The three men looked at each other for just the one second, this was the first time any of them had heard the phrase “this is not a drill” in regard to Battle Stations, and then training took over. Running out of the wardroom with the crowd, Elder and Mitchell turned for Ops and Hartz grabbed one of the scooters used to travel quickly over long distances. Two other Marines jumped on the scooter as he started towards the Marine Barracks.
Since Elder was the newest and lowest ranking Operations Planning Assistant, Sous-Lieutenant Jewel assigned him to work one of the backup computers. His assignment was to gather all the astronomical data for the system and make sure that the data was available for the planners. For whatever reason, there was something that a Class B base thought was a threat to the system and wanted all ships in system to work against the danger.
Twenty minutes later, “Attention all hands. Stand down from Battle Stations. This was a false alarm.” Again the double repetition followed.
Sous-Lieutenant Jewel was hunched over a communications panel. Everyone else in the room looked to him with a silent clamor, waiting to hear why the Battle Stations had gone off and then had been cancelled.
After a few moments, over the local address system so that everyone could hear, “Everyone, the reason for the alert is that a merchant ship had a malfunction. The distress transponder started sending out that they were under attack, and that aliens had been spotted. They did not even know it was happening, it did not show up on their displays. An S-Class Tender from the base was nearby and began asking questions of the merchantman when their sensors picked up nothing. Back to normal watches everyone.”
Elder took a scooter back to his quarters even though he did not need to and went to bed. All along the way, he reheard the comments several of his co-workers made about how stupid merchants were. Ashamed of his not standing up for his father, Elder lay on his bed for a long time before finally sliding off to sleep.
Remembering, when he woke, that this was his day off, Elder decided to explore the ship. While he had studied the deck plans, he needed to get the reality fixed in his mind. Therefore, after a quick breakfast, he began exploring the various decks and sections of the I.N.S. BALKANS.
“Here sir, what do you need?”
Elder turned his face to the bear of a Junior Warrant Officer standing next to the supply counter, his gold slash visible as he stood there, so Elder stepped all the way into the supply room and cleared the hatch.
“Nothing Mister. I am new on board and am getting my bearings. This is a clothing supply stores, correct?”
“Aye sir, it is. However, with all due respect sir, I think I should know you. We have met before haven’t we? I mean sir, with all due respect, there aren’t too many people who look like you.”
Elder blushed his ugly blush, “Were you at the Academy Junior Warrant Officer?”
“No sir, not at the Academy proper, but I did transfer from one of the testing ships. Maybe that was where we met? When you were undergoing your entrance examination sir?”
“I don’t remember meeting a Junior Warrant Officer then, but many of the people on the ship I was on before the final stage were in space suits.”
“I was a Chief Sergeant until just a few weeks ago sir. My last ship, for about five years, was the PLETHO.”
“The PLETHO? Now I remember, you were the one who issued me my gear. Well, it is nice to meet someone I met before, even if you yelled at me.” The big bear of a Junior Warrant Officer ducked his head a bit and smiled. “No Mister, you were right, I shouldn’t have called you sir then. And I don’t bear grudges.”
Raising his head and with pride in his voice the Junior Warrant Officer said, “No sir, I didn’t think you would, not really. However, I am glad to see you made it through the Academy. I do not remember many of the ones that came through the PLETHO, but I am glad for the ones that make it. Fifty years ago, I never made it past the second test. So, I enlisted and stayed on. I’ve fulfilled a childhood dream.”
“Well, I’m glad you’ve had a good career Mister. However, I am just looking around and I do not want to keep you from your duties. Carry on.”
Elder heard the “Aye sir” as he left the supply stores room. Standing in the busy corridor for a few moments, he wondered where he would be in fifty years. Three years to go before he was commissioned, if he made it, and then averaging somewhere around three years a rank until Captain, then averaging six years a rank after that. Twenty-seven years to Captain and at the fifty-year mark he might be a Captain Commodore expecting to make Lieutenant Admiral. Of course, that presumes he mad it to the commissioned ranks and never was later forced out for some reason or retire after making Lieutenant Captain when he was eligible to do so. However, on the other hand, Grand Admiral Nicholas only took twenty-three years to make Captain and made Grand Admiral with only fifty-two years of service, so there was that hope.
With a quick shake of his head, Elder set off to explore some more. G-Class Dreadnoughts were huge and he needed all the time he had to just explore a small part of the ship. Maybe, at the end of his three-year tour, he would know the ship as well as he thought he needed to know it.
It was an Imperial week before the BALKANS reached Jump speed. During this time Elder got settled into his routing and began getting comfortable with his position on the ship. He even met his roommates while awake. He decided that it was good the they rarely met awake, at least some of them.
The alert came around that the BALKANS was scheduled for Jump at 1436 ship’s time. Elder decided to be awake for the Jump. He would have to take a nap before and one after the Jump, but he would not have the problems of a Jump while asleep.
One of the main engines began dropping in output just before the Jump, so it was not until 1453 that the BALKANS had the right speed and course for the Jump to its destination system. Once the BALKANS was past the instant of no-space and no-time that was a Jump, everyone began recovering and making the maintenance checks to make sure all the equipment survived the Jump.
Once everything was checked and found to be in good order, or if not then repairs started, the BALKANS began its run into the primary planet of the system. By the time the BALKANS made it to orbit around its destination, Elder was comfortable with the ship and established in work and play.
Deciding against football earlier, he had settled on Drenthar, a team sport where his size was an asset. Between that and the standing poker game he discovered in Wardroom 253, he felt he was set for hobbies.