Author : Michael Varian Daly

Junior Lieutenant Menat Borsa, Space Force Marines, had the Third Watch on Barracks Platform 2/26 [2nd Regt/26th Batt] because, bluntly put, she was a ‘noob’, barely four months out of the Academy. And she was fine with that Tradition from ‘beyond the mists of time’. The Sisterhood was ever conscious of not throwing out the practical baby with the Patriarchal bathwater.

Besides, the view was gorgeous, a five by ten transparent plasteen window in High Earth Orbit. Menat spent a significant portion of the watch simply staring out that window. The rest of the time she read books, Mimsdottor’s “History of The Horse Clans, Vol 1” at the moment. Electronic media were forbidden on Watch.

Oh, and she checked the systems, a swirl of intermeshing holograms. Systems that never failed. Ever. And every time she thought that, she heard her Tech Instructor, Captain Haduri, saying emphatically, “Something. Always. Fails.” Which was why her warm body was here on Third Watch.

A proximal danger alarm activated.

“Shit,” she muttered, letting “Horse Clans” float away.

An impact alarm flared/squealed.

“Shit!” she barked. That was too quick for space junk. Data flows informed her that a micrometeorite had pierced the platform, damaging Drop Troopers in their Sleep Pods. One set of life signs flat lined and others were ‘unhappy’.

A hologram coalesced, Senior Chief Warrant Officer Mwera. “El Tee, I’m on my way to Hold Seven.”

“Roger that, Chief.” Technically, she was a ‘superior officer’, but Mwera, born a True Male, had, at the age of fifty three, become a Space Force Mandriod. That was over three decades ago, so Menat fully deferred to him.

“Chief, be advised that Corporal El Em One Two Seven is up and about.” Mwera blanched. “But he has exited Hold Seven,”

“Roger that, El Tee,” he said flatly.

Sensors showed the Corporal heading for the mess bay.

“Can’t be hungry,” she thought. He’d been hooked up to bleeder/feeder tubes in his Sleep Pod.

“Maybe he wants one of those nasty Drop Trooper candy bars,” the ones that tasted like vulcanized cowshit laced with cinnamon and fruit compote.

“Junior Lieutenant Menat Borsa exiting the Command Center,” she said.

Menat found him floating in front of the mess bay’s window, naked, eight feet tall, seven hundred pounds, pink as a baby pig, a dozen gray caps covering his battle armor plug-in points.

She turned off her neural implanted combat programs. At six two, three hundred pounds, and heavily augmented, she might be able to take him. As an Initiated Sister, she was a weapon herself.

But he was a fellow Marine.

“Corporal?” she said softly.

He turned to look at her somberly. She wondered if he ever looked anything but somber.

“One of my Troopers died.” He looked out the window again. “I wanted to see the sky.”

She had no trouble whatsoever radiating Empathy at him.

“I’ll have Chief Mwera program sky dreams for you.”

He looked at her with what seemed a smile.

She held out her hand. He took it gently in his massive fingers and allowed her to lead him back to Hold Seven.

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