Author : Benjamin Fischer
â€œHave a seat, Jim,â€ said the General.
â€œIs this what I think itâ€™s about, sir?â€ the Colonel asked, shutting the hatch behind him.
He sat down. Across from him, a LED nameplate proclaimed â€œMajor General David Pietz USAF, Commander-in-Chief Colonial Expeditionary Forceâ€ on a broad, glass-covered aluminum desk. Behind it the General reclined in a plush leather chair halfway turned to face a bank of monitors behind him. Blown up to maximum magnification were the latest from the reconnaissance office–an impressive fleet of spaceships, moored like the petals of a flower around a long, cylindrical space station.
One of the ships was highlighted in red.
â€œYour thoughts?â€ asked the General.
The Colonel shook his head.
â€œYeah, thatâ€™s her,â€ he said.
â€œThe Charleston,â€ the General nodded. â€œOld Chucktown. Lost with all hands. Five years, six months, and two days ago.â€
â€œYou still keep track of that too?â€ the Colonel asked.
â€œYes,â€ General Pietz said.
They sat in silence.
â€œDefinitely, positively destroyed in a meteorite collision,â€ the Colonel finally said. â€œThey found pieces, they found bodies. No doubt at all.â€ He was paraphrasing a report.
â€œAnd yet the Colonials seem to have repaired her,â€ the General responded.
The Colonel snorted.
The General sighed.
â€œOK, Jim, confession time,â€ General Pietz said. â€œI donâ€™t know whether to be completely pissed or crying with joy.â€
â€œYeah, it took the wind out of me, too,â€ said the Colonel. â€œShe could be alive.â€
Pietz let out a sharp laugh and turned away from the telling images. He set his elbows upon his desk and leaned towards his guest.
â€œOh, she most definitely is,â€ he said, his face half-smiling, half-grimacing. â€œMy girl was always tougher than that. I knew a handful of damn buckshot couldnâ€™t have killed Marissa.â€
The Colonel swallowed.
â€œSo that means?â€ he said.
â€œYes. The god damn rumors,â€ said Pietz, â€œare apparently true.â€
â€œApparently,â€ agreed the Colonel.
â€œWell, hereâ€™s another one, for you to spread,â€ said the General. â€œTomorrow, at twenty one hundred, we’re deploying. Our eventual objective will most likely be those facilities at Lagrange Two. And the fleet defending them.â€
â€œJesus,â€ said the Colonel.
â€œTo say I am disappointed in the Security Council would be a gross understatement,â€ said Pietz.
â€œJesus,â€ repeated the Colonel. â€œWeâ€™ll have to use nukes. Thereâ€™s no other option.â€
â€œEventually, when our hands are untied, yes,â€ said the General. â€œAnd thatâ€™s why I called you in here.â€
â€œSir?â€ asked the Colonel.
â€œWhen Lieutenant Colonel Pietz and I last spoke,â€ the General said, â€œshe was convinced that full independence was the only reasonable course for the Colonies. She told me that any sort of half-measure was an invitation to open, violent rebellion, and that she sympathized with secession. I disagreed. It was not a pleasant discussion.â€
â€œLord,â€ said the Colonel, his eyes wide. â€œShe told you.â€
â€œAlmost,â€ said the General, shutting his. He snorted softly. Then:
â€œJim, Iâ€™ve known you and youâ€™ve known me for damn near two decades now, so listen to what I say very carefully now. This contest will be for control of mankindâ€™s future. We can not lose. I say again, we can not lose. If at any point–if at any point you feel that I am holding back even the least bit-â€
â€œYouâ€™re not the only one who misses Marissa,â€ the Colonel said.
The General opened his eyes, and they were cold.
â€œI expect everything up to and including the last full measure from everyone, myself included,â€ he said. â€œMarissa will be very hard to kill.â€
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