“Sir?” Leafing through one of the original Sword Art Online Japanese manuals, Gunnery Sergeant Northland gave Hammond a focused look. “Respectfully request permission to hunt Akihiko Kayaba down and use him as a Ranger piñata.”
“Denied, Gunny,” General Hammond said regretfully, finger on the mouse as the video paused. Children attacking a lethal, nodachi-armed monster… he needed a moment to catch his breath. And let the steam shoot out of his ears. Angry generals made poor decisions. And there had been more than enough bad judgment calls in this mess already. “Why a Ranger piñata, Sergeant Northland?”
Besides his normal brown crewcut and once-broken nose, the Marine standing on the other side of Hammond’s desk currently sported five stitches above his eyebrow from something with claws. Those stitches were the reason Northland was temporarily attached to secretarial duties, instead of out in the field. Weird octopus-cat-hybrid sort of thing or not, any marine with his training and skills should have ducked. Northland hadn’t.
Granted, he’d been distracted by the rest of the alien’s… pride, or school, or whatever you wanted to call it; last Hammond had heard, base scuttlebutt was pulling for “wriggle”. Even so. Janet had diagnosed stress. Northland had claimed not to know the meaning of the word. The good doctor had then upped the ante and challenged the sergeant to try manning the general’s phone lines and word processor for three weeks.
So far, Northland had fought the paperwork to a draw. So far.
As for bringing up a competing military service, the sergeant looked completely unrepentant. “With all due respect to our fellow officers and enlisted in the service, sir – Kayaba likes subtle. He deserves to run into guys who think subtle means don’t use the flamethrowers this time.”