Opsfleet Chapter Four

CHAPTER FOUR

Lieutenant Jane Finn received a the latest communication from the outreach of the core systems and read it over on a folded up piece of screen-paper while she had her dinner.

The fourth ship to go missing in a month…
Pirates to blame…

“Have you read this?” She asked the helm officer, Lieutenant David McAvoy.
“Worried we might get missing to eh?” David joked with her as he stabbed his silverware into his food. “We’re more likely to grow bored of what we eat than we are to go missing. Those are transport and cargo ships you’re reading about, not top of the line military ships.”

“Oh my god, David..” Jane sighed with exasperation and threw the paper at him. “We’re in space! Anything can happen! This is a real threat and we need to deal with it right now!” Jane leaned over the table while placing a boot on the chair opposite him and pointed in his face with an overwhelming sense of urgency. “I say we go up to the captain and demand that we change our course to go around this whole area. It’s the right thing to do.”

David spit coffee all over the table and in Jane’s general direction. Jane shut her eyes a little too late before she found herself peppered with caffeinated beverage in a form of a dark mist that floated past her head in a black cloud. As her eyes remained closed, all she could hear was his unstoppable cackle followed by sounds of choking and gasping.
“Hold on! I’m going to need more coffee for this!” David continued to cough what went down his lungs as he walked to the food resource dispenser and dispensed a fresh load of coffee. He put it in his mouth again and then sprayed it all over the place on purpose and laughed some more while refilling his coffee again.

Jane wiped herself down and looked at the helm officer as if he had gone insane. She ran off while David filled his lips full of coffee and walked toward her with his cheeks bulging. Other people in the cafeteria began to chuckle while some officers and crew members looked upon the bridge officer in the same way as Jane Finn.

David smiled only one one side of his face as he took a big sip of coffee and then looked at all the people in the cafeteria. The look he got from everyone had him laughing some more but this time he managed to swallow it down.

“Fuck, I love this crew…” He said to himself as he loaded up a new plate and left the old plate on the table for the staff to pick up. “Clean up on aisle one…” He said while he took his food with him and exited the room.

David took what looked to be a t-bone steak, tater tots, and green beans with him as he walked to the bridge. The communications console was still manned by the night shift officer. He leaned in and let him know that his replacement was going to be a little late because she had to take a shower; with no explanation given, he enjoyed his food while at his console.

“Sensors, where’s those ships?” David asked.

“Mid-Range has them on course for us. Seventeen minutes to contact.”

“Let’s hope they managed to sleep in those flight decks. Not that the commander needs it.” David laughed to himself while laying his bacon across the console for easy pickings.

“What the hell are you doing, Lieutenant?” Asked Shannon as she came aboard the bridge to do minor upgrades to a computer. David scratched his short black hair and shrugged. “My job…”

“Your job is to lay fake pig skin all over the consoles?” Shannon asked.
“It’s my daily nutrition, love…” David said while eyeing Shannon over. He blinked a moment as if realizing something; it was the same reaction he had to when he was in Flight School and discovered that if he left too much mess in the trash can, life is created in the depths of the garbage bag. Shannon saw that look and looked away from David at the same time David decided to look away from her.

“But anyway,” David said. “We can’t be having the ketchup touching the bacon…”

Jane Finn stepped onto the bridge all clean again. She exaggerated the tug on her fresh blue flight suit as she walked past him and took over at communications from the night shift officer.

“Nothing to report in our immediate area, sir. Have a good day.”

Jane nodded to the other officer and took the seat.

“David, you’re the most filthy person on this ship!” Jane said.

“And you’re the most pristine beauty I’ve ever spit my coffee upon.”
“I’m going to put in a complaint for sexual harassment.”

A sudden black cloud emanated from the front of David’s face again and the entire bridge staff, which consisted of not many people during the shift change, went silent to watch the laughing again. David picked the bacon off the console and it vanished into his mouth while he wiped the surface of the console down with a rag. His coffee balanced on his knee as he did so.

“Jane… You think too much of me.”

“You keep spraying me with that shit!”
“It’s you making me laugh, love… Not a Folger Money Shot.”

“You need to stop bringing food to the bridge!”
“I suppose this offends ya too?” David packed his cheeks with steak and potatoes while he eyed Jane. Shannon turned around and regarded the both of them with a raised brow.

“No but the way you sit does..”

At that point, David couldn’t respond because his mouth was full. He looked down at himself and realized that she was offended by his knees being more than twenty degrees apart. The only way he could possibly respond to her was to scratch his nuts before turning around to face his console.

Jane eyed the latest communications from each system in the core areas of the local group. A high-end cruise liner had been discovered empty and stripped from the inside out. She wanted to voice her opinion again but she also wanted to stay clean, too. She decided to stay quiet about it because whatever she saw, the captain saw, too. She knew that McArthur would be well aware of the recent happenings.

“I smell bacon and coffee,” McArthur said from the command chair while staring down at a data pad, reviewing the shift reports.

Jane, David, Shannon and a few others turned around surprised, not realizing when the captain came on the bridge. Come to think of it, they weren’t sure that he wasn’t there when they arrived as the bridge was kept very dark to maximize visibility out of the wrap-around clear canopy and the computers.

“Certainly no officer on my ship would eat their breakfast outside designated areas,” McArthur droned on. “And they certainly wouldn’t lay bacon on my consoles and spit coffee all over my bridge. That would be terrible conduct unbefitting an officer.”

Everyone glanced at David, and most returned to their duties, except Jane who was trying to burn holes into David with her eyes.

“If I were to find an officer, a member of my bridge staff no less, doing such a thing I would have to place a direct order to the kitchen that he only be issued P-rats for the rest of his stay on my ship,” McArthur said. “I would do that… probably… after a very long lecture and a demotion to whatever rank that sort of behaviour would be appropriate for.”

“P-rats?” Jane asked.

“Vitamin nutrient paste in little squeeze tubes, like the stuff the first astronauts ate,” David said glancing over at Jane. “It was covered in both history class and survival class.”

“I assume I am understood,” McArthur said.

“Clear as a bell, sir,” David said as he grabbed his food tray and rag and jogged off the bridge.

“May as well turn on the light and put out the welcome mat,” McArthur said.

Jane had a momentary blank stare.

“Turn on the landing beacon and lower the ramp, lieutenant,” the captain clarified.

“Oh.” She turned to her console and punched up the comm link to the flight bay.

“The new fighters work perfectly!” Weir stated happily while handing his helmet over to Sean Reece. Sean promptly placed the helmet on the ground and started looking over the exterior of Weir’s ship while Rosendo Ramos did the same with Jaime’s craft.

“The shield batteries are a bit worn down,” Sean stated while he plugged a sensor box into a port in the side of the craft. “You must have been charging and recharging those things constantly during the flight.”

“I thought those modules were capacitors?” Weir asked.

“No, the batteries charge the capacitors, and the batteries get a charge from either the momentum of your craft’s movements, the photosensitive rechargers, or the help of another, larger ship with a jump drive.”

“Was it the recharge method?” Weir asked Sean.

“No, it’s just the fact that you flew through a lot of dust on the way here. It cut the battery life down by about half a year. These are six year batteries, so we’ll be replacing them on the fifth.”

Weir pointed to the older S-91 fighters.
“Don’t they use the same batteries?”

Sean smiled, “Yeah but we’re going to be using those things as target practice.”

“I bet we can replace all those batteries with cheaply manufactured capacitors.” Weir suggested. “Then, we can have a huge supply in the storeroom and never have to worry about batteries for twenty years.”

Sean let loose with a very quick giggle and nodded.
“Sir, when can you clear me to get those parts? The batteries aren’t the only things I can spare. These two types of birds use a lot of the same equipment and those S-91’s were printed two years ago and put in storage. All that stuff is brand new.”

Weir smiled, “Take two off the line since we have two of these.” Weir patted the wing of his fighter and nodded.

*

Weir had almost made it to his quarters with Jaime Whitmore when Jane Finn stomped up to the both of them with an accusing tone.

“I’ve been sending you messages all day…”

Weir regarded Jane and blinked rapidly for a moment, taken off guard, he didn’t know what to say. He just looked at her while she put her hands on her hips and tapped her foot against the deck as if waiting for a response.

“I didn’t check the —,”

“No shit!” Jane said. “I kept looking back to see if the files I sent you had been opened and they haven’t! Havent! Haven’t at all!” Jane pointed at Weir. “It’s Executive Officers like you that give this fleet a bad name. The Second In Command, under Opsfleet regulations is the one responsible for the proper cohesion and morale of the entire ship and you haven’t bothered to look at my grievances! There’s no excuse for that and I won’t stand for it, sir!”

Weir was about to say something else, but Jane talked over him.

“No,” Jane interrupted. “There’s nothing you can say, or do that would justify your inaction to proper attention to the needs of your crew. You had one job, Weir… One Job…”

“Jane,” Jaime interrupted her. “He was with me all day.”

“Fraternization!” Jane crossed her arms and looked at the both of them.
“That’s not what I meant,” Jaime said.
“The reason we were —,” Weir was interrupted again.
“NO excuse!” She put her finger in front of Weir and then walked off.

“What the fuck?” Weir finally said now that he could talk.

Jaime shook her head, a loss for words for a moment and finally spoke once Jane was out of sight.

“I think she needs some fraternization in her life. Maybe if someone pounds her hard enough it’d set loose that stick she must have shoved up her ass.”

“Does she think we’re…” Weir pointed toward Jaime and himself.
“Oh yeah…” Jaime nodded and Weir smiled.
“We could have some fun with this…”
“What, getting it on?” Jaime looked him over and smiled.
“Nah!” Weir shrugged his shoulders. “Let her think what she wants to think and we’ll just roll with it and see how ridiculous we can make her delusions.”

“She’s right about one thing,” Jaime said. “You’re a sorry excuse for an Executive Officer. Leading her to believe something’s going on.”

“So what movie did you want to see?” Weir and Jaime vanished behind his quarters door.

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INTER-COMMUNICATION
FROM JANE FINN
TO CMDR BRYAN WEIR
SUBJ: Our Current Course

Four Ships have gone missing in the sector of space that we are headed for and will soon be in within the next few days on our current course. Now, it is your job to inform the captain of current events and I will not stand for this sort of reckless endangerment from our Captain. This ship is a state of the art ship and probably holds valuable information that could end up in the wrong hands if we are captured. I have two degrees in both Political Science and Mechanical Engineering, mind you; this isn’t to count the countless certifications in Communications and Electrical Engineering. This means that you need to take my advice to heart because I know what I’m talking about. With my intellect, you can rest assured that there’s sound reasoning behind my concerns and we need to speak with the captain about our present course. This is just too dangerous a gamble for a ship that’s simply supposed to make it out of the core systems for exploration.

Now, I expect a prompt reply and for you to inform me when you’ve spoken with the Commanding Officer. I have valuable input that must be placed at high priority here and you’re lucky I’ve decided to send this up the proper chain of command. I’m educated enough to have your position but I trust that you will do the right thing. I will support you if there is any pushback from the CO on this issue. It is a dangerous scenario we are facing and nine times out of ten, it spells trouble in these treacherous waters. We need political pull here and you are the key to setting things straight here. We have a long journey ahead of us and we need to make sure that the right decisions are being made. I know what I’m doing.

Sincerely,
Lieutenant Jane Finn.
Senior Most Communications Expert, OFS Yutomaky.
PHd, English Literature,
Certified Mechanical Engineer 2nd Grade
Masters in Political Science/Daughter of Senator Reginald Finn, West Coast Dist. Earth

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