At 0323 the ship’s impact alarms sounded, followed immediately by the call to battle stations. It was dark and dusty in the junior ratings’ bunkroom as the suddenly woken crew members pulled on their clothing and scrambled for the door. As they emerged coughing and spluttering into the corridor two Petty Officers wearing umpire’s brassards were putting stickers on them; red for dead, blue for incapacitated, and a lurid, neon green for actually needing to go to sick bay in real life. As the seconds passed, more of the emerging ratings were tagged with stickers until, less than three minutes after the alarm had sounded, everyone was receiving a red sticker. When AS Hastro emerged, dragging an unconscious roommate, one of the referees went to tag him with a red sticker while the second tagged the near-boy he was dragging with a green sticker and began a first aid assessment. When the umpire realised what Hastro was wearing, he yanked on his air hose connection. The hose stayed in place and the sticker didn’t leave the umpire’s hand.
“Good job. Get to your battle station, AS,” ordered the umpire, “and we’ll get him to sick bay.”
“Yes, Petty Officer.” AS Hastro threw a salute and ran in the direction of where he was supposed to be.
Later that day.
“The initial scenario didn’t run to plan.” The speaker was an older man, a middle ranking officer from the Academy. The awards and honours on the upper left breast of his uniform suggested that his entire career had been spent in training and that he had never, despite the recent war, seen combat. “Gunnery Station Four had a full crew complement – Cadet Gens wasn’t stressed at all. From these firing rates they didn’t even lose the loading system.”
“I have to disagree,” the ship’s weapons officer spoke up. “Cadet Gens has already submitted her post action report with supporting data logs. Gunnery Station Four’s loading system did go down and they manhandled the actuators into place. There is a tiny blip in their firing rate at the changeover point, but it looks like she had a plan in place to deal with the breakdown. She must have read the gunnery station logs in her briefing pack.”
“But how did she get her hands on war kit for herself and her gun crew?” The Academy officer was speaking again. “The quartermaster had strict instructions that war kit was not to be handed out. The scenarios we’re running do not require it, this exercise has never used it and our budget won’t cover it.”
“Current doctrine,” said the weapons officer pointedly, “requires all gunnery crews in a live fire exercise to wear war kit as a safety measure. Presumably Cadet Gens read all of her background material.”
“As to how she got it,” chimed in the ship’s first officer, “she threatened to bring the matter to me if her requisition was unfulfilled and she didn’t receive a formal rejection from the quartermaster’s staff. Very neat. I think I like your Cadet Gens, sight unseen. Now, while we’re on the subject of safety, smoke bombs. The ones you used have been withdrawn from service.”
“Yes, we were lucky to secure a supply when they were being withdrawn,” the Academy officer smiled. “The replacements don’t have the same characteristics at all.”
“Two things about that,” said the first officer. “Firstly, after this morning’s scenario half the ship’s air filters have had to be replaced. The chief engineer asks that you don’t do it again. If you do, he won’t be able to guarantee air quality and we’ll need to return to port. Secondly, AS Akono, the rating who was dragged unconscious from his bunkroom.”
“Unfortunate,” observed the officer from the Academy, “but he shouldn’t have lingered in the room.”
“He had no choice,” said the first officer quietly and with deadly precision. “He didn’t pass out because of breathing in the smoke; he was knocked unconscious by a smoke bomb detonating in his face. A smoke bomb that was placed, concealed, in his bunk space in violation of safety rules and doctrine. He has a concussion and will be in sick bay for some time yet. If AS Hastro hadn’t done a final pass of the room as the only person present with a respirator, he might well have died before the smoke cleared from the space. The Captain has told me to tell you that, if there is another safety violation of this stupidity by a member of the exercise staff, he will cancel the rest of the exercise as an unacceptable and unnecessary risk to the ship. You may expect to be contacted by the inquiry officer and you will cooperate.” The first officer closed the folder in front of him. “Do you have anything else?”
“No, sir.” The Academy officer was now subdued.
“Excellent.” The first officer smiled. “I, however, do. In line with current Naval protocol, all gunnery crews participating in the exercise will be issued with war kit immediately and they will wear it for the duration of the exercise. That is all, thank you, gentlemen.”
Not too much later that day.
The ship’s weapons officer moved through the wardroom of eating cadets. His first stop was the table of fourth year cadets who were running most of the ship’s Gunnery Stations for the exercise. “A reminder, ladies and gentlemen,” he said without preliminaries, “that your after action reports are due to me almost immediately.”
One of the girls looked up from her data pad. “Almost finished, sir!”
“May I see it?” He held out his hand and she handed him the pad, which he scanned quickly. “You’ve done a great deal of excellent work, Cadet MacGill, but what I need is a dot point summary, not an essay. Write up a dot point frame and attach what you have so far as an appendix. Remember, you might have to write multiple after action reports in one day and this ship has over a dozen Gunnery Stations. Neither of us have time for essays.”
“Yes, sir.” MacGill’s face had dropped.
“Dot points are your friend, MacGill, keep that in mind.” With that, the weapons officer moved on, looking for another table. When he found it he said, “Cadet Gens.”
“Sir?” Parthi looked up and lay down her fork. The rest of the cadets at the table stopped eating too.
“I’m impressed with the turnaround time on your after action report. Keep up the good work.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll try, sir.” Parthi looked at him warily.
“One small nit-pick, though.” He smiled. “I know what KWOS stands for but it’s not a Navy approved contraction. Don’t use it in future.”
“Thank you sir, I’ll do that, sir.”
“Good. Carry on, Cadet Gens,” and with that he went off to his own wardroom.
The Cadet: Part 15 is here.