JAKE duffy, Terran Republic Quartermaster, AMP Station Gamma. June 21, 2845.
Duffy’s voice could be heard through the walls of his Plexi-enclosed office. “What the freakin’ hell are you standing there for, Jones? You playing with yourself? I told you to get those !%$#$@ weapons to the loading dock-A…now.”
He glanced at the manifest, then glared at Private Genny Jones, quaking in fear, a tiny, little thing, no more than five feet one, if even that, with shoulder length flaming red hair and a temper to match. She had been assigned to weapons’ supply only two weeks ago when they were still at relative peace with the New Conglomerate and they thought she’d have time to learn her job while the two sides tried to reach some tentative compromise. Nobody expected those idiots to start shooting at each other before dawn the very next morning.
“115 Mini chain guns. We need two crates of bolt drivers. They’re also going to need cyclers and repeater pistols. And don’t forget the dome blasters. You got all that, Jones?”
“Yessir,” she shouted back. “I gathered them soon as I saw the manifest this ayem, sir. And they’re already loaded onto the Galaxys. I was just waiting for coordinates to dispatch them, sir.”
Duffy looked her over. Two weeks on the job and she nailed it. Damn. “Good work, Private. Punching them in now. And one other thing, Jones.”
“I’m the Quartermaster, not an officer. Call me that, or Q, or Duffy. Not sir.”
“Sorry, won’t happen again…Duffy.”
“Make sure it doesn’t private. Now get on board. You’re with Booth and Erickson.”
She was already on the move.
The troops took their places in the Galaxy and braced for lift-off. Two minutes later Duffy’s voice crackled over her head-armor earphones. “The brass just told me to relay your mission. So, listen up, soldiers, I’m not repeating it. Two platoons of T.R. soldiers are trapped on the volcanic island of Searhus, under fire by ^&%# New Conglomerate dirtbags. Appears they took control of Mount Lavastorm on the mistaken belief we’re gonna let ‘em free their captured forces from the Kane Prison Compound. If they succeed, the N.C. armies would be equal to T.R. forces. Our job’s to make certain that will never happen. You got that?”
Genny Jones joined the chorus with a loud, “Understood, Quartermaster Duffy. Understood.”
As the Galaxy sped across Auraxis toward Searhus, Jones mentally catalogued what she had been taught about the enemy. The New Conglomerate were originally from three very different groups who came together for their mutual benefit. First and foremost there were the businessmen. They may not have been the highest of the muckety-mucks, but they ran the most powerful companies back on Earth and the Terran colonies and were sent to establish a foothold on the other side of the universe to exponentially increase company profits. They were the VPs and managers of the original conglomerates and now they were going to control the new businesses. Of course, Jones realized the bosses weren’t expecting to do any of the hard labor by themselves, so they brought along the civilian workforce, men and women paid to join the mission to build the new cities, factories and more. Once done they would return to Earth to collect their creds. Finally, because the businessmen never went anywhere without protection, they brought along the third group that made up the N.C.’s: the highly paid and highly dangerous mercenaries.
Unlike the bulk of Connery’s crew who intended to colonize and live on the new worlds they discovered, these groups were in it for creds only. They planned to return home as soon as they could. They had no loyalty to Connery or the mission. All they cared about was what they could get out of it. The New Conglomerate, as they came to call themselves, were always willing to work with them. But, Genny remembered reading that once they found themselves on the other side of the wormhole with no way to return home, meaning no way to get their creds, they slowly moved apart from the others.
Genny remembered her Sergeant’s words, drilled into her squad of new recruits. “You wanna know the difference between us an’ them,” he shouted. “Once those N.C. bastards landed on Auraxis, they came to the high ‘n’ mighty conclusion that the Terran Republic’s laws, which they had followed ‘til then, were suddenly incompatible with their own selfish needs. They could never accept that the laws were enacted to protect all the people, seein’ we were so many lightyears from home. Like always, those N.C. buttholes only thought about themselves an’ nobody else.”
She took out her tab and flipped through the vids of her family back on Cyssor and hopefully safe. Her mom smiled at her and blew her a kiss. Her Dad looked at her like he always did. To him she was still nine years old and in pigtails. Her sister, Lea, mouthed the words, “Be safe, sis,” which made Genny grin. Sandy, her older brother, just waved solemnly. He was the one who fought the most with her not to join the T.R. army. Sandy, a theoretical physicist, was caught up with the Vanu cultists and was against some of T.R. laws but those Vanu nuts were nothing compared to the N.C. traitors. They argued endlessly over who was right and who was wrong, and she recognized that he made some good points, but ultimately she had to fight for the cause she most believed in. Still, she loved him and knew he loved her, and they both prayed that war would not divide their family as it was doing to Auraxis.
Back in his office, Quartermaster Duffy watched the Galaxys take off for Searhus. Before they took off he had done his traditional one last walk through. He saw the shock of red hair in the back. Genny Jones was talking with Billy Pelz, a recent recruit no older that eighteen unless he had lied about his age. A lot of the kids did these days. They talked excitedly about going off to war. Idiots. They got no idea what war is all about, Duffy thought before giving a silent prayer that they all came home again.
He turned away and scanned the news vids looking for any word whether the group that was now calling themselves the Vanu Sovereignty was remaining neutral, taking sides or launching their own offensive. So far nothing. He prayed they would stay out of it. Life on Auraxis had suddenly gone to hell and Duffy didn’t need another conflict to make it worse.
He shook his head wondering how it had come to this. By the time they found Auraxis and landed, the people had joined together for mutual protection. They tamed the savage planet, terraformed it, grew food enough for everyone, built cities and fortifications, and worked together so they could survive together.
So much changed in 175 years.
He sighed, breathed in a deep breath, then called in Ben Davids, yet another new kid who joined up only this past week. “What the freakin’ hell are you standing there for, Davids?” Duffy shouted. “ You playing with yourself? I told you to get those !%$#$@ weapons to the loading dock-B… now.”