Taurian Invasion 26: Command Decision


I came into work glad to be somewhere where I understood everything … and one look around told me that something was wrong. The development lab was always busy, loud and sometimes chaotic. There were always people in motion and (odd) things were always happening, but not today. The place was quiet as a tomb and everyone was trying to look busy without making any noise. My squad was sitting at the simulator monitoring station while an AAR (after action report) video was playing with the sound turned off while they were all carefully studying their feet.

I came up to my group and whispered, “What’s going on?”

There was silence for a few seconds before Lena replied, “It’s a good day to not to upset Sniper. Something to do with Zach.”

I added up a few things in my head, “Does he have a bottle?”

“Several, I think.”

Crud! “Where’s Rusty?”

“Hiding over there.”

I tried to walk calmly over to him. When I tapped him on the shoulder, I saw a suspicious looking welt and I knew that the situation was completely out of control. I closed my eyes and thought for a minute. I spoke without opening my eyes, “Rusty, take everyone down to the weapons lab. Have the pilots suit up and arm their suits with sniping weapons only. Go to the weapons range and have everyone qualify or re-qualify on the sniper’s course. Anyone who finishes can see who gets the best score on the skeet drills.”

“But, what about…”

I cut him off, “Rusty, I have never even considered giving you a direct order without asking your opinion or permission. I am doing so now.”

“Yes sir!”

Rusty got everyone moving, and I just stood there and watched and made sure that no one tried to stay behind. Once everyone had gone, I called Sylvia.

“What?”

She was still upset, but that didn’t matter anymore. “This is an emergency! Call Gloria and have her come to the Warrior development lab immediately. Call security and have them wait outside the doors in case I need them.”

“What’s going on?”

“Sniper is out of control and I’m going to take care of him,” and I hung up before she could ask me any more questions. I then did something I had never ever considered doing before. I went over to the weapons locker and put on a sidearm. Then I went over to the control booth where Sniper usually hung out.

I knocked on the door, and a bottle smashed against it, “I told you to leave me the flock alone!”

I opened the door, and found sniper with another bottle. He was just starting to pull his arm back when he realized that he was looking down the barrel of a 9 mm Beretta, “Put the bottle down now!” I shut the door and pulled up a chair without ever taking the gun off of him, “Now, we are going to calmly discuss whatever’s bothering you.”

“Are you going to put the dang gun down?”

“I don’t think so. You’re a trained US Marine who is currently drunk and dangerous. I’m a pansy civilian whose last hand to hand lesson was a karate class when I was twelve. You could break me in two without half thinking about it … So, what’s bugging you?” I didn’t have any illusions that the gun put us on equal footing. He could probably take me without a problem, but I thought that it just might be enough to keep his attention and make him focus.

“They want me to decide what to do with Zach’ fu … freaking body.”

“And his family?”

“They don’t give a flying fart”

“Have you asked anyone to help or have you just used it to rip your own guts out?”

“You’ve been puking hurt and busy.”

“I’m not the only person in this company … in Prometheus who can help.”

He was silent for a moment. This was going much better that I thought it would. I fully expected to have had to shoot something by now to keep his attention. As I had never fired a handgun in my life, this was probably the weakest part of the plan, but I was going to give it (if you’ll pardon the pun) my best shot.

The silence was going on too long, “Gloria will be here soon. Go with her, sober up and I will take care of things.”

“What makes you think I’ll do what you say.”

“Because you’re not fit for command at the moment, or are you going to tell me that Rusty walked into a door?” He looked at the floor and his shoulders slumped, and I knew it was over. Just in time because I couldn’t have held my arm up for much longer. (Guns are a lot heavier than they look.) My hand was shaking as I put the gun back in its holster. I was just hoping that Gloria would get there before something else happened.

It took her nearly ten minutes to get there (which seemed like hours) and he never so much as moved in that time. I opened the door at her knock, “Take him home.”

When she asked, “Can we have a moment?” I just nodded and walked out.

My hands were still shaking as I put the pistol back. I really wanted to curl up and take a nap until I had completely calmed down as I was shaking and developing a headache. I really hoped it was from stress and not my injuries getting worse again because I had just set myself up for a lot of work. First thing was to talk to security.

There were five large armed men standing outside. “What’s the situation sir?”

“Things are better. Just make sure that someone is here to help Gloria get Sniper home if she needs it.” It was then I noticed Sylvia peeking down the hall. I went over to her, “Everything should be fine now. Thanks for getting everyone here so quickly.”

“Is everyone all right? Are you hurt?”

“The situation is back under control and everyone’s OK. On the other hand, I‘m getting a headache, shaking all over and there’s a bunch of things I have to do that can’t be put off until later. I don’t know what else you need to do today, but I could really use your help for the rest of the day.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“More than anything, I need you to make sure that I’m not losing it like I did at the conference. Other than that, there are just a million little things that need to be done to clean up this mess and I could really use an extra pair of hands.”

* * *

There was an amazing amount of paperwork to be filled out over an incident like this. (If I had known how much more trouble it was to deal with an incident with a gun, I might not have used it.) I put in a request to speak to General Moore as soon as possible. I also wanted to talk to Zach’s former Counselor. After the sixth interview with someone from security, I went and checked on the company at the firing range. Everyone seemed in reasonably good spirits when I told them that Sniper was home sleeping it off. Someone had the sense to have lunch delivered to the firing range, so I grabbed some leftovers and headed back in.

The meeting with Zach’s former partner, Allie, went very well. She and Zach had been very close, and she was outraged, but not surprised by his family’s behavior. They were an anti-military bunch and had apparently disowned him when joined the US Army ten years back. She agreed to make the funeral arrangements and to call me when they were finalized or if she needed anything.

Cleaning up the mess took the rest of the day. By the time it was done I was wiped out. When Sylvia told me that I was going straight home to rest, I didn’t put up a fight.I don’t know what time I got back but I immediately crashed and slept clear through till morning.

In the morning I was informed that the entire company had been given a rest day and that I wasn’t to go in. This left only the big meeting with General Moore. I was really dreading what he might say when I told him what happened. What I really didn’t expect was for him to nearly fall off his chair laughing. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or insulted. “I’m sorry, but I never would have expected that from you in a million years. Your decision was correct, even though you methods were unorthodox, even for this place. As second in command, it was your job to remove him while he was unfit for command. Now, do you have a problem working under him after this?”

“None at all. I certainly hope this doesn’t happen again, but I know him to be a good man and a good leader. The only thing that I’m still upset about is that the mess with Zach got dumped in his lap in the first place.”

“In the Army, that’s what is called a SNAFU. Situation Normal, All Fouled Up. Now that you are in a leadership position, it’s you job to deal with them. Prometheus has some of the best procedures to keep things running smoothly that I have ever seen, but there’s always going to be something that slips through. There were a lot of worse ways that you could have handled what happened, seeing that, I’m confident that you will be able to handle most anything that comes your way.”

“I’ll certainly do my best for you and the company.”

* * *

As soon as Allen signed off, Tony got up and went into an adjoining meeting room in which sat The Director, Angelia, Sniper, and Gloria. “He still has full confidence in you, Sniper.”

“I know. The kid has a good heart. I just wish that he was in command already. I only took this position temporarily until you found someone better. Yesterday only confirms that it’s not where I belong.”

“Sniper,” The Director snapped to catch his attention; “I remember well what you were promised when you took this position. You were also promised that you would never have to deal with any of the paperwork or arrangements if you lost someone in your company. That promise was broken and I take responsibility for that and much of the consequences.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that I screwed the pooch today.”

“Although there were better ways to have handled the situation, I am not displeased with the result. The way that Allen handled the situation has put him closer to being ready to taking command, and that’s the goal of everyone here. The only question left is: Are you willing to continue with the project or are you planning to resign?”

“I’m getting tired. He’s never realized that every time he complains that the simulators are getting too easy, that he just trashed everything I could throw at him again. I was willing to go along until we faced real combat to make sure it wasn’t a fluke or he wouldn’t freak out when facing the real thing. He’s proved himself in combat! How much longer is it going to be?”

“Phase II of the battlesuits be ready for development by the time you get back from second combat deployment, which starts in two days. I would like to see how he does in a battle as second in command before we make the final decision. Can you wait that long?”

“I can wait, but I think you’re underestimating him.”

Tony turned to Sniper, “Last question. Will you be OK with him after that little performance of his?”

“You know, I may be losing my edge, but I never even considered that he might shoot me. The thought that sobered me was that he had never qualified with a handgun and might hurt himself. I thought he had made the mistake of thinking that the gun made him more powerful than me, so I asked him why I should do what he said. I expected him to pop off with something about shooting me if I didn’t. If he had, I would have taken the gun away from him and taught him a lesson about power.”

“He simply told me that I was unfit for command and why. I was the one who learned a lesson about power today. There is something inside him that commands and people obey. I’ll keep the rank and position for as long as you need me to, but this company already has a commander, and it ain’t been me for a while.”

Sniper stood, saluted and left with Gloria following. Angelia raised an eyebrow, “Tony, can you translate that from military for me?”

“Sniper will do whatever we ask of him, but he thinks we are making a mistake in not giving Allen command right away.”

“Any problems between the two of them?”

“Not unless Allen won’t make decisions when Sniper asks him to.”

* * *

The next day I had a newspaper interview, but Sylvia still insisted that I wear one of my dress uniforms. (I looked in my closet and one uniform had magically multiplied into five.) The interview was unremarkable until he asked some silly question about whether violence was really the answer to the alien problem. I replied that I would be quiet interested in hearing any alternative that didn’t involve death, subjugation or enslavement of the human race. He got all huffy about violence never being the answer, and I decided that he did not have a firm connection with reality and that pretty much concluded the interview.

I was very grateful that I had an uneventful day at work. Sniper was back and everything went smoothly. Sniper called us together just before quitting time, “Alright you sausages, the word has come down, and the word is we move out tomorrow evening. That means that we spend tomorrow prepping. We have a new target and a new plan. Last time the aliens threw us a curve-ball at the last second, so we’re going to try it again, but this time we’re doing it in Australia.”

“You’ll notice that your battlesuits now have your grubby kill totals stenciled on them. These will be changed between each mission, and if you think you’re being shortchanged, tough.”

After hearing that, we all had to go down to the weapons bay and check out our suits. Mine had a Centaur outline with Roman numerals totaling my kills in the outline as well as a Cyclops with a single ‘I.’ Lieutenant Spencer had been prominently added, but the best part was that everyone on my squad had also had ‘Giant Killers” added as well.

Sniper signaled me over, “As XO, your job is to go over your assault plan and make any changes we need before we get there. Got that?”

“Not a problem, sir. What do we know about them so far?”

“You’ll have to check in with Tony Moore on that one. He’ll tell you what we know.”

Sylvia took the news in a much better way this time. I promised her over and over that I would be more careful this time and come back safe.

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