William Cargano hated being summoned. It didn't matter who did the calling, whether it was a higher ranking officer or an old friend. In this case it was both. So he gently walked down the hall toward the conference room. He didn't know why James summoned him there, but he still didn't like it.
As he opened the door, he was Admiral James Carstairs seated at the end, flanked by General Piotr Hrudek and Captain Shirish Gonzalez. Cargano also hated being the last person at a meeting. "I'm here, James. What's this all about?"
Carstairs face was blank. "This is an official function. Please report properly."
Cargano looked at all three men suspiciously. In three years of serving under Carstairs, he had never had to report formally. Eying the three officers, he thought to himself that these are, not counting himself, the three most senior officers in the Krish Fleet, exactly the men needed for a board or a court martial... Cargano snapped to attention and saluted. "Captain William Cargano reporting as ordered, sir."
Carstairs returned the salute. "As you were. Have you heard the news from Omelos?"
Cargano had been on patrol so communication had been sporadic for the last two weeks. "No, I haven't. Has something happened?"
"The good news," Carstairs began, "is that Omelos has fallen. The bad news is that the Dilgar managed to kill Hamato and several senior staff in the process."
"Then I am both happy and sad. Why have I been summoned here?"
Carstairs leaned forward. "Because I am not happy with your performance, Captain."
Cargano felt his blood being to boil. "What aspects of my performance have upset you, sir?"
Carstairs leaned forward into the daggers shooting out of Cargano's eyes. "Quite frankly, Captain, I think there are...better places for you than commanding a Nova."
"Are you demoting me, James? Are you serious?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Are you demoting me, Sir."
Cargano began to grit his teeth. "Are you demoting me, Sir?"
"I think it's time to move you somewhere else."
Cargano glared at Cartairs for a moment. "And I suppose the orders have already come through."
"You should have come to me like a man first. Fuck you, James." Cargano snapped back to attention. "Where have I been reassigned, sir?"
Carstairs point out the window. "There."
Cargano looked out the window to see an Orestes Battleship surrounded by repair scaffolding. "Executive Officer I assume, sir?"
"What do you think, General Cargano?"
"I think that you can go to..." Cargano's face softened as he thought for a moment. "Did you say 'General'?"
Hrudek burst into laughter. Gonzalez's smile was both embarrassed and amused. Carstairs tossed a small box at Cargano. "Gotcha, Bill!"
Cargano caught the box and opened it. Inside were two stars, each one rank insignia for a Rear General. "What the hell?"
"The promotion has been in the works for a while. With all the staff losses at Omelos, it got fast-tracked. And since a General needs a good ride, you are now the commanding officer of the Louis Davout, fresh from the front."
The tension in Cargano's face disappeared. "I... I don't know what to say."
Shirish, in a quiet but deferential voice replied. "Well, you could still tell Admiral Carstairs where to go..."
Three general officers burst into laughter.