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MINUTEMEN: Do No Harm
Prologue – “No Exit“
Frigate Enduring Progress
High orbit above colony world Eridanus
The Frigate Enduring Progress was a nuclear-armed coffin tumbling through the inkwell of space. To the passing ship or satellite she was a metal husk, a rush-job war machine with weapons that looked welded on last week. To sensors, the Progress was bereft of life, fallow, useless. As Colonel Tovald Bristow stalked the Progress’ hallways only by the grace of magnetic soled boots, he could not help but agree with that assessment.
As the Progress’ Executive Officer reached the rusty blast doors of the warship’s bridge, a hacking cough attacked and he scowled at the sky blue mucus floating in front of him. Now matter how short the journey, cryogenic freezing was, is, and forever would be a mother.
Ancient blast doors scraped open and Bristow scowled as he stepped into the cold dark silence of the bridge. Nothing moved, save a few pieces of trash floating in zero gravity. No hum of computers, no rush of air outside, only the eerie sensation of hurtling through space at a ludicrous speed yet feeling nothing at all.
The Colonel grunted and put an orange key into a glowing blue port on the captain’s chair. The soft, ethereal, symphonic tones of the ship’s computer booting managed to lift Tovald’s a mood a little as he nodded to the room. “Report.”
The seemingly ubiquitous, disembodied woman’s voice filled the room. “Per emergency order by the Commander. I have repaired essential systems. And am prepared to calculate an escape vector.”
“Where are we?”
“We are drifting with the remains of the Resistance Fleet. Of the thirty ships involved in combat action, only Martyr’s Sword and Just Cause survived. Be advised, Just Cause is venting atmosphere and has not responded to my hails in three months.”
“Three months?” The cobwebs in Colonel Tovald Bristow’s head fell away in an instant. Bristow was already dreading the weeks of physical therapy required after such a sustained cryogenic freeze.
“All essential systems suffered catastrophic damage in the assault against Colonial forces. Immediate repairs are required.”
“What’s the body count on the ‘Collies? How many did we get?”
“The Libertad suffered one fatality from equipment failure during an after-action space walk–”
“Computer to mute.”
The clinking of trinkets falling to the deck informed the XO of the return of artificial gravity a split-second before the computer flashed confirmation on the navigation table. A DNA swab and a hand wave later, the table hummed and disgorged gorgeous holograms of turquoise Dominion and its twin moons, Scylla and Charybdis; but there were no holograms of any of the dozens of ships that were always buzzing around the planet.
Bristow smacked the table with a fist, causing the image to flicker and splice, still nothing but the planet and moons. “God damn border control officers,” he muttered as he stalked back to the chair, feeling the hot flush of his blood pressure rising, “Bribe ‘em and they give you a blank map…god damn criminals.”
The Colonel jabbed a button on the captain’s chair. “Begin cryo thaw for all crew and bring jump systems online. Lieutenant Hartley is required ASAP at the bridge to explain himself to the Commander.”