CHAPTER THREE - OLD SCHOOL
Colonel Black bit hard on the squirming grub and frowned as he chewed. It was too sweet, he much preferred bitter bugs. He set the remainder of his meal back on his plate and scowled at the blabbering fool who sat across the desk from him.
Nothing about the grey field mouse impressed the Colonel. He was a new face, but still a stooge. One of those overdressed, underprepared, delivery mice sent down from the General’s office. The grub smelled of cheap cologne and was rambling far too long to keep Black’s attention. He had started talking three minutes ago and the Colonel could tell they were no nearer to the real reason this mouse was even here.
“As you will see from my report, Colonel,” the young mouse boasted as he pushed a large pile of paper across the desk, “Increasing our patrols of the southern meadows has been very productive. The tribes there seem very grateful for our presence and we’ve managed to liberate quite a few of them from all kinds of beasts. Alpha is very pleased with the results. His popularity has grown considerably among our great Colony. Despite the dwindling number of recruits it's our hope that…”
Black was getting impatient. “By my uncle’s whiskers, would you spit it out already? I haven’t got time for this nonsense, and I could care less what is in your report. I’m here to do a job, I suggest you do yours and tell me what you came here to say.”
The mouse trembled a bit and nervously wiped his brow. Black may have been a small shrew, but he never let anyone push him around. He knew this pup was only a glorified messenger, but that didn’t mean he had to make his job any easier.
“Well…Sir, General Hatchet feels that increasing the number of Elite Guards by six squads before the new moon could be just the thing we need,” said the mouse.
“Six squads,” the Colonel bellowed.
“Yes sir, after all, the Elites are our most visible and marketable assets. With more Elites in the field, more mice may be inspired to join. After all, the General wants the largest army ever assembled ready before the first snowfall.”
“The General is a buffoon!”
“I…beg your pardon,” the messenger said, clearly shaken by the boldness of this little Shrew in expressing his opinions.
“You heard me!”
The Colonel lowered his bushy eyebrows, picked up the thick stack of papers and waved it in front of the messenger’s nose, “Tell me, son, where exactly does this magical report suggest I find enough mice capable of bearing the responsibility of six Elite squads?”
The question caught the young officer completely off guard. He hardly knew what to say.
“That’s not really…”
The Colonel interrupted, his voice rising as his agitation with his situation grew.
“Not everything is about numbers. Whatever happened to strategy, to tactics? Do you even know what it means to be an Elite Guard?”
The messenger squirmed in his chair, but said nothing. Like a wind before a hurricane, the Colonel was just getting started.
“Our Elites are highly trained combat units, masters of stealth, fearless fighters, capable of survival in any environment. They are battle hardened, tough tailed, killers who’d rather cut off a paw than lose a mission. That’s the kind of mice I need!” The Colonel’s ears were now burning red. He took a deep breath and continued his tirade, spitting furiously as he shouted. “The mice I have are a bunch of sloppy, spineless, rookies who rely far too much on these fancy new tech-toys the General keeps giving them to figure anything out on their own. They wouldn’t know real battle tactics if it kicked them in the tail. That’s the mice I have.”
There was a long silence as the messenger measured his next words carefully.
“Surely there must be some among the grunts who you could promote.”
Before the Colonel could respond, the communicator on his desk interrupted. A small screen lit up and the face of Mildra appeared.
“Colonel, Commander Ziro is here to see you, sir,” she said in a decidedly drab voice.
“Make him wait,” the Colonel shouted, but Mildra didn’t disappear.
“Uh sir,” the young messenger offered, “you have to press the red…”
“I know what I’m doing, you twit,” the Colonel said. He pressed the red button and all of a sudden a second face lit up on the screen. It was his wife.
“Oh, hello Smoochie,” the shrew on the screen answered. “I wasn’t expecting you to call so…”
“Blast,” the Colonel shouted as he pressed another button. This time it was Mildra again.
“Sir…did you want me to send him in?”
“No! No…for crying out loud…NO!” He slammed his fist against the machine and her face disappeared at last. This was exactly what was wrong with the world today. Too much technology, too many contraptions. The Colonel sighed and looked back at the messenger mouse who was sitting across from him, mouth agape and eyes wide with shock. The mouse quickly regained his composure and extended an olive branch to the befuddled Colonel.
“Listen, Colonel. I’ll do my best to relay your concerns back to the General, but with the Alpha’s approval already granted, I’m not sure there is anything that can be done about it. I suggest you do your best with what you’ve got and we’ll see if we can’t work something out in the meantime. Okay?”
For Black, this was the last straw. He hated being belittled, least of all by some pint-sized runt with zero field experience and a clear disregard for his elders.
“Get out of my den,” the Colonel growled.
“But sir, I…”
Black picked up the report that had started the whole ordeal and hopped down from his stool. He headed for the corner of the room, rolled it up and shoved it into the barrel of a device that looked vaguely like a bazooka. He cranked back on the spring loaded lever and shouldered the weapon, aiming it’s crosshairs at the now frightened Lieutenant.
“I said, get out of my den, and tell General Hatchet he can put this in his report next time!”
The mouse scrambled frantically to gather his briefcase and scurried for the door. All the while, the Colonel chuckled to himself and kept the cross hairs steady with the well groomed dunce. Just as the messenger threw open the door the Colonel clawed the trigger and sent a massive flurry of paperwork out of the barrel and into the office and the hallway beyond.
The messenger rushed out of the den toward the reception hole where Ziro sat patiently waiting.
“That mouse is insane,” he shouted at Mildra as he stormed out of the den altogether.
Satisfied with himself, the Colonel dropped his weapon, slammed his door and headed back to his desk amidst a snowfall of paper that made his office feel much like a snow globe. He sat there basking in the glory of his battle won. For a moment, it felt like the good old days when he was still in the field…still getting things done. He sighed.
“How did I ever end up here,” he said softly to himself. He let his eyes wander around the walls of his den. Every inch of it was a testament to the early days of war. Photographs of gritty battles and war-time posters hung in perfect order on his walls along with artifacts and weapons from the good old days. In many ways, his den served as a museum of memories from the age of gears and springs.
Yes, he was an Old World kind of shrew, with plenty of field duty and more than a few scars to show for it. The virtues of war were bred into his nature. It was a much a part of him as his tail. Like his great grandfather, Black had been Commander of the most decorated Elite squad in the Mech Mice guard history. The Venom squad.
Ah, those were the days, Venom could strike swiftly and silently. No one had seen them the night they infiltrated deep into enemy territory and took down the Dark Union. It was Black’s bite that had sent the dreaded Dr. Verminion, leader of the Dark Union, tumbling to his doom. Black was a war hero – a legend even. But that was long ago. Now, he was little more than a paper-pusher. A relic of war in a museum of his making.
How times had changed. Under the new leadership of General Hatchet it seemed like missions were more about meeting quotas, expanding the Colony borders and gaining popularity than it was about eradicating what remained of Verminion’s army. Many of the battles being fought now were un-necessary distractions. Too quickly fought and too easily won. He had been around long enough to know something was up. Why were they focusing so much energy on the southern meadows and hardly any to the north in Liwa? There hadn’t been a squad sent to Liwa in at least three seasons. And yet, despite the Mech Mice absence things had been quiet in Liwa. Too quiet.
Black had his suspicions. He even had the courage to voice his concerns before the Mech Mice council once before. A lot of good that did. It was what landed him in this lousy job stamping papers. If he had any hope of discovering the truth, he couldn’t do it publicly.
If only there were a way to put things right again. To prove to the council that the Colony was at risk of attack from the north too. Who was he kidding? His tactics weren’t needed anymore. He had quotas to meet – General Hatchet’s orders.
He glanced down at his paper snow covered desk and spotted a single blue paper. It was another one of those digital field reports from the battle simulator. This one was for the Genesis squad. As usual, the report was already graded by a central server. The recommendation was to dismantle the team and send them back to basic training. Normally, he wouldn’t even give the report a second look – he’d call the commanding team leader in and deliver the news – but this time, something made him pause.
He half-heartedly scanned the report a second time. Surprisingly, there were a few bright spots in the report, not Elite status by a long-shot, but not horrible either. They needed a lot of work. Then, a subtle smile crept across the snout of the shrew and he did something he had wanted to do for a long time. He made a decision on his own.
If it was numbers the General wanted, he would give it to him. He’d approve these less than perfect grunts and give them a shot at the big time. But first, he’d give them a special trial mission to test their worthiness. If they failed, he’d just be following orders. But maybe…just maybe…they’d manage to come back with something useful from the field. Liwa would be the perfect place to start. Nobody would be expecting it.
“Oh-ho-ho Augustus, you are a clever little shrew,” he said, chuckling to himself.
He depressed the red button on his desk communicator to call this Commander Ziro in for the news, but it was his wife’s face that appeared instead of Mildras.
“Smoochie? Is that you again,” his wife asked.
“Blast!” he cursed and slammed his fist against the device. The image went black.
He hopped down from his stool and headed for the door. He’d do this the Old School way.
- We changed Black's rank from General to Colonel.
- The Chapter Illustration will be added later
- If you find any errors or mistakes please post them to the comments