Good morning – the time is […]
..The serene voice of the alarm clock is rudely disrupted by the roar of a large starship flying by. Ewhhh.. where am I? what time is it? Ah well, who cares anyway. I remember now, I’m not even on a planet, so good morning might as well be good evening or good night. What ever it is, it’s time to get up. I look out the window and see a city view and a sunrise in the distance. These are the cheapest rooms on the station, luxury rooms have full wall-screens.
As I reach out, a drop down menu appears. I scroll though the menu to change the vista into my calendar. Office 42, deck E, sector A, in 25 minutes. Today is my first day in the academy. Since I can’t afford to buy a civilian passport yet, I have but two options. Civilian or Military service. I know it is dangerous, but I passed the pre-selection for the navy and if all goes well I should be commanding my own ship in no-time! only thén I have the opportunity to explore the beauty of our galaxy, meet people in distance systems, maybe even one day visit the Sol system.
Enough dreaming about fancy rooms and a bright future, time to actually work on it! After a quick shower and a coffee flavoured protein shake from the mini-bar machine, I rush to the elevator. A few people shout ‘Hey rookie! where’s your diaper?’ after me, but I ignore them and carry on. If I mis my appointment I may have to clean their lavatories for the rest of my life!
I stop in front of a door like any other in the long corridor at E-deck. A friendly computerised voice says ‘access granted’ and the doors slides open.
“Name?” asks an old man behind a small metal desk? I reply politely. “Sign here”, he commands. I know this could be my own death sentence, but with the alternatives in my mind, I place my thumb on the glass. “Welcome to the Navy, Middy, Next door, Uniform, rucksack and your wrist-pad. Good day”.
Well that was a glorious start. I enter the next room and find my uniform. It is more than that. It is a bio-suit. The design has not changed much in the last few centuries. Basically it is a tight suit with a thin layer of fluid between the layers, It keeps human body parts together and within survivable temperature, when exposed to the vacuum of space. It also has a radiation filter. Now I am getting exited! I always wanted to have a suit like this, but could never afford it. In the rucksack I find a helmet and my wrist-pad. The helmet has a holographic screen build in. Both the suit and the helmet communicate with the wrist-pad, which is basically the brains. It controls the suit, displays information and contains an emergency transmitter. The rucksack contains the life support and has spare room for a few personal items.
I open the door on the far side of the dressing room, assuming the clerk wouldn’t want to see me again. The next room is a grand library like room with computer terminals and a large window to the outside of the station. It must be a screen like the one in the inn, because the station is rotating but the stars and the planet outside seem stationary.
I take a seat behind one of the terminals and identify myself with my thumb. “welcome recruit, please complete the CBT and written exams of each course before reporting at the holodeck.”
There are a few courses to take. Human factors, spacecraft general knowledge, spacelaw, basic orbital physics and and faster than light travel. These are marked as mandatory. There are a few more optional courses and a whole list marked unavailable. I guess these are advanced lessons for later.
I hesitate for a moment, theoretical training was never my strongest point, but, it has to be done so lets get it over with quick.
The first course I select is space-law. In a short video a few rules are explained, most of them self explanatory like code of honor, behaviour in public areas, but also things like maximum speed in the vicinity of a space dock and that a pilot requires a licence and a type rating before flying a spacecraft. there are additional ratings for atmospheric flight and alike. 6 multiple choice questions and a timer appear. a..b..a again. Complete. 6/6. Aced it! That’s not too hard at all. On to the next one.
The human factors video starts like a bad horror movie. An astronaut is exposed to vaccum. His eyes explode, his blood starts boiling in this vanes and then he dies. “Pay attention or this could happen to you!” an exiting voice says. “Ok! you have my attention!.. Disgusting..”. It seems that the helmet is an important part of the space suit, well I guessed that. The Wrist watch contains an emergency locator beacon and the suit can keep you alive for a short period, depending on the quality of the suit.
Spacecraft general knowledge tells in essence they are thin sheet metal cans with highly explosive fuel for the conventional thrusters, a nuclear power plant for the warp drive. What could possibly go wrong? Not all ships are the same. smaller ships may not have warp capability. some ships are only for space travel and others can also land on planets of fly within atmospheres. There is a whole range of equipment that can be installed.
Orbital physics is the hardest module. It learns that all planets have mass and attract objects. Aka gravity. On the other side, if you fly around the planet fast enough, the centrifugal force would prevent you from falling down. this is called an orbit. I loose my attention at this point, I’m sure they demonstrate it again in the simulator.
within 30 minutes I have finished all the courses with reasonable results and the first holo-simulation briefing unlocks in the list with exercises. It is the turret gunner course. A brief explanation about different type of weapons and their effects follows. Another few multiple choise questions and a passmark. Now I’ve sat down for long enough. Time for some shooting practice.
The simulation starts up and I appear to be in a laser turret of a star-class destroyer. The vesel is about 100 meters long and hosts a crew of up to 20. Although nothing compared to the much larger battlecruisers, I am awed by the size of it. Rotate left, right, up down, recharge weapon. Yes I got it! Now give me something to shoot at!
As out of nothing a black fighter comes straight at me. I cant see the markings, but the blazing lazercannnons give away that he is the enemy. Rules of engagement: self defence! Let’s give him something to play with! Aim, fire. Miss! Darn he’s quick! Try again. Aim, fire! A laser burst is absorbed by his shield. It won’t harm much but every tiny bit helps. After a few well placed hits he breaks away. Coward! I shout, but immediately remember the training. Don’t get your ship damaged unnecessarily. It is expensive kit and it keeps you alive. It is smart to walk away from a fight that you can’t win.
I keep practising for a bit, the simulation get’s harder, now there are multiple targets, communication with the other gunners becomes important and the frigate is manoeuvring heavily at the same time. Bandit! Six ‘o clock high! shoot the basterds! “this is great” I thought…
My arm wrist lights up, a message. I stop the simulation run and return to the library. The message reads: Report to board room 12 ASAP, B deck, Sector A. I wonder what’s going on, am I in trouble?
B-deck looks a lot more tidy than the lower decks. This is where the higher ranked officers live. It is also further inwards so there is slightly less gravity. It is much brighter here too due to the matt glass walls on both sides of the corridor. When I stand in front of door 12, a computerised voice commands “stand by for access”. The matt glass door becomes translucent. A man with a beard and a well decorated uniform looks me up and down, then the door slides open.
I step through the door opening, there I stop and stand in attention. I don’t know what to say. Maybe it is better not to say anything.
“Hello recruit, at ease. Do you know why you are here?”. I think about the turret simulation. Did I brake any rules? Did I shoot friendlies? I know that the simulator is not a toy and ill behaviour like that will be taken serious.
“No sir”.. I reply quietly.
“I assume you mean No Captain”, the Captain said. “Well, you should probably read about the ranks again and how to correctly address an officer, but all right, I noted your performance and you have successfully completed the initial exams. You are hereby promoted to Seargent. Well done. Keep up the pace and you could be an officer your self soon enough. Dismissed.”
“Thank you sir”.. I salute and walk out of the room. I can just see the Captain shaking his head. That was probably not how to leave an officers room.
Wow, Sergeant! My first rank! Now I am allowed to sign on real missions and fly along as a gunner.
But not today. I return to my quarters with a satisfied big-smile and a shiny sergeant chevron on my shoulder.