"So, this is my ship?" asked Okin.
"It is," said Aaron. "It's one of the newly 'liberated' ones, and we haven't made any modifications to it. We haven't even fitted in the tunnel generator yet, but it will be in a few days' time, I hear."
They were standing on one of the large glass platforms in the hangar of Freepoint 1, inspecting the vessel. It was pristine and newly constructed, just stolen from one of the imperial shipyards the rebels had raided several months earlier. They had had to tow it by conventional means since the shields hadn't been installed by the time the rebels stole it, and it had taken a longer time than they had originally thought. It was only luck that kept them from being detected by the then-royal navy patrols.
"And the crew?"
"They've been handpicked among the people who seemed to be least hostile to working under an outsider, if you'll forgive the term. They shouldn't be too hard to manage, most of them are even positive about the idea since you're a career man in the military."
"That's good. Working with a crew that hates me would be…uncomfortable at best."
"Indeed. Would you like to take a look inside? Maybe get to know some of the people you'll be working with?"
They walked onboard, the ever-present orange design inside making Okin want to rip the carpets off the floor and splash any kind of paint over the walls. He didn't know what he'd do with the ceiling.
"I can see you don't enjoy the colouring, captain," said Aaron amused. "If you wish, you can repaint the walls and ceiling, though I'm afraid the carpeting will be hard to replace, not to mention it will take a long time."
"I can paint the ship?" asked Okin. They had never been allowed to custom-design their ships in Sol.
"Of course you can. It's yours, after all. As long as you don't decide to have it neon-pink, of course. It's a hideous colour and should not be allowed to exist."
They shared a laugh. Everything seemed so pristine, so polished so…new. And it was, he kept reminding himself. They took the elevator to the bridge area and stepped out.
"I see you haven't reinforced the bow either," said Okin. The command centre was still in its original place, giving them a prime view of the hangar through the large glass window.
"No, we haven't had the time, and the incident a few days ago kind of halted all work on the ships."
"Well, can I…refuse to reinforce the bridge? I like it this way."
Aaron shrugged. "Sure, why not? Just be warned that you'll be robbed of a valuable tactic we resort to when we run out of ammunition."
"We ram the enemy," said Aaron. "It's surprisingly effective. Firstly because the enemy doesn't expect it, and secondly because it takes down their shield no matter what, leaving an opening for other ships to take them down. I can't count how many times I've done it myself."
"Well, I don't plan on running out of ammunition, and definitely not on ramming into anyone," said Okin. "I won't change it. I like to be able to see what's going on."
"Very well," said Aaron and walked over to the conference room to the left of the elevators. He opened the door and coughed loudly to get the attention of the furiously working engineers inside. "You can stop preparing the outlets; the captain does not wish to reinforce the bow. Put the furniture back in and re-carpet the floor." Then he went to the bridge itself, Okin following. Officers and engineers were working there also, preparing to detach the computers and monitors from their original places to move them into the conference room. Aaron did the same he had just done in the conference room. "Now everyone," he said and clapped his hands together like a kindergarten teacher. "I would like you all to meet your new captain, Ira Okin."
All of them saluted and stood at attention. Okin stepped forward, looking each and every one of them in the eye. "Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't do it in front of other officers or the trio, but you won't have to do that saluting crap with me. It's too formal and way too annoying for me," he said and waved them off. "I would like you all to know that I'm a hard man, a cruel man…a bastard, if you will, but I'm also your captain, and I'm fair. I will take into consideration everything you say, and I will treat you like human beings. But," he paused, "I will not tolerate any crap from you. You will do your job, you will do it well, or I'll be forced to replace you. That may not seem like such a bad thing, but I can promise you, you won't find a captain like me anywhere else. And I'm a damn good guy when everything comes down to it. Now, get back to work, reattach those thingys there and reactivate those."
The crew went to work right away, making him smile.
"It certainly worked, that speech," said Aaron.
"It's the same I used when I was given command of my very first vessel back in Sol. It worked there, and it damn well worked here."
"You have a bright future here, I think," said Aaron. "Now, of the matter of your assignments…"
"Since you're newly appointed and still aren't accustomed to our ships and how we do things and since your ship isn't completely up to date with weapons and equipment, you'll be given patrol and non-combat assignments only, at least until your ship has been completely modified for our use. Does that sound okay?"
"It sounds fair," said Okin. "And I'll deal with it, but don't expect me to sit back if it comes to throwing rocks."
"Don't worry about that," replied Aaron.
Okin looked at his watch. "Shit, I'm late for an appointment. Will you excuse me?"
Aaron nodded. "Of course. I was just about leaving anyway. Report for duty tomorrow at seven AM sharp, got it."
"Yes, sir," said Okin and saluted. Aaron saluted back and walked away. Okin turned around and took a last look at his new bridge, the personnel working on it and the view of the hangar outside.
I can get used to this.
"You're late," said Zean.
"I know," said Okin. "I had to inspect my ship."
"We didn't know what you wanted, so we ordered a black one for you," said Zean and pointed a white cup of steaming coffee.
"My taste hasn't changed since the last time you and I had coffee, so that will be adequate," said Okin and sat down at the table. They – Zean, Lex, Olly and Dellie – were sitting around a table in one of the bars on Freepoint. They had decided to get together since it was possible that they would all be spread across the skies as their assignments came in. Lex would stay on Axe's ship as part of the Wraith Squadron, Olly's place was unknown at the moment and Zean had yet to be given a ship, much to his confusion.
"How're you feeling?" asked Lex.
"A bit worse for the wear, but I'm making a very speedy recovery. You should've seen the doctor's face when I walked without crutches for the first time," answered Okin. He knew what Lex had really asked about, but he didn't want to deal with it yet. He knew the others weren't going to ask about, which he appreciated. "So, how about you, grease-monkey? They find a place for you yet?" he asked Olly.
Olly smirked. "Not yet, but just for that comment, I'm hoping to get on your ship just so I can bother the hell out of you."
"Try it, and I'll smash your face in with your own wrench," said Okin in a joking manner, the kind no one is really sure is joking or not.
"I'll see if I can get Olly on my ship," said Zean, "when I get one, that is. I'm gonna need him if I'm supposed to have a daily routine again."
"What do you mean?" asked Dellie, giving them both a funny look.
Olly caught it and shook his head. "Nothing like that, you pervert," he said pinched her neck. "He means that he needs someone to bash a wrench into a metal wall in order to wake up. Years aboard The Orion have left him unable to wake up by any other means."
They were able to discuss their lost ship now, even though it hadn't been destroyed too long ago. They all laughed, even Okin. "He was like that in the academy too," he said, "only we needed to blow a trumpet into his ear that time."
"Which is why my hearing is slightly damaged," said Zean and glared.
A cruiser slowly passing by the windows made them look out. "Do you think we'll ever be able to go home?" asked Lex in a low voice.
"I doubt it," said Olly.
"Mhm," agreed Okin.
"Yeah," said Zean. "The possibility of finding another black hole that will take us back to Sol is…well, the odds aren't in our favour. And that FTL-drive we took from Xoin's ship will still burn out long before we reach it, leaving us dead in the wate—space if we run out of fuel. And then there's the possibility that we'll provoke the military at home if we suddenly arrive with a fully loaded warship. No, going home isn't an option. Besides, I think I've grown a bit attached to the place."
"It's a weird place, and there's war, which I don't like, but…it would be wrong to leave all the friends we've made now, isn't it?" asked Lex.
"I wouldn't leave even if I could if it meant I'd have to leave you behind," said Olly to Dellie and kissed her. She laughed.
"I wouldn't let you anyway," she said.
"It would be betrayal if we left," said Okin. "We've sworn to fight until the empire collapses, and that's a vow I intend to uphold until my very last breath. It wouldn't be right to leave now, not when there's a war to fight. It's unacceptable."
"That's right," agreed Zean and took Lex's hand in his. "It may take a long time, but we're going to see it through, right guys?"
Everyone responded with a resounding "Hell yeah!"
That's it! It's done! And boy am I tired. It's been fun writing this, and I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has reviewed my story, be it criticising and constructive or just a holler to say that you liked it. Honorary mentions go StarSplit144 and Jai Akari, you've both been with me the longest (SS, where the hell are you, ya slow-poke?), and I thank you. That doesn't mean the rest of the reviews by you others mean any less, however. Anyway, thanks again, and if you decide to read the story, please review it, okay? I want to know what everyone thinks of it.
Until we meet again.