"There are rules about this!" Commander Greezniaak squealed, his voice vibrant with outrage.
Colonel Cooper did not pay him any attention and radioed in a few more commands. When the Commander attempted to protest some more, all noises were drowned by the military barrage happening half a mile away.
A surreal silence took hold of the tent after a few minutes of constant explosions, and the Commander filled it with his shrieks again.
"We are too close! We could've been shelled!"
"My boys know what they're doing," the Colonel shrugged.
The blue squamous skin of the Commander crawled in irritation. It was becoming a daily occurrence now that he had to deal with these foolhardy humans. Scratching it violently, he barked: "Also, this wasn't the time for a barrage!"
"Oh?" the human said with an expression of dumb surprise on his face; the Commander was still unsure if it was sincere or one of those displays of "sarcasm" his colleague liked to indulge in every now and then.
"It is merely three hours after the zenith! We don't engage in military activities so soon after..."
"Is it an official rule?"
"No," the Commander responded, taken aback, "but it's a well known unwritten rule of..."
"Not well known or written down enough," the Colonel interrupted him with supreme disinterest. He then picked up the transceiver and started relaying orders. "Pick a few of the columns and knock them over. Seems like they could be sturdy enough to act as a temporary bridge across the gorge."
"WHAT?" the Commander exploded besides him. "These columns are holy relics of the Huarto people! It's bad enough you forced us to march through their land in a greatly unsportsmanlike and equally reckless attempt at a surprise attack, but to wantonly destroy them..."
"What would you want me to do?" the Colonel asked, impatient. "Wait until the engineers have come round so we can build a pretty little bridge? Or airlift every soldier across a 30-feet gap? We must press on."
The Commander wanted to scream in protest, but a combination of the ruckus caused by collapsing Huarto architecture and the increasingly itchy sensation beneath his skin forced him to delay his frustrated reaction until the human had spoken again.
"Secure the ridge," the Colonel said into his transceiver. "Knock down more columns if you need to. Battalions 3rd to 8th, I want you to take those structures in the middle and clear all hostiles. 1st and 2nd, act as support and reinforce the columns. See if you can get some hardware over the gorge."
"Why are you sending soldiers in?!" the Commander asked with a strangled howl of bewilderment.
"To secure the area," the Colonel answered slowly, as if explaining the intricacies of breathing to a particularly dumb child.
"That's a job for drones!"
"I already told you your drones are too stupid and clunky for active combat. Nothing beats a good sentient brain."
"But they could get shot, or killed!"
"My boys know what they're doing, and we've got reserves."
The conversation ended for a few minutes, as the Commander contemplated how much of his time, lately, was being wasted in having the same conversations with his human colleague, while the Colonel was listening intently to his radio. Eventually, a voice reported the outcome of the attack.
"All buildings secured. All hostiles eliminated. Ten confirmed casualties on our side."
The commander beamed grimly at the news, but could only look on in dismay as the Colonel was completely unfazed by the news; indeed, he was wearing a smile of satisfaction.
"Ten of your own men are dead," the Commander repeated to him, attempting to convey the enormity of what had just happened.
"Yeah, out of seven hundred we've sent across. Seems like an acceptable ratio to me."
"That's ten men who won't return to their families. Ten living, breathing beings that are no more because you couldn't wait for the drones to do their job."
It was the derisory scoff that followed that made the Commander boil over. "That's it!" he screamed, opening the link to HQ on the large screen. "I've had it enough of your barbarous attitude! I knew your species was brash when we first asked you to help us in our war, but I never imagined you'd have so little concern for yourself or others!"
Under the mocking eyes of his colleague, he managed a visual on the big table at which the Generals of the alliance sat. Immediately, something seemed off, as the human generals were all leaning over eagerly, while their counterparts were bashfully skulking away on their chairs, almost slouching.
"Commander Greezniaak!" a short-haired general greeted him. "Do you have a report from Yeeta Ridge?"
Taken aback, the Commander could not answer, and he stammered a few syllables before the Colonel had to take over.
"The Ridge is ours. Enemy completely annihilated, and we're in a prime position to threaten their supply route north."
The generals didn't reply, but merely smiled.
"Ten! There were ten casualties!" the Commander felt the need to reiterate.
"Ten is a number I can live with," a blonde general responded.
Before the commander could mumble something, she continued: "We wan't you to proceed to the next ridge over, even through the night if you need to. Take the Taalileey airfield if you can, or at least get within mortar range."
"But... the soldiers... they will be tired."
Only a stony professionalism prevented her from laughing in his face. "The enemy is on the back foot. They are retreating and we must take advantage of that."
The Commander responded with a few more umms and amms.
"Commander! You have asked us to show you how humans fight, and this is what we are doing. Why do you complain when we have given your race the greatest military victory in its history? Why hesitate when we can decisively crush your enemy in a few days and end a conflict that has plagued your planet for decades? Unless, of course, your superior officers disagree with us. If they asked us to, we'd be more than willing to back down."
She turned to her counterparts, but her voice betrayed an unmistakable self-assuredness. Indeed, her colleagues avoided her gaze, looking away into the shadows and fidgeting nervously while trembling.
"If we're all on the same page," another human general continued with a smirk, "we'll leave you to your job. Oh, and, Colonel Cooper? Excellent job."
"Thank you, sir," the human said as the screen faded to back. He left the tent to relay more orders as the Commander stared at him in frightened disbelief.