|Base of Operations||unknown|
|Allies||Whoever paid them.|
The legendary Free Fleet was one of the most famous mercenary fleets in the 40,000 years since the War of Extinction that saw the Ishvana wipe or defeat most of the Elder Races. Certainly, no discussion of the most successful and powerful fleets for hire in that vast time period would be complete without more than just a passing mention.
Its precise origins are difficult to ascertain due to a lack of emphasis on recordkeeping in the small pirate groups that eventually banded together to form the Free Fleet, but by 0 A.E., they were massive, well-organized, and led by the brilliant rogue Tukkav commander, Mezer Juul. They were an appreciable fraction of the size of the military of many powerful races, but unlike those races, they had no territory to defend, and so were able to deploy their full force, at once, in one place.
This constituted a huge military advantage, allowing them to often cast the decisive blow in military conflicts, provided they were well-compensated, of course.
The Vonikin Krel, among others, often hired the Free Fleet to do their dirty work, as they had no substantial military of their own, relying instead on the fact that they were too valuable to destroy due to their skill in shipsim design and construction, though the Free Fleet was always too smart to provoke the wrong enemies. It’s also rumored that one reason the Free Fleet’s ships often proved superior to their enemies was an arrangement with the Krel to receive early releases of their latest shipsim tech.
Whatever the truth, it is certain that in 0 A.E. the Krel hired the Free Fleet to attack and destroy the Der’em home world, in a massive assault aimed at crippling them permanently, at least, and perhaps wiping them out in near-entirety. And when the Free Fleet accepted a job, the Free Fleet performed.
The Der'em were a brilliant, but not powerful race, and had long relied on the fact that they provoked nobody and sought no one else's territory and resources, along with their cloaking technology, which was among the finest known, to protect them.
However, it wouldn't save them from the sheer might of Commander Mezer Juul's hammer. The Fleet smashed into the Der'em's Ventosian home system and the Der'em could do naught but delay the inevitable.
In a last-ditch attempt to save their civilization, they launched a small fleet guarding an off-world research station carrying an untested prototype of their greatest cloaking achievement yet - technology that would cloak an entire planet - and opened a one-way wormhole, channeling as much energy as they could direct at it.
Due to the fundamental nature of wormholes, a one-way wormhole is much more difficult to precisely target. Also, the energy cost to create a temporary wormhole increases faster than linearly with distance, though not exponentially. As a result, there's a rough optimum distance that skipdrives on starships use to create their one-way wormholes and instead of skipping across huge distances they skip repeatedly across short ones, at a much reduced energy cost.
In this case, the Der'em had no choice but to escape immediately, and so, knowing that where they'd end was fairly unpredictable, they opened a massive one-way wormhole and sent their small fleet through it, hoping that they'd find survival at wherever fate took them and that the Free Fleet would be unable to follow.
They made it safely through, but the larger the wormhole, the longer it takes to close, and the Free Fleet was able to arrive and deploy a wormhole stabilizer before it closed, leaving the way open for them to pursue the Der'em.
The Fleet pursued, destroying every Human colony they encountered on the way in-system towards Earth, and when the Der'em caused Earth to disappear, they continued their destruction, sparing only the prisoners on a penal mining colony on Callisto, one of Jupiter's moons.
Holocord Transcription from Sg. Kemran James of the Free Fleet
"When I was just a little brat, my old baba used to tell me about some relative of ours from way back. A guy named Jesse James. Supposed to have been some kind of famous outlaw, and goddam if the old man wasn't proud to tell everyone who would listen about this. Who knows if the story’s true. I know I sure as hell was one though – an outlaw. A predator.
I stole from people. Shit, I took everything. I took their property, their dignity, and their lives, 'cause if you can’t keep it, it ain’t yours to begin with.
Even after they caught me, sent me away to that freezing fucking shithole Callisto, I was an animal. Cross me, and you paid the price. Undisciplined, living day to day. All those god-awful mines did was make me harder, more ruthless.
When the De’rem showed up with the Free Fleet in pursuit, and Earth vanished, we went wild. Maddox Khan and Akari Lane - fellow prisoners - busted us out and we had some fun making the guards sing, but the Fleet showed up, and they got us like rats in a trap.
Funny thing is, best goddam thing ever happened to me. Yeah, I feel bad sometimes ‘bout all my people back on Earth - who knows what happened to the poor bastards when it blinked out - but fuck it! This…is….livin’!!
I mean, you have any idea the kind of tech we got? Hoooollllly shit! You fire one of those Proton Rippers or a Starhammer and you tell me that isn’t the most goddam beautiful sight you ever seen. Better 'n sex. Better 'n anything.
It could'a gone real real bad though. When Commander Mezer Juul and the Fleet grabbed us off Callisto, we didn't know what hit us. All 1600 of us, man and woman both, were scared shitless, 'cept maybe Cap'n Maddox - nothing seems to get to that man.
Stuck in that stinking room on some alien ship, surrounded by Tukkav and Ry'nari and Amaians and all that, beings we'd never dreamed of, well, that's bad enough, but we got the idea we were basically cattle to be sold to the highest bidder. We couldn't decide whether they were gonna sell us for grub to some meat-eating race or to be exhibits in some kinda sick alien zoo or fuck knows what.
Three hundred were dragged out one time and we never saw 'em again. Found out later they were sold to the Vonikin Krel and the rumors we hear about what the Krel do with aliens....Well, hope it ended quick.
Then the Vendal hit the ship we were on, and hit it hard. Boarded it and started in with the murderin'. Just like on Callisto, Maddox and Akari break us out in the chaos, and as the Vendal didn't seem to mind killing us just as easy as anyone else, we fought back.
Now, understand, Cap'n Maddox is many things. One thing he ain't though is the kind of guy you'd see on the street and think much of his chances in a brawl.
But, you ever see a dogfight? I loved 'em back on Earth. Thing with a dogfight is that it ain't the biggest dog that wins - it's the dog that wants it most, and Cap'n Maddox has a will in him like nothing you ever saw.
So we survived against that Vendal attack. The soldiers of the Fleet won, but we fought like the cornered rats we were, alongside our captors, and courage under fire is somethin' that I guess they just like in all armies, everywhere.
But then again, there we were, having broken out of our shipborn prison and 'liberated' some good gear from the dead. Prisoners with weapons. They could'a just shot us dead right there, or we could'a shot first and then we end up just as dead.
Somehow the Cap'n got through to them, and to us, before it all went to hell, so Commander Juul gave us a choice - join up with the Fleet on a 20 year contract, or get dumped out into space with the next load of garbage. Sometimes life seems really clear, and that was one of those moments. Crystal fucking clear. Probably no surprise which way we went.
We thought we were tough guys and women, because all of us were killers, but the Fleet taught us that we didn't know shit about killin'. They sure wanted to make sure we knew it too. Every day, we lost at least one of us in training, whether to some squathead trying to show his dick's bigger in the sparring ring, or just accidents playing with tech they thought it was funny to give us without telling us how the hell to use it. Nobody said life in the Fleet was gonna be safe!
Those of us who made it, we're Omega Company, 'cause there ain't no humans but us. We're the last. We built ourselves quite a reputation too, these 10 years.
And Cap'n Maddox? Well with all respect to Commander Juul, bless his hairy hide, Cap'n Maddox is god. Wouldn't be standing here today without 'im. Saved us all multiple times... and if he's god, then Akari's his angel of death.
If he tells me to rip a new asshole in a planet, I ask how many clicks wide he wants it, and then I shove my foot so far up that rock's new shitter that folks on the other side are choking on my toejam.
If he says a flagship needs taking down, I ask how many pieces he'd like it blown into, and then I and the good men and women of Omega Company make the enemy on that ship wish their parents never screwed (or whatever damn way the freakier ones like the Decheerans or Grensuhlians get their business handled). And then we really go to work on them.
Cap'n Maddox made us who we are - the most goddam dangerous fighting force in the whole sorry history of mankind, and pretty damn renowned in Starmourn Sector too. He taught us duty, and honor, and discipline, and even with all the shit we've had to eat since being sent off to the Callisto colony, I wouldn't trade it.
I was born to fight among the stars with my brothers and sisters in motherfucking arms.
Omega Company! Semper Primus!
The Humans Take Command
In 30 A.E. Commander Mezer Juul's flagship was destroyed in battle by the Bushraki during the Bushraki War. Maddox and Akari Lane took over as co-Commanders of the Free Fleet, which was especially notable as Humans were a very small minority in the Fleet.
By 50 A.E. Maddox and Akari were aging, and retired. Their 36 year old daughter, Tamiko Lane Khan took over as Commander of the Free Fleet.
However, as a refugee fleet was fleeing, Tamiko, who had already hired out the Free Fleet at extortionate prices to help the war effort, saw an opportunity and took it. She had acquired a cast-off Ascendancy cruiser and, while broadcasting Ascendancy transponder codes, had it blow up a portion of the refugee fleet, killing 2 million souls. The Song, outraged, blamed the Ascendancy, who vehemently denied any knowledge of the attack.
In 75 A.E. Tamiko threw away two entire attack groups of mixed Song and Free Fleet forces against the Ascendancy, doing so in a way as to make it look like the Song commanders under her were at fault for their stunning defeat.
Desperate, the Song council, made up of civilians, gave Tamiko what she asked for: Direct control of the Song military, so that she could integrate them completely with the Free Fleet and thereby maximize their power vs. the Ascendancy. Tamiko hoped to use this power to establish an Empire of her own.
In 76 A.E. Tamiko, now having control over the Song military as well as the Fleet, promptly overthrew the civilian Song government, commandeered a military space station orbiting the ruined planet Song, and established a new military order for the Dominion, with herself as Empress.
Exactly 12 days later, Maddox and Akari came out of retirement and defected with a substantial portion of the Free Fleet to the Celestine Ascendancy, to offer them assistance in defeating their power-mad daughter Tamiko.
For four years they fought, and then in 81 A.E. Tamiko had her mother Akari assassinated by introducing a fatal toxin into the mix of chemicals injected into Akari during a planetside rejuv treatment.
There, the Celestines demanded death for her, and harsh punishment for the entire Song Dominion.
Maddox saw where this would lead - to a resentful Song, who had been understandably very upset about the 2 million dead refugees.
Maddox somehow got one of the Grensuhlian Elders to journey to the trial, and it forced open Tamiko's mind, whereupon they discovered that Tamiko had killed the refugees, not the Celestine Ascendancy.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this made no difference to the Song - their people had suffered and fought for years against the Celestines, and whatever crime the Celestines didn't commit to start the war, the Song believed the Celestines had done far worse since, in the following war.
Maddox declared that:
- He would not stand in the way of whatever justice the Celestine Ascendancy decided was appropriate for Tamiko.
- He would not permit the Song to take revenge on the Celestines after the revelation that the war had been set up by his daughter. He promised that whichever side launched an attack would see he and the Free Fleet - the remnants of which rallied around him with Tamiko's defeat - come down on them hard, and as both sides were quite weakened and their people sick of war, it worked. A detente was formed, for awhile at least.
- He, Maddox, was leaving both the Song and the Celestines behind. He'd had enough of this "fucking government bullshit" and that these governments were just as bad as the ones back on Earth that ended up with him mining frozen hydrogen on some god-forsaken moon in the middle of nowhere. He was leaving, and he was taking the Free Fleet with him, along with anyone else who wanted to come.
Tamiko was executed via firing squad at dawn the next day. Maddox watched, and those who knew him well said they felt him turn into an old man as her lifeless body tumbled to the ground.
For nine years, the Free Fleet searched for somewhere suitable to live. Ideally, they wished to find a system with at least one broadly-habitable planet that was unoccupied, but none they found met their requirements, and eventually, with resources running low, they agreed to establish a permanent settlement in an asteroid field. These asteroids were found to be rich with raw materials, that they could trade for other supplies, and as a bonus many of the asteroids were nothing but huge chunks of water ice, which could be broken down into its component atoms for oxygen and fuel, or melted to supply the burgeoning settlement with water. Effectively, they had found a source of recoverable water larger than anything a planet could provide.
There, Maddox ordered the construction of Scatterhome, so-called because it's a giant community built on many different asteroids in the area.
The Fleet Splits
In 93 A.E., Maddox Khan, arguably the most influential Human in that race's history, died, and yet another Human commander rose to power - a woman named Liao Harris.
Resentful of this control and popularity the Human race seemed to enjoy in the Fleet, despite being a small minority, a sizable population of its non-Human members mutinied, led by Harris's second-in-command, a fiery W'hoorn named Sere Umox. After a brief skirmish, the former Lieutenant Umox took with him nearly half of the fleet's ships and mercenaries. Under Sere, these mutineers became the Iron Corsairs.
In 210 A.E., the Free Fleet participated in the alliance that defeated the Ishvana's forces during the Second War of the Ishvana.
The End of the Fleet
In 422 A.E. the Fleet was hired by Temejin Corp, a Shen megacorp, to blockade a remote planet under Selassian control. Once the Fleet was on duty and far from a Voidgate, the Iron Corsairs emerged from a nearby asteroid belt and completely wiped out the Fleet in an overwhelming ambush.
Though there would be mercenary groups in the future to use the name Free Fleet, this was the end of the storied Fleet.
- Mezer Juul - Tukkav. Supreme Commander of the Free Fleet
- Maddox Khan - Human. Supreme Co-Commander of the Free Fleet, leader of Omega Company. Married to Akari Lane.
- Akari Lane - Human. Supreme Co-Commander of the Free Fleet. Married to Maddox Khan.
- Kemran James - Human. Sergeant of Omega Company.
- Liao Harris - Human. The Supreme Commander of the Free Fleet whose rise to power precipitated the mutiny by Sere Umox and the formation of the Iron Corsairs.
- Sere Umox - W'hoorn. Liao Harris's second-in-command who led the mutiny that split the Free Fleet and formed the Iron Corsairs.