This is the first section of the ninth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Laurence sat poking at the food in front of him in a dejected manner. He might have been getting used to the food on the Contrafibularity, but without the ocean for fresh food supplies the food here was a big let down. Eating at a poorly staffed cafe in the transfer station had been a let down from earth, but a sheet metal table in the mess area was a step as low as Laurence wanted to go in his life. Well given the captain’s reaction to his worries the journey into near certain death was more of a concern, but there was nothing he could do about that at the moment.
An anonymous crewman sat opposite him “Sir” exclaimed the crewman as he sat down.
Laurence looked for an insignia on the crewman and noticed what he thought was the rank of Yeoman “I’ve heard a Yeoman will say sir to anyone”
The man looked annoyed “That may be Sir, but I’m not a Yeoman. I’m a Petty Officer Sir”
“I see, sorry.” apologised Laurence “I guess I’m out of date with the ranks on the space corps. You could have been a Lieutenant for all I knew”
“Lieutenant” corrected the crewman
“Oh I see, sorry again” apologised Laurence “I guess that’s just how I know it pronounced.”
“Matter of tradition Sir.” he continued to wolf down the food in front of him, Laurence was almost disgusted to see the speed at which this petty officer’s food was disappearing.
Laurence ate in silence for a few moments then continued “Look can I ask you, is it always this bad, always this cramped. This Freedom seems to possess very little of what it calls itself.”
“I don’t know Sir, served on a submarine before this and it’s about the same. More room in the corridors so I can’t complain.”
“It just seems harsh to spend so much time in such cramped conditions when space is so vast”
“It was certainly supposed to be better, we were promised recreational areas in inflatable sections, but they can’t be expanded under battle conditions. Besides they haven’t been installed yet we’ve been told not an urgent mission priority because of the short term nature of this posting”
“How many of you are there to a cabin” asked Laurence
“Six Sir,” replied the crewman “Same as the boomer” at this he took the last mouthful from his plate, stood up rattled of a salute a “Sir!” and left
“Goodbye petty officer Sir!” said Laurence to the retreating back.