AN: Well this is the third chapter, something I wanted to explore the depths of the mind and how it is affected by the mere sound of an Echelon, more specifically the Nightstalker, SPOILERS! Hehe sorry, it is also meant to explore a little of the Rendayan culture albeit most likely a small part.

The darkness it crept closer, the muffled footsteps taunting at the ear, forcing instincts into decisions: here; there; everywhere. It laughed at the mortality of man, its clumsiness in silence, its physical weakness, its need to breed a killer than become one. Yet blackness was all he could see, no wait! Was it a dark blue? One that emanated hopelessness and fears that were unquenchable until one of two deaths happened. Or was it to taunt merely reveal a presence then to have it disappear? To trap and force terror into the bravest of men, yet he wasn't brave, he was young, a boy, he stood where men should. Yet the men had all but died, no not died transformed, became husk's incapable of emotion, for that raw feeling would overwhelm them, paralyze them, then they would be useless, left at the feet of their family, incapable of thoughts, just memories of friends, family, dead and adrenaline, pure ecstasy, their first intimate moment, now they would only remember. Yet Daniel remembered, he saw his friends and family… running? It wasn't until the heavy weight in his hands came to his attention, his rifle, his sword, his shield. They were running in fear, crying stumbling gesturing him forward to save them. He did his duty. Running, shooting into the shadows, yet each member of family each friend got fainter, they faded out, he picked up the pace, his mind screamed it was not right yet his loyalty's lay ahead of him and they were being extinguished. They had all faded except for one that remained bright and strong, his sister. Her cries were taunting, scratching at his mind as she fell into his arms, her auburn hair fell over his arms, he felt the warm texture of fluttering proteins (hair) spread over his arms, her tears spread from his lower waste to his crotch, he pulled her close, ignoring the screams and gunfire that came from around him, it was a rain of depression that encroached on his embrace. She pulled away from him; her cries turned into a grin; her eyes laughed at his humanity; she pulled up the cold metal of his pistol to his face. He could see the interior of the barrel, the metal of the bullet glared at him, polished for its purpose, yet the pistols handle now faced him, she was holding the barrel, the trigger to him, he took the pistol, unsure a child in a game that they could not understand. Its purpose tortured him; her face ripped itself apart; the tendons snapped; the cheek bones split and the skull mutated. Her skin now a hard black that glossed the bits of gore that remained of her were etched into crevices on the body, hairs bristled in anticipation, readying the kill, airways snorted, the holes that were airways reverberated a screech that perforated the ear.

Daniel awoke. The gun metal in his right hand was at his hip, the face that had once been his sisters was a mere foot away from him, both were equal in speed the pistols tip touched the bottom of the skull behind the mandible as the first spike entered Daniels skin around his cheek. The head exploded showering a dirty concoction of exo-skeleton, brain matter and blood over the desert sand and Daniel.

He had killed his sister! No it wasn't his sister, it was a Nightstalker. It was dead, he was not, was this a dream as much as it was a nightmare?

"Natario, get up now WE ARE LEAVING!" shouted his platoon sergeant grabbing his arm, hauling him and handing him his rifle. Sheathing his pistol he fumbled his rifle into a firing position, shooting of 2 bullets at a Nightstalker advancing on a private. The private yelled a 'thanks' as he threw a grenade at the shocked Nighstalker. Another down. The whole platoon was running the camera man and reporter in the middle, some-how keeping pace.

"Evil 1-1 this is Thunder 5-2, Gunship support inbound, need you to lase targets over," Sounded off a Gunship Weapons Officer.

"Negative, if we halt retreat were all screwed, using smoke to designate targets in pursuit," quipped the PS, "Manning drop smoke, everyone double time it!" he ordered.

The platoon left all discipline behind and went into overload, muscles screamed and breaths became more ragged in oxygen deprived bursts. The boots dug into the sand increasing effort output as they forced themselves through the sand.

"Uhh copy that Evil, confirm that you're heading west away from the smoke," quizzed the weapons officer

"That's us Thunder, fire on everything else," shouted the PS down his radio.

"Copy, guns, guns," responded the weapons officer in an almost bored tone, the gunships immediately let loose a roaring field of death. The Nightstalkers kept running whilst the newly joined Rendayan infantry began to falter as their comrades extremities showered them in a gory goo of mush. In a matter of 10 seconds it was all over an extra 25 dead nightstalkers and around 30 dead infantrymen as well as many injured. Evil platoon looked upon the scene it was grizzly and left many with devilish grins as Thunder open fired on the injured, adhering to no protocol as the cries of delusional men were drowned out with increased rocket and gun fire.

The slow roaring of an engine was heard from behind the dune, Evil turned to face the bottom of the dune, and there, next to a rocky outcrop were 3 Huna Armoured Transport, the infantryman's dream, if air conditioned.

Which unfortunately wasn't the case for Evil platoon, there was a rancid smell of sweat which stood stagnant no longer lost in the desert air. The driver of the Huna, a small woman with a look to kill chucked a bottle of deodorant in the back. The men took the bottle chuckling to themselves, started to spray the can.

"Hey Danny, what was it like? Y'now getting up close and personal with a Nightstalker?" asked a fellow private who didn't look at all bothered by the events that transpired.

Looking at the private, who Daniel barely knew and answered, "I dreamt about it, whilst unconscious, then woke up to find the thing at my face," why did he call him Danny? He hadn't asked them to or known them long enough to consider them friends.

"Well I see your reaction was normal then."

"Wh… what do you mean, normal?"

"Ya pissed yerself mate," smiled the private pointing to Daniels crotch, letting out a sigh Daniel looked down, there was a large wet patch that spread down to the centre of his thighs.

Before Daniel could reply the private quipped again, "Hey Manning chuck us the deodorant,"

Manning a private who was wearing a balaclava and glasses under his goggles chucked the deodorant, to the private. Daniel could see the sigh emanate from Manning's dark blue eye's. The private caught the can and began to spray lazily into Daniels crotch area.

Raising the can the pvt said, "I'd rather not have that smell mixed in with what's already here."

"Damn right, if I smell that you're humping it back to base," came a response from the driver's seat as if to confirm everyone's thoughts, although Daniel wouldn't mind being left alone.

The rest of the journey was mixed with idle chat from within the sticky humid coffin of the Huna. The long journey had sent many men asleep, whilst others were forced to stay awake. Daniels rifle stood between his legs the metal no longer burning hot or a much needed cold but sticky and warm. The spine of the gun as well as the main rail was facing towards his opposite, the private that had sprayed deodorant into his crotch.

"Your lucky," the random piece of chat came out of nowhere for a tired Daniel yet he played along.

"How?"

"You survived your first encounter, the others will stay away from you, focus on someone else."

"What," yawn, "do you mean?"

"The nighstalkers, you took your first they'll realise that focus on someone knew," the private pointed a sort of accusing finger at Daniel before it formed into an open hand. Daniel took the hand and shook. "Yet they won't go, for some reason they don't seem scary once you kill them, but that's in the desert, you got off lightly."

"What makes you say that, I mean, they always look the same," stated an intrigued Daniel. Now playing with his gun swapping it from hand to hand as the barrel rested on the floor.

The private rolled up his left sleeve revealing an arm that had been savaged, yet the wound wasn't recent, scar tissue clung pretending to replace the true skin. "I was off duty edges of Esvian territory just came back from 4 weeks of fighting, we were stationed at a village, hit it off with a local girl," both the men snickered slightly, "Anyway I was invited to theirs for dinner, everything went as normal, me and her went down to a stream in the moonlight, all the romantic shit. We heard a crash back at the house and a scream. So me being the big tough guy ran up and drew my side arm, me and her entered the house. I knew something wasn't right, the lights were off and the place stank." Then there was a cringe, "They started moving the Nightstalkers, these ones were an earlier version, they had soft skulls and mandibles and were about chest height and unbelievably agile making them hell to fight off. Gha the noises they made were terrible, they tore apart the corpses while we advanced bone on bone and skin tore, then they pounced, I got off a couple shots, killed one scared another off then I got swarmed I saw one jump at her and stuck out my arm, I took the bite. The wretched thing wouldn't get off, I had shot it but its jaw's had locked tight and already savaged most of my forearm. Two others got brave and sliced at my side, I put another two bullets into them. She was still behind my holding my right arm in place I was weak. Then my squad turned up cleared them out. I had fainted, then awoke at a field hospital."

"Damn, that must have been…," Daniel received a glance from the private that he had to be careful what he said next, "Breaking, terrifying, that's what they're for right? I mean house to house and stuff."

"Exactly, you got an easy kill so they won't focus on you for a kill…"

"But they're dead the ones that saw me they can't tell their…buddies not to attack me," Daniel interrupted.

"I thought that too but its too common occurance, and tell me why did the veterans of them survive the attack whilst we lost a platoon worth of NS virgins," countered the Private.

"I… I don't know, so I had the easy part, compared to others of course, but how…"

"It's in the body language and the eyes of the soldier that they know who to and who not to attack,"

"But you're not a sociologist or psychiatrist are you," stated Daniel becoming slightly frustrated.

"Of course not im in the infantry, but look at these men, they're different they have no interests outside of this except from sports, keeping fit, women and the occasional joke. It's easy to see that they have thunk too much don't and don't want to form any sort of normal life. The nightstalkers pick up on this," answered the private taking great pride in the little snippet of information that he had gathered.

"Look I'd rather not speak about this but, what about you and the girl," questioned Daniel who had pondered on this for a few minutes.

"We still keep in touch, so I think that's what makes me slightly different, I have access to the outside world, I speak to her sometimes keeps me sane. You'll need to find someone to speak to otherwise you'll over think," concluded the private nodding his head. "Oh name's Theran by the way."

"First name? That's odd well I've never heard of it."

"So is Daniel, you of foreign descent?

"Oh the Htrelyka Peninsula, yeah my elder (Grandpa etc) fled here during the purge's, said it was a sinful place yet he was grateful for the shelter." Answered Daniel remembering when he first asked about his descent.

"The tribes! Damn lucky he made it out I heard they're still killing each other," stated a surprised Theran.

"Yeah its slowed down I think it's just the occasional fire fight, they're close to being unified again,"

There was a rattle and a whining of the breaks and a sudden jolt. Several men woke up shaking their heads groggily and waking up their friends.

"Ramp Down," was called out from the front of the vehicle and the ramp in the troop compartment came down and the troops moved from the vehicle. As one of the last to leave the vehicle Daniel turned around to check the compartment. There was a single unmoving figure in the corner. Daniel approached letting his gun hang from its sling.

"Hey wake up," Daniel shook him, there was no response. Daniel nudged the soldier whose head lolled to the side facing towards Daniels feet. There was a dark tint to the right side of the man's face which contrasted the natural white skin. Out of instinct Daniel checked the man's pulse, there was an extremely faint beat.

"Medic, get a medic here now!" shouted Daniel, he was immediately joined by the female driver who checked his pulse.

"Crap get him outside now," she ordered, Daniel picked him up in a fireman's lift and made his way outside.

Two more medic's ran over and immediately set to work ripping the clothing that followed the path of the black dead skin. The driver pulled Daniel away and said, "There's a stretcher in the troop compartment, let's get it and him inside,"

"Yes mam," replied Daniel he made his way to the entrance of the troop compartment. He reached under the seat and found a compact stretcher, pulling the tubing and cloth apart making it full-sized he ran it over to the two medics. "Get him on the stretcher move him inside," spouted Daniel quickly placing the stretcher next to the soldier. The driver and the two medics hefted the man onto the stretcher, Daniel took one end and the Driver took the other.

"Freyun, get the Huna back to the depot, I've got to get him inside," she shouted to her co-pilot who gave a quick salute and made his way back inside the vehicle, the engine gave a roar and moved slowly around the corner.

As the driver and Daniel ran the soldier inside the medics took place either side of the stretcher trying to figure out what was going on. As the soldier was placed on the bed a nurse ran over and checked his pulse again and shook her head. "He's gone," she murmured closing his eye's

XXXXXX

"So we place the refugee camps on the border and it stops the others from invading?" Alexander Caldwell

"Yes they have a strong moral code which they follow, which is both a blessing and a curse, they want to vanquish us from the planet yet they can't harm the one to be converted." Unus Reyorta, Head of Foreign Citizen Management and Refugee Location Administration

"So say's their lore but can't they just send priests and missionary's to convert them against us," Alexander Caldwell

"They would but the Grenadarme's and Secret Police keep a watch on every member of the camps and we turn away any border traffic that heads towards them. And as long as we keep the refugee's in poverty yet keep them alive they'll remain neutral keeping our borders secure."Unus Reyorta

"Negating an attack on our flanks using them as shields." Alexander Caldwell

A/N Well there we go, late update and all. I'm not sure if there are any artists who read this but anyone can and I hope will get involved in a little experiment, for the front cover of this I want it to be the Esvian Flag (Imagine it whatever way you want multiple entrys per person allowed) and anyone can take part, link it to me or talk to me via pm.

I would also like some reviews from visitors as it helps me do better in updates and people who don't have an account you can still review as it helps me a lot. So there you go chapter 3.