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Drahd2 adjusted the thrusters on its combat suit as the cadre neared the fray in orbit above the enemy world, confident that the doomed planet, like the other now-ravaged cinders in this system, would soon be dismantled after local resistance, useless of course, was destroyed.

This battle had gone on for half a dark-light cycle now, and this enemy was different, since unlike the last one, they were puny in size but putting up a real fight. It was impressive that they lasted even this long…

…though they, like all the others, would simply be annihilated. Such was life.

This would be an amusing diversion, a genuine test of Drahd2’s mettle…

…but there was something unsettling about this, something vaguely disquieting about this particular battle, which it found difficult to pin down.

Then it realized what was wrong.

This enemy wasn’t dying fast enough.

Certainly, they were tiny things, with their largest spacecraft scarcely the size of an automated reconnaissance probe, but they fought like Baleful, managing to do serious damage to the cadre before being destroyed.

These people, whatever they called themselves, were serious business. This would be rousing sport.

Drahd2 gave a warrior’s aria of triumph as its particle cannon scored a direct strike on the engines of one of the small enemy vessels.

The communications channels were filled by the high-pitched cries of dying enemies, and disturbingly, for the first time that could be recalled, the baritone bellowing of fellow troops as their suits imploded from the surprisingly advanced enemy munitions.

Drahd2’s suit sensors picked up a heavy radiation signature from the enemy armaments…

Antimatter weaponry.

No matter though, his suit would probably protect him from anything but a direct hit.

This enemy wasn’t fooling around, and the thought had dawned on Drahd2 that it might not survive this combat, as it heard the roar over the combat channels of its old battlemate ordering a regrouping of the now frantically fighting battle force, just as a surge of Gamma-ray brilliance coming from its coordinates in the silent dark told the story of its death.

Drahd2 offered a quick prayer for its longtime companion’s rebirth, and in a cold rage turned its attention to ripping apart the cockpit of a combat craft hardly its own size, and as it held the unlucky pilot in its hand, a tiny creature no bigger than its forearm, a being with only four limbs, an elfin biped with an oddly similar facial structure, with a pair of eyes over what was probably a breathing orifice, itself over a horizontal slit parted to show what looked like tiny teeth.

The elf was signaling Drahd2 through its suit communicator, saying something in that irritating high-pitched register its captor was unaccustomed to, barely within the shortest wavelengths perceivable without augmentation, an annoying chatter from the being’s tiny larynx.

Drahd2 shifted its glance to a portion of its helmet faceplate, signaling the eye-motion trackers to load the translation software for this species’ language. It wanted to know what the creature was saying before crushing the life out of it.

After all, this remarkable being had the distinction of killing several of the cadre before its own now rather inevitable death.

A good soldier, even though an alien. A foe it could respect.

Drahd2 would honor such a formidable foe by relaying and recording its last words for posterity…

..and as Drahd2 closed its hand on the diminutive being, squeezing the remarkably fragile form, just before a flash of radiance from the corner of its eye painfully filled its field of vision with a void of blinding white, and its universe went forever dark, it heard this:

“…ahead and kill me you s-n of a b—h! …millions more where I came from! …but we’re both soldiers… I’ll make it quick and easy for both of us… Say goodbye Gr—-,” the small being said as their eyes met.

And for an instant, for the first, last, and only time in its life, Drahd2 truly knew the enemy as itself.

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