Tools of the Trade 19

Tools of the Trade Chapter Nineteen

Stan Voinovich thought to himself that this was getting to be a habit; watching Jamie Madry pull into the dock, and a very pleasant one at that. He was standing in the observation lounge on Orbital 1. There were enough people waiting for family members or simply admiring the view that he didn’t stand out from the crowd. Some of the spectators were aware of the position he held in the hierarchy of the shipyard and a few even came up and said hello, and he didn’t mind. It was good to touch base outside of work. He was lost in the moment though, and not doing anything that would attract attention, so for the most part he was left alone.

Jamie wasn’t likely to be on the first shuttle, but just in case she should happen be he didn’t want to miss her and the view made it well worth the wait to find out for certain. He could have tied into the station data net and looked up the passenger schedule but that would have taken away some of the fun. The requirements of his job had already caused him to review the Eagle’s manifest so he was aware of new shipyard personnel and materials aboard her. Seeing a ship piloted in always got his interest up, even if Jamie wasn’t involved. He needed to get back into space but all he could do for now was watch others.

Sure enough no Jamie. The officers disembarked first and if Jamie had been aboard she would have been first off. He thought, no he was sure, he recognized Jasper Newmish and Lt. Barns—no that was wrong, he could see by the rank insignia it was Captain Barns now. What the heck was his first name anyway? Ah now I remember— Kelly, course every one had called him Farmer. There were a couple of other officers with Newmish and Barns he felt certain he had never seen before, must be newbies. He went across the customs line and welcomed them aboard. After the introductions were complete he used his elevated status to bypass the customs check entirely. By rights, the Eagle being a military vessel, until the couple of dozen civilians disembarked there should have been no need for customs anyway. Another procedure to get ironed out.

Stan ushered the group two decks up and to a bay with actual viewports at hull level. It was being set up as the combination, Senior Sergeants and O-Club. As a temporary measure for now all of the naval and the few strictly land based military enlisted were welcome but that would change once the E-Club was opened. Still a work much in progress but starting to shape up. The station held two other bars and several restaurants also serving alcoholic beverages and open at all hours to meet the needs of the shipyard people and transients with everyone welcome, but the O-Club was for military people only, or those invited as guests and signed in.

They shoved a couple of the tables together and one of the support staff came over to take their orders. Many of the service staff on Orbital 1 were wives or sometimes husbands of those involved more directly in the building program.

Lt Matson, as soon as the order was taken said to Voinovich, “Captain Madry sends her compliments and I am sure if she had know would have sent congratulations also Stan— I see you’ve gotten promoted since we last talked.”

Stan had gotten another temporary rank increase to Lt. Commander shortly after taking over the additional work in the new shuttle division. But though the congratulations were nice it was nicer still to know that Jamie was thinking about him. “Temporary only, that’s how things are going everywhere around here, but the pay is real and spendable so drink up this is on me!” He asked a question about Madry’s plans, hoping the interest would not be noticed as anything beyond professional, “When will Captain Madry be visiting us?”

“That’s hard to say,” Vernor Matson replied, “She told me she was going down to the surface as soon as she meets with the Admiral. Don’t know any details mind you, but she said it was business in Government House. Her final word was that she would check in with you when she came back to the ship.”

“I look forward to that,” Voinovich said and then to the one person who had been almost totally quite to this point. “Captain Grayson, I am sorry to say I have never heard you mentioned before, what is your motivation for joining our select compliment?

Grayson was not offended by the comment but took his time answering, “Wes Calvert and I were friends back in our academy days on Jorgen. Quite close friends really but we had not known each other before and that was, let me see, four, no make that going on five, years ago. When Wes moved on I took a position at the Academy. My father is the Jorgen Minister of cultural affairs, no real secret, that makes him Jorgen’s head spook.” That drew a few raised eyebrows and more rapt attention.

“When we graduated I thought my best choice was to stay on as an academic. What I have come to see since made me want to do something to stop the Caliphate before their momentum becomes irresistible. Still idealistic but I have come to see the need for action at the present is much more important than any further talk. Wes and I kept in touch and here I am. Not really sure what I will be doing but I suspect all of us can say that.”

“That goes for me too, Captain. Barns said, “but I really want to do is get into another infantry unit like back on Ophia.”

I don’t think you will need to wait too long for that Captain,” Stan said. You each get to spend the rest of the day getting familiar with Orbital 1 but tomorrow Admiral Raymond will be talking to you individually. Drink up but watch your step. The Admiral is a sly old pirate.”

Stan was pretty proud of himself for coming up with that line but like all of the rest wished he knew what he would be doing next. Damn he wanted ship duty!

Captain Madry viewed the message without surprise or alarm, rather with friendly anticipation. She had known that she would be leaving the ship in a few hours and had already given the necessary orders. Admiral Raymond’s shuttle, on its way from Cardoman’s surface, was still twenty five minutes out from docking but there was no undue commotion on the Eagle. Jamie had cleared her schedule for the next several days or as long as the Admiral needed her. She took a quick shower and changed into her best uniform, the one she had ordered tailor made on Llanfairn when Louise Shearing had gone out shopping with her. She met the Admiral as he came aboard and after the salute he extended his hand to her and then spoke loudly enough that all the crew could hear.

“A fine display of navigation Captain and I’m certain your voyage was equally successful.”

Jamie could recognize the somewhat theatrical nature of the last part of the statement, as she had already sent the list of new hires and military recruits. But also appreciated that it was good for moral and with everyone still on board disappointed in not getting in on the first leave section, a welcome show of support. They went from the docking bay directly to her quarters and the sitting room inside.

Lester took a sip of the coffee offered in the thick cup Jamie had brought from the small kitchen. “Hmm…Quite good,” he said while unconsciously checking to see the slider in the handle was set to high.

“Made it myself Sir, just before you arrived.”

“No orderly yet? And I see that unlike myself you have managed to avoid a full time guard protecting your door at all times.”

Jamie smiled at that comment, “It was took a knock down and drag out fight with Boss’n Miller but I said until every person on board was fully trained and up to speed I didn’t have the manpower to waste on such things. He’s not one to give up easily and even suggested he could use the guard posting as a disciplinary measure. My look when he said that sent him into retreat but I think when ever I see Miller retreating I’ve already lost the battle.”

“If I may be so bold as to ask Admiral,” Jamie said with a grin, “How was your training cruise?”

“I can see by your expression Jamie you must have heard somewhere. Let’s just say that a week of cruising in system and four hyper jumps later no one was forced to walk the plank but there were a few times I had it run out just in case. In truth we got a lot accomplished but there is a long way to go.”

“So tell me Jamie about your new officers and anything about the other personnel you care to mention. Then we’ll get to plans and operations.”

They talked for almost three hours, first about the people and then about the trip and the weaponry and other equipment brought back from Llanfairn. He told her to hold onto the data chip and if she could find a good time try and make a dramatic presentation of it to General Inglase.

“The man is worrying far too much and could use some unexpected good news. Good news is never in enough supply and this will be welcome so make the most of it.”

Then it was time to get onto the Admirals shuttle and go dirtside to Government House and deal with military matters first then prepare a comprehensive report for the civilian authorities.

Jamie was a passenger again on the trip down to the port at Minton. Once on the surface they were greeted by a full military escort and whisked away to Government House. Generals Inglase and Anderson were both standing outside of the small non public entrance to the Military section of the building and waiting to greet them when they arrived.

“They’re not here to meet me,” the Admiral said.

“Moving up in the world eh girl!” Jamie thought to herself.

“Welcome back Captain,” Sandoval Inglase greeted her. A very fine trip and let me add the five light hours out on arrival was noticed with all due appreciation. Even ground pounders like Anderson and I take notice of such things. Though I might add Admiral Raymond was not shy in bringing it to our attention just in case we had missed it.”

“Thank you Sir,” Jamie answered with honest pleasure.

They went inside and directly to General Inglase’s office and sat in the guest section. Jamie placed the small package she had brought with her from Llanfairn on the coffee table and said. This of course is another reason why I am really so glad to be here.”

“And what might this… contain Captain Madry?” General Anderson asked.

“A chip with details of Llanfairn’s ship construction program. I was also told it contained information about their current Naval posting and disposition schedule your the next several months. The final proof that Llanfairn is truly working with us and not taking advantage of a fortuitous circumstance. The spooks will have to open and vet it but there is no doubt in my mind that they are with us for more than commercial reasons.”

Admiral Raymond spoke up, “Let me take this over to the Foreign Service Intelligence unit and get copies made. Captain Madry will stay here while I do that and fill you both in on anything you care to ask and then can she find me in my office when she’s done.”

“We’ll take good care of her till we turn her loose Lester,” General Anderson said as Raymond took the package containing the chip and left the room.
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“She’s so young,” Inglase said wistfully as Jamie left the room.

“But weren’t we all once?” Paul Anderson replied.

“Oh yes we were, and Wes Calvert, who we are putting so much of our stock in is only a few years older.”

“True. But his father was a man with gravity. Look at the decisions even you and I are making at our ripe old ages. A year ago it would have been unimaginable.”

“Not in a million years Paul, the die is cast.”

It was inevitable looking at it in retrospect, Lovers they were and would remain. Jamie gazed at Voinovich, still asleep and ever so beautiful with the sheets half exposing his exquisite form. She had had a few intense encounters before, but this was a new territory and one she wanted to explore for the rest of her life. A smile and she drifted off besides him.

Stan thought he was dreaming as he drifted towards full consciousness, but such a pleasant dream. He reverently ran his hand along her full form, from the back of the knees and up to the small of the back then shoulder. He traced a similar path starting higher up on her other side, working his way downwards and lingering at all the proper spots. He would waken soon, he was sure.

“That’s so nice Stan.”

He snapped back into reality, instantly wide awake. “My God Jamie, I’m not dreaming!”

“No you’re not. And if you ever!—Even once—Fall asleep on me and start to dream, you will wish you hadn’t.”

They took turns using the shower in Stan’s quarters and getting dressed then went to one of the stations civilian restaurants for a large breakfast and a lot of talk in too little time. Jamie had the Eagles shuttle meeting her in another hour.

* * *
Admiral Raymond was on board the Eagle again and this time he had brought some Cardoman Military and a few of his own staff with him. All the newbies were in what had been the passenger dining hall and most of those who had come in with the Admiral were setting things up in various other rooms. Jamie was on the bridge but from time to time glanced at the video from the meeting room.

Prior to the Admiral entering the dinning hall one of the Cardoman officers had passed out a military com unit to all present and then sent to everyone a list with names and ID numbers. They had been told to find their name and enter the associated numbers into the devices. When that was finished and after it was seen that all present were properly logged in each person was sent a data dump of general information but also information keyed to their device concerning their own particular status.

“You will have time to read this as your processing goes on throughout the rest of the day, he said. At the end of the first document each of you will find listed a room on the Eagle to report to after Admiral Raymond, who will speak next, is finished. Please no questions now; there will be ample opportunity as the processing continues.” He turned to Raymond, who had entered with the speech in progress and said, “Admiral, I believe we are ready for you.”

Raymond stood at the front of the room and began, “Welcome aboard. By now it should be clear to everyone here that you have been accepted into the Cardoman service. A few of you will notice provisional status with the items noted that need to be verified. For the rest of you I want to say that today’s will be the last screen you need to pass. If there are omissions or exaggerations on your application so be it. From this point onwards you are one of us and will be held to higher standards.

“I wish to welcome particularly those joining to work in our shipbuilding program. Anything you may have heard about our progress and rate of expansion has not been an exaggeration. Commander Woodward and Lt. Commander Voinovich have prepared an introduction and will shepherd you through the rest of today. Those of you who now see a flashing block on your terminal may leave now and go to the indicated location. And again I welcome all of you.”

Two thirds of those gathered stood and filed out of the room. When all the civilians were gone Raymond began anew. “There are two groups here now, a few enlisting into the Cardoman Seventh, and the rest enlisting in the Cardoman Navy. Remember this, in a larger and truer sense we are all one unit and will act as such at all times.”

“Those of you joining the Seventh may remain seated. Those going into the Navy check your screens for a destination. Good luck to all of you.” Raymond stood at attention and saluted. Without giving time for a response he left the room.

To his surprise Captain Clay Grayson found he was to go with the naval personnel. Looked like the first screw-up he had seen this morning. His data dump had shown enlistment into the Seventh Infantry and a quick review showed nothing at all concerning Naval matters. He wasn’t alone in one other surprise though. It was a disappointed to every one of them to find that their first stop was the ships medical bay. Once there, called in by order of rank, complete physicals were given to all.

One by one Stan and the new naval officers were processed and with the medical data added to their files sent out from the med section to a small conference room just below the ships command deck. They spent the time in small talk and by the time Lieutenant Tubman the new engineering officer arrived. Admiral Raymond, Captain Madry and Lt. Commander Voinovich had all joined them.

Raymond put them at their ease by saying, “You are all in, none of you have medical or other problems at this time. Before you go on any further today I am going to take this time to lay out some of the guidelines that won’t show up in the official documentation.”

“First and foremost, even though my permanent Cardoman rank as Admiral has been confirmed by the planetary authorities it should be known by all that I ultimately report to Major Wesley Calvert, the commander of the Cardoman Seventh. He is my superior and all of yours. The situation is unusual but we are operating in a gray area, not exactly mercenaries and not fully integrated into the Cardoman force structure.”

“As our numbers build and we integrate more fully I expect ranks and reporting procedures to become clearer. We are a small enough group to handle the unusual nature of the command structure. Just remember, in Naval matters relating to Cardoman I am in charge and report through General Anderson, who I expect all those who have not met him yet are scheduled to attend the lunch he will be holding tomorrow.”

“Captain Madry, I have had the pleasure to inform has permanent Captains rank confirmed and the Eagle is her ship. Captain McCormack, you will report to the Carpathian after this session is completed and assume command of her. This is provisional as you and I are leaving the day after tomorrow on a trip into the Confederacy. That being said consider it a check ride I fully expect you to pass. Lt. Last will transfer over to the Carpathian for this voyage but her permanent home has yet to be determined.”

“Lt. Commander Voinovich is confirmed at that permanent rank. When I so informed him he wasn’t as happy as you might have thought. The Commander is still looking for a ship and we will have to make sure he gets one, in time.”

“What I tell you now is not for popular consumption. Commander Voinovich believes the first of the new fourth generation ship will be ready for shakedown in about three months. That ship goes into the Cardoman Navy, three months later the second ship will come on line. We deliver that one to Llanfairn in payment for their support. Every three months after that, or more often if we can manage, another ship will come out of the yards and will join our navy or more usually be sold to one of our allies.”

“That is a rough outline of where we are going but in order to meet our goals we are in desperate need of more officers to man not only the ships we are building but as we crew to military levels even the two ships we operate now. We have a few more people lined up for interviews and one of the things that Captain McCormack and I will do is continue the search but watch closely all those under your various commands. Talent has no pedigree; we get it where we find it.”

“Lt. Matson you have been confirmed as first officer of the Eagle. Former Section Chief Pamela Hines, who is on the bridge right now, has been promoted to Lieutenant Jg. And will remain with the Eagle. Lt. Tubman will stay with the Eagle and Lt Commander Lerminov will stay with the Carpathian running that engineering departments along with being the Senior officer in charge of all Cardoman Naval Engineering.”

Turning to the last of those present who had not yet had his position addressed, Raymond said, “And that brings us to the finally to the particular case of Captain Grayson. Captain— Major Calvert, for reasons known only to himself, has requested that you be kept as far away from the normal Cardoman Military establishment as possible and requests your presence as soon as possible on Altoona where he will explain to you his reasons. Unlike most here your contract is specifically with the Seventh rather than with Cardoman and on loan to the Seventh.”

“Captain Madry will be going to Altoona as soon as the Eagle is unloaded and prepared for departure. That should be very shortly, Madry thinks perhaps one day after the Carpathian leaves for the Confederacy. I am sure that is a target she will reach provided everyone in this room having any input gives full support. And nothing less is expected.”

“We all have new and important work in front of us. Back in the earliest days of spaceflight, in response to an emergency situation, someone coined the phrase, Failure is not an option. That is true for each of us in this room, but I wish to add that when failure is not an option, success is not axiomatic. It takes perseverance and dedication. I expect all of you to deliver both in full measure.”

Admiral Raymond concluded by saying, ”When I was a young merchant officer, and I will not go into how long ago that was, but I fear most here were still in diapers. I was promoted to Captain by the Commodore of the shipping line I was working for. He told me one thing that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “I never promoted nor demoted anyone Raymond, they did it themselves and I just signed the forms. People that is exactly how it will be in the Cardoman Navy while on my watch.”

* * *
Mac McCormack was with the Admiral onboard the Carp. He had been taken on a brief tour of the ship and met his senior petty officers and a few other members of the crew. He made a mental note to know all of them by name within the next week. Just as the Eagle had done they were carrying more than a standard operating compliment and training was the order of the day.

“I am going to hate to give her up Mac,” Raymond said, “I’ve been Captain of the Carp for better than ten years and she was always a steady dependable old gal. With the changes we’ve already made and those planned she will be better than new. The reason we leave for New Erin has everything to do with the upgrades still planned.”

“New Erin has been established for a long time and joined the ConFed early on. She is right now the largest builder and exporter of shipboard weapon systems in the Confederacy. Through the work of Cardomans diplomatic core we have been granted an import export license and a priority for accessing the technology and purchasing what we can afford. We are going to see what they’ve got on hand and in the pipe and bargain for whatever we can get hold of.”

“As a measure of how important this mission is Aldoria Verser the Cardoman Finance Minister is slated to lead the group conducting the negotiations. She and her staff will be joining us tomorrow just prior to departure. That’s the overview so I’ll let you get back to your duties now but will add I’m sure the Carp will serve you as well as she’s served me.”

Jamie was back aboard the Eagle. And thinking she might just get a chance to see Stan once more before she headed to Altoona. Then she got the message saying Stan was already on his way back to the shipyard to prepare for the new people that would be sent in as soon as processing was complete. She was going to have to get used to it.

She was doing the same kind of thing for the new members of the Eagle’s crew. Most of the new ones were posted for operational and engineering training but about thirty to learn the new missile systems, half of whom would stay when the training period was complete. She had new ratings to get training scheduled for in every department and cursed the fate that had let Marigold last slip through her fingers. Good job for Hines she thought as she assigned the task Pamela had earned the promotion. She started composing a message to send to Stan. What had it been? Seven hours? She missed him already.

“Well Lt. Tubman I see I still unable to run weapons sims from the bridge. I did expect better of you and your department.” That ought to cement her reputation as a stern taskmaster Jamie thought. Though in reality that was almost the only thing she could find to complain about concerning the new Engineering Officers performance. He was actually quite good.

“I am extremely sorry about that Ma’am but I do know what the problem is. Somehow or other when the control programs were transferred by the factory crew a few thousand lines of code somehow got dropped from the download. The version we have installed is functioning just as intended but the manuals we have are for next incremental version and that was the one that lets the simulations run from the bridge.

“I can’t even say if the version that goes with the manual is even approved for use. I am working on the necessary code but this is pretty new stuff for me and it’s gonna take some time to get it right and do enough testing to make sure it’s perfect.”

“Excellent Lieutenant,” Jamie said, “I retract my earlier statement entirely. Don’t spend anymore time on it. When we get to Llanfairn next time we will get the right code if it’s available and it’s not much of a strain for any of us to be down in the missile bay for the training work. Dismissed Lieutenant and would you send Boss’n Miller in after you leave?”

Damn that was close, Madry thought to herself, good thing I didn’t come down on Tubman any harder than I did. I would have looked pretty foolish. Still got a few things left to learn about being a proper Naval Captain.

She let me off pretty easy. Tubman thought, “My last Captain would have held me responsible whether it was my fault or not.” Then he double timed it to Miller’s duty station rather than using the com to get him on his way. It was almost faster doing it that way and he wanted to check up on a member of his department who ought to have finished with a routine maintenance issue at the same location.

The Carpathian boosted as planed, the VIP passengers getting on board at the very last minute. Lt. Last welcomed them with far less pomp and ceremony than if they had been military arrivals of equivalent rank and showed them their staterooms. Admiral Raymond was too intent on the bridge watching McCormack plot and then execute his first departure. An hour later he took the Captain to meet Verser and her staff.

“Welcome aboard Minister,” Mac said with aplomb, this was something he couldn’t flub up considering the times he had made the same kinds of greetings in his commercial career. It was a military staff that handled the arrangements and prepared the food service but it would have held up well if compared to most civilian luxury vessels.

He spent an hour with his guests and then excused himself going back to the bridge to check and recheck the numbers for his first hyper jump in his new ship. This one was going to be as close as numbers and intuition guided by the laws of physics made possible.

Another hour later with everyone strapped in and the passengers double checked, they left normal space. And as the timer ran down McCormack said, “Hyper…Now!” Next stop New Erin!
The Eagle boosted from the docks as planed, hectic at the end. A few items were still in the process of being secured and dogged down, not least of all the shuttle delivering the last load, but before long all cargo and crew were strapped in and secure. With the constant refinement of the acceleration numbers Jamie intended this to be the tightest arrival yet. But time would tell. She punched in the last data points, and just as the timer ran down Madry said, “Hyper…Now! Next stop, Altoona!”

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