H.E.O. 1  ·  H.E.O. 2  ·  H.E.O. 3  ·  H.E.O. 4  ·  H.E.O. 5  ·  H.E.O. 6  ·  H.E.O. 7

chapter eight
" H.E.O. "
Part Three

- - - UNSC-465 SUPERCARRIER ENTERPRISE ~ 25 days from Earth - - -

Contrary to popular belief the Bridge of a Supercarrier is not the row of windows one sees at the top foremost part of the vessel. First time visitors are always a little surprised to learn that space is an observation and exercise deck and only used officially by the Port Pilot when pulling into drydock or along side one of the large space colony stations throughout the system.

The Bridge, an anachronistic term from the early days of sea travel, is in fact located somewhere between decks 7 and 10, along the center line of the vessel, ahead of bulkhead 20 but before bulkhead 12.

This is not an attempt by the writer to be vague, although the exact position of this, the most sensitive of Command and Control spaces, is classified information. This is because each Supercarrier has their 223 square metre (2400 square foot) Bridge in a slightly different part of this well shielded hub.

On one side of this operational control center is the Commander's office and Senior Officer's Briefing room; on the other is the Ops Review Centre.

Fleet Commander Crystal Tass, CO for 'ENTERPRISE' and the "Primary" for Battle Group 465, was sitting at the foot of the large integrated conference table in the Ops Review Centre; it was her usual seat. Around the table were members of the various departments and representatives, usually the Commanders, of the other vessels in the Battle Group.

There was Commander Joanne Warner, the third tour veteran and commander of the Cruiser 'ROMEO DALLAIRE', someone long overdue for her own Battle Group Command. Beside her was Lieutenant Commander Anthony Alvarez, the diminutive commander of the Cruiser 'JOHN ARBUTHNOT FISHER', who for reason few understood preferred to be called "Ant" rather than "Tony". Then there was Commander Vren Acosta in charge of the Destroyer 'INFLEXIBLE', one of the longest serving vessels in the Fleet and overdue for decommissioning.

On the port side of the table was Lieutenant Commander Caleb Baril of the Forward Prepositioning Vessel 'TALISMAN'. Caleb was the sort of person you didn't play cards with unless you wanted to lose. Beside him sat Colonel Andrea Blaxland and Lieutenant Commander Simon Langevin both of the Astral Light Cruiser 'J.J. MOORE'.

At the head of the table sat Ibrahim Ismail, Admiral of the Third Fleet. Imbrahim had recently come aboard from the outgoing Supercarrier VICTORY. Like the 'INFLEXIBLE' he was long overdue for retirement, but his preference to stay 'out here' as he put it, very nearly ensured Command would retain his services until he could no longer serve.

To nearly everyone else on board Admiral Ismail was a fifth wheel; a relic whose relevance would only be demonstrated should one of their opponents launch a crippling first strike against the Network's Central Command. It was an improbable concept that only gained credibility when a group of radicalized New Soviet commanders attempted it six years ago with the now infamous "Farside Incident".

Most of the time Ibrahim Ismail spent the bulk of his day in coded high-speed communications with the Admiralty back on Earth and the various elements of his command but once every week Tass brought representatives from every element of her Battle Group together for an Ops Review.

It ensured each member of her team knew what was going on throughout the theatre, it also gave her mentor the face-to-face contact that was missing for so much of his time.

Usually Tass was a lively participant in these exchanges, but for the last several weeks that had not been the case and Ismail had noticed that. Well, it was dramatic enough for anyone to notice, but no one else in the Battle Group would have the latitude to say anything. This time, when the meeting wrapped and the others saw Ibrahim nod for them to leave as quickly as possible, he remained standing while Tass packed up her gear.

"Crys, what's wrong?"

Tass looked up, alarmed at the tone of familiarity being used and then surprised that they were the only two present. What happened to everyone else? She looked at Ibrahim and then shrugged, "It's nothing, Admiral. Don't worry about it."

"That wasn't the question, Commander."

Tass' back was starting to go up now. She was a private person and didn't like being pressed, even by her mentor and friend. "Admiral," she started, hoping to keep things professional, "unless you believe my competency is suffering."

"I think something personal is affecting you and I'd like to help."

Tass looked at the old man. He was earnest, she knew that, but what he was asking, what she'd like to do, it simply wasn't practical. She piled her data pads one on top the other. "The issue isn't large enough to warrant the request."

Ibrahim stood there a moment and almost let her go but then he spoke, "Crys," she turned toward him, warily, he could see that. Perhaps he was intruding where he didn't belong, "There are so few places people at our level can turn when we need to vent. Don't walk out on yours."

That gave her pause. It wasn't official; it was friendship. One human being to another, and he was right, she didn't have a lot of options that way, even outside the tour. She turned and carefully placed the data-pads down as she moved to a seat closer to his and then she sat.

Being the gentle man he was Ibrahim waited until she spoke, "This situation in Buffalo Commons," she didn't want to inject hyperbole and call it a crisis; nor did 'mission' seem to capture it, "I'm from there."

Ibrahim knew that, he nodded. She continued, "It's hard to see your home suffer, knowing how people in the region are probably thinking, how hard the change will be for them and worrying the Network will use a big stick when they don't need to."

Ibrahim didn't interrupt her; he knew too well the lessons of history. It didn't stop smart people from repeating earlier mistakes, but he increasingly suspected too often hindsight was the only sight that brought a moment into focus.

He waited for a pause, and then waited a moment longer to be sure, and then he spoke, "you could go there, you'd be an asset."

"And do what? I'm a boat captain. Short of running troops around in small craft there's little use I'd be."

Ibrahim looked around, at the now empty seats at the table. His gaze settled on where Simon Langevin had been sitting. "We're sending 'J.J. MOORE'."

She knew that. Every Astral Carrier in the Fleet was being recalled so their Troopers could supply the needs of PKF 31, and even though Fleet personnel flew the craft, putting a Fleet Commander in charge of an Astral Carrier was serious overkill particularly for that mission. Besides, ENTERPRISE and her Battle Group needed an experienced hand at the Conn.

Ibrahim shook his head, she didn't get it. "Over the next four weeks twelve Astral Carriers are going to pull into Earth's orbit and hover right above Buffalo Commons. None have senior brass on board and local Flag officers aren't going to want to baby-sit that convention."

Crys looked up at him. The tactical rating for twelve Light Carriers equaled a Class One Battle Group, something normally associated with Defcon One and open Warfare. But a hovering mission wouldn't warrant the attention of a Flag officer. She began to smile.

"How would that work? I take MOORE but I can't put Simon in charge of ENTERPRISE."

Ibrahim thought about this a moment. "Joanne can take your place."

Tass nodded, that was smart. Joanne Warner was long overdue a chance to prove herself on a Supercarrier and her first mate, Duane Garrison, was a solid officer, well respected by the crew of DALLAIRE.

"What about Langevin?" She asked. It was his first tour as Commander, his first Command. He wouldn't be keen to give that up.

"Simon will stay where he is and be thankful he's traveling under your Flag."

Tass paused at that. She was going to be a Flag Officer, there was a weight to that and Crys began to suspect she might never hold the Conn again because of it. She shook that from her mind, it wasn't even a combat mission, and a long way still to the Admiralty.

Tass looked up at Admiral Ibrahim Ismail and it was obvious her entire demeanor had brightened up. Damn, she thought, the old man was good!

She left the Ops Review Centre with a noticeable change in mood, something her crew spied instantly.

Tass nodded for Chamberlain to follow her as she crossed over to her Office. The rest of the Bridge crew would know soon enough what was going, and she made a mental note to sit with them before going. It would be good for morale and make it easier on Joanne, but first she had to tell HER EXECUTIVE OFFICER.

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