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Restless and Wicked

The Great Psychic War



By Alan VanMeter











































Copyright 2017 by Alan VanMeter

All rights reserved















For there was a price to pay when they brought desolation to the heavens, and that price was hell.























Table of Contents: (All chapters are book-marked.)

Chapter 1: 7

Chapter 2: 21

Chapter 3: 54

Chapter 4: 70

Chapter 5: 115

Chapter 6: 133

Chapter 7: 151

Chapter 8: 160

Chapter 9: 171

Chapter 10: 190

Chapter 11: 199

Chapter 12: 221

Chapter 13: 246

Chapter 14: 263

Chapter 15: 288

Chapter 16: 311

Chapter 17: 340

Chapter 18: 355

Epilogue: 366

Glossary of Navy lingo: 370





























Gracious thanks to;

Janet Brienza, and Tania Fitzgerald. The best Beta readers of all.



























There is a glossary in the back of the book for understanding Navy Lingo, and it is book-marked the same as the chapters are.

*Note: It is important to know that double quotation marks, “as such,” denote verbal conversations, or spoken words.

Single quotation marks, ‘as such,’ denote mental thoughts, telepathy, or internal mental conversations. These are in italic font as well.

























Chapter 1:



Diary entry: June 16, 2261



Cabogga rattled me awake at 0230 this morning. He’s the first class of my shop, and the little fucker sure has a way of pissing me off. I only had two hours of sleep since my last watch, and there he was yanking at my blanket while yelling at me to get up and go pull a motor. I took my time rolling out of the rack though, and that pissed him off in return. In the process all his yelling woke up just about everyone else in the coop, and they all started yelling at him. It was quite a scene.

For the next three hours Crawlens, Sampson, and myself broke our asses getting the damned booster pump that was smoked disconnected. Then rigged precariously through the cramped space where we could hoist it up seven decks through the access hatch, and we finally took it up to the rewind shop. Cabogga had told us if we weren’t finished by morning muster, he would write us up! What a prick. Someday I’m going to bash the little bastard’s brains in, but someone might just beat me to it, though I really wouldn’t mind at all. I guess I still give enough of a shit to think twice about wasting him, but just a little shit though.

By the time we were done the mess deck was open, so I decided to grab a quick bite to eat. As usual the food was shit. The scrambled eggs had dark burned splotches throughout the oily yellow mass. The first thing I thought of was roaches, the mother fuckers are everywhere! I would have lost my appetite if I wasn’t so damned hungry, and at least it smelled half-ass edible, so I ate.



Two men wearing dark blue jumpsuits, and carrying plastic trays heaped with food sat down next to Ed Halinger. The taller one was of slight build and obvious Hispanic ancestry. The name stenciled above his left chest pocket was ‘Belemon.’ In sharp contrast to him sat Dave Tule, a thin short red head with a thick wiry beard that covered a good two thirds of his face, it too was the blazing orange color of his hair. Belemon had on a dark blue ball cap with ‘SRS Constellation SCV-61’ embroidered in fancy gold lettering across it. Both men wore the shoulder patch signifying they were ‘Electro Technician Mates,’ the fisted hand holding a pair of lightning bolts. Ed also had one of these patches on his jumpsuit.

“Morning Ed, what’s happening?” Belemon greeted.

Halinger just shook his head slightly in response, as he was chewing a bite with his mouth wide open. A vacant stare was written on his face.

Tule spoke next, his voice rasped like fine grit sandpaper on hard wood. “What’s the matter? You pissed off, or just being unsociable today?”

Halinger turned his gaze to meet that of Dave’s. A quizzical expression started to form on his face, but was suddenly replaced the flash of recognition.

“Oh sorry man, it’s just that I’m beat.” A few small pieces of partially chewed eggs were flung from his mouth while he spoke. One of them landed in Belemon’s breakfast, unnoticed. Ed swallowed and then took a big sip of orange ‘bug juice,’ nicknamed for the often dead cockroaches floating on the surface of the dispensing tanks.

“You didn’t get much sleep, huh Ed?” Belemon offered, while he scooped some fried potatoes.

“Fuckin’ Cabogga made us pull number twenty two booster after I got off the twenty to twenty four last night.”

“Man that little shit sure has it in for you dude.” Grated Dave.

“Tell me about it.” Ed quipped. Then he shoveled another bite into his mouth. He began to toy with his food with his fork, peering at it disdainfully. “Look at this crap!” His voice was muffled through the food in his mouth. “It ain’t enough for them to work our asses to the bone, then they gotta go and feed us shit too.”

Tule broke a slight, but knowing grin. “Tastes like crap no matter how hungry you are.”

Halinger swallowed the obnoxious lump he was chewing, and then spoke with his voice lowered so only the two could hear. “Hey, you know anyone that has some smoke?”

Tule shook his head, but Belemon said, “Banyon had some killer shit yesterday.”

“Oh yeah?” Ed’s tone perked up noticeably. “Know where he’s at now?”

“Probably still crashed out.” Belemon stated between bites.

“No he ain’t. He’s got the four to eight down on six board.” Dave interjected.

“You keep tabs on everybody that good, Dave?” The cynic was clear in Ed’s voice.

“Naw, but I got the eight to twelve on six... I’m his relief.”

His posture seemed to straighten, and Halinger’s face lit up. Dave was tapping the last granular flakes of sweetener from the third packet he’d put in his coffee, as Ed took one more sip of the orange fluid, and then he tossed his utensils onto the tray in surrender. The prospect of catching a buzz was infinitely more appealing than the breakfast, so he spun in the seat to get up and leave, taking his unfinished tray with him.

He nodded to the other two. “Thanks man, see ya later.”

Belemon just nodded as his mouth was full.

Tule responded, “Take it easy.”

Grinning, Ed said, “Oh yeah! Anyway I can get it.”

Ed made his way to the scullery, dodging a few crewmen in route. The return through which the trays were to be passed was twice as large for this purpose. After placing the edge of the plastic tray onto the lip of the opening, he shoved it in with quite unneeded force. The resulting clamor and sound of trays being knocked over was succeeded by one of the scullery attendants shouting, “Hey you fucking asshole!”

Halinger was already well away from the opening when a handful of gross slop hit the tray return opening. He didn’t see this, or the resultant splatter mottle the neatly pressed khaki uniform of a passing officer. His mind was preoccupied, or even obsessed with the topic of getting high. With his hands in his pockets, Ed Halinger was brisk in his stride down the second deck main passageway, going aft towards number four main machinery room. Each moment which he thought of the impending high awaiting him added a little extra bounce to his step. In a short time he was nearly race-walking. The corridor was mostly void of people, and the few he did see were lethargically dragging their asses along. ‘Everyone should get stoned!’ The thought made Ed laugh out loud.

As he passed over the area directly above number six main machinery room, a gradual increasing whine became apparent. Ed knew this high pitched sound to be that of the fuel pumps as they were being lit off. This became music to his ears, the particular melody of which he hadn’t heard in several long months. Hope ascended up his spine with these thoughts; ‘They’re going to fire the engines! Maybe we’ll pull some unexpected liberty.’ Then just as quickly as it had risen, the hope was dashed by his mind’s realization… ‘Fat chance Ed… it’s probably just a routine course change.’

The need to smoke a bowl consumed him like a fever. This always happened when he got depressed, and the reality that he lived in always depressed him. He could remember when things were different though, during his childhood back on Earth; the future seemed as if it were a shining mystical adventure just waiting to be taken, but it was not to be. Ed often wondered at what point in his life he’d screwed up, and taken the path of irresponsibility. Maybe it was all the times his dad told him he wasn’t going to amount to shit; perhaps he started to believe him at some point. It didn’t matter now though, as he was there, and the last two years of being shit on had deeply scared the psych, perhaps to the point of no return. He didn’t know, and he really didn’t care anymore either.

‘Just want to get out! Yes sir…just want out.’ He reasoned.

It could have been worse though… it can always get worse. This was a lesson that fate would soon teach Ed Halinger.



Diary entry continued:

I figured that I had just enough time to stop by six board, and catch a buzz before morning muster. After an exhausting night like the last, a chance to relax, mentally at least, was at the top of my priorities, especially before another long day of busting ass. I also knew that if I didn’t go to muster stoned, I would probably take one look at Cabogga and fly right off the handle. Just thinking of his small angular face with a permanent scowl carved upon his dwarfish features, fills me with anger. He’s the type of guy who’s been pushed around long enough to know that shit flows downhill, and he ain’t on the bottom anymore.

Adding insult to injury is that he is not even a citizen! A lot of colonists had been recruited to fill-out the ranks. The idea of enticing them with a full citizenship status after eight years of service must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but then the politicians that dreamed that up probably never had to work for an incompetent fuck wad like Cabogga. They don’t even have to pay taxes like the rest of us do! That can only mean that our military’s ranks are hurting, and they are desperate. These thoughts shatter my confidence, and what little pride I have left in our military. I know the whole system isn’t that bad though, take the Nihilists for example. They are some bad mother fuckers there. Not too much is told about them, except that their religion is death; probably because dead men tell no tales. Maybe I should have become one of them, but then again I know I’m not bad-ass enough, besides…I can’t even handle this shit.

The hatch leading down to four main was just ahead. My mission of mind mercy became clear again…to catch a buzz! I was reaching for the handle when the hatch abruptly swung outwards, almost nailing my face.

“Watch it asshole!” I bellowed.

A lanky blonde officer in a crumpled looking khaki jumpsuit stepped from behind the hatch. He stood there a moment as if waiting for something, maybe an apology, certainly not a salute. I brushed by him instead, giving him my best scowl. Fuck him! He was just a lowly ensign anyway.

Jogging down the ladder two flights, I came to the hatch to six board. Below the main machinery room was starting to roar with noise as the engines were lit off. When I lifted the handle on the hatch I heard a dull ‘thunk’ come from inside. It was the sound of a bolt that had fallen off its delicately balanced position on the inner side of the hatch’s handle. It was a common method of alarm when there was no way you could stay awake, or if you needed an extra moment to stash something.

Inside I knew Banyon would be jumping out of his asshole trying to hide the sleeping paraphernalia. The again he might be toking up, but either way he would be in a state of panic as his relief wasn’t due for another half hour.

A humorous idea struck me just then, so I went with it. Slowly I pushed the hatch open, and with my deepest, most serious voice I commanded, “Attention on deck!” The order meaning the commanding officer was present. There were a few shuffling sounds from inside, then silence. I quickly stepped through the hatch and gazed at the operator’s console. Banyon was standing about a meter from this in a fair posture of attention. His eyes were kind of bugged out, but then a scornful look quickly replaced this.



While Halinger secured the hatch, including replacing the ‘alarm’ bolt, Will Banyon returned to his kicked-back position in the console chair.

“You’re a fucking jerk, Ed.” He snapped.

This brought a cackle from Ed, and then with a patronizing tone he asked, “Why are you so uptight man? Don’t sweat the load.”

Banyon’s only retaliation was some hushed grumbling. Ed stared at him with a glaring smile as he sat down in a folding chair next to the control panel. A feeling of slight contempt rose in him as he studied the young man’s appearance. Will was mid-sized, in his late twenties, and with a good sized belt of lard around his waist. His blonde hair and boyish face, which was severely pockmarked from acne, gave him the appearance of a teenager, and the personality afforded him fit the body like a glove. Ed on the other hand was tall and lean. His jet black hair framed a deeply etched face that said it was far older than truth. This came from his youth spent with the Mojave Desert as his back yard. That harsh sun sure could suck the life right out of you.

He quickly dispelled the growing contempt so he wouldn’t convey any of this. A bit of tactful manipulation was in order if he wanted to get high.

“So what brings you down here at this un-godly hour, just lonely, or are you lost?” The sardonic expression in Will’s voice, was lacking any humorous effect, intentional no doubt.

“Oh, I’ve been up pulling a motor all night and just happened to be in the neighborhood… so I thought I’d just stop…”

He was cut off from finishing by Banyon’s ruffled voice, “Bullshit!”

Ed was caught off guard, but quickly regained his composure. So much for tact, now he would have to try the intimidation techniques.

“Ok Will, right to the point. GET ME HIGH!”

“Shit who told you I was holding?” Banyon demanded with a whine.

“SMOKE A BOWL!” Ed continued on, ignoring him.

“Goddamn it! Everybody and their fucking grandmother knows I got ganj.”

“RIGHT NOW!”

“You assholes are going to get me busted.”

“SMOKE A MOTHER FUCKING BOWL, NOW!”

Will hadn’t really been listening to Ed up to that point, but he heard him then. “Sorry man, I don’t have much left.”

It was a lie, and both men knew it, still it shut Ed up for a moment.

‘Almost out of options.’ He reflected, ‘Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to beg, borrow, or steal.’

Halinger lowered his head in a shy like gesture. “Get me stoned… and I won’t tell anyone else.”

The sour look on Will’s face intensified. “You bastard! That’s blackmail!”

Ed grinned with mischief, he knew he had him. “Damned straight bud, come on…I’m dying to take a toke.”

Banyon exhaled a sigh of defeat, reached into his chest pocket, and produced a faded red container the size of a cigarette pack. “I don’t have a whole lot, but I guess I can smoke a bowl. Don’t have much choice though…do I?” He stared a Halinger with contempt.

Ed shook his head smiling.

Will opened the box and pulled an inch long bud from it, and handed it carefully to Ed. “Check this shit out man.” A slight smile replaced his rueful glare, the smile of boasting. In his nostrils, a sweet poignant aroma teased Ed’s senses, and this was with the bud held at arm’s length. When he brought it under his nose, the smell was more than potent. He looked at it closely under the bright white lights in the space; tiny resin glands gleamed like crystals all over the bud, while rich red hairs intertwined with the dense yellow and green flower.

“Ohhh maaan!” He breathed, a scene of pure ecstasy melded on his face. “How… where did you get a hold of this?”

“That’s the last of it. Got if from Milrose in R division.”

“Does he have any left?”

Will’s expression became somber. “Nope, I got the last one.”

“Shit! This must have cost ya a bundle.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Ed’s curiosity got the best of him, knowing that a quarter decagram of average pot could cost upwards of a hundred sols when out to space. The bud he held was definitely not average quality.

“Come on dude…give. How much?”

Will spoke as if it hurt, “Two bills.”

“Damn! That’s a whole paycheck.” Ed gaped at the chubby blonde as if he’d cut a wicked fart, then a childish smirk erupted as he voiced, “Let’s smoke some!”

He handed the bud back, and Banyon promptly packed a portion of it into a small ceramic pipe that also came from the box. Will also supplied the lighter, while all Ed had brought was the habit.

Within fifteen minutes the marijuana started kicking in full blast, and it was creeper weed for sure. Ed’s imagination roamed freely, while neither of them spoke a word for several minutes. They could think of nothing they wished to say enough to interrupt the meditating, or rather vegetating state they had assumed. Soon they both became a little self-conscious, and uneasy from the silence, but then Will cracked the tension by asking Ed, “Do you feel better now?”

Ed tried to say ‘you bet,’ but only managed a garbled, “ouet”

Banyon started laughing, “What?”

Ed broke up too, as he realized what he’d said. In a moment he composed himself, and started slowly, “I mean…” The words seemed to blend together.

Will cut him off, “Yeah, you sure are.”

This brought a chorus of foolish giggling from the two.

They sat there a couple minutes, making small talk, and enjoying the euphoria. When it was just past time for morning muster, Ed sincerely thanked Banyon for sharing the precious commodity with him, then he left.



Diary entry continued:

As I was coming down the ladder just outside of the Power Shop, I could hear my nemesis’s voice. “Where’s Halinger?” Cabogga sounded irritated. “Sampson, you go check his rack and see if he’s still asleep. Douse him with water if he is.”

“Naw man, he ain’t there…I already checked.”

Slowing my pace I sauntered into the shop with an unmistakable air of arrogance, or at least it was from my point of view. All eyes were on me as I grabbed the most comfortable looking seat left, and then lit a cigarette.

Cabogga’s face contorted in anger. “You’re late Halinger!”

I took another drag, a long ‘healthy’ one, pausing a moment before blowing the smoke in his direction. “Yeah, I was up all fucking night, remember?”

He just stared at me; no it was more like a scowl. Then he asked, “Why are your eyes so red?”

“Like I said…I didn’t get any sleep.” I lied, and then with my voice lowered I added, “Why’s you nose so brown?”

“What?”

“I said, why are you so down?”

This brought some muffled chuckles from the other guys, but stopped abruptly when Cabogga barked, “Shut up!”

I felt satisfied though, and knew it was apparent from my shit eating grin. Cabogga was pissed, and he turned his chair back to face his desk, then pulling some charts from the top drawer.

His voice droned on as he gave out the daily work assignments. Taking another drag, and flicking the ashes onto the deck, my imagination went to work.

I’d rather be….

Nursing a cold one in that bar on Indigo 3, what was the name… oh yeah; The Cavern Tavern. The memory became as vivid as a holo-film. The last time we were there we had been out to space for over four months straight, and we were certainly ready to party, big time! It wasn’t a large bar, but it was rowdy enough. The kind of place you could turn it loose and not have to worry about getting eighty-sixed from. I didn’t pick up on any whores that night, because of the twenty some old beers I had slammed, but they were all over me though. Hell they were all over everybody. I made it clearly known that the only thing I was taking home was a hangover.

One of my friends I was partying with, Seiter, had relentlessly begged a fifty spot from me so he could go screw this fine young thing attached to his arm. Being the nice guy that I am, I blatantly refused him time and again. Eventually he got frustrated and gave up on me, but he must have scored the fifty off some other fool as I saw him leave with the sexy nymph. Unless of course they have a credit policy.

I’d rather be….

Mounted missionary in the whore I’d picked up in Ologpa some three months ago. We had shacked up in a cheap motel for two whole days and nights, stepping outside only once for a necessary liquor and food run. Man was she wild! I found myself deep inside her once more. Each thrust penetrating that lovely velvety, wet pussy, was coercing my cock to explode. Sweat dripped from my brow onto her tan, shuddering breasts making them glisten in the light. I remember her nipples would get a good finger-tip length when she got hot and bothered. Her pussy seemed to get wetter, and she moaned as she came. Then she pulled my head down, and pressed her mouth to mine. She sucked my tongue into her mouth just as my cock started pumping sticky wad deep into her. I could almost still smell her musky aroma.

“Halinger!” Cabogga shouted at me.

The scene disappeared. “What?”

Everyone was looking at me quizzically, and I quickly realized why. My coveralls had sprung into a tent at the crotch. Blood rushed to my cheeks as the other fellows chuckled, but Cabogga roared with laughter as he noticed my embarrassment.

Damn him! Goddamn the little cock-bite bastard!

He was also the last to stop laughing, but all I could do was sit there and take it.

He finally said, “Halinger, you have preventive maintenance on the forward auxiliary cooling pump today.” And then he added, trying to be humorous, “If you can keep what’s left of your mind on your work.”

Great PMS, that meant I could find a hole somewhere, and crash-out for a while. I took the last hit off the smoke, and a long ash fell onto my lap. The other men were gradually filing out of the shop. Brushing the ash off I got up to join them. I crushed the butt into a nearby tray, fetched the tool bag from my locker, and headed out. Just another glorious day in the Navy…yes sir.











Chapter 2:



Two men wearing grey sweat suits strolled through the wide main entrance to the ship’s capacious gym, continuing on to the floor mats near the weight lifting area. The sharp clang of steel colliding with steel echoed from the high overhead. Most of the men pumping iron were enormously built, and the newcomers; although you couldn’t really tell how well muscled they were, appeared dwarfed in comparison. They didn’t bother to do any stretching or warm up exercises. Instead they both simply knelt on the mat facing each other, and then when the older of the two stood, so did the other. Suddenly a very serious sparring session began with no warning. It was of such ferocity that they soon had a captive audience of everyone else in the gym. Their movements were lightning fast, yet fluid, smooth and graceful; as they became intertwined in a series of attacks, and counter attacks, most of which were deftly evaded.

The shorter of the two, and the oldest, was a bald man who looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, and he countered the latest combination of attacks by merely spinning his body out of the way. Then he continued to spin around circling his opponent instantly, while landing his back foot with a stomp behind the man’s rear foot. Simultaneously the bald man spread his arms open, palms up. One arm struck the other man’s throat, and the other smacked the back of his knee. Of course the bigger man was taken right to the mat, and the bald man chopped his throat on the ground, followed by a heel kick to his temple. The man on the ground was not injured however, as the blows were not meant to do so. He knew they would have been lethal though, if it had been desired.

“I yield, but only through death.” The man on the mat spoke.

The bald man, named Kileja, stated in a dry tone, “You left quite an opening there, Gerate.”

The man on the mat could only nod as he sat, while faint traces of perspiration glimmered from his short brown hair. He closed his eyes, and with great concentration he relived the mock combat that had just occurred, hoping to see the moment of his mistake, and how Kileja had so rapidly capitalized on it.

After stepping several paces away the bald man knelt in the meditating posture as before.

When Gerate opened his eyes, Kileja asked, “Try again?”

Before he could answer, a deep voiced boomed from the crowd of onlookers.

“You guys think your some bad shit, don’t ya?” As he spoke he advanced slowly, he was over two meters tall, and a good meter and a half wide at his massive shoulders. “Well, why don’t you let a Marine show you how to really kick ass!” He pounded his fist into an open palm as he said it.

Gerate jumped to his feet and moved to a defensive position between the still kneeling Kileja and the towering hulk. This stopped the big man’s advance, as he waited on an answer.

Kileja hadn’t even bothered to look up, and his expression of unconcerned peace began to irritate the giant.

“What’s the matter baldy? Think I may be too much for ya?”

A slight twinge of anger made its way onto Gerate’s face, though he fought to control it. He quickly glance down at Kileja, who broke from his trance at that moment and turned his head to meet Gerate’s gaze. A single purposeful nod from the bald man gave him the answer that he sought. He brought his body to the combat stance; deeply bent knees pressing his root downward, while quartered off nicely to his opponent. Along with a perfectly straight back, with arms ready in the parrying positions. Gerate knew this was why Kileja had brought him here to spar in the first place. They always did their martial workouts in their own secure section of the ship, there was no other reason to come here which he could see.

Several of the other men in the crowd shouted some verbal encouragements to their companion.

“Do him Sam!”

“Kick his fucking ass!”

Other excited chatter echoed in the room’s ambience, but Gerate couldn’t hear this. He had blocked all thoughts except those needed for violence. Red briefly filled his vision as he stimulated his adrenal gland, preparing it for rapid release if needed. Then he activated several points within his own skull that would increase his awareness, and reaction time. This was called ‘Battle Psych,’ and as it reached fullness in him the surrounding time frame seemed to slow down some.

Each and every detail could now be easily discerned; the big Marine making a toying feint, someone yelling “Take him out,” Kileja in deep meditation to his rear. Then the Marine named Sam thought he saw an opening. With surprising speed for one that large he shuffled into range and released a powerful front snap kick, followed instantly by a fierce lunge punch.

Gerate moved into the attack, side stepping the kick, and simply rolling around the punch as he pivoted his own leg into attack. His right leg became a blur of motion as he first delivered a blow to the now open armpit, dislocating the man’s shoulder. Three more kicks in blinding succession struck the man’s ribs, moving downward and breaking the entire set on the right side. Sam let out a bellow from the pain, which spoke volumes to the onlookers.

Before he even slumped to the mat, Gerate was behind him, ready to deal the fatal blow to the nape of the neck. When he saw that Sam wasn’t going to get up, he backed away slowly, keeping the now silent crowd in front of him. Kileja rose and, and purposefully strode toward the entrance. Gerate matched his pace with that of Kileja’s, as he was right behind him, backing out the entire way. Upon reaching the entrance hatch, he turned around and exited with the bald man.

Out in the corridor, after they had walked a short way, Kileja asked, “Why didn’t you kill him?” He didn’t look at the younger man.

The question did not catch him by surprise. Quite to the contrary, he had expected it, and had already mentally prepared an answer. After all, Kileja had given him permission to kill, and a Nihilist usually jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s not that I didn’t want to. I judged the situation, and decided it would not serve our purpose.”

The older man said nothing for a time, causing Gerate to glance at him. A faint edge of a smile betrayed on the smaller man’s features. This was sight he never seen before from Kileja, nor would he ever again.



Diary entry continued:

By the time I got off the sixteen to twenty watch and grabbed some chow, I was close to sleep walking. Being so tired I decided to skip the mundane routine of showering, though I did stink some; and crash out right away. My bunk was the top of three, with the center being presently inhabited by Tracey Codgin. He’s a real personable fellow who could always beam a grin at you, even when he was being shit on. He rack light was on and I could hear some muffled ‘steel’ music coming from behind the closed privacy curtains.

After shedding the filthy sweat soaked jump suit, I climbed up into my rack using his bunk for a step. Usually I could just pull myself up, but not just then. It was fairly hot, so I opened the A/C register that was directly over the small quarters I called home. Tracy pulled his curtains open, stuck his head out and said, “Hey Ed, haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Yeah.” I muttered.

He was excited, “Did you hear the latest scuttlebutt?”

“No.” I wasn’t really interested in rumors right then, just sleep.

“We’re pulling into to Groombridge in four weeks!”

Hearsay such as this had been running rampant the past two months. It was getting a little old, and I shared my skepticism with him. “Sure we are.”

“Really.” He maintained. “I heard it from one of the Quartermasters down on emergency steering watch.”

That perked me up. The Quartermasters stood half of their watches on the bridge, and probably got it straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Killer… those guys always get the inside scoop.”

Things could be getting better. Not by much though, but better just the same. It wouldn’t stay that way until I was discharged and got out of this stinking hole though.

Tracy wanted to talk. “I can hardly wait. My balls ache so bad I could fuck a camel!”

“Don’t be sick.” I said, trying to sound disgusted. “Stick to the toe!”

“Huh? Oh…yeah. Shit I can’t wait.”

“What’s the matter Tracey? You got callouses on your hands?”

He let out a snicker. “Now who’s being sick?”

I had to laugh to myself, poor guy wanted everyone to know that he didn’t beat his meat. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard him whacking away in his rack. On the other hand, everyone knows I do. Hell you can hear me whacking it just about any night of the week, and no, that’s not two hams I’m slapping together. I’ve even been busted by some of the guys before. They would yank my curtain open and catch me in mid stroke. Hell, I could give a fuck though, I’d just tell them to watch out, or they would get some of it on them.

The long day had taken its toll, and our conversation faded as quickly as I passed out. Visions of partying and naked women danced through my head.



Diary Entry: June 17, 2261

It’s official! They announced it on the One-MC this morning, we get liberty in four weeks. It’s kind of funny; most of the people I saw today seemed to be in good moods, some even wore smiles. Just yesterday those same faces had a glossy eyed, spaced out look. I know I’m feeling pretty good.

We had General Quarters at eleven hundred, right during my watch. This lasted for four hours, and they kept condition zebra in effect the whole time, meaning no one could leave their assigned posts, so no lunch was served. My GQ station is two main repair locker; the largest damage control party on the whole ship. We drilled for a while, and then we just sat around the locker for the last couple of hours. I spent my time dreaming about the upcoming planet-fall. The first thing I’m going to do is get laid, and then get loaded on some premium liquor, business first you know.

After the GQ was secured I decided to stop by the ship’s store to buy some candy to hold me over until the next chow call. I was in the starboard 03 level passageway when I passed two pilots heading aft. They were obviously too involved with their conversation to notice that I was eavesdropping. One of them was saying that he’d just seen a message from fleet command notifying us of possible hostility from the Sagittarians. He went on to say that a Sagittarian cruiser had recently destroyed one of our frigates. We could be going to war! Damn it, I’m too short for this shit. Hopefully it will blow over, a few apologies, kiss a few asses, tell us it was a mistake…anything!

I tried to check the story out by asking a friend of mine in communications, but he hadn’t heard a thing. There wasn’t anything about it on the ship’s 1800 news either. They must be keeping it under wraps for now. Maybe I’m getting worried for nothing, it’s probably just more scuttlebutt. Even if it’s not, the Sagittarians don’t want to fuck with us. Hell we’ve got enough fire power right here on the Constellation alone to demolish a planet. Their Navy is not nearly as large as ours, it wouldn’t make sense for them to pick a fight with us.



“Security Breach! Hit the deck!” The squad of five Marines in full battle dress came peeling down the port side main deck passage. Both Officers and crew alike dropped like hostages before the advancing hoard. Anyone stupid enough to remain standing was very liable to have their skull tattooed with the butt stock of an M-90. Just ahead of them at the entrance to a port to starboard corridor, an Electro-tech by the name of Perry Williams was hurriedly putting his tools back into his pouch. Then he tried to scramble down from the ladder under the light fixture he’d been working on. He hadn’t quite made it to the deck when the lead Marine reached him. The rifle’s butt was thrust into Perry’s gut as the armor clad figure yelled, “Hit the deck asshole!”

The jab threw him off the ladder, and into the bulkhead, causing him to strike his head on the sharp protruding edge of a pipe bracket. A good sized patch of scalp was torn from his skull, and remained stuck to the bracket. The Marines were already sprinting onwards, shouting more of the same. The bright crimson splatter on the bulkhead called the attention of those around him. Perry was still conscious when they came to his aid.

“Hey are you all right?” Can you move?”

A thick pool of blood began to form from under his head. The bright orange color of his wavy hair darkened where it met the deck. Then his eyes glassed over, his vision clouded, and the voices seemed if they were from far away, but he could still understand them.

“Get a gurney! We gotta get this guy to medical!”

“He’s bleeding pretty bad…”

Then the darkness enveloped him.



At seventeen thirty Halinger was sent to the second of seven Officer’s messes on a trouble call. When he entered the kitchen the smell of dinner cooking awakened his appetite. A rough rumbling in is stomach alerted him to this. He stopped by the serving counter in awe, it held a wide assortment of good looking chow, including a steaming ham. It was the real thing too, not the gristle filled imitation they served the crew. His nose instinctively followed the juicy fragrance down to its source, and the temptation to steal a chunk crossed his mind as he stood stooped over the ham.

The thought was buried when a first class Nutritionist stepped up to him and said in a thick accent Ed could barely understand. “You ‘lectrician?”

Straightening himself he said, “Ah, yeah…me ‘lectrician”

The mimicking tone didn’t amuse the rather large Asian man.

“Ovar here.” He said walking over to one of the ovens, and pointed at it. “This one…broke.”

Ed went to the neck high contraption the first class indicated, and set his tool bag on the deck.

“You fix?”

Ed gave him the thumbs up with a grin. “Okay.”

As the chubby man waddled off, he thought; ‘definitely not the jocular type.’

In five minutes he’d found the problem. One of the heating elements had tripped its overload sensor. A simple flip of a switch to reset it, and it was back in operation. He closed it up, and put his tools away before going to find the first class to tell him. The man was busy slicing some odd round, purplish vegetables, he appeared slightly startled as Halinger approached.

“It’s up” Ed told him. “All fixed.”

“Alleady?”

“Sure,” He poked himself in the chest with his thumb. “I’m good.”

This brought a genuine smile to the other man’s face, and Ed could see that he’d won some respect. With a quick nod, he turned to leave.

“Wait. You eat.”

“Sure!” Ed said.

The big Asian man winked and gave him thumbs up. “Okay.” He walked Ed over to the serving line, and motioned to some plates. “Go head.” He then spoke to another oriental fellow that was standing ready to serve the Officers occasionally coming in. Ed couldn’t comprehend a single word, but he did get the general idea…he could help himself.



Diary entry continued:

It was delicious. The best meal I’d had in months. There were fresh vegetables, real mashed potatoes and gravy, a crisp salad, freshly baked bread, and oh… that ham! These officers sure ate good chow. After finishing the delectable plateful I made a point of thanking the first class, and telling him how much I enjoyed it. It is profitable to make friends in the right places after all. The only down side was that for the next day or so I couldn’t even stomach the regular crew chow, only when I got real damn hungry.



Captain Annanias Peterson was busily involved with some data reports on his console. He looked quite the picture of authority sitting behind the lavish, real oak desk in his office. Being a husky two point one meters, and a hundred and twenty kilos added to his imposing figure, Peterson was a man to be reckoned with.

A knock on his door interrupted his train of thoughts. Looking up from his work he voiced, “Enter.”

The door swung open and the Executive Officer, Commander Mike Garcia, stepped in and closed the door behind him. He was neatly dressed in the freshly pressed Khaki uniform of a line Officer. He came to sharp attention.

“Reporting as ordered sir.”

Annanias gestured to a seat in front of the desk. As soon as Garcia was seated the Captain started, “We are going to cut short our port visit to Groombridge by a week.”

The XO gave him a perplexed look, but didn’t say a word.

“We’ve just received these orders.” As he spoke Annanias pulled a small plastic data card from his shirt pocket, and slid it into a port on his computer. He swiveled the screen so the XO could see it too, and he went to work on the key pad.

The screen read;



Access is classified level C-9



Then he typed some more, and…



From: ComSeventhFlt

To: ComBatGrpSix



Priority One



Rendezvous with central task force on 07/27/61 at 1530UT

Coordinates: Sector 4, 150134+, 289s/-22 (9.4 AU)

All ships in battle group six are to respond.

Challenge code is: Key sequence 12/ variant 3.2

End of line.



Peterson hit a single key and the screen went blank at the same moment his card popped out of the terminal. The XO sat there blinking at the void display.

The Captain caught his attention. “Your opinion, Mister Garcia?”

He answered although a little unsure of himself, after all he was fairly new onboard.

“My best guess would be that it has to do with the Sagittarian incident. Probably the deployment of a strike force.”

The Captain had been watching the XO’s face intently up to that point. He nodded and moved his gaze to the forms on his desk. He had already known the underlying context of the message, but wanted to see if Garcia was on his toes as he had put forth that impression so far.

Speaking in a very precise manner he then said, “So we have almost a month, not including the port-of-call, to whip this crew into a fighting posture.”

“Sir…” Garcia started, but then thought better of it.

After a moment the Captain encouraged him, “Go ahead… say what’s on your mind.”

Garcia nodded once. “Do you think we should make a port visit right before this rendezvous?”

Right on the mark!’ Captain Peterson thought, then he voiced, “I’ve already made the decision. We will call on Groombridge, however instead of two weeks we will only stay one, and port and starboard duty will be in effect the whole time.”

“Yes sir.”

“Do you have any reports for me, Commander?”

“Tomorrow at oh seven thirty the Morah will be alongside for unrep.”

“Instead of oh eight hundred?” The Captain confirmed.

“Yes sir.”

When he saw that the XO had nothing more to report, he dismissed him. “That’s all, carry on.”

As Garcia stood to leave, the Captain added, “Oh, one more thing Mister Garcia. I want four GQ’s run a day. Might as well start as soon as possible, and put them through the wringer.”

“Yes sir.”

Annanias quickly forgot the encounter, as his mind was encumbered by much heavy thinking.

‘We are going to war…. Lord help us all.’

Death was an ugly sight that he’d seen too many times already… far too many times.

‘The nightmare returns. It will never go away.’



“Man overboard! Man Overboard! All hands to your man-overboard stations. This is not a drill, I repeat; this is not a drill!” The one-MC reverberated throughout every space on the Constellation. In seconds life sprang into the arteries of the great ship. Each and every person had a particular place to muster, where all could be accounted for, with the probable exception of the unlucky fool that managed to become separated from the ship. If no one came up missing, they knew it was a false alarm.

Petty officer George Beal’s man overboard station happened to be the office he normally worked in. His duty was to receive and coordinate all of the muster reports from each department of the ship. Then he would pass these findings along to the bridge, where the brass could act on it. It was oh two thirty in the morning, and most of the men in the starboard between decks passages were in skivvies, including George. He cut across to port in a narrow oh three level passage way coming out near a port between decks passage. From there the personnel office was only five meters away, up on the next deck, but it was a long five meters when you had to try to dodge through the throng of men all moving in the other direction. More than one of the guys snapped, “Port is inboard and aft…you’re going the wrong way asshole!”

Once safely inside, George poured himself a cup of coffee that had just been brewed. Turning on his computer he then kicked back in the chair, and propped his feet up on his desk. After he’d called up the correct program, there wasn’t much for him to do. Just sit and wait until the departments had all called in. The other men in the office would take these reports and enter them, then all he had to do was make a single keystroke. The data would be formatted and sent to the bridge. Beal liked his job. It was one with a great deal of responsibility, but very little work.

In ten minutes the preliminary muster was in. Thirty men were unaccounted for. At that moment a frantic search was being conducted by each department looking for their stragglers. Two minutes later and the list was down to three men. The sighting had been sensor confirmed by then, and rescue craft were already scouring the area. This made the importance of the muster diminish somewhat, but they still needed a positive identification. George ran the names over in his mind, trying to see if he knew any of them, but no glimmer of recognition came.

Starman Drake also sat in his underwear staring at the console screen in front of him. He was waiting for an update from R division. They had just called and said that their missing man had been found, but were waiting on a visual confirmation themselves. The list was presently at two counting the man from R division. The other man, AB Carlson, was nowhere to be found. The phone buzzed, catching his immediate attention.

“Answer.” Drake said.

“Personnel, this is Commander Frost in R division, Shrader is standing in front of me right now.”

“Okay, thanks.” The line was disconnected at the utterance of these key words.

Drake touched the key pad to input the data, and then spun in his chair to face the balding, blonde headed Beal. “It’s Carlson.”

Crystal blue eyes widened as George became alert. “Finally.”

He sat up and made the keystroke, receiving the acknowledgement in the same breath.

“Done.” George sighed.

They all expected the man overboard stations to be secured within minutes, but that didn’t happen. After twenty minutes the phones began to light up, all of the department heads wanted to know what the hell was going on. George did too, so he picked up the closed line to the bridge.

“This is PN two Beal in personnel. Can you advise me of the situation?”

The voice on the other end hastily replied, “No can do.”

“What? Haven’t you found him yet?”

“Stay on station. You will be advised shortly.”

“Okay, than…” The line went dead before he could even finish. That irritated him to no end.

Damn rude people.’ He brooded.

It took another fifteen minutes before they were told to secure from stations. George supposed Carlson had been found, presumably dead, but he went to bed thinking that the paper work could wait until the morning.



Diary entry: June 21, 2261

I haven’t made an entry in four days, mainly because I’ve been too tired. Today was pretty much just like the last few: GQ for six hours while the fleet played war games, the standard allotment of watches, and a full work day in addition to this. I know something is up now, most everyone does by the unnatural amount of drills, and the way they are running us ragged in them. In today’s games we were badly damaged and dead in space, but our attack wing wiped out the major portion of the enemy fleet. My station took a direct hit during all of this and I died. Maybe I can use this as an excuse to get out of work, but probably not.

Oh, I almost forgot, we had a man overboard the other night, but all they found was an empty vacuum suit. The guy must still be aboard, and they’ve put a bounty on him too. No duty in Groombridge for the lucky mother fucker that finds Carlson. I’ve been looking every chance I get, but there are literally thousands of places to hide.



Let’ see… we’ve been space bound for a hundred and forty eight days now. God it feels like a life time though. A long and never ending nightmare of reality…NO! Not never ending. Only twenty more days until party time! I’m all ready to do some high speed trick fucking…yeah buddy! Although after this port of call we’ll do what? Another two months… four months…too much! Stop it Ed! Just keep your eyes on the immediate goal. If ya look ahead too much… you’ll lose it. Shit! I’ve already lost it, who am I kidding? But it can get worse. Just keep thinking; twenty more days, and before you know it you’ll be saying ‘only twenty more minutes.’ We’re gonna have a Paarrrty!’ Ed thought to himself.

The small space of number seven switchboard was suddenly filled with a howling noise.

“Ahhoooowww!” Ed screeched, and then again, “Owwww, owww ahhhooowww!”

See, you definitely have lost it.’ Ed mused with a goofy grin.

Really? Do you think so?’

Sure. Watch, you can even babble like a looney.’

“Abbababbbabababbbabbubububbabu” His finger rose and fell flicking his lips up and down. Then he stopped, as if someone might be watching him be a fool, and he giggled.

“Seven board central.” Came a crackling voice from the console.

Ed depressed the switch. “Seven aye.”

“Readings.”

“At twenty three hundred I had five hundred and fifty gigawatts, two point five mega amps… nominal voltage.” Ed read from his log.

“Okay seven, central out.”

A pressure pen was produced from his upper sleeve pocket. He gently unscrewed the end of it and tapped it with his finger peering inside. There was still enough weed left in the bowl to get six or seven hits off of. That made him smile as he wouldn’t have to refill it yet from his precious new stash. He had been very lucky to have been at the right time and place to get it in the first place. Rusty Crawlens had gotten a care package from home, and Ed happened to be there when he opened it. A fucking half pound of some kick ass pot, and a pound of magic mushrooms, all packaged nicely at the bottom of some peanut butter jars.

This sure had made the last few days more bearable, but the shrooms he had to be careful with. You sure didn’t want to be freaking out around some chiefs or officers. Besides, being stuck on this prison wasn’t the best setting for a trip, so mostly he sold some of the mushrooms for Rusty, and in exchange Rusty turned him on to some weed. What a world.

After retrieving the dura-flame lighter from his coveralls, Ed started toking. He was just blowing the second hit into a yellow rag that had dark mouth shaped blow stains all over it, when the hatch handle was cranked upwards, knocking the alarm bolt to the deck.

Oh shit!’ He freaked out stashing stuff.

The pipe was stuffed back in his pocket and the rag was tossed onto a pile of other loose rags nearby. As the hatch swung open Ed stained to peer around the edge of it, but the view was blocked by the hatch itself. For a couple of seconds nobody stepped in, then a head popped up over the top of the hatch. Jack Carpenter wore the look of a startled dog, eyes widened and expectant.

“Ed!”

“Jack!” Ed retorted with the same sarcastic surprise.

Carpenter was a healthy man in his early twenties who stood almost a half a meter shorter than Ed. His short brown hair was swept straight back from his face at all angles. It looked like he’d been in front of a high speed blower for a while. Ed knew that he’d probably just gotten off watch in the main machinery room directly below seven board, and he more than likely had been in front of a blower. The well-toned shape of his body betrayed regular workouts. You could say Jack was a pretty boy, but not too many people would have said it to his face once they got a glimpse of his physique. This was one of Halinger’s best friends, and one of the few real ones. Jack closed the hatch, replaced the alarm bolt, and pulled up a chair near Ed.

He sniffed the air and then told him, “You know you really ought to be more careful Ed.” The cynicism in his voice came out perfectly played. “I could have been an MA, or your Chief.”

“So where’d you go wrong?” Ed quipped.

“Ha!” Carpenter allowed himself. “Who’s got the next watch here?”

“Howard.”

“He’s cool isn’t he?”

Halinger nodded, and it dawned on him what Jack wanted. This wasn’t just a social visit, it was the business of staying sane.

“Why?” He teased.

Ed’s question was met by another. “What are you going to do later?”

He decided to confuse the issue. “Die… why?”

“Not that much later. I mean tonight.”

“Oh, sleep I guess.”

“You don’t need to get any sleep Ed.” The playful sarcastic tone leapt back into Jack’s voice.

”Why, what do you want to do?”

Knowing exactly what Jack was going to say, Ed mimicked his exact words, along with a sardonic expression. “Get stoned.”

They both found it to be fairly funny.

“So,” Jack punched Ed’s arm lightly. “Get me high!” He said with imperative.

“Sure, what the fuck.”

The pen pipe materialized again… tap, tap….toke, toke. Jagged red lines replaced the majority of the white in their eyes. The stupor overcame their vocal cords, allowing neither of them to speak for a couple of minutes after the bowl.

“Oh,” Jack snapped out of it first. “I was going to suggest we get loaded and go up to the observation deck for a while.”

“I didn’t know they kept it open this late.”

“Yeah, it was in the POD this morning, but we only have an hour left.”

“Shit, by the time I get off watch, we’ll only have half an hour.”

“I hope your relief is on time.”

“So do I.”

He wasn’t as it turned out, and by the time they got to the observation deck they only had ten minutes to enjoy the view, which was always better when stoned. After they closed it up Ed talked Jack into a couple holo-video games in one of the video lounges which were open all the time.



It was past oh one hundred, and the corridors were clear, except for Perry Williams that is. He hurriedly strode along the oh eight level deck, hoping not to be seen. To all appearances he looked to be on a trouble call with his tool bag in his hand, but that was not the case. Indeed, his was the darkest of pursuits. Under the ball cap that he wore, a small bandage covered the freshly grafted synthi-skin patch on his skull. It still hurt a good deal, and this was a constant reminder of the goal at hand.

I’m going to kill that mother fucker!’ He ran over in his mind again. He wouldn’t let it get to the point where uncontrollable rage would set in, he wasn’t like that. He would keep his cool, but he knew he had a mission for sure.

Perry had just gotten out of sickbay the day previously, but he immediately went to work on a plan for revenge. He wasn’t about to let anybody get away with doing that sort of thing to him. There were only a few things he remembered clearly about the incident. A large figure wearing a battle armor suit running at him full bore. Dizziness, and then of course that sharp fucking pain. There was one other little detail that was clear… the name plate on the armor. Thompson was what it had read, and his ass was grass as far as Perry was concerned.

He ducked into a side passage leading to one of the fresh water pump rooms, and quietly opened the hatch. The space bent around in a horseshoe shape, with a little walk way leading through the maze of pipes. Once safely inside with the hatch dogged he looked around for the return air duct that the blue prints he’d gone over in Damage Control Central had shown was there. Sure enough it was around the bend and towards the back of the space. He gently sat the tool bag on the deck and unzipped it, being careful not to disturb the large bulky object he had wrapped in a t-shirt. He put some thin rubber gloves on, and then he pulled a wrench out. After removing the bolts holding the grate in place he set it carefully to the side. He returned the wrench to the tool bag and took a small flashlight out before zipping the bag back up and setting it into the duct. The flashlight was clipped to his ball cap, and he shimmied up into the opening.


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