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 The New Beginning - Part V

The flotilla of Fitzgerald-class heavy super-transports popped out of Jump Space in the Iilgan system on schedule with the customary pinpoint flash of released energy. Immediately the mercenaries of the Tobian Foreign Legion's 2nd Regiment Etranger de Parachutistes went into action. On the surface of Iilgan so to did the sophisticated insurgent network of informers and saboteurs known as the Ysolde River Act Resistance. Their leader, Baron Gulian Olofuli, had long ago infiltrated the Iilgan Port Authority and had established agents in the Orbital Space Division's flight control center. Baron Gulian was made aware of the arrival of the anticipated mercenary force as soon as orbit based sensors detected the approach of the large fleet of transports. From his headquarters at his estates outside of the city of Ysolde he immediately ordered the dispersion of his forces. The sudden communications transmission was detected by the local law enforcement agencies who intern activated their paramilitary police forces for possible terrorist or insurgent actions in key areas within the region.

During the hours required for the heavy transports to approach Iilgan's orbital space the government forces and the YRAR insurgents executed a number of contingency plans. Knowledge of the hiring of the mercenaries by the government has been alluded to for many months. Only recently had an agent of Baron Gulian been able to verify their movement toward Iilgan by monitoring the nearby commercial nexus system of Fist. Gulian had reduced the number of operations against the government forces not long ago. YRAR had begun marshalling its forces for a more conventional guerilla war against the better-armed and better equipped mercenaries upon originally learning that the government had intended to approach the Tobians to hire their famous semi-official fire brigade. The Tobian Foreign Legion had built a reputation for expedient execution of Tobian policy while leaving the Tobians themselves the ability to claim deniability for specific acts or operations.

Gulian was aware of the great many assets the Legion would command to use against him and his rebel forces. He would not make the same mistakes that the rebels on New Moscow had made resulting in their defeat by these same mercenaries. The most lethal would be their sophisticated state-of-the-art communications and surveillance capabilities provided to them most probably by the Tobian government itself.

Quickly Gulian collected a few personal items then he retrieved a flight bag he had prepare when he had first learned that the government had initiated the process of looking for aid from the Tobians. Next he contacted his chief of security for his estate and ordered him to prepare for the arrival of hostile government forces. Once that was finished he made his way to the to the estate's well equipped landing pad and boarded a personal helicopter to leave the region for another on the planet from which he would direct his organization's operations.

Hours later the flotilla of Tobian transports silently slid into synchronous orbit over designated sites on the surface of the small world. In the utter quiet of space the mercenaries went to work freeing and boarding their deadly assault craft. On the cramped bridges of each of the mammoth transports a team of mercenaries aided by the civilian technicians begin the lengthy task of identifying and charting each and every piece of orbital hardware or craft moving in Iilgan orbital space around them.

Quietly with the determination that comes from experience the first teams of mercenaries boarded their Combat Drop Ships or "CDS". The large sleek grav-vehicles had the capacity to carry a platoon of lightly equipped mercenaries or two of their surface vehicles into battle from orbit. The ghastly painted nose of the CDS had outrageous teeth and a carnivorous grin painted over the mercenaries' combat color scheme. At the forward end of the CDS in clamshell doors to protect them during atmospheric entry were two reciprocating fusion cannons giving the grav-vehicles tremendous self-defense capability. Additionally the CDS has mounted on each flank retracting wings each carrying a swappable modular weapons pod. Currently they had been loaded with thirty-shot rapid-fire anti-tank missiles. For troop support each pod wing also carried a six barrel 9mm Gatling gun. The last element of the landing craft's defensive capability were three dismountable fusion, man portable guns deployed in bubbles on the port and starboard sides of the vehicle and on the fantail.

With professional precision the CDS slowly made the way to their disembark positions in the cavernous innards of the massive transports. As the large cargo doors slid open, each large enough to allow the entry of ship's boats and pinnaces delivering cargo, the CDS moved. Quickly moving from the transports the sleek grav-vehicles dropped toward the atmospheric envelope of Iilgan for a stealthy entry to the area of operations on the surface.

The passengers on each of the CDS felt the violent shake from their vehicle cutting into the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds followed by shuddering as it used its power to slow to subsonic speeds as each vehicle approached its initial objective. The mercenaries make their meteoric insertion on the light side of the planet to avoid the telltale streaks of light alerting observers on the ground. As the CDS slowed to a speed that allowed tactical maneuvering the weapons pods on each vehicle deployed for use while the clamshell housing the nose guns slid back. In just moments the grav-vehicles are near the surface; the CDS each head to their assigned staging areas to wait for the fall of darkness to continue their initial operations.

On the bridge of the adhoc command ship of the Tobian flotilla Commandant Mark O'Neill quietly sets at a horizontal battle-map following the computer generated display of his troops on the surface. Phase One was underway of his campaign against the Iilgan insurgents. Tall for a human, the forty-two year old veteran commander watched in silence, sipping from his coffee cup from time to time. He was oblivious to the fact his drink had gone cold a long time ago. He had been on the bridge since the transports first popped out of jump space. Standing beside O'Neill his senior warrant officer in charge of his intelligence section also watched the data streaming across the flat screen.

"Any contact or challenges yet?" O'Neill asked his intelligence chief.

Major Alpheus checked his hand computer quickly before responding; "The local airspace control center for Ysolde challenged a few of the CDS but our boys maintained radio silence as per the plan."

"How soon until dusk in the AO?" O'Neill almost whispers due to his concentration on the small icons moving on the flat screen.

"About fifteen standard minutes." Came the answer.

Its at that point O'Neill noticed his coffee had turned stale and stepped around a merchant crewman to the bridge coffee dispenser on a few meters away. He then slid sideways around a console and made his way to the oversized acceleration chair that served as the captain's seat. It was setting between two similar chairs occupied by the transport's piloting team. The flotilla's commodore was setting scratching his unshaven chin also sipping coffee as he studied the display of the orbital traffic on a screen console at his feet between the two pilots.

"Well they're on the surface waiting for it to get dark at their site." He began the conversation.

Captain Ghislani Allson smiled back turning away from the display before him. "The off-loading of your initial landers went well. I think they set a new record for getting those things off the ship." Allson took another sip of his own coffee before readjusting his position in his over padded chair. "What's the next step?"

O'Neill smiled at the question, "First we move into positions to react from. Now I am getting my assets in place to respond in support of one and other. I want everything in place before my first man makes contact with the rebels."

"And then what?" queries Allson.

"Then we blow them to Hell." O'Neill said casually as he turned to move back to his command map display.

Parsecs away the independent commercial far trader Glory floated near the ruined hull of an Aslan Eakhau-class trader. Inside the Glory Captain Val Salvis and the former Imperial Scout Zachary Prax finished prepping their ancient commercial vacuum suits for extra-vehicular activity. The former law enforcer turned freetrader Angelica Shimmer help check data displays and seals as the two men ran through their systems checks one more time.

"Ok, I think I am ready." The sound of Salvis' voice betrayed his concern over what the two of them were about to attempt.

"Piece of cake." Returned his long time friend and sometime partner in adventures like this trip had turned into very quickly after leaving the Hradus system. Zack moved to ward the airlock first in his heavily armored suit. Their suits were intended for belters and mining operations in the many asteroid belts that populate Imperial space. They were heavily padded with cloth armor with heavy plastisteel elbow and kneepads, heavily reinforced joints and well-armored helmet and chest plates. The suits were heavy and cumbersome in normal gravity but were agile enough in zero or micro gravity situations. Zack slowly turned the manual control for the inner starboard side cargo door. After the iris valve door slid open he moved forward into the large cargo airlock then turned and waited for Salvis to follow. Once the captain was also inside the lock, and the iris door closed Zack began the cycling sequence that moved the valuable atmosphere into the rest of the ship.

Once the indicators on both the hull wall and the vacuum suits indicated they were in a total vacuum Zack reached for the manual controls to open the cargo airlock. Trace gases that were not detected by the far trader's commercial grade sensors rushed toward the crack that formed at the bottom of the lifting door out into space. Particles of dust and other small debris were carried into the vacuum. The Universe however for the two men was completely silent save the sound of their own personal respiration. Awkwardly turning in their oversized suits to look at each other they then moved to the lip of the Glory's cargo deck. Each peered out across the void between the trader and the drifting derelict.

Being the more agile, they had agreed that Salvis would be the one to lead and Zack would be the one to anchor during their transfer to the 400 displacement ton Eakhau-class trader. Relying entirely on his excellent common sense or intelligence, and his innate ability to sense what to do in dangerous or unique situations or what some in the Imperium called being a Jack of All Trades, Salvis kneeled then stepped out onto the outer hull of the Glory. A feeling of dread swept over him as he sensed he was on the verge of falling off the ship into the eternal void. His respiration and heart beat rate soared.

"Settle down Val." Came the soothing voice of Angelica Shimmer across the helmet speaker.

"Damn it, damn it, damn it..." Salvis began repeating, half listening to Angelica's voice, half focusing on keeping his stomach from releasing its contents into his helmet and possibly drowning him where he stood.

Zack was no more experienced in actual EVA operations than Salvis; meaning not at all, but being the Second Man always had its advantages. "Hang in their Val, I'll be out there with you in a second." Slowly Zack began his own journey outside of the Glory. Zack also was one of those unique people that coupled with his experience and innate ability could attempt just about anything in dangerous or special situations, like this. Clumsily Zack made his way to his friend and leader's side. It was easier on Zack because he was able to focus on Salvis and his situation.

"Damn it, damn it, damn it..." Salvis' voice came consistently across the suit's radio speaker.

Zack reached out and tapped Salvis' helmet visor with his hobnailed glove. When he saw Salvis' eyes focus on his he began, "Val ready let's go. I've got you. Your lanyard is hooked on my utility belt. Shove off and drift over to the Aslan alright."

"Forget this shit man." Salvis started to sluggishly move back toward the airlock.

"Salvis come on. You've done shit more dangerous than this. Besides I've got you. When have I ever let you down?" The absurdity of that statement brought Salvis back to the reality of their situation and the return of his self-confidence.

"When have you ever let me down?" Salvis countered then he really focused on Zack's face framed in the suit helmet. "You let go of that lanyard and I'll kick your sorry butt all the way back to the Spinward Marches you bastard."

Laughing the two men then turned and surveyed the drifting Aslan trade ship. "Alright, I'm going to try and land there, amidships." Salvis pointed toward the fat central section of the raped hull.

"OK, I'm ready when you are." Zack threw the coil of the lanyard to the side allowing the cable to untangle and float free. He had it clipped to his belt as he said earlier.

"Damn it." Salvis gave one last curse then bent his knees and jumped up and away from the still hull of the Glory with all his slightly better than average strength. It was enough to break the contact of his boot soles and the metal skin of the hull. Slowly he began to drift up and away from the hull. To outward appearances he floated slowly up and away from the Glory like a freed balloon does in a Children's park. Like a balloon he trailed his lanyard to the rear connecting him to his anchor, Zachary Prax. Now he slowly removed his auto-pistol from its pouch on his stomach. He gingerly handled it with both heavily padded hands, holding it to his front. It too was anchored to him with a small wire lanyard. The trigger guard on this pistol ran the entire length of the handgrip so than his oversized fingers could operate the pistol in a suit. He then looked upward toward the Aslan trader to get his bearings. Using the lanyard connecting him to Zack as a base he rotated his torso so that he could point the pistol in the opposite direction. Then he fired one round. The kinetic energy released was sufficient to propel him forward at a higher velocity toward the derelict.

Salvis' mass was nearly equal to Zack, who stood patiently watching Salvis move swiftly toward the Aslan. Every now and again he would look down to see that the uncoiled cable was not tangled or snagged on anything that would stop Salvis' momentum toward the wreak. "Val, we're passing what looks like half the cable, how are you looking?"

"I'd say another hundred meters, we going to be good?" Came Salvis' voice over the radio.

"I think so, we calculated five hundred meters, that's going to be a long way to haul your sorry ass back if its not enough."

"Sorry ass?" Chuckled Salvis over the radio.

Salvis sensed the nearing of the Aslan hull; he would land headfirst if he wasn't careful, as the Eakhau-class trader loomed nearer. Again using the connected lanyard as a stable base he twisted his body as it drifted to try and bring his legs underneath him. This was an awkward maneuver in the over padded suit. He made a mental note that they really needed to upgrade the EVA suits to a higher tech level next port call. Salvis had not realized the true velocity he was approaching the Aslan hull at. Although the velocity he acquired from the firing of his pistol was degraded tremendously due to his mass compared to that of the ejected projectile, he still had approached the Aslan with a great deal of speed for what he was attempting to do. By the time Salvis realized his mistake it was too late. He violently slammed into the hull banging his knee then chest and helmet into the tortured hull.

He then careened off the hull bouncing off into space, the sudden change in vector and speed rippled down the now nearly taught lanyard to Zack yanking him off the hull of the Glory into space. The impact had been tremendous knocking the wind out of Salvis and nearly splitting the seams of his suit. But the asteroid miner's suit had taken the impact and he was safe. His new trajectory was taking him slowly away from the Aslan. He slowly reeled in the slack of the lanyard and jerked on it violently to change his direction of drift back to ward Zack and the general direction of the Glory.

"Alright now what do we do?" Called Zack following being yanked off the Glory.

"I don't know, you're the damn egghead." Replied an angry Salvis.

Suddenly the very concerned voice of Angelica Shimmer cut in, "Well you two better figure something out because I sure as hell can not fly this ship and I will not be left out hear to run out of air and starve to death!" Angelica looked around her computer room on the Glory feeling a growing fear that they had made a deadly mistake by attempting to board the Aslan derelict. Slowly she closed her eyes and leaned back in her workstation chair. She freed her mind of all thoughts about her two companions hanging in the void outside the ship. She slowed her breathing and concentrated on the task at hand. She focused on blocking out the background noises made by the routine operations of the Glory. Within a minute a feeling of calm spreads over her consciousness, she began the difficult task of detecting life onboard the Aslan trader. Like ripples in a pond her consciousness spread, she felt Val and Zack and swept past them toward the Aslan trader. She felt her way through the wreckage; aware of distance more than anything else gauging how far she was sensing from her two companions, how far she had traveled.

There! She eased her consciousness back, her mind's eye. She felt warmth, glowing warmth. Now there were two sources of warmth, no - THREE distinct sources of warmth coming from the Aslan derelict. Angelica shifted in her seat on the Glory although her consciousness was hundreds of meters away. She knitted her brow as her concentration increased; perspiration ran down the sides of her face. But the drain on her was far too great and tasked her endurance to its maximum level. Their very lives depended on her success. She strained further; she had to push one last time or wait many hours until she recovered her strength. In her mind she formed the words, "Help outside, help outside." Then she collapsed unconscious to the deck from her chair in the Glory's computer room.

On board the derelict of the Eakhau-class trader known as the Ancient Surprise three survivors of the missile attack lay huddled to conserve their body heat from the quickly dropping temperatures. The female Gnarra was the most injured of the three, she moaned as she slid in and out of consciousness. Slowly her eyes opened, she looked around in the dim emergency lights for a source of the voice, but none was there. Her two surviving companions lay close at her side. Was there a fourth survivor? Her voice raspy from the caked blood in her throat she orders her companions to search the far side of the compartment they are entombed in. The two younger males first look at her with disbelief, they know there are no others, only themselves. But the force of will used by the Aslan noblewoman forced them to comply. Both the young males halfheartedly rose and moved cautiously across the wrecked room pushing free-floating debris out of their way. One of them by chance glanced out the porthole and spotted the human designed trader hanging of their side by only a few tens of meters.

"No!" She cautioned upon seeing one of the young males extend his razor sharp dew claw from its fleshy sheath in the palm of his hand. "No, they are here to help." She slowly pulled her self up onto her elbows and ordered, "Go, find the emergency space suit lockers and find us survival suits. Hurry, before it is too late!" She then slid back onto her back with a rush of air, exhausted from the short effort.

"They are apes from the ships that attacked us." Growled back one of the two young males.

"No they are not, they are friends. Go do as I have ordered, obey." She hissed out with weakened breath. She listened as the two young warriors clawed their way through the floating debris to the rear of the damaged merchant ship. She laid quietly letting the bitter cold of deep space engulf her body as she quietly and serenely slipped into the comfort of oblivion.

"The deployment from the tertiary AO will take place during daylight hours, to avoid obvious visual detection, to a staging area in grid A12, approaching from the west. The CDSs will wait until the cover of darkness then deploy to the insertion zones, IZ. This deployment will be timed so as they will arrive at their IZs at approximately 0330 Iilgan time. The CDSs will then proceed to insert each five man team on separate IZs, then proceed to a hide position within a 50 kilometer radius of the pilot's choice. Once in the hide position it is the duty of the SD units to protect the CDS on the ground, they are to also act as rescue teams if needed. CDS 110 will proceed to deployment grid A02 "wrench", CDS 111 will proceed to deployment grid D06 "hammer", and CDS 112 will proceed to deployment grid C10 "spade".

Once on the ground the Deep Recce and Action Platoon's five man teams will proceed to reconnoiter the areas in search of YRAR positions and assess enemy strengths and weaknesses. Each team will be prepared to change mission, if selected, when Gulian Olofuli's properties and personal location become available. All information will be reported to the intelligence section and HQ staff in the tertiary AO for assessment.

Orbital photographs, Thermal scans, radio photographs, and radar images will be taken of the primary AO prior to deployment. Particular attention will be paid to Grids C10, D06, and A02 though 06. The river and road trail leading from the city of Tomos in Grid D10 to the river junction in grid C04, this trail and river system will be code named "The Conduit". And the river from grid A02 to the city of Ysolde in grid G06, this river will be code named "The Resistor". All radio signals will be pinpointed, recorded, and run through the computer within the primary AO. The intelligence staff will evaluate suspicious transmissions.

A team of five intelligence staff members will deploy to Ysolde in grid G06, via civilian craft, to establish an informer network. Capitaine Howarth, and report will head this team directly to Major Alpheus. This team will be code named "Hunter".

The Combat Rescue Platoon of the 4th REA will remain at stage one status, in the tertiary AO, throughout the mission.

Ortillery satellites will be deployed upon arrival to the tertiary AO. Verbal orders are to be given to all remaining commanders within LEF-Gold to bring their units to stage two status upon arrival to the tertiary AO."

Quietly the five Tobian mercenaries moved through the lush jungle growth like wraiths. Using sophisticated hand signals the mercenaries moved as one through the night. Each man carried advanced electronic surveillance equipment as well as high tech weaponry. They alone could easily handle any armed resistance the YRAR rebels could possibly mount, without the supporting combat drop ships standing ready. Quietly the men worked their way through the jungle not expecting contact this early into their mission but prepared for it just incase their delivery pilot was lucky.

They had been on the move maybe two hours, nearing dawn when they detected movement to their right flank. Slowly the men moved forward fanning out into a wide wedge, still moving agonizingly slow to ensure security. Beneath the canopy the jungle they edged up slowly to the edge of a ridge that opened into a large ravine. Towering over them the monstrous trees native to Iilgan formed a cathedral hiding them from visual observation by passing aircraft. Dug into the ground in the base of some of the trees were tunnel openings. Some large enough to allow the entry of medium sized air/rafts or grav vehicles. Moving around the maze of tree bases were YRAR troops wearing heat retardant ponchos or tunics loosely worn over their work clothes. They all seemed to be carrying a mismatch of weapons of every style and type that could be found in the sector. The patrol leader made one quick snap with his fingers to gain the attention of his patrol members. He then directed their attention to a geodesic dome of triangle panels off to one side of their collective field of view. An on-ground surveillance array, probably used to monitor airborne activity in close proximity to their base. The patrol leader smiled to him self in admiration of the preparedness of the new opposition. Jump troops trained in the use of grav belts could easily negotiate the foliage in the upper canopy of their base site, or local government troops using grav carriers or air/rafts.

The patrol leader eased back from the lip of the ridge a few meters and took out his communication device. He quietly typed in the brevity code entries for the quick one or two second burst that he would fire skyward with his meson emitter toward the orbiting fleet. Soon the entire system would know the location of this rebel marshalling point.

Force Commander Compel Bast briskly walked on to the Command Bridge of the Imperial light cruiser Akagi. He was beginning to remember and appreciate why he had chosen the Planetary Defense division of the Imperial Marines so long ago...space travel. He made his way around navy starmen in their space black coveralls with ease and stealth. Not that anyone in particular was looking for him, but he was aware of the intensity that the Navy was prone to when bringing their ships into orbit. He stole a glance toward the central command dais where Captain Blenda Aart sat, watching the proceedings with all the intensity of a monarch at war.

Standing beside her was Bast's friend and ally in this new campaign, Lieutenant Commander Alexi Davion, son of the late Duke of Deneb and brother of the current duchess. Davion was actually controlling the operations of the cruiser as it slid into its stationary orbit over the Capital City and Imperial Residence on the planet Romar.

Bast turned toward the ship's main communications console to address the Navy lieutenant supervising the team working it. "I need a channel to communicate with the surface lieutenant."

An annoyed female officer turned as if preparing to dress someone down, then when she recognized the origin of the request regrouped. "Yes sir, but protocol is to keep all channels clear of personal traffic until the ship stands down from the maneuvering watch."

"Lieutenant I am not making a personal call. This is official business." He then reached over and retrieved a computer data interface board and stylus. On the flat screen he wrote instruction with the electronic stylus and handed it to the lieutenant. "I need to contact the garrison commander at that global navigation grid. Now lieutenant."

"Aye-aye sir." She turned and handed the data board to a crewman setting at the console and ordered the communication to be done. Then she walked toward the far end of the console to distance herself from Bast.

The crewman smiled and handed Bast a hand phone from a bracket on the console and told him he was patched through. Bast nodded thanks and moved off to the side of the large command deck to make his call.

"Marine Outpost Delta-7741, over." The voice of the marine came across the hand phone as clear as if Bast were standing right next to the trooper on the surface of Romar.

"Outpost Delta-7741 this is Chariot, over." Bast followed the instructions his written orders had outlined.

"Roger Chariot. Wait." There was a pregnant pause while Bast waited for his intended contact to come on line.

"Chariot this is Gladiator, welcome to Romar, over." Bast did not recognize the voice, but he hadn't really believed he would. Romar is a very long way from the worlds he had served on in the past.

"Gladiator this is Chariot, glad to finally be here. The barge does not intend to spend too much time at the pump, is your package ready for pickup?"

"Affirmative Chariot, waiting at the Imperial Post as requested."

"Roger that Gladiator, I look forward to opening the package, out." Bast smiled to himself as he made his way to the starmen to return the hand phone. He then made his way to the command dais to confer with Davion. Both men quickly exchanged information, Davion would pass the word to ready the boat deck for the arrival of the Marine Desert Commandos immediately.

Third Secretary Brian Kerrick made his way through the halls of the Imperial Residency on the planet Tobia with haste. He was late for the staff meeting that had been called to prepare for the drafting of a report to the Duchess of Deneb. The Marquis of Tobia had been tasked to provide a detailed report of the military and economic state of the Tobia Sector. There had been growing rumors that the Denebians were looking to extend their presence into the sector if the Aslan encroachments continued. The Marquis openly had remarked that he would welcome the presence of the Denebians to enhance his meager forces in the face of Aslan escalation of tensions along the spinward border.

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