Sunday serialisation – Andrea 6.2

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 six, part two.

Again, it fell to Andrea to impart the news to Jason’s parents. She chose not to use the means that she had earlier used with Duncan’s sister. There was an initial formal letter, but it was followed up by a pre-recorded video message which, of course, was a lot more personal. Whilst the relationship between Andrea and Jason was purely professional when it needed to be, it was not necessarily so at other times.

In their reply, Mr and Mrs Strange-Name [who knew it was double barrelled? Apparently Amanda Strange married George Name and decided to link them, but Jason didn’t like the hyphen] said that after all the years he had spent in the service of the Royal Space Regiment, Jason would have preferred a space burial – Andrea already knew that, of course, as it was something they had discussed in detail during one of their less-than-professional meetings, but didn’t feel it would have been right for her to pre-empt what his parents wanted to say. She did confess to them that she and Jason had enjoyed an ongoing intimate relationship as well as a professional working one. That seemed to please the Strange-Names as they hadn’t liked to think of their son being without a ‘nice young lady’ when he was so far from home. When she suggested to them that Jason would be buried in space with full military honours and that, of course, they would be welcome to attend, George replied that he was totally up for it; rather excited at the prospect, in fact, but that Amanda would need some reassurance.

On investigation, Andrea learned that the three unsuccessful candidates for the mental health nurse positions were still with the Regiment and that Dr Turner had indicated that they could be considered for other vacancies within his department. Two of them had signalled their acceptance and were slated to travel up for interview as soon as possible. This would correspond well with the dates of the two funerals. The nurses had said they’d be happy to travel with the Strange-Names, even offering to visit them before leaving to give them first-hand accounts of what MTS travel and life on board the deep-space vessel are like. That offer was gratefully received and Andrea confirmed that if the pair came up, they could stay for as short or as long a period as they wanted, up to a couple of weeks, to give them the chance to learn about what their son did for the Regiment, meet some of the people who had worked with him and find out for themselves what they thought of him as a commander and as a friend. What parent would turn down that opportunity?

Meantime, the Colin Pillinger was without a captain. Andrea was primary master and commander but didn’t have the skills or experience to captain a vessel of this size and complexity; Tarquin was acting captain, had the rank and was slowly amassing the experience although he didn’t have his master’s papers or any of the supplementary badges or, in many people’s estimation, other qualities needed to carry off the job. There were only two options: either recruit a replacement from outside or promote from inside. The problem with recruiting from outside was security. Basically, the world didn’t know about the ship or her mission. After her disappearance, she had faded from public consciousness, the press eventually having bought the spontaneous implosion story, although not until they had exhausted all other possible and probable scenarios. All that pointed firmly to internal promotion. In addition to Tarquin, Captain Al-Kawazi had most things, but was too valuable as engineering chief. Then there was Pippington. He had some of the skills and experience, some of the certifications and a couple of the badges. Of the three candidates available, one was untested and under-qualified, one was valuable where he was and the third showed all the outward signs of being a first-class plonker and, judging from the reason for his demotion, was not to be trusted.

Andrea called the three in for interviews, with all HODs present. So much being known about the candidates, each really had only one question to answer.

The first in was Algernon Pippington. He was asked, ‘Do you believe you are able to command the respect and loyalty of the senior staff and the crew?’ The HODs were unimpressed with his blustering answer.

Tarquin Stuart-Lane was asked whether he was confident he could run the ship well and efficiently. The HODs were equally unimpressed with his hesitant response.

Ishmael Al-Kawazi was simply asked who in his department he could personally vouch for to take over as Head of Engineering at a moment’s notice, were he to be given the promotion. He replied that his deputy, Shinshuu Tanimoto, who currently headed up operations, R&D, manufacture and deployment was more than capable and that Tanimoto’s deputy, Lieutenant Devasree Kanikkar Kartha was equally able to step up to fill Tanimoto’s boots. It would also, he said, give the opportunity to advance the careers of a few others under his command, creating a single vacancy at Leading Hand level. It is fair to say that the HODs were well impressed with Ishmael’s response.

When Jason Strangename left his position of captain of the Sir Prijs, he had no hesitation in promoting Ishmael Al-Kawazi into his seat. After the briefest of discussions, it was unanimously agreed that, were he in a position to do so, Jason wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a repeat of that promotion on C-pill. Thus it was that Captain Ishmael Al-Kawazi received an immediate field promotion to Commodore and donned the master’s badge of office.

The group also agreed that Andrea should thank Captain Pippington for attending the interview and instruct Ishmael to confirm Tarquin as First Officer.

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