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--- Memory transcription subject: Slanek, Venlil Space Corps Date [standardized human time]: October 17, 2136
The Terran drone monitoring station was set aboard a massive boat, for some reason. I guessed it was because a moving target would be difficult for the Krakotl to nail from orbital range. More than likely, they would need to dive through the atmosphere to take us out. My friends had terrestrial aircraft and defenses waiting for that moment.
The humans judged that I was better equipped for an oversight role, scanning communication channels for anything helpful. Despite his protests, Marcel was still sidelined due to injuries as well. It was a safe assumption that his assignment was more to calm me, or to jump in if I froze. There were dozens of other predators in the control room, each itching to be in the stars.
Instead, we all watched the battle unfold from behind a computer monitor. As the first Federation bombers broke through, everyone realized how quickly our defense was falling apart. There was a seriousness I’d never seen in humans, even in the darkest situations. Why couldn’t they have fled Earth, like I told them to?
“Our satellites registered 42 impacts, some on major population centers.” General Jones addressed the station’s crew in a solemn tone. “I’ve assigned each of you a local newsfeed to listen in on. We…need to keep track of which cities have been lost.”
I watched as the American officer placed a handful of red pins on a map. Her drone program hadn’t quite worked out every aspect of space warfare, but its hasty deployment was the only thing keeping us in the game now. Teaching the automated programs to differentiate between hundreds of alien ship classes, space debris, and subspace disruptions was no small feat, I was told.
My red-haired friend opened a news stream on a side monitor, and traced a clawless hand across his facial scars. The image I saw out of my periphery made me want to grab my blinders, but I forced myself to look. It was an aerial view of rubble in all directions; a sprawling metropolis turned into a wasteland by antimatter. “---of Mexico City and New York City rocked North America. The Raven Rock Bunker Complex has also been demolished, killing essential US personnel. However, no region has gone unscathed. Asia has sustained an unequal share of the detonations. Initial reports confirm mass devastation in Karachi, Tokyo, Dhaka, Shanghai, and Mumbai, several highly populous cities. The seat of the Chinese government, Beijing, is yet untouched, though it is expected to be a future target. On the European front, Switzerland’s extensive bunker network has made it the target of multiple bombing deposits. Their entire population, as well as a million refugees from EU neighbors, are packed in various shelters. Meanwhile, the Turkish government denies reports of a hit to Istanbul, despite satellite imagery suggesting its fall. In the Southern hemisphere, contact has been lost with Sao Paolo, Lima, and Buenos Aires. Africa is reporting impacts to Kinshasa, Lagos, and Cairo, while Oceania mourns the fall of Sydney. Conservative casualty estimates are in the tens of millions, planetwide.”
“How can the Federation do this, Slanek? Why do we deserve to die?” Marcel’s eyes watered, and his voice was a scratchy whisper. “We’re just people, like you…all we wanted was peace!”
I pinned my ears against my head. “I’m truly sorry. I wish we could do more to help.”
“These are civilian hubs! There was no reason for any of this to happen…not even their own worlds under fire could make them stop. Millions are dead because of our eyes, because we’re so fucking different to you.”
Despite the anger in his words, I could see that my friend was on the brink of a breakdown. The UN fleet was being pummeled on all fronts, and every screen depicted ship explosions. My heart clenched as I realized Tyler might already be dead; the tall flesh-eater was signed onto a spacecraft carrier crew. Human artillery was depleted too, despite their unsanctimonious love of nuclear weapons. My resilient predator can’t give up now, can he? It’s like Marcel is admitting defeat.
“I know, Marc,” I said gently. “Listen, no matter how much this hurts, we have to keep fighting until the last settlement falls. If we’re gonna die today, we better take a lot of them with us.”
Pure hatred glimmered in his hazel eyes. “Oh, you didn’t have to tell me that. If humanity glues itself back together, I hope we kill every last one of them.”
“You don’t mean that, my friend. Know us Venlil are with you to the end. For whatever that’s worth.”
The Venlil only had a few hundred ships left in reserve, after donating the bulk of our fleet to humanity. Nonetheless, Governor Tarva ordered the majority of our remnants to Earth’s defense. They were intermingled with human units now, playing supporting roles. There were less than fifty warships remaining behind at Venlil Prime. Both sides knew the Republic government sent more than we could spare.
My gaze focused on one Venlil grouping, whose human front line had succumbed to a brazen Krakotl charge. The predators committed themselves a bit too heavily to stopping the first bombers, and still failed in that regard. The Republic ships banded together on instinct, which made them a larger target on sensors.
I was stunned by how little the enemy hesitated to dispatch them. This Federation onslaught seemed just as predatory as the humans, if not more; it was like they didn’t consider Venlil people anymore. We couldn’t just freeze and rely on herd mentality, as our comrades were being murdered.
“Venlil support, you need to stay mobile,” Marcel growled into his headset, clearly noticing the same issue. “Do not let yourself become a sitting target. Call for UN backup; your allies will find a way to help you if we can.”
A few Terran ships overheard the chatter, and ducked their engagements to help the Venlil grouping. The Republic’s plasma aim was noticeably worse than the Federation’s; the prey crews must be panicking. Even with my extra training, I would be terrified in their position. They were parked in the path of certain death.
The Krakotl ships clashed with the battered UN reinforcements, while the Venlil threw in supporting missiles. The humans were flying like crazed maniacs, at least on the manned ships. I think the predators found the energy to protect us, because they realized our opponents would break through otherwise. We might be the ‘weakest species in the galaxy’, but at least it’s extra ships to stand in the way. I should be with the other Venlil, fighting…
The humans were churning out explosives and gunfire, and the Venlil kept aiding from a safe distance. The Federation must've realized that those campers were prey-crewed vessels, not predators. Several enemies rerouted their trajectories to cruise through our timid offerings, instead of searching for an opening.
The Terrans swerved to meet the hostiles, and concentrated plasma fire on the largest warships. Heavy Federation classes had the most explosives, so they were the priority. Earth’s innocuous shape loomed behind the Venlil defenders. With armed vehicles barreling toward them, the urge to flee must be overwhelming.
I donned my own headset, contemplating what Sara had taught me. “Venlil ships, you are much stronger than you think you are. The Federation is wrong about us; we are not just the galaxy’s laughingstock. Push past your limits! Hold the line!”
Several Venlil were retreating before the Krakotl overtook them, but scrambled back into position. None of us wanted humanity’s home to suffer further harm. Most had come to love the arboreal predators, and love was as good a motivation as hatred. My people clawed back more than the Krakotl expected, though the aggressors cut the Venlil ships down in droves.
A few Federation craft slipped through on that front, as friendly forces succumbed to the larger assault. My heart sank when I saw nobody was chasing the leader bomber; the other Terran groups were too far away and otherwise occupied. About twenty missiles were fast-tracked to Earth, which I knew meant millions more casualties. That was a statistic too staggering to comprehend. If the Venlil didn’t make a last stand, it would’ve been a hundred detonations. It’s about mitigating the damage at this point…and praying for a miracle.
The Krakotl were clever, enough to allocate a few warships to guard their rear flank. The UN's Gojid liberation fleet had attempted to hit them from behind, but found an armed unit waiting at the ready. Had the circumstances been less dire, I think the humans may have noted how the birds were a worthy foe.
The Terran ship count was ticking down to 1000 on our readout; the early stages of the battle were catastrophic. The Federation still had several thousand vessels at their disposal, and pressed ahead with unchecked aggression. Our predators were running out of ships and tricks. They could only be so many places in the vastness of space at once.
The enemy bombers trickled through in small groupings, and that meant the death toll continued to rise. I couldn’t imagine how Marcel felt; the red-haired human was holding his head in his hands. He slapped my tail away, when I wrapped it around his wrist. Terran civilization, everything he ever knew, was slipping away, in the span of an hour.
I jostled his arm again. “Hey, Marcel, please help me. There’s five hundred new contacts from the direction of your colony Mars. I don’t know who to notify.”
I was aware that I was supposed to alert General Jones, but I thought feeling useful might do my friend some good. The vegetarian needed to snap out of his misery, and turn his thoughts away from Nulia and Lucy. He must be feeling guilt for sending them to a bunker. Honorable predators should go down fighting, not wallowing in self-pity.
“Did you hear me?” I demanded. “There’s more ships inbound, of a standard Federation make.”
“A second wave of Federation monsters? Wasn’t the first one enough?!” he spat.
I couldn’t blame him for that reaction. The Terrans had no spare manpower to allocate to a fresh armada. But there had to be some attempt to stop the newcomers, even if it was woefully insufficient.
Seeing that my human wasn’t going to be helpful, I flagged down General Jones. She studied the data for a full minute, poring over the details.
The American officer frowned. “It’s difficult to lock on the signal, but it appears they’re trying to hail us.”
“Shall I put it on the main screen?” an attendant asked.
“Yes, patch us through the interference. If the Feds are offering us a surrender, I think we have no choice but to accept it…unconditionally.”
The occupants of the monitoring station turned our attention to the central video feed. General Jones positioned herself in front of a camera, a bitter look in her eyes. It was unclear why the Federation would reverse their stance on total extinction. Wasn’t their only demand every human dead?
A quadrupedal animal appeared on screen, and Jones’ expression morphed to surprise. Those rounded ears and soft brown fur were Zurulian features. The captain shied away from the camera, clearly having never seen a human before.
“GODS, DON’T EAT US! Please! Uh…I mean…” the Zurulian stammered. “Don’t shoot us?”
Jones’ lips curved down. “What are you doing here? This is an active warzone.”
“Friendly! F-friendly! We’ll leave.”
The quadruped was struggling to string coherent thoughts together. I jumped out my seat, and wagged my tail at Jones in a ‘Go away’ gesture. The human general didn’t take the hint, so I gave her leg an insistent shove. Understanding flashed in her eyes, and she ducked out of view of the camera.
I flicked my ears reassuringly. “Zurulian officer, please inform us of your intent. Nobody is going to hurt you.”
“Chauson...wanted…begged the prime minister to help humans. Unrelenting. He said they were nice, but t-they just look hungry to me! So hungry!”
Hope flickered back into Jones’ pupils. “Wait a second. You’re here to help us?”
“Why is it growling at me? Venlil, you’ve got to get out of there!”
I exhaled in frustration, and glanced at Marcel for support. My human’s eyes were a million light-years away, red around the rims. His lips never moved, not even a forced snarl. That brokenness gave me the resolution I needed.
“That is just how humans talk, because they have deeper vocal ranges. There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I said. “We need urgent assistance at several locations. Help would be very much appreciated.”
The Zurulian tilted his head. “I know what my orders are, but won’t these predators attack anything in sight? They’re in aggression mode! And this is a quarter of our entire fleet. We’re no military species.”
“Zurulian, we…we’ve already lost millions of lives. Innocent lives.” A rare hint of emotion crept in Jones’ voice, though she quickly steadied herself. “I promise we want nothing more than to protect Earth. I will relay word that you’re friendlies. Please, if you believe in peace, help us.”
The quadruped’s gaze darted to the viewport, where his formation was closing in on the Federation attackers. His expression was conflicted; I was worried that he might go against his orders. This captain acted predator-averse, and even showed disgust at the sight of a human. The call was terminated without any clarification.
Terran ship numbers continued to dwindle, while the Zurulians sat and watched. General Jones sighed, and highlighted the new vessels as alien friendlies. That was a necessary gamble. The Federation had yet to notice the newcomers' approach; I prayed that they would intercede on Earth’s behalf.
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