I walked up and down the hangar, inspecting my squad’s ships, gear, and maintenance bays. It was all half ass. Hell, just under half of them hadn’t even shown up for inspection. I got four hours sleep last night, yet still managed to drag my ass out of my bed, polish my shoes, press my uniform and report for duty.
Simply put, kids today have no work ethic.
In my day if you showed up late for inspection, you suffered, your entire squad suffered, which meant you suffered more after the fact. If it was a recurring problem, your commanding officer would whip you into shape or escalate to higher forms of discipline. Eventually, you would be dishonourably discharged, the greatest humiliation a soldier can experience. The Republic had changed since the days where things were clearly black and white. This generation enjoyed far too many perceived liberties, politicians catering to them, to the volume of their collective whines. What none of them realized was that by dumbing down the various microcosms of society, we were actually putting our freedoms at risk. Idiocy.
The outer hangar door swooshed open and two pilots rushed in, tucking various parts of their uniforms in as they went. One had an untied boot lace dragging behind them. Inwardly, my blood boiled. My CEO had sat me down and made it clear I had to apply “sugar” to the situation. We were undermanned, and our current strategic initiative had been in the works for months. I would say the “plan” had been in the works for months, but every risk assessment I did of the situation told me we were not in a position to move forward. Of course, the CEO had his blinders on and wouldn’t hear anything other than “yessir” any time that conversation was brought up. To him, this was the team and now was the time. It was up to me to be sweet, to not scare them off, because like it or not, they were the best we had been able to get.
The two scrambled to attention before me, with weak salutes. They couldn’t even hold a crisp salute, I grumbled to myself.
“Sorry, sir,” the first one stammered between gasps. Don’t even get me started on the poor level of fitness pilots held. “I’ve had trouble getting up recently. I’ve even talked to the medic about it.”
My brow furrowed. I barked. “Did I ask you for an explanation? No. Did I ask you for a song and dance? No. What I asked, nay, what I demanded was that you report for duty at 0900, which is already late in my day, and you couldn’t even do that?” I let my words hang, boring my gaze into the pilot, saying nothing, waiting for him to respond.
As soon as he started to speak, I cut him off. “I don’t care.” Again, I let it hang for only a few seconds. “I don’t care if you can’t get up. I don’t care if you have ‘special’ issues.” Careful Roc, apply sugar. “I don’t care if the entire goddamn station came collapsing down around us. You will be here when I tell you to be here!” Good. Just the right amount of sugar. “You being here is not some treat or privilege for me. You being here doesn’t really make my day any brighter. This is your bloody job. You get paid to do this. In my day, we served because it’s what the Republic demanded of us, and we still showed up for duty, ready to go! The onus is on you. The responsibility is yours. I am not going to buzz your quarters. I am not going to arrange a wake up call for you. The only thing I might do is sit outside the station in front of your quarters in my stealth bomber, with your sorry, lazy, ungrateful ass targeted.” I paused again, observing his reaction, and the reaction of all the pilots around me.
His relaxed stance hadn’t changed. My rant was just something going in one ear and out the other. I was seething with rage. Remember Colonel, we need these pilots. That was the voice of my CEO. I paced back and forth, letting my mind expand, considering options, giving my temper time to cool down, ranting inwardly at where the universe had gone wrong and if it could even be fixed and if it was even worth fixing.
“Sir?” the pilot asked.
“WHAT?!” I snapped, saliva dripping from my lip, my face flushing red, veins throbbing to escape my skin.
“I just wondered if you were done, sir.”
I just wondered if you were done, sir. I just wondered if you were done, sir. I JUST WONDERED IF YOU WERE DONE, SIR. The entire hangar turned a dark sheen of blood red. It took every iota of effort and concentration I had for me not to remove this punk ass kid’s head from his body.
“You…” I began, my words slow and drawn out. “Are relieved of duty, son. You are a disgrace.” I ripped his dog tags from his neck. “Get out of my sight before I do something we’ll both regret.”
One would think that a public reprimand from your commanding officer would be embarrassing humiliating, enough for you to realize you’d crossed a line, that you had failed yourself, your team, your boss. One would think there would be a certain level of humility, of want to restore one’s honour, of something resembling ethics and/or accountability. Instead, the young pilot looked relieved, like I had just given him the day off.
“Fuck you, Colonel.” is what he said to me as he turned to leave.
It took seven pilots to pull me off of him. He was in the medcenter for three weeks after that. I was reprimanded. The fleet op was scrubbed, marked as a failure on my record, despite my protests. I was benched until further notice.
Looking back, I will tell you this. I do not regret my actions that day. Each of those pilots present, to this day, at least the ones still living, understand respect, and from that one moment, I at least made a difference to a few young upstarts. Those same pilots went on to save many Republic lives.
Hold true to your convictions, no matter what the cost.