Author's Notes: This was supposed to be the prologue to an epic that never got written, so I'm posting it as a standalone scene instead.


Sol was in the way. A lot of hurried people with very important jobs to do wanted to use the corridor he was standing in, and even though he wasn't taking up much of it he was obstructing extra traffic thanks to how passers-by tended to give him a wide berth, no matter how much of a rush they were in. A couple of them had already politely tried to ask him to move, but one corner-of-the-eye look from Sol and they all quickly remembered other urgent things that needed to be done a long way from the corridor he was blocking.

It would have been a lot easier to do this casually if he'd had a cigarette, nevermind how many more staff would've felt obligated to remind him this was a non-smoking area. He'd had a packet that was still half-full a few hours ago, but no amount of double checking every pocket in his uniform was going to clear up the mystery of where thatwent to. Out on the battlefield, obviously; probably trampled into the dirt by half a dozen different sets of feet by now.

Fuckdamnit. Fuckdamnit all to hell.

Some kind of commotion, louder even than the rest of the busy noise of the division, slammed through the doors at the end of the corridor. Five serious looking men and women in white lab coats were making their way toward him in the kind of aggressive power-walk that was only a few technicalities short of breaking into a run. One of them was pushing a covered trolley at quite a rate considering that the way its wheels ground against the floor suggested it was loaded down with a considerable weight. A lone Holy Order officer with a stressed expression and Physical Division colours was keeping pace and arguing with one of the white coats at the rear. Sol thought he recognised the man – one of Ky's more favoured direct subordinates, but he'd never bothered learning the man's name.

The whole procession trundled right up to Sol and straight through the double doors he'd been lurking beside without so much as a glance in his direction. At the same time, the white coat who'd been dealing with the protesting officer freed a piece of paper from a well-loaded clipboard and thrust it into his hands, then vanished through the doorway after his colleagues before the doors had even stopped swinging. The officer stopped dead in his tracks outside, staring at the sheet he'd been handed with the look most people reserved for when they'd just been handed their dismissal orders. The paper sported a collection of seals and insignia that looked intimidatingly official.

"You," Sol called, making the poor man jump, "What's going on?"

"T-they just arrived on our deck by emergency transport," the officer stuttered, startled into answering before he could think better of it. "Special personal who've been flown in to tend to the Commander personally!"

If Sol had had a cigarette it might have fallen out of his mouth at that point. "Now?They've already been in there, what, an hour?" That might not have been a good guess; he hadn't seen a clock since he got here, but it felt long enough

"Their orders... this is authorisation right from the top!" said the officer, still holding the document he'd been handed with dumbstruck awe.

Sol found himself needing stronger swearwords than his language provided. What the hell were they trying to pull? If an army full of teenagers didn't lose them this war, bureaucracy could be counted on to finish the job. His first impulse was to march in there himself and toss each one of those 'special personnel' off the side of the airship, but he had to face the fact that if there was one thing that could disrupt what was going on in there even worse, that would be it.

"Of course," the officer went on, displaying the instinctive need to defend authority figures that people so often developed around Sol, "if they have reason to believe Sir Ky needs special treatment..."

"Special treatment, my ass," snapped Sol. "What do they think makes him any different from every other soldier they pulled off that battlefield?"

The officer looked momentarily flummoxed. "He's our Commander! Even if he is just one life, he's responsible for every life in the Order! You may not respect him, but do you think he could be so easily replaced? What do you think would become of the Order if... if...!"

It was embarrassing to watch. "So? You think our med staff don't know that? What do you think they do all day?"

"But in a case like this, it's only natural they would make every effort..."

"Isn't that the same thing they do for everyone?" Wasn't there some guiding medical principle to that effect? There had been back in his day, though he hadn't exactly bothered to keep up to date in the century-plus since then. "Don't kid yourself. What's going on in there isn't reasonable care, it's celebrity medicine. Heart of the term? There's a reason doctors don't get to decide who's important. Same damn reason you don't let them operate on their own kids. How the fuck are they meant to stay level-headed when you have them flying in like some kind of fucking avenging angels to take over a job that was already in hand?"

Sol knew the look the officer had taken on. It was the look of someone who'd had everything they'd been trying not to worry about spelled out and thrown in their face. "And what if what the Commander is going through is more serious than you realise, if our own staff are overworked and underqualified, what would you have them do then?"

"Sounds like exactly what they'll put in the report if this all goes south."

A strangled cry came from the room within, drawn out in a voice that was too familiar. Sol closed his eyes and tried not to think about it. The officer's face was still scrunched up when he opened them again, probably dealing with the same impulse Sol had beaten down only minutes before. He turned to Sol with a look of fury and despair.

"And because this is nothing serious and he's no-one special, because there's no call for any unusual treatment – is that why you've been loitering outside here all day?!"

Well fuck. There was no possible answer for that one.

Final volley delivered, the officer turned and stalked away down the corridor.


Forty-eight hours later, people were calling Ky's recovery miraculous. Apparently those official clowns had known their business after all, which to Sol's mind was far more miraculous than anything else he'd seen that year.

Poor brat. Not even Commander two months, and already the kid was being elevated to the lofty standards of special propaganda material. If the war didn't crush him, the expectations would finish the job.