Well I can tell you that I was anxious to leave the ship. It hadn’t been that long that we’ve been in the Black, but it always feels good to have some terra firma under your feet. I have to say the idea of being around some mining equipment didn’t hurt. It was me, Prudence and Roark who left the ship with the Doc and Miss V. Once we cleared the air lock, and we entered the main hull, it was as quiet as a grave.
We stepped in real slow. Because you don’t expect a mining facility to be all quiet. Roark had a submachine gun at the ready. The Doc took one look at his gun and pointed up. “This is an enclosed dome. So careful where you shoot that thing.”
“Where do you think everybody is?” Prudence voice was barely a whisper. I walked a little ahead of everyone and spotted the main control panel. “Miss V. I got this covered.” And I shrugged off my pack and walked across the room to the control panel. When I was about halfway across, I thought I heard something, but I didn’t let that stop me. It was only later over dinner that I heard I’d almost been shot. At that moment what mattered to me was getting to the control panel, figuring out how to run everything, how to mine the comet and get us the hell out of here.
I was just getting everything booted up, when outta the corner my eye I saw movements of the left. Four men came striding into the room. My friends were right across from me and I saw them crouch for cover. Imagine my surprise when off to my right there were suddenly two men armed to the teeth and ready to fire on the first men. I just sat there with my fingers on the keyboard as I didn’t know what else to do. The two groups seemed intent on each other and I don’t think they’d noticed us yet.
You could’ve knocked me over with a feather and left me laid out for a day when I heard one of the men on the left call out “Sgt. Hawks?” When he answered, it was the voice I remembered all too well……
Everybody has war stories. I was at the Battle of Serenity Valley, but that don’t make me special. A lot of good people died that day, on both sides. Mine was a small war. I swear I spent most of it in the engine room of one ship or another. It all seems so glamorous at the beginning. Being a freedom fighter and all. But being a Brown Coat well, can you admit it? It was a little disappointing. We never had the supplies, the men, the leadership, the equipment or the heart to win. And in the end what have you got? You got your own actions; you got your own morality as you have to live with those choices every day. Every. Day.
I ain’t talkin about my choices. I sleep just fine at night. But that Sgt. Hawks, I just wonder how well he sleeps?
You ever wondered why I’m so hard of hearing? He might not know it, but Sgt. Hawks is to blame. It was late in the war, well hell, it was Serenity Valley. That’s how late it was. I’d been assigned to Lucius Newberry. She was a fine ship, if a little old. But by then I was almost as good a mechanic as I am now. So I kept her in the air and we kept fighting. So one day this Hawks comes to me and my buddies and he says the Major’s got a job for us. We’re just going drop down to Hera, he says, “and get a little something.” The pilot dropped is right where we needed to be and a couple of squads hopped out with two mules. I was in the second team and by the time we got to the site, the bombs started dropping. It was just a little shack, felt like it was the middle of nowhere. But inside stacked to the ceiling were metal crates. When I got closer I could see that somebody tried to rub out the serial numbers. And they hadn’t done a good job. Probably officers….. That’s a joke.
Me and my buddy Rich lifted one of the crates and it was a heavy son of a bitch. There were mortars comin’ in and one of them hit our mule. So we overloaded the other mule and that squad took off. While we waited for them to come back, we moved the crates from the shack to outside. It was heavy work and I was scared. But we had orders and so we followed them. The empty mule came back and as quick as we could, we loaded those gorram crates. The mortar fire became heavier with every passing moment. One went off right behind me. I must’ve lost consciousness at least for a few seconds because suddenly Rich was shaking my shoulder and his lips are moving and I knew he was saying my name, but I couldn’t hear him.
We scrambled up on that mule and high tailed it to the ship. The roar of the firefly’s engines competed with the bombs. The hatch was up and I saw Sgt. Hawks and even the Major doing their part to load the crates into the ship. Me and Rich took the thankless job of being at the end of the line. It was like a bucket brigade, moving those crates from the mule. There were still a couple left in the mule when Rich took my arm. “We got to go darlin’. That there ship is going to leave us.” I dropped my end and scrambled around. The Lucius Newberry was about a foot off the ground and rising rapidly when we got to the hatch. Sgt. Hawks was holding on and yelling. Later Rich told me that he said they’d come back for us.
But they didn’t. They never came back.
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