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The Hero Of Penelope (A Business Allegory)

September 27, 2016

The following is a monologue I wrote for a Toastmasters speech. It’s the story of an unnamed war hero in a future space war. I wrote it after a work experience best described as “No good deed goes unpunished.”


The Hero of Penelope

The holder of the order of the sun and stars

So, today is the day, huh? Yeah, you lose all track of time in here. I guess they had to wait for the treaties to be prepared.  How many worlds do you think will be watching this? It’s not every day they execute a war hero, huh?

Oh, I know, they stripped my medals and history. Can’t just kill the hero of the battle of Penelope and the holder of the order of the sun and stars. I’m sure you’ve heard the charges, huh? Battle of Hera: Dereliction of duty, cowardness, insubordination, unnecessary violence.

Unnecessary violence – – as if there is an acceptable level. Kill the bugs . . .just not too many of them.

Hera and Penelope, they always said that women would be the death of me. Have you ever been on a drop Sargent? Aphrodite? I heard that was pretty rough. Well, Hera was worse. It wasn’t that different from Penelope, you know. You never heard the story? Well, I’ll tell you the truth. In fact, I’m probably the only one who can. Even those idiots with the medal committee didn’t have the straight scoop.

The truth is, Penelope was a screw up. The thing is, screw up badly enough and they’ll give you a medal for it. We came in late. The bugs opened up on us almost before we hit the atmosphere. When you come out of those drop-ships in your steel coffin, you can’t see a thing. But, over the roar of reentry, we could hear and especially feel the guns. We did what any platoon does in that situation, we junked the flight plan and started juking all over the sky. We were blowing chaff and shedding armor as fast as we could work the controls. I landed about 15 klicks outside the city. . .on the wrong side. My men were scattered all over God’s half acre. Except God’s half acre was about 500 square miles.

The rally point was between me and the objective so I headed for that, picking up guys as I went. We hit their first patrol just as we hit the city. Well, I should say they hit us: projectiles, energy weapons, I think a few were even throwing rocks. We went to ground returning fire. Our blaze-rifles cut right through them, you know. Of course you know. But for every one we cut down, five more took its place. They were pouring out of that mound city like ants. We were in danger of being surrounded and overrun. Have you ever seen them capture a prisoner? Be glad you haven’t. They literally tear you limb from limb. I’m not ashamed to say I started to feel a little panic. We had no backup. We had little cover and they were coming for us.

Fall back? To where? The planet was theirs. The rally point and the pick-up point were our only way off that hellhole. So, I figured any death was better than being ripped apart. I called in an orbital lance strike. Yeah, they mentioned it in the commendation. Called it in on my own position. But the things is, I didn’t. I was trying to call it for the city. I screwed up. The lance killed more of my men than the bugs. But hey, I’m a hero. Saved the day. Turned the tide.

The war wasn’t going well at that point. They needed a hero to keep up moral. I was the guy.

But, wars change, right? We pushed them back, world by world, system by system. Eventually we recaptured nearly all our previous territory. They sued for peace. We switched. No more taking new territory, instead we were holding our positions. Just a few engagement still going. You know, we had to let them know we were willing to reengage if needed. Mop up.
Except the troopers on mop up duty can die just as easily. On a bugger world, if your helmet cracks, the foul air will cook you in your suit just as quick.

It was on Hera. The drop went fine. We were moving pretty good toward the rally point when it happened. We kicked over an ant hill. We hit a nondescript looking mound that they use as buildings. Before we knew it we were in the fight of our lives. These were crack troops, too. The bugs I mean; rigid armor, heavy weapons. We were cut off immediately. I formed a perimeter. That wouldn’t hold them for long. So, I called in an orbital lance strike. This time the targeting was spot on. We started taking out their buildings one by one. Dust was everywhere. Bodies, troopers and bugs were everywhere. It broke their lines. We scrambled through shooting anything that moved. I lost a third of my company. A success, right? Less than on Penelope. We turned the tide. Saved the day.

It was only later we found out that we had hit a kind of hospital. The entire complex was a nursery. It put the whole peace process at risk. The buggers were ready to walk out. We had to give them something. The Butcher of Hera, that’s what they are calling me. I’m the sacrificial lamb to save the peace. Saved the war and now saving the peace. Ha Ha. It’s what happens when politicians take over running the war from the generals.

Well, we’d better get on with it. They say more than five hundred billion will be watching. The treaties will be signed right after it’s done. Try to never be a hero, Sargent. You’re only good to them when you’re dead. And avoid those Greek goddesses.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 


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