Jorge Rodriguez sat on a bunk in his holding cell at the MILICIA War College in Maribou and wondered. He wondered what sentence the tribunal would impose upon him following his convicion of public slander. He wondered what he would do now that his career in the Southern Republican Army was over. And he wondered if it had made any difference at all.
His career had been on the skids for several cycles anyway, ever since he had begun his "great crusade" to reform the Army and its doctrines. As a compagnie commander in the Army's 54th Gear Regiment and later as a liaison officer to a Northern armored division during the War of the Alliance, Jorge had seen how well the combined arms doctrine of warfare worked, and he'd been trying to convince others in the Army of the folly in the Republican Army's "one branch per regiment" structure ever since. He had received enough support from other Army officers made him think that he was making progress, so he had been happy to accept the invitation of the War College to speak at a strategic and doctrinal conference.
The sous-prefect at the conference hadn't said anything Jorge hadn't heard before. He told Jorge that the Republic had been served well for centuries by its Army, that the importance the Army placed on its "one branch per regiment" doctrine was responsible for its magnificent esprit d'corps, and that the changes Jorge wanted were at best a waste of time and at worst a danger to Army readiness. It was that damn sneer he wore as he said those things, though, that had brought Jorge's frustration and anger to a boil. Jorge now had to admit that losing his temper as he did was not the way to win converts to his cause.
After all, calling that sous-prefect "the illegimate son of a Masaoist whore" was a bit out of line.
But couldn't he see? Couldn't anybody see? Didn't they realize that by blindly clinging to an outdated doctrine, the prefects were leading the Army on a gay and merry path to disaster? That the North, whose armies he himself had seen in action, would fight the looming war better than the South would? Would tradition be worth its price in Republican blood?
Jorge screamed at the wall, "How could they be so bloody stupid?!?"
"Seeking guidance from the Prophet, Commandant?"
Jorge looked through the slit in the cell door and saw the face of his friend and mentor, Phillipe Dorian. Dorian had been the commander of the 54th Gear when Jorge had been assigned to the unit, and Jorge got his liaison assignment with the Northern Guard's 18th Armored on Dorian's recommendation. His presence during the court-martial had meant a great deal to Jorge, but he wondered why he was still here.
Dorian turned away from the door and said, "Open it up." A guard opened the door, and Dorian had a bemused look on his face as he stepped inside the cell. He shook his head slightly, then sat down on the bunk opposite Jorge as the guard closed the cell door. "You've got to do something about that temper of yours, Jorge."
"Yes, sir, I know," Jorge sighed, "it's just so damn frustrating."
Dorian smiled and said nothing.
Jorge looked at his friend after a moment and said, "Okay. How deep in it am I?"
Dorian's smile faded as he replied, "You're being transferred to the MILICIA, effective immediately."
Jorge raised his eyebrows. "With that sous-prefect breathing down my neck?"
Dorian waved his hand in dismissal. "That miserable fart's used up what political clout he had. He'll be out of the Army in a cycle or two anyway." He sat up and looked at Jorge sternly. "But right now he is a sous-prefect, and public slander against a superior officer is a serious offense." The smile came back. "Even if his parentage is suspect."
The cell door opened and the guard said, "The prisoner is called before the tribunal for sentencing."
The two men stood up and straightened their uniforms. Jorge paused for a moment as he put on his uniform jacket, as he realized he would never wear the burgundy uniform of the Republican Army again. He shrugged in resignation, then asked Dorian, "So, what am I going to do in the MILICIA? Write up supply forecasts or something?"
"Well, that's the other thing I wanted to tell you," Dorian said. "You've been given the command of a regiment that's just forming up."
Jorge looked at Dorian in amazement. "How?"
Dorian smiled. "Not all sous-prefects are out to get you," he said as he cast a glance at his rank pins. Jorge looked and was pleasantly surprised; he hadn't realized Dorian had been promoted.
As they were led out of the cell to the courtroom, Dorian took Jorge by the arm and said with concern, "But this is the last favor I can do for you for a while, my friend. Do with this command what you will, but neither I or anyone else can help you. You'll be on your own."
"I understand, sir," Jorge replied. "I'm just grateful for the second chance."
"I know," Dorian said as the men stopped before the courtroom doors. As he turned to go to the courtroom's gallery, he said, "Promise me one thing, though, Jorge."
"Yes, sir?" Jorge asked.
"Please try not to piss off any more prefects, okay?"
Jorge smiled as he said, "I'll do my best, sir."
And he held his head high as he was led before the tribunal.
Author's Note: Another draft of this essay was first written for the Southern MILICIA Army List. The essay was not included in the book, but the main character in this story and his new command were, so I thought this would make a good addition to the book's material. - JE