The Further Adventures of the Marines who Fight in Space


The Further Adventures of the Marines Who Fight in Space

DL Thurston

Lance Corporal Gunderson glanced around the enlisted mess of the SN Raptor, his new home for the next seven months en route to Pavel’s Planet. He’d only recently been activated from the Earth Marines and was still getting used to life on ship. Sure, gravity pulled down, but there was something different about the artificial field. Sure, there were stars out the window, but they had a rather distressing tendency to not stay in one place. He’d been through the eternal night of space in his training on Luna, but the stars, man. The stars.

The tables were self segregated, with the smaller Space Navy crew that ran the Raptor occupying a few tables and his new battalion filling the rest. He recognized the face of Private First Class Murphy at one of the tables. Space Private First Class, he corrected himself as he set down his tray of chipped beefite on toast.

“Gunderson you son of a bitch! Haven’t seen you since Omaha!”

“You never said you’d been mustered to the stars.”

“Three years ago. Saw action on New Panama.”

“New Panama? I saw the reports, that was some nasty shit.”

“Twice as bad on the inside. Not everything makes it into those reports. This your first trip out of the Earth System?”

“Yup. Thrilled to finally be a Space M–”

Murphy shushed him and waved his hands violently. The room took on a brief quiet, from all tables filled by the marine battalion eyes now stared at him.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“Almost. Didn’t they tell you that shit back in basic?”

“What shit? I got rushed through, needed some last minute additions to the Space M–”

“There you go again!” Murphy looked at the other tables. “It’s okay, he didn’t know. I’ll get that beat out of him.” Eyes turned back to their breakfasts, Gunderson could only be confused.

“What’s wrong with saying Sp–” he cut himself off that time. “What’s wrong with calling us what we are?”

“That ain’t what we are.”

“But look. Back on Earth we were in the Earth Marines. Those guys over there, the Raptor crew, they’re the Space Navy. So it’s only logical that we’re…you know.”

“But we ain’t. You got to get that through your fool head. We can’t call ourselves…that.”

“Why the hell not?”

“You know those Shopwork Games adventure weekends they got back on Earth? Take a bunch of amped up teens, bored business men, let them pretend to be something else for a weekend?”

“Did a few of those when I was a kid, we were fighting skeletons and trolls. What does that have to do with us not being Spa–”

“Because,” Murphy interrupted. Gunderson bristled. “They offered one where you got to pretend to go and fight an alien horde. As marines. In space. And they called them…” He trailed off, rolling his hands.

“That’s not a reason.”

“Of course it’s a reason.”

“Alright,” Gunderson rubbed the back of his neck, “it’s a reason. But it’s not a good reason.”

“It is to them. And it is to their lawyers.”

“But we’ve had marines in space since 2132 since Captain Brink mustered the first battalion. That’s 81 years. And this company has existed since…?”

“2375. But it doesn’t matter.”

“And they’ve used the phrase,” Murphy held up a finger, “yes, that phrase, since…?”

“2387?”

“So there were…marines in space for 55 years by then. Why the hell does anyone care?”

“Oh, man, they’ve got enforcers everywhere. Like you wouldn’t believe.”

“You’re talking bullshit.”

“I’m trying to help you muster in better.”

Gunderson didn’t answer. He put his fork down and stood away from the table.

“Don’t do it, man,” Murphy said, pulling on Gunderson’s sleeve.

Gunderson cleared his throat. “I’m proud to be part of this battalion,” he began. Eating came to a halt in both crews now, and all faces were on him. “I’m proud to be fighting for the human race. I’m proud to be a Space Ma–”

He was dead before he hit the ground. The enlisted mess now smelled of crackling ozone and cooked blood. Gunderson lay on the floor, a smoking hole in his back from the plasma discharge.

Murphy turned back to his chipped beefite. “I tried to tell the bastard.”

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