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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 60 - By the Horns[]


Maintenance & Logistical Support Field Depot, Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers RCT
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 22nd, 3025


Leftenant General Kevin Rostov—as naked as the day he was born—tumbled to the floor of his luxury climate-controlled trailer the instant he heard the gunfire from outside. Half asleep, he hit the carpeted surface hard and managed to take the sheets and blankets with him . . . which resulted in pulling the sleeping woman (also quite nude) who had shared his bed (no mere bunk for such an important man, even in the field!) down atop of him, where she landed with a shriek of her own.

“GET OFF OF ME!” Rostov yelled as he crawled across the floor and pulled down the direct phone to the mobile command center that the trailer was parked adjacent to. Shots continued to ring out—and one of the heavily tinted windows shattered above, showering fragments of glass shards over the two. “Have the Taurians found us? Are we under attack? Hello? Hawkins, report!” he yelled . . . but the phone was dead.

The gunfire outside slowed . . . and then there was silence; followed by a polite knock on the door of the trailer. The door opened, and Sergeant Major David Slocum stepped inside; he was wearing a sub-machine gun on a travel sling—the muzzle still smoking slightly.

“What the devil is going on?” Rostov asked as he brushed off the glass, trying to stand up as the woman quickly pulled on her uniform blouse. “Where’s my guard detachement, Slocum?”

“Dead, sir,” the Sergeant Major answered bluntly and he shook his head. “You and Major Calley are going to want to get dressed.”

“Taurians?” Rostov asked as he stood up and began to step into a pair of boxers.

“No, sir—we enlisted have decided that following the Duke of Morons to our death is a bad idea.”

“WHAT?” Rostov screamed.

“The techs and engineers and support personnel, General Rostov, Sir,” Slocum repeated, “we are moving the DropShips and the supplies to the surrender point—and we are laying down our arms.”

“THIS IS MUTINY!”

Slocum shook his head. “It was mutiny when His Idiocy decided to invade another power without telling New Avalon first. It was mutiny when you officers decided to ignore the messages of the First Prince and failed to tell the rest of us that we were totally fucked, Rostov,” Slocum spat on the floor. “We’ve recalled the dromedaries and ordnance transports—when they get back, we are lifting and leaving before the Taurians start bombing us.”

“THIS IS TREASON!” Rostov yelled, but then he drew a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. “Look, Slocum—Sergeant Major! Emotions are running a little high right now, but if you put down the gun, I won’t have you arrested and tried.”

“A little high? I’ve spent thirty-two years in uniform, Rostov—thirty-two years and now I don’t have a pension. My family back on New Syrtis no longer has medical coverage—my wife and kids will lose the house because they aren’t getting my pay any longer. THIRTY-TWO FUCKING YEARS WASTED, YOU FAT INBRED CRETIN!”

“I am a superior officer, Slocum.”

“No, sir—just a higher ranking one,” the Sergeant Major answered as he charged the SMG with a fresh round in the chamber. “You and the other officers? You want to support the Duke of Dunces, you can go right ahead—we’re leaving your asses here in the desert. His Stupidity is ninety kilometers THAT way,” he pointed with the muzzle of the SMG. “Have a nice walk, Sir—because we are taking the vehicles. Oh, I’ll leave the trailer, though—gaudy civilian thing that doesn’t belong here anyway.”

Rostov’s face went white. “That’s murder, Sergeant Major—you can’t do this. You can’t leave the loyal people here with no supplies, no transport, no arms. You can’t!”

“Watch me, asshole,” Slocum growled.

“I’ll surrender,” squealed Major Calley as she pulled on a pair of panties to go with her blouse. “I’ll go with you and surrender!”

David Slocum frowned and then he shook his bed. “You made your bed, Major—your people consider you a worthless piece of ass who got your job because of your family connections and that you don’t mind sleeping your way to the top. You are lucky if I give you a uniform and boots,” and then he raised the SMG as Rostov pulled out a pistol from beneath the bed.

“DROP IT, SIR!”

“You will lower that weapon, Slocum! I’m not losing my command to mutiny that easi- . . .,” he began, but before he could finish raising the pistol, Slocum squeezed the trigger and held it down—thirty bullets tore across the trailer and ripped into Rostov and Calley.

More enlisted men and NCOs burst in through the door, and they looked at the bloody mess.

“Damn. He got off easy,” muttered one with a grimace as the smell of urine and feces suddenly filled the air; the muscles of the two dead suddenly releasing as the last bit of life faded from their bodies.

“Bury them, Sergeant Major?” asked another.

“Leave them to rot—and get the other officers and loyalists moving. We lift as soon as the supply convoys get back here,” Slocum answered.


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