"So, you insufferable twat-weasel, what part of your tiny pea brain thought it made sense to drop a three tonne drone on the operation, then leave it a ditch collecting dust?" Sergeant Gumelar had stopped that odd lopsided walk of hers in front of the sleek black polymer desk that Sully sat nervously behind. The ship was back under thrust, but the weight of the Sergeant's glare could probably have kept him anchored to his seat even in zero g.
"Well, I, er, operational, er, difficulties prevented, er, full dispersal of, er, hardware and...." Sully was interrupted by his coffee mug suddenly taking off from the desk and clattering against the rear bulkhead, a thin trail of liquid slowly dripping down the wall from the impact point. In place of the mug lent Sergeant Gulemar, resting on her knuckles, face just a few inches away from his, yellowed teeth bared.
"Spare me the AI-speak for marines 101, boy, and instead explain to me why you ass-fucked the operation" her breath smelt of coffee, causing a slight pang of regret in Sully for his drink now spread over a wall a few metres away.
Sergeant Gulemar's gaze suddenly shifted from boring into Sully's skull to search the room for the source of the sound. Head quickly shifting between the other two people in the small briefing room. She stood up, the snarl on her face twisting that old scar into another vivid contortion.
“Mr Fuller..." that her tone sounded almost reasonable against the look on her face only served to add to the tension in the room.
The colour drained from the big marine's square jawed face, washing away the smirk with it.
"...I'm glad that you are in such a jovial mood" Sergeant Gumelar slowly paced over to Fuller's desk, the marine shrinking a little in his seat. "Because in all my years flying in this decaying hulk, all my years of babysitting wet-behind-the-ears cock-weasels, I have never EVER seen quite as pathetic a VFM score as you managed yesterday"
"But the operation was successful" the words came out almost as a squeak from Fuller, who had edged even further down his seat, as if the extra couple of inches of separation from the looming presence of the Sergeant might save him.
Sergeant Gumelar laughed. Sully could never remember having heard her laugh before, and he wouldn't have minded if he never heard her laugh again, the screeching rasp like an asthmatic dog having an epileptic fit. Rather than trialling off, the laugh just stopped, and the Sergeant returned to staring at Fuller.
"You dropped a battalion size pack on a rock smaller than the shit I took this morning. You managed to get the leg ripped off a nebula class spec ops drone BY A TWATING ROCK MINING DRONE. You then proceeded to fire off so much ordinance that the folks back on Earth are wondering if the fucking Martians are attacking. Central LH Conglom AI is now having to tender for a full structural survey on Hebe. I'm not even kidding, they're worried that it might crack in two after the humping you gave it. If that, to you, is a successful operation, then you are even dumber than my worst fears. And I already feared that you were a special sort of moron."
Silence hung in the small room like a bad joke at a funeral.
"That's it. You're done Fuller. I can just about justify keeping that shit-weasel around" a nod at Sully "as despite his installation of a Thumper as some kind of statue to ineptitude on Hebe, the lack of ordinance used just about secured the VFM calculation. And over here..." this time a nod to the remaining occupant of the room, a petite woman, almost elfin like, sat in the corner "...we actually have a VFM score that is almost within the realm of acceptability on my ships. Almost." the hint of a smile at the corners of the smaller woman's mouth, as this was high praise from the Sergeant. "But you, Fuller, you truly screwed the weasel this time. Next rock lugger we come across headed back to Earth, you're on it".
Fuller looked like he might cry, and that look on such a big man made Sully's stomach twist in a knot. The Sergeant stomped out of the room, door hissing shut behind her. No one spoke for a little while. Fuller rested his head on his arms, while the other two shared an awkward glance.
"I, er, shit, sorry 'bout that big guy" Sully tentatively broke the silence.
Fuller didn't respond, and Sully turned to plaintively look at the smaller marine, see if any assistance might come from that direction in breaking the heavy mood that had descended on the room.
"I wonder why the Sergeant hates weasels so much" the small marine said.
Sully frowned, "What?"
"The Sergeant, when she's angry, its all 'fuck weasel" this and 'twat weasel' that. What's she got against weasels?"
"Er, Mason, I kinda don't think that is the most pressing issue at the moment" Sully replied.
"Why? What's the matter? You heard the Sergeant, I aced the scenario run" the smile returned to the corners of Mason's mouth, a smug glow about her.
"Not everyone did quite as well" Sully gave a furtive nod towards Fuller, who remained with his head in his arms. Mason followed his gaze and contemplated Fuller for a moment or two, before shrugging her shoulders.
"I've been telling him he's shit for months, it is now evident that the Sergeant agrees, so what's the problem?"
"Kind of a little harsh, don't you think?"
"Oh do stop being such a pussy Sully. You know that sack of lard" a nod at Fuller "ain't cut out for this, just as much as I do" and with that Mason stood, before covering the distance across the room in one lazy bound and heading out the door.
"What a bitch" Sully mused, as much to himself than to Fuller
"The bitch talks sense though" Fuller had lifted his head a little, resting his chin on his hands.
"No way, man. She got an ego the size of Europa, head too far up her arse to pass comment on us"
"Nah" Fuller sat back in his chair "I ain't cut out for this. Always was gonna be a stretch transferring over from UN Federal Operations, I just can't deal with the VFM bullshit."
"But the VFM bullshit is what makes the Congloms the only real players out here, and leaves Fed Ops chasing scraps back Earth-side. You really want to go back to that?"
"No way, I seen some bad shit in Fed Ops" Fuller's gaze drifted off for a second before clarity returned "Reckon I'll go local ops, maybe set up a little security team. I hear the city-states are crying out for drone control expertise."
"You're better than that fella, rounding up drunk hicks with a shovel-drone? Come on, show the Sergeant she's got it wrong. Let's see those massive hairy balls you're always on about" argued Sully
Fuller snorted a laugh, before standing up.
"We'll see Sul, we'll see" he turned for the door "Wanna grab a beer? I need some lubrication before I go win back my money from Si"
Sully remained sat down, "Give me half an hour, I want to play back Mason's scenario run, see what she did that impressed the Sergeant so much"
"You gotta stop trying to compete with that psycho Sul"
"That's the problem though. If I ever want to win a tender when we do this for real, I gotta compete with her"
Fuller ran a hand across his close cropped scalp and uttered a rasping whistle
"That's fucked up man"
"That's fucked up man"
"That's how it works, you know that. Us grunts tender, AI computes, goes for the best combo of expected result plus VFM. We don't win tenders, we don't get paid" Sully shrugged, before stretching out and yawning.
"I might know it, but I don't think I'll ever get it" and with his own shrug, Fuller turned and left.Sully stared for a few seconds at the now empty spot that Fuller had been stood in Maybe Mason was right about Fuller not being cut out for this after all. Space ain't for the idealists