“Lieutenant – what is this garbage?”
I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the field Colonel’s mouth. There was this little hanging bit of froth that had been there for the past twenty minutes. Wobbling. Absolutely refusing to go anywhere. It was utterly fascinating – I kept wondering how it was hanging on, whether he’d engineered it that way, or if ‘frothing’ wasn’t just a state of mind or ….
“LIEUTENANT! Can you connect your brain to this moment in time?”
Oops. “Sorry, sir. Just tired, sir.”
He started off again, waving papers at me. It was probably wrong to say I ignored him, but I did. I’d heard everything before, from a dozen other officers – I wasn’t good at the paperwork part of the job, and have never hidden that from any of them. Eventually, the frustration overcame them and we got here. Which… is, admittedly, probably why I’ll never be better than a Lieutenant, and would disappoint my father if he was still around to care.
“… and on top of that, you haven’t even bothered talking to Greywatch or Templar leadership. Not a single report or even whisper; I’ve got brass screaming at me because they think we’re letting them stew, and have for over a year. One of the Alliance’s best civilian ally groups and you’ve left them thinking that SI:7 is ignoring them. So that’s it. You’re going to their leadership, and you’re going to apologize – and you’re going to do whatever they tell you to do until this thing is over. Period. Do you get me, Lieutenant?”
“Sir, I don’t – “
“Yes or no, Tallant. You’ve ignored orders, avoided engagement – done some good, sure, and that’s the only reason I am /not/ having you dropped in the stockade right now. You took an oath to serve – and that means serving even when you don’t like the job. And no, I won’t take your resignation.”
“Yes. Yes, sir.”
And that was it. He went on for a while, but.. he was right. It left a sour taste in my mouth – the number of horrors in the Templar ranks was legendary. Plus? A bunch of misfits and lunatics – the number of buildings and cliffs they’ve destroyed in the course of duty was the stuff of whispered, drunken stories from Dun Morogh to Goldshire. So that leaves me.. .what? Playing ‘trusted resource’ to a bunch of worgen, demon-lovers, and deaders, led by a bunch of paladins who think they have ’em in hand?
You spend your life fighting monsters, and then command proposes to dump you in a nest of them and pretend they don’t scare the crap out of you just because they happen to be on your side. I used to hate the Wall – now? Every day I’m wishing the bloody worgen hadn’t found their way inside – nothing out there makes sense. Not really.
But, in the end, orders are orders, and I know where they’re camping.
It doesn’t take long to get anywhere when you’ve got a bunch of nether-goat mages and priests running the portal network. Hell, they’ve got it in better shape than the Kirin Tor, a positive side effect of fighting a running guerella war for a few generations. It helps that the Draenei are a bunch of really good sorts, the kind of people who are quick with a joke and a grin, even if their senses of humor can often be a little off. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not a gnome.
All the good humor and smiles end when you land in one of the camps the Army of Light is holding for Azeroth’s forces. All business from the moment you touch down to the moment you leave – it’s another thing I really appreciate. Most of Azeroth’s forces are irregulars drawn from the various war- and adventuring-guilds, not the kind of people that take well to military discipline or the lack of creature comforts inherent on a battlefield. I find I don’t like them much. Individually, a freelancer may have a lot of skill or a good heart, but they have real problems when it comes to working with people. It’s all about them and what they can do, not about the objective, not about what -that- needs.
Kind of the idea that when you are a hammer, every problem is a nail, right?
I sat for a while, watching these adventurer types come and go, landing and storming off in one direction or another, and far fewer of them coming back, and most of those looking a little more shocked and pale than when they left in the first place. Alliance command says attrition rates are almost 30% – higher, for first-timers on Argus – and most of those are captured, not killed, that the demons are expending extraordinary numbers of their own to make sure that Azeroth’s defenders are shut up in cages and drained over weeks rather than just left to bleed-out on the fel-touched rock.
That’s a pleasant ending to look forward to, isn’t it? I found myself making sure that my own failsafes were still working – nothing says, “to the nether with you, demonspawn” than a couple of pounds of high explosives, says me.
Anyway – I checked on the clanks, then strapped in on the treadbike and headed for the front – not my favorite mode of transportation. It’s loud, for one thing, and smelly – but it’s rugged and doesn’t require a lot of affection to keep moving, and doesn’t spook when something throws felflame at it. It’s not my gyrocopter and it’s not a decent horse, and it’s definitely not one of those amazing cats the elves ride – but it’s fast and reliable and I can put it back together when it breaks. The rest? I can do with feet, I think.
And… it was on those feet that I made my last approach to the camp, calling out to the sentries as I approached – no sense taking an arrow, right?
“Hey, boys! Joilin Tallant, SI:7 – reporting in. Don’t eat me, huh?” And I gave ’em my best, widest, most disarming smile. See, dad? I can be politic. Watch me go.
Joilinn’s orders include this letter, sealed with an alliance seal and addressed to Kory and Ari:
Justicar Dawnfield, Seneschal Emberstone –
My apologies, and the apologies of SI:7 – we’ve discovered that the operative we’d sent to act as a liaison to the Templars was not performing to the standards we expect, and we’ve taken certain actions to correct this oversight. You should soon receive Lieutenant Joilinn Tallant, late of Gilneas, who has been ordered to report to you in this role. I wish I could send you anyone else – Tallant’s very good at her work, but has a set of prejudices from her upbringing in Gilneas that has a tendency to make her somewhat unreliable.
Regardless of her own personal issues, she understands what is at stake, and will perform to Alliance expectations. If she does not, you are empowered to remove her commission and send her to Stormwind for summary court-martial and discharge.
I’m sorry I’m giving you a problem child – the additional oversight is never useful in a warzone. That said, Tallant is very, very good, and with our resources stretched thin, she’s the right person to have out there on the front lines of this kind of war.
Keep me posted as to her progress –
Colonel Erwin Brannis, SI:7, field operations