Alliance Captain Pryce entered the briefing room, along with his three senior officers. Despite the short notice they had identified a number of suitable cadets and junior personnel. And now, Litke Port at 07:30 local time, they were all assembled and wondering why they had been assigned to something they presumably had never heard about before.
„Good morning, all. My name is Captain Maynard Pryce of Alliance Scouting. I am your commanding officer for the mission you have been assigned to and on behalf of all senior officers involved let me say thanks to you who have made it in time, despite the hurry and the lack of prior mission announcement.”
He paused briefly and measured the crew that had assembled in the briefing room.
“That being said, let me lay out the assignment and mission specifics for you: The Alliance Scouting and Explorations Wing has commenced a deep space survey mission, codename ‘Long Arm’. The SEW provided us with a number of capable ships, including a newly retrofitted Anaconda that will act as flagship and mobile chief scientific base for the entire duration. Its name is the Mark Antony and most scientific staff will be assigned to her. Furthermore, all ships were stripped of generation 2b hyperdrives and fitted with state-of-the-art frameshift drive technology, which should make them more suitable for prolonged deep space exploration.”
That was true. The Alliance still hadn’t retrofitted all their ships with the new FTL tech. Military ships were given absolute priority, with all the ‘rapid deployment’ tactics that came along with improved drive performance. The Long Arm, however, had been included in the new doctrine and did not suffer from postponed retrofitting. There was a reason of course, and it was top classified.
“The Long Arm’s mission objectives are to move to the Corona Austrinae region of space, establish a working commlink there and survey as many star systems with specific parameters in a span of three standard weeks. You will find the parameters in your briefings but let me point out two very special and important examples: We will cover the Coronet Pulsar PSR J1856-3754 and measure its magnetic fields and accretion disk density, and we will probe solar flare activity of the giant star Beta Coronae Austrinae.”
There was some murmur in the room. Some of the more senior cadets were looking at each other. A few shook their heads.
“I know,” Pryce tried to calm the assembly “I know some of you were assigned to the Pleiades Initiative and others are scheduled for transfer and promotion. The SEW is aware of that but the Admiralty put both on hold and gave this mission priority. In other words, there are reasons this needs to be done now. So please relax, your routine will be picked up after this assignment and those of you scheduled for promotion evaluation will receive a special commendation after the mission.
People, our schedule is tight: We have ten ships, including the Mark Antony and an auxiliary tanker. You have two days to prep for launch. In the meantime Mission Control offers admin and relocation services as well as psychological consulting and mentoring. Your assigned ships and flight plans are included in your briefings. Please note that for mission purposes ship crews have been upped to operate at maximum efficiency. Get acquainted to each other. There will be no lone wolfs, this is teamwork time.
I will be reachable for personal inquiries for another six hours. After that, contact MC if you have any further questions.”
He paused briefly. “That will be all. Crew dismissed.”
Then he turned to his first officer: “Shemez, get them going.”
After the mission briefing Lieutenant Allan Shemez entered Captain Pryce’s ready room.
“You didn’t tell them everything. The reason SEW prioritized the mission and the …inconveniences… we might encounter?”
Pryce looked at Shemez for a long moment: “No, for obvious reasons. They need to work hard and under pressure of time and success. SEW demands answers. If we don’t get them, someone else will. Any additional psychological strain would divert the crew’s attention unnecessarily, however uncomfortable that might feel. And it is up to us officers to live and deal with it and to see things through regardless.”
He nodded at Shemez’ insignia: “That’s why you and me wear that badge. It’s for the tough decisions, not for TTK* dinner parties.”
(*) TTK = Top Ten Kilo: The “upper ten thousand”, meaning society’s upper class