“Welcome, Lieutenant. Glad to have you with us.”
“Thank you, sir,” Lucas Smith replied, shaking General Balt’s hand.
“We’ve been shorthanded lately, especially in First Regiment. You’ll be working with Captain Sumley, under Colonel Vance Barsters. He’s a real asset—good man—knows what he’s about. I think you’ll do well with them.
“Very good.” The general turned and pressed a button on his desk. “Specialist Drei, come in here please.”
Seconds later, the office door opened and a uniformed robot entered. She was the spitting image of Lucas’s former assistant, Specialist Ochodiez.
“Take the Lieutenant to Captain Sumley.”
She led him out of the office and down a hallway that was so long it actually disappeared into a dot in the distance.
“Congratulations on your promotion,” she said, over her shoulder.
“Thank you. How many Elizas are here on base.”
“Fourteen.” She smiled. “I’m afraid you won’t see much of me in your new position.”
They must have walked at least a mile, when Eliza stopped in front of a door labeled Asian Theater Command and Control. Turning the knob, she pulled the door open and held it for Lucas. Once he had passed through, she followed, closing it behind her.
The room was huge, at least as large as a football field. There were no dividers or cubicles, just row upon row of desks. On each desk was a large video screen and sitting at each desk was an army officer. Eliza led Lucas through the aisles until she came to a seated captain. Stopping, she issued a snappy salute. Lucas saluted as well.
“Regards from General Balt,” she said. “This is Lieutenant Smith.”
“Excellent,” said the captain, returning their salutes and then standing up to shake hands with the lieutenant. “Come with me. That will be all, Specialist.”
“Welcome to Easy Company. You’ll be taking over Platoon Four.” He led Lucas on a zig-zag trail through the desks, as Eliza turned and headed back the way she had come. “Lieutenant Armijo, my second-in-command, is filling in.”
They stopped beside a small woman with close-cropped black hair.
“Leslie, this is Lucas Smith. He’ll be taking over the Fourth.”
“Great,” she said, shutting the screen off with a tap and standing up. She waved toward her seat. “It’s all yours.”
“Get to know your men,” said Sumley. “We’re patrolling a sector just west of Pokrovsk. We’re going to be there for another forty-eight hours. Keep the peace. Render aid. That kind of thing. Day after tomorrow, we’ll be moving toward Nyurba.”
“Sounds easy enough.”
“It is. It’s entirely supervisory. You’re soldiers know what they’re doing. Just keep an eye on things. You’ll do fine. The head is off in that direction. Staff Sergeant Berry will relieve you at 22:00 hours.”
With a slap on Lucas’s shoulder, Captain Sumley left, followed by Lieutenant Armijo.”
Lucas took his seat. On the desk in front of him were a keyboard and a small headset. He put the headset on and typed in his password. The screen lit up. It was large, as big as his dad’s vueTee, but with an even higher resolution. On either side were two columns of ten windows, each the view from one of the soldiers in the platoon. Embossed over each was a symbol indicating that soldier’s rank and weapons load. He reached up and touched an image. Sliding his fingers left or right, up or down, rotated the image in any direction he wanted to see. The image in the top right hand corner was marked with three stripes. He dragged the picture with his fingertip and dropped it in the center of the screen. The image expanded to fill the space.
“Sergeant 021146 reporting.”
“This is Lieutenant Lucas Smith, the new platoon commander.”
“I see you, sir.”
For the first time, Lucas noticed the small green light at the top of the screen indicating that there was a camera facing him.
“We are guarding a crossroads. I have squads one and two checking traffic. Squad three, with our sniper and heavy weapons, are stationed on the rooftop of the refueling station on the northeast corner. Squad four is currently waiting in reserve.”
“Have all the nearby buildings been secured?”
“It sounds like you have everything under control. Do you have a name?”
“Are you all named Joe?”
“That is correct, sir.”
“That’s going to make it hard to refer to anyone and I don’t relish calling out six digit numbers in an emergency.”
“Might I suggest using rank and the last two digits of their identification codes?”
“The men won’t be offended?” asked Lucas.
“No, sir. They are dedicated soldiers.”