I was naked as I clung for life from the body parts on the tunnel wall. By divine grace,
    there was adequate ventilation provided by a drafty tunnel shaft above me. Below, I
    could see them, smell their stench, hear them. They made that awful sound of wet
    rubber when they moved. Around me were my comrades, their spines horribly broken,
    twisted. Their mortified stone-like torsos pasted like hideous wallpaper. Their ghastly
    faces in grotesque design, distorted by pustulate resin, lined both sides of the
    corridors as far as I could see. Beads of sweat and blood streamed into my eyes. Salty
    tears trickled out from them but I dared not blink. My fingers were numb. My body
    ached and trembled, until at last, it could endure no more. I felt myself falling, thrashing
    though the air. The sound of my crashing was horrendous but quickly drowned out by
    their vile uproar made over my commotion.

    Then, I saw a flash of light. Dear Valkyrja! My Sage! And my Coven! They were not
    dead! All were alive . . . and, all were laughing . . . at me! It had all been a bad dream!
    And upon hitting the deck, I realized I had fallen out of my bunk! The lights had come on
    and everyone was howling at the joke.

    “Gets  ‘em every time!” Sage shook his head and gave his knee a hardy slap. He was
    squatting beside me, wringing a thick rubber hose with his sweaty hands.

    “That’s why we put rookies in the top bunk!” Someone yelled. And the laughter rose up
    again. My Sage grinned at me. I laughed too, as one of them now. The lights soon went
    out again and it grew silent in the still darkness. Alone with my thoughts, I stared up at
    the blackness. Tomorrow would begin  my true rite-of-passage. It was to be my first
    mission down in the hell holes of KHT-21. It was to be Larson’s last.

    I remember that first night over two hundred years ago like it was just yesterday. Well,
    maybe like it was the day before yesterday. They’re all gone now. Today, my men call
    me Sage. I can’t tell you how many rookies I have sent crashing head first to the deck
    their first night after my Vexthrax field brief!

    “Welcome to the ThraxMasters kid!” I tell them. HA! Amazing, but it works. Gets ‘em
    every time, just like my ole Sage said.