Space Ranger 1st Lt. Alexander Arden was sitting on the Officers Club playing poker with another Space Ranger, 1St Lt. Eviss, a Laokan, was across the table from him.Arden had a pair of deuces, but he was not in any trouble.“I will see your bet and raise it 2 squibs,” Arden said.He was on the planet Malass.He was from Earth, and his opponent was a native of Laoka.They were playing in the currency of yet another system.Lt. Eviss’s facial scales turned a worried shade of gray.Alexander knew he had his opponent. “Play poker with a Laokan” Arden thought to him self.“It is almost like cheating.”He chuckled a little inwardly.Laokans could not bluff.
Lt. Arden sat there in his dark blue Space Rangers uniform with a wisp of his wavy blond hair hanging down in his face. He, as all Space Rangers were required to do, wore a radiation tab on the front of his uniform.It showed the radiation he had been exposed to since he got that particular tab.It showed in the safe zone.
“I fold,” Eviss said. For once, his tendency to hiss was not too evident.Arden reached over to take the small silver pieces.“May I at leasst ssee the cardss?” Eviss asked.He too wore the dark blue of the Space Rangers uniform, but his uniform made allowances for his slightly longer torso, shorter legs and arms and his tail. Alexander turned over his cards. “Deucess,” Eviss said.“Will I ever learn to play thiss game.”
“I expect that you will someday,” Alexander said.
“Will I ever win?” Eviss asked.
“Perhaps,” Alexander said, “after long association.”
“With the game?” Eviss asked.
“With your opponent,” Alexander answered. “What are you and Cress up to now?”
“My partner and I are back in exploration, asssigned to a mother sship that is leaving this ssystem in a few dayss. Sscuttle butt is that we will be exploring the central vein of this arm of the galaxy going towards the center of the galaxy,” Eviss explained.
“It’s a long way to the center of the Galaxy,” Arden commented.
“We do not expect to reach it, we are only going in that direction,” Eviss said.
Arden checked his timepiece. “Well I have to go.I have an appointment to receive my next assignment at HQ.”
“Good Luck,” Eviss said as he waved good-by.
Arden hurried towards the Head Quarters building. On his way, he met his friend, Sergeant Jabin Jones. He and the African American Sergeant had worked together before.They were both in full uniform for their respective rank, grade and species, which included the round combadges, which were used on base only if they were paged.Otherwise the amount of chatter that went on over them could become incomprehensible. These combadges also had the capability of acting as a translator. Alexander’s included the folding epaulets that had to be fastened in place.He wore his rank insignia there, a silver bar.The sergeant had his rating insignia there, the arc and 3 chevrons of a full sergeant.
“What do you think we are going to get?” Arden asked.
“I don’t know,” Jones said. “I just know that I would really like something that would allow me to see my wife and kids more. Mareesha is complaining that I am not home enough.”
“My mother could have commiserated with her,” Arden said. His father was also in the Space Rangers and had spent long months away from home when his children were growing up.
When Alexander had wanted to join the Space Rangers, his father had been dead set against it. What Alexander did not want to admit was that he had done it in an attempt to gain his father’s approval.Lacking that he did it to prove that he could be better than his father was at what his father did.Once he did join he determined to do his very best at it.
They entered the office of the Commandant of the Space Rangers of this sector, General Hu Lei. They got their assignment directly from him.
“You’ve been assigned to the I. S. S. S. (M.S.) Lizbet ,” he said.
“That was my mother’s name,” Alexander noted.
“Perhaps that is why your father fought for and got command of her,” General Lee informed him.
“You know that he loved your mother very much.” Alexander was not happy with that.But he was still a junior rank officer.He couldn’t request a change, not now.Then he thought about it again.This was a chance to prove what he could do right in front of his father.
“I know,” Alexander said. Since the Commandant knew his family so well Alexander added, “Too bad that did not extend to her children.”Life with General Evander Arden was not going to be easy.
“Well I’m sure that you two will have many years to patch things up. This mission is to last 5 years.”
Jabin Jones was rather happy at that. That meant he could take his family along. The
Commandants next words confirmed it, “Sergeant, your wife should have received the families billeting orders by now. I suggest you go home and help her pack.”
“Yes, sir,” Jones said as he virtually flew out the door. “By the way, you know that she is a teacher.Is there anything that she will be doing on the ship?”
“Of course,” the Commandant said. “She is also billeted aboard as a civilian teacher. I
believe that her specialty is elementary education, is it not?”
“Yes, sir” Jabin assured him. “She prefers the primary grades up to grade 3.”
“Good,” the Commandant said. “Then we’ve assigned her correctly.She will be teaching the 3rd grade.”
“You are also dismissed, Lieutenant,” the Commandant turned to Lt. Arden.
“Aye sir,” Alexander Arden said as he rose from his chair and walked more slowly out the door. He walked to the apartment that he maintained in a human housing area off base.He didn’t have much to pack.He notified his landlord that the apartment would be available.The landlord was used to short notice since the base was so close.Still it was the next day before he had his things all packed. He called transportation and headed back to the base.He stopped at an on base personal storage facility and made arrangements to store the things that he did not want to take with him.All he would take were clothes and a few small personal effects.He paid the rent for the next 5 years and told the proprietor that if he was not back at the end of that time or if he heard that the Lizbet had been destroyed then he should send the contents to Alexander‘s sister Jamie Arden.
Then he went to the shuttle port. He checked his luggage.It would be a few hours before the next shuttle would leave for the Lizbet, which was in space dock in orbit above them.He decided to avail himself of some of the bases entertainment facilities and found himself back in
the O club. There wasn’t much to do but watch the news and read.The base had its own station which covered interstellar and Space Ranger news with the news of what was happening on the base.The Space Rangers had a tendency to be more interested in that news than any other.Alexander watched it to see if there was any mention of the Lizbet and its mission.But all they talked about today was local news.
Two hours later he returned to the Shuttle port and was surprised to see the Jones family there. Jabin Jones’ wife Mareesha saw him first and called out, “Lieutenant Arden, come on over.”
He did, “How are you?” he asked politely.
“Fine, “she said. “But we had a hard day yesterday.Are you assigned to this ship too?”
“Yes,” Arden told her. “I think Jabin and I are going to be teamed together again.”
“Are you going to the ship with us,” Arben Jones asked. He was eight years old and very excited about this.It would be the first time he was going with his father.Before Mrs. Jones and the family had traveled separately.
“Yes,” Alexander said, trying to sound as enthusiastic as the child.
“Of course he is, you dum-dum,” his older sister Shawneesa said.
“Shawneesa, don’t be like that,” her mother said. “You should be on your best manners now and you know it.”Her voice was a bit strident, but Shawneesa acted as though what mother thought was just a minor annoyance. She would do what she darn well pleased her.
Another human family joined them shortly. They were also from the North American Union formerly called the United States.They had two young children, girls.Alexander figured that they were about kindergarten age and were obliviously twins.With the arrival of a young married couple and, believe it or not, Lt. Eviss and his partner. Arden knew that Eviss had children, but they must be with his mate on another shuttle.it was announced that the ship was loaded and ready to depart.
The humans and Laokans boarded and strapped into the appropriate seats with shuttle personal assisting the parents with their children. This included strapping oxygen masks to their faces. Then the ship began to lift. The Space Rangers were used to this but some of the dependents were sick.That was why there were barf bags attached to the masks.
Soon the acceleration of gravity slackened and the ships supply of oxygen took over. It was safe to remove the mask and movement about the ship became easy in the micro gravity.Arben went to the nearest window.“Dad,” he said, “I can’t see our whole town.”
“Don’t worry,” Jabin Jones said, “In a few days you won’t see the planet any more.”
“Really,” he responded, somewhat awed.
“We are scheduled to leave space dock tomorrow. By the day after that we will be out of this
star system,” Alexander told him. “After that we will not see this planet again for several years.”
“Where are we going, Daddy,” one of the twins asked.
“There,” her daddy said as he pointed to the ship that was getting closer. Soon its ring shape could be seen with the engine in the center of the ring.It was not spinning, so there would be no gravity while they were in space dock.
“Where will we live,” Shawneesa asked.
“Along the outer ring where the gravity will be equal to Earths when it finally spins,” her father told her.
“What’s that big thing in the middle?” another of the twins asked.
“That’s the engine,” their father responded. “That’s where I’ll be working.”
The shuttle docked and hooked up in all areas that it was allowed. The passengers debarked.“Lt. Arden,” Jabin took Alexander aside.“Can I ask a favor of you?Since I have the wife and kids to manage, could you fetch the luggage?”
“Certainly,” Arden said.
“Thanks,” said Jabin. He had his wife and children bring more barf bags with them. Space Rangers went through extensive testing to overcome space sickness, not so their dependents.The Jones family went to the Billeting Office, got their assignment, and headed towards their cabin. Alexander Arden gathered all the tickets for the luggage he was responsible for.He collected it and made a ‘luggage train’ through the simple technique of tying them to each other and the last one to himself.When he finished he saw a young 1st Lt. with a similar train of supplies for the ship.She was moving through the passageway going “Wo-o-o, woo-o,” like an old-fashioned earth steam engine.People moved out of her way on hearing it.Arden did the same since her ‘train’ was larger than his.The containers may not have had any weight now, but they did still have mass.
Arden went to Billeting and got his assignment as well as that for the Jones family. He headed down the corridor to their billet first. He would get rid of most of his luggage there.For the sake of ease, he decided to take one of the mobile cars that would have acted like an elevator if this was a building but now headed horizontally down a track.It was for freight only, and in this case the luggage qualified.It would be faster and not make a mistake.But the first one already had a man with a ‘luggage train’ on it and there was not enough room for Alexander and his ‘luggage train.’ He courteously stepped back and let it go.Finally one came with a young female in it with a small ‘luggage train.’ He got on.He had little chance to do more than nod to her.
They reached the stop closest to the Jones billet quickly so Alexander just nodded good-bye and left. The children were talking to a friend of theirs who had come aboard the day before.“It is great,” the child of Hindu descent said.“Mom’s been sick the whole time.Dad says she will be fine once the ship begins to spin.That just made her sicker.”
Alexander decided that the kids might like it if he did the ‘Woo-o, woo-o’ bit, so he did. “That means get out of the way,” the children’s friend told them.
“Luggage is here,” Alexander called out as Jabin opened the door. Alexander could see that some of the barf bags were filled and being properly disposed of by Mareesha.He brought his ‘train’ to a halt and untied the Jones suitcases.Then he launched them over his head and towards the open door.
Jabin caught them and called out to the children, “Come on kids. Help me get these things stowed before they become flying projectiles.Believe me, you don’t want to get hit by one.”
Alexander Arden went to his own billet. He discovered that he was sharing his quarters with a 2nd Louie.This one was a certain 2nd Lt. John Ree.He discovered that when he found that half the drawers and one of the lockers and one bunk were already labeled with that name.He began to stow his own gear in the other drawers and locker and put his name on the other bunk.Before he was finished, Ree came in. He was of Korean descent, and considered quite handsome.
“Hi,” he said as he saw Alexander. “I’m John Ree.”
“Alexander Arden,” Alexander introduced himself.
“Same name as the commandant, any relation?” Ree asked.
“Yes, but don’t look for any special consideration on that score.”
“Should I be glad for that, or sorry?” Ree asked.
“Glad,” Arden told him. That was all that he felt he had to say now about his relationship with his father.“So what about yourself, where are you from?”
“Earth,” Ree said. “North America, the old United States.”
“So was my family,” Arden said.
“You a Space brat?” Ree asked.
“Yep,” Alexander said.
“Bet you’ve seen a lot of planets,”
“Some,” Alexander said. “But most of the time we stayed pretty close to the base.I’ve seen more since I joined the service myself.”
“What is your assignment in dock?” Ree asked.
“Don’t know yet,” Arden said. Since he was one of the pilots, any time he was on the mother ship for more than a few days he would have an assignment aboard ship, which was not his usual assignment.“Guess I’ll check the bulletin board now.”
It was no longer a board, although it was still called that. Alexander logged on to the ships computer system and checked his assignment.He was working in the galley for the time that he was here.He also checked and found out that Lt. Eviss was working in hydroponics and Sergeant Jones was in the laundry.
“I’m in the galley,” he told Lt. Ree. “I guess I’d better head there now.” Since not all personal were aboard yet he could be doing anything in the galley, including the job of an enlisted man. It was simply a matter of, if the job needed doing and he was free, he did it.
He was on his way to the galley when he happened to pass the school. There was a young woman there making some comments on the schoolrooms.“Well,” she finally said, looking at the room and the work that she had obviously been doing on it, “that will have to do.It is not great, but it is not terrible either.” Alexander stopped, surprised. He knew that voice.He was pleased to hear it now and he thought he would give the owner a surprise of her own.He went into the room and stopped behind the young lady, who was unpacking something else from a box.
“Does the school room meet with your approval,” he said.
She came to attention with a shocked expression on her face. She pivoted and squealed, “Alex,” when she saw him.
“Jamie,” he said as she hugged him and he returned the embrace. “So, little sister, what do you think of it?”
“Dad said that you were coming, but I don’t think I believed it until just now,” she said.
“That is great,” he said, “but you haven’t answered my question.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “But what I want to know is, are you going to come to dinner while we can be together.”
“Dad and I still aren’t getting along together all that well,” he said.
“Will you consider it for me?” she asked.
“All right,” he said after a moment, “for you. By the way, what do you hear from the rest of our siblings?”
“I’ll tell you that when you come to dinner and even show you pictures,” She promised.
“It’s a deal,” he said. “But now I have to get to the galley.”
At that moment there was a conversation going on in the General’s office. He was using his comlink to the base commander, General Hu Lee.Since they knew each other very well, General Arden had no trouble using General Lee’s nickname.“Bink,” he said, “Ev, listen you’ve
got to get me more shuttles to get my people and supplies up here. I’ve got 50 more families to get up here and food and medical supplies.”
“Ev,” said Bink, “You’re getting practically everything I’ve got now. When are you scheduled to leave?”
“Tomorrow,” Ev replied, “Noon your time.”
“The best I can do is continue launches through the night,” Bink said. “I’ll put a rush on those medical supplies. You may have to be a little late.”
“Can’t be,” Ev said. “Space dock tells me that they have a repair order coming in and needs my spot.”
“Well I’ll contact Space dock about that,” Bink replied. “If worse comes to worse you can stand off Kev’s flank for a while and we can finish running people to you there.”
“I’d rather not do that if I don’t have to,” Ev said. “That makes me a navigation hazard to incoming ships.Kev has good people under him, that’s one of the reasons your facility is one of the top repair docks in this sector.”
“I know,” Bink said. “That’s why I am glad to have him, and that is why I can’t give you any more launches then I already am.I’ll do the best I can, but those are the choices.”
“Alright,” Ev said. “I’ll let my people know.”He pushed the button that dissolved the comlink and switched it over to inter ship. He set it for one receiver.“Sal,” he called, “you’d better get in here.”
His Yeoman, Sally Johnson, came in immediately. “Note to all depart-ment heads,” he said. “Launches will be continuing all night.Cargo should be prepared to receive supplies all night.Billeting will also have to deal with people coming in.Maintenance should have people visually check all emergency exterior lighting. We may have to stand off Space Dock and receive people and supplies for a time tomorrow.For that length of time we will be a navigation hazard for ships that are coming and going, so I want to do as much as possible to make sure that they know we are here.I also want a beacon message sent to all ships in the event that we do have to stand off Space Dock. We will tell them on all channels that we are there and we will also show them that we are there.”
“Roger, sir” she responded with the ancient symbol that she understood what he wanted and would do it. “Do you want civilian shipping notified too?”
“I want anything that might possibly hit us notified, but only if it becomes necessary,” he told her somewhat gruffly. They had worked together in the past, so she just let it go.Sally was a rather large, 40+ human female with bleached blonde hair.She was capable and gave the impression of strength.She was not traveling with her family since her children were now all grown and married. Her husband had divorced her years ago.“Roger,” she repeated and left for her office to carry out his orders.
After that he called the infirmary. “General Evander Arden for the Chief Surgeon,” he said to the corpsman on duty.The Chief Surgeon was Colonel Jeremy McInnis.Again he and the General had known each other for a long time.The General called the doctor by his nickname.
“Leech,” he said as the doctor came on. “I spoke to Bink and he told me that he will put a rush on those medical supplies.”
“Thanks Ev,” the doctor’s faintly Scottish accent came across the comlink.
“By the way, we’ll be having launches all night long,” Ev said. “Tell your people to be ready for
a long night of niggling little things by the way of injuries.”
“And should I have them report anything that looks deliberate to your office?” Leech asked.
“As per usual,” the General said. Deliberate injury was considered a criminal offense, dereliction of duty.The General was not the least bit averse to throwing people into the ships brig for that.It could be a very uncomfortable place to spend the shift to light speed.
In the galley Alexander learned what his duties were to be for the next day or so. “Sorry sir,” the chief cook told him.“We’ll need you on the serving line and to help with the cleaning up.But that will be the extent of your duties.”
“One of the things that you learn about the space service, cook, is that if the job requires being done, you do it. It doesn’t matter what your rank is,” Alexander replied.The cook gave him a weird look. “Which just means I’ll do it,” Arden continued.
But he didn’t. A few minutes later Maintenance called him down.“Lt.,” the officer in charge said.“Sorry about the change in your MOS.We need people for EVAs and you have the proper training and experience.We’ve been ordered to do a visual examination of all emergency exterior lighting.”
“Great,” said Alexander. He was sure that his father had something to do with this.He had a hard time convincing himself that it had nothing to do with him.His father was just being extra cautious.The discipline he had learned from a child on up came to his aid and showed. “Well
I guess I turn in my spoon and draw an oxygen mask,” he said. He checked out with the galley and went down to maintenance.
Within the hour he was suited up and out an air lock. There were shuttles coming in, docking, and undocking right over his head.“This could get dangerous,” he reported to maintenance.“These Shuttles are coming in awfully close and fast.”
“We will advise the shuttle pilots to keep their eyes open for you fellows,” the Maintenance supervisor advised. “In the mean time you are to continue your inspection.”
“Aye sir,” Arden continued. “I just don’t like the shuttles coming in close enough to cut my hair.”He said that last to a closed mike as he walked slowly and carefully to the lighting fixture he was to inspect. There was nothing wrong with it.He continued on to the next one.On other parts of the ship, other men were doing the same things. He continued on to the next one and the next following a grid pattern.This would take hours, but there was no help for it.
There were the niggling little injuries that the doctor was expecting. Some men tripped over their own feet, others forgot to keep a check on their oxygen.Some forgot to use their tether and wound up launching themselves into space.But they were still in space dock so there were many witnesses to every incident and they were quickly rounded up and tethered again.There was one case of a person tripping and cracking a faceplate. Things got a bit bloody before the suit sealed the crack and the man got into the medic. He would be recuperating from that for a while, and might never get another EVA, but at least there was nothing criminal about it.Just plain bad luck.
Four hours later, Alexander Arden had finished a good part of his section and was allowed an hour break for a meal. He needed it just for the length of time that it would take him to get back into the ship and out of the EVA suit.Surprisingly Jamie delivered the meal.“They got so short of help in the Galley that they drafted me,” she said.
“That sounds like the Space Service,” Alexander said. “You do what needs to be done, without regard to rank.If it breaks, whoever’s handy fixes it.”
“So what broke now?” Jamie asked.
“Don’t know,” Alexander said, “and Dad is not likely to tell us. Looks like that dinner you were planning will have to be put off for a time.”
“Not to mention my teaching my students,” Jamie said.
Another shuttle landed. “Just cargo this time,” the pilot told the ship personnel.“Some more of those damn tiles that you seem to think are so important.”The tiles were essential for the protection of the ship.They were very thick to be difficult to break, lined with a thick layer to absorb hits by flying space debris and polished to a mirror brightness to reflect cosmic rays. They were also about 1´ square and had to be replaced when they had taken too many hits
“Must be a civilian,” the ship comm. officer replied.
“How did you know?” the civilian asked.
“Because if you were space service you’d know that we can’t replicate those and there aren’t likely to be any where we are going. So we need to get all the replacements here we can get,” the officer replied.
“Well that makes sense,” the civilian said. “Well come get them.”
After his meal was over Alexander was back on the job. He observed the shuttle leave and continued with his work. He and some of the others had to expand their area a little to take care of the part left unfinished by the injured man.By enlarge they managed to stay on schedule.Once the last of the EVA personal reported in and that all was well with his portion of the outer skin, Gen. Evander Arden gave the order.The ship secured for movement. She moved to a spot which should be safe from any on coming ships.