Monday, May 06, 2013

Jelly-bones


Jelly-bonesAugust knew what they called him behind his back: "nancy;" "jelly-bones." The five specialists--Toragger, Baans, Zim, Auldelaire, Morris--had all graduated top of their respective classes, extremely well-tuned elites of deadly military precision, but put them together in a group and their inner grunt came out.

The Relocation Meta might observe that they seemed to share an exclusive camaraderie based on a longing for boot camp or a simplicity of life that had probably never existed. Bring in an outsider from clear across the system to take their dead commander's place, and voila, recipe for animosity and potential insubordination. But it wasn't just that. There was an extra edge to their voices when they answered him; a vague limpness in their salutes.

It was because of his father, of course. Everyone knew who Colonel Tansworth had been. Even all the way out here in the dead of space, August still could not escape that fact. One of the specialists, Baans, chuckled something under his breath.

"Midshipman Baans."

Baans raised his eyes, but otherwise showed no reaction. He kept his elbows on his knees, a pair of meaty tattooed fists propping a square stubbly chin. Everyone stopped talking.

If August chose to ignore the man's insolence, he would appear weak. He cracked his knuckles. "That's right; I'm talking to you, numbnuts. On your feet."

Smirking, Baans shot a glance at Zim next to him, but eventually stretched himself upright to assume a semblance of attention. "Sir," he drawled, that extra edge even more palpable than before.

"What was the last order Lieutenant Mensus gave before he died?"

Baans shifted uncomfortably. "What?"

"Your former commander. The last thing he said to you lot before he carked it. What was it?" August knew exactly what his predecessor's last words had been; it was all on record.

Anger rippled across Baans's brow. He pressed his lips together and bunched his forearm muscles, but slowly blood of another kind rose up the sides of his neck. The foredeck had fallen so quiet they could hear the distant rumble from the matter converters.

"Well? I'm waiting, Midshipman."

Baans looked down at his feet. "..ny means..ary," he mumbled.

"Speak up, soldier," August snapped.

"By any means necessary!"

"That's right; 'by any means necessary,'" August repeated. "Well ladies, I am that means. This crew needed a new runner, so here I am. You know it; I know it. It is what it is. So let's stop all this bullshit pussyfooting around so we can get to work. That okay with you specialists? Or am I going to have to drop one or two of you planet-side and find replacements at the orbital resup depot? I know a few folks stationed there who'd absolutely jump at the chance, and they're plenty qualified for the job."

One by one the others stood, glaring.

"Well? What's it gonna be?"

"No sir," Toragger growled.

"No? No what?"

"No need to find replacements, sir!" Zim barked.

August raised an eyebrow at Baans. "And you?"

Baans snapped his boots together and shot his hand up in a full military salute. This time there was nothing limp about it. "Count me in, sir. By any means necessary. Sir!"

"Well all right then. Take a seat, gentlemen, and let's talk about the speed of light." 


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