Flash: Roulette Leadership



Five, only five soldiers of the Imperial’s Two-Thousand and Thirty-Fifth Company was left. The group could only speculate on how the rest of the Fourth Army sent to conquer the upstart planet Minerva fared. Three hundred souls down to five. Doing the math, if everyone else ran into the extreme defensive capability of the Minervites and suffered the same loss ratio, the Glorious Fourth Army now constituted a little under 500 shell-shocked veterans nursing wounds in muddy holes.


“We should have bombed them from orbit.” Cecil cursed, trying to clear the slime from his rifle’s sight.


Virgil, always seeing things from more angles than a grub should, pointed out. “Couldn’t. Too good a force field around the major cities, and a nasty-as-pie orbital defense prevented navy from stayin’ close.”


“Yeah, talked to one of the engineer types as they loaded us in the cans.” Janus added. “Minotaur manufacture on the stations and mine fields, modified. For once, the back-water fuckers actually reset the defaults. Then they added their own twist. Minerva knows security. ”


“Should we surrender?” Maurice finished wrapping Emil’s wound. The two of them were the only ones with matching squad tags. Shit, they were the only ones with matching platoon patches. After everything they had been through, they refused to be separated.


“What is this, a democracy like Minerva?” Cecil sneered. “We need to get an officer. We can’t do anything without an officer.”


“They’re dead. They are all dead.” Panic laced Maurice’s voice.


“Battle-field promotion is required by the code. Which is the longest here?” Virgil’s left hand wave included the other buck privates.


“Don’t let the grays fool you.” Janus spat out as the rest looked at him.


Cecil shook his head. “Just how many times have you been busted back to nothing?”


“How much are you ledger red?” Janus countered.


Virgil interrupted the budding argument. “You be the oldest man Janus Culd-son. None of us top fifty.”


Janus wanted to shake his head violently in negation, but a concussion-powered migraine exploded at the first nascence movement. “May push seventy years in service and a whole cent outside of it, but not taking any Laurel.”


“How about you Cecil? You have the drive and come from the Capital. You got the best connections.” Virgil pointed out.


“Fuctuo, mingo, irrumatio. Fuctuo no! Not even if you shoot me in the head.”


Virgil looked over at Maurice and Emil and the two shrunk into the mud.


“How about you Virgil?” Janus asked.


“Not for all the cows on Bubona.” Virgil’s broken right arm was wrapped against his snapped ribs, restricting his back-planet gestures, but the motions of his good hand were as obscene and violently negative as Cecil’s curses to those that knew how to read them. “Don’t want the meetings. Don’t want the blame-beats. Like my entrails in me just fine.“


“So if can’t vote a leader. And nobody stupid enough to volunteer, …” Janus pulled out a rare trank pistol he had been assigned as Military Prodder. He emptied the six chambers. He picked up one of the tranks and they watched him load the round back into the unfamiliar MP weapon. “Russian Roulette.” He rotated the chamber and then passed the weapon to Cecil. “Rather get shot in the head. Prove it.”


Cecil handled the normally non-lethal weapon like he had just been passed a leaking nuke-head. He swallowed, then put the gun to his fragile temple and pulled the trigger. His head rocked from a light blast of air. Describing acts that would make Bacchus blush, he passed the weapon back to Janus.


“Five chances left. Don’t want to die, don’t pull and take instead Captain. Get hung either way; this one’s less pain.” Janus put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He dropped the weapon, screaming. Panting, he eventually was able to pick up weapon when his body stopped shaking from the pain racing through his head. He passed it to the next closest person.


That was Maurice since Virgil was at the edge of the ravine seeing if anyone heard the scream. “I’m no Captain. I don’t want to be responsible for others. I already am bathed in blood.” Maurice with a fatality put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.


Sighing relief, he passed it to Emil. “Your turn.” Emil shook his head and whispered something only Maurice could hear. 

“Only for you.” Maurice responded. Helping his friend hold the pistol, Maurice brought the gun to Emil’s forehead; wrapping his finger around his friend’s, they pulled the trigger together.


The pistol was returned to Janus. “Only two shots chances left, one will kill. Fifty-fifty odds. How lucky are you Virgil?”


“I played bones with you. You know my luck.” Virgil sighed. “Guess you should be callin’ me sir.”


(words 803; Originally published 10/23/2013; republished new blog format 9/2/2018)