Mech Zero: The Dominant

Mech Zero: The Dominant by B. V. Larson

Book: Mech Zero: The Dominant by B. V. Larson Read Free Book Online
Authors: B. V. Larson
Tags: Military
 
    One
     
    Out along the rim of the galaxy hung a loose configuration of some sixty stars known as the Faustian Chain . This whorl of sparkling suns was rich in planets and occupied an irregular volume of space some twenty lightyears in diameter. From an external viewpoint, the Faustian Chain presented a colorful display of plasma-streams, luminous nebulae and sparkling pinpoints of light.
    The human colonists who settled the Faustian Chain were aware the region had recently been populated by other species—beings that had all but vanished after waging devastating wars thousands of years in the past. Little was known of them, but certain areas in which their artifacts still persisted were proscribed by interstellar law.
    As was often the case with any law, the proscriptions were only as strong as the government that enforced them. Hypothetically ruling the Chain was an organization known as the Nexus . Originally set up by Earth colonists to provide a local government, Nexus authority quickly broke down due to the reality of stellar distances. The stars of the Faustian Chain were close siblings, but the best of ships could not reach a neighboring system in less than a year, and that was only after the call came crawling across space at the pathetically inadequate pace of light. No central government could exert its will over such a distance for long. Crises such as civil wars often raged for years before any response was possible, and thus the matter was usually decided long before aid could arrive from the Nexus.
    As decades passed, the colonies soon became functionally independent, with only perfunctory words of obedience given to the Nexus by traditionalists. Isolated by time and space, extreme cases became the norm as colonized worlds took on cultural exaggerations that set each apart from all the rest.
    Two such planets were known as Tranquility and her near neighbor Mendelia. Both worlds floated at the southern fringe of the Chain and fell into the familiar patterns of cultural separation. The two worlds diverged and grew further apart each year over a period of a century and a half. Tranquility was a warm, fertile world where life was relatively easy. Mendelia was colder and suffered from harsh tides and storms, due to an overabundance of moons. Over time Tranquility became a lazy, hedonistic society, while Mendelia grew militaristic and status-seeking.
    After years with little contact, Mendelia had conquered a number of lesser colonies in her immediate vicinity. Finally, her leadership turned their eyes toward Tranquility and launched a flotilla of three cruisers. In response, the underfunded Space Service of Tranquility lofted their entire complement: a squadron of six poorly-equipped patrol boats. They were really rescue vessels, with mild enforcement capabilities sufficient only to perform a lax policing of smugglers from the local asteroids who sought to bring their mineral riches to the planet without paying tariffs.
    Ensign Theller was second in command of S. S. Redemption , one of the ill-fated patrol boats, and he could not believe his misfortune. He was a tall man with hawkish features and overly-long limbs. He and every other member of Redemption’s crew had been gathered by the captain onto the cramped ship’s prime deck.
    Captain Beezel marched back and forth in front of her crew, berating and praising them in turns. Ensign Theller thought of Beezel as a tiny, attractive tyrant. Her blonde hair was cut severely short. Her big, blue eyes blazed when she spoke loudly—which was often the case. Theller listened to the captain’s speech with growing apprehension and disbelief.
    “Crewmen,” she said. “Our mission today is not to achieve victory—because victory is impossible.”
    As the captain spoke, Ensign Theller reflected on the dark idiocies of fate that had brought him to this point in time and space. He was a mummer by training, having studied drama at the Grand Academy on Tranquility. Like

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