Q: Miriam, with a new single out, your hiatus seems over. Am I right?
A: (laughing) Oh, you can put it that way. But make no mistake, Jeremy. I was not taking a break. The last year I've been touring the country, including several military facilities.
Q: That's true! From what I've heard, your popularity among soldiers skyrocketed. Especially recently, with your brand new song I BELONG TO HIM. Can you tell us more?
A: With pleasure. People from the Ministry of Defence contacted me last year to get some moral boost for girls and boys in uniform. Since I felt more than honored, how could I possibly decline? We are in the war, aren't we?
Q: Are we? Not meaning to doubt your words, but our readers often ask whether the so-called Plantarian invasion is such a threat. According to them the Plantarians are, allow me to quote one of their letters, 'the enemy invented to suck off a fair share of our taxes'. Seriously, do we battle plant aliens?
A: (laughing) Beats me! I've never met them personally. But to answer: Trust me if I say the threat is real. You have my word on it as my last concert, and its aftermath for Space Forces shocked me immensely. Frankly, that gig has changed my life.
Q: What happened?
A: (hesitant) It's still so fresh. The MoD (Ministry of Defence) invited me to attend the Summit of Space Forces. I had terrific times meeting all the great pilots there. They were so friendly, cheerful, and down-to-earth. Truly admirable fellows. Here, you can see my pictures with them.
Q: A lovely bunch of people, indeed! I knew from good sources there was some commotion there. What was it about?
A: It was the alarm at two o'clock in the morning. A lovely bunch of people? Sadly, they are dead. At least, the majority of them.
Q: Is it true? I don't recall such information in media.
A: When I asked, the MoD explained to me these casualties did not officially increase the body count since all crews had life backups.
Q: Do you imply there is an ongoing war over our heads?
A: (nodding) Taken into account, most of the skirmishes happen in the Space, involving mostly soldiers of Space Forces (SF in further text), following the body count is useless. Unfortunately, the data about performed life backups are, as they informed me, classified. Figure it out!
Q: Oops, that's heavy stuff. So the war is more dangerous than we can imagine. Is the government hiding something?
A: Hiding is a strong word. How Space Forces calculate the body count is no secret. Either nobody hides there has been a war. But since the official statistics are skewed the way I told you before, the public is under the wrong impression the war does not exist. Trust me. It is certainly not a trap set to pull out more money from tax-payers.
Q: OK. Now, back to your last song. Who is the man famous Miriam B belongs to?
A: (giggling) That's somewhat misleading. Rest assured, he would be astounded if he had overheard our conversation. From what I've learned, SF Captain Gromov is not the man who'd be happily delving into a romantic relationship.
Q: Captain Gromov, is it? One of two protagonists of the #OneForOne movement?
A: Rather than the protagonist, call him the involuntary victim. I've tried to contact him several times, but he has disappeared. No official info released so far.
Q: Are you sure he is not amongst the deceased crews?
A: Yes, I am. Don't forget that I have friends among high-ranking officers. In private, they told me the SF had detained the Captain after his return to the Space Station. As we talk here, they discuss whether or not to execute him.
Q: Execute him? That's harsh!
A: Harsh? It is even worse! My friends revealed to me Captain Gromov likely saved the lives of all people in this city. Without him, we would not be chatting here anymore.
Q: Wow! How exactly did you mean that? Nobody informed us our lives were endangered!
A: Everyone who wants to know more can read the story behind #OneForOne movement. I can confirm that their information complies with my sources.
Q: Captain Gromov allegedly disobeyed the direct order. Is it so?
A: As far as my understanding goes, this is a simplified version. I have no idea what happened in the Space. One usually does not invite a singer to explain tactics; I can only offer your readers what I experienced during the Summit before and after the alarm.
Q: Please do so.
A: As I told you before, that evening, I made a show for Space Forces. After I had changed my dress, I went down from the hotel room back to SF pilots and attended photo shooting. Before the session, we had some trouble with the lack of female pilots. One of them got involved in the brawl, so my contact from the MoD got a tad agitated. It was the first time when I witnessed the mass-hypnotizing power of a certain captain.
Q: It was him, right? Would you mind describing him?
A: With pleasure. He was a tall, robust man with short, black hair - not exactly an eye-candy if you know what I mean. Later on, my photograph worked with him, trying to fix him for our group photo. Still, I have never met someone so rigid, so unwavering despite my best effort. It's a bit silly, but what woman would not find insulting if she comes out empty-handed?
Q: Oh! Did you try to seduce him?
A: (blushing) Common! I was just teasing him. The usual stuff. As if I ever shied away from my fans. Still, no one complained so far.
Q: But him...!
A: Holy cow! He disapproved of me. I felt like a failure when I met his eyes, so cold and strict they were, almost like judging my very existence. Imagine an enraged bull, inspecting a strayed chihuahua. Like move away, little brat, stop bothering me!
Q: Did he told you that?
A: Of course not. The moment I thought I could've broken the ice, he just introduced me to his friends and left upstairs. I swear that never before I felt so furious and crestfallen.
Q: To put it bluntly, he acted like a jerk?
A: I wouldn't go that far. I guess I can't expect everyone to be friendly with me. Captain Gromov was polite and unconcerned, and of course, I could have just kept guessing what he had been thinking. Anyway, after he had left my belittled self, I was busy consoling poor Annabelle.
Q: Annabelle? Who is she?
A: Annabelle Corvin, my contact from the MoD. A competent aid, an unmatched talent if you need to manage things. Sadly, Captain Gromov's presence completely broke her psyche.
Q: How come?
A: Beats me! She sort of collapsed, blabbering about Captain Gromov in very, how to put it mildly, hostile manner. She claimed he had just tortured his subordinate, the young woman who went missing during photo-session. From what I understood, Captain Gromov should have left her lying in blood in the hotel room.
Q: Oh, is it typical for the Space Forces? An example of toxic masculinity and chauvinism? Bullying of the weak females?
A: The truth is I had tended to believe Annabelle, for Captain Gromov's attitude insulted me a bit. But honestly, I saw that lieutenant later on, and she didn't strike me being excessively hurt. On the contrary, she was quite lively when she had beaten one of the MoD's employees into submission.
A: It was after the alarm. When we had learned something was amiss, we went downstairs. We found the lounge full of military people in the terrible disarray. Shouting, cursing, running to and fro, they seemed to be disorganized awfully, not exactly an army I would put my trust into.
Half of them were tattering in need of medical attention. Few of them had collapsed on the floor. I will never forget the prevalent rancid stench! It felt like the end of the world. Nobody knew what had happened and what to do next.
Q: Were you scared?
A: Confused, perhaps. Then, I saw Captain Gromov leading a group of pilots, queued in the formation. Although slightly irritated with that man, I was thankful he acted like a military person. By then, the poor Major Sholto, the man in charge, was in the care of paramedics, looking at the verge of collapse. Still, he somehow managed to give the command to the Captain.
Q: That was a controversial decision, wasn't it?"
A: Yes. My SF friends explained to me that Captain Gromov was in no position to taking command there. He had no good reason to ask for it.
Q: But he did so.
A: I can confirm he did not hesitate for a moment. I observed him, and all the time, he acted so naturally. He waved off paramedics and keep insisting on having his answer from dying Major Sholto.
A: Major Sholto had died on food poisoning a few hours later. By the way, no one could have confirmed whether Major gave his permission or not.
Q: But Captain Gromov took command anyway.
A: Exactly so. In a dramatic spectacle, he started bellowing like a madman. Like a roaring lion, you could feel the power of his voice on your skin. I was stunned. My assistant stepped back and covered her face in fear. Only one woman from the MoD dared to talk back after he finished.
Q: What was the response?
A: He just kept staring at her with sheer discontent. Then her subordinate, the lieutenant about whom we had spoken before, attacked that woman.
Q: Did he give that order?
A: No, the lieutenant did not need one. From my perspective, she was used to pacifying people this way. Annabelle believed those two belonged to Special Forces, operating there undercover. Who knows! It was like watching a military movie. At a steady pace, Captain Gromov kept barking the orders, almost like reading them from a manuscript. If he improvised, he did a great job.
Later, My SF friends told me the SF recognized his exceptional situational awareness. And trust me, you have to witness the domineering self-confidence he possessed to understand what they meant.
Q: Sounds like some kind of monster. The #OneForOne movement depicts him less extravagantly. To quote them: an expert pilot with an astonishing battle record, an accomplished instructor, a broadly recognized tactician, a living legend, and an amiable colleague.
A: Who am I to contradict them? Perhaps the last item on the list does not fit my short experience, but to be honest, our encounters were abnormal. Still, an amiable colleague! That strikes me as an awful overstatement. (laughing) Whatever, after Captain Gromov organized transport of pilots and gunners, I have not seen him anymore.
Q: If I am not mistaken, they left to meet their doom. What was the aftermath?
A: Only nine fighters came back. Fortunately, the rescue teams could save three more crews who drifted away after having been hit. One of them was the vessel of Captain Chi, the extremely charming officer I had chatted with during the Summit.
Q: Some sources claim that the SF had to employ cadets from near SF Academy? Is it true?
A: One cadet participated in the mission. He suffered several injuries, and they had to hospitalize him. He is fine now.
Q: So, why call that mission a success?
A: Because we, the citizens, have survived! The local Space Defense Net was on the edge of being damaged, which, in return, would allow Plantarians to target this region.
Q: If it is so, why they did not issue any warning for civilians?
A: You won't like the truth. And I am not sure if to reveal it to your readers.
Q: I believe we have the right to be informed, don't you think?
A: Once again, nobody hides the truth. It is just nobody realizes what it implies for targeted cities. The safety protocol requires the nuclear incineration of the infected area.
Q: Nuclear incarceration? After the evacuation, I guess.
A: Nope. Immediately.
Q: Oh sh… Excuse me, but what?
A: You see, this is why the SF did not warm the citizens. Infected people are as good as dead. I repeat once again, according to my SF friends, the resolution and tactics adopted by Captain Gromov, under such exceptional circumstances, saved millions of lives, me and you included. We all BELONG TO HIM.
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.