Klingseis Chapter Six
I head back toward pilot country, but before I can turn a corner I am vigorously greeted by the same young engineer who brought the note from Hale. She took the corner hard like a missile, her apparent goal being to destroy whatever was on the other side of the hallway.
“Oh my Lords, Lieutenant, I am so sorry!”
The force of her forehead into my left breast is a pain not easily ignored. I allow the pulsing to mellow as I look at her name tag.
Specialist Gracie gives me a sheepish look as I help her pick up the collection of papers she was carrying. “Let me ask you, Gracie, do you usually charge the corridors like an enraged Ralgoth?”
The young girl is obviously exasperated both from whatever task she has been assigned, and from the embarrassment of almost knocking an officer off her feet. To her credit, she has the presence of mind to calm herself down before speaking.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I’ve actually been looking for you. I have another message. This time from the bridge.”
What is it with this crew and their personal memos today? It’s like I’m trying to communicate with my grandparents.
“Specialist, any idea why everyone has decided to send a flight engineer running around the ship delivering messages? Aren’t they aware we have a working comm system?”
Gracie smiles and shrugs her shoulders, a clear indication that she is just doing as ordered.
“Of course not, run along then. Not literally. Please stop running along, actually, you’re going to kill someone.”
I watch the engineer head back toward the hangar, this time much more cautiously as she navigates the turn in the corridor. Truth be told, the girl probably welcomed a chance to get off the flight line and stay clean a little longer today. Usually when the deck engineers leave their shifts, the only part of them not covered in grease and oil are the rings around their face from their protective masks.
I follow after her, allowing a few seconds just in case she decides to change directions suddenly. The letter feels heavy in my hands. Whatever is in here isn’t a normal memo. I manage to make it to my bunk room door without suffering another crewmen to the chest. Once inside, I immediately open the packaging.
The letter is thick, and not from being long. It’s only one page, but the parchment is solid. Only one place on the ship to find paper like this. My suspicions are confirmed as soon as I glance at the letterhead.
“From the desk of Commander Thomas Prendable:”
These things are never good news.
The memo is encrypted, which is a pain in the ass. Instead of merely punching my keycode into a computer or speaking an alternative password aloud, I have to physically use a decryption key from my safe to unlock the message. Protocol states that each department head must have their own unique encryption system. If this memo got into the hands of Hale for example, it would make about as much sense as anything that comes out of his mouth.
The short walk across my room to the safe is made more difficult by the piles of off-duty clothes and underwear littering the floor. Once I get to the safe, it only takes a few turns of the dial and a DNA scan from the cells left by my fingertips to retrieve the small bracelet and tablet contained inside. Once I put the bracelet on, it continuously monitors my vital signs, as well as periodic retinal, voice, and further DNA scans to make sure I am who I’m supposed to be. As far as I can tell, the decryption bracelet scans the paper in front of me and transmits the decrypted message to the tablet instantaneously. What was once linguistic gibberish is now perfectly readable Standard.
That was unexpected.
According to the memo, a series of surprise war games with the Hycains are scheduled to begin tomorrow. To make things even more interesting, the Hycain Ambassador, himself, will be on board to supervise. And most importantly, I have to be present at his briefing at 1400 today.
When I was younger, I would often get excited about the opportunity to prove my worth to the top brass. Unfortunately, being the wing commander carries with it the added responsibility of holding my pilots to the same standard. Half of them are probably still hungover from the night before, and one of my best spent the night in a cell.
Not exactly the optimal time for a pop quiz.
Ambassadors mean formal attire. Formal attire that I haven’t worn or cleaned since the last officers’ ball. The same officers ball where I danced with Lieutenant Commander Briggs, actually. That could have been an interesting night. We finished a round of target practice that morning, and the commander decided to celebrate his victory by helping himself to a considerable amount of champagne. I thought the night might head in a very different direction for us, until Briggs excused himself early.
As I frantically jog over to my closet, I feel envious of Specialist Gracie. She is obviously not invited to this little shindig. It makes me long for the days when my responsibilities were limited to showing up to my shift on time, polishing my boots, and trying not to talk back to any senior officers. Power is often an unbearable burden.
My dress uniform seems to be in good condition, for the most part. The shirt is hanging, but the skirt is crumpled up at the bottom of my closet. The buttons are dull and lifeless and my shoes have a slight scuff where I tripped over an imaginary bump in the deck on the long walk back to my quarters. Getting this uniform presentable is probably going to be a ninety minute job. I glance toward the clock and realize that it’s 1140. I’ll be cutting it pretty close.
I look back at the wrinkled skirt. Then back at the clock.
Fuck this. I’m going to eat lunch.