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.
Andrea – in search of space. Chapter eighteen, part one.
All the equipment needed for the excavations was on board the Sir Prijs. The archaeologists, palaeontologists and the various teams needed to do the job were in position, along with medical and other specialists, and the Sir Prijs herself was ready to go. For this first trip, Algernon Pippington was in the captain’s chair.
“Some of the big equipment on board won’t fit into the shuttle,” Captain Pippington said to Sub-Lieutenant Olsson on arrival at the planet, “You’re going to have to take her down to the surface.”
“Full landing, Sir?” she asked.
“Easier than trying to hold her at ramp height, I should imagine, but if you think you can do that, I’ll go along with you.”
Karolina Olsson took the Sir Prijs into a low orbit before easing her down to the surface for a gentle landing. The chosen site was near the river Thames, roughly on the site of what was Green Park. There was a large clearing where Karolina was able to land with no obstructions and leave a good area around the cruiser for the plant to be offloaded.
The heavy plant operators, most of whom had been glued to the viewports and discussing what they were seeing on the way down, were first off, clearing their equipment from the cruiser, before the scientists and the rest of the crew followed. A team from crew services who had flown down with them busied themselves setting up a tented encampment so the workers would have safe, dry accommodation. By the time they had been on land for three hours, a veritable canvas village had been erected with medical tents, mess tent, storage space, sleeping and recreational spaces – in fact everything any group of people would need for an extended working stay.
Alexandra’s team laid out solar panels and raised wind generators with battery storage units to provide needed electricity to the encampment. They also installed and commissioned a micro-nuclear power station to provide backup power in case the renewable supplies failed to deliver enough for their needs. Initial geological surveys revealed a good amount of fresh water not too far below the surface. This was confirmed when a hole was drilled and a well installed.
Leaving the crews to prepare the ground for the major excavations that were to follow, Algernon Pippington took the Sir Prijs back to the mother-ship ready for the next crew to be shipped out. On arrival, he and Karolina Olsson were summoned to the conference room, where they were met by Rear Admiral Smithson and Commodore Al-Kawazi.
“Thank you for coming so quickly,” Andrea said, “As you know, Captain Pippington, the next trip out for the Sir Prijs will have Captain Stuart-Lane in the captain’s seat.”
“I know that was what was agreed, Ma’am,” Algernon replied, “but I’m still not too happy about it.”
“Noted, Captain. However, that is what is going to happen. Tell me; how much confidence do you have in your helmsman?”
“Total confidence, Ma’am. Best I’ve ever worked with.” Karolina looked down, blushed and smiled.
“Suppose you were, for any reason, incapacitated on a mission. Are you confident that your vessel would reach her destination in good time and in good condition?”
“And that’s because you have a good first officer?”
“No, Ma’am. Postlethwaite was thrust on me. As a first officer, he’s about as much use as a chocolate samovar, Ma’am. It’s because I have a good helmsman. In fact, I often think Sub-Lieutenant Olsson would make a better first officer than Postlethwaite, and could even run the ship herself – operationally, of course. No management experience, but she’s perfectly capable of flying the ship.” Karolina blushed a little more.
“And tell, me, Sub-Lieutenant,” Andrea continued, “do you feel that your captain’s confidence in you is justified?”
“I believe I do my job to a satisfactory standard, Admiral.”
“Not what I asked. If your captain were to fall ill, would you be able to bring the Sir Prijs home without his instructions.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Under most circumstances, I believe I would.”
“Most circumstances? Under what circumstances would you not be able to bring the Sir Prijs home without Captain Pippington’s instructions?”
“None that I know of, Ma’am.”
“Good. And if you had a different captain—”
“Captain Pippington mentioned that possibility, Ma’am.”
“How would you respond to an order that you felt placed your ship or its mission in danger?”
“I believe I would point that out to the captain and expect him to modify his order.”
“And if he wouldn’t?”
“Standing Orders are clear, Ma’am. I must follow a direct order given by my superior officer.”
“I am well aware what Standing Orders say, Sub-Lieutenant. I’m asking you what you would do if your captain persisted in an otherwise lawful order that you believed, if followed, would place your ship or its mission in real danger.”
Ishmael interjected, “I think what the Admiral is asking is if you were faced with a choice between following an order that potentially put your ship in jeopardy, and refusing it and potentially putting your career in jeopardy, which would you choose.”
“That’s never come up before, Sir, but I’d like to believe that in those circumstances, I’d put the safety of the ship and her crew ahead of my own interests.”
“So you would put the lives and safety of the crew of your ship before your own career aspirations?”
“Every time, Ma’am. One hundred percent.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear. Okay, two things. One – your captain for the next trip will be Captain Stuart-Lane. This will be his first command and I expect him to make some mistakes. If he does, I expect you, Sub-Lieutenant, to react as you have indicated. Clear?”
“Yes, Ma’am. What was the second thing?”
“According to your records, you are not officially due for a career review meeting yet, but we’ll take this as a preliminary to that. Based on this interview, I have decided to grant a field promotion to full Lieutenant with immediate effect. Congratulations, Lieutenant Olsson.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. I won’t let you down, I promise.”
“I’m banking on it. Captain Pippington – whilst Tarquin is on board your ship, you will report to Commodore Al-Kawazi as his first officer.”