Season Content notes: fictional bigotry
“Thank you for meeting with me after hours, Major,” Colonel Bo Cheung, commander of the Space Forces, said as Major Shin of M9 slid onto the bar stool next to them. A public bar might have seemed an odd place for two high-ranking military officers to meet. Especially these high-ranking officers. But this bar was a favorite hangout for many Space Forces personnel, and Cheung had their reasons for choosing it.
Shin didn’t seem to notice e was the only non-Space Forces person in the building — even the bartender and wait-person were ‘retired’ Space Forces. (Unlike the old US Marine Corp, there was such a thing as a ‘former Space Force,’ but you wouldn’t find any of them here.) “Colonel. I’m happy — and under orders — to do anything I can to support the Space Force.
“Before we get down to business, though, I was asked if I’d be willing to backchannel a… personnel matter.” The major signaled for the bartender and ordered something on tap.
“A personnel matter?” Cheung asked. “That sounds suitably ominous. Out with it, Major.”
“It is not meant to be ominous. You are more aware than I am of the work that goes into running Space Forces. With how much it’s grown in the last six months, it is no longer really a colonel’s command.”
The bartender glared at Shin as she passed over the major’s beer, and so did several soldiers close enough to ‘happen to overhear.’ Shin ignored them.
“You were not offered a promotion when you moved to Space Forces both to avoid the appearance of a bribe and because it was believed you would not accept one. Since we were meeting anyway, I was asked to find out if you would now be open to accepting a promotion to Brigadier General.”
The room had grown hushed, and Cheung slowly looked around. Many soldiers found reasons to be busy with their drinks or food, and the noise level returned to something approaching normal. Then Cheung looked at Shin — a look just short of a glare.
“It is said the military runs on paperwork, Major, but I have found it also runs on gossip.”
Shin grinned. “Have you, Colonel? I must admit I had noticed the same. Did you plan to discuss something gossip-worthy this evening?”
Cheung’s almost glare broke off with a little chuckle. “Alright, Major. You can tell… her… that I will not argue if she chooses to offer a promotion. This time.”
“Thank you, sir. I’m sure higher will be happy to hear it.”
The bartender returned, and Cheung accepted two small shot glasses and a bottle of baijiu. Pouring the glasses full, they offered one to Shin.
Shin accepted the glass with a somewhat put-upon expression and tapped a finger on the bar top. Cheung picked up their glass, saying, “To military intelligence — may it not be an oxymoron!” Shin held his glass up as well, and when Cheung said, “Ganbei!” e tossed it back with a grimace.
Then followed it up with a long drink of beer.
Cheung laughed and clapped em on the back. “You are a good sport, Major Shin, even if you are a disgrace to Mother China.”
“Should I ask how you learned I don’t like baijiu? Or should I just accept that whoever failed to recruit you for M9 should be shot?”
Cheung laughed again and poured themself (and only themself) another glass. “I am good at reading personnel files. Including what is not there,” they said, “Now. What news do you have for me?”
Shin sighed and grabbed a handful of pretzels. “Not much, I’m afraid. We have some new projections of possible threat levels, and progress on Project Apollo goes well.” Project Apollo was the name of the great lasers being created by Ameohne’e pet engineer. “I also have proposals from T for several new ship and boat designs.
E popped another pretzel in eir mouth and slid the computer ship e had palmed onto the table for Cheung to pick up. Cheung did with a grimace. “That is something. I worry we focus too much on a few bit weapons and not enough on the small things.”
Shin grunted. ” ‘An army marches on its stomach’ and good boots.
“Yes, she is not military, and it shows. Do you have specific needs? We are limited only in time, and higher says you get anything you want, reasonable or not. But you are the one who best knows the logistics needs you will face.”
“I…” Cheung picked up the computer chip and a few pretzels, slipping the first into a pocket. “…am not sure. It is hard for me to take seriously. And not the kind of task Space Forces is used to.”
“Colonel, you understand that preparing for absurd situations is part of what M9 does? I swear that somewhere there is a team devoted to planning how to hold off an amphibious attack from Emperor Penguins. Or another Emu War.”
Cheung started, then started choking on a pretzel. After they could speak again, they asked incredulously, “Another?”
“Old news, Australia lost,” Shin grinned. “And I believe the old Americans would have called it a ‘police action.’ ”
“Lost. To… Emus? Those big birds that are the closest we’ll ever see to the raptorial dinosaurs?”
“No… I think those were ostriches.” Shin called up a hologram of a tall brown bird with an evil-looking orange glare, “Emus are their less scary cousins.”
“Humans lost a war… to giant birds.” Cheung shook their head. “And you and I are supposed to figure out how to survive…” they trailed before finishing their thought. That was not anything they wanted to be gossiped about.
Shin grinned and finished off eir beer. “Does kind of put it in perspective, doesn’t it? Sir.”
Cheung shook their head. “It is a good thing you are all delusional, and this is not a real threat.”
The grin disappeared from Shin’s face. “With all due respect, sir, we have a duty to treat it as a real threat, regardless of your personal beliefs. If you cannot do so, send me officers who can.”