Sol is thick with wolves, there are too many. Werewolves, wolfhounds, wolves, wolf-lords, space wolves, and more. They're all the same, fierce and hard, but they are dogs, dogs called to heel at the feet of their masters, the titans with the money and the guns. They beat their breasts and think themselves free, wearing the collar and chain with pride. They do not see, they cannot see.

We have seen. We have more than seen. We've tasted, we've heard, we've smelled, and we've felt the pain, the blood, the screaming.

You remember the screaming.

What was the moment that broke you? Was it when a swarm of chitinous things from somewhen else tearing into the safe room in a school, was it the desperation of the handful of unarmed teachers, or the screams of the children? Was it something more strange, was it watching people turn, flesh going cold and teeth bared for their kin's blood, or mutations, seeing your brother turn into a howling abomination, his skin sliding off and teeth growing out of his eye sockets?

I remember the moment that I broke.

Her name was Calave Nimfelt, and I had had a crush on her since there was a hair on my ballsack. There was a swarm, the inside term for it is a bug hunt, and they called the 'exterminators'. The bugs were meter long cockroaches, and their exoskeleton was thick enough to turn away knives and most things you could find in your apartment to swing at them. It took guns, axes, heavy weapons, to clean them out.

They ate Calave. I saw them. They ate her face and her snatch first, and met in the middle tearing her open to get at her organs. That's something that gets left out of the reports. Bugs and other monsters that hunt want your brain, your liver, a few choice tidbits in the abdomen. Your meat will keep for a few days, and they'll come back to eat that later, after they've shit out the feast that was your eyes and reproductive flesh.

I managed to hurt one of the bugs. The other knocked me down and started eating my face. Why do you think I'm so handsome?

That event didn't make the news loop. If you dig long enough you can find it, unclassified DFE, contained within three hours, minimal fatalities, no loss of service. Three service medals issued.

Nineteen people were killed and partially or completely eaten by giant space cockroaches. Seventy were injured. Those who were harmed were coerced into signing NDAs, given 'compensation' for their losses.

I took the compensation, booked passage off of Earth, and over six years, found my way here, to this place.

And founded the Order of the Jackal.

Vernier Cazze, First Lord General of the Order of the Jackal

Oriente-Suhkanov Station 39

Officially registered as OrS-39, the station was a large industrial/mining/refinery complex in trans-Jovian space, well outside the orbital range of the Jovian moons. It was part of a massive expansion by a joint ACPS-Eurasian Alliance effort, where both New Earth Governments cooperated to push trans-Earth territories to counter the growing power of the Atlantic Federation. This was short lived, as the defection of the Five Metal Dragons dealt the ACPS space program a staggering blow, and lacking Chinese support, the Neo-Soviet Union backed off, and abandoned OrS-39 and a dozen other deep system habitats. The stations were locked down and functionally mothballed, or had never been finished, and were left in a state of sabotage.

Claiming an abandoned habitat is not nearly as difficult as many would suspect. Many have just been abandoned, and anyone who can get through an airlock, reactivate and repower systems have themselves a new base. International and interplanetary law are generally on the side of the squatters, as any power that cannot maintain control of a colony or installation, has no right to demand others maintain their claim. You use it, or you lose it. The handful that are protected are generally not worth trying to take, because it is easy for computers to be taken out by black ICE viruses, habitats to have neurotoxins or biogenic agents lurking in the life support systems, or lurking physical countermeasures like killbots or combat drones in a passive stance, just waiting for something warm to move in front of it.

Oriente 39 was a minimally protected site. It only took about six hours for my cyber-ops team to crack it's system defenses, and three days to fully claim the habitat. After that, it was mine. It was the new Lair of Jackals, and what a prize it was.

Lair of Jackals Facilities

The Lair of Jackals has six polyforges, with two being the second largest models commonly available, the sort that can manufacture aerospace craft and mecha. The other four polyforges are for mass production of weapons, body armor, and other military equipment.

Originally the Neo-Soviets and Space Maos intended this place to be a space factory, a small one, a low key installation. Ships would bring supplies, and leave loaded with reverse engineered Federation equipment. The last thing Jackals need is a mech. Useless. What they do need is guns, body armor, and heavy craft. A Jackal has three main powers: knowledge, full ability to pass through biometric scanners without spoofing, and the mobility offered by owning a Chinlund-Deluca model 19 shuttle.

The CD-18 'Tombstone' Shuttle

The CD-18 Shuttle was designed and produced by a tertiary firm out of the Pacific Rim Coalition, and didn't find a solid market. Classified as an armed heavy long range shuttle, the CD-19 was implemented to be a VIP craft, being armed, armored, fast, with long range and long duration capability. The design was passed over due to the cost per unit being high, and the initial weapons and armor were consistent with PRC paradigms. Light armor, long range energy weapons, and more emphasis on style that performance.

The Oriente 39 produced CD-19 Shuttle was a good deal different from the CD-18. The CD-19 replaced the high end lamellar armor scale with more conventional mecha grade plate. The increased weight was offset by upgrading the power plant, more robust engines, and removing many of the cosmetic aspects of the CD-18. Each Jackal, once reaching rank to earn a Tombstone, gets to design their own preferred weapons layout, and even internal layout to what sort of shuttle they want.

'Ragabash' is armed with six laser cannons, giving it the forward firepower of a heavy aerospace interceptor.

"Miss Behavin' has a rotary missile launcher and a ball turret with quad medium laser cannons.

"Big Oof' has a single heavy overcharged particle cannon.

"Scooter' has sixteen medium lasers, capable of firing in all potential arcs.

"Mirage' has a stealth suite and a stealth torpedo launcher.

"Hammertime' has four short range rotary autocannons.

"Baby Betty' has a pair of linear rail guns buried inside the hull members.

Basic Equipment

The Hermes Suit

The Hermes Suit is a basic Encounter suit with modular capacity to easily accept standard light armor components, Trace On systems, chemical augmentation systems, accessory belts, and mounting points for whatever tool, gadget, or gimmick the wearer wants.

The suit is your best friend. Basic protection, full customization, user friendly. No two Jackals fight the same way, no two will use the same approach, the same set of tools. A melee Jackal will have more emphasis on armor plating, running juice for better hand to hand, and most obviously some sort of belt or scabbard to mount their melee weapon of choice. A sniper will be more stealthy, and be set for his gun. A piloting Jackal will have more integration equipment.

Author's Note: the modularity of the Hermes suit is highly comparable to Clone Armor or Mandalorian armor for what weapons and equipment they can use, and how a suit will be tricked out to that purpose.

The Jackal Heavy Rifle

If there is a single piece of equipment that defines a Jackal, it is their rifle. The Jackal Heavy rifle is a tandem weapon system, an over under assault rifle/laser system. The Order adopted the rifle as it gives each warrior a powerful and reliable ballistic and energy weapon. Some creatures are highly resistant to ballistic attack but can by scythed through with lasers. Some energy resistant foes are brittle and a few dozen high velocity rounds can shatter them. When in double, give 'em both barrels.

The Jackal is a variable rate of fire combat rifle chambered for 10mm. It can fire single, burst, or full auto, and can have everything from a 10 round clip, a 100 round drum, or even be belt fed from a backpack. It also has specialty ammunition.

General Purpose - standard non-armor piercing 10mm

Armor Piercing - steel core penetrator 10mm, useful against light armor

Flechette - 10mm 'shotgun shell' of needles, useless against armor, double damage against bare flesh.

Incendiary - white phosphorus 10mm, no armor penetration, starts fires easily, burn damage

High Explosive - limited explosive capability, low armor penetration, staggering damage against bare flesh

Comet - armor piercing incendiary, expensive, hard on barrel

Bouncer  - rubber bullet, non-lethal

Splash - 10mm chemical round, normally non-lethal, but used to deliver chemical rounds. Less effective than squirt guns or 'paintball' guns that fire 12.5 mm to 20 mm gas fired chem pellets.

Tracker - 10mm limited armor piercer with a low frequency transmitter, used to tag armor, ships, etc for the Jackal to follow.

The list could easily be expanded, because of two facts. All Jackals are trained to make their own ammunition and each CD-19 shuttle was a fully equipped workshop. Jackals can repair, rebuild, modify, and otherwise customize their own equipment. This was considered a small extravagance, but it also gives a Jackal something to do during the sometimes long periods when a shuttle is in transit and there is only so much training that they can do, so much media they can watch, and many avoid the long sleep because of how long it can take to fully shake hibernation sickness.

The Multnomah Computer System

The Multnomah Computer is a solid state design favored by the Order because of its floating design. All of the programming and code of the machine is virtual, much like AISC coding, and it 'inhabits' whatever network of machinery is made available to it. Most commonly, Jackals will have their Mulnomahs anchored to their shuttle, but with tendrils reaching out to include their SmartGun systems, helmet comms, and almost all have a wrist mounted computer terminal.

The utility of the Multnomah is that it can make decisions on its own and act in autonomous fashion, provided the equipment it has linked can be worked by a computer. Unlike other commando forces, a Jackal's shuttle can move and engage enemy forces with its weapons with only verbal commands given. If given access to other equipment, a Multnomah can extend tendrils into it, increase it's own base computational power, and take over systems, be it hacking into a base computer, or using an access line to download a spun off version of itself into a battlemech or aerospace fighter.

Sometimes as a form of insurance, or reinforcement, Jackals will have robots on their shuttles. The insurance version has autons and auxons as just more hardware space for the Multnomah to inhabit. The reinforcement version has combat capable skeletrons or power armor suits.

Notable Autonomous Jackals

Switch and Alpha Squad - Switch is a female Jackal, and she took a half dozen off the rack male sex droids, modified them, and had her Multnomah spin off prepacked identities into each one, creating a semi-hive mind for the machine men. Each is armed and armored like a regular space marine. Four have Jackal pattern armor, and two have articulated power suits, along with Switch herself. Eventually, she plans to have all six in power armor, and their weapons upgraded to AtFed cutting edge, or Neo-Soviet excess.

Dart - Dart is a slender man, and believes in mobility, mobility, mobility. He has a streamlined Jackal suit that can fit inside a power armor suit, and his suit doesn't just have jump boosters in the legs, he also has a black market Kolibri that flies as air support and advanced air/space mobility. 

Errant - Errant is an older man, and seldom seen without his utili-pod robot Knave. The utili-pod is actually a near full metal human cyborg and acts as a copilot, gunner, electronics officer, and hacker extraordinaire. Errant carries a fight, while Knave keeps equipment moving to Errant all the while hacking, robbing, and sabotaging whatever systems they can get into. If pressed, Knave barely remembers being human, but has a voracious appetite for pornography and the seedier, gritty immersion programming.

Primo Victoriam - Primo Victoriam is a full Jackal team, four men. They're lead by Paladin, a heavy armor and heavy guns by the book and not a line different sort of commander. The second is Lancer, and is the pilot of their assault rated shuttle, the Arbiter (two Gatling Lasers in pintle mounts, two fixed automatic lasers in the nose, and an over the shoulder linear gun). Lancer has a full droid copilot, Styx, who is a femmebot modified for piloting. The two supporting members are Angel, who is an armored medic, and Lucifer, a flamethrower/demolitions armored marine.

Max Crystal - also called Miracle Max, has no body armor, no combat suit, doesn't even carry the Jackal Heavy Rifle. He does have a stripped down CD-19 rigged to carry cargo, and high charisma. When the situation arises, Miracle Max can equip and organize a band of ragged survivors into a holding force, sometimes even shut down ongoing DFEs, and in worst case scenarios, his shuttle can carry as many as thirty people, though most have to be put into hibernation due to the amount of strain active people put on the shuttle life support system.

Elixer and Parapsychic Powers

Considering the general requirements to be recruited as a Jackal, parapsychic powers already run high in the Jackal ranks. Where the general populace is close to one in ten thousand, the order has starting recruits at nearly one in five having existing parapsychic ability. This is naturally from surviving extreme trauma in proximity to an active DFE, the most reliable way known to create parapsychics. To further this, the Order has clandestine connections allowing them to get their hands on elixer and create their own artificial parapsychics. This is voluntary, though more than half will try the treatment to see if it activates latent abilities.

The problem with elixer based powers is that they are temporary, keeping them up requires regular doses, and elixer is expensive. The answer is simple, most Jackals with juiced powers don't keep themselves dosed, and instead only use the elixer when they know they will need it. The downside is that they dont have a large amount of experience with their powers, and the strength might not be reliable. The upside is that parapsychic powers are almost always unexpected, and vary highly from individual to individual, and there is no way to tell what will happen when a Jackal hits the pump button and their eyes turn black. Pyrokinesis? Telekinesis? Magnetism?

I'll tell you what the value of the elixer is. When you hit that button and the fire shoots into my veins, I can feel it. Everything goes into this macro focus, my senses feel sharper. I swear after the jab I could track a person from one side a station to the other by just my nose. Its like my senses have moved out of my head and into another plane.

Bug brains are simple, humans are more complicated. After the juice rush, I can feel the surface thoughts, and if I can feel it, I can touch it, and if I can touch it, I can influence it. Bugs are almost always cannibals by nature, and turning them on each other is easy. People are harder, but if you find resentment, anger, that's a wedge, a way to get in.

Role and Reception

The Jackals are a mercenary force of individuals and small teams who operate in the Belt Free State and the deep solar system. In these places, isolation is the norm, without oversight there is a lot of highly questionable research done, and most people are kept unarmed so that a relatively small force with very light weaponry and no armor can keep order and discipline. These conditions make for rich soil, and the fruit is technology run rampant, dimensional fatigue events, and horrific human experimentation. The Jackals see themselves as a sort of vigilante space police, sometimes finding unethical things in the deepness of the deep system and they put it to rights with bullets, beams, and blades. They also basically run a rescue service, a missing persons service, and what amounts to monster hunting.

Opinion on Jackals is highly varied. Overall, its positive. Corp suits hate them, and most of the terrestrial governments consider them to be barely more than criminals and pirates, but spacers know them to be friends of humanity, not of science, progress, or profit. Jackals almost never take pay, but they always take salvage, and sometimes recruits. Spacers are almost always willing to talk and trade with Jackals, as Jackals almost always have ammo, food, and other supplies. Stations and habs tolerate them, as they are good for trade, and morale, even if they make security itchy and intelligence officers walk around on eggshells. Military forces often refuse to acknowledge Jackals, sometimes to the point of almost hitting them with their ships, with an exception for the ICA and other seemingly multi-national organizations that exist on shoestring budgets

Author's Note:

The inspiration for the Jackals is The Witcher. They are functionally what the Witcher's Order of the Wolf would be like but adjusted into space, and given Cosmic Era gear. The Mandalorian is also an influence, especially in the idea that their starting gear is almost all the same, but being individualists, they are highly customized and no two will look the same, but there is enough of a common aesthetic that they aren't mistaken for anything other than what they are. The last element is that they embody a highly lawful good ethos, they are good guys who have as their core mission to help people, save lives, and protect others from Cosmic Horrors. They are often seen in mixed light because they are heavily armed, armored, and have zero hesitancy to use extreme levels of violence, and the most common cause of DFEs is at the hands of people with arcanotech, not just accidents that happen, or random monsters that appear for no reason.

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