2948-01-21 – Tales from the Service: A Casualty of War
This week, I am going to publish a text-only message sent to our audience feedback mailbox unedited, uncredited, and without any direct commentary or analysis, as requested by the sender.
Myranda Howe’s crew gave her a proper deep-space burial while en-route to Matusalemme on January 16. She died of her wounds after fighting a fire on the hangar deck of the fast carrier River Plate.
Normally, the wide datasphere would not remark on the passing of a single crew tech second class in a war zone, but Myranda, a twenty-two-year-old volunteer from Pericles at Herakles IV, deserves to be known by the public whom she took an oath to defend. She was the great-granddaughter of Antonio Howe, the most decorated non-officer of the Terran-Rattanai War.
In the action which earned him the third nebula pin for his Centaur Cross, Antonio Howe is credited with saving the crew of Filip Romilly from annihilation when, faced with the order to abandon ship, he encouraged his gun-deck crew to stay at their stations in order to fight off a wing of Rattanai strike ships intent on picking off the launches and escape-pods. Somehow, they drove off the attack, and he led his crew to an escape pod, losing only one of the seven-man gun crew in the quickly-disintegrating ship. Shortly after they got away, the dying ship broke apart completely – they had escaped by mere seconds.
To Myranda, the many stories of her ancestor’s heroism might have seemed to be fantastic bedtime stories. He died when she was ten years old, too young to really understand why he never had the scars on his face reduced with nanomedicine, or why he always left the room when someone turned on a war holo-drama.
Later, of course, Myranda did understand. When she enlisted at age seventeen with her parents’ blessing, she tried to get a posting as a point defense gunner, just like Antonio.
Though she was a fair hand at the deadly dance of railshot versus incoming strike-ships and missiles, she proved far more skilled as a systems tech, and found herself assigned to her first posting’s atmospherics maintenance crew, with an alert posting to damage control.
A lesser spacer might have grumbled or schemed to work her way onto a gun-battery crew, but not Myranda Howe. She threw herself into the work, cheerfully attacking each faulty carbon-scrubber and clogged nanofilter with the sort of bright enthusiasm which most people reserve for their favorite hobby. In damage control drills, she was tireless and decisive, putting the less energetic members of her damage-control team to shame. Only her closest confidants knew that she had such big shoes to fill – and that, in quiet moments, she was terrified she could never be the sort of hero that her great-grandfather was.
Off-duty, Myranda was a member of River Plate’s chapel choir and the singer for the Tin-Can Surprise, the ship’s unauthorized neo-Centaurite musical quintet, whose practice and performances the senior officers did their best to pretend not to notice. In singing either the racy lyrics of Centaurite classic tunes or the solemn, grand hymns of the choirbook, she always stole the show.
On the fifteenth of January of this year, a gunship re-entering the hangar just before a star-drive hop missed its docking cradle, tumbling onto one side and catching fire. Its three-person crew still trapped inside, damage control rushed to contain the blaze enough for them to escape alive. One of the first crew on-scene was Myranda Howe, who was not on duty but who had been walking a Tin-Can Surprise bandmate to the pilots’ ready-room. Armed with a thermo-foam sprayer and with a helmet completing her uniform’s emergency pressure-seal, she ran into the blaze with five others.
Though the hangar techs began venting oxygen out of the damaged hangar cell, it was too late. The explosion tearing the strike launch’s starboard sponson off was probably the result of an overheated thruster-fuel reservoir, but even this was enough to toss the brave damage control personnel some distance. Though four of them were only bruised, one suffered a series of broken bones. Myranda, closest to the explosion, suffered nine shrapnel wounds to her torso and several more to her limbs.
Myranda clung to life for seven hours after being pulled out of the hangar and rushed to the ship’s medical bay. Heavily sedated as the medical staff operated on her badly mangled body, she never regained consciousness, dying just after midnight ship-time on the sixteenth. In her final hours, she was surrounded by her closest compatriots. Her brief funeral ceremony was attended by almost the entire River Plate crew, with ship’s chaplain Father Sheeran, who knew Myranda quite well, delivering the eulogy.
The crew of the gunship survived the crash. The thermo-foam sprayed onto the wrecked launch by the damage control team absorbed enough heat from the fires that they were able to free themselves with only minor injuries. The wrecked gunship was safely jettisoned without major damage to the hangar or further loss of life.
The actions of the damage-control team of the fifteenth of January might never earn official commendation, but those who knew her are comforted by the fact that when a crisis loomed, Myranda Howe had been the same kind of hero as the man whose shadow she had walked.