Carter stood waiting for John just outside the Mess Hall which 103rd Division currently used as its briefing area. She was leaning against the wall next to the Mess Hall door.
"you're late", She said with an expectant look on her face, "Did you get lost?"
"I missed the tram", Said John, giving her an 'Oh-Well' gesture.
"He won't like that", She said, smiling.
John grunted, and walked through the door. The long benches usually spanning the Mess Hall were stacked up against the wall, replaced with scores of single chairs. Near the halls centre stood a metal Dais, at the top of which sat Lieutenant Evans.
John snapped a salute and began to explain his delay.
"Sir, i apologise for the-"
"Stow it Corporal", growled Evans,"I don't have much time."
he descended from the dais and approached John.
The Lieutenant's face was crossed by two old scars, both running across the bridge of his nose cheek-to-cheek. His neatly cropped Chestnut brown hair and beard framed his angry features. His brow was furrowed, mouth shut tight. As he grew closer, the Lieutenants Bars on the shoulders of his uniform glinted silver from the overheard light. He drew up to John - two feet taller than he - and crossed his arms matter-of-factly behind his back.
"You are no doubt wondering why I asked for you", that was an understatement. He had demanded John's presence. "You are being granted the priviledges of a Master Sergeant for the duration of the Morril Offensive", he paused here. John said nothing. " the reason for this strictly temporary promotion is quite simple.
"You have a combat record of six engagements. That means you have more combat experience than most soldiers on this ship. 103rd Division has lost seventy per cent of its Senior Sergeants in the past three months."
John was aware of that. He had watched many of them die.
"We have not yet been reinforced. Without leaders on the field, squads would be inadequately led and orders from the higher-up members of the chain of command would be difficult to execute from an inexperienced grunt's point of view. We need replacements. Corporal Carter along with others with exceptional", he used that word quite forcefully, "combat records have been granted the same priviledges."
He paused again here.
"Any questions?", he asked.
"Sir, just one. Who am I in command of?", Inquired John.
"The entirety of 4th Echelon. other Master Sergeants in that Echelon will act as squad leaders. Anything else?", replied the Liuetenant in a tone which implied that there shouldn't be anything else.
"Sir, no sir.", Droned John.
"Good. Dismissed", Barked the Lieutenant.
John gave a salute, turned, and left. Outside, Carter was talking with two Corporals she knew. John approached them, and she turned.
"Seems we're moving up in the world, eh?", she said, "Duvatt and Oscars got the same promotion." John knew Duvatt well, but only vaguely remembered Oscars. He nodded at them both.
"Does this mean we get a little sit in the Armchair?", asked Duvatt in a tone of hope mixed with mockery.
"Nah", replied John, "We're just Grunts who tell other Grunts what to do."
Officers higher up in the Chain of Command usually gave orders from way behind the frontlines- On an orbiting ship, or sat in a nice safe Command Vehicle. This earned them the nickname 'Armchair Generals'.
But a Master Sergeant? thought John, Duvatt should be so lucky.
"we'd better move our asses, we suit up in Fifteen", John reminded them.
With that, they moved towards the tram terminal.