Chapter 1: The most Dangerous mercenary Crew
Note: Sentients is the common word used in the galaxy for sentient species of the galaxy.
It was year 8061 in the Kalco Galaxy, at least, that was the date used by most sentients. Ever since the end of the war of the Coalition and the Confederacy, the Sarakuna Coalition’s date format had become standard across galaxy. The Coalition ruled most of the galaxy after the war and they were the most powerful alliance known to any sentient race in the Kalco Galaxy. Even so, it was a hard galaxy to rule. This is because the galaxy’s shape was that of a giant ring, thick and riddled with stars, nebula, and all sorts of space phenomena.
The ring rotated around a massive star cluster in the center of the galaxy. The empty space separating the galactic center and the galactic ring was referred to as Dark Space. The few star systems in it were isolated from other stars by tens to thousands of light years. The star systems isolated in Dark Space served as outposts and points of resupply whenever a ship travelled to the galactic center. Because of this, there were disagreements over trade routes, planets, and resources. Two of the main groups in the disagreements were the Sarakuna Coalition and the Confederacy of Galactic Central States.
The Coalition and Confederacy’s disagreements were taken lightly for decades but they eventually turned into galactic warfare in 8006 where they forced most of the star systems in the galaxy to choose sides.
The bloody war lasted over 50 years, but eventually the Sarakuna Coalition won the conflict in the year 8056. As the victors, the Sarakuna Coalition took more than just trade routes and star systems: they conquered nearly half of the galactic ring including the galactic center, half of the star systems in Dark Space, and all 24 galactic Warp-Gates.
Galactic Warp-Gates were superstructures that made galactic travel easy. They turned a trip across the galaxy that could take days or weeks into a couple of days or even hours. The Warp-Gates were massive and expensive, and it was no exaggeration to say that whoever controlled the gates controlled the galaxy. With control over the Gates and a forcibly unified galaxy under them, the Sarakuna Coalition created peace, for the most part.
Despite the power and influence the Coalition had, there were great portions of space that remained lawless and uncontrolled. Most star systems in the second half of the galactic ring had their own sovereignty and were far away from the control of major governments. This complicated the Coalition’s control of the 24 galactic Warp-Gates. The lawlessness of the east side of the galaxy made them hard to protect and difficult to maintain, especially since 12 of the gates were in non-coalition territory. The eastern side of the galaxy garnered notoriety for its lack of order and involvement in organized crime. Some compared it to what humans on their home world of Kasar Maza used to call the ‘Wild West.’
Drug trafficking rings, corporations, and monarchs were the rulers of ‘The Wild East’. Most had trouble keeping order and peace in their respective star systems. This is where high tier mercenary groups like Raptor Squadron came in. They were hired by the richest and most powerful to be used as their weapons of war. No job was too dirty for them and no amount of killing was too much as long as they got paid. Raptor Squadron earned a reputation for themselves for being a savage group willing to face almost any odds and fight fully trained military air divisions without second thought. The Raptor Squadron was younger than most mercenary groups, though. It was formed in 8047 when a Coalition Special Forces Star Fighter unit defected from the military with stolen technology. They worked inside a division of the military called Pax Armory and Military Research on a planet named Hanya by testing experimental spacecraft called the SASSC (Space and Atmospheric Superiority Strike Craft) Eagles of the Burning Nebula. These ships were expensive and superior to any fighter craft seen in the galaxy before.
They went on to use their newfound technology to fight as mercenaries for the highest paying crime lords, politicians, corporations, and monarchs. Raptor Squadron first made a name for itself during the final stages of the war between the Coalition and the Confederacy where it was bought by interest groups to wipe out naval task groups, flotillas, armed space stations, and entire wings of enemy space fighters. The Raptors also participated in full-scale battles and in freeing prisoners of war. They helped in evacuation services, assassination, and terrorism.
Eventually, the war between the Coalition and Confederacy ended in the year 8056. The Coalition, who won control of the galaxy, brought order to the stars and unified the nations of space. This brought peace and order into the galaxy, to the disappointment of the Raptors and other mercenary groups profiting from the war. With their greatest source of income gone, many mercenary groups disbanded or joined galactic security groups. High profile mercenary groups joined professional militaries or became the personal armies for wealthy corporate executives and criminals.
The Raptors and some of the other good mercenary groups didn’t like the idea of giving away their freedom for job security, so they scoured the galaxy in search of jobs that would help them stay in business. Most mercenary groups found themselves looking for work in the lawless eastern side of the galaxy where crime and violence was rampant. Although the pay wasn’t what it used to be, the Raptors were able to get stay in business by doing jobs for the rich and corrupt. Even so, the Raptors saw a large drop in expensive job requests after the war ended. In the year 8061, they had only had one assassination job within the first 5 months of the year, and most of their jobs before then had been small security assignments. They owed loans and repair bills for their main starship, the Firebird, and for their fighter craft, which numbered in the hundreds of millions of credits. To be able to keep up with their bills, they needed to make at least 1.5 million credits per month.
The Firebird hadn’t had good maintenance in months. Many of its internal systems were dying, but the Raptors had hope that with their current job in the north eastern part of the galaxy, they would be able to catch up on their past due expenses and finally be able to go on the break that many of the crew had been asking for. As our story begins, the Firebird is under intense fire from an enemy mercenary group named the Datti Mercenaries. With their forces split between a mineral processing station on a nearby moon and a space elevator station above planet Arroca, Captain Levon takes a gamble. He attempts to create the opening their ship needs to take down the enemy mercenary group’s carriers and corvette by using himself as the decoy and by softening the enemy’s shields with his high tech fighter craft despite their vastly superior numbers.
The Most Dangerous Mercenary Group
Ages ago, in a distant universe, far from the origin of existence, there was a region of space called the Kaleco Galaxy. In this galaxy was a charming, slender, blue-skinned man with short black unkempt hair and dark eyes. He wore a black pilot suit with red accents and held a black helmet in his gloved hands. He made his way through the dark hangar of a standard sized 155-meter aircraft carrier ship floating through space above a yellow rocky planet. The walls vibrated with the roar of systematic gunfire and the hum and buzz of laser cannon fusion cores. The only light came from the glow of a blue button on the inside a large metal frame that sat on one of many titanium racks lining the hangar walls.
An explosion shook the ship. The trembling of the racks rocked the room, tossing large metal boxes off the racks. Power tools flew out of their holsters and the man dropped to his knees. Artificial gravity. He stumbled and got up again. He quickened his pace and reached for the opening in the frame. On the wall to his right, a light shone and in it appeared the hologram of a teenage girl with long silvery blond hair and blue eyes. She stood on the light generated from the hologram wearing a long sleeveless white dress with frills on the edges of the neck and leg opening.
“Levon. You need to wait for everyone to come back!” she yelled.
“Maria, I’m going. It shouldn’t have taken them this long to take out some carriers. The whole god damn ship is going to go down while we wait for those idiots,” he snapped.
“B-But I can hold them. I know I can…please don’t do this Levon. I’m scared. A fighter versus a corvette and a carrier aren’t good odds…even in an EBN…”
“I don’t have a choice, Maria. They told us two carriers, not a flotilla!” he yelled, punching the frame. Maria looked sullen but then her eyes burned.
“You better be careful out there, Levon. I swear, if something happens to you…”
“I already said I was going to be careful. What else do you want? Besides, I’m always careful. Power on, Maria.”
The girl closed her eyes. The hangar’s white lights flickered on and revealed an assortment of peculiar looking spacecraft of the same model stacked on the titanium racks. The one in the metal frame in front of the blue-skinned man was the same. It looked like a titanium hexagonal pyramid lying on its side but with the nose cut off. In place of the nose it had metal spikes separated from each other by 2.5 meters of space; they were concealed plasma cannons. Four crimson metal wings extended in four different directions from the back end of the body and attached to it through armored hinges. Evenly spaced out grooves on the wings showed that they could fold in multiple places.
Maria’s opened her eyes.
“That’s not true, Levon! You’re the most reckless person I know! You’d be dead if Kamilla hadn’t pulled you out of that gravitational field on our last mission…”
“That was an accident. And we wouldn’t have killed the target if I hadn’t gone after him,” he said. Levon scowled and raised his voice. “And if we’re going to talk about who worries who, then we have to start with your recklessness every time you leave the ship! I already told you to leave yourself onboard and to send the copy with the avatar…Not the other way around! You’re going to get killed one of these days. I was worried to fucking hell last time when those slavers took you off world on Jorah-9. We had to travel across 3 systems to get you back!”
He took a deep breath and put his helmet on. He climbed into the ship and punched a button on the side. The opening closed with a hissing sound of escaping air. He attached oxygen hoses to his helmet and suit and powered on the craft by pressing the shining blue button near his seat. The interior lit up. Instead of walls, there was a 360-degree field of view. It showed everything outside the ship, including that above and below it. His seat looked like a small throne with a control pad and a two parallel side sticks on the armrests. His feet locked into metal restraints on the floor and a vast number of complex holographic displays appeared in the air around him.
He began to type furiously into a holographic keyboard and swiped at macros and command buttons floating around him. The craft slowly whirred to life and the tips of the wings glowed with deep blue light. Maria stood in the light beam she materialized from, looking pettish with crossed arms on the left side of the screen. Her voice resounded inside his helmet.
“I don’t know what I’d do if you died.”
“Yeah, well I feel the same way about you if you died, but I don’t have to worry because you’re almost fucking immortal.”
“I’m just a machine with programmed feelings,” she said. Levon grunted and face palmed.
“You know that’s not true. We already went through this! Ugh…I’m powering it on. We’ll argue about this later.”
Maria’s hologram disappeared. Levon sat, pondering on Maria’s words for a moment and then laughed. She only addressed him formally when she had given up on an argument or when she felt serious about an issue. Her attitude was peculiar. Too independent and childish to be an Artificial Intelligence. Maria was one of a kind. Levon couldn’t find another one like her even if he searched the whole galaxy. He pushed the thoughts out of his mind, though. A small screen appeared among the holographic displays. In it was the face of a fair-skinned young man with black hair and blue eyes. His eyes formed a deep contrast with the red details on his black uniform.
“Sir,” he spoke while nodding respectfully.
“Ian. I need you to explain the situation outside.”
Ian’s face was calm and his voice was courtly.
“Well sir, there seems to be about 26 small fighters heading for our position. The carrier and the corvette are equipped with small rail cannons, though it seems they want their snub fighters to weaken our barriers first. A smart move from our enemies. Our Falcon pilots should be able to hold them off until the others return, though, with trouble. Lieutenant Rin believes that you should sit back and try to–”
“Not happening, Ian. If I wait too long then those cannons will zero us and we’ll have to retreat. The elevator station will be wide open. It’ll ruin our reputation as a good mercenary group if they get shot up.”
“The thing is that Rin feels like this is too reckless. Even for your standards…you have no missiles and there’s two starships…the Falcons don’t fancy the odds of fighting so many snub fighters and starships with no missiles.”
“Tell Rin to just trust me and follow my lead. My EBN still has mini railgun ammo. I’ll create an opening for our main guns by hitting their shield generator at point blank range with a slug. It should disrupt their shields for a few seconds, then you guys shoot those fuckers down. I’m heading out now. Tell Cadoc to try and disrupt short range communications.”
“Yes sir,” he said. His screen disappeared.
“This sucks,” he thought. According to their intelligence, there were only supposed to be 2 standard carriers. Those two were supposed to be on the moon near the elevator station. Now there was a corvette and a 3rd carrier. They were outnumbered 4 to 1, not including snub fighters. He knew how his crew felt and he didn’t blame them. Risking your life for people you barely knew the sake of money and all the while not knowing if you were going to come back from the mission or not. It even bothered some of the crew that they you could never tell if you were helping the “good guys” or the “bad guys” but then again, that was the life of a mercenary.
Levon was used to it, and in reality, he loved it. His first step into the world of mercenary work was a life or death gamble and the gamble continued every day, except that now it was his own life that was being wagered and money and prestige were the rewards. He loved the adrenaline rush he got whenever he ran into a dangerous situation. The pressure and challenge they provided elated him like no other experience in the universe. Not even sex or drugs could give him the high he experienced in battle. His hands trembled with excitement as he clutched his controls.
“Maria, begin the launch sequence.”
The Space Craft was carefully pushed out of the rack by a system of wires and metal arms. They slipped it inside a launching tube at the end of the hangar big enough for two space fighters. The airlock then closed behind him and the lights turned on inside the tube.
“Launching in 5 seconds,” Maria said.
Levon gripped the controls tightly. He looked over the holograms to double check that all systems were functioning, especially the fighter’s Graviton Field Emitters, the main source of the space fighter’s power.
Maria began the countdown:
A bang. The spacecraft blasted through the tube and flew through space at Mach 2. It forced its way through the sea of darkness and towards the emptiness away from the station. Levon looked back and saw the elegant gray aircraft carrier with a crest of a red bird on its side. It looked like a long metal frame that got wider the farther one went back, with the bridge and viewing port being on the highest part of the nose. It was covered in armor plating, guns, lights, and had several mirrored lumps and protrusions coming out of the sides for its rooms and systems. On the back, four engines stuck out from the four cardinal directions, covered by armored rings and glowing blue, and in the center of the back plating was the hangar door with the launch tube embedded on the door. It was the starship Firebird, the headquarters of their mercenary group, Raptor Squadron, and it was under fire.
Levon juggled quickly and efficiently between the two control sticks, typing into the holographic consoles, and pressing pedals below his feet. The tips of the spacecraft’s wings shone brightly with blue light and left a soft trail of glinting particles as it raced gracefully through the vacuum. The wings opened and closed themselves behind the craft as he maneuvered it.
“Control, this is Captain Levon speaking. Engaging the enemy in the EBN-Strike.”
The EBN-Strike made an ascending half loop and then did a half roll to get itself into a level position with the battlefield: an Immelmann turn. The Firebird’s hull burned with the flash of the autocannons and lasers, as well as from the guns of the small snub fighters swarming around it like a herd of angry bees. The Falcon fighters, triangular, A-shaped red ships that belonged to the Raptors, raced after the slippery snub fighters, attempting to protect the Firebird. Enemy lasers hit the invisible energy barrier enveloping great starship, leaving ghostly violet ripples traveling along the hull.
Behind the Firebird was the elevator station, a metal structure with platforms, docking stations, and cubic buildings riddling its surface. There was a metal tube attached to the station’s underside that stretched down through the atmosphere of the yellow planet in the background and made contact with a mountainous point on the surface. Space elevators transported supplies and sentients from the surface of the planet to space and vice versa.
The EBN raced into battle, flinging itself in different directions using short bursts of blue energy from the tips of the wings, giving the illusion that an invisible force was yanking the EBN from place to place. Seventeen enemy fighters pulled away from attack on the ship and banked in formation towards in Levon to engage him. Immediately, a storm of blue laser fire surrounded the space around his craft. Sweat formed on his blue forehead. His muscles tightened as he pressed buttons and moved the controls as fast as his senses allowed. The EBN moved around volleys of burning energy, somehow being able to find the smallest openings in the storm of laser fire and flinging itself through them using the blue bursts of energy.
The energy from the wings tugged it along, pulling it through the cloud of laser and titanium ships until Levon was behind them. He suddenly took his hands off the controls and swiped a circle shaped hologram to his right. The spacecraft then rotated 180 degrees, pointing the nose towards the enemy, though the EBN kept its momentum, moving in the same forward direction away from the enemy ships.
Moving through space at Mach 3, Levon’s fighter fired its twin plasma cannons in a continuous stream, destroying one fighter, and then a second and third. They imploded, with fire blazing inside the hulls before extinguishing in the oxygen-less vacuum. The other fighters made U-turns to engage him. He fired his last volley, resulting in two more explosions and two dead enemy pilots.
Levon took his hands off the controls and quickly rotated the EBN back into the forward position. He then increased his speed, flying in the direction of the green and gray colored starships. It was one corvette and a standard carrier, the two ships making their assignment more difficult.
The guns on the two ships wound themselves. All of them flashed simultaneously as they discharged volleys of lasers and magnetically charged bullets. The EBN expertly, and at times narrowly, plowed its way through the hail of gunfire while gracefully weaving around the battlefield. Levon opened a channel to the Firebird.
“Rin, they’re probably going to launch more fighters. Tell the gunners to prepare the front rail cannons on the Firebird. Have the Falcons keep them away from the firing bays.”
“Affirmative, sir,” replied the woman on the other end.
The Captain of the Datti Mercenaries sat in his command chair on the main bridge of the green corvette. He overlooked the battle along with a few officers under the green glow coming from a map on a tabletop holographic display.
He was a fat man with a thick moustache and a green sailor captain cap. In between swigs of fine wine, he would swipe little holographic arrows representing his fighters out in the field. Once his pilots received orders from the holographic map, they moved and attacked in their concentrated masses. Outside roared guns and missile batteries unloading their contents on the Firebird. The lone carrier’s guns tried to intercept their projectiles, though, with little effectiveness. He spoke in a thick, rough croak.
“The Toft Cartel should be quite happy when we take this elevator. It will all but assure that they are the main cocaine exporters on this pitiful planet.”
The bridge Lieutenant nodded in approval. He adjusted his sailor cap and faced his superior. “Yes sir. They will be quite pleased. As soon as we get rid of this lone carrier shielding the station, that is.”
“Yes…quite… Hmm…Lieutenant…who are those people? I haven’t seen that symbol on the side of their carrier before.”
“I believe that those are the mercenaries who call themselves Raptor Squadron. They’re very famous in the south eastern quadrant of the galaxy.”
The captain stared into the map wide-eyed and contemplative. He stroked his chin.
“Ah, I remember those people. They’re the ones who released that maniac assassin Yancy Vadas from the Coalition prison ship Katavanni during the war, am I correct?”
“Those men are rash, aren’t they? Assaulting the Coalition and allying with a Duniyan…reckless moves like that will be their undoing, as we are seeing right now,” he said. He paused and took a long drink from his wine glass breathed out heavily. “Status report on the battle, Lieutenant. We haven’t heard from our carriers attacking the moon base. Have our men taken them out yet?”
“One moment, sir.”
The Lieutenant pulled a holographic keyboard command floating near him and placed it on the tabletop display. A holographic keyboard appeared and he began to type. After a few moments, a small window appeared in the air above the table displaying a pilot in a ship wearing a green flight helmet. The lieutenant took his fingers and enlarged the window so everyone in the room could see.
“Status report, Commander. The captain would like to know what the situation on the moon is,” barked the Lieutenant.
The man on the screen ripped his helmet off. His breath was heavy and he sweated while blood trickled from an unseen wound on the top of his head. The torment on his face spread shock among the men on the Datti command bridge.
“They’re too fast sir! I was shot down just a few minutes ago…they killed almost half of our fighters without losing a single ship. The carriers are down…we’re trying to round up the survivors right now and–”
The captain’s face flushed with red rage.
“What are you talking about? What do you mean our carriers are down? There were only five fighters. You said so yourself earlier! So how is it that you’re standing here telling me that we’ve lost 32 fighters and 2 carriers?” he spat. The captain’s intense breathing resonated throughout the bridge. His face looked ready to explode as he leaned close to the window. “Commander…it doesn’t look good when our Wing Commanders get shot down…you can assure yourself that you will be punished upon your arrival.”
“Sir, you just don’t understand. They were so fast. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was like the laws of physics didn’t apply to those things– GAAHH!!”
A fiery explosion engulfed the video feed of the pilot and he disappeared. After a few seconds, the screen showed the words ‘connection lost’. Static from the transmission created a long tense silence in the room.
“Lieutenant, I want to know what the hell is going on…right now!”
The captain threw his wine glass onto the floor, tossing shattered glass and alcohol on his boots. A beep came from the holographic display. 3 red dots continued to battle several green arrows near the Firebird, but a new red dot appeared from within the carrier and started moving out from the Firebird at incredible speeds. The captain pointed at it.
“What IS that?”
The Lieutenant cleared his throat.
“I don’t know sir. Optics put it on screen. The captain would like to know what that is.”
A man in the background nodded. A large hologram appeared above the map. It was the EBN, maneuvering through the rain of bullets and lasers coming from their ships. The Captain’s fury was reaching its bursting point.
“Would someone explain what the hell I’m looking at!? Shoot it down. Now! Tell our fighters to come back and defend the ship!”
“We’ve been trying sir! It’s managed to evade all our attacks!” shouted the chief gunner.
The ship yeoman stood up.
“Our communications grid is disabled! We can’t make contact with any of our fighters in the field!”
“Then fire some Anti-Matter warheads at it. I don’t want that thing to even touch my ship. And someone get the communications array working again!”
On the screen, the EBN maneuvered gracefully through the lasers and only getting hit on the tip of a wing once, causing ghostly blue energy to ripple around it. A volley of missiles appeared, 10 of them in total, all heading towards the lone space fighter.
Levon’s EBN dropped its Mach 3 speed to 0 in less than a second. The missiles surrounded the craft and charged to their point of impact. The Captain smiled wryly. Levon’s EBN yanked upward in a burst of blue energy, dodging the missiles half a second before impact. The blast cracked and roared, and waves of green light and anti-matter particles engulfed the area surrounding the elevator station, their power rocking the Datti bridge. The EBN’s wings glowed more brightly than ever and it burst off screen in a shower of blue light particles.
“WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED!? THAT TYPE OF MANEUVER IS NOT POSSIBLE! SOMEONE JUST SHOOT IT DOWN NOW!”
Alarms rang. The ship came under fire from the EBN’s plasma cannons. Gunners panicked and the bridge went into disarray.
“Keep firing you miserable cunts! Keep that thing away from my ship! 100,000 credits to the man who takes that thing down!”
On screen, the star fighter zipped around enemy fighters and starships, dodging all blasts. The EBN then flew to the underside of the corvette. It took aim and hit the shield generator near the command bridge from below with a well-placed mini railgun slug.
The shockwave from the hit sent everyone who wasn’t able to grab hold of something into the air and to the ground, including the fat Captain. Suddenly, the artificial gravity malfunctioned and everyone onboard the Datti ship started to float aimlessly, flailing, kicking, and screaming back to their workstations. One of the men in charge of the ship’s barriers managed to swim back to his terminal amid the chaos and yelled out:
“Sir! Our shields are down! That shot knocked the generator’s cycle off rhythm! One more hit like that and we could be in some serious trouble!”
“Scramble all fighters inside the carrier! Get those lazy assholes out there! Send engineers to stabilize our shields! They’re aiming for our generator on purpose, you cunts!”
On screen, the distant Firebird rotated to face the enemy starships; it no longer tried to shield the elevator station. On the bottom of its front end were two sealed cannons. One of the seals opened to reveal a small current of electricity ferociously streaking along the inside of the metal tube. One of their magnetic rail cannons was preparing to fire. The Snub fighters hopelessly tried to fire at the cannons, but the Falcons and gun batteries were fighting back to furiously. The Captains face went pale.
“Dear Gods…evasive maneuvers men! Look alive you idiots–”
Preview of Chapter 2:
Maria to Levon:
“You’re so reckless. I swear!”
“I got the job done, didn’t I?”
“Ugh. I guess…I’m just glad you’re okay. You really freaked me out when you stopped in front of the missiles. Even Garth wouldn’t have done something like that you know.”
“Because Garth is a freak of nature and he would have either shot them down before they got to him or dodged them. We ‘lesser people’ have to get creative when flying these things. Besides, you know Kamilla might have done a similar maneuver.”
“Except Kamilla would have been more graceful.”
“Don’t start with me little girl. You know I do what I can.”
She giggled and looked at him with a devoted gaze but then frowned and stared at the ground.
“Well, they haven’t returned. It seems like they went a bit overboard again. They really did some damage this time.”
Levon’s face fell and his mouth lay opened for a few moments. His gaze went from Maria to a rusty bolt on the metal floor.
“Again? Really? Don’t they have any self-control?” He thought. Levon grimaced and punched the wall. His knuckles were sore but he didn’t care. “Was it those two again?” he asked.
End of Chapter one. Comeback next week to join Captain Levon and the rest of Raptor Squadron on their adventures across the Kaleco Galaxy! Remember: this web novel is published for free on GFMakina.net. Not sure when it will end, but as far as the current written work goes, it could go on for months to years! Enjoy the ride everyone!