I recently spoke with author M.A. Grant about her series, Lawmen of the Republic. I wanted to get more insight into the brave and honorable men who serve. She directed me to their leader, Alexander Cade, but unfortunately he claimed to be too busy to give me a few minutes. Luckily his team, the men he refers to as The Boys, were more than happy (well, maybe reluctantly agreeable) to talk with me about the man who invokes so much loyalty from them.
Thank you for meeting with me. I appreciate your time and I’m sure all of the Republic is eager to hear about your work and the man you faithfully follow.
Mumbled greetings are heard from the squad, except a hulking boulder of a man who’s busy watching the wall.
So, let’s start off with who you are and what your position is within Cade’s team.
A large, tattooed man with tawny skin grins. “Officer Tane Wati.”
The blond a few seats down interrupts with, “His nickname’s Preacher.”
Tane shakes his head, ignoring the interruption like it’s common practice and continues, “I’m the squad’s medic.”
Next in line is a non-descript man with brown hair and eyes. He looks younger than the rest of the men. “Private Timothy James. Infantry.”
The blond snickers. “That means he’s fodder.”
James glares at him, but doesn’t argue.
Realizing it’s his turn, the blond slouches back even more in his chair, cocky grin in place. “I’m Jenks. Sniper and general bad-ass. I’m too good to need a nickname.”
The largest— and so far silent— man gives a low huff of amusement and ignores Jenks’s wounded expression as he grunts, “Mad Dog. Combat engineer.”
The blond nods. “He makes things go boom.”
How did you meet Lt. Cade? What was your first impression of him? Why did he choose you to be part of his team?
The boys look at each other. As if by silent assent, Tane straightens and starts. “We were at the Academy together. I didn’t meet him until a year before I was deployed. I helped him out in a fight. He’d been holding his own pretty well, so I guess my first impression was…respect? He seemed like a decent guy.”
Mad Dog tilts up his chin. “Demo class together. Smart.”
Jenks is busy folding a scrap of paper he found beside his chair, but adds, “Cafeteria after he picked a fight with a prick in the officer’s track. And I didn’t have a first impression. I reserve judgement until I can see someone in action. Live fire tends to change nice guys into absolute bastards and guys I hate into guys I hate but would be willing to die next to.”
James seems surprised when Jenks waves a hand in his direction. He blinks and glances around before saying, “I didn’t meet him until I took the oath for the Rite of Copiataes and joined his team. I’d heard about him though. Lt. Cade was a legend in the Academy.”
Jenks rolls his eyes, a movement which leads to Mad Dog punching his shoulder.
On the other end of the line, Tane sighs and ignores them both. “Professor didn’t choose us to be part of his team. We volunteered. That’s how the Rite of Copiataes works. We pledge allegiance to a commander and we serve together until we die.”
“Life. Honor. Brotherhood. To the death,” Mad Dog recites.
The low chorus of “Hoo-ah” is half promise, half prayer, all fervent belief.
How does Lt. Cade deal with stress and what is the thing that causes him the most stress?
“You say that like he does deal with stress,” Jenks says with a wry smile.
“He tries to deal with it,” Tane protests without heat. “He’s just very bad at having balance in his life.”
Mad Dog grunts.
James pipes up. “When he’s stressed, Lt. Cade gets very…precise. He likes order.”
“Order from chaos,” Tane agrees with a nod.
“What was the other question?” Jenks asks.
After hearing it again, the boys glance at one another. Smiles break out spontaneously and they all avoid eye contact with their interviewer.
“You say it, Preacher,” Jenks says.
“Yeah,” Mad Dog agrees.
James shakes his head quickly when Tane looks at him. Once again thrown to the wolves, he clasps his hands together and leans closer. “I’ve never seen him as bad as the time he thought he’d lost her.”
The rest of the men nod, as if no name is needed for the mysterious woman.
“Natalia Volkova,” James clarifies. “She’s part Lailian.”
“Prof met her when he freed a rebel labor camp,” Jenks explains. “Then when he met her again, she was all grown up and…well, shit happens.”
Tell me about his personality. What is his biggest strength and where does he need to challenge himself?
“Honorable,” Mad Dog says before anyone else can speak.
“Debilitatingly honorable,” Tane agrees. “As for how he needs to challenge himself…”
They exchange looks of confusion. Finally, James, clearly unsure of his answer, offers up, “He needs to be easier on himself?”
Thoughtful silence and then affirmation.
If he had a free day to enjoy himself, what would he do?
Tane’s flushed. “Umm…”
Mad Dog punches Jenks when he doesn’t stop laughing. Laughter turned to pained wheezing, he continues to chuckle, occasionally wiping his eyes.
James avoids all eye contact, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand.
Mad Dog, realizing Jenks is unreachable in his current state, gives up and goes for a diplomatic answer. “Be with the person he cares about most.”
Does he have someone special in his life? And what kind of traits would his perfect woman have to have?
All amusement from the previous question disappears. Their faces go blank.
“We can’t talk about that,” Tane says, shoulders stiffening.
“The Rite forbids it,” James adds quietly.
After a few awkward moments, Jenks shifts in his seat. His sly grin is nothing but trouble. “But if he could have a woman, she’s be as smart, stubborn, and independent as him.”
“A leader,” Mad Dog says, nodding his agreement to Jenks’s statement.
If you were to give him some advice (on anything) what would it be?
“I got this,” Jenks promises. He leans in close, face innocent and earnest. “Prof, if you’re listening to this, just remember…tents have very thin walls.”
Alex drew his officer’s pistol and made his way to the tree line. Jenks was as good as his word about the body’s location. Alex grunted as he dragged the man back toward the open ground of the mine. He was almost there when Mad Dog joined him. The task was much easier with help.
‘Where?’ Mad Dog asked.
‘Mine entrance,’ Alex said, pointing. ‘Let’s keep him away from the families.’
It didn’t take long for James and Jenks to meet them there. Mad Dog and Alex had already rifled through most of the man’s pockets.
‘Scout?’ Jenks sounded a bit eager.
‘Nope,’ Alex replied, throwing another handful of brass into the growing pile. ‘Clean-up.’
‘Dammit,’ Jenks muttered. He dug around in a pocket and pulled out a crumpled twenty credit note, slapping it in James’s outstretched hand. ‘Did he at least have a weapon?’
Alex grimly threw the makeshift axe at Jenks’s feet. ‘Another three metres and he would have had me. Good shot.’
‘Sorry I had to take it.’
James knelt beside the body and pointed at the man’s face. ‘Sir, what are those?’
Alex took a closer look. ‘Tattoos.’
‘No. Bastardisation of it though.’ Alex pointed at the blocky patterns. ‘The lines are too thick. Rebels are probably hoping people assume it’s the Lailites so the attention is shifted.’
‘Needs a funeral,’ Mad Dog said solemnly.
‘Check with our cleric. See if there’s a plot open on the base. He doesn’t deserve to take up space on the temple grounds.’
Mad Dog nodded and rose, moving away as he spoke into his comm.
‘What’s the plan for dealing with short, squat, and shithead?’ asked Jenks, investigating the pile of brass.
‘He’ll report me.’
‘Shee-it,’ Jenks grumbled. ‘I should have just told you to duck. Put a bullet through him after he threw the axe. Would have saved us a lot of trouble.’
‘We can deal with it back at base. Right now we need to make sure everyone here is safe.’
James nodded. ‘I’ll see if they need help with the wounded.’
‘Don’t bother.’ As always, Tane’s presence was an immediate relaxant. ‘No major injuries and the minor ones are already patched up. They’re just scared.’ He glanced at Alex. ‘Should we be getting back?’
‘That would probably be the wisest course of action. I’d like to give Major Chattern some warning before he fields that idiot’s call.’
‘I’ll get a blanket for him,’ Tane said, motioning toward the body.
‘Please. Jenks, got anything from the brass?’ Alex asked.
‘Small calibre for the most part. A few that could do damage. No rifles.’
‘They’re running low,’ James said. ‘Is that a good thing?’
‘They’ll have to be more careful with their shots until they meet back up with the main group,’ Alex mused. ‘It’ll be a little safer when we go out tomorrow.’
‘Wait a sec, you never said anything about us chasing them through those creepy ass woods,’ Jenks complained.
‘Trust me. After our newest town member complains, we won’t have a choice.’
‘Why’s that?’ Tane asked, returning with a blanket to wrap around the body.
‘Ton?’ an answering question from Mad Dog, who helped Tane wrap up the body.
‘Definitely,’ Alex agreed.
‘Fantastic.’ Jenks started collecting the brass. ‘I’ve always wanted to die for the whim of some dickweed who wipes his ass with silk.’
As they made their way toward the Brumby, Alex stopped long enough to give some of his contacts the brass, which they’d learned to reload, and the warning that the Lawmen wouldn’t be able to protect them for long. His squad didn’t comment until they were on the road again.
James was the first to break the silence. ‘How long do you think we’ll be out there?’
‘If we’ve got to find out what happened to the mine equipment, a week or more.’
‘I hate the woods,’ Jenks mumbled.
‘Bugs,’ Mad Dog said with an understanding nod.
‘Last night of comfort,’ Tane said philosophically. ‘At least we get that.’
‘Stop counting your blessings, Preacher,’ Jenks griped. ‘I don’t like to sleep on tree roots and rocks. I’m a finely tuned machine. I need comfort.’
‘So shut up and get a good sleep tonight, Jenks,’ Alex threw back.
His comm went off. The men quieted as they bounced their way back toward base, trying to listen in.
‘Major Chattern. I’m assuming one of our newest townspeople spoke with you.’
‘What the hell is going on, Cade? Gregson just called the Capital and demanded that you get back some of his stolen equipment. Orders worked their way to me.’
‘We’re planning on starting after it in the morning, sir. Need to rest up and resupply first.’
‘Be careful, Cade. The woods up there are nasty places to get lost.’
‘Keep me updated on your progress.’
‘Yessir.’ He listened as the call was cut off. ‘We leave at oh-four-hundred.’
Jenks patted him on the shoulder. ‘You always take us on the nicest vacations, Prof.’
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