The seventh part to my space opera.
UNSC CAPTAINS LOG – SARAH KEYS CH.7
United Naval Space Corps
Making my way back to the bridge, I take a seat at my desk in the captains office, and start combing through the first reports that are pouring in from the ships first service slip space jump. After about five minuets I am interrupted by a sharp knocking at the door.
“Come in!” I look up from my desk to see my father standing in the doorway with an armload of binders.
“Captain Keys! I have the paperwork you requested! Collected and sorted, all of the minor departments inter jump reports!”
“Mr. Keys, you are aware that mess time is at least thirty minuets for active duty officers? Yet here you are in twenty five minuets with the documents I requested. Either I have been selecting the wrong people for my crew, or you didn’t take the full allowed meal time now did you?” The look of guilt on his face tells me the truth.
“Thank you Mr. Keys, but just remember that next time, you don’t need to skip meals in order to bring me reports like these.”
“Captain, I still ate. I put in the request for the documents to be prepared before eating. Then I picked them up and sorted them on my way here.” I look up at my father, standing just inside the door.
“Good job. Come have a seat, I’ll show you what needs to be done next. And while we are doing this, you can take a more relaxed tone and call me Sarah. But out on the bridge or in front of other officers please refer to me by title. Now do you want me to call you by your first name? Father? Or do you want me to call you papa?” I say with a chuckle.
“We are both adults here, you can call me by my first name.”
I take the paperwork from the desk in front of him and pull out several reports I need for myself. Setting the documents back in front of him I explain what needs to be done.
After a few minuets of explanation on how to input the required data into the computer, my father is inputting the info like a pro. After a few minuets of dead silence my father breaks the quiet to ask a few questions.
“Yeah? Something on your mind?”
“How long have you been doing this?” I pause for a moment after hearing his question.
“You mean how long have I been a captain? Or how long have I been enlisted?”
“How long have you been a captain? But also when did you enlist?”
“Well I enlisted just a few days after the last day of school my junior year. My grades where of good enough standings that I could skip my senior year and graduate early. After I enlisted and went through three months of regular recruit training and three months of officer training, I was assigned as a replacement officer for various ships that where short officers. After about nine months of that I was promoted to the rank of Captain. Ever since then I have been serving aboard various reserve fleet ships and escort cruisers that needed a captain and a crew. And since then I have been building my crew up, adding officers that work well with me.”
“So you mean ever since you told your mother and I that you where going to be at a study camp, you where actually in officers training?”
“Do you ever regret cutting your childhood short and enlisting?”
I look up from the weapons summery I was writing. “Never. I actually regret not enlisting sooner. After looking through the programs that the UNSC has for young members, I found out that I could have enlisted as early as thirteen. And I even found training classes for students as young as ten years old.”
Now it’s my fathers turn to be shocked. “What! You wanted to enlist even younger?”
“Yep. I’ve always been enthralled by the prospect of going into space. In Fact when I came home from school my last day of junior year I was going to ask you and mom for permission to go to a summer long space camp.”
“Well why didn’t you?”
“When I got home I found you and mom where too busy congratulating Anita to ask you anything, and the last summer that I asked you and mom, you both came up with excuses of why I couldn’t. And every excuse was because Anita had other things planned, none of which involved me. And several years prior when I started high school, I found out that Anita was switching our report cards with the help from one of her friends at school. So I knew that according to the report cards that mom and you had, I didn’t have nearly good enough grades.”
“You could have waited until we got done with congratulating Anita before asking us?”
Flipping through the reports on the holo council next to me, I select one about the ships main propulsion reactor.
“You see, by then it was already too late. I ran into John that night and soon after made my way to the recruiting station. By the time you, mom, and Anita got home, I was already enlisted under the peace corps. A day later, my application got passed on to the Naval Officers Academy. And by the beginning of the next week, I was at boot camp, passing every standardized fitness and marksmen test they had.”
“It was all that quick was it? And marksmen, where did you learn to shoot?”
“One of my study partners father was a cop, and he used to take us out shooting in the mountains. And yes, it was rather quick from start to finish. But I didn’t need to retrain any skills, as I was proficient enough in bootcamp to skip most of the fitness training. And as the range masters used to boast about me, I could shoot the wings off a fly at one hundred yards.”
“That good of a shot?”
“Let’s just say my longest confirmed kill was about a mile and a half long. And I made the shot with a Designated Marksman Rifle, and not a Sniper rifle.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Our DMR’s are more like tricked out hunting rifles. While our sniper rifles are extremely accurate anti material rifles. Basically, the shot would have been much more believable with the bigger sniper rifle.”
“So you have already had to kill people… How could you sleep at night knowing that?”
I look up from my screens and look at my father.
“You know that is the most asked question a combat veteran gets asked? I’m not even retired, and I still get asked that question quite often. But here’s the short answer. I sleep really; really good knowing who I have killed.” A look of shock spreads across his face.
“But how can you sleep so well knowing you took their life, their future away? What if they had a wife and kids? A family who loved them?”
“I don’t play around with the normal political games that sometimes get pushed our way. When I kill someone, it’s usually for a good reason. And almost ninety percent of the time it’s because they are trying to kill me. Remember, they aren’t the only ones who have a family and a future.”
“Well that makes sense, if they are trying to kill you, but to be able to sleep soundly right after taking their life just doesn’t seem right?”
“I pull my trigger knowing that if I don’t, someone who is innocent is going to be killed because I let them live. I will gladly take someone else’s sins if they are innocent.” I pause and think for a moment. “You know, when I got into the UNSC, as soon as I was granted enough clearance, I looked up Cousin Jakes UNSC journal. Inside was an impressive array of accomplishments, medals, and acts of heroism. Digging through his massive array of files, I found a video journal entry that he recorded post mission after capturing a Russian terrorist.”
“Russian terrorist? I didn’t know we had a war on terrorism going on in Russia. Haven’t we been peaceful with them for a long time?”
“Our home country, yes. But the UNSC is on neutral grounds with everybody. Whoever wants to pay the retainer, can pretty much get us to fight their wars as long as we deem their cause is just. But Jake went on a mission paid for by the Russian government to flush out a terrorist that was giving them problems. The man they were sent to capture was killed when they breached the room, but they found a little bit of a bonus prize while they were there.” I stop to sort the documents in my hands to continue my data entry. By now my father has gotten back to his task.
“What did they find? Money? Valuables?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll tell you! In the room they found the leader of the terrorist organization, who was a brute of a man trying to rape a young local Russian girl. After knocking the terrorist’s leader unconscious, Jake and his small team extracted not only their main target, but also the girl he was about to rape and kill, along with about twenty other women who were locked up in the basement of the building.”
“It was that night they got back, that Jake sat down on his bed with the girl he saved sleeping behind him and recorded the most powerful message the UNSC has ever passed around to our troops about how to sleep at night knowing you took someone else’s life. He claimed that you don’t have to agree with taking life’s, you just have to agree that it is worth bearing the sins to save people like the girl behind him from horrible, horrible monsters.”
My father stopped working and just sat there in silence. The only sound in the room is of the tapping of my fingers on the glass touch desk. After a few minutes of him sitting there in silence he finds his voice.
“Are there more videos from Jake besides the two that I know about?”
I look up at him and quickly run a search. “Yah, there are a lot more. From what I can tell there are at least one video journal entries a week for his entire service career. Not to mention the countless mission videos that have been declassified finally adding to the archive. And if you include all the papers he wrote during his service, there must be about four terabytes of data in the archives directly from him, not to mention about thirty or forty terabytes from his team mates of him fighting and their recollection of him.”
“I’ll send you the link to the archive. I was thinking about sending mom the link also. I know she was hurt badly about Jakes death. And having her see the impact of what he achieved might make her feel batter.”
I look at my father, sitting still in his chair, hands resting on the desk. “Do you need any time to yourself Robbert? If you need time to process all of this I can show you to your quarters?”
“No thank you… I’ll keep going here.” He picks up the ream of papers and slowly starts sorting through the reports, finding the data to enter into the terminal.
We spend the next half an hour together in silence, the only sounds in the room are the sounds of papers shuffling and virtual keyboards clicking, with the deep rumble of the ships main thrusters powering away at nearly full speed. Several times the ship dropped in and out of slip-space, testing the drives capabilities as the crew got a feel for what the ship could put out.
Finally, I push my chair out from the desk, stretch, and yawn for the stars after completing the near mountainous pile of reports that kept pouring in.
“How are you coming along with your paperwork?”
My father looks up from his terminal and checks his stack of reports. “Just a few more to go. How about you?”
“I’m done. I finished the main systems report, collated all the auxiliary systems parameters data, completed and submitted a mission course summary plan, and plotted an approximate navigation plan for the navigation team to refine. Also finished setting up the systems repair prediction models. Now I just need to do a brief inspection of the main systems to verify my predictions actions are correct.”
“All of that in such short amount of time?”
“That’s just about normal. Usually I also do what you’re doing right now at the same time, but since we were talking I was going a bit slower.”
“I’m sorry for slowing you down, I’m done with all mine finally. Would you like my assistance with anything else?”
I look over at my father and grin. “You want a tour of the power systems? Or I could show you to your quarters, so you can settle in, it’s going to be a long week.”
“As you just said, it’s going to be a long week, so if you don’t mind I would love to accompany you Captain.”
“You’re a fast learner Mr. Keys. Your destined to go far if you keep that up. Let’s head down there.”
Together Robbert and I make our way through the maze of passageways down towards the lower decks of the back of the ship.
“Mr. Keys, I’ll give you instructions on what test relays you need to pull, and I’ll check the results on the power relays. Just grab the red handle, tell me what position it is in, move it to the position I request, confirm, then move it back upon request. Got it?”
After a brief nod we both go about testing the power relays. The entire process of checking all one hundred and fifty main power relays, including the fifty spares takes several hours and by the task is done, we are both famished.
“What do you say? Wash up then break for the mess hall? Good thinking about the coveralls, keeps me from ruining another deck uniform.”
“That sounds good. But where are the showers?”
“You have a shower in your quarters. Most of the high level officers have their own showers, however during water rationing the officers personal showers are turned off and they are required to shower with regular personnel on my ship. It keeps the officers close to the boots on the ground to shower with them.”
“And where may I find my quarters Captain?”
“I’ll escort you there. It’s compartment two, bravo, thirty six.”
“No need. I’ll find my way there. You can go on to your cabin and shower. Meet in the mess hall?”
I grin at my father. “Your mistaken Mr. Keys, I don’t normally shower in my quarters. To show my crew that I am a dedicated person just like them, I line up for the showers with the grunts. Nothing’s better for bonding then spending a little time together in the shower! For now, you should shower in your quarters at least until he crew get used to you.”
“And Mr. Keys? Congratulations, I hear by promote you to the civilian peace corps rank of Cadet! You have passed your orientation training!” I throw a sharp crisp salute to my father.
It’s been a day and a half since we left Terran space, and we are already at Jericho. The normally two day trip had taken a half a day less despite our slow progress testing out the ships propulsion systems.
“Captain! Sixty seconds till we drop out of slip-space!” The navigation crew keeps me updated of our status.
I hit the intercom button on my console. “This is your captain speaking, all hands to battle stations! Prepare for slip-space breach!” I always turn every slip-space exit into an all hands-on deck battle drill despite the regulations stating you only need a skeleton crew to exit. Releasing the intercom button and turn to my bridge crew.
“Prepare all systems for combat, deploy Kline field, and bring us out of slip space on the marker!”
““Yes mam!!”” the crew responds with energy.
The normally black view screens show a dot of white light in front of the ship that gradually grows bigger.
“Cadet Keys! If you’re not yet used to slip space transitions, make sure you grab your bucket!” By now the dot of white light has grown into a large fuzzy ring.
“Yes mam!” Surprisingly my father responds with enthusiasm as he grabs his bucket from under his seat.
“Captain! Transition in… Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Mark!” on the navigator’s mark, everyone’s vision distorts as the ship passes through the fuzzy ring, revealing the planet of Jericho in the distance.
“Radars clear! Only friendlies in sight!”
“Weapons are clear! No hostiles in sight!”
“Navigation, plot course for the Jericho Manufacturing Ship Yards, use spec code Alpha Four Three for clearance.” I look behind me at my father to check how he is doing.
“Surprisingly Cadet, you’re still standing and are not wearing that bucket on your head like a mask. Do you think you are ready for some responsibilities on the-?”
“CONTACT!! Hostile friendly contact bearing four three zero by six four five! Six inbound plasma torpedoes at speed whisky point two five!” Lieutenant Barthel shouts from her station on the bridge as she intensely tracks the torpedoes on the temporary monitor I had installed for her.
“Transferring manual flight controls to the helm!” Navigation shouts as the officer transfers the ships control over to my helm.
Taking up the control sticks built into the Captain’s chair, I maneuver the ship to face towards the firing ship.
“Captain, it’s the light Corvette Hamilton!”
“Hail them on comm’s!”