Prologue

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Prologue

The United Terran Armed Forces has the best standing military mankind has ever seen. Countless generations of conflict have honed each soldier to deadly perfection, each one a force to be reckoned with.

And then there are the Operatives. These are the people spoken about in hushed voices. Some say they have no name, just a serial number. No door is ever closed to an Operative. They exist outside the chain of command, reporting directly to the Supreme Allied Commander.

Some of that was true. Jericho really wished he could just open the door in front of him right now. It was the outer hatch of a cargo ship, locked down automatically unless the proper actions were taken from within. With a sigh, he finished setting up the shaped charge, skittered off to the side, locked his mag boots to the hull, turned his visor away from the blast zone, and clicked the detonator.

Inside the ship, there was a mighty popping sound, but Jericho felt only a brief vibration as the chunk of hatch outlined by his charge shot outward, followed by the poor bastards who happened to be in that room, everything propelled off into space by the rush of escaping atmosphere.

In this case, the people were already dead, victims of a ship computer gone haywire. Yet another vessel made derelict by the Ithri. Jericho waved them a quick salute as they tumbled off into space, and added them to his mental tally. Hardly a week had gone by without his crew coming across something like this, and this was the second one this week. Ithri attacks were definitley on the rise out here.

“Got some bodies coming your way, boss,” Jericho said, blinking commands into his visor. “Should be marked…now.”

“10-4, I see them,” came the reply. “I’ll pick them up.”

Jericho had been undercover in the Fringe for some years, and he had served on several ships, under several captains. This one, he decided, was his favorite so far. She understood respect, and paid out just as much as she demanded. A lot of other captains would have just let these bodies float. This one would say a few words before she gave them a proper burial at sea, and would then log their IDs.

This captain was the only one he felt guilty for deceiving. Her ship’s every move was being reported to UTAF, along with intel about the political situations out in the Fringe. And now the Ithri.

The people in the Fringe were hardy, creative, and resourceful, but they were not nearly organized enough to pose a serious threat to these invaders. So why were they out here?

No time to think about that now. This ship was full of salvage. The electronics were most likely fried, but the parts were still good. Jericho hoped the decompression hadn’t screwed anything up too bad. The pilot on his ship was also an extremely…gifted mechanic, but even he could only do so much.

He was also included in Jericho’s reports, and was one of the reasons Jericho stayed on this ship.

And this ship needed parts. “Moving in now,” he said. He swung in through the ragged hole in the bulkhead, his helmet lights casting wild shadows on frosty walls and illuminating dark hallways. Time to get to work.

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Prologue

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