Academy Days: Episode Three

The Company Commander’s Office was a circular room enclosed by transparent glass walls and nested with similar offices on a balcony level that overlooked a large indoor parade ground.
At First, Pratt thought he was late because when he knocked twice on the office door and walked in, he noticed that he and the gray-bearded Company Commander were the only ones.
“Cadet Squad Leader Pratt, reporting as ordered, Sir.”
Senior Chief Carl Polson studied the younger man standing at attention in front of him. Pratt was older than the average cadet at 26; that maturity giving him an air of authority that was hard to cultivate out of the gate. It also made it difficult to rein in Pratt since he had a tendency to agree to one’s face…and then do whatever he felt necessary. A trait that caused the issuing of more than a few demerits over the past four years. Still, the kid got results and was able to rein in Cadet Pendrake and keep her from being summarily booted out for conduct-related infractions. I must remember to ask him how he does it, Polson thought.
“At ease, Cadet.” Polson noted Pratt’s suit. “You’re out of uniform.”
“I was informed that my being being here was important.” Pratt replied, his arms relaxing into a Parade Rest position. “I didn’t want to waste any more time getting here than necessary.”
“Very well.” Polson picked up a remote from his desk and darkened the walls around the office. “Pratt, I have been tasked with providing an escort detail for a courier ship coming to Earth from Asteroid 2001AB. I can’t divulge the details, but Command feels that although piracy in The Asteroid Belt is on the rise, the mission is safe enough to be used as a training exercise.”
“May I ask what the courier is transporting?”
“No, you may not.” Polson barked. He cleared his throat. “I’ve selected your squad to rendezvous with the courier and escort them back to Earth. Your squad rated the highest test scores during the last flight simulation round and it’s an honor so don’t give me any of your grief.”
“With all due respect, Sir, no one in the Company has logged any significant flight time off-world.” Pratt said. “Wouldn’t an experienced team produce better results?”
Polson waved away the question. “Of course, but orders are orders and I doubt your parents would enjoy hearing that you’ve refused a job that would look good on your record.”
“My parents?”
“Apparently, they had a hand in this assignment. Commodore Pratt himself contacted me to urge your selection.”
“Damn it.” Pratt muttered to himself.
“What was that?”
“Uh, nothing, Sir.” Pratt said. “My team and I will do our best.”
Polson pressed another button on his remote. When he was satisfied with the result, he came over and leaned in close. “Jack, I understand that having parents like yours is a pain in the butt, but they’re still part of the Chain of Command. If I thought you couldn’t handle it, I would have selected someone else. Just follow your procedures and you’ll be just fine.”
“I understand, Sir.”
Polson clicked the remote again.
“Dismissed, Cadet, and Good Luck.”

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