Before the fighting had started the freighters had been in port a fair while, unloading containers to the shore. Then once the signal of impacting missiles had come, they unloaded their cargo in a stream. The 13th Amphibious Shorn Ones had taken to the streets and air in near an instant, infantry and fighting vehicles storming from the containers as Seahawk and attack helicopters took to the air. The scream, flash, and rumble of incoming missiles were accented by the whir of rotors and grind of treads as the soldiers poured into the city. Over the water the Seahawks screamed out after vessels.
As the doors burst open on his container, his fellow Shorn Ones thronging out, Ur’aktlo, or just Ur, couldn’t say he was nervous. This wasn’t his first assault, the border conflicts with Mina had blossomed into brief coastal raids in the past and he already has his fair share of gutting lizards. It was because of this though that he religiously checked his equipment. He felt the sharp edges of the carbon-steel maquahuitl cinched to his belt and the pistol lower down on his thigh with soft furred hands before jumping down from the stacked container to roll with his battle-rifle in hand. For a brief moment, as his fellows rushed around him, the light made him blink and tilt his head before joining the charge.
The Shorn Ones around Ur were shorter than him by a margin of one foot to one and a half, the tall ai’lupan standing out from among his jaguar fellows. They ducked and weaved around other containers, out of some of which burst forth more soldiers. Ur lashed out with a few choice words as one rolled into his flank as he ducked passed a container, shooting the Shorn One a glare before bounding off as only digitigrades legs could allow. He surged through the fellow soldiers of the regiment as yet more missiles impacted into the city, the concussive waves making him cringe as his ears went flat. It seemed for all too long they were storming up from the docks themselves, simply running and charging as the mechanized component of their regiment blared ahead as their diesel engines grinded and groaned. Then all at once he was out of those infernal gray docks and met with colour.
“By Ta, who poured cans of paint over this place?” Ur’s voice was light, with a quick and jester-like lilt, and met similar grunts from his fellows as they broke into the more colourful part of the city. Flowers violet, scarlet, and daisy worked with bright green palm fronds and rainbow houses to make the eyes water. The glow of the midday sun made it worse, glancing off of leafs and freshly painted houses. Thankfully the rising soot from the missile impacts and their trails provided some reprieve from the cheeriness. The gunfire from a balcony was also distracting from the scenery.
He, like the others, simply charged faster as the fifty cals on the fighting vehicles belted into the buildings. Two of his fellows shouted out as the zinging rounds struck them to close to home, tearing chunks of flesh and fur from their bodies and sending them reeling or to the ground. Ur simply continued moving on, kicking in the door of a souvenir shop and charging in. Beads, crimson fabric, and a poster of a sensually reclining mako were all shredded as the roar of a shotgun tore out the moment the door had been flung open. Pain seared through Ur’s chest and brow, and he saw everything in red. Suddenly he far preferred the bright and cheerful colours from a second before.
As he stumbled forward, pellets embedded in his flak vest and two in his brow, only alive thanks to all the crap that had been between him and the angry female tigershark holding the sawnoff, Ur threw himself over the counter which the sharkwoman had quickly ducked behind. Fur scratched roughly across denticles as Ur tackled the woman from behind, coming down from above and behind her. Clumps of black fur was caught in the snap of jaws and in frenzied clawing as they struggled, Ur snapping the sawnoff from her hands and throwing it aside just as she managed to flick the firing clip back into position, a shot going wild as it scattered birdshot across numerous posters and t-shirts. In the moment of the gun going off the sharkwoman flinched and Ur had his opening, slamming a fist into the meat under her jaw. As she reeled back he snapped several more quick punches across her body, punching straight fingers into her armpits and with a quick twist popping her shoulder out and dislocating it. She screamed, but as blood dribbled down from his muzzle and the many gashes on his arms Ur was less than sympathetic.
He rose, a light grunt escaping his lips, “Sorry babe,” He eyed her writhing form, a tinge of sadness niggling at him as she shot out Spanish curses in fully automatic, “Under other circumstance I think we would have gotten along real well,” He laughed and coughed as he stumbled away, catching his breath, “Oh Ta, my ribs.” Ur clutched his ribs, leaning against the counter, and took several deep breathes until the pain began to subside just that little bit. Then he continued on to what had been his initial objective in coming into this little pawnshop in the first place.
The ai’lupan Shorn One picked his battle-rifle up from the ground from where it had gotten loose from his grip and began stalking towards the stairs, shoving aside clothes stands and sending loosened dust flying as he made his way. Along the way he, like all proper soldiers, had all his functioning senses going over every small detail that could hide a combatant. That was why he noticed the knock-off Jungle Jack hat on one of the racks. As he passed it tweaked something inside him, something primal and childish, something he could not deny. With a cocky smile he grabbed the hat as he passed and put it on, his long single braid hanging out and over the left side of his head under the hat as he began to ascend the stairs.
Behind him he could hear his fellows rushing in, having caught up to his blitzing, and they surged behind him in a fireteam of ten. However as they cleared the ground floor, distinctly hearing one give quite the shout about evil shark she-devils and something about his toes, he continued onwards in the upper floor. He was disappointed. The windows had already been blown out, probably from infantry passing below, and two shark men lay groaning along with a crocodile lass that was in the corner with her eyes closed cooing to herself something in their native tongue. The temptation to tuck his braid under his hat and play the hero passed through the ai’lupan’s pheromone and blood addled mind for a brief second, but another Shorn One, an impatient little bastard had already leapt up the stairs by the time he had thought up a really good line.
“Aw well, I’ll think up something good next time...”
The little jaguar Shorn One glanced at him, seemingly stopping mid-step, “Sergeant?”
“What?” Ur was brought back from his brief mental image involving a tank converted into a hot-tub and a grateful set of squid-girl octuplets,” Oh, yeah carry on and restrain ‘em as command ordered,” He stalked towards the edge of the floor, towards the broken and shattered walls that were crumbling as he stepped forward, the reverberating footsteps of the rest of the fireteam shaking the bullet-riddled wood free as they clambered into the upper floor, “The rest of you advance with me, we are going on the roof to provide covering fire for the advance.”
Slinging his rifle over his shoulder before shooting them a brief smile he half leapt from the window, flipping around to catch the edge of the roof with his sore hands. He dragged himself up, feeling splinters and glass get caught in his fur as he did so, and the others followed behind him without issue. He got to his feet and near immediately threw himself to a prone position.
“These tigersharks really need to learn better aim,” a round zinged passed his ear, making his crimson eye twitch, “but not much.”
He sighted down his rifle’s scope as further rounds slapped into the tin, wood, and brick around him and the rest of the fireteam. In his crosshairs he could make out a distant shark, using his own battle-rifle, a Kalian one at that. Ur placed his finger on the trigger and gently breathed out. With a gentle pull he released the bullet. Then, before he could even see what was happening, a loud squeal and roar passed overhead forcing him to cover his ears. In front of him the building he had been targeting was sundered, wood and concrete exploding down onto the street below and slamming into a parade float, “That killstealing bastard!” his squadmates snickered as they began selecting targets and firing their own shots.
The parade float that had been struck by the debris began moving though, fire licking into the air from it like an infernal crown. It began rolling down the main street, towards the advancing infantry, picking up speed and momentum. Only Ur seemed to notice this at first, “Oh, oh shit,” his subordinates noticed too, and panicked radio contact began belting out from some of them as the forces in the street began to hastily take cover. That wouldn’t be enough though, there were too many of them and the vehicle, while piddly, could start a fire on the dock. Taking stock of the situation, Ur gauged its speed, number of wheels, and the long ropes hanging from the masts of the boat-shaped float. A plan was created in that moment, one that was probably insane, suicidal, and stupid. But it was a plan none the less.
Ur took off on a sprint, leaving his rifle behind as he leapt from the roof of the souvenir shop to the house next door and keeping going without skipping a beat as his comrades shouted at him with confusion and frustration. He continued on heedless of them, his legs aching more and more as they withstood the pound of leaping down from roofs, clawing up walls, and scrambling for grip against tin and wood. Likewise splinters and shards cut into his hands, a trail of red left wherever he stumbled and had to grip for support. Bullets flung around him, one piercing through the hat on his head and another tearing a chunk of fur from his tail. Yet soon the float was within range.
He leapt, landing upon the busty mermaid figurehead, and scrambled to his feet. Not a moment too soon Ur ran into the crackling and burning deck of the faux vessel, a rifle round snapping into the figurehead and taking off one of its breasts; that had been where Ur had clung. The smoke choked his lungs though and stung at his already sore eyes. Flames licked out, setting his hair aflame and making his footpads crack and bleed. Yet he grabbed one of the longest lines he could, never stopping running, and built up as much momentum as he could before reaching the end of the deck, leaping onto the back rail, and then jumping towards the first window that came into view.
With a crash of glass and tumble he rolled into a private Jacuzzi. One that had occupants. Instantly his hair hissed and was put out, a hat gently plopping atop the water as five mako women screamed and huddled in the far corner of the tub. Without time to spare he rose from the water, his head feeling somehow lighter, and tied the thick rope to one several handles and racks within the place as he splashed water everywhere. As he was tying the last knot though, a loud pin and crack shocked his ears as the rope came taught. Praying to Kjolan, Tamolok, and just about every deity he knew Ur threw himself back into the tub and dragged the squealing girls under the water just as the rope began to snap about.
Then the snarl and whip of the rope silenced and Ur rose above the water, cautiously peering at the taut rope as it stretched from a sturdy door handle to out the window. Breathing a sigh of relief Ur ran a hand through his hair and-
And his braid was gone.
A small part inside Ur cried as he noticed the braided length of cindered hair laying in a soppy mess on the floor. Then, as he was contemplating just how badly his father would berate him, the woman rose up from the water. They were still afraid, terrified even, only one brave enough to speak, “What do you want!?!”
Ur was broken from the spell, his attention turning to the nude form of the women before him and immediately finding his worries took a back seat to other thoughts, “Well madam,” he put on his best Aatuylvan accent as he spoke what little Forrayan he knew, “I am a deep insertion agent in the Kalian Army, as you can see I have just stopped one of their suicide bombing crafts and removed my braid to show my true standing. And what I could really use now after all that is to lie low for a while and recuperate, think you can help me with that?”
“But you don’t seem like the other Aatuylvans I have met...”
“Oh?” he picked up the hat and put it on, adjusting it just so, “But I have the hat and everything.” He gave them a wink and smile.
The old C-130 was clunky, loose equipment rattling along the roof as the soldiers lined up at the ready to jump. Makit could feel that familiar bile rise in his throat from not having drank water since changing pressure, it was thick like molasses and as foul as he imagined river water to be. He screwed his yellow and black face up as he swallowed down the lump, noticing others around him making a similar face as they shuffled to the door and kept in line. Among them he saw Timik, his brother, as the cocky youth shot him a smile and gave him the thumbs up. Makit didn’t smile back, it was a frivolous display.
Then the paratroop doors opened, air whipping into the craft, and Makit jumped. His parachute whipped open, caught the wind, and billowed into a great tan blanket far above him. He barely noticed the others that quickly flowed from the back of the same craft, but he could see the specks flowing from the hundred other craft in the air, two others already having completed their run and turning around for the trip back to the homeland. Still more were coming though, a second wave on the horizon, and it gave Makit at least some mild confidence. At least until the roar of a ground based flak cannon ripped into the air.
The puff of black was distant, yet entirely too close. Makit swallowed hard as several chutes were torn and the specks they had held up plummeted to the earth where they lay still. His bright yellow eyes scanned the ground, looking for the sign of that weapon, and then he caught sight of the cannon in the rocky outcropping in the central park it called home. The bastards had hidden an active flak cannon as a historical piece. A snarl crossed his face as he tugged upon the strings of his chute, swinging closer towards the smoking barrel that had launched the round.
But before he could reach the ground another shot rang out, and another, and another. The cannon was smoking, the crew working overtime as they crammed further shells into the breech loading beast and rotated it to take advantage of the nakedness of the falling troopers. Makit couldn’t say he blamed them, they were as good as dead now, might as well put up a good fight before they were felled. Hell, at least this wasn’t just going to be an occupation. That would have been boring.
Just as his thoughts moved to what he was going to do to those manning the gun, he noticed them swivelling the cannon. Swivelling it towards him. Makit held no shame in admitting to himself that he was afraid, tugging on his chute strings as hard as he could. But still that wasn’t enough, the round ripping out of the barrel and streaming just passed him. Makit squeezed his eyes shut As he waited for pain to envelope him. But as the clamorous bang of the flak rang over him, pain did not follow, and he opened his eyes instantly as he could feel himself picking up speed.
His chute was ruined, rips and tears in the fabric growing wider with every passing second as he attempted to steer into the park and the grass therein. It drew closer faster than he was comfortable with, and as he lost control of his shredding parachute Makit did his best to control his breathing and manage his adrenalin. It still fucking hurt as he rolled with the landing, his shoulder slamming into the ground and his jaw jarred so harshly his fangs slashed into his lower gums. His helmet was a godsend, and for the first time he was glad of the thing despite the discomfort of wearing it with the braid.
He rushed to unclip himself from his parachute as the flak continued to pound into the sky, stumbling to his feet and checking his rifle for jams and other mishaps. Once that was done he could not help but look up into the sky. Up there it was chaos, the paratroopers caught with their pants down thanks to military intelligence being an oxymoron. Another three fell, one of which Makit recognized. He gazed as his brother Timik fell to earth faster and faster, losing control of his parachute. Makit watched unblinking as his sibling slammed into the side of a building, his parachute making his descent a slow red smear until it hooked on a vent. He hung there, gently tapping against the wall as blood dripped down his boots and tail.
Makit blinked, took a stick grenade out of his combat webbing, and went low to the ground as he stalked towards the flak cannon. Others were landing all around him now, others on top of buildings or in other parks, and all in sight were advancing towards the cannon. The rat-a-tat-tat of assault rifle fire clanged out as the first of the Paratroopers met the Forrayan defences, distinctive bangs snapping into the air from those using battle rifles. Makit could see some of these soldiers, six men taking cover behind trees or prone as they fired upon the enemy position. Then there was another group of ten soldiers advancing, then a team of nine, and finally twenty soldiers freshly released from their chutes charging. Then the ear-shattering rattle of a heavy machinegun bolted out, and six of those twenty were cut down before they could find cover.
Suddenly more cautious, Makit advanced slowly until he could properly see the enemy fortification. They were a pillbox that had acted as a fake stand for an integrated flak cannon. Now though portholes in the stand had been knocked open from within and the cannon rotated on its stand as it was reloaded from the safety within the pillbox thanks to a rather odd and convoluted breech system. Makit gritted his teeth as they poked two more machineguns out of the portholes, pinning down the other Shorn Ones. One group saw him, the sergeant of that group waving him to advance with a simple motion of his head.
Makit made a quick prayer to Tamolok before doing his duty and advancing. As he broke from the safety of being hidden behind shrubbery rounds instantly exploded into the ground around Makit, sending clumps of dirt into the air as he sprinted low to the ground. As he got closer he fired his assault rifle from the hip, almost all his shots flying wild but the defenders cursing loudly and giving him a small reprieve from their deadly attentions. A reprieve that only lasted a few moments. As he pulled the pin on his grenade and swung his arm back to throw it, they brought one of their light machibeguns to bear upon him and opened the trigger.
Pain seared up his leg as Makit let go of the stick grenade, watching it tumble through the air as he fell to the ground. It clattered against the sloped pillbox portholes, and for a moment frustration gripped Makit’s mind as it seemed he had failed. Then it did an untimely flip and rolled into the pillbox. The sharks and crocs shouted, yelled, one croc running from the hatch to the place only for the grenade to go off behind him. The croc bellowed as shrapnel cut into him, a cry that was cut short by the mercy of a nearby Shorn One.
Makit groaned and rolled over, grabbing his lower leg and feeling the sizeable chunk taken out by the round. It would take time to heal, but it would. He sighed as he applied pressure to the wound, holding a chunk of cloth that had come from his pants’ leg to it as he stared into the sky. The second wave had arrived, and now the flak cannon was silenced the paratroopers landed with ease. The city was Kalian, El Presidenta was probably a captive by now, and he would return home a hero. Of course, he would return without his brother. Makit glowered at the sky, sat up, and waved over his fellows. He had to get back on his feet and kill some Forrayan soldiers for his brother.
Manoan Village, Northern Shore, Forraya
Laka’s boots were drenched, the clear salty water of the beach soaking his pants and everything below as thousands of other Shorn Ones sloshed through the water. Amphibious APCs and fighting vehicles joined them, creating small wakes as they pushed through the water with minimal effort and belted out ahead of the infantry. Laka squinted as salty water was splashed into his amber eyes, growling as he swiped the sticky water off of the scaly green crest that grew from the brow and cheekbones furred face with his free hand and bared his teeth. Despite his best efforts to slog through the water at an appreciable rate it took all too long to clear the shallow, crisp, water and be upon what was solid ground and not slipping sand.
But something was either critically right, or critically wrong; no-one had been shooting that them this entire time. There was a village in sight, not even eighty meters away, and though the inhabitants were panicking they did not rush out with rifles and small arms to meet their assailants. It irked Laka, it was as though they did not see him worthy of opposition. He had been expecting the pirate-folk to be cowardly, but not even firing a single round took it to a new level. Of course they could be laying a trap, that he could warrant would be a superior strategy,
As the first of the vehicles breached the perimeter of the villages he fully expected them to blanket the troop carriers with fire, to see the flashes and explosion, to hear the clang and boom. But as the vehicles stormed into the villages, crushing lawn chairs, plants, and stands under their treads, nothing happened. At least not until Laka was close enough to see the Shorn Ones piling out of the vehicles. Then, then, the locals opened up. From inside their huts their old AKs and mosin nagants banged and rattled as they fired through the doors and windows of their little bamboo and wood hovels.
Laka didn’t bother counting how many good men were cut down as the sharks surged forward, only a few of the pirate scum taken down by the gunners on the vehicles before the sheer volume of fire took them apart. Blood was sprayed everywhere, running in rivers from the vehicles.
The islanders’ victory was short lived though, Laka throwing himself prone along with his fellow frontliners as those behind him stopped and shouldered their rifles. They took only a moment to sight their targets, and then opened with a hail of their own rounds as the coastal sharks began to bring themselves to bear towards the advancing infantry. Laka simply aimed into the central mass of the Forrayans and held his trigger down as he swing the barrel side to side. Screams, shouts, and bellows filled the air as all his fellows did the same, a rocket singing over and passed him before it slammed into the crowd.
As shrapnel, gore, and the concussive wave rippled through the air none of the Shorn Ones blinked, their fire tearing out as more distant battle-rifle equipped soldiers began selectively picking off fleeing men. Laka only stopped holding the trigger down as the clicking of his weapon became annoying. Instinctually he ejected the clip and slapped a new one in, pulling back the catch and loading a new round before looking down his ironsights once more.
He glared with a sort of grim satisfaction. Where before there had been a small pool of blood there was now a veritable lake. Sharks groaned and clutched at their spilt organs, others dragging themselves away, and the vast majority laying silent and splayed around the crater left behind by the missile. Women rushed out, children close behind them as they grabbed their husbands and sons, weeping and screaming as they attempted to drag them out of the fray, close their wounds, or simply hold onto their limp bodies. Laka rose with his fellows and continued the charge as the second line of infantry joined the first in rushing the village, stomping passed the dead and dragging the weeping from their loved ones.
Some women attempted to grab guns, to fight off these invaders out of desperation or blind rage, others tried to grab their young ones and flee to the jungle. Most fell as rifle butts slammed against flesh, others caught in the lower leg by a well place round and slapping against the ground as their balance was lost to pain. Only one or two managed to fight back, their shots going wild as Shorn Ones swarmed them and pinned them against the ground, and a fair deal managed to reach the edge of the jungle and disappear into the bogs within. The Kalians would have given chase, hunting after the bubbles and fleeing females, but their orders still stood. Instead they pulled back to the village, tying up the women, men, and children with industrial strength twist ties before separating them and throwing them into huts. The dead were piled high, and the wounded given emergency treatment before being lumped together in the center of the village.
Laka took part in this, the process quick due to clinical efficiency and practice, blood quickly drenching over his shoulder and arms as he threw more corpses into a pile. He groaned under the burden of a large mako man, blood dribbling out of several holes in the terribly large man’s chest and down Laka’s back. It was warm and stricky, and he could feel it soaking into his tail’s fur. He grunted as he threw the corpse onto the large pile, the muscular body slipping and sliding down the sloped mound of fleshy remains. Panting, Laka kneeled down before the stack, making a small prayer to Tamolok as he felt a familiar pang in his stomach.
He didn’t bother peering around, he knew the others were partaking as well, and took his maquahuitl from his belt and sliced a long strip of flesh from the fallen man’s corpse. With small effort he stripped the skin from the meat, the denticle-laden skin hardly palatable unless thoroughly cooked, and tossed the light grey skin aside as popped the raw and slippery strip of red meat into his mouth. It was only a few bites worth, and he cut further strips from the corpse’s arm as he took what he needed. Blood dribbled down his chin and saturated the fur of his lips, cheeks, and even nose in a thick oozing layer.
After a small belch he rose, eyes squinting as he watched his fellows go about their business. He could hear a woman crying, a man grunting, and got the same idea. Laka rose, overlooking the corpse mound, and gave the mako a kick before turning and walking into a hut. The young woman within whimpered and then cried as he took his toll.
Ocean, between Kalia and Forraya
The splatter of vomit hitting the rim of the toilet was becoming a familiar sound, one not enjoyed by Horde Mistress Zapaya Mayazotlo as she heaved dryly into the tin bowl. She lurched forward, back arching as she coughed and retched out a thin mouthful of sour mucus. A light groan left her as she let her head hang there for a moment, only grabbing a nearby towel once her stomach stopped feeling like it was rolling back and forth inside her. She wiped around her mouth, snarling as the loose ends of the towels caught upon the sharp and pointy scale crest across her brow and cheekbones. Such was one of the downsides of being a Cro’Kala, a jaguar descended from crocodiles taken by Kalians.
Finishing wiping around her mouth and sending a final shot of spittle into the toilet, Zapaya stood. She was short, only four feet tall, and slinked from the bathroom and back through the halls cramped with officers back to the bridge as her tail twitched with frustration. Wide hips, a full bosom, and a full womanly figure that melded perfectly with her sturdy frame did not go unnoticed by the male officers on the bridge as she entered. Thankfully her fatigues hid her from most ogling, and they had long learned not to stare too long or lustily though as her smile, that maw filled with jagged teeth stretched wide, mixed with her bright yellow eyes and crest to create an appearance that made men mostly whimper.
“Admiral, I want a status report,” Zapaya spoke with a voice riddled with bile that only seasickness can bring up as she slipped back into the chair she had occupied not twenty minutes earlier, before the waves had sent her running for the bathroom.
Admiral Azam’aya Yutuka, a five and a half foot tall human-blooded jaguar, or Acca’Kala, with his smaller ears lower down upon his head, stood swaying with the waves as he peered out the windows at the grey sky and frothy waves, “We are heading into a bad storm. It is only going to get worse, the radar does not lie, we should head north towards the coast below the Izumans’ claims and wait it out as best we can,” He spoke calmly, hands folded behind his green uniform-clad back, “Our craft are shoddy civilian vessels converted for military use, so I don’t want to take any chances.”
“How far behind schedule will that put us?” Zapaya stared intently at the horizon, the fact that lightning was striking there simply adding to her stress as she tried to keep what little stomach acid she had left down.
“Depends,” Azam’aya spoke in the same chilly tone, “Could hold us back an hour, or we could have to wait the entire thing out and be held up until tomorrow,” he glanced back at his superior and noticed her grimace, “The weather is a fickle mistress, and this storm brewed up out of nowhere. But if we try and tough it out I am not sure how many vessels will make it, our ships are not graded to survive what it looks like this tempest is going to throw at us.”
“Fuuuuuuuck,” Zapaya let the word string out, slapping a hand against her scaly brow and feeling a sting as her scales poked her palm, “Just do it, we can’t risk losing this wave and I don’t fancy having to wait in the ocean for a rescue heli that might never arrive.”
He nodded, “Your will.”
Azam’aya stepped forward, speaking commands to the helmsman, navigator, and radio operator as the vessel began to turn and the other vessels, mostly converted bulk carriers and river monitors upgraded for blue water duty. All bobbed atop the quickly growing waves as they rose and fell among the irregular and dangerous waters, their screws spinning as they powered towards the shore beyond the horizon to the north. It would take them a few hours to reach waters shallow enough to throw down the storm anchors and get out of the way of the eye of this storm.
As this thought entered Zapaya’s mind she went green again and flung herself from her chair, sprinting down the halls once more.