Crimson Dark



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Baruk's Story


Entry 1

If I ever get tired of this view, just shoot me and put me out of my misery. Maybe I’m biased because my family lives on Farhaven, or maybe I’m just homesick and lonely after more than three weeks in space, but this has to be one of the most beautiful planets in the galaxy – a classic blue/green world with wispy white clouds, framed by the blue light of the Biggs Cloud. They say that the terraforming process took longer than usual here, due to the planet’s high gravity, but it was well worth it.

We finished offloading the ISV Respite a few hours ago and it looks like this has been a particularly profitable run. Captain Moore said some very kind things about my piloting so it looks likely that he’ll be renewing my contract after our next run.

The Farhaven Exchange has changed somewhat since I was last here. I had a hard time pinning it down at first, but I’ve realised it’s more about people’s general attitude than anything else. Last month the war was still relatively new and exciting, everyone was excited that we were finally going to pay the Daris back for the Ogilvey Massacre and all the other humiliations they’ve inflicted on us. But we thought it would be over quickly, and now… well it’s starting to look like something that’s going to last for a while, with no real victories for either side.

I’m waiting for the next shuttle planetside. It’s the usual crowd here, merchants, traders, tourists, but there seem to be more military personnel than usual. Probably related to the Daimyo cruiser currently stationed here. It seems like overkill to guard an Exchange with as much firepower as a Daimyo, but I can’t say I’m sorry to have it here, so close to contested territory.

Entry 2
I really should look into those augs which supposedly eliminate nausea. I can handle space travel happily, and can sail on the ocean without a problem, but atmospheric re-entry always leaves me a distinct shade of lime green. Even after being planetside for a few hours I can still feel my gut rising and falling like a roller coaster. This air taxi isn’t helping much, the pilot seems to the think that speed limits are suggestions rather than the law.

It’s odd that Kat didn’t meet me at the spaceport. I don’t mind taking the taxi, but it’s unlike her to fail to keep a promise.

Entry 3

Poor Kat. Chris started vomiting this morning and Kat was so worried that she completely forgot about meeting me – now she’s apologising every ten seconds. I’ve told her she can take me out to dinner tonight to make it up to me. I was going to take her out anyway, but hopefully this will let her get over it. I don’t fancy the idea of feeling guilty about her feeling guilty for the entire week.

The doc says Chris is fine, it was just some short-lived bug that’s going around at the moment. He said Chris should take a few days off school to rest (which I’m sure he’s devastated about), and of course Salli complained that her brother shouldn’t get to spend extra time with me just because he was stupid enough to get sick, so now both the kids are at home. It’s good to see the twins again, but I was looking forward to a little one-on-one time with Kat before the rat-monsters entered the picture.

Kat’s lined up a babysitter for tonight and we’ve made a booking at Panarotti’s. It’s been too long since I’ve eaten real food.

Entry 4

We were at the restaurant for four hours, they had to kick us out at closing time. There’s always so much to talk about.

Bill Naider – Big Bill Naider who always complained about government oppression – enlisted in the C.D.F. last month. I didn’t see that coming. Last time we spoke was just after the war began and he was decrying the waste of resources and lives. I guess the recruitment campaign about “The Right Arm of Cirin” is working.

I mentioned that to Kat and she gave me a worried look. I reassured her that I wasn’t thinking about enlisting myself, that I was quite happy flying the Farhaven to Granger milk run for the DoT. Her reaction was a little… well it wasn’t quite what I expected. There was relief, of course, but also just a trace of disappointment. She tried to hide it, but I know her face too well. She’s happy that my line of work is nice and safe (at least as safe as working in space can ever be), but I know how proud she is of her father and sister for serving in the C.D.F. Perhaps she really does want a man who would be prepared to put himself in harm’s way to defend the Alliance – but it’s equally important that trade continues. Farhaven exports enough food to keep almost a fifth of the space forces fed. I’m doing my bit.

Kat understands that, and she’d never argue the point, but I know it’s not the same for her. The conversation turned uncomfortably quiet for a minute or so until I changed the topic.

It was very good pasta.

Entry 5

We went out to Nolan’s Falls today for a picnic. It was great to relax with Kat and the Rat Monsters for a few hours and forget about the annoying little problems we have to deal with on a daily basis.

Kat’s doing a great job of raising the kids and holding the house together, but It’s a strain on both of us, being apart for four weeks out of every five. This morning we talked again about looking for work closer to home, but every time we do the maths it just doesn’t add up. These long-haul trips are the only ones which pay enough to support the whole family, and working planet side is out of the question as Kat would have to go back to work at the Ministry to make up for the lost income. We don’t want our kids to spend most of their childhood in day-care.

They’ll be teenagers in a few years, that’ll put them out of the danger zone for spacer syndrome and other problems associated with raising children in space. Kat says she’s happy to talk about the three of them living with me in space, but I worry about the kids. They have friends and family on Farhaven, I’m not sure it would fair to take them away from that.

There’s a farewell party for Big Bill in a week or so. What a shame that I can’t be there to see him flirting with my beautiful wife.

Entry 6
We were woken this morning by a public announcement over the news terminal. Apparently there’s a battle taking place in orbit as I write. A republic fleet jumped in and engaged the local CDF forces. I bet they were surprised to find a Daimyo waiting for them.

Kat’s started gathering photo albums in case we need to evacuate, but I’m not sure where you go to hide from an orbital threat. Follow the cloud cover perhaps? Chris is on the front lawn, staring at the sky. He swears he can see the ships fighting, though I’m fairly confident they’re on the other side of the planet.

Looks like the war has finally come home.

Entry 7

How long does it take to fight a space battle? It’s been six hours now and there’s still no official word. I walked down to the shops to buy some bread to find that there was none left – people are stocking up on food and water. Seems a little premature to me. Everywhere I looked, people kept glancing nervously at the sky.

I’ve sent a message to captain Moore at the Exchange, but he hasn’t replied so far.

Chris and Salli think it’s all very exciting. Kat looks tired.

Entry 8

We just heard a heavy thud that rattled the windows. Looking outside we can see a column of smoke in the distance, towards the city. We checked the terminal for news but couldn’t connect to the feed.

Entry 9

Almost twelve hours since this started and now we’ve lost power. I checked outside and it looks like the whole suburb is blacked out. The solar batteries have enough charge to keep the bare necessities going for a week or so, certainly long enough to sort out whatever this mess is, but there are a lot of anxious people standing on their front lawns at then moment.

Entry 10

A police car just flew down the street with a loudspeaker. The CDF forces suffered heavy losses and were forced to retreat into the Biggs cloud and the Daris have blockaded the exchange. All military personnel have been told to report to the spaceport, and everyone else has been urged to stay indoors where possible. Eric, next door, says that the Daris took out the power plant and some of the local node clusters, hence the lack of power and net feed.

The kids are scared. Kat’s scared. I think I’m scared too, but I’m doing everything I can not to show it.

Entry 11

The Feed is back online this morning, or at least the emergency network is. It looks like the Daris have taken advantage of orbital superiority to take out most of our satellites, so all the news is local. They’re saying that the CDF counterattack should come in just a few days, a week at the most. That sounds a little optimistic, considering that we’re right on the edge of Cirin space here, but it also sounds like a damn long time to be under the guns of the Republic.

We don’t have much food to speak of at the moment, but ration distribution is already taking place at community centres. I don’t like the idea of leaving the house, but if things don’t get better soon, we’ll need to head out eventually. Chris asked whether we’re going to have to resort to cannibalism. Salli said she’d never eat him, he’s too smelly.

We heard two more thuds this morning. One further than last night, one closer.

Entry 12

Another Police Car flew by an hour ago, asking for anyone with space-going experience, especially pilots, to make their way to the spaceport. It was followed by the same announcement on the Feed. I can only guess they’re going to try and break out, maybe rendezvous with the CDF counter-attack.

I don’t want to go.

I know I’m supposed to be noble and heroic, that I can be one of the muscles of the great arm of General Cirin, ready to help sweep away our enemies, but I don’t want to go. Kat summed it up pretty well when she said “But you’re just a freighter pilot”.

As soon as she said it I saw that was she sorry and didn’t mean it to sound so critical. She’s torn up. She’s trying not to show it, but it’s in her eyes. She doesn’t want me to go, but she does. She doesn’t want to be married to a hero, but she does. She’s proud of me, but she isn’t.

She’s said nothing, done nothing. She talked about how the kids need me, about how she needs me, and how I’m just a freighter pilot – but I know her, I know what she really wants me to do. I know what Bill would do, what he’s probably doing right now.

I don’t want to go, but I don’t want to stay.

Entry 13

It’s not just about what Kat wants, it’s not even about what my government has asked me to do. It’s about the twins. They’re terrified, and they’re in real danger. There was another impact ten minutes ago, so close that I felt the shockwave like a punch in the chest. I can see smoke coming from Oakridge. That whole suburb is just dense housing, thousands of families like ours.

When this war is over, I need to know that I did everything I could to protect my children and – call me old fashioned – my wife.

The comms system is clogged up so I can’t order a taxi and I don’t like the idea of leaving Kat without the car, so Eric next door has offered to take me to the spaceport. We’re leaving in ten minutes.

Entry 14

Something’s happened.

We stopped to buy fuel. Eric was paying when we heard a crack like thunder. I looked towards the city and saw more smoke, this time coming from the direction of the spaceport. As I watched I saw several glowing objects fall from the sky, burning bright orange and leaving plumes of smoke behind them. They slammed into the spaceport and there were a series of bright flashes and we saw fireballs wooshing up into the sky. Moments later the sound hit us, a deep crack crack crack, that made the ground tremor. They’re bombing the spaceport.

More now. Those things are falling in all directions now, sending smoke and fire into the sky when they hit. One was close, very close.

Entry 15

Eric ran back to the car and we took off without a word. He turned the car back towards home and when he did, I saw why. There’s fire. Lots of fire.

Please God, let them be alright.

Continue to Baruk's Story: Part 2





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