Author : Jake Trommer

They called it Nouveau Katanga, a colony world of tremendous mineral wealth and great natural beauty. They said it was the gem of the Outer Colonies, a shining example of what humanity could do when it put its mind to it, colonize and terraform a rockball into a lush garden world.

And when the mining corporations and the planetary government decided to cast off the shackles of the Terran Hegemony, they said much, much nastier things. And the more perceptive amongst them said that those who didn’t read history were doomed to repeat it.

Apparently the Hegemony government didn’t read much history, because when I and many other volunteers answered the call to defend Nouveau Katanga against the inevitable subjugation, they said it was unprecedented, disgusting, piratical. For us, it was simply the best business opportunity my kind had had since the Anh Loa Uprisings in the Nemean Abyss years ago.

There weren’t many of us in the first wave—just the officers and senior non-coms, the nucleus around which the N.K. government could build a proper army, but I recognized most of them. Old Ian Wicks, battle-scarred Dan Carton-Barber, even the buccaneering Johann Mueller, who I hadn’t seen since a Rakharan machine gun crew had lit him up during the Uprisings. The President is—was, I should say—one of the most charismatic men I’d ever met, and by the time he’d finished giving us his glory-or-death speech we actually kinda believed in the “righteousness of the cause”, instead of the cold hard cash we knew we’d be getting for this.

“It’ll never work,” said Mueller, over the lager he was nursing in the capitol city’s bar. We were all there, drinking, catching up on how we’d done since the last contract together. It was a bit awkward—apparently more than a couple of us had been on the opposite sides of one or two. “They outgun us by a considerable margin, and even with the mining interests bankrolling this—”

Dan poured himself another glass’s worth of the carafe wine he and I had acquired a liking for in the Abyss.”Win or lose, we’re still soldiering, still getting paid to do what we love.”

“And getting ourselves killed needlessly in the process?” Mueller shook his balding head. “Remind me again how you scheisskopfs talked me into this again.”

“Dosh, and loads of it,” I said after draining my glass. “I know soft sods like Dan and I are keen on soldiering for soldiering’s sake and all that, but those mining corps you mentioned are gonna make us all very rich men.”

With luck. But none of us were going to say that out loud.

Even so, that seemed to strike home for Johann. He’d always struggled with his personal finances more than the rest of us (though none could compete with Ian, who was so ridiculously scrupulous with his affairs that we were all fond of joking he should’ve been an accountant), so that alone was enough to recommend the job to him.

After a long meditative silence, Johann raised his glass. “A toast, gentlemen. To our hallowed profession.”

And as one we raised our glasses, bottles, tumblers, to belt out the ancient chant that had graced halls where professional soldiers had congregated since time immemorial:

“Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive le sacré mercenaire!”

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