Sergeant Ullis had been the bane of my time as a commissar: too competent to demote but too crass and full of demerits to actually advance. Ullis knew it too, of course, and had been spiralling down the beaten path of ever-stronger vice for a couple of years. I had been preparing my case against him for when an offence grievous enough emerged, but standing in a cabin with his corpse, a frightened guardsman, and a young naval rating in a torn dress was something I was unprepared for.
Ullis had been causing trouble at a local bar, and since I was the unofficial liaison between the Naval disciplinary and our regiment, I was contacted by the ship security to reprimand the man. Again. I had made haste, but followed a colder trail than I had hoped, and was far too late. A las-shot rang along the corridor. I rushed towards the source of the sound, only to find the cabin in the aftermath.
‘C-c-commissar Engel?!’ the trooper gagged and tried to salute, while the rating, a young woman, hid behind him and tried to collect her apparel back to a semblance of order. I looked at the corpse and thought that at least reports of Ullis would now cease.
‘Your name, trooper’, I demanded. His markings were of the 771st, which meant I had jurisdiction. ‘Trooper Hiwat, second platoon, second company!’ the man answered. He had the decency to put his rifle’s safety on.
I observed the scene in silence, realising this was personal. Ullis, that damnable idiot, had tried to get his way with the rating, Hiwat had cut in and a brawl had ensued. No, not a brawl. The lasrifle would have had to fire somewhere else otherwise. There was a combat knife on the floor near where Ullis had collapsed. I did not see the wound, but it was a point-blank high-powered shot delivered to centre mass if I were to judge it without flipping the man over. I had to think hard about what to do now. My eyes swept the room, and the rating hid deeper behind the trooper, who was terrified himself. He should have been.
‘What happened here…’
‘Well, sir, I admit…’
‘Admit nothing!’ I yelled as the pieces fell into place. This trooper had relieved me of a burden I had no wish to carry, and in a manner that spoke volumes of his future prowess among the ranks. That shot had been professional work.
Trooper Hiwat looked confused and frightened, and I took his rifle to check the charge. On high settings, shot once. ‘What happened here?’ I said again while switching the rifle’s energy pack with mine, ‘was that Sergeant Ullis came onto the naval rating, and when I tried to stop him, he charged, forcing me to shoot him as self-defence. Then you arrived, too late to prevent any of that. Understood?’
Something flared in his eyes, and he tried to protest: ‘But sir…!’
I slammed my open hand against his face with severe force, making him topple over a side table. ‘But sir me nothing, trooper! Ullis was a swine, and I will not lose a good soldier over him, even if said trooper was an idiot! You shut your trap, I do the dance and we can all keep on soldiering.’
I repositioned my cap and walked back to the door, only turning to look straight at the rating who was now tending to the swelling cheek of trooper Hiwat. ‘If I were you, I’d keep to that story too, navy girl. Your boyfriend there will be shot if it leaks out this didn’t happen the way I said it did,’ I said coldly. She nodded hastily, and I left the two to it. I called the security to cordon the place and decreed the incident an internal matter of the regiment.
So, Sergeant Ullis was no more! I smiled at that, though his few cronies in the squad might try something. I could not help a grin, since I knew the lot and would be prepared. Fun times.
About the Author
A factory worker aspiring to do something productive with his off-hours, Tuure shares his free time between tabletop RPGs, two lovely dogs, and lovelier wife.