Letters Home

Audible scribbling filled the office as pen met paper, moving across to form words, sentences, paragraphs. The regularly intervalled ticking of a clock paced the writings as more and more of the blank page was filled in.

A knock. A series of knocks. The door.

“Come in.”

With a mechanical beep and hiss, the blue-painted airlock slid open. A man wearing a standard-issue service jacket entered. He took up a position in front of the desk. Standing. Hands calmly by his sides.

Another hiss. The airlock closed automatically. The noise called the scribbling to a halt. I looked up to face the man, a quiet noise accompanying my gaze as I placed the pen down next to the paper.

“Major. Ma’am.” The man snapped to attention, almost clicking with the heels of his boots as he did as if my office was a parading ground.

“At ease, Captain,” I replied quietly. My eyes met his - a shade of green meeting a definitive ocean blue. I had no need to glance off to my right, where my sunglasses rested upon the desk, which would normally have obstructed such direct a view. “What can I do for you?”

The man struggled, visibly. He was uncomfortable, perhaps insecure, clearing his throat once as if not wanting to speak up despite having come on his own accord.

“You can speak freely, Captain.”

“Major Rockwell, I… I don’t mean any offense, but this is the third time now that you are late to a security brief.”

I blinked, momentarily perplexed, before a vague smile formed on my lips. “I see.” I leaned back, and my faux-leather seat creaked slightly as my weight shifted. “Yet you filled in for me, right? I always prepare my side of the report ahead of schedule for you to assess.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied meakly. “But I…”

A brief pause.

“Ma’am, I’m worried you’re not taking things serious anymore. The other officers, they’re all starting to think you’re growing… complacent, and if that feeling spreads to the enlisted down below then-”


He blinked at me, a brief moment of stupor as I shifted and leaned forward, resting my chin on two interlocked, folded hands of mine.


“What is this to you?”

He cocked his head, ever so slightly. “What is… what, ma’am?”

“This. The ship. The Marines. What is it to you?”

“It’s… my job, ma’am? I don’t understand-”

“Your job, yes. Is this what worries you? Not doing your job right? That I am not doing my job?”

He fumbled with his hands. Helpless. Confused.

The ticking of the clock went on unimpeded as I looked at him mercilessly.

“I don’t…”

“May I show you something, Captain?”

A nod. “Of course.”

I straighted out a little and moved my right hand down towards the paper I had been writing. I shifted it 180° so that it faced towards him.

He still struggled. He glared at the paper with growing confusion.

“Ma’am, I… I can’t read this…”

My attention diverted from his face, down towards the inverted paper. Towards the inverted, kanji characters.

“Then I will tell you what the first line says, Captain.”

I shifted the paper back around and glanced at it fully.

“Dearest Mother, sorry that I’m still away from home. Work has been keeping me busy out here.”

I kept my eyes focused on my writings. For a moment, I’d forgotten my direct subordinate was even present. The clock ticked on, interrupting a small part of that brief, internal peace.

“I’m a long way from home, Captain. I think most of us are, officer or not. We all do a job out here, but in the end, I think we all have something more that we want by doing this.”

I sighed, closing my eyes.

“I came to join because I had something to prove. To myself, yes, but… also those I loved. Family. Loved ones. Mother, father, sister.”

Another, deep breath. It was unsteady. My speech grew louder, faster, as I went on.

“This isn’t just for me. This isn’t just a paycheck, not just a fancy rank displayed on my shoulders, not just medals and ribbons, it’s…!”

I stopped mid-sentence. I’d realised how fast my heart had started beating. How loud I’d started speaking. The Captain, he’d taken half a step backwards from my desk.

When had I stood up from my chair? When had I started yelling?

“It’s… it’s about family. Captain. It’s about the people I truly, dearly, love. The people I owe and want to- no, need to prove myself to. I have been given so much in life by a caring mother, a watchful father and a dearest sister… that I could not fathom leaving them without compensation for all that.”

I’d sat down again as I spoke, my head turned downwards, towards the paper again.

“I do this for them. To show them who I am. To return something of worth to them, in a sense. This? This is… not quite a job. It’s a calling, to me. To do the right thing. To do what I need to do for them.”

Slowly, my head rose for my eyes to once more meet his. His unsteady, perplexed form tried to remain steady, though largely unsuccessful.

“If you want to report me to the Provost or whomever for Neglect of Duty, I won’t stop you, Captain. It’s well within your right. But I won’t ever leave my family in the dark while I’m out here. They’re the reason I’m here to begin with.”

The man looked at me with a face that spoke a mixture of emotions, opinions and attitudes. Finally, though, he raised his right arm in a sloppy salute.

“Sorry for the… intrusion. Ma’am.”

I kept a straight face as I rose from my seat to properly salute him also.

“Think nothing of it, Captain.”

He lowered his arm, giving what seemed to be a small, barely noticable nod, before turning to leave. The familiar hiss of the airlock sounded as it slid open, and then again as it closed again - manually shut by the Captain after he had left.

I remained standing for several seconds. It took that amount of time for me to realise my arm was still raised in salute - now saluting nobody but perhaps the airlock. The clock’s ticking and tocking filled the room once more as silence returned.

I lowered myself back down, the padding of my chair sounding as I rested. My eyes travelled to scan the letter I’d wrote. Top to bottom, until they reached the end of my letter. The last two characters were still missing, and so I took up my pen to finish the message.

“Your loving daughter. Always.”