“No.” The quartermaster’s clerk on the other side of the counter looked solid as a rock. “We don’t have enough war kit in stock to hand it out willy-nilly.”
“That’s interesting, given that regulations require there to be enough usable war kit on board for all crew and passengers.” On the other side of the counter Parthi, Cadet Gens to her watching gunnery crew, looked equally immovable.
“Well, we can’t be handing it out on the say-so of cadets,” the clerk was flicking through a catalogue.
“Any Officer Commanding can requisition it for their command if they believe it is required,” Parthi pointed out patiently.
“You’re still a cadet. The answer’s still no.”
“You do realise that we’re a gunnery crew on a live fire exercise and that war kit incorporates all the safety equipment for our task categories?” Behind Parthi her three senior NCOs’ faces went from variations of vaguely amused, disinterested and plain bored to paying attention.
“It’s an exercise.” The pages were still being flicked.
“Live fire means that the damaged actuators and flashbacks might be real and not simulations.”
“Look, the answer’s no, whatever argument you put up. Give it a rest, cadet and get on with your familiarisation or whatever it is you think you’re doing.” The clerk turned another few pages.
“Then you won’t mind putting your name on the rejection attached to the record of my requisition of standard safety equipment.” There was a sting in Parthi’s voice now. “Or have a problem getting your OC to countersign that rejection. Just for the records if there is an incident inquiry, later. Or do I just take your refusal to process my requisition to the Exec?”
She had the clerk’s full attention. “You can’t do that!”
“I can and would.” Parthi held his eye. “Why don’t you go and get your boss, now?”
The clerk dropped the catalogue page and scuttled out of the counter area to the relative safety of the storage area.
Fifteen minutes later Parthi was checking the equipment that had been issued, checking fit and repair status. “Don’t just insert,” she told her team, “twist and lock. The air hose is armoured to prevent piercing by shrapnel or cutting with a knife.” She walked past one of her junior ratings and grabbed his air hose as she did so. It came out of its insertion with as little resistance as it had shown going in. “Don’t make yourself an easy kill or vulnerable to death by snagging. Lock everything into position when you put your gear on.” She paused and added, “I would stow your kit on the hooks over your bunks tonight. I haven’t done one of these exercises before,” several older members of her crew exchanged disbelieving glances, “and I may be paranoid, but I find the official starting time of this exercise, well, suggestive.”
Not long after they were in the Armoury. “Yes, I know you can’t just issue weapons,” Parthi explained patiently, “but we're here for a live fire shipboard exercise. That’s why I booked us in for a proficiency shoot.”
The armourer checked his tablet and the looked at her again. “So you did,” he sounded surprised. “Frankly, when I saw that, I was expecting someone older. So, 34s and 58s?”
“Yes,” she answered. “If they want to live fire with boarding parties, I can do that.”
He raised an eyebrow but only said, “Right, we’ll start with the 34s then.”
Later he told her, “Right, that’s everyone qualified on the 34 and five of you on the 58, including you. Nice grouping, cadet.”
“Thank you.” Parthi considered the holes in the cardboard target dispassionately. “The first three were a bit all over the place, but it was a strange weapon and it has been a while since I’ve shot.”
“Uh, Cadet Gens,” it was the junior rating from earlier, “that really is a good grouping. Why are you saying it should be better?”
Parthi glanced at him, “Hastro, isn’t it? Well, the thing is, if the enemy is in marine armour then 34s won’t do a thing and the only weapon ship’s crew get issued that will damage it is the 58. Even with that, the only part of the armour it will penetrate is the faceplate, so with the 58 you want a grouping no bigger than a marine’s faceplate.”
The startled junior rating looked at the armourer who nodded in agreement. “No-one ever said hand to hand wasn’t brutal but they don’t tell you about the faceplate thing in basic training, do they?”
“No.” The junior rating watched as Parthi walked away to speak to the NCOs. “Do they tell officer cadets?”
“Not in my experience, no,” answered the armourer.
Not much later Parthi announced, “This is Gunnery Station Four, our responsibility for the duration of the exercise. My apologies to those of you who may already be familiar with it. As you can see, we have two Astel-Farraguts for anti-ship work and three batteries of lasers for incoming fighters and hard ordnance. The anti-ship guns are connected to an unrevised Roberts loading system which, as some of you will know, has the “feature” of failing when the reload rate reaches high medium range intensity. Consequently, we can expect to be manual handling our charge actuators.” There was a collective groan from the gunnery team. “I don’t see any reason not to plan for this, so the manual handling teams will be…”