…Cut Once

deWulf Naval High Command, 30th Floor
Bureau of Personnel
City of Lowell, Fenris
deWulf Corporate Democracy

“Please, sit down Junior PackMaster. We have a few things to discuss.”

Seated behind the only substantial piece of furniture in the room was a single Fenren wearing Hunter’s stripes. While this made them substantially outranked by the Junior PackMaster who was slipping into the indicated chair, the Hunter’s uniform also had two other indications of position. Their shoulder badge indicated membership in the Bureau of Personnel, and a small qualification badge on their chest showing they were, at the same time, a member of deWulf’s Naval Intelligence service.

“I don’t see what there is to discuss. I put in a standard request for medical separation from the Navy.” Even in his current state, Junior PackMaster Korman instinctively capitalized his own service. Habits died slow deaths.

“Well,” said the Hunter “That depends. Before we start this interview-“

“What do you means start?” Korman looked concerned. Separation interviews were always recorded as a matter of course, as awkward truths tended to come out and provide useful ammunition for Naval Intelligence. Korman had conducted the interviews often enough to know when the process was being ignored.

The Hunter paused a moment, hand motioning over a control on his desk. The interface flickered to life, indicating that the built-in recording systems were indeed off.

“Well, that depends. Your medical profile is clear, physiologically and psychologically. From a technical standpoint, you are fit for duty.”

The last three words landed like a bucket of ice-cold water, Korman stiffening visibly in his chair.

“However…” the Hunter’s voice hung in the air like frozen breath.
“Put bluntly, there is a difference between fit for duty and capable of duty. It is my personal assessment, after this interview, that you are regretfully no longer capable of serving as a commanding officer in the Corporate Navy. Maybe, sometime in the future, things will be different. But for right now you are not fit to command anything other than a desk.”

Korman twisted his lips into grimace, teeth baring as he let out a snarl. “That’s the whole point of this interview! And since you’ve made up your mind, why are you even bothering with this? Or do you need to twist a few knives for leverage?”

The sigh that slid out in response was like an air brake letting go, the Hunter settling back into their high-backed chair. “For someone who was in command of a Navy squadron, you have all the political awareness of a radcooker. And the fire-starting potential of one, to boot. Let me explain this in terms that you will understand. You are not the first person requesting a separation after the Bombardment of Elysium. I’ve handled dozens of these interviews. Lower decks mostly, some officers here and there. Most had the same reaction you had; there’s a difference between just talking about ‘bombing them to the stone age’ and actually doing it. I can sympathize, maybe even understand a little. But the problem is that they were all enlisted or lower officers. You though, you’re the only command officer. And not just any command officer, but the commander of the bombardment task group itself.”

Korman blinked. He had thought there might have been a few others who had the same thoughts, but not that many.

“And those others, they’ll disappear into the general demobilization that will be coming over the next few months. Give them a few more months, maybe a year or two, they’ll come around. Or they won’t. But then the public perception of the whole matter will have shifted as well. But here and now-“

“Here and now” Korman interrupted “the ‘screens are bathing in blood. Figuratively. Revelling in the destruction.”

“Exactly” agreed the Hunter. “And you’re simply too visible. So, if we cut you loose, those same reporters will notice faster than the G2R2 array spots supernovae. And how do you think you’ll fare in their tender mercies?”

“I don’t care what others think. Or say. I’ll retire. Get a bit of land on Emden or something and just live off the grid.”
“An admirable sentiment, but that doesn’t solve the whole problem. First off, they’ll find you. Sooner or later. And the more you try to hide, the thicker the muck they’ll drag you through. And your family. And your friends. And someone you bumped into while getting a to-go cup of pfen.”

The look on Korman’s face had gone from bitter defiance to bitter resignation. It was the kind of look someone had when they realized they were going to be riding their plan down in flames.

“That is of course, if you separate. Stay, and you’ll have the Navy in your corner.”

Junior PackMaster Korman looked up as the Hunter slid a pair of documents towards him across the desk.

“The paper to your right is your separation request. Signed, approved, ready for filing. The left is a transfer over to Strategic Planning. Also signed, approved, and ready for filing. Don’t ask about how you signed it.” The Hunter smiled thinly before continuing. “All you have to do is choose.”

Korman thought about it, his jaws churning like he was working a tough bit of gristle. “And if I choose the transfer?”

“This whole issue gets locked up in Archive 13 for the next hundred years. And that’s assuming it even gets unlocked in the first place.”

His hand reached out, tapping firmly on the transfer paper. “This.”

“Ah, excellent choice. We won’t be needing this-” their hand slid the separation request to the far side of the desk. “Now we can complete your transfer interview right now. Short and to the point.”

Korman nodded once, finally looking his fellow officer in the eye. The Hunter tapped on a control, the floating display shifting to indicate that it had started to record the meeting.

“Now… interview number four-eight-seven. Subject, Junior PackMaster Walzo Korman.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s