No one came to their feet when Colonel Halperin entered the room, but they did at least straighten in their seats for their commanding officer. Halperin ignored the breach of military courtesy - the war had lasted far too long to worry about spit and polish here on the edge of what had been the front. A cease-fire had been in place for nearly six months while a treaty was hammered out, bringing an inconclusive end to the latest conflict between the Alliance and the Hegemony.
Currently, Halperin's command sat in what was now called the Gray Zone. Gray Zones were where Alliance forces currently held the positions they had taken during the fighting but would be turned over to the Hegemony as a result of the peace treaty. Likewise, other areas called Gold Zones were Hegemony-occupied but would be turned over to the Alliance.
Near the back, Captain Winter shifted in his chair to ease the knot above his left hip. The lingering pain was from a SHAP round that sent him from a combat command to a hospital and now a desk with the occupying forces. Super-Heated Alloy Particulate ammunition, or SHAP, was one of the gruesome new inventions that had made its debut in the latest war. Of course, Winter knew quite well that many of the old traditions of war had firmly held as well - shit was destroyed, people died, and historians made their revisions before the corpses were cool. You could always rely on the old school things in war.
Winter was old for a captain but it wasn't due to a lack of progress. He had figured he could retire as a Master Sergeant after the war. It would have suited him fine because retirement meant he had survived. But after numerous casualties, he had received a field commission to second lieutenant and avoided enough enemy projectiles in vital organs to reach the rank of captain before a SHAP sent him out of the front lines. He had a limp now, but at least he was limping above the dirt instead of lying below it.
"Okay boys and girls," Halperin said to the assembled staff. "Swap Day is in six days. The Heggies get the Gray Zones and we get the Golds. Now I know there's been plenty of injection molded bullshit coming out of the rumor factory as to which Gold Zone we'll be getting but I now have the official word that this battalion is going home. All the way back home."
The colonel paused while happy murmurs floated about the room. Winter was picturing the weathered dock of a sleepy coastal town where he would be spending much of his retirement sipping beer and fishing - in that order. His wife wouldn't mind, basically because they had divorced fifteen years ago and she was now married to a businessman of some sort. He bore her no ill will as being married to a ground-pounder who spent much of his time deployed had been no picnic.
Near Winter, another captain, this one a much younger man who didn't look like he was old enough to shave, raised his hand. When Halperin nodded in his direction, the man spoke with a voice as boyish as his looks.
"Colonel, for those of us who wish to keep serving near the borders, can we request an immediate transfer?"
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Mr Double's Palisade A MrDouble Production:
Changes last made on: Monday, April 25, 2016