“Fight! Fight! Fight! Fighting-fifty-third!”
The team of fresh recruits ran past in their standard issue jogging uniforms. It was a group of Crimson Blade trainees, all girls between eighteen and twenty-four, the kind Hunter was usually all over.
“Let me guess, you thought watching the greenies get all hot and sweaty would make you feel better?”
Hunter looked up to see Jason round the base of the bleachers and come to sit next to him.
Fairleoun was a joint Gudersnipe School and Gudersnipe Crimson Blade base, used primarily as a supply depot and training facility. Three large cities nearby provided a fresh supply of people.
Join the Crimson Blade, see the Multi-Verse, meet new and interesting people, and kill them!
The terrain was flat, a contour generally un-enjoyed by Gudersnipe bases. The land was simply not strategically sound, and at the first sign of attack the base would most likely bug out. This side of the facility was where the Crimson Blade teams trained.
“You didn’t have to stay with me,” Hunter pointed out. “You could have taken a posting with one of the other ships.”
“Nah, there wouldn’t have been one available that I wanted,” Jason shrugged.
“I’m sure you could’ve found something,” Hunter insisted. “Half the captains in the western fleet would give up their left dangly bit to have you under their command, and the other half are women and wish they had left dangly bits to give up.”
Jason rolled his eyes and glared at Hunter. .
“Fight! Fight! Fight! Fighting-fifty-third!”
“You really like the ladies, don’t you?” Jason asked at length.
“I thought it would cheer me up,” Hunter sighed. “But somehow the sight of so much female flesh isn’t helping.”
“You lost your one true love,” Jason shrugged. “It’ll be a while before you’re ready open your heart again.”
“But she was more than a woman!” Hunter whined. “She was my ship! I don’t give a darn about the rank, but the ship… at least Tactical Command didn’t add insult to injury by giving her to someone else.”
“Or destroying her,” Jason replied. “I think Gailen’s orders sent you a pretty clear message: this isn’t forever.”
“He’ll lord it over me,” Hunter mused. “Promise it back if I do little things for him. Generally not a pleasant thought.”
“Not pleasant,” Jason agreed. “But look at it this way: the Saratoga’s not going anywhere. Kinda like your rank.”
Hunter glanced down at his new lieutenant’s bars and cringed.
“Just for reference,” he commented. “It really looks bad to a military tribunal if your official report begins with ‘So I said Kill them all, and let God sort them out!’
“As I understand it, that sort of thing is generally frowned upon.”
“It wasn’t just that I disobeyed orders,” Hunter admitted. “It was that I refused to provide a satisfactory reason as to why. But I couldn’t tell them, Jason! I couldn’t… but then, they understood that, and that’s probably why I didn’t get life in front of a firing squad.”
“You know,” Jason mused. “It occurs to me that as a commander, I can now give you orders.”
“I’ll just disobey them,” Hunter sighed.
“Well, they’re orders, all the same,” Jason drew a folded piece of paper from his pocket, and holding it in two fingers, passed it to Hunter.
“Orders,” Hunter snorted. He opened the paper and began reading through it, eyes crossing back and forth over the lines of text.
* * *
“Glad you’re here, Hunter,” Gailen began as Hunter entered the briefing room. “Before I bring the rest of the team, let me be clear: you may disobey these orders.”
“I was already thinkin’ about it,” Hunter snapped. “I thought missions with three percent survival rates were reserved exclusively for Crimson Blade Regulars.”
“Three percent was adjusted specifically for GS pilots,” Gailen shrugged. “Success is still zero, raised to approximately one percent if you agree to take the mission.”
“Three percent,” Hunter spat. “Three percent out of thirty pilots comes to a total loss, when rounded to the nearest whole-pilot. One percent chance of success…”
“IF you do this,” Gailen stated. “The recent incident will not have happened.”
“What?” Hunter blinked.
“The court marshal,” Gailen said. “It will be erased from your record.”
“One mission, and you undo everything?” Hunter hazarded. “You’ve got the chance to force anything you want, and you choose one mission?”
“One mission with an almost certain probability of failure,” Gailen shrugged. “I don’t expect you to survive, but in this case I believe it is a wager that must be made.”
“Condition,” Hunter said simply. “No orders. Every pilot has to volunteer.”
“Done,” Gailen nodded.
“Ok,” Hunter exhaled and turned to Jason. “Thanks for volunteering, pal.”
“I hate you,” Jason snapped.
The far doors opened and a number of admirals entered. It was a curious combination of leadership, both School and Crimson Blade commanders, as well as Alliance and coalition-marked uniforms.
Something big was up.
Gailen assumed a position at the front of the room and flipped on the viewscreen to show a picture of an over-weight, acne-riddled gentleman holding a replica katana and glaring angrily at the camera.
“This man,” he began and paused to swallow. “Does not appear to be any threat. His name is Joseph Manse. Strangely, he is the greatest single menace ever released.”
The image changed to show a familiar movie poster, and Jason let out an audible grown.