Manxome foe votsb 3, p.38
Manxome Foe votsb-3, page 38part #3 of Voyage of the Space Bubble Series
“Yes, sir,” Bill replied.
“Very good. And we are left with the inimitable Staff Sergeant Bergstresser,” the President said. “The Blade is about to undertake some tedious but necessary infrastructure missions for what I believe to be the next several months. In other words the necessity for derring-do is significantly reduced. Are you, once again, going to volunteer to go where no Marine has gone before, Staff Sergeant? Or has the long drawn strife quitted you of the desire for adventure?”
“I will admit, Mr. President, that being baked by a plasma ball and having to take off my suit before I ran out of air, on a Dreen ship, has cooled my ardor,” Berg said. “But, no, sir. I’m not quitting if that is your question. I already told the first sergeant that I’m on-board for the next cruise. I was hoping for some personal time before we left, though. I’ve… got some things I need to take care of.”
“I think that can be arranged,” the President said. “Among other things, given the Blade’s next few missions, I believe that the first sergeant can spare you, can you not, First Sergeant?”
“Yes, Mr. President,” First Sergeant Powell replied stoically. It wasn’t like the Prez had just cut off his right arm or anything. Left, yes.
“Very good,” the President said. “I’d hate to have to use the dread phrase upon you, First Sergeant. In that case, Staff Sergeant, you’re going to school.”
“Excuse me, Mr. President?” Berg asked.
“I’m told that if one is intelligent, perceptive, in good physical condition and doesn’t break a leg or something, that a young Marine can complete officer’s candidate school in a bare four months. Don’t break your leg and the next time you run into First Sergeant Powell he’ll be required to salute you.”
“Yes, Mr. President,” Berg said, stunned.
“When I discussed this choice with persons who shall remain nameless, after a long tirade about something called ‘mustangs’ which I had previously associated with horses, the salient point of sending you to OCS instead of my initial choice, direct commission by order of the dread phrase, was that you’d receive training in your new duties which have something to do with venereal disease and inventories. Since I’m sure you have no experience of the former and minimal experience of the latter, I acquiesced. Have fun in OCS. Oh, I was also told that Force Recon Platoon leaders had to have at least a year ‘with troops’ in regular units. The dread phrase was repeated at that point. Upon graduation you will become Third Platoon leader of Bravo Company, First Space Marines. If you don’t graduate, you will become something called ‘a goat’ and be sent to durance vile probably somewhere nearby as an instructor in Marine Space Combat, which was the initial suggestion of persons who shall remain nameless. I assure you that would be a tedious assignment. Graduate. Preferably with honors and on time. Barring another emergency, the ship will not leave for its next serious mission until you show up. I didn’t have to use the dread phrase that time but I was definite.”
“Yes, Mr. President,” Berg said, starting to grin.
“And I’m throwing in another medal for capturing a Dreen battleship. Something tasteful, Silver Star or suchlike. First Sergeant Powell? Promoting you to sergeant major would remove you from your present position. Want the pay or the position?”
“The position, Mr. President,” the first sergeant answered.
“Eventually we’ll be able to put a battalion on a spaceship at which time, if I’m in office, dread phrase or no dread phrase you’ll get a battalion. In the meantime, you remain. Want a medal?”
“Got plenty, Mr. President.”
“You sure? Legion of Merit? Silver Star? That’s always bright and cheery on a uniform. Or a flag for that matter. Something to clutter the wall in your old age and dust? I’d be hard pressed to swing a Medal of Honor but I could try.”
“Got plenty of dust catchers, Mr. President.”
“Very well. Chief Warrant Officer Second Miller?”
“You just got a jump in pay, Chief Warrant Officer Third Miller. Again, it was suggested that you become an instructor along with a suggestion that maybe a SEAL team would be better off on the Blade. At that point, a pointed discussion ensued between two persons who shall remain nameless, both of equal rank but one the other’s technical superior because of something called a ‘junior service,’ which phrase caused the larger and stronger to nearly strike his technical superior. After tempers had cooled, it was agreed that the Blade would continue to host Marines. And one SEAL if he’s still interested. If not, Coronado or Little Creek, take your pick.”
“Blade, Mr. President. I hate instructor positions.”
“What is it with all you suicidal people?” the President asked. “Never mind. And we are left with Miss Moon. People who shall, et cetera, also discussed the fact that there was a civilian running around on ‘their’ ship. After pointing out that it was my ship, thank you very much, you work for me not the other way around, I also pointed to certain details of the captain’s most thorough and well-written report. Well-written enough that I suspect he had some help. But the hidden details caused what could best be termed a ‘harumph’ and a suggestion that certain persons could best be used in any number of training or technical capacities right here on Earth. About which I agree, most wholeheartedly. Or not on Earth. I’m in need of ambassadors to both the Cheerick and the Hexosehr. I could even switch out the one to the Adar although Peter is doing very well. Or, via use of the dread phrase and magic signature powers accorded me by fifty point zero two percent of the American people, you can remain as linguistic officer of the Blade Two. Frankly, I think that’s a step down, but I leave it up to you.”
Miriam looked frozen for a moment, then shrugged.
“The Blade, Mr. President.”
“Is that your final answer?” the President said. “I have been informed of your almost habitual lack of self-confidence. While I’ll admit that could be a problem in an ambassador, I nonetheless feel that there is no person more suitable to the position of ambassador to the Hexosehr. Your technical competence is what I’m looking at there, far more than your linguistic ability. And the short communiqué you returned with from the Hexosehr mentions you by name as a suitable interlocutor.”
“I appreciate that, Mr. President,” Miriam said. “Really I do. But I think I’m of more use on the Blade. We’re going to encounter more species, we’re going to encounter more linguistic problems and we’re going to encounter more… technical problems. I think I can be of more use there than negotiating details with the Hexosehr. Nice as they are, I think it would drive me insane. More insane.”
“Very well,” the President said, waving his magic finger. “You are permanently, at least as long as I’m in office, the linguist for the Vorpal Blade, whatever number it ends up as. If you change your mind, you can of course unvolunteer at any time and options remain open. Ambassador, linguist right here in the White House — heck I could use a technical advisor as easy on the eyes as you are. Whatever you ask.”
“Thank you, Mr. President,” Miriam said, dimpling.
“There’s just one problem with Miss Moon continuing on the Blade Two,” the CO suddenly said, frowning seriously.
“What’s that?” the President asked, blinking.
“It’s a brand new ship,” Spectre replied. “If it has to take another long cruise, there aren’t any pipes to paint! God help whoever takes over as CO!”
“Brooke, this is Amanda Bergstresser.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Brooke said. It had been nearly four months since that one single exchange of messages. Eric’s mom was in contact with other families from his unit and all of them were worried. The ship Eric was on wasn’t supposed to be able to be gone this long. The Marines weren’t saying anything, just that the unit was “overdue.”
Nobody was giving up hope, least of all Brooke. Prom was coming, but she’d turned away every offer of a date. She had her dress, she was ready to go. But only if sh
“I’ve received two messages, one for us and one for you. Yours is two words. Can I just read it to you?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Brooke said, taking a deep breath.
“From Staff Sergeant Eric Bergstresser to Brooke Pierson. Marry Me. End message.”
“Oh yes,” Brooke said, crying. “Oh, tell him yes!”
“Tell him yourself; he’s in Washington, DC. They’re back, he’s fine and he wants to see you as soon as he can get home. You’ve got his cell phone number. Use it. And tell him to call his momma.”
“The problem with this… anomaly is that with the subject’s normal irregular data it’s hard to pin down. Definite increases in activity in the parietal lobe. But there have been so many described shifts in the record it could just be a new… change?”
The two neurologists looked at the results of Earth’s most advanced medical scanning and then, almost in turn, shrugged.
“I can’t say that there’s a notable change,” the older said, frowning. “And that is the keystone phrase.”
“If we make any suggestion of a change, the subject is in for some very invasive procedures,” the younger said.
“Be interesting to pull that brain apart.”
“I’ll put that down as a ‘no notable changes,’ then,” the younger said.
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John Ringo, Manxome Foe votsb-3
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