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New Horizons, Bad Omens

by Cam Sandford about a month ago in future
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Superstitions Proved Wrong

"No one can hear you scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Can you believe that nonsense from the new sailors? It's like they don't even care." Warrent Officer Covetaria shook his head as he took a drink.

"Neither did you at first." I said as I shot him a glare.

"Yeah well," Covetaria softened his tone, "Let's hope that they learn quickly, I don't need another trembling mess to have to deal with once we start doing actions."

"Have a little faith in them Covetaria, they might surprise you." I said befrore taking a drink.

I set the weighted cup down on the table, and watched as the liquid inside bubbled upward. Only for the blob of coffee to be stopped by a sealed lib. I gave a light tap of the cup against the table to bring everything back down to the bottom. This was one of the more annoying things about a ships artificial gravity, if it doesn't have enough mass it still floats. I looked back up at the table and watched Covetaria carefully navigate last bite of food into his mouth, and chew thoughtfully. He was a tall, thin man from the floating cities of Venus. So, he had been used to low-G since childhood. Covetaria and I went through basic together and have the unfortunate pleasure of being in the same crew; Bow Damage Control. Across from him was the stocky, red bearded Warrent Officer Wesbo. Whom was late, again, and just started his meal. Today it was lasanga with carrots and zucchini. Warm pre-packaged meals with enough nutrients to sustain life; but left more to be desired for flavor.

Some of the newer sailors in the galley had already lost their sides, which were carelessly floating away from hungry mouths. I had been there before, struggling to eat, walk and even sleep. Due to the nature of basic training on Earth, you couldn't spend the entire thirteen weeks in low-G. My body never had time the fully adjust when I was first aboard the ship Asralid. Not unlike Covetaria, who had a harder time adjusting to the gravity on Earth than the ship. I felt a sting of guilt as I watched the sailors become increasingly frustrated the longer they heard snickers and hushed voices. Like the eyes of everyone were on them, and to some extent it was true. Replacements were often looked down on by the experienced Sailors, until they proved themselves worthy of taking the empty spot on the crews. The replacements had begun looking around to find the source of the hazing.

"You're a long way from Earth, aren't ya!" Covetaria shouted across the Galley.

"Can it." I demanded as I jabbed and elbow into his bicep.

"Awe, come on. I'm just hav-" Covetaria lowered his voice.

"I said. Can, It." I cut him off, "Or you'll be running a lap."

"Sure thing, Chief." He grumbled.

I shot a look at Wesbo and gave him a sly smirk, and he immediately shook his head. His disapproving look confirmed he knew what I was about to tell him.

"Warrent Officer Wesbo?" I ordered.

"No, don-" He began.

"Warrent Officer Wesbo you have the table." I smiled as I stood up.

Every time, Every single time," Wesbo sent his fork into the tray causing his condiments and veggies to float upward, "Why do I always have to babysit the disobedient ones, Chief? Chief!"

I intentionally left the question unanswered as I made my way the table surrounded by fresh faces and clean subdued green jumpsuits. I held back a smile as they all seemed to look at me with the same What now look on their faces. I set my hands on the edge of the table and leaned in slightly.

"Move slow, momentum has little resistance onboard. Gravity won't hold food to your fork." I said as I gently pushed the floating food back towards one of the Sailors.

Some of them seemed awestruck at the information that was just presented to them. Others wore a face of disapproval as they became even more frustrated. A few seemed to take the advice to heart immediately and got wide-eyed when it worked and they could finally enjoy the food.

"Is it true what they say Chief Soleil," A young Sailor asked, "How you guys are going to use us to clean the decks once we pass Pluto?"

"Well Seaman," I looked at his name tag with a smirk, "Horrow. Dirty squids like yourselves have to become shellbacks somehow. Enjoy your meal, and wear an extra pair of skivvies that day. It's already cold enough out this far from the star. You don't want to be soaked as well."

I let go of the table and turned on my heel and walked away. I let myself enjoy the moment of messing with the new Sailors in a less obvious way. Although, I wasn't quite sure if I was just passing down tradition or getting a chewing out from the Lieutenant later; when they found out we won't actually use them as brushes. Either way, my fellow NCOs tried to not make it obvious that it was a joke. I found it harder to control myself the closer I got to my seat. It wasn't until I got back to my seat and manage to cover my face with the bodies of the other Warrent Officers and my cup. That I let out a snort of laughter as I looked around at the faces of my leadership.

"Did you tell them to wear an extra pair of skivvies?" Wesbo laughed.

"Yeah, I did." I couldn't contain myself any longer and everyone at the table started to quietly laugh.

"I remember when I was scared about something small like that.I can't believe I thought I would be used as a deck brush." Wesbo chuckled.

"Do you remember Benny actually slid down the hall while we are cleaning it? He was shivering for hours after that." Covetaria said.

"He had such a big grin. He was always smiling, and I don't think anything could bring him down. I still can't believe he traded the view of Titan for this tin can." I said as my smile slowly faded.

It had been almost a full rotation since Benny's burial-at-void, along with two-hundred-twenty other souls lost onboard Asralid during the engagement in the Sirius system. He managed to save the lives of six Sailors and a fellow Warrent Officer after the Tungsten rod of the opposing railgun tore through the upper decks. The fleet did lose of one cruiser and two frigates as well. Naval actions in three-dimensional space are complex, lengthy, and often tedious. With intervals between the firing of the rail-gun and the potential hit being minutes at a time. With there being no charge on the rod, munitions were able to inflict more damage further into the vessel hit. Hits often came as a surprise to the crews not able to see the battlefield, even with the Standard Operating Procedure of alarm calls and flashing of the courtesy lights just before. It hardly gave enough time to prepare for it. No amount of training could have prepared me for being exposed to the void.

The first thing I heard after the alarm was the shrieking of metal on metal. Then a loud Pop! as the hull was breached with the two meter diameter of a metal cone tipped cylinder. As it traveled over twenty-one kilometers a second. Anyone caught near the impact point probably didn't even realize what was happening until it was too late. Those close enough to be pulled through the breach once decompression took place didn't stand a chance either. Even with an insulated jumpsuit and a few minutes of emergency oxygen. The air in my lungs was pulled out by the pressure difference. The sound of air and screams rushed out of the breach was replaced by a haunting silence. The Sailors faces twisted with terror, mouths begging to be heard. But no sound reached my ears. I tried calling out, but only felt the vibration of my vocal chords and the low inaudible tone behind my ears. I felt the water coating my eyes and liquid under my exposed skin begin to boil. I watched as the airlocks closed and sealed, I felt the vibration of the mechanism in my boots through the deck. Re-pressurization took about a minute, and it was the longest minute of my life. I did what I could to non-verbally take control of the chaos to help those looking towards me or not locked to their wounds. With the return of pressure and low-G came sound, which overwhelmed my senses. My inner ear tried to find a center as the shouting and screaming of my fellow crew mates made them ring. I quickly began to shout commands to get everyone moving away from the airlocks. Chief Warrent Officer Benny was already pulled injured Sailors to relative safety. I'm sure he knew he was wounded before we did, once I found out he would keep insisting "I'm good take someone else who needs it." He never made it out of the passageway.

"Hey, Chief? You alright, we lost you for a second." Wesbo said in a concerned tone.

"Yeah, yeah I'm fine," I said and forced a smile, "Just tired. So are you guys ready for training week?"

I heard an assortment of grunts and complaints from everyone.

"No, but what choice do we have? It's not like the new batch can fend for themselves." Covetaria stated with a matter-of-fact tone.

"You need to lighten up Cavetaria, I was a replacement too." Wesbo shot him a glare.

"Yeah, but you proved yourself to take Soleils spot when she moved up." He replied coldly.

"Easy guys," I said calmly, "We do the same thing we always do. show the ropes and get them set right. We have a responsibility to this ship, and you all are the toughest D-C crew in the fleet."

We were scheduled for Combat Action drill before the fleet entered the Oort cloud and broke gravitational ties with the Sol system. Which I was not looking forward to. Training new Sailors was always taxing, with the same questions and lost looks in the eyes. I still felt sympathetic to it, being terrified, lost and unprepared for the reality of naval actions in the void. Most seasoned Sailor could confirm you couldn't hear anyone scream, but no one had the heart to tell the replacements. It was just one of those things you could only experience. However, helping the replacements and getting repetitions for the inevitable cortisol and adrenaline dumps was always necessary. Even the most experienced Sailors could still freeze.

We were heading to the Epsilon Indi system, two jumps away. It would take the fleet three months to get in-system. With another four to six months to get boots on the ground on Indi Proper. The system colonies were under attack by United Sovereign forces and their defenses were crumbling. The latest reports confirmed that the outer-rim colonies had already surrendered and a blockade had been placed around the system. Breaking through was only half the battle, gaining orbital superiority over Indi Proper was the other half of the Navys challenge. We didn't have the luxury of time to take back every colony right away. We had the manpower to secure the min planet and reinforce with ground units, Which meant we would have to wait for another fleet to arrive and pincer the enemy vessels.

We would probably use the gravity of nearby planets and large objects to provide cover and assist the frigates and one of the cruisers to outflank any vessels near the entry vector of the system. With any luck and a few well timed movements, we could break through with relative ease. After that, would conduct a full speed run to Indi proper taking advantage of any confusion among the enemy ranks to bide for time. There we would probably set up a defensive posture and wait. Deep down I knew, that this wasn't going to be the short deployment we all hoped it would be. Much of the fleets Crews would be having a burial-at-void, and Asralid would be limping back to the Sol drydock repairs and fresh replacements. losing a battle of attrition didn't sit well with me at all, however, all I could do was hope that my crew could stand firm in the face of danger.

future

About the author

Cam Sandford

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