Day 100, Stuart Compound, Liberty, Alchibah
“Boss, Miss Seaworth has arrived,” SFC Nug announced.
“Bring Her in by all means and set up for coffee for the Young Lady please.”
I motioned her into the Den area and poured the two cups of hot steaming water that Nug brought in into two cups of Kara and Hanna’s Turkish Grind. Stirring the cups, I then poured them through the Particle Filter from my Survival Kit into a second set of hand turned cups.
Turning with the cups I asked, “Milk or Sugar, Unicow Milk is more like cheap creamer but, Pseudo-beet Sugar is quite good and very potent. It’s the same Sugar as is in the Pseudo-Corn that we make the moonshine out of?”
She actually relaxed and grinned a little, “Black is just fine thank you.”
She watched as I dumped a triple load of sugar in mine and brought both cups over to the low table and handed her hers. As I was stirring I opened the conversation.
“Laura, you present me with a unique problem. I hope we can talk it out here with no hard feelings cause I don’t want to alienate Mike or You.”
Her look was stunned at best, “I don’t understand, what do you mean?”
I sighed, “Let me be blunt. Since your return from the Outback with Bart you and Mike are inseparable. I did not say anything during the Shuttle Recovery Mission and have not commented during the training sessions since.
“Unfortunately, this coming Monday that has to change. On Monday I am going to split Strike Force into Operational Teams. There is where my problem starts.
“Teams have to be by necessity the separate halves of one brain. They have to know in advance what the other will do in any given circumstance. You are going to disrupt that and by consequence will put Mike at risk.”
She sat upright and barked, “So it’s because I am Female then!”
I just sat and stared until She spoke again.
“Dear God, that’s not it. Half of your group is female to include your own Wife. What is it then?”
I sighed, this was going to be easier than I thought. “Young Lady, right now you are in the same category as Joe Fortson and Bart Bartlett. I know you will stand and fight but, you are not part of Strike Force.
“You are not in the Chain of Command. You are a Civilian as such you are a distraction.
“I am not giving you a recruiting speech, just laying out reality.
“I waited to talk to Mike before we had this discussion. Mike is Strike Force!
“People like Bart, Joe and possibly you are going to defend this Civilization. Strike Force is going to go as far out as we can and to use an old American phrase ‘Put a Boot Up Their Ass’.
“The Patch wearing members of Strike Force have written a check to ‘Colony Alchibah’ with the amount payable as ‘Up to and Including My Life’. You Young Lady have not!
“In or out I do not care but, you have to stay out of the way while Mike trains with his Spotter.”
“So He is to be a Shooter then?” She asked.
“You were with him on that long trek almost all the way back here, what do you think?”
“Nothing else would be Him. I have to think about this.” Draining her cup she stood up, “I will talk to you shortly. I have to admit this hit like a Ton of Bricks.”
It was my turn to grimace, “I truly wish it didn’t have to but, there it is. If you are out, talk to Joe he can help.
“If you are undecided or want in, talk to Mariana. She can relate to your situation much better than I.
“Not all Teams take things as far as She and I did. Look at Kat and Gabe, they are a Team for sure; but, a couple they will never be.
“Mike can pick up a Spotter and be part of a Team but, not with you in the way.”
She just nodded and walked out.
“Come on Pops,” Laura said to the robot waiting outside Col Stuart’s office. The bot had been her dad’s R.121 and she had called it ‘Pops’ before her father was killed. After reprogramming it became hers and she kept the name. “I need to talk to Joe Fortson, see if you can find him.” She tried to stay away from general com calls, they seemed so intrusive.
“He is at the leather works Laurie,” R. Pops said.
When they reached the building just outside of town Fortson was just leaving. Laura and R. Pops fell in beside him with Pops bringing up the rear. “Mr. Fortson, I don’t want to take up too much of your time but I have a problem and I hope you can help me.”
“Go ahead, and call me Joe, it’s alright.”
“I just talked to Col. Stuart. He wants to know if I intend to join his Strike Force. If I do I can team with Mike Reye but I just don’t know what to do. I want to be with Mike but I was so afraid that he would be hurt after the shuttle crash I couldn’t hardly think straight. I still am like that when he goes hunting with you and Bart. If I can’t put the fear away I might be more harm than help. I just don’t know what to do.”
“The short answer child,” Joe said, breaking stride and placing a large hand on her shoulder, “is don’t join.”
“But I will be letting Mike down!” she wailed.
“And you’ll be letting him down if you do join. To be really good at that kind of work you first have to want to do it. Not because of who you are working with but because of something inside. An awful lot of spotters, maybe most, see it as a training slot for becoming the shooting member of a team.
“ Others do it for the excitement. And some are just naturals, a job they were born for. But the good ones have one thing in common, always… they want to be there. They have no doubt on that score.
“If you could not answer that question right then with no doubts then Girl, you are not WinterBorn and have no business in the Assault Force there can be no doubts or second thoughts in the crunch.”
“Thank you Joe, that clears up a few things.”
“Whatever your decision, you’ll second guess it every day of your life; don’t let it change you. The real Tame Wolves will understand. Just make sure Mike knows before you go back to talk to Andy. Whatever you decide he will understand and I think that’s what counts.”
“Joe, I just can’t sit and do nothing. I believe in this place, I should be doing something.”
Joe just laughed, “You were not here to hear Andy pontificate at Hanna’s. Build the garden, Stand on the wall but only the WinterBorn go out in the Jungle. Girl, stay here with the Sheepdogs and you will always have a place to call home. Andy will never turn you away, that I know for a fact.”
“This is so hard for me but I have to let Mike do this on his own.”
Laura turned away so her tears were hidden, then walked outside to where Mike was waiting.
Ash walked in from the kitchen with the drinks in his hand, “Guess you lost on that one Cuz?”
I took the drink and grinned, “What makes you think that? She is not a Wolf and never will be. Good Gods She would be the perfect Momma for a pack for sure; but She ain’t one herself. The object of this exercise was to get her to make the decision.
“Hell, when she did not answer right then, I knew the answer. Mike is one lucky guy, She has guts for the both of them. She just had the smarts to figure out where she needed to be!
“Want to make a bet who she went to talk to?”
Ash tipped his mug in salute, “If she didn’t go talk to Gunny Joe then I am a Straight Leg Ground Pounder. But if She had wanted in what would you do. This outfit is really young and you have one Shitload of Officers?”
All I could do was sigh, “Well you are a product of the late American system and not a Military History buff.
“What we have here is a mix of the Israeli system and the U. S. Army Air Corp circa WW II. The Israeli’s did not have any old warriors to put out. The AAC in WW II was forced to have an Officer in every plane. The two systems produced the deadliest Warriors the planet had ever seen.
“The Israeli’s promoted anyone who could get the job done. The early AAC winked at age and put kids up in Bombers and Fighters.
“Hell Fighter Jock, you should know that most of your Aces were kids when they did it. Sure most of them went on to higher loftier positions but, when they did their shooting when they were kids.
“As for Rank, you have seen the training Schedule. Every Team Lead is going to be a Pilot and by the AAC model must be an Officer. Hell, we were going that route in old SOCOM. Where else could a COL. and a COL. be a Team?
“Besides, you want to wake some of these Kids up; hang Bars on their collars. You saw what it did to Jai and Summer.
“Sure, I have holdouts like Walt and Gabe who look at a Commission as a demotion. But, they are Old Earth. Our model starts here and we don’t bend to Tradition. We make our own.”
Ash gave me that sick grin of his, “Damn, you have thought about this?”
“Only everyday,” I replied, “Only everyday! The old concept of the Officers as the ‘Landed Gentry’ dies here. My Officers get shit done. Any further questions?”
Ash drained his mug and asked, “Yeah, want another one?”