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?”
Mickie looked at Williams before chuckling for a second. “That girl is such a whirlwind! I’m not sure how she could still be behind on credits.”
Williams took a bit of her salad. “Not everyone is as efficient as you are.”
“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t,”
“Hush! You are good at what you do and that’s all there is to it.” Williams shook her head. “I don’t know why you have such a determination not to go anywhere in Fleet. Your skills are more than enough to get ahead.”
“I just don’t like the idea of fighting,”
“I’m afraid I’ll get people killed.” Mickie set her fork down and then looked at her half empty plate. “I might be good at command…but what if me judgment is wrong? People die.”
“That can happen whether you command or not,”
Mickie picked her fork back up and started to woof down the remaining food. Theresa had a point but damned if she was going to tell the other girl that. Top do so would admit that military life had its advantages and she refused to give it that kind of support.
But that wasn’t what was really bothering you, a little voice whispered in her head, now is it? It’s the fact that no one’s heard anything from command in an extended period of time and you think there’s something wrong. What was it that dad used to say? If something doesn’t feel right then it’s probably not.
The tabletop lit up for a second, the flash bright enough to catch the attention of the people sitting around them, and then it started to flash. A holographic message, stating that it was for Williams, appeared in the air. She looked at it, and then at her friend, before raising an eyebrow.
Williams pushed a button. “Cadet Williams,”
“Cadet, you are needed in CIC,”
“Lieutenant Andrews,” Williams said. “Do I have time to finish my meal?”
“Negative. You’re to report at once,”
Williams looked at Mickie as the connection was cut and then went to stand. Something wasn’t right. Why would an officer need a cadet to report when she was off duty and the ship wasn’t on alert? While it made sense on one hand, because of the extremely small number of regular officers aboard, it didn’t on others.
“I’ll see you later,” Williams walked across the room, dropped off her tray, and then left.
Mickie watched her go and then pinched her bottom lip between two fingers. I think you’re right dad. Something definitely isn’t right.
Mickie settled back onto the bed and let out a long, slow sigh of relief. While it was nowhere near as nice as what she had in her bedroom at home, it was far better than what they had during basic. Those things were barely one step above sleeping on a solid sheet of concrete!
With Leise on duty, things were quiet and that suited Mickie just fine. There’d be time to sit back and read a book, watch a holovid movie, or perhaps just sleep. Between the eight hours on the bridge and then the reaming from the Captain, it’d been an exhausting day.
The sound of a loud claxon sounded and she snapped awake, all sleep instantly gone. Battle alert? Why would they be at battle alert this deep in Republic territory? Was this a drill?
She leapt to her feet and raced through the process of getting dressed. Things were in pure chaos as she entered the corridor beyond and started to head for the main bridge before stopping. That’s right! Leise was there, which mean she needed to go to the auxiliary command center.
Cadets raced to and fro as they tried to reach their battlestations. Despite all their training, the officers had only drilled them on this three times during the three month cruise. Why, Mickie wondered as she fought her way through the throngs of confused people, they did so few beat the hell out of her, but it looked like it might come back to bite them in the ass.
The auxiliary command center was in chaos when she entered. Cadets yelled back and forth, their panicked voices making it nearly impossible for anyone to know what they were saying. Mickie listened to it for a split second before making a face.
“Be quiet!” She snapped.
Chaos disappeared as everyone recognized she’d taken command of the center. Several of the cadets looked at her in confusion-expecting Leise-before settling into the routine of operating their stations and awaiting orders.
She walked over and sat down in the command chair and then sighed in resignation before running a finger down the armrest. The Center Chair. It was what every command track cadet sought to achieve and she was sitting in it for the first time. In a way it was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
The main viewscreen came to life and the face of Captain Patton appeared. He looked at the room and then at Mickie before his appearance hardened.
“Cadet Brandon,” he said, “this is no drill! You are to stay in constant communications with CIC and gunnery control. If anything happens to the bridge, you’re in command-understand?”
A frog started to climb up Mickie’s throat and she swallowed hard to make sure it stayed at home. “Yes, sir,”
Patton’s face disappeared and was replaced by the image of a ship as stats ran down the side of the screen. It’s length was five thousand meters, making it twice the size of the Barton, and its cream colored hull contrasted against the blackness of space. The ship’s bow was square and blocky, violating every idea she ever had for a starship, and several massive laser emplacements were around it. Each one held two weapons and they started to turn as she looked on.
The vessel’s main hull was split into three segments. The large square shaped first section had two twin beam emplacements on the top and keel. Two of the weapons face to starboard, with the other facing port. A smaller corridor connected that section with the command area.
“CIC reports power buildup on the ship!” Cadet Mason Long shouted from the tactical station.
She thumbed on the intercom. “Gunnery control, this is Brandon, what is our status.”
“Unknown vessel is currently three million miles away and closing.”
She gritted her teeth. “So it’s outside our weapon range.”
Long snapped his head around to look at her. “The ship is firing!”
Mickie felt her jaw drop. “What??”
Yellow-white beams twisted as if alive as they reached across space. For a horrible second, she sat there, her mind numb, and watched them approach. I can’t believe it! Someone’s firing on us!
They touched the Barton’s starboard flank and the ship convulsed around her, throwing Mickie from the command chair. She slammed into the deck, and the world went black for a second as the sound of a massive explosion rattled the walls. Overhead the primary lighting flickered three times before settling down at half intensity.
Why are they shooting at us!
She crawled to her feet and used the sleeve of her tunic to wipe away the blood that flowed from the corner of her mouth. “Report!”
Cadet Lisa Nickelson looked at the damage control board. “Heavy damage to sectors five, nine, sixteen and eighteen.”
Mickie’s blood went cold. Eighteen was where the main bridge was. A horrible sickening feeling washed over her as she slammed a hand down on the button to open the com.
“Cadet Brandon to Captain Patton!”
“Auxiliary bridge calling main bridge! Come in please!”
Static answered her.
“Damage control parties to the bridge!” She snapped. “I need communications!”
Cadet Wilma Arrington, the senior damage control cadet, sounded desperate and on the edge of panic. “I don’t think…oh God…I can’t…”
“Can’t what?? Arrington! Get it together! Tell me what’s going on! Can you reach the bridge!”
“They’re…they’re gone! The Captain’s dead! They’re all dead!”
“The Captain’s dead??” Mickie stumbled backwards to land in the chair. “What about the rest of the officers?”
“It’s open to space, Mickie! They’re gone! Oh shit…”
Mickie swallowed hard as she noticed the cadets around her looking at her. The senior officers, and all of the command track cadets, were on the bridge. There was no one left onboard who had access to the command codes…except her.
She sucked in a deep breath. “Arrington! Don’t worry about the bridge! Make sure I don’t lose contact with CIC and gunnery control!”