The Red and the Black

ISS Duncan

on station in far orbit of Tarsus

“Contact lost, captain,” deadpanned the tech working the wide-area scanner moments after the probable ship they’d tracked near the asteroid belt disappeared from his screen.

Commander Eryl Cochran, captain of the ISS Duncan, was on the bridge, standing still and central in order to have a view of the primary instrument and system stations. She nodded, although the crewman did not see her.
“Keep an eye on that zone, and the others. I want to be aware of all intra-system traffic,” she announced. It probably didn’t matter and, like others they’d tracked over the last week while on station, would amount to nothing – but she couldn’t share that with the crew.

Her collar itched. She’d only been off active duty for a little over a year, and so the call-up last month, especially with her continued reserve service, shouldn’t have been a big deal. Her job at the port authority at the IISS base on Mertractor was easy to set aside, but her transition to civilian life had been faster than she’d thought. The high collar of the captain’s coat reminded her of her responsibility and the suddenness with which things had changed over the last month.

The bridge doors swished open behind her.

“I stand ready to relieve you for the watch, captain,” stated Lt Barger, the ship’s 3rd Officer.

Turing to face the man, who was actually a few years her senior, she smiled slightly. “I stand relieved.”

“I have the conn,” replied Barger.

“You have the conn,” she confirmed, following the strict protocol that defined interactions at such moments.

“I have the conn,” he answered in a falling tone, ending the interchange. Cochran spent a few minutes going over what she’d seen during her watch and then departed the bridge, weaving her way through a few p-ways, ducking through pressure door frames, and making her way to the small Officer Country on the Duncan, where her small cabin was. Once inside and with the door closed, she relaxed her posture and removed the coat, releasing the grip from around her neck. Unconsciously sighing in relief, she stripped down to her underclothes, took a sip of water from a bottle on the shelf next to her fold-down bunk, and laid down to sleep.



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