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The hotel lounge was drowning in cacophony of voices. Military people kept pressing their communication wristbands, in desperate need to get some meaningful orders. Adding more fuel to general confusion, the civilians wandered around reception desk, bombarding receptionists, who could not provide any reasonable explanation to curious guests. Hotel manager with white dressed chef stood in a corner, explaining something to Military Police who guarded them with drawn weapons.

In another corner, Andrey Jerzinski with handful of cadets was crowded by bunch of people of different ranks, yelling at him, while he yelled back on them: “How the heck should I know what is happening? Let me check my bloody crystal ball, sir. Or tell those idiots to stop contacting the base, they are overloading communication lines. I cannot get through.”

Some officer, who did not appreciate the sergeant’s tone and language, probably complained. Andrey Jerzinski with bloodshot eyes and bald head shining with sweat, apparently no more able to contain himself, answered unapologetically: “Oh, I am so sorry, sir. Just give me orders and I will carry on. Until then, I am clueless. Everything I know is they had issued the highest alert. Colonel Steiner, the man of steel, has collapsed one hour before because of food poisoning. Major Sholto, the second man in command, lies over there, looking more dead than alive. We have a serious case of intestinal flu or whatnot here, so the MPs interrogate chef if he did not collaborate with Plantarians. “

Andrey pointed his finger on asking officer: “And you are asking me, the bloody sergeant, what is happening? You tell me. I have no idea. Communication lines are jammed because everybody who has the crappy wristband tries to connect base headquarters. I would be more than happy if someone informs me what to do. Who is in charge? Who is giving the orders? All officers I know of are vomiting in the flowerpots or they occupy the toilets, with trousers under knees, their noble buttocks tight up with the brown disaster blossoming like daffodils, directly from their assho- Ah, pardon me, sir, I meant the sphincters. And I strongly suggest not looking on my left because we had a nasty accident behind that sofa as you can smell yourself."

From Andrey’s tirade, Gromov understood that the commanding hierarchy has shattered to the point that nobody knew who should be issuing orders any longer. If he had some doubts about his request given to Captain Chi, he could be at easy. Now it seemed like the right thing to do as nobody obviously considered the health condition of missing pilots; they all were fully absorbed in futile quest on what to do, instead of managing situation.

Encountering unexpected circumstances, the military chain failed spectacularly. The resulting chaos needed a commander but nobody was sure of his own position to take over the charge.

“Akane,” he said finally. “I need you to stay here with the group. I’ll be right back.”

Heading toward Major Sholto, who sat with closed eyes in armchair while being attended by paramedics, Gromov was cursing himself: “I am such an imbecile. A total moron! Who am I to meddle with this mess? Shouldn’t I be just standing there and waiting for the others to tell me what to do?”

Doubting his own decision, he pushed away protesting paramedics and leaned over the helpless officer: “Major Sholto! Major Sholto! Can you hear me?”

“Sir, he is not in condition to…”

“Just few minutes,” barked Gromov. “We have the crisis here, probably enemy attack over our heads. I need just few minutes. Major Sholto!”

With the visible effort, Sholto opened his eyes: “Cap-Cap…”

“Yes, sir. It is Captain Gromov from Dolzana base. Don’t speak if you don’t feel like it. We need someone in charge from local officers. Have you any name?”

Major slightly shook his head: “All incapacitated I be-believe. Can’t think properly. So-sorry…”

“As expected,” thought Gromov. “There is no time. He will feint soon.”

“Major Sholto,” he said clearly. “I volunteer to organize transport of all available battle-ready pilots to the local Space Force base. Do you agree? Any objections?”

The sick man reached his hand to Gromov. Gromov felt it was awfully cold when he took it.

“No…” Sholto whispered. “No objections, Captain. Ple-please do it. I am sorry, being so useless… Do it!”

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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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