Mickie Brandon looked at the man sitting behind the desk and sighed. What did he want this time? Was there something else he wanted to either lord over her or insult her with this time?
How he ever became the captain of a starship, much less command the training ship Barton, beat the mud out of her. The Captain loved to let her know of every little mistake she made and then remind her of it a thousand times. Frankly she didn’t know if he was trying to make her a stronger cadet or cause her to cry. At this moment it looked like crying was the front runner.
A scar ran down his left cheek, which emphasized every facial gesture Captain Alric Patton made. His hair had turned gray long before Mickie ever saw him and, in her opinion, age had done nothing but make the man crankier. Of course, she could be wrong, but at this point who knew?
“Mickie you disappoint me,”
She looked at the wall the prescribed six inches above his head. “I’m sorry, sir,”
Patton rubbed the bridge of his thin nose. “I don’t get you. Command has eyes on sending you through the command program and you act like it’s the plague.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said, “but as you know, I’m serving my required two years. I don’t, at this time, wish to make Fleet my career.”
Patton closed his eyes and sighed. “You have no idea what you’re possible of,”
“You could be one of the best starship captain’s I’ve ever seen,” Patton said. “Yet you ignore your talents. Let me tell you one thing, Mickie: you’d make a piss poor civilian.”
Mickie looked at the floor for a second. What did he mean by that? Just because I’m good at something doesn’t mean I want to do it! For crying out loud just get to the damn point and let me go!
Patton opened his eyes again. “I’m not going to force you to be something you don’t wish to be, Mickie. However, if you ask me, you’re making a big mistake-one that could come back to haunt you.”
“I understand, sir,”
“Just think about it, Cadet.” He turned his chair around to look out the view port. “Dismissed,”
Mickie spun on a heel and crossed the room before entering the corridor beyond. Several engineering cadets walked past, each of them looking at her like she was a pariah for having been summoned to the Captain’s quarters, before they continued on their way. I can’t believe this. Thanks for nothing, Captain.
Maybe they were staring at her because she was the highest ranked command track cadet on the ship. Or perhaps they wanted to know why someone like her got reamed by the Old Man. She stood there and watched the group walk down the corridor and then around the corner.
I don’t care what everyone thinks. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I command one of these beasts.
She ran a hand through her long, brown hair and then sighed. Why did they even have a required two year stint in the Navy anyway? No one had attacked Barksdale in nearly a century, but the government refused to back down off the required conscription.
So here I am.
A quick glance at her watch caused her to smile slightly. At least one good thing came out of this little meeting. She didn’t have to return to the bridge and was now free to go to the cafeteria. With any luck her friends would be already there.
More cadets passed by as she walked down the corridor and Mickie found herself marveling at the situation. Out of the three hundred person crew, there were less than forty senior officers aboard. Ten were in engineering, another twelve manned the main bridge and the rest were in the Combat Information Center.
How we kids keep this bucket of bolts running amazes me.
The corridor creaked around her as she approached the cafeteria and she looked at the ceiling. While Barton was a battleship, it was not cutting edge technology anymore. Over Twenty years old, the ship had seen its better days and Command relegated it to a training vessel two years ago. Despite it all, though, the starship still packed an incredible wallop-even if her systems were older and slower than the latest and greatest.
She looked over her shoulder and smiled as Theresa Williams approached. Williams’ flame red hair bounced as she walked up and then stopped to look at Mickie. Theresa squinted her eyes and her nose flared slightly as her thin lips curled upwards.
“I see you survived your latest encounter with the Old Man,”
Mickie took her place in line. “Yeah, just another one of his reaming sessions,”
“He doesn’t let up,”
“Not in the least,” she sighed. “I don’t want to have a career in the military. What will it take for him to get that through his thick skull?”
“You do have the highest scores,” Williams said, “of course they’re going to want to hold onto you.”
“I do well because I despise doing less than my best.” She grabbed a tray and then waited for the cook to finish preparing a plate full of food. “But that doesn’t mean I want to do it.”
“So, what’s going on in the great world of communications today?”
Williams reached over and picked up her plate. “Nothing much. Things are quiet. We haven’t received a message from command in over two days.”
Mickie raised both eyebrows. “Isn’t that a bit weird?”
“Oh, not really. There was a period earlier during our cruise that we didn’t hear from them for two weeks.”
“Still strange that they haven’t updated our information, don’t you think?”
“The senior officers don’t seem worried,”
Mickie chewed on her lip. “It doesn’t feel right,”
Williams looked at her and then laughed. “You are such a worry wart! Nothing’s wrong! Just sit back and enjoy your time off.”
The two of them walked away from the line and then stopped to look for an open table. The bad thing about the Old Man’s gripe session was that it put her and Williams smack dab in the middle of the busiest time in the cafeteria, which made space a premium. Oh well, I can’t do anything about it so let’s just roll with it.
Williams nodded to the left. “Hey, the guys from weapons control are leaving.”
Mickie wormed her way through the crowd and then set her tray down on the table before getting something to drink. A minute later she sat down and looked at the food in front of her. If there was one thing, she mused, that sucked about being a cadet, the food would be it. The officers had their own mess hall, which, she’d heard, had better food than what she got daily.
Just another reason why I hate the military.
She started on the salad and then looked up as a tall, athletic built blonde girl approached. The Cadet’s black uniform with blue trim designated her as being in the command track. Mickie raised an eyebrow as her roommate Leise Venerable sat down.
“Hey Mickie,” Venable said. “I need a favor,”
“Sure. What is it?”
“I need to make up eight hours of main bridge time from where I was sick two weeks ago. If I don’t, then I won’t graduate and you know how that’ll go over with my folks.”
Mickie smiled. “You want my next shift instead of being in the auxiliary bridge?” She ate a bit more of the salad. “Have at it! Maybe a shift away from the Old Man will get him off my back.”
“I doubt that,” Venerable said. “I’m betting he’s less than thrilled when he finds out you and I switched but he’ll get over it.”
“It’s not like we’re in combat,” Williams said. “So switching shifts isn’t a big deal.”
“For you guys it’s not,” Mickie said. “But it seems everything is a big deal when I’m involved.”
Venerable chewed on her bottom lip. “Maybe I shouldn’t do it then.”
“No! You need to time! Take it. The Captain can just get over it.”
“Are you sure?”