FULL-THROTTLE SPACE TALES: SPACE GRUNTS... stories of soldiers on the front lines, coming home, fighting, dying, winning, losing and and, ultimately winning, even when they lose. More than anything they are a hell of a lot of fun.




Excerpted from TRUTH METRIC



[MEMORIAL CAPSULE: HYPERCAST: CHAN, TSAO: CAPT. CGS APEX]

Dear Elliot,

Please forgive my familiarity. Your core life metric indicated you prefer not to be addressed by title and I am attempting to respect your wishes. I remember you when we put out from the Bridge Station on Ganymede. You and your spouse seemed so proud seeing your own child among the Apex’s inaugural crew. In fact I shared your feeling.

Apex is a new ship, one of the new Sabre class that CoreGov Tactical believes will turn the tide of the war.

It is a terrible thing to have to inform a parent of the death of their child. It is a terrible thing to hold oneself responsible for that death. There are no words, not in any human language nor in any of the alien ones to which I’ve been exposed, that can ever encompass or adequately describe the awful grief that follows such a tragedy.

I won’t presume to tell you the things you must certainly already know about your child. No stranger can reveal much to a parent that they didn’t nurture or battle themselves over the years. You were there at the beginning and through all of the firsts and seconds and thirds. All we see is the end product of your hard and, in this case, exceptional work.

[HYPERCAST TRANSMISSION INTERRUPTION//REACQUIRE//]

“Jesu!” said SM Boylan just as the hull burst ahead of her. She had only a microsecond to vault backwards over the lip of the access hatch, away from the blast. Just in time. Even as the shards of flying metal shredded Nelson and Kim to chunks of flesh and a thick crimson fog, the plexi seal came down at either hatch point, sealing the ruptured area off.

Safe. She was safe. For the moment.

There was hard vacuum rushing in there now, forcing what little atmo that remained to whoosh out into the dark and carrying Kim and Nelson’s confettied remains along. The claxon went off even as she was smacking the comm node to signal the bridge of her status.

“C and C,” she barked over the siren’s wail, “This is SM Boylan. Apex has been breached. Two span of deck fourteen, hullward, is exposed and gone. Screens at hatch points are locked so the bubble is secure. Waiting for sealant. Affirm.”

“Affirmed,” said the voice stretched to nearly robotic thinness by its trip trough the grid. “Casualties?”

“Adjunct Kim and Spaceman Nelson, KIA,” she said, natural adrenaline having pounded her emotions flat for the moment.

“SimGrav and spark read active at your position,” said the voice. “Affirm.”

“That’s affirmed, C and C,” she said, taking minor pleasure in the fact that she was not floating around a dark and icy corridor either whole or in bits. “What the hell happened?”

“Unknown at this time,” said the voice. Probably Rogers but she couldn’t be sure. “Are you injured?”

“Negative.”

“Stand for orders,” he said.

“Affirmed.”

Boylan watched as sealant foam flooded the space between the plexi sheets, filling it like a wave of cottage cheese. In ten seconds it would be as hard as the hull and the plexi would retract.

Her hands shook a bit, partly from the close call and partly from the adrenaline the near miss had sent surging through her. They quieted soon enough and her mind started in on her lists.

What happened? Possible attack. Possible collision. Possible defect-inspired structural failure. Protocol? Go hot and get set to repel boarders? Dig in and ride out the passage through this asteroid swarm or whatever it was? Wait for the brass, or figure out what the hell was up on her own? Get hold of Alex before she had to kiss her ass good-bye?

As the sirens continued to scream, Boylan sparked up her BIORB, telling the little implant to tap the nearest AI for current ship status. C & C wouldn’t tell her more than they felt she needed to know but there was often a massive gap between what the brass thought was important and what could save her life.

“Data, data, data,” her dad had always told her. There’s safety in data.” He’d never been proved wrong yet.

Something had punched Apex in the guts, puncturing Boylan’s position as well as sixteen others on the port hull. So far there were only three more losses beyond Nelson and Kim with some injuries being tended on the spots. The brass were up there hanging response scenarios.

Tick, tick, tick, she thought, clocking the seconds. Tell me something. She wasn’t good to anybody just sitting there but, without knowledge of which protocol to run, she couldn’t move either. She hated not being able to do anything. More than that, she wanted something to hit.

When the second volley of whatever-it-was pounded Apex again, this time killing the gravity and slamming her hard into the opposite bulkhead, Boylan found she wanted something to murder.

Her BIORB flooded her brain with casualty reports and system failures so numerous and immediate that she was forced to mute it to spare herself the cascade

“This is C and C,” said Rogers’s voice, now recognizable through the static. “All decks report casualty and damage numbers. Affirm.”

“Hit them back,” she said, knowing he couldn’t hear her and wouldn't heed her if he could. The brass kept their own time.

This second impact had killed the grav and set her flying so now she was obliged to flail every limb in hopes of finding purchase on one of the surfaces she slammed into. Finally her fingers caught the lip of the bulkhead seam and she was able to right herself.

She hung there, waiting for her BIORB to tamp down her heart rate and tweak her adrenals.

Then the lights went out.

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