Holly di Marco used to think that joining the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire was a good career move. However, she is beginning to doubt her judgment, for her rebel comrades treat her as nothing but a lowly mercenary, never to be entrusted with anything important.
During a rescue mission to the planet of Caswallon, Holly is given the boring duty to guard some service tunnels, while her fellow rebels get to have all the fun once again. However, this dull job turns out to be a lot more exciting than expected when Holly runs into a traumatised young man and saves him from an Imperial death squad.
The man Holly rescued turns out to be Ethan, Lord Summerton, only survivor of an aristocratic family with rebel sympathies. Saving his life brings Holly to the attention of the elected leaders of the rebellion. It also changes her own life irrevocably, for as they used to say on Old Earth, saving someone’s life means being responsible for him for the rest of your own.
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Some background information:
- Mercy Mission is a novella of 27100 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- This novella is part of the Shattered Empire saga, a series of more or less loosely connected novellas about the great rebellion against the Fifth Human Empire told from the POVs of the people who fought it.
- The background to this story and the whole Shattered Empire series is that I’ve always been very fond of traditional space opera. Indeed, there was a time, back when I was a teenager, that space opera was synonymous with SF for me. However, I didn’t just accept any old space opera and military SF, one of the sister or subgenre of space opera, depending on your POV, just gave me a toothache. In order to work for me, space opera required a certain ingredient, an ingredient so crucial that it was part of my personal definition of SF for years. And that ingredient was revolution. For I was and continue to be a complete sucker for stories about a brave ragtag band of rebels fighting the all-mighty galactic regime. So it was only natural to write my own.
- However, Shattered Empire is not my first attempt at writing a “brave ragtag band of rebels fights the Galactic Empire” story. That would be the Femla saga which I conceived in my teens and which will likely never see the light of day, because it is full of absurdities and unwitting parallels to my feelings about real world politics of the 1980s that it’s best left buried.
- Nonetheless, I still wanted to write the sort of story (or stories) that I would read without any hesitation, namely a galactic rebellion story. However, having seen what became of the young rebels of 1968 (namely the same staid teachers I was rebelling against as a teen) and what happened to the East European revolutions of 1989 (which were happening while I was devouring vintage space opera) or more recently, the Arab spring, I suddenly saw all of those galactic rebellions I had cheered on as a teen in a new light. And I found myself wondering whether it was possible to write a galactic rebellion story at all, if one had lived for a few decades on this planet.
- So I came up with the idea of writing a loosely connected series of stories about what happens after the great rebellion, told from the POVs of various people involved. Would they live happily ever after or would they end their days as drunks in a spaceport bar, telling everybody about their past glories? One of those stories and the first I started to write was told from the POV of one Holly di Marco, a mercenary who’d fought on the rebel side and… – but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it? Eventually, the flashbacks to the rebellion started getting longer than the bits about Holly’s post rebellion life and I realized that I was writing the wrong story.
- The Fifth Human Empire was originally supposed to be the Fourth Human Empire. However, Doctor Who and H. Beam Piper already had dibs on that one (and I have watched the Doctor Who episode in question, though I never read the Piper), so I upped the count by one.
- I followed that longstanding tradition of the genre to have one’s Galactic Empire be a reflection of whatever real world political system one happens to live in. And thus, some readers might recognize certain parallels between the Emperor as he is described in Mercy Mission and a notable figure in German politics. And for the record, while I don’t much like the person, I don’t believe he’s actively evil. Nonetheless, he makes a good villain.
- Ethan Summerton got his surname of a bottle of wine. Arthur Madden, the rebel leader, picked his surname (by quite literally interrupting me while I was watching) from the credits of Game of Thrones. And yes, I tried to tell him what happens to that character, but he wouldn’t listen.
- Arthur Madden was something of a surprise for me anyway. Initially, I had intended him to be the charismatic, but distant rebel leader. But there is quite a bit more to him than meets the eye.
- The cover is CGI art by Algol Online via Canstockphoto. Though Holly is the POV character, Ethan gets to be the cover model this time around (and I love how the pose conveys grief), if only because it is reliably difficult to find suitably SFnal women who are not walking around half naked.