Hi J. Robert Kane!
Wow! This is a wonderful space war story! I like how it begins in the present, the aftermath of some event and the conflict among the three men in the pod. Good hook especially with a potential murder.
The setting was realistic and the vocabulary thematic to the science and tech of the piece set in the future. I think you did a great job in weaving info about the characters and events as the story moved along so it did not feel like a list of facts or narrative.
The voice of the narrator is consistent and I think the use of tenses made sense. I wondered about putting italics around bits when he is thinking within his mind in the story, apart from his narrative to us. I recall a couple of spots where that might work. I am not a pro though... still learning about voice.
The lines "Had the Meridian been boarded? That didn’t make sense, though. Why nuke a warship and then board her? " felt more like what he thought in his head at the time rather than telling us what he thought. To continue as a narrative: "I wondered if the Meridian had been ... though it did not make sense. Why..."
I liked the lieutenant's considerations about not killing, for his own sake and the idea of karma-credit. Really shows his wisdom and restraint as a leader. His honesty is apparent and I like the line that precedes the jump off to the past. It made me curious enough to read on. He did seem like a "better man". LOL Though he did make a comment earlier about his fear that he could have killed.
Your descriptions of action and ships as well as the characters are vivid and I could easily follow the story. I like how you keep Hallock silent thorugh out and yet have him show remorse. It is like he is the weak link in the chain. Can't wait to hear his story.
I loved images like "wafer-thin chance".
I did like the swtiching from present to past to present, though I had to double check in the second change even though the little stars were there as notification. It keeps me waiting to see what will happen to the three men, with whom I am now interested in.
The abrupt line that it fired on them was a good one..took reader by surprise as much as the men. Setting it by itself was effective too.
The emotional scene when the pod was hit was dramatic and realistic, adding another dimension to the characters. I like how you left us hanging about Hallock's reason for eating the chocolate.
That first line was a good hook. I like chocolate too.
A few glitches occurred to me, but keep it mind these are my own views and I am not a story writer.
* Where you have Reynolds not happy about Hallock you say "all over his person"---"all over him" would sound more normal.
--"In Reynolds watched me" maybe "so did Hallock" instead of "both men did" and the word "seemed" is not effective. He did or didn't and what would show that he did agree? eg. nodded . I get the idea that he is not happy about it.
--Drop 'seemed" in "as I seemed to recall" as he either did or he did not recall. Direct is a better way to go here. para. 19
Also in the line: "I wondered, as I seemed to recall that the nearest life-pods were located on the starboard side of the ship, what..."
I feel it would be clearer to read if you began with "As I recalled...I wondered what the impact..." It would be more potent.
--I don't think you need "on us" in "its toll on us." if you need to tighten up the work. We already know that it would be affecting them.
You like the word "seemed". Again, "seemed out of place there.: where you speak of the look of fear not being natural,it is more direct to say "was out of place" and it really was. You explain why later in the paragraph so it makes sense to make it so!
--In the line "announcements that screamed blared," you need a comma between the verbs or take one of them out.
--In " had panicked, apparently" is the narrator assuming they panicked? A more direct clean line, might be "soldiers obviously failed"... as he noticed the remains. It might tighten up the work and lose another less vivid adverb. The same might apply with the word "likely catastrophic". It would appear that it was disasterous.
The last line rocked as it revealed again the character. Great way to end a chapter as we are in the middle of the crisis and are curious as to what happened next.
I enjoyed reading this chapter which flowed in a coherent way, kept my interest and made me like the characters. The differences between them are clear and make for possible conflict to though they work together. I want to know more about the third character and it was wise to leave it for another chapter.
I did enjoy the quotes you added at the start. They both resonate with the story. Hamlet's not good or bad... made me think of your main character and really is a bit of wisdom.
Thanks for sharing your vision and craft. Keep on writing to space and beyond!