Janice Kanter was mesmerized by the size of the warship as it blocked the view of the stars through the window of the runabout. She knew the ship was big, but to see the size of it now, even at this distance, was awe inspiring. The Navy had nicknamed these warships “flying bricks” because of their shape and size. The name was accurate; it appeared to be a giant grey brick floating in space.
As the runabout circled the warship awaiting clearance to land, the details became more apparent. The flight deck could be seen below the engines. The hull was speckled with cannon slots. How many guns did a ship in a peaceful navy need? The bridge dome was to the top front, large letters read “E.S.S. Australia.”
The approach to the flight deck reminded her of her hatred for space flight. She looked away from the window to the crewman sitting next to her. He turned away quickly. She wasn’t sure if he was checking her out or staring because of her uniform. It was probably the latter.
She was the only one wearing it on the runabout filled with Navy Crewmen. Her dark grey uniform, with its black accents, contrasted with the tan Navy uniforms. It was more than simple difference that caught their eye. It was what the uniform symbolized: Law Enforcement.
She smiled at the crewman when he turned to glance at her again. A stray hair contrasted with the Earth on her arm patch and she dusted it off. The image of the planet spread out like an atlas, was the only color on the dark uniform. Its blues and g reens highlighted by the black background of the circle patch. The word “Security” along the top and “Forces” on the bottom labeled her. The crewman turned away again.
“Do you ever get used to space flight?” Janice said to the man. “I hate it.”
“I don’t know. This is my first assignment.” He smiled only out of pleasantries. “They tell me you don’t even notice you’re moving on a ship that size.”
“I hope so.” Janice turned back to the window. She could see the rapidly growing size of the flight deck. The sheer size of the opening made her feel as if she was being swallowed by a beast. She sunk in her seat, realizing they were landing.
Being in space was bad enough. She really hoped she could get used to it. The reality was she just didn’t like this assignment. She had only gone to Protective Services training because it was made clear to her that she couldn’t promote without a specialty assignment. She planned for a six month assignment protecting some Governor. Not a military assignment and certainly not a space assignment. It would be at least a year before she could go back to patrol.
The shuttle surged forward as it hit the deck. She swallowed hard to hide her reaction. As soon as the light turned on she unhooked her restraints and made her way to the ramp in the middle of the shuttle. She was glad all her belongings were sent up ahead of her. She was halfway down the ramp before it contacted the deck.
Janice started making her way to the back of the flight deck, when someone yelled at her. She turned around quickly to see a man in the same uniform as her pointing her way.
“Hey, get over here.” His stern face made Janice pause. “Yes you. Where are you going? You’re holding up the rest of the people.”
“What?” Janice walked over.
“Everyone boarding the ship has to be checked in.” He made no effort to hide his annoyance. He pulled out a small device no bigger than the palm of his hand, a chip scanner.
“Even us?” Janice moved her hair from the back of her neck.
“This must be your first military assignment.” The man’s face softened and there was a bit less aggregation in his tone. He scanned the back of her neck and read over the screen. “Everyone is checked in and out, no matter what branch or how long their stay will be. Anyway, your orders check out. Corporal Carlson has asked you to meet him over there.”
Janice surveyed the area he gestured to. At the far side of the bay stood a man in a dress uniform, which really just included a tie. That was her new partner. A Corporal even, Janice wished she’d read the orders better.
As she approached him, he put out his hand. She shook it firmly. “You must be Corporal Carlson. You didn’t have to meet me here.”
“Mike is fine. And I just came back from a couple weeks shore leave.” He turned. “Follow me. It’s much quieter once we get off the flight deck.”
Carlson was a tall man, even with Janice’s height. Dark black hair was trimmed within regulations but was hardly the typical high and tight that most wore. He was thin, but just a hint of muscle could be seen on his arms. He wasn’t all that attractive, but he wasn’t ugly either.
As they stepped through the doorway, Carlson spoke. “There much better. Welcome to the Australia. She is a good ship and the captain is a good person to work for. Better than most captains to protect. Or so I have been told.”
“Youngest Commanding Officer in the fleet, too.” Janice moved up next to Carlson.
“Ah, so you did read some of the file then.” Carlson seemed to be judging Janice with his eyes, she was sure it was because she was new to this. She only nodded in response. “Good. She’s smart and deserves to be in command.”
The interior of ship’s walls were a nondescript blue, much like a cubical. Screens were near every major junction and the lighting was really good. Janice had worried that working in space would be dark and depressing, this was the opposite.
She noticed a lot of people moving around the ship, a lot more people than she thought she would see on a naval ship. The crew compliment must have been large. That information was probably listed in the orders she’d barely read.
“You didn’t have to get dressed up for me.” Janice broke the silence. When Carlson gave her a puzzled look, she flashed a quick smirk to show she was kidding.
Carlson turned and studied the floor in front of him. “I attended an officer’s funeral today. I arrived back on the ship in the runabout before yours.”
“Oh,” Janice studied Carlson’s reaction. “If I may ask, was it your old partner?”
“No,” Was that a trace of anger she saw in his eyes. Carlson changed the subject. “You were quite the star at the academy. Top marksman with the L-pistol, third with the rifle. Top in your class on academics and second best in physical fitness.”
Janice really wished she had read up on Carlson more, hell she wished she read anything about him. Why was he talking about her time at the academy anyway? That was years ago. “Yeah.”
“Yet, you barely passed Protective Services training. Fourth from the bottom.”
Janice didn’t like having that pointed out to her. She could have, and should have, done better. “And now you’re stuck with me.”
“I picked you.” Carlson looked her over again. “I asked for records, not names or descriptions.”
“And why do you want the fourth from the bottom?”
“There are two reasons most people join Protective Services. They either want to protect the Prime Minister,” Carlson stopped at a hallway. “Or they just want an easy specialty so they can return to patrol and promote.”
“You think you got me figured out then, is that it?” Janice spoke with a controlled tone. Who was this Corporal to analyze her records and make a judgment about her? And why did it bother her that he was right?
“I am not sure about that,” Carlson said. He activated a screen at the intersection. “This screen will show you a map of the ship. Your stuff should be in your quarters. Our first shift is tomorrow night, third watch. See you then.”
Janice watched him walk away. Space work, a smartass corporal for a partner, and graveyard work. This was going to be a long year.
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – PG13 to R (Language)