An interesting sci-fi short story from 4chan.
That is some fine writing.
The Imgur link is broken so:
[Series of posts on 09/16/11]
About twelve years ago, a man died in high orbit over Tau Ceti V.
His name was Drake McDougal, and aside from a few snapshots and vague anecdotes from his drinking buddies, that’s probably all we’ll ever know about him. Another colony-born man with little records and little documentation, working whatever asteroid field the Dracs deigned to allow them. Every now and then a Drac gunship would strut on through the system, Pax Draconia and all that. But that was it.
One fine day, one of those gunships had a misjump. A bad one. It arrived only ninety clicks above atmo, with all its impellers blown out by the gravatic feedback of Tau Ceti V’s gravity well. The Dracs scraped enough power together for a good system-wide broadbeam and were already beginning the Death Chant when they hit atmo.
People laughed at the recording of sixty Dracs going from mysterious chanting to “’what-the-fuck’ing” for years after they forgot the name Drake McDougal. The deafening “CLANG” and split second of stunned silence afterwards never failed to entertain. Drake had performed a hasty re-entry seconds after the gunship and partially slagged his heatshield diving after it. Experts later calculated he suffered 11Gs when he leaned on the retro to match velocities with the Dracs long enough to engage the mag-grapples on his little mining tug.
Even the massively overpowered drive of a tug has its limits, and Drake’s little ship hit hers about one and a half minutes later. Pushed too far, the tug’s fusion plant lost containment just as he finished slingshotting the gunship into low orbit. (It was unharmed, of course; the Drac opinion of fusion power best translated as “quaint,” kind of how we view butter churns.)
It was on the local news within hours, on newsnets across human space within days. It was discussed, memorialized, marveled upon, chewed over by daytime talk-show hosts, and I think somebody even bought a plaque or some shit like that. Then there was a freighter accident, and a mass-shooting on Orbital 5, and of course, the first Vandal attacks in the periphery.
The galaxy moved on.
Twelve years is a long time, especially during war, so twelve years later, as the Vandal’s main fleet was jumping in near Jupiter and we were strapping into the crash couches of what wee enthusiastically called “warships,” I guaran-fucking-tee you not one man in the entire Defense Force could remember who Drake McDougal was.
Well, the Dracs sure as hell did.
Dracs do not fuck around. Dozens of two-kilometer long Drac supercaps jumped in barely 90K klicks away, and then we just stood around staring at our displays like the slack-jawed apes we were as we watched what a real can of galactic whoop-ass looked like. You could actually see the atmosphere of Jupiter roil occasionally when a Vandal ship happened to cross between it and the Drac fleet. There’s still lightning storms on Jupiter now, something about residual heavy ions and massive static charges or something.
Fifty-eight hours later, with every Vandal ship reduced to slagged debris and nine wounded Drac ships spinning about as they vented atmosphere, they started with the broad-band chanting again. And then the communiqué that confused the hell out of us all.
“Do you hold out debt fulfilled?”
After the sixth or seventh comms officer told them “we don’t know what the hell you’re talking about” as politely as possible, the Drac fleet commander got on the horn and asked to speak to a human Admiral in roughly the same tone as a telemarketer telling a kid to give the phone to Daddy. When the Admiral didn’t know either, the Drac went silent for a minute, and when he came back on his translator was using much smaller words, and talking slower.
“Is our blood debt to Drake McDougal’s clan now satisfied?”
The Admiral said “Who?”
What the Drac commander said next would’ve caused a major diplomatic incident had he remembered to revert to the more complex translation protocols. He thought the Admiral must be an idiot, a coward, or both. Eventually, the diplomats were called out, and we were asked why the human race has largely forgotten the sacrifice of Drake McDougal.
Humans, we explained, sacrifice themselves all the time.
We trotted out every news clip from the space-wide Nets from the last twelve years. Some freighter cook that fell on a grenade during a pirate raid on Outreach. A ship engineer who locked himself into the reactor room and kept containment until the crew evacuated. Firefighter who died shielding a child from falling debris with his body, during an earthquake. Stuff like that.
That Dracs were utterly stunned. Their diplomats wandered out of the conference room in a daze. We’d just told them that the rarest, most selfless and honorable of acts – acts that incurred generations-long blood-debts and moved entire fleets – was so routine for our species that they were bumped off the news by the latest celebrity scandal.
Everything changed for humanity after that. And it was all thanks to a single tug pilot who taught the galaxy what truly defines Man.
This makes me cry
It had been so many cycles since the Drac incident, and even more since the Drake McDougal event, and the the galaxy had sort of come to the conclusion that humans were, well, human about things, and that they regarded their lives in completely incomprehensible ways.
Yet for all of the witnessed sacrifices, few warriors had ever been taught to recognise the most terrifying of human deeds. In a forgettable corner of the galaxy, in an unremarked planet with a previously less than recorded history, a party of six human security escorts bringing their rescued survivors to a hive ship became a party of five,
A lone human, holding one of their handheld ‘melee’ weapons wordlessly tilted their head to their commander, and stopped, standing in plain sight in the middle of a field.
When asked, the lower ranked humans simply said “She knows what’s she’s doing”. The human captain’s inexplicable statement “She’s buying us some time” made it as if their companion had stepped into some form of marketplace.
Katherine of Rescue Group’s fate was never confirmed, but no pursuit came that night. On the next dawn, when the hive ship was able to leave, the humans insisted we departed immediately, and did not go back for their companion.
We do not know for sure what became of Katherine of Rescue Group. All we know is that when pressed, the human captain explained to our own that the one who stayed had communicated an ancient human tradition, the rite of self sacrifice. In words, the captain explained, the look and the nod would mean “Go on. I’ll hold them off. It was not, as we thought, that this one warrior had sought victory over many enemies, but that they had calculated a trade off of the minutes or hours it could take to defeat a human, against the time needed by their companions.
Humans, as humans say, do not go gentle into that good night.
Worse, they do not go gentle into bad nights, worse days, or terrifying sunsets. Dawn seems to fill them with potency and rage, as if to call upon the solar gods and tell the deities to come down here and say that to their human faces. We do not know how long she bought us, but we, the hive now called K’thrn, understand what it means to have someone expend their existence for the survival of others.
We find it terrifying.
I love this one. Reblogging for something new.