I'm back from my short break over the holidays, and I'm happy to continue Alice's journey with you. I'm doing something new with her story, that is, following how her orders and the details of her career are trickling down to her as the tools she'll need to carry out her duties are put together. For her, it's like being in the middle of a puzzle and as the pieces come together she knows more about what her job will be, what kind of resources she'll have and where she may be going. In the military, some of the most active people (soldiers and other elements), are given their orders last, after all the decisions have been made and facts outside of their knowledge are taken into account. They may be able to guess why they are doing something or going somewhere with some accuracy, but real explanations from the people giving orders can be sparse or non-existent.
So far Alice knows what ship she'll be flying missions from, who her commanding officer is, and that she'll have the Clever Dream and Lewis on her side. In this chapter she learns the most important fact about her position in Haven Fleet. Just in time, too, her first mission is about to begin.
Alice's Revenge Part 6 (A part of the Spinward Fringe Broadcast 11: Revenge Preview)
The details of Alice’s new comission came through as Yawen and her troops finished their equipment and armour check aboard their combat shuttle. The ship didn’t look like anything special. A long slug with extra passenger space and a broad main deck. There were three turrets and thick armour made from the new type of advanced plating that the War Forge was building most of the new ships with. The section they were settling into was behind the cabin, could convert from seats to bunks in minutes, and had lockers for all their gear.
Alice was settled into heavy armour that had interceptor thrusters and a shield package added before anyone else had a chance to finish checking theirs. She wanted to check the details of her orders and comission more than anything, but she knew she had to get herself set up for the mission of the moment first.
“I’ll make sure the rest of our people are set up and ready. They’re not qualified on Interceptor Armour though, so we won’t be able to set them up with more than emergency thrusters,” Yawen said. “You look your file over.”
Alice nodded and stood beside the door leading to the passenger and cargo area. The shuttle jostled slightly as it left the deck. She could see the hangar surrounding the ship disappear through the transparent sections of hull, revealing a field of distant stars. They were just outside the Haven Solar System, near the end of the hyperspeed deceleration zone, where ships that travelled at speeds faster than light were supposed to slow to normal tranist velocities. She couldn’t see them, but she knew that there were two whole squadrons of fighters out there already along with a small fleet of rescue ships already meeting the incoming refugee crafts.
Alice settled into her armour, letting it stand for her and leaning her weight on the inside of its shell. It was a trick she learned during suit week - when she had armour with its own strength augmentation systems, she could trick it so it stayed still while she used it as support - and it was a great way to conserve energy. At her mental urging her command and control unit started using the systems inside her helmet as a display. “Bring read my orders, please,” she requested.
“Second Lieutenent Alice Valent, you have been assigned to the First Special Operations Combat Unit,” announced a gentle male voice that reminded her of Theodore, the android she knew was being repaired back on Tamber. It wasn’t the same, but something in its clear, formal manner reminded her of him. “Assume duty immediately under the direction of Lieutenant Commander Robert Terran as a solitary operative wtih support. Your support is determined by your commanding officer and will change depending on mission requirements. Upon its completion, the Light Corvette - Clever Dream - will be remitted to your solitary ownership and will be used as your primary mission transportation system. Until then you will be provided with the temporary means you require.”
“Stop,” Alice said. “Clarify the last passage; the Clever Dream will be my property, no matter what upgrades are made?”
“That is correct. Notes from three superior commanders are attached to that part of your orders. All of them specifically guarantee your sole ownership of the Clever Dream. Would you like me to read them?”
“No, I think I know what they’ll say. Continue reading my orders, please.”
“As a member of the Special Operations Combat Unit, or SOCU, you are given the right to assume command of any personel of a lesser rank, or to requisition any equipment if justifiable. You may also dismiss any member of your team at any time, and they will be reassigned elsewhere. The privileges and responsibilities of your rank in the Haven Shore Fleet apply as normal.”
Astonished, Alice turned away from the small squad who were checking each other’s armour and gear in the cabin. There was nothing about the Special Operations that covered the kind of position she had been assigned in her training. Acedemically, she understood the need for units like SOCU, they could break off from a battle group or smaller assembly of forces to accomplish more focused tasks, perform scouting duties, and complete a broad variety of more deilicate missions, but she never thought she would be assigned to such a group. The amount of responsibility that came with being an independant operative in the Special Operations Combat Unit was staggering. It meant Yawen and the troops under her were temporarily assigned to her, they could be called away at any minute, and Alice could be given a mission that she had to undertake alone or she could assemble a team of her own from a broad roster if she needed to. That idea was incredible, but at the same time, she wanted to have a more permanent team around her, so there could be a feeling of comraderie amongst her core people. It only took her a moment to realize that she could have that as long as she could justify it. “What is the mission of SOCU?”
“The Special Operations Combat Unit’s mission is to address threats to Haven Shore that fall outside normal parameters, require specialists that are not available in a timely manner, or must be handled in secret.”
“What is my current mission?” Alice asked, already looking at it on her display.
“To address any exceptional threats as they appear in the Haven Solar system in Arrival Zone Twenty-Eight. You are under the command of Lieutenant Commander Robert Terran. Your combat shuttle and squad are to wait for further orders.”
Alice thought for a moment, pondering the full meaning of ‘exceptional threats’ according to regulations and nodded to herself as she felt she had a full grasp of what that meant. She closed her eyes and cleared her mind of the excitement at finally knowing her place in the military. It was a special position, filled with privileges that most officers didn’t have, and it would be challenging, but she could ponder that at another time. Thoughts of the Clever Dream, and of Theo had to be pressed away too. Finally, she sent her hopes out to her father, who she wanted to go after herself more than anything, and did her best to clear her mind of worry.
There was no way she could know what her and the green troops under her would face next. They are finished doing their checks, and already settling into the seats in the embarkation compartment. Alice took a few deep, slow breaths as she looked through their records. There wasn’t much to learn since she’d had Regan, Trang and Luu as cadets during Apex training. They were all great soldiers, and had solid secondary interests that could help in different situations. Private Fritz Regan was her favourite amongst them, he made an impression on her during her training, and only required her direct help once as a cadet. Knowing how much responsibility she had been given, she’d never reveal that, but it was good to see him anyway.
At the conclusion of one more deep breath, she turned to face her team. They perked up and paid attention immediately. “Now that I’ve finally had the details of my command cleared up, I can tell you why we’re here,” she said in a tone that was much sharper than she intended. By the time she was finished, everyone was on their feet.
She retracted her helmet, baring her face to her team and took a moment to relax a little. “We’re not going to help any of the ships that come in with minimal problems. If the refugees aboard are in fair condition and their ships are in good enough shape to make it to one of our screening centres, then we won’t be ordered to help. The Special Operations Units are here to address exceptional threats. That means we will be called in to board ships that may have a hostage situation in progress, or may be contaminated by a virus, one that is not responding to hails but has armed passengers, or anything that Fleet doesn’t want a regular rescue team to touch. Until we are called on, we wait here. It may be a while before we’re needed, so stay focused. On another note, I’m glad to see some familliar faces.” She let her smile slip and looked across the group of seven Privates, then to Yawen. “It’s a new career for all of us, in a new fleet in a place where we haven’t been for much more than a year at the longest. So, when I saw who I’d be working with today, I couldn’t have been happier. I couldn’t think of a finer group to hurry up and wait with. That is all.”
Alice was half way through a sigh of relief at finishing her short update when an alarm whooped in the cabin and the lights flashed red. Everyone closed their helmets and began to get ready. Alice watched her information stream for an update to her orders while she watched her group check in with Yawen. “Sorry! Sorry!” announced the pilot through the intercomm. “We saw an assignment for SOCU Alpha come up and forgot that Lieutenant Valent is Special Operations Combat Unit Gamma. Won’t happen again! Sorry,”
“If Mump and Smoot do that again, I’ll make sure they don’t make the mistake a third time,” Private Beck said as she disengaged her head protection and ran her hand over the blonde stubble on her head.
“Easy, Tulsa, I think everyone’s on edge.”
Alice left her helmet in place and started looking up Lieutenant Garrison, the pilot who helmed the Clever Dream almost as long as she did. He was still in the service, still assigned to the Triton as a combat pilot but on leave. Without an instant’s hesitation she began filling out a request to have him assigned to the Clever Dream. He outranked her, so it was just that, a request, but she hoped he would take a position on the Clever Dream one more time.
Alice's Revenge is ©2017, 2018 Randolph Lalonde, Spinward Fringe is a Registered Trademark of Randolph Lalonde.
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