Notes: I didn't know that I'd get the chance to write the next chapter in time, but apparently endless hours in a plane are good for something after all! Cambodia was amazing, I'll post about it soon, but in the meantime, have some Miles and Garrett to start your day off right.
Title: Reformation: Chapter 6
Miles had forgotten the last time he’d worn his full dress uniform. He hadn’t been active duty with the marines for, oh, nearly a decade now. What used to feel like a second skin to him now seemed awkward, the medals clinking too loudly against his chest, the epaulets too gaudy, the collar far too tight. He’d have packed the thing away years ago if it weren’t for the fact that Claudia liked him to wear it occasionally, but he’d never kept it on for more than half an hour.
What was enjoyable to do for his wife felt almost too heavy to bear now, but Miles straightened his tie and pulled the corners of his hat crisp before stepping out of the shuttle and marching toward Federation Central Command. His personal staff fell in around him like bodyguards, the command escort that had been sent to meet him pushed back to the edge of his entourage.
“It’s a full tribunal meeting,” his secretary, Shen Lin, murmured as they walked along. “Very formal. My sources tell me it could go either way in there.” As in, either you could be thrown into command or thrown into the brig.
Miles nodded briskly. “Who’s sitting on the tribunal?”
“General Sokha, Admiral Davenport and Admiral Rupallier.”
It could have been worse. Miles had served with both Sokha and Davenport. Sokha, in fact, had only come into command of the Federation Marine Corps because Miles had turned the job down in order to take the position as Paradise’s interim governor. Unfortunately, Sokha knew that, and had never been fond of Miles because of it. Davenport was different; they had been equals when they’d served together, young men just starting out in their careers. Davenport, at least, had no reason to dislike him. Miles might be able to get some answers out of him.
Command Central was half-office space, half-museum. It seemed like every hallway was littered with monuments to different battles fought or leaders revered. It was considered a high honor to have your face immortalized on the walls of the Federation’s military hivemind. Another honor Miles had rejected; once upon a time he would have died to secure his place there, but that was before losing his wife, and almost losing Garrett. It had reminded him that he had so much to live for, all of it so much more important than ensuring his name was carved onto a sterile monument and tucked away into a hall somewhere. His family was the most important thing in the world to him, and being called up like this now…well, imprisonment would get him nowhere. He’d have to be careful.
The tribunal was convened in a relatively small conference room just before the enormous lecture hall in the center of the building. Miles entered, walked straight up to the table where the three presiding officers sat, and saluted. “Sirs.”
“General Caractacus.” All three saluted back, but it was Rupallier doing the talking, a bald, pale man who looked like he’d never seen the sun, much less space. “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
As if I had a choice. “Of course.”
“Please sit.” In the single chair that would noticeably set him apart from his personal staff. Shen Lin stiffened slightly, but Miles just stepped forward and sat down, removing his hat and setting it on one folded knee.
“I’m sure you’ve heard about the attack on Pandora,” Rupallier began.
“Through unofficial channels, yes,” Miles interjected. “Why hasn’t the attack been made public yet?”
“We wanted some time to consider the appropriate response for a piracy attack of this severity. Clearly, our efforts so far haven’t been aggressive enough. We decided the best thing to do in this situation is mobilize a division of the Central Fleet to deal with it. It’s an excellent opportunity for the Academy’s rising cadets, and—”
“Cadets?” Miles knew it wasn’t in his best interest to keep interrupting, but he couldn’t help it. “Why would you send out cadets? Why not use the force stationed at Ceyla; they’re weeks closer to the Fringe.”
“The division at Ceyla has orders to maintain its presence there to protect the city and surrounding stations.”
“Surely the risk there is low. It’s not exactly a Fringe planet.”
“Close enough.” Rupallier’s voice rang with finality. “And it’s at the discretion of Central Command to decide if and when to allow cadets to participate in space maneuvers, and that decision is already made.”
Fine. Time to be more direct. “I understand and respect your authority to make those calls. It puzzles me that you’re bringing me into this situation, though.”
“It’s possible that our response will involve a ground presence on Pandora itself,” Admiral Davenport said, smoothly taking the reins of the conversation. “No one in the fleet has more experience in planning and commanding ground operations than you, Miles. And given your personal investment in the colony—”
“Which makes him the last person we need commanding ground troops,” General Sokha interrupted. Rupallier and Davenport both looked at him with the exasperated airs of people who had already had this conversation, but he pressed on. “I’m against your involvement in this action. Your very investment could compromise your ability to make necessary decisions in the heat of the moment. Obviously, my concerns have been overruled,” he added with a glare at his compatriots, “but you should know that you will be under observation, General Caractacus. All of your actions will be open to review, and if they’re found wanting, you’ll be held responsible in a court of military justice.”
It was the perfect storm. Reinstatement, encouragement to undertake close-combat operations with green troops against an unpredictable enemy, and the promise that every single one of his decisions could and would be used against him if they were interpreted the wrong way. Which some of them almost certainly would.
“I feel sure that such a review will be unnecessary,” Davenport snapped. “The situation calls for a strong commander, not a backseat driving committee.”
“And there’s no one else in the entirety of the fleet, in active duty, who could do this?” Miles asked. He already knew what they were going to say, but he wanted it recorded and out in the open.
Admiral Rupallier folded his hands on the table in front of him. “Are you refusing reinstatement, General?” Every staffer in the room tensed, and Miles could almost hear his secretary’s teeth grind.
“I will always do my duty,” Miles replied. “Even if that duty is a hard one.”
“What’s so hard about the situation at hand?” Rupallier asked. “One could almost think of it as a gift from Central Command, letting you back into the field for this operation. Who else would you trust to ensure it gets done right?”
Miles smiled thinly. “Absolutely no one.” Davenport flinched a little, but Miles wasn’t done twisting the knife. “I assume the customary twenty-four hour reinstatement rule applies here, or is that another formality being done away with?”
“Time is of the essence, General,” Rupallier reminded him.
“Certainly, but given that I know nothing of the forces being mobilized, or who my fellow commanding officers will be, I would think that you’d want to minimize mistakes in the field by giving me time to review what intelligence we have on the attack and coordinate a plan of action.”
“Let him do it by the book if that’s how we’ll be judging him,” Sokha said, in an unexpected show of support. “You have twenty-four hours until you leave, General Caractacus. Use them wisely.”
“I plan to.”
“Be back here at 1300 tomorrow to meet the shuttle that will take you to your command,” Rupallier said. “You’re grounded until then. Your military escort—”
“Will be waived.” Both the other commanders looked at Davenport like he was crazy. “For which I’ll take personal responsibility,” he added. “But I don’t see any need for it. It’s not as though Miles is going to run off with state secrets.”
Sokha shrugged. “Any fuckups are on your head, then.”
“I don’t anticipate any problems.” Davenport looked directly at Miles. “Do you?”
“No.” He nodded slightly, then stood up. “Sirs.” He held his salute until it was returned, then left the conference room without a backward glance. His staff held their positions around him, but now at least there were no direct threats.
“Claudia and the girls are en route to meet you in a suite at the Palace Hotel,” Shen Lin said as they walked. “I’ve ensured that the highest level security measures are in place. Everyone attending to them has been personally vetted, and there are three potential exits for them in case of emergency. Your son has transport standing by to take them out of the system as soon as you’re gone.”
It was above and beyond their standard emergency procedures, but Miles wasn’t about to argue. “And Garrett?”
“He’s waiting for you as well.”
He wasn’t waiting at the Palace Hotel, though. Instead, Miles found Garrett waiting for him in the shuttle, sitting in the pilot’s seat. He swiveled around when Miles entered, his expression apprehensive. “So? Is it as bad as we thought?”
Miles sighed. “It’s not good,” he admitted. “I’ll be subject to heightened oversight, and I’ve got very little time to get ready for the mission itself. But I’ve done more with less.”
“And their explanation for why?”
“I’m too good at my job, apparently.”
Garrett snorted. “Those fuckers. I mean yes, you are, but that’s such a flimsy reason to draw you out of retirement when there are dozens of armchair generals champing at the bit to take on ‘pirates.’” He laced his fingers together. They looked red, like he’d been wringing them a lot. “You know they’ll send out the kids.”
“I know. But not Cody.”
“Not Cody,” Garrett affirmed. “I’ve got transport on the way to grab him. He’ll be joining Claudia and the girls, but Ten and Darrel and probably Grennson, if they think they can get away with it. I need you to look out for them. They can’t get hurt.”
Miles nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
“Just make sure that it’s enough, Dad.”
There it was: the specter of Garrett’s distrust in him. For the most part they’d fixed their relationship, through a lot of hard work on both their parts, but every now and then Miles’ past came back to haunt him. “I promise,” he said, feeling the weight of his own words. “I’ll do everything I possibly can to keep them safe.”
Garrett’s eyes were getting as red as his hands, shining too bright for anything but fear and grief. “I know you will,” he said, and Miles almost couldn’t hear him, he spoke so quietly. “I don’t know why I said that.”
“It’s okay. I understand.”
“I love you. I trust you, you know I do.”
“Of course I know,” Miles said gently.
“I’m just so fucking afraid.”
Miles closed the distance between them and pulled Garrett forward into his arms. It wasn’t often that he got a chance to be an actual father to his son these days; Garrett had his own family, his own life and work. But as dark as the circumstances were that led to it, Miles couldn’t be upset over the chance to hold his son as though he were young again. “We’re going to get through this,” he said, and this time he was promising himself. “All of us.”