Was Once a Hero by Edward McKeown is a fun science fiction story set in the distant future. After years of inter-planetary war, where Humans and six other alien species have had to team up and brought down the terrible Conchirri that were spreading havoc wherever they could; no one is ready to place themselves in harm’s way by attempting to study the frightening unexplained force that apparently came out of nowhere and was able to destroy the entire Enshari civilization within hours. Few will even talk of it, but whatever horror befell these people, it seems to have had enough intelligence to attack only the peaceful Enshari; it left the wildlife of their planet Enshar unharmed.
Now, the story focuses on the human ship captain Robert Fenaday, and the crew of his ship the Sidhe. These people are working as privateers or pirates, and stand in the perfect position to be hired by a grief-stricken Enshari who was caught off planet at the time of the incident and so happened to live. Help from the actual governments of elsewhere can’t be relied on because no one wants to possibly anger the unseen force. At the same time, those in power are more than happy to supply and lend forces to the Sidhe in hopes of learning about the unnamed evil so they can possibly keep it away from themselves.
As a pirate crew is not usually comprised of kind souls willing to risk themselves for the sake of helping others, much trickery, and ultimately unbelievable rewards must come about to get everyone to approach the unknown cause of unequaled calamity. Captain Fenaday is not surprised that his lying to outlaws in an attempt to throw them unsuspectingly against mortal danger can’t be taken without talk of a mutiny. Still, the ageing Enshari, Belwin Duna, is able to tunnel his way into even the darkest of hearts on the ship. What evil awaits on this planet that would indiscriminately wipe out his entire non-threatening people?