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The Things They Carried, in Space
by Joseph S. Pete

We may even have a ‘space force.' We have the Air Force. We’ll have the space force. We have the Army, the Navy. I said ‘maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the space force”

U.S. President Donald Trump

It was just like the Army and Navy, but for space.

The things they carried were largely determined by necessity—not just ordinary, earthbound necessity but space necessity. Among the necessities on the Space Force were space can openers, space pocket knives because spacesuits finally got pockets after enough people complained, space heat tabs for heating space food in the near-absolute zero coldness of space, space wristwatches, space dog tags, space mosquito repellent for the nasty space mosquitoes that lurked off the shoulder of Orion and in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate, Shrike repellent if you ended up on Hyperion, space chewing gum, space candy, space cigarettes that somehow didn’t explode in the 100-percent oxygen atmosphere inside a pressurized spaceship cabin, space salt tablets, space packets of space Kool-Aid, space lighters, space sewing kits for quick patches to one’s spacesuit or space crafting to pass the time, Space Force Payment Certificates, and two or three space canteens of space water, which was like water but in space. Together, these items would have weighed between 15 and 20 pounds, but it was space so there wasn’t any gravity.

They carried space stationery, space pencils and space pens, to pen soulful missives to their loved ones back home about the campaign against the Cylons, who proved the Space Force was a tremendous idea and who had a plan, no really, they did. They carried space Sterno, space safety pins, space trip flares, space signal flares, spools of space wire, space razor blades for when space beards eventually fell of fashion, space chewing tobacco after a smoker accidentally blew up the Battlestar Galactica, space statuettes of the smiling space Buddha, space candles that illuminated one’s quarters while writing eloquent space letters back to the homefront that could be intoned drawlingly with great pathos if any space documentarians ever wanted to make a PBS special more than a century later, space grease pencils, The Stars and Stripes Space Edition, space fingernail clippers for basic space hygiene, space Psy Ops leaflets, space bush hats, and space bolos for hacking through particularly thick asteroid belts. Twice a week, when the resupply spaceships came in, they carried space chow in green mermite space cans and large canvas space bags filled with space beer and space pop.

They carried the traditions of the terrestrial armed forces: the Army; the Navy, which was like a water army; the Air Force, which was like a sky army; the Marines, which was like a beach invasion army; and the Coast Guard, which was like an army for rescuing stranded boaters.

Like freight trains, they carried the metaphor generations of English majors would have to dissect; they carried it on their backs and shoulders—and for all the ambiguities of Space Force expeditions, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for space things to carry in space and also that space war is hell, but like space hell.