REPOSTED STORY WITH EDITS
The shuttle banked gently as it matched orbit with its destination. Exchanging signals with the great vessel before him, the pilot reduced velocity to creep into the open landing bay. The bay doors progressively occluded starlight and Earthlight, then the craft rocked lightly as atmosphere flooded the bay. The pilot, LTj.g. Greg Roberts, secured the controls, then granted his passengers leave to debark in descending order of seniority.
Everyone tried to reach the door first, slowing them down as they surged to enter their new home. Since they had all been midshipman two weeks earlier, seniority was a matter of opinion. Roberts grimaced at the cadet review and numbered them off.
Emerging at last, they were immediately confronted by an imposing senior petty officer in working uniform. Roberts led the deputation, saying, “Remember, you’re not yet attached to the ship, and the captain’s very traditional. He doesn’t consider the older honours and ceremonies archaic”. He faced forward and drew himself to attention, then saluted the colors draped from the forward bulkhead, then turned to exchange salutes with the NCO. He said “Report my return aboard”, then proceeded out of the passageway. Behind the petty officer, a junior crewman tapped a button, registering the officer’s return on her screen.
The former cadets looked at each other quizzically. Salutes? They hadn’t had to salute since their plebe year!
Hazel Martin stepped up and assayed to emulate the departing officer, barking “report my arrival aboard!”
The enlisted man shook his head in an indulgent fashion, replying “ No, ma’am. Until you are formally a member of the crew, the proper form is ‘request permission to come aboard’. I can see mr. Roberts didn’t explain everything he should’ve”.
Embarrassed, she repeated the phrase, then tried to salve her ego by criticizing him while handing the Messenger her orders. “It’s inappropriate for a subordinate to speak ill of a superior, petty officer - ?”
“Robinson, ma’am, Communications Technician first class. And you’re not in the academy anymore, nor are we in the bad old days of sail when an officer was next to god. As long as it’s true, there’s nothing wrong with it, and you’ll need to learn about your fellow officers some time. In this case, the jaygee wasn’t happy to take ferry duty for a ‘bunch of snot-nosed kids’. He’s too young to remember how he felt last year, and trying too hard to be serious to put up with your awkwardness. He’ll grow out of it. Try not to let it color your dealings with him until then.”
While they talked, the messenger processed everyone’s orders, and Robinson addressed them all “Welcome to the Lemuria, sirs and ma’am. Mess Steward third class Jefferson will conduct you to your staterooms and your initial interview with the skipper and Exec”. A junior petty officer entered as he spoke, saluting as she did.
Jefferson led them to junior officers quarters on deck four “Sirs, ma’am, you’ll bunk four to a stateroom, sharing a head with another four-place stateroom. This is 43A, where Ensigns Hallewell, Morgan, Campbell, and Sheridan are assigned. Mr. Lane and Mr. Smith are in 43B, with Ensigns Blake and Mbuta. Down the p-way, Ms. Martin, you’ll be joining Ms. Tamsyn and Ms. Brock in 46B. Your effects have already been beamed up and placed in your quarters”.
Rory Campbell broke in “if they beamed up our bags, why not us?”
“We were also bringing up newly reporting senior officers, sir, so the ship’s policy is to send the shuttle for the juniors while the seniors beam up. That allows the captain to meet and interview them while you’re still in transit”
“I’ll be returning in 20 minutes to conduct you to the CO and XO, sirs, ma’am, so you have a little time to freshen up and stow your gear”. With that, she left.
All too soon, she returned to summon the newly minted junior officers to meet their new commander.
“Before we go in, I need to explain protocol aboard Lemuria. Captain Sawyer requires certain traditions to be observed that most of the fleet dispenses with. Particularly, he expects salutes on formal occasions, which this is, on the bridge and quarterdeck, and when making formal reports. You should salute when first greeting him and again when dismissed. Aside from that, once etiquette is served, he’ll want you to be informal and natural for the interview. During normal operations, he’ll expect you to refer to others by rank and last name until you’ve proven yourself in his eyes. Are there any questions?”
“Um, why all the rigmarole?” asked Morgan
“The captain will explain that in a few minutes sir. Anything else? No? This way, then” she gestured at a door.
“One moment, please,” Hal Smith said “Folks, remember plebe year, how salutes could be combined in ranks? Since the captain expects old-fashioned drill, we’ll probably look better if we do it that way” as everyone nodded, he continued “Hazel, since you stand out anyway, why don’t you take the ‘senior’ position?”
They entered and formed up in one row, with Hazel to the far left. They came to attention as a group, and Hazel saluted, reciting “Sir! Ensigns Martin, Morgan, Hallewell, Campbell, Sheridan, Lane, and Smith, reporting as ordered!”
Commander Chris Sawyer, captain of the Lemuria, and his Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Devon Gannon, returned the salute sharply, and commander Gannon remarked “excellent! Most new Ensigns forget that and do it the hard way. At ease, all of you, and be seated”
As everyone sat, the captain started in “this interview is intended to introduce us to each other, and let you know my expectations. As you know, we are at war with the Klingons. Lemuria is tasked as a combat vessel, but we’re also a breaking-in command. New Ensigns report to us for their first assignments, and we teach them the things the academy can’t about actually being in the fleet. Normally, this is done on an individual basis by whatever ship you first go to, but during a war, most ships can’t afford the time and personnel to nurture new officers until they can be assets, so you’re sent in batches to us. This avoids the usual ‘sink-or-swim’ approach to developing new officers. We have a larger than normal wardroom of experienced officers to be your running-mates and polish you up before sending you on to other ships, which is why you bunk four to a cabin. We also have an unusually large Chief’s Mess, for similar reasons.
“Depending on your development, you may be here anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. If, at that time, I cannot recommend sending you on, you will be decommissioned as officers and become enlisted crewmen. As such, you will be sent to different ships, and will be required to serve until the war ends or your original commitment is over, whichever comes later.
“Now, you will have already noticed some of the traditional military protocols I require. As you’ll have been told, almost no-one else in the fleet does that anymore. We do it to remind you how serious things are right now. The academy is an excellent school, but as a military academy, it has lost the art of teaching young people to become soldiers. It turns out explorers, diplomats, scientists, and doctors without trouble, and some of the best in the galaxy, but most of them don’t understand certain of the realities of our job until something tragic happens. Since we’re to be your ‘finishing school’ in the art of war, we’ve resurrected some methods of previous eras. You’ll march wherever you go, in formation when possible, except for drills and combat, until your probation is over. You will salute any officer senior to you upon meeting them, and will not receive any salutes from juniors, except when receiving formal reports or other appropriate occasions, such as standing watch.
“While you are officers, you will still be subject to orders from any petty officer when necessary. I’ve delegated them the authority to do so, so you will
be subject to disciplinary action for failure to recognize their authority. Your divisional chiefs will prepare your evaluations for your department heads”.
Commander Gannon spoke up “in peacetime, you’d report individually to new ships, be assigned as division officers, and expected to do your growing up and development on your own time. Instead, since we have the personnel to allow it, we will place you as assistant divos. The division officer is responsible for the proper running of the division, while you shadow them and learn the ropes. In addition, you will be assigned various watches under instruction, and also some class work, making up deficiencies in the academy curriculum concerning tactics and strategy.
“We run four watches, Alfa through Delta, each 6 and half hours long. Once properly relieved, you’ll seek permission from the supervisor of that watch to ‘lay below’. When not underway, you will stand Officer of the Deck under instruction – that’s the watch controlling entry and exit from the ship, the Quarterdecks being in the shuttle bay and transporter rooms. Most ships no longer maintain that watch, leaving the task to be accomplished by the transporter operator or shuttle bay personnel, but it’s a good job for learning about the ship and her crew, as well as developing discipline, decorum, and leadership skills.
“You will also have individual watch assignments underway.” She consulted a padd.
“Ensign Sheridan, it may be poor recompense for graduating a year early, but since you are the youngest Ensign by almost a year, and the lot of you share the same commissioning date, you will be the ship’s George. That’s the most junior officer aboard, and George gets all the odd jobs. You’re assigned as a shuttle bay officer, Alfa section, with navigation watch Gamma section. You’ll also be Morale officer, ship’s Educational Services officer, and will be in charge of handing out and collecting homework for your classmates.
“Mr. Campbell, you will be a shuttle and fighter pilot on Alfa and stand flight control on Gamma.
“Ms. Martin, you will be in Security on Bravo and stand tactical on Delta. Note that the work assignment is a petty officer’s job, and that you’ll be reporting to enlisted personnel.
“Mr. Hallewell, Communications on Gamma, and sensor watch on Alfa.
“Mr. Lane, Impulse engineering and Main Engineering watch, same schedule.
“Mr. Smith, phaser division on Bravo and Combat Systems Control watch on Delta.
“Mr. Morgan, you’ll be in navigation on Gamma, and stand helm on Alfa. Are there any questions about your divisions and watches?”
In unison, they answered “no, ma’am”.
“In that case, Mr. Sheridan will report to me at 1300 tomorrow to receive your academic assignments. You are to spend the rest of the day settling in and meeting your new superiors and subordinates. Liberty begins at 1600 if your divos permit, and secures at 0700 tomorrow. Notice that I said ‘liberty’, not ‘shore leave’. Liberty is a higher recall status than shore leave, which is a higher status than leave. Until you have passed your probationary period, you will not be authorised shore leave, although when it is authorised for the crew, you will still have to spend leave days to get liberty time as if it were shore leave – yes, Mr. Hallewell?”
“I don’t understand, ma’am. Spend leave days on liberty?”
“Liberty is free time off duty, and when in a friendly, known port, it may be spent off the ship. Shore Leave is like liberty, except that the port is not a federation or allied port, and so you spend leave days, at half the normal rate. In return, your recall status is down-graded. You can’t be recalled for routine or work-related reasons, only because of emergencies or the captain canceling leave, or the ship departing early. Leave is standard time for time, and you may be authorised to leave the area, meet the ship at a later destination, or otherwise be detached from the crew for that period. Until you prove yourselves, you will only be allowed liberty. In a shore leave port, you’ll spend leave time to go on liberty, but your recall status will be that of routine liberty. Actual leave will only be permitted for family emergencies. Most of the fleet tends to lump all of these into the generic term of ‘shore leave’, although the distinctions still apply to spending your accrued leave time. Is that clear enough?”
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am”.
“Good. Now, as I said, liberty begins at 1600, work permitting, and secures at 0700. Underway detail will be set at 0800, and we will be departing at 0900 for the front. Naturally, you are not to discuss the ship’s schedule or destination with anyone not known to you to be cleared for it. Captain Sawyer and I will be meeting each of you on an individual basis over the next several days, as schedules allow. If any questions occur to you in the meantime, either ask your shipmates or save them for your individual interviews. After the interviews, serious questions and issues must proceed through the chain of command, so ask your divos, then department heads before seeing me about them. We don’t aim to be harsh taskmasters and slave-drivers, but we do intend to teach you how to be competent military officers as well as explorers. Your lives and others may depend on you being able to fight your ship in dire circumstances, and today’s lax tactical standards have caused significant losses. You will learn these things, not because we wish to demean you, but because we want you to survive and see the Federation through this war. Dismissed”.
“Xenophon, Caesar, Machiavelli, Von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Mahan, biographies of Hood, Farragut, Perry, Preble, Hull, John Paul Jones, Halsey, Chandley, Rommel, Doenitz, Yamato, Zhukov, Kirkpatrick, Riley, Killian, Sawaru, T’Laha Dirrhu, military histories of Andor, Tellar, Vulcan – do they even have such a thing? – Etosha and the Orion Congeries, and this is only the beginning! Accounts of Agincourt, Hastings, Bannockburn, Waterloo, Gettysburg, San Juan, Belleau Wood, Normandy, Midway, Yalu River, My Lai, Grenada, Baghdad, Khan, Alieutian Blockade, Colonel Green’s War, the Little War, the mind control revolts, World War III, the Rimbor Uprising… fiction by Forrester, Kent, Woodman, Weber, J’zon, Matterley, Clancy, Terksen, Yoshikawa, Tutakai, Cherenova, Dedereaux, Schenker - read and write a report on every single blinkin’ one of these things! I’m going to be an engineer, not a tactical officer!” Lane protested.
“Captain Sawyer started as an engineer. Commander Gannon was in sciences. The Klingons didn’t care about that when they declared war on us. You never know what you’ll end up doing” Sheridan replied.
“Looking up their careers just to make excuses for this nonsense? Brown-noser.” Lane gibed.
“No, actually, that’s what the XO said to tell anyone who tried to object to their assignments on those grounds. She also said that if that doesn’t suffice, to tell you it’s a lawful order. You wouldn’t want to make her issue it in writing”
“You’re enjoying this too much! You’ll make a fine little tyrant some day; I hope I never have to serve under you” said Lane.
“Hah! I wish you could take over supervising our homework. Then I’d only have to worry about doing my own, not checking up on everyone else’s and making sure they’re doing it. Just get to it, Kevin. It won’t get any easier for arguing about it”
“Yeah, well marching doesn’t make it any easier to get anywhere, either. Y’ask me, those two are just balmy in the head. Nobody marches anymore except marines, and they
just can’t let go of tradition”, Lane grumbled.
Ensign Morgan reported “in synchronous orbit of Calazar V, sir”
“Very well. Secure engines, keep thrusters on standby, and secure orbital detail” Sawyer answered. “Comm, get me a channel to Kearsarge.”
“Kearsarge is calling already, sir, asking for you to beam over”, Robinson answered.
“My compliments to CPT Hardy, and tell them I’m on my way. LT Drake, you have the Conn. Inform CDR Gannon to meet me in the transporter room.”
As soon as the turbolift doors closed on the captain, ensign Morgan asked Lieutenant Drake “Sir, what does ‘SCC’ mean?”
“Well, ensign, most star Fleet ships are ‘NCC’, which refers to both Naval Construction Contract and Navigational Contact Code, some are ‘NAR’, for Naval Auxiliary Reserve, and then there’s ‘SCC’. The Star Fleet Division invented ‘Special Construction Contract’ just for the project this ship came from. It means experimental prototype ships being used like normal warships. In this case, we’re experimenting with Klingon-style warp geometry, which is why we don’t have the saucer most new ships do.”
“Thanks, sir. I’d never heard of it before.”
“It’s new. Now, ensign, for your temerity in asking questions not related to your watch, I expect a 2-page paper on the differences between piloting a ship with Klingon warp geometry from standard federation geometry by, oh, Saturday’s watch”.
“Yessir” Me and my big mouth
“He’s expecting you, sir”, the young Marine said, permitting Sawyer and Gannon to enter the briefing room.
“Good to see you, Chris. How’s the floating classroom?” asked CPT Hardy.
“Hi, Tom. I see Marcia still cooks for you. This is my exec, LCDR Devon Gannon.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir”
“Ah, forget that nonsense in here, commander. Call me ‘Tom’. Chris, we’ve got a lot to talk about, and we need to be pulling out already. My first officer has already sent orders attaching Lemuria to my task group and breaking orbit. We’re underway now. We’ll shuttle you back over when we’re done here.”
“What’s up then, Tom?”
“Commander Killuve snuck out of his orbit of Calazar VIII last night, with three D-4s and two K-17s. They took out the Tancred and launched meteorites our way to mask their movements, but Spaker got a line on their course. It looks like they’re heading for the Triangle, possibly to link up with Kantome’s group. The Federation has almost no ships in the area, so they could do a lot of damage to colonies and independent polities. I’m following them with the task force to try to turn them back. You’re my fastest ship, so I’m making you my recon element. You’ll be alone, except for your organic fightercraft. I’ll retain Darius, Xerxes, Tamerlane, and Kearsarge. Resolution, Spaker, Aeolus, and Niantic will be left here in case anyone else comes or Killuve tries to sneak back around.”
Devon cut in, “So what’s the end-game? Do we stop them cold, or just keep them from meeting Kantome?”
“Ideally, stop them. But if we can just keep them out of trouble, I’ll take it”
Chris asked “So how aggressive should I be? Take any shots I can or just bird-dog them till you can catch up?”
“Chris, I trust your judgment. Don’t take too much risk, but if you can cut them up a bit, go for it.”
“I notice you aren’t moving in”
“I thought about shifting my flag. You’re not only my fastest ship, you’re also the biggest. I still may later, but for now, I want you chasing Killuve, not carrying my luggage. If you don’t have any more questions, let’s get this show on the road”
Rory and Austin were marching in step down the passageway.
“Aaaaand, HALT! Ensigns, where do you think you’re going without formation commands?”
“Lieutenant, we were just - ” Rory began “I don’t care what you were ‘just’ doing, Ensign. You were ‘just’ walking without a cadence. Surely you remember being ordered
to march everywhere. Without a cadence or formation commands, you aren’t marching”
“Very well, Lieutenant, we’ll - ”Austin began “I haven’t given you leave to speak, Ensign. Team pushups, 20 four-count, begin”
“What!?” Rory exclaimed.
“Make that 40, Ensign, or we can make this official”
“Just drop, Rory, let’s get this over with”
“Oh, it’s not over till I say so, Ensign.”
As the pair got into pushup position facing each other, the passageway began filling with onlookers.
one-two-three-three - ”
“Wait, what’s this?” the Lieutenant reached down and grabbed a rawhide necklace poking up behind Austin’s collar “unauthorized personal jewelry, tsk, tsk. I’m going to confiscate this, Ensign, unless you want to explain violating uniform regulations to the Master-at-Arms?” he yanked to snap the leather braid and pulled it free, a feather and lock of hair attached with beads.
Austin stood up without permission and grabbed his tormentor’s wrist. “What’s your name, Lieutenant
“You really want to make this official, boy?”
“No. But you will return my property and allow us to go free, or I’ll make you regret it, son
“I’m Lieutenant Tanner, Warp Propulsion Assistant, boy, and you just destroyed your career. Now let go; I’m taking you to the brig for assault, insubordination, failure to obey - ”.
“Well, then, mis-ter Tanner
, before you try that, reread the section on insubordination. You crossed the line first, committed the first assault, and that feather is completely
within regs. Article 1751 and appendix charley-27. If my hair was longer, I could braid it and there’s damn-all you can do about it. Now give it back before I
“No snot-nosed brat defies me - ” “LIEUTENANT!” A short, slender coal-dark woman with severely cropped hair pointed at her feet “Over here, now!”
“Oh, come on, Jenst. I was just teaching these two a lesson”
“Get over here, Tanner”
Tanner ambled over “Look, there’s no reason - ” “To stop you from making a fool of yourself in public? Maybe I should just let you get your knees chopped off” Lieutenant Jenst lowered her voice.
“But I can’t let these kids - ” “You listen, Tanner. Give his bauble back, apologize, and never, ever let me hear you bother them ever
again. These two are mine
. And look up the regs he was spouting before you make an idiot of yourself again.”
“Apologize! - ” “Apologize now, and I won’t say anything to the exec.”
Turning to face everyone else, she raised her voice “Alright everyone, show’s over. Nothing to see here. Vamoose! - Not you two.”
Rory began “Lieutenant Jenst, we apolo - ” “Not now, Ensign. Lieutenant?”
“Sorry” Tanner mumbled, handing over Austin’s braid, and shambling off.
“Ensign Campbell, you
have nothing to apologize for, except not planning enough time for such interruptions. Run off now, you’re late. You, Mr. Sheridan, though, will come to my office.”
“Yes, ma’am!” they chorused.
“Don’t march, you’re with me.”
After the doors closed on the Flight Control Officer’s office, “Ensign, next time you find yourself in that position, I won’t stop you from going up to see the skipper. Yes, he provoked you. Yes, he went too far. No, that was NOT good enough reason to deck him.”
“Ma’am, I was not going to - ” “I saw your eyes, Ensign. If I hadn’t stepped in, he’d have lost a paygrade and been in hack for a few days, but you’d have been in the brig and maybe out of Star Fleet”
“But, ma’am, he - ” “He what? Hazed you? He’s supposed to; we all are. He just took it too far. But we’re in a war now, there’s no time for thin-skinned sensitivity. If you can’t take a little hazing, what are you going to do when you get shot at?
Lieutenant Tanner is a good officer, for the most part, but he’s too used to a core-world , civilized attitude, and hasn’t developed the judgment to push and prod you without goading too hard. As soon as we’re done talking, you are going to go find him and apologize. Don’t worry about your shift until that’s done. I don’t want you two to have a permanent feud over this, and I don’t want either of you going up before the Old Man. So you go apologize, and remember, I expect that to end this. Go.”
Austin spun and left, still trembling with adrenaline.
“Excuse me, Lieutenant?”
“I apologize, Lieutenant, for getting in your face back there”
“She made you come?”
“Well – yessir, she did. But I think maybe she shouldn’t have had to.”
“It’s ok, kid. I was wrong, too. Let’s forget it and try again. I’m Eric.” He stuck out his hand.
Taking it, “Austin.”
“So, Austin, what d’ya do when you have free time?”
Austin entered Flight Control, feeling much more relaxed. Lieutenant Jenst raked her eyes over him. Satisfied, she beckoned him over. “So, Proxima Beta?”
“The feather. You have a full name, so you’re not Proxima born, but you also have a name I wouldn’t expect from a Havener, so if you can claim religious exemption to wear a feather outside ceremonies, you have to be from Proxima”
“Spent half my childhood there, ma’am”
“I grew up on Tarsus. Daddy took a job on Mars just before the famine, though, so I wasn’t there when the trouble began.”
“Why do you think I couldn’t be from Haven, ma’am?”
“Sheridan? Not a name revered by Amerinds. Since Haven is a cultural preservation enclave, everyone’s raised as a traditional Amerind or Japanese. So, is the general in your family tree?”
“I honestly don’t know. Granther always said the family had a long history, but I don’t recall any stories about a general”
“You might want to look it up sometime. Anyway, it’s time we got to work. We’ve got a lot to do, prepping for a possible combat sortie if we can catch the Klingons.”
“Only one or two ‘ma’am’s’ per conversation, Sheridan”
“Mr. Sheridan, your homework is slipping. Have we overloaded you?”
“No excuse, ma’am.”
“No, you don’t have an excuse, ensign. But maybe we erred in thinking you were cut out for this. Maybe you just aren’t officer material. There’s no shame in admitting your limitations.”
“I’ll do better, ma’am.”
She ignored the flash of anger in his eyes. “See that you do. Dismissed.”
Rushing a sloppy salute that was not returned, Austin hurried to depart before the exec found something else to criticize.
Chief Petty Officer Branum watched his painfully new assistant division officer stalk across the hangar deck.
“Aaaaand halt! Ensign, where you tearing off to in such a tearing hurry?”
“Sorry, chief, just running late and - ”
“And I’m sure you think you can just run away from whatever’s eating you. It don’t work like that, son. Walk with me, and let’s talk” The burly vet put a hand on the ensign’s shoulder and steered him a different direction.
Shortly, “Here’s my office. Take a seat and tell me what’s bothering you.”
“It’s nothing, chief”.
“Bullshit, son. Part of my job is turning squeaky new ensigns into real officers, and that’s a lot like raising kids. You see a lot of troubles go by.”
“I just don’t know if I can do this! The exec already thinks I can’t.”
“Then we just need to prove her wrong, don’t we?”
“What all is giving you trouble?”
“I don’t know – all of it?”
“What’s ‘all of it’?”
“My homework, handling everyone else’s homework, my job, my watch, my collateral duties?”
“That’s right, you’re the George. So, let’s see, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Officer, president of the MWR Committee, that’s just monkey work to keep a junior officer busy. Educational Services Officer, that’s something a decent petty officer could handle, but they give to George to work him. Son, a big part of that is training you to handle strain by giving you a lot of piddly jobs that don’t mean much in case you can’t handle it.”
“Do you think I can’t handle it, chief?”
“Not if you’re going to do everything else and not delegate anything. How much sleep are you getting?”
“Damn all. Maybe 2-3 hours a night.”
“Ok, and you give out the homework to all the other new ensigns? And grade it?”
“Ok, son, here’s what we’re going to do. You’ve got to learn to delegate. I’ve got a third who should be putting on second soon, and she’s real good at maintenance, but she don’t know administration worth a bean. Petty Officer McDaniels. I’m making her your yeoman, and you’ll have her handle all your MWR and ESO jobs, and the grading on your homework. That’ll free up some of your time. You still have to review whatever she does, and you’ll still have to sit in the meetings, but she’ll take the notes and make any decisions you trust her with.
Once she’s got a handle on that, then she can help with your divisional paperwork. Now, you’re gonna have to train her what to do and how to do it, and watch her to be sure you don’t dump too much at once on her, but I think that’ll give you the chance to get your feet under you. Now go take a nap. I’ll clear it with lieutenant Jenst.”
“Thank me by giving me back a second class who knows her admin.”
“A Spades tournament, ensign? Your homework is getting better, but you think you have the time to run a Spades tournament for the crew?” Commander Gannon stared at Ensign Sheridan.
“Just trying to do my job, ma’am. The crew can use some fun, and it’s my job to try to provide it.”
“Was this your idea, ensign?”
“No, ma’am. Petty Officer McDaniels’, actually”
She blinked. I’d’ve bet it was Chief Branum. Well, maybe wonder boy’s actually learning something
. “Then go ahead, ensign. But don’t let it interfere with your studies. You can operate it, but if I hear you’re too busy playing
Spades to do your homework or you trade your watch, then I’ll come down on you like Moses. Clear?”
“Clear, ma’am!” This time, his salute was much crisper, and she actually returned it. Surprising how good that felt,
he thought. Maybe there really is a point to all this stuff
“Devon, come in. What’s up?”
“Ensign Sheridan, Chris. He seems to be coming around after all. Not only has his homework improved, his grading of the others is getting markedly better, his divo thinks he’s pulled a round turn, and I’ve just approved his request for a Spades tournament.”
“Spades, huh? Think I can get in on that, or should we leave the crew to their fun?”
“Well, if you play like you usually do, it won’t be too fun for everyone else.”
“Just an idea. I told you that kid could do it. He just had to get his bearings.”
“You did. So, shall I add those humanities course to his work load?”
“Not yet. He grew up on a colony, he’s behind on some of the soft arts, but I think we can save those for later.”
“Then I can’t agree that he should be involved in any flights or landing parties yet. He still needs to catch up on a lot of coursework.”
“None of it matters in the short term. In the long run, he’ll need it to be a good officer, but I still want to see him get his feet wet on some missions. He won’t be the ranking officer till you’re ready to sign off on it, but we can delay his social studies a bit longer.”
“Alright, then. Any of the other new ensigns you want to clear?”
“What’s your thinking on the others?”
“Well, Martin’s got a chip on her shoulder and it shows in her work, so…
“Settle down, Campbell, it’s just a routine patrol” Roberts groused.
“It’s my first time, lieutenant, I can’t help it!”
“You’d better. I need you scanning for Klingons, not prancing like a nervous filly at her first race!”
“Why are doing this again, sir? Doesn’t the ship have better sensors?”
“Yes, but we’re swinging out to the sides to make certain the Klingons don’t try to sneak back around on us. The rest of the task force is well behind us, and our only extra eyes and ears are our own shuttles.”
“It’s exciting, but I still don’t see how much we can accomplish; we can’t stay out here long or we’ll be left behi – wups! I see something off at 315 mark 337. Oh, okay, it’s just a rogue planet.”
“Save us from rogue planets sneaking up on us like that! Next time, I expect you to catch it faster.”
“Aye, aye, sir”
“Bloody cadets” Roberts muttered under his breath. Campbell flushed, hearing it anyway.
“Um, lieutenant, we just got pinged from that planet”
“Hell! Call the ship, get us backup.” Roberts changed course away from the frozen body.
“We’re being jammed. They’re bracketing us – 2 Klingon assault shuttles rounding the planet!”
Roberts rolled the shuttle on it’s roof, wheeling back towards home. “Try to rig the nav deflector to boost the comm signal!”
“I – what? How?”
“I don’t care if you make it blow up, if it makes a big enough flare to punch through the mucky interference!”
“Ok, okay, I got this, I got this, - ok, ok, um, - dammit!”
“What? - ” A wrenching bloom of fire erupted as the overstressed nav deflector system died.
“What in blazes did you do, ensign?”
“Um, I tied the comm system in to the nav deflector, routed it from it’s antenna to the deflector’s waveguide.”
“And it wasn’t getting through, so I took the safeties offline and routed engine power straight to the deflector”
“Well, that’s gonna settle us. I don’t know if we can make it back – where are the Klingons?”
Disruptor fire passed close by, lighting the cabin briefly.
“Without some kind of shielding, we can’t fight these bastards. I think our only chance is to try to hide on that planet and hope the ship saw” Roberts whipped the small craft around in a sloppy corkscrew in an arc towards the closer Klingon.
“What the hell? Lieutenant! I have a burst of subspace static off to port, near where the portside patrol ought to be.” Petty Officer Tha’amsa reported to the TacO.
“Red Alert! Sound Battle Stations! Launch ready fighters!” Thumbing a switch, Lieutenant Anson Roberts said on intercom “Captain to CIC! Captain to CIC! Possible attack on patrol!”
Coming up behind the earnest young Saroming Operations Specialist, he said “okay, OS3, what have you got?”
“Not much sir, there’s a burst of static and some residual subspace resonance, and now the shuttle’s carrier wave is gone. There might be jamming, but it’s too far out to be sure.” The crewman was sweating.
“Better than nothing. Good job, but now I need you to keep trying to find out what else we can get.”
On the intercom again, Roberts said “Bridge, TacO. Our patrol on portside might be under attack, come to - ” glancing at his navigation plot, “284 mark 341.”
“Acknowledged” replied the Conn, Lieutenant Drake again.
“Captain in CIC!” yelled crewman Bilottny.
“Sir, OS3 detected a flare of subspace static near our patrol and possible jamming. We’re turning to intercept and launching fighters”
“Very well, TacO. Keep me informed. I’m going to the bridge. Pass this to the exec.”
“Captain out of CIC!”
The Klingon shuttle didn’t expect a Feder’angan to swing back on him, and flinched, swerving to avoid collision. It was an understandable mistake. The maneuver caused a glancing blow that smashed the starboard nacelle on the Starfleet shuttle and opened a gash in the Klingon, venting atmosphere.
“Bloody hell! We just dropped out of warp!”
The other Klingon, caught off-guard by the crash and subsequent disappearance of the Federation shuttle, dropped back to normal space and started circling, seeking it’s prey.
“Lieutenant Jenst, I want the recovery shuttle prepped and launched, just in case” Roberts said on the screen in Flight Ops.
“Roger, lieutenant, on it.” Clearing the call, she looked at Austin, fidgeting helplessly with nothing to do.
“Go on, ensign, break out the recovery shuttle.”
“Ma’am, can I - ” he broke off, uncertainly
“I need an experienced officer on that mission.”
“I’m not asking to be in charge, it’s just – my friend, I , well”
“Alright, if there’s room after the team loads.”
“Thanks, ma’am”, his face lit up and he ran off.
“Looks like that’s everything. Everybody start boarding!” called the burly, shave-headed warrant “wups! Not you, ensign!”
“Lieutenant Jenst said I could go if there was room” Sheridan said.
“Not without a suit. We don’t have an airlock, and I can’t wait for you to get your suit. Sorry kid, next time”
“That’s my friend out there!”
“Sorry to hear it, but you’re holding us up. We’ll do our best for him. Now scat, so we can depressurize the bay.” Turning, Chief Warrant Officer Caswell, Ship’s Bosun, entered the shuttle, as Sheridan ran out of the bay and the pressure tocsin wailed.
In the passageway, Sheridan pounded the bulkhead in frustration. Almost. Almost, and my own stupidity kept me from it. Dammit! You better come through, Rory!
Inside the bay, once the atmosphere evacuated and the bay doors slid open on their tracks, the ungainly large recovery shuttle rose and slowly made for open space, followed by 4 sleek fightercraft. Only space stations, starbases, and ships like Lemuria could carry such shuttles. It looked like an enlarged, boxier shuttle perched on a warp sled with hinged spars paralleling the nacelles, and a corvette’s tractor assembly slung beneath the sled. The nacelles were five times the size those of a personnel shuttle.
Despite all this, it was a lovely thing to Sheridan, watching it on the screen in Flight Control. Lieutenant Jenst watched him from her console, concerned, but not intruding.
In a canyon on the frozen ball of rock, lieutenant j.g. Greg Roberts, his braid no longer quite so shiny and dazzling, was reevaluating his life. The snot-nosed kid had found the canyon, the snot-nosed kid had figured out how to rig the useless drive to keep providing power to heat the suits, and the snot-nosed kid had thought to evacuate the shuttle’s atmosphere to reduce their heat signature when the Klingon started bombarding them. And the snot-nosed kid had been the one to realize they couldn’t use their beacon while the bloody damned Klingon was still up there. All he’d managed was to set them down without cracking the craft. He’d hated the strutting way lieutenants and jaygees had sneered at him for being a puppy of an ensign, and here he had been doing it himself! Way to go, Greg, way to go. At this rate, maybe you’ll finally learn something by the time you’re in the Old Spacer’s Home
The ground trembled again, with the odd sensation of noise coming from the base of the shuttle, but not from outside, as vibration traveled through the ground, but not through a non-existent atmosphere. At least this canyon seemed to be clear of ice.
“I think that was further away” Damn, kid, can’t you see I’m trying to think better of you, and here you go stating the obvious!
“Maybe” Rory added, tentatively.
Well, hell, Greg, the kid’s as scared as you are and trying just as hard not to show it.
“Yah, maybe so” he allowed.
“Bosun, I got a bogey in a low orbit over the rogue. They’re firing at the ground, so it’s not our boys. I’m sending two ahead to chase him away,” reported the lead fighter pilot. “Cade, Be’en, go knock that bastard out of our sky,” she continued. Two fighters peeled off and swooped on the Klingon fighter in a pincer.
The Klingon was a better pilot than his late wingman. He arced up and over to attack the new threat, but he was still outnumbered, and taking fire from two different directions. In a tiny metal flivver like that, without shields he was vulnerable, and swiftly blossomed as a fiery bloom in the sky.
On the ground, Campbell and Roberts were startled by the vibration of their hatch opening. “What the hell - ?” Campbell began, cut off by Roberts “start the damn beacon!”
“Wha- why? If he’s still - ” “It doesn’t matter, we’ve got company down here” as he reached over Campbell and started the emergency beacon transmitting.
A spacesuited Klingon entered the shuttle, disruptor in hand.
“I’ve got a distress beacon below!” Cade reported. “C’mon, Be’en, let’s go!” The fighters descended rapidly to stoop on the source of the SOS.
Lieutenant Roberts called the Bridge “Captain, the recovery team reports one Klingon fighter destroyed, but apparently there’s a detachment on the rogue planet, and they may have our people. I’d like to take the ship there and beam down an assault team.”
“Negative, Lieutenant. This’s a diversion to slow us down. Send 3 squads of marines in assault shuttles, two more fighters, and two more personnel shuttles with a medical team. Tell them they are to rendezvous with Kearsarge when she comes through here, we’ll see them up later.”
“Ah, roger that, skipper. TacO out.”
“Sheridan, get your suit. We’re sending more shuttles. As soon as you’re dressed out, start prepping shuttles 4 and 5, and the first three assault shuttles. Bosun will brief you when you meet up with him.”
Sheridan saluted sharply and loped out joyfully.
The flight was barely clear of the ship’s warpfield when Lemuria accelerated after the Klingon taskforce, leaving them alone. Sheridan finally had time to be nervous. Just as he was boarding, Lieutenant Jenst had pulled him aside “Look, Austin, don’t screw this up. I don’t know what we’ll be heading into, so you’re all I can spare. You’re the ranking officer on this sortie until you rendezvous with the recovery flight. Bosun is overall in charge. No heroics, no stupidity, got it?”
“I try not to make a fool of myself more than once a day, ma’am,” he’d gulped, as he felt the sudden weight of responsibility, yet also amazed at how glibly he’d responded.
“I know you can handle pressure. I’ve read your record. Just remember, this is serious. Don’t be a hotdog. Once you get our people out, you’re not returning here. You’ll rendezvous with Kearsarge. You’ll all come home whenever we get a chance. Until then, it’s all on you and Bosun. Now, march!” she’d turned and strode off before he could think of a reply, and he’d boarded the shuttle slightly dazed. Now he had nothing to do but try not to think of all the ways he could foul up a rescue.
“Shuttle Kerguelen, this is shuttle Saint-Hilaire” Sheridan called.
“Kerguelen here. Standby for landing coordinates,” came the terse reply.