Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 11

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 11

Afterglow

"Very efficient, team. Now does anyone have any comments?"

Bush looked at the faces of all the members of Scalpel. The wing was sitting in a dim briefing room that had been designated theirs, a cramped space that Bush thought he remembered being a janitorial closet. What was left of the wing anyways; there had been four casualties in the skies over Mother Hen. The deaths weighed heavily upon the conscious of the Baron, but a commander could either mourn for the dead or plan for the living, but not both. Those who mourned died. End of story.

Bush cleared his throat. "Anybody? Don't be shy, if you want me to start off you won't like what I have to say." He was dedicated to planning for the living, and he was now leading his team through a holoscreen replay of the attack on Mother Hen, as compiled by the recorders of various ships in the conflict. He was now looking for suggestions for the next mission, and if someone didn't speak up soon, there was at least five errors that he had sure as hell seen.

"Sir- I have one." Count Redfield said, hand raised. With a nod from Bush, he stood and made for the podium. He had the look of the typical fighter pilot, tall and gangly, with sleek black hair pulled back and tied in a ponytail. Basically, the kind of person that got beat up a lot as a child by hormone-enhanced schoolhouse bullies. Unlike his nerdy brethren, however, Redfield's sharp blue eyes held a look of barely contained primal fury. Most pilots' eyes did.

Bush handed the holoscreen remote to the Count and stepped down, allowing him to continue on his own. Redfield fiddled with the remote for a second, rewinding the tape, then fast-forwarding it, then activating slow motion, before finding the spot he wanted, a shot of the Red and Gold squads flying off to handle the Vipers, before turning to the men with a frown on his face.

"We handled this situation wrong. The "V" formation is not the proper one to use to maximize effectiveness if we outnumber the hostiles by more than two to one. I thought about this during the ride home on the Lynx, and a more efficient formation would be to have one squadron fly above the hostile formation, and the second come face on, both firing their lasers in a sweeping pattern. This would give us maximum fire power and minimum risk of friendly fire."

Bush clapped his hands. "Very good, officer. Is that all you have to say on the matter?" He was beginning to like the Count, but Redfield missed an important observation on this one.

Redfield smiled proudly. "Yes, sir, that's all, Wolf," he said.

"Well, that plan would be great if we always sent ships to combat hostiles on a two to one ratio," Bush said, "but that would be foolish on my part. I have to admit a mistake, boys; with the skill that we all have, I should have only sent Red Squad to deal with the Vipers, a one on one ratio with five fighters left over to help reinforce where needed. If I did that we would have had twenty five Gold squad ships to help us destroy Mother Hen that much faster. Next?"

The meeting continued with only three or four more suggestions; the Sixth was comprised of professionals, and they recognized where they made mistakes and where they did not. The only really useful observation suggested was to replace the fallen comrades with pilots of heavier ships, allowing the Iron Squadron to fill out some- a hoplite division would come in handy if they were called to destroy a city again instead of the ship to ship combat that most expected was in the wing's future. With the inclusion of just two more destroyers, there would have been no need for a close-range attack at all; the Minos and the three destroyers could have easily neutralized the target by bombarding it from space with their powerful lasers. In reality, Bush had already considered this, but he didn't reveal this, wanting to see the bright look of satisfaction on the faces of the men who suggested it. Yes, planning for the living was rewarding indeed.


"Another drink for the hero!" Mark Anthony cried over the loud buzz of the officer's club. Anthony, Redfield and Sinclair had insisted on bringing the Baron to the new installation, and were now performing tests on Bush to see just how much Sohoan Red an average Baron's body could sustain.

"No, dammit," Bush slurred, waving at the barmaid, a nice little blond in a blue jumpsuit. "I've had enoof...enaf..." Why was it so hard to say enough?

Redfield laughed. "He can handle five FDL's but can't even drink more than the snot-nosed Squire over there." He pointed to a table at the far side of the bar, which Sinclair had climbed under and promptly passed out in a puddle of his own puke.

"Bah, ah'm not a bloody cahdet," Bush said. "Ah jus' had enuf fer now."

Anthony had to laugh this time, too. "I'm sure, Wolf. You don't mind if Red and I keep on, do you?"

"Naaaaawwwww," Bush drawled, trying his damnedest to look up the short skirt of a young brunette sitting at the table next to theirs. "Ya know, that one reminds me a lot of Sydney."

Redfield and Anthony looked at each other, raising their eyebrows and whistling. "Sydney, Baron?"

"Ah've not told ya aboot Syd?" Bush exclaimed, his own thick white eyebrows shooting up and jaw dropping in an almost cartoon-like expression. "Ack, but she was a fine one. Ah met 'er on the fif planet in the Sol system, a be-a-u-te-full young lass, and ah- What the bloody 'ell!" screamed Bush as a large, hairy fist slammed down on the table. "Get the 'ell outta 'ere afore ah-" He cut off with an audible gulp when he looked up into the scowling visage of Duke Charon. "Eh, 'ello, sir, I was jus'..."

"I know what you were doing; making a fool out of yourself!" he roared. Then his face melted into a smile. "Carry on, my good Baron. I never come between a man and his drink. An off-duty man, that is. What do you have there?"

Bush began to talk, but his eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he fell forward and his head hit a table with a resounding smack.

Anthony grinned. "I believe he was trying to say 'Sohoan Red', sir."

"Ah, yes, I've heard of the stuff. They say it's pretty potent, and I guess our dear Baron just proved the argument. How many did he have?"

Redfield smiled. "More than anyone I've ever seen, my lord Duke," he said. "That much alcohol would put an elephant down."

Charon whistled. The small man was wearing a pair of skintight silver pants tonight, along with a black shortsleeved shirt that allowed to be seen a large tattoo on his left forearm, one of a large, Celtic style cross with a large oak tree on the very top of the cross, its roots taking hold and digging into the relic. Mark Anthony looked at it with a whistle of his own.

"Not a bad piece of work, sir. Why wasn't it removed when you enlisted?" he asked.

Charon glanced down at the tattoo, then smiled up at Anthony, causing the Lord's face to falter a bit under the excruciatingly ugly smirk. "You like it, eh? Watch this." He fixed Anthony with a wink, then began to clench and unclench his hand, causing the muscles in his forearm to shift, which in turn moved the tree. As the tree undulated, a flock of doves suddenly flew from the topmost branches to fly up the hand of Charon, only to slowly fade back into his flesh. He looked back up to find Anthony and Redfield staring bug-eyed at the tattoo. "The miracles of modern technology, boys," Charon explained.

"But...why...wasn't it...removed?" a familiar voice gasped. Redfield, Anthony, and Charon all looked up from the Duke's arm to find the Baron sitting up groggily in his seat, a large bump on his head, though otherwise he appeared all right.

"Ah, my dear Baron, how good of you to join us!" Charon boomed. "It was not removed because it is of supreme personal importance to me, you see, a religious marking which all members of my order bare."

"All members of your order?" Bush asked. His head hurt from talking so much. "Which order is that, my lord Duke?"

"Why, I'm a Druid, of course. No, no, don't look surprised," Charon said at the astonished gazes he got from the fighters. "We were not all wiped out when the Cynics decided to douse Eden with radiation. A few of us were off planet when the bomb landed, and the Empire accepted us with minimal hassle." A dark look clouded his eyes. "The Feds just laughed at us."

"The bastards," Bush stated. "What are you doing here, sir?" He was, frankly, starting to get a bit nervous. The Duke, a man of considerable power and influence in the Navy, was a Druid? Druids were lower than low, followers of a dead religion that most people considered only slightly less fantastic than the Acorn God of the primal Phedkan monkey tribes. Gods in trees? Bush felt disappointed somehow with Charon, but he managed to hide the emotion from his face.

"What, a man can't come to the officer's lounge and enjoy a drink?" Charon asked, smiling at the three officers. "Actually, I can here to let you know that I was damn proud of the job you did, boys. The medallion did you good, Baron."

"Yes, sir, it sure as hell did. There were some Fer-de-Lances hiding at Mother Hen, and when we shook the bushes they flew out, sir. We managed to neutralize the all before they did one of us in."

"'We', hell, Baron," Charon said. "I saw the holoscreens from the operation, you took out five all by yourself. That was a fancy bit of flying, Bush."

"That's why Wolf's our commander, my lord," Anthony said proudly, and Redfield had his chest puffed out a bit as well. Bush grinned at the two, and turned to the Duke.

"Thank you sir, but these guys are just trying to get on my good side. I did what I had to do, that was all. And while you are here..." Bush reached into his shirt and pulled out the small metal chain. "Here is your chain back. It did its job well."

Charon shook his gruesome head. "No, no, I didn't give it to you only to take it back as soon as this mission was over. Its yours. I've resolved myself to the fact that with a face like this I'll never have kids. But I see a future in you, especially if you can find 'Sydney' again."

"Are you sure, sir?" Bush asked, looking at the chain. It really was quite nice.

"Certain, my dear friend. And call me Lorenzo from now on. We are all brothers in the eyes of God."

"Okay, Lorenzo," Bush said with a smile. He stuck out a wobbly hand. "It was nice seeing you again."

"And you as well, Jonathan," Charon replied, taking the offered hand in his own mammoth one. "Remember this whenever things aren't going for well for you, or when you find yourself doing something distasteful: We all do as we are destined to do, no matter whether we pleasure in the task or not. We are all but threads in the Lord's rug of fate. My mother told me that, and it's served me well throughout the years." With that, he saluted each man (other than the preoccupied Sinclair), then stood up and left.

The men of Scalpel were quiet for a second, then Redfield mocked in a high pitched, keening voice: "Are you shu-shu-sure, sir? It really is nothin', ah was only doing my job."

Bush kicked him. Hard. Then he passed out again, medallion in hand.

Continue the story with Chapter 12