Galaxy at War

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Chapter 3: SCHIIIT Sauce

Roy tossed the smoking body of a Noghler away from him, the brutish alien giant that reminded him of an upright walking Stomper, with a face full of milky white tentacles, sharp looking mandibles and twelve black button eyes.

This Noghler had managed to keep his momentum despite a direct TKU hit that punched a pumpkin sized hole right through the towering giant’s upper chest and collapsed right on top of him.

Six hours ago he had dropped after a long and low signature approach under full stealth right into the mountains surrounding what looked like a big city in Noghler terms and in this case the very center of their government. It was supposed to be recon and not an all out engagement.

At first everything went according to plan, but he found out that a local type of brownish mushroom were much more than just innocent looking brown toad stools.

He had landed fully cloaked and undetected but then he had stepped on one of those mushrooms and the entire field of them came alive, screaming like tortured babies and actually running away from him, it took less than a minute for the Noghler to notice his location despite the cloak and open fire. Then the whole planet was on highest alert, expecting a Union Attack.

Noghler weaponry was inferior to Union weapons, but they had lots of them and he and his three man advance Recon team was seriously outgunned.

Corporal Ructus had bought the farm just twenty minutes ago. Hit by the concentrated fire of three Noghler Hover tanks; there was barely enough left of the poor bastard to send home. What was left of him Roy carried in a spare ammo box, strapped to his suit.

Roy knew he would miss the dry humor and the thousand ways the spotted Attikan could show his emotions by just moving his ears and tail, but he could not bring himself to hate the Noghler. This was their home world, their last stand. They had fought hard over each of their twelve colonies and outposts and lost each one.

Even if the main force did not drop in time to save Roy’s life, the Noghler would be history and soon forgotten. In moments like this he truly missed Partner. His Fury Beast would have torn through the Noghler like a Marine Battle Tank, but his friend was many thousand light years away, almost half across the Galaxy and with his girl.

A warm feeling reached his mind as he thought of his blonde girl friend waiting for him Union Side, as he shoved the last magazine into his TKU and smiled at Corporal Yzzzith, a Purple Throat Shiss. Of course his facial expression was wasted at the Lizard, as Yzzzith did not see his face and even if he could have, the Shiss still had difficulties reading human emotions. So he said. “Let’s see if we can make it to that ridge over there and hold out till they come.”

The Shiss tossed his last Cluster Storm grenade and the devilish device released a hail storm of pin head sized plutonium pellets, perforating a trio of Noghler warriors setting up some huge and ugly looking tripod weapon. Whatever that weapon was, it exploded and took out two more. “They are dropping now, but those worm faces still have a lot of sky pointing hardware.”

Roy’s uncanny sense of danger warned him and his accelerated reflexes allowed him to raise his weapon and fire a three burst, taking out a big and fast projectile coming their way. “Change of plan, we stay right here, Corporal. Put a designator on those batteries over there and call for a Hammer. I’ll try to keep them occupied.”

Roy collected his mind and used his Saresii honed Psionics to suggest to an approaching Noghler Tank commander that the troops beside him, were Union soldiers. Noghler minds were truly alien and this Tele suggestive trick was something he had only practiced on Sares before, it did not work exactly as intended the big Noghler simply jumped out of the approaching tank and hugged a Noghler warrior nearby with his six upper arms in a way that looked very intimate. Roy, despite the serious situation could not help but grin and wondered what it was he actually suggested and then tried to make every shot of his TKU count, while the Noghler Infantry, distracted by their love crazed tank commander tried to restrain the poor guy while Roy picked them up one by one.

In the meantime the Shiss Corporal transmitted the exact coordinates of the planetary defense batteries, about twelve kilometers from their own position to Fleet command, calling for a Kilo load.

One of the Union War ships in or near orbit received the call and a Translocator Cannon transmitted an anti matter bomb to the designated coordinates.

Ship sized weapons used on a planet surface were never a good idea, especially if you were anywhere on the same continent. While the load beamed down was one of the smaller bombs, it still vaporized the rock and matter of a full size mountain to sun hot plasma in the fraction of a second.

Both the Shiss and Roy had thrown themselves to the ground and activated their Grav anchors to the max, hoping to stay glued to the ground and ride out the apocalyptic event, but still the blast wave; traveling at supersonic speed; ripped them clear off the ground, obliterating their already weakened shields. The temperatures around them rising to sun hot levels and melted the outer layers of their armor skin. The shock waves and super heated winds tossing them like tumbleweeds across the landscape.

Roy’s Mama reported. “It looks you survived it, Lieutenant. Your broken arm and the concussion is easily fixed, but Primary Shields are completely inoperative. Secondary Shields offline. Tertiary shields need 20 seconds to reset. Energy reserves at 30 percent. Suit integrity damage 34 percent.”

Like all Suit systems, Roy’s Mama had a simulated personality and complained in her soft voice. “This is no way to treat Government property, by the way.”

His retina display showed him that Yzzzith was okay, but his suit was in even worse shape than Roy’s and the leg actuators fused, immobilizing the Shiss.

However the orbital hammer blow had also destroyed much of the mountain, most of their immediate opponents and scattered the rest.

This was of course not what the mission was all about, if Command wanted that, they did not have to send Marines and could simply reduce the planet to slag from orbit.

But Roy was given the permission to use a Hammer if necessary and he hoped that his decision to use it, saved many Marines and perhaps took the fight out of the Noghlers, at least long enough for the first wave to establish a perimeter-beach head.

Their mission was to find out how the Kermac controlled the Noghler. Captured Noghlers did not show any signs of psionic influence but NAVINT was certain the Noghler did not fight for the Kermac of their own free will and that the answer could be found in the Broodmaster’s chambers right here on their home world.

While Command was pretty sure this was the last Noghler world.

They also mentioned during their mission briefing that their intelligence was faulty at best when it came to the Noghler and some indications suggested that there were still Brood worlds out there and that the Kermac or the Noghler themselves experimented with breeding a new even fiercer kind. To find evidence and to substantiate this was the main reason for the assault.

That the Noghlers responded to Psionic suggestions was evident in his own attempt just moments ago, despite the rather unusual result. Despite his Saresii training he was just dabbling in Psionics, especially compared to the eons of experience the Kermac had in this field.

He checked his suit repair systems, the Nanite resources were maxed out and Mama estimated at least 60 minutes to restore it to at least 80 percent. But even if the suit would be functional right away, he had virtually no weapons left. Less than six bolts remained in his TKU, leaving him pretty much with the Chain sword and the extendable Mono filament claws of his gauntlets. His hump did not contain the Micro load TL of standard Quasimodos, but the ISAH pod and the systems for his FTL engines. He had jumped seven light years into this system and made a low emission stealth approach.

Then Marines of the first wave reached the ground.

While the Noghlers were far from throwing the towel and were still serious opponents, there was little they could do once Marines in Destroyer suits were en masse on the surface.

A Black Smith homed on Roy’s signal and the Battle Suit Engineer threw his arms into the air in a very human gesture. “Lokat and Nibet, the cursed gremlin twins and fiends of all that is tech could not have done a better job in ruining a perfect set of Quasimodos than you two. I am a Wurgus not a magician!”

Roy smirked and wondered if that Wurgus knew who he was. It was Roy who was there when the Wurgus made the decision to join the Union after all.

He said. “Patriarch Hurun would be horrified to hear you even mention the Cursed Gremlins while there is still a sun shining light on you. Don’t you know it brings katkthe?”

“You must have mentioned the names of the cursed Gremlin twins at least ten times while under the light of three suns, by the katkthe you seem to be in!” The Wurgus Engineer responded, not losing a beat, while he attached energy transfer pods to Roy’s and Yzzzith’s suit. “It is a great honor for me to meet you. Patriarch Masterun. I call in for a Replacement, your suit is only fit for the recycler.”

“How fast can you get me one? I need to go back into the war, since I blew this recon mission. I need to gather all the bonus points I can, before I need to report in.”

“I called for a Mobile Battle Dresser. Should be here in six minutes.”

Yzzzith sat up, now as his suits muscles responded again and said. “What is this Patriarch Masterun business all about?”

The Wurgus Suit engineer pulled a half molten actuator from Yzzzith left elbow joint and pointed at Roy. “This Lieutenant is the first and so far only human ever to be made a honorary Wurgus Patriarch by the All Patriarch himself. He’s also the reason I am a Suit Engineer and working on Union Side instead of building Solar Bombs for the Kermac, figuratively speaking of course.”

Roy said. “It’s a long story Corporal and I tell you all about it back on the Stryker.”


In a brand new Destroyer suit, full energy cells and a complete weapon and munition load, Roy and Yzzzith joined their platoon and just made it to the final assault on the main brood chambers deep below the termite nest looking Noghler city on the surface. The fighting was intense and the Noghlers fought relentless and without regards to their own losses. Their aggression intensified the closer they came to what deep penetrating ground scans revealed to be the main brood chamber.

Roy had long lost count how many Noghlers he had killed. Down here they could not bring the full potential of their weapons to bear without risking cave ins and now fighting came down to chain swords, claws and cluster grenades.

Roy could not simply fight, he also had to keep an inner eye on the labyrinth like three dimensional layout of the tunnels around him and making sure his platoon was moving into the right direction.

First Platoon was coming from the other direction, while the rest of the marines mopped up resistance all across the planet. Now that the last planetary defense batteries had been neutralized, second and third wave had arrived and more Marines swarmed down into the subsurface part of the Noghler stronghold.

The corridors down here were big enough for four or five of the Noghler giants to walk next to each other. The corridor walls were decorated with intricate swirling designs of dark red and black patterns and appeared to be made of the same tough ceramic material the Noghlers used for their body armor.

Force field curtains and locked security doors had to be breached almost every hundred meters. Advance was further hampered by automated weapons popping out of wall and ceiling compartments. None of the weapons individually were strong enough to faze the Battle suits shields, but combined fire of several sources did wear them down.

He blinked at the yellow Chevron symbol for his Platoon sergeant. “Gunny, I think we are almost there. That corridor you’re in should merge with ours in about sixty meters. How are you doing on Screamers?”

“Takki has two left, Sir.”

“Perfect, send one to that junction. That should keep them busy long enough for us to reach them.”

Roy had deployed a tiny spy drone that enabled him to look around twisting and turning corridor sections and he watched as six Noghler wheeled one of those tripod mounted weapons in position.

A Screamer was a high powered robotic flash bang drone, emitting not only 5000 decibels of disharmonious high frequency sound ,but created a concentrated electromagnetic pulse and a flash of intensive light all across the spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet. They had proven the most effective weapon down here so far, problem was they weren’t standard equipment and only a few marines had packed a few of them as they were thought to be pretty useless against armored and shielded enemies.

Only Noghler leaders or whatever they called their officers appeared to use personal shields, their common soldiers did not.

The Screamer went off and very effective, the Noghlers dropped in painful looking convulsions to the ground and Roy and his men had no trouble reaching them.

Killing had become such a routine since they tried to reach the Brood chamber that Roy already raised his Chains word to decapitate the one he had reached, while Dunn coming from the side, fired his wrist laser killing another one of the incapacitated enemy warriors, when he stopped his own swing . “Mama, switch my external speakers and tie in Translator turned to Kermac.”

“System request active.”

Roy said. “Surrender and I spare your life!”

He had learned some basic Kermac terms while he was at the Saresii College and later in Xeno Class at Marine Corps Academy he didn’t want to try it here. His suits computronic was much better.

The still semi stunned and radiation burned Noghler before him, groaned in heavily accentuated Kermac. “Order Lord?”

“Yes I am Order Lord.” Roy said sensing that the Noghler warrior considered him perhaps to be a Kermac. The Noghlers were Galactic Council members after all and considered a Kermac Thrall.

“Why lie, Order Lord? You say fight Uhnion now you are Uuhinon!”

Could it be that easy? He thought to himself and said. “Order Lords do things Noghler do not understand, now tell others stop fighting and tell us all.”

The giant on the floor raised one of his blister covered arms and pointed to an alien looking device integrated into a wall. “Not good to order, just do things told I am, Order Lord speak to ‘All-Who-orders-things’ and no fight will be.”

Roy called Command. “Lieutenant Masters here. I think I can make the Noghlers stop fighting.”

The Fleet Admiral who was in charge of the this operation responded. “If you can do it that would be a neat trick, what do you need?”

“Everyone stop shooting at anything for a few moments, and just hold position.”

“Order is given and keep me online.”

“Yes Sir.”

Roy said. “Corpsman to my position stat!”

A Marine Medic came running only four minutes later. “Sir?”

“Patch up that Noghler!”

The Corpsman was an Ult, but managed to modulate his voice with a very surprised tone. “Sir?”

“Put your auto doc or whatever you got on that Noghler and do your thing.”

“Sir I am a Corps Man and a Medic and not a Xeno expert.”

“You are going to be a Corpse used to be a man if you don’t do what I say, stat!”

“Aye Sir.” Came the still surprised sounding reply. The Corps Man did exactly what Roy wanted and he attached a big Battle Field Auto Doc Unit to the burned exposed skin of the Noghler who had neither moved nor said something since his last response.

The Auto Doc, designed to provide first aid to almost any Union Species was tied into Med Central on Paracelsus Planet and received treatment instructions after it transmitted the physiological data of the Noghler to the Medical Expert System. The Auto Doc communicated with the Corps man and the Ult in the Med Tech Suit opened a panel on his armor suit and explained.

“A Xeno Med expert from Med Central will take over treatment via Avatar presence.” The Panel revealed a GalNet Avatar projector.

The Noghler as alien as it was, appeared to be more impressed by the Suron in white medic Uniform suddenly appearing than it was about the heavily armed Marines.

The hard light avatar projection of the Suron MD immediately begun working on the Noghler and after about ten minutes said. “The Noghler should fully recover in a few days, but is pain free and able to act and move now.”

Roy said to the Noghler. “Now speak to all of your kind and tell them Order Lords will not kill and fight if all Noghler obey and stop fighting so they can hear what we have to say.”

“You are Order Lord who is greatest Wizard of Kermac as it can make Shiss come from air and command it to heal.”

The Noghler rose to his impressive twelve meters and several Marines raised their TKUs in a nervous gesture.

Roy motioned them to lower them and the Noghler giant activated the alien device at about his face level and begun to speak in a very guttural language of many very short chopped sounding words, while it simultaneously moved its facial tentacles in a very complex pattern.

A new voice speaking over the same channel as the Admiral said. “Interesting, it appears the Noghlers use a combination of verbal and visual sign communication. The verbal part is only about 20 percent of the information while the tentacles convey the rest, this is why our linguists could not decipher the audible records we had.”

The Noghler spread all his arms and said. “One-who-gives-all orders has made all Nogh*wiggle*wiggle* ler not fight and say Order Lords come to innermost place and say to those who guard the eggs what new commands are given.”

Every time the Noghler spoke non Kermac words his nine facial tentacles performed a complex movement pattern.

The Admiral said. “I’ll be damned, this little Lieutenant has just shown us that all we had to do was trying to pretend to be Kermac and we could have saved us month of fighting. Lt. Masters, we are sending specialists to your position to take over the next part. Remain where you are and tell your new friend that Big Order Lords are on their way to talk to his One who gives all Orders.”

Roy did exactly that and the Noghler conveyed that in turn into the wall transmitter and said. “One who gives all orders waits till Big Order Lords come.” Then the giant simply sat down leaning against the wall, only to start sleeping moments later.

The Avatar of the Suron MD confirmed that the Noghler was simply sleeping and then said to Roy. “Thank you for giving me that chance working on a live specimen. The data you enabled me to gather on their physiology will close a few knowledge gaps we had on them.”

The Shiss Corporal said. “You need to help them with their eye sight too, Doc. They got eight eyes and still took you for a Shiss. ”

The Suron laughed in a hissing fashion. “No one is perfect, Shiss. I am so much prettier after all.” and then the Avatar winked out.


The intensity of the fight was still very evident in the thousands of dead Noghler littering the ground everywhere. The once green surface was stripped of anything alive and the ruins that once were part of the Noghler city as Roy and his platoon finally returned to the surface. They had waited and stayed with the Noghler until three First Contact specialists, two Saresii PSI Corps officers and a small team of High ranking officers, (some of them NAVINT for sure) finally arrived. It was their job to go with the Noghler to continue talks with whoever was in charge of the remaining Noghler.

While arriving Army took over to do whatever was still to be done on this planet openly, Roy never had all that much good to say about the Army, but he doubted there was anything more efficient in the known Universe.

Army engineers were unloading Nanite factories, setting up POW perimeter fences and started to clean up the terrible mess war always left behind.

Re-board order came and Roy collected his platoon at the designated evac site. A blunt nosed tough looking Sprinter Type APCs swooped down and picked up 2nd platoon and ferried it back to the USS John Stryker.

The Stryker was a Suribachi Class Marine Drop ship. Captain and Crew were Navy, as per Assembly decision only Union Navy was allowed to operate Faster than light ships.

While the Stryker was perfectly capable of making planet fall, Marine Drop Ships rarely if ever did so.

Marines dropped and went dirt side, not their Drop Ship, besides the situation on the Noghler home world was not entirely clear and bringing down these huge ships on a still potentially hostile world was not a good idea.

A Destroyer suit was fully flight capable and it was also quite possible to use the suit’s engines to return to the ship, but that also almost never done. The United Stars Marine Corps liked things orderly and in certain ways.

Troops were picked up in units by APCs, this ensured troops arrived together and at the same time, had a way to take along equipment and of course their wounded and dead.

The Sprinter Class had room for a full platoon of Destroyer suit wearing Marines, could take all their additional equipment and eight Cerberus robots from and to nearly any planetary environment.

The Sprinter dropped them off in troop receiving bay two.

Roy saw Major Knt’she standing right by the heavy access doors to the actual interior of the Stryker and said to Dunn. “Have the men go to quarters and begin 1700 routine. As soon as I know what our orders are, we will schedule a memorial for Corporal Ructus.”

“Aye Sir.”

“How are our other casualties?”

“Schiller and Lucy got hit on the way down. Schiller’s suit kept his brain alive even though seventy percent of his body was gone cutting it mighty close. He is now in IC but is expected to fully recover. Still that is a ticket home and I think he will take it.”

Roy nodded. “Yeah I think so too, it’s his second time getting hit during a drop after all. A full body regrow and brain integration takes time. I am sure his Keira will be happy to hear he is coming home for good. How about Lucy?”

“PFC Lucy, our Saresii good luck charm, lived up to his reputation being lucky. Got hit by the same burst, that caught Schiller. The first suit’s shields took the brunt, Lucy was towed back by Cerb-Hooks, then went down with second wave and a new suit, Sir.”

“Fine lad, make sure I won’t forget to write that in my evaluation report and check on Schiller and let me know when the Medics say he can receive visitors.”

“I keep you informed, but it will be a while before he has enough body grown so they can wake him, there was not much left other than his brain and some of his spinal cord, the Medics said.”

Roy shivered at that thought and cleared his throat as he dismissed his Sergeant.

While his men hit the showers and then went to the Chow line for dinner Roy delivered his report to Major Knt’she who was his highest superior aboard the Stryker.

The Major was one of the few Klack who had joined the Union Marine Corps. He took Roy’s report without interrupting and not asking any questions and finally dismissed him saying. “Good work, Lieutenant and quick thinking. Command is all abuzz with the latest development. Seems that talking trumps guns in some cases after all.”

“I just wish I had come up with this idea before I lost Corporal Ructus or Private Jeron on our assault two weeks ago.”

“I understand your sentiment, Lt. Masters and I share it. I too sometimes think that we should be all advanced and developed enough to come up with an alternative to war. Yet even the ancient Celtest and the Old Saresii, so much more advanced than us, fought wars and I heard they found evidence that the Pree and the UNI fought each other 250 million years before our time. Looking at it this way I think there will be wars and conflicts fought until the Universe ends and then I come to the conclusion that I made the right decision by becoming a United Stars Marine, it looks we won’t be out of things to do for many ages to come. ”

Roy found wisdom in the words of that Klack officer and said. “There is much truth in what you said Sir, and I agree.”

The Klack put one of his thin arms on Roy’s shoulder. “Corporal Ructus’ death was not in vain. We all must die eventually and it is not important how and when we die; life comes without guarantees except that it is terminal. However your Corporal died in the company of friends, he died doing what he wanted to do. We Klack are a very old race, aeons older than you humans and yet we just started to develop individualism very recently so to speak. The death of an individual, even hundreds or thousands had no meaning to us. We have no death mythology, did not know the meaning of grief or personal loss. Even after 500,000 years of discovering and developing individualism, these were very foreign concepts to us.

Yet I know Klack who are grieving the passing of a human friend for many years. I have seen Pertharians cry over the loss of a Saresii; I have witnessed a Suron cradling a dying Klack in his arms and lamenting in haunting cries over his friend’s fate. This is the reason Lieutenant, I feel deeply privileged and blessed every time I put on this uniform, there might never be Universal peace, but I think we are defending a place where the next best thing seems possible.”

Roy thanked the older Officer and decided to use these words at Ructus’ memorial.

The Klack major changed his stance and returned being a commanding officer and changed the subject. “The Stryker is returning to the USS Normandy and we should be back with mobile headquarters of our division in about eleven days.

14th Marine Division is moving into the Zirkho region of the Norma Arm. Reports say that First Fleet successfully breached the iron belt and completed an assault on the first Kermac System. I am pretty sure we are sent in to mop up the rest of the Iron Belt defenses and then make the trip across the gap to the Norma Arm. ”

Roy tried to see an image of the Milky Way in his mind and said. “This will be a long trip, Sir.”

“I am afraid so, Lieutenant. Nine to ten months until we reach Norma Arm, but there will be plenty of action before then. The First just breached the Iron Belt. It wasn’t destroyed. There are still plenty of angry Thrall species and who knows what the Kermac still have in reserve.”

“Nothing good I am sure, but I think they are already scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

“I don’t think it is time to celebrate their defeat just yet, Lt. Masters but I too think we have seen their big guns already. So until further notice, Second Platoon may enjoy 3 days of R&R and then there is RBS, dismissed.”

Major Knt’she was not one of those Klacks who used their Antennae to express their emotions and state of mind. The major, even for a Klack was known to be very unemotional and rarely interested in any non duty related comments or conversations. So this long conversation was rather unusual. Usually he never said much and Roy was perfectly fine with that, Major Knt’she appeared not to have the same collegial qualities of other Marine Officers but he also never had any time for bullshit and always made sure his Companies and Platoons had everything they needed. That the major had a personal side and was quite able to have a meaningful conversation, showed Roy the value in not giving too much credence to the opinion of others or listen to much scuttlebutt and gossip.

With that he finally left the troop receiving bay and found Gunnery Sergeant Dunn, also still wearing most of his gear, except for his the helmet, standing right inside the heavy airlock doors. Roy grinned and said. “Gunny, didn’t I order the men for 1700 routine? What are you still doing in gear? I expected you to be halfway to Rose’s Cantina already.”

“I am not the men, Sir. I am your Platoon sergeant.”

“Indeed you are. The word is three days R&R and then Standard Board Duty until further notice. Looks like we going home to the Normandy and that means they take us for a long ride. I am also planning to hold a little ceremony for Ructus tomorrow at the Hero Tree on R Deck Park.”

“I tell the men, Sir. ”

“Drink one for me at Rose’s tonight.”

“Sir, will you not join us?”

“Probably not, Gunny. I need to call Ructus folks and then I intend to call home. After all that I think I hit the rack. Remember I am in that damn Gorilla Suit since 0900 yesterday doing the long Recon approach from outside moon orbit.”

“True that Sir. We will be at Rose’s in case you change your mind. If not, see you tomorrow then Sir.”

“See you tomorrow Gunny.”

The Gunnery sergeant turned and stomped towards the Crew Shower facilities on the same deck as receiving bay two.

Roy turned on his heel doing the same, but heading for the smaller officer facilities. Not that he would have minded to use the same facilities as his men, but it was against Marine corps regulations and traditions.

Roy was Greenie, a human, a Union Citizen and many other things, but ever since he had graduated from boot camp, he was first and foremost a United Stars Marine and he took their traditions and regulations very serious, just as they all did. This wasn’t the Navy or the Army, everyone here from the freshest private to the Commandant of the United Stars Marine Corps carried a special almost fanatical pride in their service branch.

The entrance of the After-Mission-shower facilities was located right after the Troop receiving bays and included a series of Battle Dressers.

These marvelous machines, military versions of the Union wide available Auto Dressers, could assemble a Quasimodo around a Marine in less than 3 minutes. It took about the same time for the process in reverse.

Thousands of Nano meter thin needles, completely invisible to the naked eye detached from his nerve cluster endings underneath his skin and retracted. It was completely pain free. You could not even feel the needles when they penetrated the skin surface or when they were pulled. Then the blue Semi Liquid Matrix Emulsion (S.L.I.M.E) peeled off him like a second skin, while robot arms and Micro robots disassembled the Suit components and weapon systems.

An internal transport system conveyed the Suit parts that could not be manufactured on the spot or could not be broken down, like the outer armor pieces, weapons and so forth, to the central armory of the ship for storage.

Naked as the day he was born, he stepped out of the Battle Dresser and into the large hygiene cell and selected the Pertharian power wash program level Three. The computronic no longer questioned his choice, as it did the first time Roy selected this for humans almost unbearable and almost dangerous wash program. Pulsing streams of very hot water were forced with great pressure through rotating force field nozzles, hitting every spot of his body while manipulator beams slowly rotated his floating body.

Pertharians were a unique silicon and carbon utilizing lifeform from across the Bridge out of the Andromeda Galaxy. These usually six meter tall, 1.5 ton, four armed giants were the only known life form other than the Y’All that combined aspects of carbon based life with aspects of silicone based life. While much of their organs and inner workings were carbon organic, both their Exo and their tough Endo skeleton, their skin was silicone based. The planet of origin for the Pertharians was a very hot extreme world and water was virtually unknown, on a world where lava and fire were as common as grass and water on other planets, body hygiene was not a cultural aspect of the Pertharians before Union Membership.

The United Stars Marine Corps however required that every Marine performed such activities with great care. Immaculate grooming and hygiene were the hall mark of a good marine and simply expected.

Since, according to Uniform Armed Forces Regulation Code 345-4734, Water and simple soap wasn’t harmful to any being accepted into the armed forces, (this was one of the BaPhy requirements after all); every Marine had to shower and use soap.

Pertharians hardly loved anything more than taking a water shower and their wash program included a High temperature, high pressure steam cleaning program that would have cut and cooked a human to death in seconds. However Pertharian wash program number three was not only survivable but to Roy greatly enjoyable. To him it felt as if the pulsing water streams and the soap emulsion washed away the very last molecule of dirt or grime and after such a shower he always compared his state to a freshly peeled hardboiled egg.

Of course technically there was no need for a shower coming out of a Suit, no water shower or soap treatment could be as deep cleansing as the blue S.L.I.M.E layer. Where the tiniest dead cell was instantly removed by Nanites and added to the suits complex and constant molecular recycling cycle. However Marine Corps regulations were not all born out of technical necessities but also out of over 3000 years of USMC history. Water showers were a great way of relaxing from Battlefield stress. War was still a dirty job after all and the special kind of dirt and grime a warrior picked up on a battlefield, could neither be seen or really understood by anyone who had never fought in a war. Taking a shower was a psychological process as much as it was a matter of hygiene.

One of the greatest benefits living in such a diverse mega civilization as the Union in his eyes were the little things other beings brought into daily life. Because the Marine corps accepted a wide selection of beings and because of that almost everything including the shower cells were dimensioned large enough to accept Lortors and Pertharians.

Union Marines had more restrictions as who could enter service than the Navy or the Army. The so called BaPhy regulation spelled out the exact basic physical requirements a being must have to become a Union Marine. It had restrictions on size, both big and small, on the minimum of physical weight a being had to be able to lift and a long catalog of other requirements. Despite the many restrictions it still enabled almost 90 percent of all Union Species to join.

While in the suit, Auto Doc and S.L.I.M.E kept thirst and hunger feelings completely suppressed as such feelings could distract a Marine from his mission. The system kept hydration and nutrition levels of the body at the exactly needed levels, but once out of the Suit, the body and perhaps even more, the soul and spirit demanded solid food and Roy did feel more than just peckish.

After the showers he selected an off duty outfit from his personal program inside a regular Auto Dresser at the other side of the shower facilities. Wearing dark green and brown camouflage patterned pants of a Bio Seal suit and Terran All Terrain Boots was an emotional homage to his home world Green Hell. As a top he simply wore a T shirt, one of his favorites of course. A stylized picture of an Old woman and a small framed old man standing before a semi spherical dome and bold letters advertised : “Ma Swanson’s Boathouse, Big Lake Coast, Green Hell. Weapons, Armor, Flyers, repair services and more.”

Ma Swanson sent him a new one almost every month, but so far beyond Union Side borders, regular matter mail only reached the marines once in a while.

Of course there would be a small mountain of matter-mail when the USS Stryker returned to her home the USS Normandy, the mobile headquarters of 14th Marine Division, the truly gigantic USS Normandy.

He decided to forgo regular chow and visit one of the restaurants on R deck. As an officer he had, as it was tradition pay for his meals, even in the officer mess. It was a ridiculously small amount of 50 Micro-Creds per meal.

The nineteen on board restaurants operated by civilians charged more but were still government subsidized and affordable to anyone.

He was standing on a slide belt and had himself carried to the center drop almost 600 meters from the Shower facilities, here on D Deck where the Troop intake bays were located. His final destination was fourteen decks below in terms of internal ship Grav orientation.

While it was perfectly alright for Marines to use slide belts and officers did it all the time, it was one of those unwritten, unspoken rules that troops did not use slide belts anywhere on military installations unless ordered to do so or during alert conditions. So he was pretty much the only person on the slide belt while Marines who knew him, none of his own platoon so far, greeted him as they walked or ran the other way. Since he was not in uniform the greetings were informal of course.

While the USS John Stryker did not have the dimensions of a Union Battle Ship, that did not mean an Suribachi Drop ship was small. 1500 meters from bow to aft, 800 meters from port side to starboard and 980 meters from keel to top mast.

It was home to 3000 marines plus Officers, engineers, techs, Medics, a few hundred civilian contractors and the actual Navy Crew of 150.

She carried three full companies of Cerberus Battle Robots, the tanks, APCs and field artillery for three Regiments and the materials and munitions to set up a forward planetary base if that was required.

He was lost in thoughts thinking about the somewhat strange and unusual ending of the last mission, the fate of Schiller, the death of Ructus and the words the Klack major had found. So he almost missed the waved greeting of the largest Marine of 2nd Platoon and perhaps the tallest in all the Marines corps. Corporal Eugbenzi was a genuine Lordor from a distant kingdom in the Large Magellan Cloud. Once they had been the archenemies of the Attikans, if Roy remembered the story right and never been members of the Attikan Commonwealth. The Lordor despite their thousand year history of resisting the Attikans, joined the Union only a few years after the entire Attikan Commonwealth became a Union member.

Corporal Eugbenzi was 803 centimeters tall and tipped the scale at almost 2100 kilos.

He was the first and so far the only Lordor that managed to get into the Corps, because of their size, Lordors generally exceeded the BaPhy requirements in terms of size. Auto Dressers, ceilings, weapons, shower facilities and everything else were simply not compatible with these towering beings. Eugbenzi did not tell the recruiter that he was still growing at the time he signed up and the BaPhy regulations were not updated with Lordor physical data. So this shaggy fur covered giant was one of Roy’s men and Eugbenzi managed to crouch and squeeze himself into the battle dresser, showers and simply slept on the floor. Despite his frightening size and tremendous strength, he was perhaps the gentlest and most content being in his Platoon. Eugbenzi never complained about anything and always pointed out something good and positive in the seemingly worst situation. He always volunteered and that despite boot camp where troops learned fast never to volunteer for anything.

Roy had recommended the towering many times and just last week sent away a promotion request.

The Lordor waved his man size hands. “Lieutenant Masters!”

Roy still on the slide belt rushed by and turned to wave back. “Corporal Eugbenzi.”

He jumped off the slide belt and looked up. The Lordor Corporal looked more or less like a walking fur coat with legs. Only if he moved his arms, you could actually see them and the same happened where the Lordor’s face was supposed to be.

You could always see the four big orange eyes, but everything else including a maw filled with predator teeth that would have made a Tyrannosaurus envious, was usually hidden behind the long shaggy fur.

Eugbenzi, usually walked on all fours, it was very natural to his kind and it was easier for him to navigate space ship corridors, as most decks did not allow him to stand upright. Here on D Deck however, where the Corridors were designed to double as Wolfcraft flight decks if necessary, he could move upright and on his hind legs.

Eugbenzi did not fit in the regular Drop chutes either, so he dropped from Air locks. He was the platoon PASS (Platoon Artillery Support Specialist) and usually dropped wearing the Heavy Fire Support version of the Quasimodo.

While size usually mattered little in a society with augmented power suits and energy weapons, in Corporal Eugbenzi’s case however it did. His assembled suit simply had more surface to add bigger systems and so he carried a usually tank mounted MAC into first line battle. When Eugbenzi opened up, he could permanently changed the landscape of a planet on a continental level.

The Shaggy giant held out a tiny black box. “It came through, Lieutenant! I just come from the Captain’s office. I was made Staff Sergeant!” His voice however sounded as if the big Marine was depressed.

Roy grinned and said. “You earned it Sergeant Eugbenzi, but you do not sound as if you are very happy about your promotion.”

“Lieutenant, I am very proud and I know it was you who made this happen, but I just wish I could really celebrate it, but it just isn’t right with Ructus gone. He was a good friend”

“He was my friend as well. Do you think Corporal Ructus would not want you to celebrate? We must remember our friends and comrades as they were and how they would want us to remember them and not as social convention tells us to act. Go celebrate, I bet most of the men are already on their way to Rose’s and I think they will raise the roof hearing you made Sergeant. I am almost certain Ructus will be there in spirit when that happens!”

“Yes Sir, I think you are right.” The shaggy giant sounded much happier.

Even though he was stone tired, Roy said, “I think I will go there after all and join you in a bit.”

A few moments later, the big Marine was on his way to where ever he was going, Roy had reached the Central Shaft, said “Deck R” and jumped in the Central Core shaft of the John Stryker.

Unlike Union Fleet Ships with IST systems, Marine Drop Ships like the Stryker used a different system. Mainly because crews aboard a Navy ship moved to where ever they had to go alone or in small groups and individual fast moving elevator capsules were just fine for that.

On a Marine Drop Ship however, entire Companies had to move at once and move fast. Instead of super sized elevators, as they still used in the older Tripoli Class, there simply was a large pipe like shaft in the core of the Stryker (and all Suribachi Class Drop Ships). There was no gravitation in those shafts and tiny precision tractor drones received the destination request and pulled the individual to that destination.

This system allowed the members of one platoon or an entire company entering the shaft on various decks and various locations and exit as one complete unit at the Deployment Decks. This was very helpful during Alert and deployment conditions. While the Computronic controlled system pulled a suited individual during alert conditions with great speed to the destination, it used much less speed and a gentler approach during regular ship board operations.

Especially Navy personnel or Civilian contractors at their first time aboard a Drop ship hesitated to jump into the well lit, deep looking shafts and started to panic when they were pulled at considerable speed up or down.

He reached R Deck a few moments later.

It was perhaps the most important deck of the ship. Having that many battle ready, aggressive, battle and combat honed marines in a closed confined environment, often for month on end was a recipe for disaster, no matter how disciplined and how well trained they were. So recreation and relaxation was very important and the Union Navy and Union Marine Corps had thousands of years experience in such matters.

The R Decks were technical marvels all on their own. Once you stepped out, it appeared as if you were outside on a planet’s surface. There were no visible walls, but distant horizons, all clever projections of course. Force fields and tractor beams made it possible that you could try to reach that horizon but never did, so the illusion of unlimited space was nearly perfect.

The Stryker called this area the promenade as it looked like the downtown portion of a small Union town, with shop, restaurants, amusement venues, bars and so forth. The promenade was lined with trees, there was grass and always a light breeze. The sun in the light clouded sky appeared real and warm, but they could and did make it rain down here and he had heard that they even made it snow once in a while, to celebrate an old Terran holiday tradition called Christmas. There was a nice park complete with a small lake and trees. There was also the Strykers Field of Honor, a small virtual cemetery with a large Oak tree and small name plates in regular intervals in the grass around it. Each plate carried the name of anyone who ever served aboard the Stryker and had paid the ultimate price.

Board time was kept on Union Standard and it approached 1700hrs for real. When he ordered Seventeen hundred routine for his platoon, he referred to an Union Marine term. Seventeen hundred routine meant end of shift or end of duty. No matter the actual time.

Except for Shore Patrol no one down here was in Uniform, around this time. While trouble was rare, mostly due to the truly harsh punishments and of course considering the usual swift and indiscriminate action of the Shore Patrol, it did happen once in a while.

Union Marines were a special breed of beings, regardless of their origin or race. The toughest basic training (called boot camp) in the known universe, the constant physical and mental honing made them into something different. Only pride and iron discipline kept the carefully cultivated aggressiveness in check. On rare occasions when emotions and stress took their toll all the discipline and all the possible consequences meant little and fist or similar appendixes were used to settle arguments.

In leadership training class at the Marine Corps Academy they made it a point that the most important role of a Marine Corps Officer was to feel and gauge the mood and mental state of the troops assigned and intervene when something changed. He was pretty sure his platoon was content.

He had found a seat at an outside table of Andromida’s Restaurant, his favorite eating spot aboard the Stryker.

The place was run by a tall Andorian. They served a variety of foods, but specialized in the spicy BBQ the Andorian Mountain regions were so famous for. He ordered the Big Andorian Sampler and extra Schhhiiit sauce along with a pitcher of ice cooled Hell-Ade.

The Andorian had stocked this technically ultra rare beverage from Green Hell, because it was made in very small quantities by his Uncle Roy and was usually only available in a few places in the Maxwell System, just because of Roy. This was of course one of the reasons he loved this place and ate here very frequently.

The Andorian, a four meter tall, otherwise perfectly proportioned human carried the big wooden wheel like platter himself to Roy’s table. Sixteen segments with finger long crisp charcoal roasted meat varieties and soft, freshly baked Andorian bread was a treat and perhaps Roy’s all time favorite dish. The fiery red sauce actually had a different name, but since many marines exclaimed, “Shit that stuff is hot.” it was known as Schhhiiit sauce aboard the Stryker. Andromida once told him it was made out of a blend of Terran Ghost Habañeros, Andorian Torch Berries and Pan Saran Flame flower seeds and mixed with tomatoes, oil and other spices.

To a Greenie who could tolerate breathing in Fire Nettle dust, it had just the perfect spicy note and he smothered the stuff in generous helpings on the crisp meat. Anyone else used less than a drop to spice up a whole meal with almost intolerable heat.

Just as he had finished about half of his platter, he noticed a young human marine, in regular Board Duty uniform standing there on the main concourse looking a little lost. He remembered the face from a visual memo from his Platoon sergeant about new men joining his platoon he had received just yesterday, while he was slowly floating towards the enemy planet, in a low signature recon approach. He often did his platoon paperwork that way, there was little else to do during a Low Signature approach anyway. He also remembered the name that went with the face.

He raised his hand and voice and said. “Mr. Boscoe over here.”

The young marine was all human from the looks of it. He was tall and at peak physical condition, the hall mark of any Marine just out of Boot camp. He still had the boot camp regulation high and tight hair cut; most of the seasoned Orbital infantry, be it Army or Marines opted to keep their hair (if they had any that could be cut) completely shaven. The reason of course was the S.L.I.M.E. While the stuff could engulf a being completely covered with hair, like for example Sergeant Eugbenzi, it took much longer and at least to humans the experience was literally hair raising and somewhat unpleasant.

Boscoe’s hair was coppery red and his facial features remembered Roy at a well fed baby, complete with freckles and big blue eyes.

The man came over and said. “You know me?”

“No not really, just saw your face in a rooster briefing yesterday morning. You looked lost.”

The marine gazed around the place and gestured down the main venue, “It is my first time on a drop ship, Sir and this place is amazing. My mates told me that they will congregate at a place called Rose’s but I can’t seem to find it and the Info Board had no such place listed.”

“Have a seat and try some of that meat, Mr. Boscoe. Once I am done eating I intend to go there myself, then I show you where it is.”

The Private sat down. “I am Private Boscoe, Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon, Sir.”

“Yes I can see that, you wear full uniform. How come?”

“My personal gear was shipped to the USS Pandora, while they shipped me to the Stryker. Logistics told me it was a mistake because there was another Harry Boscoe on the same Outward transport and I forgot to mark my gear with my service number.”

Roy smiled. “Yeah things like this do happen, don’t worry. I am sure your stuff will be waiting for you on the Normandy. Both the Pandora and the Stryker will be there in a few days. SBD uniform is quite alright of course, but there is a store just a few meters from here, they sell all kinds of civilian attire. The Auto Dressers also have a few standard civilian options.”

He sighed, took a piece of meat and dunked it in the red sauce.

Roy leaned forward. “I am Roy by the way and I too serve with the 2nd Platoon and if I were you I be careful with the Schhhiiit sauce, it’s hot they say.”

He rolled his eyes. “Oh please mate, I am tough! Looks like you can eat it then so can I.”

He couldn’t.

Private Boscoe turned cherry red and tried to scream but only a hissing whistle escaped his mouth . Tears streamed down his face and sweat started to pearl down his brow and cheeks in torrents. He started to hiccup rather violently.

Roy took a spoon and poured a helping of Sugar on it. “Here use that. Sugar is the best way to neutralize the burning.”

It took several spoons and the entire pitcher including the ice cubes to somewhat lessen the pain.

Just then Sergeant Dunn appeared, wearing shorts and a colorful Hawaiian shirt and sat down without asking, took a piece of meat and carefully dipped it into the sauce so only the tiniest drop remained and then said .“Looks like our noob sampled a little too much of our Platoon leader’s special sauce.” Then he ate the piece and he too hissed. “Schhhiiit that stuff is still as hot as I remember! Andromida please bring me a big pitcher of Samuel Adams, fast!”

The private bolted up and snapped into attention. “Sir, am sorry, *hic* Sir. I did not recognize*hic* you.”

“Sit down and eat. More bread and meat will settle your hick ups. I am not in uniform and that means you can quit calling me Sir, and call me Roy as I told you.”

Richard pointed at the sauce. “You know this stuff should be outlawed, this is not a condiment this is weaponized torture in a bottle.”

With a boyish grin, Roy ladled a big helping of it on a piece of beef and put in his mouth, “Wuss!”

The Private finally managed to get his hick ups under control and said. “Sir, I mean Roy, I mean are you not human? How can you do that?”

“I am from Green Hell, we Greenies tend to have a different tolerance to these sort of things. There is a plant on our planet that emits a pollen dust that is ten thousand times hotter than this stuff and actually quite poisonous to others, but we sort of got used to it.”

“So you are really from Green Hell? I mean I heard...”

“You heard that I am a Sissy from Sares, right?”

“Well yes Sir.”

“I know of that rumor and it is not completely wrong, but I only went to College there. I am indeed from Green Hell. But remember this, we do have two real Saresii in our Platoon and eight more in our Division, they may look like girls but they are as tough as any Marine. I have very few rules in my Platoon, Mr. Boscoe and the very top one is, that I don’t tolerate prejudice or any form of jokes, innuendo and discrimination against any other Union species. Marine Corps Uniforms come in all sizes and shapes but all are one color only.”

“I understand Sir. I am a good Union Citizen and hopefully prove to you that I am a good Marine. It’s just the things one hears that often colors one perception, but I have learned what you said already in Boot camp, Sir.”

“Good lad, now I think we are ready to go to Rose’s, right Mr. Dunn?”

“Wrong Mr. Masters, I just got my beer and I ordered some more meat. We can go when I finished.”

The young marine asked. “Can I ask where Rose’s is and why it is not listed among the restaurants or bars?”

Dunn said. “Because it is now called Clara’s Cantina. When we fought the Shogals, almost 12 month ago. The Stryker ran into four Shogal Battle Ships and was heavily damaged before we managed to overwhelm one and the Navy managed to jump into the right system to help us out. R Deck was breached and many of the civilian contractors perished, among them Rose Wellington. She was the proprietor of what now is officially called Clara’s Cantina, to those who served aboard back then it will always be Rose’s. ”

Roy raised his glass. “To Rose.”

Dunn also raised his beer and repeated. “To Rose”

Roy gave Richard a warning look, but the Gunnery Sergeant ignored it and said. “It was then when a certain green marine fresh from the Academy took command of a boarding party and earned himself the Medal of Honor.”

The young marine gasped. “You received the Medal of Honor, sir?”

Roy looking in the distance beyond the young Marine and nodded, “Aye, I did.”


They had celebrated Eugbenzi’s promotion, drank to Ructus and other lost friends and comrades until the wee hours before they all found their way to their quarters.

Roy, as an officer had a small cabin for himself and before he went to bed he selected full dress Uniform from the Auto Dresser and made sure it was immaculate before he stood before the GalCom terminal and requested a Avatar Connection to the Attikan home world. The fact that he could send his Avatar projection all the way to the Large Magellan Cloud in virtual real time, was a testament to Union technology and the envy of other civilizations but right now and to him it was a very solemn and incredible difficult duty. Especially as he knew Ructus’ family well.

The GalNet terminal and the Stryker disappeared around him after he had stepped into the environment simulator field and his five senses were connected via Neuro links to his Avatar projection establishing itself 600,000 light years away in the Common room of the Wind Planes residence of the Ructus family pod. Attikans did not have first names the way humans had, they used family or pod names and identified individual members by olfactory means that could be translated into Attikan grunt and gnarl sounds other Attikans understood but had no real meaningful translation in Union Standard Lingu. He had been here before, as Ructus was more than a comrade or a fellow Marine, but a close friend.

The old Pod leader, a still fierce and big looking Attikan, despite his advanced age, waited for him in the open atrium like common room of the one storey home, carved out of a sand stone rock formation. The Ructus were an old and influential family and lived on a sprawling estate on the very core world of the mighty Attikan Commonwealth.

The home was furnished in the rustic and traditional Attikan way with low seat pits, rough woven mats and the furs of prey animals. Prey animal skulls worked into oil lamps, no longer used for illumination purposes were still used for tradition sake. The Old Ructus knew what Roy’s visit was all about, he had received the standard GalNet Message from Marine Corps Headquarters shortly after his son’s dog tag transmitted the KIA pulse to Command.

Roy had learned a lot about the Attikan civilization and their customs but he did not know how they dealt with death or the loss of a loved one.

“Sir, I am here to inform you about...”

The Old Attikan put his finger to his jaws in a very human looking gesture for silence and pointed at a sand stone wall behind Roy.

Roy turned and noticed a folded Union Flag below a picture of Ructus in Marine corps uniform, having his arm around Roy, also in Uniform.

The Old Attikan said in a growing tone. “My Pod is poorer of a promising Alpha, my heart is heavy as he was a favorite of mine, but he died in the company of the mightiest warriors and in the presence of a dear friend. No Attikan could ask for more in his passing hour. I envy him as I must battle with age and succumb to nature. He died fighting 12 meter tall giants. Tell me of his last fight.”

Roy gave the Old Attikan a detailed account, of Ructus fighting the Noghler.

The Old Attikan approached Roy’s avatar. “You are always welcome here. If you can visit us in person and when you do we will put Ructus Spirit bone together on the pile of ancestors.”

“I do not know when I get leave, but I promise I will do so as soon as I can.”

“He is dead, Roy. Marine Command told us, you collected his remains and they will be shipped to us. The dead have time and do not suffer the urgency life dictates on us who remain. Come whenever you can. Should you perish before that will happen, I will make sure a Bone of yours is laid with his.”

Roy put his nose to the slightly wet and dark snout of the Old Attikan in the traditional greeting and show of honor and affection. “Death hold no horrors if such honor awaits.”

“Fare well, then Roy, friend of Ructus.”

Roy bid his farewell and disconnected.

An hour later he was lying in his rack, but despite being dead tired he was still emotionally stirred and so he took down his small visualizer and scrolled through the two-dee pictures of his own friends and family. There was a picture of Sam, Clara, a picture of Charles his robot. There was Ma Swanson and his friends on Green Hell and his mother. His thoughts trailed back to when it all begun. To the day he had left Green Hell; to the day he started his journey to Sares and back then when he had the first strange dreams about his mother still being alive.

Much had happened since then.

The Kermac were retreating now for the last six years and most of the fighting happened in space. Roy and his Platoon could barely remember how many ships and enemy stations they had boarded. There was no one in the known galaxy doubting that the Union would win this war.

It had started almost seven years ago and caused by a Kermac attack on his home planet Green Hell and escalated as it came to light that the Union President himself was a Kermac spy.

Much had happened to Roy ever since indeed: a small odyssey half across Union Space, his time on Sares Prime and the Wurgus affair at Pluribus and finally boot camp and his admission to the Marine Academy at New Quantico. All this happened only about six years ago and yet it appeared to him as if it happened a life time ago.

He expected the war to be over by the time he was done with boot camp and academy, but they were still fighting the Kermac and the Galactic Council.

The main reason was the fact that space was so darn big and that it took ships and fleets weeks and month to reach their destination. Out here beyond Union Space, without Space Trains and Hyper Jump Highways, travel was much slower.

Another reason for the War dragging on was the fact that Command was taking it slowly and methodically. This war was not fought with strategic goals and tactical battles, but to roll the Galactic Council up like a carpet, system by system, quadrant by quadrant. Squeezing those Paper Skin bastards and their Galactic Council thralls right out of the very Galaxy.

Admiral Stahl had told the Assembly in a GalNet broadcast speech that he intended to wipe the Galaxy clean of everything ever associated with the Kermac, once and for all. Not everyone agreed perhaps, but no one friend or foe alike doubted his word.

Of course the Kermac, leading the Galactic Council were not rolling over and surrendering.

Almost every week were news about a new previously unknown Thrall species thrown into the fight by their Kermac masters.

It took little imagination to visualize how the Kermac felt, seeing their empire, their sphere of influence that was second only to the Union shrink every day.

Now if it was all up to the Eternal Warrior the war would have been over of course and every enemy world simply orbital bombed including Kermac Prime, but that was not the Union way. Since it was believed that most Thrall species of the GC did not fight on their own free will, but where forced either by the Kermac Psi powers or by other means.

It was by Assembly decision that every time a new species appeared, it had to be determined how they were controlled. If evidence of Kermac forced control was found efforts had to be made to free them of that influence and give them a chance to surrender and disassociate themselves from the Kermac. However if it was determined they weren’t controlled and ignored offers to surrender they could be attacked and destroyed unrestricted.

This was done mainly due to the X101 who once had been a Thrall species of the Kermac and argued that other species should get the same chance.

The Union gained nine new members that way, former Galactic Council civilizations including the Elly, who had been a staunch Kermac ally before. News from Union Side told about three more former Galactic Council civilizations currently in the process of gaining Union Membership.

So far eleven civilizations and Kermac Thrall species had not chosen to surrender or disassociate themselves and more or less ceased to exist.

Union Analysts and Intel sources estimated that the Kermac still controlled about 15,000 star systems and several hundred civilizations, but only perhaps 20 percent of these were anywhere near Tech Level 7 or useful warriors.

He slowly drifted into sleep after all, while his thoughts mingled with dreams and went back to the days it had all started.

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