link to OOC planning thread Aldehaf sized up the man, while he sat in the barbers chair, into whom age had set its teeth. Salt and pepper had shifted into grey. Not the smoky grey in the hair of some, but true pearl silver. Yet the age, he mused, was nonetheless hard to gauge given the straight shoulders. Aldehaf could almost hear his great-uncles sparring with one-another verbally: an elderly man hangs his head off an ever drooping neck, they'd jibed not only of a military man's skull, but of that within a military man's trousers. This neck still showed strength. Not the hunched bull-neck of a turn coat or exile -some convict turned indentured campaigner. One could always spot the convict stock because of the "guilt-weight" they carried in their neck. This was the posture of a man who had seen out youth and middle age having earned no few scars, but as yet no disfiguring injury. An archetypal military moustache framed a straight set mouth. Aldehaf nodded, the man clearly still had his own set of teeth: the lip hadn't receded. The chew-ers all lost their teeth early. A man could hardly blame the hard-campaigners for turning to the chew, which somehow numbed exhaustion and concern, but left the fighting mind clear; something about a pseudo-endorphine that was instantly catalysed by adrenaline. The moustache was that same shade of pearl atop the lip and through the middle of the close cropped but pointed beard; but a stony dark whisker still grew at the corners of the lips, and each side of the chin. This was a cavalry man to the core. "That's you, Aldehaf." The barber, Smithson, held a mirror so Aldehaf could check the back had been cropped close enough to the scalp. Nodding, Aldehaf looked a last time at his reflection before he left the otherwise empty cut-shack, putting aside self-appraisal for another six weeks. "Bill my Officer, Smiths'." Aldehaf shrugged his shirt back down. Whenever he was seated his shirt always seemed to work its way over his pectorals. Clearing his throat, which always itched lately, he rubbed a hand over his head. The Barber just nodded, knowing full well the payment arrangement could have been no other way, the funds transmission had shorted seasons earlier and the colony had reverted to cheques. Smithson gnawed at the end of a stick of chew. "I heard we're getting some fresh meat." Aldehaf managed to avoid revealing his distaste for his comrade's addiction, but shook his head in earnest in regard to the question. "We're finally getting some real Officers. Since we took the Outside Three." Aldehaf referred to the occupied planets at the other extremity of the Confederates. With the relative lack of threatening opposition on their own reach of the galaxy, Aldehaf mused, their Regiments of the Armed Forces had long since seen the death of all their genuinely educated Officers. Like himself, all the acting-officers had fallen into the position out of a lack of any other option. "High Command can spare a bit of the real talent, maybe help us push the bastards back!" "As opposed to leaving things to us cannon fodder?" The Barber waved off Aldehaf's objection before it could be voiced. "Na! Stow it Aldehaf. You got your principles and your loyalty: straight as your back! Mine was shot as crooked as a surviving man's can be back in time to when you still had black hair! I know you fought the same bit of jungle back on Old Sunny, and that god awful bit of desert on Right Next, but, well: well, I got no answer to that." Smithson brushed over how differently they had grown as men. They had likewise been conscripted to fight across the length and breadth of the galaxy. But like most thinking soldiers Smithson deflated. Trying to solve any inter-galactic relations was an act of futility; unless everyone scuppered their ships and left one another well enough alone. "Sorry Aldehaf. Maybe, maybe I felt a bit tired just then. I didn't mean any harm. But Chris'sakes!" They locked gazes for a moment, before Smithson broke the gaze, shrugging in a way that showed how twisted his spine had healed. He pulled a hand along the length of his long face. "Smiths', you getting by? I can spare the credits, if it's what you're not saying." Aldehaf knew full well it was not what had undermined Smithson's usual resolve. Cavalrymen called it Colony-fever. For some, The Cause needed to be tied to the actual body of ground from which they were descended. Conscription, as a department of the Armed Force, attempted to acknowledge this. There was a time Aldehaf would have needed specific Orders to those Colonies with which he had a rapport. But after a life with The Cavalry he was tired enough to sleep anywhere, and willing to do what ever was needed. He heard those great-uncles again: to whom there was no cause within The Cause but for the philosophy of having a cause. Still, he reflected, theirs had been an era of being supreme in armament, reckless expansion, and of supposed parliament being run by Lobbies; of the election being run by Merchant Establishments. A new nobility in effect, disguised in their greed and corruption by the evildoers upon the newly discovered planets -whose civilisations were now reduced to colonies. The one piece Aldehaf wore on his uniform not only acknowledged his acting seniority; but it also made him present to every important global transmission upon the colony. He listened in growing dread. The transmission was from the much needed craft bearing their much needed officers, relaying that they were in a state of wild flight. The Confederate armament in the Home Sector had been turned against itself. There was no longer a Home of the Confederates other than that upon which they respectively stood. Something had gone wrong with the weapons, or someone had found a way to sobbatage them. The war had taken a turn, they were longer in control, let alone winning.