Episode 2 Scene 3
I’d done my time in the military. I’d done my time in the police force, and I’d sat in enough transport vehicles to last a couple of lifetimes. When they told me to get out of the truck, I was happy enough, but when they told me I was to be debriefed immediately, I told them to fuck off. My head hurt, and the medic had refused to give me anything else for the pain. One moment you’re bonding with a dude and the next he’s quoting rules and regs at you. Join the army, see the world, and kill your initiative. Fuck ’em.
“But you don’t understand,” insisted the junior officer. “Time is of the essence.”
I’d clambered down from the back of the rig and was stretching my sore and sorry-assed body.
“If time was critical, you’d have sent a chopper.”
The two officers shared a glance. The penny dropped. They didn’t know the capability of the Scythers and didn’t want to risk an aircraft. These years immediately after The Blink had taken a toll on the air force. The War Clans were a ground-based force, and while the air force could help out when the Clans were away from population centers and communities, it was of little use when the barbarians were at the gate. The human population was now spread too thinly for friendly-fire casualties to be as acceptable as they’d once been. The end result: the army got the good toys, and the air force was left sucking the hind teat. But now, because of the Scythers, the focus was changing, and aircraft were becoming increasingly precious.
“How about we all take a step back and focus?” suggested the superior officer. “We can all work together.”
It sounded like he had a management training manual shoved up his ass. It was all right for him; he’d been sitting in the front of the truck. He didn’t have a headful of stitches and a belly full of nothing. A compromise was in order.
“Fuck the lot of you. No food plus no drink equals no info. How’s that for working together?”
The medic jumped from the truck and laughed. “Hearts and minds, Gunslinger, hearts and minds.”
Shithead. A little less attitude and a little more medication would’ve helped the situation. I glanced around the camp. It was different from the usual military camps. Sure, it was mostly squared away, and the defensive perimeter was solid, but the number of people not wearing uniforms was unusually high. How did they keep discipline here?
There was a crunch of gravel behind me, and the officer pricks snapped to attention. Even the medic made an attempt to look sharper. We must be in the presence of top brass.
“Is this the man?” barked a voice.
I didn’t bother to turn.
“Yes, sir,” responded the senior prick.
“Look at the state of him. Get him food. Clean up his head. Have him report to me when he looks human.”
Now that’s a set of orders I could respect.
“And get it done in thirty,” continued the voice.
Shit. Thirty minutes. That’s bullshit.
The two officers stood ramrod straight. Any straighter and you could’ve fired them from a bow. I turned to argue the thirty-minute part of the order and promptly bit my tongue. I know a commander when I see one, and this colonel reeked of authority. I fumbled my way to a half salute, and she laughed.
“Christ, you look like a piece of shit. Make it sixty,” she said.
Damn. I was in love.