McGee’s head was spinning with fatigue and exasperation, but he knew there’d be no sleep very soon.

The aftermath of his presentation was ugly. Various members of the Assembly had accused him of every ulterior motive for which there existed a word. One had said that he was inventing issues to ensure his own job security. Another seemed to think he’d alluded to martial law. A third — one of those self-styled ‘patriots’, he supposed — accused him of treason against his home country.

That last one, at least, McGee was able to shrug off in his mind. Defending oneself from an attack is not attacking, he knew, but he knew equally well that there’d be no use trying logic on a patriot. So he nodded understandingly and thanked the asshole for his feedback. In fact he did a lot of that before the detractors finally ran out of gas.

By now it was almost thirteen-hundred. He didn’t feel much like eating, though it would have been good to talk to Greene again. McGee walked — south? That would be in the direction of the pole, he guessed. In any case, it was enough to be heading away from the auditorium. He’d pay a call on Operations.

Ops was located at the hub from which the three major boulevards branched: Valhalla, Australis, and the Promenade. A fair seven or eight hundred meters from his own quarters, had he walked it in a single leg. It was essentially the security and emergency response center. McGee remembered calling his own military police post the ‘cop shop’. It was the first memory of his former life to bring a smile in a very long time.

He poked his head in curiously and was satisfied at the buzz of activity, if not by the disarray of the place. There’d be time to work on that later. A few were charting patrol assignments and one was mapping hazardous locations. In an adjacent briefing and classroom, two were inventorying equipment.

Ah — there it was. His icebreaker.

“Ladies and gentlemen?” he said, in a voice that wasn’t excessively loud, but which conveyed without question that the boss had arrived. The heads snapped in his direction.

McGee strolled to an open cabinet. “Who was the last person to access this weapons locker?”

No one appeared to know. McGee cocked an eyebrow and examined a clipboard that had been ball-chained to the cabinet. “Matti Niekonnen?” A hand meekly raised from a Finnish man at a computer console, and McGee acknowledged him with a smile and a nod. “Matti, did you check a shotgun in or out? You didn’t specify.”

“Uh… in, sir,” the Finn said.

“About what time, please?”

“About nine this morning?”

“Thank you,” McGee nodded and filled in the blank himself. “And you left the cabinet unlocked. Please watch that in the future, thanks.”

He then turned to address the group. “Good morning, my name is Daniel McGee; I’m your new Provost Marshal. Assuming I’m not fired within the next few hours.” He smiled and allowed a titter through the crowd.

“I’d like to start by reassuring you that I’m not here to knock heads together, or to fix things that aren’t broken. However, often I discover things that are very much broken, that no one’s wanted to deal with. Those things will be addressed and corrected. I suppose first on that list… that locker. That is to remain secured at all times.”

McGee removed and examined a shotgun. “Mossberg 500, twelve-gauge, eight-shot capacity, corrosion-resistant coating; very good choice. And… absolutely filthy.”

Some eyes looked down around the room. “Who all here are my full-timers?” Six hands went up, and McGee nodded.

“Now,” he continued, “of you six, who knows how to properly break down a Mossberg 500 for cleaning?” Two hands went down.

“All right… you four. Who’s had field experience with a twelve-gauge, preferably firing both buckshot and a sabot slug?” Two hands remained.

“And do you both have current certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation?” Both nodded. “And how about a training certification therein?”

And then there was one.


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