FOUR YEARS BEFORE THE DEATH OF THE LEADER
“Here’s the problem with space,” Yumi said. “It’s big.”
“This again,” Jazmynde said, rolling her eyes.
They were sitting together at a small table, rows of now-empty glasses ringed like glass walls between them. The dining room was dim and brown, designed to be comfortable and intimate for the highest echelons. They were alone in the room, save for a Major who was acting as bartender.
Instead, it was tight and felt confined, like everything else in the leader’s compound under the miles of ice and sea on Europa. No portals looked outwards. There would have been no point in looking out into a seemingly endless ink-black of water. Instead, projections of a three-dimensional natural scene ringed the walls.
Yumi nodded drunkenly. “Yes, this again. I don’t think you have any appreciation of what I do. I know Wilhelm doesn’t.”
Jazmynde tutted. “Still fighting?”
“Isn’t that what he does?”
“He’s also supposed to know how to choose his battles,” Jazmynde said.
“And to know who his allies are,” Yumi added.
Jazmynde held up her drink. “To assholes,” she said.
Yumi laughed and lifted her drink. “To assholes!” They downed their drinks and both groaned.
“If they can’t get good booze at the bottom of Europa in the most secure compound in the worlds, where can they get it?” Jazmynde asked.
“Does that mean you’re done?”
“I’ll get more drinks then,” Yumi said and staggered off.
Jazmynde ran her hands through her short, brown hair and shook her head vigorously trying to clear it. She couldn’t remember why she invited Yumi out for drinks. Some vague frustration with work and wanting to blow it all off with a colleague or something. Jazmynde was the first to admit she wasn’t a “people person.”
She also wasn’t about to talk about her frustrations to Yumi.
Yumi came back with two more drinks, both brown.
“Degreaser?” Jazmynde asked.
“The bartender said it’s aged bourgon.”
“That’s it. Bourbon.”
“Just the messenger here, Jazmynde,” Yumi said. “Let’s swallow it and our stomachs can ask it how old it is.”
Jazmynde laughed and grabbed the drink. “Gonna hold off a moment. I’m on the brink and I don’t like being drunk.”
“Oh, you’re in the right place then,” Yumi said, rolling her eyes. “Don’t like being drunk?”
“I don’t like feeling out of control. It’s like a cat with water. The water doesn’t actually hurt them, but they hate the sensation.”
“You drink all the time,” Yumi protested.
“But I don’t get drunk.”
Yumi shook her head. “I don’t see the point in that. Honestly, Jazzmynde, I don’t get you.”
Jazmynde winked. “You’re not supposed to. Can we change the subject? I’m dying to hear more about this ‘big space’ thing you’ve discovered.”
Yumi scoffed. “You, Mara, and Wilhelm… you have it easy. You plan or execute battles. I could do that like this!” She tried to snap her fingers but failed.
“You’d do it exactly like that,” Jazmynde agreed.
“You know what I’m saying. But I supply all of you. Try fighting a battle with no material, no food, no fuel. It’s not like you can run to the corner store and get them. It’s not like you can forage for supplies on the surface of Ceres. You can maybe scrape up enough water to spark some engines and keep the lights on for a few hours, but that’s it. Without me, there’s no progress.”
Jazmynde nodded. “I know this! I appreciate you.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “I know you do. You’re all understanding and shit. But Wilhelm. It’s like I told him a few weeks ago, ‘an army travels on its stomach’ I said. ‘Try eating micro-meteorites on the way to Enceladis. Then thumb your way home before all of your fodder starves to death.'”
“I bet he took that well.”
“Like I said, he’s always ready to battle. All he knows is he shows up and kills things. He doesn’t know the logistical nightmare that space brings. There is debris traveling at insane speeds, ridiculous distances in one of the most hostile environments possible, time dilation in communications, managing extreme scarcity, and keeping all supply lines open and constant so our war machine doesn’t splitter out.”
Jazmynde nodded automatically.
“I mean, the fodder lands on the planet, they win, they take territory. What’s waiting for them there? Most of those bases and research facilities are self-sufficient for maybe a year with that given population. What if you add an army to that list? And if they lose? Weight is at a premium. They take as few stores as possible and we can’t set up a supply line until after we’ve had a successful battle report.”
Jazmynde stifled a yawn.
“Keeping you on the edge of your seat, am I?” Yumi asked.
Jazmynde shook her head, still yawning. “You can’t ply someone with drinks then expect a rapt audience while talking about logistical headaches in space. What’s going on between you and Wilhelm?”
“Same old bullshit.”
Jazmynde sighed. “When does Wilhelm arrive at Cordelia?”
“Two days or so,” Yumi answered. “One more dirtball reclaimed in the name of the glorious leader!”
Jazmynde almost leaped across the table and covered Yumi’s mouth. “Keep it down. That almost came out as sarcastic.”
Yumi waved her hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, everyone knows only you get to be the sarcastic one, witch.”
“Enough for you,” Jazmynde said. She grabbed Yumi’s drink and downed it in a quick swallow.
“Hey! Gimme that back!”
“Come on,” Jazmynde said, standing up. She staggered slightly, then steadied herself. She walked over to Yumi and helped her up. “We have things do to, and we’re in no state to do them. We need to sleep this off.”
“Whatever, witch,” Yumi slurred. She let Jazmynde stand her up. She practically hung onto Jazmynde as they staggered out.