The corporal stopped the vehicle at the hospital and stepped out. Colonel Markham, Texan guard, followed.
“What are we doing here? I want to talk to Major Beck.”
“This is where he is.”
“Is he injured?”
“Then why - ?”
“He’s with Heather.” Corporal Jones pointed out a door.
“Knock, or else?” asked the colonel, referring to the sign on the indicated door.
“See that crack in the glass?”
“That’s from the last guy who came in unannounced.”
Jones knocked on the door, waited a few seconds, then cracked the door.
“Sir?” he asked quietly.
An equally quiet voice replied.
“Who is it?”
“Colonel Markham to see you, sir.”
“Send him in.”
The colonel stepped into the room. He found the major sitting on the bed in his t-shirt, his arms around someone – presumably Heather – who was curled up, sleeping in his lap. She wore the majors’ hat on her shaved head, which didn’t quite hide the stitches on her scalp. In the corner, he saw the major’s things, and the table next to him was covered in paperwork. Major Beck had clearly been here for quite some time.
“I apologize for the informality.” Beck said.
“No, it’s ok.” His voice was muted, taking his cue from the major.
“How can I help you, sir?”
“I was looking for a status report. Perhaps I should talk to your second in command?”
“She’s out of the office right now, checking the perimeter. We’re stretched pretty thin. I can give you an overview, but I’ve had to delegate a lot the past few days.”
“Well, I guess I’ll take the overview.” He looked around for a place to sit. Beck noticed his gaze.
“Sorry, colonel. Just move my things.” He pointed at a chair by the door. Heather stirred in his arms, her plaster-gauntleted hand sliding out from under the blanket as she shifted position. He waited for both Heather and the colonel to get settled before he started.
“Well, we’ve got the ASA conducting air raids about weekly; they do a fair bit of damage each time, inflicting casualties and draining our resources, before we can chase them off. On the other side, we’ve got New Bern.” His voice hardened. “They’re not working with the ASA, but they’re not allies either. They’re raiding us too, looking for food. Frankly, I don’t trust Constantino – their leader – at all. He’d sell us to the ASA if he thought he could get a concession for New Bern.” The colonel didn’t notice how Beck’s arms had tightened around Heather when he spoke of New Bern.
“I really hope Texas can help us out. We’re running low on men, munitions, food, medical supplies – everything. And, honestly, if nothing changes, we’re screwed. My men are tired, and their morale is declining with every raid.”
“I see. Well, Texan forces are a few days away at the rate they’re going. Perhaps an air drop can at least get you supplies.”
“That would be much appreciated, sir.”
“It would be only appropriate. If it weren’t for Jericho, we’d never have found out the truth.”
“Thank you anyway.”
The colonel stood, accidentally causing the chair to skid noisily on the floor. Heather’s eyes snapped open, and the colonel noticed an instinctive flash of fear as she saw him. She tensed, taking on a defensive posture.
“Shhhh-hhh. It’s ok, he’s not going to hurt you.”
“Of course not. Why wou-?”
Beck cut him off with a look, eyes dark with grief and suppressed rage. His eyes widened in realization.“I’m sorry.” The colonel paused, not sure what else to say. He settled for a nod before he exited.