PATROL SECTOR 4
UPSF DREADNOUGHT, RESOURCE
With the preparations well underway for the Operational lock-down, the rangy frame of Marine Commander Major Andrew Martin now occupies the third of the Command chairs on the Bridge shelf. Next to him, with arms resting lightly on her own console, the Captain’s face is impassive as it always is, as all three Command staff listen intently to the steady relay of tactical data called out from the Pit below.
Helm, Navigation, Tactical, Weapons and Engineering working in symphonic harmony.
The lighting dims all across the tight confines of the Bridge allowing eyes to adjust, as screens aglow reflect on tense faces.
A deep, calm voice booms out into semi-gloom, cutting through the background hum.
“Tactical confirm, drop-ship Charlie ready for a ‘Go’, green across the board.”
The three Bridge officers know this already, as the same information is being relayed simultaneously to their own boards. But the tradition of verbal and physical verification is maintained, and for good reason. The spectre of the Mars Massacre still haunts those old enough to remember, let alone those, like Captain Halley, who’d been on the forefront of Fleet’s response in putting down the Martian Revolt of 2150. What seemed like a lifetime ago, but in actual fact was only twenty years earlier.
Marine Commander Martin shifted in his seat, sensing both Barrett and Halley’s every movement and twitch. He knew Halley was reluctant, as the Captain always was at the moment control of an off-ship Op shifted seats to Marine Command, though the Captain would never show it in any way, shape or form. The professional veneer was maintained at all times. Never once in all the time Martin had been Marine Commander aboard the Resource has he seen that mask slip. Not once has he seen beyond the Captain ‘face’ to the woman Martin knows must live beneath. In ten years, no social chitchat, no drinks at the bar in the Officer’s Mess. The Captain was all business, and had a reputation second only to one other more infamous Captain, Fleet Captain Helena Blackthorn, who captained the Dreadnought, Revenge.
It was with a certain amount of gall that Martin had swallowed his pride and accepted this posting and position on the Resource, having asked for the premier ship of the line when told he could have his choice. Except, the position he wanted aboard the infamous Revenge was already taken by Blackthorn’s equally legendary contemporary. Marine Commander, Colonel Daniel Hicks.
The faint flicker of a smile ghosted across the Captain’s lips, as Halley turned to him and acknowledged verbally as well as electronically that he now had operational command.
“Major,” Halley deferred to the Marine Commander’s rank, “You have command and a ‘Go’ for deployment.”
Martin felt the subtle thrill he always did and, with a brief nod to his Captain, took command of the Marine Op.
Charlie Unit was on a Search and Rescue mission.
Fourteen hours earlier, the Resource had picked up frantic com-chatter over an open comm., which in and of it self was highly unusual. Tracing the chatter the Resource had pinpointed the signals back to their source. This cluster of artificial asteroids lurking in dangerous territory. Straddling that boarder between what was wise and what was too close to suicidal, to be healthy. The asteroid cluster sat in that zone and on the fringes of Jupiter’s unpredictable tidal currents. The radiation hazard alone, enough to deter the most hardy from ever considering such close proximity. No one wanted his or her genes fried into the next generation and beyond.
There was only one reason anyone would be out there. To hide what it was they were up to. And only the Rim Runners, modern-day pirates, would set up one of their illegal operations in such a location. And what ever this one was, they hadn’t wanted it discovered. That much was obvious.
It wasn’t, however, Jupiter’s notorious currents that were the cause of the asteroids frantic open-mike calls for help, to anyone and everyone within hailing distance, but an as-yet unnamed disaster.
Moment at hand, Halley cantered herself, focusing in on her boards as she waited for word from Helm that they had achieved what amounted to stationary parity with the asteroid cluster. She felt the subtle shift in Martin’s posture, one reflected to her left as Barrett likewise, head bent, ran nimble fingers along his touch keypad. She heard the familiar deep-throated sub-vocal rumble as the man responded to something spoken for his ears alone.
Helm lit up her board just as the voice called out across the Pit.
“Helm. Parity achieved.”
“Very good, Mister Lopez, maintain position.”
“Aye, aye, maintain position.”
With those words from the Captain, Martin’s fingers automatically signalled Hiraku in Marine Ops, the Pilot of the awaiting drop-ship and in the Pit, the Tactical position. Verbally, his voice rang out, a clear baritone.
“Confirm, we are a green for ‘Go’, repeat, we are a green for ‘Go’.”
The single response, audible across the bridge, from the Pilot of the Charlie drop-ship on open-mike.
“Roger that, confirm, we’re a green for ‘Go’.”
Martin shifted uneasy in his seat, he hated this bit, the bit where he had to let go, let others do their jobs. He hated the damn waiting, wishing he was still a Troop Commander, anything to be there, with his Marines in the semi, claustrophobic-gloom in the back of a drop-ship. Taking the action head-on.
A confrontation out in the Asteroid belt had put paid to that. Several surgeries later, and one reconstructed leg and arm later, he was a desk-jockey picking his way carefully through the political mine-field of fast-track advancement up the ranks, quickly making Major while breaking a few noses and toes along the way.
At least here, on the Resource, he didn’t need to continually look over his back to check for knives sticking out from between his exposed shoulder blades. You didn’t put Elizabeth Halley’s nose out of joint by messing with one of her crew. Not while that particular Captain was married to the C in C of Fleet Operations, one Admiral Jerry Cairns. Not unless you were willing to pay the price, as few were.