Aboard the TCN Regalia, Destroyer
Outer Asteroid Belt, Docking III System
The Regalia was a part of history. She was old by naval standards, but she had more than proven her worth since her launch. Since her current captain took command, she had spent twenty two years roaming the Corridor, fought in one war, and endured countless technological upgrades. Maybe the Regalia was a fading part of past glories. Merchant ships could be aged over a century, but the representations of the Republic's military might tended to be replaced within two decades. It was her captain who kept her in service, an old design even when she was constructed. She would be the captain's until she sailed no more.
* * * * *
One of the many things that Lyssa Moranthal had discovered since coming aboard the Regalia was that it was not only easier to get work done when she was off-duty, but that certain parts of the ship lent themselves to improved productivity. The computer workstations near the engine room were one of these regions. Lyssa often found herself there whenever she had to review the requisitions of the department heads.
It didn't hurt that no one could hear her curse at the bureaucratic nightmare that was trying to effectively manage a naval vessel the size of the Regalia. More modern ships were dwarfed in size by those of the Regalia's era. Many of the crew couldn't comprehend the vastness of the aged destroyer, having served on cruisers one quarter her size. The crew was likewise much larger.
She turned to see a lean – and pale – figure standing at attention. Instead of the standard blue utilities worn by most of the crew, he was clad in charcoal gray ones. Internal Security, the equivalent to marines when naval vessels sailed on terrestrial oceans and not celestial seas. The only accountability IS suffered were to the Captain and First Officer. Lyssa was the latter.
"Yes, Ensign?" She didn't even stand. She barely gave him the semblance of attention.
"You weren't linked into the ComSys."
"No. I'm not on-shift. I don't particularly enjoy subjecting myself to needless pestering on my private time." Lyssa paused. "Will that be all, Ensign?"
"No, Commander. The Captain sent me to locate you." His face didn't have even a hint of arrogance, but it always gave junior officers a thrill of some sort to be able to order about their superiors.
Lyssa terminated the screen view of her work and stood to face him. She was of average height for an adult female and the ensign was a full head taller than her. It forced her to look up to make eye contact, giving the advantage to him.
"Did the Captain give a reason for dispatching you to find me?" she asked in a measured tone. It was possible that there was a real need for the Captain to be in contact with her. If such were the case, she would be remiss not to behave in a professional manner. Then again, the Captain might have just been curious as to her whereabouts.
"Commander, the Captain requests your presence on today's ship-wide inspection."
The significance of this inspection was that it was the first to be conducted with the fresh rotation of crew. As was standard, it would be reported to the territorial governor, a matter of protocol as old as the Tiberian Republic. Lyssa had not given much thought to the inspection, completely forgetting that it was planned for that day. She deftly keyed the workstation keypad and called up the daily schedule. It was set to be conducted in just under two hours, when Lyssa should have been getting ready to sleep.
"Very well, then. Will that be all, Ensign?"
"Then you will be accompanying him, Commander?"
Lyssa smiled, but the ensign remained at a stiff and stoic attention. It had never occurred to her that this ensign was part of the new rotation. But she didn't recognize him, and he was too by-the-book with the personable executive officer of the Regalia.
"When did you come aboard, Ensign?"
Lyssa furrowed her brow. The Regalia was deep in the asteroid belt and not scheduled to meet any ships. That was something she would have known about and it was difficult for her to fathom not being alerted to an unscheduled docking. The ensign picked up on this.
"Security ship." It was a term used for shuttles used to carry intelligence personnel. The term was used after the fact, and for the most part they did keep those arrivals secret. From the crew, not the command level officers. The Captain sent him as a means of informing her in an indirect manner.
"You have a name, Ensign?" Lyssa sat back down and keyed up the departmental requisitions again. She still wore a warm and open smile.
"Marr, Donovan." He paused and shifted his weight from foot to foot. "If you are looking for...my dossier, Commander, it is...red tabbed."
She still wasn't facing the screen, but she keyed up the personnel files. Red Tabs were special assignments appointed or approved by fleet command. It was more than unusual for an ensign to accord such an honor.
"Take a seat, Ensign Marr." When he didn't she added, "At ease." It took a second before he to a seat at the adjacent station. "This is my ship, Ensign. Mine and the Captain's, of course. I like to get a feel for those who serve on my ship. Do you mind answering a few questions?"
He cocked his head in thought, then shook it to indicate she should proceed.
"Relax, Marr. I'm not going to ask you about your childhood or embarrassing nicknames. From what planet do you hail?"
"Tiberia," he said tersely.
"The Big Grey Ball, eh? I've never been there, but they say it's just another techno-blitzed world. I can assume you graduated from the Academy, then."
"This year's class, yes."
Fresh out of the Academy, rushed up to the Corridor and given fleet command's stamp of approval before he was put aboard the Regalia. That was more believable with him coming from the capital of the Republic, but he would have to be the son of a war hero or something similar to rate that treatment.
"I graduated out of D'Kares, over a decade ago. Had to put in time on three stations and four ships before I came to the Regalia," Lyssa offered.
"Permission to speak freely?"
Of course, Ensign. After all, this is an informal chat. "Granted."
"That is a lot of traveling in such a short period of time for an officer, Commander."
"That it is, Mister Marr. I wanted to get to a ship that did more than run oxygen from planet to station, though, so I had quite a ladder to climb." She studied Marr's face, only to discover his eyes gazing at her chest. Maybe he did know how to be at ease. "She something you like?"
"Excuse me, Commander. I am sorry," he stammered.
"No apology necessary. We are two adults having a...well, I guess it is a conversation of sorts. I am quite aware that I have an attractive body. Had you been doing that while at attention, however..."
Marr protested. "No, Commander. You should put me on report for such behavior. You're the executive officer–"
"Marr, shut up. I don't care if you find me attractive or if you want to stare at my breasts, so long as it's an urge that takes place when you're off-shift and you understand that nothing is ever going to happen between us." She leaned closer, which made him noticeably more uneasy. "I am probably the sexiest woman on this crew, so I'd be a little put off it you didn't notice. So long as you recognize the fact that I am a senior officer, I don't see the harm."
He sat silently, pleading for forgiveness with his eyes.
"A little different than how they prepared you at the Academy, eh?"
Marr gave a nervous nod.
"I'll link in and tell the Captain that you found me and your message was received. You should have plenty of time on your walk back to understand that I'm not upset."
The ensign stood and half turned away. "Commander, for the record. I mean, off the record," he began. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I never thought I would see your like aboard a ship in the Reaches. I didn't mean to make you feel uneasy."
"Marr. Ensign, I'm not going to give it another thought, and I don't want you to either." Lyssa turned her attention back to her work station. "And if you are even thinking of reporting it on your own, just remember you would be countermanding a direct order."
Ensign Donovan Marr marched away, his steps filling the silence left by the death of the conversation. It was only a few seconds before it became indistinguishable from Lyssa's tapping on the keypad. She had never had occasion to think of how difficult a posting like the Regalia could be for a young man. At least she started off on a station.
She shook off that line of thought and linked in. Her combadge whirred and the familiar green light glowed to life. She tapped in the three digit code for direct contact with the Captain. All officers had a three digit code. Enlisted personnel were more difficult to reach directly, but they were the enlisted. Somewhere there would be an officer one could reach to give them orders. The enlisted had their own seven digit codes, mostly to facilitate communications within their own ranks.
The badge beeped twice and then she heard the deep, weathered voice. "Captain Hathaway."
"Commander Moranthal, Captain. I received your emissary and will report before it is time for the inspection. I was just reviewing the needs of the departments."
"I trust you treated Ensign Marr with the respect due an officer," he said in a gruff rumble.
"I didn't treat him like a schoolboy, but he is fresh out of the Academy. Why do we have him aboard?"
"He is here at my request, Commander. Is that going to be a problem?"
Lyssa didn't answer right away, thinking the Captain would have cut off any immediate answer. "There isn't going to be any problem on my behalf, no, sir. In all honesty, Captain, the ensign does seem a little jittery. I would just like to be in the know as to his assignment on the Regalia, sir."
"Very well, sir. Commander Moranthal out." She turned off her combadge which would eliminate having to deal with anyone else prior to the inspection. She tried to remain calm but every time the Captain decided to keep secrets from her she grew angry and tense. She would find out eventually, but still, she did think of it as her ship. If it stayed in service, she expected to be offered the command when the Captain retired. Then there were times when Captain Hathaway acted as though she were just part of the ship, piece of machinery that functioned no matter how little attention he gave it.
There was still some time before the inspection. A comprehensive one took nearly five hours, so Lyssa decided to stop at the Officers' Mess first. It wasn't just to eat, though that was something she neglected from time to time. She was hoping to encounter someone who may have information on Marr's assignment.
* * * * *
"Your father used to sit there, so many time. It's good to have you aboard, Donny."
Donovan Marr sat uncomfortably in one of the plush chairs in the Captain's office. It was lavishly decorated, and that included some of the more garish types of artwork that originated from Corridor. It was definitely different from the conservative styles of Tiberia. Marr couldn't imagine his father comfortable in this room.
Captain Hathaway didn't make it any easier. He was a large man, balding and beginning to accumulate the weight normally associated with a retired naval officer. More annoying, he was simultaneously ingratiating and intimidating. He certainly had little concept of personal space. As he paced away from the seated Marr, the Captain seemed slightly relieved.
And that is all there is with this one. I think that it fails on several levels, but I would still like to do something with these characters some day. At least I'd like to give Lyssa a better representation than I tried to when I was in my early twenties.