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Last Day Aboard Ship - chapter 5
By
rolandlytle

Last Day Aboard Ship - chapter 5

Final preparations and an unexpected assignment. Is the old man crazy!

After my conversation with Ibanez and reviewing the computer defense programming , I considered the Captain’s conclusions while walking to my next destination.

I contacted the gunnery chief. A standard sized freighter like the BharatBenz carries very little armament and no armor or shielding. Our turrets are the equivalent to a laser pistol against a Bolo class AI tank; give us enough time with our target at close range and we might have a chance to put a hole in the target’s hull, a very small hole. The gunny was cognizant of the condition of the rear turret. He was endeavoring to juice up the topside turret’s guns. It would have more power, but undoubtedly burn out after only a few shots. As soon as he had completed gyvering the weapons system, he was headed to the aft turret to attempt to get it operational. I told him if I had time, I would assist him.

Arriving at the communications room, I entered the compartment and found the communications chief, CES (chief enlisted spacer) Gywen DeMarco (pronounced Gwin). The chief was the most curvaceous woman aboard and one of the least liked members of the crew as well.

Physically; she had blond hair just past her shoulders, was somewhat taller than normal, featured a cute face, and was quite shapely, like Weaver, that woman in the old motion picture series about aliens. Her nickname was Robo, as in Robo-bitch or Robo-master. She had a blank stare that was intimidating, to say the least. Her voice was perfect for communication, monotone but clear and easy to understand. Despite her cool demeanor, she typically wore outfits that were skintight and displayed a lot of cleavage.

She was officially the senior enlisted member aboard, but I wasn’t an actual officer. I wasn’t an ensign, though I was called ensign, I was a ship’s ensign. Essentially, I’m a chief filling an officer’s billet as a precursor to entering the Spacefarer Officer Academy on Io. I was still a member of the union and even the steward.

I actually like Gywen. Being the junior officer, so to speak, one of my numerous BS responsibilities was union liaison. It’s comical that I represent the officers and the enlisted concurrently, welcome to the navy. Because of my unique position, I spent a lot of time with the chief. Despite her persona, Gywen had a great personality, but her position in charge of our unruly enlisted personnel made it necessary for her to kickass quite often.

She said in her monotone serene voice, “Lo’ Ricky, it appears like you’ve been exceedingly busy today. Frakup your love life before breakfast, determine that we are being pursued by bandits, who want our lifeless frozen carcasses floating through interstellar space by lunchtime, and expend the remainder of the day finding errands for us to perform while we await our imminent demise. What’s playing for movie call tonight, Halloween III or home movies from your last trip to the dentist?”

I panned a blank face and said, “You can be a real robo-bitch, Gywen. I take it that you’ve been brought up to speed on the situation?”

She replied as she moved around the compartment, “Yes I have. We are in a real compacter, defiantly turd city. What are the chances that you are wrong on this Ricky?”

“If I did a statistical analysis on all the factors, I would figure about fifty-fifty, but I’m pretty sure we have it right. There was a whole turd load of experience that came to the same conclusion I did, without a second thought. The old man is playing it as a precaution, but I can tell that all of the old spacers are taking it serious. ” I replied.

The chief said, “I’ve got everything prepared here, so I won’t require any assistance.”

“Well then, I have one thing left to do and I know I’m not going to like it. The old man said he has a special job for me.” I said, as I used the growler to contact the Captain. “Sir, Thornton here. Aye sir. Crew’s cargo hold C-18, I’ll be right there sir.”

I gave Gywen a wave and double-timed it to the aft cargo area.

The C-18 crew’s cargo hold is one of four onboard. They’re only purpose is to give the crewmembers a storage facility for their belongings. There is enough space to allow the crew to store three to four rooms’ worth of furniture and personal items, but very few spacers accumulate many personal items. Usually special interest items, such as musical instruments or hobby materials, or even transport, like scooters, will be stored.

I have my guns, riding saddle, trumpet, cooking ware, and my art collection. My tastes are somewhat eclectic. I know that two personnel have four-wheelers. ABS Chad Loflin from engineering has a four-hundred liter fish tank. His pet boa, a red-tailed South American, I believe, had died about a year ago and he hasn’t had the opportunity to procure another. Chief Romero had half of one storage compartment full of top-of-the-line workout equipment that most of the ship used.

Three of the holds are for the crew and officers. The fourth hold is for the Captain. C-18 is the Captain’s storage area.

In the Captain’s cargo hold, I saw numerous large crates and pallets, all covered and unidentifiable. There was a large anti-grav pallet next to the exterior bulkhead. It was bolted to an extendable boom directly in front of an unauthorized vertically lifting hatchway. The Captain had obviously had some modifications preformed. Attached to the pallet was an instrument package and launcher with, what appeared to be, three hyper-speed rockets.

The old man was waiting for me with his eyepad extended and operating. She had been moving things about and setting up the equipment. Strictly speaking, a MSCS ship is under military jurisdiction during times of crisis, but essentially, it is civilian. Hyper-speed rockets are military armament and therefore proscribed.

The Captain saw my shock and said, “Don’t be surprised yet, there’s more.”

She opened a case, pulled out a sixty-centimeter mounting device, and attached it with magnetic bolts to the deck opposite the exterior hatchway. She pulled it up and it extended, creating a holding rack for something long and thick. Then out of the case, she pulled a bazooka.

She held it out in front of her and proceeded to explain, “This is a mark eighteen smart anti-ship missile. Even I’m not supposed to have one of these. Its possession carries a mandatory twenty-five year sentence, so you don’t see this. Shiny?

I stood there motionless with my mouth agape briefly and then she repeated, “Are we shiny, Mister Thornton?”

The Captain is even smarter than I thought. She drilled certain things into us so that thinking wasn’t necessary. It was reflex.

“As stainless steel, sir.” I replied

My automatic response cold-started my brain and I started thinking again.

She authoritatively said, “Snap out of it Mister Thornton. Don’t overthink. I don’t have time to explain everything to you. Out here in the deep black, sometimes you just have to do what you’re told. I wish you had some military experience. You would make a fine naval officer; if you weren’t so fraking big, maybe even a fighter ace.”

She continued as she placed the missile launcher on its rack and secured it, “Chief Romero was a jarhead. He’s checkout with this ordinance, but he’s going to need help. You’re it. He will be handling the shoulder-mount weapon and I want you to operate the hyper-speed rockets. If the bandits follow normal procedure, they will try to disable us with slow moving low explosive missiles, one for each pair of PNP slip projectors and one for the bridge. You are going to use these rockets to destroy their missiles while Romero disables the ship, and then we run like hell.”

She spent the next hour teaching me how to operate the instrument panel using an eyepad linkup. It seemed easy, but the hatch would be open and the boom extended, so I would have to be wearing an EVA (extravehicular activity) suit. After Captain Leopard was sure I understood the launcher’s controls, she gave me voice authentication to operate it. She expected to open the hatch herself from the bridge, but in case something happened, she instructed me on the procedures to open it manually and crank out the boom.

The Captain called the bridge and checked with the XO. All preparation were complete. The CO passed the word to set condition one throughout the ship and headed to the bridge. I asked Denton to send Rolo to me.

Rolo arrived just after Romero and I said, “Romero, head inside and get suited up. I’ll join you in a minute. Rolo, you’ve been through a lot today, I think we all have, but I need you to take care of something for me. I’m sending you to engineering. You make sure everything stays copacetic down there. Watch out for Carmen for me.”

He gave me an understanding look and said, “Gotcha boss. I make sure she be OK.”

Stevens trotted off to engineering. I moved a portable airlock and attached it to the passageway hatch, then secured it. I suited up in an EVA suit. Romero and I checked each other’s suit for proper donning. I guess we were ready.

Romero must have noticed my nervousness, because he said, “Don’t worry ensign, you’ll do fine.”

I ask, “Aren’t you going to bolster my bravery with some fictional Klingonese battle cry like ‘Today is a good day to die!’ then give an evil laugh or something?”

He shook his head and replied, “No sir, I’m not. The only Klingon I know of are on my hairy ass. In the deep black, there is only life and death, and death comes quick when it finds you. Please don’t fill your pants. That’s embarrassing when they collect the remains.”

Things are coming to their conclusion. Is it a bandit or just an inopportune electronic crinkle? Is the crew of the MSCS BaharatBenz ready for a showdown with an armed vessel? All of this and we will find out what that ghost image really was. So read our next episode. I must be honest, the pirate doesn’t actually show up in the next episode, but there will be an interesting development.

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