Kyle felt the man next to him start to slide out of the bed and pulled him back. “Where do you think you’re going?” He smiled as he leaned in to kiss the back of Jakob’s neck. “Shift doesn’t start for a couple hours yet.”
We reach up, longing
A place of dreams and wonder
Where ancient ghosts shine
“You really didn’t know.” Anson leaned in the door of the infirmary’s office.
Doctor Narel was sitting at the desk, his head bowed, and his hands clasped behind his neck. “I thought it a defensive facility.” He didn’t look up. “Not an offensive…” He took a deep breath. “Not an offense.”
He entered, shutting the door behind him. Then he took a deep breath of his own before sitting down across from the doctor. He removed the datachit from his vest pocket and set it on the desk halfway between them. “I downloaded their…” He sighed. “Pull the information on the vaccines and treatments off this, then dump the rest.”
For a moment, Jakob stared at the chit. He slowly lifted his head to meet Anson’s eyes. “Commander?”
“I…” Anson swallowed. “Would appreciate it if this stayed between us. We can tell them it was separate files, or the rest got corrupted, or…” He shook his head. “I can’t take the chance some asshole with more rank than decency will get notions about poetic justice and…” He shrugged. “Can you do that, or should I dump the chit entirely?”
“If anyone learns of this, Anson…” Jakob picked up the datachit.
“Fuck…” Anson twitched his shoulder and managed to smile. “What’s a little light treason between friends, right?”
Jakob laughed softly. “It was a spur of the moment operation, chance rather than planning. You grabbed what little data you could before the Alliance came to investigate…”
“And blew the place to deny them a resource.” Anson nodded. “Not like we had orders regarding it to disobey.” He leaned forward again, resting his arms on the desk. “You alright, Doc?”
“I am…” Jakob nodded. “Reevaluating ideals.” He looked away. “I did not pick up a weapon, Anson. Yet I gave orders that may have resulted in deaths.”
“You gave information.” Anson shook his head. “I gave the orders. You let me —”
“It does not work that way.” He rubbed his neck again. “There was a time I believed all lives had value. That all lives were worthwhile, worth saving. That everyone deserved to live.” He set his arms on the desk.
“Being in command means having to make decisions. Kill one man to save ten. Let ten men die for the chance to save a thousand.” Anson swallowed. “Order one man to die, so the rest might live.” He reached over and put his hand atop Jakob’s. “Don’t lose sight of those ideals, Doc, because they aren’t wrong. Our job in all this is to save as many as we can.”
The other man’s hand turned over to briefly grip his own. “Yes.” Jakob nodded. “Our job is to save as many as we can.”
“A decrypted intelligence core.” Mateo stared at Anson.
“A hundred years from now, when kids are learning about this war in history class…” Anson folded his arms. “Jerin and his boys are going to have a full paragraph dedicated to them.”
“Not unless we get it through the barricade.” Mateo swallowed. “Holy shit.” He exhaled. “How are they?”
“Doc kept Lukas breathing. He’s still too messed up to leave the infirmary, but Doc said he’ll make it.” Anson sighed, then twitched his shoulder. “Doc can’t promise a full recovery without more supplies.”
“And Yasir?” Mateo raised an eyebrow.
“Pushed the limits on the shield, but came through without complications.” Anson let his arms fall to his sides. “Captain…”
“If we stay out here, we are going to die. And cost Palindor the best shot it has had since this war began.” Mateo nodded, then turned to look out the viewport. “I know. And I am very open to suggestions on how to get past that barricade.”
“I’ll toss it out to the crew.” Anson squared his shoulders. “See if any of them get a sudden burst of genius.”
Mateo stepped into the office attached to the infirmary, and frowned. It was empty. “Captain?”
The voice behind him made him start. “Doc.” He looked around the infirmary. “I could have sworn you weren’t in here a moment ago.”
Jakob sighed, then held up a scanner. “I was just recalibrating one of the operating tables.” He shook his head, then gestured at the leftmost one. “Again.”
“It’s malfunctioning?” He walked over to see the open display. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Standard wear and tear. Unfortunately, the correct parts are not available.” Jakob set the scanner down on top of the table, then began closing it back up. “If we could refrain from having more than six crewmembers seriously injured at once, I would greatly appreciate it.”
“Yeah.” Mateo nodded. “Me too.” He shrugged. “I was just checking in, doing an informal inspection.” He looked down at the operating table. “Guess you just answered my question.”
“I am certain you are receiving the same answer in every department. We are running low on both critical supplies and methods of working around those needs.” Jakob shook his head before looking around the infirmary. “This style of ship was not intended for long term missions.” When Mateo glanced at him, Jakob gave him a half smile. “Commander Anson has provided me with military training manuals and readings. It is not the most scintillating reading material I have ever been assigned, however we both felt it was important I have the knowledge expected of an officer.”
“Anson is usually right about that kind of thing.” He sighed. “We are going to have to make planetfall soon, one way or another. Check the local systems and note any planets we don’t have the proper innocul…” He trailed off as Jakob handed him a datapad, then smiled. “And in the proper format too. You’re getting the hang of this.”
Vendiroth is a hell planet, one that can barely be described as habitable by human standards. It is the moon of a gas giant, one located within close enough to the sun to be a hot Jupiter. Thus, it’s seasons are eclectic. Being close to the sun, it is normally hot. It’s own axial tilt means that there are no true ‘seasons’, only night and day. The area in full day is hot to the point that standing in direct sunlight is quickly fatal. However, the reflection of light from it’s host planet means that even at ‘night’ it is rarely truly dark. Only during the brief time in which it is obscured by the host planet does it ever truly get dark, and this winter drops the entire planet into brutal cold.
It is not a colony world, at least, not intentionally. In the years before the cataclysm, Vendiroth served two purposes. There was a prison, used to incarcerate some of the worst the universe had to offer. It was said that summary execution was preferable to imprisonment on Vendiroth.
Julian pulled up the message center on the datapad and stared at it with a sigh. Six angry messages from his mother, four from his father, nine from his sister, and even one from his grandmother. At least they hadn’t gotten his brother in on… The unit chimed to signal an incoming communication. He briefly considered knocking himself unconscious via banging his head against the wall. Then he accepted the call.
“You’re boycotting the symposium.” Captain Leon Vendral starred daggers through the screen.
“News travels fast.” Julian shrugged. Not that attending that farce had interested him in the first place. Dress up and be shown off as though he were still a toddler, while the upper crust congratulated each other on their foresight to have been born into the right families.
“Oh, the press is having a field day.” Leon shook his head and held up another datapad. “The Prime Minister’s own namesake has refused to attend, citing protests against hew restrictions imposed upon —”
“They arrested medics, Leon.” Julian ran a hand through his hair. Crossing into the quarantine zones without proper authorization was illegal, but getting ‘proper authorization’ for anything resembling humanitarian work was all but impossible. He was giving serious consideration to heading out to join one of the protest groups and cross over himself. Let his grandfather’s public relations team spin that story. “They arrested medics for treating the sick and injured.”
“For violating safety protocols.” Leon took a deep breath. “It’s not like they are going to do much time. It’s just a slap on the wrist and they’ll be…”
“That’s not the point and you know it. There are millions of innocent civilians trapped inside the zones and —”
“Innocent people don’t harbor terrorists, Jules.”
“It’s not that black and white.” Julian glared. The zones had gone up so quickly some of those trapped inside were guilty of no more than doing their afternoon shopping. Entire districts walled off with force-fields, no one allowed in or out without being properly vetted. Which translated more often than not to knowing the right people or able to afford bribes. “You’ve sat at the same dinner table I have, so don’t pull that crap on me. Half those zones are pure retaliatory poli —” The communication winked out. For a moment, he thought his brother had broken off the call.
Then the ship shuddered and rocked hard enough to knock him out of the chair.