In The Dark

CaaKLy3382 had never experienced fear in his life, and at this moment, if he were able to experience any emotion at all, he would have been glad for it.

Cutters weren't designed to experience anything. Designed, what a kind word.

Maliciously, he might add. They were cutters for a reason. They cared only for the whole, nothing for the individuals. Such an ingenious way of life, and so different from those around them. CaaKLy3382 really found it much more pleasing than that. Or, he would have, could he have been pleased.

Gnawers were selfish, greedy, fighting only for themselves and what could become of them. If their territories were twice as prosperous as they were, the gnawers would wipe themselves to extinction ravaging and killing each other out of pure voracity for the land.

Crawlers were pessimists, the fools, fearing of everything that garnered danger towards them. As such, the cowards always fled to safety behind the backs of their allies, who offered protection in exchange of valuable resources. The crawlers, by view of the cutters, were utterly pathetic. The feeling was considered mutual among many species.

Spinners, nibblers, and shiners were too dumb for their own good, locked inside their ways and cowering like the crawlers behind higher powers. Diggers were incompetent, losing their land long ago. Serpents couldn't tell their front from their rear, and only prospered in their meek ways through sheer numbers.

Killers and fliers were closely knit, but both only cared for what was in their own realms. What lies beyond they would attack and destroy, as was their way, not even bothering to pillage from their desecration. There was a word for it, which radiated amongst all the cutters in observation. Bitches.

Cutters, of all, were the magnificent. Cutters felt not love, attachment, grief, or even really agony. If they were ordered to mate for the sake of procreation, they did so. If they were sent to be killed, they went without complaint. If their closest brothers and sisters were killed in battle, it meant nothing, for everything was for the benefit of the whole.

No, fear was something CaaKLy3382 could live without, courtesy of his ever-accumulating forefathers.

So now, running full length down an unfamiliar and horribly narrow Underland tunnel, carrying an unconscious and stolen female killer on his back from a horde of warrior-bearing fliers while his expressionless comrades defended their prize, CaaKLy3382 experienced nothing at all, only a drastic sense of urgentness which was mutual amongst his fellows. Despite the enormous numbers of cutters that seemed to fall at the blades of killers and the claws of their fliers, they came relentlessly onward, struggling to reach the girl with what could only be expressed as desperation.

Not he nor any of his companions knew just what this female meant to their species, but by order of their queen it was of utmost importance to return her to cutter grounds alive. No exceptions could be allowed. They didn't know why. But it wasn't the way of a cutter to simply disobey.

The one flaw of the cutter system was that punishment really meant nothing, as individual cutters made no choices without conferring. 'Twas the way of a cutter, much as it could be avoided.

Behind him, CaaKLy3382's antennae screamed at him that he was very nearly being overrun, a prospect quite unacceptable. Without turning, he could sense the hacking swords of killers, slicing through his dying brothers and sisters like their pinchers through a spinner's web. Despite the fact that his legs were already going much faster than the average cutter's could, he quickened his pace farther, knowing nothing but the mission. He had learned long ago that exhaustion and pain were the easiest opponents to conquer.

Over his head flew the corpse of CaaKLy3371, who had been hatched to the same hive as he, tossed ruthlessly away from the horrible claw of a flier. It only gave CaaKLy3382 another realization that his enemies were closing on his position. He pressed his speed farther still.

Even as he ran unbelievably onward, he could sense with a fortunate note that the numbers of both sides were dropping rapidly. The killers and their fliers had just completed a quick round lap to regroup themselves for a more organized attack, but even still there were only around a dozen pairs left alive and flying.

Likewise, the cutter ranks had taken casualties. Although his species still swarmed the ground like water over stone, CaaKLy3382 knew that it took many cutters to drop a flier, much less a killer with a sword. They were more or less evenly matched, which proved to be less than wonderful odds for any cutter battle.

The outcome would be close.

The female on his back hadn't stirred once since the cutter's hasty departure from the killer castle, shortly after securing their objective: her. Her physical features meant nothing to CaaKLy3382. Only her mind would interest him, and then only for insight to the hive. Overall, nothing about her mattered more than to get her back to the queen, which was the objective of them all.

The fliers dived for the attack. The cutters repelled with force. Three killers fell from their mounts as they were ripped from beneath them. A fourth leaped off his as it met its demise, determined to cut through their red bodies to the female they were trying so hard to rescue. CaaKLy3382 wondered exactly what was her importance to them all for such a countermeasure as he watched the brave but doomed killer fall beneath his fellows' ranks.

Nine remained after the first ranks as they swooped down in an attempt to claim their stolen property. In an act of familiar selflessness, cutters left and right threw themselves into the air to block the flight path of the fliers. The ceiling was so low that the leaping cutters took out half of the surviving fliers with only that measure.

Four remained, set and determined on their goal, even through by now the cutters clearly had the uncontested advantage. Even so, the killers did not turn back, refusal in the face of defeat heated in their solemn eyes.

As they dived in for the final attempt to free the female two fliers were immediately stripped of their riders, following them to the grave only moments later, still wondering in confusion how their deaths could come about so fast. A third lost on of its wings to a well-placed pincher, which brought the duo crashing horrifically to the ground in defeat.

Three cutters leaped in hopeful triumph the remaining flier, spelling certain doom on their threat. At the last moment, however, its killer courageously leaped off and, with a single swing of his sword, took the dead cutters back to the ground. Within seconds his adversaries had completely enveloped him. His act had been unbelievably valiant, however, and CaaKLy3382 realized, as the thing flew closer and closer, that it might have just given his now lone flier a chance at improbable success.

Despite the desperate attempts by cutters below to stop its progress, the flier continued to fight forward to CaaKLy3382 and the female. Cutter after cutter launched itself at the beast, but it fought on relentlessly. After only a few moments, it became clear to CaaKLy3382 that if he were to escape the predicament, there was only one way to do it: confrontation.

He stabbed a sharp leg deep into the black dirt, rearing around to face the flier and baring his devilish pinchers broadly in challenge. The flier never hesitated, only threw itself at the enormous cutter.

For a moment, he was disorientated, only aware that he and the flier were locked together in body and doing everything possible to cause damage to the opposite. He was mildly aware that they were rolling rapidly and uncontrollably through the dirt as they fought, scratching and biting and screaming.

Despite the ferocity of the combat, the battle only lasted a few seconds. When it was finally over, CaaKLy3382 rolled off of the flier's corpse with very little ability to move. Even now he could feel the onset of severe injuries, and he knew there was no chance of his survival.

But the female had survived the operation unscathed and continually unconscious. And he had not failed.

He felt no pain at his injuries, only pride and relief that nothing had happened to disrupt the plan. The girl was not dead. She could be returned to the queen. And no further pursuit was coming.

Gracefully, the female was removed from his dying back by a comrade and the large column of cutters began to move away from its dying but successful fellow, off once more toward cutter territory. As his life ebbed away, CaaKLy3382 came as close to happiness as he ever had.

The mission would go on.