Tools of the Trade 14

Tools of the Trade Chapter Fourteen

1st Lieutenant Stanislaw Voinovich watched from the control center of the one and only Cardoman deep space shipyard being, still being built in orbit around the planet, as the Carpathian came to a rest outside the construction area proper. Only two years from the Union Academy, he was at least eight years ahead of his expected promotion path. Good luck, timing and war, well it wasn’t always good luck; he had the scares and an artificial hip to prove that part.

He wondered if it was Captain Raymond or Jamie Madry bringing the ship home. In either case it was a very smooth and beautiful job. He was waiting his chance to get a spot on a hypership and having a hard time of it. Letters had gone back and forth to Union and it seemed he was in favor with the Union Admiralty. Not only for what he had done but for the inside information he could gather about the Llanfairn and Indie plans in general.

That was something he welcomed the distance for because his loyalties seemed to be shifting. Not anti Confederation but very much pro Indie and especially for Wes Calvert and Cardoman Seventh. As good as his record was he was certain his medical condition would keep him from ship duty once he got back home. They wanted him to stay where he was for now so he could worry about that at a later date.

Much had been done in the five weeks the Carpathian was away at Altoona. Another ship had come in from Llanfairn bringing more of the basic equipment in and along with that a crew of experienced construction spacers. They had over 3000 working at the yard now with more being added on a daily basis. The only thing slowing the pace and keeping them from adding faster was the lack of habitat. They were solving that problem along with everything else and before the year was out planned on having three times the current number employed. To make things happen as fast as they had, already completed living spaces from the existing shuttle yard in the asteroid belt had been shipped in. That was a stopgap measure and would have to be returned.

For the time being his position and responsibilities were well above his pay grade. Stan was acting as the defacto, second in command for the Cardoman yard superintendent. He didn’t suspect he would hold that job much longer once word got out and qualified people returned from jobs on Union and other ConFed planets, but it sure would look good on his resume. And he was having the time of his life. He wasn’t directing the technical installation of the shipbuilding equipment, that was being handled by Commander Woodward, but he was in charge of all the logistic support and prioritizing the other building going on and that was enough to keep at least two of him busy.

The incoming communications had been belatedly switched into the speaker system and his suspicion was confirmed, Jamie Madry had run the final approach. He needed to talk to that girl! She could certainly teach him a thing or three about ship handling and he wasn’t too proud to ask. In fact he was looking forwards to it.

Once word leaked out about Calvert’s new found wealth and personal stake in the shipyard, the mere fact that Stan was viewed as a close personal friend had raised his status about four levels. He wasn’t about to contradict the impression concerning how close the friendship might be, but knowing Wes as he did he suspected the general impression wasn’t far from the way Calvert viewed the matter. Another reason why he was, in spite of the daily grind of the work involved, willing to do even more if he could figure a way to manage it..

He met Jamie when the Carpathian’s shuttle came into the main part of the shipyard under the guise of viewing the ships contents and best be able to schedule its unloading. He wasn’t self conscious at all about asking Jamie to have dinner with him so they could discuss what had been happening here and back on Llanfairn in the last five weeks. Regrettably like all of his hours lately those few seemed to fly right by.

* * *
“Ok Jamie, you know you’re not ready and I know you’re not ready,” Les Raymond said to his first officer. “But from a practical standpoint none of that matters because you have the job. If I were to wait someone else with better credentials would come along and you might be out of luck. I don’t want that to happen so don’t make me look like a fool or more likely a silly father figure giving a daughter more responsibility than she is ready for or can handle.”

A second ship, almost a double of the Carpathian had been purchased out of the credits that were still due from the capture of the Gamal Nasser. It had come in only days ago and needed a Captain and crew. The rehabilitated Commodore Raymond was making the appointments.

“You’ll be taking the transport crew that brought her out right back to Llanfairn for another cargo. No one’s going to let her stay idol but when you get there I’d advise that you look really hard for a more crew. If you wait and end up taking on Cardomans returning home looking for work there will be many with better credentials than you have so no matter what I say you might not get to keep her. If you’ve got a fully function ship that has demonstrated the ability to get the job done by keeping the cargo moving I suspect you’ll get to keep her.”
Jamie tore here eyes away from the plastiglass front viewscreen of the dockyard mule and blinking rapidly to clear away a sudden bleariness and moisture said, Captain Raymond I don’t know how I can ever repay you for your trust and confidence. It’s what I’ve always wanted but never thought the chance would come along so quickly.”

“Strange things happen Jamie, six months ago I couldn’t have imagined I’d be sitting here as the chief officer in a new navy either. I think we both have a lot to be thankful for and just as much to live up to. Lock her in and let’s look over your new command–Captain.”
“Aye aye Sir!”

* * *
Warren. “Woody” Woodward the space yard superintendent sent from Llanfairn and directing the new yard build— could have been pleased more— but he also knew he could have been pleased less. For new construction this was going far better than he would have predicted. He was pledged for a five year hitch so things better go right.

Much of what had pleased him went beyond the rapidity of original construction. He looked further than that and into the organizational base which was keeping the thing going in an orderly manner.

The kid Voinovich was a natural but he wanted to go off ye-hawing as a pilot. How could he keep the kid here where the really important things were going to happen? Every Naval officer at Voinovich’s age and experience level he had ever met was sure that anyone could handle the yard work and the really important jobs were all in the fleet and on shipboard.

Not much chance of his changing the kids mind for now but he was going to send report after report praising his work and natural ability to the Cardoman authorities and hope they made the correct determination that would keep him at the yard. Or at least bring him back after a trip or two and get him into construction again as soon as was decently possible. Voinovich would likely get posted to one of the first ships produced and that meant he would be around for another year and Woody intended to make sure not a day was wasted.

Starting tomorrow they would be placing the machinery just arrived into the driving band facility with the structure still a month from being completed. Woodward made a small bet with himself that the structure and equipment would become operational within 24 hours of each other. That’s how it had worked on the hull materials end of things and the large sections were starting to pile up waiting for structures and drive to get going.

Woodward had just gotten a com from General Anderson saying to expect visitors from Zeeland where much of the power equipment was coming from, and be ready for another building proposal dealing with shuttles and landers. That was something he looked forwards to.

Cardoman even before his arrival had been making it’s own in system shipping and was converting much of that capacity to building landers, especially armed landers. Whatever the Zeelanders had to say could only help with that project. And he needed to talk to them about their estimated date for power plant delivery and then, whatever date they proposed get them to speed it up.

Another 400 workers would be up here in the next week and need to be assigned into the proper work crews. He had a lot of personal files to read and best get to it.

Woodward had Voinovich sitting in on the discussions to see how it was done but he was instructed to just take notes and say as little as possible. Woody didn’t want to give the Zeelanders any reason to suspect there was even less experience in his assistant superintendent than they might have guessed just from his age.

The Zeelanders had brought with them the first fusion unit that would go into the new large ship construction. That was most welcome. It was a unit they had had near completion for an order from Llanfairn but were given permission to divert it here to so the new shipwrights could get some experience. Each of the new fourth generation hyper craft would need two such units and the bad news was that the next delivery was almost four months away.

They did bring with them though another much smaller unit newly designed for intra system and shuttle use. It was the third one of those from their factory and they were rightfully proud of it. It had a power to weight ratio as good as anything out there but in a package that was ten percent smaller in volume than the best Union or any other world had for sale.

The Zeelanders proposed a joint venture where they supply the powerplant and Cardoman build the hulls on a new class armored lander and general purpose vehicle. The quantity of transuraniums being mined in the Cardoman system along with what was expected from Altoona ought to make this a going concern and start earning well before the first large ship could be produced for sale with Aldoria Verser the Cabinet Finance Secretary fixing the final details. This would be a separate arraignment from the other and larger hypership project but with luck the profits might be almost as large. There were far more planets that could afford smaller insystem ships.

Woodward begged off from any active involvement due to lack of time but offered Lt. Voinovich’s service as a Naval officer familiar with ship construction and someone who had actually used that type of ship in combat. That was agreeable to all concerned and so now Stan found himself with even more work he didn’t have time for. From Woodward’s prospective this was just another way to get Stan the most work experience in the least amount of time. The kid was young and needed to learn how to delegate more. This would be a great chance.
Finally, Stan thought, he was watching it all come together, the combination of technology and materials. They were plating hull segments with anti-radiation shield. The whole process was reminiscent of ancient vacuum tube tech. The machines from Llanfairn spun out a very fine screen of H-225 wire. Leads were attached and it was brought slowly to a glowing red heat. The hull material already formed was charged oppositely and slowly the metal ions left the screen and deposited on the hull platting. When they were done there was an extremely even coating about a tenth of a millimeter thick on the outside surface. That plating was almost impervious to high energy radiation. Long wavelengths such as generated by heat sources could melt it off but shorter wave lengths such a micro and x-rays were effectively screened.

All hyper ships had that outer coat but only half as thick and not nearly as regular in application. Merchant craft weren’t usually concerned with near explosions of nuclear class weapons. Besides that thicker coating, a military vessel had both an inner and outer hull to protect so the cost and application of the rad shield was a critical element in both performance and cost. And naturally the scarcity of the materials was a large bottleneck anyway.

Tomorrow should see the start of drive band production. The bands were formed, one couldn’t say cast, by two molecular level depositors starting back to back and traveling in the most precise circle imaginable till they joined again and made what amounted to a single perfect structural unit.

Well before the first band was finished they would be able to start joining hull sections and fitting control runs. This at least was something that took no new technology or expertise beyond what the Cardoman shipbuilders were already familiar with. And after getting the schedules ready he would have time to devote to the lander project.

* * *
The new transport had been called the Pride of Navara. A fitting name in its old role but unsuitable for a Cardoman flagged vessel. Understandably the new name, chosen by committee, pleased none but those who had voted for it. The Eagle was the name finally selected due to it’s offending the sensibilities of the fewest people who weren’t actually in favor of it. It could have been worse Jamie thought as she came aboard for the first time. She was liking the name more and more by the minute.

Not exactly a copy of the Carpathian the Eagle was a quarter century newer and had gotten a quick refit on Llanfairn before she was turned over to the Cards.

“Captain on deck,” the uniformed figure said and a two toned musical sound, a low note followed by a higher one, came forth from the ships speaker system. The man gave a salute that Jamie returned while trying to look as if this was and everyday thing with her, she was going to need to get used to the military nature of her command.

Jamie had been told about the ritual as practiced in the navies of all Union and Indie worlds wealthy enough to have navy. In fact after her appointment Stan Voinovich had transferred a copy of the rules and regulations the R&R as it was known of the Union Navy along with a lot of historical material describing the traditions of naval service and explaining how they came exist in their present fashion. She still has a lot of reading to do.

“Welcome aboard Captain,” said a middle aged man standing near the front and dressed in the normal commercial uniform of what must have been Navara. “May I introduce myself?” he said with a flourish, “Earl Norman former Master of the Price of Navara at your service.”

“Pleased to meet you Sir,” Jamie said and shaking hand gave her own name, for the first time prefaced by the word Captain, something which was of course well known to all concerned. She next unfolded a sheet of paper she had been carrying in her left hand. “….and do hereby take Command of the Cardoman Naval Ship Eagle.”

Jamie took two steps forwards than turned and faced the port. The former Captain of the ship remained in place standing at the side of the hatch. Lester Raymond then made his entrance to the announcement of “Admiral aboard,” and the ‘two note’ was sounded again followed by introductions.

Captain Madry turned now to the dozen or so in the boat bay and addressing the petty officer who had first announced her and seemed to be running the show, “You may dismiss the crew and send them back to their normal duties. And perhaps, Petty Officer is it?” she said.

“Boss’n Ma’am Boss’n Miller”

“Thank you Boats,” she knew enough to call him that, “Perhaps you or someone of your choosing could accompany Master Norman the Admiral and myself on a tour of the Eagle?”

“Yes Ma’am. I suggest, if it suits your pleasure, that Master Norman lead the tour and I will catch up to you as soon as I get your things stowed in place.”

“Very good Boats. We shall proceed as you suggest.” Another exchange of salutes, the boat bay was normally the only place aboard a ship that that particular naval courtesy was used, “Carry on.”

“So that’s about it,” Earl Norman said as they came up the passage towards what used to be his quarters but were now Madry’s. “Except for some of the preparations made for weapons installation not much different from the Carpathian. The handling qualities will be virtually identical. She’s been a good and a lucky ship and I hate to give her up but I’ve got a newer one on a better run promised as soon as I get back home to Navara. My former crew and I will do everything in our power to get all of the new people I hear you’ll be sending on board before we depart trained and up to speed but it does take some time to work up an entire new ships compliment.”

“We do what we must Earl, and I look forwards to it, but I do feel guilty taking over your cabin,” Jamie said as they reached the door.

“Goes with the job,” he replied with out a hint of regret. “I’ve got the finest passenger suite on the ship assigned to me. And frankly it makes my old place look like a back-country hut. I’ll do just fine thank you. I’ll leave you now so you can get settled in but I am of course at your call. Perhaps dinner later?”

“I’d like nothing better,” she said, “And if the Admiral is still on board,” she added for Lester’s benefit, “I am sure we could extend the invitation to him also.”

“Of course. And Admiral you really ought to remain for a few hours more. The head of the kitchen staff has been used to serving wealthy passengers who are a sight more picky than those of us not born to such status can imagine. I have often felt he was the true master of the ship and I was just a driver.

“Thank you, I will be here for the rest of the working day and will see you then.”

Jamie knew from a quick review of the ships plans roughly what to expect from her cabin layout. Five rooms. A large sitting room adjacent to an equally large formal dining area a very substantial bedroom and bath and a small kitchen and pantry. Her few bags and a chest holding personal possessions looked pitifully small and poor alongside the lavish furnishings the Navaran owners provided for the Captains stateroom.

“A girl could get used to this,” she said to Raymond.

“I am sure she could,” Raymond said with a look of mock envy. The setup was far more elaborate than aboard the Carpathian. “Better not get too comfortable, it’s not a given you keep her beyond the first trip, but I’m sure the prospect of this kind of personal space will be a fine incentive.

“We’ve got a few hours till dinner so why not summon Boss’n Miller and we can go over in general terms what we,” and here he arched his brows, “at the Admiralty expect from this first voyage.”

“Your wish is my command,” Madry said and then and saying it aloud while looking at the wall mounted visual unit and voice pickup, “Eagle, summon, Boss’n Miller to the Captains cabin.” The ships computer in a neutral tone relayed the order broadcasting it over the ship’s speaker system and the acknowledgment flashed up on the screen and it wasn’t long till the muted chimes announcing his presence at the cabin hatch were heard and Jamie said, “Enter.”

When Miller entered and stood at attention Jamie and Raymond remained seated and Jaime said. “At ease Boats, take a seat, Admiral Raymond is going to fill us both in on what he expects us to accomplish and I expect some of which will be new to me. And we both are going to have questions for you, so grab a coffee, if that’s your pleasure and we’ll get right to it.”

With Miller in place Admiral Raymond began, “All of us present are aware of how silly acting as if we were a real navy with real tradition seems but we must start somewhere so let’s try and do it right. With that in mind Miller feel free to say anything you wish because this is where it starts.

“Within the next day or so there are going to be a hundred and forty new members of the ships crew. About half engineering and ships types and the rest weapons and weapon support. Almost 70% have some will have some relevant experience and the rest are the most promising of the thousands of volunteers we’ve had a chance to look at.

It will be your job to make a crew of them. We also intend to do more recruiting. When you drop the original crew off on Llanfairn; expect the Cardoman mission there to have a number of people already lined up. Captain Madry, with your assistance Boss’n, is going to be doing the deciding on who to keep, who to cut and who to try and save. With the numbers as small as they are now you should get to know each of them at least a bit and at this stage each decision will be more important than after the navy has grown and become hobbled by a bureaucracy. And though I wish it were otherwise I am not naive enough to think that isn’t going to happen.”

Miller was almost shocked to hear such a blunt appraisal coming from Raymond and wondered if there was any truth to the rumor floating around that he had been a pirate with Madry as his bloodthirsty first officer. No, couldn’t be. Or could it?

Miller and the others who had greeted their new Captain in the boat bay had all come made the trip from Llanfairn with the Navara, now Eagle, and with only a couple of exceptions were native Cardomans serving aboard ships of other planets and who had jumped at a chance to work for their own government. Most of them had known each other at least in passing and had a wealth of experience. Miller had been a spacer for twenty four years. The first four on civilian ships and by chance he had just taken retirement from the Union Navy after twenty years of outstanding service. For all of that he was still only in his early forties and blind chance had found him on his way home at the right time and in the right place.

He had impressed Petoskey and the Shearings at the Cardoman embassy to such a degree that they hired him on the spot and made him responsible for the selection of the rest of the first draft. By virtue of that fact, and with his previous record, there could have been no better choice for the highest ranking enlisted man aboard her new command. Jamie Madry was extremely pleased to have him and hoped she would measure up to his expectations rather than worrying he would meet hers.
Boss’n Mike Miller was just going to do the job he knew in the best possible way and let the devil deal with the details.

The dinner put on by Captain Norman surpassed even Admiral Raymond expectations. He said truthfully, “I wish I were going with you on this trip, If only for the meals, but that would leave the Carpathian without a Captain and she has work to do.” Norman and Raymond were of similar age and experience so what he said next came naturally and seemed wholly appropriate. “Captain Madry will seem young to you Earl, she still does to me. But she will be a very fine Captain one day. Watch over her on the way out and spend as much time with her as possible. And Jamie, You are lucky to have Captain Norman as your Sailing Master and instructor if only for one voyage. Make the most of it.”

“I, will Sir. You can count on it.”

True to plan the Eagle was ready for departure two days later with the hundred and forty new crewman and some thirty of the temporarily hired technical staff, those whose work was completed and were needed back in their normal slots as soon as their part of the job at Cardoman was completed. All were berthed and a very small amount of miscellaneous shipping loaded aboard as well. The course was mastered and set and the departure was as normal as the hundreds of times before. But certainly not for Madry who was for the first time seated in the command chair and giving the order, “Initiate Hyper, on my Command, Now!”

Stan Voinovich watched the recorded view ten hours after the fact and wished he had been there and was going with them. Superintendent Woodward, with the complete agreement of Admiral Raymond had made that impossible. He knew it was a lost cause even before he brought it up but figured to make sure his desire for shipboard duty could not be forgotten. He was going to miss Madry and he hopped the feeling would be mutual. Time would tell with her but for his part, he was missing her already.

For Jaime the rest of the trip, in fact all of the trip, was one new experience after another. She began, with the help of Boss’n Miller and her first officer Lieutenant Vernor Matson to make over the ship and crew in her own image, bearing in mind naval tradition, of how a ship should be, and the reluctance of most to do anything new or different from what had worked in the past.

She had almost as much of that same belief system drilled into her as anyone else but she was the Captain and there were a few things she wanted to try doing a little differently than was standard practice. And she would start with eliminating much of the paper work that she had always found to be a waste of time.

She had added to most of the standard forms a check box that just said No Change with a place for a date and signature. That made here instantly popular. Now she had to get respect. And with that she knew would come increased performance from all those under her.

Familiarization drills were the order of the day but with the help of the tech people returning to Llanfairn she got quite a bit of the control circuitry run that would interface with the eight additional missile tubes that would go with the two functioning launchers she had been given from off the Carpathian. With many of the crew doing the installation being from Cardoman and staying aboard she would have an engineering team that knew the system from the ground up.

Everyone on board was going to know how to recreate the system from scratch, fix, or work around any problems that might interfere with their area of responsibility. And then they would rework the systems so problems couldn’t happen. It was going to take longer than the cruise to Llanfairn and back but no time like the present to begin.

It was plain to all on board that the Captain was working herself as hard, or more likely, harder than anyone else. With an all volunteer crew, and a new ship to learn, the interest level kept the results up almost to Boss’n Miller’s level of expectation. And when they didn’t it was not long before the offending party was replaced by someone who did measure up.

The largest driver of performance, and morale, was that Madry was a hands on Captain unlike none any of them had seen before. There wasn’t much overt male chauvinism in any space or military service outside of the Caliphate but in this case Madry was setting a standard none of the men were willing to let go unmatched.