The Sector Commander’s assistant knocked on his commander’s door and waited for permission to enter the office. The Sector Commander answered gruffly, “Enter.” The assistant opened the door and saluted smartly from the doorway. The commander returned the salute cursorily and scowled, “What do you want?”
“Sir,” the assistant held the closed file in his outstretched hand, “We have not been able to raise the unit commander in Sector 127 for the last half hour.”
“Did you try his second in command?” the commander looked out the window.
“Yes sir,” the assistant answered. “The second doesn’t answer. Neither does the medic, the chaplain, or the cook… Nobody for the last half hour.”
“Well, keep trying to raise someone on the STU for another half hour or so,” the commander ordered.
A half hour later the assistant once again knocked on the door. After receiving permission to enter and saluting, he reported that there was still no response on the STUs. The commander was exasperated. “Get me the governor of Sector 127 now!” he ordered.
The assistant ducked out of the room. A couple minutes later, he returned to report that the governor of Sector 127 was on the other STU.
The commander thumbed his STU and growled into it, “Sector 84 Commander here. As you know, we have a commando unit operating in your territory near the river.”
“No, I didn’t know,” the governor answered coldly.
“Well, now you know,” the commander sloughed off the governor’s impertinence. “I haven’t had radio contact with my unit commander there or anyone else for that matter for the last hour.”
“Well, what do you want me to do about it?” the governor asked, not wishing to extend his resources or volunteer anything to this pompous sector commander.
“I need you to send a couple of scout balloons over the area for a look-see,” the commander said irately.
“Who’s gonna pay for my men and balloons?” the governor asked, thinking about his budget and his financial opportunities.
“You’ll get your money!” the commander scowled.
The governor asked for the last coordinates reported by the commandos. The commander nodded to his assistant, who pointed to their last known location on the wall map. The commander read the coordinates off the map to the governor. The governor said he’d let them know as soon as his balloon scouts got back.
The governor called in his assistant and requested him to send one of the scout balloons over to Dead River at Point 23 and float down as far as Point 27, looking for any sign of the commandos Sector 84 had lost. “Have him back before nightfall, one way or the other,” the governor ordered.
The assistant nodded and returned to his desk to call the duty pilot.
The duty pilot scowled, got up, stretched, and ambled over to the quartermaster at his own slow pace. The pilot asked the QM for a fuzzcoat, STU, map of Dead River, and a monocular. The pilot signed for everything he took and ambled over to the balloon master. “What do you have ready to go?” the pilot asked the BM.
“Number 3,” said the BM, stifling a yawn.
“I thought 3 had been retired,” the pilot grimaced.
“I thought you’d been retired,” smirked the BM.
The pilot signed for the balloon and walked out the door in search of 3.