For as long as Kara could remember, she had been a Destroyer.
Both of her parents had been killed in action while serving with the legendary Durek Stonebreaker's free company, the Destroyers. With no family and no home, the girl had been raised by the gruff but well-meaning mercenaries, who sang her rowdy war anthems as lullabies and gave her gun parts and spare cartridges as toys. By the time Kara was old enough to bin up, she was the best shot in the company and could read a tactical display better than the commander himself.
Kara told Durek that she wanted to take the oath and bin the Destroyers - but he refused. Durek said he had his own reasons, but everyone knew what they were. He was protecting her, pure and simple.
And then it happened. During a standard crash-n-smash mission, Durek's squad had dropped onto an asteroid to eliminate hostile targets, but failed to reach the extraction point. Standing orders from Durek were to clear out if he didn't make it but no one wanted to leave him behind. As the Destroyers shared grim looks and worried words, Kara stood and cleared her throat for attention. She had made her decision.
"Slag it all to hell. We're goin' down there!"
"Whaddaya mean? Who's gonna lead us?'
"Who do you think, rockhead? Suit up, troops. We got ourselves a commander to retrieve."
Kara brought up her plan on the tactical display. The grizzled mercs squinted, grunted, and then grudgingly nodded. Punching in the coordinates for Durek's last known location, she led the team to the drop pods.
The Destroyers hit the surface hard. At Kara's signal, they fanned out heading toward the sound of a fierce firefight. Surveying the battlefield from behind a stone outcrop, Kara had to admit things looked pretty grim. Durek and his squad were in a bad spot caught between two intersecting lines of fire. The commander was still alive, but he was running out of time. It was now or never. Kara set her jaw, shouldered her rifle, and gave the signal to fire.
To Kara's surprise, the attack went exactly as she'd planned. The rescue depended on hitting the enemy hard from multiple directions and convincing them that a much larger force had been deployed against them. Coordinated grenades created the illusion of serious firepower, while a constant deadly barrage of bullets kept the enemy pinned down. Battered by firepower on both sides, the enemy broke ranks and scattered.
A proud Kara led her troops to the commander's location. Battered, bruised, but still very much alive, Durek stood up, lit a cigar, then placed a hand on Kara's shoulder.
"Not bad, kid."
"Not bad? Pretty sure I just saved your ass, Durek. Guess that makes me Private Kara."
"I don't think so."
Kara's smile faded, and she turned to go, but Durek's voice rang out behind her.
"Destroyers, ten... HUT! All salute, Sergeant Kara!"
The mercs' thunderous cheer was the sweetest music she'd ever heard. Durek chomped his cigar, gave her a crisp salute, and walked away.