APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 9 October, 2001


Shipping Out

Buji Kern

Julian buckled the acceleration harness on his seat, pulling the straps tightly. He gazed out the window at the busy Port Oasis spaceport, at shuttles landing and taking off, trailers pulling cargo across the tarmac, and spacecraft crew scurrying every direction. He wondered where they were headed.

I bet they wish they were going to the Illustrious too Julian thought. He still couldn't quite believe he had received orders to ship out with the Illustrious. The pride of the Republican Space Fleet! A Gateship! The SRGS Illustrious was the first Southern defense against CEF invasion, and the Southern support ship for the Black Talons. Most of Julian's classmates were intensely jealous of him having such a prestigious first assignment.

Movement around a shuttle parked on the tarmac outside caught Julian's wandering gaze. It had recently landed, and its cargo was being unloaded. He peered out the window, trying to see what it was. Six Republican soldiers in full dress uniforms approached the shuttle and stood at attention. Julian realized then what they were unloading. The shuttle was carrying coffins. Six coffins, each wrapped in a Republican flag. The soldiers snapped salutes to someone on the shuttle, before lifting a coffin and somberly carrying it away. Julian tore his eyes away.

He felt a little queasy, the last thing he wanted before making a trip to orbit. He wondered who they were. Black Talons whose comrades brought them back from Caprice, maybe. Or spacecraft crew killed in an accident. Of course, as an officer of the Space Defense Branch he realized life in space was dangerous, but the sight of those flag-wrapped coffins made him shiver. He thought about the military might of the CEF, seeking vengeance and right on the other side of the Gate.

Julian imagined an Earth battle fleet coming through the gate, with nothing to slow them down but the Illustrious and their Northern counterparts. They'd put up a fight, of course, but if the CEF really launched a full-scale invasion they wouldn't stand a chance. And neither would Terra Nova-- the Earthers wouldn't risk an invasion this time. No, they'd stand back and turn the surface of Julian's beautiful country and planet into glass.

We'd better kill them before they kill us he thought. He took one last look at the coffins sitting on the runway and decided that if he died in space, he'd die fighting CEF tyranny.

"Welcome aboard Shuttle 21-32, bound for Orbital Transfer Station Echo. Fasten your harness and relax, we're beginning our launch sequence. 10... 9..."

Julian had the feeling he would see a lot more coffins before this was over.

"3... 2... 1... Ignition."

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 9 October, 2001