Ensign Andrew Dahl looked out the window of Earth Dock, the Universal Union’s space station above the planet Earth, and gazed at his next ship.
He gazed at the Intrepid.
“Beautiful, isn’t she?” said a voice.
Dahl turned to see a young woman, dressed in a starship ensign’s uniform, also looking out toward the ship.
“She is,” Dahl agreed.
“The Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid,” the young woman said. “Built in 2453 at the Mars Dock. Flagship of the Universal Union since 2456. First captain, Genevieve Shan. Lucius Abernathy, captain since 2462.”
“Are you the Intrepid’s tour guide?” Dahl asked, smiling.
“Are you a tourist?” the young woman asked, smiling back.
“No,” Dahl said, and held out his hand. “Andrew Dahl. I’ve been assigned to the Intrepid. I’m just waiting on the 1500 shuttle.”
The young woman took his hand. “Maia Duvall,” she said. “Also assigned to the Intrepid. Also waiting on the 1500 shuttle.”
“What a coincidence,” Dahl said.
“If you want to call two Dub U Space Fleet members waiting in a Dub U space station for a shuttle to the Dub U spaceship parked right outside the shuttle berth window a coincidence, sure,” Duvall said.
“Well, when you put it that way,” Dahl said.
“Why are you here so early?” Duvall asked. “It’s only now noon. I thought I would be the first one waiting for the shuttle.”
“I’m excited,” Dahl said. “This will be my first posting.” Duvall looked him over, a question in her eyes. “I went to the Academy a few years late,” he said.
“Why was that?” Duvall asked.
“It’s a long story,” Dahl said.
“We have time,” Duvall said. “How about we get some lunch and you tell me.”
“Uh,” Dahl said. “I’m kind of waiting for someone. A friend of mine. Who’s also been assigned to the Intrepid.”
“The food court is right over there,” Duvall said, motioning to the bank of stalls across the walkway. “Just send him or her a text. And if he misses it, we can see him from there. Come on. I’ll spring for the drinks.”
“Oh, well, in that case,” Dahl said. “If I turned down a free drink, they’d kick me out of Space Fleet.”
“I was promised a long story,” Duvall said, after they had gotten their food and drinks.
“I made no such promise,” Dahl said.
“The promise was implied,” Duvall protested. “And besides, I bought you a drink. I own you. Entertain me, Ensign Dahl.”
“All right, fine,” Dahl said. “I entered the Academy late because for three years I was a seminary student.”
“Okay, that’s moderately interesting,” Duvall said.
“On Forshan,” Dahl said
“Okay, that’s intensely interesting,” Duvall said. “So you’re a priest of the Forshan religion? Which schism?”
“The leftward schism, and no, not a priest.”
“Couldn’t handle the celibacy?”
“Leftward priests aren’t required to be celibate,” Dahl said, “but considering I was the only human at the seminary, I had celibacy thrust upon me, if you will.”
“Some people wouldn’t have let that stop them,” Duvall said.
“You haven’t seen a Forshan seminary student up close,” Dahl said. “Also, I don’t swing xeno.”
“Maybe you just haven’t found the right xeno,” Duvall said.
“I prefer humans,” Dahl said. “Call me boring.”
“Boring,” Duvall said, teasingly.
“And you’ve just pried into my personal preferences in land speed record time,” Dahl said. “If you’re this forward with someone you just met, I can only imagine what you’re like with people you’ve known for a long time.”
Jack Holloway set the skimmer to “hover,” swiveled his seat around, and looked at Carl. He shook his head sadly. “I can’t believe we have to go through this again,” Holloway said. “It’s not that I don’t value you as part of this team, Carl. I do. Really, I do. But I can’t help but think that in some way I’m just not getting through to you. We’ve gone over this how many times now? A dozen? Two? And yet every time we come out here, it’s like you forget everything you’ve been taught. It’s really very discouraging. Tell me you get what I’m saying to you.” Carl stared up at Holloway and barked. He was a dog. “Fine,” Holloway said. “Then maybe this time it will stick.” He reached down into a storage bin and hoisted a mound of putty in one hand. “This is acoustical blasting putty. What do we do with it?” Carl cocked his head. “Come on, Carl,” Holloway said. “This is the first thing I taught you. We put it on the side of the cliff at strategic points,” Holloway said. “Just like I already did earlier today. You remember. You were there.” He pointed in the direction of Carl’s Cliff, a massive outcropping of rock, two hundred meters high, with geological striations peeking out of the vegetation covering most of the rock face. Carl followed Holloway’s finger with his eyes, more interested in the finger than the cliff his master had named for him. Holloway set down the putty and picked up another, smaller object. “And this is the remote-controlled blasting cap,” he said. “Which we attach to the acoustical blasting putty, so we don’t have to be near the acoustical blasting putty when we set it off. Because that’s boom. How do we feel about boom, Carl?” Carl got a concerned look on his doggy face. Boom was a word he knew. Carl was not fond of boom. “Right,” Holloway said. He set down the blasting cap, making sure it was nowhere near the blasting putty, and that the cap receiver was inactive. He picked up a third object. “And this is the remote detonator,” Holloway said. “You remember this, right, Carl?” Carl barked. “What’s that, Carl?” Holloway said. “You want to set off the acoustical blasting putty?” Carl barked again. “I don’t know,” Holloway said, doubtfully. “Technically it is a violation of Zarathustra Corporation safe labor practices to allow a non-sentient species member to set off high explosives.” Carl came up to Holloway and licked his face with a whine that said please please oh please. “Oh, all right,” Holloway said, fending off the dog. “But this is the last time. At least until you grasp all the fundamentals of the job. No more slacking off and leaving all the hard work to me. I’m paid to supervise. Are we clear?” Carl barked once more, and then backed off, tail wagging. He knew what was coming next.
The card security code is an added safeguard for your credit/debit card purchases. Depending on the type of card you use, it is either a three- or four-digit number printed on the back or front of your credit/debit card, separate from your credit/debit card number. To make shopping at Military Book Club® even more secure, we require that you enter this number each time you make a credit/debit card purchase. Please note that your security code will not be stored with us even if you have saved your credit/debit card information.