Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Growing up in the Berg household had not been easy. Even living in the same house for more than a year had been a challenge. The most vivid memories of her childhood that Eve had were the packing and unpacking of thousands of polyplast containers. It seemed like every time they got close to finishing unpacking the last box, orders magically appeared and they had to start packing up again.
Derrick had been there at first to help, but he was much older than Eve. By the time she was getting into middle school he was already in the Fleet. Just like their mother.
Sonya and Richard Berg had waited until later in life to have kids. She was a naval commander and he was an infantry lieutenant commander when they had Derrick and she was a captain and him a commander when she gave birth to Eve.
Deep down Eve knew her mother loved her. The woman just never showed affection. Even when her father was alive she couldn’t remember seeing them kiss in public. Sonya Berg was the stereotypical epitome of an ice queen, and it had served her well in her profession. You didn’t get to become the Chief of Naval Intelligence by being warm and cuddly.
<That was Dad’s job.>
While Eve’s mother was ice, her father was fire. He was full of boundless energy, passionate about himself, his job, and his soldiers. He was a true-blue leader, and that showed when his unit fought to the death on a contested world. Eve just hoped she could be half the soldier he was.
<If mom has her way I won’t be a soldier at all.>
Eve knew this day would come, but she’d hoped it wasn’t until after she’d graduated basic training.
“We need to talk…now.”
The tone made Eve shiver. It was the tone she’d used when Eve got caught smuggling sweets, or when she’d done poorly in school. It was a tone that conveyed failure and disappointment.
Eve didn’t even hesitate, she handed the tray over to poor Coop and walked behind her mother and security personnel out of the room.
<And things had been going so great. A little good natured ribbing between older brother and whatever the hell Coop is to me, and then she waltzes in and ruins everything.> Eve felt her blood begin to heat up, and that was a good thing.
You couldn’t outwit or outwait Sonya Berg. The only way to beat her was zealous commitment. Eve learned that from her father. He was the only one she’d ever seen get his way with her mother.
The promotion party was taking place at the NCO Club, a building that was part restaurant, part bar, part reception hall. The officers had a similar club not too far from here, but as a newly promoted NCO, the Gunnery Sergeant wanted to have her event at the NCO Club. She’d reserved one of the large rooms for rent and paid for the staff to cater the party. Eve suspected it was taking a big chunk out of her monthly pay, but she could afford it with the jump in grade.
Eve followed her mother as she marched out of the room they were using and into an adjacent one. This one was bigger and fancier, more in line with what an entire unit would use for their for milball. Like always, her mother walked into the room like she owned the place. In the middle of the faux-wood dancefloor she did a precise about-face and stared Eve down.
“Scan the room. I need to have a private conversation with my daughter.”
The security team nodded. Their commanding officer consulted her subdermal PAD, hit a few buttons, and stepped forward. Nanites crawled from pockets and crevices in the woman’s armor. They jumped into the air like little insects and scattered around the large space. Eve didn’t see any visual signs of the scanning, but she knew that the miniature robots were scanning the room for every possible surveillance method known to man.
After a few minutes the security commander nodded her satisfaction. “We’ll be right outside, Ma’am.” She backed out of the room and shut the door.
A moment passed and then Eve felt her skin prickle. The nanites that had been searching the room were now securing it against eavesdropping. By taking positions around the room, and linking together over their internal network, the tiny nanites were able to form an interdiction bubble. It wasn’t perfect, and could be cracked with enough time, but it would do in a pinch.
All of this meant that Eve was now alone with her mother.
“Eve.” The one word cut through her like a frozen blade.
“Mom.” Eve’s tone was already exasperated, so she reigned it in. “I’ve already been over this with Derrick.”
“Then you will go over it with me.” She put her foot down on Eve’s argument and strangled it.
“I’ve already made my decision.” Eve crossed her arms defiantly. “I want to do this. I want to finish basic and join the infantry. I want to fight on my terms. I want to be like Dad not you.”
Admiral Berg’s eyes softened for a heartbeat when her late husband was mentioned, but the last three words made sure to snuff that out. She didn’t glare at Eve, but her face was unreadable granite with a hint of disapproval.
“So, you want to throw away your life.” Her reply cut just as deep.
“I don’t consider serving my country to be throwing my life away.” Eve countered.
“But apparently the sixty years of service I have given the Commonwealth isn’t good enough for you.” Sonya picked apart her argument.
“No…Mom…I just don’t want to do what you do. Can’t you just accept that?” Eve pleaded.
“I can accept that you want to serve your country, but I cannot accept that you will waste your potential in doing so.” Her expression was still made of reinforced duro-steel. “You are intelligent, strong, determined, and I can see your father’s passion in you.” Her face softened slightly again.
“But if he was here he would also tell you that you should be using a different route to serve. Specifically, a route where you can spread your influence and make decisions that will lead to victory. That is a better use of your skills than dying from a stray bullet.”
“Mom, you have to realize that I’m not saying no to being an officer one day.” Eve knew she’d have to meet her mother halfway if she was going to make any progress. “But you can’t ignore the benefits of starting my career like this. I need to experience the infantry from the ground up. It will make me a better officer.”
“And you will be putting yourself and your potential in danger for at least half a decade before you’ve determined you’ve gained that required experience to move on to the next step in your career.” Her mother shook her head. “There is too much chance and too many variables that could go wrong in that time.”
Eve felt what little ground they’d gained slipping away. She’d been surprised her mother hadn’t fought her more on her decision to go infantry, but it was something she couldn’t take for granted. It would be just like Sonya Berg to lure you into a confident mindset before cutting you off at the knees.
“I’m willing to take that chance.”
And now they were at an impasse.
There weren’t many cards Eve could play, and any of them would further damage her relationship with her mother. But she had to try.
“Dad would let me do it.”
Eve saw the round impact and almost shatter her mother’s composure. Her eyes and nostrils flared momentarily before she got them under control. But the hardening of her cold blue eyes made it clear that approach hadn’t worked.
“Your father is dead. He forfeited his rights to raise you when he died in the infantry.”
If anything, Eve playing the Dad card had just backfired.
<Is this what I want?> Eve had to stop and question herself for a second.
She saw the path to victory, but it was going to hurt. Sonya Berg might be her mother, but if Eve played this trump card then she might become an enemy; at least until this issue between them was resolved and they both had some time to cool off. Eve knew her mother well enough to know she had a long memory and didn’t forget easily.
<Yes, I want it.> She reaffirmed her commitment.
She could tell her mother knew something was coming by the way her lip twitched.
“Let me live my life, Mom, and I won’t tell anyone how you live yours.”
That did it.
Sonya Berg’s face, already cold and unyielding, went completely emotionless. There was no burning rage at the blackmail, just a stare void of humanity, and a far-off look like the Admiral had just lost another member of her family.
Despite the wealth and power that Sonya Berg had achieved in her lengthy career her life had not been easy: losing a husband, commanding men and women into battle, and running covert operations across the known galaxy took its toll. Admiral Berg had to see the lowest filth of humanity every day and then stick her arms shoulder deep into it to ensure the continued prosperity of the Commonwealth.
After a while she’d cracked and gotten help, pharmaceutical help. Even though it was the right thing to do, the culture of the military still hadn’t evolved despite hundreds of years of prodding. People were supposed to deal with their own shit, not show weakness, and get the job done. The Admiral seeking help wasn’t a career ending move, but the addiction problems were.
And now Eve was throwing that in her face.
<You don’t let me live my life and I tell everyone you like to pop pills on occasion.> Eve didn’t know if she could actually do that to her mother, but she didn’t let any doubt cross her face.
“Very well.” The Admiral replied after a tense few seconds.
Eve restrained herself from sighing in relief.
“I will let you continue this misguided quest as an enlisted infantrywoman, but beware.” The tone had gone from flat, dead, and emotionless to foreboding. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that you don’t go off and get yourself killed. People owe me favors, Eve. And I will use them to make sure you get your experience and live. In return, I expect that you will transition into the officer corps after you’ve gained your precious enlisted experience.”
Eve nodded. Today was a victory for her, and she didn’t want to push it. She’d won the battle but there was still a war to fight, and she’d already gone nuclear to get this far.
“Thank you, Mom.” Eve slowly approached her mother, like she was some caged animal, and gave her a hug.
The Admiral was still unresponsive except for a quick pat on the back.
“Now I need to leave.” She pulled away. “I made this quick stop here to talk some sense into you. I’ve got better things to do with my limited time.”
<That’s mom. Her job is her life and nothing is more important.> Eve simply nodded.
The Chief of Naval Intelligence walked to the door, opened it, gathered her detail and left. Eve waited for the tingle of the interdiction bubble to fade before heading back over to the party.
Everyone looked at her when she entered, but Coop was the first to get her.
“Take your tray and get back to work.” He had that grin on his face that she was beginning to fall for.
He handed her the tray and she immediately noticed that several of the entrées were missing. Guests could have taken them, but she’d bet her monthly pay that Coop’s sticky fingers were the real culprits.
<Dammit, Coop!> She sighed and got back to serving the guests. <Now Janney is going to kill us.>
Coop might be slick, but PO3 Janney saw and heard everything. If by some miracle he missed it, then GYSGT Cunningham sure as hell knew.