I hope ya’ll have been enjoying the Gearstorm short stories so far. Unfortunately, I’m pretty much out of ICA colony stuff. But there are a few other points in the history that I’d love to visit. Today we’re going back to get a glimpse of what went down in the Sol system after the ICA Vanguard made its desperate launch.
This will be the second-to-last story in the Gearstorm series. But I did promise a grand finale and that’s coming up. The very next post will be about a pivotal and hella-dramatic point in the history of Apollyon. I can’t wait for ya’ll to read it.
But for now, we’ll share a tough moment with the crew of the MSS Duty.
Long ago, during the fall of Earth, Mars declared itself independent. In the year 2210AD, it's small space force attempted to blockade the phaged Earth to prevent the spread of the apocalyptic virus. This is a brief look at that time.
Aboard the frigate MSS Duty
"Sir, phage signature detected on transport 2234 RRS," said the petty officer manning sensors.
"Shoot it down," Captain Howell ordered, with a sigh.
"Sir?" asked sensors. "There's three thousand people aboard."
"Shoot it down. No crippling it. No driving it back to Earth," Howell said, his voice thick. "Blast it to atoms. That's an order."
Everyone on the bridge winced as the main deck guns' whined through the frigate. Brilliant energy bursts lit the bridge. Then, just above the blue horizon of Earth, there was a flash. That was all but it was three thousand more humans dead.
Captain Howell wanted a drink. He didn't dare, even though his weapon's officer now had his head down on the gunnery console. He understood how everyone felt. Today they weren't heroes from Mars, evacuating the last survivors of the Phage-ravaged Earth. Today they were butchers. No phage were allowed off planet. Not a one. Not a single spec of Phage DNA.
The Captain thought he and his crew all understood the stakes. If the phage made it to Mars, mankind's last home, then that would be it for humanity. There was no hope for those ICA maniacs who'd launched an empty colony ship into the stars years ago. The crew of the MSS Duty could show no quarter on this mission and they would protect their home.
Watching his sensors officer zoom in on the smoking wreckage of the heavy transport as it burned up in the upper atmosphere though, the captain’s stomach twisted at what they'd done. And at what they would have to keep doing until Mars's fleet command rotated them off Earth blockade duty.
"Sergeant McKennis," the Captain said to the marine at the door. "Please relieve petty officer Jen of his sidearm before he shoots himself with it."
"I'm ok, sir," came the response from gunnery.
"You don't look it, Jen," Howell said, sitting down in his command chair.
"No offense, but the same can be said about you, sir."
On a normal day, that would have been court-martial worthy insubordination in Howell's book. Now, he just brought up a news feed from Mars onto one of his chair's screens.
"I give the orders to shoot, Jen," Howell said, scanning for updates on the refugee crisis at home. Praying for no more phage infection scares. "It's my will that kills those people. You're just the tool which presses the button for me. Think of it that way and you'll get through this."
The remark had the opposite effect Howell wanted for sensors operator Amelia shot to her feet. As she did, so too did Howell's systems operator, engineering officer, and so on. He closed the news feed to stare at the bridge crew all standing up and looking at him.
"What?" he demanded.
Amelia stepped forward. "We're all guilty sir. Don't think you can take it on yourself or spare us our bloody hands." To show their solidarity, the rest of the bridge crew saluted along with Amelia.
"You're all too damned good for this crap post," Captain Howell said. Then he pulled out his flask and held it up to them. "For Mars."
"For Mars!" his crew shouted. Howell took a shot from the flask and put it back.
"Now back to your posts!" he ordered. "No phage will get by us today!"
If you’d like more Gearstorm shorts, then just click the Gearstorm tag and it’ll bring up everything. Same goes for the short stories tab if you just want to check out more of my fiction and such.