Excerpt from Moving The Pieces, first draft

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The general situation is that the three people portrayed here have been shot down and are trying to stay ahead of a demonic wave invasion. This will be the fourth and final planned book of Preparations for War, about the Calmena Advancement Mission, a charitable initiative meant to help the local Calmenans advance their society and give them a chance to survive the oncoming war between the fractal demons and the Empire of Humanity

****

"How did your generation ever survive?" Ghent wanted to know. He kept putting one foot in front of the other, though.

"A lot of us didn't. Especially here near the Gate. Even today, the people near the Gate are always prepared, and they're tough, but a lot of them still get eaten." Choosing to live near the Gate was a calculated risk. Land was cheap and fertile. There was mineral wealth for miners, too. You could make yourself wealthy in a few years - if you didn't get eaten. It seemed like every family out here was about to lose that bet.

There was an addition to one of the big trees. A likahn had tried to meld itself to the trunk for camouflage, but my perception picked it out. Since they were more than three dimensional, they stood out like a blazing beacon to perception. The catch was we hadn't really told the locals about perception, except as an aid to what limited healing we'd shown them. So I had to wait for the moment the shapeshifter began to return to its normal shape before acting. Soon as it did, draw-aim-fire, all in one smooth motion. Four shots left in the pistol, a second dead demon.

"Damn you're fast, especially for someone as old as you are!"

"No virtue of mine. Agaani can make themselves react quicker." Guardians could move a lot more quickly than agaani, but I had to keep my visible abilities down to what the locals could match. If I deployed full undertime, I'd have to kill any surviving witnesses. Since I didn't want to do that, I was limited to reflexes about half again as fast as a natural state human. I didn't stop to admire my handiwork, but kept walking.

About forty paces further on, we abruptly came to a cleared area - a farm, perhaps thirty hectares. You could see an area off to our right where they were clearing away more. That was the general way it was here - you owned what you could keep clear of jungle and work. An older tractor sat next to a small farmhouse and somewhat larger barn, and an older Calmenan version of a pickup truck, basically a small flatbed, was in front of the house. The buildings looked no more than a few of the short local years old. But I didn't see any people.

The likahns would have been better advised to circle around the edge of the farm and pick us up on the far side, but that's not what they did. Instead, the four of them tried to rush us from behind perhaps eight or ten paces after we'd broken cover.

This time, Ghent had plenty of warning, so he was able to take his own weight, and even draw his revolver and kill two himself, although it took him three shots. Makis drew, but was in no hurry to fire. I presumed that meant he wanted to let them get close so he'd be sure of hitting, but I'd killed the other two with one shot each.

This time I did change magazines. Since I now had one in the chamber, that left a single round in the old one. "Likahn problem solved!" Ghent crowed, re-loading his revolver. I handed him the leftover round - three rounds in his reloader now instead of two. There were advantages in designing many weapons around the same round.

"Probably," I conceded, "But that's not our only problem. Where are the farmers?"

"I think we have our answer," Makis pointed. Two manesi corpses between the barn and the treeline off to our left. Which was strange. Manes would eat each other, almost as happily as anything else. Why were the corpses still here? Unless...

Two more manesi emerged from behind the barn. Even from here, you could tell they'd been eating meat. Which meant the farmers were beyond help.

The big mis-shapen blue monstrosities bellowed, and four more came into view.

This was not good. Generally speaking, manesi were the equivalent of old-time heavy cavalry - shock troops. Heavy enough that momentum and numbers were expected to allow them to wash over enemies like a wave. But they were capable of wielding firearms as well as melee weapons. If they had rifles and decided to use them, both Makis and Ghent were toast, and I'd have to execute some fancy work with matris to survive.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on March 15, 2021 5:42 PM.

The Locale of Aescalon, the Connected Realms and Major Characters was the previous entry in this blog.

Blurb and Excerpt from The Fountains of Aescalon is the next entry in this blog.

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