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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Warrior

He lifted his pseudopod slightly---was that a popping he'd heard, like a child playing with that packing stuff? Had it been followed by a snicker of triumph? Did he detect a slight catch and roughness in the soft ebb and flow of the air around him? Listening a moment longer he decided he was just a bit jumpy. There'd been talk of contagion between his hostess and her family for several days now but no signs of invasion so far. Silently he lowered and extended his pod--oozing along the smooth, glistening, warm, moist, gently moving walls of his post.

He passed several other soldiers and quietly asked if they had encountered anything unusual. Only one thought there had been a slight shudder earlier but things seemed normal otherwise. Suddenly, there was a short rapid expulsion of air and moisture and several of the troops were carried rapidly out of the chamber by its force. Then he noticed that the walls appeared to be sweating more than usual and the moisture was becoming somewhat stickier. Calling to the fellows nearest him, he started around a narrow passage to the next chamber. As they continued through another explosive rush of air almost carried him upward toward the outer world. Becoming alarmed he urged the men to follow him more closely and he attempted to increase his speed. He did not want to allow himself to panic but he knew that he had to explore every chamber of this structure. Somewhere, he feared, danger was brewing.

As they continued,stealthily, through the convoluted corridors the sticky seepage of the walls thickened, making it more difficult to slide their way along the passages. Soon, they began to see clusters of viral remains stuck to the now deepening effluent. His soma began to pulse and he realized that the sounds he heard coming from the farthest chambers were the separation noises of the rods in the throes of asexual euphoria. Although he now knew what to expect ,the sight of the brilliant red walls of the invaders' camp stunned him.

Immediately, he dispatched some of his men to the barracks to muster reinforcements. The others he ordered to stretch their bodies to the limit, until the middle pinched in and the one became two. In the process, chemicals were released to neutralize those of the maniacally reproducing foe. Over and over again, he and his men stretched and divided, hoping against hope to form a battle unit large enough to overcome the enemy which had a head start. As his numbers increased he assigned some to diffuse through the walls and spread out within his hostess, starting fires as they went to increase the temperature of the surroundings. This he knew would start to destroy the weaker among the rods. He also ordered others to begin the engulfing, though he knew this meant death to his men as well. He thought fleetingly of the kamikazes of that far off country he'd read about in his youth. But, the battle he was waging did not leave much time for nostalgia,nor for regret. His mission was to overcome the threatening horde and save his hostess.

As the frantic reproduction on both sides continued there was a sudden cataclasmic eruption and pieces of the now thickened lining of the walls were pulled away, along with the bodies of his dead--bloated with the bodies of engulfed rods. White, and yellowish and green in death. Slimy with the coating of the chamber, they were explosively carried upward and out of sight. On and on the battle raged. The eruptions came more frequently. The heat became unbearable to him and his men as well as to the still splitting rods.

And then, as quickly as it had begun, the battle slowed and almost ceased. The air was fetid and moist and its flow in and out of the chamber was ragged. But for the moment there was a respite and he took that moment to assess the damage. His forces were reduced but word came that help was on the way. Other messages informed him that the men on the periphery were unscathed and able to keep the fires going without interference. Just as he was about to doze for a few minutes the second in command came to inform him that he had a visitor. Sal, from the hostess, wanted to see him. He had to put him off--he couldn't have any interference now. The battle had not truly begun and he needed to keep total command until he felt the tide turn in his favor. And so, his lieutenant was ordered to stall Sal.

Stretching for one last split before resting he was infuriated to find Sal pushing his way into his space. Sal demanded that the fires be tamped down and said he'd been sent by the hostess to do just that. He countered that the heat was necessary to weaken the invader but Sal argued back that it was weakening the hostess as well. " She cannot eat, nothing she drinks stays down" he declared. " Besides, it is because of her that you have this quiet! She sent NyQie to calm the walls." Looking around he realized that in his fatigue he had not noticed the blue green tinge of the thin wash now beginning to cover the walls. " If you don't let us do our work--we few that she has sent so far--she will only send more and your men will not be able to stop us putting out the fires. At least let us damp them down and reduce the heat so she is somewhat comfortable. Look around you, your men are being slowed by this intense temperature." Wearily, he agreed.

Soon after Sal's departure the new recruits arrived en masse. He shook his head in sorrow. Some of them were so young they didn't even have their central control rooms fully developed. Yet, here they were starting to engulf and to discharge neutralizing liquids almost without order. Another spasm pulled some of them upward almost as soon as they arrived--dying already and not yet full to bursting with rods. He joined the fray and once more the chaos of battle became the only reality. On and on it went --periods of frenzy, periods of quiet. After what seemed an eternity the horde was subdued. The weary remains of his force returned to the barracks. He gave his lieutenant and others of the routine patrol time to relax. Fresh recruits who had not been needed when the battle raged arrived to clean up the remains of the fallen of both sides.

He wearily found a corner out of the way and observed the carnage. Sorrow for the lost mingled with satisfaction at a job well done. He wondered how much longer he would survive these attacks but knew that he would be ready to lead when the next one came. And it would.

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