Several weeks ago I posted a flash fictin piece called The Zilkas Asteroid Belt. Several of you asked for a continuation of the story, so here it is. If you did not read the first portion follow the link above, before reading this.
Jamison’s confusion reached its peak. What had they said?
Then came clarity, awful, churning, clarity. He had just fired on the ship sent to pick him up. He had destroyed a colonial vessel. This was why the base had not sent an automatic message.
How had this happened? Then he remembered, he had set aside his checklist. The checklist would have caused him to verify the class of the ship before firing.
He would be on this rock forever. He deserved it, too.
The station went dark. He wasn’t sure why. He wasn’t sure it really happened. He might have blacked out for a second.
“Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Camp Beta – Stand down, Repeat, STAND DOWN!” The sudden and loud transmission made him jump out of his skin. But it also startled him back into action. He scanned his controls to discover the ship was still there. “Camp Beta, please respond.”
He stared at the controls for a long time. Eventually though he responded and the frigate sent a launch to pick him up.
He would not die on this rock after all.
Two men were on board the launch. They signaled for him to open the door. Jamison couldn’t at first. It had long since frozen, his broken hand was useless to turn the large spinner. But after using a long piece of repair pipe for leverage he opened the exit and met his rescuers.
Scott and Johnson were both seasoned fighters, and on the way back to the frigate, he questioned them about many things, but first he apologized for trying to kill them. Their casual laughter at his uneasiness seemed so comforting. He would enjoy being around people again.
In the war technology had progressed. It was now possible to destroy a projectile mid-flight. They also explained the war had been over for more than a year. They had not been able to get out and pick up all the scouts, snipers, and outposts because their positions had been lost for a time.
Back on the frigate his broken hand was mended, and he was given a berth. In the quarters prepared for him and twenty-three other stranded fighters there were only eight men. Smithers and Black were not among them. Both men were dead. Smithers had died a natural death, but Black was killed in an attack.
Jamison thought about Black. The orbiting of the asteroids put Black in the line of fire. It might have been him, if the event had been a day earlier or a couple of days later, he would be dead and Black would be alive.
He tried not to think about it. He tried not to feel guilty. He failed.
They stopped at an outpost, originally having a team of four stranded fighters. No one was alive on the base. He didn’t want to know why.
They didn’t have any more stops. Only one third of the men they had hoped to rescue were surviving. Jamison’s mind clouded over whenever anyone talked about it.
The dined alone at the next meal time. Then they entered their sleep cycle. Jamison found out he wasn’t the only one having trouble sleeping. He wasn’t the only one having nightmares.
The next morning Scott and Johnson informed them they would be home shortly after third meal. As a means of celebrating their return they would dine in the officer’s mess, and at the captain’s table. The two soldiers glanced at each other as they spoke those words.
It made Jamison nervous. None of them were accustomed to the protocols of such a dinner. But they would follow orders.
New uniforms were provided. He noticed his rank had been given a significant boost. It struck him as an odd reward for survival. He also noticed the normal ceremonial side-arms were missing. He thought this was wise. He and his compatriots were not settled down from their outland assignments.
When they entered the dining hall, under the watchful eyes of Scott and Johnson, he noticed everyone else had their side arms in place. They marched two abreast to the head table. It was made out of a material he had never seen before.
They were instructed to have a seat. This was odd. Normally the crew stood until the captain was seated as a sign of respect. The chair was surprisingly comfortable, made of some material he had never seen. He rubbed his hand over it and noted how luxurious it felt.
After they were seated Scott leaned in where they could all hear him. “Stay seated, do not get up.”
A steward announced Captain Colofer. Jamison puzzled over what kind of a name Colofer was. His table remained seated as ordered.
Double doors were swung open by stewards and there stood Captain Colofer. Jamison, and all those seated at his table twitched, gasped, and someone even shrieked as they took in the blue skin and vertical eyes. Captain Colofer was a Kilkian.