Peter S Won this week. Thank you Peter for submitting, and please come back any time you like.
Submitted By Peter S.
Evolution is a wondrous thing. It is fickle and gruff and subtle and violent. It is a speeding bullet headed toward rice paper. It does things, not because it can, or it should, or it was suggested that it do so, but none the less, it still does, and these choices are not negotiable. You cannot decide to undo something like evolution. It is just done, no questions asked, none offered and none accepted. The choice is made and you MUST accept it.
Sometimes the biggest changes are the hardest to fathom. Evolution made one of these amazing and infuriating choices here which changed every carbon-based life-form on this planet. Changed it for eternity. Oh, they did not notice it at first, as most sentient life-forms rarely notice things at the macro level until it is way too obvious, but they must have tasted some of the changes. It must have been so odd at first. A report here shows how some found it odd that some persons can crave sugar like that. Crave sugar in any form. Raw, unprocessed sugar seemed to be their favorite, an almost obsessive choice, but granulated and cubed started out as a tolerable choice as well. The others, almost understandably, were confused by this new ‘sub-culture’ appearing. Some thought it was a fad, a phase, like bed-wetting or extreme sports that would naturally disappear after some unknown point, be it age, or intelligence or just time. But it never did. It never went away. Never subsided, or dissipated, until it was too late.
This change was so very important. So very monumental in their history but they were too preoccupied by other things to devote the necessary time to investigate this phenomenon properly. They all had a larger problem to worry about. Apparently it was called Columbia.
Columbia was a world power. They came to this power quickly, having sold an addictive narcotic called coffee. Apparently everyone on this planet was hooked, or as they called it, a caffeine junkie. This was not a problem for them as long as everyone had their coffee. There was an order to this world. The order was peppered with odd words, words like mocha, grande, extra extra extra sweet, frappuchino and other equally odd words, which as an inter-galactic archaeologist, I hope to translate one day. Anyhow, it was because of this new and growing sub-group that over 10000 years ago the Eugenic War started. Started and very quickly ended with the completely thorough annihilation of all life on this planet. This war was started all because Caffeine junkies were left with no sugar for the coffee.
Casualties Of War Audio
Casualties Of War
“There are so many things that make war and ugly business, but probably one of the worst what is lost. Loss is by far the worst part of war.” The Captain stood, but deftly grabbed the desktop to prevent himself from rising up and hitting his head on the ceiling. Many of the younger members of his audience had been born at this level of gravity so the slow moment required to prevent such an action was in their nature he knew. Not him, he was born on Earth, Earth before the war. And no matter how many years he spent out here, he would probably always do things like that. “We all lost so much,” he said as much to himself as to the new crew.
“Sir, are you ready for the slides?” The XO asked. He was a good strong officer, and wonderful at keep the captain from getting mired in the past.
“Yes. Before we begin our tour of duty, I must remind you of why we are here. Forty years ago, the Martian and a few of the belt colonies decided they did not want to be ruled by the central government on Earth. Earth, forgetting the past attempted to repress the colonies into submission. Then just like the Americas of five centuries before, the outer colonies rebelled and decided to fight for their freedom.” He thought back to the first attacks. They were so minor: hitting the robotic probes, destroying minor communication satellites, rejecting the shipments of the extras, setting up their own government. It should not have escalated the way it did. “I don’t pretend that I was not biased in those days… I was a citizen of Earth, I didn’t understand why they felt they needed to break away. But now I don’t care,” He took a step around to the front of the desk so that they could all see him, taking care to step slowly. “And to be honest, I don’t care what you think now. We are nearing the half century mark since the war that made man’s cradle a radioactive mess and people are talking about fighting again. You would think that people would remember the losses we suffered and never make that mistake again.”
“Next slide sir.”
“Thank you. Mr. Murphy and I are dedicated to our cause. We both have an unswerving understanding of what is at stake here. So should you not agree with our cause, stow it, and keep it stowed until your tour is over. It will not be tolerated here.” He said raising his voice to the limit of the sound systems ability.
The three dimensional slides to this point had been showing pictures of green forest lush fields, and the Terra-formed Martian landscapes. Now it divided into four sections and showed burned out ship hulls, ruined cites both Terran and Martian, and burned out forests. The slide was over laid with the sounds of an ancient Geiger counters tick tick ticking and occasional squeals. He let the slide stay on the screen a few seconds longer than switched to the next one. This one more horrific than the last, the charred remains of humans, floating space suited bodies, and live stock turned to ash where the stood in the fields.
“We ruined the two best planets that we have access to.” He said quietly “Utterly destroyed them, and made the inhabitable for human kind for at least a hundred years. Now we as a species have exiled ourselves to a few large bodies in the belt and the moons of Jupiter. And yet!” He said topping out the sounds system again, “We have not learned our lesson. There are factions at work that want us to go to war again! Next slide,” he said calmly. “The Interplanetary Fleet was commissioned 30 years ago as one of the first acts of our system wide government, to protect the peace and to prevent us from wiping our species off of the galactic map.”
He paused and sat down again behind his desk. The XO stepped forward in front of the projection of his boss. “Room, Ten Hut!” Everyone in the room stood as sharply as possible, and stood stone still in a position of attention. An ancient custom, but one the captain would not relinquish.
“Dismissed!” Captain Fin McGrath said standing smoothly and returning his XO’s salute. “Return to your duty stations, we will be leaving space port in fifteen minutes,” then more quietly “Murphy please come to my ready room with the rooster.”
“Yes sir.” Murphy dropped his salute and switch off the large monitor. Two minutes later the chime at his door rang.
“Come in.” The XO floated carefully through the door a data chip in one hand and two coffee bulbs in the other. “Ah, thanks Murphy, you always know what is needed,” McGrath said taking one of the bulbs and the data chip.
“Probably why you keep me around sir.”
“I would not be so cocky there,” McGrath said swallowing the first bitter sip. “Unless you find me some sugar for this stuff I might have to find a new XO.”
“Even with all my connections there are some things that even I can’t do. And getting the sugar to grow in a low gravity environment is one of them. And the stored stuff is nearly five hundred credits a pound, if you could ever find that much of it in one place. You could always use one of the fruit extracts to sweeten it.” This was a well rehearsed conversation and the captain knew his next line without even thinking about it.
“That is next to mutiny my friend, one more comment like that and you will be taking a walk out an air lock. Coffee should taste like coffee not apples or peaches. Talk about your casualties of war, who would have thought…” he trailed off.
“Very well. As you know the roster has two points of concern.” Murphy said sliding seamlessly into the next conversation. He pointed to the two red highlighted areas on the projected screen. “The first one is easily remedied, we simply have the navigators rotate eighteen hour shift. Three slots are needed with only two men, they will get a break when we get to Cerise, and pick up someone for the vacant slot. And you and I can help relieve them.”
“A Captain? Doing navigator functions?” he said in mock indignation. The XO ignored him and continued.
“The second, as you know is more worrisome. I attempted to get a replacement for him before we left dock but the only way to do that would have let him know that Interpol was on to him, so we will have to keep an eye on him ourselves for the time being.”
“And you have confirmed with Interpol that he is a Martian sympathizer?”
“Yes, he has been in contact with two of the local leaders in the last week. To that end, they have issued us both sidearms.”
“You think that is necessary Fava?” The XO nodded. “I must confess that I don’t like the idea of weapons walking around the ship, even in our hands. Too many chances.”
“Fin, You know that I feel the same way but.” He trailed off for a moment. “The last time a Martian sympathizer was on an IPF ship they managed nearly crashed it into Cerise Colony, and both the captain and the XO were the first two they went after. Their bodies still have not been found. If midshipman Hector has any ideas, I want to be prepared.”
“Your point is well taken.” He accepted the small weapon that was not much more than a child’s dart gun and slid it into his coat pocket. “We had better get to the bridge for launch. I don’t have to tell you to keep that information close to you at all times.”
The two them them made their way toward the bridge when Murphy bumped into his captain, knocked of balance by something that had hit him in the back of the head.
“You will have to be more careful there Fava, the crew will start calling us old timers…” He never finished the statement, as his executive officer’s body continued to fall, eyes rolled back in his head. McGrath turned just in time to see a second dart fly past him. Three men stood in the passageway one of them struggled to reload a makeshift dart gun.
“That will be enough, Captain.” We could easily take the ship by force, but unless you want to see exterior of your ship first hand, I suggest your cooperate.” Two of the men moved forward toward him and grabbed the XO’s body.
“What are you going to do with him?”
“Nothing but lock him in your ready room for now, but I must say it is very tempting to see what a few minutes of O2 deprivation would do to the great mind of Fava Murphy. He had been a thorn in our side for a long time.”
“What do you want?”
“Simple, launch the ship as normal.”
“But then what?”
“Oh come now Captain, this is not some cheesy novel where will tell you what we plan so you can thwart us. There will be no heroes today. For now launch the ship, we will deal with one thing at a time.”
“Very well, let’s get to the bridge. We only have a few minutes until launch.” The two men carried the OX back to the captain’s ready room waited there, while Hector followed the Captain to the bridge. McGrath palmed the lock to the bridge and the door popped open. He left is palm on the lock a moment longer than necessary and tapped his two middle fingers on it to alert the security officer there was a problem.
“Alright everyone ready for a smooth launch?” McGrath announced his presents on the the bridge in the normal way. “Midshipman Hector here is studying for his navigators test and since we are short one navigator, I thought we would get him some hands on training.” Hector shot him a glance. “I had to have an explanation for you being here.” he whispered to the unasked question. “So Ensign Paul, would you kindly show him what you are doing?”
“Of course sir.”
“Good. Head over there midshipman, and just watch over his shoulder.” Hector moved slowly to the navigator’s position and looked at the screen for a moment. Just long enough for Fin to fire his side arm. The would-be hijacker slipped to the floor. “Ensign Paul, quickly get his wrist strap and put it on. They are no undoubtedly monitoring for something like this. Your heart rate should fool them for a few minutes.” He moved to his chair and pushed the button for his encrypted communication channel. “Begin the launch sequence as normal.” He said to the rest of bridge crew. He waited for the beep that told him the encryption was active. “Tom, they have Murphy, I saw them heading for my ready room.”
The voice that came back was not the one he expected. “I am afraid Tom can’t talk right now, he and Commander Murphy are having some trouble breathing at the moment. Launch the ship now or more people will be taking a walk.” The line went dead.
McGrath hung his head for a moment. Then stood and issued the command to begin the launch. “Damn MS!” he swore. “Forgive me Fava, you were a very good man. I should have acted quicker.”
A few moments later the ship was underway, and there was a knock at the bridge door. “Let us in, or more people walk home.” The voice from the other side said with an eerie calm. The communications officer stood to open the door, but McGrath shook his head.
“I will not give them someone else to kill.” He made his way to the door and palmed it, then slid his had off the pad rapidly in sideways swipe. The door clicked as normal, then the whoosh of the pressure seals could be heard as they flung the door open in an emergency decompress action. Both men behind the door where slammed violently against the passageway wall. “That is why you don’t stand right behind the doors.” He said to the young bridge crew. “Ensign Paul would you begin plotting us a course to return the station. We have had some terrible losses today and our departure is going to be delayed.” He breathed deeply to calm his voice. “And called down to the galley and get me some coffee, with some real sugar in it.”
Casualties of war by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.