The next morning he requested an appointment with the Legal Office, specifically with Lieutenant Patton since he had some previous experience with her. His appointment was for the next afternoon, he reported the appointment to his supervisor. Work got him through the day without worrying too much and playing with Janice got him through the evening. Constance took care of the night for him. The next morning work was light, so he got approval for an extended lunch break so that he did not have to return to the office before going to the appointment with Lieutenant Patton.
He had to wait almost ten minutes before he was escorted to Lieutenant Patton. Once in her office, and his salute was returned as sloppily as before, he was instructed to sit.
“Midshipman, I presume that this appointment has something to do with Commodore Gorrell visiting you the other night. Am I correct?”
“Yes sir. But, how did you know?”
“Remember Midshipman how I mentioned that I enjoy politics and that I play Navy politics very well. Well, part of that is that I have my own intelligence network. At least three dozen private intelligence people watch Commodore Gorrell. He probably has a huge network of his own unofficial agents covering the base. Some of these agents work for more than one person. On every ship and base I have ever been on, once I was commissioned, I developed a network of people who told me things. Every officer has such networks, at least every senior officer does. You do not yet have the pull or resources to start such a network but if you intend to stay for a career, you should start forming one as soon as you can. Friends and contacts help your career. Knowing something about your superior officers helps you do what they want more effectively. Now, what did the Commodore want? I presume that is why you are here, he asked for something you aren’t sure about.”
Elder took a second to consider the ramifications of Lieutenant Patton’s comments. As huge as the Imperial Navy was, he could see where a private intelligence network could be required in order to keep up with what was going on. Was she soliciting him for her network? He would presume not since he was in no position to provide anything of value except classified material and he would not provide that. He would ignore the implied recruitment and continue with the issue that he came about.
“Lieutenant, the Commodore came to my home to get to know me better since he plans on entering a commercial arrangement with my father once the Commodore retires from the Navy.”
“So, it is your father who’s going to be providing Krasgian mushrooms to the base. Now you are worried that this might affect your career. Do not worry about it, as long as you do not get into too much trouble. With the Commodore retiring the year after next the Navy won’t take any action against him unless he does something so bad that they have no choice and then they’ll use the connection with your father as a back-breaker.”
“Back-breaker? What’s that sir?”
“Midshipman, it’s lawyer slang for a type of minor offense that gets ignored until something must be done, then the Navy piles all of the minor charges on top of any major charge so that the defendant agrees to the Navy terms. The phrase comes from ‘piling it on until the back breaks’ which is a term from ancient times I believe. Something to do with some beast of burden before mechanization. I forget which beast it was, my interest isn’t in such since I’m interested in the politics of Ancient Earth.”
“But me, sir? Would the Navy use this to force me out while I’m on probation?”
Lieutenant Patton’s eyebrows went up and she seemed to consider that possibility for a moment. “No Midshipman, they won’t do that. I will let you in on a secret. Over 99% of all those on probation pass that period and commissioned. The threat of summary cashiering is real, but it is almost never used. The Navy needs too many officers. Why do you think that the Navy graduates between two and five classes every month and each class is between one hundred and one hundred twenty-five cadets strong? The huge weeding out is in the entrance examination and the early years of the Academy. The Navy needs close to seventy thousand career officers every year in order to keep up with the demand and probably a lot more. The Academy may have to start graduating even more classes each month in order to keep up with the demand. You do not need to worry about this unless you screw up worse than the Navy can stand. Then, yes, this becomes a back-breaker for you as well.”
“So, where does that leave me Lieutenant?”
“Your Captain might investigate, especially if the Commodore tries to take action – either for you or against you – but otherwise let it slide. A lot of retiring senior officers make some sort of commercial arrangements to start a second career and these arrangements often involve other members of the Navy or their families. I suggest you just let it go for now. You might want to document your experience with the Commodore just to protect yourself if trouble happens; it’s a good idea to do that normally to ensure you have protection if ever needed and Navy officers are great at writing their memoirs once they retire.”
“Lieutenant, should I tell the Captain about this?”
“Midshipman, he probably already knows, but it probably would be a good idea. You can do it one of two ways. I can send an official letter to Captain Mizutani or you can inform him however you wish.”
Elder thought on the idea. He was racking up some bad points due to the incidents he had been involved with, ho2wever involuntarily, but those were probably not enough to sink his career – and he knew now that he wanted a career in the Imperial Navy. The point came down to how official he wanted the information to be. The official letter seemed to protect him the most. “Lieutenant, how long would it take for your letter to reach the Captain?”
“It’s a form letter and I can send it out in less than fifteen minutes Midshipman. The delay would be how long it takes to reach Captain Mizutani. If you walk back to the Operations Complex, it will probably reach him before you get there.”
“Please do that Lieutenant.” Knowing t was a form letter was the deciding factor. Elder believed that if it was worth creating a form letter for, then something like this happened often enough so that he had best follow the normal procedure. Not doing so might raise questions that could haunt him.