The trash carrying gust howled, whistled his way through weathered by sand cracks in the ruined buildings. It sounded like a choir of sorrow-filled wails, one would hear at a funerary procession. However, the dilapidated ruins of this once proud town weren’t quite as dead as this tortured planet’s wind, assumed.
He tilted the red kepis a bit, so its white visor would better shield his face from the scorching sun. Front and center on his uniform hat, there was a metal ornament depicting crossed khopesh sword and a rifle. Copper colored and not overly shiny, it was a mark signifying that this man was a soldier.
Strains of jet black hair stuck from under the kepis, even though he sported a short, military haircut. The man’s now heavily tanned and otherwise white gray complexion, resembled the skin color of his combat instructors. Yet, the main difference between them was height – he loomed at least one head over even the tallest of them.
Dark blue and almond shaped, his eyes scoured the desolate landscape which surrounded him, one more time. Satisfied that there were no more dangers afoot, he crawled out of his foxhole. Strong, callus covered hands held a long rifle, finger on the trigger, as he slowly stood up. Dark brown, the young man’s tall boots were up to his shin, their megasteel reinforced soles crushed tiny pieces of trash without him even feeling it.
Black, cylinder-shaped grenade stuck out from his left boot. Its long, wooden handle kept it there, secure and at an arm’s reach. Apart from this one last munition, the man carried no other explosive armaments on his self. Only the metallic handle of a compact shovel could be seen peaking out from a comfy pocket in his backpack.
Compact and yet, packed heavy, said carryall also sported a bedroll and a hooded raincoat – both neatly folded and rolled to fit their respective straps.
Muscular, this man’s athletic build was clad in an armored uniform. Grey, with one blue line on the trousers and cuffs, those in the know would notice its high-quality vacfoam fabric interwoven with Zimir threads and energy resistant mesh. Thin, megasteel plates showed themselves when the man moved, these underlays protected his chest, shoulders, neck, and forearms.
Those with apt knowledge of Terran military insignia would quickly notice the silvery sergeant stripes on his left shoulder.
The white epes skin belt, held by silvery megasteel buckle, was where he carried most of his soldierly kit. Square, the buckle was not only sturdy, it came decorated with a golden Ankh, a hawk’s wings spread above it. Engraved in a semi circle around the Ankh, sentients who knew olden Egyptian hieroglyphs could read:
“For Life Eternal.”
Resting comfortably in its sheath on his left thigh was a 20 inch long bayonet. The handle had a sturdy, ingenious interlock, which slid perfectly under the barrel of his rifle. Handle laden with comfortable laces made from heat treated epes leather, the dagger’s pommel perfectly resembled a hawk’s head. Of course, the Terran Peace masters who crafted this balanced vibro blade, they made sure that all of its black metallic surfaces did not reflect light. If he would unsheathe it, on both sides of the blade there was an inscription, also etched in Egyptian hieroglyphs:
“My shackles reforged.”
A holster made from the same, good quality white epes skin, was secured on his right thigh. Instead of a pistol’s handle sticking a bit from it, one could easily notice that the holster was empty. Even the small pockets, where a shooter would otherwise keep spare power packs were bare. Otherwise the belt had twice the usual number of ammunition pouches, and at least half were full.
The uniform’s long sleeved shirt had two lines of round, megasteel buttons, eleven in number. Each had a different, mysterious-looking symbol engraved on them. Starting from the top, the first had an alien saber and the second, a robotic arm. The third had a rifle and right next to it, the forth one was adorned with a space shuttle – also alien. Underneath those, the fifth button had the grinning, toothy face of a furry critter and the one beside it, a vicious dagger.
Further down the shirt, buttons seven and eight were decorated with a stylized shovel and banner, respectively. Number nine had a big drop of blood and ten, shrouded in flames alien letter called omega. The last button showed a large, clenched fist, which held a wrench and appeared ready to strike.
These appeared to carry significant importance since the man took a second to touch each of them, mumbling under his aquiline nose. Swiftly, so he wouldn’t lose too much moisture, his thin, parched lips moved. In hushed tone, he uttered one alien name after another and with calm, serene-like reverence. The last couple of words he spoke in his beautiful native tongue:
“Of Lothorian blood, but Terr’aan soul.”
The mechanical counter positioned on the rear of his long rifle's barrel displayed how many shots remained in its loaded power pack.
A most pristine tool of Peace, this heavy railgun rifle was of Japanese craftsmanship. The Arisaka R10 was able to hit targets from long-range and being fitted with armor piercing module, deadly beyond measure in the hands of an expert marksman. The gun was incredibly sturdy and with its long bayonet affixed, transformed its wielder into a rifle spearman. Slash, stab, and cut, the powerful vibro weapon and rifle combined, nearly always secured the reach advantage for this Lothorian soldier.
Designed to be wielded in close combat, the R10's frame was forged from light-weight megasteel. Which meant that a skilled soldier could not only depend on his bayonet, but employ the full length of the rifle in melee. True, this gun was a bit heavier than other rifles, yet when vicious vibroblades aswung, weapons made of flimsy plastics soon became undone.
A testament to the quality of rifle and soldier, the gutted, mangled corpses of nine enemies lied, scattered among the ruins. The Lothorian cracked his neck and, assuming a much lower posture, slowly strutted towards a skeleton of a building which lay ahead. There, he would search the cadavers, loot whatever combat supplies and rations they had, before continuing on his way.
Earlier today, when these bandits emerged from the ruins and demanded he pay in order to proceed through their “territory," Velin shot first. His Terr'aan teachers did not learn him to be a pushover, nor would he run away from parasitic scum and leave them alive, so they could keep preying upon the unfortunate. No, he counted how many of them were, where exactly their positions were and dashed for cover. He then proceeded to shoot most of them to death, while leaving three alive, but heavily wounded.
Velin lay throughout the night in ambush, aiming down the sights of his Arisaka, waiting for the bandit's friends to come help them. Prudent as this course of action was, he invested hours and wasted a lot of his water. The blessed canteen, fitted with an excellent water filtration device, dangled nearly empty on his belt. Hopefully, at least one of the bandits had some water left or he'd have to drink his own filtered piss... again.
Two days of walking separated Velin from his destination – an oasis of sorts. There, a ragged community of former adventurers and Avern'a scraped a living, surrounded by roaming bands of vicious alien marauders, slavers, and the armies of cannibalistic Jaern who invaded this planet. Any of the latter were fair game, and he reverently touched his rifle's golden chrysanthemum.
This rifle was a gift from another Terran, the emperor of Japan, who invested his personal wealth not to build opulent mansions or feast on rare delicacies, but to outfit people like Velin. An extension of Earth's will to empower freedom-loving sentients and enable them to defend not only themselves, but free others, there was a message stamped around the chrysanthemum.
He knew basic Japanese from his instructors, and being of curious mind, studied their writing in length, eventually learning how to read and write. His marksmanship teacher, an old lieutenant, told him old stories from his homeland, an island called Tsushima. More, the wise Terran recited short poems, many of them ancient, their wording exquisite and messages profound. A Haiku of modern composition which resonated perfectly well with his new occupation, he translated in Lothorian tongue. Hands steady and gripping his hallowed armament of Peace, he whispered in between measured breaths:
“Keep me by your side.”
“Death to foe or Life to friend -”
“I will serve you well.”
My new Lothorian character, Velin the Lothorian, also known as The Rifleman or the Revenant, is finally complete! Hopefully, many short stories and novellas starring him, will be published in years to come.
I created him as a homage to E. Howard's most marvelous hero - Conan the Cimmerian. Velin is one unrelenting Lothorian who was born a slave, suffered many hardships, but eventually forged his freedom and became a soldier. His life's mission is to aid other peoples, those who still toil under their enslaver's boot.
Velin's quest will lead him to the long-suffering planet Avern'a, where the cannibalistic Jaern had ruled for centuries. Set during the years before Final Liberation, it is a time of high adventure. Those willing to fight for their freedom, the helpless and the infirm - they will find in Velin a new, powerful ally. Many a degenerate alien foe, even the otherworldly, will feel The Rifleman's wrath.
For there is no mercy in his heart of stone, no pity in his soul of megasteel! The eaters of the living, the slavers with their vile underlings - all are destined to writhe in agony, suffer terror and death. Their undeserving existence will end by way of bayonet, railgun, and Velin's mighty fists.
Cometh the day of Final Liberation, yet beforehand there is much work to be done on Avern'a, most of it bloody...
You can find my Starshatter series, all seven published books, here.
A Mandate of Sword And Railgun - a great collection of short stories, set in the Starshatter universe.