The Rogon had been marching for two of the Unruth days now. Order was being enforced and close to being maintained. Shintok; petok-S has stopped worrying about the big things and was concentrating on the small. With that in mind he summoned elron-A, who was directing his broodmates and a squad of twenty others, to report to him in person and immediately. This was an order to which the lesser Rogon wasted no time in responding.
“You are handling your duties well and have your squad is performing in a fine military manner. But I must ask you elron-A, why did Jaric: tilmer-N insist that you and your broodmates must accompany me and say that he found you annoying?”
“The Submaster said this? I had no Idea. This is not good,” elron wailed in an almost plaintive tone. “I only went to the academician for advice and was very surprised when he sent me away. But annoyed? I never ever even suspected.”
Shintok; petok-S felt an urge to lash out at elron for failing to answer the question directly and fully, but instead, and this was why he was an up and coming leader ready to close with the top of his profession, merely roared, rather than rage about and take to throwing things, “Answer the question! What was it that you asked of him?”
“It had to do with nicknames Master.”
“Yes, the humans give all their warriors ferocious sounding military names like Firebird and Angel and Wildcat. These names must somehow increase their stature and make them fight as if they were two people instead of one. And I was thinking we could do the same thing. Like for instance, and I tried it out on my broodmates, we could take names that would make the humans fear us. Names that would, once they heard of them, cause consternation and fear. Names that would weaken their resolve and cause them tremble and consider the fate of all slaves of the Rogon.”
“An imaginative idea. You should have approached me with this first, but tell me, what were the names and what did tilmer-N say?”
“Knowing how the humans abhor the notion of becoming food, I can’t explain why this is so but I have seen it over and over, I suggested argo become ‘Pork Chop’, teth become ‘Banana’ and huk, due to his injury be called ‘Drumstick’. For myself, and since the main enemy military commander is known as ‘Reaper’, surely relating to gathering grain for later eating, I would call myself ‘Harvester’! My first choice was Butterball but I think I got the spirit right with that one.”
“I told all of this to Jaric; tilmer-N, seeking his guidance and assurance of proper word choice and pronunciation as I am still learning the humans tongue. When I did this the Submaster closed his eyes and said nothing for a time. Finally he stared at me and then motioned me out of the room. Next thing I knew I was ordered under your command for the march against the Soessossins. I thought it was a mark of favor. Perhaps I was wrong?”
“Dismissed Shintok; elron-A. I do understand now and no nicknames until I so order.”
Shintok; petok-S went on to the next small matter he needed to deal with. He was in charge of almost 450 Rogons who would rather be staking claims on the continents mineral resources than fighting a battle with Humans and Soessossins so there were plenty of small matters to handle.
Somehow or other his supply master had failed to bring along enough food for an expedition expected to last several weeks. Half of the skimmers that should have held food instead were loaded with claim stakes and metal locating equipment. He had enough claim stakes to mark half the continent but food for only one more day. The Yelsig were food on the hoof but petok-S was certain once any were put to that purpose the rest would make every effort to distance themselves and he still intended using them as shock troops.
Several Rogons had already damaged themselves, either by mistake or out of boredom, playing with and firing the heavy energy rifles they carried slung under their bellies. They had in each case discharged without being sure the barrel was extended and their front legs were spread and clear of the beam. The muzzle of the weapon was supposed to be thrust several feet forwards before firing but some young idiots thought it fashionable to emulate what they saw on dream tapes and never learn except the hard way.
Petok-S would have gladly made an example of those soldiers but Rogons did not eat their own except on planetary holidays. He would dump the assay gear and claim markers and send the cripples back to the skullship and have food enough loaded and brought back on the return trip.
Even Shintok; petok-S was not immune to temptation and was having a hard time keeping his mind off of the riches he would posses in a few short days. Such prospects of wealth were impossible back home on the Rogoss except to those born to great family and power. The single-minded drive that put him in charge of this force was being tested to near the breaking point. It should never have been disclosed that the scan upon their arrival of the water filled meteor crater, towards which he was heading, had taken the detectors off scale. Unfortunately that kind of secret was impossible to maintain.
He needed to hold the troops together until he encountered the opposing group of Soessossins and break them by superior force of arms. Based on what petok-S observed concerning the essential pacifism of the Yelsig nature, this task would go smoothly. What would be more difficult was once victory was assured keeping them from scattering and running off into the interior. Shintok; petok-S spent what little time he could spare from the little details thinking about how he might accomplish that.
Shintok; huk-T was driving one of the skimmers. He was mostly recovered from the injuries he suffered in the fight up north but would have been hard pressed if he were forced to march like most of the force. All in all huk was happy to be here. If he could just get out of elron’s sight for long enough to plant his own markers his future was assured; elron was playing the military game rather than looking out for his own future and that of his broodmates.
Stick together broodmates must, so huk would make sure that after his claim was secure and afterwards he would help elron in securing one for himself. And to that end when the two skimmers sent back for supplies were unloaded, huk had grabbed a portable locater and several armfuls of the claim markers and dumping the tools from his skimmers storage chest loaded the newly acquired items inside and away from casual detection.
Shintok; petok-S called his subleaders together for a final briefing in a secluded location away from the main encampment. Only thirty of the Rogons had deserted when they passed around the side of the impact crater lake. Of those there were ten he would bring up on charges of desertion and some might even suffer for the act. The others had too much family power at home to be held accountable but petok-S was going to punish them none the less by making sure if he had any say so the first levies paying for the occupation came from the richest sections of their holdings.
“The plan is very, very, simple,” the Rogon leader began, “and as such all of you should be capable of understanding it.” In petok’s experience a vote of confidence was always the best way to keep the command structure together. “We, along with the enemy are on the south side of the river and its narrow floodplain. The Ponies and a small number of Humans are in the hills overlooking the natural battle field.”
The Rogon had a simplified map of the area that he pointed to as he described the salient points. “We will split into two forces. The first, larger force will lead the Yelsig behind the hills, and when all is ready send them into the enemy camp disrupting them.
The easternmost portion of this force will drive to the river and seal off escape in that direction while our heavily armed forces follow behind the Yelsig and push all in front of them off of the hills and onto the river plain. Our second force under my direct command will come in from the west completing the encirclement. They will be trapped and helpless between us and the river and forced to surrender.”
Shintok elron-A was not really thinking about the plan; he was thrilled to be here and that was enough. He was by far the most junior of those present and if not for his luck in commanding the small skimmer force would never have seen the masterful performance. It was with the same sense of shock and outrage shared by all of the gathered Rogon that caused him to blanche in response to the ceremonial request for questions and comments, the Edwards creature, almost forgotten in the back, spoke up. He must have been following the map directions for surely he could not follow the spoken language.
“Are you sure,” Edwards started–before cries of silence!–and respect must!–and menacing glares–brought him abruptly to a halt.
On a hill not far away, with only a head and optics above ground and while sensors picked up all the conversation, R. JP watched and recorded the entire meeting.