The Tenin Nicon Stories

A Mere Cadet

Dec 29 2013

1.9 The Combat Simulation

Captain Makato Isamuto stood motionless on the bridge of his ship, the Armitinian, and stared out of the bridge's peeper. Outside in the vacuum of space, he could see a fellow EAF ship, stopped completely in front of his ship. She was the EAS Ilera, a Neptune size Basin-Fire class Destroyer. Although smaller then his own command, she boasted nearly as much fire power as his own ship. Being a destroyer the Ilera was designed to fight off and attack ships that were bigger then her. Her captain would no doubt be eager to prove that theory correct.

Isamuto smiled when he though about the Ilera's captain. Alyisa Sharlia, a young but talented captain, she was known throughout the fleet as "Spit Fire Aly," due to her vulgar language with her crew when things did not turn out correctly. But Isamuto knew better than most of her peer in the fleet, and was not underestimating her.

The two ships had met in order to conduct a fight simulator between each other. This way the new and old hands could try to match their firepower with an actual ship instead of pretending that a piece of scrap metal was actually a ship. This way the crew could react to an actual ship, and recreate the felling of battle in the most realistic way without actually fighting.

"Is their anything I can do for you sir?"

Captain Isamuto turned to see Lieutenant Quinn Zuuks standing on the other side of the peeper. "I'm just sizing up our opponent, Lieutenant…"

Zuuks nodded, "Spit Fire Aly, I heard she is tough."

"She certainly is. But we can beat her."

"You sound confident." Teased Zuuks lightly.

Isamuto smiled, only Zuuks could get away with saying that. And he always did. "I am," he looked at Zuuks with grin, "I bet my 2132 Ester Elixer on this."

Zuuks whistled, "You bet that bottle of booze?" Isamuto nodded, making Zuuks smile, "Well then I guess we already ready won if you bet that."

Isamuto's smile disappeared as he looked back out at the Ilera, "With that said, Quinn. I do not have to remind you how important that nothing goes wrong today." He looked at Zuuks. "Unlike last time."

Zuuks nodded, the smile also gone from his lips. "Aye aye sir. I will double check everything myself."

"I wonder what they are talking about," whispered Jessy Parks from her station.

"Talkn' 'bout the mimic fight, I bet," said Bethue looking at the Captain and the officer.

Perta sighed annoyed. "Lot of good it will do us. We're not at war so what's the point."

"You're just angry you have to be on watch, Neil." Retorted Parks. Serviceman Perta was ordered on watch due to the Ilera's appearance. The captain wanted a full bridge crew when the ship was in company with another. Plus he would have a long time to be on watch since he also need to be at his station during the simulation. Making this the beginning of Perta's very long day.

Tenin said nothing as he overheard the service crewmembers and cadet talking together. He wanted to contribute, but he was concerned the very instant he did Zuuks would turn and yell at them. He was content let them gossip away until:

"Hopefully we won't have an accident like last time," sighed Parks.

"What happened last time?" Asked Tenin suddenly.

"Oh," started Perta like it was insignificant, "Some cadet got hurt last time."

"That "some cadet" 'as 'alled Wesen!" Said Buthue suddenly angry. "An' I'll see ya in trouble if ya don't mind wat ya say!"

Perta shook his hands mockingly. "O-o-oh, sorry Mr. Buthue."

Buthue turned around angry to look away from the serviceman, helping Tenin see the anger swirling in his eyes. "You-you knew him?" Tenin asked.

Buthue looked at him, cautious of Tenin's question. Making up his mind, Bethue nodded, "Yeah. He was my only friend on 'is ship." He looked down saddened by the thought.

"What happened?" Asked Tenin.

Buthue took a moment to look up at Tenin, "It 'as a trainin' fight like this on'. The damn ballistic he was workin' on blew up. The crew and Gordon were hurt…"


"Pretty bad," nodded Bethue. "He had cuts'll over his body. Some not so serious, and some… bad." Bethue shook his head, "Someone said he was sabotagin' the gun himself."


Bethue shook his head, "I dunno. But the word was stron' enough ta force 'im to quit the ship and transfer…" Buthue looked at Tenin hotly, "You toke his place on 'is ship."

Tenin recalled the letter Isamuto had shown him, so this was were the fourth opening on this ship came from. This cadet's Wesen's misfortunes, had been his lucky break. He then realized why Buthue was so cold to him; he had replaced his friend, his only friend on this vessel.

"I'm sorry," said Tenin quietly.

"No yer not," Buthue added bitterly. "Yer could care less 'bout 'im. It's thanks to 'im that yer sorry ass is even on this ship! And he didn't do nothi—" he cut himself off, and tore is head away from Tenin. "He didn't do nothin' wrong."

"I'm sorry about your friend," Tenin said again. "But I am not the reason he's gone. I just took his place," Tenin felt angry that he was saying this. He shouldn't have to explain his innocents and it made him sound like a cheap lawyer to himself. "I didn't know anything about Wesen."

Buthue nodded, still angry but not directing it at Tenin like he once did. "Ya I know. I'm just mad I guess."

"Why was he blamed for it if he did nothing wrong?"

Buthue shook his head, "I don't know." He looked at Tenin recalling something, "But… he did tell me, 'at he thought it was Largson that did it."

"What?!" said Tenin in a harsh whisper.

"'Parently he 'ave Largson a hard time like ya did. And this 'as that bastard cadet's way ta get him off the ship." He looked towards to doors of the bridge and cursed angrily, "And he did get Wesen off…"

"He wanted Wesen gone." Stated Tenin aloud.

"Aye," said Bethue. He leaned in close and added, "'Ere's some advice. Watch ya back today. Largson might try something' if he too wants ya gone."

Tenin looked away to the peeper and noticed, Zuuks staring at the two of them crossly. Tenin realized if they stood talking any longer they would be yelled. "We better get back to work, Zuuks is staring at us." Buthue also turned to see the officer's stern eyes glaring down at them. As the two parted, Tenin added, "And Kent. Thanks for the warning." Buthue merely nodded, and turned to check with Parks on the Psydar.

As Tenin walked around the bridge trying to look busy, he felt suddenly worried about today's training seminar, and then to that cadet. Largson. He might not do anything at all, Tenin reasoned, he might be two busy with other work. If Wesen had told Bethue, it was possible he told somebody else. Maybe an officer who would make sure that trouble-making cadet would cause no issue today.

Tenin sighed and dismissed the idea, it was doubtful that Wesen, even if he did tell someone about Largson's possible hand in his gun, would be listened to. He was a cadet whom everyone believed had tampered with the gun. Wesen was the last one anyone would listen to, especially when it seemed he was passing the blame to someone else.

Tenin frown, it was now more then likely in his mind Largson would try something. If it worked once, it could work again, thought Tenin trying to picture Largson's mind. He would have too be on his guard while on duty. He stopped, and looked out of the peeper to the Ilera, and felt his stomach tighten with worry.

When the call came, "ALL HANDS TO BATTLESTATIONS! ALL HANDS TO BATTLESTATIONS!" The crews of both ships, the Armitinian and the Ilera, sped like demons to their stations. Unlike the previous gunners where they only had themselves to beat and race against, here another ship would be watching, and if their ship was lacking, laugh at them. It motivated the crews, if only because they did not want to be laughed at.

Tenin too was aware of this feeling, as he rushed to squeeze into his BISS. The entre pre-gun-deck was quite and focused with little idle chatter. This quiet focus almost caused Tenin to forget his worry over Largson. Almost.

When his suit was on, and his ARM replaced on his wrist, he quickly wrote the message, "Good luck," and had his ARM send it to Donny, Olivia and Cali. All four of them had a part of this training, and would perhaps need a kind word, although he had just included Cali in that mass messaging because he felt obligated to include her. Almost instantaneously, he got a quick "thanks" from both Donny and Olivia. Nothing from Cali, which did not surprise or disappoint Tenin. Next time he would not waste sending her a message.

When the crew was out in the gun-deck itself, Captain Isamuto came on the Link. "Attention crew of the Armitinian! I should not have to remind you what is at stake here today. Today we have our name, our reputation of excellence to uphold, which is worth more then any bottle of alcohol I wagered today!" Tenin felt a small grin grow on his lips after hearing that. "Today you are facing the Neptune Destroyer, Ilera. She is smaller then our vessel, and boasts less guns. But do not underestimate her. She is made for ship-to-ship combat, so this is her forte, not ours. Plus her captain is far more demanding. So give her our best, so that we can ensure that we beat her! I wish I could be there as we beast Best of luck, and I trust you all!"

Tenin frowned, he had forgotten that Captain Isamuto was not remaining aboard during the simulation. It was common procedure to have the captains of the ships leave their vessels in a shuttle together and watch the fight from affair. While they watched from afar, they could give points of issues or praise to their ships, and they could see for themselves what issues they needed to fix. This absence of the captain put all the trust into the Second-in-Command, and Tenin wondered how Barbozza would handle this authority.

"First Gun-deck! Listen to me!" Linked Zuuks to the entre gun-duck. "We are the top gun deck! That means we are the first deck to get it. Our target is smaller, but that only means they could take less damage! But that cannot happen if we underestimated them. Imagine them as a large Jupiter ship, and we will bet them."

Everyone linked back, "Yes sir!"

"Ammo carriers! Listen up! Some boxes of live rounds on this deck! Some idiot forgot to remove them before the fight today! Those boxes have been marked with a red X, so you do not take them! We have some service crew coming by soon to take them!

When the Lieutenant gave his speech, everyone went to work to there assignments. Tenin's job today was to carry ammo to his gun before the fight. Zuuks had switched him and the some of the crew he was working with from their job on a laser gun to a ballistic gun. Now that Noxton had been transferred, again, the group of Tenin, Maul, Rick, Kat, and Rose had the maximum amount of people for a ballistic gun. Zuuks thought it was a good idea to give Tenin and the rest of the crew some practice with a different weapon.

The gun the Lieutenant had given them was gun number twenty, a Chen-Erikson 219 Ballistic Bolt Action Turret, often called a Chen-E or a Snipe. One of the trio of standard ballistic guns used in the EAF Space Navy. Being made from a design over hundreds of years old, the Chen-E fired a sixty caliber round, and was accurate in space at a range of 1500 yards. With the lack of a battery, the gun only needed a crew of five, two loaders, a gunner, spotter, and a case collector, which was Tenin;s task.

When the rounds started flying, Tenin would be responsible for talking the discharged cases from the gun to ensure they did not fly into the vision of the gunners. It would be Rick's job to run and get more ammo when they were getting low.

Rushing to the clump of ammo boxes, Tenin disengaged the magnetic bottom of the ammo box and pushed the floated it to towards gun. After he gathered five boxes of practice rounds, Tenin was suddenly reminded of Buthue's warning, and how the cadet before him left the ship tragically.

He suddenly felt compelled to check the gun over himself, even if it was just to calm his suspicions. Quickly, he checked inside the gun barrel, nothing there. Then the chamber, again clean. And finally Tenin check the ammo itself. While it seemed impossible that these could have been tampered with since he picked them at random, he didn't want to take that chance. With a cautious eye, he looked over all five boxes of ammunition. None of it seemed out of place, when he had looked over all of his ammunition, Tenin rose to his feet, still not free of his fears.

"Cadet Nicon!" Linked a voice into Tenin's helm. The cadet swung around and saw his commanding officer looking down at him. "There are guns farther along the gun-deck that need ammunition still! If you have enough free time that you can stand around with your thumb up your ass, then the least you can do is help them!"

"A-aye aye sir!" Said Tenin quickly, and was off just as fast. When the cadet was gone, Lt. Zuuks mirrored the cadet's actions, checked the gun and the ammunition for any sign of tampering. And like the cadet he saw none.

"Normally a gunner would take it as an insult when a officer checks his gun after he already did." Zuuks turned slightly and saw Rossetti standing were Zuuks stood for the cadet, arm's folded but a small grin showing through his helmet. "But I know you better then that."

"Just burying my fears," replied Zuuks taking out a practice round and playing it with his fingers. Nothing was wrong here. He placed the round back into the ammo box and turned to the gunner, "Make sure nothing happens here."

Rossetti nodded, "I'll keep an eye out here." And with that Zuuks, when off to deal with whatever needed to be solved, and Rossetti needed to refill his O2 in his helmet, leaving their gun deserted for a moment. When Kat and Maul arrived a few minutes later, they noticed their gun ready, with six boxes of ammo to use.

Captain Isamuto stood still as he watched his ship growing slightly smaller as he rode in his personal shuttle to the Ilera, to pick up her captain. Since his personal cutter was larger and more comfortable than the Nuptune's cutter, Isamuto volunteered his cutter for observation. Often called the "Second Captain's Cabin" some captains liked to dress up these shuttles like a personal yacht. But Isamuto was not like those captains, and his personal shuttle was more on the dull side. Spartan, for the lack of a better word.

Within seconds, Isamuto saw that the cutter had stopped, and he could notice the cutter back and forth, a sign that the cutter was latching on to the Ilera. "Captain," came the voice of the Coxswain, "We are latching on to the Ilera."

"Yes, thank you pilot."From behind he heard the sound of air rushing into the connecting latch, letting the captain knew the latch was almost fully pressurized. Less then a moment later, Isamuto heard the sound of a metallic door sliding open, and a pair of heavy grav-boots echoing in the connecting latch. As the door to the cutter opened, Isamuto saw the other captain's refection on the small peeper he was looking through.

He turned and nodded to the captain, "Captain Sharlia."

Alyisa Sharlia stood on the other end of the shuttle and smiled to Captain Isamuto. She had a wide face and nose to match. She had a slightly darker tone of skin then Zuuks, and had her dark ebony hair woven into seven thick cornrows that went to her shoulders. To a random stranger, they might not think anything of it, but Isamuto knew the meaning behind them. The seven cornrows represent her seven years in command of a ship. Five of those years where as a commander, and the other two were when she was promoted to a captain and received the Ilera. Soon she would be adding an eight row to her hair.

"Captain Isamuto," she nodded back. Taking a quick look around she added, "Damn, if I had known this cutter was this much nicer than mine I would have tried to fight you earlier then this!"

Isamuto laughed, "I do what I can." He noticed a bottle of alcohol in her right and asked, "What are you betting today?"

Sharlia looked at the bottle, "It's a 2405 Bottle of Jack-a-Dandy Whisky. I got it from "Bad Luck" Captain Drosson, over in 3rd fleet. When I took on his Saturn, the Eastern Star."

"I hope you didn't embarrass him too much."

Sharlia smiled, "Heh, no it was close. And I guess that was what was so insulting about it!" She laughed, "Were do you want this?" Isamuto pointed to a small wall bar towards the back of the shuttle. On top of the bar was Isamuto's bottle of alcohol he was wagering.

When the rival captain placed her alcohol on the bar, she reached over and looked at Isamuto's bottle. "2132 Ester Elixir… Where did you get this?"

"I got it when I beat Admiral Brink when I first got the Armitinian."

She whistled. "Feeling confident, Isamuto?"

"Just letting you know I am giving may complete confidence to my ship."

"You sure it is not overconfidence?" Sharlia turned to look at Isamuto. They both smiled.

"Well, only one way to find out."

"Captain Isamuto, sir." Came the voice of pilot. "Shall we head to our observation point?"

"Yes, get us going, if you please." Said Isamuto formally. He turned to Sharlia, "No rest for us it seems."

When the captain's shuttle arrived to the point were they could observe their two ships fight each other, the business of planning the simulation. In this case, one ship would be the attacker and the other would be the defender. The defending ship would give the attacker ninety seconds before they would retaliate, while the attacker could attack any where within that minute and a half. These roles where decided by a simple coin toss.

When the coin was flipped, Sharlia and her Ilera won the toss, and they would be attacking. With the final part of simulation decided, Isamuto turned to his ARM and reported, "Mr. Barbozza, the Armitinian will be defending in this simulation. Prepare the ship."

"Aye-aye sir." Answered Barbozza.

"Mr. Barbozza how long did it take to get prepared for battle stations?"

"Eleven and a half minutes sir!" The officer answered proudly.

"Good work, LtCdr." Looking away from his ARM he turned to Sharlia, it was about to begin.

On the gun decks of the Armitinian waited anxiously for the Ilera to appear on their flank. The other ship would pretend that they stumbled upon the Armitinian and would attempt to attack and damage her, while the defending ship is only trying to fend off the aggressor. The winner was decided by how much damage they inflicted to each ship, theoretical damage through the Nail percentage; the ship with the better percentage wins.

The practice rounds were merely paint pelts that painted the ship's hull to show where the shots hit home. The paint was designed to be extremely sensitive to heat, meaning when a laser hit the paint or when the paint hit a heated part of the hull, it would burn the color showing a hit. The darker the paint, the more times it was hit. While it coated the ships in an ugly coat of paint, the colorant was easily washed off. And the EAF would rather have a well-gunned ship over a pretty ship, and this made it the most practiced way the Space Navy tested each other's ships.

None of this mattered to cadet Tenin Nicon as he stood waiting for the fight to start. He had remembered hearing somewhere that the waiting for the fight was worst part of fighting; and it was proving to be more and more true the more Tenin remained there.

"Here she comes!" Linked Rosetti. Tenin swung his head to see the Ilera appearing on the Armitinian's bow. She was moving quickly along the Armitinian's flank, elegantly, like a partner in a deadly dance. As the tip of her two gun decks crossed over the mass of the Armitinian's hull, her sides erupted in a barrage of lights.

When the barrage opened up, Tenin realized there was no sound coming from the gun decks. When the cadet thought about that fact it was not entirely surprising, there were no sounds in space, and he remember all of the times in gun drills that his ship's own guns did not make a sound. Tenin guess it was because when he thought of action, when it came, that he and the gun deck would be facing an enemy's broadside the experience would be a loud and deafening. Instead this was an awkward feeling not having sound.

"You alright, Cadet?"

Tenin turned and saw Rossetti looking at him. "Yes," he replied. "I just thought it would be different."

"Like the flicks?" Teased Rossetti, and looked at the incoming ship. "Yeah I always hated them for making me think it would be fun be in these battles. Lying bastards…" Tenin blinked, think Rossetti had miss judged him completely. Then the gunner looked at Tenin, "You never get used to the silence of these fights."

As the bow of the Ilera passed by Tenin and the gun he was stationed at, the far end of the gun deck, he could see some of the gun deck being spotted by yellow blotches of paint. At first Tenin thought they were loose rounds, but as the deck, some of the guns and even the crew were splattered in yellow, Tenin knew they where intentionally aiming at the gun deck.

"God, they're firing like a bat out of hell!" Said Rick watching the incoming paint barrage.

"That's the sign of good gunnery!" Replied Rossetti.

"Keep the Link clear gun twenty!" Barked Zuuks without looking up form his ARM. "Thirty seconds more before we retaliate!"

Just then, Tenin felt a sudden force on his right brow, and the right side of his helmet being covered in a dark blob. He felt his heart skip a beat. Am I hit? Am I bleeding? He wiped away some of the blob and realized it was an ugly yellow color. He breathed relieved: it was not blood after all.

"You alight?" Asked Rossetti.

Tenin breathe slowly, "Yeah, Just startled me."

"Yeah, they sting. I knew a cadet who thought he was dying when he was hit by only on of them. Clogged up the Link with his screaming." He looked at Tenin, "Good to see you still have your nerves when you get hit."

"Ten seconds to fire back!" Warned Zuuks.

Tob, the master gunner's voice followed, "TP selected. All gunners fire when ready!" A small crosshair appeared on everyone's helmet targeting the very top of the Ilera's dorsal gun deck. The guns on this gun deck would not have to elevate much to hit the target. The Ilera was a small ship both in length and in height, when the two ships were floating side by side; the Armitinian's first gun deck was level with the top of the Ilera.

"Easy target, eh, Rose?" Teased Maul.

"Not for the lower decks," replied Rossetti focused on the target and the order to fire.


The gun deck exploded in a barrage of lights, and the Armitinian respondedto the assault brought on by the Ilera. The two ships together made a spectacle unrivaled like two lightning clouds interlocking in a duel to the death. But now the awesome sight mattered little to either ship's crew. They were too busy focusing on their guns and where to point them.

Tenin too was unable to appreciate visuals that the two ships made. Every round case the gun discharged Tenin caught the cases and placed them in an empty ammo box to prevent then from flying in space in a spot that would be very dangerous. A could jam a gun, or even block a spotter's view.

With the two ships firing together, time seemed to be moving like a speeding comet. It took Tenin twenty minutes to fill one box of round shells, when it only took five. When the box was getting full, Rick came around with the recently emptied ammo box and took the full one Tenin had filled. It was a cycle of ammo, boxes and cases that allowed the gun to be fired continuously.

With the second box filling fast, the cadet noticed the other ship. The Irena was spotted in some places and completely covered in pale green with some darkening spots in the paint. He tried to imagine the two ships after the fight. The Armitinian trimmed in a sickly yellow, and the Ilera covered in a pale green. They would be a comic sight to any ship that passed this way.

"Ah, Goddamit!" Screamed Rick in pain.

Tenin saw from the other side of the gun he was holding his left hand in pain.

"You alright?" Asked Rossetti taking another shot.

"Yeah," he said trivializing the pain. "Damn pain round dislocated my finger." He showed his Kevlar covered hand painted in the sickly yellow, and the index finger was pointing at a disgusting angle.

"Oh you big baby," teased Kat looking at it. The she too screamed in pain as two paint rounds stuck her, one at her lower back, and the other at the nape of her neck. She fell to the deck, screaming in pain.

"You were saying, Kat?" Smiled Rick.

"Rick, take Kat to the pre-gun-deck, pop you finger back in. When you are ready come back and come out to help. Tenin! Tether yourself over here and load. Maul, take over for Tenin! I can manage without a spotter."

"Aye-aye sir!" Tenin unfastened his tether from the right side of the gun to the left. Now he was loading the rounds into an open bottom magazine, allowing the gun to fire continuously now that they where two hands short. As he grabbed for few bullets, he noticed that this box was almost empty, and that would mean that the box on the opposite side would be full. And there was the problem, he would have to deliver the empty box to Maul on the other side of the gun somehow, and ensure that the gun did not run out of ammo.

"Warrant Officer Rossitti, this box is almost empty, and Maul will be needing it." Tenin was unsure if this question was a sign of weakness or something else.

"Slide it under the front of the gun, Nicon!"

"Aye aye sir." Tenin looked at the front of the gun, and saw that there was a just large enough for the box to fit under, provided the gun was no depressed to point down. Quickly he squeezed the ammo create under the gun turret, and forced it through the other side. Crisis averted, thought Tenin as he opened the next ammo box and continued pushing the rounding into the gun.

The next box of ammo was different from the others, the rounds were heavier, not weight-wise but the mass felt different. As he grabbed several more Tenin looked at the containers they were the practice round boxes, and not the ones marked with an "X" so they were the practice rounds.

After a few more inserted rounds, the cadet checked the rounds again. They where different in some way, but he could not be sure. He looked up and Rossetti, and wounded if he should break the Warrant Officer's concentration. Kat and Rick were not back yet He batted the thought away, and blamed his nerves. Maybe Largson was getting to him after all by make paranoid.

Then as if he was mad, a cry over the Link. It was not from Zuuks, or Tob, but from Barbozza himself shouting like he was possessed. "All guns cease fire! ALL GUNS CEASE FIRE!"

With that order, the guns powered down and the gun crews stopped and looked at each other in confusion. Something was wrong.

"Lt Zuuks, what's happened?" Ask Rossetti.

"How the hell should I know!?" He replied angrily. Then a call from the bridge on the Link, it was LtCdr Barbozza; he would find out soon. "Sir?"

"Have all ballistic gun crews stand by their guns Mr. Zuuks. The laser gun crews are relieved. We are doing a check of the guns! I will be coming to the first gun deck." He sounded rushed, and Zuuks could hear heavy footsteps. The second in command was walking briskly towards the first gun deck.

"What happened sir?"

"We had live rounds hit the Ilera Lieutenant Zuuks."

"Oh my god…" cursed Zuuks.

"No one was hurt, but someone is going to lose their head for this. Barbozza out."

Zuuks sighed agitated. This was a nightmare. Live rounds in a practice fight. He canvassed the guns, it was the worst thing that could have happened today. Isamuto would have more than a head, Zuuks suspected; he would first get the guilty party out of Space Navy then have his head.

Then he caught sight of Tenin, and stared at him. An ominous feeling filled to officer's mind for the cadet. Like a man looking at approaching black clouds of a storm.

When the LtCdr arrived, he had a heavy frown on his face, as if it was etched in stone.

"Sir?" Saluted Zuuks.

"Lt. Zuuks," his curt tone had a hint of oppressed anger. "Have the gun captains present one round from each of their guns. We will catch him red handed."

Zuuks linked the order and it was done. Every crew in charge of the guns pulled the round from the chamber of their guns and held it out to be inspected by the LtCdr.

One by one, Barbozza checked each round, sometimes he picked up a bullet to examine it. But each time he returned it to the gun captain, and his frown seemed to grow more severe each time he handed the round back. Zuuks founded himself pitying Barbozza just now, trying to discover what had happened. If there was no clear culprit, the blame might fall back on him, since he was in command of the ship.

Then he stopped, right in front of gun twenty. The gun he put Rossetti's crew on, and… he groaned to himself, and cadet Tenin Nicon. Oh, god.

Barbozza took the round, and looked it over carefully as if he could not believe what he saw. Very calmly he asked, "Who was responsible for bringing the rounds to this gun?"

"What the hell's wrong with you cadet!?" Roared Isamuto. "Do you leave your brain back at the academy where they tried to teach you something!?"

Tenin Nicon stood quite motionless as he received the verbal assault from the captain. Not petrified with fear, nor with confidence of his innocence, he was just in frozen place by what had happened. It was only his second time he was in the captain's cabin, and yet he could not have imagined the difference of emotions that the visit before brought compared to this.

Captain Sharlia stood beside Isamuto's desk, glancing at the cadet that stood before her. If she was angry, she was hiding it well with her neutral face. She seemed to be sizing up the cadet, or what little emotions the cadet showed through Captain Isamuto's verbal assault on the cadet. Her eyes drifted to Lt. Zuuks beside the cadet, and it seemed to her, Isamuto was practically yelling at him when he yelled at Cadet Nicon. Then across the desk, there was Barbozza, the man in charge of the ship at the time. In a way all of the guilty parties were here in Isamuto's cabin, but they all seemed to be focused on the cadet.

"Well?" Isamuto's furious voice brought Capt. Sharlia out of her thoughts as she returned to the conversation. "Aren't you going to say something?"

"S-sir," said Tenin not able to hide the fear from his voice, "I checked the rounds before the simulation. None of them where live rounds—"

"So you could tell the difference between the live rounds and duds, and yet you did not stop when you were load the gun." Tenin breathed out angrily, that point was true.

"I-I did not think sir. I was rushed to load the gun to beat—" he stopped and looked at Capt. Sharlia, expecting her to be offended, "To beat the Ilera.I didn't want to make problems over nothing."

"So the risk of killing a few EAF Service person and damaging a ship was far less then winning this damn completion?"

"I wasn't sure, sir." Said Tenin barely managing to say it firmly. He looked at Captain Sharlia and asked, "Was anyone hurt?"

Spit Fire Aly took a moment to look at the cadet. Did she hear guilt in the young man's voice? Or was it a more sympathetic tone? She could not tell. "No," she slowly said. "One of the first rounds hit one the gun deck guard rails. When the crews saw that they reacted quickly and told Mr. Barbozza." She and the LtCdr exchanged glances, both acknowledging that they could have found out in a far worst way. "Apart from that, a few dents and scratches in the hull." She turned to Isamuto, and nodded, "Minor repairs, Captain. Should be little trouble."

She sighed annoyed, "But it'll mean going Orbitside…"

"What do you mean?" Asked Tenin.

"An inquiry, cadet." Replied Barbozza. "And if there is enough evidence to convict someone… a court martial for the suspected party."

Tenin gulped heavily, at this moment that meant him.

"Do you want me to inform the Admiral and file the report, or would you like to do it?" Asked Sharlia.

Isamuto shook is head, "You are the victim of this, Captain Sharlia. You decide."

"Alright," she nodded annoyed, "I'll start this damn process. I always hate this." She gave a brief nod, "I'll head back to Bleak Outpost, and start the repairs. I'll bet that his where Hought will have the inquiry." She to a step and was reminded of something, "I will call today a draw, Isamuto. You can keep that Elixir." And with a quick, walk she left the cabin.

Now that the stranger of the ship was gone, Isamuto turned again to the cadet. He eyes still angry, making them impossible to look in to. "I expected better then this from you cadet."

"Sir, I—"

"Shut up, cadet! It was your fault, and now you will pay the price!"

"Sir!" Interjected Zuuks. "I with to say something!"

"What is it Lt. Zuuks?" Isamuto did not change the bite in his tone that he used to speak to the cadet.

"I can only tell you if you dismiss the cadet. Sir."

"Why the hell should the cadet—"

"Please sir!" Protested Zuuks.

Isamuto looked at Zuuks, still angry but seemed to be listening at least. "Mr. Nicon get out. But stay outside, I am not done with you yet, cadet."

"Aye, aye sir," saluted Tenin. He took a quick glance at Lt. Zuuks as he turned to leave. Was he going to defend him? The thought lightened this grim situation a little. But only a little.

With the door lightly closing behind the cadet, Isamuto turned an Zuuks with a controlled voice, but hinting that it could turn to anger at any moment. "What do you have Zuuks?"

"I know Cadet Nicon is telling the truth, sir."

"And how do you know that?"

"Because I checked his gun after him sir." The words silenced the cabin instantaneously.

"You checked the gun after the cadet?" Repeated Borbozza as if he misheard the Lieutenant.

Zuuks nodded, "After the cadet collected the practice rounds for his gun, I had him go help farther along the gun deck. Then I checked the gun and all five ammo cases. They all were practice rounds…"

"You're not saying this because he's under your command?"

"I've never been afraid to accuse one of my own of a crime. You know that Captain."

"He might have gone back gone back to get the box later after he finished along the gun."

"No, sir. When he was done, he tethered to his gun, and did not move from his position. I was a few guns away, and I kept an eye on him."

Isamuto turned angrily, his anger was now missing a target to focus on. "Then how did the rounds get there?"

"I have a theory sir," replied Zuuks.

"What is it?"

"I believe he was framed sir, by another cadet."

"God," sighed Isamuto rubbing his eyes, "Not this again." He looked at Zuuks. "Cadet Largson was not even on the deck."

"But two of his friends were. Cadets Bex and Kniegh."

"Zuuks, Largson is not a officer."

"But he has pull in the lower ranks sir." He looked between his two superior officers, "You two might not have noticed it, but I have. He has not had a single bad mark against him, and yet I always find him doing something punishment worthy."

"The Senior cadets would have reported—"

"He has them under his thumb dammit! Senior Cadet Reed is afraid of him. No, terrified of that monster! And the others avoid him."

"Lt. Zuuks, I know you two have disagreed in the past—"

"Disagreed sir?" Zuuks said through his teeth. "I catch him beating Cadet Wesen in the cadet bathroom, and request he gets five weeks of punishment. He gets one week, and only actually does two days of it! I put a transfer request to get him off this ship, he get transferred to Lt. Thertian! The most lax and worthless officer on this ship! I put Reed in charge of him, and then he looses his nerve. Then cadet Wesen files a complaint against the cadet, within two weeks he is injured in a training exercise like this one, and leaves this ship. And now, we have Cadet Nicon. He found a AI that Largson should have found, and met an Admiral that should have been the other cadet's chance. Now the cadet is accused of putting live rounds into a gun. Can you tell me that is not coincidence?"

He looked at Isamuto, seeing the captain torn. Then he looked at Barbozza, and saw a small nod from the second in command, "I believe the Lieutenant might be right…"

"Not you too," sighed Isamuto.

"I have noticed some friction between Largson and Nicon…" said Barbozza cautiously.

Isamuto looked out his personal peeper, "What do you want me to do, Zuuks. Blame every thing that goes wrong on Largson? Accuse him of running the ship into chaos at the inquiry?"

"I am not letting that cadet take another of my crew sir."

"That is not up to you Zuuks. That is up to the inquiry when it happens."

"If it happens," insisted Zuuks.

"It will happen Zuuks. I have little doubt of that…"

"And I will tell them what I just told you. I checked after Cadet Nicon did, and found no issue with the rounds he put there."

Isamuto shook his head, "But you can't prove it was someone else. And who ever judges the inquiry will be want to wrap this incident up quickly. Even if it does mean the end of a cadet's career. Innocent or not." He turned to Zuuks. "And if you speak for the guilty cadet, you might be removed as well. We are at peace and there is no shortage of officers and cadets."

"I don't care." Said Zuuks firmly. "But I do not want to lose another cadet because of that—" he stopped and changed the word he was going to use, "bastard."

"Very well, Zuuks it's your head." Sighed Isamuto. "Is that all you wanted to say?" Zuuks nodded. "Then please leave, and bring cadet Nicon back."

"What do you plan to do?"

"If I let him off the hook, I may cause the ship to grumble. I need to punish him, Quinn." Zuuks' protested was stopped by Isamuto adding, "But I will be as humane as I can be in this case. If you are right, he is innocent and someone has it in for him. If I let him go scot-free they might try something else. This way, it seems the blame is still on the cadet. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, unfortunately."

"It might take weeks to organize the inquiry. It will be hell for the cadet."

"I know that Zuuks. But if he can survive this, he might come out a better officer." He sighed, and leaned over his desk, "I want you to know. I am not doing this because I think Largson his guilty. I'm doing this because I see something in Nicon, and I want to see what becomes of him. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir." And with a half-hearted salute, he left the room to his officers. Outside, Zuuks saw Cadet Nicon pacing nervously.

When the young man saw his commanding officer, "Sir?"

"You better get in there, cadet. The Capt. Isamuto is in no mood to be kept waiting."

"Aye aye sir." Tenin gulped before adding. "Thank you, sir."

"Cadet, after you go in there your life is going to be hell. The crew is going to hate you for what they think you did today. It will be tough…"

"But I didn't do it sir."

I know, cadet he wanted to say, but instead replied "To the crew you did. And the Inquiry might listen to them more then you. You have to accept that…" He saw the cadet turn his eyes away, he was scared. "Nicon, stay strong. I know you get through this." He turned quickly to hide his face. Just in case Nicon could tell he was lying. "I'll see you on watch, Nicon."

"Aye aye sir."

As Tenin reentered the cabin's cabin he was surprise to see Isamuto sitting at his desk; it made him seem less angry, and the situation less threatening for Tenin.

"Mr. Nicon, Lt. Zuuks as vouched for you saying that your character is not one to make a mistake like this. While I trust the judgment of someone character like a fairy tale, I trust Zuuks."

"Am I free from suspicion?" Asked Tenin, hoping the forlorn hope was true.

"Far from it, cadet." He got up from his desk, and looked out the peeper. Tenin felt he had rekindled the captain's anger with that question. "You have double duties as punishment."

"For how long, sir?"

"Until I say otherwise!" The Captain snapped. "You're dismissed."

"Sir," Tenin saluted, and quickly relived the cabin of his presence.

With the cadet gone, Isamuto turned back and sat himself heavily behind his desk. He rubbed his head trying to message away from his mind.

"A bit harsh, sir."

"Mm?" Grunted Isamuto.

"You're tone with Cadet Nicon."

"He sounded smug. I can't stand a smug cadet."

"I don't think he was being smug."

"What, so you're a judge of emotions now?"

"What is your problem," Isamuto swung on his first officer, making Barbozza finch, "If you don't mind me asking, sir."

Isamuto stared at him angrily, then the anger disappeared as quickly as it appeared. "Today's been rough day, Draz. I'm worried that today might ruin us."

"Ruined? You mean cadet Nicon?"

"Nicon? No. I mean the ship. The Armitinian might forever be know as a ship who put live rounds in here guns. We have a stain on our name, and I don't think we will able to get rid of it."

"'When you are a captain, the ship you command is your name. What ever you do, good or bad, it will be on your name… It could make or break a ship.' The only thing I learned back at the Academy."

"The only thing that was actually applied to our jobs." He looked at Barbozza, "But saying what happens, and being a victim of it are two different things. Thank god no one was killed, or we really would have head a problem. "

"I doubt I'll find out sir."

Isamuto lightly grin, "Really? Well I'll make it my business to see that you see this for yourself."

"Promotion," smiled Draz Barbozza. "In peace time? With half the navy docked?"

Isamuto nodded, "Touche, LtCdr. But with three potential enemies, and a endless universe to discover, I bet we will find someone to fight."

"It's sad that we have to hope for war."

"We're soldiers of space, Draz. It's to be expected."

LtCdr looked at the door to the cabin and asked, "What do you think will happen to Nicon?"

"He'll be investigated. And if the inquiry decides he his guilty he can be removed or charged through a court-martial. And if he is found innocent," Isamuto sighed sadly, "he might be better off being found guilty."

"It will be that bad?"

"Worst," said Isamuto plainly. "The crew might take matters into their own hands."

"Should we transfer him?"

"Word gets around the fleet quickly just as quickly as any ship. No Space Navy member can keep a secret for very long. He will meet the same behavior on another ship."

Barbozza shook his head, "Then he's screwed no matter what?"

"I believe so." Sighed Isamuto. "Only a miracle could save his short career it seems."

Draz looked at the door again, it might take more than that, he thought.