Slim is an outlaw. A third-generation Basilisk soldier. A product of the Mutagen Wars, he and thousands with him volunteered to have their DNA spliced with insects in a desperate attempt to give them an advantage in their rebellion against Sol Hub.
The Rebellion Against Hub
For over a hundred years the four worlds of the Basilisk Nebula got rich off their MutaGenetic™ technology. Their scientists cracked the problems of old age and disease. Those who could afford it gained extended life and proof against harmful bacteria, viruses. Enhanced speed, strength. As long as you could afford it.
Eventually the people profiting from this technology chafed at the yolk of living under Hub’s protection. Specifically, Hub’s taxes. They began to consider independence.
On April 15th, 2358, two of the worlds in the Basilisk Nebula refused to pay their taxes to Earth, declaring “these worlds are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states.”
The declaration was a long time coming. They’d spent trillions on military infrastructure in preparation. The other Basilisk worlds watched and waited for Hub’s response.
Rumors that CIG9 had infiltrated the rebelling planet’s highest echelons gained credence when, three hours after the Basilisks issued their declaration, days before the message could have arrived, a trio of Sol Guard superheavy frigates emerged from an unknown dive anchor, built and installed by Sol Guard in secret. Three days later, the first rebellion was over.
The Mutagen Wars
Without intending to, Sol Guard delivered a propaganda coup into the hands of the Nebula’s governments. The remaining worlds, untouched by the first rebellion, were incensed. Millions volunteered for service, seeing their cause as righteous; a small underdog fighting for freedom and independence.
With a surplus of volunteers, and no remaining military infrastructure, they looked for a technological breakthrough that would give them the advantage. They began experimenting with their Mutagenic technology in new and dangerous ways. Mixing the human genome with other species, to produce unstoppable supersoldiers.
The first generation of mutagen troopers were hideous monsters. A mongrel hybrid of several different species. They were stronger, faster, possessed extraordinary senses beyond the human experience. But they were prone to self-destructive rages.
Armed with these first-generation mutagen soldiers, another world declared independence, and the first Mutagen War began.
When Sol Guard arrived, they were dismayed to discover an army of monsters waiting for them. Early victories with mutagenic shock troops gave the Basilisks hope. It seemed the rebellion had a chance. But the ships Hub deployed were only a tiny fraction of their might. Sol Guard trained constantly against the Hegemony. The Basilisk Nebula was, to them, a storm in a teacup.
What’s Larger than a Teacup?
A week later, the first Mutagen War was over, and Sol Hub issued severe sanctions against the Basilisk Nebula. But it was not enough. The storm grew. Their scientists perfected their technology, hitting upon insect and arthropod DNA as a stable and powerful solution to their problems.
The second generation of Mutagen soldiers were the first man-insect hybrids. They had chitinous exoskeletons tough enough to stop bullets, they could survive in the vacuum of space, fight their way onto Hub ships. They could win.
They almost did. The second war lasted six months. More volunteers signed up for the Mutagen treatment. They might die fighting as insect monsters, but their children might be free to govern themselves.
Finding the Basilisk mutant tech a formidable weapon now, Hub developed the ChemTroopers: soldiers armed with caustic chemicals that melted the carapaces of their man-insect enemies. The second war was horrific as a result, but blessedly short.
Even in defeat, even the third defeat in a row, the citizens of the Nebula thought it was worth one last fight.
The Last Mutagen War
The fourth rebellion, the third Mutagen War, was the last, longest, and most grueling for both sides. For four years Sol Guard poured troops into the Basilisk Nebula. For four years the Basilisks fought an asymmetrical guerilla battle. No Hub asset was safe. Any Hub ship larger than a destroyer was vulnerable to the Basilisk soldiers’ swarm tactics.
They fought, unaided, in the vacuum of space, they could rip through a ship’s hull and battle, deck to deck, until the ship was theirs. They didn’t have a fleet. They didn’t need one. They were going to steal Hub’s.
The media buzzed selling the possibility of victory as an inevitability. But historians knew otherwise. Hub’s army was too large. Their only hope was to punish Hub enough, grind them down, take the fight out of them. It almost worked.
For three weeks in 2364, it began to look like Hub would capitulate. Pulling more troops away from the border with the Hegemony would leave them vulnerable to the other galactic superpower, inviting aggression. Pundits in the Basilisk Nebula began to openly wonder if Hub would have to sue for peace.
Unfortunately, in anticipation of this, Hub had been working for years on a new trade agreement with the Hegemony. When it was signed in late 2364, Hub was able to concentrate its military might fully on the Basilisks. They pulled half their forces away from the border, and committed them fully to crushing the rebellion, once and for all. Total war. The Basilisk Nebula would not just be beaten, but conquered.
Three months later, the war was over, and the four worlds of the Basilisk Nebula were under permanent Hub occupation.
The Basilisks were a conquered people. Their mutagen technology confiscated by Hub, and the Basilisk soldiers declared illegal. Most Basilisk Soldiers were rounded up and put in prison camps. Forced labor. Some were detained indefinitely in secret locations in the Arm, outside of any formal legal structure.
The rest fled to the Far Arm, the frontier. The high bounties placed on the meant they would forever live, even on the frontier, as wanted men. The war they were designed for, over. The promises made to them, broken.
Slim was never a patriot, but he was once a dreamer. An idealist. A young, privileged member of a young, privileged world. When the war started, he and his friends signed up imagining a rollicking adventure. They were fighting for independence, freedom. They would return great heroes.
He had a name then, an identity. But the war took these from him. After four years of battling ChemTroopers and Lazarus Men, four years spent hurtling naked through deep space, the world he returned to was broken. A broken world, full of broken promises.
The government that developed the Mutagen Soldiers promised that, once the war was won, they would reverse the process. Return their soldiers to human form. But that government was gone, the technology illegal, and the Basilisk Soldiers stuck in their horrific new bodies.
Slim considers himself a man. A human. He was born a human being. He’s still alarmed when he sees a mirror, and finds an insect-monster staring back at him. He avoids reflections.
He no longer believes in anything. He wants to be left alone. He was happy living off the land on Shear. When the monsters came, his only fear was that they would bring more attention to his adopted homeworld. More bounty hunters. Maybe even Sol Guard.
When the monsters won, he stopped worrying. No one left on Shear was in any position to collect any bounties. He was now the equal of all of them. Just another desperate survivor, stranded on a doomed world.
A man without a name, on a world without a future.