Surrender to Command

BlackSand

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Just a piece from an untrained writer ... Surrender to Command ... Excerpt 1
Setting and Genre - Future/Space, Military

As dawn creeps over the jagged peaks of the Katarik Mountains, it brings with it a deep orange hue, uncommon for the city in the valley below. The eerie light is the product of more than three months of drought, combined with an unprecedented heat wave. The air is laden with dust, stirred up from fields that now bear nothing but scorched crops. The ridges that once stood as green guardians between the sea and Hakari Prime’s capital city show little contrast in color against the sky above. Once full of life, the forest that covers the face of the mountains now stands as a tinderbox waiting to explode.

The dawn casts its unwelcome glow through the large windows that line the eastward wall of a condominium Christine and Summer have shared while stationed on Hakari Prime. The two women, stirring about the room, are preparing for their expected departure. In the process of leaving the planet altogether, shipping crates litter the floor, and the two women are well into the arduous task of packing that started the prior evening. Each woman loses interest in the item they are attending to, as they observe the encroaching dawn. After the pause, Summer goes back to work, while Christine cannot take her eyes off the landscape outside.

Christine is unable to tear her thoughts away from the people of Hakari. She went with Summer into the Commercial District the day before, and was appalled by the deteriorating conditions. Food markets were showing high prices and bare shelves, a sign of the impending difficulties of barren farmlands. The heat was taking its toll on the tempers of people in the marketplace, as they scurried about hoping to secure some of the dwindling supplies. The clock is ticking on the fate of this planet, on the ragged edge of slipping into chaos. The government, unable to change the weather, is beginning to understand the fact words always fail in keeping starvation at bay.

When the two women came to Hakari, their mission was to secure alien artifacts from the underground market. They did well, and infiltrated the blackmarket where the artifacts were traded. There is now little doubt the high-end dealers in contraband, most with access to ships that can take them far from here, are not going to stick around for the collapse. The market for artifacts is no longer a concern for the citizens of Hakari, as food is soon to become the most precious commodity. Mission wise, it makes perfect sense for Kalvin to order their withdrawal, but Christine cannot get past the misery destined to visit these people.

Knots begin to form in her gut, as Christine thinks about the children. They will suffer just the same. She visualizes their dust covered tear streaked faces, pleading with their parents for relief from the ravages of hunger. Beginning to feel sick as the images beat back her desperate attempts to maintain control of her senses, her eyes break away from the scene outside to look for Summer. Having been with the Seekers longer than Christine, surely Summer knows they have the resources to assist. In her mind, anything would be better than nothing at all.

As she turns, Christine finds Summer fastening the cover on a stainless steel carrying case that contains the remaining artifacts they have purchased the day before. Summer is strong, athletic, and secure with herself; evident in her every move. The outline of her toned muscles show through the dark blue silk shirt she wears, as she lifts the case to set it with the others. Black cotton pants and mid-calf boots complete her standard uniform for these occasions, as the outfit allows for free movement. Christine stops for a moment to reconsider. Summer is not always one to be trifled with, and she wonders if they share the same feelings on the subject.

Thoughts and emotions commingling in her head, Christine is startled when she realizes they are now facing each other. Summer has paused mid-stride to examine the situation, before moving on to her next task. Finding Christine obviously uncomfortable and grappling with her concerns, Summer’s expression changes. Her eyes narrow, and her jaw squares. Christine has seen this look before, although she has been lucky enough not to be on the receiving end. It is a look that speaks where words should not be necessary. Christine now knows that if she approaches the subject, it is going to be a fight. As this thought crosses Christine’s mind, Summer’s head tilts in unison, as if daring her to go there.

Feeling cornered, and not wanting to push Summer too far, Christine manages a weak, “What?”

Summer shoots back with, “Don’t what me … and get that crap out of your head. An armored transport will be here is 6 hours at the most, and I’m getting on it. Now if you want to take a minute and get your shit together, that’s fine with me. I could use a drink anyway, and we’ve been at this for hours.” As Summer speaks, the words seem to bounce off the bare walls and reverberate in Christine’s head. Noticing Christine is still struggling with the prospect of approaching the subject she adds, “I’m serious Chris, don’t start this shit with me.”

Christine doesn’t know what upsets her more, the way she feels about Hakari, or the way Summer’s comments are demanding and cut to the bone. She knows she should care more about the problems facing the population than her pride, but anger starts to rise in her chest as Summer turns to head for a bottle left unpacked on the bar. Christine grows increasingly furious over the way Summer seems to dismiss her with the action, thinking all has been said that needs to be aired.

“How can all of you be so cold and heartless? How can you turn a blind eye to what is happening here, and how it will affect these people?” Christine spits the words out hard, but her tone still quivers. She knows she is pushing now, as adrenaline begins to course through her body.

With her back still turned to Christine, Summer's shoulders drop and she shakes her head in disbelief as she reaches the bar. She uncaps the bottle and pours herself a long shot of vodka before speaking to Christine over her shoulder, “Chris, I told you not to start this with me. We have been up all night, and I know how that makes you pissy.” Never actually looking at her, just makes Christine angrier, as Summer stops to take a sip before continuing, “I’ve already told you all you need to know from me. I’m getting on that transport.” This time she doesn’t even turn her head in Christine’s direction.

Getting madder by the moment Christine ditches her caution and starts back in on Summer, “Well all I really wanted to know is how the hell you live with yourself? You and Kalvin, always right.” Christine knows she is treading on thin ice talking about Kalvin with Summer. Those two go way back in a relationship checkered with misery and unfulfilled expectations. Christine no longer attempts to contain herself as she lets the next insult fly, “If you trust Kalvin’s judgment so much, then why don’t you just marry the guy and get it over with?” It seems as if time freezes as the words come out her mouth, and Christine realizes she is way out of line.

The momentary silence in the room is shattered as Summer slams the glass down on the granite bar. Her hands now free drop to her sides, with her back still turned to Christine. Summer snaps her right hand with a sharp jerk, flinging off spilled liquor. The right is Summer’s weapon hand, and Christine suddenly wonders if she needs to start worrying. The two women have gotten along well while stationed here together, and Summer, although sometimes abrasive is noted for her ability to keep her senses. All else aside, after her comment about Summer’s relationship with Kalvin, Christine knows she has it coming.

Spinning around and quickly advancing in Christine’s direction, Summer raises her hand pointing a finger to accent her words, “Don’t you get sanctimonious with me you little shit,” Summer says, as anger flashes in her eyes.

“I have been in the Seekers a hell of a lot longer than you have, and trust Kalvin with my life,” Summer continues. She stops advancing on Christine just out of arm's reach, but her words keep coming like a sledgehammer. “I remember the day we found you, a junkie in the gutters of Handford. Sores covered your body as the needle stuck in your arm delivered the poison that was rotting your mind.”

Christine’s face is set alight, but this time not by anger. The way Summer has flipped the tables on her, catches her by surprise. Summer has reminded her of those terrible days, reduced to a blur of ill deeds and the thralls of drug addiction. Turning her life around, and the way the Seekers have trusted her since, is more of a chance than anyone should expect. Christine realizes she has stepped in it. Considering she crossed the line by bringing Summer's situation with Kalvin into it, she cannot plead a case for mercy, and remains silent.

Summer continues, “It was Kalvin who convinced me to give you a second thought. It was Kalvin that picked you up, cleaned you out, and taught you the way of the sword.” What Summer is saying is true, and Christine knows it. Summer adds, “If you think I am going to second guess Kalvin for the likes of some piss-ant planet in a forgotten corner of Sirius, you are out of your mind. You have always had a problem following instructions and allowing someone else to have any control over what you do. Well here’s a clue dipshit. That is the product of an over-inflated view of self-appointed importance.”

Bam bam bam, the words slam into Christine, each comment knocking her down further. The impromptu performance appraisal surprises Christine, as Summer keeps rolling. “You walk with us as an equal, we show you that courtesy, and you show promise and dedication. But it is times like these when you choose to investigate your newly discovered heart,” as Summer snaps her head from side to side, and motions quotation marks in the air describing Christine’s heart. “Three and half years ago, you didn’t give a rat’s ass about yourself, much less anyone else. Don’t forget why you are here, and not pushing up daisies in a government run cemetery, under some ‘Jane Doe’ headstone.”

It amazes Christine how Summer can cut through the exculpatory garbage, and get the meat of the matter. Summer seems to settle down a little as she brings Christine's focus back on the mission, “It is time you put a little trust in the rest of us. You need to have faith in Kalvin and our mission. You know how important it is we secure the artifacts before they fall into the wrong hands, and bring a far greater misery down on the Sirius Sector as a whole. A war now, would wipe the slate clean for the Nomads, and we will all suffer a horrible fate if that occurs; not just Hakari Prime.”

Christine begins to relent to Summer’s advice, and for the first time starts to see where she carelessly discarded the appropriate attention to detail concerning their mission. Summer is right about Christine’s undue accusations in regards to the Seekers' lack of caring. Summer completes her instructions, “Now get back to packing, we have wasted enough time with this already. I want to be completed by the time Kalvin gets here, and ready to get off this rock.”

Both women, unsettled by the argument, spend a brief moment looking at each other. They almost simultaneously turn back to the task before them. The next few hours are silent for the most part, as each of them begins to regret their hostilities. Christine’s concern for the people remains, but she manages to keep focused on the job. Once complete with the packing, they stand silently at the window, and share the remaining contents of the vodka bottle. Both women seem pleased with the opportunity to escape their thoughts when Kalvin arrives.

He is a striking man, a born leader in every sense. To their surprise as he enters the room, a smile spreads across his face. Kalvin is seldom the type man to make light of the situation when the ramifications are so dire, and they both wonder how he can seem so pleased.

“Excellent job ladies,” he quickly states. “I knew you two had it in you. We don’t have any time to waste, as you are already late for a buy on Planet Baden-Baden.” Christine relaxes for the first time this morning, thankful that the job will help occupy her mind. She still worries about Hakari, but remembers the importance of their primary mission.

Obviously pleased with their progress Kalvin adds, “Don’t worry about this stuff, I brought an extra ship and crew. You two need to grab your gear and get the hell out of here before we lose the buy. You have done enough already. The other crew is on their way up, and we need the space for food supplies. The best I can figure Hakari has a week of stores left, max.”

“You bet,” Summer replies, as she collects her jump-bag and heads for the door.

Christine avoids glancing at Summer as she scans the room for her own gear, realizing that Summer was right all along.

As they reach the door Kalvin adds, "Hey you two, be careful out there. I don't want anything bad happening to either of you. You are a team; take care of each other."


Is It Worth Pursuing ... Suggestions Encouraged!
 

percysunshine

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'Is It Worth Pursuing ... Suggestions Encouraged! '

Looks good. After reading it I wondered how it would read as a first person narrative from Christine's point of view.

Disclaimer, I have never tried writing fiction except for a couple short stories many years ago. My comments may be completely useless.
 

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