The memorial service was short, and eloquently simple. Troopers never did like to discuss death; they were faced with it every moment. Today was different.
General Redwing, Sergeant Zim, and Sergeant Rico gave eulogies of Lieutenant Jean Razak. A little humor here and there balanced the grief and anguish of the present troopers.
Sitting beside Lieutenant Hook, Spitz caught herself staring at Carl Jenkins. The Roughnecks psychic sat coolly up on the platform, staring straight ahead. Of all the Roughnecks, Jenkins was the only one who remained unperturbed. Chalk that up to our training, she thought grimly.
Once, while waiting for the service to begin, she gave him a psychic brush; more to greet him than to read his mind. There was too much pain and hatred in him that she recoiled quickly.
Only Cyber had noticed her pale. Once, Jenkins looked over at her for a few seconds; he said nothing to her, but the look he gave her apologized for not returning her greeting. Then he closed himself off from her again.
As for Hook, the lieutenant found peace.
It hit him so hard that he gasped. It was as if a large burden had been released from his shoulders. He had crossed a threshold he never saw. He had finally shed the last part that remained .the old Andrew Hook. He was ready to lead again.
Up until now, he had thought hed reached the pinnacle of his career. A squad that was more family than subordinates; a commanding officer out of reach from book-smart officers who knew nothing of combat. He was satisfied with where he was.
..secure. And security could be dangerous to combat officers. Complacency didnt kill the Hellions, however. And, Hook knew, it wasnt complacency that left sole survivors of seven other squads. Like metal forged through fire, so had Hook and the new squad been put through fire of their own. And they were almost a finished product. That was where the peace was found.
The clarity of his position caused Hook to look down the pew at each of his squad. Spitz, Cyber, Chiquita, Kai, Doc, Smoke, and Nanoforge. He resolved that they would never replace the Hellions, but he would no longer shut them out. They were lost without his guidance. He hadnt given them anything to help them truly survive; combat simulation practices only displayed their circle-the-wagons approach.
He would lead.
They would follow.
He would show them that a chapter of their lives had closed forever. It was time to enter a new chapter as one unit.
Hook gazed at the Roughnecks up on the platform, and empathized. They, too, had a threshold to cross. They were family Razaks family, and theyd just lost their father. The confusion in Ricos eyes said it all: what would become of them? Another squad assimilated among countless others?
But there was something else. Something harshly familiar about Ricos position. Things could go from bad to worse for the Roughnecks, but Hook saw in Rico that natural ability to lead. The same kind of natural leadership that was found in Hook. Given the chance, Rico would make a fine officer.
The final hymn, the final amen and the memorial service was over. Rico rushed the Roughnecks off the platform and exited through the chaplains private door. While the chapel emptied of the squads, General Redwing approached Razaks aunt, while Zim quietly conversed with the chaplain.
Hook led his squad out of the chapel and into the shade offered by a fragrant gardenia tree. He made no move, offered no conversation. More of a sigh than a grudge, his squad stood at attention. They were used to his silence, used to waiting for orders. Even Spitz knew better than to question what he was going to do next.
Darmoks Demons soon approached the waiting squad. As before inside the chapel, Hook and Darmok shook each others hand, then embraced. Confused, the squads exchanged glances.
Drew, Darmok moved back a little to showcase his squad. I believe youve met my squad.
Hook nodded in greeting, and the Demons smartly stood at attention. He approached them down the line.
Sarge Deuce, Marauder driver; Spaznoidy, neo-dog handler; Vykk Draygo, the other Marauder driver; best friends Arcee and Mandy; and techno-engineering guru, Chilton.
Hook quickly introduced his squad to the Demons. At first, no one said anything, but the moment Hook and Darmok walked away, the squads mingled.
Darmok had his hands clasped behind his back.
Whats on your mind, Drew?
Hook grinned. I might have a solution to your problem, Dar.
Darmok arched an eyebrow. I wasnt aware I had one.
Hook chuckled, and Darmok reveled in the sound. Who hadnt heard about Hooks Hellions? And knowing Andrew Hook personally, Darmok knew that the young man wouldve taken the loss too personally.
Whats my problem?
Youre an ape short.
Think HQ knows?
My experience is that you need to do something drastic to be noticed at HQ.
Just like always, Drew stealing my limelight.
One of my troopers has a friend hes looking out for.
Darmok stopped walking and turned to look back at their two squads. I thought you were all orphans.
Hook paused for a moment. I think my medic was a bit stunned himself to learn of his friends survival.
Have you met the trooper?
Not personally, no. But I trust my medic. Hes anxious to have his friend somewhere nearby.
They both knew Hook meant safe, but something told them safety wasnt anywhere near them. Darmok nodded.
Sure, Ill take the trooper. Do you know his name?
Calco. Basic grunt, but I saw his record. He was training for the medical branch.
Darmok nodded approvingly. Ill see to the transfer personally. Let your medic know his friend is welcome with the Demons.
Hook grinned. Maybe you should tell him. We wouldnt want to frighten him with a name like that.