Badlands: Desolation Angels

Higer’s words froze them in their tracks. There had been something in his tone that threw up a wall that caught them mid-stride. As their leader, it was his duty to spot danger. And at the moment he yelled, they wished they were invisible. It was then that the things hunting them came into view–and they had nowhere to go.

“Drop!!! He screamed.

Yes. Perhaps the tall grass would hide them. Perhaps. Then, perhaps not.

Not all had heard his command. White hot bursts were followed by screams of agony. And then the smell of incinerated flesh. But how many? Three? Twenty?

There was really no way to know. Not until they did a head count. They had been sent as a rescue party but now, they needed rescuing. Sure, they had rescued those they had been sent to rescue,. But They had accidentally alerted the enemy guarding the prisoners.

They, in turn, had released the things now hunting the party. But what exactly were they?And where was George? Where was their only sure bet of escape?

That was the question on everyone’s lips. He was late. Maybe too late. And these things hunting them were determined to make sure that their prey would not survive the next few hours. But Higer was determined to keep them alive.

He dared not communicate with the incoming shuttle, or he would risk betraying their only hope. Nor could he do much else. They had all run out of ammo. All who had weapons, anyway. And there was no way in the Breigath any of them were going to sneak close enough to use hand-to-hand on those things. That would be suicide.

And none of them wanted to commit suicide. Not that way. Not now. There was too much at stake.

So, he had them crawling. Slowly. And trying to remain inconspicuous. But that was nigh impossible. Especially with the sharp blades of the tall grass cutting into their flesh like razor-whips. Damn grass, anyway.

George. Brother of the revered psy-queen. Commander of the Outland Units. King of the Thornon.

He was supposed to be there by now. But he wasn’t. Or was he? One never knew about him. He could be anywhere at any time.

Out here on the tundra, it was hard to know if anyone was anywhere. Especially now that the group was lying in the tall grass, crawling for their lives. Praying that they wouldn’t be caught.

***

High above, beyond those on the ground, a pack of Thornon flew. Thornon, the winged specters of space, were not native to this planet. Hell. They weren’t native to any planet.

The Thornon were psy-creatures. They were from everywhere, but belonged nowhere. Now making their home in the Badlands, they had found hope as emissaries of the psy-queen and a great king in George once they had helped him manifest his own psy-abilities. And he had begun to lead them to greatness.

At the head of the Thornon, George surveyed what was going on below. Though he had piloted in the rescue vehicle, he preferred to remain free with his pack. This allowed him to be able to lead an attack if the need arose. And that need had definitely manifested itself.

With a piercing cry, not unlike that of an eagle or a hawk, he dove. As he did so, he probed the creatures below to see if he could connect mentally. Perhaps he could turn them against their masters.

Then, he found the route in. Connecting with the lead creature, he sensed its instinctual surprise. His psy-invasion of its mind was unexpected. but not as unexpected as its willingness to allow him in. Once in, He noticed why.

Buried deep in its mind, latent memories-dark memories-told of the horrifying truth. The history of their enslavement. How their masters’ brutality kept them in check. But, now, all was suddenly released and he was welcomed into its presence.

We are sentient, interloper, the creature responded, surprising George, and yes. We are psy-creatures. But we are enslaved, not trained. We do not wish to do what we are forced to. But we do so upon threat of death.

Then turn that fear into rage, George responded, and turn that rage against your masters. Become one in your resolve to overthrow your masters and break your chains.

Will you help us? It stopped as if it were sniffing the air.

Yes. George smiled.

The creature knew that George would keep his word. The Thornon were bound by their word. It was their bond. And that bond was unbreakable.

It was also the word of the legendary psy-queen, and she was worth making an alliance with. She was fair. She was kind. And, she was undefeatable.

Their masters called her witch. A mind-witch. And they feared her. They did not fear the Thornon, though. Those were wives’ tales. Meant to scare little children, they said.

***

They were unsure of themselves, those lying in the grass. The beasts had stopped their attacks shortly before the unearthly cry that arose from above. Joram stood to see what was going on. Above, he saw the Thornon. His pursuers now seemed to be sniffing the air.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that they weren’t sniffing, but rather, communing with the Thornon. He wasn’t sure that it signified a good thing. He mistrusted psy-creatures. Never could tell what they were planning. Suddenly, he found himself face to face with a Thornon.

You doubt the intents of the psy-queen? It asked him.

“N-n-no,” he stammered, “but they are the enemy!”

On the contrary, human. They are slaves. Afraid to do that which is against the commands of their masters.

“So Why’d they stop?” Joram inquired.

We stopped them. We allied ourselves with them against their masters, came the mental reply, the Thornon never break our word.

Higer rose, in awe, next to Joram. “He spoke to you! George spoke to you!”

Joram whirled around, surprised at the revelation. “That was George?”

“Yes,” Higer stated emphatically, nodding his head, “You didn’t think he was human, did you? After all, he was a psy-child just like his sister. Only difference was that he was chosen by the Thornon to rule them.”

Durloch rose as well. “You are blessed! Praise all that is pure!”

“But I didn’t know–” Joram protested.

“Of course not,” Lyrtax retorted, “You never use that brain. That’s why we got captured. You didn’t think.”

“Come, Now,” Higer commanded, “We’ll have no more of that. Your capture was largely due to being on the wrong planet, not because someone wasn’t thinking. You had not reached Tharnian space. The gods only know where we really are.”

Seri smiled. “If George is here, then the transport is not far.”

True, Seri,” Higer replied, But we wait for him to return. Anyone injured very badly?”

***

We are Kronks. Our masters are Dreiva’art, the creature began, explaining, for millennia, we lived in peace, sharing this great planet. We Kronks shared our knowledge of technology and medicine. As well as our collective psy-powers. We helped build the great wonders of this world and helped our fellow races grow in strength and prosperity.

The Dreiva’art were a small and insignificantly numbered race, but excellent artisans. But there were a few among them that desired power and wealth. And over time, they grew in number, conquering the other small races and enslaving them. Eventually, they even conquered and enslaved the members of their own race which opposed their will.

Finally, despite our valiant attempts to defend ourselves, we were also conquered and enslaved. The mightiest are now no more than a mere slave. But we always knew the day would come. We would once again be free.

And you shall be free, George replied, and all shall know of your wisdom. Come. Let us begin setting all free.

The Kronk led the way as the Thornon flew high above, but just behind. From their vantage point, the Thornon could see who or what was ahead, while remaining hidden from the enemy. Not far in the distance, they could see the citadel. Big, metallic, and less than inviting, it seemed well fortified. But no fortification could stop the Thornon. Nothing could hold them either.

***

George’s thoughts filtered back to Macy. Ever since he became Thornon, he could speak to her no matter where in the universe he was. After he used the Thornon to destroy the pirate sanctuary, there had been fewer raids. The only thing was that he was no longer around as much. His newfound duties as king of the Thornon had removed him from her palace more and more, though he came as their representative for council meetings and for court responsibilities.

She had asked him to go rescue those she had sent to rescue prisoners on a distant planet that knew little of her. Those who had taken the captives cared little about who she was or the power she wielded. They didn’t even fear the Thornon, and that was unthinkable! Even she feared the ethereal beings more than she really should have.

Of course, she thought of them as angels. And they looked upon her view as an honor. She had welcomed them. Given them their choice of a home world. Then gave them authority among her peoples.

They respected her, even asking her for her advice on certain matters. And in return, they helped protect the Badlands from invasions. Even the corporate traffic had almost completely stopped. And she was grateful. But she missed her brother’s wisdom and fearlessness.

At the moment, she could hear him making mental notes on his approach to the citadel. She could hear him measuring its height. Its width. Its thickness. Its composition.

She struggled to keep from laughing. He was always so analytical. Always trying to figure out how things were erected or made. Trying to guess what kind of weapons his opponents would have.

And it made her love him even more. She wouldn’t trade her brother for anyone else. He was one of a kind. She owed everything to him. Her life. Her throne. Her very destiny.

***

The Thornon swooped in from above when the gate guardians began firing upon the Kronk. Not a single guard saw them coming. Unlike the pirates, the Dreiva’art were not susceptible to the Thornon mind-scream. But their energy emissions were very effective.

Explosions ripped into the walls, tearing them apart. Fires spontaneously erupted within the citadel. Errant soldiers screamed their last as bolts struck them. gates holding prisoners and slaves came open miraculously. Slaves and prisoners escaped into the wilderness beyond.

The Dreiva’art tyrant stood upon the balcony of his palace viewing the carnage with a scowl. George noticed him and swooped down to his level. He probed the evil king’s mind. Black as tar.

His eyes flicked up to see his sister materialize behind the king. He smiled.

“Who Are You?” The tyrant demanded. “And Why are you doing this?”

“He is Thornon,” Macy’s soul-projection replied from behind, forcing the king to whip around in shock, “so you won’t be able to hear his reply. You being psy-blocked and all. But me, on the other hand, you can hear.” She grabbed the king by the throat and lifted him off his feet. “You would have done well to fear both myself and the Thornon. For the Thornon do exist, and I am much more than just a simple witch. I am a queen. And a very powerful one at that.”

George watched as she walked toward the balcony rail, the king raised high above her head. He watched as the king’s feet slipped over the railing. He saw the coward close his eyes.

“I still do not believe you are here,” the king stated.

“Have it your way,” Macy replied, disappearing.

without anything bracing him, the king suddenly found himself falling. he reached out, screaming in terror, trying to grab hold of the railing. But he missed. As he hit, there was a bone-crushing thump. Then a thud as his head hit the ground and broke open.

With the death of their king, the Dreiva’art surrendered. The uprising had been victorious. An Anthran came and stood beside George, placing George’s hand upon her shoulder. She nodded. He looked at the Kronk.

She desires for you to use her to speak, it replied, they wish to hear you. After all, you are their savior.

He nodded. Citizens. Dreiva’art, and all other races, listen to my words. Today tyranny has fallen. Let the hate vanish from your heart and the envy from your souls. Show compassion, not contempt. You all have much to learn from each other. Go and live in peace. And share this planet.

***

George ushered the rescue team those they’d rescued onto the transport. He looked at each as they boarded. They had been changed by their experience, but they would heal. Among those boarding was the Kronk, Anthran, Dreiva’art, and a member of every race that inhabited the planet. These were heading to the Badlands to become members of the council.

The name’s Thrid, the Kronk smiled, and thank you again. We would have never succeeded without your help. It will be a pleasure to serve your queen.

She isn’t just my queen, George replied, she is yours now as well. But she is my sister as well. The Thornon will stay here and help rebuild. Your peoples have great potential, Thrid. I can only hope that they can rise above their past and embrace a better future. One of Peace.

Oh, they will, came the reply, after all, they know your people exist and are watching.

George watched his newfound friend board the transport. The Arkwas now full to capacity. He watched the doors shut and the gangway retract. He watched as the sequence was run through, and then as the transport rose from the ground and flew away. As it vanished from sight, he whispered a silent blessing. Once it was gone, he turned back to the task at hand. There were multiple civilizations to be rebuilt. Multiple nations to be empowered. governments to build.