All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
written by SJ
Sergeant LaFong limped as she entered one of the medical shuttles outside the government building. Smoke still billowed from the parking structure even after the fire had been put out. She sat down brooding. One of the medics carefully removed her broken helmet and tended to her injury.
The medics eventually removed her soft armor to examine her leg, which had been grazed by a Cultist pistol bullet. Then, all during the trip back to HQ, they had to listen to her, like some kind of mantra: "There didn't have to be ANY casualties; it was all Major Bozo's fault."
But it didn't matter. Lana was in trouble and she had been ordered to return to Camp Cheyenne for a formal hearing. Major Bozeman was pressing charges against her.
The Chaparral was already designated to return to Camp Cheyenne with the dead and wounded, plus some of the unused heavy equipment. It would also carry Sergeant LaFong. She sat alone in a room by herself until the corsair made its final landing on Thunderhawk Airport. As she exited the spaceship, she was informed by messenger: "After stowing your gear, report to Base HQ."
If found guilty of Boseman's charges, she would receive a heavy fine, and dismissed permanently from the Space Marines, which in her mind, would mean losing yet--another family. Lana was NOT going to let that happen. She was bound and determined to fight these charges with everything she had. After all–-she was NOT wrong. As she entered the Camp HQ, she stewed with that fact! Yes, she should not have called the Major, bozo, over her com...but--she was NOT wrong.
By the time she reached the Camp HQ, she was desperately hoping the Colonel would be there to meet her--brief her on what was to come. Just seeing a friendly face, Bull or Gannon, would've been comforting. But all she got was a cold receptionist...who told her to sit down and wait outside of the HQ's conference room.
As she sat alone, she still continued to sulk. Folding her arms she frowned. What if she lost? The thought frightened her; but even then, she was still determined to fight...find a civilian lawyer, spend all her money--fight to the very end!
When a bailiff suddenly came out of the door, it startled her. He looked at her, and seemed to know who she was. "Sergeant LaFong...could you come with me please."
The conference room had no windows. It was one of the larger rooms in Camp Cheyenne's headquarters building, much longer than it was wide. It was dark and foreboding. To her left, she spotted Colonel Gallardo right away, seated at a large important-looking desk, like a judge. On a long table to her right were two Federal Marine officers...at the end, was Boseman and another Federal Marine officer, probably his lawyer. Her eyes desperately searched for Major Taliaferro; if anyone, she knew he would stand up for her. But he wasn't there. In the center of the room was a video screen were several other Federal Marine officers could speak and hear...one of which was General Parker. The bailiff asked her to sit down in the witness seat and take a standard oath. Lana tried not to act as scared or angry as she felt. She remained seated for almost ten seconds before she was asked a question.
One of the officers at the nearest end of the long table asked simply. "Sergeant LaFong...could you tell me when you became aware that the two Tyrant Guards were armed with Spinefist weapon-symbiotes?"
Lana didn't answer right away. She wanted to answer the question as accurately and, more importantly, as calmly, as she could. "When I heard shooting from the building's first floor, my second in command, Corporal Dion informed me that the turtles...the pseudo-Tyrant Guards were opening up. I looked though my scope, and then spotted that they both were armed with Spinefist weapon-symbiotes." The woman licked her dried lips, then tried to continue. "It was at that time I tried to contact--"
"That will be enough." The questioning Officer interrupted her. He turned to the officer next to him. "Do you have questions?"
He mentioned, no.
But Lana was angry. She almost stood up and shouted, "aren't you going to let me continue?" She glanced at Colonel Gallardo for support; but he just sat looking formal.
The court now waited to see if there were any questions from the video monitor. Eventually there was.
She didn't recognize General Parker on the screen. It was a lieutenant colonel that asked the next question. "Sergeant LaFong, you told Major Boseman that none of the weapon-symbiotes looked operational--"
Lana was just about to stand up and shout, "but THAT was BEFORE I spotted the Tyrant Guards' Spinefists!" From behind her, she heard Gallardo loudly clear his throat. The interruption gave time for the lieutenant colonel to finish his question.
"How did you know that these Spinefist weapon-symbiotes, the ones on the Tyrant Guards, were operational?"
Lana took a deep breath. "They were fully formed--and began firing right away!"
The lieutenant colonel quickly changed the subject. "Could you explain to the court why it took so long for your team to make their attack?"
Lana almost stood up, again...she was starting to loose control of her anger. "The door was blocked and sealed by Tyranid bio-matter! I had to use up some of my team's frags to get in." She stood up and lost control. "I would've mentioned that, but--"
"Sit down, sergeant!" Colonel Gallardo shouted forcefully.
Lana sat down, silent, but shaking.
"Are there anymore questions for this witness?" Colonel Gallardo remained standing, speaking formally to both the physically-present and non-physically-present officers.
There was a short delay...then an unanimous answer of, no.
"That will be all Sergeant." The Colonel spoke formally to Lana. "Please wait outside. Thank you for your testimony."
She felt beaten and defeated...but wanting to turn around and shout, "am I not going to be able to defend myself?" The bailiff escorted her out...were she sat down. But when the court officer left, she got up and paced. She felt railroaded and betrayed.
It seemed like she had been pacing for an hour, but it was only a minute or two, when Colonel Gallardo came out to speak to her. The story of how she felt was in her pleading eyes as she looked at him. But he did want to speak here. "Come with me, LaFong."
Lana didn't move. She needed answers...
Finally he had to say something to make her feel more like he wasn't out to get her. "LuLu...come with me."
The woman followed Gallardo to his personal HQ office where he closed the door behind him.
Before she could spout off every angry word that she had wanted to say in her own defense in a one second blast of garbled sentences, Gallardo smiled at her, comforting. "It's alright, LaFong. It's alright...settle down."
He smiled...then sighed. "You don't remember?"
She waited...not having any idea what he was referring to. "Remember, what?"
"Remember...you told Sergeant Major Rhodes to record all your squad communications." Gallardo was happy to explain. "You don't need to speak in your own defense. That recording IS your defense." He grinned. "Major Boseman said...for the record in court, that YOU turned off YOUR com, which he took to mean you were done with your scouting report. Of course, the record of your squad's communications says differently. Boseman lied!"
Suddenly Lana felt very tired...as if all the adrenaline had drained out of her.
"All of Boseman's charges against you have been dropped and expunged from your record...except for the, Major Bozo part, of course. For that, I am afraid you're going to get stuck with a five-hundred credit fine." After shrugging, he smiled pointing his thumb in the direction of the court. "He's the one in trouble," then jested seriously: "They're gonna have a Major Bozo roast in there."
Lana had to sit down.
The Colonel stepped around his desk and took his seat before speaking any further. "I'm sorry I couldn't have met you at the airport. Ben would've been here, but ever since he received that data you sent him he's been away at some University doing some research. I was busy making sure all the members of the court got your recording and had listened to it in full before you got here." He laughed. "You should've seen Boseman's face when he heard you had recorded all your squad's communications." He paused. "I'm going to try and get your five-hundred credit fine reduced a little."
"That's okay." Lana had relaxed...and for the most part, was happy. "I shouldn't have done it." She smiled, wryly. "It was money well spent."
Lana almost chuckled, remembering. "And Sergeant Zook owes me fifty credits, now."
"Jeremiah?" Gallardo looked at her as to why.
She explained: "He...said, he'd give me fifty credits if I called him Major Bozo over an open com line."
Gallardo laughed again. "I'll make sure he pays you." But as he sat back in his chair, he frowned, his tone changing, more solemn. "Anyway...I am NOT happy about losing two of my Marines. Never...NEVER, am I going to allow my Marines to be solely commanded by another field officer, no matter who refers him. I should've been in this chair connected by a FTL com link, or on the scene monitoring the situation at all times. But, damn it, the General referred Boseman. I don't understand it."
Lana sat relaxed in her seat.
It was at this time the Colonel began to notice the injury to her head; bruising had discolored part of the right side of her forehead, draining down into her eye. "You look tired...and, what's that with your head?"
"Got into a fight with some Tyranid Warrior. He clipped my helmet and broke my target painter." She sighed. "I got to try out my swords--"
"You killed a Tyranid Warrior in hand-to-hand combat?" Gallardo was surprised. He threw up his hands, but smiled proudly. "I gotta give you a melee badge now."
She looked back at him like it wasn't necessary.
Gallardo's office was small, but quaint, with, a nice-sized, bay window looking out at the wildlife sanctuary to the south. On his desk was a video monitor, which suddenly came to life with an important call. On the screen was General Parker.
"Good afternoon, General." Gallardo greeted him cordially.
The General had the look of being wise beyond his years; what grey hairs he had were hard to see with his standard, Federal Marine, short, flattop, haircut. Many times this look would be deceiving, but Gallardo knew all to well, it was an understatement at best. Frowning sincerely, he spoke with a deep, commanding voice of equal quality. "I just called to say how sorry I am to hear about the loss of your two Marines. As you know, I recommended Boseman; he's always been a good, efficient field officer." The General turned his head slightly to get a good view of Lana, staring at her with a slight smile. "How are you doing there...what's the name, Sergeant Fong?"
Before either Gallardo or Lana had a chance to correct him, the General continued, correcting himself. "LaFong...that's it." His smile turned into a approving one. "I heard you made Special Ops in less than a year." He frowned with one eyebrow. "That's when I knew something was wrong with Boseman's story; damn-it, Thad knew you were Special Ops, and treated your scouting reports as if they were just from some, brash, know-it-all, green-behind-the-gills, squad leader."
Lana sighed silently. "Well...sir, maybe I shouldn't have–-"
"Yes, you should have, Sergeant." The General strongly corrected her. "You're Special Ops. And you've been trained by the best damn Special Ops trainer in the Galaxy. Major Boseman should've listened to every word you had to say."
The General appeared to sit back in his seat to relax. He was proud of all the officers he had recommended in the past. He was angry about being wrong this time, and was getting ready to explain. "Major Thaddeus Boseman. I've know him a long time. I had a long talk with him. And after listening to the Sergeant's recording...I had only ONE question: WHY, Thad? Why were you in so much of an all-fired hurry?"
The General paused...as if waiting for an answer to his obviously, rhetorical question. He then continued. "I finally got his answer. He had a separate deal with the Emperor Corporation to resolve the problem on Cornucopia as quickly as possible, and with as little damage to the buildings as could be. A BIG bonus, for every day sooner he got the job done." He shook his head as if it was hard to believe, then looked at Lana. "Sergeant...I want to apologize to you also--for screwing up your first command."
Lana smiled wearily. She looked back at him with the only response she had. "Sir...you're pouring my heart out here."
The General let out a loud laugh. Afterwards, he appeared to address Gallardo. "It seems like we're going to be accepting Boseman's resignation. Yeah...I know, small penalty for getting two Marines killed. But, I think that's the best way to go at it. If he wants a job with the Emperor Corporation, the Imperial Guard can have him." He looked at Lana again, frowning that one eyebrow like before. "Any other time, if I heard a sergeant--ANY, sergeant, make a comment like you did to a commanding field officer over an open com line I'd fry your ass with the hottest super nova I could find."
Lana visibly lowered her head, avoiding direct contact with the video screen. She knew she was wrong there, and was willing to pay for it.
“But, hell.” The General’s one eyebrow straightened out as he qualified his last statement. “In this case, I can’t blame you.” He sighed. “Well...Colonel, it was nice speaking to you again.” It appeared like the General was getting ready to wrap up his conversation. “I’m sorry we had to meet in this way...but, I think we might be meeting again in the near future. I do NOT think the Cornucopia problem has been resolved, and until the scientists can figure out where these WARP openings are coming from, we are going to be seeing MORE of these Chaos forces. The Imperial Guard is going to bring in about a battalion of troops, many made up of people from the original colonization, plus enough civilians to start farming projects. I’ll be preparing a task force of Federal Marines to be aboard my command cruiser as a ready strike force.”
Lana was just about to hold up her hand to speak, but just spoke when it seemed like Parker was done talking. "General?"
"I just...was wondering about something. I had been thinking about it most of the time I was on Cornucopia."
"I guess we have to wonder...about how these Tyranids got to Cornucopia." She pondered. "I mean...the only way they could've got here was by being transported through the WARP some how, which seems evident by their genetic malformations. However...the only people capable to doing this is, who, or what, these Chaos forces appear to be. And so far...they have been--us, Terrans. And if these Tyranids saw, or were aware of these Terrans before they highjacked one or more of their brood...wouldn't that, kind of...piss them off...at us?"
The General smiled wisely, agreeing, answering her question by concluding his last set of comments. "Right now, we don't have any extra forces to allocate in that area, but my command cruiser will be ready, whether it's Chaos or Tyranids. If need be, the Imperial Guard can handle any forces on Cornucopia...and even though we do not expect a Tyranid invasion, we do have outposts on distant planets that ARE near Tyranid planets." He held out his hands in wonderment. "We still do not know how these Tyranids get from solar system to solar system. We know they don't use the WARP...or Web Gates like the Eldar. The best guess we have is when they get ready, they build, or grow some sort of huge bio-ship, stuff a hive in it, fly it into orbit, then make a jump similar to the way we do it; however, that's wild guess, I'm sure. Either way, Sergeant, you are absolute right...we should, and will be ready for them, just in case." The General had a look on his face that he needed to go. "Well, Colonel...I'll be seeing you later...and to you Sergeant, keep up the good work--without the derogatory expletives this time."
The General signed off FTL video link up.
Afterwards, Gallardo and Lana chatted for awhile longer. He told her she had the next several days off. Afterwards, she was going to Omicron2 Eridani; there she would spend the next several months training with the Omicron Rangers on Astoria. When she was finished, she would be ninety percent on her way to Special Ops level 2, orders from Major Taliferro.