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.Commander Ravindra summoned him to his cabin, and now made him wait outside.He knows I have an important assignment.We emerge tomorrow and I have so much left to plan.For the third time, he knocked on the door.Commander Ravindra called from within, “Come in.”Litovio entered.As he did, he realized his frustration had upset him.It made it more likely he would get upset and outburst.He could not have done better had he planned it.He took a deep breath and straightened his uniform.He opened the door and entered.“Colonel Litovio.” Ravindra chuckled.“Did you notice what I did there? I recognized your frocked rank.”Litovio managed not to roll his eyes.“Sir, I recognize there is only one true commander on this ship.I also recognized that after this battle is over I will return to my pre-crisis rank of Lieutenant.”“Ensign, Colonel.I don't care what rank you held before the crisis.Once this is over, I will see to it that you are reduced to ensign.”Why? Because I can do your job better than you can? He hoped his composure remained professional.Time in the Naval Index{Naval Academy}{Academy} should serve him well.Same petty behavior, but he's nearly two decades older.Despite the relaxed protocol on a Postal Marine ship, Litovio stood at attention.I still have a job to do.“Sir, are we here to discuss my career prospects?”Ravindra reddened.He started to rise, then sat back down.“No.I have real ship's business.” He pressed the intercom button.“Send in Chrachen.”Litovio retained his composure.You couldn't know real ship's business if it bit you on the bum.We have a major fleet operation that you are not preparing for.There's no way this can remain the flagship.A beat later, there was a knock at the cabin door.“Enter.”Litovio watched a Gunnery Sergeant entered the cabin.He had a leanness of action and a look that bespoke of years of combat.Not a man to cross.“Colonel, Chrachen informed me of a serious matter on board.It's bad for morale.Chrachen.”“Earlier this morning, one of our corporals, Corporal Makaan, failed to report.”“I don't see how that is serious.” Litovio said.Chrachen scowled.“As I was saying, Sir.Makaan failed to report.” Chrachen glanced at Ravindra, leaving Litovio to think there was more being said of the lack of discipline on board.“Marine's don't go missing.We sent a detail to find him, and they failed.We put together a search party.Lance Corporal Drazen, JovenDrazen reported to me that it appears Makaan was murdered and his body ejected from Gun Four, the aft gun.We think he may have been murdered by Postie Bophendze.”Litovio spoke up.“What makes you think that?”“Makaan rode him hard ever since the two of them met.” Chrachen held up a slate.“Makaan had an accident earlier this week.He sent me a message before he went missing where he claims Bophendze pushed him down the stairs but that he would take care of it.”Litovio raised his eyebrows.Infantry marines were not known for reporting on how they got jumped.“Is that all you have? That seems pretty thin.Is Bophendze known for his brute strength?” As he asked the question, he pulled out his own slate and rapidly tapped the screen to call up Bophendze's records.As Bophendze's records came up, Chrachen spoke up.“No, Sir.That's why Corporal Makaan harassed him.Bophendze only recently started to show promise—”Litovio was impatient and interrupted.“After Makaan was admitted to sick bay.Doesn't it sound to you like this Bophendze needed a good mentor instead of a harsh team lead?”Litovio noticed Chrachen's jaw clinch.I forget you lot don't like when we question how you do your job.“I get it.He's showing promise.That and his turn around persuade you that he killed Corporal Makaan?”Chrachen took a deep breath.“It looks like Makaan was jettisoned from the ship through the equipment airlock in gun four.Makaan had Bophendze tasked out to gun crews.I suspect he was going to try to pawn him off on the gunners.If he were, he never told me or officially started the process.”Litovio cringed.“You assume Bophendze jettisoned Makaan from the air lock.How do you know it was Bophendze?”Ravindra said, “that's why you're assigned to the case, Colonel.This will be a good test of your impartial metal.”Litovio shook his head.“Sir, you're asking me to investigate and prosecute.That does not require impartiality.How would Bophendze have accomplished this feat? He was my escort planetside back in Guna.He didn't strike me as the violent marine type.To be totally honest, he didn't seem like much of a marine.”“Your assessment and mine aren't too far off, Sir,” Chrachen said.“But with the right guidance I've seen even the worst turn into something.Makaan was a hellcat of a fighter.If Bophendze had beaten him, it would be a shame to lose him.”Ravindra slammed his fist on the desk.“Enough.Colonel Litovio.I have ordered you to investigate this matter.As this is a ship function, Admrial Bence as fleet commander cannot countermand it.If you refuse to follow my order, then I will bring you up on charges immediately.Do you understand me?”Litovio swallowed.He really doesn't get it, does he? I'm planning the largest fleet action in Postal Service history.This is a distraction.Then again, he didn't tell me when to start or finish the investigation.I can put Bophendze in the brig for the duration of the action.He snapped to attention and saluted.“Sir, I will carry out this investigation to the best of my abilities.My apologies for disrupting the harmony of your cabin.”Ravindra paused.He stared at Litovio with suspicion.After a few seconds he returned Litovio's salute.“Chrachen will assist you [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]