The Span Of Empire – Snippet 06

“I will go and speak to Tully,” she said to Pyr’s back. It was Tully who had first taught her English, coming to the dochaya day after day, telling her and everyone else who lived there in long endured misery that they could have a better life, but they would have to make it for themselves and not wait for the elders in the elian to simply give it to them.

“Let me know when the ship is ready to jump,” Pyr said without turning around.

“Yes,” she said and slipped out of the room.


“Did that go as you expected, Colonel?” Tully’s companion asked after they exited the meeting.

“Pretty much, Sergeant Luff, pretty much,” Gabe replied. “The director isn’t going to give up after this, even if she did talk like that was one of the options. Not after finding those dead worlds. All that does is make her more determined to find other civilizations.”

“I can see that,” the sergeant said. They hit a T-junction in the hallway, and paused. “Sir, we’ve got a little over half an hour before the shuttle leaves. I’d like to check in with the lead sergeant from Lexington’s jinau detachment. Last I heard, he had a suggestion about training that sounded good.”

“Go to it, Top,” Tully responded. He tapped one of his pockets. “I’m going to find a cup of coffee and a table somewhere and see if I can make a dent in this month’s paperwork before returning back to the Ban Chao.

“Very good, sir,” the other said. “Meet you back at the shuttle.”

The first sergeant took off down one angle of the hall, and Tully went down the other. Before long he found one of the Lexington’s officers’ messes and stepped in. He pulled a cup of coffee from the appropriate machine, settled at a mess table, and took an appreciative sip of the dark liquid. Lexington had picked up a few traditions from some of the United States Navy personnel who had survived the conquest and made themselves of use in the new era following the establishment of Terra taif. One of their traditions was having good coffee.

Tully propped his pad up and opened up the next in an interminable series of reports that he needed to read and approve. If he’d realized just how much paperwork being a colonel involved, he’d have turned down the promotion when General Kralik offered it.

Of course, he wasn’t sure that the general would have let him say no. He still recalled that conversation rather well.

He’d been called to the general’s office not long after the Valeron expedition had returned with all the Lleix refugees that would come with them. “Take a seat, Tully,” Kralik had said before he was two steps in the door. The general’s voice was brusque; his face was showing lines that Tully hadn’t remembered being there. Above all, the normally unflappable Kralik seemed to have an air of harried patience.

“Tully, I’ve got a job for you,” the general began.

“Back to dickering with resistance groups?” he’d asked.

“No. We pulled in the last of the effective ones while you were gone, and the others are evaporating now that jobs are available again. No, I need you to take a command.”

That had set Tully back a bit. He’d figured he’d stay with his assault company on Lexington if the resistance work was going well.

“What kind of command?”

“All the ground forces in Caitlin’s flotilla.”

He remembered his jaw dropping as he looked at Kralik in shock.

“You’re making me a freakin’ general?”

Kralik had chuckled, and a few of the lines on his face had eased.

“No, I’m making you a freakin’ colonel. Mind you, I could almost justify a general, because by the time we put a full assault group on the Ban Chao and fill all the companies on the battleships, you’ll have close to an old-time brigade’s worth of bodies. But neither one of us are ready for you to be a general. It’s enough of a stretch giving you the eagles of a colonel.”

“But why me?” He remembered the moment of panic he’d felt. Truth be told, some days the echoes of that panic still were felt. “Don’t you have real colonels you could use? Someone with experience at the job? What about Rob Wiley? He was on the Lexington, too.”

Kralik had leaned back in his chair and interlaced his fingers over his flat stomach. “Yep. And General Wiley and the others are all going to more important, more high profile positions. You haven’t been back long enough to catch on to what’s happening. Aille has us expanding the jinau forces as rapidly as we can; space, air, and ground. We weren’t much more than sepoy troops before, mostly just keeping order and occasionally dealing with the Resistance. Now we’re adding new companies every month, organizing new battalions every quarter. We’ve got three new divisions formed up while you were gone.

“We’ve learned the Ekhat lesson, Gabe. They’ve got our attention. China alone has mounted two of those new divisions, even after the diversion of resources to deal with the aftermath of the plasma bombing. We have recruits from all over the world. And Aille will see to it that they are ‘of use’ in the war against the Ekhat.

“We can train them–barely,” the general had said as he sat back up straight. “We can shove the best of them through quickie officer training and get embryo company officers, enough to keep things organized. And between us, the Europeans and the Chinese, we’ve been able to find enough–barely–effective senior officers to get by. What we don’t have is the middle–we don’t have anywhere near enough experienced field grade officers, even using the simplified organizational structures the Jao have mandated for the jinau. That’s where the casualties of the conquest have really hurt us. You’d have been put to work months ago if you’d been here instead of haring off in the Lexington.

“So why me?” he’d repeated his question. “Why for this one?”

Kralik had started counting items on his fingertips. “One: you have a reputation as a fighter, of not backing down from anybody. The humans respect that, and even more importantly, the Jao respect that. You will have a lot more Jao troops under your command than you’ve had before, so that respect is important.

“Two: right now you are one of a unique–and very very small–group of humans. You have fought Ekhat up close and personal and survived, and brought most of your troops back as well. You have no idea what your reputation among the troops is like because of that. That kind of track record is invaluable.

“Three: the Fleet Commander will be Jao, no two ways about it. It will be years–decades probably–before we have enough sufficiently experienced human ship captains to even consider putting a human in that position. But because Terra taif and Krant kochan contributed almost all the ground troops for the fleet, we can put you in as ground forces commander, which means that you will counter-balance the fleet commander, as well as giving Caitlin someone she can rely on with no hesitation.”

“Politics,” he’d muttered. “I hate that.”

“Time to grow up, Tully. The Jao–or at least Pluthrak kochan–could have taught Machiavelli a thing or two, and Preceptor Ronz could have tutored Sun Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi. You’re going to deal with it for the rest of your life; you might as well get good at it.”

Kralik had ticked off one more finger. “Four: you not only have a reputation of being a fighter, you’re a damn good one. If it comes down to hand-to-hand combat for any part of the fleet, I can’t think of anyone better to have on hand.”

The general had folded his arms on the desk and leaned forward. “I’m not going to leave you hanging totally out to dry, Tully. We’ll find some good sergeants and Jao equivalents for you. They may be more valuable to you than a bunch of new officers.”