A Military Science Fiction short in four parts.

Final part.

The service tunnels brought us out into another section of their subterranean highways. We followed along until we came into sight of our original target. The shield generator. One of a set. If enough got brought down, the capital building’s shield would be vulnerable to an orbital strike. One tungsten rod propelled via rail-cannon and this war would be over. Without the support of the technologically advanced Indigos, the other xenosapien species standing against the Monarchy’s allies would fall one by one like dominoes. Paving the way for the Monarchy’s endgame to come to fruition. An Alliance of all four interstellar nations. Led, of course, by the Solarian Monarchy.

But I get ahead of myself. First came the shield generator.

Andy dropped his myrmidons down into quadrupedal mode and sent one sprinting in with grenades strapped to its back. The other he kept in reserve to deliver the killing blow in case we failed. A last ditch effort.

Dempsey braced his Chimaera cannon against a downed hover car and took aim for the Indigo’s guard station, laying down a torrent of high-cycle plasma bolts. More tally marks to add to his barrel.

I took the two others around behind the station and formed a three-man kill squad, silently breaching a side wall and pushing inwards. Clearing out their command post was a matter of swift seconds and sharp movements, light trigger-pulls and overlapping voices calling out targets and eliminations.

When it was done we opened up the doorway to the shield generator and tossed in a frag.

Boom. One less generator. But the shield still held. No tungsten rod from on high came plummeting down to end it all. Not yet anyway. We would need to keep pushing, find another generator and take it down too, if we wanted this latest nightmare to end. There are no easy days in the Solarian Infantry.

Dempsey gave voice to what I was already thinking. “What now, boss?”

What now indeed?

I didn’t have a plan then, only a faint sense of direction and a general awareness that there were likely Indigo forces en route to us for a swift reprisal. We needed to move. Only question left was where we should be heading. Fall back and regroup? There was nothing left of the 901st to regroup with. We’d have to fold ourselves in with another company and find ourselves at the mercy of whatever idiots were in charge.

Or… my eyes drifted beyond the shattered command post, further down the line towards the capitol itself.

A new voice patched into our comms. Deep and resonant. Calmer than I felt.

“Any Infantry forces in our AO, please respond, this is Sergeant James Pollux requesting immediate fire support at target Bravo-one, over. Oh. And whosoever just took out that shield generator, you have my thanks. Drinks on me when we’re off this rock.”

Target Bravo? Targets Alpha-one through Alpha-nine were the shield generators. We’d just taken out Alpha-three.

“What the fuck is target Bravo, over?” Dempsey, again. He’d broadcast that question.


Long pause. Then came the deep voice again. It sounded amused.

“Bravo-one is the planetary governor. Head honcho of the blue monkey tribe. Shot caller. Bastard in charge. The big cheese. We take him out, this war ends lickety split. Now, if you don’t mind me asking. Who is this? Which company are you with?”

I held up a hand to silence Dempsey’s undoubtedly verbose response.

“We’re all that’s left of the 909th infantry division. This is Sergeant Garret Jax and company. Three organics, two technicals, and a whole lot of payback. We ain’t much but we’re supremely motivated.”

“Oorah,” Dempsey agreed. His sentiments were echoed by our two comrades. For the life of me I can’t remember their damn names.

But I remember the voice on the other end of the line saying, “You’ll do nicely. If you feel like pointin’ that payback somewhere useful, head to these coordinates. My team and I will meet you there.”

An icon popped up on my HUD, deeper inside the governor’s palace.

I turned to my ragtag crew and posed the question. “We going in?”

Dempsey lugged his cannon up a little higher and started moving, tossing a, “Dumb question, boss,” over his shoulder.

Yeah, we were going in.


I got it into my head that the voice on the other end of the line was going to belong to this larger-than-life demigod of battle. Nope. It was just some guy in a full-head helmet and standard Infantry gear. His squad was still fully kitted out and accounted for, looking dirty but no worse for wear. Some part of me was tempted to assume they got lucky and missed most of the denser pockets of fighting on their way in. But somehow I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.

This squad carried itself like they were all just as mechanical as one of Andy’s Myrmidons. Not a movement was spared unless it was totally necessary. As loose as coiled springs, they were. At the drop of a hat it looked like they could all go straight into kill-everything-in-sight mode. Everything about them set off some ancient part of my hindbrain that just kept blaring the same message over and over again. Danger. Predators nearby. Run.

Leave it to Dempsey to find the right words to greet even the deadliest sumbitches alive. “We’re here to see a man about ending a war? Right place, or are you ladies just the welcome party?”

Hard to gauge a man’s reaction when it’s locked away behind a dark visor, but some of the tension seemed to bleed out of their shoulders.

“Right place, right time,” spoke their leader. “So here’s how this is going to go down. First we infiltrate, then we identify Target Bravo, and finally we annihilate it with extreme prejudice. Any questions?”

Dempsey raised his hand.

“No? Good. Let’s move out.”

I’ll level with you kid, from there on out I was just along for the ride. There was killing that needed doing and we were there for it. We got more than our fill of payback along the way, but we were just cleaning up the leftovers that the other team left behind.

I thought I was a stone cold killer. No. I was a mewling kitten clawing at shadows. These guys moved like the wind and fought like demons. You asked me what I remember? Not much from the infiltration side of things. They handled that just fine. It was all my team and I could do just to keep up with them.

When I was growing up there was this combat sim game, something-something Valor, I think. It was all hyper modern combat in these imaginary scenarios all across the galaxy. Fun stuff. Anyway, it used a matchmaking feature to make sure you were always paired up with a full squad of live players. I was good at it. Nine times out of ten I’d be the top performer on whatever mission we were tackling by a decent margin. But every now and then there’d be some player that completely blew my score out of the water. Ran circles around me, killing targets before I could even see them, always doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time and making it look easy. That’s what fighting beside these guys was like. Except this time it was a whole squad of the bastards.

Those Indigos put up a great fight. I’d never seen them more desperate and motivated. These bugs had the heaviest armor and the best guns. But they never stood a chance. These guys in regular Infantry kit tore through them like they were low-level NPCs in a videogame they’d been playing since they were four years old.

As long as I’ve lived I have never seen anything like it before or since.

Near the end we got separated. My team and I just couldn’t keep up with their pace anymore. We walked right into an ambush that was meant for them.

Dempsey got hit hard. Arm blown off by an explosive round. Nasty wound. The medic and I grabbed him and hauled his ass behind cover. Our other teammate went down in a hail of enemy fire.

I held them off for about sixty seconds before they converged on our location and shit got medieval.

Boosted my shield pack out into a dome pattern to pick off any long range fire before it reached me, yanked out my long knife for CQB and my Xiphos kinetic hand cannon and went to work. Shit got medieval after that. Andy’s drones fought alongside me in their quadrupedal forms. Nothing like fighting alongside a pair of attack dogs to speed things along. One after the other those blue bugs fell before their jaws, my blade, and my gun. Splashed the orange goop they used for lifeblood all over me in the process, and I lost count of how many I brought down.

But something about the adrenaline kicking in, I could probably recite every move of that battle to you if I really tried. I remember the feel of the pistol kicking in my hand as I blew apart some poor Indigo’s skull from kissing distance. The shocks that rippled through me as it died. I remember the way the knife carved through them. It’s different from fighting humans. The knife doesn’t catch where it normally would.

But above all I remember thinking I wasn’t going to make it out of there alive and still fighting on anyway. Until my shield gave out at least.

As you can see by the fact that I’m still alive to sit here and have this interview, that final stand was not my final breath. The other squad noticed we fell behind and must’ve decided we were worth keeping around for some reason. They sent one man back to fetch us. Just one.

Bastard came flying in with one of those old Manticore smart launchers. Pump-action, drum magazine, heavy hitting beast of a gun. Fired grenades, spikes, anti-personnel gas, you name it. Alliance banned the things for a reason. He turned that battlefield into an Indigo mass grave in fourteen seconds flat. I remember that. Fourteen seconds.

Then he just sizes us up, points back the way he came, and tells me to follow him.

While we were busy staying alive, they popped Target Bravo before he could descend into his bunker. The war was over and won. So what the hell did they want me for?


At this point in the interview, my subject stood up from his sofa and pointed back at the massive hologram of himself posing with the flag.

“That photo was all they wanted us for. The team we linked up with weren’t standard Infantry at all. They were Operators. The boogeymen of Solace. The off-the-books blacklisted never-heard-of-them supersoldiers they only send in when things absolutely have to go to plan. None of them could pose for the photo-op, so they chose me for it instead. Well, it could’ve probably been Dempsey or… fuck I really can’t remember the medic’s name. I swear I remembered it last week. Maybe I am getting old after all. Whatever. I was the guy in the room, so they handed me a flag and told me how to pose. From that day forward I was no longer Sergeant Jax. I was Jax the war hero who led his squad on a daring mission to eliminate the Indigo leader with extreme prejudice. All built on a lie. A piece of propaganda to hype up the Solarian Infantry and make them seem even deadlier than they really are. All for what? So that the Monarchy could take their place as first amongst so-called ‘equals’ in the Alliance. That is what the Seven Systems War was really about, kid. That’s what it all came down to. That’s why so many of my friends had to die so many lightyears from home. So the Monarch could establish dominance over our little corner of the galaxy. Fucking… fuck.”

The old man in a young man’s body hurls his glass through the holographic facade of his even younger self. It smashes against the far wall without much ceremony.

I sit and listen a while to see if he has more to say. But it seems like he’s done now.

“Is that why you began this rebellion, Mister Jax?”

He scoffs at this and looks at me with a thousand lightyear stare. Physically he’s in the room with me but really he’s some other place in some other time.

“It’s part of it,” he admits. “There’s still some anger there. But it’s always more than one thing, isn’t it? Our systems are the furthest out from Solace that humanity has ever reached. It’s a three month journey by warp just to fling yourself out this far. You think anyone comes out to the ass-end of the frontier so they can keep dealing with Solarian oversight? The taxes out here started off unthinkable and slowly drifted towards insane. It wasn’t just one thing that led us to the decision. It was one thing after another until enough was enough. Also for the record I didn’t start this rebellion. I just stepped in once the ball got rolling and people looked to me for answers. Because why wouldn’t they? I’m a goddamned war hero after all, right?”

He sighs and reaches for a glass that’s not there anymore. He curses. He moves to pour himself another drink.

“I’ve studied the lead-up to the Fountain’s Drought, sir. I understand in principal the need for a boycott on something Solace provides. A way to say ‘we don’t need or want your help.’ I get that. But why ambrosia?”

Jax, the man, the myth, the legend, plops himself down on the sofa and sips his liquor like a normal human being. He’s not, but pretending he is seems to be good for his psyche.

“In the aftermath on Vixante Three the Indigos didn’t all stop fighting at once. There were pockets of resistance all across the planet. Word came down a day or two after we’d killed the planetary governor to bring down this giant statue they kept in the center of town. It was a sacred symbol to their people. This idol of all they could aspire to be. Beautiful statue. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I had been staring at it for hours by the time we finally brought it down. Sure enough, the fight went out of them when the thing came down.

“Symbols have power, kid. Solace clings to their symbols just like everybody else. The idols they choose to worship are the stars themselves. Their patented Dyson swarms give them a power no one else in the galaxy can attain, and the Alliance they made with the other branches of humanity was all about making sure no one else could even come close to achieving the same level of technology. Ambrosia, the life-extending superfood they grow on their swarms, is another idol. It allows them to control their own populace. Keep them compliant. Join us and live forever. Move against us and you will wither, decay, and die. The Fountain’s Drought was our response to this. We would rather live short, free lives than live forever under their tyranny. It was my wife’s idea. Brilliant woman. I miss her.”

He sips again, and I’m pretty sure my time with the Governor is over.

We chat a while longer. I take some notes and ask a few more questions. But I’ll be honest, the man seemed to have reached his limit for the day. He wasn’t at all forthcoming about what he planned to do next. Nor did he seem surprised when I brought up the idea of Solace moving against New Gaia and its co-conspirator systems in the coming years. He seemed perfectly at peace with that notion.

Left unsaid as he saw me back to the star station for my departure later that day was one cheerful final notion. Let them come.

Jax is a powerhouse with no delusions of grandeur. He knows where he stands in the grand scheme of things. He knows what he is capable of. He knows what the Monarcy is capable of. Yet still he insists on standing against them.

In short, no, I don’t think New Gaia is weak. When we hit them, we will need to hit them hard and we will need to be relentless. I recommend contracting the Theracites for this invasion. Their savagery and the psychological effect of fighting those parasitic freaks will serve us well.

As for Jax himself, eliminate with extreme prejudice. Sooner the better. If he survives he will know to use himself as a symbol and empower the others to fight back with tenfold ferocity. The sooner he dies, the better.

Agent 074338, over and out.