Author : C Sousa

“Son, have you seen the stars?”

“This one time when I went camping,” I replied. It had been lame, just a handful of lit pinpoints in the sky at this touristy little campground my parents had found.

“That’s not really seeing the stars,” he told me. “I can get you the best view any human can ever experience. Just let me explain…”

I should have never joined, I thought bitterly, hanging for dear life to the insertion craft. I knew how fast we were traveling; I tried to keep my mind off the speed I couldn’t feel, and the lasers I couldn’t see, all of it trying to peel me out of my pressure armor and leave me to the cold mercy of hard vacuum. Old bastard had lied to me, made promises of glory and women and the best view a man could imagine.

Too bad war doesn’t afford views of anything but bodies and cold steel. The other ship was coming up fast. A perfect target, some lumbering capital ship, it’d be full of relatively soft targets and the landing would be easy. Especially retreating as it was, drawing away flat on the galactic plane. The insertion craft swept in under it, plane inverted and began a dive at the underside.

Much as I couldn’t feel it through my inertial dampener, there was no juking or evasion as we approached. Weird, I thought. Ship like that would usually have about a hundred small point-defense guns in any given direction, firing in sequence to try and predict our approach. Not that it much mattered; it just meant a longer uncontrolled flight if we were hit. I grabbed hold of my release catch as the target loomed closer, getting within mag range now. Closer, closer, pull!

The insertion craft dropped away as I flew free, straight on to my target. This ship was gigantic, bigger than any other I’d boarded. Usually I could see the guns by now, but the hull was still just flat steel, overlapping plates and bolts, no guns or antennas or any of the other usual protrusions. And no hatches. I triggered my mag guides and pushed off of the target and my retreating insertion, flinging myself wildly to the side. “It’s a trap!” I screamed it into the headset, hoping the others would abort as well.

I couldn’t tell if anyone heard me, couldn’t see worth a damn as I spun away from the ship. I saw it shatter under some kind of blast, seeing it like a flip book, each rotation a page. Pieces of ship scattered and flew, and what little atmosphere was on the hulk burned as it vented, an orange blossom much smaller than the vids ever showed.

I triggered my mags again, trying to stop the spinning. Everything was falling away, too far to do more than slow the rotations. I finally came to a stop, facing away from the battle, too little power left in my suit to even turn back around. I drifted awhile, my beacon blinking faintly, waiting for pickup. I tried to call for extraction, but my comm must have been fried by the blast. No contact, likely no vitals readout, and running out of oxygen.

The heater cut out as I drifted, my little remaining power shunting to the beacon that wasn’t working and the oxygen that was being used up. I started to shiver, floating coreward from the battle. Coreward? I thought. I stopped and focused a moment, stopping my endless thoughts and just looking. I could see stars! Billions of them! I started to grin through chattering teeth, and laughed hoarsely. Maybe the old bastard had been right about one thing, I thought as my mind started to wander, drifting into space just like I was. This was the best view of the stars a man could have….

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