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The Hephaestus Equation II
Posted By: Dirty Commie<dirtycommie99@hotmail.com>
Date: 3 December 2002, 6:32 pm

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Tal hated these damn lights. They gave everything a distant, whitewashed look. Tal always feels like he's contracted some explosively contagious disease, and been sequestered to a clean room for all eternity.
Blink. Inhale. Exhale.
That's about all he can do, laying in the infirmary of the Threshold of Heaven. Itchy, ahh, ahh, itchy! Ahhhhh, much better. The morphine IV's always itch. Speaking of which... Mmmmmm. Tal starts humming a little ditty. The sheer joy of industrial strength painkillers gives Tal a kind of euphoric feeling. He finishes his made-up hum, starts another one. Maybe this really was the threshold of Heaven; maybe he was going to die. Tal hoped they had blackjack in heaven. He took a deep breath, waited for his heart to stop.
"Ready to continue, Corporal?"
"Ready to continue, Corporal?" Moan. Roll over. "Nurse, please remove this man's IV." That wakes him up.
"Fine I'm up, I'm up, let's get this done for crissakes." Tal doesn't like this guy. Apparently he walks around ships like this one, interviewing (harassing) combat soldiers, and writes up nice neat psychological profiles his superiors probably never read. The guy has no sense of military-ness to him. He walks around a warship in a suit, for crying out loud. Civvies never give you no respect either, no respect at all. Always talking down to you, What the hell were you thinking? I wouldn't have done that. Tal always wanted to shove a plasma rifle in their mouths, and melt their brains into steaming piles of goo.
But with his precious morphine supply threatened, Tal cooperated. "Read me back what we have so far." The guy sighs for perhaps the six millionth time in five minutes. Or maybe it was five hours; they don't put clocks in infirmaries.
"Well, we just got up to the part where you attacked Captain Jorlins."
"Attack? The MP's had me before I even worked up a sweat!"
"Duly noted, Corporal. Let's continue to your next combat action." He called up the next report on his PDA. "Insertion under fire on the Virth peninsula. That one got a little messy, correct?"
A LITTLE MESSY?! "Intel failed again, we were dead before we got off the LZ." Tal says darkly. "Four tanks were on us in minutes! Minutes! Not hours, like the brilliant intel boys in were so convinced."
The suit continued, unimpressed. "After returning to base, you quote unquote went 'berserk' around Jorlins again."
He scrolled through the report on the murder of Captain Robert Jorlins, USNC Intelligence Division.
Jorlins had been confronted in his quarters by one Corporal Gordon concerning an 'intelligence failure' in a recent battle. The corporal became enraged, attacking Captain Jorlins with a standard issue 47-R Jungle Combat Knife. Gordon was apprehended at 1606 hrs. (stealing medical supplies from the med tent) and placed under heavy sedatives on Medical Frigate Threshold of Heaven.
Tal lay there for a while, and finally let out a derisive snort. "Look, you've obviously got all the info you need, would you mind actually telling me what the fuck you're doing here?" To hell with the morphine, this guy can mind his own goddamned business.
The man shuffled his papers and folders together with an air of finality that suggested to Tal that he was finally about to take the soldier's advice.
"The truth is, Corporal, that I was sent here to determine your suitability." He stopped, waited for Tal to chime in with 'suitability for what?' Tal just stared. "Your suitability for reassignment to a special unit forming on board the Winged Faith."
"Never heard of it."
The suit looked at Tal with (what Tal perceived as) a slight increase in respect.
"Apparently, you and me are the only people on this ship who have." With that fairly ominous remark, he promptly signed, with great flourish, a long paper stamped with the damning red of Top Secret. As the tired suit stood up to leave, he handed Tal the packet of papers, a small smile forming on his lips.
"Better hurry up, your shuttle leaves in six minutes."
Tal looked at the paper blearily. They were his orders, and his shuttle left in four minutes.

Three and a half minutes later, he noticed it didn't matter, Tal was the only passenger in the ship. As the ship hyperaccelerated, melting the stars together into the Slipstream, he wondered where this mysterious set of papers was taking him. Somewhere unpleasant, no doubt.