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Friday, September 13, 2013

Imperial Destiny Page 9

                Prallan stepped nervously into the admiral’s office.  He immediately saluted, placing his closed right fist against his left shoulder and bowing his head.  “Ensign Prallan Tigrole of the IDF Jinar reporting, sir.”  With his head bowed, Prallan could only see the polished wood edifice of the admiral’s desk in front of him.  It was a beautiful desk, which most likely meant the admiral was wealthy, powerful, or both.  Having a heavy piece of furniture on a ship, where every ounce of unnecessary weight was done away with to keep the power draw of artificial gravity down,  was a true extravagance.
                “An Ensign?  I was sure that wreck would have been out of Ensigns, and I’d have to deal with some upstart chief.”  Admiral Wintan said.  He spoke with a slow gravelly voice that reminded Prallan of the way the sea would crash against the shore near his home on Primus.    “At ease, Ensign, would you like something to drink?”
                Prallan raised his head, and say the admiral was very old for the service.  He had short gray hair and a well-trimmer gray goatee.  His uniform was crisp and clean, making Prallan more conscious of his own battered clothes.  Realizing the admiral was waiting his response on the question of the drink, he quickly spoke up.  “No thank you, sir.”
                “Pity.  Don’t they teach you at the academy to never refuse something offered by a superior officer.  I can’t order you to drink, but it wouldn’t be polite for me to drink alone after the battle you have been through.”
                “Very well, sir, if you insist.” Prallan said, and the admiral gave him a small glass of a liquid that seemed to shift colors from orange to deep red and back again.
                “Phoenian Fire Spirits, from the Emperor’s own cellars.  He gave me fifty bottles of it after that terrible border rebellion a few years ago.  I’ve been trying to enjoy the gift as much as possible with the years I have left, but I still have thirty bottles left.”  Admiral Wintan laughed, and Prallan joined him.  They both drank, draining the glasses.  Prallan felt the liquor burn down his throat, and the heat suffuse through his whole body.  His limited experience with alcohol told him this was something finer that he’d ever tasted, and that it was wasted on him.  The admiral refilled the glasses.  “I know how this fight started from the Captain’s report that called us into the system, and I’m away of how it ended, but the middle is where there is confusion.  We traded two dozen fighters and a Defense Frigate to destroy two cruisers and a destroyer.  How the Jinar survived and the colony is undamaged is what interests me, though.”
                “Captain Braton ordered us to intercept the destroyer, which we disabled after a short fight.  We suffered minor damage, and fled for the incomplete defense station while fighters were scrambled.  As the cruisers approached, the fighters swarmed them, and we closed under the cover of the enemy destroyer’s hull.  We blew up the destroyer, and fought a long range battle with the cruisers, trying to occlude ourselves from one cruiser with the other.  We lost communication with most of the ship due to battle damage, and I was ordered to the armory to continue firing.  At some point the bridge was destroyed, and I assumed command in the Armory.  A few crewmen gathered there to provide me with a mediocre bridge crew, and we continued fighting, using everything at our disposal to stay alive.  Towards the end, we lost atmosphere over most of the ship, lost the main battery, and I made the decision to run for the jump point.  One cruiser followed us, the other headed for the planet, but that was a couple minutes before your arrival, so the colony escaped damage.”
                “I’ll want all of that in a formal report, as detailed as possible.  Officially the Jinar has ninety-three dead, thirty-five wounded, and ten missing, alongside the six that emerged uninjured, yourself, the two technicians, three armory personnel and your armory medic.  A frigate surviving in any condition against two cruisers and a destroyer is an impressive feat.  It’s a shame the Jinar is little more than scrap.  I might convince the quartermaster to repair and upgrade her instead of just scrapping her.”
                “She was a plucky ship, sir, kept going until her engines melted.  I think we had one set of guns still firing at the end.”
                “Of your crew, you have twenty total that will be continuing in immediate service.  The rest are too badly injured, and if they survive, they will be laid up for a few months undergoing treatment.  I am writing out a warrant to promote you to Lieutenant, pending completion of an assignment.”
                Prallan’s jaw dropped.  He had been an ensign fresh out of the academy with three months of experience, and a renowned admiral was offering him a promotion that he had no rights to.  “Sir, what is the assignment?”
                “A deep space exploration.  You will be assigned to the Hermus, first officer in fact, under Commander  Rickler.  It is a one year tour of duty through the lesser known systems around here.  After that tour, you will be confirmed as a lieutenant, with one year seniority.  The surviving crew of the Jinar will be transferred aboard as well, as the ship is undermanned at the moment.”
                Prallan felt it must be too good to be true.  Second in command in a vessel, even an exploration ship, was a feat to be proud of.  Even if he messed up in such a bad way that he was discharged, he would have a year experience as first officer of an Imperial Navy Vessel.  That was enough to make any merchant company recruit him as a captain.  They were always short of competent captains.  “When do I ship out, sir?”
                “Glad to see you are happy at the prospect.  You will have two weeks to get any affairs in order, replace your lost gear…your cabin was a loss I’ve been told, along with most of the officer’s quarters.  The Hermus will arrive in system to pick you and the rest of your crew up.  Congratulations, Lieutenant.”  Admiral Wintan raised his glass, and Prallan drank the toast with him.

                “Thank you, sir.  I look forward to the mission.”

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