Authors: Adam Moon
Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Action & Adventure
Space Cadets (ACE 1-4) Copyright Adam Moon 2013
All rights reserved
ACE copyright Adam Moon 2013
All rights reserved
First contact with an alien race didn’t go the way people had hoped. It sucked, really. I wasn’t even born yet when they arrived in earth's orbit. Neither were my grandparents.
At first, they did nothing. They just circled and watched.
Then, just as our ancestors started to get really frightened, they opened up dialogue with some world leaders. What they had to say was even scarier than when they just observed us silently. They told humanity that it would be evaluated over the course of the next several hundred years. They said that if we weren’t up to their standards, whatever they were, that we would be wiped out. Then somewhere between one and three million people simply vanished from the face of the earth and the alien spaceship disappeared. We’re pretty sure now that those people were abducted. We think the aliens took them to experiment on them but there’s no way to be sure.
That was over two hundred years ago.
Guess what humanity has done in that time: We prepared for their return.
The nations united and space travel became more than just a fad or a means of discovery; it became our only hope of preventing our own doom. You see, we knew we’d fail their test, whatever it was, and we weren’t about to just roll over and let them kill us all.
The space program started out slowly but all our resources went into it and now we’ve got our space legs firmly under us.
My name is Jack Peterson and I’m a cadet at Deep Training Camp Eighty Seven. I’m not a very good student but that’s partly because I didn’t choose to be here. I was an orphan from birth so this is the equivalent of a foster home for me, all paid for with tax money. I’m not ungrateful, but it’s not much fun here. The instructors are strict and I’ve seen over a dozen fellow cadets die during training.
I turn eighteen next year. That’s when I get to serve a ship. I can’t wait to get out of this dump.
Deep Camp Eighty Seven is in orbit around Mars. We went land side last summer but it was nowhere near as much fun as any of us thought it would be.
I lost four close friends to Mars. They burned to death upon entry when they screwed up their spacewalk. No one mentioned it during the days following. It was too common an occurrence to fuss over.
Orphans get stuck with Mars. The enlisted and the elite get earth orbit. That means they get to go home every once in awhile.
Convicts and lowlifes get Jupiter. Jupiter sucks. A lot of those guys get cancer later in life. They say if you fall into Jupiter, you’ll fall for days before you hit anything solid. Of course you’d be long dead by then. The sun looks like a star from that far out. I hear that fact alone causes space madness. The instructors tell us space madness is a myth but there’s anger and sadness in their voices when they say it so I have my doubts.
I’ve got the most space walks of any other active cadet here. It doesn’t mean much but it makes me proud. The air thrusters suck on the suits though. I try to tell new arrivals to never find themselves in a situation where they need to rely on thrusters during a walk because by the time they use them, it’ll already be too late. They’re too weak. No one listens to me though so screw ‘em.
Weapons training is my favorite class but the instructor hates my guts. She’s pretty too, so that sucks. Her name is Mrs. Salazar and she’s probably only a couple years older than me. She’s been here about a year now, and she’s pretty critical of the way I carry myself. She says I get carried away, and then my aim goes to shit. I can’t help myself though. I love firing my PQ5000. It’s got regular physical projectiles that could turn an alien into Swiss cheese and it’s got poppers that’ll take a chunk of hull out of a ship. My favorite attachment is the Zipper (we have nicknames for just about everything). It’s an energy buster that’ll put your insides out. We call victims of Zippers Picasso’s because of what their fluids do to the walls behind them.
We only get to fire off our Zippers outside the camp. One of these days maybe I’ll get to use one in atmosphere and actually hear what it sounds like.
They brought us some animals last month; goats and such. We use them for close quarters training. They usually look like red pincushions by the time we’re done with them. I don’t like to stab and slash defenseless animals but if you refuse, then the instructors will beat you and starve you so you do what needs to be done. Danny refuses to wash his knife afterwards because he says the blood gives it power and Stacy Jones licks hers while locking the other students in an uncomfortable stare. I take a hot shower afterwards and my knife gets rinsed.
I hate to admit that I kind of enjoy the next thing we do with the animals, but they’re already dead so it’s not that big a deal: We launch them out the airlock and then we all get to stand at the rails and shoot them with Zippers and Sizzlers. My aim is much better under those conditions. In fact, it’s sort of legendary. I’ve been asked by a couple of other students to bow out just so my fellows get a chance at a hit. Mrs. Salazar seemed pleased that I took a step back and let them. I think she thought it showed character because she knows how much I enjoy it.
We get to board a real life warship tomorrow. The captain’s name is Jonathan Hitchcock. I’ve never heard of him but the instructors tell us he’s one of the greats.
I’m pretty scared. We all know we’ll need to teleport but none of us are happy about it. There are just too many old horror stories about teleportation.
What’ll happen tomorrow is this: We go into a stasis pod but we don’t get cryo-frozen right away. Our thought processes will be ghosted and then converted into pure energy. They’ll be transferred as quantum packets of energy across space to a receiver (onboard the warship). So our essence, as it were, will travel instantly to a point elsewhere in space, leaving our bodies behind. A side effect of the ghosting process is that our brains stop transmitting electrical signals and we will die rather quickly if left that way. So, before our real, fleshy bodies die, they get locked in a deep freeze.
Anyway, our thought patterns then get transferred to a kind of bio-mechanical super soldier suit onboard the distant ship. The suits are called A.C.E which is an acronym for Automated Combat Equipment, but we usually just call them skins or suits. They’re made to look kind of humanoid, at least in the face, so we don’t freak the fuck out when we look in the mirror after transfer. The last thing anyone wants is for the soldiers to lose sight of the fact that they’re human. I hear it can take time to adjust but I guess I’ll find out for myself tomorrow.
The reasons to be afraid of teleportation are almost too many to list. It’s instantaneous, so that means the thought bundles don’t just go faster than the speed of light, they ignore its limitations altogether. Once in awhile, the quantum bundles get to their destination so jumbled up that the transfer can’t take place, and since the screwed up packets can’t be returned, you basically get put out of your misery and your quantum soul just dissipates into the ether.
One time, an entire cryo-facility lost power for almost an hour before it got restored. That resulted in four thousand men and women dying. Of course, they’re still alive, kind of. They just have to keep the suits forever because there’s no way for them to go back to their real bodies. An interesting aside is that they were all officially pronounced dead, so a human mind in a suit does not officially constitute life to the bureaucrats in charge of such things.
I’ve heard of people getting melded together in the storage cells. That can happen when the idiot who is supposed to transfer your mind back to your freshly thawed body forgets to do it in time. Then, if another persons mind gets transferred, it mingles with the first one in storage. A couple of times two minds have been put back inside a single body by accident. It didn’t end well. The heart skips beats and is impossible to regulate. The body doesn’t abide by the conflicting commands and the person goes completely insane. In each case, the person was euthanized. So it’s best to have someone competent at the controls.
I’m not going to get to sleep tonight, I just know it.