Imagine waking up one day unable to recall who you are or where you came from – only to find you are serving a sentence as a convict conscript for crimes you have no memory of ever committing…
“It does not change what the man has become,” he said. “Revid is a totally conditioned soldier of the Legion. You may not know what that means, but I do. He may want to try being a civilian, but there is nothing in his life experience in the Legion that has any bearing on it. So if he tries he will fail. And I for one would not like to see what the consequences of such a failure would look like.”
He wanted to explain he was trying to make the task less, not more, difficult and show her the issues were real, not personal. He cleared his throat and ploughed on:
“This is not about refusing Revid a chance to have a normal life or not wanting to let him go. It is he has no chance in civilian life even if I do let him go. If what you say about his desire to serve holds true then offer him military release. I could be persuaded to sanction it – to the right unit.”
“We already did. And he won’t take it.” She sounded deflated and her teeth pressed into the soft flesh of her lower lip with obvious frustration.
“Doesn’t it suggest something is not quite right then? Why would he be so keen to leave the military when it is obvious that is where he can serve the Coalition best?”
Var Tyran smiled again, but it looked more than a little strained, as if she found the entire situation over-challenging.
“Perhaps it has something to do with the friendship I mentioned.”
“Friendship?” Vane frowned and stepped back to sit on the edge of his desk, bringing himself to her eye level. “There is no such thing here. Friendships are not part of life in the Legion. Relationships amongst the troops are based on primitive debt transactions in which the strong maintain a kind of patronage system over the weaker. Unless, of course – are they lovers? Although even that is usually more about power and control than any real affection in this Legion.”
“Not that we know.”
“And you would know?”
She moved slightly and Vane caught a subtle breath of the perfume she wore.
“We would, Commodore. And I use the word ‘friendship’ to imply the idea of mutual debt and a bonding emotion. I mean someone he cares for, feels responsible towards and is to some great degree emotionally dependent upon. I apologise if my shorthand terminology was a little imprecise.” A touch of self-depreciation slipped into her tone as she spoke and she accompanied it with another small smile.
“So why would he want to leave this ‘friend’ you mention?” Even as he asked the question, Vane had an epiphany.
“Well this friend –“
“Is the man I discharged a little over a year ago,” he finished for her.
Var Tyran laughed with delight, a genuine and infectious sound. Vane found himself smiling.
“You are absolutely right, Commodore.”
Vane recalled the other man clearly. Jazatar Baldrik. His interview was very different from today’s. And he could see why the term ‘friendship’ could even be applied to that man in a meaningful way.
“But he had a family to return to and he stayed in the military. I signed his transfer to a Planetary Security Unit on Thuringen. I even wrote him a reference. Fine soldier, achieved the highest promotion possible to the Legion’s rankers in the shortest possible time. Been a military careerist at one time, Marines, and it showed. Very sorry to see him go. Very sorry.” He broke off and then chuckled self-consciously as he realised what he had said. “Well, not, really, of course. He deserved to leave us.”
The woman nodded, clearly appreciative of his meaning and he found himself smiling at her again.
“So Revid wants to go and join his friend. Makes sense. If I had known there were such plans in place to look after him, I might have viewed the proceedings differently,” Vane admitted. “I just don’t think such a man would ever get by on his own. But, under the close guidance of someone who has shared his experiences in the Specials, who knows the specific issues and problems he would be facing and who’s willingly agreed to support him, I can see an argument there could be a very different outcome.”
With a slight sense of relief he realised, this highly pertinent factor, missing from the equation before, explained all the discrepancies. This would be why the other reports discounted the risks and recommended proceeding with the discharge. And it was a very compelling justification in his opinion.
“It is probably my fault then,” Var Tyran said, her compelling sapphire gaze found and held his once again. “I was a little high-handed earlier when I should have been briefing you more thoroughly.”
“Well, we all make mistakes,” Vane said, with an understanding smile. “I am not sure why this did not get mentioned in the background file either, so the error was not entirely yours.”
She smiled warmly at him.
“Does this change things for you Commodore Vane, at all?”
“I mean, do you feel able to confirm the recommendation for discharge now? My people really want me to bring this home.”
Vane could see the hope in her face as she gently brushed away a tress of hair that was straying over her face. She badly wanted a success to take back to her department. He could see that and see how it explained her earlier anger and pushiness. It struck him she would feel very grateful if he could help her with it. A trace of the perfume tugged at his senses.
From Trust A Few – book one in Haruspex, the second Fortune’s Fools trilogy by E.M. Swift-Hook – which is only 0.99 to buy for a limited period.
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