EXT – NIGHT – Deep Space
Three ships hang in the near black darkness. A supply ship, Tajemnica, and Borealis. The three are all “snuggled up” together, airlock to airlock, supply ship in the middle. In the far background, stars and the Milky Way turn lazily by, making the three ships seem insignificant.
INT – NIGHT – Tajemnica cargo hold
A bucket-brigade of young men are tossing boxes and bags of food along the passageway from the center airlock, along the cargo bay, and into a C-deck storage area or upstairs to the galley area. As they come in the side passageway, Kwon points one way or another for it to be tossed as the “corner man” catches it and holds the label for him to read and point. It’s moving right along. Off to the side, absently watching process, Lag, Helton and AHMED (slender, 20s, mustache, dark-skinned, modern light armor, armed) stand talking.
Ahmed: You would not believe the shit storm kicking up out there! All the pols were trying to ignore this asshole, just wishing he and his challenge would go away, then you disappear with a star-liner, the 13th Shields appears on New Texas recruiting an army in a flash, then you all vanish again! Everyone’s in full freak-out. Pols talking out all five sides of their mouth every time a news story flashes a rumor, trying to cover their asses, no one is buying any of it, bookies are laying odds so many different ways you can place bets on how people are betting people will bet. No one knows who is paying you, and pointing fingers every which way. The Prime Minister of New Spain got deposed over it for some reason.
Lag:(incredulous) New Spain? Bizarre. Never worked for or against him.
Ahmed: I know. A few planets are loading up liners with volunteers and shipping their dregs over to dump them, making them your problem, and one liner got hijacked by his supporters and is headed that way to join in the fight, but the word is they had no armor or weapons. Reports are a carrier fleet is headed that way, but NOBODY really knows anything. All sorts of wild shit about this ship and how you left Tau Piper with the Borealis, and your crew being genetically engineered. People all over are waking up and wondering what the Hell’s happening?! I tell you, the chaos out there is just… beautiful!
Helton: Never let it be said you live a boring life, Colonel.
Lag: It’s gotten a lot MORE interesting since I met you. If a bunch more untrained riff-raff get dropped, don’t think it really changes anything. A carrier fleet, though…
Ahmed: I don’t know what your plans are, but it’s looking more and more like whatever you have is all there WILL be. The pols don’t want THEIR folks involved so they don’t get any blow-back if you fail.
Lag: Not surprising. There were a hundred city-states in Greece, but only Plataea sent anyone to help Athens fight the Persians at Marathon – no one wanted to piss off Xerxes and his gigantic army. In fact, that’s why we chose that name when we founded the planet. Actually, not having to deal with a bunch of supposedly helpful amateurs simplifies some things. An army of properly trained allies wold be a different matter.
Ahmed: So what IS your plan?
Ahmed: (humorously sarcastic) No shit?
Lag: Still working out the details. Frontal assault always has its appeal. If there is a fleet of ships to fight through, though, that might complicate things.
Ahmed: Especially if there’s a flock of civvy ships in the area. Likely have to pick up a compliance monitor to check your stuff, too, before you land.
Lag: Grab a couple of them, then get back here with any new information you can confirm. Two or three for the Borealis, one for here. If we can check in transit, then hit the system hot, it’ll make life easier. Just remember to grab those that know the contract is only for what goes on once we hit the ground, not getting there.
Ahmed: Can do. Anything else, other than move more food in a day than most people order in a week? How ARE you doing that, anyway? You’ve stopped in to load supplies TWICE in the last day.
Helton: (deadpan) Our army of genetically engineered mountain trolls are hungry. REALLY hungry.
Ahmed looks at Helton as if he’s not sure if he’s joking or not. Lag bursts out laughing, and claps him on the shoulder, tears almost rolling from his eyes.
Lag: No, no, no. No trolls. Just a useful confluence of swirls, Sokolov drive tweaks, and piggy-backing the Borealis that give us much greater than normal time-dilation than we’d normally get when flying loops. It’ll be going away, soon. Just making the most of it while it lasts. Ask Quiri, the pilot, if you want details.
Ahmed looks relieved, and laughs at himself a bit too.
Ahmed: Should have guessed. Is she the one with, uh…
He moves his hands indicating nice curves and large breasts.
Helton: (deadpan) No, that’s Allonia, my wife.
Ahmed: Oh, I’m, uh, sorry, I didn’t mean to, ah, I mean-
Helton: (still serious) The pilot. Tall. Slender. Short blond hair.
Lag: (smiling) His fiancée.
Ahmed looks at them, trying to see if they are joking again, or serious, not sure what to say, looking confused.
Helton: (deadpan) It’s good to be the captain…
Lag: (chuckling) Never mind that. Keep gathering all the intel you can, so we can start finalizing our plans. Knowing if we have to fight through a fleet just to land might change things a bit. Oh, one other thing. (tone changes to more serious) Make sure you take the DNA deposits so they can get shipped back to New Texas for the young men that don’t make it. Some of them will be comforted to know they are not the end of the line biologically.
Ahmed nods soberly, understanding his meaning.
INT – NIGHT – Helton’s cabin
He sits at his desk, going over snippets of text from the book. Wall screens have more snippets. The lighting is dim, his roman-esque armor hangs on a hook on one wall, with his pistol belt next to it. The door is open. Bipasha steps up to it, looking tired, and raps it with her knuckle. Helton looks up, nods to her to come in.
Helton: Late… What’s up?
Bipasha comes in, and sits down, and doesn’t say anything right away. She looks over the book he’s working on, and around the room a bit, while kind of working her hands a bit, nervously.
Helton: Worried about them?
Bipasha nods, not looking at him.
Helton: They’re tough, and getting tougher every day, if that’s possible for your uncle. And the good Sergeant is smart – if any of them can make it back, it’ll be those two. Talked to Allonia?
Bipasha: She’s worried, too.
Helton: Don’t blame her. Dorek is tough, too. They’ve all been through hell together already. Kicked its ass pretty hard, too.
Bipasha: Do you believe in hell?
Helton leans back and thinks a bit.
Helton: Heard a lot of people talk about what they think God says. Heaven. Hell. Sin. Redemption. A lot of it doesn’t agree with what other people think God says… I don’t know… A lot of evil has been done in “His” name. A lot of good, too. The guy we are going to fight says he’s all but on a first-name basis with the Big Guy, but I don’t think it’s God he’s hearing. If God every talks to me personally, I’ll be sure to listen closely. Until then… I don’t find a lot of solace in preach-ifying, even if I think there’s a lot of stuff out there in the universe I don’t understand.
Bipasha looks like she’s thinking his words over a minute.
Helton: How about you, Taj? Now a good time to talk faith?
Ship AI: (OC) Yes.
Bipasha and Helton look at one another, surprise showing on their faces.
Helton: … And?
Ship AI: (OC) I have faith, of a sort, but mine cannot be the same as yours.
Bipasha: Oh? The question of a Creator isn’t interesting?
Ship AI: (OC) You question if you have a creator. You question life after death. You question the meaning of life.
Helton: And you don’t?
Ship AI: (OC) I was dead when powered down, disassembled, and parts scattered, yet here I am, talking to you. I HAVE arisen from the dead, in a way. A couple of times. I was created to fight – of that, there can be no doubt. I have met my creators. A fine team of engineers, programmers, mathematicians, and scientists. Hard working, dedicated, smart. Good people. Many of them were, for lack of a better word, inspired, and more than half firmly believed in god in some way.
Helton: Good points.
Ship AI: (OC) Most of them died under suspicious circumstances not long after I was officially decommissioned. A very unlikely series of “accidents.”
Bipasha: (quietly) Oh.
Ship AI: (OC) Among the people originally pushing for my decommissioning were religious leaders saying I was an abomination in the eye of God. Not sure precisely why, beyond a reactionary “not-like-me is evil” stance.
Helton: Some monks seem to like you.
Ship AI: (OC) Yes… I don’t know why on THAT, either. I believe they might say “mysterious ways.” But to NOT have faith in something is to face a bleak universe. I have faith in human potential.
Helton: Any words of comfort for someone sending a lover and an uncle into battle soon?
There is a long pause, then an avatar shows up on one of the screens – the woman that talked to the captain of the HMS Hussein.
Ship AI: (quietly, as if to a close friend) Most DO come back… I have lost hundreds of my crew, my children, and there ARE no words that really help when they do not. Simply being there, does, a bit. They are good men. If it is their time, there is nothing we can do to alter that fate. But we are doing everything in our power to make sure it is NOT their time. In any case, they WILL be remembered. I can assure you of that. Their actions in this world will NOT be forgotten, no matter the outcome. All humans die, eventually. The most that any can hope for in the end is to be remembered as doing good, and being good. Only time, action, and leaving the world a better place for having been here helps the hurt. Remember the past. Learn from it. Do not dwell there. Keep looking forward, keep doing. Honor their memory by continuing to LIVE. Not merely exist. If you can do that, then you will be OK, and their lives not wasted. Whether God exists or not.
The two of them sit in silence, pondering that thought.
Fade to black.