Survival means fighting through the unknown.
Corporal John Harden is a decorated soldier living in the shadow of his father, a celebrated war hero… Determined to make his own way In the galaxy, John develops a reputation as a brawler serving aboard the USS Hughes.
A rescue beacon brings John and his fellow Legionnaires to a cargo ship thought lost two decades ago… and the heavily damaged alien vessel of an unknown species that took it down. With the brass demanding details and apparent survivors begging for aid, John's team boards the derelict ships, vowing to leave no man behind.
On board, nightmares become reality as John and his team are separated and left behind, presumed to be killed in action. Assaulted on all sides by mysterious alien tech, John gets the chance to finally prove himself worth being his father's son—if he can survive the onslaught.
The way home is in sight, and John won't back down from the fight, though a determined enemy will make him pay for every inch. Breach Team is a non-stop action thrill ride with fast-paced warfare written by two veterans. Join the fight by getting your copy today!
Legion Country, DFS Hughes
4776 Dagda Federation Calendar (DFC)
The monotonous boredom of space travel was almost impossible to overcome, but Corporal John Harden hadn't given up. He was committed to finishing The History of the Dagdan Federation, Volume II, despite the dry prose. The tome was impossibly large, putting him to sleep with every attempt. Giving up, John tossed the reading tablet onto his rack and jumped onto the pull-up bar in his closet, punishing himself until he felt his sanity return.
Covered in sweat, he headed out for a quick shower, preparing himself for his upcoming shift. The distance learning course could wait, he assured himself as he shaved. Eyeing himself critically, he checked his shave for the third time in the small mirror above his sink. He knew all eyes would be on him as the newest fire team leader, and most of the judgments wouldn't be kind. Every legionnaire would assess his appearance and bearing, test his technical and tactical proficiency, and generally attempt to mess with his mind.
When he was satisfied with his shave, he put his razor away, folding the mirror and sink back into the wall of his tiny berth. Objectively, he knew it wasn't as tiny as it appeared. However, he shared the space with another corporal and their required gear took up most of the available square footage. Their field gear was compact, but there was a lot of it. Every legionnaire had to be ready to deploy at a moment's notice and the amount of kit needed to do so was overwhelming.
Once his half of the room was ready to pass any surprise inspections, John made a point to clean up after his roommate. He shared his quarters with Corporal Henderson, a team leader from Bravo Fire Team, 1st Squad. Initially he'd been thrilled to get a break from the rest of 2nd Squad, until he realized it meant twice as many inspections. The other corporal had already left for breakfast without having cleaned his area. Cursing, he quickly cleaned the other half of his room so he could head out for chow.
With his room ready, John straightened his uniform and palmed the switch to open the door. Freezing in place, he saw the ship's security chief blocking his path. The grizzled naval petty officer, Master Chief Todd, filled almost all of the opened doorway. His gleaming metallic prosthetic hand only made his weathered features appear more intimidating. The petty officer had a huge patch of shiny, pink skin where hair should be near the top of his scarred face.
Even though the crew whispered a thousand distinctly conspiracy-laden theories about who the chief really was and where he came from, John was unsure. He knew that Todd's record was clouded in mystery, but the Federation had gotten paranoid lately. Classified records could indicate anything from a tour as an embassy cook, to work with the Naval Special Warfare Command. Whatever his backstory, he was sure that he'd recognize Master Chief Todd anywhere. The petty officer had a distinct mannerism, one that John doubted anyone could duplicate. Aside from his hulking and brutish demeanor, the man reeked of stale coffee and hate.
John instinctively snapped to attention, wondering which of the pantheon of gods he'd offended to deserve a visit from the DFS Hughes's master-at-arms. Panic and dread filled him, crushing his spirit as he involuntarily shivered despite the warmth of his room. He didn't remember breaking any rules, at least not any that should matter to the master-at-arms. John had another moment of panic when he realized that he hadn't spoken in at least ten seconds, though it felt more like a minute.
"Good morning, Master Chief," John barked.
"Good morning?" asked Master Chief Todd as he glanced at the chronometer on the wall. "It's morning, somewhere, but does this look like morning to you?"
As he spoke, Todd waved his mechanical hand in a wide arc. The small servos clicked and rattled as they interpreted the input the master chief's brain. John did his best not to panic, despite the petty officer's glower. It took every ounce of his willpower not to lose control of his bowels, but he managed to avoid that disgrace. He knew there was no correct answer to the question, so John gave the answer he that was expected.
"Yes, Master Chief," John replied.
Todd frowned, the shiny patch of pink skin on the top of his head turning an angry shade of red. Eyeing the sailor more closely, John couldn't help but notice because he was several inches taller than the man. Even when looking straight ahead, he could see the top of the master chief's head. The longer John stared, the angrier the petty officer seemed to get at his answer. He didn't know what he was expected to say, and the longer the silence dragged on the more nervous John got. He'd never heard of a sailor or legionnaire coming out ahead after pissing off the master chief.
"That's the best answer you can come up with, Harden?" Todd demanded.
John knew that there was no right answer to a question like that; he'd learned that the hard way during basic training. The situation felt so reminiscent of the culture shock that was boot camp that he became even more concerned. He still didn't know why the master chief would visit his room.
"Yes, Master Chief," John said firmly.
"That's a damn shame," Todd growled. "Get your ass back in your room."
"Yes, Master Chief," John barked, before taking two steps backward.
Once he was in his room again, he was horrified to see that Todd had followed him into the confined space of his quarters. When Todd slapped the door controls, sealing them into the room and away from prying eyes, John began to sweat. His mind was a flurry of panicked questions, as he struggled to figure out what he'd done to deserve the wrath of the Butcher of Bryven. Simply thinking of his nickname made John shudder; he'd seen a legionnaire get his butt handed to him for calling the master chief that to his face.
As he stared into the cold eyes of the battered NCO, another realization struck him. I'm an NCO now; this could be about one of my legionnaires. Thinking about the sort of hijinks his troops could've gotten up to scared him even more. Thousands of very real scenarios flashed before his eyes, and the color drained from his face. This can't be good. Why did he close the door? Mustering a reserve of courage he wasn't sure he possessed, John refrained from asking any of the questions that ran through his mind. Instead, he remained at attention, his heels together, hands curled into fists, and thumbs against the seam of his trousers.
While John studied the master chief, Todd studied him in return. After an unnerving minute, the grizzled warrior walked up to him, so close that John felt the heat radiate from the man's scalp. Remembering his baring, John kept his eyes forward as the man inspected him, judging his uniform, his shoes, and his shave. He was thankful that he'd spent the extra time to make sure everything was perfect, but he was still worried that he'd missed a spot. While Todd looked him over, John tried to breathe slowly through his nose. He tried to slow his pulse and control his breathing so he could think clearly.
"Look at me," Todd growled. Obeying, John looked over at Master Chief Todd who was staring through his eyes and into his soul. They stared at each other for a minute before Todd spoke again. "You look just like him, you know?"
Unsure how to answer the question, John remained silent, hoping it was rhetorical. The silence drug on, until he couldn't take it anymore. He blurted out the question that popped into his head before he could stop himself. "I look like who, Master Chief?"
"Like your father," Todd replied quietly. "I knew him. I served with him. I was there when those traitors murdered him. He was a good man, a good legionnaire."
From the way his expression softened, Todd must've noticed his confused expression. Trying to figure out what the master chief was telling him, he studied the disfigured visage of the master chief's scarred head. Stroking his withered head, Todd looked lost in thought. The silence was oppressive, but John wasn't sure what to say or do. Nothing in his training had prepared him for a situation like this. Nothing from his protocol lessons or classes on military customs and courtesies.
"You want to know about this?" Todd asked, his expression grim as he pointed to the scar on his head with his mechanical hand. "That's a story for another day. Why do you think I'm here, Corporal?"
"I don't know, Master Chief," John replied.
"You wondering if I'm here to bust your balls about something?" Todd asked, chuckling to himself.
"Yes, Master Chief," John admitted.
Barking out a harsh laugh, Todd said, "I'm not, but I can chew your ass if it'll make you more comfortable."
Waiting for John's reply with an impatient expression, Todd finally issued the order for him to unfold the chairs in his room. Rushing to obey, John unlatched the two chairs stowed underneath the bottom bunk of the two-man room. Seconds later, he had both chairs unfolded and sitting on the floor. When his task was complete, he snapped back to the position of attention.
"Sit," Todd ordered.
Patting him gently on the shoulder after John had obeyed the command, the older man relaxed his stance and appeared lost in thought.
"At ease, son," Todd said softly. "I'm not here to bust your balls. I'm here because I owe it to your dad. I'm here to make sure his son doesn't become be one of the shitty, weak-ass corporals I see running around acting like they're God's gift. I'm here to make sure that you have a chance to do some good, to make your father proud."
"Yes, Master Chief," John said stiffly.
"When you're ready, I'll tell you about your dad and what really happened at the Battle for Bryven," Todd said, a hard edge to his voice. "Until then, heed my warning. If you don't listen to my advice, I'll shove my foot so far up your ass, you'll taste my boot. Is that all clear?"
"Yes, Master Chief," John replied.
The older man sat down, leaned back in his chair as he ran a hand over the huge scar on his scalp. "I used to be a legionnaire. Did you know that?"
"Yes, Master Chief," John said earnestly. "Everyone knows that."
"Oh, do they?" Todd asked, the hard edge returning to his voice. "Does the rumor mill know why I'm not legionnaire anymore?"
"They say it was your injuries, Master Chief. The rumor says that you're only about fifty percent human now," John replied.
John initially smirked at that, before he quickly wiped the expression from his face. But Todd roared with laughter, slapping his non-mechanical hand on his knee, seemingly oblivious to the shocked expression on John's face.
"Do they now? I guess I have quite the reputation!" Todd said as he inspected his mechanical hand. "Well, it's not quite fifty percent. This is a second-generation prosthesis; there's no way for this device to interface with Legion combat armor. I had a choice: I could join the Navy and get to be around legionnaires, or I could become a civilian. I think I made a wise choice."
A heavy silence filled the room, and John wondered if the master chief was waiting for him to say something. He didn't think it was prudent to add his own opinion, so John decided to remain silent.
"You're a corporal now," Todd said, "so let's get to the point. Congratulations, by the way. With that promotion, a lot of things are going to change. A lot will be expected of you. It's not just a pay raise. You're now a leader of legionnaires, you hold their lives in your hands. That is a heavy responsibility. Your dad was one of the best squad leaders in the shock troopers. The Stalker Regiments lost a good man when he was—"
"My dad wasn't a legionnaire," John disagreed. "My mom said he was a drug addict and died in rehab."
"She lied," Todd said flatly. "She didn't want you to follow in his footsteps, so she changed the narrative."
"I will look into it myself," John replied. "Until then, what was this advice you wanted to share?"
In the back of his mind, John knew he was being disrespectful, but he didn't care. He was in shock; his entire worldview was in upheaval at the idea that his perception of his father could be wrong.
"Fine, we can talk about your dad later. Instead I'll give you some advice. Be warned, this time of peace we're experiencing isn't going to last. Anti-Federation tensions have already begun bubbling up throughout the galaxy. Intel says it's happening across all of Federation space, not just in the Kenaz Super Cluster. Local galactic leadership have begun isolating us from the rest of the Federation territories. Border skirmishes with the Zalfari and Halzen are on the rise, and the Legion is woefully unprepared for full scale conflict," Todd said.
"We've been at peace for nearly two thousand years. I hardly think a few blips on the radar here and there are much to worry about," John assured the Master Chief. "And the Halzen and Zalfari are our trading partners. Mutual commercial goals unify our collective interest."
"Horseshit," Todd spat. "Change is coming. We've had good times for too long, it's bred soft men. These soft men set up the dominos for the hard times that are coming. You're a legionnaire, you know that hard times create the ideal conditions for war. Let's just hope that the war brings better times on the other end. I feel it in my gut. It's a cycle that's been happening since the beginning of forever, and the cycle is overdue. Peace doesn't last."
"The Federation is different, we've created a society that can withstand the ravages of time. We can change, we can adapt into something better!" John exclaimed.
"You've really swallowed the party line, haven't you?" Todd asked in surprise. "To an old codger like me, the signs are clear. We're about to enter some hard times. Our patronage system has made our leaders soft. The elites are starting to feel entitled, starting to believe that their feelings matter more than the Federation as a whole. Those feelings are upsetting the apple cart. It's breeding a whirlwind of destruction—anger, hatred, violence, and eventually war."
Shaking his head at the young corporal's dismissive snort, Todd continued. "Prepare yourself, Harden. I predict that trouble is already upon us. Within your lifetime, even if not within mine, there will be war. Mark my words."
"This is treasonous, Master Chief," John said, his discomfort increasing.
"Treason? No, the real treason is what our elite politicians are doing to the common man. The Federation has only seen a few real battles in the last few hundred years or so," Todd said thoughtfully. "We're a withered husk of what we once were, and we'll all suffer because of it. We're untrained and unprepared. Sooner rather than later, a harder, stronger enemy will invade us, conquer us, and assimilate us into their culture. The Federation's days are numbered."
John stared, his jaw hanging open at those words.
"What I'm saying is, you're a noncommissioned officer now. It's time to start thinking like one. The troops are not your friends. They are your tools in the coming war. You swing them like a hammer. Have you ever actually used a hammer, Corporal?" Todd asked.
"Yes, Master Chief," John said, looking even more confused than before.
"You ever felt bad for the hammer?" Todd asked again.
"No, Master Chief," he replied, before he began to understand.
"I can see that you're starting to get it," Todd said, nodding his head approvingly. "You understand what I mean when I say that your troops are your tools? They're your hammer. You use them to smash your enemies. Just like your platoon sergeant, your platoon commander, and everybody else uses you as their hammer."
"Yes, Master Chief. I understand," he said solemnly.
"Good," Todd said as he stood. "Your father was a good man. For his sake, for his memory, don't get stupid. Don't get yourself killed—that's an order." Before John could respond, the old man pivoted, slapped the panel to open the door, and left the room.