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Kren of the Mitchegai
By Leo Frankowski Dave Grossman
Baen BooksISBN: 0-7434-7182-2
Chapter OneMickolai's Homecoming New Yugoslavia, 2205 a.d.
It had been one hell of a battle. More than half of my men had been killed. Not just casualties. Killed. In armored space warfare, nonfatal injuries are very rare.
The enemy had been defeated, but we had not really accomplished our objective. We had been ordered to capture the Solar Station that was maintaining the continued expansion of Human Space. Instead, we had been forced to completely destroy it.
Now, something else would have to be built to take over that job. Something very expensive.
When what was left of my battalion got home, there wasn't anyone waiting for us. Military receiver stations aren't set up to handle crowds; the few operable transmitters on Earth's wrecked Solar Station took four days to get those of us who had survived back home, and that's a long time to keep a brass band going. Anyway, all we really wanted was a long sleep in a real bed. The parades and awards could come later.
The War With Earth was over, and the good guys, those of us from the colonies, had won. My unit was the only one to take really serious casualties; I was the commander, and so somehow in the public imagination that made me a hero. A strange way of looking at things, praising the guy who had done his job the worst, but it has always been that way. Maybe the psychology of it all is that, "If it cost us that much, it must have been important."
I left orders that all of my men, mostly Gurkha mercenaries, were to go on R & R for an indefinite period. They could do whatever they wanted to do, provided that they kept in touch.
For myself, all I wanted was to go home to my wife.
When the elevator got me from my garage up to my apartment, I found my Kasia standing there wearing nothing but a glorious smile. She was on maternity leave, and three months pregnant, but it didn't show, except that she looked even more beautiful than ever.
"You lived," she said. "Thank you."
She kissed me, and the war, the deaths, and all of the ugliness was somehow worth it. I picked her up, stepped back into the elevator, and then carried her over the threshold once more, just as when we had first been married, and the other times when I had come home victorious.
She squealed in her usual way, and I said, "Family traditions must be upheld, once per victory!"
And then, I carried her to the bedroom.
After a wonderful night, we rolled out of bed at the crack of noon, and we went to the kitchen looking for something to eat.
Our servants, military combat drones decorated to look like medieval knights, and operated by the artificial intelligences in our tanks, had anticipated us. They had a fine spread set out for us. We had everything from smoked salmon that I had caught on our honeymoon to delicately fried crêpes suzette. And lots of good coffee from New Macedonia.
I said, "So, love. I assume that you have heard about all that I've been up to?"
"Yes, the news has been full of it, and the new movie that your tank, Agnieshka, put together, has been out for a week now. Good God, what a bloody mess!"
"It was that. Nobody expected what we were going to run into. But tell me about you. What's been happening? Your investments go well?"
"Oh, yes, we're richer than ever," she said. "But for the last week, I've mostly been working with your Gurkhas."
"My Gurkhas didn't start coming home until three days ago, and they're not all here yet."
"But their wives and families and all of their friends who want to enlist have been arriving in droves! If the statistical projections have anything to do with reality, you will have an army of over a hundred and twenty thousand men within the month. That's if none of the women decide to sign up, too!"
"Hoy! Well, we need the troops, and maybe now they'll make me a real general," I said.
"They'd damn well better! But finding a place for everyone has been something of a problem. Half of the new ones are living in that gold-plated castle that you built, but nobody wanted. The rest are scattered all over the place."
"Well, you and our metal ladies can work it out. If you can't, talk to Professor Cee, my Combat Control Computer. He's got more electronic brains than anybody else I know of."
"Meaning that you don't want to get involved," she said.
"Right. The duty of a general is to look at the big picture, and let the details be handled by staff officers like my loving wife. Right now, the big picture involves rest and recuperation for the battalion, and most especially for the commanding officer, which obviously necessitates going back to bed with you!"
"Go to bed if you want to, but do it alone. Right now, this staff officer has work to do."
"Delegate it!" I shouted, as she left the room.
Somehow, being a general does not put you in command of your wife, even when she does work for you. (Continues...)
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