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“What was the problem with my boys, anyway?”

Sergeant asked, waving the hand towards two cadets standing by. They waited there silently, obviously fascinated by the conversation.

“Their blasters are unlocked. I can see them glowing green.”

“What? Why would they do that? Hey you, is it true?”

“Yes, sir. We were told to be on high alert. The procedure requires…”

The sergeant looked taken aback. “What procedure?”

“Being on high alert in a battle situation,” explained Gromov, who realized that Andrey is struggling to recall what his underlings are talking about. “They put safety off, ready to open fire. I don’t need to ask who ordered this nonsense in the civilian city, do I? However, Steiner should not appreciate if they blow their legs away, or maim innocent bystanders. “

“That’s about right. You guys put the safety on. We don’t want to have some nasty accidents. Remember, you are mere decoration. Just puff your chests and keep smiling. In case of sudden attack, you can fire wildly into the air.”

“Is there any chance of Plantarians to come?” Akane inquired curiously. “I thought this area belonged to a safety zone, with a low probability of being hit.”

“Hush, Lieutenant,” said Jerzinski, pretending she offended him. “What a sheer blasphemy! Colonel likes to think we are at the front line. We have to await space cockroaches with eyes open, uniform donned, and song on our lips. We haven’t received any enemy warning for the last two years, though.”

“Really? Sounds comfortable.”

“Oh, it is. This SF summit is our biggest opportunity to shine. Colonel boasts he got permission to draw the best pilots over here. All of them might clap their hands as soon as he receives his promotion. Ah, sorry, that’s classified information. Officially, you attend because higher-ups appreciate your diligence and bravery.”

“Reckless,” mumbled Gromov. “Plantarians might’ve ceased their activities recently, but who knows whether they pull something out of their sleeve.”

“Mushrooms have no sleeves,” Andrey shrugged. “Each base sent two representatives mostly so that it won’t harm their defense. Well, unless you count the one above us.”

“Why?”

“Seventy percent of personnel were allowed to enjoy themselves. Of course, they ought to be on a high alert. I bet they get drunk by midnight, if not sooner. You know Colonel fancies having a good company around.”

“Seventy percent? Is it sabotage or what?”

“Don’t worry; we’ve obtained special permission from the minister. Colonel personally guaranteed that nothing stressful will happen during the summit.”

“He’s got an excellent intel.”

“Hahaha, you bet. Just between us,” Jerzinsky started to whisper. “From a good source, I’ve got info that mushrooms regrouped their forces. Nobody knows where they’ve disappeared. One guy told me he expected them to strike at an unusual target position. For instance, a certain military base that was not involved much as of lately.”

“You’re kidding me!”

“You wish. Colonel’s retarded, died five times, and became completely nuts.”

Andrey began stuttering, trying to persuade them. Gromov wondered whether the excitement partially originates from the fact that even Andrey, despite all his talks, might have led a dull life at Academy.

He died three times when ordered to go suicidal, which was the last-resort tactic under the Q-Field impact. From a distorted perspective, commonly adopted in Space Forces, they should hail Sergeant Jerzinski for the ultimate display of bravery. Perhaps he was missing the glorious old times as well.

Pilots and gunners, including technical personnel, glorified such deaths as the badge of honor. From Gromov’s perspective, the sleeve's red number could hardly justify the loss of memory and slight mental retardation.

“The sky is open for an ambush, then?” he asked.

“Not exactly,” admitted Andrey. “Right now, two cruiser-class spaceships are relocating to provide us the area protection.”

“That’s unsatisfactory,” said Gromov.

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About the author

Pavel Morava

Bio: Born in the Czech Republic, Pavel Morava is not a native English speaker. Having been twenty-two years old, he published his first book, which did not become an international bestseller. After a few other attempts, Pavel Morava abandoned the literary career for over twenty years, during which period he has been focusing on processing of plastics, programming, and raising of children.
Recently, with more time at his disposal, he returned to the forgotten ambition, fighting a futile battle with English language, procrastination, and the tendency to give up too early.
Being vivid reader of not Anglo-Saxon origin, Pavel Morava was fortunate enough to experience books from different countries, including Czech, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese, French, German, and English. Such a vast literary variety heavily influenced his own work, which typically relies on an one-point-of-view narrative, consecutive storytelling, and elimination of unnecessary details.
Web novels and online publishing made him reevaluate his approach to style and building blocks of the text; the result should be, hopefully, lighter, shorter, and more intelligible for reading on electronic devices.

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