Nenothtu looked over the Service record of Badger. As he scanned down the page, he hit an item tha caused a sharp intake of breath, followed by a low
whistle. Black Rock. What a mess that was. It was the last campaign he'd participated in before his unscheduled stop at Khalamzadar, on his way back
home from that very campaign.
It had been an outpost colony out towards Ophiuchi, actually a cluster of colonies, with an on site military presence to guarantee the safety and
security of the colonials. Everything went sideways when the colony cluster came under attack by Ophiuchi Out Marauders. During the campaign, a group
of relatives of one of the Central Federation administrators had become cut off and stranded on a relatively unexplored planet in the colonial sphere,
and Neno's team had been hired to mount a rescue mission for them, as the military units stationed there had their hands full with the hit-and-git
raids of the Ophiuchis. No one really knew what had stirred the Ophiuchis up, but they came on with a vengeance. None were ever captured alive to gain
intelligence of their reasons.
During the rescue raid, nenothtu's men came under attack by an Ophiuchi raiding party, and it looked pretty grim. They had weapons that would melt
solid rock into slag, and a man didn't stand much of a chance. It was so terrifying that nenothtu had to actually draw down on a squad of his own men
who were panicked into a full retreat. He had drawn a bead on the squad leader with his rifle and told him " TURN AROUND AND FACE THAT ENEMY, RIGHT
NOW! IF YOU DON'T FIGHT, WE'RE LOST. YOU CAN'T SHOOT 'EM FACING AWAY FROM 'EM, AND SO HELP ME IF YOU DON'T TURN AROUND, THEY'LL EITHER SHOOT
YOU IN THE BACK LIKE A RUNNING COWARD, OR I'LL DAMN WELL DROP YOU FROM THE FRONT!". The men knew him well enough to know he'd do it, and did an
about face. They fought like demons after that.
After the loss of nearly 10% of his men, and all of his escape ships, neno made a decision to call in the big boys for help. They sent 3 fighter wings
for air support, and a transport for extraction. Fighting had been so close that neno had to call in air strikes practically on his own position, but
he knew it was better to die by friendly fire than to be captured by the Ophiuchis. Those flyboys saved his bacon. In the end, the Federation forces
had to wipe out the entire Ophiuchi raiding party. That was one fighting bunch of aliens. they'd die before they'd break off the attack, and die
they did. Neno's charges had to be some mighty important VIPs. They were restored to Colonial Control, and neno's group recieved their pay and
headed back home. Khalamzadar got in their way.
The fighting was like that all through the Black Rock Sector, for a long time. Neno couldn't imagine being stuck in that for any length of time.
Badger had been.
The rest of his record reflected highs and lows. He had 10 high-level citations listed, one of which was so high level that it was classified. His
service record also reflected a disciplinary problem, in that he would climb the rank ladder only to be busted all the way back down to private in a
precipitous drop. Strangely, all disciplinary records had been expunged. But the rank records told their own story. For all of that, his promotions
invariably led up the Warrant Officer ladder, indication that most of them had been battlefield promotions.
Nenothtu was impressed, in spite of himself. This was a hell of a man. He appeared to be a problem to handle, but a hell of a man all the same. After
deciding how to handle this unexpected gift, nenothtu headed for the brig, and Badger's 'interview'.
Entering the interview room, neno was greeted by the sight of a sweaty, unkempt soldier slightly younger than himself, in an orange jumpsuit. Badger
sat on the far side of the table from the door, practically in a corner. He just regarded neno with a non-comittal, level gaze.
"Private Chase" neno began, then switched to the nickname reflected in the service records. "Badger. You look like hell, and your razor appears to
have a gap in the blade. I'm Security Cheif nenothtu, acting in capacity of Captain of this vessel for the interim. I've reviewed your service
records, and frankly, I'm not sure what to do with you. You seem like a bright fella, and a fighter. But it looks like you're also something of a
problem child." neno paused to let that sink in, and then said "I DON'T TOLERATE PROBLEM CHILDREN. To be honest, I don't know whether to let you
rot in the brig, jettison you out a torpedo tube and be rid of you, or slap a star on you chest and call you 'sir'." Badger just gazed at him with
a curious look, and made no comments.
Nenothtu waited for what seemed like 5 minutes or more, both men looking at the other, no comments passing between them. Neno drummed his fingers on
the table, and Badger just started to look bored. That would never do. Abruptly, nenothtu stood up, and spoke. "Whatever you did to get here, you
didn't do it HERE, so I've got not call to prolong your punishment. I don't even care what it was. I saw a couple of things in your service record
that piqued my interest. One, you were in the Black Rock Campaign. Anyone that could survive that HAS to have something going for them. I know that
because I was there too, a few times, working freelance on the ground running raids and Commando Ops. I'm not sure what all you participated in, but
the whole thing was one giant hairball, so it doesn't really matter. Two, I saw where you can drive a plane. It just so happens that we have a
recently vacated slot for a Fighter Wing Commander, and you're it. Consider yourself tagged. It's not open to negotiation, that's your job now.
Either that... or a torpedo tube. This is NOT a battlefield" neno paused and gave the man a lopsided grin "... most of the time. Your rank will not
be a Warrant Officer's battlefield promotion. The minimum rank for a Flight Wing Commander is Major, and that's your rank as of this instant,
pending Captain Luder's approval upon his return from the planet surface. He may raise it up, lower it down or leave it, but for the time being, you
are Major "Badger" Chase, Flight Wing Commander, USS Penelope."
Nenothtu placed his hands on the table, leaned towards Badger, and spoke in a low voice. "You need to understand that if you step out of line, I
WILL, without fail, EAT your firstborn child, uncooked and without salt. If said child is unavailable, YOU are next in line. Furthermore, I gave you
that rank, and if you EVER try to make me call you 'sir', or salute you, I WILL gut you, with my bare hands. Same result if you 'sir' me or salute
me. I'm NOT a 'sir', I work for a living. Officially, I'm 'Chief' nenothtu, and that will do in a pinch. Salutes just mark you as someone to be
eliminated, and I don't care to be eliminated. HAVE I MADE MYSELF CLEAR? If I have, and you have no questions, get your slack fanny to work.
Abernathy will show you to your workstation, MAJOR." Without waiting for a response, nenothtu turned to Abernathy. "If the Major has any negative
reports for your smartass self, that'll be your third strike, and I'll hang you by your thumbs. You WILL get with the program with a professional
military mind, or peel norkan potatoes for the rest of the cruise, after I let you down from the thumb hanging. If EITHER of you have any doubts, just
try me. Once. Please."
Nenothtu started for the door, then abruptly stopped and turned. "Any Questions? If there aren't, you have jobs to do, and you're burning
daylight" He grinned inwardly. He could afford to be human later, once he'd instilled the fear of Thor into these two. He paused long enough to see
if they had any questions.