Tools of the Trade 17

Tools of the Trade Chapter Seventeen

The Eagle popped out of Hyper just over seven lighthours from Llanfairn. Very respectable, but with the ship’s ex-captain as sailing master Jamie could take little of the credit. She did take pride in the fact that her navigational solution would have only been eighteen minutes further out. Jamie was going to handle the docking at Llanfairn Orbital 1 herself.

Lieutenant Matson had been doing well in the sims but he had never actually docked anything larger than a shuttle and nothing was going to mar the first impression of ship handling as practiced in the Cardoman Navy.

Jamie had finally got it clear in her own mind; the reason she held a dual commission, one in the Cardoman 7th Mercenary Company and the Planetary Government of Cardoman Navy. When she told Admiral Raymond, sometimes Commodore Raymond about he was amazed it wasn’t obvious.

“Why of course it’s the nukes,” he said. “I thought that was clear to everyone and didn’t need to be gone over in detail. But since you bring it up I can see where unless one had studied the relevant law and treaties it mightn’t be obvious at all. It boils down to the private possession of nuclear weapons being almost the only universally accepted law. Caliphate, Confederation, Indie, doesn’t matter. It’s worse than being a private commerce raider, a term I prefer to pirate.

“Commerce raiding, since it is done against unarmed or poorly armed merchant vessels, does not require nukes. The kind of guns the Carpathian carried were more than adequate. But Naval vessels are built not to cripple but to kill other ships at the longest possible ranges, and that takes weapons like the launch tubes just installed in the Eagle.
And that is why a commission in the Cardoman Navy and not just the Cardoman 7th. With out the government paper we would be banned from using the facilities of everyone anywhere. And all three political powers would cooperate in tracking us down and destroying us.

“The fear of what nukes can do to a planetary population is that great and rightly so. I can see I am going to have to make sure this gets stated more clearly in the future.”

* * *
Captain Madry stood in the docking bay and gave a brief speech thanking all of the departing crewman, those who formerly manned the ship and would soon be on their way back to Navara. She had managed to convince two out of twenty to stick with the ship and her command but had really hoped to do better. Her thanks earlier to Captain Norman had been profuse and sincere.

“If your ever looking for a job Jamie,” by now they were on a first name basis, “come on out to Navara and look me up. We could find a place for you.”

“I’ll keep it in mind Earl but I plan on staying busy for awhile.”

“I’m sure you will my dear, but keep this in mind too. I’ve seen more than a few naval careers come unglued through nothing but blind chance.”

Jamie Madry would have liked to pilot the shuttle that took the passengers down to the planet but her exalted status made that impossible. Instead she needed to deal first with the military inspection and then with customs. There had been some benefits in holding lower rank she was now starting to realize.

There were dozens of messages waiting for her and the ship and she had taken care of answering or dealing with what was possible while proceeding in system. She acknowledged the rest but two in particular would call for personal contact as soon as she could get to the surface. One from Russo Nevier and the other from Jules Petoskey and the Shearings at the Cardoman embassy.

There were an amazing the number of hoops even a nominally allied world’s ships captain needed to jump through, and even with goodwill of all concerned it was a chore she’d just have to get used to.

Jamie got to work on the most urgent of the details all the while jotting down notes for the list she would hand over to Lieutenant Matson when he got back with the shuttle.

“Yes Ma’am, I understand everything,” Matson said.

“If you do you’re in a hell of a lot better situation than I am. Just make sure that you get in touch with me if anything comes up that we haven’t discussed and looks like I need to be made aware of. Other than that I should be back in about 12 hours so. Carry on with the offloading and I will see you when I return.”

She would have rather been doing the piloting but continued with paperwork on the half hour trip down. She was met by Louise Shearing at the port and whisked away to the Cardoman Embassy where Nevier was waiting at the door to greet her.

“You’re looking lovely me dear Captain Madry,” Russo said, “And congratulations on your promotion.”

Jamie decided he might just be trying to show good manners and thanked him as unemotionally as was possible. “Louise tells me that your recruiting has gone well.”

“Yes indeed,” Russo replied as affable as ever, “The only major difference between hiring mercenaries and high level technical staff is in the way the life insurance policy gets worded.”

“That would be funny if I was sure you didn’t mean it Nevier,” Jules Petoskey said.

“A joke I assure you,” Russo answered with a chuckle, “Sometimes I even laugh at myself.” Noticing that Jamie wasn’t the least amused he added. “I am sorry if I offended. That was not one of my better efforts. But back to your point Captain, Yes recruiting has been going well.”

“I have a few of the Naval types you will be most interested in already lined up for interviews Captain, just let me know when you wish to start. In addition to that Major Calvert made a request that I try to entice some of those he served with in the past to join the Cardoman 7th. A few I was unable to locate and a few more turned down the chance, being happy enough with their present situation.

“I did get three of those he requested and they are here waiting for transport to Cardoman and then probably to Altoona. The first is an Academy classmate of the Major’s. A certain Captain Clayton Grayson, after graduation he stayed on Jorgen and taught classes in Military History at the Academy there. The other two served with him on Ophia, a Jasper Newmish, who I gather was some kind of civilian irregular and a Lt Barnes, an aide to the Ophian Colonel that Calvert and Melbourne reported to. Barnes had been promoted to Captain but as that was the rank Major Calvert was offering him there was no problem on that score. The Major requested I look up a Major Unger. I did so but he told me to thank the Major for the invitation but he would respectfully decline.”

“That sounds very good so far Mr. Nevier,” Jamie said in the most pleasant tone she had used yet. “What about the shipyard riggers and technical types?”

“That is not going well at all,” he said. And the smile that had started to form melted away.

“Let me explain,” Victor Shearing cleared his throat and said. “It’s really Louise’s bailiwick but I am trying to work with Union, by that I mean the Confederation, and Llanfairn on the diplomatic side.

“Everyone with a shipyard is building and they all are hiring. There aren’t enough warm bodies to go around and a bidding war would be ruinous to an economy as small as ours is in comparison to the big guys. We’re working to get every native Cardoman that ever worked that kind of a job to come home but those numbers are small.”

Louise now took over, “It takes from four to six years to train and make fully productive a shipyard monkey, that’s what I find the riggers call themselves, every bit as demanding as being a first class engineer. But if you rush it too fast somebody dies. Either the rigger or heaven forbid, passengers on a ship they worked on. We’ll hire whomever we can but are going to need to do most of our own training. One thing I am making sure gets spread far and wide is that on Cardoman there is no closed shop. If your record is good, and you can do the work, you get hired.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t put to much stress on the record part,” Jamie said. “Even with my limited experience I’ve seen a few good salvage cases.”

“We’re looking for those too,” Louise assured her, “All we can do is what we can do and we are working on it.”

“So Whets next for you, Jamie,” the Ambassador asked?

“I guess I download the files of those I am going to interview than a little shopping, dinner, and back to the Eagle.”

“I could stand a little shopping myself,” Louis said like a true believer, “why don’t I go with you and when we’re done, if it’s not too late we can all go out to dinner together.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Jamie said getting into the spirit of the thing. “Russo— Start you download.” And she laughed aloud.

They ate dinner at one of the nicest places Jaime had ever eaten at. If not for the shopping she wouldn’t have had a thing to wear, except her uniform which would have been out of place. Louise had taken her to one of the upscale shops catering to the socially superior set and Jamie had seen a—well it wasn’t quite an evening gown—she’d call it an outfit, that was obviously meant for formal wear she had fallen in love with because—and get this—it came with a cape.

“Wow a cape! How cool is that. I couldn’t wear anything like that, but it sure is neat.”

She sounded exactly like her cousin Audie when she let her feeling show Louise thought.

“It would be perfect for you and the height of fashion,” Louise assured her. That’s all it took. Jamie was afraid she might never get to wear it again but she hadn’t spent much and here new wage rate was putting impressive amounts into her back account.

Appreciative eyes followed her to their reserved table and Jamie was extremely pleased Russo could hardly look anywhere else himself and with as many other women around that was a first.

By the time the meal was finished and paid for, Russo took care of that part, expense account she guessed, Jamie was running late. She had to change back to her uniform in a restroom at the port and barely, now there’s a word with a couple of meanings, made the shuttle up to the orbital station where she would get transport back to the Eagle. She sure as hell wasn’t going to rejoin in the evening dress she had worn at the restaurant. People would talk.

Boss’n Miller met her at the station and piloted her back to the ship.

“Pretty late hours your keeping Boats, but thanks for picking me up.”

“It was me or Lieutenant Mats Captain. The other shuttle is picking up cargo half way round the planet, stuff right off the factory floor that they haven’t had time get to Government port and customs. No other pilots aboard but trainees and we couldn’t risk that now could we?”

Madry caught the shorthand of Mats for Lt. Matson and knew thereby, as she was supposed to, that Miller approved of the way he had handled things in her absence. “Heaven forbid a trainee from even making eye contact with someone as lofty as a ships Captain. But I see your point. We need to look good until we are good. So whets special about the load? We’re going to be here at least another five or six days anyway. Why the rush?”

“Missile launchers and fire control for both the Carp and the Eagle. We start installation as soon as they get aboard. In exchange for our help the factory is sending a team to help with the first couple of installations.”

“Good call then. Except in simulation on the trip out I’ve never even fired one. Not the usual thing for a merchant ships first officer.”

“You’ll get right with it Ma’am, but it’ll help a lot if you get the chance to work with a crew and fire one the hard way.”

“I certainly intend to Boats, Yes indeed I do.”

Nevier called at noon local time the next day and thanked her for a wonderful evening. Well that was laying it on thick but she had been warned.
“I talked to Newmish, Grayson, and Barnes. They can come aboard any time. Shall I send them up?”

“No, be diplomatic about it but they would just be in the way right now and I don’t have time to talk to them as I should. And probably won’t until we break orbit. I do have the time, because I must, to start seeing the naval prospects.”

Jamie transmitted a list of five names, all officer material, she wanted to see first and told Russo she might be able to fit in a few more but couldn’t promise She asked him to send them, one at a time if traffic permitted, to the orbital station. She said they would be picked up there by one of the Eagles boats and she would interview them on the ship. The others could all be pre-screened by Boss’n Miller, who was due a couple of days leave, first thing after he went dirtside and she would just look at any that he had doubts or questions about.

“And when might you be visiting again Captain?” Russo asked.

“Not sure if I’ll leave the ship again before we depart but if I do and need you I’ll let you know.”

“I look forwards too your call.”

The man never gave up.

Madry offered contracts to three of the five she interviewed. It seemed strange she was the one making the decisions because they all had more experience than she had. One of the rejected was a druggie who had checked no on the form but failed the medical. The other had been let go from his previous position for falsifying cargo manifests. Owners aren’t too happy when their multi-billion credit properties are helping others make a profit they don’t get a cut of.

She might have taken him even so, if that had been his only failing. A man could reform after all, but a scan of the Eagles database showed Pamela Hines one of her section chiefs had served with him before. Petty Officer Hines had shown no hesitation in saying the man was an arrogant asshole and that comment sealed his fate. At least as far as she was concerned.

People higher up the Cardoman military food chain would perform a final screening and rank determination, but she had the three who passed aboard the Eagle working under temporary contracts that provided for substantial bonuses if they were not offered permanent positions once they reached Cardoman. Those were bonuses she was certain would never be paid.

She had signed on an engineering watch officer qualified for a top spot, a logistics and organizational expert who was one of the rare females doing space duty, a woman who had ten years in as the Purser on two different ships. The third hire would give her some competition for her own position. He was a long time first officer who had spent almost a year on his last ship as acting captain when the man posted to the position had to be hospitalized and couldn’t continue.

Mark McCormack, only five years her senior had said, and had the reference letters to prove it, that he had been offered permanent command of his last ship but decided that what he wanted was a change of pace and joining the startup Cardoman Navy seemed like the way to get it.

Jamie spent two shifts with ‘Mac’ going over the Eagle and her particular systems. The man’s competence was obvious and had she needed any more of it, his enthusiasm would have been catching. She had Lt. Matson and McCormack alternating shifts and was relieved to know on the trip back instead of a two watch rotation with herself in the loop it would be one on and two off.

* * *
The first new tube was mounted and wired in. Of course it was all sub-optical fiber these days for hardware like this. Wasn’t pretty yet but functional with a few intermittent problems. Miller was on planet and Matson was supervising the setup of the third and forth new launcher while the factory team was completing the second and training a few more of the crew. The factory guys, actually four women and two men, would help check out those next two and then they would be on their own.

They would be able to do control work once they were in hyper on their way back but no more of the structural stuff. They had left Cardoman with two working tubes and would return with six and another four boxed up, two for the Carp and two for spares or new construction. Very good. Now they had to learn to use them but with Miller in charge of the weapons training part she did not worry much on that score.

Like every other trip from Llanfairn to Cardoman most or the cargo would be industrial equipment. This time they would be loading weapons also. The missiles for the launchers being installed and the warheads that went with them.

Major Calvert had recorded and kept notes dealing with every course he had taken on Jorgen and a copy was in the Eagles database. Jamie downloaded the Introduction to ‘Weapons in Space, and it filled a gap in her education that merchant ships crewman would never notice.

Once upon a time the dream was of energy beam weapons, lasers, charged particle beams, neutral particle beams, plasma and even more esoteric devices. They would act at the speed of light and hence reach and destroy the target before they could be detected and acted against. The long range targeting and the shielding properties of stable ultra heavy metal was making it hard on the beamers but what stopped them cold wasn’t that they couldn’t get the beams to work but something much simpler and not even something done by the enemy. Heat!

Beam weapons need to deliver large amounts of energy in small amounts of time and the energy had to be made or stored on the ship and no production system is 100% efficient. In order to fry the enemy you needed to cook yourself. Thus missiles. And for very close in work on targets like a shuttle at slow relative speeds even guns shooting homing rounds could work and that’s how ships had been armed for over 500 years.

Jamie skipped the rest and went straight to the technical specs for the missiles they were loading.

Standard Anti-Ship Mod IV (SAS. M4)
Basic Tube fired self propelled. Guided or homing.
Dim Meters 11.2 L x 1.4 D. Add 1.1 M. for warhead.
Max G. 2200
Max T. 720 Sec.
Max V. 15500+ KPS.
Throw Wt. 125 Kg.

There was more information covering warhead types, stealthing, and maintenance and Jamie spent a few more hours reading. The load manifest that she pulled up showed on this trip they would be getting fifty complete M4’s in various configurations and she better get to the mundane part of her job and figure out how and where she was going to store them.

Captain Madry, at last exercising one of the prerogatives of her position, piloted the lander down this time and turned it over to the waiting Boss’n Miller for the return trip.
“Good to see ya Boats,” she said with less than full military bearing.
“Thank you ma’am,” he replied, “I wish I could say I was staining at the leash to get back to the Eagle but a couple days of rest sure was nice.”

“Glad you enjoyed it. As soon as you’re aboard, if he doesn’t get to you first, look up the new officer, Mark McCormack, and introduce yourself. He’s a keeper.”

“Will do and glad to hear it.”

“I see you met with the recruits down here, anything in particular to add to the notes you sent back.”

“Nothing much Captain, you’re set at the Cardoman Embassy to call in any you have doubts about and Russo Nevier said he had all the paperwork in order. Take my rental,” he said handing her the keys and pointing at a ground car, the only vehicle parked within a hundred meters of the lander, “It’s charged to the embassy, and I’ll see you when you come back to the Eagle.”

“Sounds like a plan,” she said giving a salute in dismissal.

Miller had done such a fine job vetting the list given him that there was little for Jamie to do but interview four and determine if past indiscretions had led to permanent ineligibility. Two of those she passed provisionally and the other two she dismissed. She sent Nevier the final list so he could finish things up from his end. Victor Shearing would be the signatory guaranteeing the financial conditions but she would need to countersign to authorize the temporary ranks. Such would be made permanent when they reached Cardoman provided nothing turned up on the voyage that Jamie, as Captain of the ship, found disqualifying
With that completed she had a conversation the Director of Llanfairn’s Naval Planning Commission where, after describing Cardoman’s progress and time frame, both from an organizational and operational perspective she went on to talk about the beginning of the combat shuttle program they had just started. That was met with much interest and it was easy to see that the sales potential for said vehicles was if anything being underestimated.

Just before leaving she was given an informational download, in chip version, to carry personally back to the Cardoman Admiralty. She was told that it contained Llanfairn’s version of the same kind of information that they had been discussing with an emphasis on production schedules and because of it’s sensitive nature she would be given an escort back to the port, and if she had no objections, that escort would even accompany her all the way back to her ship as well.

“That wouldn’t bother me in the least,” Jamie agreed. “But since this is my last stop here on planet and my shuttle should be ready to leave at any time…” She then consulted her com unit and said, “Yes we depart as soon as I get back to the port. So I would say that if someone just sees me aboard the lander that should satisfy all the security concerns.”

Several hours after reaching the Eagle Captain Madry gave a dinner for all of Major Calvert’s friends and acquaintances. This was in the evening of the last day before departure. All of them had come on board only within the last 24 hours and she had as of yet met none of them. Because the Eagle was still in orbit she could include all of her own officers and the new officer recruits as well. The dining area in her cabin was comfortably crowded and she was glad for the opportunity to hold one of these things where she would not be the junior attendee. She found there was a side to Major Calvert that though she had seen and could easily recognize in her case, hadn’t considered it when relating to others.

Newmish told a story about going into a very poor rebel influenced settlement and how Wes, who he called ‘Cal’, had found out who was running the opposition. “Something I couldn’t do even though I knew them all,” Jasper Newmish said. “He just asked who had paid their taxes on time. Turned out one guy, someone I never would have expected, in good times and bad never missed a payment. The confession wasn’t pretty but it was quick. That place never gave us trouble again.”

Barns spoke of how even after the captures and prize awards started coming in he never seemed to change. The same old Calvert.

Grayson, who had known him longest of all, said little but to mention the few times he had witnessed Calvert let others take credit for things that he could have rightfully claimed himself. Everyone but the incredibly dense at the Jorgen Military Academy, he said, knew Calvert would go places, if he lived, but none would have predicted that four short years later he would have reached the stratospheric heights he held now. That was, if not Napoleonic, dangerously close.

All of these people were interesting, and obviously competent, in their own right, and to see such a group unabashedly praise the man who was ultimately responsible for her own position made the evening the most enjoyable experience yet on the Eagle while under her command. And she did get to wear the outfit with the cape again. Rank has its privileged.

Back into hyper and settling into routine. Jamie was finally getting used to the number of people aboard. In a merchant vessel there were almost always passengers but they stayed in their own part of the ship and one might walk from control to the drive room and not see a soul. Not so on a military vessel. She had a lot of people to get trained up on the Eagles systems.

She had Lt. Matson and Lt. Tubman, the new engineer, giving classes in damage control, hoping they would never be needed. Mac McCormack was standing one watch in three and working closely with Boss’n Miller getting acclimatized to the proper military way of running a naval vessel, as really they all were.

The other new officer, Marigold Last, the onetime purser, was doing the things that pursers did on merchant ships along with setting up the record keeping systems for training schedules and learning the ins and outs of Military pay rates, benefits and otherwise learning how to run a personnel department. Lt. Last was also seeing to the needs of the thirty five civilians they were bringing to add to the shipyard crew.

The Eagle would no longer carry any regular paying passengers, only those in Cardoman service or authorized by the same. Even the new shipyard people were kept from the bridge and operational areas of the ship. That was a shame because there were some mighty well qualified technicians that could have helped in getting the ship worked up but full military security procedures were in place.

The launchers were now all wired in but there was still some interference in the control runs to be sorted out. As for herself Jamie planned to do weapons drill till she could operate a launcher in her sleep. That and read a couple of books on tactical doctrine both past and present.
Better and better. This transit out was less than five light hours from the planed position. That was good work even with all the back and forth she had been doing. Mac, who was on the bridge at the time, just looked at her and nodded as if nothing less would have been expected. That gave Jamie almost as much pleasure as the precision of arrival. Not much more than another day and they would reach Cardoman.

The first thing she did was have a message sent giving the specifications of her arrival. No return from that would happen faster than the signal could make a round trip. Next the course to the shipyard where she would drop off most of her passengers was figured and delivered by the nav-comp. The only information she needed to supply herself was of course the end destination and the G force she wished to use. This was a warship and she was in a hurry. Max military power, 50 Gs, was punched in in seconds and near automatically.

The mass of the ship was the final piece of the puzzle but that was calculated by the amount of energy they needed to expend to maintain any given acceleration. She had that already from the manifest and the records of what was used for Llanfairn departure. Getting a few more decimals of precision into that energy/acceleration number was high on her to do list and she was sure this passage would fix another. The drive and compensators ramped up smoothly together and it was time to hurry up and wait.

No, not true now and maybe never again, she did have something to work on. Given a full watch before anything else was required of her she went back to the missile room to see about the bugs in the wiring from the control room. Almost perfect now but she still couldn’t run sims from the bridge. Her crew was good and getting better but when it came to electronics she wished for a bit of her cousins Audie’s magic.