You stare at the words “SLDF Marathon”.
And below that, “101AR/1B” – 101st Armored Regiment, 1st Battalion.
The ink is perfect, crisp, black against the gunmetal grey of the hull. There’s not a scratch on it, not a scuff.
It seems impossible against the tens of thousands of tons of twisted, shattered metal.
You’re floating in the Firefly’s outer lock in a pressure suit as Blake works a plasma cutter against Marathon’s deck seven service lock. It had taken three days to get to the wreckage, sent by Tokugawa and Cottle to scrape up every last drop of several medicines and one very specific antifreeze. It will, in all likelihood, take over week to get back at the staggering rate at which the corpse of the Marathon was hurtling away from the Agamemnon.
After several minutes of the work, Blake finally cuts the latches free and lifts the hatch out of the way. Janks shines his lamp into the corridor then turns to you.
“Alright Stimson – it’s your show.”
“Right…” You take a deep breath and look warily down the passage, at the slightly twisted metal, the bits of debris. “I’ll take the sick bay, you guys see if you can make it to the mech bay and the engine room. Each one of those mechs should have some of this stuff in their bug-out bags. Phenotryptol, Taragen, Zytek.”
“And, um…the other?” asks Blake.
“Yeah…series seven antifreeze.” You hear a muffled whimper over the radio from Jack on the Firefly’s bridge.
You part ways with Janks and Blake and make your way through the wreckage to the dropship’s small sick bay and start cutting your way into the small medicine locker. You hear Janks and Blake make it to the upper mech bay and start clawing their way into the wreckage.
“So…” begins Jack, bored,”I was drinking with King the other night.”
“MP King?” asks Blake.
“The same. So King was standing post at the Old Man’s door and apparently he and Becker got into it.”
“So?” you ask, “Everyone’s a little tense.”
“No, I mean, really really got into it – there was screaming, things breaking. King said if it’d been anyone else but the XO in there he would’ve interrupted.”
“I don’t buy it,” you reply as you finally get the door of the locker free and start stuffing meds into your bag, “she worships the guy, he’s like her tiny little wrinkled Japanese father-figure.”
“Not anymore, not the way King tells it. Says she was looking to tear someone in half when she came out of there.”
“Guess everyone has a breaking point,” chimes in Janks.
You clear the last of the meds you need out of the cabinet and head towards the access shaft to the lower decks of the ship. “Top, I’m done up here, coming your way.”
“Roger that, take the starboard shaft, the port side is crumpled at the fighter bay.”
You change course and begin moving that direction.
“I wonder where the TSO came down on the subject,” ponders Blake.
“I think you mean â€˜went down’,” you crack. There are chuckles and an obligatory grumble from Janks.
“No idea,” continues Jack, “we got shipped out here the next day. And may I remind you gentlemen that we are hurtling away from the only hot meal in fifteen light-years at about forty thousand kilometers per second, so do hurry.”
“Yeah, yeah, hurry hurry,” you say, as you pull up to the open access hatch of a Highlander and pull the bug-out bag out from behind the ejection seat. You pocket the tiny ampules of medicine, take a look around and confirm that the other eleven mechs in this bay are hopelessly inaccessible in the wreckage, and begin winding your way down the central crane causeway to the engine compartment at the bottom of the ship, waving to Janks and Blake as you pass through the third mech bay.
You find the door to the tiny compartment that provides access to Marathon’s massive transit drive twisted completely from its hinges. The whole ship was twisted nearly 90 degrees in the tidal forces of the jump that tore her free of the Agamemnon. One glance into the compartment confirms your fears – the antifreeze tanks are pinned behind a bulkhead.
“No antifreeze here,” you sigh, “let’s hope the other squad has better luck with the Cynae.”
You make your way back up to the lower mech bay and collect the meds that Janks and Blake have salvaged from the wreckage so far and head back up to deck seven. At one point you stop outside the crew mess and watch the bits of dinnerware floating, glinting in the light of your lamp.
A chill comes over you.
“Hey guys?” you ask quietly. The squad picks up something in your tone and Jack responds all business.
“Where are the bodies?”
There’s a moment of complete silence, the only thing you hear is your breath in your helmet.
“Okay yeah, fuck this place, we’re leaving,” says Janks.