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Introduction:

This contains all the chapters
Chapter one

Basic Training

I was born Author Geoffrey England. My mother and father were both well know scientists. Even with a very high IQ I had dreams in another area. At the tender age of seventeen I enlisted in the space forces.

I was just over two meters tall with brown hair and blue eyes. I had finished secondary school a year before and spent my time finishing my testing in an ancient martial art. The shuttle up to the transport ship was packed with other recruits that boasted and bragged. As soon as we walked out of the shuttle it started.

A large angry sounding sergeant major was yelling and cursing at us. Several other sergeants were shoving us towards painted footprints on the deck. A few were even disciplining men or women that were to slow. Before I knew it we were all on our face doing push ups as they screamed and yelled at us. I knew what was going to happen and kept my mouth shut and just did the exercises.

Finally we were lined up and our civilian clothes were stripped off and thrown away. We shuffled forward beside a counter as men and women run scanners over us and tossed clothing and equipment at us. After that it was the medics turn and we walked through a gauntlet as they injected us with everything you could think of.

In a large room we set our new clothing and equipment down before walking into a set of showers that washed us and felt like it was removing layers of skin. A senior sergeant walked into the room and started calling names. Those he called grabbed their clothing and equipment and began moving out of the room.

Outside the room was a top sergeant with several senior sergeants. We were formed into ninety man platoons and marched out. Walking through a ship naked is both embarrassing and humiliating. It is also designed to weed soldiers that are not emotionally fit out.

My company started with four hundred and fifty men and women. The first week was spent doing paperwork and evaluations. It was also a week of hell for most of the company. If we were not filling out some paperwork or doing an evaluation, the sergeants were pushing us through physical exercises. By the end of the first week the company had less than four hundred.

It is hard to describe a carrier, they are over ten kilometers long, five wide and five tall. The crew for a carrier is over five thousand with up to another ten thousand in soldiers. The imperial carrier Duchess was designed for one thing, training new troops. We made several stops as she jumped from system to system. We never knew what the next stop was going to be; jungles, woodlands, deserts or even underwater or space operations.

From the very first day I was leading the company in fitness and weapons skills as well as classes. We were each issued an assault rifle that used 6mm rail bullets. The rifles were unique because they would only work for each soldier they were issued to. Week followed week and more people dropped out until we were down to just over two hundred. We were into our eighth week with another month before graduation.

We entered the Cerberus system and the sergeants called for a formation. The top sergeant looked at us and shook his head, “You are a sorry bunch. For the next week you are going to be detailed around the planet to give the twenty third Space Force a break. You will maintain your professional baring at all times. Those of you detailed for guard duty, take it seriously. There have been a few reports of dissidents so stay alert.”

He looked us over before looking at me, “Private England you will report to me after the formation.”

When I walked into his office it was to see the Duchess’s captain sitting on the edge of his desk. He smiled as he looked me up and down. I snapped to attention and the top sergeant nodded, “because you are at the top of the regiment, we are giving you the honor to stand guard outside Counselor’s Hall. Use you best set of class three utilities and draw a basic load for your rifle.”

I nodded and he waved towards the door. I spun and marched out smartly with both pride and fear in my heart. I knew the guard outside Counselor’s Hall was mostly for show, after all who would attack the system counselors? I was inspected three times before boarding the shuttle down and another two times by senior sergeants on the ground.

The Counselor’s Hall is a wedge shaped building. The open side is raised above the street and has a wide stone porch with huge stone pillars. There is the standard clear area out to the street and a wide central boulevard leading straight to the building. High in the outer wall is a line of narrow windows that let in light from the porch.

There is only one door into the building from the porch and I was posted beside it. Just inside the door was a wide hall that spanned the building with a central set of stairs up to the viewer’s galley and two doors on each end of the entrance hall. The hall itself was shaped like the building except there was a room beyond the speaker’s podium where the counselors argued and made decisions. There were rows of stone seats down to the central platform where all nine counselors sat.

I relieved a smart looking corporal and he glanced at the sergeant of the guard before following him down to the waiting vehicle. It seemed like a slow day with only a few people entering. I saluted each counselor when they arrived and then as their session started everything seemed to stop. My eye constantly flicked around the distant buildings, more to give me something to do than to look for threats.

The subtle movement caught my eye and I broke position. I brought my weapon up and side stepped in front of the doors. That saved my life as a large rail projectile hit the wall behind where I had been standing and static screamed from my radio. I flicked the safety off and advanced the sight holo as I aimed. The sniper jumped out at me and I squeezed the trigger.
I moved forward and behind the stone pillar to the right. I moved to the right and looked around it and down the wide boulevard. The sight I saw sent chills down my back as I realized I was probably going to die. There was easily a thousand men in body armor with assault rifles rushing the building. I did not hesitate and began aiming carefully and firing.

There was only a tiny spot in the hallow of the throat where my standard bullets would penetrate and that was where I was aiming. The pillar and the porch around me were shattered by projectiles and I spun to the other side of the pillar to continue firing. That was when I saw the two combat suits jumping over the other men and heading towards me.

I glanced back as my mind spun and then I dropped to the ground and crawled to the door. I slipped in and quickly yanked a light bench under one of the windows. Combat suits were only vulnerable in two places against light rounds like I was using, over the ear on each side of the head. I stood on the bench and peered out the shattered window. A moment later a suit landed beside the pillar and stepped forward as it turned.

I did not even think about what would happen if I missed. I aimed and fired in one motion before dropping to the floor. The head of the suit had sparked and flared so I thought I had hit the right spot. The whole window I had been at exploded and debris rained down. I was already moving and leaped for the window ledge above the door, leaving my rifle on the floor.

The window had been replaced long ago by a wall. I pulled my force knife and turned it on as the door exploded inward. A second later the combat suit stalked through the door. I dropped off the ledge and brought my left hand around with the force knife. As I slammed into the suit the knife screamed as it went through the left sensor panel in the helmet over the ear.

I rolled as we crashed to the floor and hastily grabbed the mini caltrop from the gloved hand of the suit. I stood and spun as I pulled the trigger. It was like a solid line of death as it swept out into the rushing men, shattering armor and flesh. I grunted as I swept the heavy weapon back and forth and then I was thrown back with a burning searing pain in my left shoulder.

The caltrop dropped to the floor as I rolled and grabbed my rifle. I came to my knees and fired as three men started rushing up the steps to the porch. I stood and ran for the right door down into the Hall. There were a few people peeking out from the doorway into the deliberating room but I ignored them as I spun and aimed back for the main door.

I tried to keep up as they began rushing through the door but finally one and then two broke through. I was halfway through my ammo as I ran towards the edge of the platform and changed magazines. I was hit in the right side as I started turning to face to doors. The burning stabbing pain slammed through me, spinning me more as I ignored everything and raised my rifle.

I walked backwards as I fired into the men coming through the door and finally knelt with a stone seat blocking their fire. I start going from one doorway to another and then up into the viewer’s galley. The counselors and the few people that had been here were back in the deliberating room. I knew I was the only thing between these fanatics and the counselors and the only way I was letting them past was over my body.

Every time I saw a soldier with a launcher I would concentrate on them. I missed one though and dove away as an implosive grenade landed in the center of the platform. I was still trying to get behind cover when the searing pain slammed through my right hip. I rolled and shot the sniper through his open face shield. I struggled and crawled to the hole in the platform before turning back to the other end of the room.

I knew I did not have much longer. My eyes were starting to blur and I felt light headed from blood loss. I continued to kill men that entered the room and changed to my last magazine. That was when I heard explosions from outside the building. The steady stream of men entering the room slowed and stopped. I had half a magazine as another soldier appeared in the doorway. I brought my rifle up but held my fire as I recognized the uniform, “Identify yourself!”

That brought instant response; he knelt as two more men knelt in the doorway behind him, “Sergeant Beckford. Red Wolves, twenty third Regiment!”

I hesitated, “Come forward to be recognized!”

He stood and gestured to the two men before walking forward. I saw other soldiers in the other doorway and even more moving into the viewer’s galley. The sergeant stopped at the edge of the platform and held out his ID tags. I knew I could not move out of the hole, “Toss them.”

He frowned but tossed them towards me. My hand was shaking as I picked them up and thumbed it. His holo appeared above the tags with his information beside the holo. I set them down, “The counselors are in the next room. I did not let anyone past me.”

He moved onto the platform as he gestured for the others to join him. He knelt beside me and started checking me as the others headed for the door. That was the last thing I saw before I finally passed out. I woke up in a cold room and opened my eyes to see a beautiful Lieutenant sitting beside me. She smiled, “Welcome back private.”

I had to swallow before I croaked, “The counselors?”

She touched my hand, “Safe thanks to you.”

She glanced at the nurse as she walked into the room and crossed to check me. Once she left the questions began. She was very good and drew everything out before I realized she was from Imperial Intelligence. She gave me a soft kiss that I will remember for a long time before she left. Because of my injuries I was given Regen Nanites which recruits do not normally get until they graduate.

I also had to stand before the gathered counselors and receive the Imperial Star which was the highest award a soldier could normally receive. Then I received the bad news, because of my injuries I was headed out to the carrier York, to start basic all over again.

Chapter two

Advanced training

I straightened my uniform before standing and heading to the shuttle’s hatch. Five new things had been added to my uniform, the small combat stripe on my left sleeve, the wound stripe on my right sleeve and Private First Class emblems on my collar. On the right side of my chest was a small colorful ribbon that identified me as having served in combat on Cerberus.

Last was the gold and silver mini ribbon for graduating at the top of the regiment and the Imperial Star seemed to glow in the hollow of my throat. I had wanted to leave it off but my sergeant had straightened it and looked into my grey eyes, “always wear it with honor.”

I had also earned an official nickname. One of the other recruits had started it as a joke but it had stuck. It officially went on my record when the regiment commander called me by it during an exercise. Now the other recruits just called me Pendragon.

I straightened when I stepped out of the shuttle and onto the deck of John Wayne. The bosan’s pipes called for the ship to come to attention and I shook myself and continued across to the senior sergeant standing at attention. He saluted and I returned it, “Private First Class England reporting Sergeant.”

He smiled and gestured to the foot prints on the deck, “Take your place private.”

It was a relief to get out of my dress uniform, even if the sergeants made sure to let me know I was not special. Advanced Training was like Basic but they mostly concentrated on weapons and martial skills. Since I was already an advanced student in a martial art, I was assigned as an assistant. We also began more extensive training in or with combat suits.

The weeks and months passed quickly. Twice we were used on a planet as reserves or working in the rear of a combat area. We were two weeks from graduating when we went into orbit around Glamour. The Second Armor regiment only needed a company for support and ours was chosen. As soon as the shuttle settled onto the ground the top sergeant was up and moving.

Our company commander led the way down the drop ramp and the platoon sergeants started splitting us up. My squad headed towards an armored carrier and the three tired looking soldiers. We were dropped in twos and threes until I was the only one left. The carrier finally settled to the ground and I followed a corporal out. He nodded to the half buried bunkers, “Welcome to the combat ammo supply bunkers.”

After a short briefing on what was where, the remote ammo transports started coming in. I slung my rifle and started loading, slowly the hours passed with only a few breaks. We received a huge supply dump from bases even further behind the lines and started unloading. The three soldiers actually relaxed as we worked, there was a sergeant, a corporal and a private first class like me.

We had a chain going with an old senior sergeant that had driven the ammo transport tossing crates of ammo to the sergeant. He let it turn him before tossing it to the corporal who did the same thing and tossed it to the other private. I was just inside the bunker sliding the crates into the bunker loader. The crack of a bullet moving through the air had me spinning as the crate dropped to the floor.

I quickly unslung the rifle from my back as the whole area was riddled with bullets. The old sergeant was down, the sergeant and corporal were hit and screaming on the ground and the other private was on his back staring straight up with half his head missing. I keyed my company radio, “This is Pendragon at the forward combat ammo supply bunker. We are under attack with four men down.”

I brought my rifle up and stepped out, I walked towards the corporal as I started shooting. This time I was more prepared then before, I had switched my basic ammo aboard ship to armor penetrators. Even through I walked slowly and calmly as I fired into the rushing soldiers I did not feel that way.

When I reached the corporal I squatted and finally reached down to grab him as he lurched up. On the walk back I helped him but continued to fire into the few soldiers that were brave enough to continue to rush towards us.

Inside the bunker I helped the corporal to the floor before spinning to pull a screamer from my harness. A screamer is an electronic device designed to fog holo sights. The thing about a screamer was it could filter its soldier’s sight so they could still see through the electronic fog. My radio was continuously calling for attention but I could not spare the time yet.

I tossed the screamer and moved back out into the open and started towards the sergeant as I fired at the enemy soldiers again. It seemed like a long way to him but I did not run or rush. I continued to shoot the closest soldiers to us as I knelt beside the sergeant and lowered the rifle before grabbing him.

I jerked him up and over my shoulder before standing and heading back towards the bunker. Like before I still fired at the men attacking us as I used my other hand to hold the sergeant on my shoulder. Once inside the bunker I knelt and slipped him off beside the corporal. He grabbed him and nodded to me and I stood to go back out.

I knew the screamer was not going to last much longer. This time they tried to fire blind through the electronic fog. I kept shooting them as I headed for the back of the transport. Several times I had bullets graze me but nothing hit me solidly. I reached the transport and turned to pull the old sergeant out and over my shoulder.

I turned to head back to the bunker when the screamer stopped working and a familiar burning stabbing pain ripped through my upper chest, high on the right side. I spun and staggered before turning back. I was barely holding the old sergeant and knew I could not lift my rifle. I flipped the switch to full automatic and started for the bunker.

Bullets whipped around me and sprang off the transport and the ground. I pointed my rifle and pulled the trigger. I sprayed bullets back and forth through the few men that did not drop to the ground in time. I staggered into the bunker and dropped to a knee to let the sergeant slip off. The corporal pulled himself closer holding a pressure bandage and I turned and moved back to the entry.

I switched my rifle to my other hand and changed the magazine. I took a deep breath before leaning out and firing into the five men almost to the door. My rifle was still on automatic and I spray back and forth through all five. I flipped the switch to semi auto as they were thrown back and started picking out targets. I moved back and dropped the magazine before changing to a new one.

The explosion outside shook the bunker and I looked at the others thinking we were dead. More explosions followed but none near us. I leaned out to see gun ships ripping the company of soldiers apart and keyed my radio, “This is Pendragon. We are still in the ammo bunker and clear of enemy fire.”

“Copy Pendragon. What is your status?”

I glanced at the corporal, “Four wounded and one dead.”

“How bad is the wounded?”

I looked at both the sergeants, “Two critical, one serious and I am still combat effective.”

“Copy, an assault retrieval bird will be there in one minute.”

I took a deep breath before moving to help the corporal to his feet. I squatted and pulled the sergeant up before positioning him on my left shoulder. I grabbed the old sergeant and lifted as my chest and shoulder screamed in agony. The corporal held him as I moved him up onto my right shoulder further. I stood and moved towards the entry as my radio crackled, “Pendragon your ride is inboard and will be on the ground in ten.”

I waited for the corporal to put his arm around me for support. We started out into the smoke as an assault ship dropped down beside the transport. Men spilled out as I staggered to the four medics moving towards us. They took the corporal and then the two sergeants before moving back to the ship as I looked around. One of the medics turned, “Get your ass in here private.”

I grinned and walked the few steps before climbing in and lying back, “Home James.”

The regen nanites had done a good job of stopping the bleeding and they were already beginning to repair the damage. The doctors pulled the bullet fragments out and let the nanites do their job. I woke up in the recover room and shivered before looking at another cute lieutenant sitting beside me. I smiled and she touched my hand, “You are making a habit of this.”

She was as good as the last debriefing officer and she even gave me a soft kiss like the other officer. I was back with my company the next morning, of course I was supposed to only have light duty but I ignored that to continue with my training and graduate at the top of the regiment.

The graduation ceremony was in one of the large shuttle bays. Out of the five thousand men that started basic only three thousand graduated. Out of the five thousand advanced soldiers that started only two thousand made it to graduation.

This time my uniform had another combat stripe and another wound stripe. I touched the brand new lance corporal emblems and smiled as I remembered the talk the top sergeant had given me when he put them on. Of the three thousand men that did not graduate two hundred were medically retired and twelve had been killed. Of the twelve killed two had been put up for post humorous decorations.

I also wore a new unit combat ribbon for Glamour and a second gold and silver mini ribbon for graduating at the top of the regiment. I finally put the new dark blue beret on and turned to head out. I had waited as the top sergeant asked and lined up with the ten other soldiers that were being giving awards.

I led the way when one of the platoon sergeants nodded and the regiment was called to attention. When I left, I had a new medal on my uniform, the Galactic Cluster, awarded for gallantry under fire.

I nodded to the ship’s sergeant major as I stepped into the Captain’s wardroom. I had time to change out of my dress uniform and wore standard fatigues. The officers stopped talking and the captain turned to see me. She grinned as she crossed the room, “Corporal England, I am glad you came.”

I smiled, “Like a mere lance corporal would tell a beautiful captain no?”

She laughed and several senior officers joined her. She looked at a young man, “Mister Jensen?”

The cadet was carrying a bag and a wooden box. He moved closer and held out the box. The captain took it and looked at the sergeant major who stepped up beside me, “Senior Sergeant Michaels, Sergeant Davis and Corporal Allen seemed to think you needed something besides a lousy medal.”

I started to shake my head and the captain laughed as she looked at the sergeant major, “I told you he would not want to accept.”

She looked at me, “In this case I think you should.”

She opened the box to show a sleek matte black rail pistol resting on a cushion inside, “This is a Swift Mark V 14mm with a built in suppressor. The magazine only carries twenty but what you hit goes down and does not get up.”

I looked up and grinned, “It is beautiful.”

She laughed as she looked at the sergeant major, “that is what I thought you would say.”

I hesitated and then reached out to lift the pistol out of the case, just the feel made me grin, Swift made the highest quality pistols in the galaxy. I bowed to the captain, “Thank you captain.”

She nodded and absently handed the empty case to the cadet, “They also sent you spare magazines and equipment.”

She nodded to the sergeant major before turning away. I hastily took the bag the cadet offered and the sergeant major led me out. He held out an orders chip, “This is from the captain.”

I looked at him and he grinned, “I believe you wanted to go to a recon company. These are orders for the fifth regiment recon company.”

I grinned, “What about my orders to the fifteenth?”

He shook his head, “I had them canceled.”

Chapter three

Scout Recon

I had two days before the transport left heading out to the station where fifth regiment was based. During transit I wore my class C dress uniform which was more comfort than the other two. It consisted of soft dark blue pants with a thin sleeved dark blue turtle neck. On the plus side I did not have to wear my awards so everyone and their sister did not go to attention and salute me when they saw me.

I walked off the shuttle with returning men and women. I was pulling my EQ and weapon’s bag on a float and carrying my kit bag. I stopped at the large desk beside the hatch and the senior sergeant that sat there, “Excuse me sergeant, I am looking for the recon company.”

He glanced at me and sat back, “You are a little young lance corporal.”

He looked towards the shuttle tube I had come through and nodded, “You would be from York which means you are lance corporal England.”

I looked at him in surprise and he grinned, “I had a cousin on Glamour.”

I nodded and he gestured to the hatch, “Take the instation tram across to the last stop. From there you will see the unit ID board.”

When I reached the wide corridor the company was located at I glanced at the image of a dragon beside the hatch with the motto, “Eyes of the Dragon.”

I walked into the large room and set my things beside the hatch before walking to the desk a sergeant sat behind. He looked up, “Can I help you lance corporal?”

I nodded, “I have orders to report.”

He looked me over before touching the intercom, “We have a newbie Top.”

“Send him in.”

The sergeant gestured to the inner hatch and I straightened before walking to the hatch. I stepped into the room and moved to the top sergeant’s desk ignoring the Junior Captain. I handed my order chip across and he slid it into his reader before frowning and looking up at me, “You just graduated from advanced training?”

I nodded and he looked at the captain as he came to the desk. The top sergeant looked at me and sat back, “recon only accepts soldiers that have been in combat in a line company. How did you manage to get orders to my company lance corporal?”

I smiled and pulled my ID tags and slid them across the desk. He thumbed the tags and then they both snapped to attention. I shook my head, “That really makes me uncomfortable Top.”

They looked at each other and the top sergeant grinned and held his hand out. They only had one slot open for me and that was in the scout platoon. For the next three months I more than proved myself. It was right after that when we were pulled off the range for a briefing. I sat beside corporal Golden with our two privates on my other side.

The commander that started to brief us was very through. The imperial council had received a warning from a planet called Andrew’s Fortune. Fleet was going in to settle the planet down in just over two weeks. We were going in first, just my company.

The stealth shuttle broke through the atmosphere slowly and composite capsules were kicked free. I watched the guide and rotated my capsule before slowing it with the micro anti gravs. We were the last to drop with the rest of the platoon already down. I followed corporal Golden as she headed towards our landing point. The two privates kept in position on us as they followed.

A thousand feet above ground the capsule cracked open. I popped my anti grav as the shattered capsule seemed to flake and turn to ash. I settled to the ground and pulled the anti grav off to put it in my pack. I checked the two privates as the corporal checked her headings. When she looked at me, I gestured and she nodded before turning to lead the way.

Unlike the three others, I also wore the Swift on my right thigh and carried extra magazines for it under my arms. It was twelve hours before the corporal stopped, she gestured and we moved into a diamond position. The corporal touched her holo map and touched a spot before pointing to the ground. She touched a spot for each of us and gave us a moment before shutting the holo down.

We split up and headed out into the night. My recon area was the farthest away and in an area with structures. I moved carefully and finally checked my own map before moving up onto a high parking structure. I was actually a little outside my area but this building gave me the perfect angle to look into a group of military warehouses.

What I saw was not good. The three I was able to see into through high windows held rank after rank of armored combat suits. I glanced at the team repeater tags and moved to my next area. I was moving carefully and silently when one of the team tags blinked yellow and then red. Another did the same thing and then corporal Golden’s tag went yellow.

I knew right then that something had gone terrible wrong. The three armored combat suits came out of the night headed towards me. I did not bother with my rifle and pulled my silenced Swift. I had loaded all the magazines with armor piercing ammo and with the power of the 14mm it would punch completely through a suit of combat armor.

I shot three times with the same accuracy I was used to. The three men in the armored suits never even knew they were dead. I headed straight for corporal Golden since she was closest. She was struggling in the grip of a combat suit while several soldiers laughed and teased her, they never knew I was there until it was to late.

I opened fired on the group before shooting the suit through the head with my Swift. I shot three more men before yanking Golden off the ground, “Time to go boss.”

She snarled, “Let me kill these bastards!”

I shook her, “Most are dead. We need to find privates Karn and Jacobs.”

She straightened and looked around before grabbing her pack and her weapon from a dead sergeant, “They broke my tracker so lead the way.”

I nodded and glanced at the two red repeater tags and started for Karn. We founded him or his body. They were carrying him and his equipment towards the base HQ buildings. I let Golden open the ball and took out the three suits before switching to my rifle. While I guarded us, she took his tags and destroyed his equipment. We caught the group that had killed Jacobs close to the HQ.

After I killed the suits and went on guard, Golden started destroying his equipment. That was when a strike force found us. The group wore normal body armor that my assault rifle punched holes through. Golden went down with a round through her upper chest after destroying Jacob’s equipment.

I swept the few remaining soldiers with auto fire before spinning and yanking her up and over my shoulder. My rifle hung from its sling as I headed away at a jog with my Swift in hand. I did not even slow down when the five man team appeared in front of me. They were in suits but five shots from the Swift dropped them as I moved through.

A couple of miles away I stopped and turned to put the corporal down before quickly checking her wound. I gave her a shot of pain killer before fishing out my long range radio. I switched to the emergency setting and started encrypting my message. When I finished I changed the settings just in case and put it away. Golden groaned when I squatted beside her, “Leave me.”

I smiled, “Sorry.”

I went through her pack and moved most of it to mine before destroying the rest. I lifted her in my arms and started walking, I glanced into her face and grinned, “I always thought I would do this with my wife first.”

She slapped my chest, “Get me out of here and I will pretend.”

I grinned and kept going, it took all night to get to the squad RP. No one was there and somehow I knew they were not coming. I carefully put corporal Golden’s anti grav on her and then my own. She was almost completely out of it as I switched our anti grav on and lifted her. My first jump took me almost a quarter mile and I adjusted for our weight before continuing.

Four hours and almost a thousand kilometers later they found us. I had crossed a wide river and a dozen suits appeared in front of me as I was coming down. I had already slung my rifle and dropped my hand to draw the Swift as I slung Golden over my other shoulder. I started shooting at the same time they did. For the most part my aim was better.

I was on the ground with only three suits left when I took a round through my shoulder. Lucky for me it was a through and through. I rapid fired into the three suits and changed magazines as my chest burned and screamed in pain. My uniform was design like the corporal’s and sealed the wound. I hesitated to take the pain killers and shifted Golden back into my arms as I started off again.

After that every so often more suits would appear and I would have to stop to deal with them. That night we holed up in a cave and I fed a delirious Golden a ration before relaxing. I waited until it was the middle of the night before starting off again and things went smoother with only one more group of suits. I dropped through a camouflaged site and into the middle of suits.

I emptied my Swift and in the confusion I jumped again. The tearing pain ripping through my left thigh told me more then I needed to know. Thankfully Golden was not hit again but it was slower going. When I landed at the company RP only a few men and women were there. I handed Golden over to the medic that rushed to me and went to the supplies the company had sent down when we dropped.

Out of ninety men and women there were only fifteen in the small perimeter. I replaced my spent magazines for the Swift and all the magazines for my riffle. I exchanged the rifle ammo for armor penetrators. Top found me as I moved to take my place in the perimeter, “Go see the medic Pendragon.”

I grinned, “You need me on the perimeter Top.”

He nodded, “If doc says you can still function.”

I nodded and ducked into the small tent. Four others were in there and Doc was bent over Golden, “How is she?”

He glanced back, “A little shocky but not to bad.”

I stripped quickly as I heard firing, “Top said to have you clear me.”

He glanced at my shoulder and then down to my thigh, “How long since you were shot?

I shrugged, “yesterday afternoon and the leg this morning.”

He turned to pull his bag closer and then applied a cream to my leg and then more to both sides of my shoulder. He poked and prodded and put dressings on as the firing started getting heavier. I quickly dressed and grabbed my rifle and ran out. I hit the perimeter as the armored suit came through the trees.

I dropped beside a boulder and started picking targets like I had a lifetime ago and worlds away. The penetrators punched straight through the suits and they started falling back. Top kicked my foot from behind the boulder, “We are pulling back to the secondary.”

I nodded but did not move, “I will cover.”

He growled but turned away to move to the next man. The suits rushed again as only augmented suits can. I stilled killed them and kept them from drawing closer. Senior sergeant Adams dropped a bag beside my hip, “Make them pay.”

I nodded and kept shooting, it was mostly quiet except for me and the suits. When the suits pulled back and the arty poppers came in, I rolled and slipped half under the front of the boulder. Explosions ripped everything apart, even the boulder cracked. When it stopped I moved back into position and waited. I did not have long to wait as they rush the position again.

All I was trying to do was buy time. If they had been using trained soldiers in those suits I would already have been dead. From the stupid way they ran into my fire I knew they were barely trained. The bag senior sergeant Adams had dropped was full of magazines for my rifle. The second time the suits pulled back I grabbed the bag and spun.

I used the anti grav to leap. I was barely in time as the whole perimeter imploded in plasma fire. I fired into suits and men as I fled south. I knew the company had gone north so I hoped to draw them after me. I dug in a few times to take out the suits that tried to follow and I kept changing course. I took a hit in my left calf a couple of hours after I started.

Moving after that was slower and more painful. The day turned into night and I started hitting suits with thermal vision. My uniform helped conceal me at least until I started firing. I was hundreds of kilometers to the south and still sucking them after me when the first assault teams struck.

I had collected another bullet high in my other shoulder and was almost ready to make my last stand since I was down to just my Swift and three magazines. The suits started moving away and I knew they were being jammed. I slowly started limping towards the nearest drop site which was only twenty kilometers away.

It was afternoon when I limped out of the brush to see several shuttles down. There was activity everywhere with armor suits spread across the ground. A tall private stepped in front of me, “Name and unit.”

I glanced at him and the other private next to him, “Pendragon, Scout Recon.”

The private jerked, “We thought you were all dead!”

I pushed past him on my way to the shuttles, “Not yet.”

The captain that stopped me the next time was a stocky man with a wide mustache, “Pendragon? Lance Corporal England?”

I nodded and tried to ignore my pain, “yes sir.”

He turned and gestured, “Your top sergeant thought you had been killed.”

I shook my head, “I just drew them after me sir. I had to distract them from the others, they had our wounded.”

A white uniformed medic trotted up and frowned, “Why is he still standing?”

I snorted, “Because if I sit I will not be getting up again.”

He shook his head and ignored the captain as he helped me to the ground, “Where are you hit?”

I laughed, “This time?”

He shook his head and pressed a hypo into my thigh. I woke in the recovery room with a warm blanket around me. I shivered and croaked, “This is getting old.”

A sweet woman’s voice laughed and I glanced at the foot of the bed to see a pretty junior captain. She was as sweet and seductive as the other two as she debriefed me. It turns out my initial report about all the combat suits had caused a stir and the fleet had jumped in with both feet. When I left the shuttle and walked aboard the station the pipes called the station to attention and I almost stopped.

Top had sent my dress uniform to the hospital ship which meant I was wearing the Imperial Star. He had already added another combat stripe and a wound stripe, not that I needed a reminder. There had also been the small blood red ribbon for Andrew’s Fortune. The huge shuttle bay was empty of ships but not people.

It looked like the whole station was formed up. I hesitated and the regiment sergeant major stepped to my side, “report to the Admiral.”

It was a quiet whisper but I heard and nodded. I took a breath before marching across the short distance and stopping in front of admiral Hickam and saluting, “Sir.”

He smiled and glanced at a captain who began reading orders as my regiment commander, Colonel Stone opened a decoration case and handed the admiral the red and silver Solar Cross. After it was placed on my uniform he removed my Lance Corporal emblems and replaced them with Corporal emblems.

Chapter four

Lone Scout

I dressed carefully in my class C dress uniform and glanced back at Golden lying in the bed, “I am going to miss this.”

She grinned, “You are the one that accept the admiral’s offer.”

I shrugged, “True, but that does not mean I will not miss you.”

Golden slid off the bed and walked to me with a sexy sway to her hips, “Corporal England, you have a mission and so do I.”

She caressed my chest, “If and when we meet again.”

I hugged her and then turned and bent to grab my kit bag, “Learn to duck.”

She laughed as I walked out and headed towards the tram and the waiting ship. She was right, I did accept the admiral’s offer, they were always short Scouts for fringe worlds. The station I was heading for was located in another quadrant and would take a few weeks. This time I was traveling on a civilian transport ship.

The first few days were spent setting a routine. The one thing I had not wanted to do was surrender my weapons but on a civilian ship that was not an option. There were a few smart mouthed fleet officers and arrogant business men but I stayed away from them. They could not understand the ship’s captain inviting me to dine at her table every night though.

On my last day I put my formal uniform on for the shuttle to Spectra Station. The captain met me at the boarding area as the officers snapped to attention. She smiled and kissed my cheek, “Give them hell son.”

I nodded and saluted before turning to board the shuttle and a steward set my EQ and weapon’s bags in a seat beside me. When I walked aboard Spectra a sergeant met me. She ignored the medals and grabbed my EQ bag, “I hope you are as good as they say.”

I grinned, “I try to be.”

She nodded as she slipped onto a moving tram and I joined her. She glanced at me and looked me over, “Why the flash?”

I smiled and glanced back towards the shuttle bay, “Some officers were irritating me and I could not shoot them.”

She stared at me and then started laughing. That was how I met Sergeant Tracy Talent. She was the one to work me through their train up course. She never said anything about my Swift either. Gecko was a seemly nice world, it only had a few small towns and one small starport. Scouts were different than scout recon, they dropped onto a fringe or colony world alone and reported on what they found.

My insertion had been quiet and easy and I moved to my first target. Everything looked normal for a small rural town on a fringe world. After a couple of days I moved to the next town. Two weeks later I hit trouble. The small sea side town was much more than that. I counted three small armed space ships and after one slow check knew I had found a pirate nest.

I pulled back and opened my pack for my radio. I still had over a week before the small fleet scout ship returned but it had left a repeater sat in orbit. I encrypted my report and sent it before waiting. Ten minutes later I had my reply, the second regiment was training in a system close by and would here in two days. I set up a small observation post and tried to relax.

I could see men moving around and some women but they all wore some type of collar and the men led them on leashes like dogs. It was early the next morning that a larger ship came down. I swiftly scanned and checked its ident number and sent an update to my report. It was after the ship had landed that I knew I would have to do something.

A line of men and women were led off the ship and some wore fleet uniforms. I updated my report again with a report that I had to act and packed up. I slipped into the edge of town and carefully moved towards where everyone was gathering. When a pirate laughed and kicked a fleet commander to the ground before pulling a pistol I lifted my rifle.

A rating dove in front of the commander and the pirate snarled and shot him. That pissed me off and I lowered my rifle and started walking as I drew my Swift. Two men glanced at me and the laughter faded right before I shot them. I shot two more before I reached the edge of the crowd, I shot any man that held a weapon or a leash.

When I stepped out in front of the group of new pirates they were facing me to see what was going on. I shot the man that had killed the rating through the face and then any of the others that stayed still. I yanked the commander up and spun him before pulling my force knife and cutting him loose.

I handed the knife to him as I changed the magazine and holstered my Swift. I gestured towards the way I had come, “Go that way.”

I lifted my rifle and shot three pirates running into the small landing area and trailed behind the men and women struggling after the commander. The crowd clustered when they reached the edge of town and I grabbed the tattered uniform of a female rating, “across to the brush and then around the ridge.”

She swallowed and pushed through the crowd. I grunted as a bullet hit my side and turned to pick off the dozen men rushing towards us. The ones that dove to the ground only lived a few seconds more. I followed the crowd across and into the brush. I cursed as I realized the commander had turned the wrong way and led them into a small box canyon.

I followed quickly and pushed through as they reached the end. I looked back and shook my head before looking into the commander’s face, “Put them down along the very edges where the shallow lip overhangs. If they can dig under further all the better. Help is coming but it is still a little ways away.”

He nodded and started talking and pushing men and women to the sides as I headed back to the mouth of the canyon. I knelt behind a thick outcropping and waited. It was not long before several men appeared, I held my fire as the bastards hid behind women they pushed in front of them. I waited as they drew closer and set my rifle down before drawing my Swift.

There were only five men and I stood at the last second and walked into the tangled group to shoot into each man’s head as he tried to duck or run. I pulled the women past me and pushed them towards the box canyon. I was surprised when the young female rating ran out and started pulling and pushing them. I holster my Swift and went to get my rifle before crossing to the other side of the canyon mouth.

The next ploy was a simple rush that ended with ten dead in front of my position, which I traded for a bullet through my upper left arm. The roar of firing and descending shuttles let me know the fleet regiment had arrived early. I touched my tracker on my belt and pulled my pack off to get at my radio.

Thirty minutes later a four man recon team carefully stepped into the small clear area in front of my position. I stepped out as their weapons came up to cover me. I shook my head, “I am Pendragon, Salamander Scouts.”

I turned and headed towards the back of the canyon and the people waiting. One of the men led them out as I followed beside the team leader. She kept glancing at me and I finally looked at her, “Yes?”

She grinned, “You really took on all the pirates by yourself?”

I smiled and shook my head, “It is not the first time. It just seems I can not stay out of trouble.”

She laughed as we reached one of the shuttles and pushed me towards a medic. It seems the second regiment sent their recon company ahead. When I said I was going in they had decided to recon in force.

After the hospital ship, I returned to Spectra and sergeant Talent met me again and grinned as we walked towards the company offices, “That commander you saved was swearing you were ten feet tall with twin rail pistols the size of cannons and breathing fire.”

I laughed and she hit my shoulder, “To bad you are not staying.”

I looked at her, “What do you mean I am not staying?”

She shrugged, “We do not have a junior sergeant slot and the Rangers wanted to borrow you.”

I frowned, “Rangers? I thought they only took two year veterans?”

Talent grinned, “They decided to make an exception.”

I looked at her suddenly, “Wait a minute, you said Junior Sergeant.”

She nodded, “The old lady will pin them on with the medal.”

Chapter five

Ranger

I had celebrated my eighteenth birthday in a mud pit they call Sweet Water. That was the providence of the Rangers and their training company. After the first night they never underestimated me again.

A Ranger instructor had attempted to attack me in my bed and had frozen as my Swift touched his temple. I swam the weightless tube from the shuttle into the small Corvette. The senior sergeant grinned as she took my kit bag, “My cousin said you were good looking.”

I looked at her and smiled, “Corporal Golden?”

She nodded, “Junior Sergeant now.”

I followed her to the tiny cabin that would be home until we reached our target world. There were four narrow bunks, three with thin mattresses rolled out and one with the mattress rolled up. She tossed my kit bag on the empty bunk and I set my EQ bag and weapons kit beside it. She held out her hand, “Patricia Golden.”

I took her firm hand, “Author England.”

She grinned, “Or Pendragon as the gossip goes.”

She led the way out and down to another cramped room where six more men and women were. She introduced them and looked at me, “Our newbie just graduated at the top of his class and beat several records.”

A large muscular man smiled, “Class is not the real thing.”

Golden nodded, “True but anyone that gets pinned with four of the top five and is still alive can get the job done.”

I shook my head as they laughed and she began a briefing. A tiny bright red haired woman shut the lights off. The holograph of our target world appeared in the center of the room. That was the first of many briefings, because of limited space our rehearsals were all computer generated. The mission was to land on the alien world of Trohas and rescue one hundred diplomats.

To do a silent movement through a thick jungle was not going to be easy. The Tro were known to be hostile and had captured an entire diplomatic mission and were demanding the Empire give them an entire carrier group. We were going in to kill the guards and secure the diplomats before a Marauder company dropped in to make a drop zone for evacuation. The Marauders and the pick up ship were following a half day behind us.

We approached behind the nearest planet and the Corvette went silent as it went ballistic. We passed Trohas in a low orbit and our composite capsules were kicked free. This time our descent was faster and we impacted a couple of miles out in an ocean. Our swim to the shore was marred when we lost Sergeant Ericson to an underwater creature that pulled him under and ripped him apart.

Once we reached the shore we used ragged rocks to cover our approach to the jungle where we put our equipment on. Junior Sergeant Golith took point and I moved to the starboard flank. Sergeant Samantha Morgan was the other flank and the only other person to carry a silenced Swift, she was barely five feet tall and hard as battle steel.

This time I had loaded my Swift with expanders since the Tro never wore armor. They were three meters tall with six arms and six legs, the top was straight above the bottom. They also had six eyes, four in the front and two in the back. The huge mouth almost split the head in half with rows of teeth like an earth shark.

We moved through the dense jungle carefully and froze ten kilometers after we started. Golith was choking and I could not see him but heard a silenced round from an assault rifle. Golden appeared a few moments later to whisper, “Golith is dead, one of those big spider lizards.”

I nodded as she drifted away and a minute later we were moving again. Our recon drone had shown us a large cave a kilometer from where the diplomats were being held. That was where we were going first, to secure it before bringing the diplomats. We had started with six men and two women and were down to a total of six.

Barely five minutes later I spun at the hint of sound and shot the two slime snakes dropping from above. Two kilometers from the cave Junior Sergeant Auto crashed around behind us as a slime snake struck him and began liquefying him as it ate. When we reached the cave I moved forward.

Caves on Trohas were known to be home to very large floating bats. They were not bats, more like balloons with wings that sucked in air and released it in a type of compressed jet of air. Morgan joined me and we carefully switched positions. The bright light Morgan flashed ahead of me, illuminating a large concentration of bats and I fired rapidly as she slowly turned the light.

I changed the magazine and she whispered, “Watch the hole to the right.”

I nodded as we moved deeper and finally we slowly backed out. Golden glanced at us and turned to toss a large tracker into the cave before setting her pack down. Sergeant Ellis took point after tossing his pack to the cave mouth with mine and Morgan’s. We began to slowly move apart as we headed for the clearing a kilometer away.

The huge Tro turned in front of me and I shot it through the head. As the edge of cleared space appeared I stopped and took a knee. Sergeant Ellis and Junior Sergeant Phillps moved apart to circle around the clearing. It was their job to kill any Tro inside the jungle. It seemed to take forever before I heard the human scream.

Orders were clear, I rose and rushed forward to kneel at the edge of the clearing and began shooting Tro. All the diplomats were in the center of the depression with dozens of Tro around them carrying crude large bore rifles. I was not the only one firing, Golden and Morgan were five meters apart doing the same thing. Ellis appeared and fired into the last few before Golden stood, “Ambassador Delint?”

A thin starved looking man stood, “Thank god.”

Golden gestured, “All of you follow me.”

They quickly began to scramble out as Morgan headed back into the jungle to take point. Golden led the men and women into the jungle single file and Ellis fell in on the flank. I waited for all of them to pass me before backing into the jungle. The crashing across the clearing had me lifting my rifle and then I was firing at the large unit of attacking Tro.

I moved back and behind the large trunk of a tree as they returned fire. The large rail projectiles began shredding the tree and I rolled out and began killing Tro again. I rolled away from the tree and came to my feet before starting to walk backwards as even more Tro emerged from the jungle on the other side of the clearing.

A projectile ripped through my right thigh and saved my life. As I fell and the jungle was shredded by a spiral bee hive of projectiles. I rolled and came to my feet, ignoring the screaming pain coming from my leg. I fired into the Tro as I moved backwards. I spun as the jungle completely blocked me from their sight.

I limped quickly towards the cave as I changed magazines. When I came out in front of the cave Golden lowered her rifle and growled, “About time.”

I turned and stepped to the side of a tree as I brought up my rifle. The group of Tro that rushed out of the jungle were firing wildly. Golden doubled over as she went down and I took the Tro out. I backed to the cave and knelt to pull her back with me. Ellis moved forward and knelt beside a rock outcropping. Morgan passed me and went to the other side of the cave mouth.

I found Golden’s pack and ignored the civilians screaming and whimpering on the floor of the cave. I started an IV and popped her with a pain killer. I glanced at the cave mouth as projectiles started smashing against the walls. Morgan jerked as her leg was knocked out from under her. I headed towards her and saw Ellis’s head explode from another round.

I growled as I brought my rifle up and began shooting. I kept limping as I shot one Tro after another and passed Morgan. When I reached the thick jungle I kept going and lowered my rifle before drawing my Swift. I turned to the left and kept going. Every time a Tro appeared I shot it. When I reached the steep ridge, I turned and started back.

I could still hear Morgan firing as I ghosted through the jungle killing Tro. The shill scream in my ear told me the Marauders were on the way down. I headed for the cave as fast as I could. I fired almost blindly as I ran and then I dove past Morgan. She sprayed the jungle before turning and diving to the ground beside me. An area ten kilometers around us exploded as the Marauders sent jungle cutters down ahead of their shuttles.

As the shaking world settled down I came to my knees and turned. I brought my rifle up but no Tro appeared. I reached out and stood bringing Morgan with me. I moved to the other side of the cave mouth as a shuttle screamed overhead and settled down on the shattered jungle. A dozen Marauders trotted out and I turned, “Ambassador?”

A second and third shuttle screamed down to land beside the first. The men and women moved past us as the Marauders started helping them aboard the shuttles. I headed to Golden and took a knee to lift her. Morgan grabbed the packs and started dragging them towards the cave mouth as four Marauders came in.

The shuttle ride up was bumpy as the transport rained capsules of plasma bombs down behind us. Golden went straight into sickbay as the medics began treating the diplomats for a variety of things, mostly dehydration and exposure. Morgan and I helped each other to sickbay and leaned against each other.

The task group flashed out of jump and began accelerating towards the planet. The small company area set aside for Rangers was deserted as they escorted officers and high ranking Imperial diplomats to and from the surrendering Tro. I slid out of bed as Samantha caressed my shoulder, “How can they recruit you for the Swords? You have not even been in two years.”

I glanced back at her red hair, “You asked to be sent back to a regular line unit.”

She laughed, “That is because I want to live to retire.”

I dressed carefully as she slipped out to straighten my ribbons, including the new Wounded Lion we had both been awarded. She went to her toes to kiss me, “Try to not get shot anymore Author. I might want to use your services again one day.”

I grinned and turned to grab my kit bag, “If you see Golden before I do…”

Morgan laughed, “I will give her a kiss.”

Chapter six

Imperial Sword

I straightened my uniform before standing and taking the leash to the float. It was brand new and held my Kit, EQ and weapon’s bags. I walked off the shuttle and entered one of the riches starports in the empire. I ignored officers and enlisted as they snapped to attention. In the main concourse was a sharply dressed colonel.

He stepped in front of me and saluted, “sergeant England.”

I looked at him carefully, “Yes sir.”

He smiled and turned to fall in beside me, “I decided to pick you up myself. I wanted to meet you in person.”

I glanced at him and let him stir me towards a side exit, “And you are?”

He grinned, “Colonel Nathen.”

I nodded, “my new commander.”

He smiled, “Your commander is the emperor. I am just the next in the chain of command.”

He gestured to a waiting vehicle, “Time is limited I am afraid.”

I put my bags in back as a sergeant stepped out and looked around ignoring me. As soon as we got in the colonel turned to face me, “You have two days to gear up before we move.”

I glanced at the sergeant, “Two days? I thought the Swords only…”

He held up a hand, “You came in barely under the wire. We need a striker and you are it. In two days the Swords are slipping away.”

I nodded, “environment?”

He raised an eyebrow and I grinned, “Just wondering what to load.”

He glanced at the sergeant, “Penetrators.”

The sergeant nodded and I sat back. The colonel looked around, “Tell me. On Gecko, why did you move in?”

I looked at him until he turned to see me, “They were acting in a way that told me the fleet prisoners would be killed. I could have waited but if I did their deaths would have been on my hands.”

He smiled, “Alone with support a day away?”

I shrugged, “it was not the first time I was outnumbered or faced the enemy alone. I was going to lead them into the forest but the commander turned in at the box canyon so I was stuck.”

He laughed, “You know officers, can not find their ass with both hands and a light.”

The colonel looked at the sergeant driving, “Get him to the armory and then over to supply. Tell Senior Sergeant…Ginger, to put him on the range.”

The driver nodded and pulled over to let him out. I started to get out but he turned, “I will see you in two days sergeant.”

Ten minutes later the vehicle pulled into an underground garage. I got out and went back to get my bags as the sergeant waited. I glanced at him as we started walking, “So why did I have to wear all the flash?”

He grinned, “The colonel wanted to rub a few noses. They diverted your shuttle to a primary pad and half the former regent’s council were made to walk to a far gate.”

I looked at him, “Why?”

He snorted, “Because you were silly enough to do what a soldier is supposed to do.”

The lift took us up a dozen floors before letting us out. The sergeant led me down to a corner room and thumbed the lock. Inside he nodded to a wide bed which was not standard, “Drop your bags and show me your weapons.”

I grinned, “A please would be nice.”

I tossed my kit and EQ bag to one end and set the weapon bag down before opened it. He snorted and reached for the assault rifle, “This goes into storage, you can keep the Swift.”

I looked at him, “And just what is going to replace my rifle?”

He grinned, “A silenced MP14, bored out to take 12mm.”

I laughed, “Okay, that sounds like it has a punch.”

He held out his hand, “Sergeant Milford Getts. You can call me Blocker.”

I took his hand, “Pendragon.”

The next day and a half was filled with weapons and detailed briefings. The silenced MP14 was a dream that would punch through a tank. It was just over half the length of my assault rifle and weighted a quarter of the weight. Besides the MP14 and my Swift I had acquired a stubby twenty millimeter Thumper.

The barrel was thirty centimeters long and it only had a pistol grip. It almost looked like it had a second barrel underneath the regular barrel. That was the fixed magazine that held the twenty high explosive rounds used for breaching.

I also had a new fiber weave force screen under my uniform, hopefully to keep from getting shot again. I slipped out in civilian clothes with Senior Sergeant Ginger McCartney by my side. She was one of the few females in the company and one of the deadliest marksmen I knew. She hugged my arm as we walked the street and batted her eyes at me, “You know Sergeant Morgan sent me a private note.”

I glanced at her and smiled, “And what did Samantha say?”

Ginger laughed as her eyes swept around us, “She said you have balls of battle steel and a heart of butter.”

I grinned, “She was just trying to flatter me.”

She grinned as she turned to walk backwards as if to talk to me, “True, she did say if the shit hit the fan to grab your gear and tag along as you killed everything that came your way.”

I laughed and pulled her as I side stepped. We walked into the narrow opening and followed it to a door that opened as we approached. Ginger walking in ahead of me and the door closed behind us. We went down and she grabbed a bar and swung up onto a fast moving belt. I waited until it was clear and followed her.

It was a long ride in the dark before a red light flashed and I reached up to snatch a bar and swing off the belt. I looked around at the rest of the company and a moment later they knelt. I joined them as a young man stepped out in front of us, “My Swords! The Duke of Brennen has issued us an ultimatum. He has betrayed his oath to the Empire and to me. I give you the order, Seize him and bring him or his body before me.”

He looked out at us and his eyes locked on mine, “Fail not my trust.”

He turned and two uniformed men slipped him through a door. We stood and men began filtering through another door. Two hours later the shuttles were docking with what looked like a cargo transport. I grabbed my bags and walked into what could only be described and a midget carrier. It could carry up to six stealth shuttles plus their crews and the entire company of swords.

For the next two weeks we rehearsed and practiced until I was doing it in my sleep. We were headed to Brennen which has been settled a long time. Our mission was simple; three shuttles go down, one on each flank and the one with strikers hitting the manor. I was part of the strikers and was supposed be on the inside of the left wing. We were supposed to secure the left wing of the manor itself.

The strikers consisted of a sixty man assault team. Twenty on the right and twenty on the left, the last twenty were to enter the residence and secure the duke. While the duke knew we might be coming, he did not know some of his servants had already been turned. Scan vids with his bio had been planted throughout his manor so we would know where he was.

The shuttle screamed down through the atmosphere and braked at the last minute before spinning and dropping to the ground. Even before the shuttle touched down the ramp was dropping and we were running out. Caltrops guns ripped through the first half before they had even moved away from the shuttle, I knew right then we had been suckered.

I stopped and shot the four caltrops before moving towards the left. Twelve of us swiftly moved into place killing everything in the way. The right seemed to be struggling but the entry team had hit a major block and were down to two people. I slapped Blocker and tossed my head and he nodded.

I spun and jogged towards the sound of fighting, “Pendragon coming in from the left.”

I peek around a wall and cursed when I saw Ginger down. Sergeant Maxwell was struggling to pull her behind a thick stone pot. I could see his left hand missing and lifted my rifle as I stepped around the wall. I walked straight for the front door with my rifle at my shoulder. I fired a round with each step, killing anyone that moved.

A round tore through my left side and I spun before bring my rifle up and shooting three rounds through the armored shelter on the roof and killing the sniper hiding there. I started limping towards the door again as I changed the magazine and went back to killing soldiers that were shooting from windows.

As I approached the front door I pulled Thumper and fired into the center of the doors. The explosion ripped the doors into splinters and I let my rifle drop onto its sling and pulled my Swift. I fired Thumper into four soldiers rushing out a tall window and stepped into the manor. I extended my Swift and fired four times rapidly to kill four men rushing out a door.

The impact in the back of my right shoulder spun me and I brought up my pistol to kill the man that had just shot me, luckily it did not go through the fiber weave force screen. I pulled slim ghost glasses and slipped them on. The image I saw was a faint holographic blue print of the manor with a single dot where the duke was.

I could easily see through the holograph and started walking. The large foyer had me firing the Swift into the floor. The walls on each side slid back to show three combat armored suits. I fired Thumper into the three on the left and fired rapidly with the Swift through the helmets of the three on the right.

I walked across the foyer glancing at the three shattered suits on the left before taking a set of stairs. I absently pointed Thumper above and behind me at the landing and fired. I fired the Swift into the two men who staggered out of the smoke and debris. I turned left to head towards the dot that was the duke and fired into the ceiling of the hall going the other way.

As it collapsed behind me, I killed a lightly armored man that stepped out with a rifle to his shoulder. I blew open the door he had come out of as I approached and walked through the wreckage. I walked out of the smoke and debris and killed three soldiers trying to cover the richly dressed man that was the duke.

I crossed the room slipping both weapons back into holsters before spinning the duke to the wall. I slammed him against the wall as he coughed and choked and slipped a pair of plastic restraints on him. I yanked him around and started back the way I had come, “This is Pendragon. I have the target and I am coming out the front.”

I drew my Swift and walked out into the hall. Four soldiers were standing at the top of the stairs. I did not wait for them to react and started firing. Two seconds later I was dragging the duke down the stairs and past their bodies. I extended my Swift as I walked down the last few steps and began shooting into the gathered soldiers in the foyer.

They scrambled to find cover or return fire but none made it. I changed the magazine as I pushed the duke across the body strewn floor. I pushed him out the front door to see several Swords waiting. I shoved him into the hands of Blocker and turned as I holstered my Swift and brought up my rifle. As we backed to the waiting shuttle, we gathered up any Sword still alive.

The shuttles took off hot and wove around each other as they headed towards the sky. The large penetrator that had punched through my fiber weave body screen had gone straight through. By the time we reached home my wound was mostly healed. Ginger and colonel Nathen both were still recovering. Our shuttle was met by a full battalion of soldiers.

After everything was over the duke was hung and those supporting him were in hiding. I was discreetly awarded a second Solar Cross as well as a promotion to Senior Sergeant.

Chapter seven

Emperor’s Shield

Blocker stopped the vehicle beside the small personal gate and turned to look at me, “It was nice working with you Dragon.”

I grinned as I climbed out, “Just once I would like to finish a rotation. Tell Ginger, next time.”

He laughed as I pulled the float out with my bags on it, “I will tell her.”

I turned as he drove off and started for the gate. The two guards were silent until I was closer and their eyes focused on my chest. They snapped to attention as I stopped at the gate, “Senior Sergeant England, reporting to the Shields for duty.”

I slipped my order chit through the gate and a corporal took it and turned to put it in his reader. He nodded and turned back and the gate slid into the wall. He handed the chit back to me, “Someone will be here to escort you.”

I pulled the float through the gate and it closed behind me. I ignored the two men as I stood looking into the Emperor’s estate grounds. The captain that finally appeared in a small float craft was smiling. I loaded everything in the back and he took off. For the next two months I was detailed in several positions around the emperor. I had switched from wearing a formal uniform to my class C.

The one thing I refused to do was stop wearing Thumper. Apparently the emperor knew because the word came down to leave me alone. I was part of his inner security for his monthly speech in the Assembly Hall. There were only three doors into the huge room. The ceiling had a dozen glazed skylights high above us.

Assembly Hall was in the middle of the city and a long way from his estate. Intel said there was no risk and no threat but I had a bad feeling. I slipped underarm ammo pouches for my Swift under my uniform. I was assigned to one of the two rear doors with corporal Paterson. The room was filled with waiting councilmen and reporters.

The vid cameras had already been set up and were waiting for the emperor to come in. Some of the men in the crowd drew my eye because they seemed younger than they should be. The emperor and his twelve man team came through the other door and he moved onto the stage as the security spread out in front of him.

He began his speech and a few minutes into it I noticed men shifting around. My hand touched my Swift and then all hell came for a visit. From the back of the hall, the other side of the room and other side of the door came shots as the radio screamed. My Swift came up as a man fired from the crowd in front of us and Paterson spun before dropping.

I fired as a second man stepped out and his head snapped back. I started for the emperor as people dropped to the floor and others started firing. I took down seven before a shuttle hit me in the chest. I staggered back and pulled Thumper as I shot the man that had just shot me. The huge front doors were open and armed men were rushing into the room.

I fired Thumper three times into the rushing men and shot two other men with my Swift before I reached the emperor. All of his security team was down and dead and he was under Lieutenant Jensen. I put two more rounds from Thumper through the open doors and squatted as I holstered it.

I grabbed the emperor and stood. He staggered to his feet as I glanced towards the door I had been guarding. Two men were coming through and they were not ours. I killed both with my Swift and pulled the emperor after me to the door. I walked through the door and killed the two more men waiting in the other room before changing magazines.

I glanced at the white faced emperor, “Stay with me and do what I tell you.”

He nodded and I started for the other door and the back way out. The round that had hit me was in my upper chest which made walking or breathing hard. I pulled Thumper again as I kicked open the back door and knew right then that this was not going to end easy. There were easily fifty men scattered around and I started firing Thumper and my Swift.

Five seconds later I was leading the emperor across the bodies of the men sent to kill him. I put Thumper away after blowing a hole through a wall. I glanced out and then pulled him after me and straight across the street. I knew if they were jamming our radios certain comm lines would be down too.

I moved down an alley and hesitated at a small bistro. I glanced at the emperor and went in. I checked the shop but they mostly ignored me. I pulled the emperor close and moved to a public vid phone, the number I dialed was not military.

The phone went to message and I sighed, nothing was going to be easy, “It is me Ginger. I have your commander going clubbing with me. We seem to have a few rowdies causing a disturbance and I could use some help. I am heading for... I am taking a walk home.”

I switched the vid phone off and looked at those in the bistro whispering, “Anyone want to make some money?”

They looked at each other and I smiled as I pulled my account chit, “I need a couple of jackets.”

Two minutes later we walked out the front door. The emperor straightened the large jacket and glanced at me, “Do you think this will work?”

I had removed my turtle neck so I had easier access to the spare magazines and wore an ancient uniform jacket. I glanced around as we walked, “I hope so.”

I glanced up as two fast movers flashed by overhead and then a large vehicle started up the street behind us. I swore as a single glance told me who or what they were, “When I turn, you drop to the ground.”

The vehicle slowed as it came up along side us. I drew my Swift as I turned and the two men in the front and back looking out the window went wide eyed right before I killed them both. I fired into the vehicle at the other men as the vehicle swerved towards a building on the other side of the street. I walked toward it as three men staggered out with weapons in their hands.

That was how they died and I turned to the emperor, “Lets go!”

I led him down an alley and then down a street and across to another alley. We were coming out of the alley when vehicles screamed down the street from both ends. I pulled both weapons as men leaned out to spray the alley entrance. I fired Thumper and then killed the three men firing from the other vehicle with the Swift.

I staggered as a round hit my back and spun to see four men running towards us. I brought the Swift up and started firing calmly. I turned as the vehicle slid to a stop in front of us and shot the driver. I looked around at the carnage and sighed, “Time to go sir.”

The emperor looked up and then came to his feet, “Where are they getting all these men?”

I smiled, “Men willing to kill are easy to find. Men willing to die are not so easy to find.”

The emperor looked at me as I switched magazines and started across the street. I walked down some stairs to the city tram and smiled at the almost empty platform. I crossed to a public vid phone and called Ginger again. It picked up on the first ring, “Dragon?”

I smiled as I continued to scan the station, “Want to party Ginger?”

She snorted, “Me and every Sword on the planet.”

I pulled the emperor behind me as two men walked into the station, “We are walking the tram line towards you.”

I hung up and pulled my Swift as one of the men started turning towards us and I saw the weapon by his leg. I shot him through the chest and then his partner. As the few people dropped to the ground I pulled the emperor after me. We slipped into the tram tunnel and started walking along the side.

The emperor cleared his throat, “Isn’t this dangerous?”

I laughed, “So is getting shot.”

He snorted and then laughed. The pain in my chest was a little worse and my stomach felt bloated so I knew I was bleeding internally. It was a half hour before I saw the lights in front of us. I pushed the emperor into a shallow niche and waited. A moment later I heard Ginger, “Pendragon?”

I sighed, “Here.”

She slipped out of the shadows and touched my shoulder, “The estate is under siege. We brought in Eighth regiment to shut this down.”

I nodded, “Take care of him.”

She looked at me and then opened my jacket before swearing, “MEDIC!”

I sat, “Get him out Ginger.”

She hissed and reached for the emperor, “Time to go sir.”

I slipped my Swift into its holster and leaned back as men and women surged forward to surround him and then they headed away. The brief rebellion was local and died faster then it was born. The emperor even came to visit me in the estate infirmary and handed me another Imperial Star and Top Sergeant emblems, “Thank you Dragon.”

Chapter eight

Marauder

I walked off the shuttle and down the steps ignoring the whispers. I knew what they thought, I was wearing a Class C uniform during travel. I was young and had top sergeant emblems on my collar. I pulled my float across the hanger deck and stopped at the wide desk. A junior sergeant glanced up and then smiled and leaned back, “Well, what do we have here. You are out of uniform.”

He held out his hand, “ID tags.”

I smiled and tossed them across the table. He shook his head and thumbed them and then sat frozen. I leaned over the desk as the other passengers from the shuttle watched, “After I check in, you will report to me. Is that clear Junior Sergeant?”

He swallowed, “Yes Top!”

I took my ID tags back and headed for the hatch as everyone began whispering. I walked into Marauder country and walked into the battalion HQ for Stalkers. I smiled at the pretty Sergeant working at a desk, her arm was in a sling, “Which office is the Sergeant Major’s?”

She glanced up and looked me over before smiling, “On the left Top.”

I parked my float and walked to the door and knocked.

“Come!”

I walked in and a short stocky woman looked up from the report she was reading, “Yes?”

I walked to the desk, “Top Sergeant England.”

She sat back and looked me over, “You are not ten feet tall.”

I grinned as I looked around before sitting, “Sergeant Major Davis said you needed someone to help fill a company.”

She nodded and sighed, “We took a lot of hits retaking Gingerroot. You will be taking the Serpents with a green Captain. You have four Senior Sergeants and two Sergeants for platoon sergeants. We have two weeks to get them ready before we move on Tornto.”

She stood, “Come with me and we will get the official stuff out of the way.”

She led me out and across to knock and enter another office. I followed and looked at the grey haired light colonel. He sat back, “What do you have Peg?”

The sergeant major glanced back, “This is Top Sergeant England.”

He looked at me and then back to the Sergeant Major, “He is young.”

She laughed as she leaned against the desk, “did you even read the personal brief I left last night?”

He grinned and swept his hand over the desk, “It is in here somewhere.”

She shook her head, “Pendragon has been in Recon, the Scouts, the Rangers, the Swords and the Emperor’s Shields. I doubt we would be getting anything done if he had to wear his shoot me uniform.”

I grinned at that, “That is why I am wearing this.”

The colonel looked at me and shook his head, “Okay. Try to keep Captain Debous from killing my men.”

I nodded, “I will do my best sir.”

I glanced at the sergeant major and she nodded towards the hatch. We walked out and she looked at the sergeant at the desk, “Sergeant Sibley, take Top Sergeant England to the Serpents.”

She stood, “Yes Sergeant Major.”

I grabbed my float and started following her. She glanced back once, “Did you really take out a whole company that was after the emperor?”

I smiled and glanced at her, “It was not something you could not have done.”

Captain Debous was not as green as you would think, not in the Marauders. It did not take long to get the platoons working together since most were very experienced men and women. Tornto was a disputed world the Spiders had decided to just occupy. We had spent three hundred years in contact with the spiders and most of them had been in combat.

We were supposed to be on a flank with little or no enemy presences. The fleet took fire as we entered the system and everything began going wrong. The other companies were dropped on target but we were kicked out late and over a thousand kilometers away. We came under heavy fire on the way down and lost the captain and the lieutenants before we even hit the ground.

I took over the command net and brought the platoons in as the spiders started converging. I was carrying a double combat load of ammo for my MP14 and Thumper as well as for my Swift. I opened the sat radio, “Stalker this is Pendragon. We are down and out of position. All knights have fallen and we are under heavy attack.”

It was a minute before the colonel answered, “We have your position Serpents. I have combat shuttles inbound but you need to hold.”

I looked up as I fired into the spiders trying to break through, “Copy Stalker.”

I pulled Thumper and ran towards a breach as I started firing, “Serpents, close the gaps and pull the wounded back!”

I staggered as a spider round ripped through my armor and then my left shoulder. I switched to my MP14 to take down the few spiders still alive and moved back, “Give me a status report!”

I switched magazines as the reports rolled in. I shook my head, “pull back another fifty meters and close up!”

I ignored the medic as she tried to turn me and started firing into a new group of rushing spiders. I flinched when she injected me with something, “it is anti venom Top.”

I nodded and pulled Thumper as the Spiders broke through and emptied it. I thumbed new rounds in as the spiders pulled back, “Status!”

A few new voices called in instead of the platoon sergeants and I shook my head, “All right, pull it in tight and double up!”

I opened the sat radio, “Stalker this is Pendragon.”

“Go.”

I lifted my rifle and began firing, “How long before the shuttles launch?”

“Launching now.”

I shook my head, “We are going to need full medic teams on retrieval.”

“Copy.”

I cursed as the wave broke through and pulled Thumper again. I headed towards the perimeter as I fired and pulled my Swift. They seemed to just keep coming as I killed them. Thumper ran out and I put it away at the same time as my Swift. I yanked my knife and lunged in to take a spider’s head.

I spun and kicked out to break the leg of another spider before slicing its body open. Rifle fire ripped into the other spiders and they finally fell back. I wiped my knife and changed magazines as I headed into the center of the perimeter, “Status!”

The reports came in as we pulled wounded into the center. As the next attack started I began using Thumper right away and they fell back as they were ripped apart. Suddenly the whole area around us seemed to explode in white plasma. I looked around, “Security teams stand fast! Wounded and support are first priority!”

The combat shuttles sped in and flared as the pilots spun them and dropped to the ground. I nodded, “Go! Start loading!”

It did not take long to load, mostly it was wounded but there were still a lot of dead. I walked onto the last shuttle after the others had lifted. Tornto was considered a success since we only left dead spiders behind, but we lost more then half the battalion doing it. During the debriefing my actions were retold and by the time we return to base a third Solar Cross was waiting along with sergeant major emblems.

I was also on orders again, the Serpents were on a combat hold until they were filled.

Chapter nine

Battlefield

Walking off the shuttle into a carrier with a regular line regiment was almost a relief. The regiment commander had personally requested me and requested I wear my dress uniform. I ignored the bosan’s call to attention and walked across the hanger as everyone stopped what they were doing and came to attention.

I nodded to the senior sergeant checking Id tags and slid mine across. He thumbed them and quickly handed them back, “Thank you Sergeant Major.”

I nodded and turned towards the hatch. My gear was to be brought to my quarters as I headed for the ships command bridge and a meeting with Sergeant Major Drake and Rear Admiral Noble. When I nodded to the guard at the hatch he glanced at me and then his eyes dropped to the ribbons and medals. He snapped to attention, “I am sorry Sergeant Major but the command bridge is off limits.”

I nodded, “let the Admiral or Sergeant Major know I am here.”

He turned to the intercom and a moment later the hatched opened. Sergeant Major Drake was a tall slim grey haired man. He nodded to the guard and waved me in. He looked me up and down, “uncomfortable trip?”

I smiled, “Yeah.”

He laughed and nodded to the admiral across the room, “You got here just in time. We have a major problem on Taxus.”

I looked at him and he shrugged, “we have a rogue world regiment trying to occupy it.”

I nodded and he led me across as the admiral finished talking to three colonels and two light colonels. Four of them left as we approached. I saluted and he grinned, “you are a sight. The way my nephew talks you are made of battlesteel and smoke.”

I smiled, “So they say.”

He laughed and turned to the colonel, “This is Colonel Edward Mortros. You will be working with him.”

I nodded to the colonel who was looking me over curiously. The admiral sighed, “I had hoped we would only have normal routine to break you in but it seems a rogue world has gotten brave.”

I nodded, “The sergeant major told me a little sir.”

He nodded, “Well, get together with Edward. Your battalion is scheduled to lead the regiment.”

I nodded, “We will make it happen sir.”

He dismissed us and I followed the colonel out. He looked at me as we walked, “I was concerned you were a glory hound until I read your jacket.”

I snorted, “Stubborn would probably fit better.”

He grinned, “Well, welcome to the Demons.”

I grinned, “thank you.”

It was a long time before I was able to go to my quarters. I was looking to get out of the dress uniform. I opened the hatch and stepped in to see senior sergeant Morgan laying on my bed. I grinned, “Hey Sam, I was wondering when I would see you.”

She grinned, “I see you still have not learned to duck.”

I stripped and hung up the uniform before turning and walking to the bed, “I am glad you are not in my unit.”

She laughed and pulled me close before kissing me. She caressed my face, “Ready for your real brief?”

I grinned and laid beside her, “Go.”

Sam started a detailed brief on each of the company commanders and top sergeants in my battalion. When she finished I was frowning, “If they are that bad why leave them?”

She sighed, “if you had spent longer coming up you would know it is sometimes who you know and not what you know.”

I nodded and lay back, “And we are leading the regiment onto the battlefield.”

Sam touched the fresh scar, “Make contingency plans.”

Samantha was more then right and as we got closer the more worried I became. The colonel was solid but the company commanders worried both of us. The Recon went in less then a day ahead off us and almost immediately the bad news began. The rogue world had plasma generators so we knew we would be losing people before we even landed and the shuttles could not come in until they were destroyed.

Worse, the whole rouge world regiment was in defensive positions with heavy weapons. On a normal drop the officers are the first in and their companies follow them. We were loading the capsules when I got a call. I glanced at the colonel who was going over last minute details as he was strapping in. I waved the lieutenant back and knelt, “Captain Shin, Murphy and Adams refuse to drop.”

His eyes narrowed, “Tell their XOs to take command and have the ship provost arrest them for cowardice in the face of the enemy. Implement plan Charlie too.”

I stood and moved away as I made the calls on the way to my capsule. The shuttles went as low as they could before kicking us out in a widely dispersed pattern. We lost almost a tenth of the battalion going down including the captain for the Widow Makers and the battalion XO. We consolidated quickly and I thought we were finally pulling together when the heavy weapons hit us.

The colonel was tossed through the air, his body mangled. The junior officers started to panic as I stepped in and barked orders. I sent the Widow Makers speeding for the heavy weapons locations and spread the other companies out to cover the other battalions as they started their drop runs.

I sent the Strikers which was a combat suited company after the plasma generators. That was when the rogue world soldiers hit us. A fast moving strike team broke through and headed straight for the command team. I did not even pause as I barking orders and lifted my MP14 to kill them.

I think that was what gave my people heart because the next moment a huge growl filled the comm as the whole battalion opened up at almost the same time and ripped the rogue worlders apart. The other battalions were down and flanking us as we pressed forward. The heavy weapons fell silent and the Strikers turned from destroying the generators to slash into the rear of the enemy.

That drove the heart out of them and they panicked and began surrendering in mass. Of the officers that went down with us, three officer cadet’s returned unwounded. The rest were killed or wounded and out of action. Colonel Mortros had been badly wounded but survived. When the admiral landed his first action was to give me a field promotion to Lieutenant JG.

He confirmed it after everything was over as well as award me with another Distinguished Service Cross, at least this time I walked away without a wound.

Chapter ten

Dirty little war

I walked out of the shuttle tube and onto Fifth Regiments station with a smile. I ignored the bosan’s pipes as I pulled the float behind me and crossed to the senior sergeant next to the hatch. I returned his salute and handed him my orders chit. He looked at my medals but kept quiet as he checked me in.

I walked into Recon company headquarters and crossed to sergeant Golden. She was bent over a screen and looked like she wanted to hit it. I chuckled, “Patients sergeant.”

She glanced up, “yes sir... PENDRAGON!”

She stood grinning, “We heard you were coming back to finish training.”

I laughed and gestured to the company commander’s hatch, “I need to report.”

She nodded and gestured to the float, “Leave it and I will make sure it gets to your quarters.”

I crossed and knocked on the hatch and heard the, “Come!”

I walked in and crossed to salute a young looking junior captain, “Lieutenant JG England reporting in sir.”

He sat back and looked at his top sergeant, “We were expecting you.”

He looked over my uniform carefully, “At first I thought you were a glory hound but after talking to the top sergeant and a couple of others I was not sure. I am prepared to give you the benefit of doubt. You will be taking the Scout Recon platoon since I understand you have trained with them.”

I nodded, “I have sir.”

He nodded, “Get with your platoon sergeant. There will be an officers meeting at seventeen hundred.”

He gestured and I turned and left. Golden was waiting with a corporal and grinned as she led me out, “I am in the sniper recon platoon now.”

I glanced at her and smiled, “what is the gossip?”

She snorted, “We are heading out on the Granger for regimental sweeps.”

I nodded since I had heard a rumor, “It is routine.”
Golden grinned, “Routine can kill you... sir.”

I grinned and stopped with her as she nodded to a small platoon office. She looked into my eyes, “See you tonight?”

I looked around and bent to kiss her softly, “Since you are not one of mine.”

She grinned and caressed my face before walking back towards the company HQ. The senior sergeant grinned when I walked in and stripped my jacket off before hanging it up, “What do you want me to do sergeant?”

He slid half the paperwork on his desk across, “You can start here sir.”

I nodded as I crossed to pick it up and move to the next desk, “I would like to meet the squad and team leaders after lunch.”

A month later we were several systems away getting ready to board a stealth shuttle. My platoon was doing a training mission on Adam and would be there living off the planet for a few weeks. Everything seemed normal all the way through the drop. It was only an hour after the drop that second squad, bravo team reported the rogue world regiment.

It was surrounding the only city on the planet and had both atmosphere plasma generators and heavy weapons. I sent out the platoon recall and then sent a burst encrypted report to the stealth shuttle. I had second squad, bravo team maintain surveillance on the regiment while I briefed my platoon.

We were just going to set up observation points when bravo team reported in. The regiment was preparing to move into the city. I looked into the distance and sighed before turning to my people, “Third squad split into two man teams and destroy the plasma generators. Each one has a power coil and a plasma reactor. Take those out and they are just a piece of junk.”

The squad leader nodded and I looked at the first squad leader, “First squad will go after the heavy weapons.”

She nodded and I smiled at my last squad leader, “We are going after the regiment C and C.”

Sergeant Melrose grinned, “sounds like fun.”

I glanced at my platoon sergeant, “You take the team here and hit their communication center and I will link up with bravo to take the command center.”

I looked at my people, “do not let them pin you down, shoot and move. Once the generators and heavy weapons are taken out, pull back to our secondary rally point.”

I looked at them and nodded to senior sergeant Tracy, “Lets do it.”

I moved quickly as the platoon broke up and began to move. It took a half hour to get with bravo team and brief them. I keyed my radio and everyone struck. The reaction platoon guarding the officers was not expecting us and died before they could react. I struck straight through and into the heart killing several junior officers.

Two senior sergeants and a top sergeant were suddenly firing and two of my men went down wounded. Third squad reported in mission successful and then minutes later the platoon sergeant reported in. The senior officers were using an armored tank to protect them as they tried to call for reenforcements.

I fired six rounds from Thumper into the tank before moving. I knew the crew in the tank were still operational but it would be a couple of minutes before they could recover. I landed on the tank and killed the three sergeants before pointing my M14 at the officers, “Surrender or die!”

They threw down their weapons and the rest of my team moved in. I moved to the hatch of the tank as it cracked open and yanked it up as I drew my Swift, “Drop it!”

I moved the men out of the tank and glanced at the fire team, “Get them out of here!”

A single look showed a couple of companies heading towards us. I dropped into the tank and checked the controls. The old crew must have been very new and inexperienced. I switched on the auto loader and selected anti personal before rotating the guns. I started firing as I traversed the barrel. The tank finally shook with an explosion as someone got a rocket off.

It was only a glancing blow and I blew the men away that had fired at the tank. Second squad finally reported mission complete and I was thinking of leaving. A check of my platoon tracker showed Bravo team still to close and I went back to stopping the soldiers here before they could follow. The tank rang with an explosion and I glanced back at smoke that began filling it.

I saw more men attacking and went back to firing as the smoke inside grew heavier. Another explosion rocked the tank and I glanced back to see fire. I fired into several groups of men and used a plastic tie to lock the triggers back before climbing out of the seat. I pulled the belly escape hatch up and dropped down. I crawled towards the back of the tank with fire and flames licking at my back.

I rushed away from the tank and had barely gotten clear when it exploded. I was tossed forward like a rag doll and rolled to my feet after I hit the ground. I moved behind equipment and continued away. It took awhile to reach the secondary rally point. I walked in and started counting bodies as I headed towards the platoon sergeant and he was grinning, “All present and accounted for sir.”

I nodded and looked at the prisoners, “They say anything?”
He shook his head and I walked to the rogue world commander. He was glaring at me, “We have the planet now and you can not do anything about it.”

I smiled, “Actually, you only have a small piece. We destroyed your plasma generators and your heavy weapons. I also sent a call out to my regiment and they should be here in a few days.”

His face had gone white and he turned away. I turned to the platoon sergeant and walked away, “Do we have anything on their individual comms?”

He nodded, “second squad is monitoring their chatter.”

I grinned, “why don’t you ask if they want to surrender now before the regiment gets here?”

He grinned and headed towards the perimeter. When the regiment hit the planet four days later the rogue world soldiers were formed up in ranks without weapons. For my actions I was promoted to Lieutenant.

Chapter eleven

Setting an example

I glanced at my top sergeant as she walked through the hatch, “Well?”

She growled, “We were picked to protect pro tem delegates.”

I sat back and smiled, “The whole company?”

She nodded as she sat at her desk, “I do not know how they expect us to train new soldiers if they coddle them.”

I grinned, “want me to ask the commander to change our assignment?”

She snorted, “I used your name already and she said you are a trouble magnet and did not need the headache.”

I shook my head and handed her two resignation forms, “Two more dropped out.”

Top Sergeant Brenda Davis was hard as battle steel but had a soft spot for trainees. She frowned and glanced at the names before calling their senior sergeants. I thought this assignment would give me a rest but I was busier then any other assignment I had ever had. Being a company commander as a lieutenant was a huge sign of faith.

I looked at the intel of the assignment brief when Brenda sent it to my inbox. I frowned, “What is this red warning flag about?”

Brenda stopped talking to Senior Sergeant Rodriguez, “they had a system flag from Partisian.”

I glanced at her and opened the warning flag before sitting up, “Brenda, the pro tem delegates are meeting on Partisian.”

She frowned, “So?”

I shook my head, “Partisian is a former rogue world.”

She still looked blank and I sighed, “The last brief reported no military weapons turned in. They reported them destroyed or turned over to militia.”

Brenda frowned, “I still do not understand.”

I looked at her hard, “The report said it was never confirmed. That means they may have military weapons and the group on Partisian that wants the delegates dead may have some.”

Brenda grinned and turned to call all her senior sergeants. I shook my head, “Load the trainees with a full combat load.”

She chuckled, “with you around, I will load them up for a tiger ride.”

A week later our shuttles dropped us on Partisian while the carrier continued its rounds. The building the delegates were staying and meeting in was an almost ancient resort. I sent Brenda to check and find a safe room as well as defensive positions. The trainees were armed and armored as they stood guard and the delegates seemed to ignore them.

Three days later it began to rain lightly and the trainees had almost become lax. It was like static in the air as I sipped my coffee and reviewed the latest training reports. I jerked when jammers began screaming from the radios. I snatched my rifle up when I stood with Brenda and started for the door, “get the delegates into the safe room.”

She nodded as she barked orders into a private secure secondary radio we had set up. I ignored the trainees as they hastily moved into place and headed to the front of the resort, that was the easiest access. I started checking positions when the armored carriers flew towards us from the access road. I nodded calmly to a private holding a remote transmitter.

She flipped a switch and huge rolling explosions along the access road ripped the carriers apart. In coming fire from heavy weapons began to hit the sides of the ancient building. I nodded to the platoon sergeant and she barked an order into the secondary radio. A moment later two things happened, a glowing force screen sprang up to protect the resort and thirty privates walked out in new combat armor.

I gestured to my top sergeant and the senior sergeant for the platoon. I fell in behind the first squad as they moved forward and spread out. Weapons fire opened up from one side of the resort and the senior sergeant for the platoon reported a company of infantry attacking. I was tempted to abort the reaction platoon but the force screen would only hold so long before the heavy weapons broke though.

The trainees fired at anything and everything as we swept out rapidly. When we hit the heavy weapon site I moved forward and used Thumper to screen our attack. Top Sergeant Davis kept sending me reports so I knew when the company of infantry broke and fell back. Second squad followed me to each weapon and placed explosive charges before we fell back and set them off.

The other squads acted as security and continued to fire at enemy troops any chance they got. I turned and had the senior sergeant lead them around to attack the remainder of the infantry company from the flank. I moved back and forth giving orders and directing fire. When a major attack struck the rear of the resort, we were headed in and swung around.

The leading squad used cover and started firing into the flank of what had to be at least two or three companies. I moved around to the left with the next squad and then we moved up before taking cover. The squad poured fire into the enemy and the last squad quickly started moving around us. The senior sergeant placed them in cover as I called the next squad to move.

It did not take the enemy long to turn and start running in panic. That was when we swept forward quickly, attacking any that slowed or turned. I pulled the platoon back and towards the resort before we got to far away. We moved through and into the resort and I started checking the men in positions.

Top appeared beside me, “We have an encrypted burst transmission from the Endeavor. A company of Rangers is riding with them and they have changed course to assist.”

I nodded, “How long before they get here?”

Top grinned, “maybe Twenty hours.”

I smiled, “Rotate the trainees out on fifty percent unless they attack again and reissue ammo.”

She nodded and slipped away as I moved to the next position. It was a long time before the next attack came. A huge barrage of small weapons swept the resort before men began pouring towards us. Top had managed to send out trainees to set up tumbler mines.

I waited until the wave of attacking men moved past the mines before gesturing to the soldier manning the transmitter. Huge explosions flung the mines and smaller spheres spun off. When the spheres landed they exploded and sent men flying. I used Thumper as a small group of combat armored men moved through the retreating army.

When some broke through I lifted my MP14 and started firing as they concentrated their fire on me. I twisted as a round found my shoulder and turned back to fire into the last few armored men. A small group of other soldiers had managed to slip up close and two trainees went down as they fired.

My rifle was empty so I dropped it on its lanyard and drew my Swift, “TAKE THEM MEN!”

I started firing as the other trainees took heart and poured fire into them too. It ripped them apart before the firing stopped. I checked my platoon status screens, “Get the injured to the safe room Top.”

A private touched my uninjured shoulder, “Top wants you in the Safe room sir.”

I smiled, “After the medic has finished with the other men, she can look at me. Until then I am fine here.”

He hesitated and then nodded, “Yes sir.”

I gestured, “find me a chair and then get with your squad and reissue ammo.”

Another private that was close by grinned and pulled an old fashion wooden chair across the room. I sat and changed magazines before reloading Thumper. Several hours later the medic stopped me as I was checking positions. I sat and let her look at the wound before she put a bandage on, “You should be in the safe room so I can...”

I smiled and stood as I dressed, “after we are relieved.”

Six hours later Top stopped beside me as I checked on the wounded. I glanced at her and she grinned, “The Rangers are here early.”

Chapter twelve

General’s Adjutant

I walked into the large room and ignored the hiss from several officers. I was in civilian clothes and civilians were not allowed in this room. I crossed to the small group of senior officers and general Peters. He turned and came to attention with the other admirals before saluting me. I sighed as I returned their salutes, “Reporting as ordered Sir.”

He grinned, “Sorry to pull you away from your first real vacation captain but my adjutant had an emergency.”

I shrugged, “It happens sir.”

He turned to the admirals, “We were discussing Zanax.”

I nodded and stepped back as they went back to their talk. A half hour later I was walking beside him towards the senior officers quarters. He glanced at me, “Your bags were sent ahead. I had them placed in your quarters. Get with Senior Sergeant Penelope and look at our schedule. We will be leaving in a couple of days.”

I nodded, “yes sir.”

This was going to be a long boring tour of duty. Senior Sergeant Penelope was a grisled older man with a sense of humor. I spent the next two days arranging appointments for the general and making sure everything he needed was taken care of. Mostly I wore my Class C uniform so I would be comfortable. Of course most junior captains do not have ten combat strips or nine wound strips.

We left three days later on a civilian transport heading to Zanax and the alien alliance council. I spent the trip learning my duties and helping the general with the brief he was to give. Zanax was one of the few worlds where many alien cultures blended together. No armed warships were allowed in the system, that did not mean none were there. Almost every race had a ship cruising around just outside.

The general had been adamant about me wearing my dress uniform. Penelope had quite a few shoot me awards so I did not feel to bad. I was wearing my Swift in the small of my back and carrying spare magazines as well as a new jewel hilted force knife on my left thigh, (a gift from my trainees when they graduated).

I followed the general into the huge building called the Alliance Reception Hall. The huge room almost swirled with color and life. Penelope slipped away as the general began making rounds and greeting people. I followed and stayed at his shoulder the whole time. Mostly the aliens ignored me but a few stared after their adjutant whispered something to them.

A large lizard being from Denta stepped in front of me and smiled. I calmly looked at all the shark’s teeth and waited. It shifted and growled, “exalted warrior, my clan welcomes you and invites you to battle for mates with us.”

I grinned, showing my teeth, “Worthy warrior I thank you for your offer but your males are not for such as I. Perhaps we can arrange a private battle for other stakes?”

The general chuckled and turned back to the ambassador he was talking to. The warrior growled and then slapped my shoulder, “Come to Changa’s arena after the tenth hour. If you best my warriors I will have a new assault weapon made for you.”

The general turned and I saw his interest. I bowed my head, “I will come.”

It grinned again and nodded before stalking off. The general murmured something to the ambassador before stepping back, “I hope you know what you are doing.”

I smiled as I glanced around, “I grew up with scientist parents. My teacher in unarmed combat was the mother of twelve girls.”

I looked at the general, “She was Dentian. They were there because the mate she won was a very good and well known scientist.”

He grinned and then laughed, “sounds like old home week.”

I laughed as another ambassador stopped to talk. The arena was almost crowded with a lot of males in the stands watching. I wore a battle dress uniform with no weapons. Every female turned as I entered and walked straight to the center of what they called the battlefield. That was like shouting, “I am the best and will take any that wish to face me.”

There were growls as several started for me. I bowed to the first as she stopped, “thank you for the honor.”

She shifted and growled. She was not wearing her translator but I understood and smiled before shifting and changing my stance. She lunged quickly and my left hand struck across my body to slap her clawed hand to the side. I spun and kicked back and down into her thigh above the knee.

When I returned to face her, she was rolling back to her feet. I grinned and stretched, “I really miss Momma Trasel.”

The warrior grinned before rushing me. I let her come and the went straight back and flipped her using my feet. I used the momentum to roll back to my feet and turned to face her. She was coming to her feet again as another female growled and came closer, “Me now!”

It was a growl that the other female almost ignored. For two hours I slipped, twisted, threw, hit, kicked and finally the females stopped offering combat. I straightened and bowed, “thank you worthy warriors.”

The thick warrior from the reception moved through the other females. She smiled, “Trasel said you would still be very good.”

I smiled, “I miss her, she taught me well even if I am a soft skin.”

She nodded, “She just won another mate and is planning a third hatching.”

I grinned, “give her my affection when next you see her.”

She smiled and looked at the other females, “This worthless soft skin the others look up to is my clan sib by adoption.”

The females around us growled and I laughed, “Did you think a soft skin not trained by one of your best, could face you?”

They laughed and I bowed, “I have duties.”

They all bowed and I turned to leave. Over the next two days all the delegates slowly arrived. We were heading into the conclave when the first explosion occurred. I pushed the general through the door, “Seal it!”

I spun and pulled my pistol. The crowd of aliens was running as I headed toward the explosion. I had to zig zag to avoid the aliens and then I was in the clear and almost wished I was not. A company of armored soldiers were heading towards the conclave. From the armor I knew they were another reptilian species called Helos. I rolled aside as bullets tore through where I had been.

I aimed as I walked towards the corner of a building and shot the soldier through the head. I was using solid core slugs and the big 14mm round punched straight through the armored head. I picked my targets and killed three more before reaching the corner. I moved around it as bullets ripped the corner apart. I continued for several feet and backed out into the street away from the building.

The corner exploded and a block slammed into my left shoulder numbing it. Four soldiers run through the smoke and debris and I calmly shot each through their helmets as if I was on a range. I stepped into a doorway and kicked the door open before spinning to shoot two more soldiers that appeared.

I went through the door and into the shop before running towards the door to the side. These shops had doors on each side so I yanked it open and stepped out into the doorway. The soldiers were moving closer more cautiously. I took a moment and then started on the left and went to the right as I fired until the magazine was empty.

I backed into the shop and turned to run for the far door as I changed magazines. The front of the shop exploded and bullets ripped into it. I was already out of the line of fire but a ricochet slammed into my right calf. I staggered as I went through the door and turned to move along the side of the building.

More explosions were coming from inside as I stepped out onto the main street. A dozen soldiers were standing in the open firing into the store. I took them like targets on the range and just went down the line. Bullets reached for me as three more soldiers came out of the smoke. I took a grazing hit on my upper right arm but shot each through the chest before turning to move back down the street.

I stopped at another doorway into another shop and turned. I shot two soldiers and an officer before ducking into the door. I moved straight across as the front door exploded. I kicked the far door open and trotted to the corner. It was a long shot but I took the company commander and another officer before ducking back.

I moved across the street as I changed magazines. I took a breath and headed for the main street. I walked out and started straight across as I aimed and fired into the group of soldiers around their fallen commander. I took another grazing hit through my left thigh as I reached the corner of a building.

I dropped the empty magazine and slammed my last spare in. I stepped out as I started walking towards the soldiers and began firing. It was like time had slowed, I picked targets that were aiming at me. When the Swift locked open, I holstered it as I pulled the fancy force knife.

I sliced out and there was the scream of torn metal as it ripped through the armored throat of a soldier. I grabbed it and spun as bullets reached for me and hit the armor. I dove and rolled before coming to my feet and brushing a rifle barrel aside and stabbing into a soldier. I shifted around it in time for more bullets to hit it.

I was glad they were using smaller caliber ammo as I pushed the staggering soldier forward. I followed and moved around the other side as it collided with another soldier. I stabbed into the helmet before moving along beside it and lifting his arm. The rifle fired as I pulled back and sprayed the area behind me.

I pushed down as I dove to the side towards an armored body. I rolled after grabbing the heavy grenade launcher and came up to fire into another group of soldiers closing on me. The round exploded on a officer’s chest and threw the others away like rag dolls. I stood and moved towards the fallen soldiers.

Dentian soldiers were suddenly moving past me and firing into any soldier that even twitched. I stopped and looked around, most of the armored soldiers were down or running. I turned to walk towards the conclave when my knees buckled, I staggered and a large Dentian soldier grabbed me.

I glanced up and nodded before slowly straightening and growling, “thank you sister.”

She nodded before letting me go. It was a long walk to the conclave and more alien soldiers began appearing. I sat on the steps in front of the locked conclave doors and a moment later an alien Tristel medic knelt beside me.

For once there was little arguing during the conclave that started back up the next morning. A week later we were boarding our shuttle when my adopted sister stepped in front of the general. She growled, “I am glad our paths have crossed once more brother. Our mother will be very proud that her daughterson has brought such honor to our family.”

I smiled, “It is what she has taught us.”

She smiled and nodded before holding out a long slim case, “use it well.”

I accepted the case and gripped her hand, her long, sharp claws touching my arm, “Fare well and may you ever find worthy opponents.”

She grinned, “And you.”

I nodded and she stepped aside.

Chapter thirteen

Raiders

I walked out of the shuttle to pipes again and sighed. This time the admiral and his staff were at attention waiting. I crossed the hanger deck and returned his salute. He grinned, “Welcome aboard Captain English.”

I smiled sourly as I glanced around, “It is a pleasure.”

He laughed and turned towards his staff, “I am afraid its your own fault. Awardees of the Alliance Sunburst are very, very rare. In fact you are the only human to every receive it. In fact you are the only one to be awarded it and live.”

I grinned at him, “believe me the Helos soldiers tried to fix that.”

He grinned and turned to start introducing me to the senior officers I would be working under. Colonel Beal was the Marauder commander and my regiment commander. He walked through the ship with me and glanced at me several times, “there is a couple of rumors about you Captain.”

I smiled, “There are a lot of rumors about me sir. I am ten feet tall and made from battle steel. I eat bullets and shit demo packs. Bullets are afraid of me. None are made that can kill me.”

I looked at him as he frowned, “it is all bullshit sir.”

I held up my right sleeve, “this shows I am more then capable of being wounded and I came close to dying more times then I would like to remember.”

He snorted and then nodded, “I understand.”

I glanced at him as we turned in and a Marauder came to attention. He sighed, “They say you have a death wish or at the least do not care if you live.”

I smiled, “Not true, I do what my duty tells me to do.”

We stopped in front of a junior captain who saluted the commander, “Raiders prepared for inspection sir!”

After reviewing the company I walked into the company commander’s office with Junior Captain Tracy and Lieutenants Johnson, Perry and Maldive. I nodded to Top Sergeant Brenda Davis who was grinning, (I had asked for her personally).

I looked at the officers as I locked the hatch and sat behind the company commander’s desk, “we have a mission straight from the Alliance. We are going to hit Helos.”

They looked at each other and I leaned back, “They sent one company to Zanaz so the Alliance has asked the Emperor to send one to Helos and we are it. Our mission is to terminate their emperor and his counsel. This is a pure search and kill mission.”

They grinned and I glanced at Brenda, “you will need to brief your NCOs.”

She nodded and I slipped a slim data stick into my desk comp. A holograph appeared above the desk and I began to brief the four officers. The four stealth shuttles drifted in orbit above Helos. I looked up from the bridge holograph as the Captain Denver walked in. She grinned as she crossed to me, “ready to play soldier Author?”

I smiled, “Since I wore my work clothes I guess we can start the dance.”

She laughed as she sat in her command chair, “Comm... relay to the strike force. Time to dance, follow us and damn anyone that gets in the way.”

She nodded to the pilot who turned the shuttle and we accelerated as we dropped. I turned and jogged towards the drop bay, “Pendragon to all Raiders, time to earn our pay. Keep your markers on and do not leave anyone behind.”

I caught the almost elegant rifle Brenda tossed as I continued all the way to the drop ramp. I nodded to Tracy, “Ready George?”

He grinned, “charged up and ready.”

A moment later the ship was bumping and jerking before it tilted and then the drop ramp was going down. I jogged off the shuttle and lifted my rifle to fire through a fancy battle suit moving towards us. The 14mm round punched through as if the suit were made from tissue.

First platoon spread out as we moved towards the huge front doors of Helos’s Prime nest. On the small retinal contacts I had an over view of the company as they surged out of shuttles and spread out. Two squads from each platoon headed straight for the four entrances we had chosen.

The four officers followed their men in as I started moving around the elegant nesting grounds. Our deployed recon sats gave me a look down view of the Prime nest and the surrounding area. Our freq jammers effectively blocked all communications. New combat soldiers started to come out of another nest and swarmed towards the left perimeter.

Four men went down as I arrived and began firing into the massed soldiers. I dropped my rifle on its sling and shifted sideways as I brought up the jewel hilted force knife. I cut across and through a soldiers throat before blocking a reaching claw and stabbing another in the groin. I pulled my Swift and shot two more and then the three rushing up behind them.

Fire from my men killed the rest and I was left standing with bodies around me. I checked the company display and status as I reloaded my weapons. I shifted the men guarding our escape to fill in the gaps and moved the dead or wounded to our evac point. Brenda stopped beside me, “The emperor is dead and three of the five councillors.”

I nodded as I checked the sats, “And we have five regiments on the way.”

She grinned, “Only five? Do you want us to help you with them?”

I laughed and turned to one of the nest entrances as four squads came up. I frowned as junior captain Tracy reported, “We are stuck behind a cave in.”

I pulled up the nest schematics and his location. I looked at Brenda, “hold the fort.”

I ran towards the nearest entrance and shot a lone soldier peeking out. I dropped through a delivery slot and killed four armed Helos males. I pulled Thumper and blew the huge door for the emperor’s mating females. I walked into the huge smoke filled room and absently swept the two councillors rushing towards me with fire.

I crossed and gestured the females back and away from a wall, “George? Get your people away from the south wall.”

I waited a few moments before firing Thumper from left to right. I repeated it and then repeated it again. The wall fell in and the other room appeared, “Lets go George.”

The two squads quickly scrambled out as I turned to lead the way. Brenda yelled as I walked out the entrance several minutes later, “We have a regiment inbound.”

I smiled as I flipped the recall for the company, “grab our dead and wounded and lets get off this rock.”

I stood watching until the last moment before walking calmly to the last shuttle loading. The other shuttles had already lifted and we were the last. We leaped for the sky before the ramp started closing and I headed forward, “Company Status Brenda.”

I walked onto the small bridge as Captain Denver cursed and swerved to avoid a fighter. I watched through the forward screen before moving to the comm station. I bent and opened the comm, “We are coming out hot Admiral.”

“The transport is waiting black sky. We have five plasma generators in low orbit so get your ass clear.”

I grinned as I looked at Captain Denver, “Yes sir.”

She slammed the throttles back, “damn these nats are irritating me.”

The screened flashed as we went black sky and the rear screens suddenly went white as the plasma generators ignited the upper atmosphere. The captain sat back and sighed before looking at me, “You took your time Author.”

I smiled as I headed towards the bridge hatch, “We had to drive our point home.”

Chapter fourteen

Sword Strike

After a year leading my company through several battles on several worlds and attending the six month Advanced Officer School, I was going back to the Swords. I walked off the shuttle and glanced at the top sergeant that came to attention, “Welcome back Major.”

I nodded and glanced around again before starting towards the far terminal doorway, “I did not get a briefing packet. Who is in command now?”

The sergeant fell in beside me, “Colonel Winston.”

I nodded and looked at the man beside me, “we still in the same place?”

He grinned, “No.”

I smiled, “Did you get my gear?”

He nodded and moved forward to open the door, “Sergeant Major McCartney is back with us too.”

I smiled, “How is Ginger doing?”

He snorted and nodded to the two sergeants at the private vehicle, “Running us ragged.”

I grinned and slid into the back seat. It was several minutes before I glanced at the top sergeant, “so what is the mission that pulled you away to meet your new XO?”

He grinned, “I wanted to see the legend.”

I shook my head and glanced at the two sergeants in the front seat, “I do not think so.”

He smiled and glanced at the two men, “Another full company mission to Trinidad. Duchess Maribel has refused an Imperial summons from the Dukes council and the Imperial Court. She is also creating her own military in defiance of Imperial decree.”

I sighed and shook my head, “you would think they would learn.”

He grinned as the vehicle turned and entered a large building complex. I glanced around, “We are not that far from the emperor’s grounds.”

The top sergeant grinned, “he is supposed to be at his retreat.”

I looked at him, “Is he?”

He shook his head, “He is staying with us while the Shields do a complete and major overhaul of his residence.”

I nodded and opened the door when the vehicle stopped. I waited and walked beside him as the vehicle headed away. We took a lift up to one of the top floors. When I walked into the large command office I grinned and poked Ginger in the back, “Hey sexy.”

She spun and kicked and my reactions had me sliding aside and lifting her foot. I moved in and caught her before she went down as several sergeants snickered. I smiled, “Jumpy?”

She glared, “Damn it Pendragon, you know better.”

I shrugged and let her go, “you need R&R if you are that jumpy.”

She glanced at the others in the office, “Something just does not feel right.”

I looked at her and then around the office, “About the mission?”

Ginger sighed, “No, I do not think so.”

I glanced at my kit against the wall, “let me report in and we will talk.”

She nodded and walked towards the door with me. She knocked and opened the door, “Pendragon is here.”

I smiled as I followed her in and a large older man stood. He smiled and walked around the desk, “Welcome back Major.”

I smiled and took his hand, “How long do I have to prep for the mission?”

He gestured to a couch and several chairs, “We leave in a week.”

I nodded, “anything special I need to look at?”

He glanced at Ginger,”We are having a few supply glitches.”

I frowned, “why...”

I had been thinking and looked at Ginger, “Wasn’t duchess Maribel on the armed forces council?”

She nodded and I looked at the colonel, “did anyone change our unit supply codes after she left?”

He sat back looking thoughtful, “No.”

I stood and crossed to the window before turning as the door opened and the emperor walked in. That was when I realized what type of situation we had. I moved quickly and crossed the room, “You need to leave sir.”

I glanced at the colonel, “The duchess knows who we are and maybe where we are.”

His eyes were wide as he spun to bark orders into the comm. I pulled the emperor out and looked at the Shields, “Situation red, get your teams here now!”

I ran to my weapons bag and yanked it open and started pulling things out. There were explosions from below and Ginger was yelling orders as I slipped weapons into places. I turned and looked at the four man Shield team, “Why aren’t you moving?”

One cleared his throat, “The rest of the teams are engaged and the company is under attack by unknown forces.”

I looked at the emperor as the colonel came out, “Stay with me sir.”

I looked at the colonel, “we need a break out. They will expect us to try a roof top extraction.”

He nodded and gestured to Ginger and four other sergeants, “With him. Ginger use the basement secondary route.”

She nodded and headed towards the door, “Follow me.”

I gestured to the sergeants and fell in beside the emperor as he held a slim pistol in his hand, “glad to see you looking so well sir, but please let us do the shooting.”

He grinned and glanced at his guards as they chuckled, “I promise not to shot you by mistake Author.”

I grinned as Ginger opened a lift shaft. She slipped in and the sergeants followed. I glanced in and waited as they dropped down the shaft. I looked at the emperor, “Just hold the ladder rails and put your feet on the outside and slide down.”

He nodded and I slipped in and slid down before stopping and looking up. He was slow and awkward but finally started to slide. I dropped just below him until we finally reached the bottom. I pulled him back as his guards came down and nodded to Ginger. The shooting and explosions had slowed as she led the way out of the shaft and into a semi dark hallway.

Five minutes later we were walking through another building and going down more stairs. Fifteen minutes later Ginger stopped and grinned, “The Swords have contained the situation.”

I nodded and followed her out a door into a huge shopping mall. I grinned at the emperor and walked across to a fancy coffee shop. He frowned as he followed and looked around. I gestured and he sat as the guards spread out with the four Sword sergeants. Ginger and I sat with him and I ordered coffee for all three of us. I smiled, “So do you want to move up our mission date?”

He looked at me and then grinned, “That would be nice Author.”

Ginger snorted and then laughed, “we can leave in a couple of hours if we go to the fleet supply depot to get what we need.”

I grinned, “That would be my new job I think.”

The emperor sipped his coffee and nodded to the wide eyed girl, “Thank you.”

She smiled and bowed before walking into the shop. I pulled my comm and used a number I had memorized. It was answered on the first ring, “Pendragon, is he with you?”

I smiled, “The team should have told you that already. Get the company moving and take him to his retreat.”

“We are already closing with you now.”

I smiled and set my comm on the table, “So sir, did you find a suitable woman to marry?”

He grinned because it had be in several news tabloids, “As a matter of fact the Dukes council has a girl in mind.”

Ginger snorted, “You should just pick one yourself.”

He laughed, “and who would you chose?”

She grinned and turned to gesture at the coffee shop girl, “ask her if she is single and take her on a date.”

He laughed as he looked at the girl in the shop, “Tempting thought.”

The Shields arrived in force and swept around us. I put my comm away, “Stay safe sir.”

I stood and watched as he was escorted away and then followed Ginger out and back to the Sword building. She grinned, “see I knew you would draw lightning.”

The sergeants snickered and I grinned, “I did not get any holes this time.”

She laughed with the others and we walked into the outer perimeter. I headed back up to see the colonel. A hour later we were in vehicles and parked beside the main fleet supply depot. The general in charge tried to stall us and I smiled as I touched colonel Winston, “excuse me sir.”

I stepped in front of the general, “Sir, if you do not move I will request your relief and reassignment to the smallest most miserable place in fleet and if you think I can not do it take a look at what I am wearing. Our orders come straight from the emperor. Now move or I will move you.”

He stared at me before glancing at all the medals and snorting, “They do not impress...”

I pulled my Swift and pointed it between his eyes, “You have just violated a fleet regulation and a standing fleet order sir. I am placing you under arrest pending your court martial for disrespect to a holder of an Imperial Star.”

The sergeant major behind him was grinning and the colonel that was his adjutant grinned too. The general stiffened and opened his mouth. Ginger stepped forward, “Speak again sir and I will shoot you myself.”

He closed his mouth and I gestured to his adjutant, “If you will have the general taken to confinement and contact the legal services colonel I would be grateful.”

He snapped to attention and saluted, “Yes sir.”

Two junior sergeants came to pull him away and I turned to colonel Winston, “Now you might have better luck.”

He shook his head, “That was why you wore the shoot me suit?”

I shrugged and he laughed before turning to hand the adjutant our supply list. He looked at it, “All this is already in a warehouse pending the general’s signature for release.”

I smiled, “release it now and contact the Shields and inform them the general might be the leak used to attack the emperor.”

He nodded and turned away to relay orders. An hour later six shuttles lifted and headed into orbit. The small midget carrier headed out system as soon as we boarded. I knew this was not going to be an easy strike. I was in my small office going over the strike plan. I glanced up when colonel Winston walked in, “I think you are going to need the cruisers.”

He frowned as he sat across from me, “Why? She does not have the ships or enough concentrated men.”

I sat back, “She was on the armed forces council and had contacts in supply. If she is doing this openly she probably has plasma generators.”
He rubbed the bridge of his nose, “I am to old for this.”

I grinned, “If the emperor thought that you would not be here.”

The colonel sighed, “I will inform admiral Pensivy.”

I nodded, “The rest of the plan should work, we just have to work harder.”

He snorted, “Why do you do it Author?”

He waved around us, “You could have your pick of assignments. Swords are all volunteers.”

I sat back, “I go where I am asked to go. This time it was the emperor that asked. Would you say no to him?”

The colonel chuckled, “No.”

I glanced at Ginger when she walked in, “I go where I am told, just like you and I do what I have to because that is what a soldier is supposed to do.”

She grinned, “guess what the emperor just sent?”

I shook my head as the colonel turned. She held up a small holo of the coffee shop girl, “she was single and he slipped most of his detail to take her on a date.”

I frowned and she grinned, “Those were his words. Senior Sergeant Bently said they used undress uniforms and the whole company was always a stone throw away.”

Ginger laughed, “He said the emperor was shy and timid as a boy on his first date.”

I grinned with the colonel and nodded to the other chair, “What do you think of the plan?”

She sighed, “I think the bitch will have her army camped around her damn bed.”

I nodded and the colonel looked at me before leaning forward, “what if we...”

We came in above the heliopause and headed straight in. Before we were halfway to the planet we knew she had plasma generators. The six shuttles had a new triple dense composite matrix completely around the hull.

We streaked away from the small carrier and headed straight in. There was no stealth, she knew we were here and coming for her. The hull flared red and then white as we hit the outer atmosphere. I was in the last shuttle as it followed the other five through the ignited plasma.

It took less then ten seconds to clear the plasma field and then we were weaving and twisting as each ship separated. The outer matrix exploded from the static charges leaving the shuttles more maneuverable. The first two shuttles suddenly exploded as incoming missiles streaked in.

The shuttles full ecom systems sprang to life and kicked out chafe, flares and decoys. I glanced at a tight lipped Ginger and opened my comm, “This is Pendragon, Red six is down.”

We dropped almost to the ground before accelerating towards what looked like a bunker complex with a small army around it. The shuttles fired missiles in volleys and the kinetic missiles screamed ahead to rip every piece of armor apart. Even the plasma generators were torn apart. The shuttles flared as they slowed suddenly and the troop ramps dropped.

Swords poured out with a roar as we killed anything still alive. I ran with the first platoon as we headed towards the bunker entrance. Six Thumpers fired and the armor rang but that was it. I glanced around before grabbing Lieutenant Mason, “The air shafts.”

He looked as I started towards the closest vent and blew the cover and fans off. I looked down the shaft before vaulting over and into it. I dropped and hit my anti grav harness to slow my descent. I dropped for almost three hundred meters before landing. I did not bother glancing up since I knew the others would be following me.

I kicked an access panel out and rolled out before spinning. I fired my MP14 on full auto and the small group of soldiers rushing towards me died. I changed the magazine as Lieutenant Mason and his platoon started coming out of the access panel. I started moving down the hallway and shot a soldier rushing around the corner in front of me.

I stopped at the corner and went around it as my rifle came up. The group of waiting soldiers fired and I was spun as a round went through my protection and into my shoulder. I fired Thumper in reaction and it exploded against the left wall tossing the soldiers and killing most of them. The Swords swept around me and down the hall killing the soldiers left alive.

I followed them and fired Thumper into a hidden panel as it opened behind them. It exploded and the soldiers inside were blown out. I continued to follow and listened as the rest of the Swords above finished securing the entrances. When I caught up to the main party of lieutenant Mason’s platoon they were looking at a screw type vault door.

I slapped one and point to the right, “go look for access panels of doors for the ventilation system.”

Another Sword grinned and moved the other way as I looked at the door and gestured the platoon back, “sometimes you have to think.”

I moved five meters to the right and fired Thumper into the wall. It blew a huge hole in the plasticrete and Lieutenant Mason laughed and barked an order that had each man move and start firing their Thumpers to make the hole deeper. Slowly the hole grew until I shifted and fired and left side of the hole blew out. Three Swords fired into the hole before I moved forward and went through.

Dust and smoke filled the huge chamber as I started moving into it. Swords filled the chamber and spread out beside me as we moved. Suddenly the air cleared and I fired my MP14 on auto across the enemy soldiers spread out across the chamber. I was not the only one, they were thrown back as we continued to fire and moved forward.

I walked through the bodies and bent to pull a woman to her feet by her hair. She was screaming as I spun her and slammed her into the wall before binding her hands behind her back, “shut the hell up before I tape your mouth shut.”

I turned and shoved her towards one of the sergeants, “lets go home.”

The way out was quicker as Lieutenant Mason pulled his platoon together. Lift ropes were waiting when we got to the air shaft. Ginger looked at me when I climbed out after the last man, “about time.”

I smiled, “let the admiral know we are on the way out.”

The company moved back into shuttles and they lifted and accelerated. I sat across from the duchess sobbing on the deck with a sergeant’s feet on her back. We brought her back and let her stand before her peers who sentenced her to death for treason. I earned another Distinguished Service Cross and of course a wound strip and on the nobles councils recommendation promoted to Light Colonel.

Chapter fifteen

Fighting Demons

I walked off the shuttle with returning men and women on leave. I crossed to the sergeant on the orders desks and slipped my ID tags across. She looked at me for a minute before touching them and then smiling, “the Demons have been waiting sir.”

I smiled, “so I was told sergeant.”

She handed the tags back, “My cousin top sergeant Samantha Morgan said you were nice.”

I looked her over, “how is Sam?”

She grinned, “suffering a term teaching the basic training course.”

I laughed and glanced back, “let her know I will ask for her when her tour is up.”

She laughed, “she would like that.”

I nodded and headed through the hatch. This time I was taking a battalion in fifth regiment called Fighting Demons. I headed towards the line units area and walked into the large regiment headquarters. I was wearing a class C uniform and stopped at the regiment duty sergeant’s desk. A senior sergeant looked up and smiled, “what can I do for your sir?”

I nodded to the commanders door, “I need to report.”

He sat back, “you are not in the proper uniform sir.”

I smiled, “he was notified sergeant.”

He nodded before touching the intercom, “Light Colonel England is here sir.”

“Send him in.”

I headed for the door and knocked before opening the hatch. Colonel Sarah Marie McCandless sat back and smiled as I approached the desk, “you are a bit of a disappointment colonel. You seem shorter then you should and you are not breathing fire and spitting bullets.”

I smiled, “I am saving up.”

She laughed and stood to lean over her desk and hold out her hand, “welcome to the fifth regiment.”

I nodded and shook her hand and she gestured to a chair, “your executive officer is on her way.”

I sat and leaned back, “I received a couple of briefs from her before I got here. The Demons are scheduled for an op?”

She sat and turned to bring up an operation holo above her desk, “hopefully it will be nothing more then a show of force. Fifth is headed out in one week to a twin sun system called Sirus. The eighth planet is mostly jungle with some nastys that have been causing problems. According to the settlement charter the colonist are restricted to a single continent. They claim they have but the Siruness say otherwise.”

She glanced at the door as a commander walked in, “We are going to land along the coast by the largest colony town. Your battalion will be to the north by a second town called Trollhome.”

She grinned, “named for what they thought the Siruness looked like.”

She glanced at the holo, “as you see the other battalions will occupy similar positions. We were warned to shut down all unshielded electronics when both suns are up.”

The colonel shut the holo down and looked at me, “we do not want incidents if they can be avoided but we do not back down if we are right.”

She rubbed her temples, “the problem is we do not know we are right.”

She waved, “go meet your people.”

I smiled and stood, “thank you.”

I followed the commander out of the regiment headquarters area and down a wide vehicle corridor. Commander Vicky Torres had been my pick for executive officer out of all the available officers in the regiment, she and Sergeant Major Duncan. I nodded to the six captains at attention when we walked into the battalion headquarters office.

I glanced at the almost tiny sergeant major talking to several top sergeants. I relaxed and gestured, “relax, as the sergeant major obviously knows I prefer a more relaxed atmosphere in barracks.”

I looked at each of the captains, “we can get together tonight at eighteen hundred to get to know each other. What I need right now is a training status of your company and do not pad it.”

I nodded to commander Torres and she waved, “back to work.”

The captains grinned and I headed for sergeant major Duncan with the commander beside me. She grinned as I stopped, “so the fifth’s hero returns.”

I smiled, “had to go someplace and the admiral said this was the only place that would be insane enough to want me.”

She laughed and turned, “meet my boys and girls.”

One week of paperwork and training and another in transit before I looked at the bright bluish green world of Sirus. I turned back to commander Torres as the regimental commander whispered in my ear, “time to earn our princely pay.”

She grinned as Duncan laughed and turned to nod to the comm tech, “go.”

Thirty five shuttles dropped away from the shadow of the carrier and joined the other sparkling clusters of ships heading towards the planet. My shuttle was the first down in my battalion and I walked off and glanced towards the small city of Trollhome. We were along the coast north of the city.

I slipped my new command holo glasses on and watched as the companies moved into place to form a perimeter. I waited for the sergeant major before starting towards the city. After my first meeting with the city mayor and his council I knew something shady was going on.

Trollhome was a coastal town barely fifty kilometers from another occupied continent the Siruness use for farming. It was eight hours before the second sun began to rise and most of our electronics would normally start to be effected.

I had talked to a couple of friends about the electronic interference and had each company shield their comms and scans, the rest of the electronics were shut down. Ten minutes into the double sun exposure the battalion comm sergeant contacted me, “Sir, we have several out going vessels from what looks like the city docks.”

I was eating dinner and set everything aside as I stood, “heading?”

The sergeant major stood with me as the sergeant answered, “northeast at about fifty kilometers per hour.”

I glanced at the sergeant major before opening a comm to colonel McCandless, “we may have something here colonel. Several surface vessels are headed out towards the continent to the northeast.”

There was a moment before she answered, “I am looking at your scan data and you may be right. The shuttles are shielded, send a company after the vessels and turn them back.”

I smiled as commander Torres began to give orders to our reserve company, “I will let you know what they were up to.”

“Try to intercept them before they reach land, we have sats reporting an increase in Siruness along the edge of that continent as well as the one to the southeast.”

I turned to watch my Delta company lift in their shuttles and accelerate after the surface vessels, “put the battalion on readiness alert amber sergeant major.”

She nodded and relayed the order. I glanced at commander Torres when she came in. I straightened when I saw the sudden surge of air vehicles lift from the other continent, “Go to red alert for a pending attack and get Delta back here.”

I turned and opened the comm to the colonel, “We have what looks like two regiments heading this way from the other continent.”

She was calm as she answered, “we have another three hitting us from the southeast. Hold if you can, I already sent out...”

There was static as the comm stopped. The scan tech looked at me, “there was an explosion at HQ.”

I fitted my command holo glasses, “sync up the grav screen generators. As soon as Delta is down bring them online.”

I looked at the sergeant major and commander Torres as I switched to the regimental command net, “this is Pendragon.”

It was quiet before a commander from the Wolves answered, “Commander Tibbs here, colonel Harris is dead and we have casualties.”

The others came on as our grav screen took the impact of several kinetic strikes. The reports were the same, all the battalion headquarters had been hit. I waited but colonel McCandless or her executive officer were either died or out of the picture, “alright get the damn grav screens up. Heavy weapons switch to marker fire. Commanders use your line troops to mark incoming vehicles for the heavies.”

I turned to Vicky, “take the battalion.”

She nodded and began barking orders as the sergeant major headed out. I followed with my rifle as I started updating the info into my command glasses, “Serpents use concentrated fire to overwhelm the Siruness. Paladins sweep the right flank with heavy weapons, you have a battalion trying to maneuver around you.”

I continued to give orders as I moved around. I had to kill a few Siruness when they broke through and pulled two of the battalions in the south together after they were hit hard. It seemed like forever before the second sun set and we had solid comms to the ships. I did not even have to think as I ordered large kinetic strikes on concentrated enemy positions as well as those massed along the edge of the two other continents.

I pushed a medic away when she tried to check a minor fragment wound in my shoulder, “treat the worst injured.”

I turned back to what I was doing, “Admiral Peters we need any air or surface vehicle taken out as soon as your scans have them. If possible I need your destroyers in close for a brush fire just outside our lines.”

He nodded calmly, “warn your people to keep their heads down colonel.”

I smiled grimly, “they already are sir.”

It was a couple of minutes before plasma rained down just outside our perimeter. I could see the same thing happening to the south around the other battalions. I nodded as the fighting almost stopped completely, “okay, now sir if you would, I need a small kinetic strike on the southern continent. The target will be the royal Siruness cave complex at Mount Dragon.”

The admiral hesitated and then nodded, “I see what you are doing, very well.”

An hour later the Siruness retreated and I let them go, “consolidate and send your shuttles up with the wounded and dead. Have them start resupply protocols including all the regiment powered armor.”

I nodded to the sergeant major as she started barking orders to the battalion supply clerks, “I need a star comm to Fleet Admiral McGuines.”

I saw the comm light flicker in my glasses, “This is Light Colonel England in command of the fifth, I need to speak with Admiral McGuines.”

“Report colonel.”

I sat as the medic was back trying to open my battle vest, “sir we came under attack by the Siruness after several surface vehicles headed towards one of their continents. We have moderate casualties and are consolidating. I ordered a kinetic strike on the royal Siruness cave complex at Mount Dragon to convince they to pull back. I am resupplying and bringing our combat armor down. I would like permission to take the fight to them if hostilities resume.”

He chuckled, “just hold colonel. The second and fourth will be there within two days with a battalion of Marauders from the ninth. Use what force you deem necessary to protect your people until they reach you.”

I flinched as the medic probed my wound and pulled the shrapnel out, “understood sir.”

The comm light died and I glanced around as shuttles started lifting, “Vicky?”

She appeared a moment later, “sir?”

I nodded to the city, “Go find out who and why those vehicles violated Siruness territory.”

She nodded grimly, “my pleasure sir.”

I smiled and started putting my shirt and gear back on as the medic left, “I need a complete status commanders and someone find out what happened to colonel McCandless.”

It was almost three days before we were relieved. The Siruness remained on their continents but built up their forces. Colonel McCandless and half her staff were alive but wounded. For my actions I was given another Wounded Lion and of course another wound strip. I also continued to command Fifth for another three months before being relieved.

Chapter sixteen

Retrieval

I glanced at the hatch as sergeant major Patricia Golden walked in, “something?”

She smiled, “looking for an excuse to flee the paperwork?”

I grinned and sat back, “Now that you mention it, yes.”

She laughed as she crossed to the desk and set a sealed packet on the desk, “a warning notice.”

I picked it up and broke the seal before opening it. I read it and looked at Patricia, “looks like the eighth is going to Antilla.”

She nodded, “Just us?”

I shook my head, “The sixth and third will be joining us. The emperor wants a reprisal raid on the queen’s nest.”

Patricia sucked in a breath, “that is going to get messy.”

The Quazel were an insect race and very aggressive. Two weeks before they had moved into a system we claimed and destroyed several stations and used kinetic strikes to take out the only city. I had been commanding the eighth regiment for almost fourth months and this was our first major action.

I leaned back, “let Beckman know and set up a briefing for the battalion commanders later tonight. I need to look this over before I have my lunch with Fleet Admiral Kreager.”

Patricia nodded, “I will get with supply too.”

I went back to reading as she left. The operation was simple, eighth dropped first with Sixth on our left flank and third on the right. We move straight for the queen’s nest and attempt to send a battalion down to kill the queen while sixth takes out the starport and third the warriors hive. The entire regiment was going in wearing the new fleet issue combat armor.

The three fleets jumped into the system and the destroyers and cruisers accelerated to meet the Quazel warships in the system with three battleships following. The carriers were behind the battleships but sent out waves of tach fighters. I watched most of the action on the bridge with admiral Kreager before checking the time and headed to the shuttles.

I walked aboard my shuttle and nodded to the crew chief, “button up and let the captain know we are ready for launch.”

She smiled and turned to the intercom as her other hand started closing the hatch. Patricia grinned as I began stripping and putting the new combat armor on. My helmet visor was like the new command glasses. I did a system check as I settled my swift and the Denta assault rifle. I had extra ammo just in case things went bad. I felt the shuttle launch as I started regiment status checks and moved to the battalions.

To protect the shuttles we were jumping in using capsules. I settled into mine as we headed towards the planet ahead of the other regiments. My visor flickered and admiral Kreager appeared, “all the ships have been destroyed and we still have a go.”

I smiled, “Your turn to buy the drinks when we get back.”

He grinned, “you can put them on my tab for all your boys and girls.”

I glanced at our position as he turned away, “looks like we are coming up on the ejection point.”

I flicked the regiment comm channel, “see you on the ground eighth.”

I saw the red light go green as the admiral turned back and opened his mouth. My capsule exploded down the drop shoot, “ABORT!”

I glanced at my readouts but no other capsules followed mine. I looked back at the white faced admiral, “status?”

His lips were thin, “plasma generators.”

I glanced at my heat shield status, command capsules had triple redundant heat shields. I switched to the regiment comm, “colonel Beckman you are in charge.”

He nodded as plasma surrounded my capsule and cut the comm signal. I bypassed the anti grav program to keep it from going active and armed the outer heat shield charges. When they fractured and began splintering I detonated the outer shell and the second began heating up. I dialed up the suit coolers as it started to get warm and watched the atmosphere altitude.

I detonated the second shell away as I passed through the plasma layer and activated the anti grav systems to slow me. My comm came alive as I rotated the capsule to look around, “Pendragon?”

I smiled as my capsule slowed enough for me to detonate the last heat shield, “still here colonel. Check with the admiral and try to use kinetic strikes on the plasma generators.”

I checked my altitude before detonating the capsule and stretching out, “I will see what I can do while you work on retrieval.”

I kicked up the scan image from below and started gliding to the north. I finally touched down and shut the anti gravs down and a platoon of Quazel rushed out of the thick underbrush. I lifted my rifle as I knelt and shot the first four through their thorax. I shifted my fire to one that had bright color on its body chiton. His head exploded and I went back to the closest warriors.

I stood after the last one died and started moving. I knew if I hit the queen’s hive every warrior on the planet would be focused on it. I killed several warriors as I moved and it was not long before I was using Thumper on groups of them. When they moved away I started moving faster, a minute later heavy weapon fire began ripping the brush and trees apart.

The command suit was enhanced more than normal so it was not long before I was out of the impact area and still moving. Troop transports dropped down between me and one of the hive entrances. Rounds from Thumper exploded each before the warriors could exit and showered those on the ground with debris. In the confusion I dropped into a smaller entrance.

Drones moved through the other tunnels as I tried to stay out of their way to avoid drawing attention. I used another smaller tunnel and found a tunnel down. I checked each level as I went and finally saw warriors standing guard. That told me I had reached a level that might have the queen. When I checked lower I saw what could only be eggs in niches.

I smiled as I stayed in shadows and moved towards the center of the level. I watched from a wall niche as workers brought eggs down and moved them into tunnels. I timed it and moved right after an egg was carried out. I climbed up and glanced into a huge chamber with guards around the walls and workers around a large Quazel in the middle.

I pulled Thumper and aimed, before I could fire a worker saw me and squeaked. The warriors moved with blinding speed and fired towards the tunnel. I jerked as a tearing pain ripped through my shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The queen and all the workers that had suddenly thrown themselves on her were ripped apart in the explosion.

The warriors attacking me stumbled around firing at each other as I dropped and rolled. I was up and running for the other tunnel I had used to enter the hive. Climbing one handed was not easy but I finally made it to the level I had climbed down from. I used the suit mapping to retrace my steps as workers stumbled around blindly.

When I walked outside it was to see warriors fighting each other. I checked my map before moving around them slowly, staying low. When I was clear I started moving faster, my suit had administered a pain block for my shoulder as the suit nanites began working to repair the hole a penetrator had put in it.

I headed south towards the starport, “colonel Beckman?”

His voice sounded surprised, “SIR!”

I smiled as I used the suit augmentation to make anti grav leaps, “let the admiral know the queen is dead. I am moving towards the starport now.”

“Damn sir, when your signal stopped we thought you were killed.”

I glanced around, “It was close, all the warriors are shooting anything that is moving and the drones can not seem to do anything.”

“Copy, how long to reach the starport?”

I check my readouts, “thirty minutes unless something develops.”

He cleared his throat, “the plasma generators are linked through the starport.”

I sighed, “more good news. Okay I will see what I can do.”

I continued moving using anti grav leaps until I finally saw the starport. I dropped to the ground at the sight of soldiers around it firing at anything and everything. I moved closer on the ground and then grinned as a plan formed. I using shallow gullies and ditches to crawl through the perimeter and then moved to a huge plasma generator.

I moved around and stood before firing at several soldiers from the very edge. I dropped and began crawling away as they returned fire on the generator which caused other soldiers to join in. Three hours later the last plasma generator exploded and I used Thumper on the relay beside it. After it exploding I opened my comm, “how does it look now colonel?”

“Clear. Eighth is entering atmosphere now.”

I looked around, “just don not land on me. I will be waiting where the plasma relay used to be.”

He laughed, “see you in a few sir.”

Ten minutes later small kinetic strikes tore the soldiers around the starport apart just before dozens of assault shuttles flew in and landed. I watched as my men and women poured out and started moving to clear the perimeter. I smiled as sergeant major Golden walked out of the first shuttle and glanced around before heading towards me.

She snorted when she reached me, “Just the one injury?”

I grinned, “good to see you again too.”

She turned, “the admiral said the drinks are on him.”

I nodded and turned as colonel Beckman walked up with my staff, “I will keep observing colonel.”

He nodded and gestured back towards the shuttles, “since you managed to do our job this was just a retrieval mission.”

I grinned and started for the shuttles, “in that case tell our people I am ready to buy the first round. Admiral Kreager can buy the second.”

Chapter seventeen

Diplomat’s solution

I glanced at Patricia as I straightened my uniform, “its been fun.”

She was leaning against the hatch, “at least they let you stay a full two years this time.”

I snorted, “after I told fleet admiral Kreager I would refuse the imperial star if they moved me?”

She grinned, “but the emperor would not let you turn down the promotion.”

I brushed the Brigadier General’s emblems I had worn since returning from Antilla, “he has a bigger stick to threaten me with.”

Sam laughed, “you never said what that was either.”

I smiled as I started for the hatch, “lets just say it involves watching his son and leave it at that.”

She grinned, “changing diapers?”

I stopped, “see you next time?”

She kissed me before slipping away, “watch your back Pendragon.”

I watched her walk away before leaving. I had my farewell dinner the night before but walked into the hanger bay to the sound of the regiment being called to attention. The shuttle took me out to a battleship that already had my things. I swam the weightless tube from the shuttle into the ship and saluted the lieutenant that was waiting, “permission to come aboard.”

He grinned, “granted.”

I headed through the hatch as he fell in beside me, “the captain asked if you would join her on the bridge.”

I glanced at him, “My adjutant and assistant?”

He gestured through the next hatch, “already aboard.”

I nodded and stopped at the ship tram, the battleship was almost as large as a carrier. When the tram stopped I stepped out and headed across to an open hatch. I walked in and a senior sergeant barked, “Attention!”

I continued towards the captain as I growled, “as you were.”

The captain grinned, “nice to see you sir.”

I shook his hand, “how much longer before we can head out?”

He turned back to the plot, “we are moving out now.”

He glanced at me, “why a full fleet of warships to escort you to a friendly?”

I grinned, “it shows the Dentians how much the emperor trusts and respects me.”

He nodded, “we have two weeks before we arrive.”

I glanced at the plot, “Is Admiral Davis in CIC?”

The captain nodded, “she said she expects you to join her for dinner. Formal uniform is mandatory.”

I shook my head, “I will break it out.”

He laughed and I turned for the hatch. The lieutenant escorted me out and down to a large set of rooms. I closed the hatch and a senior sergeant stuck her head out, “Sir?”

I grinned, “Sergeant would you be so kind as to see if my bags are around somewhere?”

She grinned, “already unpacked and your formal uniform has been cleaned and pressed.”

I headed for the desk, “I assume you know when the admiral is expecting us?”

She nodded, “you have ten hours.”

I sat behind the desk, “where is Captain McCartney?”

She looked into the other room, “trying not to pound on her comp.”

I grinned, “Ginger!”

Ginger had gone through a few brush fires and been given a field promotion. Not even a year later she was promoted and then promoted again just a month ago. I pulled up my mission brief as the newly promoted Junior Captain Ginger McCartney walked out, “why the hell did you ask for me?”

I started reading and smiled, “because one or more of the Dentian females will wish to flex their muscle. You and I have spared many times and are more than capable of holding your own or beating them.”

I looked at her, “and more importantly if I do it I will have to hurt them severally or kill them.”

She sighed and sat on the edge of my desk, “so why ask the emperor for an envoy?”

I sat back, “because for only the third time in their history they are expanding. One of the planets we have started to settle has less than a thousand people. They wish to purchase the planet.”

Ginger looked at senior sergeant Elizabeth Ambrosia, “the Emperor would have nobles up in arms if he sold a planet.”

I grinned, “true but there are a few things they do not know.”

I looked at the sergeant, “would you bring in some coffee and make sure you have a cup too.”

It was a couple of minutes before I sipped and looked at Ginger and the sergeant, “Senta system is not listed under the imperial charter yet which means it belongs to the emperor and not the empire.”

I sat back, “in other words he can sell it without the nobles screaming.”

I sighed, “the problem is doing it in such a way that it does not look like we are selling it.”

Ginger frowned, “I do not understand.”

I smiled, “Dentians are and have always been our ally but they are extremely militant in their views. The queen can not be seen as weak by simply purchasing the planet.”

They shook their heads and I sat up, “this is not going to be easy. The emperor has already authorized me to proceed with the purchase. WE just need to find the right currency the Dentians will pay.”

I smiled, “I have put together an initial brief I want you both to read. Tomorrow at nine we will sit down and go over everything before we try to find something they can use that will not insult them.”

I gestured, “go read the brief.”

I turned to review the ceremony I would have to endure when I reached Denta. I think the admiral enjoyed the way her officers reacted to me in formal uniform because she did it almost every evening. Fleet Admiral Cearlock was more tolerant and let me wear utilities. The shuttle down was empty except for me, Ginger and senior sergeant Ambrosia and our bags.

I let the senior sergeant take care of the bags as we walked off and found a small party of Dentians waiting. I ignored all but one as I recognized her by the thick human style collar necklace. I walked to her and grinned as I ignored bows to hug her, “I have missed you greatly momma.”

She embraced me and squeezed before pushing me back, “you still look thin daughterson.”

I looked at the others before looking at her, “excuse me?”

She nodded and I turned, “well met warriors.”

One snorted and another sneered, “frail human customs?”

Momma Trasel growled as I held out hand to stop Ginger from challenging, “I believe it is customary for a pupil to greet his mentor and teacher before any other. Have the Dentian warriors lost their respect for their mentors?”

The females eyes narrowed, “you dare...”

An older female slapped her hard enough to rock her back, “quiet! You have caused enough disrespect.”

The older warrior bowed, “great warrior we acknowledge your wish to respect your teacher.”

She smiled with her teeth showing, “on behalf of our queen we greet you and your companions.”

I bowed, “have you arranged a contest?”

She laughed as the others shifted, “Your teacher has brought one of her elder daughters.”

I smiled and glanced at Ginger, “I hope you are ready Ginger. My clan sister will be very good.”

She grinned as she looked at momma Trasel, “I am always ready for a good fight.”

Momma grinned and turned to gesture. Ginger was wearing a utility uniform and moved past me and then around Momma Trasel as I followed. The bare marked off area had warriors around the edge with space for the Dentians with me. Ginger walked to the center and stretched before looking around. The large Dentian female that walked in almost looked like her mother.

She grinned at me before bowing to Ginger. A second later she leaped and the fight began. Ginger turned and slid back as she caught a wrist and twisted before snapping a kick. Momma Trasel growled, “she is a fast one.”

I grinned as I looked at her, “we have fought many battles.”

She grinned as my clan sister attacked again, “she has fought you?”

I nodded, “many, many times.”

It was ten minutes before Ginger and my clan sister stepped back from each other as they grinned. The old warrior stepped into the challenge area, “your emperor has truly sent a worthy warrior.”

The warrior that had made the comment about frail human customs growled, “let the male fight.”

The warriors looked at her and the old ones growled. I sighed and began to remove my dress coat, “face me if you dare warrior.”

I walked towards Ginger and handed her my coat and then the weapon belt with my Swift and knife, “hold this?”

She hesitated before nodding and accepting it. As she walked to the side the warrior strode towards me, “Now you will face a real warrior.”

I smiled, “I have faced those better than you a thousand times.”

She lunged with her hands and claws reaching for me. I slid straight back as I caught a hand and twisted it out and back. I turned as she twisted with her wrist and fell. I snapped a kick that cracked ribs before switching hands and twisting the wrist I held the other way. She screamed and was jerked back while trying to kick out. I shifted and moved as I yanked on her wrist and snapped another hard kick down to break a knee.

I let her go and stepped back, “you are slow. Your teacher should have beaten you more.”

I turned to walk towards Ginger as the warrior continued to struggle on the ground. I nodded to the older warrior and she actually grinned, “well done warrior.”

I replaced my weapon belt and then my coat as Momma Trasel slapped my shoulder, “you have gotten better.”

I grinned, “if you have time I would enjoy practicing with you.”

She nodded, “come to the clan arena.”

I was led to a vehicle and we were taken to a huge dinner where most of the food was meat and raw. The drink was strong which is why Ginger and I drank water. After dinner we were able to retire and found the senior sergeant waiting outside in a diplomat’s vehicle. She grinned, “the ambassador is waiting.”

I nodded and sat back, “my sister gave as good as she got.”

Ginger rubbed her ribs, “it was like sparing with you only you were larger and did not pull your punches.”

I grinned, “My clan sister is one of the few who have won the planetary championship three times in a row. She has three mates she won as well as a forth won in a private match. I am sure she would accept your call if you need a private sparing partner while we are here.”

Ginger grinned, “I just might.”

The ambassador was like most high nobles and had his own idea on how to make a deal with the Dentians. He thought I was just here as a figurehead while he made the deal. He had only been here a year and thought he knew everything.

I stood after he finished talking, “first I am here on the direct orders of the emperor. His commands were very clear on what I was to do and they do not include letting you embarrass us or make an enemy of the Dentians.”

I turned to the door and opened it before looking at the red faced ambassador, “Fleet Admiral Cearlock will be contacting you. She has your replacement aboard the carrier and will be taking you home at the Dentians request.”

I walked out and headed back to the vehicle. The large estate we were staying at was the royal grounds for the queen. A well dressed human met us when we stopped and got out. He grinned and held out his hand, “Well met general. Your first impression made the queen very happy.”

I shook his hand and he turned to Ginger and clasped her hand with both of his, “her majesty would consider it an honor if you would consent to joining her in her study captain.”

I raised an eyebrow and Ginger grinned, “without males present no doubt.”

The man grinned, “she was very... surprise at your challenge fight.”

He looked at me, “her majesty wishes to express her thanks for not making your fight to the death. Gretchas is and has always been outspoken in her attitude towards your people and our alliance.”

I smiled, “the rude warrior that challenged me?”

He nodded, “a distance niece.”

I shrugged, “tell her majesty I do not fault a child unless it does not learn from its mistakes.”

He smiled and turned to gesture, “your sergeant can show you to your suite.”

I grinned at Ginger, “I am going to Trasel arena in the morning.”

She laughed as I walked away with the senior sergeant. The suite was more than spacious with huge Dentian size couches and chairs. I started taking my uniform off as soon as the door closed, “I hope we have no more surprises sergeant.”

She chuckled as she headed towards a side door, “Dinner will be in an hour.”

In my very large bedroom I changed into comfortable pants and shirt before hesitating and slipping the Swift on the belt in the small of my back. I went back to the center room with my comp reader and sat to review what I was going to propose to the queen. I glanced up when the door opened and two Dentian males walked in.

One smiled and looked around as he growled, “we were looking for general England?”

I set the reader aside, “you found him.”

He looked at me and then the other moved towards a chair across from me, “you do not look ten feet tall.”

I smiled, “that is only when I am in uniform. How may I assist you?”

The first sat and leaned forward, “our mate asked us to speak with you privately. She does not wish any embarrassing... political remarks when she speaks to you.”

I smiled as I relaxed and sat back, “by political you mean conditions for your people to purchase the planet.”

They looked at each other and I shook my head, “I will not discuss what I intend to speak with your queen about. I will say Momma Trasel taught me more then how to fight.”

I looked at the senior sergeant when she poked her head in and shook mine before she nodded and vanished. I looked at the two across from me, “I may be a male and an alien but I will honor your people and not insult them.”

They nodded and stood before walking towards the door. I had stood with them and was walking beside them when the door smashed open and four huge Helos soldiers burst in. I shoved one of the males into the other as I pulled the Swift and shot the first through the face. A bullet smashed into my shoulder and spun me but I managed to kill a second with two shots through the body before I fell.

I rolled with the impact, ignoring the burning tearing pain I had felt many times and came to a knee to shoot the third Helos soldiers as it aimed a weapon at one of the two Dentian males. The fourth had been aiming at me but fired low and I was twisted and thrown back to the floor by the bullet hitting my hip. I fired three times as I lay back and there were two more shots from the side door where senior sergeant Ambrosia emerged.

I glanced at her, “keep the males safe at all cost until they are back with their mate safe.”

She hesitated before nodding and I looked at the open door as a squad of Dentian place guards rushed in. I lay back and closed my eyes, “just what we need.”

I blinked as I thought about my words as a guard knelt to check me. I woke to warm blankets and Ginger sitting beside me. I smiled, “you look better then the last intel officer to debrief me.”

She smiled, “The attack was not aimed at you. Two of the queen’s other mates were killed and a squad attacked the queen.”

I looked at her and she grinned, “I learned from the best and killed them.”

I nodded and looked up as I thought, “I think this is going to work for us.”

Ginger cleared her throat and I smiled as I sat up, “where is my uniform?”

She stood, “damn it Author you are supposed to stay in bed.”

I smiled, “The Dentians are going to want to go after Helos and their new emperor.”

I looked at her and grinned, “we are going to get two birds with one stone.”

Ginger sighed and turned to a closet. Five minutes later I was walking out... well limping out. Senior sergeant Ambrose was outside the palace medic suite in full combat gear. I smiled but continued through the palace using the palace map. I nodded to the four large armed warriors guarding the throne room door as I continued walking.

One stepped forward and growled, “you do not have permission human.”

I looked up into her eyes and growled back, “I was attacked and shot protecting your queen’s mates. I will speak with her now warrior or I will break your neck and your line will end.”

It hesitated as it looked at me before looking at the others. I stepped closer, “I am Author England and a full clan daughterson of Trasel clan. Move or face me.”

She stepped aside and I shoved the doors open to hear arguing from the other end of the huge room. Ginger and the sergeant followed as I walked the length of the room before shoving Dentian nobles out of my way as I moved through them. The queen straightened and growled when I pushed through in front of her.

I ignored it as I faced her, “a wound for a wound.”

She blinked and nodded for me to speak. I ignored the others, “you wish the planet?”

She growled and I answered it with one of my own, “do you wish the planet?”

She nodded and I stepped close, “Helos has attacked the emperor’s voice here as well as you. Give me an alliance and the planet is yours.”

I spun at the clawed hand on my shoulder and grabbed, twisted and snapped a kick that kicked the leg out from under the noble. I looked at the other nobles, “shut up or leave.”

I turned back to the queen, “we want an alliance to send a clear message to Helos. It will include a combined task group of warriors to kill their new emperor and shatter their military. After that we want a small joint fleet of Dentian and human warships to patrol the system. They will allow no Helos ships to ever leave the planet or land.”

The queen grinned showing her teeth, “who leads?”

I grinned back, “Captain McCartney will lead the humans on the planet. The fleet Admiral will be decided by you.”

She nodded and held out her clawed hand, “done.”

I clasped her wrist and ignored the pain as her claws slipped into my arm. She let me go and looked around, “Trasel clan leader.”

I turned to see an older Dentian much like Momma Trasel as she pushed her way through the crowd, “Your highness?”

The queen grinned, “your clan daughterson has brought great honor to your clan. Your clan will lead our warriors and my new adopted daughter will lead you.”

She looked past me to Ginger and grinned, “my pleasure.”

I nodded, “I need a secure comm link to the fleet insystem your majesty.”

She turned and gestured to the warrior behind her, “take him to the comm room and then my study.”

I glanced at Ginger, “see you when you are free.”

She nodded, “find out who commands the Recon company.”

I smiled and turned to follow the warrior. First was the warning comm to fleet admiral Cearlock and then the long star comm to the emperor. He had already been informed of the attack and sat back when I explained the agreement I had made and nodded, “I will send fleet admiral Cearlock her new orders. Tell Captain McCartney to shoot the bastard once for me.”

I smiled, “I am sure she will put more than one in him.”

He sighed, “well done Author. Stay until you hear how it went and then come home.”

He cut the comm and I called admiral Cearlock back.

Chapter eighteen

Fleet action

It was a year after the attack on the Dentian queen that I finally left. Captain McCartney was headed out to take over a Marauder company and top sergeant Ambrosia was going with her. I was headed for the fleet academy after accepting a transfer into fleet for a six month ship handling course and then out to take over the carrier Honor.

I brushed the cuff rings on my dress uniform and nodded to my aid. Lieutenant Jenks grinned before heading for the hatch. He stopped to let me go out first and the bosan’s pipes sounded as I heard the ship called to attention. I walked down and stepped onto the deck before saluting the ship’s crest and then the colonel that wore the ship captain’s braid, “permission to come aboard.”

This was not normal ship procedure for me but since my promotion to admiral I had learned to accept it. The colonel returned my salute, “permission granted.”

He turned to walk with me as I crossed to fleet admiral Sinclare. I saluted and she returned it before turning to face the men still at attention, “Your crew admiral.”

We had learned long ago not to over extend the crews patients. I smiled and gave a short speech before dismissing them. I looked at admiral Sinclare and she grinned, “not to bad Author.”

I grinned, “thanks.”

She gestured and we started for the distant hatch, “actually I needed to speak with you.”

I glanced at her, “that bad already?”

She shook her head, “Admiral’s Day and Delgot both had emergencies and admiral Telis was reassigned out of her rotation. That left me with admiral Michaels but he was just promoted off the list and is heading out as we speak.”

She looked at me, “that leaves me with you as the only other admiral in third fleet until I get replacements.”

I nodded to a squad of soldiers as they came to attention, “you expecting action?”

She smiled, “no but we are in route to Deablo and there has been little heard out of the system. On top of that you seem to attract trouble.”

I grinned, “this time I am safe aboard ship.”

She snorted and then laughed, “that is what worries me.”

Her unmeant words of prediction came true not long after the fleet jumped into Deablo. Admiral Sinclare was aboard the battleship Douglas when the unpowered Spider fleet fired massive volleys of missiles and ship killers. I was on the bridge standing beside the captain as he jerked to his feet, “GENERAL QUARTER!”

I remember reading a memo on a new ship installation, “Ensign Davis please activate the gravity shield generators and bring them to full power.”

The captain looked at me and then grinned as I turned and opened my comm, “Flight... get the ready squadron out.”

There was a gasp and I looked back to see the Douglas explode. I spun and started for CIC, “comm... switch to fleet command. I want all gravity shield generators on and at full power. Bring the cruisers and destroyers to the left flank. All ships are to fire at will.”

I walked into the noisy CIC, “Log comm... get the support ships back and away.”

I moved to my chair as the ship shook from impacts of the grav shield, “Nav... plot a course to break contact.”

I brought up all my holo displays, “Tactics... find their command ship and concentrate fire on it.”

I look at the busy section at the back of the room, “Damage control... I need reports.”

A new display spray up and I took a moment to look at it before looking at the comm section, “get me a comm to fleet headquarters.”

Out of all the ships, we had lost the battleship, a pair of cruisers and three destroyers as well as a single corvette. Everyone else had remembered the new gravity shield generators. I sat back and tried to look calm, “flight.”

“Flight here.”

I glanced at the updating enemy ship information, “load heavy with comet missiles and put every bird you have out.”

“Aye sir!”

I leaned forward to touch a ship in the display, “comm... tell the Horizon to pull back behind us.”

“We have the command ship sir!”

I slid out of my chair and stepped up to the huge holo tank, “all ships are to consider it the primary target.”

I turned as a thousand sparks swarmed out of the Honor and spread out and my comm came to life, “Admiral England?”

I sat and looked at the old fleet admiral in the holo, “we have lost the Douglas, two cruisers, three destroyers and a corvette. Fleet admiral Sinclare was aboard the Douglas when she was destroyed and I am in command. We face a single Spider nest fleet with support.”

I glanced at the center holo as several men cheered, “comm... signal the fleet to switch to the two scorpion class battleships.”

I looked at the admiral as the carrier shook again, “the good news is the gravity shield generators work.”

He nodded as he worked a keyboard, “Second and Seventh are close and in transit. It will take less then a day for them to reach your system so hold on.”

I nodded and glanced at another display, “comm... have the Tiger join Horizon. Tell their captains to expedite repairs.”

I looked at the admiral, “we better do more than stick them for this.”

He smiled, “I will let the emperor know you are pissed.”

The holo display vanished as one of the two enemy battleships exploded. I nodded, “Tactics... get me a priority ship list. Comm... relay to the fleet to switch to the last scorpion. Also get those two corvettes behind us.”

The battle raged for an hour as one by one we destroyed every ship. We lost another cruiser, a destroyer and two corvettes as well as thirty fighters before it ended. I sat back and looked at colonel Peters in the ships holo display, “set course for Deablo four.”

He nodded as I looked around, “comm... send to all ship. Good job.”

I looked towards the nav section, “nav... have the fleet match our course.”

I looked at the system holo display, “tactics... get a few corvettes and destroyers out in front of us and tell them to keep their eyes open.”

I relaxed, “log comm... have the support ships start searching for survivors.”

I glanced across the room as the CIC hatch opened and general Samuels walked in. I grinned and waved and he crossed to me, “our turn?”

I nodded, “more than likely the spiders have invaded Deablo four. I will need an ops plan as soon as you have it.”

He nodded, “how bad did we get hit?”

I looked at damage control, “we lost the Douglas, three cruisers, four destroyers and three corvettes.”

I looked at him, “we also lost thirty fighters.”

He nodded, “it could have been a lot worse if we did not have those new gravity shield generators.”

I gestured, “get me a battle plan.”

He headed for the hatch and I glanced at my aid, “Lieutenant Jenks... please send refreshments to the squadrons with my thanks.”

He grinned and turned to his comm as I looked at after action reports pouring in from damaged ships. I glanced at the data flowing in from the other ships, “Scan... have the forward screen light up every planet, moon and asteroid between here and Deablo four. I want everything mapped before we get close enough for missiles to fire at us.”

I looked at the comm section, “comm... send the after action damage report back to fleet headquarters. Request repair and maintenance ships to join us.”

I glanced at the holo of colonel Peters in the chair holo display, “how is she doing captain?”

He grinned, “in the green.”

I nodded, “keep your people at general quarters until we are in orbit around Deablo four.”

He nodded and I went back to watching the CIC holo plot. I sat up when the forward ship scans started coming in, “tactics... what are those anomalies on that moon?”

A moment later the dots turned red, “spider missile launch platforms!”

I stood, “tactics... order kinetic missiles from the Abraham and Winston. Nav... get those corvettes and destroyers back and out of range. Comm... tell the Malory to send all his recon drones ahead using active scans.”

I moved to the huge holographic, “what are these bastards doing? They have never used missile platforms before.”

More missile platforms appeared on isolated asteroids as the ones on the moon were destroyed. I shook my head, “tactics... rotate the cruisers forward to engage any platforms.”

The sudden appearance of a second fleet moving out from Deablo four lit up the holo. I spun, “nav... send to all ship, reverse course.”

I sat in my chair, “flight... get every bird you have loaded and fueled.”

I knew better then to look worried and glanced at lieutenant Jenks, “Lieutenant Jenks would you have the cook make me a cup of tea?”

He grinned, “aye sir.”

I looked at the holo again, “scan... do we have details on their ships?”

“It looks like two command ships and four battleships with a dozen cruisers and twice as many destroyers.”

I looked at their course before smiling, “tactic... have every ship commence firing. I want the fire split between the two command ships.”

I looked at the commander that turned towards me, “they are beyond range sir.”

I sighed, “commander... the warhead on a kinetic missile will not detonate until impact. The missile track will disappear when it stops accelerating and goes ballistic. The spider fleet is maintaining a straight in course so do the math and fire the missiles.”

He blushed and nodded before turning to issue orders. I smiled, “log comm... warn the support ships and get them moving out.”

I watched the missile traces until they vanished and waited, “systems... would you add projected missile courses for us.”

Ghost lines replaced the missile traces and minutes later I sat up as both spider command ships vanished in huge explosions, “tactics... switch targeting to the battleships.”

I glanced at the comm section and the commander turned to look at me, “sir the destroyers have emptied their magazines and the cruisers are close to doing the same thing.”

I thought and then smiled, “log comm... have the support ships hold position and start kicking reload magazines out with marker beacons. Nav... orders to the fleet, change course to two seven zero relative and execute nav plan whiskey. Have the destroyers head to the support ships to resupply. When the cruisers go bingo ammo they are to follow.”

I looked at colonel Peters, “how are your magazines?”

He grinned, “we are at fifty percent.”

I turned to watch two of the battleships explode, “nav... how long before they are in range and can engage?”

“Twenty minutes sir.”

I accepted the cup of tea from lieutenant Jenks, “comm... rely an update to fleet headquarters on this new enemy fleet.”

I took a sip of tea and nodded to Jinks before looking at the holo, “flight... when the enemy reaches engagement range send your people out.”

I smiled as a half dozen cruisers and destroyers in the spider fleet vanished in explosions. There were more explosions on the last two battleships causing them to slow, “it looks like it may take them longer to reach us.”

I finally shook my head, “tactics... have the fleet hold fire. Comm... tell the cruisers to resupply. Nav... what is their time to engagement now?”

“Three hours sir.”

I smiled, “flight... tell your people to relax. The spiders seem to be taking their sweet time.”

An hour later I sighed, “captain Peters... you might want to rotate and feed your people while we have time.”

He grinned and turned to issue orders and awhile later lieutenant Jenks handed me another cup of tea. It was another hour before the commander at the scan section turned, “the battleships have picked up speed.”

I handed the empty cup to lieutenant Jenks, “what is the time to engagement?”

“Thirty minutes sir.”

I nodded and looked at the comm section as the commander turned, “yes?”

She grinned, “the destroyers are resupplied and heading towards the rear of the spider fleet.”

I smiled, “tactics... let the destroyers know to wait to engage until the enemy has engaged us.”

Thirty minutes later I straightened as the spider fleet suddenly accelerated, “Tatics... all ships are to engage the two battleships. Flight... launch your fighters.”

I moved to the holo, “they are getting sneakier.”

A huge shifting on the edge of the holo in front of us had me turning to the scan section, “what is it?”

The commander turned, “it looks like a fleet jumping in.”

I waited and a second later nodded as fleet icons appeared, “comm... get me the seventh fleet commander.”

I moved back to my chair and smiled when one of the spider battleships exploded along with several destroyers. The holo of Fleet Admiral Megan appeared, “looks like you are having a little excitement Admiral.”

I smiled, “just a bit.”

I looked around CIC, “systems... send an intel packet to the Jones.”

I looked at admiral Megan, “my corvettes are empty and just running as a screen. My destroyers have resupplied and are engaging at the rear of their fleet. The cruisers are expediting their resupply and my carrier is down to a quarter of her magazine.”

She nodded and glanced away, “we will be engaging in ten minutes at our rate of closure.”

I nodded and glanced at the holo as the last spider battleship disappeared, “it looks like we are down to smaller ships.”

It was several minutes before admiral Megan looked at me, “change course to one eight zero by two four five.”

I nodded, “Nav... fleet course change to one eight zero by two four five and stand by for Seventh to merge.”

Four days later I was standing beside the hospital bed, “I am glad we found your life pod.”

Admiral Sinclare grinned, “I was lucky Commander Jensen tossed me over his shoulder on his way to the life pod.”

She sighed and looked at me, “I will have a few questions to answer on why the Douglas and the others did not use the new gravity shield generators. I have also reviewed your actions during the time you commanded the fleet. You were very good and I will be endorsing your actions to the review board.”

Chapter nineteen

Saving Alliance hostages

I walked aboard the Herald and ignored the pipes and the call to attention as I continued towards fleet admiral Darren. He saluted and I returned it, “permission to come aboard.”

He smiled, “granted.”

I glanced at the men and women in formation and smiled, “dismissed.”

I gestured and he turned to walk with me, “so the emperor is sending a Fleet Admiral to the alliance council this year.”

I shrugged, “since he did not have a command for me the council wanted to use me.”

He nodded, “trying to gain favor.”

I grinned, “they could have given me an aid or a staff but I escaped before they thought about it.”

He laughed and moved to sit in a ship tram car, “So what is on the agenda this year?”

I sat and leaned back as the car started moving, “the Tro.”

He snorted, “they still complaining because we will not give them a fleet?”

I nodded, “they are trying to make it look like it was an agreement and not a hostage negotiation.”

He shook his head, “you have your work cut out for you.”

I smiled, “more than you know. I was one of the Rangers that took the hostages away from them.”

He grinned, “want to bet they demand you be disarmed and turned over to them?”

I snorted, “I carry my weapons with the emperor’s approval. More importantly the full Alliance council have authorized it as part of my uniform.”

He laughed and turned back to the front as the tram slowed. Zanax was like I remembered, only now each delegate was allowed a singe ship in system and a small contingent of soldiers. I wore my formal uniform when I walked into the large reception, this time the Swift was in plain view on my leg. I bowed to a lady or male from Grindal, the sex always depends on which season they are in. It grinned, “Author!”

I smiled, “it is good to see you again.”

“We were told you would be here this year.”

I nodded, “his majesty decided I should return since the council has requested me several times.”

A large Ursiliod patted my back as it walked up, “Lady Sika I see you are keeping this human busy.”

I smiled up at the being, “Sir Dent, I was told you had questions about the Tro agreement.”

It growled, “you humans should have given the ships to them.”

I ignored the gathering diplomats, “we do not negotiate with criminals. We accepted no agreement when they demanded ships for ransom.”

It growled as it waved, “that was just a story.”

I smiled showing my teeth, “do you call me a liar?”

It hesitated and looked around, “perhaps you do not know what really happened.”

I turned to face him fully, “I was one of the Rangers sent in to rescue the prisoners. They were kept in a open pit with Tro soldiers around it pointing weapons at them.”

He backed up and held his hands out, “I meant no offense.”

I looked around, “The Tro kidnaped diplomats and demanded ships for their release. That is not an agreement.”

I shook my head, “I will discuss this in council not at a party.”

I bowed and walked away as several others began to talk. I was up early and at Changa’s arena stretching. Several Dentian warriors looked at me strangely as I began exercising but did not interfere. After I finished I showered and dressed in my formal uniform. I walked into the conclave and slipped into my seat to review messages from other diplomats.

Most were supporting our actions but a few were urging us to give warships to the Tro. I glanced up when the conclave went quiet and everyone took a seat. The senior Alliance councilor cleared his throat, “we have a matter from the Tro delegate. They are protesting the Imperial councilor wearing a weapon.”

I stood and bowed, “if it pleases the Alliance. I carry my weapons with my emperor’s approval. More importantly the full Alliance council have authorized it as part of my uniform.”

I looked around at the faces as the translators murmured. I looked at the senior Alliance councilor and touched the Alliance Sunburst. It bowed but looked around, “The Tro have also demanded councilor England be turned over to them for war crimes.”

I smiled, “that would be when I rescued the hostages they held and killed the soldiers guarding them.”

I looked around, “If the council wishes to revoke my immunity the emperor will of course honor its request and recall me.”

I looked straight at the senior Alliance councilor, “However he did anticipate something like this. His words to this council are simple and they are not mine.”

I looked at the Tro councilor, “Fleet Admiral England has always upheld the empire’s honor as well as the honor of the Alliance. If the Alliance wishes to revoke his immunity or sanction him for his actions then My Empire will withdraw from the Alliance.”

There was a stir that rippled out as my words were translated. I sat as murmurs grew louder and finally the senior Alliance councilor hit the bell to quiet the room, “enough.”

It looked around, “his words are true. His emperor sent us a similar message.”

He looked at the Tro, “more importantly this council will not disarm its champion and hero. As for the allegation that he committed a war crime, we have all the reports and details related to the matter. Any that wish may review them but the senior council members have determined that no crime was committed.”

He glanced at his desk, “now on to new business...”

It was several hours before the council broke up for the day. I watched the Tro walk out urgently and followed to watch as a full platoon surrounded them and headed up the wide boulevard. I headed back to our embassy and changed before going to Changa’s arena. I walked to the center and waited as the Dentians stared and then a large warrior walked towards me, “this is not a game human.”

I smiled and bowed, “I am Author Geoffrey England an adopted daughterson of the Trasel clan.”

It grinned and bowed, “I am honored.”

I gestured, “I wish to dance if any are willing.”

It rushed and I spun and back stepped before grabbing a large wrist and twisting. After her was another and then several more until an alarm rang and everyone froze. I pulled the warrior on the ground up as I looked towards the speaker’s stand. It was a minute before a warrior ran out, “the councilor has sent a distress code. The reception she is attending has been taken by Tro!”

There was a roar as I started moving and leaped and grabbed the rail and swung over before looking back at the angry Dentian, “I am Trasel clan. Is there any here of a higher station!”

The angry roar went quiet as I looked at them and the first warrior that faced me moved forward, “what do you propose human?”

I looked at her and bared my teeth, “battle!”

They roared and then quieted as I held up a hand, “go arm yourselves and meet me at Alliance park!”

I spun and started running as my mind went over details I knew. I tried to access the comm but it did not respond. I grabbed the two sergeants at the door to the embassy, “how many men do we have?”

The senior sergeant looked at the other, “ten.”

I nodded, “get them, full body armor and weapon load outs on the double.”

I ran to my quarters as I stripped and pulled out a battle dress uniform before adding my Swift and knife. I slipped the spare ammo harness over the outer shirt and turned to run for the door. The guards were still dressing and fitting the armor as I looked at them, “the Tro has taken Alliance councilors at the evening reception. We are meeting the Dentians and then we are going to take them back.”

They growled and I gestured, “follow me.”

I trotted towards the park thinking it was a good thing all the embassies were close together. When we arrived there were almost a fifty Dentian warriors and another thirty soldiers from several other races. I moved to the center and held up a hand, “alright listen up. We are moving to the Alliance Reception Hall.”

I began splitting them into combat groups for each side of the building and then quickly telling them what to do. I trotted in the lead of a small group of mixed soldiers and slowed to peek around the last corner. I moved as I pulled the Swift and started walking straight for the dozen Tro guarding front door. I fired into one as the soldiers behind me flowed out and opened fire.

The Tro tried to run but it was to late, they died before we reached the door. I moved through the door and shot two Tro soldiers that rushed in. I gestured to side rooms and others went to check them as I went through the huge double doors into the huge reception hall.

A dozen Tro warriors had everyone in one corner and the Tro councilor straightened and gestured, “throw down your weapons or they die.”

I smiled as I started walking and the soldiers with me spread out behind me. Others came through the side doors until the huge room was almost crowded. I stopped in front of the councilor, “tell your men to surrender and they will live.”

He turned, “kill one...”

The almost quiet chuff of the round from my Swift made several of the Tro soldiers look as the councilor’s head exploded. I looked at the soldiers, “put the weapons down.”

One growled, “you think we fear death?”

I smiled and shot him too before looking at the other Tro, “put your weapons down and we will not destroy your world.”

Those were magic words, they shifted and looked at each other before just throwing their weapons down. As the soldiers with me growled and moved forward I walked past the Tro and stopped to look at a tactical implosion bomb, “no one move!”

I looked at the Tro as they smiled in satisfaction, “get these... soldiers out of here and move back.”

I looked at the Dentian councilor as she shook her head slightly, “leave us.”

I looked at the bomb carefully before moving closer. I glanced around as I thought and finally looked at the floor behind me and then at the ornate stairs that went down in the center of the room, “anyone know what is below us?”

Sir Dent cleared his throat, “an emergency shelter.”

I looked at him and then at the others as I slowly put my pistol away. I was just as slow as I removed my uniform shirt and started easing it over and around the sphere. Once it was in place I looked at the other councilors, “slowly move along the wall and around before leaving.”

The large form of a Dentian warrior moved closer, “I will hold it.”

I glanced at her, “get your councilor out and that is an order.”

She tilted her head before bowing, “as you command.”

Time felt like it was only creeping as the others left until I was alone. I hesitated to do what I thought I had to. I knew that the static around the sphere would cause the shirt to slid and set the bomb off but it was just a question of when. I knew I would not make it to any door and looked at the ornate stair rail. I released the shirt as I shifted and started to run.

I jumped and caught the rail before vaulting over and dropping. I landed on stairs and dove over the other rail and somersaulted towards the floor below. The roaring rushing sound was more warning then I needed as I landed and prayed I would make the huge vault door. I took three long running steps before diving as the pull of gravity started pulling at me.

I caught the edge of the door and fought to pull myself through as the pull became stronger and the building around me groaned and started to shatter. I twisted around to put my back to the vault wall before trying to push away and crawl deeper into the room. The vault door screamed as it was ripped off and I was slammed back against the wall.

Everything went dark as the building collapsed and that was what saved me. The implosion ate the building and stopped. A single dim emergency light flickered on as I slowly sat. I took a moment to catch my breath before standing and crossing to the back wall. I used the emergency comm but it was still jammed.

I sighed and set it to repeat and sat in a corner. It took a day to dig me out and ten minutes for the Alliance council to order the world of Trohas isolated. This time I was not going to another duty station, I was going home.

I looked at the woman waiting for me and grinned as I let the leash for the float go to catch her. She kissed me passionately and turned to grab the leash, “your late.”

I grinned as I slipped an arm around her waist, “the emperor wanted a few last minute words.”

She grinned, “and is his nibs changing diapers again?”

I laughed, “strangely enough he was.”

She laughed, “just as soon as you carry me across the threshold and get me pregnant you can started planning to do that too.”

I squeezed her, “carrying you the first time was not enough?”

She smiled, “no. This time you need to carry me to a proper bed.”

I grinned at the woman that had once been my corporal and turned her for a kiss.

The end
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