[BE] Prologue 2 [Sheva]

edited June 2018 in burning-empires
I tap at the computer attached to my Iron's wrist and watch as the minutes of this operation count down to zero. T - 57 minutes and counting until the objective has zero oxygen — well, at least according to the game briefing. I scan the theater of operations for any signs of the unit and come up blank.

"They're late," I announce to Tek, who's standing next to me, "if we can't trust Burnham to lead a company in a war game, how the hell can we trust him in the field?"

I scan the field again — it was once a lush forest housing a temple to that heretical sect, the Church of the Eternal Dream, before the Mundus Humanitas scorched the atmosphere, and burned it all to the ground. Now the mostly barren wasteland before us is an ashen jungle of charcoal, chromatic pools of acetic water, volcanic mud, and jutting ruins of the aforementioned temple, now half buried in the ground. A gust of wind peppers my Iron with pebbles and dust. I adjust my footing, and the crunch of dust under my feet reverberates up my suit. I check my rifle — it hasn't been used much lately. I consider going out to ambush Alpha company.

It has been several weeks since we've taken a contract from the Lord Steward in an effort to let them twist in the wind for a bit. They've been a significant improvement over their predecessor, but they have a tendency to monopolize our time if I don't take measures to prevent it, and I didn't leave the service to contract out to them exclusively. These war games were the perfect excuse to ignore some missives and be out from under the terraformers' oppressive, imposing shadow. I know they're returning this world to its natural state, but the price tag attached to them seems to be climbing every day.

A small iridescent lizard about five inches long skitters across the ground, pausing long enough to hiss at me before diving under a rock. I turn to Tek, and motion to the field. "Should we go find them?"


  • Tek manages that fluid spacer shrug she does even in her blue-trimmed Iron. That, the quiet tinge of that odd accent, and the occasional spacer idiom are the only things that mark out her origin in the black void.

    Her eyes are also scanning the horizon.

    "As you wish, sir, but I'd give him another five. He's already on my list, might as well see if the boy can learn. She snorts. "It's not we can't trust 'im anyhow. Like as not he's micromanaging his nav. Can't delegate a man to dog his own hatch, that one. Making his pips grumpy thinking he don't trust them."

    You and Tek have quite a history right? I mean technically she's a noble now, just like you. But all that is due to you taking on a young, deceptively skinny, clearly outsider Anvil Sergeant as your Armiger 10 years ago. There were three coeptirs hoping that you would choose them at the time, and she wasn't asking, why did you pick her?
  • We do have history, yes. Some people think I chose her over the cavalcade of entitled brats with strings-attached reference lists as long as my arm because "I'm Anvil, she's Anvil" — which may be partly true. Others think we've been sleeping together. The truth is somehow much more convenient than that: she's a former squad mate's kid sister. Now, I know what you're thinking – favoritism and all that – but I'll have you know her aptitude tests were off the charts. I looked at her file because I recognized her name, but I picked her because she was the finest sergeant, leading the finest squadron in one of the best companies the Lord-Steward had to offer. Tek earned her Iron, and I'm happy to punch the first son of a bitch that suggests otherwise. She was the first person I reached out to when I left the Lord Steward's service.

    I sigh and adjust my posture, feeling restless. "Fine. Five minutes." She is right... She often is. I pull open my personal files and dig up an unopened message from my "half-sister" Iberis — it has a photo in it of her shunning the pomp and circumstance of her title. Her correspondence always puts a smile on my face... I feel terrible keeping this secret from her, but it truly is in her best interest to have plausible deniability. I fire off a quick missive for her that reads, "I'll be at the estate in two weeks for work — will you be there?"

    It takes a few minutes for my comm to encrypt the message, and link up with our satelite; but when it finally does, the distant pop of machine gun fire rolls up over the hills. I turn back to Tek and say, "I guess Tcho found him first... How many do you think he lost?"

  • She looks over at you, a quirk to her lips as she checks the virtual load and readiness on that gigantic fusor she carries. You've heard men down ranks joke about 'compensating.' "You feeling like a betting man, sir? I'll put money on a platoon lost before it's done. And how's that sister of yours doing?"

    Her voice has a slight bit of play in it even as her eyes reflect a constrained anger. She's pissed at Burnham. Have you ever heard her dress down your element commanders before? What's her rep in the unit itself, and how do you know about it?
  • Men down ranks don't have half the balls Tek does, so they can joke all they want. I've seen Tek tear-down a few NCOs — sometimes even first hand. The XO is a tough position to hold, because it's basically your job to take all the hate for the minutia of the operation — people have to hate the XO, because they can't hate the CO. That said, Anvil respects officers for competence and achievement — not for their friendliness — and Tek has ample amounts of competence and achievement in her record. For all their griping, the rank and file know why she's in charge. Often you'll hear new recruits take a jab at her, and the more experienced NCOs will set them straight. I know that because I read the reports — I take my position as commander seriously, and a healthy troop morale is what sets a strong fighting force apart from a weak one. If I was shot tomorrow, I'm confident Tek could take over for me seamlessly.

    I chuckle, "A whole platoon?" I pause a moment to consider, "I'd be an idiot to take that bet if you jump into the fray..." I'd hate to be the one to deprive her of a little fun, though. Her curiosity about Iberis strikes a nerve, though — as Iberis has something of an infatuation with Tek. It's harmless, I'm sure, but as her real father, I have mixed feelings about my daughter seemingly crushing on my XO. I suppose I prefer Tek over some pompous, entitled noble with aspirations of winning daddy's approval. "Let's go crack the whip..."

    I take a few steps out into the field ahead of us, and answer, "Iberis is her usual self — rebellious and proud of it." I look over my shoulder to her, "Get any fan-mail lately?"

  • Tek snorts as she steps up beside you, but a small smile crosses her face, a softer expression than usual.

    "Yes sir, about you. That girl thinks you hung the stars, I'm just a chum who's her main source of intel." She glances at you with a slightly pensive expression, seeming to debate herself. Shakes her head slightly. How much do you think Tek conceals from you about anything?

    "She wants to imitate her hero, too. I suppose she's told you that Alvega is willing to back her going Armiger? And apparently Gorey keeps bringing up marriage to their son."
  • I'm not naive enough to believe Tek hides nothing from me — I suspect she, like most of the career Anvil soldiers that have come under my command, still resist the urge to open up entirely with their CO — especially about missives with his apparent kid sister. While we are a mercenary company, we are not the military. So long as my people obey my orders in combat, I encourage them to speak their mind as often as possible — they just seldom do. I chuckle at her little quip, and shake my head, "Jealous, are we?" I pick up the pace.

    My hud brings up a warning that we're entering a live theater of operation, and I wave it shut. Gorey doing everything in his power to insult me by trying to absorb my daughter into his family is old news, but I hadn't heard about Alvega backing Iberis' ambitions. "I hadn't heard that, no..." Huh, "Gorey can kiss my boot — I'd sooner duel him for Iberis' honor, but she'd never let me do her dirty work." I pause a moment, realizing that's a father's duty, "Well... If it were my place." I look over to her, "someone has to do it, I suppose..."
  • edited June 2018

    "Aye sir, you know I am." Tek sighs, smirking in return. She smirks again at 'boot' being pretty sure that you wanted to say something else.

    She shakes her head at your equivocation. "'Course you would be doing it, sir. Closest thing to a da' the girl has since your own died. You might have to stand in line though. Pretty sure Corinne and that big green thing that works for her would want a go. He's been teaching her to fight, I hear." She closes her visor. You know she doesn't understand the tension between you and Corinne. She likes the woman. "Hell, I'd want a go at him, too. I promise to leave you a scrap or two.."

    There's a moment of silence. Tek's probably checking her instruments. "Dreamer's tits. His doctrine has gone to complete shit. That idiot should be thankful I'm not using live rounds and that I hate paperwork. Speaking of, you see that request for services your mum sent over?"
  • I did want to say something else, and I'm trying to be better about that... Respectability goes a long way when dealing with nobility, and I need to curb my instincts to curse down every idiot in the Lord-Steward's court at the slightest provocation.

    I have to pause a moment at the RFS because my mum is dead – I'll never get used to people calling Corinne that – but I shoot Tek a look that says "don't go there" and put my visor down. "Eyes forward, soldier – I don't like talking about paperwork when I'm on vacation." I smile to myself, looking at the unread notification on my HUD. The last thing I want to be doing is taking on a contract from her – but it sure beats taking one on from the Lord-Steward.

    "I'll call her in for a chat when we get back to the estate. Now stay frosty. Let's give Burnham a spanking."
  • End Scene
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