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ERA OF DARKNESSChapter 1-01






    











“Are we interrupting something here?” Lieutenant Kane asks.





Corporal Volgrin looks on as Lieutenant Sumner clears his throat and straightens his uniform. “We’re conduction an operation. I’ve-we’ve been sent to inform you-”





“I’m well aware. Able Squad is operational,” says Kane. “We require our weapons, and we’ll be ready to depart.”





“You were to wait for instructions from Captain Brior,” says the lieutenant as he refrains from blinking. “This is insolence at its best. You troopers are all the same, and how do you know you’re prepared?” The young lieutenant smirks as he eyes the man across from him. “The process for trooper movement-”





“The process of troop movement requires authorization to access the weapons locker, which we’re still in need of,” says Kane.





“You would have obtained it in due time had you waited Kane. The ready room isn’t prepared, your mens’ armor is in dismal shape, a shuttle has not been prepped. You’re not following the book, and I-”





“The book requires us to leave immediately!” says Kane. “A shuttle is being prepared, my men are ready! This mission-”





“This mission requires precision, as do all Imperial operations. If we are to achieve victory at the end of this rotation, then I expect your men to be up to Imperial standards. We do all things by the book, all things Kane,” Sumner stares at the old lieutenant. He can see his own reflection in the helmet’s eye lenses. “You and your squad are not the exception-they’re not above the code. This ship should be the pride of the Emperor, and while you run around breaking regulation, we look like the Empire’s folly!”





Kane smiles beneath his helmet. “Your hand-”





“-it looks swollen,” he says with a sly smile, masked beneath his helmet.





“And you miss, should look for new company to keep. Don’t ever let him in your bunk.”





Volgrin stares at Kane in surprise. “Umm…I wouldn’t think of it lieutenant,” she blurts out.





Kane turns to look at his squad, proud of his wit. It’s not a regular occurrence that an old man can exchange such words with an officer. “Alright men, we’ll continue to the locker and hail Captain Brior for the codes ourselves.”





“We’re going for a light load on this one boys, so grab only what we need. Your gear should be stowed right where you left it, right Haas?”





“Copy that sir.”





“Darr, Meade, you’re on rifle duty. Kalin, grab a DLT.”





“Alright, move out!”





Still reeling from the shock of such words being used in his presence, Sumner breathes out. “How dare you!” He pushes past Volgrin as his heart begins to beat faster. He narrows his eyes on the armored man.





“Just what do think you’re doing?”





“I’m doing my job,” replies Kane.





Kane nods, “For him.”





Volgrin snaps to attention. “Captain on deck!”





Captain Brior enters the hall, overhearing much of the prior argument. He looks the squad up and down briefly. An underlying tension fills the man’s face. “I half expected you to be ready Kane.”





“Yes sir, we aim to please, unlike some,” says Kane.

“Oh, I see.” says Brior as he turns to inspect his two officers.






“Corporal Volgrin, do I dare ask you to explain this situation to me?”





“Sir I-”





“You speak out of turn,” says Brior.

“Captain, these men-”






“I said Corporal Volgrin, Sumner. I wish to hear her report,” the Captain says as he turns to listen to the other officer.





“Well sir, Lieutenant Sumner has been-”, she closes her eyes hard, opening them slowly. “He’s been trying to brief Lieutenant Kane on the situation, while informing him on proper procedure, sir.”





“I understand, and this is productive?”

Volgrin breathes out, her shoulders tense as she blinks. “No sir.”






“I see,” Brior nods as he looks at his officers. “And is this affecting the mission? Are we to deploy these men at our convenience? Or has the order not come from the Emperor himself?”





“Sir, Lieutenant Kane does not have authorization for his squad to access the weapons locker.”

“You were to fetch these men Sumner. Nothing else!”

“Sir, I was-”

“You were making this little tift into something that could jeopardize the success of this mission, yes?”

“No, sir.”

“I thought not. You bring your little arguments aboard my ship like this quite often Sumner. A bit too often.”

“Sir, my thoughts on-”

“When an order arrives, this crew, this ship, will carry it out to the best of its extent.”

“Yes sir, the-”

“And the path of least resistance will give us the advantage, correct?”

“Yes sir.”

“And we are at an advantage when we meet the enemy with Imperial might?”

“Yes sir.”

“And this is achieved through cooperation on all levels, from technician to admiral?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good, I do not have time to discuss basic level Imperial Academy academics with-”

“Brior, you know I was-”






“Captain! This is my title Sumner, and you will use it until I am either no longer in command of this vessel, or I am otherwise expired. Do you understand, lieutenant?”

“I do, Captain Brior.”






“Good. Now Kane, Able Squad.”

“Yes sir, Captain Brior?” asks Kane.






Brior’s eyes acknowledge the reparation is over. “My time has been wasted. Please, carry on.”

Kane nods slightly, “Yes sir, as the Emperor wills,”

Brior opens his mouth, but doesn’t say anything.

“Yes,” Sumner whispers. “As the Emperor wills.”






The squad begins to move down the hallway as Brior dismisses them. There is a bit of chatter between the men as they depart, their heavy boots thud under the weight of their gear. A slight breeze follows them as they walk past the officers.





Haas stop momentarily as he pushes his way past Sumner. “Better watch yourself,” he pauses. “We’ll be back you know?”





A slight noise can be heard as the squad’s armor rattles down the hall. Brior turns to face his officers.

“You’re both dismissed. We will speak more of this when this operation concludes, do you understand?” His head shakes back and forth slowly. “My tolerance runs thin, and I have much more pressing matters to attend to.”

“Yes sir,” the two officers reply simultaneously before they leave Brior’s presence.






Meanwhile down the hallway, the men begin to talk amongst themselves, a usual occurrence before an operation. Some believe it’s good luck to get things off their chests before they leave the ship, while others just try to relieve nervous energy. The men clank together as they walk down the hall in a pack, but one soldier makes his way to the front.

“Hey, what was that back there?” asks Meade.

“Nothing,” Kane replies. “Just a man trying to make his way in the universe.”






“Copy that sir, just seems like he was already at the center of it.”

“Don’t take it too personal Meade.”






“I took it all personally sir,” says Haas. “The guy was a prick.”





“I didn’t say he wasn’t, Haas. Didn’t say he wasn’t.”





“He wasn’t too far off though,” says Darr as he pushes his way towards Kane. Furrowing his brow as he taps on the old man’s armor. “You don’t usually follow protocol sir.”





“But I keep you kids alive, accomplish the mission, and save the day. Usually, right?”





Kalin chuckles to himself as he roots Darr out of his place. “Absolutely sir. We’re big damn heroes if you ask me.”





“Big damn heroes is right!” says Meade as he nudges Kalin.





Trooper Darr brings up the rear of the squad. He shakes his head slightly at his comrades. He can feel a migraine already coming on in preparation for space flight, a normal occurrence for the by-the-book soldier. His squad can be irritating at the worst possible times.





Captain Brior catches up to the squad as they arrive at the weapons locker, a look of lightly masked concern can be seen on his face.





“Lieutenant! Lieutenant! The locker should be open! May I have a word with you, in private?”

“Yes sir. Darr, my rifle please.”

The rifleman rolls his eyes under his helmet as he walks past the men, his head pounding.






“What can I help you with sir?” Kane asks, adjusting his sidearm.

“I know your men think this is just another drop, but I picked your squad specifically for this operation.”

“Thank you sir, it means a lot,” Kane nods.






“No, I don’t believe you understand me lieutenant,” Brior says as he leans towards Kane, narrowing the gap between the them.





“I picked you, because you are the most qualified squad in this sector, and because up until know, we knew all the secrets of this war. This planet does not exist in any record, ancient or modern. You are to recon one region that the emperor himself has commanded. Do you understand the importance of this lieutenant? This is no ordinary drop. All of our lives depend on your success.”





Kane pauses before he speaks. His breath is steady under his helmet, his shoulders rising and falling inside his armor. “I understand sir, we’ll be okay. You’re in good hands.”





“Is there anything else I need to know?”





“I have no further intel for you,” Brior nods. “I’m sorry. If we hear anything, I’ll let you know.”

“I understand sir.” Kane replies as his squad begins to form in the hall behind him.

“Good hunting, and come back to us in one piece.”

Kane smiles.






“As the Emperor wills.”



ERA OF DARKNESS
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