Entrance Examination, Chapter Nine

Two and a quarter hours later Corrbet showed up for her bridge watch, fifteen minutes early. “How’s Cadet Trainee Irving doing? I thought Captain Quinn had this watch, where is he?” She stopped at the dispenser and got a cup of coffee creamed to match her skin color.

“Cadet Trainee Irving is recovering from her accident. Captain Quinn is all hot and bothered. He thinks there might be a saboteur among us.”

“A saboteur? Why does he think that?”

“Cadet Trainee Irving’s accident. The equipment is unreliable, the diagnostic analyzer they were using was rigged to not display if there were active power lines being analyzed. Cadet Trainee Irving was working in a power conduit and a couple of active lines shocked her and tore the conduit up a bit. She was burned and cut up some, but she should be out of the infirmary soon. Father Lester is still with her, making sure she heals right. She should be leaving any time now.”

Corrbet nodded her head slightly. “Eleven of us instead of ten. I bet that is why Captain Quinn thinks there is a saboteur among us.”

“And that’s why he was checking up on everyone. He was looking for something that does not fit the background of someone. Well, I think it is time we started our own checking. I have gone through the computer looking for something to clue me in on what is to come. Naturally, I cannot find anything out. Maybe nothing is going to happen because of the control program; after all, if it were going to do something, would it have taken this long before doing it? Maybe or may not. I don’t know and can’t tell.” Corrbet muttered that he was the expert on the computer. “Captain Quinn seems to think that one of us is here to do what is necessary to make it hard for the rest of us. Nothing deadly, I hope, but enough for that person to make a report on what each of can do. Does that sound like something the Navy would do?”

“Maybe. How could this person do all this without being caught? Other than the bridge watch, none of us follows a schedule very tightly. Any one of us could wander across this person making the sabotage and ruin everything for them.” Corrbet sat at the Navigation console and twisted around to face Elder.

“Yeah, that’s right. It’s not something I mentioned to Captain Quinn, I said that the Navy didn’t have to do more than set up a few big problems and those would test us adequately. By the way, in answer to your question about Captain Quinn, he’s in his quarters, so if you need someone in command, go to Executive Officer Ostrom. Captain Quinn is trying to discover something and doesn’t want to be bothered, except by Father Lester.”

“Discover something? What is he trying to discover? Is he missing something?”

“No, he’s not missing anything as far as I know. I couldn’t get much out of him when he mentioned it, but he really thinks there is a saboteur aboard, I think because he almost caught someone in the act or something similar.”

“I see, if Captain Quinn almost caught someone doing something he thinks is sabotage, then the Navy would expect that it would be possible for us to do exactly that. Contrary to popular legend, the Navy isn’t stupid.”

“Yeah. Anyway, he wants Cadet Trainee Jackson to start trying to repair the security monitoring system. She is asleep right now, so I didn’t tell her. You can tell her when she wakes. Captain Quinn wants to monitor all the public areas, nothing in the quarters or anywhere else private, and this way we will catch the saboteur, he thinks.”

“So why is he in his quarters then? Why not out hunting the saboteur?”

“I’m not sure he thinks this person is the saboteur, he was very insistent on not mentioning who it was to me and he was pretty vague about what he saw. He wants to talk to Father Lester in his quarters, I told Father Lester to join Captain Quinn there already, so maybe he thinks they are more safe and secure. If anything happens, go to Executive Officer Ostrom, Captain Quinn told me to tell Executive Officer Ostrom that he has the ship and I did that. Let me think, was there anything else> No, I can’t think of anything.” Elder got up and started for the door.

“All right, I’ve got the bridge. You get some sleep, it looks like you need it. I will think of something I can do to discover this saboteur, who may not exist for all we know. Are you sure that this control program won’t cause any problems?”

“I happened to be working overtime on the program when the accident with Cadet Trainee Irving happened, so Captain Quinn gave me the rest of his bridge watch. I should have been in bed a couple of hours ago, I have been working sixteen hours straight. I cannot be sure of anything about that program. A couple of hours ago, it changed the command codes it uses and I haven’t bothered to try and learn the new ones.” Corrbet snorted as she glanced at the Main Computer console. “I hadn’t a chance to learn all the command codes that the program was using when we got here so I have no idea what it is doing now that the codes have changed, and definitely I can’t tell what it is going to do. It might try to kill us all for all I can tell; although, why the Navy would want to do that, I could not guess. Like you said, they aren’t stupid and some of the people taking this test have to survive or else no one would ever get into the Academy and then where would the new officers come from?” Elder returned to the Main Computer console and watched the command codes flowing on the screen for a moment.

“Cloned from the old ones, I guess. However, unless they can clone experience as well, what help is that? Either way, you have new offices with no experience.” Elder’s eyebrows went up at the impolite comment about cloning. “The Navy gets a lot of benefits from the publicity surrounding the entrance tests, why risk that publicity going bad with needless deaths? As far as the saboteur, I will let you know if I discover anything. Working alone may not give me enough information to discover this saboteur, if there is one. Since Captain Quinn saw this person while coming here from the infirmary, which was when he saw the saboteur right?”

“I’m too tired to remember the details, but yeah, I think that was when he said it happened. He had just come from the infirmary and said it had just happened in that funny language of his.”

“And you were on the bridge then, I can trust you. I have to trust myself. SO, the two of us should get to the bottom of this little problem.”

“I trust you, I can’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t trust you. So, let’s solve this mystery.” Elder offered his hand.

As she briefly shook his hand, Corrbet said, “Perhaps you shouldn’t trust me. You have no reason to trust me, just as you have no reason to not trust me. However, you are right, you have to trust someone and I am a good start. So is Father Lester. He is a real priest. Not only is he a real priest, but he has been out of the seminary only five years, and two of those were in the abbey as a postulant and novice.”

“couldn’t he have joined the Navy right out of seminary and now be an instructor or something?”

“No. One of the basic rules of the Roman Catholic Church is that a priest has to have at least five years experience before he can become a chaplain. Any kind of chaplain, school, Navy, a noble’s, whatever. And Father Lester barely makes the time limit.”

“How would you know this? You aren’t a priest.”

“No women priests in the Roman Catholic Church, unlike most of the other denominations, including the Old Catholic Church, right. But, my aunt is a nun with the Order of Mary’s Sacred Heart.”

“I think I’ve heard of them, but who are they?” Elder leaned against the console.

“You must have heard of them. They and the Order of Saint Joseph the Guardian of Christ have run the Church bureaucracy ever since Clement XVI. Those two orders hold every office in the bureaucracy above the parish level. They’re the civil service of the Church.”

:I’m not a Roman Catholic; I’m a Lutheran like Captain Quinn. Except he’s Swedish Orthodox and I’m Neo-Reformed.”

“Oh, that’s all right then. I cannot expect you to know much about how we operate. Just take it from me, Father Lester is a Cadet Trainee just like us.”

“So, you trust me, and I trust you, and we both should trust Father Lester. Who else?”

“For now, no one. The obvious choice to work on is Captain Quinn and make sure that he is trustworthy. Once we’ve cleared him, and I’m fairly sure he’s all right, we can work on the others a lot faster.” Corrbet folded her light brown arms and rested her chin on her upraised right fist.

“Maybe Cadet Trainee Jackson was right and the identity of the eleventh person isn’t important. Why spend the effort to find out who it is if there is not any reason to do so? We’ve got enough work just fixing this ship.”

“I’m like my Dad, I have to know. And, we don’t know that Cadet Trainee Jackson is right, although I don’t see a flaw in her logic.”

“So, even if I don’t help you, you’ll keep going? All right then, I will help you find out. After I get some sleep.” Elder yawned and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands.

“Yeah, you look like you need it. Once you have gotten your sleep, start questioning Captain Quinn. I am willing to be that he is really a younger son of the Count of Radnell; I have seen his signet ring. There is no law that says he has to wear it, and you notice he is not wearing it, but it is a felony for someone not a noble to have a signet ring of a noble house. I cannot see why the Navy would commit a felony for this test. Captain Quinn is young enough so he could not have been in the Navy long, so the odds are that he is a Cadet Trainee like the rest of us. However, he would have to be young or at least young looking, in order for us to consider him a Cadet Trainee. So maybe you should double-check him just in case I missed something.”

“You’re a lot better at this than I am, I’ll consider the Captain cleared. Who next”

Corrbet shrugged and rubbed her neck. “You never know, you have brains, you might see something I missed. But, as you wish. In that case I suggest Cadet Trainee MacBeath. He works with the equipment so much, he has the best chance to commit sabotage. Besides, it is a cliché for someone with a Scottish surname to work in Engineering. Clichés don’t happen in real life, do they?”

Walking out the door, Elder said, “Isn’t that how they got to be clichés in the first place, happening in real life? Cadet Trainee MacBeath it will be. See you later.”

 

It was almost three hours after he got to his quarters when someone rang Quinn’s doorbell. Quinn opened the door to see Father Lester standing there.

“Please enter Father. There is a requirement that we converse. I entreat you to take a seat; this discussion probably will require an extended period of time.” After the two men sat, Father Lester on the chair that Quinn held for him and Quinn on the now made bed, Quinn leaned back against the bulkhead and spoke. “Father, you have the knowledge that I am not a Roman Catholic; and, that since I am a Lutheran, I may not call upon your rituals in the same manner as if I were a Roman Catholic.. But, it is a requirement that you respect this discussion as privileged. What is the wording your Church uses, Seal of the Confessional?”

“That is the term my son. But, I cannot accept a confession from you, since, as you say, you are not a Roman Catholic.”

“However, you are amenable toward considering this conversation as confidential and you will therefore refrain from discussing the concerns I bring forth with any of the others? That is the critical aspect, and what designation you utilize is without consequence.”

Father Lester sat still for a few moments, his dark brown eyes watching Quinn for whatever he could learn from Quinn’s body language. He learned nothing from that. Then he softly said, “Unless there is a need stronger than the one you place before me, Captain, I will keep the matter secret. I will not protect you from any sins you may have committed or intend to commit my son.”

“This matter is nothing within that category Father. I must discuss this issue with someone upon whom I can depend. I cannot determine any rational for the Navy posting you to this ship if you were not who you maintain yourself to be. If you were not an authentic Roman Catholic priest, and you performed the rituals that you have performed already, the Navy would be in considerable trouble with your Church for your actions. Therefore, you have to be a real priest and therefore trustworthy.”

“There is merit in that line of reasoning, but not much. Can’t you trust the others my son?”

“No Father, I cannot. After I departed the infirmary,… And, incidentally, how is Cadet Trainee Irving progressing in the healing of her wounds?”

“Her wounds have finished healing, although she is still in some slight discomfort. She left the infirmary and returned to her cabin since she has the shift on the bridge after Cadet Trainee Corrbet and she wanted to get some sleep. At least the medical equipment functions properly.”

“Her healing took a more extended period of time than I had anticipated. Regardless, it is satisfactory to have you state that her wounds are healed. To continue my previous statement, as I was progressing to the bridge, I observed Cadet Trainee Corrbet departing my cabin. She was skulking out and I withdrew to a more hidden location to ensure that she was unable to observe me, since seeing her dismayed me and I lacked a desire for a confrontation at that point in time. I observed her as she proceeded away from my quarters and then I entered my quarters to investigate. I investigated then and again while awaiting your arrival. I cannot discover anything she could have purloined nor anything she installed here, but the incident worries me. I cannot conceive of a single legitimate purpose for her to be in my quarters.”

Father Lester stood up, paced around the cabin for several minutes, and then returned to his seat. “Would you like me to speak with her my son?”

“What rationale could you use for broaching this incident with her? You were not a witness of her actions, I was, and what options would you posses if she merely contradicts what I have stated? No, for the present, just remember that the incident occurred and observe her. It is my desire that you will in some manner obtain information that will help settle this incident in my mind.”

“But, as you say, you have no evidence for me. I would have even less than you have since you saw her and I did not, if what you say is true. I have only your word for the incident. If you will not trust her, why should I trust you? My son, I have only your side of the story.”

“That is a legitimate argument Father. But, what rationale would I have to invent this incident?”

“To cause trouble between the other members of the crew. You asked why there were eleven people sent to this ship instead of ten when we first arrived almost two weeks ago. Perhaps you are the eleventh person and your task is to cause trouble among us. Your birth rank of Emir, as the third child of the Count of Radnell, would make it more likely that we would follow you, and we did select you as Captain in part because of that birth rank. As Captain you would find it easy to cause trouble among us.”

“Another legitimate argument. But how did you know that I am the third child to the Count?”

“One of my seminary classmates was from Radnell; he earned a scholarship to Terra as a special bonus for his college-level work. I know your name and face from pictures although not much else.”

“His departure would have taken place nine years ago? Or very close to that period? I seem to remember my father sending a young man to Terra on a special scholarship, something to do with research he had done at that time. It was a very special occasion; thus, I do indeed remember something of it even after this period. I do not remember the man’s name, I was fairly young at the time.”

“Jason Hubbard Owen Eoghan Putnam was the man’s name.”

Quinn shrugged at the reminder of the man’s name. “Very well. However, in response to your charge, I have no means of making effective reply except to protest my innocence. And yet, while you are capable of making an argument for not trusting me, I must make the argument for trusting you. Moreover, I require someone capable of trust. If Corrbet is indeed performing some devious action, is she performing these actions alone? Are there perhaps two or more saboteurs aboard this ship? I recall that the briefing officer did not explicitly state that the number of cadets would be ten, just that the number taking the examination at the site would be the number of cadets he briefed and there were ten people attending the briefing. Perhaps there were one or more regular officers in space suits among those present and the number of cadets was considerably less. The wearing of space suits prevented any chance of determining the identity of those present, except for the briefing officer who was not wearing such a suit.”

“I don’t remember exactly what my briefing officer said, but there were ten people in space suits at my briefing also. I think the briefing officer said something about the size of the group present but I’m not sure.”

“It may be that due to our faulty memories we have missed some critical data concerning this examination. Regardless, there are eleven people here and from everything I can determine, there should be only ten. It is the eleventh person who needs to be discovered and I am unable to make headway on this problem working solitarily. I require an additional person to assist me in this investigation and until I can trust some of the others, I must select you to aid me. Until I, or you, can determine the suspicion unmerited, I must presume them to be possible saboteurs. That may be harsh on the innocent, but I must ensure the safety of everyone. And that is the only way I can think of to perform this task. I hold the safety of this crew to be of the highest precedence. As well as the successful completion of this examination.”

“I will think on your comments and let you know if I agree with your conclusions. I will keep this matter secret as you request, for now. If I change my mind, I will let you know my son. In addition, I will speak with Cadet Trainee Corrbet. I will not bring up the incident you mentioned, but her aunt is a nun in the Church bureaucracy and that will give me an excuse to chat with her. I might learn something without giving anything away.”

Quinn rose from his seat on his bed and escorted the Father to the door, opening it for him and following him out of the room. Father Lester went on his way towards his cabin for a nap and Quinn started for the bridge. He did not make it.

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