“Wait, What?” Mark closed his other windows and focused on the one his wife was occupying. It was still weird for him to see her with close-cropped hair and muscular arms. Hot, yes. But strange too considering the soft spoken little thing she'd been when they started dating back in college. Now one look at her was enough to confirm that she could kick not just his ass, but the ass of every man in this office. “Your orders are in?”
She broke through the Marine facade long enough to roll her eyes at him. “My orders. Our orders. They're accompanied. You know, unless you're going to file for divorce.”
Honestly, the thought had crossed his mind the last few months. But sharing Kimmy – sorry, Second Lieutenant Kimberly Lowenstein – with the Corps was better than not having her at all.
“Okay. I got that part. But I think I misheard when you said where they're too.”
“Right... Which is...” He was pretty sure he knew where it was. It had, after all, been on every news channel on Earth when it was founded a decade ago. But maybe he was wrong. Dear God, let him be wrong... “In California? Colorado? Colombia?”
He couldn't tell from Kim's expression if she understood his emotions over the news or not. But if Fort Centaurus was where he thought it was – and really how could it not be? – then she could have picked a better time than the middle of a workday to tell him. She could have waited until he was already near alcohol, which he had a sudden and, he thought, very understandable need for. She could have waited a week, until he'd be allowed to see her again and the comfort of her physical presence could help defeat the onslaught of panic battering against him.
“It's on Betaterra.” The words were said calmly and matter-of-a-fact, but there was a softening around her eyes that showed she knew they were a shock.
“Right. Betaterra. How long?”
She swallowed and drew her hand along her cheek like she was pushing back hair that wasn't there anymore. “Five years, plus travel. Tours are longer out there. Costs, you know.”
He nodded. Five years, plus about a year on either side getting there and back. Obviously no vacations home. And the base existed largely to deploy from, meaning that she could fly away for months or maybe even years of their time there. Leaving him on a barren rock of a planet with whatever random jobs were available for spouses and no hope of seeing any of his friends or family.
But... He'd known when she joined the Corps that it wasn't the Marine Corps of old. He'd known this was a possibility, especially when she selected into infotech, which on the surface covered computer systems but tended to focus on understanding and manipulating alien ones. He should just be grateful she wasn't front-line infantry. There had been actual ground fighting against the Insalings on a few worlds.
He tried to smile. He was very concerned it looked more like the face of someone about to vomit. “Guess they call you guys Space Marines now for a reason, huh?”
“Yep.” Kim's eyes tracked into the distance for a second and she nodded at someone. “Look, I've got to go, honey. But... It'll be okay. The base welcome packet is on their website and it really doesn't look as bad as people think. There's a whole New Earth starting, Mark, and we get to be part of it. Okay?”
There was an almost imperceptible tremble on the closing question. Like maybe she wasn't sure it was okay. Like maybe she was scared he was going to balk and really would chose divorce over living off-world. That little tremble broke his heart and erased any chance there was of him staying behind. “Oh, I'm ready for Betaterra, babe. But it had better get ready for me.”
She smiled though her eyes shimmered. “I'll let them know their new world ruler is on his way.”
Mark signed off with his traditional, "Semper fi, baby," then sat staring at his desktop for a very long time. Betaterra... He let out a slow breath, stood, and stretched his back while surveying the office outside his cubical. Well, it had to beat this, didn't it?
Without bothering to check out, he headed home to break the news to the goldfish.
Dear Reader, you may or may not know that there's a bit of a hubbub about the term "Space Marine" right now. In short, Games Workshop has decided they own the phrase even though it was in use for decades before their company existed and they've been making trouble for indie author MCA Hogarth over it. For more information see her website, specifically the post In the Future All Space Marines Will Be Warhammer 40k Space Marines. To help fight against Game's Workshop's bullying, you can email them (firstname.lastname@example.org), buy the book in print or from Smashwords, or write your own Space Marine fiction!