Oden's Inspection

A science fiction story in Olympus Union by Gary Bloom

Characters: Jones Oden

Channing was once a small town, a dot on the map, merely fifty miles northwest of Amarillo. They used to call this particular region "the Texas pan handle" before the Olympus Union erased all prior borderlines, and erased the demarcation Texas. Residents of this region had long held a nearly fanatical pride about their home, establishing a nation within a nation, as it were. While this type of behavior was indeed one of the key causes of the OU's rise to power, the people had needed placating. With a long history of duty and pride in military service, the answer had been clear. The general wasteland, an expanse of dust and rock, had been converted into one of three Olympus Union soldier-training academies.

Jones Oden contemplated all of this as his jet touched down on the runway. He had been instrumental in expanding Channing Military Academy to be the largest of the bases. It was, once again, a matter of placation; the locals were fond of touting size. Nothing quite like the Ares Elite training facility, but then again, nothing really was. He stepped down the ramp into the blazing sun and smiled out at the men awaiting him on the ground.

"Prime Minister, it's an honor to have you here sir," a man wearing a crisp uniform said, saluting.

"Thank you Colonel, but I'm just here to observe, nothing overly formal," he returned the salute, albeit far less crisply. "Let's walk on, instead of standing on ceremony, shall we?"

Oden's smile was, as always, more than a bit contagious. Colonel Autry Demaine allowed the barest trace of a grin to curve his lips as he led the Prime Minister into the base, his two aides trailing behind. The aides eventually dropped off, one taking bags to the Prime Minister's suite, the other hurrying along to another task. Demaine, who ran the facility, took the Union leader to the training grounds. As they climbed the stairs to the viewing gallery, Oden began a stream of commentary, which left the Colonel slightly uncertain.

"You've done an excellent job here, Autry. The men and women stepping out from your facility always seem to be rather well trained, even if they aren't quite at Ares Elite levels. Your training staff clearly knows how to motivate well. Are they at all able to function without you? Do you think that any of them have picked up on your methods, enough to perform without you involved? You should know, I've long considered opening a new facility on Mars."

"Well, sir," he answered carefully, "I'd like to think that I've done a solid job keeping my staff in line thus far. 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 be present in order to properly integrate their replacements." Forcing an awkward smile, he added, "not so certain how this particular facility would function without me here."

The Colonel had absolutely no interest in leaving Earth, especially if it meant heading to Mars. He would go as far to offer up a top senior staff member as a sacrifice if it were necessary. Hopefully, the Prime Minister had caught his drift, but just in case, Autry deftly changed the topic.

"If you look down on the training grounds, you can see for yourself just how quickly some of our soldiers have been progressing as of late. Over there," he pointed towards the left, "you can see the mountain kings. Watch what our men 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 man in battle ready position; at the foot of each ramp stood a challenger. At the blow of a whistle, the challengers began to ascend at varying speeds. Only one soldier could attack at a time; they did, and with great ferocity. The western platform lost its king quickly to a well placed kick to the groin by a female competitor, but the new monarch's reign was short lived; the man who came next swept her legs and rolled both prior kings from the platform to the ground. On the eastern post, the king fended off the first challenger with sheer brute force, as did he take the second, but fatigue and bruising took its toll and he, too, eventually fell.

"An interesting exercise," Oden nodded. "Whose decision was that to implement?"

"Mine. It actually started as a game among the officers that I escalated into a full-scale training maneuvers. We have rankings, and a monthly tournament, in fact."

"Another of your innovations, I'll wager," he smiled. "What about the woman who took the groin shot? How will she be reprimanded?"

"War has not rules to stay above the belt, sir," Colonel Demaine answered. His tone was far sterner this time. "Her reprimand came almost immediately; overconfidence is punished far more harshly than so called unethical attacks. If she were in the field and that were the best way to subdue another man out in the general populace, then she should and would do it. War is ugly and dirty, sir."

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

"Sir," the military man immediately blushed, "that isn't what I was saying."

"No, but it's the truth, isn't it? Relax, Colonel, your career is in no jeopardy here. Civilians have as much place making military decisions as a school principal has running a city's sanitation department. That's why I try to find the best people to do that for me, Autry. And, you can relax now, I'm not sending you to Mars. I like you better when you aren't trying to get out of a command that you don't like." Oden ignored the other man's reaction and turned to the right. Pointing in the far distance, he asked, "what's that over there?"

"Shooting range, sir. Mechanical targets fashioned as dogs, men, and even a few cars. We keep them off in the distance to prevent any accidental shootings."

"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 the space vehicles and stations, sir," Autry chuckled. "Coherent light works perfectly in the vacuum, both for weaponry, and protection against various space debris. Good old fashion bullets work nicely in the atmosphere, though. I hear that Mars was experimenting with hand held laser weaponry, but that's beyond my knowledge sir."

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

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

"Of course I did," he laughed. "It's much harder for you to cover up the blemishes when we call in forty minutes from landing. Much to the point. You passed with flying colors. Now come," he grabbed the younger man's arm, "let's go discuss which of your senior staff should be sacrificed to keep you from launching my Mars based academy."