Saturday, September 11, 2010

13 years

Thirteen years. Had it really been that long? The Chief turned the page on the calendar.

He hung it back on the wall slowly and stared in a dazed, semi-conscious state. He thought he should be wallowing in self-pity, but for some reason he couldn't. He could have walked away from this. He should have walked away when they came to him in the beginning.


“Chief, got a minute?”

“No,” the Chief replied without even glancing at the interloper. He didn't need to look. The only people who didn't know better than to disturb him on the shop floor were weasels from Admin. Weasels with clean uniforms and spit-shined shoes.

But the weasel persisted, “Seriously...this is kinda important.”

The Chief took a turn out of his way to walk down an especially greasy and dusty aisle in the shop. He heard the click of the weasels shoes hesitate and smiled. The smile faded as the double-quick footsteps closed on him again.

“Look, I know the fighter-bomber prototypes are ready for production,”

“The weasels been watching me,” thought the Chief.

“I also know that they've been ready for several weeks,” the weasel stopped following.

The Chief stopped, too. “He's been really watching me.”

The weasel was right. The Chief had been carrying the same bolt and polishing rag around for almost a month. The bureaucrats and the admirals didn't understand what it was like to finish a job. He'd never known a politician who wasn't working on another inane law or tax. And he certainly never knew an admiral who wasn't looking for the next “Great War.”

He always thought war was one of life's greatest ironies. Soldiers hated war. Did everything they could to get out of it...faking injuries, volunteering for the shittiest homeworld assignments and even going AWOL. Meanwhile the politicians and admirals were conniving and provoking their enemies, looking for an “opportunity to lead the people to victory” (and lead themselves to promotion.)

And then the first bullets fly. When the action starts, you can't pull a line soldier from his squadmates. They'll hide injuries and volunteer for suicide missions to stay with their comrades. And the politicians and admirals? Just try to find one within an AU of a fight. They prefer to “lead” from their command centers and capitol buildings. Heroic.

The Chief spun to face the weasel. He narrowed his eyes at the textbook gopher.

“Who do you work for?” he growled.

The weasel felt his upperhand slip away under the Chief's withering gaze.

“ was sent by Commander Cur....” a pained expressing crossed his face and was gone. “I work for Commander Greene in Intel Division. He asked me to give you this envelope and wait for your response.” He semi-defiantly thrust a large envelope at the Chief, fully expecting to draw back a bloody stump.

The Chief snatched the envelope while staring hard into the weasels blinking eyes.

He tore it open and first noticed the red “Top Secret” stamps all over the pages.

“Intel Division...hmmph” the Chief muttered.

He quickly flipped through the pages expecting to read about “the future of spy probe technology.”

As he slowly realized what the pages proposed he looked up at the weasel.

“Do you know what's in here?”

“No, Chief. I was strictly instructed to deliver it to you and return with your response,” the weasel squirmed, anticipating delivering a disappointing response to his superior.

“Tell them...” the Chief looked back at the documents. If this was even remotely possible, he had to be a part of it.

“Tell them I'll be at the loading dock in the morning.”

Without a word the weasel spun around and walked to the end of the aisle. As he turned the corner he glanced at his shoes and sighed. He rubbed the toes on the back of each leg and walked out of sight.


Thirteen years ago...and today the work was done. So much had happened in the galaxy since the project started. But his progress and his purpose had not waivered one bit. Six months ago it was obvious that, despite so many obstacles...despite so many seeming violations of the laws of nature and physics...despite a budget in the hundreds of billions...despite even a change of government...this new weapon was going to be built.

As if in preparation, the planet-side wars had started years ago. Armies of men fighting for the resources being squeezed from nearly every planet in the galaxy. His own brother perishing in a meaningless assault on a command center on Venilen II.

And now this. He stared at the black metal hull of the ship and wondered about the mind of the intended pilot. How could a man wield this power? How arrogant would he have to be to believe that he could control it?

The Chief thought of the millions that would perish.

He stared at his masterpiece.

His blood turned to ice.