He was standing at attention, but staring down at the floor, lost in thought. He hadn’t heard his name.
The General repeated, “Lieutenant Asche.”
“I’m told that you were the only member of your unit to reach your objective, and single-handedly destroyed it. You must be very proud.” She turned to take the medal box from her aide-de-camp.
“I suppose so, Ma’am.”
“You suppose so?” She looked amused as she pulled the award from its box, smoothed out the ribbon, prepared to hang it around his neck. “Why wouldn’t you be proud?”
He opened his mouth, paused, said nothing.
“Out with it, Lieutenant.”
“It was… the target was a crèche, General. A Woolie crèche.” He couldn’t meet her eyes as he spoke. “No military value at all. Just… babies.”
“Woolies gestate twice as fast as humans, did you know that, Lieutenant Asche? And they’re four times as likely to bear multiples.” She stepped a bit closer, placed the ribbon over his head and around his neck, speaking quietly. “If we’re going to win this thing, we’ve got to do what’s necessary. It’s a numbers game, Lieutenant.”
She winked, stepped back, saluted him smartly, moved on to the next soldier.