Oden's Inspection

An Olympus Union science fiction story by Gary Bloom

Channing was once a small town, a mere fifty miles northwest of Amarillo. They called this area "the Texas panhandle" before the Olympus Union erased borderlines. And Texas. Residents had long held a fanatical pride, establishing a nation within a nation.

Such behavior was a key cause of the Union's rise; the people had needed soothing. With a history of pride in dutiful military service, the answer was clear: converting an expanse of dust and rock into an Olympus Union military academy.

Jones Oden contemplated this as his jet touched down. He'd been instrumental in expanding Channing Military Academy immensely. The locals were fond of touting size. It wasn't as big as the Ares Elite training facility, but nothing was. He stepped down the ramp, into the blazing sun, and smiled at the soldiers awaiting him.

"Prime Minister, it's an honor, sir," a woman wearing a crisp uniform said, saluting.

"Thank you Colonel, but I'm just here to observe." He returned a slapdash salute. "Let's walk, instead of standing on ceremony, shall we?"

Oden's smile was contagious. Colonel Edesia Vert allowed a trace grin as she led the Prime Minister into the base. Two aides trailed behind, eventually dropping off; one lugged Oden's bags to his suite. Vert, who ran the facility, took the Union leader to the training grounds. As they climbed to the viewing gallery, his commentary left the Colonel slightly uncertain.

"You've done an excellent job here, Edesia. Your soldiers always seem rather well trained, even if they aren't at Ares Elite levels. Your staff clearly knows how to motivate. Are they able to function without you? Do you believe any have picked up your methods, enough to perform without you here? You should know, I've long considered opening a facility on Mars."

"Well, sir," she answered carefully, "I'd like to think I've done a solid job keeping my staff in line. If you pulled one or two from under me, they might be able to recreate some of what we've done here. Of course, I would need to properly integrate their replacements." Forcing an awkward smile, she added, "I don't know how this facility would function without me."

The Colonel had zero interest in leaving Earth, especially if it meant heading to Mars. She'd rather offer top senior staff, if necessary. Hopefully, the Prime Minister had caught on, but just in case, Edesia changed the topic.

"If you look down on the training grounds, you can see for yourself just how quickly some of our soldiers are progressing lately. Over there," she pointed to the left, "you can see the mountain kings. Watch what they can do with just their bare hands."

Oden looked. Two identical platforms were set up with four ramps scaling down from each side. On either platform stood a soldier in battle ready position; at the foot of each ramp stood a challenger. A whistle blew and challengers ascended at varying speeds. Only one soldier attacked at a time; they were ferocious. The western platform's king lost quickly to a strong kick to the groin by a female competitor.

The new monarch's reign was short lived; the next man swept her legs and rolled both losers to the ground. On the eastern post, the king fended off the first challenger with sheer brute force, and the second. Fatigue and bruising took its toll, however, and he eventually fell.

"An interesting exercise," Oden nodded. "Whose implemented it?"

"Me. It started as a game among the officers that I developed into full-scale training maneuvers. We have rankings and a monthly tournament."

"Another innovations," he nodded. "What about the woman who took the groin shot? How will she be reprimanded?"

"War has no rules to stay above the belt, sir," Colonel Vert answered. Her tone was stern. "Her reprimand came almost immediately; overconfidence is punished far more harshly than fictional cheap shots. If she were in the field and that were the best way to subdue another soldier, she should and would do it. War is ugly and dirty, sir."

"And civilians and government types like myself should keep their noses out of it, eh?"

"Sir," the Colonel winced, "that isn't what I was saying."

"No, but it's the truth, isn't it? Relax, Colonel, your career isn't in jeopardy. Civilians have as much place making military decisions as a school principal has running a city's sanitation. That's why I try to find the best people, Edesia. And, you can exhale; I'm not sending you to Mars. I like you better when you aren't trying to avoid a post you don't like." Oden ignored the other's reaction and turned. Pointing in the far distance, he asked, "what's over there?"

"Shooting range, sir. Mechanical targets fashioned as dogs, soldiers, and a few cars. We keep them there to prevent accidents."

"They're using actual bullets? Still? We haven't progressed to lasers yet? I could have sworn we've had lasers for a long time, now!"

"Only on space vehicles and stations, sir," Edesia chuckled. "Coherent light works perfectly in the vacuum. Good old fashion bullets work nicely in the atmosphere, though. I heard Mars was experimenting with hand held laser weaponry, but that's beyond my knowledge sir."

"Very good Colonel, thank you. Again, I can't say enough how fine of a job you've done here. Let's get some lunch. I want a full belly when I address your cadets. I assume one of your aids ran off to make preparations for an inspection on the parade grounds?"

"Yes sir. You caught us a bit unaware with the last minute visit."

"Of course," he laughed. "It's much harder to cover up the blemishes when we don't call. To that point, you passed with flying colors. Now," he grabbed her arm, "let's go discuss which of your senior staff will be sacrificed to keep you from launching my Mars academy."


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