Sunday serialisation – Andrea 3.2

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 three, part two.

“That went well,” she said to Jason when he greeted her, “The admiral is now aware of the technology we have. I’ll wait for her to call me to talk about the other things we mentioned. Let’s see if we can’t arrange our Anatidae line astern in readiness.”

“Anatidae?”

“Anatidae is the family to which all the ducks belong. Do try to keep up.”

“So, when you say arrange our Anatidae line astern, you really mean get our ducks in a row. I see.”

“Gosh, Jason, I’d have to get up early in the morning to get one past you, wouldn’t I?”

“My bad. I haven’t had my second coffee yet.”

“Have it sent to my office and get one for me, too.”

“How would you like it today? Latte? Skinny Latte? Almond Latte? Coconut Latte? Cappuccino? Frappuccino?”

“Black.”

“Espresso? Double Espresso? Americano?”

“Forget it. I’ll make do with water.”

“Tap? Still? Sparkling? Isotonic? Fortified?”

“Shut up and get your rear end into my office. Now!”

Jason had discovered that Andrea makes better, more logical and certainly quicker decisions when she is slightly riled than when she is calm. The trick is to get her to optimal condition to throw the ‘decisive’ switch without pushing her too far. Riled is good; angry is not good. Walking to Andrea’s office, they passed a coffee dispenser and Jason stopped and selected a double espresso.

“Get me one, whilst you’re there,” Andrea said.

“Same?”

“Yeah.”

See? Quick and decisive. The decisions that came out of that meeting were not far short of momentous, either. At least, they would have been, had their meeting not been interrupted by another call from Admiral Winstanley. She was clearly upset with Andrea for appearing the way she did but was mostly over that.

“Thing is, Andrea, I’d prefer some advance warning of these visits. Clearly, there’s nothing I can do to prevent them, but for the sake of protocol, as well as my sanity, perhaps you should make an appointment first,” she said.

“Of course. Normally, I would, but I wanted, just this first time, to surprise you with what we’re able to do.”

“You certainly did that. Anyway, speaking of surprise, I’ve given some thought to your request for the Sir Prijs to be allocated to you.”

“And?”

“And I can see the merit in it. I can also, having spoken with the Jinthae, see the advantages of relocating the Colin Pillinger as you described.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. We’re not ready for the move just yet – we need the CAG drive enhancement to be ready for that to work, but we can use Sir Prijs straight away. That’s a cumbersome name, though – I don’t suppose we could rename her, could we?”

“No. As you know, the Sir Prijs was named after the Belgian explorer Sir Henrick Prijs; putting that name on a significant vessel in the fleet was the price we had to pay to get the Belgians and, through them, the Eurasian Union on board. If and when I make the allocation, will you expect her to behave as she does now, or will you house her and her crew between missions?”

“I’ve raised this issue with Jason and with Ishmael, our engineering chief. The consensus reached is that we shall make use of C-pill’s front hold; the one that previously housed the passengers’ yachts; to accommodate the cruiser Sir Prijs on the same basis as Shuttle 1 – that’s the craft formerly known as SOPT. During down-time, her crew will be accommodated exactly the same as C-pill crew. In fact, I have in mind to rotate selected personnel between ship and cruiser.”

“Good idea. For a moment there, I half expected you to refer to your craft as the mother-ship.”

“I might, although C-pill is fewer syllables. On the subject of shuttles—”

“I didn’t know we were, but do carry on.”

“I need seven more.”

“Seven? Why?”

“C-pill needs more and better lifeboat capacity and there are eight shuttle bays.”

“Leave that with me. I’ll start the paper-chase to have Sir Prijs transferred to you before the end of this month. I shall also be modifying your division’s orders to allow for your proposed relocation. Deep Space operations will be given greater autonomy but with more formalised oversight. You will also be separated from RSR for budgetary purposes.”

“What does that mean?”

“In essence, it means that you will have to argue for your own budget with the relevant ministry.”

“Which ministry would that be?”

“One that has yet to be created. For the time being, you will come under External Affairs, or Alien Affairs, or whoever will have you.”

“Let me know when you find out, will you? And what about the more formalised oversight.”

“At present, Andrea, you and I speak occasionally on this video link and you’ve so far made one visit to me here. Once you are in higher solar orbit, I plan to visit you regularly and have our discussions on your ship.”

“So you’ll be coming up for a jolly occasionally?”

“Certainly not! It will be for discussions, negotiations, supervision, inspections—”

Andrea looked towards Jason and winked. “And you will come alone?”

“It is customary for a senior officer to be accompanied by her ADC.”

“Patsy, then.”

“Possibly. I may also or alternatively bring Joan so she can see how the other half lives.”

“As long as you give me plenty of warning so I can prepare whatever accommodation you and your party require.”

Meredith laughed and closed the call.

“God, that’s a big change and we need to get it right. You know this crew better than I do, Jason,” Andrea said, “I’m going to need to build a solid admin and accounting team and all the usual support services way beyond what you’d expect to find on any naval or space vessel. If we’re going to be autonomous, I’m guessing we won’t be able to rely on Packway for services like that. And, even if we can, they won’t want to negotiate budgets for us. Any ideas where to start?”

Jason sat back, rested his hands on the arms of his seat, tapped his fingers and looked into the distance. “A couple of thoughts,” he said, quietly, “The admiral didn’t say we wouldn’t get any services, just that we’ll be more autonomous and have to negotiate our own budget. They might still offer admin, personnel, purchasing etc., but I imagine we’ll have to pay for it. We’ll be like foundation hospitals or academy schools.”

“I can live with that.”

“At the same time, we’ll be heading off to pastures new, sometime. When that happens, we’ll be seeding what will be to all intents a new civilisation. At that stage we’ll have to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining in practically all things. However, that’s not for a while. Let’s go through the staff together and see what we have. We can search the personnel dataset for relevant competences and see what it throws up.”

“That sounds like a good start, Jason. And what we can’t fill or develop internally, we can look at buying in.”

The data search revealed a small number of people with administrative or accountancy backgrounds, but no buyers, computer analysts or pure management skills, or the functions one normally expects from a local authority. One of the most promising people to come out of it was Morale Officer Anusha Nambeesan. Her record showed that she had trained as a senior administrator and holds degrees and diplomas in business management and business administration. Andrea and Jason agreed to offer her a field commission and promotion to Lieutenant if she’d accept the job as head of administration services. They discussed it first with Paige Boyle, Anusha’s boss, to avoid any friction, and Paige was happy to absorb the Morale Officer’s brief into the welfare section of her department. Anusha, of course, was delighted with the promotion and the job. For her, it would mean a change of quarters from the other ranks’ deck to the junior officers’ area as well as a healthy increase in pay and status. It would also put her in the same accommodation and recreation area as Tarquin, a fact that pleased her, if anything, even more than the increase in status and pay.

 

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