Marjoram 11

Marjoram
Chapter 11 Draft (09-03-11)

Eric Shearing still had the command seat when the Wasp transitioned back at Cardoman. Some enterprising crew member had even managed some gold braid for his cap. Jamie kept below so as not to spoil the moment.

“Two, One, Transition in.”

Eight minutes beyond the limit, very respectable. The holo-tank filled in moments, they could see six other ships heading inwards, four from the from the group that had left Cardoman slightly more than a month ago and two that showed Caliphate transponders, one a freighter and the other a G-2M labeled as the Otrush. Jamie checked the names in the Cardoman’s data blocks and found that they were the pairs returning from Sam’an and Mosul.

Her own signal was on its way and in an hour or less one of the pickets Cardoman maintained at the edge of the limit should have some information for her. Even with an extra two days spent back at Elmira the Wasp and Westwind had outraced her own G-2’s and of course the captured freighter; that went into her report. It was a shame the ships sent to Jabal were not back yet but like her own missing there was no reason to worry.

She set a course for Cardoman orbit and all aboard were looking forward to off loading their cargo of Caliphate prisoners. Jamie almost wished she was the one who would deal with them on arrival; she would rather do that than face Captain Smith over the loss of the Oslo. The downside to being an Admiral was the number of jobs you just couldn’t delegate.

A week and a day had passed since their return, the meeting with Captain Smith over, and the ships from Llanfairn away and on their way home. Both of the senior Shearings were involved with that meeting. The result was one of the captured freighters went back to Llanfairn at about 70% market rate; the difference as a penalty for the delay in shipping the Oslo. And on top of that the G-4 Stan was finishing up would also go to Llanfairn immediately upon completion. That 70% was still going to amount to ten billion Llanfairn dollars and easily pay off the prize money with a large boost to the Cardoman economy.

The Progressives were saying it wasn’t enough but that was what they always said. Stan would get the Wasp as soon as he finished with the G-4 going to Llanfairn. For the time being Eric Shearing was still a Captain but that was subject to change.

The Aladin and Raymond were back from Jabal and Yuri Borselov had transitioned in with the freighter captured at Elmira. Jamie was in her office on the Burgeron back to moving ships and people around as if they were tokens on a game board.

The board was larger than ever and the rules kept changing. She now had to replace Stan as the Yard Superintendent. In the past that had not been in her area of responsibility and officially it still wasn’t. The Yard was a civilian run business, at least on paper. Ownership was by shares. The Cardoman government owned the largest block, but not a majority, the Calvert’s, Connie and Wes, had the second largest stake. Then came the Seventh’s pension and relief fund, and after that a few more large ownership blocks and then hundreds, thousands, of smaller holdings, down to single shares.

There were five members on the board of directors, two were appointed by the Cardoman Legislature, another was the Calvert’s financial consultant and business manager Barry Summers, the final two were elected at large but one was always sponsored by the Seventh and the other from the smaller shareholders. Connie Calvert, in her guise as the Conservative representative for the Castleton District held one of the Legislative spots, a Progressive another. Sgt. Hank Hanson from the Seventh and Betty Frisk, one of the small shareholders rounded out the board. It wasn’t hard to see where the real power resided.

Wes asked Jamie to choose the best candidate for the job even if it meant taking someone from the fleet and Connie would handle the board of directors. Jamie’s part of the bargain was easier said than done, because she was going to take Cmdr. Ed Tubman Engineering Officer from the Eagle and give him the job and she didn’t want to lose him.

Audie of course was the obvious choice but Jamie didn’t think she could win that battle once Audie put up a fight, which she would, and the job after all required the proper temperament along with engineering ability.

Moving Ed left another hole in the fleet that she would worry about later. In fact she shouldn’t even be making all of these changes by herself anymore, that was the purpose of the new rules she had been so hot to implement before heading out to Elmira. It was time to put this in the hands of the Admiralty personnel department on the Burgeron and reserve judgment until after they were finished.

One decision out of the way she set the rest aside and went to the docking bay to welcome Yuri back as he shuttled over from the captured freighter he had left parked in a lower orbit to make it easier for his shuttles to move the ship’s last Captain and crew down to Cardoman’s surface for interrogation. After that would come an internment camp.

Audie was another at the dock waiting for Yuri to arrive when Jamie came onto the boat deck. The ship she had brought in had already gone on to Llanfairn with Captain Smith. She was spending her time between the shipyard and the captured G-2M, working on what was need doing to bring her up to Cardoman standards, not much the ship would need a change of Iff codes and some communications equipment, and a complete replacement of the food supplies. First thing Jamie told her about choosing Tubman for the superintendent’s job.

“Good choice,” Audie said, “I was afraid you might ask me.”
“You! It never crossed my mind.”

They talked about what still needed done on the G-2M while they waited. Standing next to one another the familial resemblance was quite noticeable, even though Jamie was half a head taller than her cousin and five years older. It was something about their manner and gestures, and it set them apart from the rest of those waiting. Yuri came on board to the trill of pipes; he was a Captain after all though only of a captured freighter.

* * *
Two days later the three of them were in the backroom bar at Castle Calvert, throwing darts against the army while they worked on what to do next. Wes and Fader Jameson were both throwing for the ground pounders and Jamie could see early on that this was not going to be the Navy’s day.

“If the Calps try something now, before they find out what just happened, and work on their ship software, they’re toast. I am certain that right now we could defensively deal with four to one odds against.”

“That much,” Clay asked a little doubtfully.

“Look again at the tape from Elmira, Clay; combined with everything else we have in system here it would be a slaughter. Even a picket would stand a chance. We have a window and need to throw something through it.”

“What do you recommend Jamie?” Wes asked.

“To make that four to one work we have to keep five of our G-4’s at Cardoman. That leaves one for use somewhere else. We could send all of our 2’s but I would keep back the Perseus, she has just the kind machinery on board that we need to speed up getting the other two captures into service.”

“I’m going to be in charge of finishing the G-4 that was going to be ours but now goes to Llanfairn,” Audie said, “Ed Tubman has his hands full learning the ropes about now. Yuri will be in charge on the G-2M we’ve renamed the Ranger, bringing her up to our standards. I think a month for me to finish and close to the same for Yuri.”

The question is what do we do about the freighter? We haven’t built any 2M’s and upgrading her to that status is almost as hard as starting from scratch unless you have production ready tools and equipment for the job. I suppose we could send her to Ryman for the work, they have everything it would take.”

“What if we keep her as a freighter?” Wes asked.

“We could put our flag on her tomorrow, get a cargo on her and send her away in a week or ten days,” Yuri said, “We got quite a good start on the trip back in. That’s provided we have a crew for her. And of course if we did have a cargo ready to load we could ship it to Ryman when she leaves.”

“I think you missed my point Yuri, we need another freighter in the fleet. One; because we need better control of the timing on what we need shipped in from elsewhere in order to keep our ship construction at full speed, and two; we may need to transport an entire Army and its support gear off planet one of these days.”

“In that case ten days should do it—if you have a crew.”
“What about that Jamie?”

“I haven’t given it much thought but with only twenty some involved in crewing a merchie I think we could do something. It would mean taking people from the Castleton; she’s in port and the Widow’s Walk isn’t due for three weeks. So yeah, we could do it.”

All the while the discussion had been going on so had the dart game Claude Germond was keeping score, he said his wrist was too delicate for the rigors of throwing tiny pointed objects. Both came to a conclusion, in the Army’s favor, at the same time and Claude said, “You know what a stir this all has caused don’t you Jamie?”

“How could I not! I even started getting calls from someone saying they were from Cardo-Vision, and wanting the rights to something they were going to call Captain Madry of the Spaceways. No offense, he said, Because an Admiral is too old and stodgy to be a lead action character.” With that she broke into uncontrollable laughter, a sip of her drink spraying in all directions.

“Gee whiz Jamie; you didn’t turn him down did you? Cause you could have said something to me about that,” Yuri said, wiping away spray from the table in front of him. “Think there would be a part for a dashing young Engineering Officer?”

“Watch it Yuri,” Jamie said, gasping for breath, “I can do something to you that you will not like at all—if I can figure out what that might be.”

“You really out to go along with this offer Jamie,” Claude said, “They are going to put something out whether you Okay it or not. Get them to change the name and have someone from PR handle things for you. That’s the only way you are going to survive this with a shred of self respect remaining and your reputation somewhat intact.” Then Claude broke into laughter and Jamie poured herself another.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at ease and most of the evening. An hour before midnight Jamie went back to the Burg on one shuttle while Audie and Yuri took another to the space yard.

The next day, some twelve hours later, Wes came up to the Burgeron for some detailed work on just what the Navy would be doing next. Connie went into Minton at first light to oversee her legislative duties.

“I had the assignment office up all night; it was good for them to see what life on a ship is supposed to be like.” Jamie said looking rested and well pleased with herself. On a large display behind her desk was a list showing personnel promotions and transfers. “Take a look Wes and tell me what you think.”

It took only twice as long as Jamie used asking for Wes to reply, “This is your call Jamie, I’m here to support you not second guess. I haven’t spent much time on naval affairs since Robbie went back to Ryman and I have to admit there are a lot of names up there on that wall I can’t even put a face to.”

“I have that problem myself sometimes,” Jamie said, “The addition of the Ranger and the captured freighter, which we are naming the Pilchard by the way, bring the fleet is up to fifteen hyper capable including the Burg; that’s almost a hundred officers just to keep the watches and sections filled.”

“Enlisted in the fleet large ship fleet is nearing 2,500. And that doesn’t count the marines. It doesn’t even begin to count the people we have on shore or those involved in the school on the Burgeron. And it doesn’t count the system defense people; we have thirty one pickets, shuttles and mine layers on duty. I could go on and on, but we are fast approaching seven thousand total and I still don’t have everyone I want or need.”

Then Jamie looked up and smiled, “I wouldn’t trade this job for any other in the world.”

“Glad to hear it; and I know how you feel. I come to my usual question now, what next? Do you have a list?”

“No, and that’s just one of the reasons I’m glad we are having this talk. It still seems likely the Calps will try something here at Cardoman, even if it is just cutting out a single ship. But as I said yesterday, if we keep five of our G-4’s and the Perseus home we are in a very strong position. That leaves a G-4, the Hornet is my choice. She has the least amount of wear and tear on her so we send her out with the Ray, Eagle, and Wanderlust and hope for that ship I’m always hearing about—the Best.”

“Too little force to attack a base or major system eh?”

“Correct, commerce raiders pure and simple, but how long do I keep them out there?”

“Before I try to answer that, it you look forward six months how does your schedule look now in terms of new construction new construction?”

“You getting ready for something?
“You first.”

“Two more ships, as soon as Audie and Yuri are finished with the two they are working on one goes to Llanfairn and the Pilchard comes into the fleet. Then I will try to have them both remain at the yard and work on our next G-4. She is moving along and with effort we should see her start testing in five or six weeks. Another couple of months and another will be ready. A third could be done building at your six month deadline but could not be worked into a state of readiness by then. And of course there is the crew problem I think I might have mentioned.”

“All right then, my turn,” Wes said, “I do have something planned for six months down the road but I believe we need to go back and do something about Midway first. And we need to do that while we still have a weapons advantage. That means leaving Cardoman within a month and no later. And that severely limits what you can do with the four ships we can send out for commerce raiding at once because we will need them back shortly.”

“I’ll say it does! I can’t think of a single target that sending a G-2 after makes any sense with that kind of limit as a condition. In the time a 2 could reach anyplace near us a Calp might call upon she would need to return. No loiter time at all, and that means odds are—they just come up dry. Not much time even for the Raymond.

“Give me another option then.”

“We could use both the 2’s to release one of our G-4’s and the Ray could release another. More power more speed. We’d lose a little defense but not much.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear. Have them work singly to increase the odds that one at least does some damage, transport captures are as important as warship kills. If they go into a system and find nothing we still want a monitor dropped before they move out. Get them on their way soonest but they must be back in a month, or they will most definitely miss out on Midway. And you Jamie, in a week, will need to tell me what we are going to do at Midway once we get there.”

The crews on the Cardoman ships being shuffled from pillar to post never knew what Jamie had been planning before talking to Wes so some were not disappointed the didn’t go a’ rovin’; those same crews were however very disappointed at being called back from a shortened leave in order to go and relieve the Wasp and Aladin who would rove in their place. Jamie had a few unassigned picket crews that were able to stand in for the at least some of the stay behinds so some of the crewmen were able to finish their leave. For her officers though she had no choice but to keep them on duty.

Once again it was send out the Burg’s latest class of near graduating seniors for ship time. They were of course thrilled at the prospect of fourteen hour days turning into eighteen hour days and jumping in rank from Cadet to temporary Ensign. Fleet Marine Force was in better shape than the rest of the Navy because Recon trained as backup and until recently there wasn’t much of a line between the two groups. Of those just back in system most had taken a flight to Camp Logan and the rest went on rotating leave.

Jim Marquette, Captain of the Burgeron, who’d had a ship shot out from under him and been a Caliphate captive for three years before being exchanged came to Jamie with an idea so good she felt guilty for not thinking of it herself.

“Send me out to for a week at a time to give a short break to the Captains of those ships stationed on home defense, I may be rusty but I can certainly handle a job like that in a system defense roll—Or any job that needs doing anywhere else,” he added.

“Eagle’s leaving in two hours Jim. Pack your bags and I’ll have the orders cut relieving Dave Gump before you’re finished. And you know what else this does too don’t you? It shows the middies that no matter where they go you might just be following and they can never escape your stern eye and righteous wrath.”

“Thanks Jamie; and it also means that you get to see just how aggravating running a school and the Burg and an Admiralty can be. I’m getting what I want and I’m getting off easy.”

“You won’t think so once you see how young the crew that’s still loading shipkillers on her and will be topping off Aladin’s magazine while you watch is.”

The Wasp and Hornet were almost to the limit by the time Jamie had targeting orders ready, they were running out of near by Caliphate planets. The Aladin was going to go back and try her luck at Sam’an; there was enough traffic there that they had a good chance to find something waiting because the Calps couldn’t know of the last raid yet.

* * *
On the ground at Camp Logan Raquel Zavala had both Recon and Fleet Marines under his command, Fader Jameson was spending the next month in a manner very similar to the way Jim Marquette planned to, visiting for a few days or a week at a time each ship in the system defense fleet and checking on how recon adjusted to being back on ship again.

Just as Jamie Madry had a constant job reorganizing the expanding Cardoman Navy, Wes Calvert and the Army staff, Robbie Davis, Clay Grayson, and Paul Olivera, worked under the same type of pressure. The Cardoman Army had grown from 20,000 to 70,000 since Wes had taken over from General Sandoval Inglase five years earlier. Much of the increase was in the last two years. Marines and Recon made up 1,200 of the total.

The extent of the split between Recon and Marines was new; along with increasing size came increasing specialization. Prior to the Claps occupation, an Army this size seemed foolish. There was still opposition on the Progressive side of the legislature; funding the Navy was hard enough from a population base as small as Cardoman’s. And if the Navy did its job Cardoman was not likely to be invaded again any time soon. The Army though larger did not have the capital costs the navy did but the money involved was not inconsequential.

And the Progressives were right, except that Wes was now intent on Cardoman acquiring enough of a merchant fleet that using the Army away from Cardoman would soon become an option. More than an option it was the means for showing the Indies and Federation just what must be done if they were to have a chance at winning this war. The goal here was not to beat the Caliphate into submission but to prove to them that they had more to lose than to gain if they kept fighting. And without boots on the ground, Caliphate ground, that was not going to happen.

Raquel was set to leave the next morning for the Castle where Connie, fresh from Minton, was going to lay out the political situation for some of the Seventh’s ranking Officers stationed here at Logan. This went against the general rule of the military being nonpolitical but that was a rule often overlooked in order to get something done.

Today, to show he still cared about the rest of the army, and show off a little, Zavala had set up a little competition, Marines against Recon, and the best of the rest. Nothing too arduous, a fifteen kilometer run, fully loaded, up into the foothills and back. Coming off of fleet duty and working out art 15% above Cardoman gravity, Raquel thought he might the show. And he was even going to go along himself, though minus some of the gear the others would carry.

A part of leadership was leaving nothing to chance. He intended to make sure that all of the officers from each force involved did the same, except somehow those in Recon, the majority that stayed back while some went on system guard didn’t get the word. What should have been a rout became a Battle Royale.

The majority in the Army fell off the pace early, but try as they might, the marines couldn’t seem to shake off Recon. When the finished Recon held 46 of the top 100 spots, hardly a resounding win for his own troops even though they had been out numbered.

“We would have had you if we had some of the guys that relieved you,” Captain Shemma Ben Judah who had taken over Recon in Fader’s absence said.

“I don’t doubt it, Raquel said after getting his breathing under control, Shemma had beaten him to the finish line, in fact finishing tenth overall. “I thought all the running the marines have been doing at plus 15 would have made this sure win. That and the hours they pile up, not a lot else we can do on ship.”

“Two things Raq, when we train at Logan we are at altitude, and when we run we always carry extra weight, just about enough to compensate for plus 15 I’d say.” And with that Shemma picked up Zavala’s pack and shook his head then said, “A shame to see an old man go soft.”

Ben Judah and Zavala, Ben Morgan, Jasper Newmish, Charlie Mankowitz, Kelly Barns, Virgil Cramer from the line army, and Evan Bledsoe from artillery were all seated at a long table with General Calvert. Olivera and Grayson each hosted a table of their own.

Thirty Officers from Camp Logan had arrived in two shuttles and were in the large front corner room of the Castle that everyone called the Ballroom; it was large enough for a dance or very large banquette.

Another fifteen or so, normally working out of the Logistics center outside the Minton spaceport or based in the Seventh Building in the Capital were also there. Too many for the room at the back, especially with the meal promised later. As far as anyone could determine, Claude Germond was the only non military person present except for Irwana al-Omari, in charge of the castle staff. A few of the people present knew her husband worked for the Seventh in some capacity, fewer still new exactly what that capacity was.

Castleton District Representative Connie Calvert began her talk with a brief description of the Navy’s latest success, then she started on the political situation in Minton.

“It should come as no surprise that the Progressives are stirring again; they took a beating after the occupation but are nothing if not persistent. The have been building on their base and in an election held today might get 40% of the vote. But they have a problem and know it, all the immigrants we are accepting with virtually no questions asked. Their natural tendency is to open boarders but they see that as a looser and have changed to the party of Cardoman first. Frankly they beat us to it. The Horvath government is about ready to end the current policy; the progressives and the people are right; we can’t afford it anymore.”

“We were hoping to announce this as a simple policy change. Instructions have already gone out to all our embassies, consulate’s and visa granting agencies to issue papers only for business travelers, tourists, or those who meet a high threshold in a technical field we need. We have more than eighty thousand people living in camps waiting for a work assignment, and too many will never contribute enough for their maintenance cost, much less help us in any economic sense.”

“We are going to announce the new policy on this week. It will look like a Progressive win and they will pick up a few more percentage points in the upcoming elections. We will still keep the government but what does that mean for the Army?”

“It means hard times ahead to keep the funding going. The Navy will do just fine, and we are all one in the long term. A decline in total budget would hurt. We, and by that I mean the Conservative faction and the Seventh staff cannot legally ask any of you to get out the vote. And so I won’t. I just want to remind all of you however that the votes of Army members and their families is one thing the conservatives count on, and one everyone in this room has some influence over. If you choose to use that influence, well that is a personal decision so long as Army policy is not violated.”

“General Grayson is now going to take a little of your time to talk about our efforts to streamline our organization and chain of command. Clay you’re next—and thank you all for listening.”

When Clay took the stand the first thing he said was, “I’m sure you have all been wondering when General Davis will be returning from Ryman, I have some news on that front. . .”

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