Trial by Ice(58)
Author:Casey Calouette

    “They’re talking,” Xan said.

    “-orvette please identify yourself and confirm ID code. Corvette please identify yourself and confirm ID code. This is the United Colonies Ship Yosemite.” The message continued.

    William pushed the respond button highlighted on the slab. “Yosemite this is Midshipman William Grace, formerly of the Lawrence.”

    “Lawrence?” The voice asked surprised. There was a pause. “We’re sending over a tender.”

    The voices of the survivors burst over his comms and crashed in his ears. He could hear all of the voices cheering and hooting.

    All of the voices except Sebastien.

    They sat in the galley of the Yosemite and felt like animals in the zoo. Men found excuses to pass through to congratulate, celebrate, to see the impossible. No one survived a starship crash.

    The Marines and Soldiers sat near to each other and looked proudly upon Grace. They retold the tales of the ice fields, the boat, the assault, everything. The chubby faced Commander and the bald Lieutenant listened and took notes stunned by what they heard. A tub of ice cream melted in the center of the table untouched.

    William stared down at his freshly bound left hand. They told him they couldn’t do anything until he was back on a major colony or Earth. Marines in white uniforms came for him at the Admirals command.

    “Sir, Midshipman Grace reporting. Sir,” William snapped to attention and felt terribly tired. He couldn’t quite find the proper spot for a missing hand on his coveralls.

    “At ease Mr. Grace, sit.” The Admiral said as he beckoned with clean hands. He took a set of tumblers from his desk and poured a smoky brown liquid into them. The Admiral handed a glass over with a nod.

    William took the offered glass and held it in his hand.

    “Young man, you have done an amazing thing.” The Admiral raised his glass and took a stiff drink.

    William nodded and took a sip. The slippery liquid burned as it rolled down his throat. Scotch. He told the Admiral what he had told the Lieutenant and what he had told the Commander.

    The Admiral listened and sipped his scotch. “You’ll be heading back to Earth on the Lisbon in a few hours. You just fought the first battle of this war Mr. Grace.”

    William nodded and took a drink. It hadn’t felt like a battle. It simply felt like survival. Nothing felt like what he thought it would.

    “Mark my words, mark them well. None of this is going to end well. Worlds are going to fall. We need good officers, men who know how to lead.” The Admiral looked William in the eye and held his gaze. “It ain’t gonna end well.”

    William agreed and finished his drink. It was like ash in his mouth.

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