Tools of the Trade 10

Tools of the Trade Chapter Ten

The military ‘Butcher Shop’, not a fair description but that’s what it was called, at Framington was full to overflowing and that was one of the reasons Stanislaw Voinovich found himself In a single room in the civilian hospital. From the time he regained consciousness from the surgery there had been a constant stream of visitors. Stan didn’t remember but was told that he had been creeping up on the opening to a Brotherhood cave and just managed to toss a grenade inside when a machine gun position their suppressive fire had somehow missed sent a string of bullets stitching up his left side from just above his knee to the lung. That fire sent him tumbling from the hint of a ledge he had been using to work closer to the cave and his fall was stopped ten meters down slope in a pile of rubble.

“I hear you were out of it and leaking pretty bad,” was the way Sgt. Madry described it to him when she and Captain Calvert made the rounds visiting all the wounded.

He tried to prop himself up a little straighter then said, “I guess my infantry days are about over aren’t they Major,” while looking at the new Cardoman insignia on Calvert’s uniform.

“I’d say at least the part where you single handedly storm and destroy hardened enemy positions. The doctors reports, and I gave instructions that you be allowed to read them, say you’re going to loose a lot of mobility. Too much damage so the only choice was a hip replacement and fusing a couple of vertebrae in your lower back. The bottom third of your left lung was removed but for normal things they say you’ll never miss it. Still leading an infantry platoon is not one of your better options.”

“Now though, with the Cardoman Navy starting up, And when Captain Melbourne pays a visit she can fill you in on the details, I think we can get you a shipboard assignment in a heartbeat. You have a couple of months worth of rehab, but the second half of that is physical therapy that can be done anywhere. I don’t know how the Admiralty and your medical board on Union will feel about it but as far as Cardoman is concerned you are as good as gold.”

“Thank you Sir,” Stan said, “The one thing that I’ve been worried most about was staying certified for ship duty. I have no doubt a position would be found for me back home, but I am also sure I would be grounded. I still think I am going to want to go back one day but a term aboard an Indie ship might just convince them to wave the rules. So count me in and where do I sign.”

“No need for that, you’ve still got seven months to go on your original contract and the fine print says you serve where I send you. With that out of the way I have something else for you.”

He turned to Madry who took a small leather case from a box she was holding. She handed the case to Voinovich and he opened it to see inside three gleaming metal badges. One was a small purple heart, the second a combat infantry badge, and the third the Ophian medal of valor.

“Your grandchildren are going to get quite a thrill when they read the citation. Congratulations Lieutenant we have quite a ceremony planed for when you are up and around again.” Wes stood up and saluted. Several of the duty nurses had been standing at the door and began to clap. But the biggest surprise of all was when Madry leaned over gave him a kiss.

“I always wanted to see what fraternizing with a superior officer was like and this is the first chance I ever had to get one where he couldn’t dodge.”

* * *
“Have you given much thought to how wealthy the both of you really are?” General Anderson said to Connie and Wes sitting in the rather upscale bar of the Ophian officers club.

“I try to keep it out of my mind most of the time but there sure are a lot of zeros showing after the first digit whenever I make a personal purchase.” Connie replied.

“The same thing is true for all of the enlisted except the last couple of drafts that came in,” Wes added. “I needed to look away while Davis beat a few heads in to keep them from taking it all up front.”

“A wise officer always knows what he’s not supposed to know. Very good Major. I got the message the Ambassador and Foreign Minister sent me from Llanfairn, and if you don’t know it already Nevier will deliver the good word as soon as the ship clears customs, but let me sum it up. The total take from the three ships was over four and a half billion credits. And that does not count the yet to be finalized payment from the Confederation. There’s probably another fifteen or twenty million if we add in what Ophia has paid and still owes you but as a percentage that’s so minuscule we won’t even consider it. Even your ordinance and equipment purchases hardly signify.”

“Your eighth will get you more than 600 million credits Captain Melbourne and Wes will get twice that. Both of you now make the top 20 list of wealthy Cardomans. Hell at two hundred thirty million your sergeants make the top 50 and even the enlisted that have been with you from the start will make it on the list of the top 200. And Nevier’s points get him 100 million, minus his not inconsiderable gambling debts. Whatever graft he’s managed to skim from the rest of your purchases are going to pale in comparison.”

“I would expect there won’t be too many reenlistments. You’ve succeeded too well.”

With a smile and a raise of his glass Wes said, “Yes it’s pretty impressive on the face of it. Prize awards were set with fleets in mind, full officer contingents and a lot of ratings. I bet changes will be forthcoming in the way the things get written in the future. And yes we‘re gonna loose quite a few good soldiers, though maybe not as many as you think. I don‘t begrudge those that choose to muster out a thing and the ones that stick I will be sure are doing it for good reason.” Wes paused and said, “Or like Connie and me because we’re all a little crazy.” And he finished off the drink.

Russo Nevier was sure he had all the ducks in a row. His reading of the option clause and the legal opinion paid for seemed to him unassailable. It only remained to make Calvert see things the same way.

“Captain Calvert, so good to see you again,” Russo Nevier said in his oily ingratiating fashion. They were meeting is the suite Russo had rented for himself in the most fashionable hotel on the planet. “With things finishing up so well I have,” his eyebrows arching upwards in evidence of extreme pleasure, “taken advantage of the option clause in your contract and found another job the company could take on with profit. Ophia should do just fine without you now with the back of the Brotherhood broken, and frankly her credit is gone, but there are worlds still clamoring for a few good men”
“What exactly is your proposal Russo?” Wes asked.

His eyes kept drifting in Connie’s direction as he answered. “Jason’s Landing has given an offer we really can’t turn down.”

“I think we are in a position to turn down many an offer. You are surely aware of the vote in favor of full time employment with Cardoman?”

“And what does Jason’s Landing have to do with anything?” Connie asked. . . “Oh, now I get it, Ophia wants to rent us out.”

“Exactly right, “Nevier almost gloated, “And yes, that possibility is contractually provided for. If we go to clause 8.3 of our original agreement you will see the language—:”

8.3 And at the end of such year should the principal (Ophia or whomever its Government shall declare as a representative), request a continuance, the signee shall owe an additional twelve standard months of service at the original rate of pay plus 10% of the original rate paid as a bonus at the beginning of said term.

“I see you have that part right Russo but let’s go on to clause 8.4,” Wesley said, highlighting the next section.

8.4 With bonded funds payable at the same rate as provided above.

“And I see a problem there Russo. Ophia‘s so broke she hasn‘t finished off the last part of our first arrangement. No court in Indie space will hold us to the second part unless and until that is done. And I won‘t accept payment for the option till the first part of the contract is paid out anyway. I grant that Jason’s Landing could transfer the necessary credit to Ophia but until all her debts are covered any hard credit Ophia gets goes first to pay off existing mercenary contracts and second to pay off suppliers. Any funds from Jason‘s Landing get eaten up before they reach our option clause.”

“So that’s the way it is Russo, we no longer work for you or Ophia. But I have a proposal for you. I think you and I both might find it worth while to continue our relationship provided you understand that from here on in you work for me,” Calvert said enjoying the turnabout. “For better or worse we have become a paid component of Cardoman and you have a decision to make.”

At first there was a look of near apoplexy, and then Nevier’s attitude and visage flipped doing a complete reversal. Maybe he wasn’t losing his meal ticket after all. “Perhaps we can work something out Major. Perhaps the Jasonites might work out an arrangement with Cardoman. I see possibilities. . .”

The Carpathian was finally loaded and Calvert’s Cardoman ready for departure. Six of his original group from Witherway were staying behind to return to their home worlds. Voinovich and two other were still hospitalized and would follow as soon as they were able. Connie went recruiting and picked up a couple of experienced noncoms whose work had set them apart but even though Anderson had said it was their responsibility and that he wouldn’t meddled, she agreed with Wes; except for those few already hired, they would wait till they could see the situation on Cardoman before bringing in anyone else.

With an eye to the bottom line, at Captain Raymond’s suggestion, they agreed to transport a small unit from Baraga that would transship for home from Cardoman. Baraga was a near neighbor and if nothing commercial showed up the Carp would finish taking them home. They could have done a profitable bit of troop movement but the Carp was loaded to the gills, Raymond got a laugh every time he said that, with the first of Llanfairn promised tech support, both equipment and construction engineers.

Jaime Madry, officially signed in, had stayed on board the Calp when they reached Ophia, studying the ship from bow to stern. Wes had asked Captain Raymond how she was doing and Raymond had nothing but praise. “Give her another three months and except for time in grade she could pass a Captain’s Exam and run the ship. Not as well as I do mind you,” he said smiling, “Definitely a keeper.”

* * *
A whirlwind of official activity might have greeted their arrival but instead they got off easy. Nobody home. They’d made orbit on what was the Cardoman equivalent of a holiday weekend “Founders Day”. And the government was almost shut down. General Anderson used his contacts to get the troops billeting into temporary quarters at Cardomans single large military training facility, Camp Hebert. Wes and Connie took an early lander down and then with the Generals help got hold of a military staff flier for a trip to visit his family.

He had called ahead and after the surprised greetings and explanations were finished, told his parents they were on their way but not to wait for them at the house. He said they would go straight to the fairgrounds.

They were both dressed in casual civilian clothing and it was the first time either had seen the other out of uniform or some other kind of military apparel. “I may have to hide you from Uncle Fred,” he said smiling when he saw her.

“Stop it Wesley,” Connie smiled in return and sliding into the flier’s front seat said, “Just keep your eyes on the controls and the view ahead. None of the famous Cardoman country charm is gonna’ affect this city girl.”

As they flew away from the coast and over the rolling lands near the oceans Connie watched the number of trees gradually diminish in the rolling grassland below and Wes gave a short description of what to expect at the local holiday celebration.

When the hour long trip was over and they set down in the grassy field being used for parking at the open air fair what surprised her most at first was the number of children. Llanfairn, her home, had a population of two and a half billion and only about 40% of the inhabitable land area that Cardoman was blessed with. That had led to small families and a lot of off planet migration. Here, Wes had mentioned on the ride, the average family size was somewhere between five and six, but it took seeing to believe.

The fair had attracted the vast majority of the districts residents. Close to three thousand, and all were hell bent on enjoying themselves. “I bet I know where my uncle and grandfather will be,” Wes said escorting her towards the activities.

They walked up to the stripped awning covered refreshment pavilion and Wes, seeing his grandfather, headed directly towards a large table supporting two pitchers of beer surrounded by half a dozen older men in animated conversation. They hadn’t quite reached the tablet when one of the men glanced in their direction and abruptly stood up causing two mugs to topple over sending beer everywhere.

“Wesley, good to see you boy!” said the tall lean balding figure totally ignoring the disarray around him. And that was how Connie met Wes’s grandfather, Gregoric Loyola Calvert. She was quickly introduced to his uncle Fredrich and the others at the table, two of whom volunteered to go off and hunt up Wes’s mother and sister.

The introduction to the rest of the family was equally sincere if somewhat more restrained. Wes’s sister Sharon, standing next to her husband, was obviously pregnant and Connie immediately offered her the spot on the bench she had been occupying.
“No, no. This is the first time in a month I’ve been able to get out and move around without people doing me favors that I would just as soon turn down.”

Wes hadn’t mentioned anything about his sister being married so it was obvious he hadn’t known. Word travels slow when the fastest messenger is by starship courier. He was hugging his mother while Thaddeus Shiller, his step father looked on with evident pride.

As soon as Wes released her and went over to talk to his sister and be introduced to the new husband, his mother came over to Connie and gave her a hug also. “Wes has told us so much about you dear in his letters, but he never said anything about how pretty you are.”

Connie blushed, at a loss for words.

“Don’t embarrass the poor girl,” Grandpa Gregoric said, “Let’s replace this pitcher and catch up on what we’ve all missed out on!”

For most of the rest of the day a steady stream of friends came by, chatted a while, and left while new people arrived. She felt like she must have met everyone at the fair. The one topic that never came up was that of Wesley’s, or her own new found wealth. That was something neither of them had mentioned yet to anyone and none seemed to make the connection between capturing ships and prize money. When she was able to say something to Wes about it in private, he said, “Enjoy it while you can this is probably the last time you’ll ever be able to be in a group like this and be just plain folks.”

Connie was of the distinct impression that the closeness of her relationships with Wesley was being severely overestimated. She was relieved at least when after the festivities ran down and they left the fair for the large stone house Thaddeus Shiller had built after marrying the widowed Mrs. Calvert, Thad said that Wes could show her his sisters’ old room, or make whatever arraignments you like.”

The next morning, after a late large breakfast held after Sharon and her husband Kevin arrived, the whole family piled into the borrowed staff car and they did a sightseeing tour of the local area. The rolling grasslands near the landing field had turned into a more rugged terrain, not quite mountainous but with rugged hills and grassy meadows. Connie asked, “Is the elevation here high enough to put us above the tree line?”

Kevin answered that by saying, “Not exactly, when the first settlers arrived there were no trees on Cardoman. In some wet marsh areas there were, and still are, some tall bamboo like plants but nothing like the kind of tree from back on Earth. It took a while to finally get a genetic modification into terrestrial and a few off planet species that let them seed and reproduce on their own. That’s why we have trees around here and other places where people have settled but hardly anywhere else. There are a few areas, some quite extensive, that the government seeded long ago. So we do have a few old growth forests. Given us another thousand years the look of the planet is going to change a lot.

Connie said, “The hills and valleys we’ve been flying over have such a rugged beauty they really need no improvement.”

“A lot of people feel that way,” Wes’s mother said. “But as my father always says ‘If we don’t like it we we’re done, we can always change it back.”

They stopped at Gregoric Calvert’s for an afternoon picnic lunch and finished the day sitting on the porch that spanned the front of the Shiller homestead just talking of whatever came to mind. That had been a first for Connie, she wasn’t even sure if anyone even had porches on Llanfairn, but if they did they certainly didn‘t use them like this.

Next day they left before first light, first for Camp Hebert to return the staff car and check on the company and next for the first of the many meetings to formalize the Company’s status.

They dropped off the staff car at headquarters building and there was someone waiting to direct them to the Company’s area when they arrived just after dawn. Davis was out front of the barracks when they reached them. “And how did the last couple of days go for you Sgt. Davis, Melbourne asked.

“Not bad at all. We joined in with the locals for the party and we’ve only got two in detention this morning. Nothing very serious and the fines aren’t gonna hurt em as much as the punishment details, but we need to get a regular training rotation set in place as soon as we can manage. Troops with nothing to do always find something to do and mostly it’s usually something they learn to regret.”

“That’s gonna be hard to set up until we can be sure of where we are going next, Wes said. “The Lieutenant will be going over to personal and do what is needed there. I want Madry, in her last act as company clerk, to accompany the Lt and then for Madry to go over the records and see who we have to replace her in that role.”

“The other thing that happens this morning is a meeting at Government House to figure how the shipyards get set up and funded. Since it seems like most of the Company funds are going to be invested there I’d like you to accompany me so a report back to the Company can get back for consideration afterwards. I would like to make that report but I am scheduled to see the top Cardoman brass as soon as we finish with finance. You’ve got an hour or so before we leave Sergeant so make the most of it.

“Yes, Sir.”

Both Davis and Calvert sat in the rear of the same staff car Wes had been using but a driver had been assigned. They went over the companies financial records on the trip back to Minton the capital city. Melbourne and Madry’s meeting was on base and Connie would head to the capital as soon as she could get away.
Aldoria Verser, the Cardoman Finance Minister, was a marvel of organizational discipline, from the layout of the documents to the check sheet she marked as each point was made. After greeting and them seating them, in her nicely turned out office, she checked off the first item and said, “Vic and Louise Shearing sent me a message along with a copy of their report to the President so I am aware that you know the bulk what they sent. I, along with some of my staff spent the last two days, skipping almost all of the holiday festivities, working on a final version filling in the details so that we can bring this to a vote and get moving on it.

“I’ll just hit the high points now and only deal with the shipyard side. I understand Generals Inglase and Anderson will be covering the military side this afternoon. As far as shipyard ownership, Llanfairn will retain 30%, Cardoman 30%, and in return for cash and valuable considerations, in this case providing the ship plans when you took control of the Gamal Nasser, the semiprivate military organization known as the Cardoman 7th along with any members of that unit who wish to subscribe their own monies will hold up to 10%. That leaves another 30% for general subscription.

“My staff and I have added details recommending that that last thirty be used as inducements.” Here she looked up and smiled, “We never use the term bribes— for attracting other planets with the rest of the manufacturing know how to make this project succeed in the most efficient and speedy fashion.

“I am not sure at all and in fact have doubts that there will be any other private interest in the yard at first beyond that of members you command Major Calvert. Any questions so far?”

Wes spoke up, “How do we figure profit then? We need to insure the investment for us private citizens is sound and down the road we aren’t just ignored and told to go away and not bother the big guys?”

“Cardoman, as the Major well knows, she said for the benefit of Sergeant Davis, “has no governmentally owned profit making facilities. Our Constitution has been read in the past to prohibit such ventures. We have however started, or helped to capitalize ventures, which as soon as they were on their feet, were opened up to purchase by any interested Cardoman or even investors from off planet on a first come best offer basis. The only way we get this up and passed into law is to do the same. In this case the because of the Military nature and the tremendous expense involved, I think it safe to say the government will not sell the portion it ends up funding. We’ll work that out in time.”

“Using our past experience as a guide we will track the actual cost of production and add whatever markup seems appropriate and in any event the markup will insure that the return to the private investors involved is at least equal to what a similar investment in Cardoman Governmental Bonds would have yielded. In practice I expect it to be considerably higher and for most profits to be put back in towards expanded capacity.”

“That’s along the lines Louise Shearing has laid out so I think that pending the final version we will invest the vast majority of company funds. And speaking for myself and most of the unit’s members, we will invest our personal funds also. Do you have anything to add Sergeant?”

“No sounds about right to me too. But one question Minister, about how long do you expect this to take before we have something definite in hand?”

“No more than three or four days. The relevant committees have been aware of our intentions all along and the contacts the President has had with the members tell him it’ll happen on the first vote and near unanimously. We are all on the same page and know time lost can never be regained.”

After they were ushered out of the Aldoria Verser’s offices they went outside to the still waiting staff car and checked for messages. Connie was not quite finished but has sent word she would be in Minton in another hour. Wes got a hold of General Anderson and filled him in on their time constraints and the General said an hour would be fine. Wes then told Davis that he might as well get back to Camp Hebert and do whatever he thought needed doing in the order he thought best.”

“You sure learn fast Major, those are the kind of orders that any Sergeant expects but rarely gets except from a really squared away officer, or a complete fuckup.”
“Thank you Davis, for that last I’m gonna make you ride in the back of the staff car on the way back to camp so that you can reflect upon the dignity of command.”

Davis just laughed and saluted. But before taking the ride back he turned to Calvert and said, “I have a little present for you Sir.”

“This here is a ten channel communicator and Madry already has the first five set for our internal pushes. Six is set for the new Recon push and seven is for you and me. Here is the sub-vocal microphone that plugs in here and the ear bud is attached to that. I have a unit for Melbourne and nine for the idiots I will train. Next time we talk to you first!”

Calvert stared then said, “These things are worth a fortune and I know for a fact that Ryman lets these out about as often as they do Arthur Redmond’s personal comm code!”
“I wouldn’t know about that Sir,” Davis grinned, “I just had a friend round them up for me.”

Then Calvert heard a soto voice sub-voc he knew was not for his ears, “and I already got the damn comm code.”
With some time to kill, Wes found a bench near one of the fountains that made the government complex more than just a jumble of buildings into something visually and artistically stunning. He searched for and then punched up a lecture he had saved from his Academy days on Cardoman even before going on to Jorgen. Yep there it is he thought to himself as he found it and continued reading. . .

“The population of Cardoman numbers some forty two million. Sixty years previously it had been almost totally agricultural and with only very basic manufacturing. Overcoming the Caliphate invasion had changed that until now there wasn’t another Indie world even twice her size with the same industrial capacity. It was military equipment that started the push but in order for it to expand the planet had needed an export. They found one in specialized mining and foundry equipment.

“Cardoman is rare in having small deposits of trans-uranic elements on the planets surface, those higher up on the periodic table where an island of stability formed up past atomic number 123. They were used as catalysts in all types of chemical processes and were used to alloy lighter metals such as iron into the kind of plating and supports and especially anti-radiation shielding needed in ship construction. Selling machinery to extract and the process the ores and turned into Cardoman’s most profitable source of outside income.

“Most everywhere mining now days took place in a systems asteroid belt and hence the tech based starting point for mineral extraction was hard to attain. All truly large mining facilities used space based supply sources. There were at most a dozen planets that could, given the necessary equipment, provide for their own internal use without resorting to mining of the planets surface, a few with a little over for export and hence manage without the higher technology level asteroid mining entailed.

“Given the discovery, early on, of heavy metals on Cardoman’s surface, it came as no surprise when a number of extremely mineral rich asteroids were discovered also. With that came the beginning of Cardomans space based mining operations and in system ship construction.”

This was the reason Llanfairn could find her a suitable partner for another major and hyper capable shipyard.

Ship construction required several major systems or assemblies. Besides the hull and drive system there was the power plant auxiliary craft and in the case of military ships the weaponry.

Wes was brought back to full awareness when he heard Connie call out his name. Looking at the time Wes said, “We have another twenty minutes till were due so sit down. You tell me about personnel then I’ll talk high finance.”

“Somehow high finance seems to interest me more. So why don’t you go first? Just remind me to tell you the really good part later” And Wes filled her in on what he had learned.

With five minutes to spare they entered Government House and went straight to the wing that held the military departmental headquarters.