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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 29 - By the Horns[]

General Headquarters, Taurus Defense Force
Mount Santiago Defense Complex, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 4th, 3025

“Marshal Vickers,” Henri said with a smile as the other officers followed the Protector from the room—leaving Helena alone with the Intelligence Minister of the Taurian Concordat and Marshal Brenda Calderon. “May I say again, how much I appreciate your blunt character?”

Helena’s nose flared and she shook her head. “Quit blowing smoke up my ass, Messer Jouett,” she hissed. “I would appreciate instead if the two of you—and those ‘officers’ who just left—would start doing your jobs.”

“Now wait just a damn minute, Helena,” Brenda snapped. “You don’t understa-. . .,”

“I don’t understand? Marshal Calderon, I was in this room on the day that Mitchell Calderon was told about Forlough’s attack on New Vandenberg—three hundred and seventy four million Taurian citizens died when that fiend rendered an entire continent lifeless! I stood right here when David Santos had to tell the Protector that we simply no longer had the strength to launch a counter-attack—when the Protector was so furious that he was ready to fire EVERY single officer in this room.”

“That’s not fair!” Brenda said hotly. “It was our damn plan!”

“Yes, yes it was,” agreed Helena. “But not a damn one of your officers was willing to tell Thomas Calderon—they were frightened of being fired. He isn’t almighty God, Marshal Calderon; he is just a mortal man—who happens to be our Protector. Protectors make mistakes, they make the wrong decisions, because they are only human. That man,” she said, pointing her finger in the direction of the door where Thomas had exited the room, “just as much as Mitchell Calderon. He needs officers who will tell him the truth—regardless of whether or not he wants to hear it. That is your job, Brenda Calderon. It is your job, Henri Jouett. It shouldn’t have to be mine.”

“We tell Thomas the truth, Helena,” Henri said quietly, “we just don’t pull him up as short as you did in public.”

“That wasn’t public, Messer Jouett,” Helena answered. “It was supposed to the senior officers of this realm giving that man—who is under more pressure than any ONE of us—the best possible advice we can. Instead, you people just stood there—and depended on me to hammer home to Thomas that he needs to let go of the illusion that he can protect EVERYONE. He can’t. And he needs to realize that before it drives him mad.”

“Helena,” began Henri Jouett, but Brenda Calderon held up her hand. Henri closed his mouth and sighed.

“Different times,” Brenda whispered, “and we haven’t been through the twenty years of hell that you have. Alright, I’ll light a fire under my people—and make damn sure that they start acting like Taurian officers of old. But you have to understand this isn’t the Reunification War we are fighting again, Helena. Today—in this day and age—we have rules that are followed very strictly. And if you don’t, I’ll fire your ass. Comprende?”

Helena chuckled. “Si. And that’s how I expect a Taurian officer to act, Brenda. Take no shit from anyone—and do your damn job, regardless of the consequences.”

And with that, the old woman turned and she walked out of the room.

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