Marine Cadet (The Human Legion Book 1)

Marine Cadet (The Human Legion Book 1) by Tim C. Taylor

Book: Marine Cadet (The Human Legion Book 1) by Tim C. Taylor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tim C. Taylor
claws.
    But the alien appeared satisfied and settled his attention on the sergeant whose name Arun still didn’t know. “You are senior human sergeant for ‘C’ Company, 8th battalion. What would you do?”
    If he was the senior veteran then he must be Staff Sergeant Bryant. He answered calmly. “Sir. It is the leader’s responsibility to preserve the honor of his or her unit. To have lost a unit’s honor is a catastrophic loss of authority after which no leader can function. So if a unit has dishonored itself, then its leader should be punished as an example. Even if the punishment isn’t fatal, before the leader can return to the same position he or she must not only wait for a suitable period of atonement, but must also earn that position to the satisfaction of the unit.”
    “Quite so,” said Little Scar. He nodded, a gesture of agreement, although with his pronounced brow ridge and bony skull crest the motion looked very much like an armored headbutt. “Of all of us, Staff Sergeant Bryant has most recently been tested in battle. It shows.”
    He pointed to Alistair and Hortez. “You are no longer Marine cadets.”
    A third finger extruded from his hand toward Nhlappo. “You! Ensure these failures are out of my regiment by the end of the day. Then hand over your remaining duties to your junior instructors. From midnight you are demoted to the rank of Marine private. Gold Squad has lost its veteran to resuscitation attrition. You will fill the gap. Pray that you are never presented to me again. I shall not be so lenient next time.”
    The merest hint of a protest sounded in Nhlappo’s throat, but she cut it dead just in time.
    “I have…” started Little Scar but stopped suddenly. He growled, flicking his ears wildly. “I have discussed your company’s performance with Commander Menglod and we have agreed a unit-wide punishment for the 8th battalion. Examine your screens.”
    Arun looked down at the image of the Totalizer showing the leaderboard of battalions vying with each other to keep out of the Cull Zone. 8-412/TAC was 7,000 points ahead of the cut off. Arun steeled himself to see that safety margin diminish.
    The screen refreshed.
    8-412/TAC had disappeared. No it hadn’t. It had shifted position. They were bottom!
    “We have deducted 25,000 points from 8-412/TAC. This year’s graduates will be Culled.”
    The colonel looked from one human face to another, daring them to protest. They were too stunned to speak.
    “There is to be no further punishment of the cadets over this issue. Dismissed.”
    A mix of horror and relief flooded through Arun as he about-heeled to leave. He’d escaped but his friends had not. It should have been the other way around.
    “No, not you, McEwan,” said the Jotun. “You shall remain here.”
    Little Scar waited until the other humans had marched away before switching from his thought-to-voice system to speak in his own gravelly words.
    “I want a chat with you.”

—— Chapter 12 ——
    With a wave of the rubbery tubes that passed for fingers, the colonel beckoned Arun to stand next to him at his workstation.
    As he mounted the steps to approach the Jotun, Arun tried to guess what the alien was about to tell him. He had no idea.
    Once Arun was standing next to the alien’s chair, and had cast his gaze to the ground, Little Scar asked using his own awkward voice: “Would you like to see your brother?”
    Not ‘you will be executed at dawn’ or ‘you will be permanently assigned to the punishment battalion’.
    Arun was so stunned that he let his pause drag on until Little Scar drew his ears back in annoyance.
    “Sir. Yes, sir,” Arun said quickly.
    Little Scar smiled. There was little about the six–legged Jotuns that was human-like, but when they wanted to, Jotuns could smile just like the most endearing human child. And at that moment, the commander of the 412th Marines chose to smile.
    “He is not here,” said the Jotun, back to speaking through

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