“Imperial authorities are warning citizens of increased mutant violence across the northern desert, particularly against isolated farms, villages, and nomadic tribes located within 500 kilometers of the ruins of Ungolath.“—Imperial Voxcast, 6 133 742.M41
* * *
Farmstead of Sophia Piers
Desert World of Morkai
6 165 742.M42
Raising a mirror above the stone parapet in front of her, Ma Sophia attempted to scan the horizon for movement.
“I can’t see a damned thing looking through this mirror,” she muttered. “I need to look with my own two eyes.”
To her side, a rotund middle-aged man snorted.
“Go ahead, stick your head out in the open,” he said. “I’ll say a lovely prayer at your funeral.”
Ma Sophia shot the man a dirty look.
“You’re awfully impious for a priest,” she said.
Deacon Alfonzo smiled. “When it comes to the God-Emperor, I am the most pious of men. When it comes to men . . . or women . . . my opinion is not so reverent.”
Now it was Ma Sophia’s turn to snort. She had known Deacon Alfonzo for decades. Although rather vain with his garishly colored vestments and ridiculous purple hat, the cheerful priest was a champion of the Imperial Creed, visiting the local towns and isolated farms of the Chunik Plateau to bring the God-Emperor’s blessings on all who would listen.
Those were the good old days, she thought. When all I had to worry about were a few isolated bandits. Now, everything is a fething mess.
* * *
Farhad was stationed by the front gate of the farmstead. In the distance, he could see the water-moisture collectors lined in rows across the desert. Their tall, white columns rose 20 meters into the sky, narrow slats at the top seeking to collect what little moisture could be drawn from the desert air.
“I see something moving by the rocks,” said an older man on the opposite side of the gate. Old Cyrus was the foreman of the farm.
“Watcha see?” Farhad asked.
Cyrus didn’t answer.
The waiting was awful, Farhad decided. The farmstead was 50 kilometers south of the Tomada Oasis, with nothing surrounding it but barren, sun-baked desert. It was as isolated as you could get.
The only reason it existed was that, through some fluke of geography, the air in the region held a slight humidity—just enough to make a water-collection farm profitable. Ma Sophia’s great-grandfather had built the farmstead nearly a century ago, and it had provided a good life for the half-dozen families that worked it.
At least, until two days ago. That’s when nearly two dozen mutants had ambushed some workers as they were out maintaining the water-moisture towers. Three men had died in the initial attack, and two others had been dragged back into the farmstead complex with the mutants hot on their heels.
Now the farmstead was surrounded. The mutants were out there, if unseen. They had an uncanny ability to move in the desert as if they were ghosts.
Yet, their guns were pointed at them. They’d learned that the hard way, when Tomas, a father of two, had foolishly exposed himself on the roof of the storage shed. Half a dozen shots had rung out, and Tomad was thrown off the roof and fell four meters to the ground—dead before he landed.
* * *
Ma Sophia wasn’t sure who yelled the warning, but it hardly mattered. Her ears were assailed by the sound of gunfire. It seemed as if a hundred guns had opened up on the farmstead.
She was standing in the courtyard, with Deacon Alfonzo and two other men—a small reserve force, all armed with old auto-guns purchased by her father years ago when the mutants first began getting uppity.
“Men coming to the gate,” she heard Cyrus yell. “They got ladders.”
“Ladders coming at the storage shed,” came another voice. Then another: “Ladders coming at the maintenance shed.”
For a moment, Ma Sophia felt a surge of panic. She only had a dozen man to defend the nearly 120-meter perimeter of the farmstead.. The walls of the rectangular complex were sturdy, but they were only four meters tall.
She pulled herself together. “Lando, you watch to the west. Make sure they don’t come that way. Everyone else, split up and get to where those ladders are going. Keep the muties off the walls. Kill every damned one of them.”
* * *
Six mutants were racing toward the front gate. They were stumbling in the sand, struggling with a steel ladder that appeared to be lashed together with grot leather bindings.
Sweat in his eyes, Farhad drew a bead on one of the mutants in the front and fired a shot with his auto-gun. He missed.
On the other side of the gate, Cyrus had better luck. His shot hit one of the mutants in the leg. The rag-covered figure stumbled and fell, and the man behind him tripped over him. The front edge of the ladder dipped and dug into the sand, and the mutants were forced to stop as they struggled to pull the ladder free and continue forward.
That’s when Koveh appeared. A brute of a man, he’d been assigned the heavy stubber—one of two weapons that Ma Sophie was hoping would even the odds for the outnumbered defenders.
Striding up to the parapet , he aimed the heavy weapon and opened up. Farhad’s ears were deafened by the thump, thump, thump of the gun, but he had the presence of mind to look at where Koveh was aiming. He was appalled to see the two of the mutants torn apart by the large-caliber shells of the weapon.
The rest turned and fled back to the safety of the sand dunes. Only one made it alive.
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Categories: Morkai Campaign