By Bradley Henry
Looking back I should have known better than to take new LT Shebang on my ship. I had been told by his former commander that he was a stickler for the rules. I had been warned that if you looked anal retentive up in the dictionary it didn’t just have a picture of Shebang but a footnote as well. I had thought he couldn’t be that bad besides I needed a gunnery commander for the upcoming mission and there just weren’t many to choose from. My normal gunnery commander had come down with something and would not be able to make the mission. This would lead to the downfall of the finest supply sergeants I had ever worked with. In retrospect I should have vented the lieutenant. It had been a simple mission that went so right but ended so badly.
The PUV Firefox was an old type 1 corvette class warship that was an enigma that just could not be explained to command, I liked it that way. It was stationed outside a derelict freighter in a very questionable part of space.
I also liked the fact that I had a supply sergeant that just knew where to get the equipment I needed. I knew better than to ask questions when SSG Baker was asked to get something, plausible deniability was a good thing…wasn’t it?
I love my ship it looks like gosa from the outside but is anything like that in reality. It has a proto-type engine that had been planned for the new type 3 corvette the PUV Black Viper. How Baker had got it I have no clue. It wasn’t on the ship as far as I was concerned; command was still trying to find where it had been shipped to from the factory. The two naval class guass rifles on each side of the ship were also an amazing piece of work. The four weapons could launch a depleted uranium nickel slug the weight of a bus at supersonic speed. Inertia can be a real bitch! Instead of dodge and weave against bigger stronger ships the Firefox could in fact go head to head and probably punch a hole straight through a battleship if he had to. I had had to give up some of her smaller weaponry to offset the weight of the huge ship killers but who cared when one of those could cripple most ships in one shot. In the end SSG Baker had found a use for the older smaller weapons.
Somehow SSG Baker had taken the weapons that had to be removed and the old engine and found a way to get newer double heat sinks. He had then taken the old heat sinks and traded those for lighter stronger carbon/ceramic infused titanium armor. SSG Baker then had taken the armor plating and traded it for newer computers and a galley that an admiral would drool over. It would make you dizzy if you tried to keep up with it all, but again plausible deniability dictated I did not want to figure it out.
In the end I had a ship that hit like a heavyweight boxer and moved liked a featherweight. If that wasn’t enough with the double heat sinks enemies needed good luck to get a lock on where I was let alone getting weapons lock on The Firefox.
I liked this because it allowed me to take missions that others thought only the PUV James Keeling would be assigned. It had gotten me the rank and prestige I wanted. It had gotten my supply sergeant a room to himself on the ship. It was unheard of on military vessels for a staff sergeant to have his own room but what could you say.
Besides outfitting the ship with the best equipment he could find. He had made sure that the crew was well fed, going with the head cook to the market to barter for what was needed. He made sure the recreation room was always loaded with new videos, gaming systems, and workout equipment. The crew was most likely one of the happiest in the quadrant. Unlike other Corvette class ships where crew tried to get off the ship onto bigger vessels the crew of the Firefox did everything in their power to stay aboard. The quarters may have been cramped but the other things on board more than made up for it.
“Commander Vinje, why are we stationed outside this derelict space freighter?” asked Shebang while at the weapons controls of the PUV Firefox. It was stationed outside a derelict freighter in a very questionable part of space. I didn’t like it but my supply sergeant had asked me to take a slight “detour” on the mission we were doing as a scouting unit for command. I would have normally said “no” but as usual we were ahead of schedule, thanks to the supply sergeants work, and I knew that SSG Baker wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.
“Just be prepared and keep in contact with radar this isn’t the friendliest piece of space to be in. I do not want to be caught off guard!” I said.
“I still must protest sir we were given strict orders to check out the reports of a new Purist Nation battle cruiser in this sector.” said Shebang.
“I know our orders lieutenant, your protest is noted.”
“While I am at it sir, I still do not understand why I should have to share a room with the radar commander? The supply sergeant isn’t authorized a room to himself, it should be mine.”
“Lieutenant I am not going to have this discussion with you again! I told you already that SSG Baker has earned the right to that room.” I said.
“But sir I deserve that room…”
“Shut the frak up and get back to work!”
After yet another “rules” quote from the LT I was again questioning why I had not listened to my fellow commanders and found someone else to fill the position for this mission. I decided it was time to check with Baker and see how he was doing on his search.
“SSG Baker how is it going over there?”
“Ok sir I almost have the cargo secured. The last box is being loaded in the airlock as we speak.”
“Sir we have contact!” I heard over the speaker from LT Koroll. “Oh, frak it is a destroyer class ship…it’s the Avenging Angel sir, a Purist Nations warship we have no records of!”
This was one of those moments when I just loved “military intelligence” what a flipping oxymoron. I really do hate those guys. Cruiser/Destroyer no big deal, yeah right!
“Have they spotted us yet?”
“I don’t think so sir.”
“Prepare to deploy the “cry baby,” setting to a Puritan colony ship distress signal. SSG Baker you got a minute before we need to hall ass!”
“Already secure sir we are good!”
“OK, plan A+1” I said. The running rule on the ship was there was never a “plan B” because if it was so damn good it would have been the plan A in the first place. A “plan A+1” was just a slightly modified “plan A.”
“Engines, get us at minimum power, I want our heat signature as small as possible but be prepared for full power when I call.”
“Shebang prepare the guass rifles, aim for that ships engine section.”
“Sir, we don’t have orders for that.”
“Target of opportunity lieutenant, we are going to take that ship out of the fight if we can, if not permanently at least for a while.”
“Lieutenant that is an order, you know the standing orders about Purist Nation warships. “
Before the cry baby was shot out of the ship I had the navigation team load the data into the computer for our punch out. I then had the pilot prepare for evasive maneuvering and Lieutenant Shebang prepare his weapons. They were loaded and manually locked on target.
“Everybody ready?” I asked.
“Launch the “cry baby.”
“Roger.” I heard from the crew.
“On my mark…fire!”
The four slugs of depleted uranium nickels looked like small meteors as they flew straight and true toward the much larger vessel. The beauty of a guass rifle is it uses almost no energy as the magnetic system fires the slug. This allowed me to wait the couple seconds it took to see what kind of damage had been done. The four slugs made for a nice shot grouping at the destroyer. The defense systems on the ship had time to register the incoming bullets but not the time to engage all of them. One of the slugs was deflected off from its target but the other three slammed home two punching into the lower right section of the hall. The first two punched holes into the armor where the engine and water tanks were housed shattering them but not penetrating. It was the third projectile that did the greatest amount of damage ripping a jagged hole in the water storage tanks near the engine room sending a jet of water turned ice out into space. It wasn’t crippled parse but the ship would have no choice but to head back to space dock for repairs, no ship could go long without water. Our mission ironically was complete, we had found the ship we were supposed to, damaged the vessel, and now only needed to report in.
“Engage engines; let’s get out of here while we have the chance.”
After a few tense hours of hide and seek we finally made it back to friendly space. After the orders to stand down were given I decided to check on what my supply sergeant had found so important…my mistake I would later find out was allowing LT Shabang to tag along.
“So, SSG Baker what was so important that we stop at that derelict freighter?” I asked.
“Sir,” SSG Baker said as he opened one of the chests and we looked inside. What I saw caught my eye, a cargo crate filled with Purist Nation marked MRE cases.
“Food? We put our lives in danger for food!” said Shabang.
“Do you know what this is worth sir?” asked Baker.
“What the frak sergeant it’s food!”
“Yes, sir. Food the enemy now can’t retrieve for their soldiers and I can trade for materials for this ship. It is a win-win situation.” said Baker.
“It is illegal sergeant!”
“Legal, illegal it is kind of a grey area here sir.” said Baker.
“I am going to have you brought up on charges!”
“Calm down lieutenant the mission was a success, the supply sergeant is right it is a win-win and this can be considered captured contraband.”
As we headed back to the command space station I had no clue how bad things would become. When we got back I filed my after action report and logged in the commanders log. When I got the summons from the admiral I figured it was for a congratulation for a job well done. I got the congratulations but what came next was a crushing blow to my crew and my ship as the admiral informed me that my supply sergeant was being put up on charges of piracy and actions unbecoming of an NCO. I asked what was going on and the admiral informed that he had received a letter about the supplies captured and the plan to “trade/sell” the food. I argued that the supplies were contraband and we were allowed to take it. The admiral agreed to that we were allowed to take them it was the trade/selling he informed me was the problem. That would constitute piracy and he would have none of that from the supply sergeant. He would have face a court martial for what he had planned. I tried without avail to persuade the admiral to change his mind.
The admiral asked me also how I had gotten four guass rifles for my ship. I said with all honesty all I knew was they were on my MTOE, how they had I gotten on it I did not know. I could see the writing on the wall as the admiral pulled out a small tablet and started to look over my MTOE. Plausible deniability was a good thing, right? After a little discussion the admiral looked at me and asked “do I really want to know?”
“No, sir you really don’t. You just need to know that you have the finest scout ship in the fleet and enjoy impressing the command above you.”
“You know somebody has to take the fall for this. It was cc’d to JAG.”
“Sir, can I at least ask that a certain person gets what they deserve for taking the finest supply sergeant I have ever worked with away?” I asked.
“I think that I can be arranged…how does command on an old freighter, I know a chief engineer named B.W. Crites who just loves officers.
Later that week SSG Baker was convicted on 1200 counts of attempted piracy, one for each MRE that we had collected. The admiral then informed SSG Baker he would be doing 30 years hard labor digging on one of the moons of Jupiter. He then offered the SSG Baker one other option, a complete wiping of his records if he would do a two year tour as the supply sergeant on the PUV James Keeling.
Most would look at this as a suicide mission from what I knew of the sergeant he wouldn’t see it this way. From the standpoint of the men on my ship what “The Crypt” did was nothing compared to what we did because we did it all the time in a smaller ship. To say the least I was not shocked when SSG Baker gladly took the stint on “The Crypt” there gain was my loss. I was sure he would have that ship outfitted pretty nicely by the time he was done.