Hovering over a small green planet in a remote corner of the galaxy, a shadowy hulk materialized out of nowhere, undetected and unnoticed by the primitive satellites and observation devices used by the primitives below. Advanced sensors scanned the topography of the world below it, seeking out the ideal region that the figures aboard seeked.
Finally, the computer systems of the vessel managed to isolate one area. Hot, arid-just right. Apparently torn apart by conflict between the inhabitants-just perfect. That presented many opportunities for prey...and trophies.
Moving into position over this selected region, the dark vessel, still undetected, made sure to disable a nearby satellite of the inhabitants, before finally disgorging several pods that hit the atmosphere and came streaking down towards the desolate wartorn wastes below.
Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2010
Through night vision goggles, US Marine sniper Harry O'Neil watched as the head of a Taliban insurgent spurted blood as a 7.62 NATO round launched from his M39 Enhanced Marksman Rifle impacted into his skull. Evening was descending, and as part of their ongoing offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province, NATO forces were pushing in. Gunfire rang out in the far distance as O'Neil got up and headed towards the rendezvous point where he was due to meet with fellow Marines and NATO special forces troops. With them, they would pinpoint Taliban positions in this area to be taken out by the main forces.
"This is Gangster, am meeting up with friendlies at Grid Charlie now." he breathed into his radio headset.
"Copy that. Continue to maintain cover."
Moving through the sandy, sparsely vegetated hills to the side of a small valley, with the shadows of the Afghanistan evening obscuring everything, he finally slid down a slope to find friendly soldiers waiting for him near a pile of boulders-fellow Marines, a few Rangers, Canadian and British special forces, and a couple of friendly Afghan troops, no doubt there for their knowledge of these lands.
"You're two minutes late, Marine." growled the Marine sergeant-a tall black man from the Bronx; sergeant Charles. O'Neil had already met him back at Kandahar.
"Sergeant Harris, Canadian special operations." gestured Charles to one of the Canadians, who nodded. "Captain Sean, SAS."
"Could always use another Yank on board." he muttered.
"Captain Hassan, Afghan forces." he finally pointed towards the most prominent Afghan soldier. "Learn those names and faces, because for the next 24 hours, we're all together. Now that we've got pretty introductions out of the way, how about..."
"Hold on..." Harris paused and muttered something into his headset. "Just got a message from command. We just lost GPS coverage over half the damn country."
"What do you mean?" said Charles. "Probably just a goddamn glitch or something. It happens. Now, listen up. Our objectives are as follows..."
"Uh, my radio just went out." Harris then added, before turning to Sean. "Can I borrow yours?"
"Sure." The SAS soldier handed over his own communications set, which Harris tried to talk into. Same result.
"Someone's jamming us."
"Impossible. Those fucking towelheads can't even read." scoffed Charles.
"Either way, that's the case. We're cut off."
"Don't matter. You know our objectives; we'll carry them out." said Charles. As he turned around, the sky was lit up by a blue flash for a fraction of a second, with the ground juddering under their feet, upsetting loose stones and causing sand to run down the side of the hills.
"The hell was that?"
"Artillery? Fuck if I know. Move out, ladies-we got a job to do."
"Allah be praised, what was that?"
Clutching his AK-47, Taliban militant Hamidi struggled to comprehend what he had just seen. Cowering in this small dugout in a sandy valley, here in Helmand, he had just seen what looked like the wrath of Allah descending from heaven-blue lights shooting out of the evening clouds, impacting nearby. One of them had smashed through an infidel flying machine in its descent-what more evidence was needed that the Almighty was finally bringing his wrath down on the unrighteous?
"Hamidi!" he turned around to see a fellow warrior of jihad armed with an RPG crawl towards him, looking distressed. "The infidels have paused in their attack...it is almost as if they cannot communicate with each other..."
"It is true!" grinned Hamidi. "Allah is on our side after all!"
"I wouldn't be so sure." said the other insurgent gravely. "I just tried to test out that radio nearby...it wouldn't work."
"It is broken, no doubt. How old is it anyway?" said Hamidi. "Fetch the other men. We must use this opportunity well!"
As the two insurgents walked off, Hamidi paused, and looked up to the hills as the last streaks of sunlight vanished across the horizon. He had the strange feeling that something was watching him.
"AK-47s! For everyone!"
In a small village not far from the valleys and hills where the NATO forces had paused, Taliban insurgents streamed out of the shacks and dwellings of Afghan peasants they had been using to hide in, as a technical laden with boxes of ammunition and weapon parked itself in the center of the village. Jihadists, fighting to expel the infidel invader from their lands, reached out for the AK-47s, RPG-7s, and other cheap but reliable weapons the Taliban had scavenged for itself being distributed from the technicals-the word had spread quickly of the communication predicament facing the infidels, and of the signs Allah had sent down from the sky moments ago-surely now was the time to strike! That was one thing all the men could agree on, from those fighting for the Koran to those fighting for money to support their families.
Some of the local peasants, who had seen the Signs sent down with their own eyes-avenging angels sent to smite the evil Americans and their lapdogs, no doubt!-were volunteering to serve the cause. A few non-Pashtun members of the village, such as Tajiks and Hazara, found their homes being looted for food and any evidence of collaboration with the infidels-any grievances of theirs were secondary to bringing holy war to the Great Satan defiling the lands of Afghanistan, and the heretics who had taken arms against the warriors of Jihad alongside them.
"Come on, men!" An insurgent leader shouted from one of the technicals-with all the weapons and ammo aboard now distributed around the invigorated crowd of militants milling around it, there was now space for them to pile aboard. "Allah has sent down signs of his blessing! There can be no doubt now that victory is inevitable! Fifty Afghanis for the first man to kill an infidel!"
Cheering, Taliban soldiers crammed themselves into the technicals, which drove off out of the shadowy confines of the village, which had little more than candles and simple oil lamps to light itself up in the darkness of the night that had now descended. Rolling across the rocky, rough landscape, blowing up dust and sand, the technicals did not turn on their lights, for that would merely alert the infidels to their presence. They would get as close as they could, and then descend upon them like lightning, finally showing the fat, stupid Americans whose land this belonged to. They were Afghans, and had known nothing but hardship and violence, which had strengthened them for such a conflict as this—victory was not in doubt.
Driving along the bottom of a large hill, the soldiers in the second technical hold on as it bounced along every rock or indentation it drove over-the suspension was not of the best quality. The men inside then cried out as the side struck a large boulder that loomed suddenly out of the darkness, too close to react. Grunting, the driver began to slowly maneuver the vehicle, with its side now dented, as the men in the back chastised him for his driving.
"What's that?" one of them uttered as pebbles rolled down the slope to their side.
"Wild animals. Or the vibrations caused by this stupid bastard's driving." muttered his brother to the side.
"I didn't know there were many wild animals around here and...hey..."
The first insurgent paused as three red dots appeared imposed on his chest in a tight triangular pattern.
"What in the name of Allah is..."
The men fell silent as something struck his chest, knocking him out of the technical. His clothes had been burned through and the wound was smoking, leaving a stunned impression on his face. Shouting in panic, the men got out, taking cover behind the vehicle, readying their Kalashnikovs and RPGs. Clearly, the infidels were bolder than they thought-let them come out and fight like men. Their fancy weapons and technologies would not intimidate brave Pashtun men like them.
"American dogs!" one of them shouted, firing wildly into the darkness up ahead. "Come out, and fight like you have balls!"
"Quiet! Do not shoot unless you have a target!" snapped the insurgent leader.
The men waited in silence, weapons ready-only their breathing and the faint distant chattering of battle was now audible. They could faintly make out a very faint scuffling noise coming from somewhere nearby-but what was it? It was not like the infidels to be so sneaky. Usually they came down with their flying machines and bombs, recklessly causing destruction while brave Jihadists like them had long moved on. Perhaps this was a sign that they were finally learning.
Looking around, one of the insurgents paused as his eyes managed to make out something in the darkness, with moonlight helping him-some sort of outline, but maybe it was just his eyes playing tricks on him. What he saw next shook him more-there appeared to be...footprints appearing out of nowhere? In the sand? What sort of witchcraft was this?
"My friends..." he breathed.
"Silence! Do not make noise! Do not alert the Yankees to our position!"
He turned around, and his heart leapt. Standing tall over him was...some sort of demon, with a face of metal and hands with claws, as huge blades protruded from its wrists. Two more similar monsters just...materialized out of the darkness beside it, one of them holding a staff of some kind, the other some sort of whip. He was so horrified that he could not react, except with wide stares. He realized now: those signs in the sky were not Allah's signals of retribution. They were signals of punishment.
The demons closed in, tearing into the insurgents before they could react. Kalashnikov fire rang out as blades, sharper than any weapon procured by man, sliced through flesh and cut straight through even the toughest warriors. Within moments, the Taliban soldiers were eviscerated bodies, lying bleeding in the cold night sand, as the faceless demons, sent down by Allah to punish all, looked down on them.