APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 11 November, 1999


Where Were You When...

Christian Schaller

"Where were you when this whole thing started, serge? When Hutchinson was assassinated?"

Sous-Sergent Arsen Brandywine stared out the thick plate glass viewport that was the floor of the space station's main lounge. Terra Nova filled the view, as it always did whenever the station was on green alert and the blast shutters were retracted. Someone, probably the designer of the station, had thought it would be good for the station's personnel to be able to see their planet below them when they were off-duty.

Especially for the personnel aboard this station and her kin, mused Brandywine.

Returning from his thoughts, he asked the young enlisted man who shared the corner lounge couch with him, "What's that?" Brandywine had been enjoying a quiet couple of hours contemplating the unsteady future of Terra Nova when the younger soldier, Matelot Tony Piccuro, had joined him. The kid had brought along a couple of squeeze bulbs of cawfee that someone had spiked with cheap booze.

It was the first day in almost three cycles that the station had been on green alert.

The matelot repeated himself. "Where were you when Hutchinson was killed?"

Brandywine scratched the back of his neck. "Up here, in space, staring down at home. We were right over the Republic. Matter of fact, I was right here in this lounge, dreaming about taking a dip in Lake Chantilly. Station commander announced it over the PA, we went straight to yellow alert. The shutters closed, and we waited for those Northern crazies to come at us, but they didn't. Not right away, anyhow..." Brandywine trailed off, remembering the tension, the paranoia, and the days and days of drills as the local garrison of Colonial Defense Corps marines practiced defending Orbital Artillery Platform Camael from imaginary CNCS boarders while Brandywine, on station point defense, shot down simulated killer sat after simulated killer sat.

"Hey, serge? You okay?" The kid, fresh out of boot camp, sounded concerned.

"Eh, yeah." He took another sip of his cawfee. "Yeah, I'm okay. I was just remembering, that's all. Why do you ask? About where I was, that is."

Piccuro sipped his own cawfee. "Well, it's a historic moment in our history, these upcoming peace talks. The cease-fire itself is pretty important. My mom always said you never forget days like these, where you were when you heard big news." He squirmed a little bit, inadvertently launching himself off the couch. The kid grabbed a restraining strap and hauled himself back.

Brandywine smiled a crooked smile, amused at the kid's youthfulness and also pleased to see he'd finally gotten comfortable enough in microgravity that he could perform the maneuver without even thinking about it. "Yeah, well, she's right, kid. You never forget. Where were you?"

The kid chuckled. "Ah, I was at school. Half of us were stunned, half were terrified of what would come next."

Brandywine snorted. It was odd how most Republicans had that reaction of dread when the news got out, given that the man had wanted to turn every last Southerner into a slave to his god. It was odd, yet it was powerfully telling, like the whole nation knew they'd be blamed, and that war would be the inevitable result.

"So how about when they finally declared war?"

Brandywine paused, his bulb of cawfee halfway to his mouth. He had hoped the kid would skip that question.

After a long pause, he finally answered. "Over there." He nodded at the far side of the lounge. His hands were shaking. "Clutching my leg, trying to stop the bleeding and the pressure loss from my spacesuit. The announcement came over my CO's channel, but she was dead, so the system routed it to me, the nearest ODC man of rank, such as it was." He gulped down a mouthful of hot cawfee. It had been hell. The CDC marines had repelled the boarders eventually, and a pair of Orbital Defense Corps fighters had destroyed the enemy's transports, but those had been the longest ten minutes of Brandywine's life.

"Damn," Piccuro whispered. "Sorry, serge."

Brandywine took another swig of the spiked cawfee. "Eh," he shrugged, trying to play it cool. "It's okay. It's all over, finally. Hey, maybe I'll finally get some good news here in this lounge, huh?" He smiled a wry grin.

The kid grinned back. "Yeah... Hey, we're coming up over Peace River right now!" He pointed to the floor.

Far below, the Pacifica Range straddled the planet, the Western Desert to the west, the Karaq Wastes the east. Midway along the Range was--

Brandywine watched, not believing what he saw. A brilliant light burst forth from where Peace River stood, the site of the upcoming peace talks. His heart sank as he watched the cloud of debris rapidly spread.

Klaxons sounded aboard the Camael as the shutters slid effortlessly, silently into place across the viewport. In the half-seconds between bursts of klaxon scream, he heard a sound like sand being thrown against sheet metal as the Camael's orbit took the station through the uppermost extent of the now-ballistic ejecta from the sea of destruction that was once called Peace River.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 11 November, 1999