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Drumming.

There was naught more but the drumming beating like a hihat. Bits and pieces of debris rained on the hull of the ring, and the drumming sound filled the command centre. Solomon hadn’t shaved in days, what had looked like a desperate attempt to look dangerous and interesting, had turned into the look of a man who began turning grey ahead of his time. “Keep firing.” He heard himself say. More mutter than speak.

Most of his nights he spent on a bunk in an adjacent room, instead of home with his wife and son.

The tired moan of the hydraulic opening of the door behind him alerted him to Johannes entering the command centre. “You called?”

Without saying a word Solomon got up and led him to the room with the bunks. On a bed he and his first officer had hoisted up a bridge officer, a gunner as they were called now. “He passed out five minutes ago.”

Johannes lept to the man, checked vital signs, and the skin. “Dehydration, and exhaustion. I need to hookhim to an IV, and he needs rest. How long has he been at it?”

Pinching his eyes and uttering a noise that was a bastard mix of a sigh and a yawn Solomon shook his head. “He was on his post when I fell asleep, and when I returmed.”

As wordless as Solomon before, Johannes approached his old friend, pinching the skin on the back of his hand. “You need to drink man.” Looking in his eyes he added, “and to sleep.” Shaking his head, Solomon yawned again.

“The Harpies are out there and didn’t figure out how to mask their heat emissions, so they show up, we blast at their weapon systems, they retreat, but they come back with another ship, while repairing the other ones.”

Heaving the unconscious crewman onto his shoulder Johannes thought that the Harpys were merely testing the Horizon. If they really wanted to destroy them, they’d disappear and come back in force. In numbers too high for the Horizon to handle.

“Still you need rest, as chief medical officer I’m relieving you of duty, you are unfit for it. The others can do that job just as well without you there.” Solomon wanted to protest, but got a commanding gaze from Johannes instead.

 

Conceding he followed his lead, supporting the unconscious crewman from the other side. Their path took them through the reinforced hallways of the subalpha ring to the local infirmary. A small hospital was now present in all of the rings, so only absolute emergencies had to be transported to the main hospital in subgamma.

After learning about the severity of the situation the elected officials of the three main rings had given him absolute command, but remained in authority for non military decisions.

The scientists had prognosed a dramatic space problem for following geneations, most quarters, already crammed small rooms, had been converted to accommodate two people at once, while the outter sections of the rings had only been reinforced to withstand the Harpies fire.

 

“I cant wait for the shipments from Ericsson.”

“We’re still years out! We’ve been doing pretty good these last three months without supplies.” Admitting only to himself that he was only a doctor and not a tactician or that he knew much of the logistics of the Horizon, Johannes was glad to have reached the infirmary.

“How’s it you always do this exhaustion thing evey week?”

“Harpies don’t stop.”

“Well they should, unless they wanna die of exhaustion too.” It was his turn to smile a playful smirk they both knew from one another since they met.

Faintly replying with his own smirk Solomon leaned against a wall sitting on one of the chairs in the hallway of the infirmary, falling asleep before he had finished his smile.

For a moment Johannes looked at his old friend. He knew exactly why Solomon didn’t sleep much. The same reason he himself had trouble sleeping.

Dreams.

It was all said in his words. “Harpies don’t stop.” They didn’t, but it wasn’t the ones that showed up outside the ship that kept Solomon from sleep.

But the ones in his dreams.

Every night after they had caught one in the crawlspace at the cryogenic chambers he dreamt of them. Surely, Johannes figured, it was worse for Solomon, who almost joined the strike team that was completely wiped out by the Harpys. The lucky ones of that team had died instantly, the unlucky ones died within a week of horrific radiation effects.

Their screams and moans followed Johannes into his nightmares.

“Nurse? Both these men need rest, and fluids.” Command centre crews had started pulling longer and longer shifts immediately after the incident. Exhaustion and dehydration were commonplace amongst them.

 

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