Friday, 2200, Paul Dimaccio's Personal Quarters
rating: +43+x

Dear ………………,

Paul Dimaccio rubbed his eyes, looked at the form letter on his laptop screen, and began filling out fields.

Dear Ms. Stanwick,

Please accept my deepest sympathy, and that of every member of Strategic Consulting Partners, on the recent loss of your ………, ……………………,

Dimaccio glanced at Stanwick's personnel file to double-check his full birth name. This was the first one of these he'd written since assuming command of MTF Theta-90. He didn't want to fuck it up.

Please accept my deepest sympathy, and that of every member of Strategic Consultation Partners, on the recent loss of your son, Andrew Padraig Stanwick, who fell in the line of duty on 23 June of this year.

The date was false, of course.

On the morning of 23 June, Andrew ……………………………………………………………..

Dimaccio reached for the approved cover document, taking a sip of tepid coffee as he did so.

On the morning of 23 June, Andrew was part of an eight-man security detail returning from remote post when the detail came under sustained attack by insurgent elements.

"Insurgent elements."

Andrew bravely gave his own life ……………………………………………………… and, by doing so, ………………………………………………… .

A pause. Dimaccio stared at the laptop screen for a while, his mind elsewhere and elsewhen.

Andrew bravely gave his own life when a three-dimensional enclosure rotated through four dimensions without warning and, by doing so, warned the rest of his team to keep out of Target Zone Bravo.

Of course not.

Andrew bravely gave his own life to shield his comrades from an incoming rocket-propelled grenade and, by doing so, saved the lives of his detail and allowed them to overcome the enemy's attack.

It may afford you some comfort to know that his death was instantaneous and without suffering.

A small laugh, at that. A shake of the head.

A lengthy pause.

I know the passing of a loved one is one of life's most tragic moments, but sincerely hope you will find some measure of comfort in the knowledge that your son did his duty with honor. His devoted service was in the finest tradition of the …………………………………………… ,

This one wasn't hard to remember. Stanwick was forever telling Parris Island stories.

His devoted service was in the finest tradition of the United States Marine Corps, from which Strategic Consulting Partners recruited him, and he bore true faith in ……………………………… until the very last.

A glance at the file on Stanwick's mother, to see what would work the best. A sip of room-temperature coffee.

and he bore true faith in his God, his country and his cause until the very last.

In this time of grieving, know that you can cherish the thought that almost everything in this letter is a line of bullshit I'm feeding you and you're never going to know how your son really died.

Long seconds passed before Dimaccio continued writing.

you can cherish the thought that your son gave his life for the freedoms and values that we, as a people, hold most dear.

Once again, please know that all of us here at Strategic Consultation Partners join in sharing your burden of grief.

Sincerely,
……………………………………………

Hands shaking ever so slightly, now.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey P. Steinheim
Unit Commander, Strategic Consultation Partners

He quickly re-read the letter and clicked Send.

The laptop closed, extinguishing the only source of light in the room. Lying back on his bed, Paul Dimaccio stared into nothing.

The tears came; then, shortly afterward, sleep.

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