Achilles Heel: Chapter 3
Here's Chapter 3. readcard suggested a title, Achilles Heel, and I'll run with that I suppose. Hope you guys enjoy.
“What is it, Ferguson?” said Captain Drake, “I'm on hold with the office of Admiral Douglas.”
“I can come back?” said Ferguson tentatively.
The Captain unmuted the computer terminal. A computerized voice spoke.
“We are currently unable to process your call,” it said, “Hold please. If you would instead like to leave a message, press 1.”
“Be quick,” said Captain Drake.
“Well,” said Lt. Ferguson, “You asked me for suggestions for your crew last week, and I just came to drop this off.”
He waved a small piece of paper around. The Captain gestured to leave it on his desk and get out.
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” said Captain Drake, “I'll be sure to have a look.”
“Sir,” said Ferguson, weakly saluting before leaving.
Captain Drake unmuted the terminal.
“Someone will be with you momenta…” said the computer voice before being cut off.
“Office of Admiral Douglas,” said a young female voice, “How may I help you?”
“Hi,” said Captain Drake, “Captain Michael Drake here, I'm calling for Admiral Douglas. Is he in?”
“A denied personnel transfer request,” said the Captain.
About a minute later, a new voice came in over the comm channel.
“Admiral Douglas,” said the new voice as the matching face appeared on the screen of the terminal.
“Admiral,” said Captain Drake, “I'm calling about the personnel request you denied.”
“Captain,” said the Admiral, “If this is about Clyde again, I may just court-martial your ass.”
“Respectfully, sir,” said Captain Drake, “Experienced tactical officers are scarce right now. Clyde's not doing anything sitting a cell. Might as well get some work out of her.”
“Clyde is an insubordinate mess,” said Admiral Douglas, “Nothing but trouble.”
“Sir, please,” said Captain Drake, “I've worked with her before. I know how to deal with her.”
“Fine,” said Admiral Douglas, “You want her, you got her. But on your head be it.”
“Thank you, Admiral.”
“You're lucky the Judge Advocate General's been reassigned to command Eighth Fleet. I'll approve your request. Douglas out.”
“Prisoner 183!” shouted an angry voice, “Stand up!”
“Fuck you,” said Lilith Clyde weakly.
“Watch it, prisoner,” shouted a second voice.
Clyde rolled around on her bed to face the prison guards.
“Can't I just lie here while you beat me?” she asked.
“Don't get smart with us,” said the first guard, “You're being transferred. Gather your belongings.”
Clyde lifted herself off the bed, stood up and turned her back to the guards. The second guard opened the cell door. The first stepped through and handcuffed Clyde behind her back.
“Where am I going?” asked Clyde.
“Processing,” said one of the guards.
“Funny.” said Clyde, “They teach you that in Basic?”
The guards pushed her out of the cell and the trio started down the corridor.
“Tell me,” said Clyde, “Why'd you guys join the Imperial Guard?”
“Excuse me?” said the guard holding her by her left arm.
“You know,” grinned Clyde, “Did you always want to be a shithead, or were you corrupted by your overwhelming urge to have intercourse with pigs?”
That remark was not a good idea, and Clyde paid for it with an electrified truncheon to the knee. She fell to floor, and tore her already ragged prison uniform jumpsuit.
“Worth it,” she groaned.
“What was that prisoner?” shouted one of the guards in her face.
“Nothing…” she mumbled.
Heavy-handedly, the two guards lifted her back on her feet and continued to transport her to Processing.
At Processing, the prison's administrative staff processed and authenticated her transfer papers, after which she was placed in a holding cell. The holding cell had no windows, and the door was solid and non-transparent. There was no clock, no toilet, and no light source other than a small light fixture on the ceiling. After what felt like hours, the door finally opened.
“You can come out now,” said an unfamiliar voice.
Clyde stepped out of the holding cell, blinking into the bright light of the corridor.
“Fucking hell,” said a second unfamiliar voice quietly.
When her eyes adjusted to the light, Clyde saw two men in Navy uniforms standing before her. Their shoulder boards revealed their ranks to be Sub-Lieutenant and Crewman 1st class. She looked down at the ragged prison uniform she was wearing. It was now that she realized the stench she was giving off. Her most recent shower must have been at least a week ago. That must have been what the crewman had remarked on.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“We're with Navy security,” said the Sub-Lieutenant, “If you'll come with us, ma'am.”
Five minutes later she was sitting, uncuffed, in the rear compartment of a Navy shuttle. The crewman stepped into the compartment from the cockpit and tossed her a utility jumpsuit.
“Here,” he said, “Might be a little more comfortable.”
“Thanks,” said Clyde, as she ripped off the remains of her prison jumpsuit and got to work on putting on the new threads.
“LT's running through pre-flight now,” said the crewman, looking away, “We'll be on our way soon enough.”
“Where are we going?” asked Clyde, zipping up the jumpsuit.
“Trafalgar,” said the crewman, “Should be a short trip.”
“I don't know,” said the young crewman, “I'm just a lowly sailor. They don't tell me anything. What were you in for?”
“Excessive flippancy,” snarked Clyde.
The crewman was quiet for a moment.
“I heard those Imperial Guard-run prisons were bad,” he started, “But I had no idea…”
“I don't want to talk about it,” said Clyde.
Without saying another word, the crewman turned and headed back into the cockpit. Moments later, the shuttle took off. Within a few minutes, Clyde could see the Lunar Penal Colony getting smaller and smaller through the tiny window in the shuttle's rear hatch.
“Fucking shithole,” she whispered.
Fifteen minutes later, the shuttle had set down in the shipyard's shuttle-bay. Its three occupants disembarked and found Lieutenant Ferguson waiting for them. The Sub-Lieutenant and the crewman saluted him. Ferguson saluted back.
“Sir,” said the Sub-Lieutenant, holding out a clipboard, “I need you to sign this.”
Ferguson picked up the pen and signed the paperwork in triplicate. The Sub-Lieutenant removed two copies of the document, folded them up and handed them to Clyde.
“If you'll give that to the Captain, sir,” he said, “Will that be all?”
“I got it from here, boys,” said Ferguson, “Dismissed.”
“Sir,” said the two security personnel before turning away and leaving.
A short silence followed.
“Hi,” said Ferguson, turning to Clyde and extending a hand, “Lieutenant Johnny Ferguson, Senior Construction Officer.”
“Lilith Clyde,” said Clyde, shaking the extended hand.
“I've been asked to take you to see the Captain as soon as you arrived,” said Ferguson, “so if you'll come with me.”
A few minutes later, Clyde stepped through the door of Captain Drake's office.
“Commander Drake,” she said, “I was not expecting to see you.”
“It's Captain now,” said Captain Drake, pointing at his name-tag, “Has been for a while, actually. Please. Sit.”
Clyde stepped up to the desk and sat down in one of the two chairs facing it.
“Do you have the transfer papers?” asked the Captain.
“I do,” said Clyde, handing the Captain his copy of the documents.
“Thank you,” said Captain Drake, “I'll look those over later.”
“Why am I here?” asked Clyde.
“They're giving me a ship again,” said the Captain, “Actually, it's the one you can see out the window there.”
“Surprising,” snarked Clyde.
“And I need a tactical officer,” said Captain Drake, ignoring her snide remark, “I haven't forgotten what happened at Dal, and I figure I owe you one.”
“What do you mean?” said Clyde, “I've been dishonorably discharged, pending trial.”
Captain Drake pointed at the document Clyde brought.
“This document,” he said, “Transfers you from Imperial Guard custody to mine. Instead of rotting away at the Lunar Penal Colony, you'll be working for me until such time as a trial can materialize.”
“Well,” said Clyde, “Thanks, I guess.”
“And these,” said Captain Drake, pulling more papers out of his desk drawer, “if you'll sign them at least, grant you a provisional commission as a Lieutenant-Commander in Her Majesty's Imperial Navy. You'll be working as my tactical officer.”
Clyde's eyes grew wider.
“I should mention though,” said the Captain, “Provisional commissions come without a paycheck.”
“How's the dental package?” said Clyde as she signed the papers with a grin.
After a short while catching up, Captain Drake sent for someone to show Clyde to temporary quarters aboard the station. On the bed she found three folded uniforms, a utility uniform, a service uniform and a dress uniform, all adorned with the provisional Lieutenant-Commander rank insignia and name-tags with her name on it. She took a much needed shower, put on the service uniform and stepped out of the quarters in search of lunch. Wandering the corridors, she found an Ensign, whom she asked for directions.
Ferguson stepped into the station's mess hall and retrieved his usual lunch order of tuna sandwiches. He saw Clyde, now decidedly less smelly, sitting at a table near the window. The mess hall window offered a good view of the ship under construction. Ferguson sat down opposite Clyde at the same table.
“So what's you story?” he asked.
“Can we not? Not a fun subject,” she said, before gesturing towards the ship out the window, “So that's the boat, huh?”
“Yep,” said Ferguson, “INS Achilles. She's almost done.”
“Tell me about her.”
“Heracles-class battlecruiser,” said Ferguson, “7 decks. 200 meters long, 70 meters wide, 50 meters high, weighs in at around 500 000 tonnes. Enough armaments to put most of the older battleships to shame.”
“Oh really?” asked Clyde, “That seems like a lot of firepower on such a small platform.”
“Wasn't my idea,” said Ferguson, “But someone at R&D thought six 450mm railguns and twelve 250mm railguns on both the port and starboard sides seemed fun. Plus of course the usual cruiser complement of missile launchers and point-defense turrets etcetera.”
“But isn't that kind of the point of a battlecruiser?” asked Clyde, “Firepower of a battleship coupled with the mobility of a cruiser?”
“In my opinion,” said Ferguson, “The end result is the price-tag of a battleship coupled with the fragility of a cruiser.”