From: CA, USA
by Adam Smith
Deep in the icy wasteland of Tanos, more than twenty nine light-years away from Earth,
surrounded by ice, rock and snow, a squat, grey building stands. A dome pokes out of the top of
the structure, constantly scanning the skies for threats. In one of the least likely places known to
man, civilization exists.
The only door to the building whisks open, and a tightly bundled figure steps out into the
snow. He glances at the sky, and pulls out a cigarette. A second figure glances out, catching the
firsts attention. The newcomer motions for the other to return indoors. Sighing, he complies,
putting the unlit cigarette back into his pocket.
§ * §
“Looks like another storm brewing in the south,” David muttered as he re-entered the
“Yes, Mr. Brahm,” his assistant Sean said. “It’s on the weather scanner as well.”
David shut the door behind him. “So what was so important?”
“Ms. Navon called for a meeting. I’m not sure what about, but she sounded pretty
nervous.” Sean was already leading the way to the command center at a brisk pace.
This concerned David. Jessica Navon was not the kind of person to let nervousness show
easily; this was part of what made her an excellent leader for the team. For her to sound nervous,
especially when talking to a junior team member, something serious must be going on.
He and Sean were the last to enter the command room. The other five team members
were seated by rank at a long table, with Jessica at the head. As soon as David sat down, Jessica
flipped a switch which activated a holographic projection of Tanos and the space surrounding it.
“As you may have guessed, this is Tanos. We are here.” A small green dot appeared on
the northern hemisphere of the holographic planet. “This is an overlay of our latest scans, taken
twenty minutes ago.” A smattering of tiny brown spots, representing asteroids, meteors and space
dust, accompanied by a few blue blobs appeared. “Normally, there should be two constructed
objects in the area; three if a cargo ship is approaching with supplies. If you will notice, there are
seven.” The myriad of brown rocks disappeared, leaving two blue dots orbiting the planet – the
weather and communications satellites – and five suspicious blobs floating about a yard away.
“Might they be a fleet of cargo ships?” asked Amy, the newest member of the team.
David shook his head. “Doubtful; the nearest trade line is almost a lightyear out of the
system. Unless they established a new one, a fleet that large should have no reason to pass
through the here.”
Another junior member, this time the communications assistant Victoria, piped up. “How
big was our last supplies order?”
The teams businessman, Michael, pressed a few buttons on his personal screen. “Pretty
small. We didn’t need any parts or tools, so all I ordered was food and water to last us another 2
or 3 months.”
“They haven’t sent any identifications codes yet either. For all we know they could be a
rival team,” added Eric, looking to Nathan for confirmation. Being a senior member, and in
charge of communications, he knew most of what was sent to, from, and within the base, but not
everything. But what little he did not know, Nathan almost certainly did. Of course, Eric was
more interested in patrolling and using the battle simulator than monitoring communications, so
Nathan was bit by bit taking more of the duties of his superior. “I could think of several that
would love to see us removed.”
“God knows there are enough of them,” Jessica muttered. “The question is, what do we
do about them?”
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. The only sound was the hum of the
hologram projector. David broke the quiet. “We need to find out who they are first, and whether
they’re friendly or not.”
“We should also set up more patrols,” added another new member, Derek.
Eric sighed. “Now’s when those ion cannons I wanted us to buy a few months ago would
Michael shrugged. “We didn’t have enough money then to get them, even if we had been
able to find enough time to set them up.”
“We could have hired some people to build them for us, and we certainly had enough
money after the next battle,” Eric shot back.
“Not after we had bought more essential supplies. If you don’t mind your titan missing an
arm for a battle, then go ahead and buy the damn cannons!” Michael growled.
“I’d rather not have an arm for a battle than get bombed from space!”
Jessica interrupted the two. “Enough! This bickering won’t get us anywhere. Derek,
setting up patrols now won’t do us much good until they’ve landed. But David has a point; Eric,
go see if you can get any identification out of them.”
Eric stood, more than slightly angry, and silently stormed out of the room. He and
Michael had been butting heads for three years, neither ever giving even an inch to the other.
From the way they treated each other, one would expect them to fight in the arena. But they
didn’t; in fact, it was fairly common for Eric to lay down cover fire for Michael or for Michael to
take hits for Eric.
Jessica switched off the hologram. “David, Sean, I want all the titans prepped and ready
in eight hours. Everyone else, dismissed.”
The team filed out of the room. As the door whisked shut behind last member left, Jessica
collapsed into her chair. She leaned on the table with her head in her hands. This was going to be
a rough ride.
§ * §
Sean crawled out of Jessica’s heavy titan. “Mr. Brahm!” he called.
The reply came from Michael’s medium. “Yea?”
Sean was already climbing down from the titan. “I forgot something in my quarters. I’ll
be right back.”
“Hey, could you stop by the mess hall and get me some grub?” David’s hand reached out
from the back of the titan he was servicing, and groped around for a bit. “And uh... could you
hand me a connection scanner?”
Sean tossed it to him, and then quickly made tracks down the hall. The moment he got to
his quarters, he went to his data terminal. As he had half expected, a message was there waiting
for him. He nervously opened it and read it, absorbing and memorizing it’s contents before
Sean grabbed the tool he’d needed, and quickly left. He stopped at the cafeteria and
grabbed a bagel for David before returning to the titan bay. Once he had finished preparing the
titan for Jessica, he moved on to Eric’s titan, a massive assault that Sean had designed himself. It
was one of a kind; the design had been so powerful that Jessica had ordered it’s blueprints
deleted before any other teams could steal a copy of it. He paused a moment, almost regretfully,
and then climbed into it’s belly and began checking the connections. He pulled some, replaced
others, plugged the ones he’d pulled back in, and swapped a few more. Somewhere in the back of
his mind, his conscience was nagging at him; he pushed it aside and went on doing his job. When
everything checked out, he climbed out and shut the hatch. A light glowed inside.
§ * §
Michael sullenly collapsed into a chair across from Amy. “I hate this waiting,” he
grumbled. He took a sip from his coffee. “I almost wish they’d just blow something up and be
done with it.”
“Don’t worry, it’s going to be alright,” smiled Amy reassuringly. “With people like
David, Jessica and Eric on our side, we should rip them apart.” She sounded more like she was
trying to reassure herself than Michael. She wasn’t doing a very good job.
Victoria overheard her. “You don’t even know what it’s like in a battle. The chaos gets to
you, in the middle of a dogfight, and it gets hard to tell who’s on who’s side, through all the
smoke and noise. On top of that everyone’s involved in their own fight, not really worrying about
anyone else’s, so don’t be expecting much help from anyone.” She stirred her own drink. “I’m
speaking from experience here, so I know what I’m--”
“Experience?” interrupted Michael. “You’re talking from experience? Ha! How many
fights have you been through? How many people have you killed? Three kills? Four, maybe? I
have thirty-seven! Do you have any idea what it’s like, when you’ve killed that many people, to
be congratulated for it? No, I don’t suppose you do. No,” he said as Victoria started to object. “I
don’t mean your first kill. I mean your thirtieth. It gets to the point when killing people becomes
as normal to you as brushing your teeth. No, you don’t have a clue what it’s like.” Grumpily he
stood and crossed to an empty table, where he moodily sipped at his coffee. Victoria stared,
mouth half opened to object again.
Derek wandered over. “What’s up with him?”
Amy glanced at him. “I don’t know. He seems pretty tense. I think he’s just anxious about
Victoria glanced at her, closed her mouth, and sat down a few tables away. Staring into
her drink, it was hard to tell what she thought.
Sean walked quickly in, looking tense as well. Derek waved, but Sean ignored him.
Shrugging, Derek sat down next to Amy. “Looks like Mike’s not the only one who’s tense.” He
eyed the muffin Amy had sitting in front of her. “You going to eat that?”
Amy shrugged and handed the muffin to him. “Go ahead, I’m not really hungry. Besides,
they’re stale. Excuse me,” she said as she stood. “I’ll be right back.” She went over to Michael,
and sat down next to him, trying unsuccessfully to strike up a conversation.
After a few minutes, Sean left the room with a bagel. The room was quiet for a while,
except for the sounds of Amy holding a one-sided conversation with Michael. When it became
very apparent that this was going nowhere, she announced she was going to go to her quarters
and try to sleep. Derek and Victoria agreed, and soon the room was empty, leaving Michael alone
with his thoughts.
He stood and walked over to the data terminal on the wall. Using it, he keyed up the scan
report, and narrowed it down to the area of the five suspicious dots. While he wasn’t sure who,
exactly, they were, he did know what they were. Commercial and civilian ships didn’t fly in that
formation. They were combat ships. They were either gunships or titan pods, and if they were the
former than they were definitely sent by a military. Teams simply did not have the resources to
hire, let alone purchase, five gunships. Militaries, supported by their respective governments, did.
He wondered what they could have done wrong to invoke the wrath of any of the major galactic
powers. Could they be from the New Ottoman Empire? Doubtful. The New OE was on the other
side of the galaxy, and at war. They wouldn’t be able to spare five gunships to obliterate a team
of entertainers. Perhaps the Xalis Republic had sent them. But why would they have? The last
time the team had been within their boundaries, billions of citizens had bought tickets to watch.
The Head of State himself had been rooting them on. And certainly not the First Kingdom of
Terra; although they certainly had the resources, the Junker Dynasty had received a rather large
donation from the team recently, in an attempt to increase their fame.
It must be a team then. But again, which one? The team had battled more than a hundred
different teams. Most of them had lost a piolet to them, many had lost more than one. He had
personally killed not only the leader, but the highest ranking member of one team. Erik had once
gone solo against an entire team, and not only defeated them, but killed all but one of the jocks. It
could be anyone. If they knew who it was, they would be able to discern what their battle tactics
were, and plan theirs accordingly. It was this method of planning – plus their hidden HQ – that
had allowed them to achieve their current position in the Galactic Rankings at eighth place.
He sighed, and the sigh turned into a yawn. It would be a while before they arrived, and
he should follow Amy’s example and grab some sleep while he could. He shut down the terminal
and left the room.
§ * §
Eric sighed and shook his head. “No response. No name, no affiliation, not even so much
as a licence plate on the ships.”
Jessica raised an eyebrow. “Licence plate?”
“Never mind. From Earth. Back in the 20th and early 21st century they had vehicles called
cars, and they had licence plates. Then they discovered fusion drives and never looked back.”
Eric plopped down in his accustomed seat near the head of the table. He rubbed his eyes
and yawned, then looked at Jessica. “So what now, fearless leader?”
She paced back towards her seat. “First things first.” Pressing a button next to her seat,
she sat down. “Everybody, meet in the command room.” She then pressed another button and the
message reverberated throughout the building. “We’ll see what they think.”
One by one the team filed into the room and took their seats. As usual, David was last,
presumably coming in from another attempt to smoke a cigarette. From the look on his face, it
had been unsuccessful. He had been trying to pick up smoking for almost a year, but every time
he tried something came up. He probably still was trying on the same cigarette as he had earlier
The whole team was there. They were all looking at her expectantly, waiting for her plan
to defeat this faceless foe. The problem was...
“I don’t know what to do.”
She could tell by their faces this didn’t come as much of a surprise, if it was a let-down.
None of them had ever expected something like this to happen; they had relied on secrecy to keep
their base standing for years, and thus far, it had worked. She brought up the holographic scanner
“They’re headed straight for the planet. There’s been no response from them as far as an
ID is concerned, not even so much as a–” She smiled weakly at Eric. “–a licence plate. But by
their trajectory they’re going to be landing about fifteen kilometers north of here in about an hour
and a half. With that information, I can only conclude that they’re not going to bombard us. They
could be derelict, but they could just as easily be assault titans in landing shells. I really don’t
know. I’m not sure what to do, except get out there and hope for the best. Any and all
suggestions are welcome.”
Apparently, by the lack of responses, she wasn’t alone in not knowing what to do. Most
of them stared sullenly at their monitors. Eventually, Sean spoke up. “I think I speak for all of us
when I say this. We’re behind you, no matter what.” There were murmurs of agreement around
“Thanks guys,” Jessica smiled wanly. “I really appreciate it. And in that case–”
The hologram projector suddenly crackled, cutting her off, and the scan projection
disappeared in a cloud of static fuzz. Moments later it was replaced by an image of the team’s
logo, spinning slowly. A mechanical voice crackled to life over the base-wide comm system.
“Wealth and power. You have had your share. Now you will have no more. Might comes with a
price. Meet your enemy.” A volley of holographic missiles suddenly appeared and tore through
the teams logo, ripping it to shreds. “Now you are no more.” The hologram and mechanical voice
cut off suddenly.
Silence descended upon the room once again. This time it was Jessica who broke it.
“Well, I guess they aren’t derelict.” She stood. “And from the display it looks like they’re out for
a fight. In that case lets give them one. Suit up, folks. I’ll see you in the bay.”
§ * §
Outside, an hour later, a blizzard was blowing hard. The upper compound would have
been covered in snow, were it not for an energy field that was crackling as it fended off the
innumerable flakes of snow. Suddenly a wall of snow covering a huge hill shifted, slid away, and
revealed a huge metal door. The door slowly ascended, revealing seven titans. After the door had
finished rising, they stomped out into the storm. There they stood for a moment as the door shut
behind them: Eric’s massive assault, the two huge Heavy titans of David and Jessica, a pair of
Mediums piloted by Michael and Victoria, Derek and Sean’s Lights, and Amy’s Recon titan.
The door shut. The titans began moving through the snowstorm, with the smaller titans
fanning out and moving to higher ground, while the heavier ones plodded to the north. Inside the
titans, all was quiet, as each jock thought about what was about to happen.
Above them, five streaks of fire suddenly appeared, burning through the atmosphere.
When they hit, they sent a powerful shockwave surrounding them, disturbing the snow around
the seven titans.
The team’s radios suddenly crackled to life with Jessica’s voice. “Switch to a private
channel everyone.”Almost before she had finished saying it, her voice was echoed by an
unfamiliar male voice, but it was phased out by static and faint. That settled it, it was a team of
titans. Time for a fight. She flipped to the team’s network channel.
Eric’s voice was the first thing she heard on it. “Amy, can you see that big hill to the
northeast? See if you can’t get on top of it and get a view of the enemy.”
“I’m already on my way.” Amy’s titan turned and darted off towards the indicated rise.
Meanwhile, Derek began moving towards another hill.
Jessica slowed up a bit, and hit a few buttons on her scaner system. “Amy, I’m initiating a
link to your titan. You ready?”
“Waiting on you.”
She hit the last few buttons, and waited while her titan began sending instructions to
Amy’s scanner. While she waited for the results, she noticed that Sean was lagging behind some.
His voice came back quickly. Almost... too quickly. “No, nothing really. Well, actually
yea. I don’t think I calibrated my right knee actuator right, it’s moving a bit sluggishly. Sorry, I’m
working on it.”
Jessica frowned. Sean wasn’t quite as good as David, but he was still good. From what
she’d gathered from listening to them gossip about titan innards, calibrating an actuator was
virtually the easiest thing on the titan. For Sean to get it wrong... She shook her head. Nobody
was perfect. She glanced at her scanner data, and saw that it had finished linking up to Amy’s.
David’s voice sounded over the radios. “Amy, you almost up there? Can you see them?”
“Not quite, but almost... There! I see one. Looks like an assault... Yea, definitely an
assault. There’s another one. Holy ****, and there’s a third! I see three, repeat three assault
Jessica cut in. “Amy, get out of sight! NOW!”
“I’m going, I’m going! Jesus Christ!”
An explosion rang out from the hill, and several missiles screamed past Amy’s titan. One
of them drove into the side of Amy’s titan as it tried to turn around. The titan stumbled, caught
it’s balance, and ran quickly out of sight, followed by a pack of missiles.
“Amy, are you alright?” Michael’s concerned voice rang out. His titan was now jogging
towards the hill separating the team from the enemies. Derek was just topping another hill, but
Victoria was sticking close to the larger titans.
More rockets screamed over the hill, peppering the ground near David. Some of them
were close enough to kick snow halfway up his titan’s leg.
Distorted by static, but still understandable, Amy radioed the team. “Yea, I’m fine. But
look out, I see a couple Recons up on hills. Jessica, you might want to peg them.” Her titan came
out from the forest it had hidden in, running to the north. “I’m closing in on him for a bit of
close-combat,” she said with a little edge.
Jessica stopped her titan, and located the Recon Amy had mentioned. She initiated a lock
on it. “Alright people,” she called to the team, “give ‘em a little bit of our medicine!” With that
she slammed the trigger, sending twenty-four guided missiles roaring towards her target. With a
satisfying explosion, fifteen of them slammed into titan, four square in the chest. The titan was
blasted off it’s feet, and thrown back out of sight.
“I have visual!” came Derek’s voice. “Request permission to engage the enemy!”
Jessica immediately began switching her link to Derek’s titan. “Denied, I need you right
where you are. Keep them in scanner range, but keep moving. If you can get a few shots off, go
ahead. Just don’t make it too easy for them.” As if in response, a swarm of deadly red beams of
light crashed into the snow surrounding Derek, a few of which hit him in the legs and arm. He
tripped, almost fell, righted himself, and darted off along the ridge, firing his own pulse laser at
his the enemies.
Without warning, Jessica’s titan suddenly shook. A few other rockets hit the ground near
it, coming from the left. She looked over there and saw a second Recon titan, firing a second
volley of long-range missiles. “Sean! Is that knee calibrated yet?!”
“Not yet! Almost there!” came the response.
Jessica swore under her breath. “Somebody deal with him!” she shouted as the second
pack of missiles ripped up the ground around her.
David’s voice responded. “I’m on it!” His titan turned ponderously, and a blast of plasma
roared out of both arms. One beam demolished a small boulder near his target, the other ripped a
deep gash into it’s lower torso, causing it to nearly lose it’s balance.
Another volley of missiles came over the ridge at them. Most of them missed, but a few
hit Michael and Eric. The team was shouting back and forth to each other, as Jessica fired
missiles over the ridge back at the enemy while David pummeled his target with plasma blasts
and Amy rushed her target.
And then Michael topped the ridge. His titan’s triple AC12s began hammering the three
assaults on the other side, only to be met in kind by one of them, and by lasers by the other. But
the confusion caused by his appearance and his ensuing streak of leg hits caused one of the
enemy titans to fall to the ground in a cloud of snow. Amy tackled the recon she was chasing,
slamming it back onto the ground just as it regained it’s feet. Amy was unable to keep her feet as
well, however, and fell to the ground in a heap. It became a race to get up and knock the other
However, the battle was not going well for Jessica’s team. Michael and Derek were
getting pummeled, and Eric couldn’t see anything close enough to waste with his massive AC20s
and deadly Cold Light guns. Missiles were still coming in from the side, and Jessica’s titan was
starting to show signs of it. Plus, David was beginning to overheat. If Eric couldn’t get over that
ridge, and fast, there would be some serious problems.
Amy managed to struggle to her feet, only moments before her target regained his. But
before he could react, Amy’s chainsaws tore into his side, sending him back into the snow. The
chainsaws were closely followed by a round of machine gun fire, which chipped into the armor
of the titan’s head.
Eric joined Michael and Derek at the top of the ridge, and with a massive explosion,
opened fire with all his weapons, sending another titan to the ground.
And then he exploded.
Jessica screamed. This couldn’t be happening. But then the shockwave slammed into her
titan, bending armor and slamming her around the cockpit. On the ridge, a huge fireball had
engulfed Eric’s titan and swallowed Michael’s, and Derek was on the ground being pummeled by
flying debris from the explosion. Her titan lost it’s balance and was thrown onto it’s back. She
screamed again in frustration, anger, and denial. He had to have survived that. They had been
through too much for that. They all had. Michael was alive too. They were all alive.
Before the smoke had even cleared she could tell that wasn’t so. Where Eric’s titan had
stood was nothing but a crater and a rising column of smoke. Michael’s titan was almost a third
of a kilometer away from where it had been, and was missing one arm and it’s head. Derek’s
titan was also on the ground, and telemetry from his titan told her he was unconscious. David’s
titan was still standing, but wasn’t moving, and the lights were out. She wasn’t receiving any
telemetry. The signs pointed to an automatic engine shut-down. Again she screamed in
frustration, and grabbed her radio. “Sean! Where the hell are you?!”
“Right here, honey,” he replied. His voice seemed unnaturally calm.
“What are you waiting for?! Go help David! We have to get out of here! Amy, are you
Again Sean responded. “Don’t worry about Amy. She’s been taken care of. Look for
yourself.” An image streamed onto her view screen. It was Amy. She was lying in the snow, with
a titan standing over her. As Jessica watched, the titan lifted a foot and slammed it down on her.
“Sean?” Jessica tried unsuccessfully to hide the fear in her voice. “What’s going on?”
“Don’t worry, honey. Everything’s fine. As my teammate said, ‘Now you are no more.’
Oh, I almost forgot about David.”
“Sean, what are you–” She was cut off as beams of light lanced out over her head from
where she guessed Sean’s titan must be. They connected solidly with David’s titan’s head,
ripping it off instantly. The titan collapsed. Behind where it had stood, the three assaults were
mutilating Derek’s helpless titan.
The fear that had been brewing in Jessica broke and became rage. But she wisely kept it
in check, hoping to find a way to stay alive to bring down this back-stabbing double-dealing turn-
coat traitor son of a – She caught herself. No. She would survive.
“So,” Sean’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Now that the mighty Jessica has fallen,
would you like to know who it was that finally had the power to out-wit, out-maneuver, and in
the end defeat you?” After a pause, “And I would assume you would like to know what you must
do to stay alive?”
Fuming quietly, Jessica disciplined her voice into normality. “Yes. To both questions.
Who did you pledge your unwavering loyalty to this time?” Her voice oozed with sarcasm. “And
what do I have to do to stay alive?”
A energy blast slammed into her titan’s chest, jarring her in her seat. “First of all, please,
please, be polite.” The last word was punctuated by another blast, which tossed her head into the
control board, leaving yet another bleeding wound in her already badly injured body. “Now then.
To stay alive, you’re going to have to do what I say. Exactly. You will become our servant. Our
slave. You will do whatever we ask of you. If we ask you to get us a cup of water, you will get us
each a tall glass and a pitcher full of ice water. If we ask you to cook us dinner, you will make a
five course meal for us. If we ask you to let us touch those beautiful breasts of yours, you will–”
Jessica interrupted him with a full salvo of her missiles, throwing him off balance and
onto the *** of his titan. “**** you, you bastard!” she screamed, and began to rise. She had heard
enough, and had finally recognized the enemy’s insignia. Green Hawk. According to the galactic
rankings, they were the fifth best team in existence. Either they had seen her team as a threat or
were just looking to get some easy, free kills. She suspected the first was the correct reason.
Well, whatever the reason, they wouldn’t get this kill without a fight.
She launched another salvo of missiles at the assaults on the ridge, who were turning
towards her. Before she got another off, her titan was being ripped through by lasers, missiles,
and auto-cannon shells. Caught in a crossfire, her titan was reduced to scrap metal in seconds.
She was killed moments later by a bullet to her head, fired by her own sidearm.