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Mercenary's Honour, writing in the rough

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  • Mercenary's Honour, writing in the rough

    This is the first bit of the third Dark Nova novel, Mercenary's Honour, which I am currently working on. This is extremely rough and has not seen ANY editing or clean up, so treat this as what it is, an extreme rough draft

    Some language, nothing too bad

    ------------

    When he woke up that morning, Kiernan Taggart had not expected to wind up being luggage. As a special operations operator working for Spartan Group, the largest and most powerful mercenary corporation in the Terran Alliance of Nations, he was used to doing infiltration missions, insurgency/counter-insurgency, and Personal Security Details. Being strapped with the rest of his team to a gravtank making its way across a contested world in an embattled star system thousands of light years from Terra was not how he had planned the day to go.
    The team, which answered to the call sign “Ronin Three”, seemed to almost lay against the hull of the speeding gravtank with the casual relaxation of a group of sunbathers. Kiernan sat up against the turret, his legs stretched out along the starboard forward boom and his elbow resting on the opaque armoured cockpit canopy. Across the cockpit from him, Doc Frasier sat with his legs dangling over the side of the tank, his feet resting on the Shrike II LRM missile pod on the flank of the sleek vehicle. He lay back against the cockpit nestled between the two forward booms that housed the heavy spinal-mount AP lancer cannons, his hands behind his helmeted head pillowing it as he stared up at the sky. Clinging to the side of the turret were Shade- her lithe armoured form and tail the only giveaway that she was a K’Thari, and not human like the others- and Krieger. The combat netrunner and demolitions expert, respectively, crouched on the hull of the tank and clung to the turret, maglocked to it like the rest of the team, but in less comfort.
    Lastly, laying prone on top of the turret and flanking the 150mm APPC barrel, were Zhang Jian and Mitchell, the team psionics expert and heavy weapons specialist. The size difference between the two- Zhang being a typical Zhongouren, average height and relatively lithe build, and Mitchell being a head over six feet and heavily built with natural and bio-augmented muscle- was bad enough, but the multi-missile launcher and squad support PPC maglocked to Mitchell’s back made the lopsided image truly amusing.
    In all, the members of Ronin Three looked as if they were merely hanging around- literally in Shade and Krieger’s cases- waiting for something to do, not magnetically grappled to a gravtank speeding across an alien world at twice the speed of sound. The tank was one of six in a delta formation sweeping across the rolling plains below, cruising in from the Spartan Group LZ to reinforce the ever-shifting front lines. The world was in an independent system owned by a mining co-op with more technical skill than common sense. They had hit it rich in this system with a mother lode of Corellium, the valuable crystalline form of exotic matter used to fuel jump engines vital to faster-than-light travel, but had done so on a world only fifty light years from the borders of the Naradi Empire.
    The Gynarchal Naradi were Humans, like the Terrans, but evolved separately on their own world. A recent discovery had brought to light that the plethora of Humans and near-Human species throughout the Orion and Sagittarian arm of the Milky Way had been due to “tweaking” of hominids by a forerunner race nearly a million years ago. Unlike the egalitarian Terrans, however, the Naradi had evolved into an advanced culture where males were second-class citizens. Despite Utopian postulations of perfect, peaceful female-dominated societies dreamed about by Terran feminists for centuries, the truth turned out to be quite ugly as the Naradi were one of the most aggressively expansionist races known.
    It hadn’t taken long for the Naradi to invade the system. As it was an indie system in Freespace, none of the major nations of the Alliance would do a damned thing about it. That was simply the way things were- if you want your own little kingdom, be prepared to defend it yourself. This had, in turn, created a massive boom in business for the many merc corps like Spartan Group. Kiernan brought up his orders on his HUD as he mulled over the task at hand. Objective One- infil onto the front lines undetected via armour insertion. Translated to normal-speak, slip into the battle unnoticed by using the 24th century equivalent of duct-taping one’s self to a speeding tank. Objective Two- locate high-value targets, especially leadership and strategic assets, and capture or eliminate. Translation: if it looks like an officer, snatch her if you can, shoot her if you can’t, and if it looks important to them, make it go boom.
    Kiernan’s reflections were interrupted by comm traffic on his encrypted tac-com.

    “Samurai Four to Ronin Three,” Came a man’s voice, sounding like he was gritting his teeth. The Samurai division were the shock troops, the powered-armour-wearing infantry, Ahrugan or Garoudan warriors, and heavily-augmented heavy-hitters. By comparison, Ronin division were the SpecOps units, preferring to do things behind the scenes while the Samurai teams flattened everything in their path. They were running the show, however, and the IFF ident tag showed this to be Commander Atherton, team leader for Samurai Four.

    “Ronin Three, go ahead,” Kiernan replied.

    “Bitch Brigade is dug in better than expected,” Came the response, and in the background Kiernan could hear the deep staccato thunder-cracks of rapid-fire particle projection weapons fire, and the prolonged crackling hum of responding Naradi particle beams, “Triple-layered shield wall already deployed. We need you to re-task to grid 34EG and knock out at least two of those damned shield generators for our walkers and tanks to punch through. Feel up to that?”

    “Is a frog’s ass watertight?” Kiernan said with a grin.

    ------------

    Trivia-

    Zhang Jian is named after a 17-year-old student killed in the Tienanmen Square massacre in 1989.

    Samurai Four was our actual call sign for the Rapid Response Team on VBC (I can reveal that without breaking OpSec since they disbanded our RRT with the troop drawdown)

    The response Kiernan gives at the end was first uttered by my brother, Marty, in 1990 when he was asked if he wanted to go to the renaissance festival with me

    This takes place six months after the end of the second book, and the events of the first two books have taken place, as they are in the same setting, but the characters and plot of this one are completely separate.
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