Colonel Krakus was starring at the map of Warsaw when the earthquake hit them, or what felt like an earthquake. The room lurched to one side and refused to lurch back again.
“Dr. Saada!” she barked. “Is this it?”
Saada was staring at his laptop, hunched in a corner, away from all the military hardware. “Yes! Probably! There’s a compound word that could mean ‘earthquake,’ but—
“That’s a ‘yes.’ Thank you.” She was attempting to be gentle with the historian. He wasn’t a soldier.
“Lisowski, Nowicki! Report!”
The lieutenants were seated in front of huge monitors showing shaky images from infantry body cameras. The invaders were hard to spot at first, but they appeared here and there in reflections and between buildings. They giganting, ducking under street signs. They had impossibly muscular arms and shoulders. They wore sparse plate armour and carried huge, crude weapons: axes, great swords, hammers, even spiked clubs. They had tusks poking out of their mouths and bright green skin.
“Orcs?” Nowicki asked.
The Colonel yelled over her shoulder, “Dr. Saada, Orcs?”
“Um,” he said, “The word they use is closer to ‘man-beasts,’ or interestingly, ‘elephant fighters,’ but the Western European notion of the ‘orc’ is probably—”
“Thank you. Orcs it is.”
Lisowski spoke up. “Colonel, the first way of orcs has engaged our troops. They’re coming from multiple directions. Heavy casualties at all points!”
Krakus shifted her attention. “Nowicki?”
“Second wave of orcs… is being routed, Colonel.”
“Yes, Colonel,” Nowicki replied. “They have have no battle formation. Look,” she pointed to a steady shot of a downtown street. “They’re just screaming and running directly at our lines.” She tried to suppress a grin. “We’re cutting them down. It’s like mowing a lawn.”
The Colonel pointed at another shot. “What’s that?” They stared.
Lisowski listened to his earpiece for a moment. “One of the orcs has just died and another is… lamenting? He’s pointing his axe at our lines, screaming at the shooter. It looks like he’s threatening rev—nope, now he’s dead.” Several bullets hit the angry orc. It fell to the ground.
“Sir!” called Nowicki. “This group, they’re skinnier and purple. They’re climbing buildings and making flying leaps with their swords out.”
“Oh, our soldiers are shooting them in the air. It’s not a problem. I just thought you’d want to know that there’s more than one kind.”
The Colonel stood up and turned to academic in the corner. “Dr. Saada,” she said, “what is this?”
He pinched his lips and very delicately said, “It is what I predicted, an ancient army.” He glanced past her at a group of five with spiked-clubs, all killed by a single soldier with an assault rifle. “Fearsome.”
They stared at each other for a long moment.
Then he became energized again. “But! But…” he typed a few keys on his laptop and turned it around for the Colonel to see. “See? It’s in Phoenician, but I’ve translated! Here,” he pointed at the text, and she read under hear breath:
“A great army of the most powerful… ‘untranslatable proper noun’… I’m going with ‘orcs’… A great army of the most powerful orcs will appear and fight like wild beasts—beasts with no tactics or strategy, sure—and they will be commanded by… another untranslatable proper noun. Dr. Saada, commanded by what?”
“Priests. Shamans. Wizards. It’s hard to say, but the text later says that for every forty”—finger quotes—“‘orcs,’ there will be one of these,” he pointed at the screen again. “They’re the real threat!”
She turned back to her lieutenants. “Well? Any sign of wizard orcs?”
“Yes sir! Over here!” They all turn and looked at Lisewski’s screen. The ‘wizards’ were thinner, had no armour or weapons, and wore animals skins with crude runes painted on. “Oh my god! Is that fire coming from its finger tips?”
“Yes, it is,” the Colonel answered.
“Another here, sir!” They turned their heads to Nowiki’s screen. “This one’s throwing lightning bolts! And bullets are bouncing off of him!”
“This one’s turned invisible!” said Lisewski.
“I’ve got one that’s flying!” said Nowiki.
Dr. Saada held his face very still. He didn’t want to look happy. He wasn’t happy. But he was pleased to have been right.
“And he’s down!” Nowiki pointed at the screen.
“What! How?” the Colonel asked.
“The first few bullets bounced off, then the rest killed it.”
“It just stopped working?”
“Yes sir.” She listened at her ear piece for a few seconds. “Reports are that the first… six or seven bullets bounce off. Then they start penetrating.”
“And the invisible ones?”
“There’s a faint outline. Quite visible once you know to look for it. They’re relaying that tactic to the other squads.”
The Colonel stood up and took a step back. “Carry on.”
The battle ‘raged’ for another 10 minutes. Colonel Krakus did not deliver a single order. The commanders on the ground essentially coordinated the entire battle by following standard procedures. She was sitting now, much calmer than before. Casualties had been bad for the first few seconds, but since then, not a single injury. The NATO troops started disappearing off the screens.
“Reports?” she asked.
“Three groups are converging, sir,” said Lisewski, “on three locations: a basement, a catacomb, and a sewer. The orcs are coming from those locations.”
Saada spoke up for the first time in quite a while. “Those are the Gates! The points of contact between our world and theirs!”
“Yes, thank you, doctor,” said the Colonel. She turned back to the lieutenant. “Continue.”
“Two and three orcs at a time are coming out of the ‘gates.’”
“Our troops are shooting them as they come through. They’ve set up firing squads of four or five at a time, and they rotate out when they need to reload.”
“Ah.” She sat back down.
“The commanders are concerned about ammunition, sir, so couriers have been dispatched.”
“But the rooms where the ‘gates’ are located are filling up with orc corpses, so they may have to switch to explosives.”
“All right, tell them not to bring the city down.” She sat for a moment, contemplating. “Dr. Saada?”
“Are there any more interdimensional invasions coming?”
“Yes, one in 2084.”
“Well,” she said with a faint sigh, “I’m sure they’ll handle it.”