|Eric Olafson, Fleet Cadet|
|Previous||Chapter 6: Maritime|
|Next||CHAPTER 8 :MASTER ALAMEA|
CHAPTER 7: DANIEL STATIONEdit
Two days later however we did find the latest Copy of Squadron News on the table in our dorm and in it a detailed article about the fight, no names where mentioned and the images had the faces replaced with featureless dots.
Narth tabbed his finger on the recording and watched the fight sequences again. "I am pleased with my performance. I have physically bested the Spindlar."
"Especially considering the alternative I am glad you bested that Newport cadet as well."
Narth rolled the magazine foil up and put it in his sleeve." It is the first time Narth defeats another being using simple four dimensional methods, using something as crude as a cutting instrument. No Narth has done something similar in many billions of years."
"So the Narth are around a whole lot longer than anyone thinks. I heard estimates of up to 250 million years but you say billions. I almost have a feeling you have been around since time began."
"Your feeling is not entirely wrong, but it is also not entirely correct. There are different levels of time, just as there are different levels of space or as you call it dimensions and alternate universes. Narth did not exist time began as you know it, but Narth has existed for a very long period in let us call it a previous Omniverse."
"You know all that makes perfectly sense to me!"
"It does! One is pleased and surprised that the explanation was successful, but one does suspect his friend to be not entirely truthful."
"It's called sarcasm. It is very hard for a Neo Viking who is just a simple three dimensional being on a mono linear one way time track."
"You may not realize it, but I see in your choice of words that you are well on your way of understanding Narth."
Limbur who had just walked in said." He sure begins to sound like you! Words like mono linear are usually your vocabulary."
Narth, I could feel was pleased." One day Eric will be Narth."
That afternoon, Lt. Aurelius our head instructor ordered us all into the auditorium and there they told us that the next training segment was to be held at Daniel Station an orbital space station around the planet.
A shuttle ferried us to that orbital station above Idyllic.
We shuffled of the shuttle and assembled in the small docking bay. There was a marine Lieutenant standing before us. Recognizable by the dark blue uniform he wore." I am Lt. Heinlein and I will be your instructor for the next training segment.
"This is also the last time for the next four weeks you are under gravitation. You will learn how to work, sleep, eat, drink, and use the bathroom and how to fight under Zero Gee."
He slowly walked down the line we had build standing shoulder to shoulder." Artificial gravity is perhaps the most important technological development of our galaxy spawning culture. Without it none of our ships could maneuver as they do, accelerate or decelerate with the speeds they do. Simply traveling from one planet to another within the same system would take month. ArtiGrav is used in Transport systems and allows us to colonize planets with otherwise crushing gravitation. Gravitation anchors keep space stations from drifting and Gravitation mines and bombs are devastating weapons.
Since all four founding members of the United Stars live under one Gee conditions all our ships maintain a One Gee environment. ArtiGrav Systems aboard Ships and space stations are always triple redundant and often have independent energy supplies and usually the last system that fails, because it is considered the single most important one, more important than even life support."
He paused as he reached the end of the line and slowly turned." However it is a system and like any other system it can fail. Captains often choose to shut down ArtiGrav during Intruder Alerts or when Boarding is imminent. Most of you will spend much of your career aboard ships or space installations and you must learn how to act without the aid of Gravitation."
He made a sign with his hand and everything changed! I suddenly lost my orientation. I knew the ceiling was supposed to be up and the floor down, but I felt strongly disoriented and began to drift toward the ceiling.
"I shall do so, Sir. However one might float around quite undignified!"
"That, Cadet Narth is exactly what I want you to do!"
After a week I did pretty well in Zero G as long as we stayed inside the station and I could see walls and my mind had a clear reference for what was up or down. I learned how to move and do all the other things. I started to like it, it was not entirely unlike diving and I found that the moves were similar and I thought I could live like this for a long time.
But all changed after we had to go outside for the first time. It was part of this training to learn how to work on tether or with propulsion packs and perform repair and maintenance tasks.
The first time the Airlock opened I felt terrified, more than I ever thought possible. The very thought of getting lost out here, looking into deep space and not feeling anything under my feet was almost crippling me. My muscles cramped up and it took all my willpower to move. I was hot and sweated as if I was in a steaming jungle and the next second I felt cold and shivered and all because of this terrible fear. I was close to fail class I knew it. Being in Deep space terrified me in a way I could not explain. I did not even know why I was so afraid. I learned that it was not a good idea to throw up inside a space suit and despite my first experience I threw up several times after that.
Only because I knew I would fail and asked to leave I forced myself not to give up.
"Are you well?" Narth asked after we returned from our latest space walk."
"No I am not alright!" I snapped at him and immediately felt sorry for snapping at him, since I knew his concern was genuine.
Narth didn't like direct contact very much but he put his hand on my shoulder anyway." I admire you for your courage to go out there despite the fear you feel. I am still new to human emotions and I never felt anything of such intensity."
"I shouldn't have snapped at you like that."
"Eric, remember we share the Innermost shell and therefore know you did not mean it. No apologies necessary. I am surprised at the level of stress this causes for you and that you function anyway."
His presence and the friendship allowed me to relax, and then I looked back through the Airlock window and shivered involuntarily." I need to get used to it, somehow. What kind of officer would I be, being afraid of the very environment I want to work in?"
"I believe you suffer from a condition called Astrophobia which is a severe fear of deep space. The causes are uncertain to me because of all sciences; psychology is the most alien to Narth. However certain factors may increase the likelihood that a phobia will develop. These factors are often genetic."
"Well that must be the reason then. I doubt the school doctor on Nilfeheim checked on Cento phobia markers. It can't be any child hood trauma since I was never in space and the only similar environment is the ocean and I love that."
"You should perhaps seek help here?"
"I don't want to risk Psycho Surgery! I somehow manage!"
We returned from our sixth outside exercise and I was at the end of my nerves and I knew it was Narths secretive telekinetic assistance that got me through most of the exercise.
Heinlein gave the sign and we collapsed our helmets. Like all marines I had met so far, he was in physical peak condition and there was a can do attitude in every step and gesture. He displayed the pride he felt to his branch of the service almost fanatical in every breathing moment and radiated an aggressive confident readiness even when he slept." Mr. Olafson was this the way I showed you how to use the Multi – tool?"
He referred to my sloppy job at the simulated repair job I had to perform at an instrument cluster pod.
"Do you want to report to the Psych Section, they can do something about your condition?"
"No Sir. There is the possibility they recommend Psycho Surgery one must be undergo fresh Psycho Evaluation and there is very high chance I will not be able to complete the Academy. However I am volunteering to return and correct my mistake, Sir!"
"Accepted! Go out there and fix it. I am going to inspect it later!"
I activated the helmet and the filmy transparent film slid out the collar encased my head and became rigid.
I pressed my teeth so hard together that my jaws hurt as I went back into the Airlock. This old station had no energy membrane locks like I seen them on Arsenal gate and relied the old two door cycle.
Heinlein's voice came through the Com unit." Take your time, Mr. Olafson. This is not a combat damage control job." I had to force my teeth apart and said." Aye Sir!"
A trip to the Psych Ward would make them find out about my other problem as well and that would have meant the end of my dream becoming a starship captain.
The door opened. The sensor module was only 1000 meters away from the station and clearly visible in my head up display. But I would have to cross the 1000 meters using the propulsion pack without a tether.
My muscles seemed frozen and I couldn't make them move as I stood at the edge. My stomach cramped to a rock and forced sour and bitter tasting bile into my throat making me gag. This time there weren't any others. I was alone!
Just as I was ready to abandon my idea to go forward and accept going to the Psych Ward I could hear my father's voice and heard him laugh." I knew you would come crawling back!"
With that vision in my mind I pushed off and the momentum alone would give me enough momentum to reach the platform. It was an inaccurate vision as father had changed, but his change came after I had left and in my memories he still was the evil behemoth lurking in my dreams. I needed the prop pack only to adjust the trajectory; my push gave me enough momentum to reach the cluster.
I realized I had my eyes pressed shut and almost missed the sensor cluster.
Once I reached the array it wasn't so bad. The construct gave me some sense of distance and mass. I recited the names of all the Aseir while I used the multi tool to tighten bolts. No modern structures used bolts. Everything was molecular deep level bonded with adhesives but this was a training construct and every form of fasteners where used of various tech levels. Working in free fall was much like working under water without the drag so this part was not so difficult for me.
I managed to return and went back inside. The other cadets had of course showered, eaten dinner and enjoyed their few moments of free time before bed. The Airlock area was deserted.
It took me a little longer to get out of the suit. My hands where still shaking.
Lt. Heinlein appeared just as I hung the suit away." Do you want to go to Sickbay now?"
I shook my head, thought better and straightened out." No Sir. If my work was not satisfactory I will volunteer to return and correct it."
"You would?" "Aye Sir."
"I haven't checked on your work. Are you not sure it is done correctly?"
"Sir I tightened all bolts as required to the specified torque. I have not overlooked any and did all 72 bolts."
"So why would you want to go out then and correct it?"
"Sir the opinion and observation of a Cadet might not always be the same as those of an Instructor. Your evaluation of my job performance outweighs my opinion of it."
"A tight bolt is a tight bolt, no matter who checks it. I know you suffer from severe Cento phobia. You should know there are really simple treatment options available.
But you are correct I don't like taking these fears away from our Cadets. It is the sum of all that makes us individuals and a very important part of our personalities are our fears. I must say you would have made a good marine."
"A Marine, Sir?"
"We all are afraid of something, but to be more stubborn than your fear and go at it anyway that's the hallmark of a good soldier, Son! Well we see how good a Marine you really would have made, tomorrow for sure!"
I was not sure if he wanted a response so I kept silent
He turned to leave." Tomorrow we do Orbital Assault Jumps."
As he went to the door he added." Now get cleaned up, find some chow and hit the rack!"
Orbital assault jumps where usually reserved for Marines, but our instructors insisted we needed to get qualified as well.
Heinlein seemed especially happy and it was clear he looked forward to the exercise." Terrans are the only species we know of that developed this form of planetary assault. A man in a space suit is a very small target and it takes very sophisticated tracking and sensor technology to even detect a man sized target in space. Since no other species we know of ever even considered doing what we are about to do, the element of surprise is on our side and a powerful tactical advantage. Marines often debark light hour or even further away from an intended target and use low signature mini jumps to get closer. At very sensitive black ops missions they might choose to travel the entire distance in sub light, being in Cryo-stasis for month drifting through space and then jump undetected on a target planet. Especially if your enemies don't know what to look for what to expect, Marines can rain on your planet undetected and cause real damage before you even know they are there. You are officers and it might come the day you are assigned to do gather Intel and you are deployed that way. It might come the day your space ship has been blown to bits from under your behind and you need to reach planetary surface.
You can do an orbital jump with almost any space suit; given the thing has a thruster or ArtiGrav to slow you down.
Well we won't let you try it in some sub standard equipment so you all going to be equipped with real Marine Quasimodos. So it's going to be a piece of cake!"
A planet looks incredibly big from a space ship. Being outside in a Marine Destroyer Suits approaching a planet from a six-hundred click orbit was the most terrifying experience in my life so far.
I made it, I landed. 17 kilometers off my intended target but I made it and I sank to my knees and actually kissed the ground when I finally had solid ground under my legs again and felt the welcome push of natural gravity.
Surprisingly Heinlein did not comment on me missing the landing coordinates and handed me the Orbital jump patch and I was qualified.
During our last deep space exercise we had to use mini jump drives and find a probe, repair it and return. The jump drives made the suits into mini space ships.
My jump drive mal functioned and I missed the target area by almost six light hours. All systems except basic life support failed right after I returned to real space and I floated absolutely alone in deep space. Idyllic's sun was just a bright star. It was so quiet I could hear my own breathing and my heart beat. It was the scariest sound ever. In my mind it underlined the fact I was utterly lost in an environment so vast no one could possibly find a little speck like me. I was very afraid. In any other situation I could probably think of something, but here I was completely out of options. Space suits where marvels of modern technology and had an abundance of failsafe systems, backups and redundancy systems. Why my suit failed so completely was unexplainable to me. The Communications unit was down, so was the on board AI. Without the computronic I could not use diagnostics or use the repair nanites. The backup computronic sputtered nonsense and I had to turn it off and it would not reboot.
All I could think of was that I got hit by some sort of EMP that might have caused this system wide failure.
Deep Space suits like this one where equipped with an Auto Doc. This was a medical expert system able to diagnose and treat many problems with a variety of drugs and state of the art medical nanites. In case similar to mine, the Auto Doc could induce a cryogenic sleep state and reduce life functions to a bare minimum allowing the occupant of the suit to stay alive for many years. But the Auto Doc was just as unresponsive as the rest of the systems since it needed the Computronic to function. The small indicator panel showed me I had air for another hour, without the recycling systems I would run out of breathable air.
Heating still worked; at least I would not freeze to death.
My last hope was that the emergency beacon. It was supposed to activate in a case like this and had its own energy supply.
Our instructors would know by now I was missing, but every attempt to search for me without a working beacon would be absolutely futile.
The chances to see a space ship where just as astronomic, even if a vessel would come close, it would be so fast I could not see it and then there was no light source out here that could reflect enough photons so my eyes could see an object even close by.
I was tempted to open the suit and make a quick end. The Laser torch in my tool belt would slice it open fast.
The air became stale and my heart was beating harder, I listened to my labored breathing and closed my eyes. This was it. I wondered what would be after death. Was there something? Would I wake in Valhalla and be the laughingstock of all real Vikings for eternity? I was never very religious and considered the belief of my people artificial superstition.
Now this close to death, I wondered if there was a God and if there was anything I should have done differently.
With those thoughts on my mind I became sleepy.
When I came to my first thought was that there was life after death! But that thought was soon dispelled and I was sure I was still alive. I found myself in sick bay on a diagnostic unit. A Med-Bot hovered nearby in observation mode and a Med tech I had seen around a few times before grinned." Welcome back Mr. Olafson."
"They found me?"
"Well to be exact you haven't been lost, but you are back at the base and you can get up. There is nothing wrong with you."
I got up and feeling solid ground under my feet was a very welcome feeling indeed.
Commander Letsgo stood in the door." It was a test Olafson. We knew you had the possible markers of Deep space phobia in your DNA, so we gave you a psych drug to increase it; we had to make sure you are able to function besides your fear. Especially since you refused Psych"
I frowned." Deep down I knew it was a test, the failure of all systems was so complete, that no normal malfunction could explain it, but with all due respect Sir. This was a rotten thing to do!"
Letsgo grinned.' I agree it was rotten, but you want to be an officer and those tests are part of it. I personally believe you knew it was a test, none of your stress factors rose significantly even to the end."
"The end wasn't so bad. The worse thing was to find out I was lost and nothing worked. Once I knew I could do nothing I accepted the fact, but I think I am going to re evaluate my opinion on religion and see if there is one that fits me."
The commander stepped out into the corridor." Think of it as a shock cure. The next time you go out in space you won't feel that much fear, you survived the worst possibility already."
I wondered if he was right.
Narth waited outside for me and said." They had your helmet fitted with a Psi Shield, so you couldn't hear my thoughts, but let me say this. The Universe is not big enough for me to lose contact to your mind. You will never be lost. There is no Psi shield that can hide you. I am always your friend and you are never alone!"
I knew then space would never be as scary to me as it was.
===Next Chapter: Master Alamea