Private Santi meeting the Admiral of COP. © [AEP] SpriteVonPixel

 

Looking out of the window of the transport ship that was taking me from the Academy to the orbital space station for an emergency call to arms, I could feel deep inside that all the hardships of my life had paid off. I saw aurora borealis anomaly light up the back side of my lovely home, and looking at it from this perspective filled my chest with pride!

I was inspired and determined to become my family’s first armoured transport pilot!

I was the first one from my family and circle of friends that ever got a chance to look at our planet from above like this!

My mind started racing; the darkness of space around this dust-filled and resource-depleted planet mixed with my thoughts and took me back to my childhood when we were playing with dust devils and trying to catch them with sticks we found in the rubbles near our home. I smiled, and happiness overtook me: we had nothing, and we were happy!

…. The transport ship filled with cadets from all around the solar system made a quick turn, and the seatbelt jolted me in my seat. I saw two cadets fall out of their seats and laugh while quickly getting back to their seats.

Our group of 20 was pulled together urgently, and we were all only in the second year of training in different locations.

Our orders were short and clear: board the transport ship, arrive at the orbital station, and await further instructions.

I have never seen any of them before, except one. She was a year older than me, a grade A cadet with a much better record than me. I know she lived in a nice brick house with heating and running water just seven kilometres away from me when we were kids.

I would sometimes see her during my childhood on rare occasions, but I never dared to talk to her. I mean, what could we even talk about? We didn’t have any friends in common, but when my brothers and sisters all agreed that our father was too ill to work in the quarry mine anymore, I left to look for a job in a little city 24km away from our house. Since I left my home, I have not seen my family, but I kept sending ATLAS to my sister, who agreed to stay with our father so she could receive all messages and pass them on.

I was cleaning shoes for whoever needed their shoes cleaned and hoped they would flick me a coin.

One day I wandered around and found a solid-looking building with a group of serious-looking gentlemen standing in front. As I got closer, I realized they wore the same uniforms and had similar body movements. They stretched out their hands and feet in weird poses that I had never seen anyone do before.

They had a short talk among themselves, they looked to me that they had had a friendly conversation and decided to go into the building.

I waited for them to enter and then checked if there would be anyone in the vicinity who would shoo me away if I sat on the stairs in front of this building.

The coast looked clear, so I sat down and crossed my legs. I took out the rag I used for shining the shoes and outstretched my hands.

I heard a group of silent footsteps as their pace picked up, but I thought it was a part of my daydream. Suddenly I opened my eyes and realized an elite-looking group of armed men surrounded me. Their leader was not wearing a uniform; he was sporting a worn leather jacket and jeans. He looked at me intensely as if trying to decipher a coded message. I could not evade his gaze, his eyes were hypnotizingly blue, and I could feel the fire in his soul behind them. He stretched out his hand and motioned for me to take it. As he helped me stand up, I saw an elite-looking group of armoured transport vehicles arrive in absolute silence and occupy the entrance to the building where I was hoping to shine some shoes.

He said, “I was looking for you everywhere. Are you hungry?”

I was in shock, so I could not answer with words but was able to nod. Then he motioned to his subordinates and said with a proud voice: “Bring them to me hungry and motivated, and I will build you a navy of dedicated professionals! Let’s get this man everything he needs!”

I came to my senses, but my head was ringing, and I could feel blood in my mouth.

The memories of meeting the Admiral of the Council of Peace have drifted my consciousness away from reality.

The room smelled of fire, molten metal and medical chemicals, which I remember were used for disinfection and stopping the bleeding of open wounds. My observation and analysis of the room around me stopped when suddenly the door opened, and a badly burned man walked in with two soldiers on his shoulders that looked lifeless.

Everyone stopped and looked at him and IMMEDIATELY stood in a salute pose. I didn’t recognize the man, but he looked important, so I stood up and held my posture as best as possible. I froze as cold sweat, and chills ran through my spine. He looked at me and said: “Come over here Private! Help me with these cadets!”

Immediately everyone in the room, organized and disciplined, started to help the wounded. I was very close to the Admiral, so he handed the first cadet to me; with medical staff surging to help, the second cadet was taken off the Admiral’s shoulder.

I trembled; he said: “Private!” I had only received my rank a week ago, and I was not wearing any markings on my clothes to specify my rank. How did he know?

Just as I was about to lay the badly burned cadet on the medical stroller with the doctors taking him to the Trauma Unit, the door opened again.

Now I could see a line of soldiers standing in a disciplined manner. They were all badly wounded and burned, but they were helping one another stand in position. The Admiral looked at them and saluted, making the group move inside the room and start organizing to receive first aid and helping the most wounded on the hospital beds.

The next moment, a team of The Red Hand medics rushed through the door and filled the room with the smell of blood and a sensation of courage. They were carrying wounded soldiers and putting them on medical strollers with comforting words: “Have no fear, you are safe now, we got you! “