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Akur fired again, the zan-rifle jerking backwards in his arms.

A hundred yards ahead, a crater exploded in the Keel's belly. An enormous, rippling scream tore from its throat as it fell down, but its momentum kept it crashing onwards through the dust. The charge carried on, more clawed feet crashing through the broken ground. Though Keel were falling every second, there were more. More than intelligence had told them- a deliberate lie?

Akur and the other Zyrothans were falling back, outnumbered by the oncoming reptilians. He swore in Eisangan as the gun jammed, and threw it aside. "Back to the LZ! Now!"

The expressions on their bony snouts were blank as they put down another wave, and their four feet clutched at the soil as they retreated. For the Keel, no remorse was possible- it was kill or be killed, fight or die. Even though Akur's life was on the balance, he couldn't help wondering why.

Why did the Keel fight? Why did he fight? Where did things go wrong?

You couldn't trust the briefing. It was understandable, they just said whatever would get the job done. They had probably lied- this world had probably more importance than an angry bunch of hive lizards. It's expensive to send a spaceship up, to equip and pay a squad, to refund the families of the dead. If they wanted extermination, they could do it from orbit. Maybe this was some political ploy, to gain favour with the voters, to impress the more advanced sapients of the known galaxy.

What did it matter? Akur knew he was just about to die. The shuttle couldn't get here in time, and the sat-link showed more waves of the Keel than he could count.

"Back to the sandbags!" Turning, the Zyrothans leapt the wall. Akur was up on the turret immediately, spraying twenty millimetres of death at the red horde. Each wave was a thin, scarlet line that suddenly broke as it met their fire, that fell into the dust. There's no honour in this, Akur thought. Zyrothans love honour- you don't take on monsters with a spear because you want to live longer. Akur wasn't a very good Zyrothan, really, but he knew he shouldn't be killing the Keel. They had a right to life too, enough importance to be free from the interfering, babbling star-men.

However, it wasn't his ethics that were at the trigger, that were fighting for his life. He'd locked himself out, locked his body into killing. He got no satisfaction. He didn't like this at all. Was it a sense of duty?

One of the other Zyrothans shouted at him. "Akur! We got flankers!"

With a nod of acknowledgement, he turned the turret round. Some kind of happiness blossomed in his heart as he saw they were only a dozen yards away.

Then the squad dissolved in a flurry of scarlet claws.

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