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This is the beginning of a 62,000 word novel I wrote for CAW 21. It will be posted here in its entirety. There are sex sequences in the story however they will not be every chapter. If you are after a quick sex read, this is not your story. Happy reading
It was a dark and stormy night. The lightning flashed as I stepped off the transport shuttle. The long journey home was finally in its last stages. The luxury liner on which I had traveled the starways, to bring me from the Imperial homeworld to this world on the very edge of civilization, had finally arrived. To most of the empire it was known as Sial’nief IV. The locals just called it Mud. It was a farm world. It was where I was raised by my parents. It was where my friend and I had shipped out to join the military so many years ago. It was home.

My foot had not touched the surface of this planet in more than sixty years. I was now seventy-eight years old and in the prime of my life. I was looking forward to a long retirement. With a healthy life and no more fighting, I could live another two hundred years.

The town of Starjump had not changed much since I left. It was still perpetually damp and musty from the large amount of rainfall this God-forsaken world received. It was still a collection of ugly buildings surrounding the star port. I moved to one of the news vendors and picked out a world newspaper, all seven pages of it. Nothing news-worthy ever happened on Mud. That is why I came back to retire. I tapped my card on the credit plate and paid my credit for the paper.

I headed out the front door and into the noise and rush of a star port city. Most of the produce and meats grown on Mud were shipped out through this town. Freight haulers and loader skiffs moved across the sky. They were all loaded with stasis crates.

I looked at the line of taxis waiting along the walkway, and headed out into the rain for the one in the lead. As I was reaching for the door, a young woman cut in front of me and jumped into the taxi. Before I could even protest, she had the door closed and was handing her card to the driver. I watched her red hair swing around her head as she spoke animatedly to the driver.

I just shook my head, as I stood in the rain, and moved to the next taxi in line. As I sat down, I pulled out a small card and handed it to the driver. “Do you know this address?”

“Yes, sir, it will take about fifteen minutes to get there, and the fare will be one hundred and seventy five credits.”

I handed him my card, and a moment later he handed me the card and a receipt.

I thought back to that day so long ago when I left this planet with my best friend, Randall.


“Drake, I can’t believe we are running away to join the military.” Randall said softly, as we strapped into the jump shuttles acceleration couches.

“We aren’t exactly running away. We are eighteen years old.” I replied, as a young officer started to check the couches in the recruit bay.

“This is our ticket out of this dump. All we have to do is serve for five years, and we can muster out with almost a million credits. Then we just decide where we want to go.” Randall stopped speaking as the blond officer stopped at his couch.

“I know how it works, Randall. I was the one that talked you into joining.” I checked my last buckle and relaxed back into the couch.

The officer turned to check my couch and straps. “Will you need a relaxer for the flight?”

“No, ma’am,” I answered, as I looked up to see a set of piercing blue eyes framed in a face that would make an angel sing.

“I see we have a flight veteran here.”

“No, ma’am, this is the first time I have ever left the surface of Mud.”

“I would suggest you use a relaxer then. Most people don’t handle their first jump well.”

“He will be fine, sweetheart. He is the ultimate hard ass.” Randall said with a chuckle, from behind her.

She turned and looked back at Randall. “You have joined the military, recruit. I am ,’ma’am’ to you.” She spoke in a voice that sounded like it contained iron.

Randall shrank back into his couch. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, with a little quaver in his voice.

The officer checked my buckles and straps before moving on to the next couch. It was not long after that we felt the jump shuttle lift off. An hour later we cleared the atmosphere, and the jump drive activated.

It felt like I was turned inside out and tickled all along my exposed insides. The twisting sensation was like nothing I had ever felt before. My sense of position told me all of my body parts were occupying the same space. My toes overlapped my fingers, and they both shared the same space with my ears and nose. I was glad I had taken a shower that morning. My butt was in that same space, too.

Then, with a snapping sensation, we re-emerged into normal space. We were now at the edge of the star system. Somewhere behind us and much closer to the star was the planet we had just left.

I saw the troop transport as the shuttle turned to make its approach. That was a small starship. It was capable of making holes in the universe and then flying through them. It was nothing like a civilian starliner. Those flew through normal space at warp speeds. A voyage of five light years would take a week in a star liner. A military craft could cover the same distance in seconds.

The shuttle turned in space and headed for the troop transport. The shuttle bay doors were open and waiting.

We all felt the slight jolt as the shuttle made contact with the deck. Then the female officer came in and shouted, “Up and out recruits! It is time to get your gear and start learning how to be a soldier!”

I stood up out of the form-fitting couch. The other recruits were scrambling to grab their personal bags. I moved with a deliberate pace.

“Drake, you are going to get us in trouble. Move your ass!”,” Randall said in a hoarse whisper.

I continued to move with my deliberate pace. The others had already scrambled down the boarding ramp and into the bay. They were the typical scared kids. I had not seen anything to fear yet.

The officer stepped in front of me. “Recruit, you had better learn how to run when you are told to.”

I smiled and looked her straight in the eye. “Ma’am, there are only two reasons I have ever found to run.” I stepped around her and headed down the ramp.

On the deck was the group of recruits from my shuttle. They were all doing push-ups and counting out loud. The sergeant pacing in front of them looked over towards me. “Recruit, these people are going to keep doing pushups until you are in formation.”

When he finished speaking, I dropped my bag where I was standing and sat on it. The sergeant came charging over to me and started yelling at the top of his lungs. “You little shit! I am going to beat the ever-loving shit out of you!”

He finished his words just as he stopped in front of me. My leg swept out and pulled his legs out from under him. He fell backwards to the deck, hard enough that his head made a loud popping sound when it hit the deck. Then I rolled off my bag and brought my leg down hard across his chest. I could hear his ribs crack with the impact.

The officer spoke from behind me. “Recruit, you are in a lot of trouble.”

“Actually, ma’am, according to military regulations, it was self-defense. He threatened me with bodily harm, so I had the right to defend myself up to the level of sub-duel.”

My argument was unheeded as military police came to escort me to the brig.


I came out of my memories as the taxi pulled up in front of a luxury hotel. I cursed Robert under my breath. He had his people make all my travel arrangements. He knew I was coming home to retire. My days of luxury hotels were now gone. He had booked my reservation at the most exclusive hotel on Mud. I climbed out of the cab and started to walk towards the lobby doors.

As I reached out for the door handle, a woman brushed past me and into the hotel. I started to wonder about the manners of the people on my world. Then I realized it was the same young woman from the spaceport. I shook my head and continued up to the front counter.

“May I help you, sir?”, a teenage girl asked me when I walked up.

“I have a reservation under Drake Daemon.”

“Yes, Mister Daemon. We have been expecting you. There is a message here for you from Bobby Stavore.” The young lady said softly, as I scanned my thumb and ID tag into the recognition plate. When she looked up at my face, a soft blush came to her cheeks. I had affected women that way my entire life. Asta had told me it was the animal lurking behind my eyes. It made women feel helpless in my gaze.

“Thank you, Deborah,” I answered, as I glanced at her name tag. “I won’t be here for long. I will be traveling on to my ranch tomorrow. Is there a good restaurant in the hotel?”

“Yes, sir, the chef here is amazing. She specializes in local comfort foods. Would you like me to make a reservation for you?”

“Nineteenth hour, please.”

“You’re all set, mister Daemon. Your room is the top floor. It has been coded to your identity and your luggage is already in the room.” With that, she handed me a sealed envelope.

I took the message from her hand and our fingers brushed together. The color of her cheeks deepened and she started breathing harder. I watched her pupils dilate as she stared at the animal that lurked under my calm exterior. I could almost hear the thoughts that stirred in her mind.

Our fingers broke contact and she gave a sigh that almost sounded pitiful. I turned towards the elevator, as I again cursed Bobby in my mind. He had booked the penthouse. I was retiring and he knew I wanted to disappear into the local populace. That is why I had come back to this forsaken ball of mud. I was here to spend the rest of my life hacking a living out of the soil.

I waited for the elevator to arrive. These old tin boxes always made me nervous. They were a perfect death trap if someone was after you. I chuckled softly at my own paranoia. No one would be after me. I no longer lived that life. I had left it behind when I laid down my uniform for the last time.

The elevator doors opened and I was bumped aside as a flash of red hair stepped in front of me. I shook my head and stepped into the box that would carry me to my room for the night.

As the door closed, I reached out and touched the recognition plate. Then I touched the button for the penthouse. I noticed that she had pushed the button for the twenty-fifth floor. “You seem to be in a hurry. You should slow down and enjoy yourself. You will find the people here a little more laid back and relaxed than you are accustomed to.” I spoke with the easy confidence of a man adjusted to life as it comes.

“I am sorry, do I know you?”, the woman asked, as she turned her gaze in my direction. Her emerald green eyes held a fire that stirred in my soul. This young lady had a hunger in her eyes. I had seen that look many times in my life. It was the look of a young predator that had not tasted its first kill. She was after something and was unsure how to get what she wanted.

“No, Ma’am, but we should know each other well. You have pushed me out of your way three times today. That kind of behavior will make people around here not wish to talk to you,” I said with a soft smile, to lessen the rebuke inherent in my words.

She gave a light blush at my words. “I am sorry. I have a lot on my mind right now.”

“You could make it up to me by joining me for dinner tonight at the restaurant. I will be there at nineteenth hour.”

“I am not here to find a man for the night, sir…”

“I am not here to find a woman, either. I thought maybe you would enjoy someone to talk to and a chance to atone for your rudeness. It was my mistake.”

Her blush deepened as she tried to hold my gaze. I could see her anger fighting within her. She wanted to be angry with me, but she realized she had been rude and was even now being rude again. I watched as the hard lines at the sides of her eyes softened slightly. Then, haltingly, she started to speak. “I am sorry. I am used to men trying to pick me up as an easy mark. I would be delighted to join you for dinner, if you let me pay to make up for my behavior.”

“I invited you to dinner, and it would be the epitome of bad manners for me to let you pay. However, you could call the score even by telling me the story of why you are here instead. You are obviously not a buyer of produce or meats. I would be interested in finding out why such a dazzling young lady would come to Mud.”


“That is what the locals call this ball we stand on. It has to do with the large amount of rainfall and the general condition of the land,” I said with a smile.

She actually smiled. When she did, her face lit up like a star. Her smile could capture even the hardest heart. “I will join you for dinner.” The doors opened on her floor and she excused herself to go to her room.

After the doors closed to take me to the penthouse, I opened the envelope in my hands and unfolded the hand-written note enclosed.



With all our love, we hope this finds you safely back on the world of your birth. You have been like family to us and I could not let you go into your well-deserved retirement without knowing how much we appreciate the sacrifices and hardships you have faced for us.

I know you are probably cursing me right now for your hotel accommodations, so I will tell you to hold your curses until after tomorrow.

A new hovertruck will be delivered for you in the morning, and the guidance system will have the location of your ranch pre-programmed. I have taken the liberty of having a ranch house built with details to match the drawings of your dream home you once showed me. (You left them to be packed and I took the liberty of stealing them.)

We owe you more than we could ever repay. If you ever decide to come back, your position is waiting for you.


Bobby, Asta, Cleo, Danny and Little Drake.


I read the note and had to growl and laugh at the same time. Robert never could leave anything alone. He had to pull strings every time.

The door opened into a foyer. Directly across from me was an ornate door. Beyond it would be my room for the night. I still held the hope it would be just a simple room behind that wooden portal. I knew the hope was useless. There would be a suite like a small palace in there.

I touched the recognition plate and the door opened. Behind it was my worst nightmare. The room was not fancy, it was opulent. The apartment behind that wooden door was seven rooms with its own pool and Jacuzzi. It was decorated with ancient Earth antiques. There must have been twenty million credits wrapped up in the furniture. What a waste for just a one-night stay.

I looked at my luggage sitting neatly along one of the walls. There were two extra suitcases. Both of them had security seals on them. Now what had Bobby done?

I moved to the first of the extra cases and checked the outside of it carefully, without touching it. Old habits truly die hard. All of the security sigils were in the right places. It was either actually from its sender, or it was one hell of a forgery. I laid the case down and checked the bottom. There was Robert’s personal mark. I touched it and the hidden recognition plate unlocked the case.

Inside the case I found my weapons. The katana set was over three thousand years old. The pistol was a Kitan rail pistol Mark VII. It was my service side arm, a gift from a general. I had saved his life and he had given me the pistol. There was also a rifle in the case. It was broken down for packing, but it was all there. The Smaug Model 724, high-velocity sniper rifle was deadly at seven kilometers. It was devastating at one.

The second case opened to reveal my dress uniform. Displayed across the top of the dress blacks were my medals, all two hundred fifty of them. Once again my mind drifted back to those days so long ago.


“Recruit, do you understand why you are standing in front of the ship’s captain right now?”, the captain asked, as he paced back and forth.

“Because, your military police are not conversant with the laws of the military and need to go back through training, sir,” I answered.

“You assaulted a superior in the military. That could get you five years on Hades.”

“Negative, sir. I defended myself to the point of sub-duel against a verbal threat. The sergeant was guilty of threatening military property and should be standing in front of you instead of me.”

“You disobeyed an order to get into formation.”

“Negative again, sir. The sergeant said ‘Recruit, these people are going to keep doing pushups until you are in formation.’ That is neither an order nor a request. It is a statement. When I return to my platoon, I will be checking to see if they are still doing pushups. If they are not, then the sergeant is also guilty of false statement.”

The man sitting in the corner started to chuckle. “How much of the legal code have you read, recruit?”

“All of it, sir.”

The man’s eyes widened. “You have read all three hundred volumes of the uniform code of military justice?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How much of it do you remember?”

“All of it, sir. I have a fully eidetic memory.”

The man turned to the captain. “This one could be your worst nightmare or your best ally. He is right about the laws. He has committed no crime. I have reviewed the recordings and the witness statements.”

“We can’t have him attacking the command staff of this ship.” The captain spoke with a growl in his voice.

“Then I would suggest you tell them not to threaten him.” Then the man turned to me. “Where did you learn to fight? That Hi-con-sier move you used is rather tricky to do well. You executed it perfectly.”

“I learned from watching holo-programs. There is not a lot to do while you are watching the herds.”

The captain looked at me. “Get back to your barracks, recruit. I will speak to the sergeant.”

I saluted and headed to my barracks room. From there a junior sergeant took me through the supply lines to get my uniforms and equipment. Then I spent an hour in a line getting hyposprays injected into my arms. When I finally made it back to the barracks room, it was late and I was exhausted.


I came back to the present standing on the balcony and looking at the town spread out three hundred stories below me. From here I could see the farm lands spread out all over the terrain around the countryside. Somewhere out there was a plot of land I could call my own. I would find out where it was located tomorrow.

I turned and headed for my suitcases to start the process of getting dressed for dinner. My traveling clothes were comfortable, but hardly the attire for a fancy dinner. As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror the scar that ran from the corner of my left eye to the top of my ear caught my attention. It again carried me back into the past. It carried me back to the day I had faced my first mission. It carried me to a death I was not ready to face, even now.


“Our first mission, do you think we are ready?”

“This is just a security sweep, Randall. It is on a tame world in the heart of the empire. The worst we will face is an angry dog. I think we can handle it.”

“There have been rumors of Spinner terrorists on the planet. Maybe we will see some action,” Randall said excitedly.

“You wouldn’t see any action inside a pleasure house. Hell, they aren’t even letting us carry rifles for this sweep. All we have are our side arms and one magazine. Just relax your sphincter and get ready for a lot of walking.”

As we spoke, I sat on my bunk, spinning my fighting knife around my hand and making it dance across my fingers. The other soldiers in our platoon loved to watch me do this. Too many of them had gone to the infirmary for stitches, after trying to imitate it.

“Platoons, one through fifteen, report to your drop shuttles, for briefing and launch. Launch is in seven minutes. Platoons sixteen through thirty standby for load and launch orders.”

“That’s us, boys and girls,” our squad leader hollered, as we all jumped to our feet. We were on shuttle seven. We grabbed our vests and started our jogging march to the shuttle launch bay.

Our platoon leader stood beside the door to our drop shuttle and waved. “Load and lock. Drake, you take second seat. The mission is yours if we get separated.”

We all scrambled to our seats and got our straps in place as our platoon sergeant stepped on board. “Take your seat, PL, we will be launching in three minutes. This is a simple mission, boys and girls. We hit the ground on the edge of the city and do a presence walk-through. We are not here to do any search or fighting. Keep them in your pants. If you are engaged by local citizens, remain polite and refer them to your command chain. I repeat, we are not here to fight. We are only here to show the locals the military is on patrol. Leave law enforcement to the local boys.”

The sergeant and his corporal moved to the command seats and strapped in. A few minutes later the shuttle bumped as we started the movement to the launch tube.

Like a fist slamming into my chest, we suddenly accelerated out of the sides of the troop carrier. Fifteen shuttles launched into space in rapid succession, and we started the journey to the planet below.

I looked around calmly at the faces of the soldiers around me. They all looked like they were about to panic. Drop shuttles were a hell of a ride down to a planet. They would hit the atmosphere at over a thousand miles a second and then brake to hover just above the surface. The bay doors would open and we would drop down, seat and all, to the ground. Once our seats touched the surface, our straps would let us go and we would stand up in a double line formation ready to march.

The landing was flawless. We all arrived safely on the surface of Trachoir III with no losses. Well a few of the soldiers lost their breakfast, but there were no casualties.

All too soon, we were walking in formations up the streets of the city. First and second squads were walking up the left side of the street with the sergeant and platoon leader. Third and fourth squads were walking on the right side, led by the corporal and myself. All was quiet.

We were supposed to walk the fifteen miles to the center of the city. There we would be picked up by our shuttle for the return to the carrier. We had made five miles towards the inner city when all hell broke loose.

We were just arriving at an intersection when there was a flash and a boom. The sergeant and platoon leader were torn apart as a torque grenade exploded. The corporal just stood there stunned as he saw what had happened.

“Hit cover!”, I yelled at the top of my lungs. Soldiers scrambled to hide behind anything they could find. The corporal just stood there. I dove for his feet bringing him to the ground as another rocket-propelled grenade sped right through the space his head had occupied a moment before. The grenade traveled on to crash through the window of the house just behind us. The screams of pain from the house as the grenade exploded snapped the corporal out of his stasis.

As we dove behind a car, radio chatter started flying over our headsets. Several platoons had been attacked. It was a well organized attack and casualties were being reported all over the city. There were several calls for air support and my heart sank at the answer. It would be fifteen minutes before the carrier could position for launch to cover us. They were on the other side of the planet, conducting drop launches.

The corporal just kept repeating, “Oh, God!”, over and over.

I shook him. “Get the men under cover and have them return fire!”

“All we have are hand guns! We are dead!”, he moaned.

I shook him again, “Get them under cover and hold off till we get air support.”

He nodded to me and started to shout orders to withdraw back up the street. As he did, I ran across the street and leaped to the top of a car. Two steps later, I leaped again and caught the edge of the roof for the house behind it.

My scramble onto the roof was not graceful, but it got me up there. I ran across the roof and leaped again as I came to the edge. I landed with a roll on the flat roof of the corner store and headed to the far edge. Cautiously, I looked over to see the insurgents gathered behind a low concrete wall. I was just about to target and fire when a noise behind me caused me to roll. Randall had followed me.

I nodded to him. “Target the men. Try not to damage their weapons -- we need them,” I spoke in a hoarse whisper. I knew this day would likely end with us dead, but I could not stand by and let the rest of my squad get picked off one by one.

He nodded and drew his side arm.

We popped up and opened fire. The six insurgents went down with a total of nine shots. They never got off a shot in return.

We both dropped off of the roof to retrieve the weapons. That is where I made my mistake. I had not checked to see if there were any insurgents on the other side of the intersection. The explosion behind me threw me across the street and I landed on the small strip of lawn near the concrete wall. I managed to roll over the top of the three foot wall and then looked back to help Randall. What I saw will always remain one of my worst memories. There were pieces of my childhood friend lying all over the street.

In a screaming rage, I pulled up the grenade launcher that lay there next to me. I rapidly fired both grenades and dropped to look for more. Once I had reloaded, I popped up again to find the first two had done the job. The hovercar they used for cover was a smoking ruin. Their bodies were scattered all over the street.

I spun to look up the other end of the street. Another group of insurgents had another platoon pinned down on the far end. I did not pause to think. I fired the grenades into the two positions. A few seconds later and there were more bodies to my credit.

I whistled the all-clear signal to the soldiers behind me as I picked up a rifle and the bag of grenades. Men came around and started to gather heavier weapons that could be used.

My platoon moved forward as we worked our way down the street. By the time the air support arrived, we had taken down twenty-one groups of terrorists. Along with the air support arrived supply shuttles with our weapons. The clean-up took four days. At the end of that time, I had seventy-two confirmed kills and over a hundred assists. Even the veteran platoons watched me with respect.

I received my first medal a week later, “Bravery under fire”. Randall received a medal, too. His was sent home with the pieces we could find.


I shook out of that memory and continued getting ready for dinner. The pain of that day still haunted me. I had lost my last link to my home world. I then had no one I considered family.

I shook my head to clear it. Those days so long ago had shaped my future. I had received a new family. A family that was more important to me than anything else in the universe.

I dressed in my finest civilian suit. I did not have many civilian clothes and knew I would have to do some shopping before I headed out to see my new ranch. I had spent most of my career in uniform.

My rugged face had seen too many battles. It showed the signs of the weariness I felt.

Finally, I was ready to face dinner with a crowd of civilians around me. Even on the starliner I had always ate in my room. It had been a long time since I had sat down in a civilian restaurant to eat.

The trip down to the second floor was a quiet ride in the elevator. The restaurant was an open area with many of the hotel guests sitting at little tables. The noise was deafeningly quiet. It reminded me of a library. I approached the hostess stand. “I have a reservation for nineteenth hour under Drake Daemon.”

The hostess was an Altairian lass. Her grey colored skin and overly large eyes were mildly attractive. “Yes, Mister Daemon, we have your table ready. Will you be eating alone tonight?”

“No, I have a guest joining me. Could we please be seated at one of the tables near the back wall?”

“Yes, sir. If you will please follow me.” Her voice almost sounded mechanical when she spoke. Altarians felt that excessive displays of emotion in public were inappropriate. Their home world felt very sterile until you were invited into their homes. Once there, you learned how deeply a family could love and laugh together.

She led me to a table and I chose a seat with no door at my back. This was a habit I would probably never break. Watching the entrances meant survival. An open door at your back meant death.

Once I was seated I picked up the menu and began to peruse the offerings. I was surprised to see Pandat Stew on the menu. Pandat are a small rodent-like creature. They were incredibly fast and skittish. Their meat was highly prized and usually could only be found in the top restaurants in the galaxy. This was the only world where they could be found. No one had ever managed to farm raise them. They had to have an escape route or they would run until they found one. This usually meant they ran themselves to death. They were also a bitch to hunt. Their hearing was so acute they could hear a man breathing at over a mile. It is hard to hunt a creature that can hear you coming through the forest before you were ever close enough to shoot them. The only technique that seemed to work was sitting about a mile away from the edge of a forest and waiting for them to get close enough to be seen. This made their meat expensive as hell.

I had just settled on an old favorite of mine, when the hostess led the redheaded woman to my table. I stood instantly and pulled her chair out for her. She smiled as she sat. “I had not expected gallantry. I thought the art of being a gentleman had been lost.”

“Ma’am, Robert would have me flogged if he thought I was anything less than gallant.”

“I failed to introduce myself earlier. My name is Lizell Stanner.”

“I am very pleased to meet you. My name is Drake Daemon.” I offered her my hand, and she took it with a light grip.

We made a little small talk as she reviewed the menu. I managed to convince her to try the Pandat Stew and we both ordered Denebian tea to drink. Then I broached the subject of why she was here on this ball of mud. “I believe you were going to tell me why you had come to Mud.”

“It is not really a secret. I am a junior reporter for the Galactic Advisor. I was doing some investigating into military overspending when I came across something of an unusual nature. I found several military personnel records that just stopped. These people were not listed as missing, or dead. Their records just stopped. I had managed to locate thirty of the records and was starting to cross-reference information from them when I noticed something. One of the records just disappeared out of the system. I suddenly only had twenty nine of them. The only data I had retained from the missing record was the file number and the planet of induction. That missing soldier came from here.”

I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I was pretty sure who the object of her search was. “It sounds to me like you found a computer glitch in the system. Did you contact the military records division?”

“Yes, they gave me the run around. They told me the record was still there and the soldier’s career had been classified. But I don’t get a classified materials warning when I try to access it. I get the file-not-found message. I want to find this man or his family and discover if he is still alive or if the empire is trying to cover up his death. Somewhere out there is a family that does not know what happened to their son. Let’s face it; this would be a huge step for my career if I could prove the empire is hiding something.”

“Have you thought they may be hiding him to protect him? You could be endangering his life by investigating.”

“I don’t think so, his record stopped fifty years ago. That is a long time for someone to be missing. What danger could he be in from that long ago?”

“You never know. Some people hold grudges a long time.”

Our talk turned to other things and we had a very nice time together. She was very intelligent and seemed to have a nose for a good story. I wondered why she was working for a trash rag like the GA.

It was close to midnight when I finally made it back to my room. I saw the message light on the communications panel and moved to touch the button.

“Hey, Uncle Drake. We are all missing you around here. I wanted to ask you a question but I don’t want to leave it on a message system. Call me when you have time,” Cleo’s voice said from the panel. She was the oldest of Bobby and Asta’s children and the only female. She had been the first child to ever call me her uncle. She had been the one to draw me into the family.

I undressed and slipped into the bed. I would return her call while traveling tomorrow. I was tired as hell right now. My eyes closed and I was asleep before the lights of the room dimmed completely.


“Sergeant Drake Daemon reporting for duty, sir,” I said, with a crisp salute, as I entered the general’s office. I assumed the attention position and stood waiting for his reply.

The general looked up and studied me for a minute, then he spoke softly. “You do not match your reputation, Sergeant Daemon. According to the people I have asked, you are a thousand meters tall and wear a necklace made of your victim’s skulls.”

“I am in disguise, sir.”

The general chuckled. “Relax, and have a seat,” he said, as he opened a file on his desk. “Do you know why I requested you for our outfit?”

“No, sir.”

He began to read from my file. “Trachoir III: Medal for Bravery awarded for single-handedly reversing the outcome of a Spinner attack. Vega IV: Medal of Valor for holding ground in the face of overwhelming odds. Silf III: Medal of Honor, and Purple Heart for accomplishments above and beyond the call of duty. Tanameer V: Bronze Cluster for bravery. Yaniff III: Bronze Cluster for valor and Purple heart. Lis’en III: Silver Cluster for bravery…” He went on to list all of the fifteen engagements in which I had been involved. “You have survived fifteen engagements, and four promotions, in one year. Medals for bravery, valor, and honor, all with bronze and silver clusters awarded. Five Purple Hearts earned. All of this was accomplished in your first year of service. Is it true you were the only survivor on Silf?”

“No, sir, our charge survived as well.”

“Son, you are exactly the kind of soldier we look for. You are the kind of soldier that puts his duty above all else. When your career was brought to my attention, I sent the request out.”

“Thank you, sir. I will try and do your faith honor.”

“Welcome to the Space Rangers. Report to Colonel Fandier, with the Twenty-first Battalion. He will get you tagged in and equipped. I am giving you the recon platoon.”

“Yes, sir.”


I left the office and moved across the base. The signs were well laid out so I could find my new battalion. I entered the battalion office and signed in. A blond female lieutenant guided me to the colonel’s office.

“Sergeant Drake Daemon reporting for duty, sir.”

“Relax and take a seat, sergeant. I assume you have already reported to the general.”

“Yes, sir.”

He smiled when he looked up. “You are going to find life in the Space Rangers a bit different. We are sent in to the hotspots with orders to pacify them. You won’t be surprised by being shot at. You will be expecting it. This battalion recon platoon was devastated in our last engagement, and we are rebuilding it. Do you think you can whip forty-one new soldiers into shape in two weeks?”

“Sir, I will whip them in shape. I hate writing condolence letters.”

He nodded and hit a button on his communications panel. “Command Sergeant, Sergeant Daemon is here. Get him outfitted and ready for his platoon.”

I was still in my dress greens when I walked into the barracks of my new platoon the next morning. I was carrying a Tanner submachine rail pistol. I had chosen it because it was a noisy bastard. I walked quietly to the center of the room, past the sleeping fire watch. I had loaded the pistol in my hand with noise-makers.

I then pointed the pistol up and pulled the trigger. Soldier rolled out of their bunks, screaming and diving for cover. The soldier on fire watch fell out of his chair and screamed like he had been mortally wounded. “The enemy will not wait until you have had good nights sleep! I want every fucking one of you soldiers in formation out front in ten seconds!” Then I turned to look at the soldier on fire watch. “You are to be doing pushups until I tell you otherwise.”

Soldiers started to scramble for their clothes. I started to count down from ten as I walked towards the door. Several soldiers ran by me in their underwear to get outside.

I stood at the side of the door and finished my count down. When I hit zero, I started yelling for the soldiers still coming out to start push ups.

I paced around in front of the soldiers as the majority of them did push ups on the ground. “I gave you ten seconds to get out here! You had ten seconds to run the distance I walked in seven! Out of forty of you, eight made it on time!” I then looked at the soldiers. There were only forty of them. “Where the hell is my corporal?”

None of the soldiers answered.

“I asked a question, damn it! Where the hell is my corporal?”

One of the soldiers spoke. “He went into town, sergeant!”

I pointed to the eight soldiers who had made it outside. “You eight go inside and get dressed in battle fatigues. The rest of you keep pushing. You are in charge of pushing this planet around the sun for now. We are all going to wait for the corporal to show up.”

We definitely waited. The dressed soldiers were all standing at ease and the others had all collapsed from push ups, so I had them switch to jumping jacks to keep the planet moving. Then they switched to sit ups.

We had been out there almost an hour when a cab pulled up at the end of the formation area. Out of it stumbled a young man, in civilian clothes. He started to stroll up the formation pad singing softly to his self. Then he noticed all the soldiers. His eyes opened wide and I could see his skin start to pale.

“Corporal, would you be so nice as to join us for our morning exercises?” My voice was deceptively calm.

The corporal froze in his tracks and he glanced at the barracks door.

“Now!”, I shouted at the top of my lungs.

The corporal started running towards the formation and stood in front of me at attention.

“Corporal, who gave you permission to leave this base?”

“I was in charge until the new sergeant arrived. I signed my own pass, sergeant.”

“Was all the paperwork in order?”

“Yes, sergeant.”

“Did you turn in copies with the company command?”

“Yes, sergeant.”

“Who did you leave in charge in your absence?”

“PFC Limins, sergeant.”

“All seems in order then. Go get in your battle fatigues and be back out here in one minute. We have five miles to run before breakfast.”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

I turned to the formation. “Form up!”, I shouted.

The soldiers who were doing sit ups stood and breathed a sigh of relief. They had a minute to rest before the corporal was in his position for the run.

“Forward, march!”, I shouted. We started forward and once we were moving I shouted, “Double time, March!”

Then I set the pace by starting a cadence.

“I got a girl her name is Sally; her pussy tastes like food from the galley.

I got a girl her name is Lace; she love to ride upon my face.

I got a girl her name is Gloria; she fucks so good I feel euphoria.”

The men ran beside me as they started to feel the burn. I could see they were not accustomed to regular exercise. They had been allowed to slack off for too long. By the end of our five miles they were all puffing like an old locomotive. Then I heard most of them start to mutter as we headed for the mess hall. Most of them were still in their underwear.

Female soldiers whistled and cheered as we headed to the mess hall.

I stood at the side of the mess hall as my men went through the line. The Command Sergeant and Colonel both came in and saw the state of my soldiers. Then they came up to me. The colonel was the one to speak. “I see you are starting quickly.”

“Soldiers tend to lose the fighting edge if they are allowed too much down time.”

The Command Sergeant nodded. “I agree, plus it gives the female soldiers a good show. When are you going to give them a fighting demonstration?”

“Later today, I will move them out for afternoon exercises and training.”

“Do you mind if we come by and watch?”, the colonel asked.

“I don’t mind at all, sir. Maybe we will get lucky and one of these boys will be able to kick my ass.”

I put the boys through hell that first day. By the end of the day they were all grumbling and acting like they wanted a piece of me. That was exactly what I wanted. I wanted them in fighting spirit. A man ready to fight me was ready to fight in a war.

I paced up and down in front of the formation. “I have been asked to get this recon platoon ready for action. So far I have not seen one of you that would be able to fight to protect a trash midden.” I noticed the Colonel and several of his officers and sergeants arriving. “Who here thinks I am wrong? Who here thinks they can fight?” I said as I stripped off the jacket of my dress greens and tossed it on a raised platform.

Several of the men raised their hands.

I pulled off my rank pins from my shirt. “I am going to give you your shot. I have removed rank.” I then pointed at one of the soldiers with his hand in the air. “You! Come forward. Rules are off the table. All you have to do is knock me down.”

The soldier smiled and stepped forward. When he stood in front of me I stayed in a completely relaxed position. Then he lunged at me as he threw a punch.

I sidestepped the well-thrown punch and caught his forearm in my grip. Then I spun, bringing my hip around. He hit the ground with a loud thud as I brought his arm around and behind his back. Then I dropped, with my knee in his lower back, and twisted his hand up and around.

His left arm flailed uselessly as he tried to roll out from under me. Then I applied pressure to his wrist. When he screamed in pain, I let go and rolled up and off of him.

The soldier came to his feet like a jungle cat. He did not wait he immediately threw a punch with his left. I side stepped to avoid the follow-up with his right. I caught his left arm in passing and brought it up and around his own neck. Then I swept my leg up into the back of his knees and dropped on top of his lower legs. Leaning back I put pressure on his spine until I heard it creak in protest, and he screamed.

When he screamed, I leaped to my feet and let him go. He got up more warily this time. He started to circle and watch for an opening. I gave him one.

When he went for the low punch to my side, I caught his fist and lashed out with the side of my hand. It was just a light tap to his throat, but he got the hint. That would have been a death strike if I had struck full force.

When I let him go this time, he backed away with his hands in the air. I motioned for him to rejoin the platoon and started to speak again. “How many of you still want your shot?”

One soldier raised his hand.

I motioned for him to come forward. When he arrived he stood in front of me in his boxer shorts and bowed. I returned his bow. I recognized the style of the bow. He was into an ancient earth art known as Tae-Kwan-Do.

“What rank?”, I asked, as he assumed his stance.

“Fourth dan,” he answered.

I took the first strike this time. He blocked cleanly and launched into a spin kick. I had expected this and stepped inside his kick. His leg connected but not his foot. That threw him off balance and he started to fall backwards. I caught his shoulder and helped him balance.

He nodded to me as he stepped back. Then he bowed and put his hands in the air.

I motioned for him to rejoin the platoon. “Please explain why you acknowledged defeat.”

“From your position, you could have launched over a hundred different death strikes. I lost the battle as soon as I lost eye contact with you.”

I started pacing in front of them again. “As a soldier, you have to be ready to fight in any way you can. I will teach you to fight but it is up to you to know when…”

Our first drop was two weeks later. Our platoon was going in first. Our job was to establish the safe landing zone on Fanfier III. We hit the ground in a fast drop shuttle. The craft was on the ground for less then three seconds as our cargo pod was dropped.

My men moved out and established a watch perimeter. We could not detect any activity in the area. We sent the call up and several fast drop shuttles were dispatched. These had the prefab building that would become our temporary base and the general’s headquarters.

The shuttles were arriving at the clearing before the sound of their atmospheric entrance reached me. Then the radio bob in my ear spoke. “Shielded bunkers inside lines…” whoever was calling quit talking as soon as he spoke.

I activated my bob. “Get the package off the ground! The site is not safe!”

“It is too late, the package has been delivered and shuttle is in return mode.” The voice that spoke sent chills down my spine. This group of Spinners had some pretty sophisticated gear. We were in trouble.

I turned to run back to the clearing. “Recon, we are on the hunt. Terminate all suspect hostiles with extreme prejudice.”

I pulled my service sidearm as I saw a hidden bunker opening in front of me. I ran up and leaped on the top of the trapdoor as it rose. My sudden weight caused the man below the surface to fall off his ladder.

I rolled past the door and pulled a torque grenade. I remained silent as I heard someone else coming up the ladder. When their hand touched the trap door, I let go of the grenade handle and started its five-second countdown.

The door lifted and I rolled the grenade into the crack, then I fired my pistol into the insurgent’s face. As I rose to run the grenade detonated below the surface. There was a muffled boom, and the trapdoor flew up and out.

“The rats are in holes. Move back to cover the package,” I said over my bob.

I ran into the clearing to see several of the others from my platoon entering from different directions. I only counted fourteen at a glance. “All recon, return to nest, rats are in the henhouse. Launch control, get a shuttle down here for the package.”

I saw General Tainer trying to cover behind a set of crates. The problem was that only covered him from one direction. I ran towards him as a trapdoor opened on the edge of the clearing. It was on his unprotected side. I dove over the top of the crate firing into the trap door. My free hand lashed out and pushed the general aside as the insurgent fired. I felt the round rip through my shoulder and into the crate exactly where the general’s head had been a split second before.

I rolled up onto my feet as the adrenaline surged through my system. “Get in the cargo module!”, I shouted as I drew another grenade.

My toss was perfect. The grenade arced through the air and passed through the opening as a second insurgent opened the trapdoor. He tried to scramble out but only the front half made it. His back half arced through the air and landed among the trees on the opposite side of the clearing.

I stood as my men started to open fire at the insurgents. That was when I saw the second trap door opening. Three steps put me between the general and the trapdoor. I barely made it in time. The slugs ripped into my body as I returned fire. By now my left shoulder was useless. My arm had quit responding.

My men did their job and turned the terrorists into mush inside that trapdoor.

I sat up as the general’s evac shuttle cleared the trees. Then fast attack craft zipped over us and started to open fire. The jungle around us turned into shredded vegetation. I looked around the clearing as my head started to get woozy. I counted heads. Forty-one, my men were all here. One was either wounded or dead but he had not been left behind. My corporal was dragging him towards the shuttle.

With great effort I lifted my arm and fired at two insurgents entering the clearing. Then I closed my eyes for what I thought was the last time…

My eyes opened. The room was bright and there was a young nurse looking over me. When she saw my eyes, she spoke to someone behind her. “Doctor, he is awake.”

A woman in a military lab coat stepped into my field of view. “Staff Sergeant Daemon, can you understand me?”

“Sergeant,” I corrected, with a voice that sounded like a cheese grater on rocks.

“Staff Sergeant, actually. You received a promotion while you were in the nutrient tank. I will need you to move your left arm for me.”

I tried to move my left arm. It felt a little sluggish, but it responded.

“Very good, now can you wiggle your toes for me?”

I did as she asked.

“General Tainer asked that he be notified as soon as you woke up.” She motioned to the young nurse to go make the call. “I am afraid he is going to add some more weight to your chest. How do you feel?”

“I feel like someone used my throat for a grenade testing range.”

“That is pretty normal. Do you think you can sit up?”

I nodded and she pushed a button on my bed. The back started to rise and lifted me into a sitting position. I had no sooner gotten comfortable when the general entered the room.

“Staff Sergeant, I am so glad to see you with your eyes open.”

“My men?”, I asked.

He smiled. “They all made it. One of them was wounded but your corporal brought him home. The rest of them stayed planet-side and had the area nearly pacified by the time backup troops arrived. It looks like you rose to the challenge. Your men are a real recon platoon and more.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“No, thank you. You saved my life at least twice down there, as well as the lives of my staff. As soon as you are out of this bed, we are going to pin a few more baubles on your chest, as well as several of your men’s chests.”

“My dress blacks are too heavy now, sir.”

He chuckled. “I suppose that means you won’t want to carry this.” He lifted a case up and sat it on my lap. When he opened it I saw a brand new Kitan Mark VII rail pistol. Most of the soldiers would give up rank to carry one of those beauties.

“Sir, all I did was my duty…”

“No, you did above and beyond your duty. Your duty was to establish a safe landing zone. We sent you in with the wrong equipment. We should have given you the equipment to locate the shielded bunkers. You overcame odds that should have left us dusted.”

Three days later, I had a gold cluster pinned to my bravery medal, a heroics in the face of the enemy medal, and another Purple Heart pined to my chest.


I woke up in the hotel room. My dreams were always about my life anymore. I never got away from the fighting or the dying.

I stood up from the bed and looked out the large window. Somewhere out there was my new ranch. Maybe there I could let my past rest. Maybe there I could find peace.


2016-06-22 00:49:37
Reading your works again.
Having so look much fun doing so.


2014-12-30 19:50:12
love your stories have read all i can find awaiting to see if anymore in the return and merc stories hopefuly as well as any new ones


2014-12-30 19:49:44
love your stories have read all i can find awaiting to see if anymore in the return and merc stories hopefuly as well as any new ones


2014-12-30 11:00:57
love your stories have read all i can find awaiting to see if anymore in the return and merc stories hopefuly as well as any new ones

Anonymous readerReport 

2014-11-27 21:05:02
I think it is better than Hammond's story

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