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On the Edgeline

By Joe Ely Carrales, III "On the Edgeline" is a science fiction story I have been pondering in my mind since I first started College. It addresses many modern issues (such as the environment, technology and war) in a future world. This world is not so distant that it is unfamiliar, yet it is far enough to have built on the progresses, or follies, of our present society.

This story will deal with the adventures of a space fighter pilot, John Meston Premont, and his life on the frontier of space, hence the title "On the Edgeline", in a time of conflict. In some ways the message is a hopeful story of the human race, in other ways it displays sides to the human condition that many of us wish to avoid.

The various chapters will be separated into many parts making it easier for the reader to enjoy at his/her convince. I am well aware of the many cases of eyestrain and fatigue caused by the modern computer screen, hence I shall have mercy.

Well, all in all I hope you enjoy this tale set in the mid-21st century.. Thank you,

-Joe Ely Carrales, III

Chapter 1-
We sat in the Briefing Room

We sat in the briefing room, just waiting. Of all my days in the military, it was that day that I choose as the starting point of my life. There were five "rookies" there that day, four others, and me. What I remember most of those first few minutes was the silence. No one spoke; not even a word.

John & Korina, First Day

Mostly I thought of home, of New Mexico. Of the week, I spent at Lunapolis before we were shipped to the border. I had never left earth, aside from the flying I did for the Civil Space Patrol. Still I had never been this far from home and I was feeling the effect of what they used to call "homesickness."

We sat there for nearly 20 minutes before I broke the silence. I had, almost instantly, noticed a nice looking young woman wearing a lieutenant's uniform. It did her little justice. Her hair was long and blonde and her skin was a light tan color. She must have been on leave in the Primon System; she reminded me of every billboard and web-site I had ever seen on it (without the bathing suit of course). I decided that, despite the silence, I would talk to this vision. Quite normally, I asked,

"So, is this your first mission?"

Instantly, the older officers in the back of the room burst out laughing. I never felt like hiding more in my life. I assumed they were older, as some were. However, latter I would learn that most of them were only about a year or to older or even younger than I was.

"Looks like we got some "rookies" here, said an old major as he recovered from his laughter.

"We'll have to look out for these five," added a clean-cut captain with a scar on his face. I could feel the skin on my back crawl. I really felt like a freshman.

"Yes", came a voice cutting through my discomfort. "This is my first time. I'm a virgin". Maybe I wasn't expecting that word from her, from anyone, here. I didn't know how to take that. I guess I spent a good piece of time in shock because then I heard,

"You do have a first name don't you…" she looked at my name tag "…Lt. Premont." Without as much as a thought I blurted out,

"2nd Lieutenant John Meston Premont"

"A little formal aren't we", she responded.

"Well I…" this was all I could say before the older officers in the back suddenly burst out in laughter, again.

"It looks like we got a dating service too"; at that point, I had had just about as much of the major as I could stand. I calmly rose to my feet and turn to face him. I might be court-marshaled, but it would be well worth it. To my surprise, the major, and all the other offices stood up and snapped to attention. What did I do, I thought to my self? For a brief time I fancied myself a god, maybe they had seen me in something that would earn their respect. This thought soon vaporized as I saw the colonel walk into the room.

He was an older man, but in a different way than the other officers. He wore his blue uniform with his brim hat in the same manner that a soldier from the Second World War might have. His chest full of ribbons and the shiny eagle on his cap grabbed my attention from the start.

"Good day, as you were." he said to the group.

He seemed as if he, some how, didn't belong with us. He was a product of another time, a great piece of the "old order". He would have been at home in the 1940's or 1990's just as well as with George Washington or Captain Greene on Mars. Still, he seemed more tired than old. This stage of the war was in its fifth year. It had been on and off since the N'Kerlan sneak attack of 2029. I'm sure he had been at it since almost very near then.

As you may or may not know, the N'Kerlan Empire has pressed again into sector 534.

"As you may or may not know, the N'Kerlan Empire has pressed again into sector 534. This is a stone's throw to our deep space outpost on N'Pachi 3. Aside from this, the S'Kerlan government had asked Earth's High Command for U.E. assistance. This means that S'Kerlia is on our side." he began.

I thought little of the political situation, after all I had only read the stories of how the S'Kerlan home world had be conquered and plundered the N'Kerlan invasion. The S'Kerlans, or Panatons, were the first species we humans had encountered in space and were, by definition, allies. They also looked more human then the N'Kerlan, who were completely blue.

"Our mission", he continued, "is to operate frontier patrols as an early warning system for the N'Kerlan invasion that we know is on the way. You can more than expect trouble out there. Major Damson will provide your navigators with the patrol information. Squadron assignments are posted out side the hangar level. Mission briefing will be at 05:00 tomorrow. Save your questions 'til then. That is all."

With that he saluted us and left to his office. This was it; my first night there would more than likely be my last. Some how I expected at least a week before they sent us out.

"I didn't tell you my name." again this voice broke my thoughts, "I'm 2nd Lt. Korina Patterson, U. E. A. F."

"Now who's being a 'little to formal'." I replied.

"No fair, you can steal my lines, Buster." she started, "I took me three year to make that up."

We didn't talk long before a Major in a dark blue tunic began speaking,

"The Colonel would like to talk to the following officers: Donaldson, Steven R.; Rodriguez, Jose W.; Catlowe, Ben. E.; Patterson Korina D. and Premont, John M."

What had we done? Then I realized that this was the roster of the "rookies". We all walked, again in silence, to the Colonel's office. He greeted us with a serious look.

"I am afraid that a mistake has been made in the squadron roster." he started, "According to this three rookies were assigned to the same Norris Starfighter. This is a violation of policy. One of you will have to be grounded and replaced with an experienced senior officer."

This is a violation of policy. One of you will have to
be grounded...

This was terrible; one of us would be grounded. That was a disgrace no one could live with on his or her record. Who would it be? Catlowe and Rodriguez were both Flight Technicians, Donaldson and I were both pilots. Patterson was a navigator. The choice, as the Colonel mentioned, would come in the morning. The good news was that we had that night free. Patterson and I, who had come to know each other, decided to spend the evening at the Lone Star Bar, the Starbase 67's only bar. The others played a game of poker at the officer's club. We all dreaded the next morning; not so much, where we were going as who would be going.

It was a little before 12:00 that Patterson and I retreated to the officers club. The others were still playing cards. You could here Donaldson yelling out,

"You stupid, a full house beats everything"

…And Catlowe replying,

"Where did you learn to play poker, Mars?"

They noticed us and went almost as quite as space itself.

"I see our love birds have returned", said Donaldson, "You two should have stayed here, I'm nearly a millionaire."

"He wins 'cause he cheats", Catlowe blurted out. "If he played by Earth's rules, instead of Mars, I would be cleaning his astrogator"

He wins 'cause he cheats

"We were playing by Earth rules and you lost your full dress uniform" Donaldson replied ending the argument.

"So," said I, "Has anyone thought about who won't be going tomorrow?"

The room was again filled with silence.

"I have", said Rodriguez from beyond the room, "I will probably be me."

"Why?" I asked.

"There are twenty F.T.'s in this. That's more than we need." Rodriguez stated sadly.

"Don't worry about it, so you sit it out." Donaldson exclaimed, "They need us all, it's not that big a deal!"

"It is for me", Rodriguez interjected, "I want to make Captain, I have to make Captain."

"Listen up, Captain Rodriguez," Patterson remarked, "you will do as well as you can, when you can or you can't."

"What?" everyone asked almost in unison.

"I don't know, It sounded right at the time." Patterson's sense of timing was always perfect. This is something I would grow to notice as we came together that tour on Starbase 67. I mean even Rodriguez laughed.

We stayed up until 01:15 and called it a night. What would happen to us now was in the hands of God and the High Command. I actually got an hour of sleep that night, imagine that.