This is a story I wrote originally for CARRY THE COLORS to honor the men and women that lived that day in infamy.
Special thanks to BM 2 Darmon Webb.
Pearl Harbor Station
“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Date - 2-2-2303 A.D.
Time - 0520 Hrs Standard
USS New Arizona Star Cruiser Vessel (SCV 39)
BM 2 Webb woke in the dark.
He lay unmoving and had to take a moment to remind himself where he was.
He was in the brig, again.
It was where he usually found himself on Saturday mornings. And he’d be looking at Captain’s Mast as one of the premier activities of the day. He hadn’t been to Mast in a while and it had gotten to where they just sort of lumped three or four stays in the brig into one and punished him for all of them at the same time. So he couldn’t say he was exactly looking forward to the day.
Oddly enough though he felt remarkably more clear headed than he usually did after drinking, carousing and fighting.
It was like he didn’t feel the slightest touch of the usual creeping hangover. He was as clear as a bell.
And his senses were tingling. But he couldn’t say why. Just a vague sense of the impending.
Then he felt it, there in the dark.
A distant rumble.
And felt was the right word, he couldn’t say he heard it, he didn’t hear anything except the usual low hum of being on a star ship.
He felt it, through the bulkheads, like they’d hit something. But they couldn’t have. The New Arizona was docked.
Something must have hit them, or the station they were docked with.
But that couldn’t be. The anti collision buoy arrays usually deflected anything coming at them, so any meteors or asteroids or what not would get pinged and its course would be altered in time to miss the facilities.
So it didn’t make sense, unless maybe a working party crew boat accidentally hit them. But they’d have to be from the station, not from the New Ari, he was a boatswains mate after all, there wouldn’t be any working parties out of deck department he didn’t know about. Even if he was in the brig.
There it was again, bigger this time. Louder?
Then another! More intense this time!
Webb rose and his activity caused the local computer to switch on the lights. They were dim, lowlit, so as not to be blinding. And in the next cell over Webb could hear the other occupant stirring. Some snipe from engineering.
By force of habit Webb asked the ship’s computer what was going on but then realized he was a brig occupant and his ability to communicate had been temporarily suspended until it was inputted back in the computer that he was once again a crewman in good standing, and not a delinquent who might use access to stir trouble somehow.
Shitbag troublemaking sailors could be surprisingly creative that way. Like the time Seaman Church used fake accents or some shit to confuse the computer into thinking he was someone else and talked his way out and went awol. Biometrics were supposed to prevent that but it hadn’t him. The son of a bitch was still gone and partying it up somewhere.
Somebody in Boat Division said they got a postcard from him from Vegas Station happy as a clam playing blackjack and getting laid.
Church had always had luck like that.
Webb liked him in spite of himself, and he was always funny to be around, was a hard worker, when he wanted to be, but he could be as crooked as the day is long and he had some serious issues with authority way beyond anybody elses.
“What the hell’s going on?” Asked the snipe from the next cell over.
Webb couldn’t see him, but he could tell he was still laying in his rack but as confused as Webb was.
“Search me, man.” Webb said.
He was now standing, looking through the horizontal bars of his cell, trying to divine what could be going on.
At first he was merely curious, with maybe a touch of concern but the next rumble pushed his concern straight into the downright ominous and he knew something wasn’t right.
And the next rumble confirmed it.
Something was very, not right.
He could hear running in the P’ways outside the brig, and the sound of muffled shouts, or cries.
Suddenly the entire compartment shuddered violently and the accompanied rumble became the booming, steel wrenching roar of catastrophe.
Sparks flew from the overhead where the dimmer lights blew.
Captain’s mast and getting busted in rank were no longer on his list of pressing worries.
He might have had his issues but if there was one thing everyone knew about him for certain it was that BM 2 Darmon Webb was a damn good sailor and whenever there was danger he was in the thick of it. He was damn good at his job and he took care of his shipmates.
“HEY! KENNER! GET YOUR ASS IN HERE MAN! KENNER! HEY!” Webb shouted, calling for the Master At Arms he knew would be on duty.
Any minute now he expected to hear one of his guys on the 1MC sounding General Quarters, and this time he knew it wasn’t a drill. Something was seriously assed up out there, a fire, something, and he needed to be at battle stations where he belonged, not locked up.
But there was no answer, no one came running.
The snipe was calling out now as well, both of them raising their voices, shouting for attention.
Then, another explosion, and a terrible roar and wrenching sound ripped through the compartment.
Instinctively Webb ducked, covering himself with his hands as two huge pipes from the overhead tore loose from their fittings and came crashing down.
One smashed into the rack he had occupied and might have killed him, or at least delivered serious damage had he been in it.
Then another explosion, a whooshing sound filled his ears, and an icy terror gripped his heart.
In the overhead, and spreading fast into their cells.
Instantly both men began screaming, desperately, louder this time.
Still no answer.
They were in serious danger now, and something just this side of panic began to take hold. But Webb resisted, just as he always had, he had never given in to panic, he’d fought fires and faced enough dangers to know, panic could kill you before anything else finished the job.
The snipe in the next cell over wasn’t as composed. He should have been, but he wasn’t.
His screaming voice betrayed it. It was dripping with fear.
“HELP! HELP ME! SOMEBODY GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE IN THE BRIG!”
Webb watched the fire progress and paced, eager, anxious, desperate to do something but what? He was trapped, helpless, and he had nothing with which to…..wait! His shirt!
Instantly he sprang into action and ripped it from his shoulders tied it around his mouth, then snatched up his blanket to bat the flames with if he could reach them.
It was all he could do, and the Flame Retardant anti fire system must have been damaged because nothing was activating.
Then the 1MC crackled to life.
It was BM 3 Stennis, Petty Officer of the Watch.
“IT’S THE GODDAMN ALIENS! THIS AIN’T NO SHIT! WE..”
He started, but the 1MC stopped in mid sentence, it just went dead.
Webb knew Stennis was an asshole, But even a guy like him wouldn’t jerk around on watch like that. That wasn’t how you sounded off on the 1MC.
And what he’d said.
They were under attack. The aliens.
He’d heard somebody say they were called the Nocturne.
Webb, like every other human not living under a rock knew about them, the discovery of alien life four months ago was all people were talking about. And it had been all good. Nobody seemed threatened, and they hadn’t acted threatening. In fact they’d acted just the opposite and everybody was talking kumbaya happy touchy feely bright new future bullshit around the campfire. Not everybody believed it, but this was beyond the pale.
Nobody expected attack.
Really? They were under attack? It was almost too much to believe.
But here was the proof, his compartment was on fire, hit, bombed, and he was going to die in minutes if somebody didn’t get in there.
“SOMEBODY! GET IN HERE! FIRE IN THE BRIG! FIRE IN THE BRIG!” He cried again, sputtering between coughs. For the first time in a long time BM 2 Darmon Webb was in fear for his life.
Yet another explosion tore through the compartment, and in that moment Webb was irrevocably changed. The explosion seemed centered closer to the other man’s cell and not his, and for all his remaining time on earth he would never understand why it was the snipes, and not his cell that was hit. But the man’s primal screams combined with the whooshing evil roar of a fire blazing to life told him what was happening.
His shipmate was burning to death five feet away, and there was nothing he could do but listen to him die.
Webb began to curse, and cough violently, batting at the flames crackling in the overhead, taunting, teasing him with his own death.
Then the hatch shooshed open and Webb turned.
It was help!
A Marine came charging in and paused, looking around as if doing a fast head count.
Webb called out, and the Marine saw him, and darted across the space to free him.
A violent, fiery explosion ripped through the foreward bulkhead.
Flames roared through the space like some fantastical dragons breath and shrapnel and debris went sizzling, and slicing through the air.
The Marine was thrown like a flimsy puppet through the air while Webb ducked and shrank into himself again, hiding himself as best he could.
The compartment was now filling with thick, black smoke but Webb spotted the body.
The Marine was laying merely inches away right outside the bars of his cell.
And the most horrible sight met Webb’s eyes.
The Marine was laying face down, and as he looked up and into Webb’s eyes, his face was charred, burnt, black, and the skin peeled away like some bloody mask from a horror show. Webb could tell he was dying, but with one trembling motion, the Marine lifted his hand, and touched the palm pad.
The horizontal bars split, and opened, and Webb was free.
But the Marine was gone.
And the only sound from the snipes cell now, was the crackling of a fire.
Webb knew he had no time, but he took it anyway. He had to know, to make sure, so he peered closer into the snipes cell.
He was gone, his body claimed by the flames.
But he’d had to check anyway, he couldn’t just leave a shipmate behind if there had been anything he could do.
Keeping low beneath the smoke he crept back over the Marine’s body to make his exit and paused in midstep, his eyes falling upon his fellows weapon. Quickly he freed it and just as quickly discarded the idea of trying to free the holster. Instead he stuffed the weapon inside the waist of his trousers. It was a clumsy fit for the sidearm but it would have to do.
If they were under attack it could be that they were landing troops on the station as well.
Webb would take no chances, nor would he go down without a fight.
Quickly he left the compartment without a glance back and felt himself falling into survival mode, a pure, instinctive place where his body and mind acted in harmony, his every sense sharp and tingling.
His first thought was to head directly to his battle station, but that was one deck below, and the passageway that direction was filled with smoke, pitch black, and something told him no, there was nothing there.
He would head up, but before he went he manually muscled the hatch leading toward the billowing smoke closed. Damage control measures were drilled into him and if there were any kind of breach in the hull, the vacuum could spell disaster. He wasn’t going to leave an open hatch behind him if he could help it.
Another rumble shook the ship and threatened his balance but he steadied himself and moved fast, threading his way down the passageway to the ladder that would lead him up a deck, to a gun station. It was the next best thing, and aside from helping any shipmates, was the surest way he could help, the surest way he could do something.
He hadn’t heard any orders, and assumed there wasn’t anyone really in command, but unless he absolutely had to, BM 2 Webb would not abandon his ship.
As he worked his way along at a fast creep he saw nor heard any others, though he did find several bodies. They were men he knew, shipmates, but they were already gone, the signs of their death gruesome, and bloody, fire, injury, and with a few, only pieces.
Entire bulkheads were ripped and torn open revealing the compartments beyond, their wreckage marking the impacts of explosions.
This was only residual damage though, not direct hits. If they had been, he wouldn’t even be here. He’d have been sucked into vacuum.
But he remained calm, kept himself collected and kept moving until he found the ladder.
He bounded up the steps and found the hatch above closed, dogged down. He tested one, found it amenable, and he went to work undogging them and pushed his way through.
Instantly life sprang about all around him. The passageway above was filled with men running about, shouting, and calling out. Many were hastily moving out, helping the injured that could move, while others were desperately fighting fires, or manning the two guns in the compartment. The steady boom boom, boom boom, boom boom, echoing in the distance as they banged away at enemy craft Webb could not immediately see.
But what Webb could see, were more bodies, everywhere. The passageway was littered with them, and the blood, everywhere. He would never forget the sight of it, staining nearly everything his horrified eyes fell upon.
“WEBB! JESUS CHRIST MAN!” Somebody cried out, and immediately several sets of hands wrapped around his arms and began hauling him up through the hatch.
He was on his knees attempting to stand when another explosion almost directly impacted the ship.
A roar filled his ears and left him momentarily dazed, and deafened and suddenly the shouts of men all around him seemed distant, almost far away. His ears were ringing and it took him a second to realize he was lying face down on the deck with still more smoke obscuring much of his vision.
As he lifted himself up and took stock of his situation it dawned on him that yet again his life had been spared by chance.
The men who had been helping him had not been so fortunate. Most of them in the compartment were dead, or dying.
His mind reeled, and he felt pulled in a dozen different directions wanting to help everyone he saw but there were too many, and too many were beyond his help.
A rage filled him as he sniffed and his eyes fell upon the gunnery compartment. There were two, and one was obviously damaged, destroyed. But the one was still there.
With the grunts of effort and aches he clambered to his feet and stumbled to the gun.
The X-2 Bulwark : Ships Self Defense Gunnery System looked like a marriage between the old .50 cal’s and the cockpit of a fighter craft. But it was that way for a reason, because it was designed to defend against them, and in experience the arrangement seemed to lend a greater degree of competency, and accuracy to the sailors who manned it.
Without hesitation, but with a prayer of forgiveness Webb hauled out his dead shipmate occupying the seat. There wasn’t a wound upon him, but he was dead, by concussive blast. And blood and a substance he didn’t wish to contemplate leaked from the man’s ears.
Webb climbed in with the gritty determination that if he were going to die today, he was going to take at least one of the bastard aliens with him.
He slapped on the helmet and keyed himself into the system, letting a second pass to gather his bearings and understand what was before him.
Splayed out across his vision were white stars against the velvety black backdrop of space. And slashing across that space were fighters, bombers, swarming Pearl Harbor Station. Here and there he could see the brilliant bursts of light as lasers ripped into the station, into the ships, docked helplessly and all around him Americans being slaughtered, vaporized as compartments blew apart and the black vacuum of space claimed them. His horrified mind even imagined he could spy bodies, floating out there, small specks of what once were his people, human beings. All gone. And all around him, one of the finest naval star fleets in the universe was being decimated.
But there was one gun left on the New Arizona that still had life, and Webb fired.
Beneath him the seat bucked and shuddered with the electronic recoil and his first shot went awry. He adjusted, and fired again tracking the craft forward.
And he scored his first hit.
A hiss of vengeance burst from from his lips and he felt the thrill of battle slip into his bloodstream.
Webb went to work like an avenging American angel.
A second and third hit followed quickly.
There were so many of them that targets were simply hard to miss.
The vast tapestry of space in front of him was filled with them.
He understood he’d scored his hits so quickly because no other guns were firing in his sector and he’d guessed they’d grown bold and had been making flyovers in his area much more closely.
But they quickly changed tactics as he knew, that they knew, he was taking their measure, and his gun was taking its toll.
And he saw fighters banking in his direction, and coming straight for him.
There were three of them, and they lined up almost dead center in his clock heedless of the fact it also put them dead center in his aim.
The Bulwark bucked angrily as he let go and squeezed off the shots.
A brief brilliant white light combined with the tiniest flicker of flames quickly dying in the vacuum of space lit up his visor and then it was gone, then another! Two of the Nocturne fighters disappeared into nothingness.
But the third was still coming on and filling his vision, growing larger.
Webb fired, and fired again but his shots were off, the violent recoil of his guns combined with his rapidity of fire threw off his alignment and his laser fire seemed to miss by inches to the left and above the enemy, teasing, taunting him with their closeness.
The enemy fired and Webb held his breath, certain of his doom.
The enemy fire slashed into the ship right above him and it seemed as if the enemy himself was not immune to the failure that had just befallen Webb.
His alignment was offset, and the ship shuddered under the impact, groaning in its steely agony, but holding together.
But Webb knew the enemy’s next shots would not miss.
He was too close. And BM 2 Darmon Webb accepted in that instant that he was going to die.
Time did seem to pause just as he’d heard it did. And he did think of his loved ones. A sadness filled him as he knew he was going to miss life, and regret all that he had not done.
Then something inexplicable happened and he witnessed a miracle.
A United States Marine Corps miracle.
From directly overhead coming into view at his twelve o clock an American fighter swooped into view firing.
Its missiles swept in and bore down mercilessly on the enemy and the Nocturne fighter disappeared in its brilliant white hot flash, vaporized.
It was an American Marine Corps FSC-14 Cerberus.
And there were two of them, the second tight on the wing of the first.
They slashed into the next group of oncoming Nocturne fighters with a wicked vengeance.
It was the most heroic and noble thing Webb had ever witnessed.
Only two American fighters against the entire invading squadron element.
There must have been dozens, there had to have been, and the Marines didn’t stand a chance, but toward the sound of the guns they went anyway.
And because of them Webb had survived if for only a moment longer.
And once again they did something even more amazing.
They centered on him, swooped around, and circled.
They were protecting him!
Webb whooped with joy and pumped the air with his fist for a second as a sense of adrenaline, anger and retribution mixed with love, and joy and patriotism filled him and flowed over into voice.
“YES! YES! GET SOME MOTHERFUCKERS!”
And get some they did. Eagerly the Marine fighters went about the wolfs work and slashed into a group of enemy fighters.
Carefully, strategically this time Webb took aim, making sure his fire was well away from his comrades and he joined them picking off three more enemy fighters.
Then they were gone, the Marines, just like that.
A deep swarm of enemy combatants had taken them.
There were just too many.
Now they were coming to take Webb, for certain this time.
Webb suddenly realized he was crying, his cheeks wet and salty with tears as his very soul seemed to cry out, to shout out all the agony, pain, and grief he’d felt.
“COME ON YOU SONS O BITCHES! COME ON KILL ME! COME ON AND TAKE ME! CAUSE I’M GONNA TAKE YOU TO HELL WITH ME! COME ON! COME ON!”
His soul screamed and he fired as fast his frail human speed would let him.
For those split seconds he seemed to become one with his weapon and his body hove perfectly with each buck and shudder of recoil. His alignment was perfect and his fire flawless.
Three more fighters disappeared, sent to whatever otherworld they called hell and Webbs eyes blazed with fury and still he fought on never letting up.
All around him the ship shuddered, peppered terribly by the enemy fire and on some subliminal level Webb knew the Arizona was finally dying, and she was preparing to break apart.
The entire compartment groaned, every bulkhead, every steel girder, the deck, the overhead, all of it screeched in its steel pain as it took the impact of the enemy’s fire.
Not a single shot had hit directly, but they were stabbing into the Arizona’s compartments all around him.
Finally, it happened.
He heard the peculiar sound cutting through all the other sounds of chaos.
The warbling alarm that signalled the death knell for every sailor in star fleet that ever heard it.
The warbling alarm of oncoming depressurization. A direct hit right next to his gunnery section ripped open the skin of the ship and there was hull breach.
Everything inside was being instantly sucked out into space and in his own compartment oxygen was leeching out fast.
His life expectancy was being counted in seconds.
And without another second lost Webb acted.
Instinctively he ripped the helmet from his head and vaulted from the seat and headed for the first safe exit he could see.
With the might of desperate men he heaved the hatch open and slammed it shut behind him and instantly felt the eery invisible tug of the ominous vacuum.
The abyss wanted him, and it was pulling at the hatch even as he slammed down the locks and dogged the door as fast humanly possible.
He had never really had the experience of a fast vacuum escape before beyond just drills, but he had heard the stories of men who had.
The story they shared was the same told by all.
The abyss wanted you, it grasped, clawed, and tried to take you, tried to drag you beyond your safe, tiny little world of oxygen and light, and pull you into its nothingness, into its eternal black where your lungs and internal organs would be sucked out of your mouth and nose within seconds.
That was how you died in space they said.
It was a bad way to go.
Finally, blessedly he heard the last haunting hiss of the abyssal vacuum sucking at the door as he dogged it completely and sealed it.
Then he turned to race down the passageway intent on putting as much distance between himself and what was on the other side of the hatch as fast as possible.
He had had no other plan of action other than that at the moment.
Should he try and make his way to another gun station and continue the fight? She he try and find whomever he could and help them?
Had the time finally come to abandon ship?
It was funny in a bleak way how certain concepts, like abandoning ship, and patriotism could seem so abstract at times, and yet at others, so crystal clear, so inarguably, a truth.
Maybe that was what defined a man.
Webb didn’t have to wait long to find that the decision was made for him when he heard the calling out, the shouts of men, as desperate as he had been earlier trapped in the brig.
He tried to make his way into the next compartment he came to where he thought the voices were coming from, but the hatch was bent, and there was no way to open it.
Further down he saw that the concussive blast from enemy fire had warped this section and where he should not have been able, he could see, even almost climb into the compartment.
The voices were louder coming from there. So he went to work weedling his way through.
Webb was muscular, but slim in build and with only little trouble was able to worm his way in. Then he heard them clearly, they were one more compartment over.
He tried the next hatch but couldn’t budge it, then he spied why. The door wasn’t dogged, but wait! Yes it was, one dog was bent at an angle preventing it from being budged and through the portal he could see his shipmates.
The hatch should have been dogged, but then it dawned on him that it had been and they had probably attempted to undog them from the other side, but gave up when they came to the bent one.
Looking around Webb quickly spied something he could use as a tool and he took up the piece of metal and went to work.
It only took several hard ringing blows to loosen it enough and he was able to get it free.
Then he was in.
“HEY! HEY! SHIPMATE GIVE US A HAND HERE! HE’S CAUGHT AND WE CAN’T GET HIM LOOSE!” Cried one man.
Webb recognized him but couldn’t place his name, one of the sailors you seemed to pass by daily and always see but never quite get to know.
It was the same with the others, from other departments not related to his own.
There were four men, plus one wounded. They were all wounded actually, but the worst was a fifth man, pinned beneath a fallen girder. And his brothers had been working furiously to free him.
Instantly Webb responded and worked his way over wreckage and debris to help them.
He reached them and saw that the situation wasn’t as hopeless as at first glance. And again the bleakly comical occurred to him. It was why they were having such trouble freeing him. Not because the wreckage was too much, but because they were too scrawny, all of them.
They were office geeks, from some soft, cushiony department, radiomen, or signalmen or some such where there was never really any physical exertion.
Naturally by regulation all shipboard sailors were required to attend PT every so often, but department types like these just had them show up in sweats, do a pushup or two, walk the routes you were supposed to run and then hustled them back to work. Their department heads were just guys like them, only with promotions, and saw no use in it, and so never enforced the training. Now it seemed that bill had come due. And they’d almost paid for it.
But Webb was a Boatswains Mate, occupying undeniably the most physical of any rate aboard a ship and though lean, his strength combined with the rush of adrenaline and fear was more than up to the task.
Several heaves, with the help the others could provide gave them leverage enough to begin shifting the weight and easing the wreckage into a position where he could fully lift it free.
Then they were collectively given more urgency.
The sounds of something much like a tornado ripping through the ship filled their hearts with terror.
The breach where Webb had been was expanding.
The abyss was not yet done with them, and was coming to claim them.
For a second Webb almost felt it was personal, like some devilish vendetta death had with him for having escaped its wrath so many times that morning.
Just as quickly though he pushed the thoughts away and heaved again, grunting in the effort. and the tiny little squeals of the others joined him.
With a final heave Webb and the, mice, as he thought of them wrenched the wreckage clear and lifted the girder free.
But as they lifted the man he cried out piteously. A piece of shrapnel, debris of some kind had pierced his leg behind the knee, and he was bleeding badly, and he would bleed out soon.
Without pause Webb reached up and snatched at one of the mices sleeves and began tearing it away. With his own shirt lost during the brig escape he didn’t have one handy, but made due.
Quickly he fashioned a tourniquet for the fellow, it was weak, but it was all he could do for him.
Then two of the others shouldered his weight and helped lift him while the two remaining scrambled to find a way out with Webb in the lead.
A second hatch revealed the same predicament as the one through which Webb had come, the dogs were bent, and too badly to be jimmied.
The only remaining way out was through another hatch, but this was an inner door, electronic, with no dogs attached. It led into a smaller office space, but that space one of the mice knew would allow them through yet another short corridor and thence to free access to the larger passageways.
“Through here! We can get out through here!” One cried.
“Damn it. It’s, somethings wrong!” He swore, his hand punching at the keypad with no avail.
“We’re trapped.” Said a third mouse weakly, already giving up.
“No, it’s got a manual emergency release if we can just. Fuck, I can’t reach it.”
Cried the fourth pushing the others out of the way and slapping open a hidden panel near the pad.
He’d attempted to reach in but the arrangement was apparently difficult to get to.
Webb thrust him out of the way and slipped in a slender hand.
“There’s supposed to be a tool you use to reach it and flip the lever, you’ll have to finagle it somehow.”
His voice was desperate, urgent, gripped with the collective fear they all felt as he directed Webbs efforts and squirmed next to him to see.
“It’s right, yes, no, back, yea, right there! RIGHT THERE!” He cried.
Webb felt the give and yanked out his hand as the door shooshed open lethargically.
And like a gaggle of animals the mice rushed the door shouldering it open and pushing through helping their wounded comrade.
Not a moment could be lost.
For the abyss was coming.
And the terrible sounds of its destruction tormented them like a predator hot on the heels of its prey, relentlessly stalking them and tearing away at everything to get at them.
“Lets go! Lets go! Move! Move! Haul ass!” Webb shouted, urging them on with the take no shit deck department voice he used when new guys gaggle fucked a tight space that needed to be unfucked as rapidly as possible.
Then they were through the office and corridor and to the final hatch that would lead them to freedom.
“Down that P-way port side hatch and straight through to the end!” Webb ordered.
“Leads to an egress compartment! Deck Departments keeps a repair launch just on the other side!”
It was their way out, off the ship, it wasn’t meant for lengthy travel, but it would get them free, and away, and perhaps out of the path of destruction.
But they had to move fast. And he would have to lock tight the hatch they’d just come through.
Suddenly the wounded man cried out and seemed to shrink on on himself, going dead weight, and his companions stumbled with him.
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go any further.” He called. Webb was about to protest but could see the truth of it. His wound was bleeding too profusely and the makeshift tourniquet was soaked clean through with bright blood.
The Sailors face was pale and it was clear he’d run his course, and had little left.
“Leave me, let me go, I’ll secure the hatch behind you. Just go.”
The other mice didn’t hesitate and instead this time it was Webb who paused.
His instincts screamed to continue on and carry his fellow man, bravery and nobility had nothing to do with it. It was just in his heart, in his bones.
You just didn’t leave a shipmate behind if you could help it.
But he saw the man was right. He wouldn’t make it the whole way, would just die in transit and there was only so much space aboard the launch, meant for spot repairs and quick fixes on the skin of the ship, and not for travel.
Webb remained silent, and simply nodded, deeply humbled by yet another brave sacrifice made by better men than he.
He’d awakened in the brig that morning, just like he’d done so many weekends before, dicking off, and in that moment didn’t feel much like a navy man, a serviceman for his country. He felt like a fool, and he wanted to cry at the sight of what other, real men were prepared to do for their fellows.
Despite the distant muted roar of the abyss moving angrily toward from the compartments behind and the impact of enemy bombardments Webb heard the soft shoosh of the hatch the loudest, leaving the mouse on the other side.
The sailor nodded back and touched the working pad, and sealed himself in.
Webb couldn’t help himself and watched a moment longer as the sailor slumped against the bulkhead and looked sadly at the deck as if accepting his end, and looking terribly tired for it. His lips began to move and Webbs heart froze as he realized what the man must be whispering as he faded into unconsciousness.
“Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last…”
His head dipped, and he breathed his last, and he slept.
Tears streamed across Webb’s dirt smudged cheeks and he turned and left even as he heard the roar of the abyss rising, tearing into the sealed compartment behind him. And he ran to to catch up with the other mice at the launch.
Then he arrived and found them crowding in, strapping in and preparing for departure.
With one space left available.
Webb strapped in, made the final adjustments, and punched the button.
The launch bucked as they shot away from the ship and Webb’s sight never left her.
The velvety blackness of space enveloped them and seemed somehow comforting with its promise of freedom, the promise of a chance at escape from a certain death on board the ship.
Webb watched as the last of the enemy fighters went about their work slashing violently into Pearl Harbor Station and the remaining ships at dock.
And then his eyes fell upon her full length.
The Star Cruiser Vessel (SCV-39 New Arizona) listing badly, with explosions blossoming across her wounded body, and he saw the the flag, the Stars and Stripes break free and disappear, lost to the abyss.
Pearl Harbor Station written by Ben Coleman copyright 2014. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint contact Ben Colman.