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Captain Peter Mackenzie looked at his list of potential officers, and found the next name - one Aidan Curranor, formerly holding the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the war. Mackenzie knew he would be a little harder to convince to continue the role he had filled aboard the Ariadne. Curranor was formerly the captain of a small ship that had smuggled arms between worlds all over human space. The Last War (still called that despite its being a now-obvious misnomer) had resulted in the seeds of the Unity government, and had indeed been the last major armed conflict among human nations or ethnic groups. All the same, there remained a demand for weapons - among criminals seeking to hold their own against police forces, private citizens engaging in legal activity but desiring a bit more firepower than existing weapon restriction laws permitted them, and the occasional rebellious group seeking to liberate their region or world from the oppression of the Unity government. Whether that oppression was real or perceived, Curranor didn't care - he made a tidy profit either way. He was making a routine run in the central worlds when news of the first attacks on the rim worlds reached the public network.
Curranor was largely indifferent to the nature of struggles between humans, but recognized that humanity's fight against an enemy from outside human space was another matter entirely. Through a third party, he tried to work out a deal with the Unity government - amnesty for his crew's history of arms smuggling in exchange for the service of his ship and crew. However, Unity would only accept a deal involving the forfeit of his ship, and his acceptance of a commission at the rank of Lieutenant instead of Captain. Curranor reluctantly agreed. His knowledge that he was doing the right thing for humanity didn't change his irritation at the Unity government. His deep knowledge of munitions as well as more general engineering skills would surely have resulted in a promotion for him were it not for the fact that he was quite vocally displeased with Unity, barely avoiding demotion on more than one occasion.
Lieutenant Aidan Curranor's service on his first ship, the Pick A Card (the ship that belonged to him before the war), was cut short at the Battle of Fuji - the robotic fleet's first foray into the more densely populated central worlds of human space. The Pick A Card had been in the front wave of the human counteroffensive, and had gotten separated from the rest of her battle group after the targeting laser of the robots' flagship's primary particle beam weapon had inspired the entire group to scatter. Caught in a pocket of enemy ships, Lt. Curranor had attempted to rig the hyperdrive up for use as a spatial distortion beam, recognizing that the Pick A Card's battery of weapons were not powerful enough to hold the enemy ships at bay. The spatial distortion beam had worked, after a fashion. The ship it had been aimed at was torn apart by sudden shears and differentials in the local geometry of space. However, Lt. Curranor found out what human researchers had discovered a generation ago, when the Pick A Card's hyperdrive exploded, taking with it the ship's main power systems and inner-space drives, not to mention the vast majority of the ship's fuel.
Lt. Curranor had predicted the possibility of some manner of malfunction, and so had moved the crew to the other end of the ship and sealed the bulkheads leading into the engine room (and indeed that entire half of the ship). Casualties were therefore kept at a minimum - no fatalities, and only a few incidental injuries. However, the ship was now helpless.
Luckily for the Pick A Card and her crew, the manoeuvre had bought the rest of the Unity fleet enough time to draw the attention of the robotic ships. While the enemy was focused on the main body of the fleet, the Ariadne sped past a recently-disabled ship and docked with the Pick A Card just long enough to rescue her small crew of sixteen. As the Ariadne escaped, her primary cannon fired upon the Pick A Card, destroying her at the request of her former captain (as a precaution in case the Unity fleet was forced to withdraw from the Fuji system). However, Unity won the day, and at the fleet rendezvous after the battle, the crew of the Pick A Card was redistributed among the rest of the fleet. Lt. Curranor chose to remain aboard the Ariadne, having been incredibly impressed with her crew during the rescue operation, and he quickly came to respect Capt. Mackenzie as an example of someone in the Unity military who shared his preference for a slightly less strict and more informal approach to the command structure. Most of the Ariadne's crew, in fact, were not the career military/police types, but instead generally came from a background in private life. Curranor was far more capable of functioning efficiently in such an environment, and his competence as well as his description of the use of the hyperdrive to generate a spatial distortion beam and destroy the enemy ship soon inspired Capt. Mackenzie to promote him to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Edwin Pierce was digging around under the hood of his car, head-first and waist-deep in a half-disassembled engine, when he heard the vidphone ringing from inside his house. He cursed under his breath, hit his head on the hood as he extricated himself from his car, and let out a much louder string of curses as he halfheartedly wiped the oil and grease off of his hands and face on his way into the house.
He jabbed at the receive button on the vidphone. "Captain Mackenzie! Good to see you again, sir. Any word on when we might get going again in your new ship?" Edwin Pierce had been the engineer on the Ariadne prior to the Privateer Wars, and had been the only member of its crew to choose to accompany Mackenzie to receive the Pallas Athena back on Newport instead of joining a different ship in the Unity fleet for the remainder of the war.
"Just 'Pete' will do, Ed. You're not military anymore, last I'd heard."
"True enough, sir. Pete. A couple years of habits are hard to break, after all."
"Fair enough. Anyway... I know you're not military anymore, and a couple days ago neither was I, but the situation has changed."
"Huh. What's up?"
"Well, you remember what I'd mentioned to you about the debt on the Pallas Athena?" Besides a ship's owner and her captain - in this case, the same person - the engineer was the person most invested in the welfare and existence of a ship, and Edwin Pierce was no exception. He had ceremonially received "stewardship" of the Pallas Athena from the engineer overseeing her assembly at the Newport shipyards, just as he had done with the Ariadne from her previous engineer. In the case of the Ariadne, Mackenzie had hired Pierce before he even owned the ship, when he was in the market for a new one. Mackenzie wanted the expert opinion of a mechanic to make sure that the ship he was getting was in the condition that her seller had claimed. As Mackenzie haggled about the price, the Ariadne's mechanic, a Mr. Fenster, had taken Pierce into the engine room and shown him around the ship, pointing out the particular signals and noises she would make that indicated health or illness of the engine and the rest of the shipboard systems.
Pierce chuckled at the memory. "Come with me, Mr. Pierce," Mr. Fenster had said. "I'll introduce you to mademoiselle Ariadne." The two captains had looked at them like they were nuts, and the two engineers had disappeared aftward, laughing to each other about the way captains never really understood their ships. Of course, this was the sort of observation an engineer would never make within earshot of a captain.
Current pace: 59045
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