“Torpedo Away” said the missile tech over the ship intercom in an exited voice. The Captain always turned on the com when he had a sure kill lined up. Teig thought he did this to make himself look better to the crew.
Five minutes ago he had opened the com up and announced that they were closing in on a Browncoat transport. When the transport failed to fire on them as they were chasing it Teig had thought it strange. He heard the same concern voiced over the com to the captain by one of the bridge crew. “They’re out of missiles is all,” said the Captain in reply.
The chase wasn’t much of a contest. The UAG Salisbury was able to catch up with the larger Alliance transport easily. “Her name is the Hope” said the Captain over the intercom, “add her to our sunken list.” As usual, the Captain was claiming the kill early.
“Pompous bastard” thought Teig angrily, “the war is about more than a scoreboard.”
As the missile was in the air Teig heard the first of many distressed shouts. “She’s marked as a medical transport” screamed the helmsman. “Sir, I’m aborting the torpedo now” said the missile tech. Teig breathed deeply, reflecting on the near disaster. “Negative on the abort, let the torpedo run,” said the Captain in a firm voice.
That command chilled every man in the boat. They knew that the Captain was a bloodthirsty bastard who hated the Browncoats, but even he must have limits. Teig heard deathly silence over the com. “Sir…” a tentative voice said. “Those bastards are a threat to the Alliance. Exterminating them now will just save us time later” growled the Captain.
Any further argument was cut short when the ship-to-ship came on, the voice carrying over into the Salisbury’s intercom. “Alliance Gunboat, this is the Hope,” yelled a woman’s voice, “we are a medical transport and are unarmed.” When there was no reply from the Salisbury she came back over the radio “for God’s sake, turn your torpedo! We have 40 wounded people aboard including women and children settlers!”
“You are traitors to the Alliance and your so-called God will have no mercy on you, and neither will I” said the Captain in a cruel voice. Teig stood in horrified silence listening to the exchange. The woman on the Alliance ship did not bother to switch off the ship-to-ship as she turned on her own intercom “prepare for impact, seal all hatches, incoming…..” The rest of her command was cut short by a tremendous explosion.
Teig could hear shouts and panicked yells over the intercom from the Browncoat ship. No one on the Salisbury breathed a word as the sounds of hell came across the radio. Teig knew that the engines on the transport had been hit, it was the only way a torpedo wouldn’t have hulled her instantly. This was not a reprieve for the Browncoats though. He could hear the damage report being called in to their bridge, fire on all lower decks, suppression system off line, life support down, internal fuel leaks everywhere.
As the Hope burned, the tortured screams of her crew and patients came across space like daggers. Two life pods set off from her in time to escape the flames. The captain must have been hypnotized by the destruction he had caused, for he didn’t pay them any attention as they shot off into the black. For 10 long minutes the screams came, begging for rescue, cries of agony, and finally deathly silence.
The after-action report that Captain Mah Yong submitted reflected a great chase and kill. It neglected to mention the medical markings on the Hope or the screams that Teig would never forget.
The Screams had started again the night after the attack, bursting from the depths of his mind as Teig slept.
At the next port of call Teig jumped ship, hoping that distance from the Salisbury would help silence the screams. They did not. Night after night Teig awoke screaming, the cries of the people aboard the Hope echoing inside his head.
He tried fighting for the Browncoats, but did not see any significant action with them. With the war’s end he remained on the rim planets, knowing that he was wanted for desertion by the Alliance.
One day Teig sat outside a ramshackle church smoking cigarettes and drinking cheap beer. The seats in the bar across the street had all been taken and Teig preferred to drink alone. The town was just another typical backwater town on a typical backwater moon. As the evening wore on he gazed into the sky, reliving those terrible moments again. The screams started softly. The crescendo of the tortured voices rose to an ungodly pitch within his head. He fell to his knees holding his ears. He screamed out loud, trying to drown the screams of anguish in his head. A Sheppard rushed out of the small church and grabbed him around the shoulders. He held on to him until the screams went away. Then he brought Teig into the church. That night Teig spoke of what had happened aboard the Salisbury for the first time since leaving the ship. The shame and anguish poured out of him. The Sheppard listened in stony silence. When he was done with his tale the Sheppard handed him a small cross on the necklace.
“Go to where the pain of those that died is. Ask their forgiveness when they are ready to hear you, only then will the voices that cry out in your mind stop.”
Teig signed on with different crews, traveling from crappy moon to crappy moon. He kept waiting night after night for the voices to allow him to ask for forgiveness, but so far they had only screamed just as before inside his mind.
On his last cruise out an accident in the engine room had taken his left eye. The captain had put him out on the next moon they landed on. “Can’t take the time to let you heal,” he had said. With the few credits he had left Teig took a small room near the spaceport. The room was cramped and dirty. There was another occupant in the room when Teig moved in. A black cat had been sleeping on the bed and looked annoyed when Teig entered the room with the landlord. “I’ll get her away” said the landlord in his thick accent, moving towards the cat. “Leave it be” said Teig in a tired voice “it was here first.” He thought the cat would leave that night when his dreams came, but it was not so. When he got up he saw the cat sleeping at the foot of the bed. “Well” said Teig, chuckling for the first time in weeks, “at least one of us slept well.”
He sat on the porch of the hotel day after day smoking heavily and watching the spaceport. The cat had taken to sitting by his side, keeping quiet company. His nights were spent listening to the voices screaming and dealing with the sharp pain where his left eye once was.
A few days ago Teig got up in the morning, exhausted from another night filled with fire and screams. He sat in front of the little boarding house with his cup of synthetic coffee. “Only a few days of coin left Ritz” said Teig to the cat, who just looked at him disinterestedly. He raised his cup of coffee towards his lips glancing towards the spaceport. The cup froze before reaching its destination. Sitting on one of the landing pads was a Clydesdale Class Gunboat. The weapons had been stripped and she was in dire need of panel work, but it was an Alliance Gunboat none the less.
Eagerly entering the spaceport, nodding at Jake the gate guard as he past, he took a turn around the ship. The markings of the Alliance had all been stripped off and the name “Calypso” had been painted on her. Looking at the port side flash degrader he could tell that it was set about 15 degrees off what it should be.
He was surprised that he did not feel revulsion when he looked at her. The nightmare that had occurred on a ship exactly like this one had changed his life forever. He paused to reflect on how he was feeling. He felt a pull towards her. “Is this where they will talk to me” he wondered. He gripped the cross around his neck with one hand, reaching the other out towards the Calypso. He placed his hand on her port thruster with a tentative touch akin to touching a block of ice. A chill ran down his back as his eyes misted up. Tortured screams rang in the back of his mind softly. “If ever I am going to be able to make peace with those who died, this will be the place they will hear me out,” he said aloud to himself.
Teig turned towards the ramp of the ship as he heard voices coming from inside. He lit a cigarette and slicked his hair back. “Excuse me,” he said as the person emerged from the Calypso, “did you realize that your port side flash degrader appears to be misaligned? I have a little experience aboard a ship like this and would be happy to offer my services.”
Submitted by Reno Savage.