Chapter 2: It's Only A Formality
The front of the corvette was punctured by the force of a 4-ton rail cannon slug the size of a large family space car. Its energy barrier resisted, but the unmitigated power of the slug pushed through, ripping it open and causing the shield to dip inwards before dissipating in a chaotic wave of violet energy and disappearing into the infinite darkness. The slug tore through the corvette’s metal frame and came out the other end, causing it to erupt from the inside out, but the lack of oxygen in space caused the explosions to redirect inward, disintegrating everything inside its hull.
Levon, who was fleeing the scene, looked back through his 360-degree monitor and felt pity for the men who were just vaporized. He let out a sigh and watched the leftover carrier retreat. It made sloppy movements while trying to turn away from the Raptors. Levon opened a channel to Firebird.
“This is Captain Levon speaking.”
“Yes sir?” replied Rin.
“Cease fire. Tell Cadoc to stop jamming them. We’re going to collect our payment, then we’re moving out.”
Levon flew the EBN back into the Firebird, passing by a cloud of panic-stricken enemy fighters who hastily docked inside their carrier. He liked the action and killing, but other times he felt sympathy. Those soldiers no longer cared about their mission or their employer. All they cared about was self-preservation. He guessed that most of the men and women were probably low wage mercenaries with little experience. With their leaders gone, it was clear that the Datti mercenaries wouldn’t be returning.
“Maria. I’m ready to come back.”
The enemy ship disappeared into warp space in a bright flash of light as the EBN went back through the launch tube and was placed back on the racks by the automatic docking system. It was near the Falcons, which had already docked for a while. He jumped out of the ship and Maria reappeared with arms crossed.
“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.
“Yeah…it was…moon base air control was trying to lure carriers away with their own fighters. It was working but Garth and Sabbas were playing a game and trying to shoot them down quickly. Kamilla tried to stop them, but one of them got a direct hit on the engines above a station…and…well…there was a serious amount of damage done to the moon base.”
“I told those fuckers to take the mission seriously! Now this shit is going to make collecting twice as hard…and they know we haven’t been getting good jobs lately! Maria, tell Ian to tell them to come back as soon as they clean up what’s left of the enemy. We’re done here and we’re collecting as soon as they come back.”
“Yes Levon. Also, should I make some of the crew and drones take a look at your EBN and the Firebird?”
“Have them give the EBN a tune up, but we’ll fix any damages to the Firebird elsewhere. I don’t want to hang around here too long.”
Levon walked angrily down the corridors of the Firebird as he made his way towards the bridge, occasionally passing by celebrating crew members at their work stations.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t done his fair share of damages to property or clients, but he was always careful. The client needed to be satisfied, especially with the way things were going for them lately. Being the captain of Raptor Squadron put great weight on him, especially since he inherited the group from his mentor, Mazan Kartal.
Mazan was regular human and a complete sociopath, but he was deadly and efficient in his mercenary work. From the moment he started the Raptor Squadron 14 years ago, he vowed that the client’s needs would be met and their assets would be protected. To Mazan, his clients were gold mines to cherished, and it was because of him that the Raptors reached their level of fame. Ever since leadership passed to Levon, he tried to replicate that level of care in his work.
The Raptor Squadron second in command, Garth, who was one of the original 3 members along with Levon and Mazan, started off with the same values as Mazan, but as his piloting ability grew, so did his fame and hubris. 14 years of worship and spotlight turned him into an underworld celebrity; he was one of the greatest pilots in the galaxy, and the famous murderer, Sabbas Rao, who was the 4th member to join the squadron, fell into a celebrity mindset when he was around Garth.
Sabbas was cold and uncaring. He got mad when a job took too long or asked too much of them, and he was only in it for the money. He believed that as long as they did their job, the client could deal with collateral damages. Levon usually kept him in his place, but when Garth’s exhibitionism and the bloodthirsty attitude of Sabbas met, it became a problem. Garth was one of the few people Sabbas got along with, and lately it hadn’t been for the benefit of the team.
“Ridiculous,” he thought.
He walked through the double blast doors and stepped into the bridge. The walls and floor tiles were white. There were holographic computer stations along the walls and around the tabletop map in the center of the room. There were humans and aliens on computer stations; all of them were wearing black navy uniforms with red and gray accents and the red bird crest like the one on the side of the ship. There were also a number of busy robots controlled by two virtual intelligence robots, Nabu and Obi. To the left of the main entrance was a little office where Yeoman Ian and his assistant were now sitting making reports on the completed mission and its financial cost. They saluted Levon and continued to work.
Levon walked past the assortment of holographic computers to the center of the bridge where there was an elevated command chair and a slightly shorter one next to it. The command chair sat in front of a long tabletop map display. On it could be seen the Firebird, represented with their crest. On the far side of the map, five red stars moved in formation towards them. The other EBN pilots were returning from the moon.
In the command chair sat Rin, a pale-skinned 25-year-old woman with shoulder length black hair. She was skinny and had what many humans of the planet Kasar Maza called “oriental eyes”. They were thin, almond shaped, and her irises were dark. Next to her sat Dayo Tuff, one of Rin’s two assistant helmsmen. Dayo was a short female Lal alien from a world near the center of the galaxy. She was human shaped except her skin was beige and rough, and she had an assortment of natural pebble like purple and blue jewels imbedded in her skin in beautiful patterns. Her eyes pupils had no iris, and were a light gray, and her face and body were feminine and considered attractive among human men. Lal’s had no noses, and their hands and feet only had 3 fingers and toes. Rin, who was looking over data on a computer terminal, noticed Levon and greeted him with a smile and salute.
“Too reckless but nice job out there anyway, Captain.”
“That’s what I told Maria, but you know how she is,” he said. He smirked. Dayo looked up at him from her computer.
“Where is she? I thought she would show up since you’re talking about her.”
Levon surveyed the pilots as they got closer and closer to the ship. He thought of all the things he was going to say to them.
“Um…I think she’s in the hangar. Probably watching the engineers give the EBN a tune up. I already sent Emil and some other crew to prepare.”
“I see. Well, I’m really sorry for what happened on the moon base. I’m sure we could have prevented it if they had not forced us to split our forces like we did.”
“Don’t worry about it. I don’t care that much…It’s just that it screws with our reputation and the client is going to bitch and moan for a discount.”
Rin looked into her monitor and spoke.
“You know I was quite surprised that we let the last carrier escape. When we faced other mercenary groups or armies, we usually finished them off. We had a perfect shot with the rail cannon.”
Levon turned to her and shrugged.
“I’m not a fan of killing pathetic mercenaries like those. The others you talk about were efficient and deadly. These guys practically threw their guns and ran. It was pathetic. The Raptors don’t waste extra effort on weaklings.”
Dayo smiled. She wasn’t like the others in the crew. She didn’t revel in violence and was merciful. Lieutenant Rin was different though. A job was a job even if it involved killing. She contemplated on Levon’s comment for a while though. It was true. Their spirit was broken when their Command Corvette was defeated. She gazed over at Levon who was now fixated on a terminal near the map. Levon wasn’t a good person but it seemed like he had his own peculiar honor system. It was difficult to know what was going on through his head sometimes, even for her, the bridge commander who’d worked closely with him for the past 4 and a half years.
Rin was glad that she would never have to face this man in battle, because despite his merciful gesture, if they ever came back for revenge, she knew he would make sure to end all of them, from the pilots, to the maintenance crew. Levon closed the holographic terminal and returned to them.
“Rin, Ian is busy with the mission report. Tell Garth and the pilots to come to the bridge as soon as they dock. Connect our airlock with the elevator station. Everyone else must go to their normal stations, and tell Cadoc, Jael, and Tania to be on watch for anything strange both inside and outside the ship as soon as we disembark.”
“Yes Captain. Right away.”
She saluted and relayed his orders to the rest of the crew using the intercom. Levon sat in a chair on a nearby computer terminal and put his feet up on a holographic projector sticking out of the floor. He let out a breath and tried to relax himself.
“You know Rin, you don’t have to always be so formal. You can just call me Levon. You’re not in the navy anymore.”
“I know sir. Its a habit at this point. I was in the Navy for 3 years, and mercenary life reminds me of it, especially on this ship. The old practices and protocols come back naturally.”
He laughed and turned to Dayo.
“You’ve always been formal too. Won’t it feel better to just call me Levon? Or maybe Artyem?”
“No sir,” she replied. “We made a contract with you, after all.”
“I know but it does say that you guys can express your opinions, so you don’t have to be formal. We’re mercenaries. We’re free. Have a little fun once in a while. With the shit we do, we shouldn’t be so serious all the time. We never know when we’ll bite it,” he said and gave them a dark smirk.
“Don’t say that, sir. That isn’t funny,” remarked Rin.
“See, that’s a little better. A little disagreement with the Captain doesn’t hurt. I mean I don’t want you guys to act like dumbass Garth or anything, but once you’re off duty, you should try to have a good time, especially you, Dayo. You’ve been with us on this wild hryzun chase for money and fame longer than most members now,” he said. Rin frowned.
“Um, sir, what is a hyrzun?”
Levon sat up straight.
“Oh yeah, it’s uh, one of those furry shits from your home planet, Kasar Maza. The little things you’re afraid of or whatever.”
Dayo’s face looked surprised.
“Lieutenant, you’re afraid of Rats?”
“Captain! You’re not supposed to tell anyone! Raptors aren’t supposed to be afraid of anything!” Rin responded angrily. She clenched her teeth. Levon’s burst of laughter made everyone in the room look towards them. Rin scowled. He held his stomach, trying to control himself and Dayo, who was cupping her mouth, sniggered.
“I guess the Kot is out of the box, huh?” he said, restraining himself as much as he could.
“I’m not even going to ask what that is,” she snapped sharply.
Levon cleared his throat and composed himself.
“I’m sorry Rin. I’d forgotten. I’m pretty forgetful after stressful missions like these.”
“Well since you want us to be less formal, then how about we talk about what you’re afraid of? Starts with an ‘R’.”
A few of the other members looked over their workstations curiously. Levon saw them, cringed, and lowered his voice.
“N-No. Don’t go there Rin… That shit won’t look good for me if it gets around.” He pointed at Dayo. “You don’t say anything either, the only reason Rin knows is because Maria’s big mouth blabbed it out one time when–”
Maria projected next to Levon.
“I know what?” she asked curiously.
“Nothing...well, nothing except that we found out Rin is afraid of rats,” he said casually.
She gasped loudly, gaping at Rin. The crew around the room stopped working, trying to hear the conversation, and Ian and his assistant even peeked out from their office.
“Nothing to see here people. Go back to work. We’ll let you all in on the joke later!” yelled Levon. The curious crew stiffly resumed their duties. Rin turned red, covered her face with both hands, and then glared at Levon.
“You want informality? You’re going to receive it,” She told him with a glare that worried Levon a little.
“Look, I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry. Rin, Maria can keep secrets. She won’t tell anyone. I promise, right?”
He looked over to Maria who was looking at the roof and crossing an “X” across her heart. Rin nodded and leaned over to whisper something to Dayo, who proceeded to widen her eyes and laugh heartily. Levon turned serious.
“Rin, as your captain, I order you not to tell her what I think you’re telling her.”
“Sorry, ‘Levon’ but our contract doesn’t say anything about obedience under these circumstances,” she said. They both started laughing. Levon grunted and threw his head back on the chair.
“Keep on laughing you two. Just don’t tell anyone or I’ll start having to spill Dayo’s secrets too–”
The blast doors opened and everyone in the room turned. The Raptor Squadron pilots walked in clad in their pilot suits. There were six of them, including Cadoc, their ships hacker and backup pilot.
Cadoc stayed towards the back with his holo-computer in hand and a metal clip that looked like a small visor attached to the side of his head. He was a reptile like alien with brown-scaled skin and white plates spread across his skin and connecting behind his neck where they formed a small white crest on the top of his head and going down an inch on his forehead. His eyes were violet and he had a short snout with sharp teeth and five fingers on his hands.
The other five were: Garth, Sabbas, Phoebe, Faye, and Kamilla. Levon glared at them and then approached them with crossed arms. The human male of average height who walked ahead of everyone stepped forward, looking embarrassed. He had pale white skin with light brown hair and bright yellow eyes.
“Well look who it is. It’s the fearless Flight Commander Garth of the mighty Raptor Squadron,” Levon mocked.
“Look man, if it’s about the carrier, it was an accident. Just let me explain–”
“Go on, Garth. I already heard what you did from Maria.”
“Oh come on man… It’s not like that many people got killed in the explosion. It’s mostly going to cost them money to rebuild, but I swear…this shit would have been way more expensive for them if we hadn’t been here. Those Datti fucks would have destroyed everything with the firepower they were carrying.”
A massive light brown haired beast with green eyes stepped forward. Sabbas. He was of a race called the Saphir. They were said to resemble large upright bears of the human world Kasar Maza because their body was covered completely in thick hair, but aside from that, their bodies and hands still heavily resembled humans. His voice was deep and imposing, and he could terrify most with just a look because of his large height and hands. His teeth were sharper than razors. He towered over Levon, beating him in height by almost 2 feet.
“Look, Levon, who gives a shit if they got some of their crappy base destroyed? We saved their asses and now the job is done. Let’s get the hell out of here. This planet is a rocky pile of shit anyway.”
Levon stepped forward and locked eyes with him.
“Sabbas. I’ve told you a lot of times. We’re EFFICIENT. I don’t give a damn what they have to pay or not. I give a shit about our reputation. Everyone knows us as deathly efficient mercenaries with little to no damage to the customer’s assets. You and Garth have to get your shit together or we’re going to start losing our customer base.”
Sabbas knew what he said was true. He also knew that Levon didn’t fear him. Sabbas was a murderer wanted across the galaxy for killing military personnel when he was in the navy, but Levon had killed just as many people or maybe even more. He sighed and looked over to Garth who was still looking sheepish.
“I was just following the ‘Great Flight Commander’ and his attack plan. The carrier was already pulling out when Garth got excited and said, ‘let’s see who can shoot it down first’. He bet me 1000 credits, and you know how I am about money. So talk to him about it. Just make sure I get paid. I’m going to my chamber.”
“Hold on, who was it that shot it down?”
“Him of course, so that’s why it’s his problem. I’ve never been able to keep up with the little bastard.”
Levon looked at Garth and back at Sabbas.
“Alright. I’m not in the mood for arguing. Let’s make a deal. I have to go collect from those guys in a few minutes. To make up for this, you two have to come with me.”
Garth looked over at Sabbas and they both nodded in agreement.
“Alright. Sounds fair. Wouldn’t be cool for you to take all the flak, I guess. We’re going to flip tables and shit if they start talking like we’re not getting paid, though,” responded Garth.
“That’s fine. Just don’t kill anyone. The last thing we need is for people to start saying that we kill our clients. Suit up and meet me at the main airlock in 20 minutes. Bring your armor and rifles. Maria, tell some of the shore party to guard the airlock with some of your security bots when we leave,” he said. Maria, who was listening with a disinterested face, sprung back to life.
“–Oh, okay Levon. I’ll go get them ready.”
“Oh, and wake up Yancy.”
She glowered at him.
“Ugh. Why him?”
“Because he didn’t help out on the mission or on the bridge and I want him to help out in convincing our client that we were a good investment.”
“Fine,” she mumbled. She disappeared but not without making sure that everyone saw her disapproval. Levon turned and addressed the rest of the crew on the bridge.
“Alright people. Get to your stations and make sure that we’re prepared for anything. We’ll meet in the conference chamber to discuss money in a few hours.”
Preview of Chapter 3:
Sabbas to the station administrator
“I don’t think you understand. We’re not playing. We never ‘play’. Give us what we came for and we’ll leave without having to get too…‘confrontational,’” grunted Sabbas.
The administrator looked unimpressed and the two guards laughed, making Sabbas shudder with anger.
“You must be Sabbas. The famous murderer from the planet Saphas. Fancy of you to carry your attack dog with you, Captain,” taunted the Izjec.
Sabbas lunged at the old man and the two guards raised their rifles immediately. Garth and Levon grabbed Sabbas by one arm each and wrestled with him, trying to stop him from ravaging the old man.
“I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him! Nobody talks to me like that!” he roared.
“Calm down Sabbas! Stand down, man!” yelled Garth.
End of Chapter two. 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!