The Sacred Stars Snippet Three

Here’s the third snippet for The Sacred Stars.  You can find the first one here and the second here.  The Sacred Stars will be published September 9th, 2016.

 

“Well,” Captain Daniel Beeson said, “what do you think of the new officers?”

His Executive Officer sighed a bit as he sat back in his chair.  “Lieutenant Busch seems pretty solid.  I haven’t had much of a chance to take the measure of any of our new ensigns yet… though I can’t believe we got stuck with Giovanni.”

“What do you mean by that?” Daniel asked.  He’d served under Lucius Giovanni as his flag captain and in several other positions.  He’d actually been excited to see the Emperor’s little sister was going to join their crew, particularly after seeing her graduation scores from Faraday’s Military Academy.

“I’m certain we’ll have some officers who should know better sucking up to her and heaven help us if she’s the type to throw her civilian rank around,” Commander Bowder said.

Daniel gave his XO a look, “Have you seen any sign of that so far?”

“Well… no,” Commander Bowder responded.  “But that’s not to say it hasn’t happened.  I find it more than a little suspicious that she’s got the scores she does without at least some favoritism.  I mean, most officers can’t help but think of her political connections and adjust their behavior.”

Daniel considered his XO for a long moment.  The officer was one of the Dreyfus Fleet personnel, one who had survived Admiral Dreyfus’s attempted coup and who had been cleared of any involvement.

While Admiral Dreyfus and his cabal of officers had organized a coup, the vast majority of the Dreyfus Fleet personnel had been in the dark about the conspiracy.  The mutinous elements had thrown the entire fleet into disarray and left all too many good people dead.  The survivors had fallen into one of three types in Daniel’s experience.  A small majority had simply never recovered from the betrayal.  Most of them had left behind everything they knew in order to be a last defense for humanity.  Admiral Dreyfus’s betrayal had left them so bitter or disillusioned that many had simply left service.

Then there were a small percentage who had emerged with a new outlook.  They’d seen the cost of when ambition and selfishness became the motivation of leaders.  Many of them were some of the most dedicated and most enthusiastic people in uniform that Daniel had served with.   Lieutenant Michele Konetsky and others like her had truly come into their own during the Dreyfus Coup and the time afterward.

The last type were like Bowder.  They had come out of the Dreyfus Coup still with a desire to serve and protect humanity… but they’d had their idealism shaken to its core.  It had left Richard Bowder with cynicism as his defining characteristic.  Daniel Beeson had read Commander Bowder’s personnel file.  Commander Bowder’s captain had been a member of the cabal, but when he’d ordered his crew to fire on loyalist ships, they’d mutinied.  A quarter of Richard Bowder’s fellow officers and crew had sided with their captain in a fight that had left a third of the crew dead.  Commander Bowder had emerged as the senior surviving officer and he’d managed to lock down his ship and then use it to fire in support of other loyalist ships.

In many ways, Daniel understood the other man’s cynicism having lost so much himself.

Daniel Beeson had joined Lucius Giovanni’s crew as something of a lark, to thumb his nose at his father, the commander of Faraday Colony’s Military Defense Forces.  Yet when the Chxor had captured the planet, it meant Daniel was aboard the War Shrike and not on Faraday.  That was literally the reason that of his three brothers, two sisters, mother, father, assorted cousins, uncles and aunts who were all either in the military or closely affiliated, he was the only surviving member of his family.

Daniel had lost everything, but he had not given into despair.  The Baron had been such a symbol of optimism and hope.  Lucius Giovanni had never given up, never even faltered on his mission to liberate first Faraday, then Nova Roma and other worlds along the way.

In the face of that, both working as an officer under him and now as a commander entrusted by Lucius to lead, Daniel simply couldn’t contemplate giving in to cynicism or doubt.  And while he could understand that Commander Bowder had, somewhat, it was certainly something that he was determined to prevent from undermining the morale of the rest of the crew.

Daniel chose his words carefully, keeping Commander Bowder’s past in mind, “I don’t think that the Emperor would tolerate that kind of behavior, Commander.  For that matter, I don’t think that General Proscia would tolerate any favoritism at the Academy.”

His XO grunted noncommittally.  “Well, I certainly won’t treat her any differently and I’ll hammer anyone else who does, for that matter.”

“That’s what I’d expect of you,” Daniel said.   “Now, what do you think about initial personnel assignments?”

“Lieutenant Commander Voronkov already put claim to Ensign Medica,” Commander Bowder said.  The Nova Roma ensign had branch specified for engineering.  While they’d probably rotate him through some of the other departments for broadening, he was on the fast-track for engineering.  Daniel wouldn’t be surprised if the young man eventually transferred to Research and Development.

“Ensign Shan I’d recommend for assisting Lieutenant Cassat at sensors.  She’s a little weak on her sensor scores, but there’s no better way to improve than working at it every day,” Commander Bowder said.  “Lieutenant Busch is already slotted for communications.  I’d say we put Ensign Giovanni there.”

“Comms?”

“She’s from high social status and it’s an area where we can monitor her actual skills before moving her on,” Commander Bowder said.  He shrugged, “If she can’t pull her weight, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later.”

“Seems like something of a waste given her skills,” Daniel said cautiously.  She had the highest rating of all their ensigns for weapons, telemetry, and already had her civilian certifications for navigation.  Still, he was willing to entertain the trial run if it meant his XO felt better about her proficiency.  “What about tactical department?”

“I think Ensign Yamahito,” Commander Bowder said.  “Lieutenant Commander Douglas has Lieutenant Perkins for fire control and Lieutenant Duchan on missile telemetry.   Yamahito has an acceptable rating for his telemetry, but I’d like to give him some real-world experience to go along with that.”

“Okay,” Daniel nodded.  “I can go with that.”  They had a nice long cruise ahead of them to rotate their new officers around with plenty of time to break them all in, so he wasn’t too concerned about finding just the right fit for everyone.  Breaking them in, finding their strengths and weaknesses was the key part… and it wasn’t something that would happen right away.

“Has Lieutenant Thomas signed aboard yet?” Daniel asked.  The Marine Lieutenant would fill out their officer component.  Thomas had requested a late report date, his mother had suffered a fatal accident just two days earlier.

“Not yet,” Commander Bowder said.  “Possibly sometime in the next few days.”

Daniel nodded.  In truth, he wouldn’t be surprised if the Marine didn’t show before they departed.  Daniel had lost his entire family during the Chxor occupation of Faraday, so he understood taking time for family.  The last thing he wanted was for one of his officers to have something like that hanging over his head during the entire cruise.

“Okay,” Daniel said.  “We’ll go with what you’ve suggested, for now.  The latest on our deployment date is still seventy-two hours.  Make certain Lieutenant Monteif has everything squared away as far as extra supplies and spares for the voyage.”  Their quartermaster had been tasked with stocking them up for the long journey to the Hachiman Gu system.  Since it would take them almost three months to get there, plus an indeterminate time there, and another three months on the return voyage, they would be gone at least seven months.

In a newly commissioned, first-of-her-line, ship integrating a number of new technologies, he thought wryly, and we still have civilian engineers aboard.  It would certainly be an interesting cruise.

***

 

Chapter II

 

UCS Constellation, Faraday System

United Colonies

June 22, 2407

 

“Alannis,” Ensign Scott Yamahito called out, “come commiserate with your fellow ensigns.”

Alanis shook her head as she saw him.  He and Ensign Ashtar Shan sat at a table in the officer’s wardroom.  She nodded at Ashtar and then Scott.  “Scott, I thought you were supposed to go to the Champion.”

“I was,” he replied, “I traded with Andrew Terrapin when I heard the Constellation was headed for Shogunate space.”

“Oh?” Alannis asked.

“Yeah, I have some cousins who live back there still, I might be able to meet them, depending on how long we’re there,” Scott said.  “Plus I’d kind of like to see where I come from, you know?”

She remembered then that Scott’s parents had been refugees from the Dai Yamato system, what was now part of the Shogunate.  As far as she knew, Scott hadn’t shown any preference to return, until now.  Beside him, Ashtar Shan rolled her eyes.

Sounds like he’s got another of his wild hares to chase, Alannis thought.  This wouldn’t be the first time that Scott had become incredibly excited about something odd.  In his time at the Faraday Military Academy he’d developed a number of odd hobbies ranging from Close Quarter Combat Competition to detailed historical military vehicle models to a variety of games.

Scott seemed to get interested, build up a serious skill level or proficiency, and then lose interest and move on. It didn’t exactly surprise her that he would have changed assignments just to look into one such interest.

“Well, it’s good to have you here,” Alannis said.  “How are you two settling in?”  She’d already talked with Ashtar since the two of them shared quarters.  The female officer from the Tehran System had been on an accelerated course of instruction at the Faraday Military Academy and they’d actually become good friends and Alannis had come to appreciate the woman’s abilities.

“They put me in the tactical department,” Scott said with his goofy grin.  “I’m in missile telemetry, working with the Interceptor Mark Nineteens and I’m secondary lead with the new Moljnir Mark Ones and the Arrow Mark Twelves.”

“Oh,” Alannis said and forced herself to smile, “that’s great.”

“Where did you end up?” Scott asked.

“She’s assigned to communications,” Ashtar said before Alannis could reply.

“Oh…” Scott’s face fell.  “Geez, wow… uh, why’d they do that?  I mean, I’m a technical type, but I thought you were on a fast-track for tactical.”

“It’s an assignment,” Alannis shrugged.  “It’s not my business and I’m sure they’ll move us around a bit.”  She tried to keep the disappointment she felt out of her voice.  She knew she wasn’t entirely successful from how Scott shook his head.

“That’s just crazy,” Scott said.  “I can’t believe they did that.  What kind of idiot would send you to communications…”

“Ensigns,” a calm voice interrupted.

All three of them looked up to see that Lieutenant Busch stood over their table.  Alannis’s face went pale as she recognized the head of the communication department.  “The Captain and the XO made the assignment determinations.   If you have any constructive criticism, I’m sure they would both like to hear your opinions and draw from the depths of your experience.”

Alannis winced.  This was hardly the way to look good for her new boss.

“Sorry, ma’am,” Scott said.

The Lieutenant ignored him and looked at Alannis.  “Ensign Giovanni, there’s a lot of message traffic to sort through since we’re heading out.  I just finished approvals for the next update packet.  You need to get down to the department and verify those approvals.”

Alannis winced.  She had just finished an eight hour shift already.  Every ship in the Fleet updated their communications packets on the hour and they uploaded and downloaded that information by priority.  Orders came through with the highest priority, personal communications with the lowest.  When they left, the ansible would have only so much bandwidth, especially as they drew further away from Faraday.

While some of those priorities were easy enough, others were a bit more complicated.  Maintenance reports from different departments, systems malfunctions, ammunition and fuel reserves, and dozens of other updates would wait in the queue until there was time.  Prioritizing different data points over others would take both attention to detail and a great deal of time.

And most of what I’ll be doing is double-checking what Lieutenant Busch already did.  “Yes ma’am, I’ll get right on it.”  She looked down at her tray.  She hadn’t eaten anything yet, but she didn’t want to look bad by finishing it.  She stood and gave her friends nods and then hurried out.

She just hoped this wasn’t an omen or something.

***

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