Friday, February 14, 2014

Operation Slipknot (Part 4)

And the conclusion!


SLS Nicholas Cameron
Damocles System 
August 18, 2785

The observation area on the McKenna-class battleship was still a cramped area roughly the size of a small cabin. Tanaga watched the stars, ignoring the Star League warships for now. The rest of the fleet was jumping in to join the task force that had gone after the mutineers. In another day and the entire fleet would be assembled once again, to continue the journey.

But things were different now. The mutiny had been a shock, but the response, though appropriate, was just as much of an shock, if not worse. Tanaga had seen the mood of his people and the ship’s crew. Nothing obvious, but a frown that was on a face a little too long, words spoken a little too harshly, or a unnatural tenseness in the walk. Something was simmering below the surface of the ship, if not the entire fleet, and it boil over sooner then later.

It hadn't gone unnoticed by the officers and the General. Ship’s crews were being put through make work projects at a blistering pace, never giving them time to think about the events of the last several days. Soldiers were being drilled on a continual basis, going through every sort of training their officers could think of. Tanaga had made it a point to drill right alongside his unit, leading through example. As for the General, he was making his own plans, the first being on the sheet of paper he held in one hand.

When he heard the hatch behind him open, he did not react. “Major Tanaga?” a voice asked.

Again, right on time, Tanaga thought. He waited a few seconds before he said, “Come in Lieutenant. Close the hatch behind you, please.”

He heard the hatch close. “I think we've gone through this before,” Keller said dryly.

Tanaga smiled, then turned to look at Keller. “Not quite the same. What is the latest from the techs?”

“MacGregor was swearing up a storm the last time I saw him, but I think he’s happy to have his people busy, considering what else is happening.”

The Major nodded, his smile fading. “You don’t like the result of the court marshals?”

The court marshals had been swift, held at the Damocles jump point less then twelve hours after the Marines stormed through the asteroid field and seized the Rhine Knight in a short, bloody fight. The resulting executions had been equally swift, carried out less then six hours after the verdicts were rendered by firing squads. Tanaga hadn't watched them, despite them being shown in a task force wide broadcast.

Keller took a deep breath. “No sir, I do not. But that having been said, I don’t see where the General had a choice in the matter. The regulations are clear on that.”

“He didn't and they are. There are no winners in this situation.”

“Yes sir. May I ask a question?”

“You may, though I may not have an answer.”

“What were the final casualty figures?”

Tanaga snorted. “You mean the butcher’s bill?”

“I didn't mean –“

The Major waved his hand in dismissal. “Not your fault. Operation Slipknot cost us thirty-two Marines, four MechWarriors, and three aerospace fighter pilots. The Marines lost another twelve when they stormed the Rhine Knight. The mutineers....” He exhaled. “They lost.”

“I see.” Keller’s tone was flat.

“The bill would have been a lot higher had those DropShips not been taken out before hand. The mission, though bloody, was a success.”

“Sir, do you hate those people that carried out the mutiny?”

“Hate?” Tanaga shook his head. “No, I don’t hate them, especially after I did some investigating on the pilot of the King Crab.”

“What about him? Didn't he commit suicide?”

“Yes. What I found was a war hero, a man awarded the highest awards a Star League solider can receive, and a fine commander.”

“Then what went wrong?” Keller asked.

“He was dying,” Tanaga replied slowly and softly. “Some genetic disease that came to the fore after we left the Inner Sphere. No treatment, no cure, nothing the doctors could do about it. I guess he decided that he wasn't going to die in space, but planet side, even somewhere in the Inner Sphere itself. But there is no way of knowing his real motives.” He looked out the portal and into the darkness of space again. “How can I hate a man under those circumstances? Can I say that I wouldn't have done the same thing if I was in his shoes? I can’t.”

Keller nodded in understanding. “What did you want to see me about?”

“General Kerensky will be here in about six hours.”

Keller looked surprised. “I didn't –"

”Not many people will know until the last minute. He wants to speak to the Regiment and the ship’s crew.”

“Is that a wise idea? There is a lot of resentment among parts of the fleet.”

‘There won’t be any medals awarded or grand speeches planned. That’s not his way of doing things.” Tanaga turned away from the portal and handed Keller a sheet of paper. “You asked the General to explain himself. This is the start.”

Keller glanced down at the sheet. “General Order 137,” he read aloud.

Tanaga nodded. “The Order will be officially issued in twelve hours. He sent me an advanced copy.”

“How did you . . . ”

“Get the advance copy? Read the Order first.”

There was silence in the compartment as Lieutenant read the Order. He looked up at Tanaga. “You and he share the same view.”

The Major smiled again. “I know how he thinks. I served on his staff in the early years of the Usurper War, and I was given this battalion on his recommendation.”

“I never knew.”

“I don’t make it a point to talk about it.” Tanaga placed a hand on the junior officer’s shoulder. “I know the General, the man behind that rank, and I know he is the best chance we have of surviving, returning to the Inner Sphere and reestablishing the Star League. I have absolute faith in him.”

Keller met his superior’s eyes. “I don’t know him like you sir. I don’t have your faith in him.”

“Do you trust me?” Tanaga asked.

“Yes sir.”

“Then trust me, and I’ll trust the General. Fair enough?”

Keller was silent for several seconds, then he nodded. “I think I can do that, sir. After all, you trusted me. The least I can do is return that trust.”

“Good. The General wants to talk to you in person.”

“Me?” Keller asked, looking surprised.

Tanaga nodded. “I said some good things about you in my report, and if there is one thing the General likes to do is talk to men and women who exemplify what the SLDF stands for.”

‘But –“

”You didn't let your doubts interfere with your duty. You carried out your orders and put the mission above personal feelings. That isn't an easy thing to do, and as long as the mission is good and just, it one of the hallmarks of a good soldier.”

“I – “

Tanaga slapped the Lieutenant on the shoulder and guided him toward the hatch. “Come on, I’ll buy you a drink at the Officer’s mess. If you get me drunk enough, I’ll even tell you about the first time I met the General. It involves a pig, a field full of mud, and a rather lost Rim Wold Guards Locust . . . ”


Hope you enjoyed this. Now, back to writing!


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