Until the BALKANS was refurbished, Elder spent much of his time hunting down former crew under Captain Mizutani and records of any others fro Nihon in the Navy. What he learned did not really surprise him, but it did worry him. Captain Mizutani forbade unofficial contact between his Navy crew and the assigned Marines. He did prefer people who took the time to learn a bit of his culture, and he really did not care much for Imperial culture. Once in command, he would have little contact with any of the crew below his staff level. Unlike Captain Quinn, Captain Mizutani isolated himself Elder doubted he would ever see his new Captain at a ball game or a Drenthar match
Talking with some of the crew, Elder learned that Captain Mizutani had spoken with all of the officers but none of the enlisted. Captain Mizutani had also gone over every centimeter of the ship with Lieutenant Captain Rochin before the Lieutenant Captain was transferred From what Elder learned, Captain Mizutani had not been too happy with the work done by the base. Elder remembered the previous launching of the BALKANS Everyone was finding problems, and Midshipman Mitchell, now King Mitchell, had said it was a normal part of launching. Captain Mizutani wanted it otherwise, it seemed.
However, in the weeks remaining, Elder was caught up in the carious aspects of his job. He had an occasional night out with various members of his workplace and a few other friends he had made. He played poker on occasion, and sometimes even won a bit, although never a lot. He played Drenthar as often as he could, there was no league on base so it was always whoever wanted to play and could take the time to go into orbit where there was zero-g.
Finally orders came. Elder snuck a peek at them, it was just another standard patrol though various nearby duchies with the ANDES and the now fully repaired ALPS plus the supporting sections of Class H Battleships, Class I Cruisers and whatever smaller ships wee assigned. Not all the sections were from the same Flotilla but all were from the same Squadron. Fleet Captain Pevner was in operational command from the CLass U Command Ship LAKE BALATON. This caused quite a bit of work for Elder and the other operational specialists since attaching Sections from one Flotilla to another, even within the same Squadron, was tedious. It would have been much worse if different Squadrons were involved. Thankfully, no such attachment of units outside a Squadron was permitted except for major operations, which was extremely rare.
It took almost to launch time for the orders to be issued and straightened out. There were the basic operational orders, the standby orders to cover various contingencies, the amendments to the orders, the amendments to the amendments, etc. Plus, there were supply requests, upgrades to the supply requests, personnel transfer orders, emergency orders for personnel transfers or leave, promotion orders, demotion orders (thankfully only a few of these), training certification orders, etc. Naturally enough, the Base operations personnel did little to help the workload. They had their own, constant, flow of orders, requests, etc. The closer the BALKANS was to launch date, the more red tape was generated. Elder got his own set of orders promoting him to Midshipman and he gladly put on his second gold disc and changed the nameplate on the door of his home. The BALKANS held a combined promotion party for all the crew who were promoted – slightly over a thousand individuals plus family and friends of course. The Marines held their own party for their people who were promoted
Elder had not expected that his work would change much, after all, the difference between Graduated Cadet and Midshipman was minute. He was, of course, wrong. He now had enlisted people assigned to him on a permanent basis. He now had the responsibility of ensuring that the three people assigned to him were trained, that was no problem, that they did their jobs properly, which was a bit more of a problem, and that they conformed to the proper standards of the Imperial Navy. Moreover, it was that last duty that was the biggest problem He had assigned to him two Privates and a Leading Private, all recent transfers to the BALKANS The Leading Private had been in the Imperial Navy for six years and the two Privates for two years each The Privates, Private Carmine Gideon Abel Oswin Herick Shane and Private Helga Krysta Casey Luyu Zakiya Ash were fine upstanding people. Leading Private Fontane April Kezia Tempest Zakiya Ivanoff was a very smart woman who knew exactly how far she could slide or push the limits. She was smart enough and had been in the Imperial Navy long enough so that she should have been a Lance Corporal or even a Corporal but she was slow in her promotions and had almost been court-martialed for failure of duty. It took a few days before Elder realized that Leading Private Ivanoff had her eyes on him for duties that were completely against regulations Knowing exactly how he looked, he knew it was just for a hold on him and to get comfortable treatment If he had even thought to fall into her grip, Constance would kill him before the Imperial Navy would court-martial him. Besides, he would not risk losing Constance.
So, just before the BALKANS launched, Elder sat down in a wardroom with his three enlisted and explained a few points to them. He made no direct mention of Leading Private Ivanoff’s play for him but emphasized the need for compliance with Imperial Navy Regulations on fraternization and his desire that each one of them met such high standards that they were considered for promotion well ahead of their contemporaries. Private Shane and Private Ash seemed to catch his meaning but he wasn’t sure about Leading Private Ivanoff so he added that he expected Leading Private Ivanoff to act as his deputy and ensure that the other two met the highest standards especially since he, Elder, couldn’t be around them at all times but she, Ivanoff, would be around them much more than he would be. (Even though the three of them worked in Operations, Elder had little chance to work with them since they were Operations Maintenance, repairing the stations he used for his duty.) He hoped that giving her responsibility would Besides, she was close to the end of her term of enlistment and this might shape her up out. In either case, the Navy the Navy would have one less problem
It was not until the BALKANS launched that Elder began to wonder if he was not being a little less paranoid than he should be. Leading Private Ivanoff might be a test to see how he handled command. She might even be someone other than who she seemed to be It would not be hard for someone to act as a goof-off or to pretend to be of a rank lower than she really had, just as a test for Elder However, he quickly gave that line of thought up, as the Imperial Navy was very hard on lying while on duty There was so much pressure against it that it was hard to lie off duty Elder noticed that very few people ever bluffed while playing poker. He had a hard time at first but he could do it now, thus his winnings went up considerably.
The second tie the BALKANS launched from space dock while Elder was aboard was a duplicate of the first. Moreover, Elder now had the extra duty of watching over his three enlisted. The BALKANS had a complete complement now so Elder worked for a Master Midshipman recently promoted from Senior Midshipman. Elder stayed on his old console and controlled his old sections again Master Midshipman Slavicsek ran a tighter ship than Midshipman, now King, Mitchell did The Third Shift as it was properly called, no one under Master Midshipman Slavicsek called it Graves around him, worked fine even though there were many new people. Master Midshipman Slavicsek was working himself to an early grave watching over everything that happened under him; but, later, once he had everything as he liked it, he slacked off and let the officers do what they had to do.
Elder learned, by unofficial means, where the BALKANS was scheduled to go; by means of one amendment to the original orders (it had been explained to him by a Sergeant in the Ship’s Printing Office that “Sir, it’s always this way so that anyone outside the Navy who gets a set of orders never knows if they are the right ones or not”).Since there would probably not be any new kings aboard, there would probably be no diversions from the scheduled patrol. Elder was going to miss the birth of his first child, a daughter, but could not complain too much. Most members in the Imperial Navy or Marines missed such events regularly. It was a standard joke in the Navy that half the trips a Class N Courier made were to deliver presents to children from absent parents