As the Ministry of Peace's Military Intelligence Coordinator, Yu Sterm was responsible for data collection and dissemination. His data came from Stall Hopkins' spies. He fed his information to Anat Meron's Ares Elite. He'd never really met the people who brought him the information; Stall wouldn't allow it. No one had any reason to keep Yu from the new troops. After spending an uncomfortable day and a half sitting at his desk, he came to a decision, and made an unusual announcement.
"That's it, I'm going."
"You're going?" Virginia Cleer, the Minister of Peace's Chief of Staff looked at him curiously. "Going where?"
"I want to see the new recruits," he answered. "Where's the boss?"
"Meeting with the Prime Minister. Which recruits?"
"The new Ares Elite recruits. Where's Stall?"
"Austin. Again. Why do you want to meet the Ares Elite recruits?"
"What's it to you, Ginny?"
"Well," she sighed, putting down her tablet, "I'm assuming that you'll need someone to tell Minister Meron for you. She's going to ask me where you went, and then she's going to ask me why. Oh, and, which of the camps are you heading to?"
"The camps. They just opened up the new Ares Elite training facility outside Alice Springs, dead center of Oceanus. You should probably go check that one out."
"Oh, ah," Sturm came up short, "but don't they ship out from San Francisco?"
"Of course they do," she nodded, "however, I assumed you'd want to actually talk to them, not just wave hello and smile. Right?"
"Yeah, I suppose," Yu admitted.
"Do you actually know what you want?"
"Well," Sturm stopped for a moment. He'd spent so much of his time with computers and databases, not people. Perhaps it was time for that to change a bit. "Yeah, I want to get to know them. Why not? At least some people from every class survive, don't they? I'll ride over to Alice Springs with them!"
"Exactly what I suspected," she nodded. "You need to hurry. A class is slated to shove off in the next twenty minutes. Let me call ahead and hold the transport for you. Go. Go!"
* * * * *
"Hello," Yu waved as he stepped back into the military transport's passenger compartment. "My name is Yu Sterm. I'm the Military Intelligence Coordinator for the Ministry of Peace."
No one responded. He sat down in one of the seats as the ship began to shake. They lifted into the air and he looked around nervously. There were different shades and races of men sitting around him, so his mongoloid features didn't set him apart. His level of fitness, however, was quite different. The others were muscular, or toned, or in some level of solid fitness. Yu wasn't quite doughy, but was far from in excellent shape.
"So, he said, a little louder than initially intended," you're all off to your Ares Elite training camp." He shook his head. "Right, of course you were. That was kind of silly. It's just that I've got so much I wanted to say to you." He gathered himself. Computers just provided him feedback; they were all so quiet. "When you get through training, and get out there into the world, the solar system, I want you to always be aware of what's around you. Anything you notice, anything you investigate, anything that you come across, that all comes back to me. When it comes back to me, we investigate, correlate, and deliver the important details to where it's needed most. Anything you pass up the chain, that all gets back to me; that could save someone else's life, or protect the Olympus Union somewhere along the line. Sure, not all of you will survive the training process; those who don't die, you'll care about this later!"
Sturm suddenly realized he was rambling. It also dawned on him that he'd just alluded to the high mortality rate of the trainees. He could hear the Minister of Peace's voice in his head just then.
"Just because you have information does not mean you need to share it, Yu."
He'd done this before. It was one of the negatives of spending so much time with his computer, and less with actual people. It's just that he wanted to impart some sort of wisdom to these brave men. He wanted them to understand that his intelligence will always help them, and that he can trust it, without a shadow of a doubt. It was important that they always trust the Ministry of Peace. How could he hammer that home to them?
What could he actually say that would explain it? At the moment, apparently, nothing. He unbuckled and stood up from his seat. Looking around, he found that most of them were unwilling to even meet his eyes. Still intent on making a connection, Yu persisted.
"So, what's your name," he asked one particularly brawny man. The man continued staring straight ahead. "Alright," he asked another smaller man with tightly buzzed hair, "how about you?" Frustrated, he strode the aisle; there should be more respect than this. "Damn it, I'm a high ranking member of the Ministry of Peace. Someone tell me your damned name!"
"Bascoe Weeks, sir."
"What? Where," Yu spun, "who said that?"
"Here, sir," a fair haired man said. It was like wispy strands of straw tumbling from the top of his head, a clean shave all around the sides and back. His eyes were a foamy sea green that took Sturm in with a casual manner. "My name is Bascoe Weeks, sir. We appreciate your suggestions, and I'm certain we'll all follow them. Those of us who survive, anyway."
"Ah, yeah," Yu was more subdued. He really shouldn't have mentioned what happens to the failures. "You're all probably thinking about that, I suppose."
"That and other things, I'm certain," Weeks confirmed.
"Where are you from, Mr. Weeks?"
"It's Inspector Weeks, sir," Bascoe corrected. "I hail from Antwerp."
"Inspector, eh?" He smiled. "What happened? Miss out on Candidate Chief Inspector, and decide to walk away?"
"No sir," the Inspector answered without humor. "The position was offered. I merely declined."
"Yes sir. I loved my home, and loved my role on the police force. It's just that," he paused, considering. "There was this man, a member of the Ares Elite. He would spend what little free time he had assisting with the forces throughout the region. After some time, he'd brought a few other colleagues with him. Volunteer defenders seemed so rare; members of the local army garrison would never consider such a thing."
One of the other men coughed, possibly offended by the notion. Sterm thought that might be the end of the tale, but Bascoe was unconcerned. He was there, and knew the truth. He continued to explain.
"These men are to be admired. Since we have someone else protecting my people back home, I thought it only proper to go protect others, elsewhere."
"Yeah, but why?" Yu wanted to truly understand the people under his office's charge. "You have extra help protecting people at home. Shouldn't you be home helping them?"
"No sir. As just another member of the police force, I won't be missed so dearly. Once I've been augmented and trained as a member of the Ares Elite, however, I can do far more good for the Olympus Union. It's what a good citizen does, Coordinator Sterm."
"Well, sure, all good citizens should put themselves out there for the good of the Olympus Union, but what about the alterations? Becoming a member of the Ares Elite isn't just about training. You'll be surgically altered. Parts of you will never be the same again. You'll think differently, feel differently. You're fine with this?"
Yu Sterm suddenly thought about everything that he just said. Again, with computers, you could re-read, make changes or delete before sending messages. Here, in real time, with other people, that wasn't quite possible. Still, if the others had issues, they said nothing. As for Weeks, the man was as committed as any could be.
"Everyone needs to pay a price for peace, Coordinator Sterm," the recruit explained. "This just happens to be mine."
Yu decided that it would be best to keep quiet for the rest of the trip. There was nothing that he could say to reveal further character from this man. Anything else he dribbled out would either do damage to the recruits, or to his own appearance. Buckling in, he just waited to land.
When the transport arrived, he stayed seated. Pulling rank, the Coordinator could have left first. He had no desire. Watching each man stand and file out, he considered. The recruits debarked without disagreement or confusion, just moving as if they already knew what to do. Perhaps they did. He followed the last one out.
Outside the transport, an officer waited for him. He smiled and led the coordinator towards another part of the landing field.
"Coordinator Sterm, we were told that you'd be arriving on this transport. Your office stated that the visit would be brief; you were just riding over with the recruits. Is that still correct sir?"
"Yes," Yu nodded, "yes it is. I'm all set to get back."
"Excellent sir," the officer said, his grin firmly set in place. Yu wondered if it was a permanently altered state for all comers, or a triggered response for the civilian population. "We've got a transport waiting for you over here. Before you go, is there anything that I can get you? Anything that you want?"
"Actually, yes." Yu Sterm stopped walking and looked at the soldier seriously. Standing as straight as possible, drawing up to his full, lanky height, he actually forced the other man to drop the welcoming smile. "I want you to keep an eye on Bascoe Weeks. Consider it a personal favor for the Military Intelligence Coordinator. Regular reports should come directly to my attention. Weekly, at the least, more frequently if warranted. That one is going to be a good one for us, I'm almost positive."
"Yes sir," the officer nodded. "I'll see to it personally."
"Good." Yu smiled and then relaxed. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to doing some real work."