... and mankind moved to the stars

For the hard work in space mankind built the Cyborgs, beings half man, half machine with their own share of intelligence. The Cyborgs were the vanguard for mankindmankind to build the countless colonies on distant planets. Hazardous climates, hostile flora and fauna had killed legions of human colonists, but the Cyborgs survived never taking any serious damage or moaning about their dangerous life.

But soon hate and greed found their way into the colonies and petty wars and skirmishes began to erupt, until after 178 years of chaos the Imperial Starfleet was founded to put an end to the bloody conflicts. All colonies had to help sustain the new military organization and earth controlled the huge new army. With the newfound peace the colonies began to prosper again, but mankindās old dream, to find intelligent life in space, had yet to be fulfilled. Slowly believes of mankind being the only sentient species in the universe replaced the old hopes.

The surprise, mankindmankind felt when suddenly encountering the first Maygones, small durable humanoids, was therefore genuine. After establishing a common language both races recognized their similarities, and peaceful coexistence seemed to be possible, better than any science fiction author would have imagined,.

The first alliances between the human colonies and the Maygones developed into an increasing trade of resources and pharmaceutical supplies. The trust the Maygones showed by giving mankindmankind their own technological advances nearly seemed too good to be real.

The stranger was the mystery surrounding the Maygone home-world. Its location remained a secret hidden despite the apparent trust of the Maygones. Rumors began to course in the colonies ranging from stories speaking of a legendary planet inhabited by some kind of Maygone ghosts in some kind of mythic paradise to stories about a polluted, crime-infested planet kept secret by the ashamed Maygone colonists.

In the year 2551 Dr. Cornelius Cermai, a human scientist from the Department for Molecular Energy Science discovered a yet unknown material on the planet Sojus-5. This new substance appeared to be the greatest breakthrough ever made in energy sciences and seemed to make any resources problems obsolete. Calling this substance Cermaidium-5 Dr. Cermai left a terrible legacy.

Shortly after the discovery the Maygones claimed the ownership of the planet, arguing that they were the first who discovered Sojus-5. It did no take long for trade between both races to stop and both sides mobilized their vast armies. For the first time mankindmankind gathered the Imperial Starfleet to a single huge armada to guard this planet. The Maygones moved their own gigantic fleets to drive mankind away from Sojus-5. Although a few last attempts were made to find a peaceful solution, no consent could be found.

Finally on the verge of the impending battle the Supreme Commander of the Maygone Forces said the words, which prevented the war: "We only wanted peace even with mankind. It hurts me to admit our own shame.

He paused as if struggling with himself to reveal the truth, but finally he continued to explain: "37 years ago our home-world was attacked by the aggressive Plasmodes. Legions of them raided our worlds, killing everyone in the reach of their cruel weapons. As we were a peaceful race we had no army to speak of and stood no chance to stop the invaders. Some of us were able to flee to the transporter chambers but these few survivors had to leave everything behind: their family, their friends, their belongings and their pride. We even lost contact to Allaga, our home and everyone left behind is surely dead now, killed by the nightmarish invaders.

The bitterness of his voice was audible even through the translator: "Since this attack we have remained hidden like cowards and hoped that our enemies wonāt find us. But three years later our oldest colony Amosia was overrun by the Plasmodes. The colonists of Amosia fought until their end but the weapons of our enemy were too devastating. Three other worlds had to fall into the hands of our enemies before we awakened from our self-pity and prepared to fight back. Planning our defense and building new weapons we searched through space to find a technology to stop the Plasmodes...". Fury glowed in his eyes and with a hard voice he added: "while the murderers of our home-world conquered colony after colony."

With a deep breath he continued: "Too long was the time we searched for a chance to help our brothers and sisters in fighting the enemy. This time we will stand up to fight, even when it will cost the lives of the last Maygones. In the name of our home-world Allaga and our people I hope you will leave this planet to us. What we have suffered is what you will suffer if this enemy is not stopped. I beg you, assist us in our struggle against these cruel invaders!"

With this speech the secret of Allaga, home-world of the Maygones was revealed. Humanity was torn between surprise and bitterness. Everyone wondered why the Maygones kept this tragic secret hidden for so long. But the bitterness caused by lack of trust quickly changed into understanding for the hopeless situation of the Maygones, as their shame seemed to be so humane.

In the following negotiations the Maygones presented evidence for their history. Shocked by the atrocities it would have been unfeeling if not strategically unwise not to support the Maygones in the struggle. And there was always the risk of the rapidly expanding Plasmodes attacking human colonies.

Nine months after these fateful events and armed with modern C5-Technology a united fleet of both forces set course on Allaga. The losses were high, too high. The forces had to conquer each colony with ground troops, and after five years 13 Million soldiers had lost their life in these battles, while the Plasmodes only lost half this figure in soldiers. Only after equipping the Cyborgs with C5 the ratio improved to 1:1 but the C5 had some side effects, changing the Cyborgs.

After eight years of war the Plasmodes were forced to negotiate and after two years of an uneasy cease-fire a peace treaty was signed by all sides to ensure peace for a long time to come.

Slowly the Imperial Starfleet was reduced. Thousands of former mercenaries, only accustomed to war were left in the streets in the search for new job opportunities. Clever business men had an astounding idea and the government on Sojus-5 was the first to give the permissions necessary to bring this plan to reality. Every time in history governments had known to entertain the masses with games to keep them happy. And if the government could refill their empty budget this way, this plan would be even better. Humanity needed a new passion.

And the magic word was Īthe Arenaā:

The Arena is comparable to the circuses and gladiators of ancient Rome with the difference that instead of slaves furtively fighting against superior beasts, trained mercenaries used to their equipment and their skills to fight against each other to survive. After some time Maygones and a few Plasmodes entered the ranks of these gladiators and occasionally even a Cyborg or Terminator made its appearance in the Arena.

Naturally a lot of money was involved in betting on the outcome of these battles that became a occupation for the masses. Being offered various incentives many soldiers decided to fearlessly risk their lives.

To give these games the suitable surrounding, huge Arenas were constructed on many planets offering specially protected terraces for the increasing number of spectators. Despite these security measures some tragic accidents happened, as grenades, ricochets and similarly deadly fragments pierced the protection barriers. After the first deadly incident the cases were taken to the courts threatening the organizer with unpayable charges. As a result the organizers joined together to found the Fearless Company, a company with limited liability, of course, and prepared to take new ways to promote their games.

Rusting and desolate industrial complexes, lost ruins, deserts, swamps and woods are the new arenas surrounded by plasma field emitters, which do not let anything, not even light, enter or escape. Placed around the arenas the huge monitors show the fight in the best 3d quality available to mankind. Ultimately the fans want to see the mercenaries fighting, at least to see if they bet on the right champion.

The size and form of any arena depends on the number of fighting parties. Usually four sided, additional sides are added for each team above the forth to increase itās size. Centered on each side lies a Gate allowing the entrance of a single team. The gate is the only entrance through the deadly plasma field and itās the only way in for the waiting mercenaries. Itās also the only way out - dead or alive!

Cane had never been easy prey for his foes and some promising careers had ended prematurely and bloody because of his skills. With an age of 42 years he was not only one of the best but also one of the oldest gladiators risking their lives. Having reached the climax of success he suddenly felt the painful weight of his age. This would be his last combat as he had decided to enter the arena only this last time. The prize had been too good not to accept but with these credits he would be able to live a luxurious life until his hopefully peaceful death.

Perhaps it was not really the money at all, perhaps he needed this last chance to prove himself that he was still one of the best. One last time he would enjoy the applause of the excited masses, when entering the hall of fame to face his fans. They would shout his name until the whole building would seem to tremble. It would be his name, one last time. The adrenaline flowing through his body had always been strongest in this moment, the moment when he knew that he was still alive. He was Cane, the idol of the masses, the champion of Sojus-5, the undefeated master of all those, who dared to challenge him.

Cane had always known that victory was no gift, but he never had thought that he would have to face this kind of problems some day. His opponent was at least equal to him, something he never encountered before. For all these years no combat had been this fierce and none of his foes had hit him so hard from the beginning. How was it possible to underestimate an opponent so much? After a short strike in one of the ruins he had taken two serious hits in both of his legs.

Sloan, as his foe was called, had ambushed him from behind a collapsed wall and he had fired at him, as soon as Cane entered the room. Why hadnāt he noticed the ambush beforehand?

Under normal circumstances he should have had noticed Sloanās heat signature with his infrared optics of his eye implants but something had gone wrong. The only believable explanation was that Sloan was wearing one of the new, expensive heat-absorbing suits able to make him totally invisible in respect to infrared emissions.

But there was no time to think about these details, if he wanted to survive. Slowly Cane moved within his cover, readied one of his flash grenades and threw it in the direction Sloanās attack came from. If he was lucky the bright explosion would distract his opponent long enough.

Burning bright the grenade exploded and Cane jumped through one of the windows behind him, hit the hard asphalt and stood up with his legs aching. The wound in his leg was pounding with pain and when he started his jet-pack he felt the relief as his wounded leg did not have to support the painful weight of his own body any longer. The pain he felt landing on the roof of one of the desolate houses some hundred meters away was therefore even worse to stand. But in his new hiding place he had the time to tend to his wounds. Feeling secure in his hideout he activated the automatic medication system of his combat armor, but the relief he felt was not about to last.

It was pure luck, that the burst of high-speed bullets fired from Sloanās four-barrel assault rifle was deflected by Caneās combat armor. The bullets pierced his flesh, but no bones were shattered. Broken bones nearly always mean, that you cannot fight any longer and without fighting you die. Fortunately his medpack sealed the wounds with an efficient gel and the pain killers flooding his body dampened the searing pain from the new wounds. As the drugs began to work Cane felt undefeatable again, and his self-consciousness was back in command. Time to teach this Sloan a lesson. Cane was tired of hide and seek, he would rather play hit and kill.

Restored he turned to his enemy. The second he noticed that Sloan was gone, the first explosion rocked through the house. Terrified Cane noticed, that this madman Sloan was about to blast the whole building to pieces.

Cane was confused, Sloan had surprised him again. Either Cane had fought against stupid off-world yokels the years before or he had really grown too old for this job. Or perhaps Sloan was the same type of fanatic gladiator he himself had been in the beginning of his career.

Panic Cane had never known before gripped his heart and sweat poured down his forehead. He felt fear. For the first time Cane, the Fearless-Champion of Sojus-5 felt the fear to die. Sloan would pay for this!

Filled with fury and combat drugs Cane used his jet-pack again to escape the rubble of the collapsing building, which was destroyed by Sloanās missile fire. As he began to land on the ruined asphalt of the street below him he decided that this was not his day.

Below him, less than 20 meters away stood Caneās personal menace Sloan like a harbinger of madness. Calm and unmoving, the four barrels of his assault rifle casually pointed on Caneās head Sloan stood and grinned at his opponent. With a maddening laugh Sloan pushed the trigger and a never ending stream of bullets flew at Cane. Only his combat armor could rescue him. One last mistake and he would be dead.

His fist hit the emergency button...