Putting My Words Where My Mouth Is

My profile calls me a writer of science fiction adventure. Many of my posts reference back to this fact. The time has come to puts words where my mouth is, and, I hope, to seed interest in the coming release of my first novel Synergy Of Hopes.

Enjoy.

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One’s Place

A Worlds Together Teaser

The plaque read, Ensign Acer, Guard Fleet Admissions. June Trynamour wiped her hands dry before reaching for the handle. It had taken a lot of finagling to make it this far. She couldn’t allow herself to slip up now.

The young man behind the too organised desk glanced up. “Please be seated Miss Trynamour.”

Nothing good ever came from a person who kept their space so neat. She sat, hands on her lap.

The Ensign looked her in the eye with an unwavering gaze. “So you want to join Guard Fleet.”

Her sister had a similar knack for seemingly seeing past her guard. “Yes. I mean, it has become clear that Guard Fleet offers me a world of opportunities I may not get elsewhere.”

“I see.” He looked at his desk display. “I also see that you have demonstrated a remarkable aptitude for engineering and related physical sciences.”

Her heart leapt at the thought. “Yes, indeed. Ask anyone who knows me. Circuits and Gears is my middle name.”

“Yes, that is on record, along with your age.” He looked up once more. “We usually do not consider candidates before their eighteenth birthday.”

A cold sweat swept down her back inspite of all the time she’s spent preparing for this objection. “All the required paperwork has been filed.” With a few tweaks to improve her odds.

“Then you understand my need to ask the question.”

She held herself to a simple nod. They were almost through the script now. She’d worked too hard to blow it now.

“What then should I say about those points in your entrance exams that are best labelled as problematic?”

Problematic, yes, but not fatal. “If I understand my councillors correctly, the rigorous training for Guard Fleet is just what I need in those very areas.”

“That’s an interesting thought, but you should know that there is no place in Guard Fleet for mavericks. Which brings me to my next question, how much did the recruitment of your sister affect your decision to apply to join Guard Fleet?”

She looked at her hands. The one question she feared the most. Susan always got the breaks. It was her turn. She raised her head “I admit it freely. My eyes were opened to the possibilities when Susan, that is Ensign Susan Trynamour, first told us she had been approached by representatives of Guard Fleet.”

“And?”

Now wasn’t the time to faulter. “And, I learned so much about Guard Fleet that I had never known before. It was a taste that told me to look closer, and when I did, it became clear that Guard Fleet would be a perfect match for my own skills.”

“Your engineering skills?”

Once more she nodded. “I come from a small abyssal research community, and everyone has told me that my talents were being wasted within the limits of that world.”

“You had other options, like your sister. College, university, technical institutes. I know your parents are well prepared to see you go forward.”

And waste all that time on donkey work when assignment within Guard Fleet would put her on the front lines within a year? “That is true, and I was thinking along those lines, until the Guard Fleet option was made real to me.”

“Very well, let’s concentrate on that option for a moment.”

What was he looking for? What did he suspect?

“Aside from giving you an opportunity to handle the latest in hi-tech equipment, what is Guard Fleet to you?”

This was it, the make or break. She took a deep breath. “Guard Fleet is a symbol for something much greater than itself, the Commonwealth of Planets, the greatest experiment in representative intra-stellar government ever encountered. Guard Fleet exists to tell the universe that the Commonwealth is willing to stand firm for what it believes. Guard Fleet makes it possible for peace loving citizens everywhere to go about their lives without fear.”

“There is no denying you would have made a great recruitment ad. The question is, do you really believe that is true?”

As long as she got in. She straightened her shoulders. “I do, and if anything, the process of applying to Guard Fleet has only strengthened my resolve. Guard Fleet is where I belong, and I expect nothing less than the chance to prove it.”

The Ensign tapped his console, then stood and reached his hand across the desk, “In that case, Cadet, welcome to Guard Fleet.”

Her heart pounded in her ears as she stood to accept his hand.

###

The plaque read, Lieutenant Hansard, Chief of Operations.

Trynamour wiped her hands dry before stepping through and coming to attention. “Private Trynamour reporting as ordered.”

The Lieutenant looked up from his desk. “At ease, Private.”

She knew the drill, feet apart, hands behind her back.

The Lieutenant looked her in the eye. “Private, what exactly is it about this office that makes you want to spend so much time here?”

“Sir?” Something was wrong. Though the words were familiar, he’s spoken with an edge she rarely heard from her superiors.

“Let me rephrase my question. Are you here because you believe in Guard Fleet, or are you here on some kind of ego trip?”

She gulped in spite of herself. “I do not understand. My belief in Guard Fleet is a matter of record dating back to the day I was accepted.”

“Correction. A belief in Guard Fleet is on record. The question remains, has it ever been your belief?”

Why that question? Why now? Things had changed, she had seen what Guard Fleet really did, and was proud to play a part. Except for that small problem of dealing with the assorted numbskulls who portioned out tasks.

“Once upon a time you were told there is no place in Guard Fleet for mavericks, yet you continue to push the bounds of discipline and decor.”

She thought back over the intervening time since her last visit to this office. “Excuse me, sir. Except for a couple of small incidents, I have done nothing of the sort since our last talk.”

The Lieutenant looked at his desk display. “Basically correct. Unfortunately for you, one of your past excesses was not so easily forgotten.”

He turned the display around to reveal the results of one of her entrance exams, one she had tweaked upwards, except this readout showed her original scores.

“You were very clever about this, and the others.”

She fought to keep her composure. “That was almost two years ago. Surely I have proved myself since then.”

“That is not the point. You joined Guard Fleet under false pretences. Probably out of jealousy over the success of your sister Ensign Susan Trynamour.”

She cringed because the Lieutenant was right. “But that was then and so much has changed.”

“Nevertheless, a formal complaint has been placed before a board of review.”

She gasped. “Court Marshall?”

“That is one option.”

“And the others?”

“I have been authorised to offer you an alternative.”

She couldn’t let him see her waiver. “What kind of alternative?”

“You said it yourself, all this occurred almost two years ago.”

“You want me to tear up my application to re-enlist?”

“If you do, this issue will not be placed on your record, and you will be credited for your many achievements.”

An unnatural tightness rose from her chest into her throat. “Is there no other way?”

“The parties bringing this charge have made it clear they will only accept this one grudgingly.”

She let her shoulders slump. “Then I really don’t have any choice, do I? What is to become of me until my demobilisation?”

The Lieutenant smiled. “I do have a few tasks that will keep you out of the way until then.”

The numerous possibilities caused her to shiver.

“Actually, I was thinking of using your special talents to their max while I still can.”

She could not hide her surprise.

He pulled something out of his desk. “Here are your orders, you are to report to launch pad twelve immediately.”

Choked, she took the small packet and stepped back. They had just stripped her of everything she’d worked for, but she refused to let him see it. In its place, she offered the best salute she had ever managed. “Yes, sir!”

“Dismissed.”

###

The plaque read, Everett Lloyd, Manager. Trynamour wiped the lubricant off her hands before stepping through.

Mr. Lloyd sat with his hands steepled on his desk. “Randy was just in here. You remember Randy, senior engineer, and your immediate supervisor.”

“Oh crap. Just because I…”

“Just because you ignored his instructions, again, and then had the audacity to chew him out when he caught you working on the wrong project.”

“But he was allowing the Laraby Project to fall behind when we all know the pressure you are under to get it completed.”

“That is my business, not yours, and for the record, Randy was following my orders. Did you hear that, my orders. The orders of the man who took you on after your fourth employer let you go. The orders of the man who signs your pay stub.”

She glared at him. Yes this was her fifth job in six months, but he had not simply taken her on because she starting applying for a new position. No, he had swooped in and scooped her up because she had skills he needed.

“Let me tell you this, Trynamour, you are good, real good, but not that good.”

She almost sighed. The disciplines she had bucked in Guard Fleet looked more and more preferable to another one of these rants. If only that were still an option.

“So. No snide remarks for me? What? Am I somehow that much better than the people I employ?”

The last vestiges of her composure collapsed. “Better? Ha! You are just a greedy old man who would rather have a shop full of boot lickers than just one free thinker.”

“Enough!”

She froze, sure the very walls were still vibrating.

He palmed something off his desk and stood.

After a moment of deep silence he reached out his hand. “Here’s payment in full. You have one hour to collect your things and clear out.”

She choked, the fire now ice. What had she done?

He thrust his hand forward. “Well, take it.”

It dawned on her that there was only one reason why the chip was all ready to go. The fire returned. She snatched the chip from his hand, turned, and stormed out of the room.

###

The paper read, Engineer Needed, Experience in DB, MePS, and Maast required. Must be free to travel. Bring Curriculum Vitae to room 314 in the Adarac Building. She’d had to wait two long days for the given date to arrive.

Trynamour took another look both ways down the dismal hallway. She’d only seen two people since entering the building, and neither of them appeared the least bit employable.

She fingered the paper’s less than professional texture and once again wondered who had sent it to her. While a number of people had expressed a willingness to help her locate a new job, they would have been open about sharing this lead. Wouldn’t they?

A tightening of her grip caused the paper’s edge to crinkle. She once again considered leaving this place. If only her search had produced even one other viable nibble, one other place she could check out first, but the reputation she’d brought on herself had closed all those doors. The paper went into a pocket, and she stepped through the door.

A clean shaven man sat behind a small desk. “Ah, Trynamour, glad you could make it.”

She stopped to glance around the tiny office. A hefty layer of dust covered everything but the desk, and the chair between them.

“Sit, we have much to discuss.”

Instinct honed by her time in Guard Fleet told her to run, but resolve told her to find out what was going on first. Confident in her ability to get out if things got ugly, she stepped in far enough for the door to close. “You have me at a disadvantage.”

“True, but I think you’ll find it was worth it. Now sit.”

She looked at the chair, over her shoulder at the closed door, back at the chair, and decided to do as he had asked.

“You are one remarkable lady.”

It had been a mistake to sit. What now?

“It is too bad you have a tendency to counter each of your noteworthy achievements with an act of equally nefarious defiance.”

She was still free to leave.

“Alone, unemployed, yet again, out of contact with family and home…”

She stiffened “How do you know all that?”

The man smiled. “I’ve had my eye on you ever since that little escapade with the lateral maaster on board the Waterston.”

“The Waterston? But that was…!”

“A little over a year ago, and six months before Lieutenant Hansard bid you good luck in your future endeavours.”

A chill settled into her spine. “You have no right.”

“Quite the contrary. I earned the right the day you applied to join Guard Fleet.”

She couldn’t turn down such an invitation. “How so?”

“Let us just say that the Lieutenant was not being entirely truthful when he said there was no place in Guard Fleet for mavericks.”

The chill spread. “How could you possibly know that?”

His eyes narrowed. “There are many aspects to Guard Fleet. Some very public, and some very discrete, but they all have their place, and they all have their procedures.”

Could it be? A return to Guard Fleet? On terms she might be able to live with? Who else could possibly have access to that level of intel? “Very well. I’ll play along. What would anyone in Guard Fleet want with someone who chose to leave the moment her first tour of duty was over?”

“There are many worlds that have not joined the Commonwealth, and many more we know too little about to make make any kind of informed decision one way or the other.”

“You have not answered my question.”

“The right kind of maverick can make for an excellent set of eyes and ears.”

“What?”

“An audacity to keep pushing for what she considers most important. The ability to pull off a records adjustment that was only discovered because the data referred directly to her, and the discoverer had made his search a matter of personal honour.”

Her breath caught. He did know everything, and the way he spoke. Only one conclusion made sense. “You want me to become a spy.”

“And you want to find a place where you know you are making a difference for the good of the Commonwealth.”

She looked around the room once again. Thought about the dismal hallway behind her. Considered the neighbourhood in which this building stood. Focusing her eyes back on the man. “And you expect me to just take your word on this?”

“Quite the opposite. I expect you to use ever trick you know to verify my story. Just remember the code words Skyguard and Fleetjack.”

That was a challenge she would take great pleasure in tackling, though one condition remained unanswered. “How long?”

His gaze did not flinch. “I will be right here, for exactly one hour, seven days from now.”

Their business seemingly done, she stood. “Then I had best get started, Mister ?”

“Skyguard, or is that Fleetjack?”

She made no attempt to hide the wry smile that crossed her face and left determined to at last prove her worth as a Guard Fleet member.

————

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