The slight G-force pushing Hiro into his seat was strangely settling as the Firefly lifted off from the port. It was good to leave Von Braun behind. He had a nagging feeling that something would happen the longer they stayed in the lunar base. His crew had gone off to catch some rest in their bunkers. Hiro chose to remain behind to get to know the two AEUG pilots. Ryder and Nicky. They had introduced themselves and joined him for some drinks. It was good to know those who would be covering your back for you in the field. Hiro took a sip of his flat white and ran a finger down his scar out of habit.
"The Draconis Fury has its reputation in the mercenary scene. We rivalled the Galleon Combine back in the days, but unfortunately, times have been hard with the wars taking so many good soldiers. While I won't call them our allies, the Combine had good relations with us. Old Galleon and the previous Fury leader go way back. Brother-in-arms before they started their mercenary businesses. Enough of us. Tell me more about yourselves."
“You must be Hiro.” Captain Benjamin Grimsdottir said after a brief introduction. The AEUG Captain was a tall and imposing figure. Draconis Fury stood up almost in unison and snapped sharply in salute. Certain mercenaries gave their profession a bad name with their lack of care for decorum and discipline. They often used their freelance status as an excuse to misbehave. The Galleon Combine thought otherwise. They were an armed force for hire, but they were still an armed force.
Discipline was not just expected, but demanded of the Galleon mercenaries. That was one of the factors that convinced Hiro Kusanagi to submit the Fury to the Combine’s authority.
“Captain Grimsdottir. Hiro Kusanagi reporting for duty. These are the finest of Draconis Fury. Kamea Thrace, MS pilot. Grace Valerii, mechanic. Ronald Boone, tactician and comms. I believe you know that already.” As standard protocol, the Combine provided detailed profiles of each mercenary for the employers. Each of his team member were as outstanding as the other in their own area of expertise. Hiro nodded in acknowledgement at the AEUG soldiers who fell in behind Grimsdottir. "Our packs and gear have all been loaded, so I guess we are pretty much settled. When will we depart?"
Hiro Kusanagi sat in the lounge of the Firefly as he watched the AEUG personnel scurry about their work in preparation for their departure from the lunar city. His crew of four was squeezed into the booth seat meant for three as they had their lunch. The seat opposite them remained empty for the person they were expecting. His wingman Kamea Thrace snuggled to his left, her right elbow carelessly jabbing at his ribs as she worked her food with a metal spoon. He suspected she was prodding his side partly on purpose.
Kamea had tucked her short blonde hair behind her ear to keep it out of her lunch, revealing a star-shaped ebony stud. Her dog tag hung over her cleavage that her black tank top struggled to hide beneath her black leather. Hiro still found her appearance more masculine than Grace Valerii, who sat on his right. Grace had more feminine curves and the larger buxom than her short-hair counterpart, but her jacket was zipped all the way up to her neck to keep herself fully covered. Her straight black hair fell beyond her shoulders. Grace made Hiro uncomfortable for some reasons, especially when they were alone. Perhaps it was her open admiration for her superior, who happened to be a famed pilot in the Galleon Combine.
Hiro Kusanagi was a renown mercenary in the Combine. Grace was the newest member in his team. Although she had been a part of the Draconis Fury for over a year, Hiro was still unable to be as comfortable as he was with Kamea. The latter was his wingman, so that explained for their familiarity. Grace was a backup pilot and still had a way to go before she was able to step up as a full-fledged pilot for the team. Her body was pressed against his as they sat awkwardly in the booth seat of the cargo ship. Hiro could feel the stiffness in Grace’s body despite her best efforts to appear comfortable with the physical contact.
It was not as if he could help it. He was stuck. Hiro turned to look at Ronald Boone. The mechanic took the outermost seat and was the only one among them who could escape the scrum if he wanted to. Ronald, however, was engrossed with the food in his metal food tray. Kamea slammed her spoon down in frustration, “Knock my elbow one more time and I’ll shove this spoon up where the sun don’t shine, Augur!”
“Hey, blame the small table! You’re knocking half of each spoonful I scrape before I can shove it into my mouth, not that this poor excuse for food is in any way appetising.” Ronald shot back. Kamea shook her head. “You can tuck your elbows in instead of airing your armpits, lad. We can do without the stench.”
“Wha—“ Before he could even protest, Grace chimed in, “Starbuck is right. Why don’t you stand up to give us more space. Be a man, Augur.”
“Just ‘cos Spike isn’t around, now I’m the whipping boy,” Ronald said. Kamea laughed. “Keep on dreaming, lad. Nobody’s gonna whip that ass.”
“Shut up and enjoy cozying up with Apollo, girl.” Ronald teased as he suddenly leaned to his right to shove Kamea against Hiro. She leaned on Hiro’s shoulder with feigned affection while Grace flushed red as Hiro was pushed against her. Kamea giggled. “He better be enjoying this more than we are.”
“C’mon now, we’re gonna look so professional like this when Captain Grimsdottir shows up.” Hiro said as he gave up trying to convince himself he was hungry. Ronald moved to the empty seat. “I’ll warm the seat for the captain before he arrives.”
“I hope you’ve got a hot bum cos you gotta give up your seat and it better be well warmed up.” Grace said and gestured at the door of the lounge.
AEUG used the same rank system as the Earth Federation. AEUG allies and mercenaries used the same rank structure .
AEUG Space Force
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Master Chief Petty Officer
Petty Officer First Class
Petty Officer Second Class
Petty Officer Third Class
AEUG Ground Force
Private First Class
Private Second Class