Intercosmic - Chapter 13 - Bathroom Break

 

We arrive in the Solar System, revolving the star Sol. This is home for me, or close to it. I grew up in Lune 31, the thirty first colony on Earth’s moon. Right now, we’re stopping at some random space station where a few soldiers get off, and more get on. I could get off and make a run for it now. Try to find a way off the space station and run away to some system far away from humanity’s reach. Somewhere in the Revrell sector, just hope I don’t end up an experiment like all the rumors say.

I probably wouldn’t get far, I never gave much thought to just leaving. Do I need a fake name? Zachary Wilson, is that too suspicious? Will they even spot me if I use my real name? The galaxy is huge, and I doubt they would go looking for a single person. It isn’t like I committed treason or something, I just don’t want to fight anymore. I could just say that, but they did give me a promotion, they expect something from me. This arm might even have a tracking device in it.

My debating on if I should run or not is ended when the ship begins to move out of the station. The next stop is an actual military base. From there, I’ll be sent off and given assignment. Perhaps I’ll reunite with my previous squad, see who’s still alive. Casey is the only person who came to visit, and I was pretty out of it after surgery. I don’t remember what he said, for all I know we’re the last ones alive.

A few people from the transport crew are discussing their next stops. At the base they’ll be picking up some supplies, deliver them to Pluto and take a two month leave. It doesn’t sound so bad. When was the last time I actually got to go on leave? My entire time has been spent going from mission to mission, trying to advance a military career because it was the right thing to do. Now here I am, two ranks higher, and I’m looking for an exit that I can’t seem to find. No matter how many times I search my mind for answers there is no exit, no next step that would ease my mind. What was my end goal? What did I want to do?

I wanted to explore the galaxy, see everything there was to see and in the end, I just became a mindless shooter. I was okay with it too. I was perfectly fine with it, I even killed a kid and I was okay with just moving on. It wasn’t until I woke up missing an arm did my conscience tell me I’d had enough. I watched eight of my fellow marines die, and I didn’t care enough to stop. I used it as a reason to justify why I was fighting and, in the end, none of these enemies had wronged us. When I laid in that bed, it was all I could think about. Sure, some of the people I shot deserved to die, but did all of them? How many were just dumb kids that got tricked like me and couldn’t get out? How many people have I killed? I don’t even know how many confirmed kills I have because it wasn’t my job to keep track.

I grab my bag and make my way to the ship’s bathroom. I lock the door behind me and change into my regular clothes. If I don’t show up in fatigues, they’ll understand I’m not here to fight anymore. I feel the ship shake as we enter into the orbit of base and dock. I lose my balance as I put my shoes on. I didn’t come here to change clothes. Leaning against the wall I listen as the thousands of footsteps file off the ship. Soon there’s a moment of silence, and I know everyone is off the ship. I splash water from the sink onto my face before cupping my hands and taking big sips of the lukewarm water.

The large thumping sound outside lets me know seats are being flattened for the ship to switch to cargo mode. Sliding and scraping mean cargo containers are being loaded. They’re moving fast, still I stare at the time on my wrist for over an hour before I feel the ship begin to take off again. I wasn’t planning to just stay on the ship, my legs just won’t move.

What the fuck am I doing? I’ve never been afraid. Why am I so afraid now? It’s too late to be asking these questions. Why didn’t anyone at the hospital ask me if I was suffering PTSD; is this even PTSD? I don’t know. It’s too late to ask questions now. I just need to prepare to get out of here without being seen. I switch to a hoodie and make sure as much of my face is covered as possible. I don’t have any gloves, so I put a spare sock over my right hand, I don’t want any light reflecting on the metal when the door opens.

I take cover behind one of the furthest cargo containers from the door and wait for the landing. The door opens and I count four people unloading the supplies. I make my way up to the middle of the cargo, as they come for the last few up front. I move to the left side of the ship, when they begin with the right center. As they make their way back in I release the lock on a few crates and let them slide towards the back. They give chase, and in the commotion, I rush off the ship.

I’ve never been to Pluto, and the first thing I notice is how cold it is, the second is how dark it is. I take off running towards the biggest light source I can find. The cold air stings in my lungs and my holdall smacking my back only forces the air out quicker, but I can’t stop running. If I stop running, my body won’t be able to move in these temperatures. I know it’s probably infinitely worse outside the atmospheric dome, but that doesn’t matter to me right now.

I make it off the military base without being spotted and hit a main road. My wrist comp informs me that I’m forty-eight kilometers from a city called Inonolina, the third largest city on Pluto. In training to prepare for a mission, I once did fifty kilometer loaded marches in heavy armor for several months straight. But, that was in normal temperatures with good equipment. The key is to pace yourself. A walk won’t keep me warm. I tighten the strap on my bag so it won’t shift as I move. I start with a light jog and focus on keeping my breathing steady. Breathing through my mouth will keep my heart rate lower, and let me take in more oxygen.

I just need to keep moving. Don’t look back, just keep moving, following the road ahead. There’s no longer any real destination. Do whatever you want, go where you want. Ignore the voice in your head saying follow commands. You command yourself now. All you need to do is, keep moving commander.

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