Author : Benjamin Fischer
For her display of courage of the highest order in the defense of Mother Diana, Mariel was given a promotion and command of the newest space station in all of Lunaâ€™s territories. There were still bullet holes and bloodstains on the bulkheads, and the paint hadnâ€™t even dried on the signs rechristening the place â€œRear Admiral Umberto Achilles Memorial Space Cityâ€ when she rolled in.
â€œGod awful name, ainâ€™t it, maâ€™am?â€ said Major Vargas, the commander of the occupying Marines.
She glared at the man and replied, â€œBert was a friend.â€
Vargas walked on eggshells the rest of the day.
But turnover could only take so long, especially at a place that had been emptied of nearly everything useful by the retreating Americans, and near the end of the day Vargas suggested a tour of the station. Mariel decided to give him a second chance.
The gem of his tour was hidden just under the stationâ€™s surface, in a row of small businesses tucked between warehouses and environmental equipment.
Vargas nodded to an armed guard outside one of the tiny shops.
â€œMadam Captain,â€ he said, holding the door open for Mariel.
She stepped into its darkened interior.
The click of a switch, and a row of dim track lighting came to life.
Men in spacesuits lurked in the corners. Mariel gave a start, but then realized that the suits were empty, the whole place was empty, just three walls covered in instrument gages, patches, plaques, and hundreds of glossy photographs. The fourth was mirrored, with every kind of liquor known to man on display, a long gleaming steel bar with stools and railing lining that side of the room.
â€œVery interesting,â€ she said, looking over the photos and recognizing some of the names.
USS Intrepid. USS Sam Houston. USS Thomas Jefferson. USS Baton Rouge. USS Charles Lindbergh.
Then she found the one she had spent a week looking for.
There–USS HORNET SC-15 was stamped on the faceplate of a helmet glued to the wall.
A framed photo accompanied the helmet. Twenty five men and women in dark blue jumpsuits and sunglasses smiled back at Mariel. The crew was posed sitting and standing around the stainless steel bar, the same one that was behind her, and they held a banner that read â€œUSS Hornet. SC-15. Give No Quarter, Accept No Quarter.â€
The Hornetâ€™s captain was a thin and lanky man, his skin an almost fluorescent white.
He smiled at her with a broad and unassuming grin.
Mariel unconsciously fingered the four gold bars around her left wrist.
â€œPack it all up,â€ she said.
â€œThe booze, maâ€™am?â€ Vargas asked.
â€œI donâ€™t care about the liquor. Dispose of it by whatever method you prefer, Major.â€
â€œThank you. Maâ€™am,â€ Vargas replied.
â€œBut pack up the rest of this–this museum,â€ she said. â€œAnd do it quick. I donâ€™t want any of my girls to see this.â€
â€œGet rid of this shit, aye maâ€™am,â€ Vargas said. He keyed a radio, rattling off orders.
Mariel walked down the wall again, running her hand over a throttle control labeled â€œUSS Winston Churchillâ€ and one of the pressure suits which had evidently been acquired from the USS Wasp. There was a mirror behind the bar that ran the width of the room. Its upper edge was lined with stickers from at least a hundred major warships, mostly American.
â€œIâ€™ll see you in the morning, Major,â€ she said.
â€œAye, maâ€™am,â€ said Vargas.
Mariel gave the Hornetâ€™s photo another glance, shuddering.
â€œMaâ€™am?â€ asked Vargas.
Mariel snorted and shook her head, headed for the doors.
â€œThis place is a damn tomb,â€ she said, leaving.