Authors: Michael Chatfield
Roma, Hellenic System
“So what have we got today?” Legate Aurelius asked.
He had short cropped hair that framed his strong looking face, which looked like it should be one of the carvings on Easter island. He rubbed a calloused hand over his African features. He was of the original legionnaires from the Hellenic System.
You know you don’t have to talk out loud
,” NIEli said, directly through his optical nerves.
have to, but I like talking more
,” Aurelius sighed.
“It’s faster to talk this way,”
“It would be if you hurried up with the report on the latest goings on!”
Aurelius, thought-spoke back at the artificial intelligence he’d had attached to his arm since he was eight.
“See so much faster! The EMF carrier Reclaimer has reached Earth with Nerva. It looks like Nivad has plans to copy his ideas for Alpha company to the rest of the carrier - better tech, better training. In other news, it looks like there is a religious group in not only Masoul, but also Fernix, Osdal and Housapel,”
NIEli said, as his playful tone fell into the background.
“Okay, and what are the intentions of this religious group?” Aurelius asked out loud, his face pensive.
“Do good by your fellow man, a very communist outlook on everything, sharing and all that,”
NIEli said as Aurelius closed his eyes, and rubbed his brow with his right hand.
“So they’re completely against Earth and Her Colonies?” Aurelius asked.
He was pretty sure he knew the answer to his question.
“Pretty much. They’re a religion that thinks there is an almighty God that wants them to share what they have. The scripture comes from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. It’s rather extensive and pretty damn brutal if people don’t do as they say. It seems that they took their techniques from every religious dark period. They also love to show their punishments to their faithful so they don’t go to the authorities,”
“Okay, we keep it from our operatives for now. This war will give us the opportunity to pull out more EMF personnel than we have in years. I just wish that it didn’t mean knowing that so many other humans were fighting one another, instead of the much bigger threat the Union has been fighting for the past five hundred years,” Aurelius said, sighing. The EHC had awoken the sleeping beasties. Roma nearly fell because of them fleeing instead of helping them.
The Union and EHC hadn’t come into contact with one another since that incident, at least that the EHC knew of.
“Send a copy of the information to Primus Legate Versanti, another to spymaster Wersho von Schmidt. It seems that Earth and Her Colonies are going to have a war.” Aurelius looked at his own reflection on the view screen. The screen was made to simulate a window out of the office buried under two-kilometers of Roma and Legion headquarters.
The look in his eyes was that of someone who’d seen over a hundred and fifty years of war and death. They were barely holding the line. Every shred of ground they made had to be clawed away from the greater enemy.
He had ex-wives and children that would tell anyone where his soul belonged, and their answer would always be to the Legion.
Earth, Sol system
It felt like they had all been looking at Sacremon disappearing into the distance just five months ago, not the twenty-six years that the calendar now said.
“There’s our little red ball,” Tyler said, as they looked down on Earth’s red clouds that moved slowly around the tiny marble that seemed to hang in the darkness of space. The only difference of color from the massive dust clouds were the clear areas where the larger towers resided, or other towers that weren’t covered by massive electrostatic fields and twinkled as the sun’s light caught them. As they orbited Earth, they saw the dim lights of slums and the rail system that spread out from Mega-City.
It was the first time that they had seen Earth from orbit. When they had left, they were thrown into boot camp so fast that they hadn’t even thought about snatching a look back at the planet they had lived on for eighteen years.
Tyler looked over his family, thinking of them. Nothing else would make sense at this point. Jerome, Alexis and Mark had all filled out with their time in the EMF. The looks in their eyes showed their biggest changes. They had seen things that people shouldn’t.
Their battle across Sacremon was brutal, but Tyler would not belittle another fight to say it was any less or more brutal.
Alexis squeezed him gently as if sensing his dark thoughts. He smiled at her, and pulled her closer with his arm which rested around her shoulder.
Somehow they’d come together as boyfriend and girlfriend. He wasn’t going to mess with it.
The last of their merry group was Tyler’s brother, Mark.
They didn’t share a single drop of the same blood, yet they were closer than most brothers that did.
They had grown up in the slums, and on Tyler’s eighteenth birthday, they joined Earth’s Military Force to get out of the slums and try to make a life for themselves. Instead, they’d been dropped on Sacremon - one of a handful of colony planets that had actually fought the EMF instead of surrendering as soon as their carrier arrived in-system.
Tyler felt Alexis’ comforting heat as she coiled around his arm. His thoughts turned from the battles to the time he had spent away from Earth.
They met nearly sixty years ago for people that didn’t go into cryo-stasis. For them, it had been about three years since they left Earth.
They became close through basic training, and some training Mark had forced on them. Rather close in fact.
Then they woke up above Sacremon - a planet of seven million that supplied other planets with food. The locals didn’t like the Corporations lording over them, and they rebelled. The Corporation requested Earth’s Military Forces, generally called the EMF, and they answered.
Alexis never went to Growing City which was the first city Mark, Jerome and Tyler had assaulted. She went to Processing, her second city, which was an education for her. It was an education for all that survived it.
Jerome was lumped with Mark and Tyler through their time on Sacremon. They became close, as their friends died around them. They took losses that hadn’t been seen in seven decades.
None of them were returning the same people. Yet, it was hard to think that Earth had changed in any way.
“Force five will now start boarding shuttles for assigned leave,” said the professionally neutral voice of the carrier’s command center.
“Well, let’s go and see how Earth’s changed,” Mark said.
Tyler felt the seeds in his pocket as they walked through the familiar corridors to the shuttle bays.
No one had personal belongings, but they all grabbed the pistols they bought. They were allowed to use them anywhere they were deployed, including Earth. Their weapons’ attachments were stored with their armor rack. Everything else was stored in their personal lockers, or they would be re-issued when they returned.
They walked between the yellow lines of the shuttle bays, their engines opened as crews worked on them. The massive blast doors that opened up the length of
were shut, as shuttles dropped into the lower hangar which allowed shuttles to take off and land without opening the entire shuttle bay.
No one needed the cargo master’s help as they got into their seats, and pulled their harnesses together with satisfying locking noises.
“What do you think Westerly complex is going to be like?” Tyler asked.
He never brought it up before. While they were training under Nerva, they mostly forgot about their destination.
Even after training with Nerva, they looked to improve their skills that they found lacking on Sacremon.
Over time, Mark and Jerome had lost themselves in the world of books and drinks. Thankfully neither allowed the other to think too much. And Tyler had spent a good amount of time with Alexis, who was now firmly in the ‘girlfriend’ category.
“I dunno,” Mark said.
There was a note of uncertainty in his tone.
“No matter what, we’ll have a good time,” Alexis said, daring for anyone to contradict her. Tyler hid his grin, knowing that Jerome and Mark didn’t dare to fight her on that point.
“Right, babe?” she said, with a twinkle in her eyes showing that she had somehow sensed his near-smile.
“Of course, babe,” he said, trying to keep his face straight.
“You are a terrible liar,” Jerome laughed, Mark joining him as the shuttle moved.
“Oh, well it looks like we’re on our way,” Tyler said.
“Thank you for the notice,” Mark said, pressing his lips together in amusement.
Tyler let the jab roll off with a smile. He was happy to see Mark and the others smiling.
The shuttle’s engines powered up as atmosphere was vented.that they were dropped in to Heavy doors could be heard opening, as the engine’s rose to full power and pushed forward.
Tyler pulled out his data slate, using his implants to access the shuttle’s cameras and have a look at
The ship wasn’t pretty. Her hull showed where meteorites had smashed into her. Sparse and stubby arrays of weaponry poked out of the sides, and the missile tubes had an even more rare appearance.
The ship was a rough two kilometers long, and simple grey. There was no armor or defenses on her. No one had ships capable of leaving atmosphere or attacking long-distance ships, so the EMF didn’t look to armor panels or ways to defend the ship. There simply wasn’t anything to threaten them.
The mass of
fell away as he was able to see
station. It was the EMF’s home. The citadel was just the front door. Twelve carriers, including
were docked with the station like some kind of deadly metal flower.
Tyler looked at it in awe. When he was on Earth, he could see the glint of stations orbiting on a clear night. He always wondered which one was