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John Brooker III

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John Brooker III

03/05/2279

 

My name is John Brooker III, and I was born on the third of May, 2279, to my mother, Kerryanne Brooker, and my father, with whom I share my name. I have five siblings - four sisters, one brother - of which I am the eldest. My sister Anna - two years younger than I - is seventeen. Kerry is thirteen. The twins, Rosie and Isabella, are both nine. Jonas is two.

 

I grew up on a frontier colony named Salk. Established at the turn of the century, my grandfather (with whom I also share my name) and my grandmother took my infant father along with everything they owned to set up shop here. They were promised arable land to farm by the Federation, who were hoping to develop the colony into a breadbasket that might feed their future colonial ambitions.

 

Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. After twenty years of failing to grow anything but the hardiest and unnourishing of crops, the Fed lost interest, leaving Salk only partially terraformed. Those that remained were consigned to lives of hardship, destitution, and poverty. I've heard that it's not like this everywhere - that on some planets they have whole forests of fruit and vegetables; lands of plentiful meat and poultry; that there are places where there is water (a much-valued commodity here) as far as the eye can see. I asked my mother and father when I was little what these rivers, lakes and oceans were like, but they could not tell me, as they had never seen them either.

  

My father like his father before him worked the land. Up before dawn, and in bed after midnight; he was nothing if not a hard worker. Perhaps too much of a hard worker. He died when I was nine: an unfortunate case of pneumonia; usually not an issue with twenty third century medicine, especially for a man in his prime, but unfortunately there ain't much of that twenty-third century medicine out here, and when you're working 18 hour days on half a bowl of porridge and you've been doing that since you were 11, it's a bit of a stretch to say you're in your prime.

 

My mother tried to go at it alone for some time, but it was never going to be. She was heavily pregnant with the twins, and farming out here ain't no work for a middle-aged woman at the best of times. She re-married a year later to the son of another local farmer - in retrospect, a loveless near commercial arrangement. Stephen, my stepfather, was a drunk and a real bastard. He cheated on my mother with half the town's womenfolk, but truth be told, those precious few hours of solace were a godsend for the six of us; a temporary peace, like being in the eye of a storm. But like the eye of any storm, it was fleeting, and before long Stephen was back, drunk, violent, and in as foul a mood as ever. I later found out that Stephen too was forced into marriage with my mother - and that he had had to abandon his childhood sweetheart in order to do so. I take some solace in knowing deep down he was probably as miserable as the rest of us; he surely deserved it.

 

I apologize, dear reader, for this had hardly been a tale to fill the heart with warmth and to raise the spirits, and I am afraid it does not get much better.

 

Salk had never really drawn much of anyone's attention - we were barely on the galactic map, and aside for a quarterly arrival of much-needed essentials from the Fed, we were overlooked. 

 

We were fortunate in that we did not see much action during the Progenitor holocaust or the Civil War that followed it, but that is not to say that we as a people did not suffer. Suddenly those much-needed essentials stopped coming - nutrients, medicine, fertilizer for our crops, even water. We starved. We were parched. But we weren't strangers to hardship - we resolved to get on with it and to ride it out as best as we could as we always had.

 

Before long, refugees from the fighting arrived from all over - at first, they were very much welcomed, but in short order, our already depleted resources were stretched thin. And then as if on cue the second horseman reared his ugly head: pestilence, in the form of Orthomyxoviridae XH3N2, or "Hart's Fever." It wasn't unknown to us - it had hit in 2273, not long before I was born - but we'd beaten it, we'd developed a vaccine, and we all thought it was behind us. It would start with flu-like symptoms - coughing, sneezing, a runny nose - but before long it left you choking, suffocating on your own blood. It came back, and the vaccine proved useless. Subsequent vaccines were rendered obsolete in weeks. 

 

It took mother in the fall of 97. Stephen succumbed not long after. Suddenly, I was the head of the family, and my siblings looked to me for strength and guidance. I did what I could - taking to the mines, whilst Anna looked after the others - but it simply wasn't enough. Things were getting desperate. 

 

One cold winter's evening, Anna returned home late, her face gaunt, her shoulders sagging, a certain used up look about her that I had seen only too often lining the streets of Salk's prevalent underworld. Her pockets were full of small change, and because of her we made rent that month, but I don't think I will ever escape that moment so long as I live; never before and I hope never again shall I feel such dread, such complete and utter despair and desperation, as I did in that instant. 

 

Stephen's family reached out to me the next week; we hadn't had much contact with them in the past, because we had sort of assumed Stephen hadn't fallen far from the tree. Whether it's because that's untrue and they were genuinely kind, or because they had heard that their step-granddaughter had taken to prostitution and feared the reputational damage, they volunteered to take in my siblings - but, as an adult, not me. I am nonetheless eternally grateful to them, and I thank God every day for delivering salvation to my half-brother and to my sisters.

 

I suddenly found myself alone in the world; both a daunting and liberating prospect. There wasn't much tying me to Salk anymore, and I knew as clear as day that the only future awaiting me here was further misery and turmoil, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would enroll in the Mobile Infantry - where I would get to see the galaxy, all the while drawing a wage, with a roof over my head, and bread in my tummy. I have arranged with Stephen's family to send the majority of my earnings home, in order to pay for my siblings keep, and they in turn have promised to provide for them and to furnish each of them with ways and means of making a good honest living, including Anna, even after she gains her majority in September.

 

I filled in the final papers and I took my oath yesterday; there was even an opportunity to register my interest in getting involved with medicine. Who knows - maybe I'll ride out my two-year term, go to med school on the Fed bill, come home and set up my own clinic? I have spent so long these past few years focusing on simply surviving the litany of problems that I and my fellow countrymen face that I never considered that one day I might become part of the solution. I hesitate to say it out loud for fear that it might be snatched cruelly away from me, but is this hope I feel in the pit of my stomach? We'll see when I leave next week for boot, but assuming all goes well, I am perhaps only weeks away from my own deliveration from this God forsaken rock, and that deliveration's name is the Ulysses S. Grant.

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First Drop

December 10th, 2298

 

 

stamp_2.pngAnna Brooker

Stephen's Farm

SALK

SL147 1471 B

 

 

To Anna, Kerry, Rosie, Isabella, and Jonas,

 

 

It's been a while since I last wrote, sorry, it's been a busy couple of weeks, but I'm finally here - aboard a real life starship, the Ulysses Grant, named after some fancy famous war hero who died half a millennium ago. I've been officially inducted into the medics - Third Specialist John  Brooker, they call me - and I'm getting to see the galaxy like I always dreamed. But God don't I miss you guys with every fibre of my being.

 

I have been deployed twice now; first to the trenches on the Homeworld (not exactly how I imagined it!), face to face with the the Progenitors - seven foot tall glowing giants, built like trucks. They look like they could snap me like a twig.

 

But they're nothing compared to the arachnids. I came face to face with one yesterday. These beasts grow to ten, fifteen feet, with talons thick as a tree trunk, as sharp as knives. Their cold, dark, lifeless eyes, blacker than obsidian and deeper than the deepest mine, filled with with an all consuming void. No emotion, not even a hint of cognizance - just emptiness. He bore down on me, seemingly unstoppable, like a damn train - I locked up like a deer in headlights, accepting the inevitable, and making my peace with God - but, by His grace, I was yet delivered, by my fearless colleagues - my brothers-in-arms - who in short order had despatched the demon as quickly as it came. I am surrounded by heroes - men and women of great strength and great bravery.

 

None of them seem to be afflicted with even a slither of fear. And in light of that, I wonder if this is the right place for me, because when I am in the field, I feel I am fear embodied - a sack of terror, held together by flesh, skin and bones  I have yet to fire even a single bullet in combat so far - instead I roam the battlefield, simply making company with the wounded, the maimed, and the dying - and yes, I do what I can to help them, and so far fingers crossed I ain't had none die under my watch, but at the end of the day, shouldn't I be out there fighting ?What good is a soldier that's too afraid to shoot?

 

Please write back - I miss you all dearly.

 

Your loving brother,

 

Third Specialist John Brooker III

Medical Division

Ulysses S. Grant

 

 

 

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Murder?

December 23rd, 2298

 

 

stamp_2.pngAnna Brooker

Stephen's Farm

SALK

SL147 1471 B

 

 

To Anna, Kerry, Rosie, Isabella, and Jonas,

 

I think I've finally settled in.

 

This ship, this life style, which was so foreign to me only a short while ago - I think I'm finally beginning to settle into it. Indeed I have reached a point where without the ship's soothing, rhythmic hum, I simply would not be able to sleep.

 

Not only that, but I think I have begun to find my place amongst the 112th Infantry - before, I felt like an impostor, a child play pretending to be a soldier, but the reality has only now begun to set in, I have begun to find my confidence particularly on matters of medicine and I have begun to establish friendships and a repertoire with my comrades here. 

 

One of them - James Zielinski - stands out from the crowd. Inevitable that our paths would cross, really - the guy is a bullet magnet; every drop he manages to do something that necessitates treatment. But he's good company, and he's a fine soldier; indeed, when I joined, he was a mere Private, but he's already made Corporal in the short time I've been here and he even won the second highest honour for gallantry. He's got more holes in him than a golf course, but that doesn't seem to deter him at all - he gets right back up, and straight into the fight. I still haven't found opportunity to make use of my rifle yet, but I discovered that this isn't entirely unusual for people within our profession - indeed many of my colleagues confess the same. I am reassured by this knowledge - it gives me strength to know that whilst I am no James Zielinski, I have a part to play, and I like to think I play it well.

 

That being said things aren't quite totally peachy. 

 

We had a girl come back all messed up a few days ago - a Corporal by the name of Bellic. Nice enough - she was quite pretty in her own kind of way, you know? But she'd caught a talon to the chest and unfortunately there just wasn't much we could do for her but make her feel comfortable. Palliative care, we call it. And that we did - we resolved to make her final hours if not pleasant then at least pain free. Only it didn't exactly work out that way.

 

You see - she expressed an interest in taking things into her own hands. And don't get me wrong - I can understand it, I'd want to go on my own terms too. But the way she wanted to do it - she wanted to shoot herself - it just wasn't doable. Whilst euthanasia ain't illegal, they're real strict on how it's conducted, and chewin' on a buckshot pellet just ain't gonna cut it. It was heart-wrenching but we had to reject her request - in effect, forcing her to accept a death at the hands of the Reaper after all. The law's a bitch sometimes, but the law is the law, right? An' without it, are we any better than animals?

 

Turns out one Captain Bently thinks so. He brought her a rifle and she shot herself in the head. Messy affair. Bently's been arrested and everything on murder - rumour is he faces the gallows if convicted. The truth is I'm conflicted on the issue: the law is the law, but the girl was dying anyway, and whose business is it but her's how and when she dies anyway? Can a soldier ask for anything more? 

 

I think I'm just gonna keep my head low and let it play out...

 

 

Your loving brother,

 

Third Specialist John Brooker III

Medical Division

Ulysses S. Grant

NOTE.png

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