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Ephemeral_One
May 14th, 2014, 01:07 PM
Part 1: How Dragons Play


Reports Submitted by: Staff Sergeant Martin DuBont, 7th Internal Affairs Division


Report Submitted: 10 – 25 – 378 P.C.C.


I've really come to dislike restaurants since joining the military. My commanding officer brings us to this on base one every time someone else gets a promotion. I say someone 'else' as I've been stuck in the same rank and job for half a decade. This, at 31, makes me easily the oldest member of my unit. So, when it got passed around to meet for last meal at the restaurant, I felt like finding a rock to hide under. However, living on a space station offers a distinct lack of rocks. So, I'm a good soldier and followed orders. Unfortunately, the base tram broke down for the third time this week on my way making me the second to last to arrive.
The restaurant was as busy as ever as I walked in. Bright, cheerful lights and the movement of bodies across a carpeted plains dotted with tables. Booths with visiting families lined the walls. Several in the center had been pushed together.

Recognizing the rest of the 7th record keeping division around the table, I dodged several waiters. We follow other units around and act as reporters for the higher ups. I say 'we' but as I'm 'older' they have me handle most of the menial paperwork now. Thus, a meeting between the whole of the unit isn't too common. Lieutenant Tellman, my commanding officer, waved me over.

I suppose at this point I should mention each of my comrades but that wouldn't be relevant to this report. Just understand that I sat at a table with at least seven years on everyone else. The only important one was the slick haired Tellman. He is a typical product of the Republic Military academy. His family is one of those five generation deep military types. His perfectly pressed green uniform has never been out of order. Of course, he's never been within a mile of any actually fired round either. He motioned for me to take an empty seat next to him. I worried I'd drop dead on the spot as I sat down.


“Well, everyone important is here. Jessica will have to be brought up to speed afterward,” Tellman sighed. Placing a hand on my shoulder he announced, “Our dear DuBont has been chosen for a special assignment. He shall be placed on Audenum payment.” At that point I stopped listening. My mind moved rapidly. A special assignment? That meant I'd be away from Tellman! I had no hope of advancement under him but a special assignment would be reviewed by a committee!

Then, my heart sank as a second realization sunk in. He'd made the announcement before anyone had ordered! The bastard had a tradition of making anyone getting promoted would cover half the bill. I looked around with a sickening knowledge everyone would order whatever expensive thing they wanted. Audenum meant I'm paid per day I'm on the assignment. It's is usually reserved for undercover agents or for upper ranks who want a nice paid vacation.

Congratulations floated my way from around the table just as the waitress came over. Steak seemed to be the order of the night. I followed suit but added a heavy drink to my order. I got the feeling I'd need some courage. My internal panic had blocked out Tellman giving any hint as to the exact nature of my assignment. Since he didn't block my first drink, I got a second just as the meal arrived. That's when he warned me against anything further with a glare.


As Corporal Dennis was telling us about his latest duty following around the 12th Infantry division on some backwater dirtball, my breath caught in my throat. Floating into my vision was the beauty of Staff Sergeant Jessica Altira. Her brown hair cropped short around her fine features. She apologized about being late and took a seat across from me. I got into a staring contest with my mostly empty drink. Once more, I felt a hand rest on my shoulder as Tellman explained, “Eat whatever you like, Jessica. Our dear DuBont is going on an Audenum job so he'll be able to afford it.”


Though every urge in my body was to grab his wrist and beat that smug look off his face, I didn't. Instead, I took the rest of my drink down in one gulp. When I managed to flag down the nearest waitress, I had her give me the check. Hearing that, everyone began complaining that I was being a cheapskate. The others pitching in their small bits of the bill, I sat quietly watching Jessica eat. Something about her made the world fall away around me.

With his usual level of tact, my wonderful commanding officer announced, “You'll need to be up before first meal, DuBont. Your briefing will be before that and then you'll be shipping out so you two don't have time for anything more than a quickie, Staff sergeants. Have a good night.”


Dropping his bit of the bill at the table, Tellman left. Looking down into my suddenly empty drink, I tried to spark up a conversation asking, “How have things been going with your family? They went to work for Zeran industries, didn't they?”

“Yes, well, as is usual, I haven't heard a word from them but that's no surprise,” Altira sighed resting her cheek on her palm. It suddenly reminded me of something I heard in my younger years: Oh, to be a glove upon that hand to touch that cheek! Despite the roughness that came with the military life, Altira always kept herself beautiful. Better than the desperate infantry dogs who seemed to forget what baths were for days at a time.


“Well, I'm sure you'll get word soon. Though, I gotta admit, I can't imagine working for one of the major companies,” I shrugged, “I mean, sure, you're getting free room and board but I hear that 50 hours is a minimum for every position and they only pay you in credits, not actual cash.”


“Do you mind if we change the topic?” Altira asked of me through narrowed eyes. My entire body seized up at her harsh tone. With a nod I offered, “Let's get going, anyway. There's probably people waiting for the table.” Altira nodded and we headed towards the door. Paying for dinner took out most of my money.


Leaving the restaurant revealed the brightly lit path. The dome that covered the station gave a breathtaking view of the planet below us. Altira took my hand in both of hers, pulling me to the nearby park. The small group of stores were for the family of military stationed here. Amid the stand of pines and benches of the park we watched the planet spread out below. Both of us were from Polar. Ironic to it's namesake, the planet was actually warm most of the year.

We watched as the streaking blue lights of cold fusion engines. I felt a pressure as Altira squeezed my hand with all of her slender fingers. I squeezed hers back feeling her weight against me. She breathed into my ear, “Be safe and come back to me, Martin.” With a final hug, she pulled herself away and headed towards the station.


I stood watching the planet for a time. I had been born down there to some unknown parents. Growing up in an orphanage, I joined the military as soon as I was able. It's been a long, hard road to get this high up and this job would be my chance to rise even higher. And the view would be worth it, I know that for sure.



Report Submitted: 10 – 26 – 378 P.C.C.



“You're a real romantic, aren't you? Still, this is what I was looking for. I will require your thoughts, emotions and ideas in this assignment.” The Captain said condescendingly. This was the third re-write of my previous report, the other two remained in the bucket next to his desk. His cropped brown hair flicked bits of some white stuff with every movement he made. Having read the report above, I could see Lt. Tellman would love to corner me privately. Leaning back in his seat, the Captain added, “I can see why you've been assigned this job. You've got the literary skills to do what we need. I'll be signing off on the Audenum.”


“Sir, what exactly is the job I've been assigned?” I asked leaning forward in my seat. The small office of the Captain was adorned with his medals and a picture of what I assumed was his family. The older gentleman let out a sigh.

His eyes drifted away for a minute, leaving everyone in silence. Finally, he asked, “Do you know what P.C.C. Stands for?”


“Post Clan Conflict. The war that occurred when humanity first encountered the Clans. The war lasted two years and ended with the signing of a peace treaty.” I quoted from the history books. The 'Clans' is the general name for the other sentient beings in the universe. They're not a single government beyond a tacit defense agreement for outside aggression as well as keeping any single body from ruling over too much. The jumble of races are in constant struggle for power with one another.


“The single biggest stain on the Republic's military record,” The Captain growled to himself. His fists clenched and his body tensed. The veins in his forehead coming to the forefront for the instant as his fist slammed against the metal desk. I flinched from the sound as he roared, “We could handle anything and everything they threw at us! We could've stood victorious over their burned out ships if that coward hadn't signed that treaty!”

Tellman coughed at that point pulling the Captain from his line of thought. Taking a moment to cool his blood pressure, he continued, “Sorry about that. Us old war dogs tend to be the most stubborn. Simply put, we've been given evidence that the Ferro Corporation, operating out of the buffer between us and the clans. Reports indicate they have been developing biological weapons of some sort. Our hands are tied since this is a civilian operation and they listen about as well as the rest of the Companies do.”


Lt. Tellman produced two packets of papers and handed them to me explaining, “You will be sent over the border to the closest space station on the Clan side. You'll meet with a representative and present this documentation. If they accept the offer, you'll be their 'guide' allowing their soldiers to pass in our territory as well as learning everything you can about them from a societal angle. In effect, you're an envoy.”

“No offense, sir, but why me?” I asked as the job swirled about in my head. I had to go meet with the Clans? No wonder I'd been given the assignment. This was a virtual suicide mission. I looked to Tellman who smiled at me. Maybe I should just hit him to get out of this?


“Your talent for writing, for one. I see you were also anointed as a child,” The Captain explained with a sincere smile. I blinked for a moment before it registered. I recalled back to my childhood and those days spent studying old books alongside the matron of the Orphanage. The many days spent surrounded old, hallowed books. I'd learned to read young and was thoroughly encouraged by the Matron. She'd always pushed me to become more understanding of the world.

“Yes, but, it's been years since then,” I spoke without thinking before hurriedly adding, “Sir.”


“Still, when having to deal with monsters, heathens, devils and the money worshiping bastards of the companies, I feel better entrusting it to a faithful soldier like you.” The Captain smiled.

“There'll be a public shuttle leaving in two hours so pack yourself for a long trip,” Tellman said curtly. Despite the confusion I felt, I rose to stand and gave a salute.


The Captain added as I closed the door behind me, “Good luck and Godspeed.”

DSSAtkinson
May 15th, 2014, 04:26 PM
Hi Ephemeral, not much for me to pick at when looking at your prose, they flow fine. Something I felt was 'off', if you like, was DuBont's and Altira's interaction then apparent relationship. When she is first introduced I thought DuBont was admiring her from afar, especially as he seems uncertain of himself or misplaced amongst the rest of the younger division. You make it sound as though she is a stranger to him but they are actually in a relationship?

And a nitpick "Then, my heart sank as a second realization sunk in." 'sank' and 'sunk' in the same sentence.

Just some thoughts.

DSS

Ephemeral_One
May 17th, 2014, 03:14 AM
Well, not to give spoilers but there's a very good reason that something is off and it's good it came across.

And, whoops, I'm really guilty of being redundant at times. Goes to show you can never be too careful with this stuff.