy-ops Squadron Leader Mysfitaa via a private message. Since their brief but passionate congress ninety four years ago during the Banfaald Cluster insurrection, Mysfitaa and Worriunt had developed an understanding that whenever their paths would cross they would always find time to consort and unload their personal troubles on one another out of sight of their contemporaries, the civilians they dominated and the secret police who made sure Clansfolk kept up appearances.

It was in these brief and private liaisons that both parties vented a lot of psychological baggage. Despite her cold and professional exterior (again, mostly a front) Mysfitaa was a deeply empathic individual who by now knew more about Worriunt than any Purity Council inquisition could find (or so he hoped) and she was more accepting than most of their rank about the Field Marshall’s predilection for young males whilst on the a Jaunt.

Corporal Chorlee was one such potential. To the casual observer his presence on the trip seemed to be the kind of astonishing opportunity to progress up the ranks by hanging out with the big boys and girls that the Clans liked to throw out to the lower classes once in a while. It was an example of how egalitarian the more progressive Nuur Clans thought themselves to be, no matter what a persons’ background (or their genetic heritage) if they had the strength of character and the talent they could still get as far in the Clans as any Clansborn transhuman warrior could (but maybe not quite as far, after all glass ceilings had to be maintained and the millennia old linage of the Clansborn had to be protected.)

Chorlee had been only recently fitted with the cybernetic and genetic upgrades as befitting a solider of his rank, a commission obtained on the battlefield during that most frustrating and troublesome insurrection in U Caendevibel (and to Worriunt’s weary eyes there seemed to nothing but insurrection these days.) Still recovering from his recent modifications at the Clans’ expense the harsh G-force of the drop from orbit had struck Chorlee the worst and he staggered out his landing pod like a sickly child off a rollercoaster.

Stifled chortles ricocheted around the group net as everyone else noticed Chorlees’ newbie state. Most stifled their amusement not so much out of respect for the Field Marshall’s rank but out of respect for an old friend with encourageable predilections. Knowing winky and smiley graphics were distributed across the Jaunts’ network as Worriunt guided his latest “special Jaunt friend” out of the smoking pod and helped him adjust his bio-rhythmic settings to the alien world.

“Thanks Field Marshall, I feel like a bit of an idiot” said Chorlee looking up to the Field Marshall with those piercing blue eyes. “Don’t mention it, why even the best of us can come a cropper from a Drop” Worriunt smiled fraternally back as the rest of the hunting party unpacked weapons and equipment from the landing pods.

“I am ready to get me some chicken-bashin you fuckers!” exclaimed Colonel Panthars as he  grabbed his crotch and fired kinetic rounds  into the dawn sky. His fellow members of Battalion XV yelled in approval and fired off a few rounds themselves in a cacophony of sonic booms and phallic abandon. In his youth Worriunt was as boisterous and arrogant as Battalion XV were today and after the psychological mindgames, memewarfare and cyberassaults of U Caendevibel he thought it refreshing to be around good old fashioned infantry soldiers. He reasoned that harking back to his glorious past in the lower ranks might have been just the tonic he needed to settle his troubled mind. In reality they were turning out to be just annoying, tiresome and unprofessional with the drunken Colonel arguably the worst of the lot. Their little fireworks display would have alerted the “chickens” in the valley of their whereabouts and no doubt the ridiculous creatures were relaying their position to whatever the freakish poultry called a leader.

Mysfitaa relayed a similarly disapproving emoticon to Worriunt and then announced to everyone “Now, we know there is a sizable chickenmen settlement over the bough of that valley so it’s a good old fashioned root march of 10 klicks which should get the juices racing and work up a thirst for beer.” Feeling the need to pander to the less civilised and sober members of the party she privately sighed and added  “Huzzah!”

“Huzzah!” bellowed the fellow Jaunters, lifting up their weapons in agreement. This new battle-cry was a curious expression to Worriunt and Mysfitaa which had seeped in (along with a lot of things) from the Community, apparently a reference to an age when the Terrans were all resident on that one planet in the Great Galaxy and happily knocking the hell out of each other with primitive firearms and swords. Around the time the Terrans were low tech savages trapped on a singular world, the Field Marshall’s great-grandfather, Worriunt The Redoubtable was leading the final and glorious cleansing of the traitorous Clan “Memory of the 7th Fleet” across twenty star systems, before the misguided maniacs could defect to the greedy and cowardly Federation. If the corrupt and duplicitous Federation were bad enough nothing about Community (of which the Terrans were a founder member) sounded good to Worriunt. From their blasphemous allegiance with all manner of non-humans, half humans, self aware machines and half animals, to their claim that Earth was the true home of all Humanity and to their almost laughable naivety in how civilisations should all just try to get along and live and let live, it all sounded like poppycock and balderdash to the respected Field Marshall. Scout drones were launched into the air to get a full view of the area and a path of destruction was plotted to the nearest large settlement. The Clans dropship which had fired the individual landing pods down onto Chickenworld was now meandering down the gravity well of the terrestrial planet to the prearranged “after match” rendezvous point to dish out barbecued meat and intoxicating drinks to round off a good days slaughter of alien abominations. Despite a flood of information now coming over the Jaunts’ local net about the plan of action for the day Worriunt was still pre-occupied with the Community. It’s genetically engineered talking animals, its deceitful and freakish xenos, and the thinking machines they dangerously thought to be “people” as much as flesh and blood meant that by rights they just shouldn’t be. In all the schools of thought that he had been educated in they should have descended into chaos and self destruction centuries ago, like all the ultra-tech perversions and horrors that came out of the Dead Core. Nothing quite so superficially benign yet insanely dangerous had been seen in the LMC for many thousands of years. Some amongst his peers even referred to the whole meta-civilisation as a Blight, a seething mess of rampant technology and social chaos almost as dangerous as the Posthumans of Prastoj or the Mazdan Fleets and threatened to pollute the rest of Humanity with its mental perversions. And by Great Ashenars Memory they were smug!

Frontaar held the seeing tube the ocean merchants used to view great distances to spy the landing site. Though the fireballs in the sky lead to this direction he couldn’t make out any smouldering craters. This could either be confirmation that the sky demons with their stealthy magic had come down or maybe he had miscalculated and the demons were in another valley. For a moment Frontaar was gripped by fear of failure. His father and his kingdom had so much trust in him since he proclaimed he would stand and fight the monsters that terrorised them that he on occasion became riddled with self doubt. That his noble (and perhaps hasty) pledge that coming of age he would bring a new dawn for his people could fail because of his own faults sent a chill to his three stomachs.

TWACK!, a distant clap of thunder echoed around the wooded valley.

TWACK, TWACK,TWACK, it went again and Frontaars’ dual food and sex orifice curved into what, for his species was a devilish smile. He flapped his little legs back to his trusted steed, (which on this continent was a creature the size of a pony and with the appearance of a furry caterpillar on eight deer legs) and led his trusted warriors down to the entrance of the valley, leaving no time to explain the plan formulating hurriedly in his head.

On the invigorating march out the valley (vehicles and levitators were tradionally eschewed on activities like this) the Jaunters amused themselves with AV footage and memory-cordings of previous Jaunters out “chickenbashin” The members of Battalion XV were clogging the groupnet with cruel laughter and de-humanising jibes as previous human visitors to the world slaughtered and tormented the ridiculous alien filth. A scene of a Clansman burning down a market town made out of mud-dwellings that were disguised as piles of rocks prompted one infantrymen to gleefully comment “man, I’m gonna cook me up some of those chickenmen with some old Granjee herbs and some baked potatoes and we’re gonna have ourselves some good old fashioned meat-fry!” Battalion XV rattled with callous laughter, Worriunt’s group could manage no more than polite smiles at the uncouth bravado. “I wouldn’t.” icily chided Mysfitaa over the group-net. “This whole planet is an Original, nothing here is edible. It all evolved without the Hand Of Man so don’t eat it and don’t fuck it!”

“It’s a bottleneck, like when the Enflaat Riders made their stand at Tempus Ridge in the old legends” explained an excited Frontaar, his arms flapping poultry-like. “We’ll use the new exploding power to collapse that narrow passage there and then while they are trapped we unleash a timely vengeance for Efralm and for all the times those sky demons have plagued us!” embiggened the King’s son. He stamped the ground in a manner which to his species expressed noble defiance but to humans could only be described as similar to a chicken scratching the dirt. His fellow countrymen stomped their feet in agreement and were emboldened not only by the dream of finally getting their own back for centuries of torment but by Frontaar’s charisma. These beings had trained with the prince since the beginning and many harboured memories of attacks by the metal giants from the sky. A sense of long overdue vengeance pervaded the air as they mounted their odd looking steeds.

In an interesting  co-incidence many of the “chickenmen” referred to themselves in their own various languages as “Children of the Soil.” This term related to their egg hatching nature where “Soilers” emerge from their fleshy birth-pod into a nest half buried in the ground. These days (particularly in Frontaar’s affluent and progressive kingdom) artificial nests warmed by steam boilers were becoming more common. This had led to a major societal change in for sexless “nurse-brooders” of the species. Due to the long gestation of the fleshy pods and the vulnerability of the young the asexual nurse brooders traditionally found themselves tied to their nests all day, rarely playing a part in larger affairs. But now, with the steam boilers allowing some escape from their domestic servitude they had suddenly become a lot more vocal in the running of the Soilers affairs if only because they liked to chatter and gossip, more than the males & females who had usually ignored them. Times were changing in many ways for the Children of the Soil and in the alien minds of Frontaar’s party this gave them inspiration that finally the tide had turned for them against the murderers from the sky.

“Am I right in thinking that my sensors show there are chickenmen and those weird horse like things along that ridge near the valley passage?” enquired an unsure Chorlee, eager to please the impressive Clansfolk. Worriunt smiled, despite what some had said (never to his face, mind) the young man was not just along to be Worriunts plaything. He had promise, as shown at U Caendevibel when Chorlees’ quick action in his native world of Betor Tipic had prevented his squad from being sucked out of a domed city and into the deadly atmosphere of his barely terraformed home planet.

Corporal Chorlee (as he was after that) had shown a lot more strength of character and loyalty to the Clans than many of his fellow people at U Caendevibel, the majority of whom seemed ambivalent to the insurrection going on in a dreary corner of their system. Worriunt’s eyes Chorlee was one of the few good points in the whole misbegotten mess of a campaign, the seven billion other ingrates didn’t deserve one such as he.

“That’s right, I spotted them about half and hour back but there’s nothing they can do at that distance. Even though the Chickenmen now have crude chemical projectile weapons they make as much dent in our armour as their poison darts did so nothing to fear” proudly advised Worriunt.

“They look even more stupid with guns than they did with the spears” laughed Colonel Panthar and fired an aimless shot towards the general direction of the Soilers, who were by now two klicks away. “Take that your alien fucktards! Whoo, YEAH!” heckled the Colonel who was gyrating his groin offensively, which his fellow battalion members found to be the height of wit.

Frontaar had forgotten how terrifying the sky giants weapons were close up. As Panthars’ volley hit the ground around them some were flung from their steeds from the concussion. Frontaars’ heart swelled with pride as his fellow warriors who had hidden themselves in the valley entrance kept their subterfuge and nerve despite the explosions around them. “When confronted with a more powerful foe, evade. Lead them into a trap, try and turn their own weaknesses against themselves” a wise old Soiler had written.

After announcing his intent to fight the demons that plagued his people the prince had spent years away from his family and his homeland being taught by the wisest and most experienced Soilers of all the lands (including some kingdoms which Frontaar thought only existed in legend) on how to possibly fight back against the sky demons.

For so long the Children of the Soil had thought the devils from the sky to be a mere force of nature or god, something only prayer or fate could deal with and not an adversary they could realistically do anything about. But a fateful day three centuries ago (as the stories went) one of the giants appeared to remove its head after destroying the city of Gra’heim. It transpired that it wasn’t the demon’s night-black skull but a helmet, protecting some kind of horrific fat-headed being of flesh and hair which then proceeded to stumble around un-godlike and vomit foul alien fluids over the charred remains of the Holy Gardens of Gra’heim.

The Priestess of Gra’heim saw this bizarre and un-godlike event and soon told all she could of it. Though the sky-demons were mighty and while in their armour impervious to all that the Soilers could throw at them it was revealed they were but of flesh and blood like the Soilers. If they vomited, then they could be killed.

“I think it’s about to kick off, they’re are  jumping about on the path ahead” commented Worriunt using his enhanced eyes to scan ahead.

“I’m going to run up ahead and kick the little fuckers to death” laughed Panthar as he threw a bottle of intoxicating beverage down and galloped up the path, his jet black and gold powersuit amplifying his slightly unsteady movements so it felt like a giant mechanical gorilla was stomping angrily towards the small aliens. His cohorts yelled battle cries and followed him in wild abandon like a group of young men about to set fire to public transit shelter.

Worriunt preferred strategy and cunning as opposed to the Colonels frontal assault, the chickenmen were hardly a terrifying or dangerous foe but they had their moments recently. Had Panthar bothered to read up on his adversaries before the group left the hunting lodge in orbit rather than debase himself with twenty replicant pleasure beings the oaf would have known this thought the exasperated Field Marshall

Panthar stumbled up a short incline into the passageway at the entrance of the valley. Out of the corner of his inebriated eye he noticed a chickenman holding some kind of flaming torch. Ignoring the messages  his suit’s sensors were relaying to him regarding something being afoot  he turned his maser pistol mounted arm towards the ridiculous little creature. The Soiler halted stared at the giant seemingly without fear. The Colonel paused for a moment at the audacity of the thing.

Just as Panthar noticed the primitive explosives that surrounded him one side of the valley exploded, catching him and the  suicidal chickenman in the blast. The dust from the bellowed down the passage to the rest of a stunned Jaunt and was quickly followed by Panthar’s cursing which had reached new heights of obscenity and vitriol. A second explosion went off, this time higher up the valley side and a massive boulder came down to trap Panthar which was then accompanied by a comical trombone like sound trumpeting  above the chaotic scene.

Frontaar wept for the death of his comrade, Wantsee Thirdson. Even though he knew his role was dangerous and he was given every chance to decline with honour the chance to get one back for his people  had fired Thirdson on. Frontaar sounded the mighty and noble horn his father had given him to lead other into battle, the sacred horn which had been handed down for seven generations. “Wantsee will be honoured” thought the prince, “ if there was a kingdom to get back to.”

Continued in Part 2

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