The Photonovel Alliance
ERA OF DARKNESSChapter 1-02






    











Lieutenant Kane looks over his men as they ready themselves for the upcoming mission.





The squad begin to clank in their bulky armor as they check their gear one last time. One of the riflemen approaches his squad leader. “Sir, your rifle.”





“Thanks Darr, you ready?” Kane nods.

“I’m ready as I’ll ever be sir. My head is killing me.”

“Don’t start complaining now,” says the lieutenant. “We’ve not even left kid.”






Darr closes his eyes. “So we are doing this by the book, right?”

“Well,” says Kane. “We’ll try and get as close as we can, alright?”






“Maybe things will go better than they did on Taanab?” says Meade as he looks up.





“Copy that,” says Kane as he smiles under his helmet.





Captain Brior walks closer to the men, “Able Squad, do your best and succeed,” says the captain. “The Emperor is watching, Remember that.”





Captain Brior holds up a hand to the squad. “Your shuttle is ready. It’s in the main docking bay,” he says with a slight tremble in his voice. “We’ll be monitoring you from the bridge, if you find anything on the planet let us know. Good luck.”





“Right, thank you sir,” says Kane.





“Okay boys, this is it: the final walk.”





“Let’s move out!” orders Kane.





The men walk down many of the old familiar halls. They begin to sweat as their heavy insulated armor starts to get the better of them.





Able squad has made this journey dozens of times, each with a different objective. This time feels like any other.





They continue down the halls heading towards the main hangar, their armor clanking as they walk.





As they round the corner it seems like forever since someone has spoken, the noise of their boots and bulky armor has replaced words. They know there’s only a few more halls from here until they reach the hangar.





As the squad gets closer to their destination Haas finally breaks the silence as he approaches the front of the squad, his arms raised.





“So,” says Haas. “What are we saying the pucker factor is on this one?”





Kalin and Meade both give a slight chuckle as they march along the hall, their heavy boots thumping in unison.





“Pucker factor?” ask Darr. “Is that-what is that?”





“You know, the pucker factor,” asks Haas. “Come on, didn’t they teach you anything at the academy?”





The men shake their heads as they watch Darr from behind.





“Pucker factor?” asks Haas with a grin. “You know? As in how tight you gotta-”





“Alright, can it!” orders Kane. “We’re professionals, not part of a stand-up routine,” his voice rings out. “No more chatter.”





The squad continues down several of the halls until they finally arrive at the hangar entrance.





As they arrive the door to the hanger is open. The men can already hear the loud noises of the Imperial war machine at work within the massive holding room.





They can just make out their first glimpse of the shuttle as it gets prepared for the mission





“Wait a second, wait a second!” says Haas as he picks up pace near the door.





“That’s our shuttle?” asks Haas as he quickly moves through the door ahead of his squad mates.





“She’s one slick Sienar beauty!”





The squad stops to admire the shuttle which awaits them. The noises of the technicians working echo even louder as they enter into the large hangar.





“Am I the only one seeing this?” asks Haas as he investigates the vessel in amazement.





“How’d we manage this?” asks Meade.





“Is someone pulling strings for us?” asks Kalin.

“We’re definitely not used to this,” replies Meade.






“I think,” says Kane. “We’ve been bumped up to VIPs.”





As the men approach the vessel a crewman notices them and begins to walk over.





“You’re Able Squad?” the man asks.





“Accounted for,” replies Kane.





“This is your ride then. You’ve got priority departure status, and as soon as your men are ready you’ll disembark from The Dawn.”





“Copy, we’ll be ready shortly.” replies Kane.





“One other thing sir, a small vessel has been located on the planet’s surface near your landing zone. I don’t have any further information than that,” he shrugs. “Brass doesn’t think it’s a threat though.”





“Right,” says Kane as he turns to his squad. “Okay, Able Squad, everybody on board, you know the drill.”





“Yes sir,” says Darr as he walks towards the shuttle. He closes his eyes under his helmet, his head throbbing from pain.





The men load their equipment and board the shuttle as they chatter amongst themselves.





Kane turns to look around the hangar bay as the crews prepare the vessel for departure. It’s not a usual occurrence to be flown down planetside in such style. In the past Able squad has used gunships, stolen pirate frigates, and high atmosphere skiffs, but never a shuttle like this.





This is unusual.





This is different.





This is important.





The soldier closes his eyes and breathes out several times as the hangar crews being to leave.

“As the Emperor wills,” says Kane to himself as he opens his eyes, ready to explore the unknown planet below.






“Are you okay sir?” asks a crewman as he faces the squad leader. “Sir?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” says Kane reassuring himself. “We’re good.”

“Alright,” says the crewman. “Just checking on your sir. Your pilots are ready, we’re about to clear the hangar. You’re good to go.”






“Good, let’s go then.”





“I’m ready.”





The service crews leave the hangar as the pilots prepare for lift off. Suddenly the ship roars to life as lights begin to blink, and the pilots begin to press several buttons on the console.

“Systems check, all green.”

“Copy.”






“Engine start.”

“All pressure.”






“Shuttle Galena, 761, you are clear for immediate departure.”

“Copy, 761, clear for departure.”






“Engine thrust is go.”

“Beginning maneuvers.”






“Engines, 15 percent and hold”

“Exiting the hangar.”






“We’re clear on all sides.”

“Copy, clear of the bay.”

“Shuttle Galena, 761, you are free of the magnetic field.”






“Copy, 761. Beginning wing deployment.”





“Wings locked.”





“Maneuver successful, we’re clear. Beginning descent.”





“Attention cabin, we are clear of the Aberrant Dawn.”





“So I guess this is it,” says Haas. “This is where the action begins!”



ERA OF DARKNESS
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