Chapter 42

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LOYALTY’S PRIDE

Captain Holt keyed the microphone on his transmitter. “Tiger One Tiger Papa One. Message. Enforcer Battalion in possession Strategic Target Interdiction assets, proceeding for fire on Second Brigade.” He let go of the button and watched the light flicker as the device encrypted the message. When it flashed green, he pressed the button again to transmit the message. The light flashed out and he waited for a response.

He felt something bite the back of his neck. By reflex, he reached around to slap at it, driving the shaft of the dart even deeper into his skin. The light on his transmitter flashed yellow and then blurred as it fell from his hand. His knees buckled and the world collapsed into a sea of darkness.

Colonel Harris shuffled through the scrub and rock towards Holt’s body. As he crouched down to check Holt’s hands, he saw the transmitter and its flashing yellow light lying on the ground. He let Holt’s hands drop and fetched the transmitter out of the scrub. The button continued to pulse with yellow light as he turned the device over in his hand to study it. He grunted and turned the unit back over in his palm so he could watch the light. After a moment, the flashing stopped and the button glowed with a steady green, indicating the device had received and decoded a response. Harris pressed the button.

“Tiger Papa One, Tiger One. In response. Do not answer. Determine asset location and advise status soonest. Out.” The button’s light went out.

Harris tossed the device a few inches in the air and watched it drop back into his palm. “Huh,” he said. Looking at Holt’s unconscious body, he said, “How about that?”

Major Walker and Colonel Harris stood next to each other, looking down at Holt as is he slept in a plastic chair with a hooded light on a pole pointed at his face. They were the only ones in the tent and the flap was closed. The sentry of two Marines outside had instructions not to let anyone come within a hundred feet.

Holt groaned and his head lolled. His eyes fluttered and a hand floated up to shield them from the light. He winced and turned from the light as he pushed himself upright in the chair. He grunted and started to mumble, his eyes flitting between Harris and Walker.

“What the hell happened?” he asked. He rubbed his forehead. “Major?”

Harris held out his hand. Holt’s eyes froze on the transmitter sitting in Harris’s palm. Holt patted the pocket on the left front of his field utility blouse. He unbuttoned the flap and fished for something inside.

Harris held out his other hand to reveal a black capsule. “By the time I’m done with you, you’ll be begging me for this.”

Holt stretched his neck and yawned. “You’re an idiot.”

“You have a point,” Harris said. “If I’d been doing my job, you wouldn’t have lasted this long.”

“That’s enough,” Walker said. “Look at me, Captain Holt.” He waited until Holt leveled his gaze on his own. He took a step forward, shaking his head. “Why?”

“Because we can’t win.”

“Since when is that your call to make?” Walker asked.

“Since it became the obvious truth that nobody seems to want to admit.”

Walker pulled back his hand and slammed his palm into Holt’s face. The captain’s head jerked sideways, blood trickling from the corner of his mough as he coughed.

Holt scoffed. “Doesn’t change anything. We should – “

Walker cut him off. ” -have surrendered?  Is that what you were going to say?  Let the colony work for the Terran Guard because someday they’ll remember that they’re human too, especially now that the Shoahn’ are gone?  Was that it?  That after a while, all they would remember is their fellow man and their zeal for the Godfrey Decree would fade into history?  Is that what you were going to say?”

Wiping the corner of his mouth, Holt said, “Yeah, something like that. If we surrender, we have a chance. Otherwise, the day will come when they find a way to just exterminate us.” He glared at Harris. “But I guess that day is already here, isn’t it?”

“It’s not about any of that,” Walker said. He leaned over and picked up the Old Scrolls sitting in the corner of the tent. He held the case in front of Holt with both hands and kicked the chair with his boot, knocking Holt to the ground. He crouched down and shoved the case in Holt’s face. “It’s about this!” he yelled.

Holt pushed himself away from Walker and asked, “What’s that?”

“See, that’s the problem with people like you,” Walker said. “People don’t know everything. People don’t need to know everything. They just need to follow orders. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s what makes the Corps work.”

He slid the Old Scrolls across the floor towards Harris and stood up. “There are two kinds of people that fuck all that up.” He unsnapped the resin fabric flap on his holster and drew his weapon. “Civilians,” he said, pulling the slide back. “And arrogant fucks like you.”

Walker fired his weapon, filling the tent with a loud pop. The bullet flew just past Holt’s right ear, clipping the cartilage. Holt clapped his hand over his ear and grimaced. Walker holstered his weapon and crouched down in front of Holt. “Yeah, you know how it works. The round goes supersonic and creates its own little shockwave which snaps the air. And when it snaps hard like that, right next to your ear, it hurts. And it leaves a little something behind that keeps on giving. For as long as you live, you’re going to hear that ringing in your ears. It ain’t never goin’ away.”

He stood up and stepped back towards the front of the tent. “I’m done with you, Captain Holt.” He jerked his thumb at Colonel Harris. “But the S-2 here. Hell, I don’t think he’s even started yet.” Walker spat on the ground, turned around and walked out.

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©2016 Michael J Lawrence