The StormKeepers Chronicles
Volume IV "Masters of the Galaxy"

Copyright (c) 1998 by Low Ee Mien
All references to Hercs and the StarSiege Universe (c) 1998 Dynamix Corporation

Chapter 1 : The New Guy

SK HercBase #3
Parade Square
0937 hrs
Planet Mars
20 minutes before the storm

Floating on invisible lifters, and bobbing slightly in the thin Martian air, the hover transport arrived, making its first run of the day, dropping its cargo and one lone passenger onto the hard tarmac of the recently-constructed base belonging to the StormKeepers squad.

A slightly dazed-looking recruit with a misshapen sling bag over his shoulder looked around, orientating himself to the confusingly new surroundings, and began walking in the general direction of the base.

A tired-looking StormKeeper officer, wearing a faded uniform that somehow managed to survive numerous encounters with the base's notorious no-brand washing machines stood near the entrance, waiting for the recruit. Flipping over the authorisation letter that was e-mailed by PR Coke just half an hour ago, the officer entertained himself with dark thoughts about giving those washing machines a little auto-cannon treatment, and then requesting for some new branded ones from SK HQ. Hmmmph.

"Welcome, Dire Wolf, to the StormKeepers squad", began [SK] Louie. "Just proceeed down the hall, second turn to the left, meet up with Chief Instructor Hanuman and ask for your training orientation schedule. Then go further down the hall, all the way to the end, down to the Herc bay, and choose one of them shiny new machines sitting there just waiting for you. Yeah, talk to Lollipop, if you meet him, he *just* might be able to scrounge up an extra ELF for you. But don't tell anyone I told you the last one", Louie finished with a slight grin.

And just then, [SK] Jeffr came out in the bright morning sun, strolling onto the scene, projecting a demeanour of near-genuine coolness. Scanning left and right with his eyes, and finding the two of them standing right there in the middle of Parade Square, Jeffr announced in a slow drawl, "duh.. guess what... Hanu' chief sez they gotta dozen cye-breeds headin' diz way... on top of'us in, like, fifteen minutes. As you'd say, ya know, Louie, how about, duh, joining da party..?"

Hearing this, Louie broke into an even bigger grin, and started running, pulling Dire Wolf along, "come on, you don't want to miss this big a party, let's suit up, get ready to rock and roll...!!"

Just at that exact moment, the Red Alert sounded. Ear-jarring klaxons split the air, and seemingly out of nowhere, dozens of little rotating red lights appeared, bathing the innermost spaces deep in the base in an eerie red glow.

Exactly two and a half minutes later, six Hercs, large, three-storey tall vaguely humanoid-looking shapes, each single one of them mounting awesome firepower the equivalent of an entire armoured platoon so many generations ago, began to emerge from well-camouflaged openings in the ground...

... continued