Hendricks walked slowly along the empty passageway, he didn’t want to do what he was going to do but he knew there was no option left to him; battered and shot up Forgestriker will be at the mercy of every band of outlaws in space and he and his men would be asleep and he hoped to be able to wake, so he could help with the latest repair work. His ship had become his home and she was dying around him, this lady is the closest Hendricks had come to a lover; he had never been able to mix well at the officers parties and preferred to stay out of the social scene. He gently patted the layered skins of Forgestriker and where the holes showed you had the chance to view the various schemes she had been painted in, for many years she trawled back and forth across the endless blankness of space until the Baal radar trackers guided her home.
This time it would be different, he realised the end of the regiment may be at hand and he knelt to pray, “Lord Savian of Baal, please guide us home, this day; we are tired and beaten with many whose gave service to you and who will not see our planet again, I beseech you to guide their souls to your care, for those who are able to stay alive a little longer, give us hope to live for, Amen,” Hendricks rose from the kneeling position and laid a hand on the side of his ship, “I’m sorry for the pain we caused you and for duties which were beyond your remit, but I thank you for always bringing us safe to Baal, if we don’t get back this time; may we all die at peace.”
He left the hallway and headed forward, listening to the engines he began to realise she was straining to move and soon may stop, but his duty had to be done whether they got back or not – an officer is duty bound.
The failing systems left pools of darkness among the dimly lit walkways which once held proud men, men who waited a brave fight against an enemy they needed to conquer, as he stooped under a hole the size of a man, he called out, “Shit, who am I kidding! We got sent to another shit hole, got our asses kicked again and now we look set to drift in space, alone for eternity; where the fuck is the honour and glory,” stumbling forward as the ship lurched, he kicked at an empty canister of Baltier blade rippers, shells designed to tear a man to pieces and leave poisons in his blood system. The canister rolled across the emptiness around him for minutes, as if trying to decide whether to stay on the balcony in silence or drop to the floor below with a heavy CLUNK, in the end it didn’t matter, Hendricks lost his patience and bending down he picked the can up before hurling the thing along the corridor, where it came to rest against the helm control door, “Shit, my lucky day,” he muttered, “the bloody tin is in my way again,” as he headed to the helm to perform what may be his last command decision, certainly on Forgestriker; if not his career, Malcolm Hendricks had already decided on a plan of action and nothing other than death or being stranded out in deep space was going to stop him, consequences were many and ructions would be caused, but he had lost faith in the ranking echelon above him and somebody had to pay for the men who lay dead and dying in the wards aft.
The doors which once opened to a touchpad had become jammed and it took him a good few minutes to prise them apart enough to get into the helm area, viewing what remained of the section around him, he was stunned by how much the ship had endured and yet kept moving, she was a resolute old lady and didn’t want to die out here, alone, lost and forgotten any more than he did. The area which used to be a viewing platform had been reduced to a mass of tangled metal with loose wiring hanging everywhere, as low on power as Forgestiker had become, touch a cable and you would get such a shock you would die.
Up on entering the helm, the helmsman rose to salute him but Hendricks said, “I wouldn’t waste your energy, soldier between you, me and what is left of Forgestriker; I doubt we’ll see our home.”
The helmsman looked at Hendricks and said, “Do you think even the men who are not too badly injured will die out here, sir?”
Hendricks took off what remained of his tattered uniform and walked to the helm as he got nearer to the man, he said, “To be honest, what Captain Moore said was not entirely true.”
A smile passed the man’s dried lips as he said, “Does that mean we may get rescued?”
“I’m sorry to destroy your hopes, but Forgestriker has a far greater chance of ending up out in dead space,” as he ended, he pointed out of the cracked window at the blackness outside.
“Do you think anybody will find us, sir?”
“No chance, soldier, we are out of power and drifting into goodness what in goodness knows where and days from the homing beacon at Kellows Point; if and this is a big if, we did get to Kellows, we may have a remote hope of rescue but don’t get too hopeful. Okay, I’m relieving you at the helm, you can go and prepare for the deep hibernation; I need to set the system up for deep hibernation and do some final course adjustments then I’ll shut the systems down and we can pray to our Lord for a miracle.
“Aye sir, the helm is yours, and may Lord Savian guide us home.”
Hendricks moved to the helm and after a short time it was obvious to him; the controls were dead and even with what remained of his strength moving the column was impossible which meant he had no hopes of turning in the direction he thought Baal may be, “Shit, another fucking mess we’re landed in, will our trouble ever stop?” he muttered as the ship’s engine slowed to a minimum drive to conserve fuel.
“Okay, here goes,” he said to vocilator at the helm station. “This is the Explorator vessel Forgesriker from the planet Baal; we are out of fuel and supplies and have left the Gameroon system heading home. To the people who may receive this message, I wish to say a final farewell to the fallen comrades of the 7th Baalite Guard and to tell you, we died fighting and though our glorious leaders may call this a victory, it was a disaster from start to finish. I am Gardatrousier Malcolm Hendricks signing off,” he ended the speech and switched control of Forgestriker to his room and closed the helm on his way out.