Tools of the Trade 25

Tools of the Trade Chapter Twenty Five

“Under two lighthours,” announced Jamie Madry, Captain of the CNS Eagle to the three waiting in her day cabin. Connie Melbourne, Wes Calvert, and Les Raymond had skipped strap down and were waiting for her when the Eagle transitioned out at Cardoman. “Getting to be a usual thing. I’ve sent the nav-data and initial reports. With our reduced acceleration it will be another forty hours to orbit but I want to say; It’s Good to be back!”

“Isn’t that kind of a classical reference?” Connie asked.

“Sure is,” Wes said, “but far be it from me to give it away. Just figure she said it and meant it. It’s something a spacer would know.”

“It’s been almost a year,” Connie continued, not nipping at the bait, “Stan filled the both of us in on what has been happening at the shipyards and the construction side of things but I can hardly stand the wait to see how my new house has come along.”

“You and me both,” Wes said, “Though in my case, and for what it’s costing and the amount of land that seems to be involved, mansion could be a better choice of words.”

Connie said, “I made sure that I wouldn’t hear anything about what Summers is putting up for me till we got back but I told Barry I wanted something rustic.”

Lester Raymond insisted at that point, “I’ve got some pretty fine digs in town and you’re all invited, no ordered to stay there till we finish all business with the Cardoman Army and the newly named Admiralty House.”

“Thanks Les, and I’m certain I can say that for all of us. And it will save time being in town and all.” Wesley added with a broad smile. “It’s Good to be home! Forty hours ought to be just enough time to finish the last of the paperwork we can do on the ship if we all work fast.”

General Inglase listened intently but said little as Wesley went over from beginning to end the short version of the events on Altoona. It was very hard when he got to the part where he summarized the casualties.

“In the final day we lost Captain Kronnin and Lieutenant Jackson. Of the forty manning the artillery at Firebase Vulcan only eight are still alive. The mines were all hard hit, the one at Jeddah the worst. Out of the three hundred eighty five men ninety seven are dead and one hundred sixteen wounded. Of the wounded I am told to expect a full recovery from eighty three of them. As for the others there will major surgeries and a few more deaths I don’t know nor do the doctors how many but I pray for all of them.

“And there were heroes too, ones who survived Sir, more than I can know or name. But I must mention a few. Sgt. Loomis playing his part as Ibrahim Saudi was continually at risk for more than six months. If he hadn’t been able to gather the intelligence warning of the attacks timing we would not have lasted through the first half hour. If Sgt Bledsoe and Madry been unable to hold Vulcan and continue with fire support we would have fallen. At the Jeddah mines Jasper Newmish created enough of a diversion and called in enough artillery that Morgan and Davis were able to hold.

“And in the end, if Captain Jamie Madry had done the sensible thing and failed to engage, or had Admiral Raymond not supported her orders, the Caliphate ship would have made all of those other’s efforts meaningless, except in the hearts of their comrades and families. The official report can never cover it all Sir.”

General Inglase remained silent for a moment. Then said with a barely perceptible weakness of voice and watering of eye, “It will come as small comfort now son, but we will first mourn the dead, and then later, as is proper, honor the living. You, and all those who served with you, have written one of the proudest chapters in the history of this or any other planet. Finish up what you must, then take a few days to visit your family and look into your personal affairs. I will make sure that as soon as the Aladdin gets back in what you already know should be about week, you are notified at once and will have plenty of time to be here to meet them.”

“Thank you Sir.”

Wes spent three days of the promised week dealing with battalion matters. The only one that counted right now, visiting the families of those who had served and died under his command. Connie went with him when it was someone from her Company but Wes had told her that he would see all of the others alone. He wanted to spare her the pain. She knew his reason, why he had said it, but still felt guilty. More than two thirds of those who died were from off planet. Wesley wrote letters to their next of kin while still on the Eagle. Some of those letters would take more than year to reach their intended recipients. It was three days he never wanted to repeat. But finally, he had seen everyone on his list and was able to stop and get away.

It took Jamie Madry as long to get a good start on the repairs needed to the Eagle. Though she couldn’t know the anxiety she felt could never compare. At least with a Class 1 yard the work on her ship could be performed in Cardoman orbit and they wouldn’t need to take her to Llanfairn and fight for a place in the schedule. Jamie finally, under thereat from Major Calvert, left the rest of the details to Lt. Matson and caught a lander to the planet and Admiral Raymond’s house in Minton.

The Admiral had been handling the Newsies along with Cardoman’s two man military PR department. Until now they had never needed a larger one. Captain Sally Tomes had spent a day writing scripts based on the action reports so the recording Wes needed to supply was finished in twenty minutes. He insisted that he be kept in the background.

“You’re an old hand at this,” he said to Connie, “I saw how you handled everything on Llanfairn before the prize court.”

“It wasn’t as easy as it looked. If we were throwing sacrifices out there this time it would be Jamie Madry, lucky for her she’s spent so much time at the shipyard. I kinda like the way Captain Tomes is doing this.”

“Makes it easy for all of us but I have seen Pvt. Jameson featured a number of times by the local press. He does tell a good story. We have time to talk to Barry Summers before the party at Lester’s tonight. Care to go with me?”

Connie paused a bit thinking and said, “Yes I can get away.” She commed Lt. Mankowitz and told him where she would be and the two of them took a staff car into town.

They found a spot halfway down the block from the offices of Stein and Summers Financial Advisors. The traffic, buildings, and general tone of Minton were as far from Gabara as could be imagined. They were both in uniform but here, just down the street from the military offices, no one paid them any mind as they walked into the building’s vestibule. A secretary at the front desk saw them enter and immediately stood and greeted them. She must have been shown their pictures or remembered them from the last visit because she knew them on sight. Or more likely it was the uniforms. Not many in the Military likely to visit this kind of place.”

Captain Melbourne, Major Calvert, Mr. Summers asked me to send you in as soon as you arrived.” Leaving the sanctuary of her desk she led them down the short hall to Barry Summers office.

“Connie…Wes… It’s so good to see you. I tried like hell to get a message to you right after you landed but it took Dory Verser to slip the thing through all of the interference. Sit down. Miss Place, bring in the refreshments please.” After the secretary left Summer’s said beaming, “What a name… Miss Place, I couldn’t fire her if I wanted to, where could I find another.”

Connie and Wes were getting infected with Summers’ mirth and both knew from meeting him before that it wasn’t a cover but really a manifestation of the way he looked at life. “Dory told me that there was just no way she would help me interrupt more than minimally whatever it was you were doing so I couldn’t send any visuals. But now hold your breath and look at this.” Then he said, “Connie you first.”

He waved his and one wall of the office turned from a tasteful antique yellow to a stunning visual display showing a very large two story building. The lower section was built from large blocks of the colored native granite. The upper walls were made of peeled logs the smallest of which must have been a half meter in diameter. It was set alone and surrounded first by a small yard with the start of a formal garden and flower bed and then by hectares of tall forest. All she had said a year ago when she gave Summers the go ahead was that she wanted something a little rustic.

“It’s yours Connie. And ready for occupancy. You can’t see the stream in back but it’s still there.” Connie was speechless.

“Now we can look at the insides.” Summers waved his hand again and thirty some views were shown of the completely decorated interior. “The file is yours to down load and I wish Wes hadn’t had to warn Dory that you would be so short on time.”

“But here it is a view of Castle Calvert!”

The first picture was of a large stone building, looking much like a castle but with far too many windows and nothing even closely resembling a moat. It was more like a chateau, Wes thought finding the word he was looking for, but it did have a tower rising at one corner another three levels above the main buildings two and three story construction. Located a kilometer away, the aerial view showed a dozen seemingly completed normal sized houses and two larger structures which, as the cleared fields to the west of them indicated were likely barns.

“It looks like a country village, Wes gasped.

“That’ll be up to you but it might well be,” Barry said with amusement as the rest of the views played out. He then showed them a map view of the surrounding area. The two houses were about eight kilometers apart and the entire region roughly fifty kilometers on a side was shaded into three colors showing what parts were owned by Wes and Connie and the section purchased as an investment from company funds and for home sites for any members of the Cardoman 7th who wished to build there.
“It’s only been a month since Connie’s place was finished, and there’s still a little cleanup and a couple of out buildings to complete before the Castle, that’s what the workman started calling it, and it seems to fit, is complete. I took the responsibility of hiring some temporary staff so when you get there you’ll both be able to start changing things around.”

“So tell me,” Barry asked, “what are your schedules?”

“Connie and I are going out for dinner then leaving I’m leaving Minton to go and spend a couple of days with my family. I will get out to the Castle,” he said with a hint of amusement, “the day after that.”

Connie said, “I have another day’s worth of work and will head out for a look at my new place as soon as I can get away.”

“Fine,” Barry said, “Let me know the time you intend to leave and I’ll go out with you. I’ve downloaded to both of you the other aspects of your current financial state and I can go over that in detail, first with you Connie on the way out to your house, and then I will get to the Castle before you get there Wes.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Connie said and Wes agreed. They stayed for one drink and a replay, then left for dinner.

Stan Voinovich saw the stars form from nothingness as he sat on the bridge of the Aladdin and transitioned in to Cardoman space. Under two light hours again and in a bit over a day and he might see Jamie again. He had a lot on his mind as he ordered out the message packet. When Les Raymond heard about the navigational performance he commented on it to General Anderson as if he were a proud father.

When the first replies came back to the Aladdin and Stan found that Jamie was staying at Admiral Raymond’s house on planet and not on the Eagle in orbit, he was disappointed, but there was nothing for it. His orders were, that after making Orbital Station 1, he take care of the unloading, and then turn the ship over for two weeks of training time to the Cardoman naval personal who had been with him on this trip. They would use the Aladdin for final insystem practice time. Commander Woodward had previously sent him a message detailing the news at the yard, so he knew that the second hypership would be ready for acceptance trials in another three weeks.

Stan must have told Pavel Tsarinstyn, who would be one of those staying aboard, at least a dozen times to make sure no harm came to his ship. All the ships crew who’s contracts were with the Seventh and not the Cardoman Navy had orders for the planet as well.
The Seventh Cardoman was meeting as a unit at their Cardoman barracks and training base in what would become an annual ritual. Major Calvert presiding over all. Captains Melbourne and Morgan running the officers section. Robert Davis and Audie Madry had been elected to represent enlisted issues. And Admiral Raymond would take care of Naval issues.

Wes began with the standard greetings then gave a brief summary of the last year. When discussing the casualties they had taken he said, “I say this more with regret than pride. The death benefits have been paid. Jawad al-Masari told me that as a matter of justice Altoona owed, that much and more. I often had grave reservations watching the way the government of Altoona operated, but when it comes to paying the price for services rendered their sense of honor is above reproach. The fifteen percent adder was also authorized. We take payment from the heavy metal shipment the Aladdin just brought in. Prices and terms guaranteed by the Cardoman Treasury.”

“Medical procedures and expenses have been provided by our Cardoman sponsors and any services or accepted procedures we can not get here on Cardoman will be covered by our contract. General Anderson has told me of the extreme appreciation that the political leaders here have for what we have done. My own experience and contacts bear this out in its entirety.”

“All personal accounts have been credited in full at contractual pay rates. You each are still owed the bonuses due your particular rank and time in service. The exact manner in which this is going to be done is one of the things that Sgt Davis will discuss with you. The Cardoman 7th retirement, buyout, and reserves are fully funded. We have four more years remaining on our original contract with Cardoman so that much is certain.”

“Talk to your own financial advisors. Tomorrow representatives from a number of local firms will be on base. I would suggest investing in Cardoman property and ship construction. That’s what I have done and continue to do however new direct investment into the shipyards as a private individual is no longer possible. Any of you who wish many still get a stake however by purchasing investment shares in the mercenary company. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. What ever else you might consider make sure it is something you will not need to manage directly. The Cardoman General Staff is already looking to find us new employment.”

Wes continued for another half hour in general terms mentioning at the end the memorial service planed for three days hence. “That will give the family members who wish to attend a chance to join us.”

“Sgt Davis will now take charge of this session and day after tomorrow we will meet again as a full unit. At that time I hope to have more to say about what the Seventh will me doing next.” Major Calvert left the lectern in the front of the room and took a seat at the rear , he stayed for the first fifteen minutes of Audie’s presentation before leaving to attend the Naval session just beginning.

When he first entered the room Wes gave those seated a once over that did not disappoint, it showed him as expected ,Voinovich and Madry sitting together, talking and looking quite cheerful. Overall the tone in this room was less solemn than in the session he had just left. Understandable. The basics here the same as what Wes had already witnessed but with Admiral Raymond starting it out and Miller and Pilchard slated to handle the purely non officer sections. Like the sessions they had before leaving for Altoona there were some Cardoman Navy people present. And like before it was good advertising and rumor control and though he agreed not to poach… if someone in the Cardoman Nave fail to reenlist and applied they would be considered for a spot in the Seventh. The Admiral did a very good job stressing that there was only one Cardoman 7th, not a separate Seventh Army and Seventh Navy.

He also did a good job of explaining how the combination of the conclusion of operations on Altoona and the investment in the Cardoman shipyard had raised the value of shares in the Seventh by 83% in the last year. Wes noted he stayed away from mentioning the ground forces near 20% death toll for the second year running. That had to stop.

General Inglase and General Anderson and Aldoria Verser would sit and listen in on the Combined Officer’s meeting that would start when Pilchard and Miller took over. Wes slipped out of the room and went to his office to review and make preparation.

“We’ve all been through the finances so I will turn this over to Captain Melbourne.” Wes went to take a seat with Anderson, Inglase, and Verser, as Connie took his place.

“I intend to talk about the future, those of you who have questions about your present personal conditions, feel free to see me later.”

“First, assignments for the next year, Captain Grayson will head a new section called Plans and Training based here on Cardoman. That may seem a strange combination but the Major feels that the most effective training can be done only by one well versed in upcoming operations.”

“Second, I will continue with Alpha Company, Captain Morgan keep Charley Company and Captain Newmish will be the new C.O. of Bravo. This we expect to put a crimp in his penchant for lone action behind enemy lines.” There was a little laughter following that statement. “Lt. Cramer from Alpha will transfer to Captain Morgan’s group.”

“Third, Sgt Bledsoe looks to make a full recovery. He will be promoted to Lt.1st and given command of the Artillery section. With all of our losses there that will be quite a job. Officers promoted from the ranks in some military organizations are called Mustangs and looked down upon by Academy graduates, should any of that attitude manifest itself here and become visible; consider it a sure ticket out of the Seventh. We have also decided to institute a warrant Officer’s rank though we will never have more than a few and this promotion will in every case lead to a regular commission at an early date.”

“Several such promotions have been offered and I am sorry to say, a few declined. I will only say further to this point, that Command Sgt Major Davis and Boss’n Miller, on the navy side, are the two most prominent. They each clung independently to the position that they were more valuable where they were rather than with a promotion that would separate them from the units they were training and establishing discipline and tradition within. Their point was valid. We must do everything in our power to keep the enlisted ranks strong and insure they know how vital they are and yes, appreciated.”

“Fourth, unit size: We will remain for the near future a light battalion. Even at the end on Altoona we still had not reached the manpower level to fill all the slots. General Inglase has assured us that he will not stand in the way of any Cardoman wishing to transfer for a two year career boosting tour. That will take care of our immediate problems in that area. I will turn this over to Admiral Raymond now so that he can address Navel issues.” Connie took her seat up front.”

“The situation in the Seventh Navy is going to change considerably over the next several months,” the Admiral began. But before I go into that I will speak to an issue Cardoman Minister Verser asked me to clarify. Why am I an Admiral and the Commander of the Cardoman 7th a mere Major? Even to those with a military mind set, which I assure you I was no—at least until I made Admiral.” And the polite laughter started again, “It would seem odd. It boils down to the fact that some of us, perhaps 20 or 30 percent in this room hold multiple commissions from various planetary governments. With the exception of our Cardoman guests though all in this meeting hold primary allegiance to the sponsored mercenary unit, The Cardoman 7th.”

“My Cardoman rank is Admiral in the soon to be one ship Cardoman Navy. My rank in the Seventh Cardoman Merci nary Company is Ship Captain, of more accurately Senior Ships Captain. In the Cardoman Navy to take an extreme example Captain Voinovich holds three ranks and is getting paid for two of them. He is a first Lieutenant in the Union Navy, a Lt. Commodore in the Cardoman Navy and now a full ships Captain in the Seventh Mercenary. As you can see this can get quite complicated.”

“Unless things conflict or confuse what the present duty of the officer involved is engaged in we choose to use the highest rank as a mater of courtesy. Which brings us finally to Major Calvert.”

“General Inglase has informed me, and alas Major Calvert has confirmed, that in terms of Cardoman rank,” and here histrionically Raymond rolled his eyes and shuddered, “ he is still my boss.” At that statement the laughter became general. When it quieted down Les continued. “We were formed as an infantry unit. Major Calvert knows better than most what that means. He has chosen to go by the rank appropriate for an infantry unit of our size. Make no mistake though about who leads and commands.”

This time the applause was far more than polite. It filled the meeting room and echoed in the halls outside. It sent chills up and down his spine. Wes had never experienced the like.
The memorial service was viewed on screen by most everyone on the planet. It had been declared a national day of mourning. The sorrow, shared by all, the pain and grief, parceled out onto the entire population. It turned a time of shared tragedy into a shared celebration, something that none from the Seventh experiencing the moment would ever forget.

The next morning when Wesley was walking towards Cardoman Command Headquarters, just to stretch his legs, he saw CSM Davis with a coffee cup in his hand staring out over the Millibone Valley from the overview. He decided that there was no time like the present, and went over to where the sergeant stood. “What’s eating at you Bobby?”

Davis looked surprised to say the least and did a 360 degree scan to insure no one overheard. “Wes, I am sick and tired of always defending. Here is a data chip I have been working on. It outlines how we can turn the 7th into the modern equivalent of an old Armored Calvary Regiment; Aerial Envelopment and all. It will take time but when we get it done think about it; the 7th Calvary on the Attack.” Davis turned and looked him in the eyes, “Damn the Defensive, let’s go get these Bastards!”

Calvert was stunned and shocked at the same time; he finally knew the last piece of the puzzle that was Robert T. Davis. The revelation was all the larger because it meshed so perfectly with what he had been thinking himself.

“That will not going to be easy and not without a cost; but it’s a damn fine idea! Let’s talk.”

* * *
Connie turned over on her side, and facing him said, “It’s like losing a member of your family Wes, but in time we learn to accept.”

“No, I tried thinking that way, but for me it’s not really like losing friends and family, It’s more than that. I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself.”

Connie stretched till her hand brushed the top of the headboard. She was tall, but this was a very large bed. Relaxing again she said, “We lose our youth, we lose old friends, mostly we loose all those things we forget about. If you forget the important things, I will be here to remind you.  You might loose yourself, but believe me… I never will… ”

“Turn out the lights darling.”