The face of mummy sitting in front of Gromov stiffened. After she had offered kindness and benevolence, Mrs. Jaques did not expect such a dry retort and an unapologetic attitude.
Treating him like a spoiled child, she snapped, "Captain, please do understand that the state you are in is the mere consequence of your doings. We can help only if you are willing to cooperate. If not, I am afraid our little meeting may be over. Understand kindly that if you want to avoid a martial court, you are not in a position to demand anything. Sorry!"
"A martial court is it?" Gromov asked calmly. "If I am not mistaken, the charges are cowardice and disobedience in action. Capital punishment is inevitable, don't you think?"
"I am glad you have no illusions about your situation, Captain. As I said before, we are here to find an alternative if possible."
"Thank you for your concern, madame. Don't waste your time, then. I am fully prepared to defend myself at the martial court. Due to the idle time you've generously provided to me, I wrote down a few good points to share with a public audience."
In reality, Gromov spent the whole month playing desktop games - the only entertainment they had permitted for him. He against himself with a guaranteed victory. In the end, he was considering banging his head against the wall just to escape the sheer boredom.
But facing Mrs. Jaques and the Ministry of Defense was akin to facing a feral dog; showing fear equaled to getting bitten. Moreover, if they bothered with the Special Committee, they likely hesitated to bring this case before the martial court, either.
"You won't stand a chance," Mrs. Jaques stated. "Here, see for yourself, the analysis from the Ministry of Defense's lawyers. The moment you enter the martial court you are as good as dead. None of us is happy about it, either, but you know: dura lex, sed lex."
[Pavel Morava's remark: The law is harsh, but it is the law. (Latin)]
What a knowledgable mummy, thought Gromov, suppressing the urge to burst into laughter. Mrs. Jaques misinterpreted his facial expression as a shock, hence, she continued valiantly, "The life backup of the executed member of Space Forces shall be deleted. DE-LE-TED! Seriously, Captain, you don't want to attend the martial court. Are you ready to collaborate now?"
Done with her motivational speech, she flashed her square teeth. Gromov felt somewhat exhilarated. All the time, he had to watch Space Marshall who kept growing more and more uncomfortable with her every word. He even jotted a short note and passed it under her long nose, clearly on the mission to inform Mrs. Jaques about something.
"What is it?" she picked up the paper and glanced over it. "No backup? What do you mean, sir? I've just told him so."
The officer whispered an explanation to her.
"He has no backup?" Mrs. Jaques lifted her thin-lined eyebrows in disbelief. "Why? He had to have one, right? He is a pilot, isn't he?"
Gromov, ultimately amused, stepped in. "A life backup is not mandatory, madame. I refused to undertake one because of personal conviction."
"Why would you do that? Even the President of Advanced Nations can't have a life backup. We all envy Space Forces the privilege. Forgive me for being blunt, but who would be so dumb to refuse immortality?"
"Right, you," she inspected him with the expression, which mothers usually wear when they scrutinize an unpleasant surprise left in a toilet bowl. "But why? Why? Are you aware of how desperately we struggle to have at least a few slots for our government? The government! You cannot refuse such an honor on a whim. If you don't want a life backup, I'll take yours right away. Just state your price, Captain."
"You can have it," chuckled Gromov. "After all, we are all friends here. Just take into consideration that after the execution, my backup shall be deleted. DE-LE-TED! "
"What a pity," Mrs. Jaques lamented sincerely. "If only we have met before. But to be on a safe side, would you agree to give up on your backup in my favor, I mean in favor of the Ministry of Defense, provided the charges are refuted?"
"Of course, madame. I am the man of my word."
Following which, she addressed Space Marshall. "Sir, we have to investigate all Space Forces' pilots and gunners. We need the list of people who had declined their backups. We shall not waste their precious slots anymore."
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.