Admiral McElligott stood by the boarding ramp of a D40 shuttle and looked towards the hangar access doors. A tall man in a simple black uniform, very short marine corps style hair cut had appeared. In the three thousand something years he knew this man, he had never changed. Even to the old Admiral, this man was a constant like no other.
True he wasn’t exactly best friends with the Eternal Warrior, but there was no one he respected more. With a smirk on his lips, he watched the two marines guarding the door act as if they had seen god. Well to be truthful to the Marines he was pretty much the very next thing to god.
He did not disappoint them and found a few words.
The Pertharian and the Thauran marine guards were on the verge to actually explode with pride.
Stahl then made his way to the other Immortal Admiral, his face unreadable. Well unreadable to most, after three millennia McElligott could. “Sorry, old war horse, but that is what Admirals do. Inspect things. They did that even back on Earth, when both of us had no idea we would once hold that rank ourselves.”
“And are as useless as tits on a boar. Inspections are a waste of time. Either they are ready or they are not, and they better be ready when I show up. Inspection or not.”
“Sorry old mate, there isn’t any war going on to improve your mood, but inspections have their purpose and are an older tradition than we old farts. Besides the USS Baghdad has won the Ship Shape award for many times,so the affair will be a short one.”
“I do not long for war, but now that the Golden and the Nul are on our side it won’t be long and the Kermac will make a move. I don’t have to remind you that Erica has just left for her second mission and only God knows who she picks a fight with or convinces to join.”
“She just left two weeks ago, and I just received a message this morning, she is on her way to Itheam pursuing Nick Harlequin.”
“She is supposed to hunt pirates. The Harlequins are very large and dangerous Merc outfit, suspected to have a source of serious Union Mil Tech and a long history of suspected atrocities. If the last reports are any indications, taking that outfit down would take a Marine regiment with a battle ship for support.” As Stahl said that he grinned.
Elligott nodded. “I know, but all respect to your Marines, Nick Harlequin stands no chance, we are talking Erica Olafson and her gang.”
Stahl chuckled. “Yes that girl turned boy and her crew will tear that vicious clown a new one, and he won’t know what hit him.”
Stahl sighed and stomped past McElligott and up the landing ramp.“Then inspect the Baghdad. It is the last one right?”
“Yes, and afterward maybe you have time to share a round of golf with me. We are on Patrick Green, after all.” McElligott followed Stahl inside the shuttle and gave the pilot a hand sign. While McElligott and Stahl were the highest officers, there was no big entourage, Stahl had no adjutants at all and if McElligott had insisted on the official military pomp, Stahl would not have come.
Richard sat down and grinned, “I remember the last time we went, I wonder if that golf course is open again..”
“Well it was your idea to ask the members of the Olafson gang to represent the Navy against the Army.”
“And you wager against General McKenzie, who kept beating you. He has recovered ,right?”
“He has, but it was his fault to steal one of Har-Hi’s balls. Those Dai proximity mines look very much like golf balls after all. Of course only a Dai would bring proximity mines to a game of golf.”
“It was fortunate no one was near the fifth hole at time of impact.”
“It gave a whole new meaning to ‘hole in one’. That crater was big enough to hide a destroyer.”
“Sorry I could not promise you something exciting like this.”
“Well let’s get this inspection over with and I might consider your offer. Not that I know much about golf.”
“At least one thing, I can beat you in. Your idea of relaxing fun is not really fun, but then no Admiral in the history of admirals considered joining marines on a Orbital training attack as a relaxing hobby.”
“Yeah you missed the drop zone by a continent and arrived an hour after everyone else, but I respect you for trying it.”
The shuttle had left the planets atmosphere and its main engines cut in. The USS Baghdad was six light hours away. The battle ship was attached to battle group Red of the 56th fleet and had just completed taking part in a full fleet battle exercise, defending the system against an assault of the 45th fleet.
Stahl had opened the post exercise report and said. “You gotta be kidding me, the Baghdad is listed as a full casualty. Maybe it is a good idea to inspect her after all. She lists time to battle stations with 9.02 minutes. That is a new record on the low end.”
“It is still 1.98 minutes within regulation time, and actually the best time the Baghdad has ever recorded.”
Stahl swiped his finger across the projected report to flip to a new page.“I am going to have a word with that captain. I mean he knew, there was an exercise and had to expect Battle stations and still it took his crew 9.02 minutes. Heck the Devi goes to Battle stations in less than 3 minutes.”
“Not every ship is commanded by a slave driver like Harris or has the personified Union Fleet God putting the fear of failure in every Jack Tar. The USS Baghdad is the only ship in the entire Fleet who has not a single report of regulation violation.”
Judging by Stahl’s face, McElligott already regretted his choice of words. The Eternal warrior even got up from his seat and clenched his hands into sizable fist. “Harris is not a slave driver. Every soul aboard the Devi respects him and they try to do their best out of conviction and nothing else. And you, my old friend should be careful, you are not too old to receive a good old knuckle sandwich. Harris is not only the Captain of the Devi, but a real friend.”
McElligott swallowed and raised his hands. “Calm down. I apologize for the choice of words, but the Devi is hardly a measure of things.”
“Perhaps not,but the rest of battle group Red is, no ship is under 4 minutes. Not exactly an average to be proud of, but still faster by magnitudes.”
The shuttle slowed down and got docking permission right away.
The Baghdad was a Trafalgar class battle ship. One of many thousand of this class currently in service.
Stahl blinked as he looked out the view port and muttered. “What the fuck is this? Is that ship chrome polished?”
“Regulation 4577-68 clearly states that a captain can modify the cosmetic appearance of his ship to accommodate a certain individualization. Captain Ben Nemsi properly filled out the customization request and it was granted.”
“It was meant to allow a decal or logo, not a mirror shine chrome polish. Heck I bet the albedo level of that ship is so high, you won’t need sensors to find her.”
“You had no objection when they painted shark teeth to the Barracudas of the Devi. Besides a study predicts that the high albedo could be mistaken for a star in visual scans.”
“Please don’t tell me you actually believe what you just said.”
“No I don’t but I hoped it calms you down. The Captain runs a tight ship and takes pride in his command.”
“He isn’t Thauran by any chance?”
“No, he is an Earther like you and me.”
The shuttle slipped past the energy membrane that separated the docking bay from space and settled down.
The two most senior officers of the Union Fleet debarked and were greeted by a double row of Navy Security officers in full dress Uniform.
A human captain with pencil beard wearing full dress uniform as well, and the rare seen cover.
Stahl noticed that this Captain had chosen to wear his citations and medals in physical form rather than a ribbon display, it was permitted according to regulations, but except for the medal of honor rarely if ever done. Stahl did not wear any medals and no ribbon display. McElligott did, but only displaying the Union Assembly medal of honor around his neck,and two real Victoria Crosses, he received long before there was a Union or even a United Earth.
The honor guard stood in attention with side arms at the ready. Stahl noticed that the side arms were the old TKU 7 with chromed metal and white plast housing. There was no Marine in sight.
The boatswain whistle was blown by a Master Chief and McElligott spoke the time honored words. “Admiral McElligott and Admiral Stahl requesting permission to come aboard.”
Stahl could not believe the answer.
The Captain said. “It is an honor to receive you Admirals, but it is required that you identify yourself to the Computronic before I can grant permission.”
The worst part was that the Captain was acting perfectly within regulations and technically every Captain would have to ask this question. Stahl’s face was no longer unreadable but openly displayed the annoyance he felt as he identified himself to the computronic.
Only now the captain granted them permission.
Union ships were usually very clean, but this hangar bay virtually gleamed.
Stahl took a double take as he noticed the hangar access door was wood paneled and the corridor behind was carpeted and in addition to the usual illumination strip at the ceiling there were polished brass light fixtures in regular intervals attached to the wall.
He asked McElligott “Are you sure we are inspecting a Battle ship and not some cruise liner?”
“It is perfectly within regulation, and not unprecedented. There are 7003 Union Battle ships similar appointed.”
“7003 Battleships looking like that? Maybe I do need to pay more attentions to inspections.”
“You had no objections to the changes Erica made.”
“She pretends to be a pirate.”
Stahl turned to the captain. “Say is everyone wearing Dress Uniform because of our visit?”
“No Sir, every crew member wears Dress Uniform all the time aboard the Baghdad.”
The inspection went on and when they reached the main gun deck, Captain Ben Nemsi ordered a simulated fire exercise. The loaders did not wear the traditional white undershirts, but they too wore full dress uniform. Of course they moved accordingly slow.
Stahl asked the chief gunner.“He makes you wear the monkey suits even during battle loading?”
“Yes sir, and inspects them too, a spot of grease lands lands you in the hot seat, but he is satisfied if we stay only a few seconds under the maximum time allotted to get a bomb ready. Wiping the big boys during salvo tact is pure murder, in full dress uniform.”
“Why are there no Marines anywhere?”
“Captain Ben Nemsi does not want those messy brutes aboard, and requested successfully that we don’t have a Marine detachment.”
The inspection finally reached the bridge and Captain Ben Nemsi wiped his feet on an actual door mat. “Please wipe your boots, Admirals. I have the cleanest bridge in the fleet and like to keep it that way.”
Even McElligott was taken by surprise and noticed Stahl’s face turning red. He actually looked for some way to hide., but the explosion never came. Stahl dutiful wiped his boots and entered the bridge.
The duty stations were covered with beautiful polished wood and had corners of polished brass. The bridge officers wore their full dress uniform complete with cover and white gloves, and they all did get up and stood in attention. No other bridge crew in the Union, as far as Stahl knew would get up and get distracted like that. It was an unwritten rule born out of practicality. Of course having both immortal Admirals arrive on the bridge might have been the reason, but Stahl almost knew the answer when he asked. “At ease., you do this all the time, right?”
the XO, nodded.“Yes Sir, every time a senior officer enters the bridge. Our captain does not like unwritten rules.”
Ben Nemsi nodded. “This is foolish, if the rule would be important, it would exist a regulation clearly codified. Saluting a senior officer upon entering a room however is clearly spelled out in great detail.”
Stahl actually grinned. “I think I seen enough Captain, and so much diligence and cleanliness must be rewarded. I mean this is the first time I actually see the main view screen framed by curtains. I am sure my esteemed colleague already dreams about a regulation requiring this as essential bridge equipment on all front line battle ships. You can not imagine the reaction of Captain Harris if I ask him what color of curtains he would want, they simply have to match the carpet. Isn’t that so, Captain Ben Nemsi?”
“Oh absolutely, Admiral Stahl finally there is someone appreciating my efforts to marry the art of war with class and style. We aren’t brutes and unkempt barbarians anymore.”
“Well Captain I am going to promote your promotion to Commodore but first I have a special mission for you. The sixth Marine Corps division is currently engaged in ground war exercises on planet Beautiful, and need a lift to the Normandy. I want you to accommodate them.”
“Sir, a full division? That exceeds the capacity of all our accommodations. Where are their drop ships?”
“Did you just question my order? Did you just ask me for need to know classified information. Clearly the ship movement of the Marine Corps is of no concern to a Battle ship commandant. You know there is a host of very serious regulations you just ignored.”
“Admiral. I am the captain of this ship and should be ...”
“Admiral Stahl, Sir is the correct address, Captain. Regulation 17 of the general rules clearly states how an Admiral is to be addressed. It seems you enforce the rules only with others and I had so much high hopes.”
McElligott said. “He is right Captain Ben Nemsi, and he does have the Authority to order you to accommodate transport to the Marines. I just transferred the USS Baghdad to the first fleet. You know directly under Admiral Stahl’s command.”
Stahl said , and once you done that, you will take post on planet Beautiful as Forward base commandant. It is going to be right up your alley.”
“Thank you sir.”
Back in the shuttle and on their way to Patrick Green, and the HQ of the 56th, Stahl said. “That ship goes into dock after he completed his mission and a new Captain is found, and it gets an orderly Union Gray skin. I wish I could make him paint the whole damn ship with a hand brush. How did he manage to get into the big seat?”
McElligott made an unhappy face. “I recommended him. He is a pedant but he has most of the other markers for a Command officer. They all have some kind of tick and have some sort of individual style. All the ones you pick most certainly have.”
“Not even Erica would have curtains on the bridge.”
“Granted that was a touch too much, but I actually sort of liked the wood look. Reminded me of a real wet keel ship. Now tell me about Planet Beautiful.
“Well it’s basically a health spa in planet size. Sweltering sauna climate, continent sized mud baths. Giant primates,able to give you a hell of a massage. Oh and about 25,000 different kind of mosquitoes for invigorating acupuncture and blood letting. Conditions are so bad , BoCA had nor found a colonist group that wanted it , so the Marine corps is using it as training planet once in a while.”
McElligott rolled his eyes. “That is simply evil. What kind of base is it, Science corps?”
“Whatever I come up with. There is no base yet. I am going to send him a big door mat though.”
McElligott sighed and said. “So how about that round of golf?”