Tier 0 did not exist. Not technically or legally anyways. Neither did the few tier 0 operators. And it was best one left it that way for many reasons. One chief reason that if one discovered their existence, one would be promptly shot without trial. Tier 0 was a branch of Central Naval Intelligence section 2 which was devoted to special operations and advanced weapons. They were the masterminds behind the famous Next Generation Trooper program which was created in the 2100s. The idea was a group of soldiers with a certain genetic trait inherited from birth. A trait which made them a bit stronger, a bit faster, and above all more durable and resistant physically than normal people. Once a child like this was born, military officials were dispatched to the residence and asked the parents or guardians permission to take the child away and subject them to the NGT training. In peacetime this was always the parent’s choice, whether they wanted their child to grow up with them or as a soldier. But in times of war or serious need, that choice was removed and the children were drafted. They would be taken to the NGT training planet which is classified beyond top secret. Once there, they would be vigorously and brutally trained. Hundreds of vicious exercises and hard school work were dolled out to them to make them the soldiers they were required to be. Once they were six years old, they started intensive combat training. Information in use of various weapons were divided into segments and then one by one, artificially imprinted into the childs brain, giving them the know-how to do whatever was required. After each segment was implanted into their brains, they were given time to process and practise the data in real life and become accustomed to it before the next segment. After all of this, they were given the final test. Physical and biological augmentations. These augmentations were standard procedure for members of the Seaportian military, but in much smaller, safer doses. Normal marines were given doses which made them capable of well over twice the physical performance of any non-augmented soldier. Hornet special operations soldiers were given larger doses, which were more costly and more dangerous to their well being. They could perform up to almost six times as well as a normal non-altered man. But the NGTs, they were given doses which could, and sometimes did, kill them. Over the course of two weeks, various chemicals were added into their bodies, making them stronger, faster, smarter, and superior to a normal human in every way. They could perform over twenty times as well as a Hornet trooper, capable of running sixty miles and hour in short bursts, flipping fully loaded LRVs over, giving them reflexes at fifteen milliseconds. And when these super soldiers added to their state-of-the-art TROY assault armour, they were even more so with reflexes at under one millisecond. They were the ultimate fighting machines, trained to fight any enemy, made to beat any foe.
Tier 0 was commissioned in the 2500s as an elite BlackOps unit. They were to be sent on suicide missions and come back alive. Their missions were to immobilize entire armies, destroy flagships singe handily and then do it again. Hand picked from the best of the NGTs, they had their memories altered. Their names were erased from their memory banks and all computers in existence. They were assigned names to use amongst each other, and other names to use on assignments. All in all, there were nine of them. Three teams of three. A principal reason for the short numbers was for security, but another was for personality. Since they were often sent out on undercover assignments in heavily populated areas, they were required to have a personality. Years of torturous training had reduced most of the NGTs to mere shells of their self, being cold, emotionless killers almost like robots. This would be far to conspicuous for undercover assignments, so they had to find the few NGT’s with real personality, find the best of those, take them, and make them better.
Of the three Tier 0 units stationed throughout the confederation, two were on active duty, and one was on standby. This was how it always was, in case one unit was needed immediately. So it happened that Tier 0 unit one, was stationed on Esoteria.
They were the best of the best. Literally. They were the top Tier 0 team, the best of the best NGTs. Tier 0, unit one. They were Team CHAOS.
The second lieutenant lay on the bunk. Even without his armour, the tier 0 NGT known only as ‘Joseph,’ was imposing. With his six foot nine inch height he towered over most military personal, even his best friends, ‘Pyro’ and his commander ‘Johnson’ head to look up to face him. And when he was clad in his TROY armour, he was easily over seven foot eight. Of all the NGTs, he’d been the biggest, and the strongest. The fact he was an explosives, demolitions, and heavy weapons expert was almost fitting, even though he had a nearly non-existent temper. He has been specially trained with all manner of explosives, heavy weapons and demolition techniques. He could blow open the locks of a titanium vault with scarce more than a whisper, or he could rig a bomb powerful enough to gut a League battle cruiser. This fact, plus he was just a natural at setting charges and such, proved to be a lot of trouble in the NGT training. He, actually all of CHAOS team, had been very unwilling to become government employed killing machines that could never see their families again.
So they’d made many incredible attempts to escape, several included acts like stealing a condor dropship, hijacking LRVs and even tanks, and several times even blowing the training instructor’s barracks sky high in acts of defiance. Eventually, they were simply told that they could either stick with the program, or be shot. They chose to be shot, and at dawn they were lined up. But they had no intention of being shot. Pyro dropped a smoke bomb he hid in his mouth, causing the firing squad to hold their fire for a few seconds. A few seconds was more than enough time for them, running forward and disarming and shooting their executors. They stole a dropship and made a run for the mountains, but were shot down by fighters. They were recaptured and forced back into the training, the brass deciding that they were too skilful to be killed.
They eventually gave in to the training, and proved to be very dangerous in any sort of combat situations. And were eventually chosen to be in tier 0. Joseph was more or less okay with his life now. It wasn’t so bad really, he had reasoned with himself. Despite they didn’t exist, were presumed dead by all their former friends and family, didn’t know their real names, and only about fifty non-admirals knew of their existence, life wasn’t so bad. Being in what was essentially a suicide squad had some advantages. A blank cheque for example, free, un-hindered access to every bit of new weaponry, getting to field test it for the other NGTs, and of course there was total freedom and amnesty from military formality. Yes, life was actually quite good, and would most likely get better assuming he survived this crazy war. A knock on the door broke him out of his ponderings. He swivelled his head with lightning speed, and saw the door to his private quarters he was in bulge inwardly, like something was sucking it inward. The sold Titanium A door bulged more, at least seven inches in. This structural damage was followed by a loud, familiar voice.
“Hey Joe, come on outta there! We’ve got some major developments out here.” Joseph sighed, and slid his feet to the ground and stood up.
“Pyro, you broke the door again.” He heard a confused “What the,” followed by a loud, inappropriate curse. Then,
“Sorry man, but you gotta get some stronger doors, that’d help.”
“It was solid titanium.”
“Can’t prove that.”
“I sure can, now get out of the way, I’m coming out.” He walked forward and swung the mangled door open. Just outside of the swinging arc, stood the six foot three red haired NGT, Pyro. He had been nicknamed this back in training, and absolutely despised the fact that everyone had started stereotyping him as a pyromaniac. He would often violently correct them, exclaiming that he was in fact, an arsonist and a pyrotechnician, not a pyromaniac. Of course when the tier 0 operators wiped his name from his memory banks the only name he could really remember was Pyro, which was also what everyone else remembered. They used this to great delight and to such an extent that even the Admirals and such called him Pyro. For this, he had never forgiven Joseph and Johnson and they knew it.
“Morning Pyro.” Pyro’s eye twitched a bit, and his teeth grated.
“Joseph, for the last time. I’m not, a pyro, maniac. I am a professional arsonist and pyrotechnician. Stop calling me Pyro.” Joseph grinned here.
“Sure thing Arsy.” Now Pyro’s eye flared. He nearly hissed at his team mate and friend.
“Don’t. Ever. Call. Me. That.”
“Sure thing Pyro. Now what’s the situation?” Pyro glared at him, furious for a moment, then the anger faded to despair, then annoyance then nothing.
“OK, basically a league gunship entered the system cloaked. They got in close to the Stalingrad and smoked her in the portside with a torpedo. They sealed and pressurized the hole, and dropped off something like seven hundred special operations Thrals before they fleet vaped the gunship. Admiral King wants us to fly over there and drive ‘em of, preferably dead.” Joseph shrugged his large shoulders.
“Ok, when do we go?” Pyro turned around, motioning for him to follow.
“Johnson wants to go for it right now, he’s already armoured up. Sent me to get you so we could get going. Oh yeah, and we’ve got some new guns to try out.” At this Joseph perked up.
“Really? What kind?” Pyro replied.
“Remember those type-one fentonic SMGs we tried out last mission?”
Joseph nodded. “Yep, those were sweet weapons. Good range, even for SMGs and long battery.”
“Yeah, those things. We’ve got a new deal here, a rifle version. Semi-automatic, more powerful than the SMGs and a maximum of two hundred shots per crystal.” Pyro informed him. “Oh, and grenades only for explosives. We don’t want to tear up the ship anymore than needed, OK?” Joseph’s shoulders drooped, but only slightly.
“Sure, whatever. Let’s just go armour up man.” He turned around a corner and walked into the suiting room. Two suits of TROY assault armour stood, floating in midair. Joseph walked forward to his larger suit, and typed in a pass code, took a retinal scan and a voice confirmation system. The armour unlocked, and the suit suddenly split apart, dozens of armour plates just split apart and hung suspended in mid air. Joseph walked forward as did Pyro into his suit. As he stopped inside the floating disassembled armour plates, they suddenly moved back into place around him, effectively caging his body in the armour. It locked into place with a beep, and he stepped forward along with Pyro off the platform. They picked up their respective helmets and headed down the corridor to find Johnson.
First Lieutenant ‘Johnson’ was at the hanger bay, awaiting his two friends and subordinates. He did have to wait long, for the two NGTs rounded the corner, clad in armour and with their helmets in their armoured hands. Johnson’s own helmet was already on and the visor was depolarized, showing his tanned face beneath. He stepped forward and greeted them.
“Good day gents, you ready for a little action?” The response was immediate.
“Yessir skipper, ready to and smoke some aliens.”
“Good to know. Now this is the plan. We’re going to take a condor over to the hanger. We’ll dock in hanger 2A and from there head up to attack them from behind. A pincher movement you see. Us from behind them and the marines from front. Got it?” The response was unanimous.
“Yes sir!” Johnson grinned.
“Okay then, let’s go arm up!” He turned around and moved of in the direction of the armoury, his friends in tow.
The tier 0 NGTs armoury was to them, a heaven. Packed with every conceivable type of weapon, human and alien, there was something for everything in here. Actually, there were multiple things for everything here. Walls and racks, loaded with plasma carbines, ailons, neutron handhelds, rail gun sniper rifles, plasma rocket launchers, pulsers, spread guns, energy swords, neutron chain guns, grenades of every type, and of course some of the newer fentonic weapons. But this is only a small sample of the room’s arsenal, for it would take pages to really describe it. The three immediately split up, each heading off to find their own personal weapons. Johnson, a professional sniper usually took the S6N9 rail gun sniper. But of course in the close combat conditions of the AAC he would be taking a different weapon more ideal for close range. However, he already had a weapon in mind for this assignment, a new experimental weapon which CNI section 2 had been developing. It was a mix of captured League technology and existing Seaportian technology. It was called the X32 directed Fentonic energy weapon, the X the denoting experimental. It a new breed of energy rifle which fired bolts of the advanced fenton energy bolts in a semi automatic mode. It was supposed to be extremely accurate from the section 2 initial tests, but it has never actually been fired in the stress and strains of combat before. So Johnson and the rest of CHAOS were to find out. They would be taking one fenton rifle each, a choice of sidearm and a backup weapon in case that the rifles failed.
Johnson selected a fenton rifle off the weapons rack, checked for a power source, found one and placed it in the rifle. The energy level on the rifles power reading immediately glowed blue and shot upwards, indicating a full charge. On his visors Tactical View Display or TVD, the battery charge flickered in the upper left corner of his view, showing a number indicating the number of shots remaining. As he picked it up, a targeting reticule popped into being on his TVD, the reticule pointed in whichever direction he pointed the rifle. Good, his gear was all in working order. He strapped the rifle to the magnetic clips on the back of his armour where it clicked and rested. He let go and moved forward to the rack of assorted side arms. Running his metal encased fingers along the arsenal, he stopped at the neutron handhelds. He picked on up, checked the battery to see if it was loaded. Seeing it was not, he grabbed a power cell and slid it in with a satisfying click. Then he grabbed a hand full of more cells, putting them in a small compartment around his waist. He clipped the sidearm to his side and moved over to the SMGs. He quickly selected the fentonic SMG called the Type-two. Small durable, and incredibly powerful with reasonable accuracy, it was the ideal weapon for fighting in CQB. He took one, clipped it to his other side and then also pocketed a handful of batteries for it and sealed them shut inside another compartment. He also grabbed half a dozen plasma grenades and stuck them on his belt. He then looked around for the rest of his team.
They were also ready of course. Pyro had his rifle, an energy sword, a bundle of grenades, and a type two. Joseph was totting a grenade launcher capable of firing six grenades per clip, several extra clips, a fenton rifle and an energy sword. Johnson remarked.
“Well, you ladies look ready to dance. Care to lead?” He said, making a mock bow to them. They rolled their eyes and pushed him aside, heading down to the main hanger. Johnson laughed, and followed them.
The hanger of the destroyer they were on was quite large. No cavernous or anything, but still quite big. There were three decks, each with multiple docking points for different ships of different sizes. It was organized so that the larger bombers, transports and dropships were on the upper levels, and the smaller fighters, interceptors and such were on the lower level. The three NGTs arrived in the main entrance on deck two and headed over to docking point five. A condor dropship rested there, it engines hummed quietly in synchronization with its anti-gravity generators, keeping it hovering off the deck by a mere six inches. Joseph got in first, ducking under the stubby wings and popped open the main hatch. It hissed open and he stepped aboard and made his way through the troop compartment and into the cockpit. He started the main engines as the others stepped in. Pyro sat down in the main compartment while Johnson came forward behind Joseph. Joseph sealed the main hatch and brought the engines up to full power. He activated the belly thrusters to bring the condor up to ten feet above the docking point, and then rotated it around so its nose was pointing at the hanger doors. He tapped in a request for the doors to be opened and waited. Sure enough, there was a groan, and then the massive doors slid open, a basic forcefield protecting the inside of the hanger from the cold, dark vacuum of space.
Joseph pressed forward on the throttle, firing the main engines and having the large dropship fire forward. It darted forward, and out and through the gap in the door. There was a bit of a feeling like static electricity as they passed through the forcefield and out into space. Now out in the open, Joseph pressed the throttle forward more, activating the compensators to make up for the acceleration and the pull of gravity. The craft shot forward through the mostly empty space. The rest of the fleet was very active now, with well over a hundred engines flaring brightly as they moved around, looking for any signs of the league fleet. They dropship moved easily through the fighter patrols and the occasional frigate. Joseph gunned the accelerators even more to sixty percent throttle, the compensators automatically adjusting. In the troop compartment, Pyro looked out a view port. He saw Esoteria, glistening green, blue, white and red. All around it where the remaining Orbital Defence Platforms, hanging in perfect formation as if strung on invisible wires. And to think that all of this is doomed to destruction. He thought. This magnificent military fortress, this stronghold, a central hub of power and military might, was all doomed to be burnt to charcoal by alien energy. The condor flew through space, nearing the assailed cruiser. Pyro got up from his seat by the viewport, and ducking his head as so to not damage the bulkheads, he walked over to the cockpit. Johnson was still up there, head craned over Josephs shoulder. The Armada Assault Cruiser was ahead, growing larger and larger with each passing moment. They could now all see the gaping hole ahead of them, were the Thral ships had attacked and boarded the cruiser. Where they had boarded the cruiser. That gave Pyro and idea. He tapped Johnson on the shoulder.
“Hey, Johnson. I’ve got an idea.” Without turning his head, he replied coolly.
“Don’t hurt yourself.” Joseph let loose a little chuckle. Pyro rolled his eyes, then in a more serous tone.
“No seriously. Instead of landing in the hanger, why don’t we just land in the breach? That way we’ll come up right behind them.” Johnson turned his head this time.
“You know, that’s actually a good idea.” Then turning his head back to Joseph, “Joe, drive into that breach in the hull over there.”
“Will do boss-man.” He moved the controls to starboard, and the condor drifted to the side. They neared the burnt gap in the side, and could see the molten corridors and slagged metal. Joseph drew over into the breach, and searched around for a place to land. He spotted a rather flat space to land and moved forward more. He activated the automated landing sequence, and the dropship started to descend. As they touched down, Johnson called out.
“Alright boys, make sure your armours sealed and the shields are up, because there ain’t any air for awhile.” The other two made a quick check over their armour for any breaches and made sure their shields were online and intact. They both were good to go, so Joseph started a quick depressurization of the condor. There was a hissing sound as the atmosphere escaped into the vacuum of space, and then there was silence. Joseph typed in one more command into the console and opened the main hatch. It cracked open, revealing the burnt interior of the cruiser. They walked out of the condor and into one of the partially melted corridors. A broken door obstructed their immediate path, emergency lights flickering on it as it tried to close, but failed due to the fact it was trapped in frozen molten metal. Joseph kicked it with his right leg once, twice. The door buckled and burst open. Beyond it was some another corridor with scorch marks from both ailons and luent rifles. Five crewman lay dead, ravaged by both the league boarders and the loss of atmosphere. Blood, both human and alien, was flash frozen on the floor and sides of the corridor. Johnson spoke up.
“Ok guys, form up. I’ll cover our rears, Joseph you’re on point and Pyro’s in the middle.”
“Sure thing boss.” Came Josephs reply as he moved up forward, pointing his grenade launcher at whatever may be foolhardy enough to attack them. Johnson turned around with his back to Pyro, and started to backtrack. He doubted there would be any attack from the vacuum behind them but it never hurt to be careful, especially in a battle zone. Pyro was in between the two of them, fenton rifle at the ready. His bio-scanners were reading blank, but League camouflage could evade this. Still, he doubted he’d have to wait long. He could hear the faint sound of energy discharges from upper levels.
They rounded a corner and went through a door and a forcefield which acted as an airlock. They were now in atmosphere, and the prospect of a battle was growing. He checked his motion detector. It was showing nothing yet, no wait. A group of hostiles was fifteen meters ahead of them, not moving toward them but not getting farther either. Johnson sent out a quick order over the TEAMCOM.
“Okay guys, it’s time to go ghost now.”
“Copy that.” Pyro and Joseph responded in near unison. They Pyro reached down and tapped the little activator on his back, activating the light-bending combat camouflage. Combat camouflage worked similar to the shield generators, spreading a field of energy around the wearer. But instead of absorbing and reflecting energy blasts and such, it bent light. This advanced type the NGTs used, rendered them nearly one hundred percent invisible on both visual and infrared. The only way to see them was if one looked at them if there was bright light behind them, allowing a faint outline to be seen. But by the time anyone got that close, they were usually dead. The trio moved forward, virtually invisible to the Thral group. They rounded another corner, and there they were. Five Thrals, their reptilian forms were outfitted in the black glossy armour preferred by the League. But instead of the standard grunt armour of the normal Thral soldier, they had armour which flared out in a flame-like fashion. Their helmets curved back into an elongated tip, and the armour besides being just jet black, had tinges of brilliant crimson red. They had seen this type before, the armour of Thral Special Forces. They were stronger, smarter, and better trained then other Thral units, tougher to beat. But CHAOS had fought them before, killed them before, beat them before. They were only a little more of challenge to the NGTs. Then, Josephs voice broke in through the TEAMCOM.
“So, who’s doing the honours?” Johnson replied.
“You get the first two shots with the grenade launcher, then everyone switch to fentons.”
“Got it.” Joseph replied and he aligned the grenade launcher.
Joseph raised the grenade launcher until the reticule on his TVD was directly in the centre of the alien group. He smiled inside his helmet, and squeezed the trigger twice. There were two loud thumps followed in rapid succession by two loud explosions as the grenades detonated in the midst of the Thrals. Josephs visor polarized immediately to compensate for the blast of light the explosions called and what he saw was good. Two of the aliens were dead, ripped apart. The other three were wounded and dazed. Before they could even think about recovering, Joseph had put away the launcher and drew the rifle. He and the other two brought the fenton rifles to bear, levelling the reticules on the alien’s chest and squeezed. The guns made the sound of a spark snapping, and three bolts of fire zeroed in on the Thrals. With their shields already destroyed by the grenades, their armour offered no protection to this powerful energy. The armour heated and exploded, and the bolts burned right through the aliens, armour and hole. They dropped dead, sizzling holes right through their chests.
“Good shooting guys, keep it up. We’ll have plenty more where that came from.”
“Aye to that sir.” Pyro replied. Joseph didn’t say anything at first, and then spoke.
“Come on guys, we should keep going. There’ll be a bunch of those guys coming round here looking for us.”
“Poor them huh?” Pyro said.
“Yeah, poor them.” Joseph replied.