by Christopher McKitterick



The Empire Ships came, and they destroyed, and they left to destroy again. And all that remained of the planets they ruined and the civilizations they exterminated are stolen women and their stories. In the end, these women and their stories have proven more enduring, more powerful, than the Ships or even the Empire itself.

– excerpt from the introduction to Secret Lives: Two Thousand Years in Hell,
a collection of oral histories as told by the freed women of Empire Ship Gamma

Edited by Anonymous, published 4512 AE


It was the year 7015 AD by the old reckoning that is gaining popularity; the year 4806 AE by common reckoning – 4806 years after Harry Locher and his band of corporate pirates had established the Eternal Galactic Empire of Man by combining their interests across nine star systems. More important, it was some 300 years after the last known Empire Ship had been decommissioned and nearly 800 years after the Empire had officially fallen.

In that year, a new fleet of Empire Ships was poised to be set loose upon the galaxy. This time, we as a people were unprepared to defeat them – we seemed to possess few new tricks and little capability for war. Only a small team of Force soldiers – four people for whom the label "human" is barely applicable – stood between us and a Second Empire. The question that remains to be explored is whether those unlikely heroes prevented or ensured the Empire's resurrection.

– excerpt from the introduction to Second Empire
By DePh. Georg Hoff, published 4927 AE




Putt Robbern

Me and Dank crashing smashing through the pirate ship, damn bloody fools thought they'd get away. Humm. Dank's wearing his black action armor, no one can hurt him like that, plus he's just as poison-proof as me. Humm.

Feels good, this muscle-hot run. Pirate ship full of fake weight, gives me good speed. Dank's faster, though, always, but I'm tougher. Bam, Dank crashes down a fire door, metal screech and tear. Wham-bam, Dank's ferocious smile I see through his forcefield helmet as fire dances hot red across the suit, strong enough to burn through the field, bubbling the suit grey.

I sort of see nothing for a while, me protective again, can't let nothing happen to my Dank, I bash my servo shoulder as hard as I can, face burning hot and wet sweaty bash through bulkhead wall into stowage dock. Humm, I fist up my hands and ZZap go my wristguns. Purple-bright beams and fire and smoke and ripply air as 21 white-uniformed pirates dance death's heads across ballfield-big room, silver bulkhead bubbling and plastic crates exploding. Silly lasers burn my armor and make me hot but only madder, try to hurt my Dank!

My throat burns I scream and wristguns' beams go yellow-low power, so I shut down, head down, teeth tight grin, run run run, stomp over squirming white and smoke uniforms, chest blaster throbbing against my heart and waves of blaster blast knocking pirates against crates and lifts and bulkhead like toys loose in an oil storm, humm.

Bam, me and now Dank too bamming the pirates with our heavy metal gauntlets, servo-assist, nuke power, my laugh so hard it scratches my throat, Dank so crazy he rips his left through the outer hull, silly. I smash smash smash pirate death's heads hurry up so Dank not trapped stuck in wall where he looks like a target. Body-jam red stuck to my melted armor up to elbow joints, Dank's laughing face as he watches me smash smash smash – he always laughs when I "go over," like he says. I go over, smiling laughing smashing, but one pirate death's head stuck around my gauntlet, skullbones biting my armor so I stand and try to shake him off me, Dank laughing even harder now. I figure out the joke, I see now, so I take the limp dead pirate and dance him left, dance him right, spin us together fast and slick on the red-jam deck, pirate legs flapping limp like child's doll, my cock so hard it hurts, some kind of high-pitched noise hurting my ears as Dank falls to his knees laughing so hard, his arm still stuck in hull.

That makes me feel full again. I always feel like there's a big mouth inside my chest instead of the regular stuff. Only time it feels full is when I go over and make Dank happy. All else is nothing, less than nothing. This is the only time I'm alive. Dank is my only proof I'm alive, that and making death – that's proof – the rest of the time is just darkness and it wants to eat me, I can feel it when I exhale or when I wake up and there's nothing but dark and little machine sounds of our boat, I feel it in that big hungry in my chest, and the only thing to do is fill it up.

Enough, I think, and flip the pirate off my arm, whack he goes against the riveted bulkhead, whack he takes down the pirate running slipping to get out of range. Hurry to help free Dank so we can get on with smashing crashing bashing....

"We gotta go, Putt," Dank tells me because I can always tell it's Dank when Dank's talking, even when I can't hear nothing but warsounds and laughter and armor warnings.

"Gotta go," he says, his beautiful cocoa face teary with laughing and smashing fun. Been too long since the Force found us a good bashing fun pirate ship. Too long, feels so good to dance this death, like nothing else, like all the rest of life is just sort of sleeping and you've got to put out your hand and make death to feel what it means to be alive. Force duty normally so boring like the nothing of sleep, but we gotta hurt anyway, no matter if we have pirates or not. That makes trouble for us.

I pull wide the crinkly titanium hull wedged around his gauntlet and he yanks it free, spinning it to check damage. Ship atmosphere gushes like a red wet tornado around the open gash and out into space. Sealant splatters out, too, but makes the hole smaller and smaller.

"Listen up to Boss channel," Dank yells. He slaps my shoulders, face serious now. "Listen. We really gotta go."

So I frown, I know it bugs Dank when I frown but I can't help it, and try to clear my head enough to listen.

"...immediately, goddammit, you lunatics!" screams Lieutenant. Now I know the high noise when we busted in. Humm.

"You have no idea how much trouble you're in already," he says. "Get back here now or I cut your suit power and life-support. I mean it, goddammit!"

Now I start to feel tired like always afterwards, like sleepy again and nothing matters except that Dank's here with me. All the pirates down or gone. I count 19 bodies, so two got away. That part makes me feel bad, like I'm not done yet, but Dank understands without me saying anything and pats my shoulder.

I smile a little, hope he smiles back. He does.

Life's good, bloody crashing smashing bashing life's good!


Dank Nehmann

I smile and nod to ease him, and Putt comes back to me. God, I love this crazy fuck. Always has made life bearable. If the Force ever tries to separate us.... Well, I damn well hope they don't try that again. They can't have enough patrol officers stupid enough. Even our current boss isn't that stupid. Anyway, we Jacurtans are special. We never caught the Plague. The Force's brass knows that and looks out for us.

When Putt looks okay, I comm the Lieutenant. "Acknowledged."

"Nehmann," he shouts in my ear. I told him before don't shout. That'll cost him someday. He continues.

"What the hell happened in there? Your orders were to breach and fortify. That's all. This was not an unlimited battle. These criminals only needed a little scare so they'd talk about their employers. Do you copy?"

"Yes, sir," I say. "Two of 'em made it out fine."

I can't help but grin at the human stew Putt made of the place. Could hardly keep from slipping if it weren't for the grip boots. What a fucking nut! I love this boy!

"You bet your ass you copy. I'll take your report later. Now why aren't you back here yet?"

"On our way, sir," I say. I swear I'm gonna burn that piece of crap some day. "It's a bit of a mess in here, and my suit armor got hung up in some damaged hull. Slow going."

"I'd say. I watched through your cameras. God damn, Nehmann, I've had about enough of you two." He cusses a bit, foul-mouthed shitbag.

"You got in there plenty fast. I give you two minutes to return to the ship and strip armor. Report directly to the brig from there. You know the procedure. You'll be lucky if this doesn't end you back down on Jacurta."

The brig's no threat. It's really Putt’s and my quarters, most of the time. But go home? You just don't say something like that. We're never going back, we'll tear up the whole fucking Trade Union before they send us back. That's all I can take.

I break into a run and hear Putt just behind me do the same. I never need to ask him for backup. Our boots clang against the metalmesh decking. We have to duck to avoid ripping holes through the airlock seals with our helmets, which makes your neck sore. Our suits splash through the e-alloy doors like butter. Once in a while a pressure-suited figure peeks out from an adjoining passageway and disappears just as fast. This is a big ship, old refitted cruiser, I guess. The air gushes like in a storm we used to have back home, but here the air's heading for space instead of toward the gas lakes. Red emergency lights flash and holos blink WARNING, AIR PRESSURE LOSS.

I power up my wristgun as soon as we turn onto the lighted central corridor, the one we boarded from. Different now, red lit and all blocked off, but wide enough for me and Putt side-by-side in our heavy armor. Wham, wham, wham our boots fall on the decking as we run. We're a moving wall. My head tilts down as I sprint like lightning through seals at the jointlock our ship slammed against the raider vessel's side: the entrance to our Force patrol boat. I can imagine the Lieutenant's sneer now, his pasty face rimmed in by ears and pale hair and girlie whiskers. I can see my gauntlet opening a nice red hole and pulling out that piss-me-off brain of his –

Just then my feet fling out from under me and I slam against the front-interior of my suit. I'm spun around and see what's happening.

Putt, the crazy fuck. He's got me by the armor.

"Don't, Dank," he says, his charcoal-colored face a mess of worry lines. Big blue eyes, flaming red hair. Family scars I cut into his cheeks when we were just boys back on Jacurta, like the ones my old man had slashed into me. Only I did Putt's with love, using red dye, all the cuts and curves matched up smooth.

He's right. Not now.

I nod, close my eyes for a moment. Putt lets me down.

I turn and notice we've made it through the pirate ship's last pressure door. Two wide-eyed Force soldiers stand motionless at the opening to the jointlock. They're pointing their wristguns at us. The look on their faces makes me grin. They're okay, they don't mess with us, no need to scare the shit out of them any worse.

I heave a sigh and take a slow step their way.

We head for the brig. Again.


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