11.0 Do They Work?

by Matt P.


Command, Walter reflected, was half competence and half confidence. Sometimes the confidence leaned a little bit more closely in to that of a confidence job, or maybe a confidence man; but it was all about confidence nonetheless.

It was Monday afternoon, and he had finally made his way back to the hospital. He had intended to do it the next day, but then the overwhelming and very mundane bureaucracy of running a police department had overwhelmed him. It was, apparently, very inconvenient to take over running things during payday processing. And he had immediately needed to oversee both the normal weekly report to the Mayor and City Council, and of course the special supplemental report regarding the violence that had occurred.

So Monday was the day he spent most of the morning at the hospital, visiting the wounded. There would be an official ceremony later, but he had met with injured officers and the families of the deceased to give them the awards that they or their family member had earned. Like many or even most police departments, Border PD had a series of awards not dissimilar from the ones Walter was used to in the military. The officers who were injured in the line of duty would receive the Purple Shield, while the families of the officers who were killed were given their Medal of Valor. And anyone who participated in the combat would receive the Combat Action Medal. Far too many of all of them, Walter thought with a sigh.

He found himself standing in the private room where Marshal Alexander was recovering. The man was still unconscious, and looked…hollow, in the way that people who had gone through extensive surgery or illness often could. Smaller, less impressive. Alexander had always been a broad shouldered man, the kind of man who told you he was a Marine and you never doubted him. It was rough seeing him in such a condition. Walter walked up to the bed and put two medals on the table. “Don’t make me upgrade that,” Walter said softly, tapping the medal with the purple and gold ribbon.

“You won’t need to,” a voice came from the door. Morgan stepped in, dressed in scrubs and a lab coat. Her red hair was tied back in a simple ponytail. “Unless you’re doubting my skill?” She asked, arching an eyebrow. Walter shook his head, and she nodded. “Good, I’d hate to have to find a window to throw you out of.” She looked at Alexander as well, and Walter didn’t think he imagined the little bit of concern he saw.

“Do you have any idea when he’ll wake up?” Walter asked. “I wouldn’t worry, but I’m not actually cruising to keep his job, you know.”

Morgan shook her head. “It can take time to wake up from his injuries even when only normal surgery is involved. Throw in what I did…” She moved over to check his vitals on the monitor. “When I heal someone I’m not magically filling their hit points back. I’m accelerating processes in the body, bolstering them with my power—but that still takes a lot out of you. I have to be careful that I don’t heal someone to death, when they’re seriously injured like this.” She looked over to him. “Any word on your leads?”

Now it was Walter’s turn to shake his head. “We’ve been trying to find the good Reverend, but she’s either in hiding or they have her. We have Sally Smith in medical at the Station to keep her safe, but her parents were apparently targeted in the attacks because we can’t find them either. So far my first few days have been a litany of ‘We can’t find them’. Not an auspicious start.”

Morgan moved over to him, and reached up to put a hand on his shoulder. “You’ll find them. Your people are good at it, and I do think we dealt them a blow by keeping the research station safe and taking out so many of their people. Autopsies are ongoing, by the way; at last on the humans. I’ve made sure to sequester the Vampire bodies until they decay.” They let that stand for a moment, looking at the Marshal and the medals on the desk next to him. “Do those work?” She asked curiously. Walter blinked. “I have some, but I don’t exactly have a mortal perspective on them as motivators to fight.”

That she had been given military awards was news to Walter, and he had to ask about that first. “What medals do you have? Tell me you’re secretly a Knight of the Garter from like the 1600s, under a man’s name.”

Morgan let out a loud laugh, almost a giggle, and shook her head. “No, not hardly. Three hundred years too late, as a matter of fact. No,” she sighed slightly. “Lady Alice Winters was very proud to have been awarded the 1914 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal, as well as the Royal Red Cross for her service in the Great War.” Her face took on an abstracted look for a moment. “I’ve been in a lot of wars, but that one was…exceptionally terrible. And not just on the mundane side.”

Walter had absolutely no response to the idea of supernatural occurrences during World War I. “Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred. Very nice,” he complimented. She gave a sheepish smile.

“My brother Reggie—Reginald, Lord Winterstoke, heir to the Earl Winters—earned the VC. We fought a rogue Dragon who had been driven mad and was butchering men on both sides,” she offered by way of explanation, and then explained no further.

Walter had to remind himself to close his mouth, to avoid looking like too much of a fool at that casual recitation. “Napoleon said with such baubles men are led,” he offered, returning to the original discussion. “I have medals which I held very dear, medals which I don’t think I should have been given, and medals I wanted to throw back at the people who gave them to me.” He chuckled, reaching up to scratch at the stubble he needed to shave from his busy weekend. “Ashland was responsible for a couple of those.”

Morgan nodded. “OK. What’s an example of each of them?” She asked curiously.

Walter thought for a moment. “My retirement award was the Legion of Merit, which is normally reserved for Colonels and higher. It was specifically approved by a four star who basically did it because he thought I should have been promoted. That was a good one.” He pondered. “I was also always proud of my marksmanship badges. I got an Army Achievement Medal when I was enlisted for scoring perfect on my rifle qualification.” Walter snorted, and Morgan gave him a blank look. “I was in the infantry, and they give you a badge for shooting well. It was a waste.”

She grinned. “Fair enough. And the last?”

Walter rolled his eyes. “When I was on a mission with Ashland we were giving her shit about CIA awards, because so many of them are classified. We call them jock-strap awards, because that’s about the only place you can wear them. So at the end of a very ugly mission she made sure I got one, so that I too could have a reminder of a mission I hated that I could never wear.”

She smirked. “So do they work?”

Walter looked back to the medals sitting next to the unconscious Marshal. “They work for what they’re designed to do, I guess. Almost nobody signs up to have a chest full of medals, and the people who do are douche bags. And in the middle of a firefight if you’re thinking about what commendation you’re going to get then you’re probably going to get shot. But when they work, when they don’t get eaten by Army bureaucracy or pettiness and they’re not a reminder of something horrific, it’s nice to know someone is thinking of you.” He shrugged. “I don’t know a lot of people who saw the ugly side that don’t have a complicated relationship with their ribbon rack. Are you unalloyed happy with your four?” He asked, in genuine curiosity.

She shook her head immediately. “Of course Lady Alice would never say so, because polite ladies don’t talk about the horrors of chlorine or mustard gas. But no, there’s a lot of death and blood there, a lot of boys who didn’t come home. I’m centuries old, but young men dying in agony never gets easier.” Walter nodded.

“Giving them out isn’t much easier,” he mused. “I’m proud of what we did, but I’d take back every single one of those medals I gave out today if it would let me have men who weren’t shot or stabbed or blown up. Or in the morgue. I always loved getting to give a well earned medal, but nothing ever makes it better when you’re looking at someone who knows they’ll never see somebody ever again.” He sighed, and looked over at her. “But it’s the job.”

Morgan nodded. “Wise words indeed. Have you…” she began, but stopped when both of their cell phones buzzed at the same time. Walter pulled out his phone and looked down to read the screen.

We found Morrison.