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   Chapter 5 No.5

Demonspawn By Christina Engela Characters: 6675

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:02

Under normal circumstances, by now, Joe Lofflin would have been restrained by Security Marines and escorted to the brig under arrest – but the shadow just sat there, looking bewildered. Then Blaine began to tremble, with grief and with guilt. He looked up at Lofflin, his bloodshot eyes making erratic contact with his own.

"I…" He croaked, lips trembling. "I'm… Joe, I'm sorry. You'll never know how sorry…" Greasy tears ran down the shadow's cracked face. Repelled by the sight of the specter, Lofflin turned and walked away, slamming the door on his way out.

Still fuming, Lofflin stormed off toward no particular destination, but eventually made his way to the recreation center. It was empty. Somebody had made an effort to clean up a bit. Broken bottles and glasses from the bar filled a large waste bin that stood to one side. The shelves of the bar itself were empty, save for a comic mug that bore the humorous legend 'The best man for the job is a woman.' It was full of swizzle sticks – just like most of the women Joe Lofflin had known in his life.

That set him wondering how a female Captain would've handled the situation. Hmm. Probably somewhat better, he thought. They would probably have been at the repair base now, having some 'r.n.r.' at the local bar, watching a movie or sport or something. He might've been still contemplating his future, meeting the right guy, settling down, starting a family… Realizing that all those hopes and dreams were now moot made him angry again, but he had no energy left at that moment to give vent to it. Instead, he just stared at his surroundings, and leaned on the bar counter. He was hungry, and he realized with surprise that he hadn't eaten since the previous day.

The mirrors behind the shelves on the wall behind the bar had cracked all different ways. Kind of like the crew, he pondered. The pool table was still intact though. He went up to it and leaned on the thick green felt top. Pretty soon, he thought, things are going to start falling apart. Dying for a cause was one thing, but waiting for death like this – useless, wasted – was senseless! Hell, dying for any cause was objectionable to him! He thumped the table with a fist. Coming out this far into space was a risk in itself! But this was the life they'd chosen, and they lived with it, every damned day! It was a calculated risk – general accidents, system failures, possibly hostile aliens, fighting Corsairs… anything could happen – life in space was full of surprises, both good and bad!

The Space Fleet recruiting office didn't fill its quota by advertising 'Join up, see the universe, meet interesting people and maybe die screaming'. Oh no, they were very patriotic about it; in the same way that patriotism was the single cause behind every major war fought since – well, since History. 'You aren't going to let THEM do that to US and get away with it, are YOU?' it said between the lines of every recruiting poster since the time of bronze spears and iron swords – and lately along the lines of black flags with skulls and cross-bones on them.

The Fleet wasn't just there to discover habitable worlds or to aid in their colonization – or to defend democracy or freedom, or any other vague, abstract, candy-cane concept. Ever since some hostile aliens called the Ruminarii attacked Eart

h several centuries earlier, the Space Fleet had existed to defend Humankind against the hostile inhuman. The friendly inhuman, nobody had a problem with, obviously – except maybe a few well-hidden nut-cases who slept in underground fall-out shelters with their blasters under their pillows, and hoarded water and AAA batteries under their beds. The Fleet was also there to defend against Corsair attacks – and just in case they ran into some more Ruminarii – or somebody even worse.

In many ways, the Corsairs were worse than the Ruminarii – because the Ruminarii weren't even Human. They'd attacked Earth just ten years after the Big Nuke in the next step of their intended conquest of the galaxy, and tried in vain to reach the planet after destroying nearly all of Earth's small colonies on Luna and Mars before being driven off again. The young Human upstarts who had only dipped their little toes into the waters of space proved to be hardier foes than the Ruminarii imagined, and the Gimp War lasted five years. Earth was the rock that broke the hull of their expansionist Empire, and they pretty much withdrew and pulled back afterwards. By contrast, Corsairs were not only Human, but they originally came from Earth itself – and subsisted by plundering and murdering their own kind. They were despicable.

No, Lofflin thought grimly, the idea wasn't to die for a cause, no matter how great and glorious – it was to fight for it and to stay alive in order to keep on fighting for it until there was no longer a need to fight anymore! Not to die like this – wasted – like spam in a can, awaiting a slow lingering death! He sighed. Hmm. That's what they said in World War I, calling it the Great War – the War to End All Wars, only it didn't quite work out that way, did it? War isn't great, not great at all. Not by a fucking long shot! No matter how noble the intent was of inspiring people to go to war to make it 'the last war, ' there was always another one to follow, because war breeds war. War is a constant. For some nations, and in some periods in history, it was both way of life and the basis of economies.

Lofflin remembered the day it all fell apart, the events replaying in his memory. Only three days ago and yet an eternity… He'd been kept busy assisting the Chief Entech, Ralph Billingham in the ships main engine room most of the morning. He'd actually gone to check up on progress on repairs to one of the ship's systems, and then got sidetracked – Billingham was a little short-handed at the time, with all his entechs running about the ship to check on glitches and other problems as they came up. Lofflin still remembered how glad he was to be on the way to Starbase 91 near Tremaine Colony. Tremaine was almost a paradise, covered by vast unspoiled forests. It was a beauty, alive with an abundance of native plant and animal life – some of it indigenous, to experience. The girls there were what most of the male crew raved about – they were pretty nice too, even if they were a little snobby. So were the guys, but at least they were better looking, at least to Lofflin. At any rate, better to look at than the regular uniforms he saw every damn day. He still remembered Billingham's offhand grunt when Lofflin jokingly said as much… and that's when the ship-wide call to battle stations came.

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