“I’ll bring it up at the General Staff meeting tomorrow. What’s next?”. General Valon’s massive legs had almost carried him the entire length of the corridor before he noticed his new Aide De Campe had accidentally dropped the papers he had been carrying. The other, more senior Generals probably would have sacked the lad on the spot, but Valon was new enough to his office that he felt pity instead. After all, the immense stack of manila envelopes, briefings, schedules, and TOP SECRET Communiques looked heavier than an infantryman’s basic kit.
A minute later, and his Aide was at his side. He made as if to apologize, but the Valon waved it off.
“What’s next on the agenda”
“It says that a Company of Sappers and Engineers… uh, Keloth Regiment, 10th Company to be precise, needs a new commander"
“Again? I’m surprised that fodder company is still alive. What were the casualties?"
His Aide hesitated. “It says zero, apart from their Commander.."
“Zero?! Cause of Death? Sniper? Assassin?”
“It says here sir, that uh” his Aide gulped “That he broke his own neck. Apparently the entire Company watched him do it too. There are reports that it was quite tragic"
The General, already late for his briefing, turned and came to a full stop.
“Are you serious? He broke his own neck."
“Yes sir. It’s what the report says"
“Did my predecessor experience any sort of mutinous behaviour from this Company, what was it?"
“10th Company, sir. And if you will just give me a second I will find out”.
The Aide shuffled around the paper, scanning it like a man desperate for redemption.
“Ah. Here sir. Field reports and troop ledgers."
Valon nodded and started walking again.
“Read it to me on the way."
The Aide hummed under his breath while reading.
“It says that their previous Commander fell off a cliff. The one before that… let’s see, uh it would appear he drowned in his baths. The one before that, uh, a broken neck. Then a broken neck. A drowning. A broken neck. This one was stabbed by multiple unseen assailants. The one before that was never found. And one more broken neck”.
The Aide turned the page.
“Alright. I get the picture. When did all of this happen?"
“Last month” said the Aide.
Again, Valon stopped dead in his tracks. He was utterly dumbfounded. Here was a Company in his own military whose tally of Bexellian officers killed rivalled that of some Tarean units.
“Did General Hekken know about this?” said Valon, hoping to find some guidance from his predecessor.
“Uh, yes. It would appear that he did, considering he signed off on these officer reassignments"
Valon couldn’t believe it. Was this the beginning of a conspiracy within the Bexellian military? In all of his years of service, he had never even considered the possibility of Treason within the Military. Well he wasn’t going to stand by and allow this to happen. He wasn’t a thinker or a planner. He was a General, Aten-damnit. He was a man of action.
Valon turned down a corridor, and strode as fast as his long legs could carry him.
“Uh sir. The meeting’s that way” said his Aide, now very much in the distance.
Seconds later he was at General Hekkens door, which splintered after coming into contact with his enormous foot. His rage had only grown exponentially in the time it had taken him to arrive.
“GENERAL HEKKEN” he roared “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST”. At this point, full of wrath as he was, he didn’t even care if the General was in the office or not.
The General, while rotund after years behind the desk, still had the legendary steely resolve of a Bexellian fighting man..
“I see you’ve heard about 10th Company, then”. said Hekken, cracking a smile.
The red had begun to fade from Valon’s vision. Hekken was an annoyingly likeable man, and his good-nature was legendarily infectious. Rumour had credited his rapid rise through the ranks to his oozing charisma.
“Listen. I can explain. Let me start with a question. Did you read my last troop movement order?"
“It’s right here” shouted Valon’s huffing and puffing Aide, waving a manila envelope.
“Come lad. Show it to the Good General here"
Valon grabbed the envelope, and examined its contents.
“It’s a squad of surveyors?"
“Let me ask you another question, General. Have you heard of ‘Chew-On-This Gorge’? Or ’Suck-My Canyon’?"
“I can’t say that I have. Is this part of some joke” replied Valon, trying to detect some brewing mirth on Hekken’s face. He was renowned for his ability to diffuse tension with humour.
“No joke General. I bring it up, because those terrain features didn’t exist several months ago. And now they inter the remains of several Tarrean companies. Those names, while amusing, are simply the names the enlisted men have given them. I sent surveyors to properly map the area"
“Is there a point to this story, sir?” said Valon, who was now keenly aware that the uniform of the man whose office he had destroyed the door of possessed one more star than his did.
“Well no matter. Have you heard of “Will Of The Empress?”
“The Floating Fortress? Of course. It was brought down just last week. Some officers called it a miracle, considering previous assaults on the FFs have cost us many more lives"
“Well, then General. I have yet another question for you. What do these two strange-new land features, and one miracle have in common."
Valon shook his head. “I can’t even begin to guess”
“I’ll tell you then. 10th Company."
For the second time today, and the third time in his career in the Military, Valon was dumbfounded.
“But sir… I don’t understand. They don’t possess any leadership. It’s just not possible."
“I see you’ve seen the reports.” chuckled Hekken. “Quite a bloodthirsty bunch, aren’t they?"
“You laugh, sir… but they’ve killed over 20 officers. They have to be punished”
“You are in charge now, Valon. It’s entirely your call. Just know this: I’ve read the reports of their exploits. I’ve heard what the enlisted men have to say about them.” Hekken’s voice began to harden. “I’ve thought about them at length, and my conclusion was that they are not sort people I want as enemies. I say that with full knowledge of the sorts of unholy creatures our men fight on a daily basis.”
Valon sighed as the last, miniscule part of him that was still an idealistic young cadet died. “I guess the undermining our authority is a small price to pay, for success against the Empress"
Hekken smiled. “Looks like you’ve learned your first lesson in compromise, Valon, and on your first day too."
Valon glanced down, as a page from a one of his Aide’s troop ledger floated on the floor below him. It was a list of names of those in 10th Company. The sight of the names of those underminers sent a chill down his spine. If anyone found out about this, his career would be over.
He looked at his Aide. “You can cross finding a replacement for 10th company’s commander off the agenda” he looked at Hekken, who was grinning proudly “Hell, never bother me about it again”.