After the resolution of the mechanical
Trepan wars, Nepis is now predominantly controlled by a group of
allied planets known as the Coalition. Originated by the Agarians,
the Waii, the Lithians, and the Ventek, bringing as many species as
they could under one unified banner.
Since the end of the devastating Trepan robotic confrontation, many other planets have aligned themselves with the Coalition. Their space is vast, and under constant threat from the non-aligned species that harass the outer fringe planets. Amongst these are the feared Quat-tar, the Aurian Bloc, the belligerent Sentec, and the highly secretive Executive. The most prominent of which are at present the Quat-tar; a warring race, which take captives at every opportunity, to use in their brutal bio-experiments.
The Quat-tar’ never-ending raids on the fringe planets are a perpetual matter of debate in the Coalition Assembly. Many species have had losses that either ends up on Quat-tar Prime, or their prison planet of Secunda.
Many terrible stories roam the outer systems telling of the Quat-tar’ cruelty.
Horrific tales of the degradation and debasement of entire species, of captives being dissected and mutilated in vile experimentation to achieve the ultimate submissive slave population; those who did not conform after surgery, are either put to painful death, or released to wonder the Burrena wastelands of Secunda, there to die of starvation or fall prey to the wastelands savage predators.
The Quat-tar are basically humanoid in appearance, but have inbred animalistic values. Their left hand is surgically removed at birth and replaced by a bone-like claw, their favoured means of inflicting pain. Their scaly skin, a mottled grey, their eyes large and dark as death.
For years they have driven deeper and deeper into Coalition space, making short decisive sorties, then returning to the safety of their own system on the other side of the Executive. Usually these infringements are dealt with by diplomatic means, unfortunately with little or no response from the Quat-tar.
The Coalition has an enormous military force, known as the Network, consisting of resources, men, and equipment from every aligned planet. However, for the Network to mount a quick decisive strike on Quat-tar or Secunda it would mean crossing the no go area of Executive Space, something the Coalition Assembly as yet was unwilling to sanction.
The Assembly, the Coalition’ governing body, is made up of ambassadorial representatives from all aligned species, and even some non-aligned species hold seats.
The Assembly constantly pressured the Coalition President, President Lurth, to use the Network to eradicate the Quat-tar problem. However, when put to a full assembly vote, only a few were prepared to lend weight to any incursion of the Executive, and chance being thrown into a war with a species they almost knew nothing about.
Minor diplomatic channels were available, but are seldom used. The Executive wanted nothing to do with the Coalition, or any other species.
For now the Quat-tar are safe in their far removed system, a situation that was soon to change...
The small deciphering room was full of black smoke. The bodies of Network troops and Sentec lay strewn amongst the debris of twisted machinery and crumbling walls. The noise of laser fire had subsided, a solitary voice called out.
“ All right, we have what we came for, now let’s get the hell off this damn planet!”
In unison, the remainder of the Network’ elite Pierce Force hurried after their commanding officer. They picked their way through the shattered plasti-steel that had been thrown across the floor, each time checking their fallen comrades as they came across them. Eventually breaking out into the bright daylight. Sentec’ sun was almost at its apex; the heat was becoming unbearable to the Network team.
Steadily, the well-trained men of Pierce Force moved cautiously back into the
undergrowth. Captain Pala Toms took a head count as the men passed, two wounded are carried on makeshift litters.
Their commanding officer, Colonel Jim Raga, hurried them along the trail towards their extraction zone. Fortunately, the heavy downpour the night before hadn’t washed away their markings. Hopefully they would reach the zone and board the transport before Sentec reinforcements could arrive.
As they reached the outskirts of the extraction zone, two Pierce Force troopers aim a heavy plasma cannon in their direction.
“ Pierce Force, Raga one!” Colonel Raga called.
The air around the small extraction zone shimmered with tiny glowing particles as one of the troopers deactivated the perimeter force field. Colonel Raga led his men into the clearing, all the time the trail behind them being targeted by the plasma cannon.
“ Colas call up the transport. I want us out’a here ASAP,” croaked Raga.
He coughed trying to clear the taste of acrid smoke that lay on his lungs. He wiped a hand across his sweaty face, his fingers leaving smudged black streaks on his cheeks. His normally immaculately combed hair was ruffled and damp with sweat. He turned to his second captain, Captain Cap Beeta, a dark skinned man of about thirty from the planet Capstan Four; a member of the select Capstan warrior caste, and long time friend.
“ Cap, get Cagrr to check the decoder, and make sure he doesn’t lose anything, that damn thing’s cost us too much already!”
“ Sir, transport’s on its way, e, t, a, two minutes.” Trooper Colas reported while hurriedly packing away his portable com-console.
Captain Toms jogged to Raga’ side and said.
“ Colonel, Troopers Glun and Loote haven’t turned up yet, shall I sent Qwerti to find them?”
“ No they know the procedure, two minutes and we leave!”
“ Here she comes!” Colas called with a sigh of relief.
The high pitched drone of the Network troop transport engines could be heard approaching from the south, the drone getting louder as it closed on the extraction zone.
Suddenly a thundering explosion far to the north drowned the noise of the engines out. A plume of smoke snaked its way into the sky. Looking at the smoke plume, Raga mumbled to himself.
“ I hope they make it back in time.”
The transports immense form loomed overhead, ack ack ack ack ack ack ack ack rsonnel lift was slowly extending to the ground.
“ Cap, get the wounded on first.” Raga called over the engines noise.
Cap Beeta nodded an acknowledgment and headed for the lift.
“ We’ll give them one more minute.” Raga advised Toms while glancing along the trail for his missing troopers.
The wounded were on the lift along with the others when Cap Beeta shouted.
“ Come on Colonel, time to go!”
Raga motioned Toms to join them on the personnel lift, and carried on watching the trail. There was no sign of the missing men. Finally he turned and dashed for the lift. As he climbed abroad, troopers Glun and Loote rushed into the clearing, running like hell.
“ Hold it!” Toms called over the com-link to the pilot.
Glun and Loote jumped abroad the partially raised lift, their mates helping them on.
“ Glad you two could finally make it. Next time I might not wait!” Raga exclaimed jokingly.
“ You may not have that option Sir. There’s a large force of Sentec about a kilometre behind us, and they’re moving fast.” Loote reported quickly.
The lift continued to rise while the pilot trained the ships lasers on the trail. As the lift locked into place, and the bay doors closed, they heard the crack of laser fire as it bounced off the ships hull.
The pilot opened up with her more powerful guns, scorching the narrow path where the Sentec troops fired. The bushed to either side burst into flame, the enemies fire subsided as the transport banked left and headed for open space and her mother ship, the Phoenix Pride.
By the time they reached space, Raga had reached the cockpit.
“ Raga one to Phoenix?” he said.
A short moment passed, then the strong tones of Network Carrier Admiral Torre burst from the speakers.
“ Phoenix here, have you got it Raga?”
“ Affirmative Admiral. Can you have the doc and a medical team ready? I’ve got two seriously injured who’ll need urgent attention as soon as we dock!”
“ They’ll be waiting. Are you being pursued? Do you need fighter escort?”
“ No Sir, just the doc.” Raga replied.
The speakers turned to silence as Raga switched off the communication, and sat down in the vacant seat next to the pilot.
“ Costly?” She inquired casually.
Raga simply nodded, and thought of just how costly this mission had been.
The official report would state. Nineteen troops of Pierce Force, killed in action during an assault on the planet Sentec, mission successful.
There would be no glory, no accolades for the men who lose their lives. The Directorate of Covert Operations had sanctioned the raid, and therefore all knowledge of the mission would be classified.
Raga had his own views of the mission’s success; yes they had managed to get what the DCO wanted, the universal decoder would be of great use to the cipher boys at Network HQ, if the damn thing worked.
His men deserved better than to die on an alien planet just for the sake of a piece of machinery. In his mind, the price was far too high.
“ There she is!” The pilot announced.
Raga looked out the forward view port. The colossal construction of the Network Carrier Phoenix Pride loomed in front of the small transport. Her matte green hull making her stand out from the backdrop of the planet she is orbiting.
She carries to distant alien worlds, fighting men and equipment ready to do battle at a moments notice. The Phoenix Pride, one of only four carriers in the Network fleet, carrying a maximum of one hundred dropships under each of her giant wings, each dropship capable of ferrying sixty troops plus equipment to any co-ordinates required.
She has a compliment of seven squadrons of one-man fighters, dispersed on four landing bays. Her armament consists of twenty forward quantum lasers, ten aft facing lasers, two hundred plasma and fusion torpedoes, and numerous space mines.
The Phoenix is capable of initiating an attack on her own, but most often is escorted by at least two class-one attack ships. She is a flying war-zone, faster and more deadly than any other ship in the Network fleet.
The Pierce Force transport glided neatly into her docking clamps under the Phoenix’ port wing. When Colonel Raga and his men disembarked, Chief Medical Officer Ferl Collona was waiting with a medi-unit. She immediately whisked away the wounded troopers to sickbay. The remainder of Pierce Force headed for the debriefing room on deck six while Colonel Raga, flanked by Captains Beeta and Toms headed for the main bridge as the Phoenix broke from orbit.
The Phoenix’ bridge was a hive of activity as she headed for open space.
“ Course set. Heading one, three five, mark two!” Command Captain Mittvn announced.
Admiral Ral Torre acknowledged with a nod.
“ Scanners to maximum, it’s a long way to the Sentec frontier. Let’s not get caught unawares!”
Captain Mittvn crossed from helm control and took his seat next to the admiral.