"It is human nature that there are those who are predators, and those who are preyed upon. Society, in order to protect itself from predators, organized and drafted people into armies to defend its territory from other marauding humans who were trying to expand into territory already claimed.
"As people grouped together for mutual protection, they also formed a service called a police force. While these men and woman were chosen for a willingness to serve and to protect, it is also known that a lot of the police were predators who were seeking some form of outlet for their instincts, and what better way to control this portion of their being than hunting for society, rather than against it? They had the added benefit of having the force of the law and society, behind them." I sighed and turned my monitor off.
"Tell me something I don't know," I thought to myself.
I glanced at the time and noted that I still had an hour before my watch started on the bridge. I got up, made a last minute adjustment to my uniform, and went to officer's mess for a pre-watch snack.
My first voyage as 2nd officer aboard a deep space combat vessel! True, it was nothing as grand as the Newcastle Empire's ships, but it was still a damned fine ship. It also had one or two surprises that an enemy might live long enough to regret.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the galaxy was experiencing peace. Promotion in the officer corps in a peace-time military, was difficult at best. It was even worse for the enlisted ranks.
I had always been slightly ahead of the promotion curve during my career to date. That's the way I planned it. I could have revealed my hidden talents to my superiors long ago. They would have been eager - no, ecstatic - at them. But I would not be in the Navy, which was where I wanted to be.
All persons having any type of extraordinary mental abilities, as demonstrated in the Newcastle Empire, were treated very well by the Trinic Confederation. But, they would not be allowed to pursue a career of their choice. No, they became wards of the state... for life, usually. While they were treated like kings or queens, their lives were controlled and regimented for the benefit of the state.
I had long been fascinated with the Newcastle Empire, and had studied it extensively. I knew all about the Emperor's mental abilities, as did the whole galaxy. With the introduction of the 'Battlespheres', he had shown that this talent was available for anyone. As for me? I had talent, and in spades; but I was smart enough to hide it, too.
The Trinic Confederation was not a repressive or dictatorial society. It had several bodies within its government designed to hold government excesses back. Still, security was always the primary worry of any government, and things were done in the name of state security that are better left unsaid.
Still, basic human and civil rights were the watchwords of the government, and it was serious about enforcing these rights within the borders of the confederation. We lived within a good system overall, if you asked me, and I was proud to serve it.
I ate a light meal, and went to relieve the watch officer, Commander William Everette. He had been second in command of this ship for almost a year now, the same length of time as the captain, Captain Marla Beel.
The captain was a very interesting and detail oriented person. While normally a quiet, studious person; when we trained, or were in a heightened alert level, she became very sharp, very concise, and authoritative. There was no hesitancy in any of her decisions and when she spoke, her voice rang with command and confidence. I wish I had the ability to pull off the ease she showed when she commanded. I was learning, though.
After relieving the executive officer, I settled to my station in the captain's chair, and started looking closely at the 'systems ready' board. One of the problems that we had was power management. Unlike the Newcastle Empire, or a few others I could name, the Confederation could not afford to build and install extra power plants on ships smaller than a heavy cruiser. We fell one class of ship-type below this level.
Normal ship operations were maintained at full power readiness. However, combat sections, and specialty equipment associated with combat, were powered down. To compensate, the confederation had developed accumulators that would store power for items such as the new battle screens, or offensive combat lasers and extended range battle sensors.
For some reason, the accumulators drained quickly while in hyperspace, and needed time to recharge after reentry into normal space. I noticed that the XO had not yet initiated recharge. I knew it was most likely a test, designed to see if I would catch it. Well, I did. The bridge engineering officer (1stLT Daniel Brampton) gave me a thumbs up and a quick grin when I had ordered a slight 2 percent overload of power from the reactor to the accumulators. Yes, a test, as I had thought. This slight overload would not seriously degrade the reactor, nor would it create much of a strain.
We were actively looking for a pair of our patrolling destroyers, the TCN Swiftfoot, and the TCN Lightning. The Trinic Confederation always sent destroyers out in pairs in this part of space. Raiders and pirates seemed to be a perpetual problem out here.
We were at the last known coordinates for the two missing ships, and I ordered communications to do a general broadcast once again.
"TCN cruiser Angel, to TCN Swiftfoot and Lightning, respond, over."
I listened with half an ear as this went out. It was the prerecorded message the first officer had set up before leaving his shift, and it was short and to the point.
I was being distracted, though. We were only two hours into the search, and I was getting one of my precognitive flashes. I had let the Navy know about them, but never about how strong or clear they were. If I had, I would be in a controlled environment right now, and not one of my own choosing.
Actually, precog was only one of my abilities. I had several more that I kept hidden. A weak precognitive ability was not all that unusual, and the military was happy to have me on a ship, as I was useful there. I was getting a strong feeling, along with a set of coordinates.
I looked them up on the plot table. They were about two days space-normal drive time, or one micro jump, which would take about twenty minutes to program in. While I was authorized to do micro jumps, they were detectable by the onboard crew, as well as any ship in the vicinity of the jump.
Since we were currently in a sleep period for the majority of the crew, a majority would likely wake up, at least briefly during the slight disorientation of the in-system jump. This would include the captain, and she most likely would not be amused at having her sleep disturbed. Well, this is why I made the big bucks, as second officer of a TCN cruiser.
The first thing I did was order all departments currently crewed to go to battle alert. It was not a ship wide battle alert, just for those on duty. Nothing out of the ordinary here, and I was well within my rights and authority to institute a ship wide training alert for all crew on duty. This generally aggravated the crew to some extent, but I had a feeling we would need all systems manned and ready for when we came out of the jump. The feeling was getting stronger as the minutes went by. Pictures were even forming in my mind of what was going to happen. While the pictures were a fairly new development, they had proven their worth to me in the recent past.
I set up coordinates from the captain's plot, and fed them to the helmsman. He was startled and asked if I were sure I wanted to do a micro jump at this specific time. I looked at him. There had been a few muffled gasps from the assembled officers and crew, as he had actually voiced this concern aloud.
"Ensign Beaumont. I am not accustomed to having my orders questioned. Please feed the micro-jump into the system as ordered, and prepare to execute on my command. Is that understood?" I asked him coldly.
"Yes, Sir!" responded the Ensign with a snap, and a slight stiffness to his voice.
I understood his concern, but questioning a superior officer in front of the crew was not tolerated, by any officer, at anytime. If you had concerns, you expressed them either in a different form, or privately. The Ensign was totally out of line, and he had to know it.
I logged that I was giving the order to micro-jump at such and such a date and time. Since the bridge was recording continuously, I also logged in the O.O.W (Officer Of the Watch) log that I was going to have Ensign Beaumont report to my cabin for intensive revue of Military Customs and Courtesies. This would happen in lieu of an official reprimand being placed in his personnel file.
Since the bridge recorded everything, and as I had logged the action I wanted to take concerning the breach of etiquette, this would preclude anyone higher in the chain of command from taking any further action. If I had chosen not to take the course of action I had, by logging my decision; the first officer or the captain could have reviewed the bridge record - which they always did - and could have taken independent action. This made certain that no further action would be taken against the young Ensign Beaumont. I ended the O.O.W. log with my name and rank as follows, "Logged by, Commander Steve Lassiter, 2nd officer, Commander of the Watch."
"Inform all duty stations that we will micro-jump, in-system, in two minutes," I stated.
The communications section made the announcement quickly and quietly, and we all waited for the time. I told weapons to have all combat stations standing by, in the even of trouble. He reported they were already standing by. I nodded to him.
"All accumulator power to the shields, as soon as the micro-jump is complete. Be ready to go to full combat operations once we arrive," I ordered.
I received acknowledgment of the order and knew that while it was standard operating procedure during combat operations, things were different during training runs. This time there would be no variance from an actual combat mission. The time came down and I ordered the jump.
There was that slight strange twisting sensation of almost getting into hyper, but not quite getting there, but this would give us a new position as we traveled a huge amount of space in a short time. That's when it happened.
"Sir! The TCN Lightning is under attack! The Swiftfoot has suffered severe damage and is pulling away from the battle, but is still firing," the combat officer reported.
"Go to battle stations, immediately. This is not a drill. Engineering, I want the reactor brought up to 130 percent, as quickly as possible," I ordered calmly.
I fielded a call from the captain wanting to know the status. I informed her of what transpired, our status, and the fact that two of our ships were under attack. She acknowledged and said she was on her way.
She arrived about two minutes later, wearing her combat pressure suit. She took her place, and told me she relieved me. I relinquished command, and took my leave of the bridge.
Science Fiction /