The eleventh part of my space opera.
UNSC CAPTAINS LOG – SARAH KEYS CH.11
United Naval Space Corps
I ponder my father’s question for a moment. “You could say that they are fighting to protect themselves, however couldn’t you say that that is what everyone is doing on the battlefield? On our way to war we have our ideals that we both want to push, however once the lead starts flying, we are all just fighting for survival.”
“So why all the violence?”
Laying back on my bed, I stare at the ceiling and answer. “If we don’t fight, then they will win. The Insurrectionists want to overturn the United Naval Space Corps Governance and create local planetary governments with no larger organization overlooking them.”
“Well isn’t that a good thing?”
“You know every planet already has a locally elected and ran government? The Innie’s don’t understand that what they want is already in place. They believe that we control their local governments.”
“Well what does the UNSC do with the local government’s?”
“The UNSC only works with the local government to keep trade and commerce going. Also, to arrange for protection. We can’t manage their every move, we just don’t have the resources to do that. And some branches of the Insurrectionists believe in a ‘big brother’ UNSC. They believe that we are watching and tracking their every move. They spend all their time harassing us trying to prove it until they become a tracked target. Annoying as it is, we just must keep suppressing their advances. Try to keep one step ahead.”
“And where do you fall in all of this?”
“Right on the fucking front lines. I’m the person that must gather all the intel and suppress and stop large attacks. Just three weeks ago there was an attempted bombing of a populated city center using a Shiva class suitcase nuke. It took six squads to suppress the opposition. The loss of life was pretty astounding, despite there was no detonation.”
My father just sits in the chair speechless. Most likely thinking back to right before our family vacation, when I returned home from a quote unquote ‘study’ camp.
“You know everyone in the UNSC wonders what it would be like to just stay home, start a family, and live the happy life away from all of the fighting and excitement.”
“… Then why don’t you come home? Why keep fighting?”
“Because it’s just a wonder. Right here, aboard this ship, this is my home. This is where I belong. I mean yes, I didn’t grow up here, however its where I will grow old. Maybe someday when I retire I will slow down, accept a desk job, and raise a family, but to be out in the field? The feeling of concussive wave hitting you and the smell of gun powder is what I live for… for now.”
“There’s no chance of you returning home?”
I sit up, leaning on my elbows and look at my father. “What, go back to listening to my sister whine and cry about something? No way in hell.”
“Your mothers not going to be very happy to hear that.”
“That’s the reason I am not returning home. I have finally found my calling in life, and everyone else just wants to tear it apart.” I drop myself back onto my bed with a sigh. “I know it’s hard on you and mom, however this is something that I have been longing to do since I was little. Ever since Aunt May told me that my dream was not suitable for a girl to have, I have been keeping it quiet. I was finally offered a chance, so I took it.”
“Your dream since you were a little girl?”
“Yep. I have always wanted to become a space captain. And now I am the captain of a fast attack battleship. One of the most armed and armored ships designed to quickly beat its way through the front lines, right where the action is. Auntie May decided that being a ship’s captain was decidedly a ‘boys’ job’ and that it wasn’t fit for a girl, therefore I should quit thinking about it.”
“And you listened to her?”
“Like I had any choice? It wasn’t just her, after that time, mom started joining in, and at one point you started telling me to dream in something that was actually believable.”
My father ponders what I said. “Well I guess I did say that.”
“I don’t hate you guys for it, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for everyone trying to crush my dreams. I knew that to get where I want I was going to have to work and study hard. So, I tried extra hard in school to get good grades. And of course, with me trying so hard it set my sister off on me, causing her to try and disrupt my plans. She just couldn’t stand the thought of me being better than her.”
“Where did all of this venom come from between you and your sister? I remember when you two where still just babies, you seemed like you were inseparable at the hip.”
“I don’t exactly know. I think it was sometime around middle school though when things really started to get bad. Then by the time high school rolled around we really started at each other’s throats. With our differences in education levels, it just spiraled out of control.”
“Differences in education?”
“I got sick and tired of my instructors expecting me to be at the bottom of the class. So, once I proved that I was intelligent, the faculty at the high school started to put pressure on Anita to do better. The comparison got switched around.”
“Ah. Then once the instructors started pressuring her to be more like you, she gave up. That explains why she got held back.”
“I’m glad you have started seeing the light of the situation.”
My mobile terminal beeps annoyingly, interrupting our peaceful chat. Checking the screen, I groan at what’s displayed. Using my thumbs, I scroll through the message and gather as much information as I can.
“What’s the matter Sarah?”
“Fleet-com just sent us new dispatch orders. It looks like they want a speedy refit and are pushing us out to the front lines. They are skipping the normal shakedown procedures and letting us test in the field.” I reply flatly.
“So, what does that mean for me?”
“Fleet-com is requesting that all civilian contractors remain on board… apparently there won’t be any ships heading Earth bound for a while. This new deployment is going to stretch to two months. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Your mother is going to be pissed.”
“I know. I’m going to be missing quite a few counseling sessions.”
“Hah, I don’t think you need to be going to counseling any more. Rather, I wonder if I can save some money and send your sister instead?”
“You do that, and I will reimburse you for your expenses.” I joke to my father.
“Don’t worry. You don’t have to pay me anything.”
Both of us sit in silence. After a while my father gets up.
“Well. I should probably grab a few hours of sleep.”
“You going to be OK?” I ask sincerely.
“I think so. I’ll definitely watch those videos of Jakes.”
“You’re bound to find something in them that will help you.”
With our good nights said, my father leaves my quarters, the door slipping closed silently behind him. After shutting off the lights, sleep quickly consumes me.
–Several Days Later
“Captain, we are being hailed by the Hercules shipyards. Transferring to helm.”
I nod to the young radio operator. “Thank you.”
“Port Hercules control, this is Captain Sarah Keys on the UNSC Invictus. Requesting inbound transit to Ceribus Global shipyard Alpha Zero Two. Control code Alpha, one, three, three. Copy?”
“Copy that Captain Keys, Permission granted to C. G. Alpha Zero Two. Please maintain port speed after buoy two six. Do you need tug or piolet assistance? Over.”
“Negative Port control. We can back it in just fine ourselves. Captain Key’s out.” I disconnect the radio line with port control.
“Captain, Navigation path has been uploaded to our computers.”
“Thank you. Lieutenant, please take us in.”
The ships engines cause the ship to shudder as the throttles are brought up to push the Invictus through normal space.
“Attention all crew. Prepare for docking procedures. All auxiliary crews, please begin preparations for weapons refit.” I make the announcement to the crew.
Carefully I guide the ship through the wreckage of what is left of the port, using small inputs to the retro thrusters to keep the ships bulk on course. Nearing the dockyard, we can finally see the docking arms extending out of the dry dock, ready to draw the ship into the opening in the station.
“Engineering prepare to shut down main thrusters and prepare docking procedures.”
“Ready to bring her in captain!”
Carefully I nudge the Invictus between the docking clamps, taking care to line up the docking points on the ship with the clamps. With a shudder, the docking clamps engage, and start drawing the Invictus into the hangar opening.
Flipping through the controls, I disable the artificial gravity in preparation for the stations gravity control to take over.
“All right crew, all hands are on deck. Please work according to your shift schedule, if you are not working, then you should be getting as much bunk time as possible. No one is authorized for shore leave.”
I watch the cameras as the dry docks doors are sealed, the gravity is turned back on, and the surrounding area is flooded with breathable oxygen.
“Mr. Keys, Lieutenant Raes, you’re with me. I suppose we need to meet with the station master to transfer our supplies.” My father and Lieutenant Raes both gather up with me and we make our way towards the midships airlock.
“Never get to see this very often.” Raes comments after we stepped through the final air lock.
“We almost never bring the ships into atmosphere that’s why.”
“Why is the ship’s skin so thick?” My father asks.
“Our side armor is approximately seventy-two inches thick in the middle belt. It’s one of the thinnest parts of the ship.” I respond, quoting the manufactures claims on battle plate thickness, knowing that the actual thickness was slightly thinner caused by cost savings.
“That seems a bit excessive in thickness?”
“We rely on titanium battle plate for strength. It’s much easier to replace than composite armor.” Raes responds for me.
“Let’s go get this office work over with. I’m ready for some bunk time.” I declare as I push through the doors leading to the receiving offices.
The next six hours turned into a hellish nightmare of briefings, conferences, and paperwork. Each time I would turn around, there would be another beurocrat pushing more paperwork and meetings onto me. If it wasn’t for Mia and my father handling all the paperwork for me I would have drowned in the blood from my papercuts.
“God, I hate the politics involved with the position!” I vent over a glass of Jericho Sake. “If I have to sign my name one more time I very well might go postal!”
“The politics only get worse as you get promoted.” Mia reminds me.
“Well then I’m thinking about seriously turning down admiralty if they ever offer it to me.”
“Admiralty?” My father questions.
“Senior fleet admiral is the highest position you can get without joining the ONI.” Mia informs.
“Office of Naval Intelligence. We call them spooks, but that’s a conversation for later. I’m just hoping that don’t happen. I’m perfectly happy where I am right now.”
“You’re not interested in getting promotions?”
“No. Otherwise I would be the first Admiral to be captaining a ship. The Admiral position is mainly a desk job.”
“Oh. And you have always wanted to captain a ship.”
“Ten out of ten.”
I wave over a waiter, ordering another round of sake. We continue our dinner, swapping stories from our multitude of missions across the galaxy, while enjoying the classic Jericho fair.
Winding dinner down with desert, I pay the bill and guide my father and Mia out.
“Well, the ship is going to be in dry dock for the next two days. I will authorize you both for a little bit of shore leave while we get the weapons fitted to the hardpoints. As for the rest of the crew, they all have jobs to do during the fitting.”
“Getting Cinderella dressed for the ball?” My father jokes.
“You could say that, just her dress isn’t going to disappear at midnight.”
“What is there to do on Jericho?” My father asks after a moment’s hesitation.
“For the tourists, you could always visit Armede striped beach. It has the finest sands we have found in the galaxy. Plus, the stripes are interesting to learn about. Jericho is also known for their cruiser tours of the polar ice caps, which I highly suggest. I recommend going for the training package as well, they will teach you how to fly a cruiser shuttle.”
“How can polar ice caps be interesting?”
“Trust me, don’t knock it until you have tried it. And if the ice isn’t interesting, the flight training will be. Then again, if you’re looking for something manlier and wilder, I suggest you go ask the marines. They could probably suggest a titty bar that would put all of earths titty bars to shame, but that’s the marines. Sometimes I think that’s all they think about.”
“What is the local currency?”
“Jericho uses credits. Part of the intergalactic currency system.” Mia supplies.
“Don’t worry about getting currency. Ill supply you with enough for the two days. If you need more, just feel free to ask and I can wire them to you.”
I hand my father a rectangular card about the thickness of two or three credit cards. “This is a storage card for credits. Don’t lose it, as the credits are stored locally on the card itself and not in a bank.”
“Exchange rate has stabilized at about one credit for one and a quarter cent back on Earth.” Mia explains the exchange rate and continues with the market values of known commodities as we make our way back to the ship.
“Will these credits come out of my pay at the end of the tour?”
“No. They are a part of your allowance. We set aside a specific amount of funds for shore leave. The amount you are given depends on your pay code, but that money is on the UNSC, not out of your paycheck.” I explain the shore leave benefits package. “If you manage to blow through your shore leave package like some of the marines do, then it comes out of your pay.”
“Well how much is my allowance?”
“Mr. Keys, that’s the last thing you should worry about. I extremely doubt that you will be able to blow through that much money. Unless you try to buy an exotic car. Now get out there and have some fun! And try not to get arrested!” I leave my father with those parting words as we split up to go to our separate destinations. His most likely his state room, and mine the bridge.
Entering the bridge, I sit down at my station and start running reports. As each of the armor panels are pulled off to access the energy transfer conduits, their status changes on my screen. Cross checking with the scope of work with the panels removed, I track what work is being done.
Noticing a few anomalies in the panels removed, I double check the surveillance footage to verify the process. Confirming that the work being done is proper, I shut down my terminal and make for bed.
“Mia! Bed time! If I don’t remind you your gonna stay up all night again doing my job!” I ensure Mia closes out her terminal and gets ready for bed before I climb in and immediately fall asleep.