Edward Owen – Author

Ray Bradbury Challenge #20- The Price of Freedom

There is a good chance that this story will end up as a longer work. The idea actually started while listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”- “We are yours, Overlord…”  That started the wheels turning. Comments, as always, are welcomed and appreciated.

sword warrior

The Price of Freedom

Jamry was bleeding and his body hurt. That was the good news. It meant he was alive. The bad news was, unless he found someplace to hide and soon, he wouldn’t stay that way much longer. His options were not particularly good. The carrier had hit a mine and lay on its side belching black smoke into the morning sky. That was sure to attract one of the Overlords’ patrol ships. He was surprised they weren’t here already.

Sidmar had not been so lucky. The blast had driven the controls up into her skull. She was dead before the vehicle stopped moving. Jamry didn’t have the luxury of mourning her death. She had chosen the life of a soldier. An early, violent death was almost a certainty in their line of work.

Traveling the open road was the most direct route but it left him exposed and vulnerable. He would have to travel through the jungle. It would be slow but would allow him to remain hidden. The shadows between the trees held a danger all their own. Jamry smiled at the thought. Most of his youth had been spent cavorting through the eternal twilight beneath the deep green canopy. It was his second home. He made sure to leave a trail that the hunters could find with some effort, but not so obvious that it would cause them suspicion.

After he had put a respectable distance between himself and the wreck he stopped to tend his wounds. He had left enough blood that his pursuers would assume his injuries to be worse than they actually were. Leaves and roots with amazing medicinal properties grew in abundance. Within a short time his body was dotted with blue and green poultices. By tomorrow they would cover only minor scars.

Jamry retraced his steps and climbed the trunk of a towering tree, taking care not to disturb the bark or the branches on the way up. His uniform adjusted to blend with his surroundings and he focused so his skin did the same. He would be invisible from above or below. Now he would wait.

The hunting party moved like smoke through the labyrinth of growth that choked the jungle floor. Jamry did not hear them as much as sense their presence. The jungle was a living thing and the change in its voice told him he was not alone. The first hunter was hardly more than a shadow as its blurred form passed beneath him. Jamry counted four figures as they clustered at the end of his trail. It was hardly fair; the battle would be swift and decisive.

He slithered like a creature born in the canopy, keeping the trunk of the tree between his body and the hunters. The tempo of the sounds around him remained steady as his feet touched the carpet of leaves covering the ground. He peered around the tree. One of the hunters was within arm’s reach. Jamry could see only a vague outline, but it was enough. His short blade pierced the thin armor, found its mark and the hunter slumped to the ground. Jamry dragged the body behind the tree as it wavered for a moment before coming into view. He had seen hunters up close before. Bred by the Overlords for the single-minded purpose of finding and killing his people, they were an abomination. He felt no more remorse at killing them than he would one of the flying pests that inhabited the jungle.

The remaining hunters noticed their missing comrade and moved toward Jamry. He pulled his long blade from its scabbard and waited until the first hunter passed him. His blow severed the enemy’s head from its body. It rolled across the ground, still encased in its helmet. The other two brought their weapons up and fired but the energy beams missed and burned through the foliage behind him. With only two adversaries left, Jamry took his time.

His blade again bit into enemy flesh, this time cutting off the arm holding the weapon. Blackish-blue fluid sprayed from the limb and the hunter fell to its knees clutching the stump with its remaining hand. Jamry pivoted toward the last hunter but his strike was late. The hunter dodged the blade and slammed the butt of his weapon into Jamry’s ribs knocking him to the ground. Jamry rolled out of reach of the hunter and in a single motion pulled his short blade from its sheath and threw it, burying the point in the hunter’s throat. His enemy fell forward and lay still in the leaves. Jamry ran his long blade through the soldier’s back, flipped the body over and retrieved his weapon. He dispatched the last remaining hunter in similar fashion, cleaned their blood from his knives and slipped unseen into the depths of the jungle.

The Overlords had invaded his planet and the war had raged for a millennium. Jamry was the fourth generation of soldier in his family. Today the losses were heavy for his enemy, but his side had paid a high price for them. Neither the transport nor a soldier of Sidmar’s skill were easily replaced. The Overlord’s would produce more hunters but would pay dearly in terms of energy and materials. Some of them would surely kill many of Jamry’s people before they died. It was unlikely that Jamry would live long enough to find a mate and his family line would die with him. That was regrettable but it did not slow him from his mission. Freedom from their enemy would not be purchased in his lifetime but he was willing to pay his share of the cost.

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