CHAPTER NAVIGATION BAR
TALES OF BUFFALO COMMONS
" FINESSE "
Ethan tracked a priority approach, throwing the control tower off its schedule by a few minutes, as their shuttle, Dennis Kingman, glided between the two towers while still three drops ahead of their subject. * * *
The platform rose to meet them, touching it with a gentle kiss that allowed the Grav-Plates of the Shuttle to idle in stand-by mode. But the platform did not descend; there wasn't the time for that. The starboard hatch popped letting Major Frohman, Finn and the other four disembark and fight the northwest wind to the platform's edge.
Simultaneously the portside hatch opened, letting in a faceless trio who whisked the craft back off the pad with a nearly practiced efficiency. Finn looked back at the departing Shuttle wondering if the exchange had indeed been practiced. Could these people be Military Valet?
He turned; Ethan was motioning him to follow from the raised steps at the far corner. The others had already descended and another craft was waiting to approach. Finn crossed after him quickly and followed his Commander inside.
It was obvious they wouldn't have time to change. Finn was still wearing his DropSuit. He looked around; the others were in various tunics as well. Apparently he wasn't the only one plucked from the field at the last minute.
Finn thought about the mission again and this time he frowned. Bodyguards? It seemed a bit much to hire a highly trained crisis team, what they still called "firefighters" to baby-sit someone. He turned, looking at the rest of the group again. None of them were slackers either. He turned to ask the Major for more information but his gaze was drawn to the fast moving shuttle on the horizon.
"Major. This mission...?"
Ethan didn't take his eyes off the window; he was tracking one of the approaching shuttles, waiting for it to arrive. "Not now, Leftenant."
The Major turned, motioning the other members of the Squad to fall in. Finn took his spot.
Ethan stepped forward as the General's craft, a Rigel built Harmony shuttle, glided into view. The platform descended, bringing the shuttle's hatch well below the wind-breakers, before the building's glass doors parted and Ethan's Squad stepped out, mismatched and eclectic to the last, taking their position on either side of the Harmony's exit.
As the hatch parted, retracting its gilded cover into the hull, General MacPherson stood there, warily eyeing the sea of green.
Ethan stepped forward, offering the closest thing he could come to a formal salute, he should have let Finn do that, it had been too long since Major Frohman held respect for anyone above him to pull it off now.
* * *
General Dennis MacPherson stepped through the hatch of the Harmony shuttle. He was a tall, almost elderly gentleman with a powerful build and keen eyes. He immediately saw who the ranking officer in charge was and nodded to them as he stepped off the platform.
"General MacPherson, sir!"
The General looked about. He saw the duty patched on this Squad, all from different outfits, and smiled. They hadn't even bothered to synch to the same patch. He glanced around at each of the Troopers, nothing special about most of them, only the powerful gent in the DropSuit and the slightly taller woman with a no-nonsense grimace on her face made any impression.
This wasn't a very fun group, he could tell that already.
MacPherson was too old to spend so much time with such serious people, that's what politicians were for. He looked at Frohman's uniform, "Special Investigations Unit, huh?"
"Am I in trouble, Major?"
Ethan tried to smile at the joke but truth was he'd heard that line around a billion times so far this year. He really, really hated this tunic. "No, sir. Not at all, General."
MacPherson thought it was funny and tried to chuckle hoping that someone in the group would realize he was the superior officer present and should be humoured. It failed to catch.
Ethan turned motioning toward the arrival hall, "Shall we?"
MacPherson nodded and followed Ethan through the doors into the building. The General had never been here before and found his eye drawn to the surroundings. He marveled at how bright the hall was considering it was actually an enclosed space.
He glanced at a few on his detail again and then caught, out of the corner of his eye, the wings on Finn's comm-badge. "Leftenant?"
Finn stopped. The whole detail stopped. Finn turned toward the General realizing he'd just been addressed. He snapped to attention and saluted. "Sir, yes, sir!"
MacPherson waved him off as he moved closer, motioning to the wings on the comm-badge, "You're Fleet?"
"Was, sir! General, sir."
MacPherson couldn't understand that. What was a Fleet Officer doing in an Astral DropSuit? "Joint Task Force?"
"No, sir. Astral Forces."
MacPherson glanced at Ethan in a manner one might mistake as a double take. "Major?"
Ethan stepped forward, "Senior Leftenant Finnegan transferred to Ground Ops six years ago."
"In the name of all that's Holy, why would anyone do that?"
Ethan turned to Finn. Frankly he didn't know the answer either. "Leftenant?"
Finn bristled. This was coming extremely close to being an order, and he didn't want to share his reasons, as they were personal. But answering 'that's personal, sir' wasn't going to cut it here, and he knew that.
"I grew tired of patrols, sir. I'd rather spend my time actually doing something."
MacPherson paused. He looked at the earnestness of Finn and then glanced over at Frohman before nodding. "Join me for dinner tonight, Leftenant."
It wasn't a question. Finn looked at Ethan unsure how to respond. He had no interest in dining with the head of the military, this or any other night, but couldn't think of a way out. Ethan returned an exasperated look; he meant to convey, "invite me!" but the signal looked more "leave me out of it" so Finn didn't say anything.
"Let's say, nineteen hundred hours, in my suite."
General MacPherson pushed past them and continued on toward his suite. Frohman looked at Finn, his displeasure seeped out with menace. "Way to go, Leftenant!"
Finn was dumbstruck. He hadn't intended to commit to anything as perilous as dinner with a flag officer.
* * *