“Corpsman, on my call you get us the hell outta here,” sergeant-master Charnellor yelled, his voice carrying above the screams of the invading Orman and the cries of the dying aboard the beleaguered exploratory vessel Forgestriker.
Before the corpsman ended the sentence, Charnellor yelled back to the helm station, “Give me all you got left and get us outta this shitty mess, if we don’t get off now, the Orman fleet will be here before we get airborne and we be dead on the ground.”
“What about your hand? It’s jammed in the air lock and if we take off...”
“Son, I’m way ahead of ya, do as I say and leave my hand to me. The only thing I ask is you rush me to the emergency ward once we are airborne.”
“Are you sure about this?”
Charnellor grimaced through his pain and replied, “Hell, no! I ain’t been sure of a damn thing since we landed, other than we got sent to another shit hole to bust our guts and get our asses handed to us, again. Remember, on my call give this little gal all we have and don’t stop ‘til’ we get clear of the hills,” There was a short gap as he braced himself for the next action and he yelled, “go!”
Engines strained at their limits as the ship started to lift and a corpsman called back, “We can’t gain the height, something is holding us down.”
The corpsman’s face turned white with horror as he saw what he hoped Charnelleor was not going to do, as he did Charnellor gave a yell and cried out, “Here is what you want!” then with a sickening blow he brought his power axe down on his arm, severing the wrist and leaving his blood gushing across the bloodied floor panels; he turned to the pilot and said, “now, get us the hell of this planetoid.”
Charnellor wobbled a few steps forward, whether from the sudden jolt from the ship or his injury nobody could tell and collapsed next to his friends Mike Fuller and Timmy Johns.
The once proud lady slowly rose in the skies of Gameroon and turned her nose to Baal and what her remaining crew hoped would be a well earned R&R, days and nights slipped through the darkness and Charnellor remained at death’s door, his selfless action had saved his men, but at what personal cost?
The crew had been left with only the minimal of able-bodies and those who remained needed to work short shifts and more than they had been accustomed to doing, but with nearly all of the men aboard either inured or near-to-death, what else remained for them to do?
Forgestiker was an exploratory vessel and not equipped for battle, she had the ability to outrun many vessels her size, but when matters came to firepower; her armaments had been stripped to the minimum to allow her to travel greater distances and for this she now paid the price, far from home and low on fuel and supplies, the officer in command called a council of the men able to stand.
Gardatrousier Malcolm Hendricks had been through battles more times than he cared to recall, but never come to this point before, he stood on the balcony above the half-empty hulk wondering what he would say, “No use in delaying,” he thought, “men, I stand here as your commanding officer and I have the ominous task of informing you...”
The silence in the room was palpable as the men waited for the bad news, the pause was not for effect, but the gap created a sense of fore-boding which moved like a tank across a swamp, the silence was broken by a lone voice from the ranks, “With all due respect, Sir, cut the crap and get on with what you’re saying. We’ve had our asses kicked again and many of us should be in sick bay, so spit it out, unless you wish me to do your job, Sir?”
He looked down from the balcony to see a soldier in a torn and bloodied uniform, leaning on the side of the gangway, “No, thank you for the offer Captain Moore, but this is my duty and I shall fulfil my duty to the best of my ability. Men, it has been my honour to be your officer...” he started, but Moore, who was close to collapsing on the floor; had no time for formalities and cut in.
Moore staggered through the wounded and dying, looking around at his men, he climbed the first few stairs to the balcony; more through bloody mined guts, than anything else and said, “Excusing the officer’s rank, here is the way I view things. Men, we got our asses kicked and many of us are dying of wounds received; our supplies are running out and little hope of either rescue or seeing home again, the only chance we may have is going into deep hibernation and putting her on auto-pilot, then pray we get back before we die out here. Am I right, Sir,” turning to his officer Joe saw the officer’s nod of agreement.
Hendricks gripped the rail in front of him so hard his knuckles turned white, “I’m afraid, what the Captain said so brutally honestly is the bottom line. There is little hope for rescue and our only hope lies in the ship and her system getting us back. Those of us who are able to walk can make certain the system is set correct, the rest of you can go back to sick bay and prepare for deep space hibernation, I am sorry our journey ended this way,” Hendricks ended his speech, saluted the men under him and went to the helm for a final check on their position and course, “brave men to the last,” he thought as he walked the empty halls of Forgestiker.
The halls which once rang to the joyous revelry of famous victories now echoed the silent hopes of the dying remnants of the 7th Baalite Guard, this famous battalion had fought itself to a halt on many a battlefield and come back again, but looking at what remained of his troops and realising the hopelessness of the situation, Hendricks sighed, “Is this how it ends for the 7th, no famous battle to death with honour, fighting a rearguard on a planetoid raid which was doomed from the start and left men dying far from home?” As he walked the halls to the control room, Hendricks muttered, “they won’t die for nothing, somebody WILL pay for this slaughter; as I stand on the corridors of my dying ship and with my dying breath, I promise you brave men, somebody is going to pay for your sacrifice,” there was nobody to hear the words but he took an oath on his honour and that is all he needed.