Words from the Line
©2000 R. Alexander Spoerer
His steps echoed throughout the hall as he walked. The hollow sounds continued even as he came to a stop in front of a set of double doors. The two guards who stood there saluted him and held open the doors.
He sighed to himself. He missed the days when he was expected to perform such things himself. Now it seems he was destined to have every little thing taken care of for him. To have all the details ironed out in an attempt to keep his time from being wasted.
Times like this made him wish he was back in the circus...
His moment of revelry passed, he walked into the room beyond. Several chairs and desks filled with stacks of papers adorned the otherwise sparse room. Toward the opposite end stood a woman holding a folder in her right hand. Upon seeing him, she stiffened and also saluted, "General Hunter!"
A slightly exasperated expression passed over Rick Hunter's face, "Please Yeoman Bradley, you know you don't have to do that."
Bradley rested from her stance, a little embarrassed, "Ye... Yes, sir. Just a habit, I'm afraid."
Rick waved his hand dismissingly, "Don't worry about it."
She outstretched her hand, the file held not to far from him, "Here is your speech sir."
He shook his head and murmured, "The speeches too?"
"What was that, sir?"
"Nothing, Yeoman. Nothing at all," he replied tiredly as he received the folder from Bradley and began to walk past her to the door.
Just as he walked beyond the door, Rick could hear a guard faintly whispering to Bradley, "What's bothering him?"
"He's just tired..."
Scott Bernard shifted in his seat, inadvertently brushing against the leg of the person sitting next to him. The sergeant beside him looked at Scott with a restrained look in his eyes then turned back forward.
What a tough crowd... Then again, sitting on folding chairs in the SDF-3's main assembly room for an hour does not do wonders for people's patience.
Including his own.
Just as Scott was about to lean back, without pissing off the person behind him, for a nap the entire room jumped with energy as people stood suddenly.
Scott clumsily got up as well, hoping no one noticed that his legs were a bit wobbly from sitting on the hard plastic.
Far up on a large black stage emblazoned with the REF insignia and flanked by generals and admirals to either side, a man holding a folder walked up to the large podium in the middle.
Scott's eyes widened as a muted excitement threatened to escape him. It was him! General Hunter! He never thought he would see him this close!
A small smile crossed his lips. This had to be one of the perks of volunteering for the force returning home.
His mind immediately cleared when he realized that everyone was sitting down for the beginning of the general's announcement. Quickly, he planted himself back on the god-forsaken chair in anticipation of what the man on stage had to say.
Rick stood at the podium and looked out over the voluminous space housing the equally numerous rows of chairs.
So many of them...
This was not the time to think about such things. The last thing these soldiers needed was a leader with concern plastered on his face.
Steeling himself, Rick opened the folder and spread out the speech on the podium, the sounds of paper shuffling carrying to the microphone in front of him.
He stared at the words on the paper, his voice sounding mechanical as he spoke, "I wish to thank all of you for coming. Being here means that you've made the difficult choice of volunteering to return to Earth. I know that each of you will..."
A soft murmuring spouted to life in the room, when his voice trailed off. Rick looked at the speech before him. He could see the carefully sculpted lines, meant to evoke confidence and courage within the souls before him. Words selected for maximum impact and minimum waste. A truly perfect speech he would never want to hear.
The voices stopped when Rick slid all the papers together and tossed them behind him. He could feel the questioning eyes of the leaders around him, but he did not care. There was no way that he would read the PR propaganda he had been given. These soldiers deserved more.
They deserved to hear from directly from him.
Looking out toward the crowd, he rested his hands on either side of the podium, and began again his voice stronger than before.
"Everyone here today should consider themselves a hero."
A lot of people looked at one another, glances of confusion common among those gathered.
Rick continued, stepping from behind the podium to stand in front of it, "Because only heroes would sacrifice as much as all of you have chosen to," he looked to either side of him, "It's been years since we left Earth for Tyrol, and many of you have begun to build your lives here, starting families and building new bonds."
The silence was deafening, only the low rumble of the SDF-3's systems humming rhythmically in the background intruded with the quiet.
"I can't think of anything harder than to leave the ones that I care for and love to be so far away from me. However, sometimes a sacrifice is needed for something so important. And for that, we thank you. No, wait... Earth thanks you. For you'll be the ones who make sure that we have a home to come back to. Because, no matter what bonds we've built here on Tyrol, the ones that lead us back to Earth are the most important."
A small smile played across his lips.
"And when we come back home, be sure to have dinner waiting for all us, because I know that I for one will be really hungry."
Laughter pierced the silence as all of the soldiers in the room stood and applauded, the sound of clapping hands drowning out everything except the screams of praise.
Rick smiled broadly, as he walked to the edge of the stage, and jumped down onto the floor shaking hands as a crowd of soldiers surrounded him.
People were to ever side of him, pressing against him like sardines. Scott could not see a darn thing and sure as anything could not tell where the general was.
He could not believe it! The one opportunity he could actually get up to him and shake his hand would be wasted because he was trapped within the tide of people moving him to and thro.
Scott just about had all he could take.
Squirming to turn around, he pushed into the person before him, gritting his teeth, "Will you get out of my way!?"
Unfortunately for him, Murphy's Law had decided smile upon him, for Brigadier General Rick Hunter stood before him, looking at Scott strangely.
Scott wanted to run away and die in a corner right then and there. Too bad he was surrounded on all sides by ever soldier in the room.
All his mind could afford was an embarrassed stutter, "Um... I... Uh..."
He kept looking at Scott for what seemed another hour or so before a grin broke out on his face and the general extended his hand.
Scott looked at the man's hand and grasped it with a firm grip, returning Hunter's handshake.
"So, tell me, Lieutenant, what's your hurry?" casually asked the main commander of all the REF.
"Um, I wanted to shake your hand, sir."
God he felt like an idiot.
The general continued to grin, "Well, it looks like you got what you wanted, right?"
Again, Scott nodded dumbly still clasped within a handshake.
Hunter let go of Scott's hand and leaned in to him, "Have any family, Lieutenant?"
A tiny lift of his mouth betrayed Scott as thoughts of Marlene drifted through his mind, however, he snapped back just as quickly as he zoned out, "No... At least not yet."
The General lay on hand on Scott's shoulder still smiling, "Get that taken care of as soon as you can, or else you'll regret it."
Scott nodded smartly, "Yes, sir!"
The legend before him nodded in return and continued to move through the crowd past Scott.
Grasping his hand with the other, Scott stood still within the moving mass of soldiers watching the other man depart.
Through the awe that permeated him mind thoughts of what the man had said kept echoing, "Get that taken care of, or else you'll regret it..."
His eyes lit up, a grand idea taking root within his mind. He would finally give Marlene what he had been afraid to give. From his right pocket, he took out a small black box and opened it. Inside the ring looked as beautiful as the day he had bought it three months ago.
He should have given her this the same day he bought it, but there never seemed to right time. Well, the right time is coming.
Returning the ring to his pocket, Scott felt the conviction in his heart soar to new levels it never had before as he walked out of the assembly.
He will finally give his heart to her once and for all.
When they return home...