"Survive as best you can, but be careful what you say."



All the martial ranks stood at attention, mustered in vast, concentric rings surrounding a giant dimensional illusion platform. We were slightly overwhelmed by the display, by our own numbers and the sheer weight of half a million voices responding simultaneously to the Speaker's expostulations. Colored black and red, the troops wore combat armor in preparation for the conflict to come, for the drop from the jump bay to the surface of the planet below. Like a horde of deadly insects we bristled inside our exoskeletons, stirred by the hate we individually felt, spurred by the Speaker and his rabid oratory.

"DO YOU FEEL THE NEED TO KILL?!" he screamed, his face thirty meters high and floating in three dimensional display above our heads. Lividly, his gaze turned to face us all

"YES!" we screamed back, feeling like the small insects we all were in the Speaker's presence.

Our echoes, five hundred thousand strong, did not have time to die before the Speaker bellowed, "WILL YOU DEFEND THE HONOR OF YOUR HOME PLANET?!"



"RYLOX 5!"


"RYLOX 5!"

"Rylox five." The Speaker's sudden, insinuating calm shocked us into utter silence. Our blood was up, but our fervor had achieved a temporary plateau. Ever masterful of his audience, the Speaker realized this, and tailored his speech to fit the mood of his listeners. "Rylox five, a planet of defilers. A planet of infidels. A nest of the most vile race of beings ever to slither into sentient evolution. Monsters.

"They must be stopped. You must stop them. You are standing at the very gates of hell, one foot poised to descend. At your backs, the unguarded frontiers of your Home System tremble in anticipation of the outcome of this heroic hour. The fate of an entire population totters on the brink of destruction, and the one hand to pluck it from disaster is yours. Each and every one of you has the power to redeem your heritage, to perform a miraculous salvation, to prevent the slaughter, no, the UTTER EXTINCTION of your people!


"RYLOX 5!" we screamed in unison.


"RYLOX 5!"

"KILL THEM!" screamed the Speaker.

"KILL THEM!" we responded, raising our armored fists in salute.

"KIIIIIILL THEEEEEEM!" he repeated a final time. "KILL THEM!" we responded. Then his gargantuan image disappeared. The jump bay fell silent in the Speaker's absence. Like puppies at the tit we waited, eyes wide, mouth open, hoping for more.

Instead the jump officer appeared, his body lean and armored, stretching sixty meters tall. He seemed to protrude right through the bulkhead, into space. Stars swam around his head.

"Fifteen seconds to drop. Divisional commanders confirm."

The lights in the bay dimmed quickly to black. Beneath our feet the floor went suddenly transparent. A desert planet spun sedately eighty clicks below. From one pole to the other the surface was reported to be nothing but sand and granite.

The inhabitants of Rylox had long ago created garden oases among the ever shifting seas of dunes. In protection of these, they had constructed voluminous, opaque domes that screened the deadly rays of Rylox' twin suns enough to permit agriculture. Lacking an atmospheric thermal layer to dilute abundant solar radiation, the inhabitants of this harsh planet had evolved savagely. Most of the fauna lived beneath the sand. Those species that did not, had adapted various means to overcome the intense heat and ultra-violet emissions on the surface. For an instance, the sky was reported to be filled with almost invisible, clearly fleshed creatures that were the texture and consistency of cellophane. They fed through osmotic absorption of air borne organic debris. For the most part the lower life forms of Rylox were herbivorous and relatively harmless to man.

There was only one predatory species on the planet to complete the entire food chain. We called them the Gore.

The Gore had endured a double evolution. Our scientists had uncovered very little about 5's environment, but, from studying orbital debris and the many asteroid belts of the entire Rolyxian system, they had determined that Rylox 5 had once been a water planet similar in composition to Home World. The twin stars at the hub of the planet's orbit had originally evolved as a single interstellar mass. Some time during the last few hundred million years, however, a cataclysm of unimaginable proportions had rent the orb in two, and nearly destroyed the entire solar system. Before the disaster it was believed the Rylox system might have contained as many as seventeen orbiting planets, three of which had enjoyed positions in the 'green belt', the orbital range for carbon based life forms. Conjecture had it that no less than ten of the satellites had been gaseous giants, one of which had resided within the belt.

It was thought that Rylox 5 had once been a moon of that lone Jovian satellite. Located in the green belt, sentient life on 5 had rapidly developed. The Gore was very different then from what they would eventually become. Evolved from warm blooded, semi-reptilian ancestors, the Gore had been reasonably peaceful, well endowed with intelligence, and capable of multi-dimensional thought, even inter-solar space exploration.

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