Kris 'Mace' Mason
Age – 29 Height – 6’3” Weight – 104kg
Hair – Dark Brown Eyes – Dark Brown
Born on Mars
Occupation – Bounty Hunter (Dedicated)
Dossier – 1st Person
I grew up in an earth urban setting. Not a project but not that far from one. Family was the standard, fragmented. Mother works in a government office, father in manufacturing plant. I was pretty decent at most things I did, which started out as sports and academics, but during high-school turned into partying and petty crime; very petty. I managed to steer clear of the gangs though. I had enough sense to see the risks involved in that. The risk vs. reward didn’t seem worth it, job security and all.
During my senior year the war on Titan was escalating and I figured that joining the Confederation would be a good dig. Not the best pay by any means but also hardly any taxes. No rent. Shelter, clothing and food provided. And there was always someone to fight it seemed. It also gave me an excuse to not do anything my senior year I didn’t want to, like preparing for college or future in general. I went in wanting infantry but was soon sent to K-9 Academy as I had a natural way with dogs and tech. I was paired up with Jake, a modded Shepherd mix that specialized in armaments and explosives. We went through the Academy and together were near top of our class. It was mostly because of him. He was a natural at everything he did. It’s a cliché to say we became best friends, but that’s exactly what we were.
We spent our first couple of years as part of a security attachment for an Infantry Division. We weren’t on the front line with the grunts but were usually on civilian checkpoints and assisted TransPo Security. We had a couple close calls but overall our time in the service was turning out to be pretty boring; not at all what the simulators back home had got me hoping for.
One night on a static, roadside checkpoint we got hit. It was a major, twelve lane highway. We had been working a few lanes on the northbound when a heavy looking combat unit was coming through. They used one of the inside lanes that was just for military, police, government, etc. It was just a typical shift and a typical situation; one that happens every day a thousand times. Making my way vehicle to vehicle with Jake sniffing each for only a moment here and there, I locked eyes with one of the gunners. He nodded his head up and I nodded my head down. “What’s up man?” we each said to each other without words. Just then Jake stopped and turned his head to the southbound side, took one long sniff and every hair on his back went straight up. Our dogs were trained not to bark when they detected something which could provoke in initiate a situation, but rather to non-audibly alert us.
Keep in mind this all took place in the span of a moment; a blink. I clicked my tongue and Jake and I started to move in that direction. The gunner turned his head that way. Someone from the far side yelled “Hey!” and then it went off. A massive car bomb exploded, but to me it was just a loud thwang, and then nothing.
I later watched footage of what happened in the hospital from the security cameras. Jake and I were low enough and had enough vehicles and barriers between us that no shrapnel form the initial explosion, and barely any debris, had gotten near us; but the blast wave itself had flung us into the last car we had inspected and knocked me out cold. I got to see Jake in fine form though. After shaking off the blast, he stayed with me for a time, and realizing I was breathing and no longer in any direct danger, went off to help response crews locate survivors among the wreckage. He had suffered a serious concussion too but was a lot tougher than me.
We both stayed in the ward for a couple days. The second day a couple of mean looking dudes showed up; grunts from the look of it. They introduced themselves and the one had to remind me that he had been the gunner during the explosion. Turns out they were a Special Forces unit and were just moving most of their equipment that night to a different base. The gunner was extremely appreciative toward Jake as he said he saved his life. The gunner was no shmuck and said that when he saw Jake look over and tense, he had only enough time to drop down before the explosion. We all watched the tape again. Sure enough the blast had taken off entire sections of the turret and would have knocked the vehicle on its side if a cement barrier hadn’t kept it from doing so. He also had escaped with only a serious concussion.
The other man was his section leader and asked if Jake and I would like to be a part of their team. They were extremely impressed at his having smelled the bomb, off-hand, and from that distance. I couldn’t say yes with enough fervor. Fuck ya. I loved Jake but I had wanted infantry, not security details. This would be awesome. I had four years left on my contract and then Jake and I would be free if we wanted. But if I was part of a badass team I could see myself staying in longer, at least as long as Jake was able too. I wasn’t going to let my Jake retire without me.
So I rehabbed another day and then got dropped off at a helipad in some asshole part of the country. I was told to head for what was left of a tore up two-story. Above the main doors was a sheet of plywood that read Sissys. Turns out they were the Scout Infiltration Section Aggressors of the SF Team, or SISA. I don’t believe they were too insecure about the implied acronym and later found out they had adopted it themselves, owning it actually. I would on countless occasions soon find that whenever I feel down, whether it be from an absurdly fierce takedown during grappling, a misstep during an obstacle course, exhaustion, as well as multiple other situations; that the men would sneer at me and say something along the lines of “Get your ass up you fucking sissy.” It was all part of becoming one of them though. After a time it was more of a situation of moving through an obstacle course at full speed and diving over a barrier while detonating a charge and having the same person, only with a different tone saying “Come on you fucking sissy.” “Don’t be a sissy.” was by far their favorite thing to say; it worked on a lot of levels. I got a lot better at grappling but could rarely put any of those guys in any real trouble; they were so good.
I wasn’t technically SF but nobody else knew otherwise, I got to grow as much stubble or beard as I wanted and could have any haircut I wanted. They took care of me too. Got me better gear and helped me get acquainted with it. They trained their asses off when they didn’t have missions and were always tinkering with their gear. They showed me exactly how they wanted Jake and I to operate within their unit and it was great. I got to be part of some seriously cool operations. Not always great though, they lost a few guys here and there. Not always fatalities but enough so that they never came back to the unit, or service in general.
Our rotations consisted of 8 month on deployment. After which we would get 6 months off from the fighting. We would all get a month almost totally off, and then we would start training aggressively again. SISA was usually around 65 guys cycling in and out. They not only had some amazing gear and tech but also had access to some fantastic training grounds and full terrain simulations.
That was Jake and I’s routine for the next three years and then we got deployed to a remote side of Titan. It was a pretty rough deployment and we’d only been there a month. We were in total lockdown communications wise as we weren’t supposed to be anywhere near there. Most of our missions were with local paramilitary groups wearing their uniforms. Very hot encounters. We would assist in lots of ambushes, but would routinely get called into a fight; arriving during a knee deep battle and inserting ourselves onto one of the sides. Half the time I don’t even know who we were fighting. It was always a ‘everyone that way is bad’ kind of gig. Rough stuff. We were taking sustained casualties, but we were the shit.
We got tasked one night with a big mission. There was a munitions plant that we were to blow. They couldn’t bomb it because we technically weren’t supposed to be there and the ordinance required would be traced.
With that our own equipment was to be equipped with explosives. In case we were killed or captured it would detonate enough so that ourselves and our gear couldn’t be identified enough for a trace. I couldn’t believe this was happening. The guys assured me that it would be fine, that every so often they would get a mission like that. I felt like I was being hung out but they said that command tried not to make a habit of these kinds of missions; and that it was part of the job, that I wasn’t some POG security guard anymore, or even a regular grunt. This was the big leagues and these risks came with the job.
I couldn’t say that they didn’t give us ample time to prep for it though. We had just shy of a week to get ready. During that time we got accustomed to the weight and feel of the explosives attached to our gear. We did mock drills with the small training grounds on base, studied the plant satellite images and photographs ad nausea. We had a couple of our scout snipers out their already finding where they could best position themselves for over watch as well as doing surveillance and monitoring shift changes and such. With all this information we would spend hours upon hours running through different scenarios and possible FRAGOs, which means Fragmentary Order. This was an official way from command of making minor, or what they considered minor, changes to an existing order/plan/mission/whatever. Frago was used as a derogatory term for whenever anyone tried messing with the program.
Jake felt about as I did every time I put that vest on him. How do you explain to a bomb sniffing dog that he had to wear a volunteer vest? That’s what the guys called it; a volunteer vest. Even if we spoke the same language though I don’t think I could have made it make sense though. I couldn’t believe it myself every time I put it on.
The mission itself was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was a textbook operation. I had never before and have never since been a part of something so epic, so executed perfectly. I myself that night even got my first silent kill. Jake as always though was the better soldier and got two, those poor bastards.
We were inserted 4 miles out in the jungle. We made our way to the plant in the middle of the night. No moon. Our scout snipers kept us updated on the movements of the camp. Everything typical of what they had been observing for days. Those guys probably smelled so bad.
We got in, killing as few as possible, and proceeded to set charges throughout the facility. Jake and I were there to help with trap detections and sentries that our scouts wouldn’t have eyes on.
We got in, we did what we had trained to do, and we got out. I had never had more adrenaline pumping and been more calm/on-point in my entire life. This is what I had wanted my entire life. I had never been more alive. I felt at home. This was my family. This….this was my life.
We wouldn’t detonate until reaching out extraction point.
Pulling out and moving back through the brush the adrenaline was wearing off and euphoria was setting in, along with the fact that I was starting to get cold. I laughed a little to myself as I realized just how disgustingly sweaty and wet I was, and it was the middle of the night with a slight chill. I put my hand down to the back of Jake’s neck to pat him real quick. He looked up at me with quick affection. Good job we said to each other.
In that moment I saw his look change to the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen, an image that haunts me every time I close my eyes. Deep inside I knew what had happened but couldn’t process it fast enough but Jake, Jake could always process things faster.
Just like the night of the checkpoint car bomb everything happened in hardly a moment, a breath. My hand on the back of Jakes neck, him looking up at me smiling the way dogs do. Then his eyes widened, his jowls dropped, his body tensed and every hair on his back went straight up. We just looked at each other for a fraction of a second before he bolted. He’d never moved from my position without me, not ever. He was trained to stay with me unless ordered or situation dictated differently. But he knew. He’d never moved so fast, so quickly, so instantaneously. In half a breath he was no more than a few meters away and his vest went off. He’d gotten far enough away to save my life. All I got was a face and arm full of moderate burns and a few random rocks that had gotten flung. Minor, superficial scars.
The vests were designed so that everyone had enough time to get away and were made with charges that blew inward, not outward, but it had kicked up a few rocks and debris.
The rest of that night is a blur. I think I tried to find Jake, something of him. I think I was detained by those around me. There was commotion, radios chirped and men called out. I think they performed an early detonation of the plant as we were close enough that the vest would have been heard at the plant. But the night was a blur.
For the brief time I remained in country the guys carried the look of slight horror on their faces when they looked at me; but mostly disbelief and an infinite sympathy. They knew Jake was my best friend, and though everyone loses friends in war, it’s not supposed to happen like that.
The brass conducted an investigation. They said that it was possibly faulty equipment, but that it had probably just registered queerly in the system and sensed that Jake had been either killed or captured. Just a horrible, horrible accident. Their plan was to send me back home. Our unit still had months left on deployment. I was to take a long leave and then report back to K-9 Academy, train with a refurbished dog, and then link back up with the unit around the time they were winding down from their own leave. They assumed this would be a good path as I had shown interest in re-enlisting with them.
These things never happened. I spiraled out of control after going home. I started using various street drugs but mainly drank, drank like a fish. It was the only way out; only way to sleep. I did make it to the Academy but it didn’t work. I could never get anything going with any of the dogs and I was still abusing something fierce. I also had lost my sense of military mind. I cared almost nothing at all for rank and command. I grew bitter and fought verbally as well as physically with other soldiers. After sending a second 2nd Lieutenant to the infirmary they discharged me; a year early. Medical Discharge – Failure to Coup. Failure to coup Fuck them. I didn’t fail anybody. They failed me. They failed Jake. The Confederation can burn.
I bounced around from place to place before one of the guys from my unit messaged me and recommend I get on with a bounty-hunter crew. That it could be good money. That my skills, mainly the ones I’d learned with them, wouldn’t go to waste; and that a lot of crews wouldn’t mind a substance abuse problem. In fact it turned out that in the first couple of crews I worked with if you didn’t have a substance abuse problem you didn’t really fit in.
After watching one of the guys OD and our leader lose all of our earnings to a gambling debt I looked at myself and realized that I was only killing myself in a different way. I thought of Jake. I got myself cleaned up pretty good and put in for this new crew. The Boon. Kind of exciting actually. The only time I’d ever been in space was for travel, now I was going to be on a an actual spaceship with a bunch of cowboys. Come to think of it space travel did seem to make me a little nervous.
I never got another dog but something about this felt like it was leading me to something. I’d lost my entire world back on Titan. I had been dedicated to Jake. I was looking for something else to dedicate my life too. Maybe the Boon can help me find it.