CONVENTIONS OF WAR
EVE OF BATTLE
The soft malt slid around the side of the glass as Harrier poured it, longing for another taste. Whisky had become his friend, a warm blanket of which to cover himself and his sins, hiding form himself and his crew.
The dimly lit quarters which he had called home for five years had become a hollow asylum for a life of calculated death and the only thing left to provide him any comfort was the contents of a 750ml bottle, usually single malt but he wasn’t all that fussed.
Captain John Harrier had been in command of the fated vessel for half a decade, five years of an interstellar conflict, the first of its kind with the blood on his hands and that of his two thousand strong crew not counted in litres, rather vats, with the command over that most powerful class of warship Earth had to offer.
The year is 2189 and the Prometheus was a nine year old battleship, measuring over a mile in length, forty decks in height and host to over a trillion gallons of water, most of which was used for its vast and infinity powerful propulsion drive. Its outer skin boasts impregnability against any enemy shell.
Repelling any object by being in a state of constant metabolic flux, basically it is always moving at a subatomic level, no object can actually be in contact long enough to effect it, the Prometheus is one of five Georgia Class destroyers, all of which have survived the war so far and have been more than successful in their brutally clinical campaigns against the Caldorun enemy.
Space has always to be seen to be infinite but in this vast arena, the Caldorun’s found their way into our sights. Almost fifty years ago the only two space fairing species known to exist met under friendly circumstances and now, less than half a century later, they are bent on destroying each other.
But the politics no longer concerned the once opinionated and sober skipper, as he knows what his duties are and where his loyalties lie. He believed in his ship, his crew and his orders and whatever the political motives were, are of little consequence to him. In the end, right and wrong hadn’t kept him alive for this long.
Politics may have lead his last vessel into the fight but it was the battle which claimed it, and it was his conduct which had lead him to his present command. Politics may motivate but was never to be his master, just a guide. Politicians start wars which soldiers must finish.
But today, the last thing on his mind should have been his wedding ring. Married for twelve years, this anniversary was a bitter one. In those years, he had spent only two, barely three years with her, the love of his life, mother to his three boys, but a good husband? In conclusion, no.
Had he tried? Yes. But the war took him away almost a decade ago and he was never able to find his way home, leaving her to slip away, for his relationship with all of them to become sustained only by radio waves and video transmissions. A week had passed since she had finally given up on him and he had to ponder if he had done to the same?
Had he had a choice? He had always told himself, no, but today he asked himself the same question. The answer was still no, but if he had the choice would he have been a better husband? The answer was vague, submerged in the fact that he would never know for sure. Today he was going to change who he was, but without knowing who he would become.
As he lifted his glass to his dry lips, he was jolted from his musing by two taps on the metal door to his quarters. Without turning his head he gestures and shouts “Yeah” before taking the drink. The heavy grey door slides open to reveal Davenport, his first officer.
Davenport, by no means green or wet behind the ears, steps in the melancholic chamber and without reference nor gesture about his drinking, clearing accepted this common sight, begins to brief his Captain. “We’ll be entering sector 22.214.171.124. Delta in 34 minutes.” he reads from a small hand held device, clearly a form of PDA. “Right” Harrier baldly replies.
“What’s the problem?” Davenport knowingly enquired, aware that Harrier was still reeling from their earlier argument, but oblivious to his other dilemma whilst standing without giving anything away.
Turning his head only towards his Exec, he dismisses his query. “No problem…”
“This might look and feel like a suicide mission but there’s no such thing…” his first officer trying to open some discourse between them.
“I didn’t say that it was” Harrier’s obstreperous side rearing it’s head again…
Davenport looks to Harrier to tip his hand, “But that’s what you’re thinking.”
Trying not to rise to his younger counterpart… “Look son, I don’t need a pep talk. In half an hour we’ll be in the theatre and we’ll deliver our cargo… Ten to one, two to one, it’s no odds to me” “We’ll crucify the mother fuckers…” But not quite succeeding.
“Aye” Acknowledging that he wasn’t getting the response he wanted…
“Depoly everyone. I want a smooth run this time.”
Preparing to leave, Davenport replies simply. “Yes sir.”
As Davenport is dismissed, Harrier’s empty glass is placed on the desk and more whiskey is sloshed into it, This time with little regard for liquor. He then looks to his gold wedding band which sits on his wedding finger, sips his drink and then roughly pulls it off, leaving it in the desk. He then finishes his drink and stands to leave. He is ready for what needs to be done. Game face in place, he is ready to take on the enemy as he has done so many times before. Though never without his wedding ring.
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