Mission Of Honor – Snippet 20

January, 1922, Post Diaspora

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this . . . .”
— Admiral Patricia Givens, RMN
CO, Office of Naval Intelligence

Chapter Five

Captain (JG) Ginger Lewis was not filled with confidence as she headed down the passageway aboard HMSS Weyland towards Rear Admiral Tina Yeager’s office. It wasn’t because she felt any worry over her ability to discharge her new duties. It wasn’t even because she’d started her career as enlisted, without so much as dreaming she might attain her present rank. For that matter, it wasn’t even because she’d just been assigned to the Royal Manticoran Navy’s primary R&D facility when all her actual experience had been acquired in various engineering departments aboard deployed starships.

No, it was because she hadn’t seen a single happy face since she’d arrived aboard Weyland half an hour before. Most people, she suspected, would have felt at least a qualm or two at being the new kid, just reporting in, when something had so obviously hit the rotary air impeller.

I wonder if it’s just over here in R&D or if Aubrey and Paulo are about to get the same treatment? she wondered. Then she snorted. Well, even if they are, Paulo has Aubrey to take care of him.

The thought made her smile as she remembered Aubrey Wanderman’s first deployment. Which, by the strangest turn of events, had also been her first deployment. She’d been quite a few years older than him, but they’d completed their naval training school assignments together, and she’d sort of taken him under her wing. He’d needed it, too. It was hard to remember now how young he’d been or that it had all happened almost fourteen T-years years ago. Sometimes it seemed like only yesterday, and sometimes it seemed like something that had happened a thousand years ago, to someone else entirely. But she remembered how shiny and new he’d been, how disappointed he’d been at being assigned to “only” a “merchant cruiser” . . . until, at least, he’d discovered that the captain of the merchant cruiser in question was then-Captain Honor Harrington.

Her smile faded just a bit as she remembered the clique of bullies and would-be deserters who’d made Aubrey’s life a living hell, at least until Captain Harrington had found out about it. And the way she’d found out about it had been when their attempt to murder a certain acting petty officer by the name of Ginger Lewis had failed and Aubrey, who’d fallen under the influence of Chief Petty Officer Horace Harkness and HMS Wayfarer’s Marine detachment, had beaten their ringleader half to death with his bare hands. She was still a bit surprised she’d survived the sabotaged software of her EVA propulsion pack, and she knew she hadn’t emerged from the experience unscarred. Even now, all these years later, she hated going EVA — which, unfortunately, came the way of the engineering department even more than anyone else.

Still, there was a world — a universe — of difference between that once-bullied young man and Senior Chief Petty Officer Aubrey Wanderman.

And, she thought a bit enviously, neither he nor Paulo is going to have to report in to someone with the towering seniority of a flag officer. Lucky bastards.

Her woolgathering had carried her successfully down the passage to Rear Admiral Yaeger’s door. Now, however, she bade a regretful farewell to its distraction and stepped through the open door.

The yeoman seated behind the desk in the outer office looked up at her, then rose respectfully.

“Yes, Ma’am?”

“Captain Lewis,” Ginger replied. “I’m reporting aboard, Chief.”

“Yes, Ma’am. That would be Delta Department, wouldn’t it, Ma’am?”

“Yes, it would.” Ginger eyed him speculatively. Any flag officer’s yeoman worth her salt was going to keep up with the details of her admiral’s appointments and concerns. Keeping track of the comings and goings of officers who hadn’t even known themselves the day before that they were about to be assigned to Weyland was a bit more impressive than usual, however.

“I thought so, Ma’am.” The yeoman’s expression didn’t actually change by a single millimeter, yet somehow he managed to radiate a sense of over-tried patience — or perhaps a better word would have been exasperation. Fortunately, none of it seemed to be directed towards Ginger.

“I’m afraid the Admiral’s unavailable at the moment, Ma’am,” the yeoman continued. “And so is Lieutenant Weaver, her flag lieutenant. It’s, ah, an unscheduled meeting with the station commander.”

Ginger managed to keep her eyes from widening. An “unscheduled meeting” with Weyland’s CO, was it? No wonder she’d sensed a certain tension in the air.

“I see . . . Chief Timmons,” she said after a moment, reading the yeoman’s nameplate. “Would it happen we have any idea when Admiral Yeager might be free?”

“Frankly, Ma’am, I’m afraid it might be quite some time.” Timmons’ expression remained admirably grave. “That’s why I wanted to confirm that you were the officer Delta’s been expecting.”

“And since I am?”

“Well, Ma’am, I thought in that case you might go down to Delta and report in to Captain Jefferson. He’s Delta Division’s CO. I thought perhaps he might be able to start getting you squared away, and then you could report to the Admiral when she’s free again.”

“Do you know, Chief, I think that sounds like a perfectly wonderful idea,” Ginger agreed.

* * *

“Well, that was an interesting cluster fuck, wasn’t it?”

Vice Admiral Claudio Faraday, the commanding officer of HMSS Weyland, was known for a certain pithiness. He also had a well-developed sense of humor, although, Tina Yeager noted, there was no trace of it in his voice at the moment.

“Would it happen,” Faraday continued, “that tucked away somewhere in your subordinate officers’ files, between their voluminous correspondence, their instruction manuals, their schedules, their research notes, their ham sandwiches, and their entertainment chips, they actually possess a copy of this station’s emergency evacuation plan?”

He looked back and forth between Yaeger and Rear Admiral Warren Trammell, her counterpart on the fabrication and industrial end of Weyland’s operations. Trammell didn’t look much happier than Yaeger felt, but neither was foolish enough to answer his question, and Faraday smiled thinly.

“I only ask, you understand,” he continued almost affably, “because our recent exercise would seem to indicate that either that they don’t have a copy of the plan, or else none of them can read. And I hate to think Her Majesty’s Navy is entrusting its most important and secure research programs to a bunch of illiterates.”

Yaeger stirred in her chair, and Faraday’s eyes swooped to her.

“Sir,” she said, “first, let me say I have no excuse for my department’s performance. Second, I’m fully aware my people performed much more poorly than Admiral Trammell’s.”

“Oh, don’t take all the credit, Admiral,” Faraday said with another smile. “Your people may have performed more poorly than Admiral Trammell’s, but given the underwhelming level of Admiral Trammell’s people’s performance, I very much doubt that anyone could have performed ‘much more poorly’ than they did.”

“Sir,” Captain Marcus Howell said diffidently, and all three of the flag officers looked in his direction. Aside from Yaeger’s and Trammell’s flag lieutenants — whose massively junior status insulated them from the direct brunt of Admiral Faraday’s monumental unhappiness — he was the junior officer in the compartment. He was also, however, Faraday’s chief of staff.

“Yes, Marcus? You have something you’d care to add?”

“Well, Sir, I only wanted to observe that this was the first emergency evacuation simulation Weyland’s conducted in the last two T-years. Under the circumstances, it’s probably not really all that surprising people were a little . . . rusty.”