By The Sword 3

By The Sword
Chapter 3 Draft (6/20/08)

Entering the boat deck of the SnapDragon, Chief Master Boss’n Carl Pilchard piped them aboard. After a crisp salute he said, “Good to see you Lieutenant, the Captain request your presence on the bridge at once. May I escort you?”

“I could probably find my way but would be happy for the company.” Audie said, Is it Ok if Sgt. Borselov waits around for our gear to come in?”

“Absolutely Ma’am, I’ll have a rating go with him to show where everything goes.”

Yuri watched, wishing he were going along as the two long time friends left the boat-deck.

Roger Langston, Captain of the SnapDragon, was every inch the command presence. From his polished boots to the polished band holding up the reverse duckbill brim on his helmet cap. Dress for success seemed to be his motto and the other officers on the bridge reflected that position, though not as brightly as Roger did. That would not be proper.

Audie, whose uniform and general presentation was barely adequate even for a ground pounder, drew a momentary frown from her new captain as she entered the control room. She didn’t see it but Clarence Fletcher, the ships first officer, did.

Boss’n Pilchard stayed and held a brace at the hatchway as Audie walked across the mirror shined deck and over to the Captain’s station, center rear of the control bridge.

She saluted first and Langston returned it with a snap, not at all like Audie had seen from the other ship’s captains she was familiar with, stating with her cousin Jamie on the Saratoga and senior captain in the fleet.

“Welcome aboard Lieutenant.” The smile and expression were totally proper but Audie felt a tinge of something she couldn’t quite place. It was almost like he had been expecting someone else. No that couldn’t be true. ‘Snap out of it girl,’ she said to herself.

“Reporting as ordered Sir! And glad to be here. I heard from everyone you had a very good first cruise.”

“That it was,” he said with what was evident pleasure. Too evident? “But things are much different now than they were then. As I’m sure you know most of the officers and senior crew on our last voyage were experienced spacers from Novi on their way home. We have a much more difficult problem now, getting this ship up and all of our new crew up to the standards Admiral Raymond and the rest of the Cardoman Navy expect. Not to mention those higher standards,” his brows arched, “we expect of ourselves.” He then paused as if expecting a reply.

“Well I am certainly going to do everything I can to meet your expectations Captain.”

“Humph, yes,” he said, with a slight snort from came from the back of his throat. He looked around and made sure the other eyes and ears on the bridge were paying attention when he said, “You are very young and inexperienced for the job of Engineering Officer on a first class ship, yet I have every expectation and belief that you are up to the task and will do your duty. Thank you Lieutenant, he said dismissing her, “the Boss’n will take you to your quarters.”

“Wow! Is he always like that?” Audie asked Pilchard when they were well away and out of hearing.

“Your spoiled Audie, if I can say that to someone with the exulted officer status you have managed to acquire one way or another.”

“Cut it out Carl, I’m still me! The Major made me put the bars on! You should have seen me fight it. But the Major, he gets what he wants!”

“Yeah, I can see that Audie, but the thing is you haven’t spent all that much time in the service. And time in the Seventh doesn’t even count when it comes to knowing how a real military runs.”

“What are you saying Carl, the Seventh’s about as real as it gets.”

“Oh it’s real alright, the body count proves that. Now, Now, Now, don’t look at me that way. I know from what he has managed to pull off that Calvert is a different story entirely. But he is not the gears and the grease of the real military. The real military is made up of people like me, those that do our stint and are thankful and sometimes surprised to survive. Hell, I even took ships duty, course like you Calvert had a hand in that, but I was in long before the Major came along and I have seen how it works.”

“Geez Carl, I’m not saying anything about you or the rest of the SnapDragon’s company. All I’m saying is that that first meeting with Captain Langston didn’t seem as— I don’t know how to put it, how about maybe as pleasant as it could have been?”

By this time they were standing outside of Audie’s cabin door down in the engineering spaces. Carl stuck in the access card and went through the motions that transferred the portal to the new Engineering Chief.

“Come on in Carl, I’ll by you a drink and we can talk this out.”

Pilchard looked guiltily up and down the corridor and said, “After you Ma’am.”

The airtight door slid silently aside and they walked in. Audie’s chest was on the floor at the foot of a small bed, not even a bunk. Her garment bag and her carry-on were on the bed’s cover sheets. The room was about three by four meters and an open door showed a private bath, the walls a flat metal gray. A desk, com and computer setup occupied one corner and there was a small built in fridge with a fold down table in front next on the same wall. Two picture frames showed views sent in from cameras on the orbital station. They could be changed to other views or images held in the ship’s library.

“Not as big as my place back at the Seventh’s base on planet but it will do.”

“Twice the size of mine and you got a cooler,” Carl said. “And I can say this; there is not another junior officer on this ship with her own private stateroom.”

“I brought a bottle Carl; let’s see if we have ice.”

“If not the rating on this duty has a problem,” Pilchard said opening the wall unit. He was not surprised to see that all was well on the ice front but was concerned that there wasn’t much of anything else inside. I’ll get some basic consumables sent down here as soon as we’re done. Anything you’d like for now?”

“I’m fine Carl, but hey, you looked up and down the hall before we came in here. Why? People afraid of illicit sex on this ship?”

“Hah! Don’t I wish. We’re like the rest of the Navy, not as bad as the combat troops, but bad enough on a long cruise. Right now we have a 20% female and 3% other. But we are at port and flush with newbies. After we work up, and before we leave system, we are going to wash out fifteen percent, half of those in numbers, not percent, will be female, it never fails. I’m sure you know. Nope sex wasn’t what got me to thinking. It was the offer of a drink.”

“A Drink? We are tied to the station, and on a training schedule. And this is officer’s country. And you are the most senior of all enlisted on the ship. I knew you before you came over to the dark side. What ever could be the problem! Captains orders? Naw couldn’t be.”

“Not exactly orders but he frowns upon it.”

“That’s ridiculous, why does he think we have a Captains Mast’s and the ability to order drugs to treat problem offenders?”

“I hate to say this Audie but you are going to have a hard time getting along in the Navy. The Captain sets the tone for the ship and a wise sailor learns to sing harmony.

“Do they all sing the high part?”

“You’ll learn Audie, but I will have another before I go back to my own duties.”

* * *
He’d been on the ship and in the training rotation a week now and despite the amount of time spent learning the job Yuri Borselov was happy overall with his progress and adjustment to his new situation. He had just finished a shift on the power room control, where even with the reactors shut down simulations were running and throwing occasionally problems at the operators in to make things difficult. He managed to solve the last one without blowing the ship up and that was a success at this stage of his naval career.

Reaching his quarters he looked towards his desk in one corner first thing after entering the common room he shared with three of the ships other navel noncoms. He would have fit in better bunking with the Seventh Recon Marine detachment. That group was getting ready to take up station, but he was slated to play the role of an Engineering rating, more accurately an unrated Engineering Officer. He needed all the input from the navy types he could pry out of them. In this case it wasn’t going to be hard. Boss’n Pilchard wanted cooperation and so cooperation Yuri would get.

His desk screen had a glowing line across the bottom so he went to look at the message. It was from Lt. Madry.

“Hi Yuri,” it began. “Here is a pointer to a file I think you should read. I scanned your reading material and noticed you were sorely lacking in history. This is a short one but it will help you to understand the kind of equipment we are working on now if you know how we got here. More importantly it shows you some of the early mistakes, the ones we don’t need to reproduce and maybe some we do. More notes on the end for deeper study. Don’t waste too much time sleeping.– Audie.”

The file pointed to was indeed short so Yuri read it before leaving for the mess.

The Generation Four (G-4) hyper ships like the SnapDragon were a recent development. The first had been built just twenty years earlier. As a class they went into service only a decade ago. At that time only the Caliphate and Confederation yard at Union had the know-how to produce them. Both powers were trying to keep it secret. Only two years later, to the surprise of both, Llanfairn launched her own first member of the class. That fact was kept a deep secret from most until Llanfairn went into production but became common knowledge once she bartered the technology to Cardoman.

The first colonization ships were extremely large near light speed crawlers. The first G-1 ships were just as big, being retrofits of the earlier class, about 200,000 tons. Over time the final G-1 versions crept down to about half that mass. When G-2’s were first built even with two drive bands they started out at 100,000 tons and again over time became lighter, the final types made in quantity were a bit over 60, 000 tons. The G-3’s and new G-4’s that followed continued the trend until the new SnapDragon came in at 30,000 tons.

Other than the size of the ships as the generations progressed, and they didn’t lose as much interior space as the weight decrease indicated, the main advance as each drive band was added was an increase in speed. The hyper pseudo-velocity increased at roughly the square root of the number of bands. A G-4 was twice as fast as a G-1 but only about 15% more rapid than a G-3.

No one but the Caliphate was making G-1’s any longer, and they were only turning out a couple a year from a single yard. Almost all of the commercial ships in use and even now a large number of second-class military ships were G-2’s. Production of G-2’s was still going strong, at least on the commercial side, and showed no decline. The G-3’s had replaced just about all of the front line military vessels a few years after the end of the last war and had started showing up in leading edge commercial fleets. The forth generation ships were still all reserved for military use and a complete changeover world take another decade or more. More certainly, Yuri thought, due to the coming war and fleet expansion.

He turned off his viewer noting all the additional sources he still needed to read and then left the compartment for a meal and maybe find some talk.

The food was good here, even better than in barracks on planet. Yuri didn’t see anyone he knew well enough to talk to so he took a tray and served himself from the ready-made items rather than punch in a special order. On his way to a table, an officer sitting alone flagged him down and motioned for him to approach. He recognized her from his briefing book as Lt. Senior Grade. Emma Debus the ships second officer.

She looked older in real life than the picture in the briefing notes, thirty-five standard years at least, she must be a rehab from the merchant service, Yuri thought as he halted at her table, holding his tray, and said hello.

“Grab a seat Sergeant, I have been meaning to talk with you.”

“Me Ma’am? I mean thank you,” he said placing his tray and sitting across from the ships weapons officer. “I wouldn’t have thought you would even know I was aboard.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, she said severely,” at least that how it sounded to Yuri. “I make it a point to go over the files of everyone reporting on the ship. And I have had a talk with Lt Madry in which you figured prominently.”

“Oh, no,” Yuri groaned, “I can sense more work coming on.”

“But she told me you really enjoy working with explosives. And your records seem to agree. She even offered me a few of your off duty shifts for a little project I am working on.”

“Well in that case please continue,” Yuri said with a smile. He did like explosives and knew when resistance was futile.”

“We’ve just gotten in a shipment of ship to ground missiles in from Trudelheim. This is her first crack a military supply and she’s a small place. Only 11 million total population base. The price and the data look good so purchasing took a chance on a first lot and now the fleet weapons officer needs someone to see how good they are. Someone is me and you Sgt.”

“I guess we could run the test on the Seventh range,” Yuri said.

“My thoughts exactly. How soon can you design the test and get this ready Sgt.”

“A couple of days should do it. Captain Reeves will be real interested in this. Who flies the shuttle?”

“Why I do of course!” Lt. Debus said.

* * *
Colonel Recon, Robert T. Davis was hot, Wes knew it and decided to let him burn. Maybe he would burn himself out. “Major, I need to take charge of the flagships marine detachment. I’ve never shirked my duty and that is where I belong!”

“Robbie they can take care of themselves. You’re too valuable to me running the training program. We don’t have enough full-up ready recon for the ships in commission, and we have another two that need staffing before they mount out on the slips. With a half platoon on each ship recon is already near twice as big as the entire Seventh was when we started. Twice as big but half as well trained. So the short answer is no. You’re job is here until you can assure me that recon is in the state you want it to be and you have someone else ready to take over your duties here. Then we can revisit this conversation.”

“You’re not making me happy here Wes.”

“Not my job. I wish I were happier myself, but we soldier on. So what say we give Les Raymond a call and soldier on down to the O-club and see just how close to needing those new marines the Navy is?”

“He needed em last week, but yeah, let’s do it. And we can call Fader Jameson in too; he needs to get to know his new boss is going to be.”

“Good to meet you Jameson,” Admiral Raymond said after the introductions, saluting the young recon officer even though they were inside, off duty, and not under covers.

“Thank you sir,” Fader said, his with unconcealed embarrassment as he returned the salute.

“We’re inside Lieutenant,” Les said, “No need to salute me; I was just paying respect to the Cardoman Order of Merit I see pinned on the uniform. I should have been at the ceremony when you received it but I was out on a cruise and this was my first opportunity.”

“Thank you again sir, but Leach and Petty went back after Colonel Davis. I just stood around giving covering fire while they pulled him out. I feel a little guilty at times, people staring at it and all.”

“I’m sure you do Lieutenant, and before too much longer I am afraid when I am not praying for it, that there will be others that feel that same way. But have a seat and place an order. We are talking about your new station and I am sure you will find it of interest.”

“The SnapDragon,” Robbie said. “I’m going to send Sgt. Ben Judah as your first Sgt. He’s a bit old for the position but new enough to us that he needs the seasoning. After you are sure he is ready I am pulling him back dirtside and sending him to O-school just like we did with you.”

“The SnapDragon is great, I was hoping I wouldn’t get a transport, and Shem and I worked together just fine on Marais. It surprised me he stayed in after getting back to Cardoman. But I guess with the Calps killing his brother and all, he has some unfinished business.”

“We’ve all have unfinished business Fader,” Wes said as, a servitor brought Fader’s order. What we need to do is concentrate on keeping first things first. You’ll have a few friends on the SnapDragon to work on that part if you have any doubts.”

“Who’s gonna’ be there sir,” Fader asked.

“A couple of friends that go way back Fader, Audie Madry is the ships Engineering Officer, and Carl Pilchard is the Boss’n. It should be easy to adjust to.”

“That sounds great, I should know but I haven’t kept up with all the fleet postings, Who’s the Captain?”

“Roger Langston,” Raymond said, “He’s had enough experience on the Aladin that he earned the shot. You will need to work closely with him to develop Marine unit procedures for the rest of the fleet. I’m sure Robbie will fill you in on what he is looking for from the Recon side but Langston will have to be your guide when it comes to naval matters.”

“I am certain I can handle that Admiral and I am looking forwards to it.”

“Speaking of handling things,” Davis said, “Fader, why don’t you tell the Admiral about the time you took Stan Voinovich on his first combat mission when he was still a ground pounder?”

“Yeah, that was pretty extreme. It was a night mission and.…”

* * *
Jameson, Ben Judah and the other 18 members of the Marine detachment docked with the SnapDragon just inside of the hyper limit. The ship had just returned from a short calibration jump and like everyone else the shuttles pilot and crew needed training. The docking was precise but slow. The shuttles pilot had left the intercom on and Captain Langston’s tone over the box made it clear he saw a need for improvement. Fader and Ben Judah had made certain their people were sharp for this first entry to their new ship. He might screw it up later but not today.

Fader felt, rather than heard the closing of the outer lock and then the shifting as the docking port was pressurized. The inner and outer hatches opened and he was second on the boat deck after the shuttles command pilot. As the shrill sounds of the pipes died down he snapped a salute and presented is order card. Carl Pilchard, equally punctiliously, slid it into the scan slot and waited a brief second for the green light and beep to sound. Gave his own salute and said.

“Welcome aboard Lieutenant. It’s been ages hasn’t it.

“Yes it has Carl, and you’ve sure come up in the world!”

“Haven’t we all,” Pilchard said admiring the gleaming brass on the newly designed Fleet Marine full dress Blacks. “If you will step over here with First Officer Fletcher,” Carl said, gesturing to a spot a dozen paces away where a Naval Lt. Cmdr. was standing, “I will read in the rest of your squad and show you your section space.”

“Let’s get it done Carl,” he said so others would not hear. “The bunch of puppies I brought with me, and especially after the low G approach, can hardly wait.”

“Clarence Fletcher, call me Fletch,” the First Officer said saluting the Cardoman Order of Merit as much as the man wearing it when Fader took his place, returned the salute, and watched his troops file through the double hatch and onto the boat deck. Each handed his ident card and the names and orders were compared and confirmed against the ship’s records. As they passed entry they formed up in ranks until the last passed.

“Contingent aboard sir!” Pilchard said to Cmdr Fletcher. “Permission to take them to quarters!”

“Granted,” Fletcher said and turned to Fader. “Lt. If you would accompany your men to the squad bay and then send a working party back in an hour or so when all of the gear is off loaded I would consider it a favor.”

“My pleasure sir!” Jameson said.

“When you are settled in give me a buzz and I’ll take you to see the Captain.”

Captain Langston was in his day cabin just off side the bridge when Jameson, escorted by Fletcher, was ushered inside by a rating standing guard at the door. Fader saw the large display on the cabin’s outboard wall showing his squad in ranks on the boat deck blank out as the Captain stood at his desk.

“You can go Fletch, the Lieutenant and I will be some time.”

“Yes Sir!” Fletch said leaving while palming the hatch closed

“A splendid group, Lt Jameson,” Langston said, calling the display to life again. “Just what we have been needing here.”

“Thank you sir.” And hiding his puzzlement Fader asked, “In what particular way?”

“You surprise me Lieutenant, someone as obviously squared away as you are must have noticed the rating at door when you came in?”

“Yes sir, it did surprise me a little.”

“I should say so! Much as I try they just don’t seem to have the proper military bearing. Must be something in nature of the navy eh?”

“Yes Sir!” Fader said getting a strange inkling of where this conversation was going.

“Glad you agree,” Langston said, “But I was sure you would. Why don’t you work on the watch schedule as soon as we are finished so that your people can take over the standing guard and I will have Cmdr Fletcher make arraignments to get my own people back to their own work?”

“Yes Sir!” Fader said with more enthusiasm by a long shot than he felt. This meeting wasn’t turning out at all like he’d imagined, surreal almost. He better watch it.

“Very good, now let’s go over the ceremonial rites and drills.”

Three hours later Fader, in a barely disguised daze, found his way back to the squad bay.

“Shemie,” he said to Sgt Ben Judah, “we need to talk and have a roster to develop, and like right now!”

“That’s crazy Fader!” his section leader said. “Were on a Cardoman ship, in Cardoman space, with no enemy around. What kind of balls up nonsense is that! A round the clock Marine guard everywhere the Captain goes? What does he think? The crew is gonna’ mutiny?”

“I wish I knew Shem, but what I do know is he is the Captain and we are going to get that guard in place. And no one in this squad makes any waves at all till we find our feet here. And I hope by then it all makes sense to both of us.”

“Ok Cpl. Raleigh, you look sharp enough, I will take you up to the Captain and you take it from there. But if you ball this up just go ahead and cycle outside the hull, don’t even think about coming back to the bay.”

“Ah… I guess so, and ahh… Should I have live rounds in the gun Lt?”

“Not much good without them is it Raleigh?”

“No Sir!” the immaculately uniformed corporal agreed with a wide eyed expression while slamming a magazine into his equally immaculate rifle.”

“Follow me Raleigh,” Fader said leading the way from the armory. “But remember this, it that gun ever fires a shot, that’s a second reason for cycling outside the hull. You got me there?”

“Sir, Yes Sir!”

On the way back from the Captain’s main cabin, that’s where the watch was starting this time, Fader bypassed the squad bay and went all the way down past weapons and into Engineering. Audie Madry had given him an invite as soon as he was logged in and now was the time.

“Hey Fader, how goes it,” Audie said with her infectious smile, eyes crinkling and laugh lines showing, “Bet you got a bunch of questions to ask.”

“Do I ever. They didn’t cover this first day stuff in the Intro to Naval Custom section of the O course.”

“Let me guess, Captain Langston’s got you baffled.”

“You got it, first time out of the gate.”

“He’s a strange one alright; he got me going when we met. I had a long talk with Boss’n Pilchard though and Carl says he may be quirky but he knows his stuff. ICI Carl calls it. Initial Command Itis, he says it gets a bunch the first time they get a major command. Most pull through fine. Langston’s got it in a big way but it’s too early to call. Least according to Carl. So you and I, and every other member of the crew that can figure this out, have to get him over it for this ship to get where she needs to go.”

“Geez Audie, a guard on the Captain’s stateroom?”

“I hear you Fader, but if you check out the source material it goes way back and more then a few times came in pretty handy.”