Sunday serialisation – Andrea 1.2

Andrea cover300

Andrea – in search of space, picks up where Making Merry left off.

Fresh from her work on Project Prodigialis, Rear Admiral Andrea Smithson takes command of the Terra II project.

The largest in-system luxury cruise liner had been refitted and recommissioned in the Royal Space Regiment fleet as HMDSV Colin Pillinger. Its mission? To identify, locate and survey a habitable but uninhabited planet which can be populated over time to take pressure off Earth and its resources.

For the cast of characters at the start of the project, click here

For a brief list of acronyms and initialisms used, click here

Andrea – in search of space. Chapter one, part two.

The following morning, armed with a fuller understanding of her brief, Andrea boarded her sub-orbital personnel transport and set off to rendezvous with her assigned vessel.

Approaching the coordinates Joan had given her, and seeing no sign of the vessel, Andrea smiled to herself, keyed in the Colin Pillinger’s frequency and depressed the speak button. “Colin Pillinger: this is Rear Admiral Smithson. Please respond. Over.”

The vessel appeared before her: more than a kilometre-long and looking like something out of a science-fiction movie, it hung there, silently. My God, she thought, I had no idea it was this big. The speaker emitted some squelch, then settled. “C-pill ready to welcome you aboard, Rear Admiral. Stand by for tractor beam. Over.”

Recognising Jason Strangename’s voice, Andrea released helm control to her second-in-command. Almost immediately she felt the familiar tug to her craft and sat back whilst the automated systems brought her to the bulge hanging below the craft between the front section and what she assumed to be the drive unit. As she approached, a platform descended from the bulge revealing four bays, the door of one of which opened as it was lowering. The tractor beam guided her shuttle into the opening and to a gentle, controlled stop in what was labelled as shuttle bay one. The bay door closed behind her and the unit retracted into the belly of the vessel. The rear door to Andrea’s SOPT opened automatically and, in keeping with RSR custom, an honour guard of four officers and a detachment of eight security personnel were waiting to escort her, with due ceremony, to the bridge, where Jason was waiting to pipe her aboard.

“Thank you for the welcome, Commodore,” she said.

“Do you wish to inspect your crew at this time, Ma’am?” Jason responded. Jason placed his hand on Andrea’s back to guide her towards the assembled crew. Every station on the bridge was occupied, all the officers being at attention and facing their commanding officer. The bridge support squad, made up of ratings and non-commissioned officers tasked with ensuring the bridge officers had at all times whatever they needed, were assembled against the walls of the room and similarly standing at attention.

“Commodore!” she said in a tone that left no question as to who was in charge. Jason withdrew his offending hand and took a half-step away from her.

“Not now, thank you,” she said more gently, “we have serious things to discuss. Can we go to your ready room?”

Your ready room, Ma’am,” Jason said emphasising the first word, “I am merely a temporary occupant, pending your arrival.”

“That’s one of the things I need to talk to you about, Jason,” Andrea said as they entered the captain’s room, “I have no real command experience and the only craft I have ever had under my control is my SOPT. This thing is enormous!”

“I am here to help, you know.”

“According to the specs, this craft – how do the crew generally refer to her, by the way? HMDSV Colin Pillinger is a bit of a mouthful.”

“C-pill, from the registration – CPIL.”

“Good. Like it. Anyway, according to the specs, her master should bear the rank of Commodore or above and possess relevant command experience, certifications and badges. Without looking at the rest of the crew, of my immediate reports, Tarquin is close to the rank but does not have the experience or any of the other stuff whilst you have the rank and experience—”

“And the necessary certifications and badges, Ma’am, with the exception of the polyglot badge which I’m working on and which will be useful with so many languages spoken on board.”

“And which you won’t need as I have brought an ample supply of level 2 translation devices should they be required. So, you are qualified on all counts. I am not. I therefore propose, and I’ll clear it with Packway later, that you assume the position and duties of captain and master of C-pill reporting to me as Commanding Officer. Can you do that?”

“So what you are doing is basically—”

“Separating the job of running the ship from running the mission, policy from operations, executive from … well, I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Let’s give it a go and see how it works out, shall we?”

“Very well, Ma’am. Shall I notify the crew?”

“I’ll do that, Jason. And can we drop the formality when it’s just the two of us in here?”

Jason nodded, whispered, “Computer answers to C-pill.” and pressed the switch to activate voice control of the ship’s computer systems.

“Of course it does,” she replied, smiling, before pronouncing, “C-pill – Identify yourself for the record and recognise Andrea Smithson.”

His Majesty’s Deep Space Vessel Colin Pillinger, fleet identifier Dee Ess zero one, registration G-CPIL under the command of Rear Admiral Andrea Smithson. Rear Admiral Smithson is duly recognised as flag officer, commanding officer, commander and master and logged on board.

“C-pill – recognise Commodore Strangename as co-commander and co-master with all privileges.”

Commodore Jason Strangename so recognised and logged.

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