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*Fear not that thy life come to an end but that thy life never have a beginning.* \- John Alfred E. Newman, Pre-Glassing Terran Philosopher
*I will not eat the applesauce.* \- Unknown, Age of Paranoia, TerraSol
*One day, on an exceptionally angry ball of mud, a lemur picked up a rock. And the universe made that everyone else’s problem -* Mantid [Fr33\_Lax](https://www.reddit.com/user/Fr33_Lax/), from “Collections of Wisdom Without an Overmind”, New Mantid Press
*That sounds like a you problem, not a me problem* \- The Universe
N’Thrap was a warrior caste Treana’ad of superior color and size. Hatched two years prior, he had grown up on the vast fields of Peanut Brittle Surprise, a cool world with a dim red sun and sweet breezes of nitrogen. He had entered basic training for the Confederate military because, well, of course he had.
Just look at him.
Three point five meters tall four meters long, one point five meters wide, thick bladearms that were exquisitely sharp, thick of limb and carapace, highly sensitive antenna and other organs, and of course, the will to use it all.
During Basic Training he had excelled with his weaponry. Had made the ten mile run in nine minutes fifty-two seconds, far below the minimum time of fifteen minutes thirty-two seconds. He was capable of lifting his own unsupported bodyweight three times rather than the minimum one half lift. He could life nearly four hundred pounds on his back in the squat and stand one hundred six times in two minutes rather than the sixty-three minimum. He excelled at land navigation, swimming (although he did not like it), first aid, radio communication, calling in artillery, ground guiding tanks, trucks, planes, strikers, even close air support.
He graduated third in his class, an honor as he was competing against several Treana’ad warriors who’s linage could be directly traced to P’Thok himself. For his outstanding basic training efforts he was inducted into the “Matron’s Choice”, making him a warrior who could possibly earn the sponsorship and perhaps even the favor of one of the powerful matrons that ruled over Treana’ad society with an iron fist.
When it came time to choose his military occupational specialty, he chose, unsurprisingly, rapid assault infantry.
After all, just look at him!
Again, he excelled. Not only how own skills, but his trainers noted his leadership ability as he assisted those who needed a slight extra push, a little bit of help from their comrades, to pass particularly difficult training. He never asked for anything and always had a word of support or the time to assist.
He graduated sixth out of his class graduates of two hundred. It came as no surprise to his trainers.
After all, just look at him!
His first duty station was more training, more practice, until his reflexes were correct, until he could identify his gear in the dark just by feel, and until he knew what he needed to know and his skills were sharp.
Then came the word: The Iron Piglet Offensive.
N’Thrap tried to hide his eagerness. He was warrior caste, the protector of moomoos and ice cream, the defender of matrons and hatchlings, the shield and sword of the Treana’ad people, the ever sharp bladearm and the ever vigilant antenna.
He knew that the Atrekna were a tough foe. They had powers that gave them mastery of space and time, the commanded horrors from beyond the stars, they were the source of the Dwellerspawn that had vexed more than one colony and wiped out more than one species.
They would not be holographic targets that beeped and vanished when N’Thrap touched them with the practice weapon’s light laser beam.
They would fight back.
But this was a fight, not just for the Treana’ad People, but for the Confederacy, for the Unified Council, for all of the galactic arm, the galaxy, and maybe even the universe.
If the Atrekna weren’t stopped here they would devour this universe just as sure as they had devoured only Chromium Saint Peter knew how many other universes.
And N’Thrap was partial to this universe.
It was where he kept his stuff.
Like the rest of his caste, he loaded into the ships, entered the cryopods and curled up, then no time passed and he was being thawed out.
He was part of the 545th Host, the Beet Bourbon Ripple Host. He was part of the 678th Swarm, the 1932nd Infantry Horde. He was part of Lima Company, 19th Regiment, Rapid Assault Force.
In the week while the ship was still underway, N’Thrap trained alongside the rest of the unit.
Finally, the word came back.
The Atrekna were already in the system and were digging in, harvesting the native population.
Lieutenant General of the Iron V’Carnk gave the orders.
N’Thrap loaded up with his fellow Treana’ad, clad in his power assist armor, his weapons in the storage configuration, the creation engines on his back warm and waiting. He could feel their humming as he waited in the massive dropship.
There was a jerk and a slight feel of weightlessness for a split second before the dropship’s antigrav took over from the transport ship’s. He could feel the dropship adjusting and heading toward the planet under thrust.
“Remember your training and you will survive!” Captain I’Rekit bellowed out from where he was standing in between the rows of seats. “Our initial objective is create a perimeter so that heavy metal can get to the ground without shattering their tracks!”
The dropship was trembling, sometimes rocking or bouncing like it had taken a hard hit, but N’Thrap wasn’t afraid.
He knew that if the dropship took a hit serious enough to destroy it then he wouldn’t feel a thing.
“Function check!” First Sergeant of the Bladearm B’Wad’Dwa yelled out.
N’Thrap checked. Ammo at 100%, armor integrity at 100%, power at 100%, weapon systems at 100%, atmosphere at 100%, slush at 7% and holding, thermal at 4%. N’Thrap sent his status to the Lieutenant, knowing that the Platoon Management Officer would keep a close tab on everyone’s metrics.
The ship suddenly tilted up at the nose and the thrusters screamed. N’Thrap felt his stomachs drop as the deceleration tried to crush him.
“TEN!” Captain I’Rekit bellowed out.
The light went from red to yellow.
“FIVE!” the yellow light began to blink. N’Thrap’s seat rotated, letting him know he’d be going out the side of the dropship not fired straight down.
There was rapid thudding as the dropship fired out drones.
N’Thrap clenched and leaned forward slightly.
“ONE!” the doors blew open.
Beyond there were still a few fires from stubborn plants that hadn’t been reduced to ash. There were charred Dwellerspawn smoking in the massive circular pattern that the ion thrusters had carved into the ground.
Streaks of light filled the night sky as defensive platforms fired at the Space Force vessels in orbit. There were streaks coming down that N’Thrap could identify as Confederate drop pods. Tracers, rockets, missiles, and more filled the sky.
N’Thrap threw himself out of the seat and down the ramp, his rifle at high ready, deploying the two miniguns on his back and popping the covers on the two 60mm mortars at his rear hips. He was at the bottom of the ramp, one of the lead out onto the field, when the dropship’s command and control grabbed his miniguns and added his fire to the point defense. Two more steps and rounds started bouncing off of the dropship, tracers snapping through the air. A heavy ion bolt hit N’Thrap’s shoulder and exploded into useless sparks, not even marring the Warsteel Mark V. A handful of phasic enhanced crystals shattered on his left side but he ignored the fire, confident in the men at his back.
The guns on his back snarled, aimed at the sky, as N’Thrap ran for his assigned position, a large boulder that was smoking from the heat of the ion drives.
Not taking any chances, N’Thrap thrust his left bladearm against the boulder, the bladearm armored and sporting a vibroblade edge rather than biological serrations. The vibroblade screeched and ripped away a chunk of stone, revealing that the boulder was just that.
N’Thrap pushed himself against the boulder and inhaled rapidly, looking around.
The dropship was taking off, burning hard for orbit and the next load of troops.
Two of his platoon were down from what looked like a heavy artillery round hit. The dropship was pocked and cratered with holes the size of a human’s fist, but as far as N’Thrap could tell, none had penetrated the armor.
**NETWORK CONNECTION LOST** appeared in his vision.
N’Thrap nodded. That meant Atrekna were on the planet in force. The only thing that worked now was a narrow band of radio wave frequency and some spooky particles. Point to point laser would work until the pollen chaff got too thick.
But he’d trained for it.
The mortars on his back hips went to rapid fire, emptying the eight round sticks, the mortars taking a short flight to drop between the defenders and the LZ. High concentrate white smoke, thermal and phasic masking, radar deflecting and laser prism shifting smoke billowed out and started covering the strip of land between the LZ and the Atrekna servitors that were still hastily digging in.
More and more of his squad gathered up behind the boulder, which was taking heavy hits, as a dozen more dropships slammed into the ground. The doors opened and more Treana’ad warriors poured out, firing as they moved forward.
Two flag-bearers signaled, the whistles blew, audible over the howl of small arms and the roar of heavy weapons and the pounding of artillery shells.
N’Thrap stepped out from behind the boulder, his personal battlescreen flaring as it took minor hits. No thorns or bioweapons, just standard Atrekna phasic crystals and some light kinetic rounds. The Treana’ad infantry gathered up into their blocks.
N’Thrap was in the third rank as the warriors gathered up. On his left was a missile gunner, on his right was a heavy gunner with his M318 readied.
N’Thrap’s ‘rifle’ was a M2D7e5 .50 caliber heavy machinegun, the belt dropping down in a slight loop to the ammunition case that was fed by two nanoforges.
The whistles blew, the flags shifted.
The Treana’ad of Lima Company advanced into the enemy’s fire. The front rank firing their weapons.
The Atrekna’s servitor species were dug in, rapid deployment foxholes and instant deployment trenches already in place. As N’Thrap moved forward a pillbox began to deploy.
A trio of rockets hit it and it exploded, chunks of it flying into the sky as flames roared up.
There was nearly a kilometer of no-man’s land between the front ranks of the Treana’ad Infantry Horde and the defenders as the Treana’ad began trotting toward it.
The whistles blew from the Regimental commanders. The whistles of the Brigade Commanders picked it up. Then the Battalion. Then N’Thrap could hear the distinctive sound of Lima Company’s First Sergeant of the Bladearm whistling.
The defenders had been filled with anxiety and dread watching the lead ranks of the massive insect warriors trotting forward, firing their weapons, their battlescreens flickering and sparking as the defender’s massed firepower did exactly jack and shit.
The flags raised and lowered. The whistles sounded.
The Treana’ad infanty horde suddenly *lunged* forward. Going from a light trot to nearly sixty miles an hour in less than a twenty-five meters. They fired their weapons on the move, the back ranks acting as point defense against the artillery, mortars, rockets, and drones.
From a light jog to twenty-six meters a second.
The Treana’ad Infantry Horde gave a roaring screech as they lunged forward, racing across no-man’s land. The defender’s ion weapons, laser rifles and cannons, plasma casters, and shard guns poured fire into the advancing Treana’ad.
Ten seconds and they were a quarter of the way across, still shooting, moving through the smoke as one large mass. Lasers sparkled and gave off prismatic sprays as the microcrystals suspended in the smoke diffused them. Smart munitions lost lock and focus and spiraled off under their own direction.
The defenders couldn’t see anything but a large mass coming straight at them, firing as they moved forward.
The defenders lowered the barrels of their artillery weapons with the cry of “ACTION FRONT!” as the Treana’ad charged.
It took six seconds for the barrels to lower, the heavy duty motors slowly moving the gun.
The Treana’ad were over a hundred and fifty meters closer.
N’Thrap ran across no-man’s land, his armored footpads slamming into the baked and smoking dirt. The Treana’ad in front of him went down in a sprawl, an 80mm sabot penetrating his battlescreen and snapping off his head, the sabot round spinning and whirring as it deflected into the sky.
N’Thrap just shifted forward as he passed the body, taking his place in the second rank as the one in the second rank stepped into the front rank.
To the defenders, it was all clockwork precision as the Treana’ad crossed the halfway point at twenty-one seconds.
The Treana’ad were raking the defender’s position with heavy minigun fire, rockets, missiles, and large caliber kinetic rounds. Mortars, fired in rippling stages in the ranks, pounded the trenches that still had the atomic fog swirling around from where the atomic charge had been suppressed to allow the trench to be dug in a split second.
Spooky particle white phosphorus rained out, gentle arcs of white smoke belying the terrible burning of the white particles. The trenches filled with burning smoke, servitors screamed as the burning flakes settled on their armor and burned through to the flesh beneath.
N’Thrap shifted to the front when the Treana’ad in front of him went down at the 750 meter mark. The Treana’ad were silent now, just the roar of their weapons and the thudding of their armored footpads.
He wasn’t worried.
He burst out of the smoke, into a thin band of clear air only fifty meters from the lead trench. He could see the defenders looking over the edge of the trench, their eyes wide, their weapons spitting ion packets that N’Thrap’s battlescreen easily shrugged.
The whistles blew.
N’Thrap pressed the button on the boxy part of his gun.
An eighteen inch vibroblade popped out along the side of the barrel.
He saw two of the defenders jerk back.
N’Thrap reached the edge of the trench, firing down into it. The heavy weapon thudded. Not the rapid-fire purr of his miniguns, not the tearing sound of lighter weapons.
The Ka-Chonk Ka-Chonk Ka-Chonk of the Ma-Deuce, the Undying Queen of the Infantry.
The servitor hit by the rounds exploded, the round punching through their light battlesteel armor, blowing off limbs, ripping apart torsos, turning the defenders into rags and chunks of flesh.
N’Thrap dropped into the trench, turning and firing the twenty meter length before the first turn. The smoke swirled around him as he raked the defenders then turned and fired the other way.
His brother began dropping in next to him as he scrambled up.
It was twenty meters to the next trenchwork.
N’Thrap sprinted at nearly seventy miles an hour.
He slid to a stop and raked the defenders less than two seconds after he had crested the trench behind him.
N’Thrap gave a single glance back after he directed his fire into the trench and chopped the defenders apart.
The heavy drop cradles for the 9472nd Armored Horde were coming in fast.
Ahead of him he could see a larger crystalline structure embedded in the ground. There were sally ports and two gates open and he could see servitors pouring out of the ground level egress points while robed figures floated into the upper ones.
A brother slammed down into the trench with him, ignoring the body parts that pulped under his armored footpads. N’Thrap slapped the brother’s shoulder then pointed at the upper points where air units were floating into the structure.
The brother nodded, hefting his launcher. He loaded it with a clack and aimed.
Raising himself to his full height, N’Thrap aimed his ‘rifle’ at the structure less than two kilometers away, well within effective range of his weapon, and opened fire. He walked his tracers into the front of the crystalline structure. The tracers went from red to purple in less than three seconds as his ammunition went from standard ball rounds to phasic crystal penetration rounds.
The brother fired his missile and ducked down, the nanoforge on the side of the launcher beeping and steam leaking out from the vents.
More brothers slammed into the trench on either side of N’Thrap as he kept firing. The first handful of hits did nothing but spark off of the crystal.
The phasic crystal penetrators started blowing holes in the crystalline wall big enough for a green mantid walk through.
The whistles blew even as rockets and missiles started arcing across the two kilometer zone.
Still firing, N’Thrap climbed out of the trench, still in the lead rank that quickly formed.
Behind him his brothers climbed out, making up the second rank.
The whistles blew again.
Again, the defenders gaped in shock as the Treana’ad went from a brisk walking speed to a sixty mile an hour sprint.
In the seconds it took the defenders to get over their shock, the Treana’ad were a tenth of the way across the no-man’s land.
Rocketeers and missile controllers rained their munitions down on the fortress, any groups of troops, and any vehicles that dared showed themselves.
N’Thrap could hear the air whistling around him as he sprinted forward, firing his weapon as he ran, heedless of the heat and slush as his weapon roared out six rounds a second with a steady ka-Chonk ka-Chonk ka-Chonk.
A full hit from a maser cannon dropped his personal battlescreen and made his chitin vibrate, but N’Thrap charged through the hit, still shooting.
He shoulder blocked a servitor out of the way, the servitor’s armor caving in as N’Thrap slammed into it at over sixty miles an hour.
The brother behind him gave the downed servitor a burst as he ran by.
He saw a gate slowly closing and hosed it with his weapon, the rounds blowing big holes in the structure.
The gate collapsed into shards and the mouth of the fortress yawned open.
Three seconds later and N’Thrap led Lima Company into the fortress.
N’Thrap bayonetted a screaming servitor, pulled the trigger to blow the creature off the blade, killed two servitors with a single thrust of each bladearm, and then leveled his weapon and raked the servitors in the huge staging chamber inside the fortress.
A brother fired a rocket at the far wall, blowing a hole big enough for a Terran warborg to breakdance through, and N’Thrap charged into it even as the whistles kept blowing.
An Atrekna tried to get up and N’Thrap stepped forward and thrust the bayonet through its mouth before pulling the trigger. Two other Atrekna were in the room, dead or unconscious, N’Thrap didn’t care.
He raked them both with the heavy ‘rifle’ as he moved past, deeper into the fortress.
Less then five minutes and three rocket breaches later N’Thrap entered a massive chamber at the center of the chamber.
Glimmering crystals hovered and rotated all around him as he stepped through the hole a rocket brother had made in the wall. Phasic constructs glowed and pulsed.
Nearly thirty Atrekna were trying to bring something through the construct.
N’Thrap clamped down on the firing lever at the same time as the two brothers entering the room behind him fired their missiles.
The entire construct exploded, phasic energy washing over N’Thrap. He saw his psychic shielding jump to 136% for a second then drop all the way down to 11%, half of what it had been during the assault.
Sergeant of the Bladearm Z’Shrep stepped into the room.
“The tanks are in place. Withdraw and take a five minute rest. We assault our next objective in ten minutes,” he ordered.
N’Thrap and his two brothers turned and left.
One brother stepped back into the room and threw a phasic grenade into the wreckage before hurrying up to catch up N’Thrap.
Outside, it had started to rain.
N’Thrap took his place among Lima Company, which had suffered only six casualties.
N’Thrap watched the massive tanks move up and took his place as Lima Company spread out to add their miniguns to the point defense and anti-drone defense.
The next objective was fifteen kilometers away.
The tanks would be moving at a brisk jog for an infantryman.
As N’Thrap jogged at a leisurely twenty miles an hour toward the next objective, the Iron Piglet Offensive was less than 3 hours old.
He knew he’d do his part. He was a warrior caste of superior size and coloration.
Just look at him.
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