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Maranta (Heroes of the League Book 7), page 1

 

Maranta (Heroes of the League Book 7)
 


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Maranta (Heroes of the League Book 7)


  Table of Contents

  Table of Contents

  Copyright

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  About the Author

  Maranta

  Heroes of the League Book 7

  By Frank Carey

  Copyright

  Copyright © 2015 by Frank Carey

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

  This story appeared previously in the Smuggler Elf.

  League Tale #8

  Chapter One

  Capt. Elizabeth Benson watched as the Space Vixen touched down on the landing deck. The forward ramp lowered as the small freighter's engines spun down, allowing the deck crew to offload the cargo as the techs prepared to add tracking chips to the weapons it contained. Liz smiled as Harmon Aymar--friend, confidant, and agent--ran down the ramp carrying a small, wooden box.

  "Did you get it?" she asked.

  He carefully removed the side to reveal a Hummel Happy Days figurine lying in a bed of excelsior. "Mint condition, still in the original packing crate complete with postmarks from five planets.”

  A tear ran down the seasoned captain's cheek. "How?"

  "I am a simple smuggler with many friends, one of whom owed me a big whopping favor. I hope you like it.”

  She carefully closed the box before hugging him. "I have a spot on the mantle waiting for it. How'd the mission go?"

  "Perfect. The Tawnya Clan was more than happy enough to sell guns to the Borafa Collective. Little did they know they’d be helping OffSec in its efforts to stamp-out gunrunning in their part of space. Look, what they gave me as a bonus," he said while leading her over to a crate. Inside was a Borash-108 40mm caseless Gatling gun with twin-two thousand round capacity magazines and space-rated multi-role universal hull mount system.

  "Damn, who's this going to?" she asked.

  "Lensa Kirch," Harm replied. "He wants to mount it to his yacht. Got any extra tags?"

  "Harmon Aymar, smuggler elf and genius. Damn, you have struck gold on this trip."

  Alarms went off. "Capt. Benson to the Bridge. We have a priority one message coming in from Elf Marine Expeditionary Force Team One on Segue Six."

  Liz looked at Harm. "Come with me, Harm," she ordered as she turned and headed to the door.

  "Roger that," he replied, running to keep up.

  ###

  When they got to the Bridge, Liz handed the figurine to her yeomen to keep it safe while barking orders to her crew. Harm secretly hoped that one day he could handle a stressful situation as well as Liz. In his eyes, she was a consummate professional.

  "Status!"

  Elf Marine Expeditionary Force Team One is under attack by two unknown ships. Maj. Aymar reports they've completed their mission, but need an extraction.”

  "Harmon, what do you... Harmon?" Liz said as she turned to see Harmon frozen next to her. "What's wrong?"

  "Maj. Royce Aymar? Big elf, usually guarding Princess Losira?"

  "Yeah, so what."

  "Who's his number two?"

  "Bobby?"

  "Shit, Capt. Marta McMurphy, your cousin, ma’am," Bobby replied nervously.

  Harmon went white. "Your cousin?"

  "Yes, but..."

  "She's my ex-wife and he's my cousin."

  The Bridge went deathly quiet. "Harmon, listen to me. I have no idea what happened between you two, so snap out of it. I need options. I can't take the LWS Septar into this due to the politics involved."

  "But I can take the Vixen in and do a pickup. The Segue Six government knows me. They owe me, so they'll turn a blind eye to this op."

  "Are you insane? There are two armed freighters, and the Vixen is unarmed."

  "Not for long. I can slap the Borash on the ventral side, just forward of the nose gear. All I need to do is get in, get the team into the bay, then get the plark out of there."

  "Your shields aren't rated for heavy weapons fire," she reminded him.

  "Neither are elf Marines. Liz, just get me close and have a med team waiting in bay one."

  "Harmon, you are one insane elf."

  Harm turned to go, but stopped. "Liz, when I drop the team in bay one, I plan to leave and park in bay two. They are not to know it was me who saved them."

  "I don't understand, but you have my word. Helm, get us to Segue Six, maximum speed."

  "Aye, ma’am. Next stop, Segue Six. ETA, twenty minutes."

  "Good hunting, Harmon," Liz said as Harm ran off the bridge.

  ###

  "Roberto, S'tingua, change of plans. I need a bucket of your finest gloop and a blaster," Harm yelled to his maintenance crew.

  "What's the op, boss?" Mariette asked as Harmon ran over and ripped the top off the crate containing the Borash.

  "I'm going to glue this thing to the underside of the Vixen using a bucket of gloop. I'll fire it remotely from the bridge. He ran over and drew a rough but precise outline on the underside hull. "Give me a hand getting it out of the crate."

  With minutes to spare, the four of them had the Borash mounted under the nose. As the Septar dropped into real-space, Harmon powered up the Vixen and lifted off the deck as his crew watched. There he waited, his ship hovering over the deck's metal surface.

  "LTV Space Vixen, this is Septar launch control. Do you read? Over."

  "Roger that, Septar, I read you five by five. Request permission to launch and vectors to landing zone, over."

  Coordinates and vectors fed into the Vixens NAVComp. When finished, launch control said, "Vixen, you are go for launch. Fair winds and calm seas. Good hunting."

  "Thank you, launch control," Harm said as he pushed the Vixen out of the bay with thrusters. Once clear of the Septar, he jammed the throttles forward while powering up the Borash. He was doing Mach thirty by the time he hit atmo, and he had no intentions of slowing down.

  Harmon watched the NAVComp readouts as he approached a position directly above the insurgents’ position. He thumbed the mic switch on the control yoke. "Gen. Smarsh, this is Harmon Aymar. Please respond."

  After a moment of static, a voice answered. "Aymar, good to hear from you. I thought your delivery wasn't until next month."

  "I'm early. General, would it be possible for you, your troops, and your two ships to leave the area? You know, stop trying to kill that small EMEF team down there and just go? I would really appreciate it."

  "Where the hell are you, Aymar? I'm not picking you up on sensors."

  "Oh, just hanging around," Harm said as he aimed the Vixen straight down at the planet while still carrying most of his orbital momentum. The air in front of the ship s
tarted to glow.

  "I don't think so, Aymar. They have something of mine, and they have made it clear that I'm going to have to pry it from their cold dead hands to get it back. You have something to do with these elf Marines, Harmon?"

  "General, I offer you five shipments in return for their lives. I will deliver the goods in the morning to anywhere you specify." The glow became bright enough to activate the windscreen sun guard.

  "Tempting offer, Aymar, but I have to decline. Where the hell are you?"

  "One last chance, General. Will you let them go?"

  "No. What now? Are you going to attack me with your little unarmed freighter? My people will shred that thing in a second."

  Harm looked at the altitude readouts and sighed. "Look up, General. I'm sorry it had to end this way," he said as he reached over and switched frequencies, but not before he heard the general scream.

  "Mayday, mayday, mayday..." a familiar voice said over the radio. Harmon smiled, tightened his straps, and hit the transmit button.

  ###

  Gunfire erupted around the trapped Marines as a ground assault team advanced on them under cover fire of at least two armed freighters. Royce jabbed the transmit button on the radio and yelled, "Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is Elf Marine Expeditionary Force Team One requesting immediate evac. We are taking heavy fire, over."

  Silence except for the occasional hiss of static.

  "Dammit! Ammo-check!" Royce yelled.

  "Wait a minute, Major," Marta said as a voice came over the radio.

  "Team One, Team One, this is Evac One, do you copy, a metallic voice said."

  "Evac One, this is Team One. We read you five by five. What is your status?"

  "I am fifteen seconds out and coming in Ultra-hot. I see your position and the position of the hostiles. I suggest you all get down as low as possible."

  Royce scanned the horizon and saw nothing. "Evac One, what is your position?"

  "Twelve o'clock high, directly over the hostiles’ position. Duck. Now!"

  The members of Team One looked up and saw a freighter, surrounded by superheated air, bearing down on the hostiles. "Sir," Sgt. Zon yelled, "That wild man is coming in at Mach six!"

  "Everyone dig-in," Marta yelled as the area around them went dead silent. The last thing Team One heard was the sound of an explosion as Evac One's bow wave hit the enemy position.

  As the dust cleared, Marta poked her head above the ground to see a scene from Dante's Inferno. Where the enemy troops once were, now only a smoking hole remained. To the right of the hole was the wreckage of one of the freighters, while to the left, the crashed hulk of the second freighter sat riddled with bullet holes. As she stared, a heavily damaged freighter, its registration numbers and insignia hidden, gently came to rest on the ground while its rear ramp lowered.

  "Hurry! I've got what's left of the insurgent air force approaching, and I'm all out of ammo," the metallic voice said through the freighter’s PA system.

  "Move, people!" Royce and Marta yelled as the team picked up their wounded and ran into the ship. Once inside, the ramp closed, and they felt the freighter head into orbit.

  Before anyone could say anything, red lights flashed over First Aid Kits while white lights came on over a refrigerator and a cabinet marked "RATIONS." Finally, a blue light came on over a door in the forward bulkhead marked "HEAD"

  "I detect no pursuit, and the Segue government assures me there will be none," the metallic voice said. "We've sustained severe damage, but we should make it, though a little slower than I'd like. Capt. Benson would like to speak to someone in charge. Use the handset next to the refrigerator."

  Marta walked forward and found the door to the bridge locked. "Who the hell are you?" she asked.

  Silence.

  "Thanks for the pick-up,” Zon said as she helped their medic, Cpl. Stal, with the wounded.

  "No problem," the voice answered. "Glad I could help." With that, the voice went silent.

  "Marta!"

  "Yes, boss," she answered while walking over to Royce.

  "I just got off the phone with Liz. It seems our friend was on a covert op when our call came in. He can't let us see him for fear of blowing his cover. That's why his insignia is blanked out."

  "Sirs," LCpl Sana Eloen, the team's communications, and computer expert said, "I checked a terminal and this ship will probably never see space again. I'm surprised it’s still flying. Between the backwash from the bow wave and the weapons damage, she's barely limping. Also, she's unarmed except for the recent addition of a Borash Gat glued to the underside of the nose. This guy is either real good or real nuts."

  "I'll vote for real timely. Tend the wounded and prepare them for evac once we're back at the Septar."

  "Yes, sir," Marta and Sana replied. As Royce turned to attend to the wounded, he saw something peeking out from a cargo net. He walked over and extricated it. What he saw shocked him to the bone. Placing it in his uniform, he turned back to help his fallen comrades.

  ###

  "Move!" Liz yelled as what was left of the Vixen dropped to the deck and lowered its rear ramp. Inside, the injured Team One waited.

  Gurneys wheeled up the ramp as medics tended to the worst of the injuries. Finally, everyone except Royce had been taken to the infirmary for treatment. He and Liz stood at the edge of the small ship's cargo bay while Royce stared at the locked door leading to the cockpit.

  "Who are you?" Royce called out while Liz put her hand on his arm.

  "Let it go, Major."

  "Major," the voice said. "I am no one, and you have seen nothing. Please, leave so that I can get on my way."

  Royce and Liz stepped off the ramp and away from the ship as the door closed and the battered ship lifted off the deck. Moments later, it was gone having exited through the bay door.

  Royce turned to Liz. "Explain this," he demanded as he pulled the object he found on the ship from his vest and showed it to her. It was a vintage Hawaiian hula dancer dashboard doll from mid-century Earth. "This belonged to my cousin, Harmon, and it never left his side. Marta gave it to him."

  Liz looked at the big elf and said, "Come to my quarters after Sickbay checks you out. I have something to tell you.”

  Royce nodded and headed after his team. He looked and saw Marta holding an IV bag. He wondered how he was going to tell her that her long-dead husband just saved the lives of her and her team. Years later, the decision would become a moot point.

  Chapter Two

  Years later…

  The League Research Vessel Tung'We entered orbit around Maranta Five, 278 standard days into its mission, and began long-range scanning of the planet's surface. Today, students from Herastus University were getting the chance to go planet-side to explore this uninhabited world while testing probe robots for the Department of Colonization, the mission's sponsor.

  As the ship's crew settled into planetary survey mode, the members of the survey team assembled in the main conference room.

  Pilot Jemtah Bryr sipped his coffee and grimaced. "Quite a group you got this time, Tannith. Who the hell did you piss-off?" he asked as the students entered the room.

  "Captain!" his copilot, Penelope Scott, whispered. "They'll hear you!"

  "And what if they do? This is my last mission before retiring to beautiful Tralaska," he replied. "I've got my plans all set: House on the edge of a volcanic crater where I can watch the beautiful sunsets of home, no more shuttling privileged brats from one planet to the next. Ah, I can smell the sulfur already."

  "Don't mince words, Jemtah. What do you really think?" Tannith asked while her tail formed a question mark. "And this fascination your species has with sulfur. Ewww," she commented. Elves hated the scent of sulfur.

  "You tell him, sister," Penny said as she fist-bumped the elf instructor. Penny and Tannith were like twin sisters of different species—human and elf—separated by millions of miles of empty space, yet best friends forever.

  "I hope you two don't drive my
replacement nuts like you did me," Jemtah said with a chuckle. Deep down he knew he would miss both of them when he was gone.

  "I'm going to miss your humor, Jemtah," Tannith said while watching the students come into the room. Mauro, a human from Earth, walked in, sat down, and immediately started to write something in a notebook with a pencil. Tannith checked her datapad and saw the notation in the young man's record. She sat down next to him, startling him out of his writing reverie. "Easy there. My name is Tannith, and I'm your instructor for this trip."

  He looked at her and smiled. "You're an elf, aren't you?" he asked while he marked off something in his notebook.

  "Why yes I am," she replied while looking quizzically at his notebook.

  "Bucket list, item forty-eight: meet an elf."

  "You're kidding me!" she said, shocked.

  He showed her the entry. "Item forty-eight: "Meet an elf."

  "Isn't that a little morbid?" she asked, frowning.

  "No, just reality," he said while reaching into his pocket and pulling out a slip of paper. "Here is my medical release showing that I'm not contagious and have had my booster shot, which is good for the duration of our stay on Maranta Five. It also says I have a second booster ready in case we have to stay longer than the allocated seventy-two hours. In other words, I'm fine."

  Tannith read the paper. "You have Rotarr's Syndrome, but you seem to have it under control. Good." she said.

  "If only. At best, I am keeping my condition at bay. I'm looking forward to this trip, it's a chance at mapping a new world, which is right up there with meeting an elf," he said with a disarming smile.

  Tannith's conversation with Mauro was interrupted by the arrival of more students. "What is this fascination your people have with mythological sea monsters?" Tannith looked toward the door and saw an Alturan and an Olympian walk into the room.

  "Blame Earth," Iolaus said as he strolled next to Doris, the Alturan female. "The primitive humans already had the basis for the myth when my people arrived. We just improved on it."

  "You engineers, you're always improving things," she said as she slid by the treat table and picked up a nutribar. "Now here's something that can't be improved." She flipped the bar in the air with one tentacle and caught it in another.

 
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