Szentmartony City. That’s the prize. 

The Octopus wants to take the third-largest station in the system. Szentmartony is the jewel in the crown of the Pact’s domain; their most populous starport, the second-closest to the jump point in the system and a significant industrial economy in its own right. Taking it would catapult IPEC from being one of several minor, barely-represented factions of many political stripes to being a major power in the system, second only to TravSol. No longer would IPEC operate from a bunker on a distant moon – it would govern the lives of millions. 

It would also be a catastrophic blow to the Pact, leaving them with handfuls of supporters and control of a few scattered outposts. 

The ground has been prepped for weeks. I’ve seen her do it – commissioning endless opinion polls, focus groups and stress tests – endlessly judging and rejudging the public support, our military capability and the Pact’s strength.  Everything to ensure that, when the time came, she was surprised by nothing. 

The Octopus hates being surprised. 

Our missions have been small instruments in this plan. Building economic and military ties with allies throughout the nearby systems. Building the tension, until the Pact snapped and declared war. Giving IPEC just cause to take Szentmartony City. 

In short, it stands to be a master stroke of political strategy. 

Her mind works like no one’s I’ve ever known. I thought I knew her, when I saw her again after all these years in the Botanical Gardens at Dashiell. But now I know her to bear no resemblance to the woman I flew with. Now I know what she’s like, I’m amazed at how masterful the deception was.

I’ve realised I have to tell Vex. If he finds out from me, he might not kill me. 


The ship shudders as I drop into normal space, near Szentmartony itself. I’m returning to restock ammunition from the latest skirmish. The fighting is fiercest near the station. The dock workers here are happy to service our ships – IPEC has broad support here. 


This is the Hammerhead.


It costs me nearly 80,000 credits to completely restock ammunition – that’s more than some ships. Happily, killing for the Octopus is a lucrative pursuit.


It’s a decommissioned Federal Assault Ship – an uncongruous choice for a Citizen of the Empire, perhaps, but Core Dynamics know how to build a combat vessel. That’s the same manufacturer as the Banshee.


In fact, the Federal Assault Ship is like the Vulture’s big brother – the same thuggish, angular frame, the same armour, the same incredible manoeuvrability. This is several times the size, however,  and boasts two medium hard points to complement the two large.

I picked her up at a Federal Navy retired equipment sale some years ago. She needed some paint but other than that there was very little wrong with her. I set about reinforcing the hull and upgrading the weapons systems. The internal modules were all stripped out to make room for a huge fuel scoop and a frame shift drive interdictor, and she became a very passable long-range strike fighter. On occasion, it’s no bad thing to be mistaken for a Federal Navy pilot, either. 

She boasts a large gimballed beam laser under the nose, with two medium multicannons behind those. I need to keep my nose tilted up to give them a decent firing arc, but with a pitch speed like this thing has, that’s no problem. To top it off, the spine of the ship conceals a large plasma accelerator. 

The best thing is, she’s a forgiving ship to fly. As one of my instructors at the Academy once said, ‘that young Souvarine couldn’t hit a Coriolis from the inside’. Forgiving is good. 


Which brings me to something I hadn’t expected. My memories of civil war are of refugees huddled under wet blankets, broken ships limping from pirates, fortunes thrown away and picked over by the jackals. I don’t know where my family went, but civil war drove them there. 

I don’t miss them as such, but war has never been something I’ve relished the prospect of. Too many ghosts sitting on the back of my flight seat, maybe. 

This is… Different.


Perhaps it’s knowing we have the Octopus pulling the strings. Perhaps it’s giving a toss. But…

I like this. We’re winning. We’re kicking the rotting stump, and our boots are going right through. War is exhilarating. 

War is fun


Vex would be having a whale of a time. 




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