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Vekta Prime Orbital, Cresswell Residence

The evening had dawned. The interview that had been the centerpiece of his day had passed, and James had somewhat mixed emotions and feelings about how the process had went. He had decided to retire to the family quarters aboard the behemoth orbital station. Concluding his deployment on the UNSF Winchester, he was now in limbo. If he didn’t get awarded a place on the Apollyon then he would have to look at other avenues. A deployment on a ship was a high probability and he wouldn’t even rule out a captainship of a small vessel if he didn’t get assigned to the Apollyon.

He often referred to the family home on the station as the families ‘quarters’. That was James’s modesty kicking in. While most residences on the station were small apartment style units, the Cresswell residence had been formed by merging many of these units together, forming a unit large enough to house the entire extended Cresswell family if needed. Currently it was only James residing here. The Cresswell family mostly saw themselves above the industrial grime of Vekta Prime, and so this residence was mostly left deserted. Only family members on business ever came here to stay. Normally the residence would have hired help. Human, not robotic. Just a touch of old class. The human touch always made things feel more important. Anyone could build a robot to serve. Since the residence hadn’t been used in a long time and this was only an overnight stay, James didn’t see the need for such pampering. If he had failed his interview he would be on a vessel back to New Terra and return to the family headquarters.

James was trying anything he could think of to distract himself from thinking about the interview. It was all too easy to start overthinking these things after all. It had started by watching programmes on the net. It started out as documentaries but very quickly turned into reality programmes. Trash really. But james was fascinated by it. The way people treated other people. His mind couldn’t quite comprehend it. It did have the desired effect however, and time did indeed pass as his brain began to feel numb. Add a few glasses of wine towards the end and time just seemed to fly now.

Time did start to eventually drag. There was only so much trash a person could take in via their retinas before they couldn’t take it no more. James was approaching that limit. As his mind lost focus on what he watching his mind began to once more drift back into that zone of thinking about the interview again. A fair piece of time had passed now and he had heard nothing. The clock had passed 7pm and he was beginning to think that maybe he was not going to hear anything at all. Now his mind had completely succumbed to thinking about the interview. A deep analysis of the situation was starting to begin. Many people had applied for nearly every position on that ship. It was going to be a tough competition. James knew he wanted a spot on the senior team and he wouldn’t have said no to a captainship if by some divine miracle his heritage enabled him to be offered the position. Hell, with his deployments under his belt as XO, he was surely due a captainship by now. But there were many other well qualified alternative candidates. James was by no means the most qualified person in the Union to be on the ship.

It took almost another hour before anything happened. At this point James was starting to come to the realisation that he had in all likelihood failed. He was cut off from his current train of thought when the front door to the residence opened. He was startled by the sudden intrusion. He wasn’t expecting anyone coming today. He had not been informed of any other member of the Cresswell family to arrive. He thought they were all out of the system and elsewhere. James sat up in his seat, placing the glass of wine he had currently been drinking on the side table, peering to the side of his chair to see who exactly had entered the residence.

In the doorway, stood his father; Gregory Creswell. Admiral Gregory Cresswell to be more precise. His artic silver hair was smartly parted to the right, as he took his white and black peaked cap off and placed it on the entrance table by the door. His father stood quite tall compared to most his age. His face had wrinkles, but rather than adding on age to his face, it only added experience.His white adrials uniform was perfectly pressed, present without a single crease. Nothing that James wasn’t expecting to see in his father. ’Your best always’ as he always said. With his father now inside and taking a moment to relax, James finally conjured up a greeting some sorts.

“Father, I wasn’t expecting you here?” His voice, laced with genuine surprise. James rose to his feet to properly address his father, who only gave a mek smile in return. It was clear he was tired. That had started to show more and more as of late.

“No, you weren’t. But given the circumstances I figured I would come and speak to you in person.” Gregory straightened his back, righting his posture, taking slightly longer than it perhaps should have to get into the right position.His father's words lingered in James’s mind for a moment. There were several important matters within the Cresswell family currently. James’s application to the Apollyon was one of the more less important things going on. “Better to speak to in person than over a comms channel”

“Well… Since you are here, I am guessing it is about the Grand Admiral-ship” James openly pondered aloud. He wouldn’t have thought his father would come in person and tell him about the Apollyon interview. It much easier to get some administrative clerk to tell him.

“Actually no, that is not what i came to discuss with you. They offered the position to me. Of course” Gregory started, walking over to one of the bar stools that occupied the bar area in the reception room. Once there he would start pouring himself some Albion Whiskey in a glass. “However given my current condition I declined.” He would take the whole glass down in a single swig before slamming the glass onto the bar counter. Some things never changed. “Beaufort was offered it in my stead. Not a bad choice. He can lead the admiralty for a much longer period than I could. I am taking his old position at Home Fleet”

“Aboard the Terra Nova?” James asked as he joined his father at the bar, bringing his glass of wine across. Once he had arrived, his father had already opened the wine bottle and held it out to top up James’s glass.

“Yep. I am going to be doing that until i can’t carry on and am forced to retire. Which is most likely going to be in a year or so, possibly less.” Gregory carried on, filling James’s glass with wine and then moving on to pouring himself a second whiskey.

“I am sorry. Father. For… your condition” James didn’t know what to say really. The whole family had been trying to work through the news that the life extension therapies that most people got now, had been rejected by his father body. The first course had promised decent results, however come the second dosage, the signs of rejection had started to surface. No longer on the therapies, it was now case of easing him through to the end. But his father was most certainly not one for giving up. His grandfather had died in office, and his father was just as adamant that he was going to do the same.

“There is nothing to be sorry for” His then took another huge swig of whiskey, downing the glass once more in a single stroke. Putting his glass down he would smile somewhat slyly. “I have had a good life. I will retire soon and spend a year or so relaxing most likely. I can dedicate my time to carrying on my collection of old Earth artefacts. If they can get me to actually retire.”

“Of course. I just know how much you wanted to be Grand Admiral and how much it meant to you as the head of the family.” His father had always been one about status and pride. He wanted to make sure that under his watch the family name did not drag or fall. Mostly to appease his father, who was the first serving Cresswell in the Navy, all the way back when the Union was formed. William Cresswell, his Grandfather, was the first Grand Admiral of the Union Navy. His career was legendary, helping to deal with pirates in the beginning days of the Union, back when there wasn’t much of a fleet. His guidance and direction had formed the Navy into what it was today. While his name had now been embedded into textbooks and naval tradition, even with two ships bearing the Cresswell name over the years. He had passed away at 126, still in office.

James’s father had been born quite late. He was in his late 90’s now. Though life extension therapies and augmentations were starting to fail. So he now had little time left. He had done his best to try and emulate his father's career. And if the therapies had worked and not of been rejected, there was no doubt that he would have become Grand Admiral too. Still… Gregory Cresswell was still a name with a lot of weight of its own, stepping out of the shadow of his father. Gregory Creswell had made his name as a mighty captain and admiral. He was a shrewd commanding officer, using deft and diplomacy to get the right outcome for the a ever expanding Union. He had been part of many task forces over the years. He had designed and oversaw Operation Meerkat as an admiral, along with several other fleet projects as time passed. His recent posting at Home Fleet was more symbolic than anything. It was in core space. Close to home if something ever happened. Given his current condition. He was going to be fondly remembered too.

Next in line was James. Who as of right now, didn’t exactly think he had much of a career. He had served on many ships as a Comms specialist, before making to the bridge crew. A few more deployments and he had made it to XO as a comms officer. The next logical step was a captain-ship. However the chance to work aboard the Unions first ever dreadnought was an opportunity that James could not pass up.

“Besides…” Gregory carried on “I actually came to tell you in person about the Apollyon” James’s heart sunk slightly. Was this going to be rejection. “If it was my way you would be captain”

“But there are far more better qualified people” James cut him short. He had a feeling where this was going

“Better? You sell yourself short. Look at all those commendations on your chest” Gregory motioned towards his sons uniform “You are more than qualified. You demonstrated during your XO deployments you have more than what it takes to command of a vessel. However, the Admiralty has warmed to a certain person. Not a bad person. Actually wish she was my daughter… the two you combined would cement the family in the history books for at least the next millennium”

“Oh come on, you and grandfather William have already done that… So i am not on the Apollyon then?” James asked, bracing himself for what was coming.

“I never said that. I just said you aren’t captain. You are afterall a Lieutenant. A Lieutenant-Commander technically. The next step up for you is Captain. We have decided to place you as the communications officer aboard the Apollyon. As far as i am lead to believe, asides from Captain there is no other Lieutenant-Commanders on the senior staff, making you the second highest ranking person onboard.”

“Well i can’t believe that” James smiled for a second, taking in what his father said.This was actually good news.

“The ship doesn’t technically have a XO like normal ships, given the size of the thing, but you are the second highest ranking officer on the ship. So you know. The Cresswell name lives on” He began to pour a third whiskey, the last one of the night for him. “Do well here, learn from Maganza and you will have your own ship soon enough. And if Maganza decided to take a break from her seat like your previous captain did… Take the chair and run with it. Show the universe that you have that Cresswell spirit” He raised his glass to celebrate and James did the same, tapping their glasses together before taking a drink each. “To the Cresswell name living on”

“Yeah. I can’t believe this still. It feels almost unreal for me. Maganza. Why do i know that name?” James pondered for a moment before his father cut him short.

“Mostly because she has earned pretty much the same number of commendations as you and is sort of a big deal in the Navy. I worked with her several times across my career. Remember Meerkat?” Gregory asked as he put the whiskey away in the drinks cupboard.

“Yeah, that wasn’t fun. It was the only time we got to work together.” James said, almost reminiscing.

“Yeah, well she was there too. She is very good. You could learn alot from her and vice versa. Between the two of you, there isn’t anything you couldn’t do. That is why myself and Beaufort put you together. It is very hard to find a group of people who gel well together. With the Comms desk being the one that can be done from almost anywhere, you will pretty much be working view closely with the captain. Pretty much the XO in all but name. I have something for you too. Something you can wear from now on” He pulled out of his jacket pocket a golden pin. And handed it to James.

The pin was old, that was obvious on the first glance. It was a large badge. A gold circle with the first logo of the Union navy in the middle. He recognised the badge right away. It was his Grandfather's badge from when he was grand admiral. The name had worn on it slightly but the Creswell part was still visible at least. His father had worn it on his uniform with every mission or deployment he had done. Every photograph they had of his father, the badge was on display. James somewhat reluctantly took the badge, somewhat astonished that his father was giving it up. It usually symbolised who was in charge of the family.

“I can’t take this. You are still serving. You should still wear it” His father forced it into his hand however, forcing him to take it.

“I don’t need it anymore” His father motioned before smiling and getting up off the stool “Wear it always and make it proud. It has been through many a things that badge. They don’t even make them like that anymore. It could be the only one left that isn’t in some kind of a museum. Also, The Senior staff meet up is at 12:00 tomorrow. Though given the whole size of the ship and the amount of Comms, Sensor and Electronic Warfare equipment on board you might want to get their earlier and familiarise yourself. Plus you will need to get used to the Comms department. Afterall, you are leading them” James looked perplexed for a second as his father walked over to his belongs by the door and got suited up to leave.

“Think of it this way” Gregory continued. “The ship has over 16,000 members. Nearly each senior staff position is like a captainship of a whole department. This isn’t like a frigate or destroyer where one or two people can do the role.”

“That is true. I will get there as early as i can” James smiled and would wave towards his father has the door opened.

“I mailed you a copy of the crew list and the dossiers on the senior staff. You never got that from me. OK?” His father smiled and then walked out “Good luck son” Was his final words as the door closed behind him, leaving James alone.

James walked over to his tablet, pulling his mail up and seeing the information he had sent over, gave a smile. He would spend the rest of the night reading all the information that his father had sent him, before falling asleep in the early hours.

UNSF Apollyon Hyper Dock

So the day had finally come. He had decided to take his father's advice and arrive aboard the Apollyon early. There was plenty of work to do even before any other crew members arrive. His father had kindly lent him his private yacht for the journey to the Apollyon. Just to keep up impressions. It had the family crest on it and was truly a work of luxury and sophistication. Somehow his father had gotten marble flooring in space. His father and grandfather had enjoyed all the luxuries in life. Something that while James was getting more used to, still wasn’t entirely comfortable with. He understood the whole pride factor that went having and showing office power and wealth. But for James, results were more important than pride. His father most likely believe them same, but still didn’t mind flaunting the whole family success in front of everyone.

They had approached the Apollyon quite slowly. James was in the observation bay of the yacht. Unlike most modern ships, his father prefered windows instead of holoscreens relaying images. The Apollyon was surely a mighty ship. Bigger than anything that James had ever seen. Infact it was almost as big as some space stations he had visited. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how a ship of this size even started to be constructed. Or for that matter how much time it took to build.

The yachts pilot would come over the comms channel as they approached even closer. “Sir, I have hailed the ship and I have have let them know that Cresswell is coming aboard. They have given us clearance to land in the Rear Corvette Bay” James acknowledged her and carried on looking at the beast that was in front of him. This place had a bay to hold corvettes? Makes sense given the size, but it was still astonishing. The Union had nothing like this currently. Everything was state of the art here. It was beautiful. He could only imagine what kind of sensors, comms and electronic warfare equipment he would find inside the ship.

The heavy corvette bay blast doors began to open as they approached, the tiny ship disappearing into the gargantuan opening that had just appeared. Landing inside James stood up and began to disembark the vessel, thanking the pilot as he left. Before he left the airlock, he would take a second to make sure that his uniform was all pristine and in tiptop shape. His ribbons and badge from his father last night were resting on the one side, while his name tag was on the right. Given his father's advice he had decided to have the tag changed from LT. to LCDR. Afterall he had earned it. Only one more step to Captain. Leaving the airlock and walking down the ramp, James began to look around. Everything was still under some form of construction it seemed. Everything was very industrial. A ship of this size, and for this purpose, had little use for aesthetics after all.

This was it. He was here on the Apollyon.

Michi stood a little way beyond the ramp’s end, glossy boots planted slightly apart and arms braced behind her back. Not at attention, precisely, but not at a civilian slouch, either. Under the harsh boat-bay lights her silver hair blazed, stark against the space-black of her uniform and the scarcely-lighter shade of her skin.

Gold gleamed from the rings on her cuffs and the tabs at her shoulders, the insignia of a full ship Captain in the Union Navy, whilst streams of ribbon bars danced across her chest in lieu of the jewel-dripping medals they represented. Her eyes were warm, but calculating, and her lips twitched into a polite smile as Lieutenant Commander Cresswell emerged into the Apollyon’s cavernous corvette bay, taking his first steps aboard the stupendous dreadnought.

“Welcome aboard, Lieutenant Commander.” Her voice was clear and carrying, cutting through the background hum of the drones as they swirled in a continual ballet of construction, leaving Cresswell, Maganza and the two lonely, ornately lovely yachts in the corvette bay as islands of calm amid the frenzy.

“Pleasure to be aboard.” James replied as he finished walking down the yachts ramp. So stood in front of him was Captain Michi Maganza. “You must be Captain Maganza” He said out mainly out of politeness. He would stand to attention and salute after he finished speaking. “My father has said a lot of positive things regarding you and your capabilities.”

Michi returned the salute with an easy grace. “In the flesh,” she grinned, a flash of white, there and gone in an instant. Despite the smile and the warm twinkle in her eyes, there was something a lot colder and more analytical lurking in the depths of her gaze, hidden to most. Assessing, gauging, evaluating. His quick resort to familial connection was noted - whether that was a crutch to be knocked away or a pedestal fit for aspiration was something she’d study further, in the days and weeks and months ahead.

Indeed, the young man in front of her was monumentally well-connected; in some ways, the premier family of the Union Navy. That she’d got the captaincy, rather than him...well, perhaps that said something about his ability - Maganzas were as wealthy and well-heeled as any of the other finest families of the Union, of course, but they’d focused, historically, on land, on shipping and on investments, not the Navy. Or maybe it was simply the age difference; not enough seasoning on Cresswell’s part, not for so critical a command.

Well. The latter was rectifiable, the first…

That said, Admiral Beaufort - hell, all of Fleet Command - had to know the importance of the Apollyon, and surely no amount of family clout would derail that.

“Your father...that would be Gregory - Fleet Admiral Cresswell, now, yes? Home Fleet flag and all.” She didn’t wait for his response, her lace already flashing a picture of the man before her eyes and providing a readout of similarities based on his physical profile, as well as a sub-analysis of his personnel jacket. The correlations were clear, even if it hadn’t been spelled out in black and white in his file. “Interesting man. CO on more than a few of m’previous operations.”

Michi’s gaze flickered back to the yacht, over James’ shoulder. “Nemesis - the ship’s ATLAS AI - will handle your luggage and get your pilot squared away, but I thought I should at least see you to your quarters, along with Comms and Astrogation.” It sounded like pleasant conversation, but there was a subtle undercurrent of certainty; this was how the universe was going to be, without resorting to anything as obvious as orders.

At the last word, she turned smartly on one heel and began to glide across the boat-bay floor, making a beeline for a set of doors in the near distance, a path obediently clearing itself for her through the humming drones. “How is your father, by the way? Full of fire and vigour?”

“Yeah…” His father. Now this could get dicey. He hadn’t picked up on the undertone of the conversation. He was too busy admiring the surroundings and taking everything in to realise. Now he was faced with a choice: either be honest and reveal his father’s health issues, or lie and pretend everything was fine. “Well, I think he is still somewhat dismayed at the Grand Admiral appointment. He had been working towards it most of his life to emulate the career of his father. So I guess he has some things to work through.” He hadn’t lied. While his father had put on a brave face, James suspected he was torn up over the appointment. He had just decided to leave out the fact that his health was fleeting to the point where he had less than a few years left. “He had plenty of positive things to say about you and your abilities” He complimented her. They were going to be working together closely, so he had to get comfortable. He just didn’t feel qualified to speak about Cresswell family affairs.

“Hell of a thing, being dismayed over getting Home Fleet flag,” she chuckled lightly. “Still, Admiral Beaufort won’t hold it forever, and then y’father will have his chance again. I wouldn’t presume to speak for our exalted lords and masters in the Admiralty, but perhaps that’s why he didn’t get it this time round; rotating Fleet Command COs brings different perspectives to the board, and there have been a fair few Cresswells in the big chair.” She nodded once, decisively. “Good to know the Admiral had a few nice words.” In her heart of hearts, Michi would have preferred that James heard about her competence through the grapevine, or perhaps had studied her record and previous actions himself before passing judgement.

Once again, family. The name. An armour and a millstone both, it was looking like - on first impression, at least.

Time to change the subject, give him some ease from a topic that was clearly - if bafflingly - causing some...discomfort. Fortunately, they’d crossed the expanse of boat bay and were now at the bank of maglifts, glowing a soothing blue as they recognized crew and came to full readiness. Michi’s pod appeared quickly, opening invitingly. “You’ve not got a lace, have you?” she asked - purely rhetorical; he was a nonentity in the digital sphere of the Apollyon, interfacing with it through crude physical media. No fire, no glitter and shimmy, no constellation of programmes twisted with organic thought until to find one from the other was an exercise in futility.

She nodded to the controls, glimmering invitingly close by. “You can use voice commands, or even physical keys in an emergency. Fairly self-explanatory, Mr. Cresswell; we’re headed for the Bridge.” So saying, Michi stepped confidently, almost jauntily into the waiting metal arms of the pod, which closed quickly about her and then accelerated off with a softly-crackling thrum.

Time to see if he could adapt to the - relatively - new technology that was an almost-ubiquitous part of the Apollyon. There were a lot of new toys aboard the dreadnought, things that were twenty or thirty years from general deployment, at least.

James would follow behind her and listened carefully to her words. He would walk into the metallic pods next to her. Unlike most other people, James hadn’t undergone any cybernetic procedures. It would have made his life significantly easier as a communications officer. However he prefered being able to disconnect from everything and escaping technology. Otherwise work would always follow him around. The pod would close behind him as he turned around, feeling somewhat claustrophobic. He had always prefered ladders and stairs more. “Bridge please” The pod chimed in acknowledgement of his request and then set off in a smooth manner.

Those brief moments in the lift gave him a second to compose himself slightly. He straightened himself and let out a sigh. This was going to take an awful amount of getting used to. He was used to smaller ships with smaller crews. A second chime signalled that he had arrived at the bridge. Exiting the pod he took a second to look around. It seemed the lifts came out just outside the bridge and not actually in it. That made sense. Made it easier to lock down the bridge incase of a breach. He walked over to the bridge door. Well, more like doors, one after another opening before eventually revealing the bridge.

It was impressive. The bridge seemed to be modelled after a CIC more than a traditional bridge. Most bridges would have a observation bay, protruding from front with large reinforced bay windows. No windows here however. Given the shortness of their trip James had concluded that they couldn’t of moved far. So this must have been deep within the ship. He noticed the captains chair at the end of the table on the first glance. As he started glancing around a second time he started to pick up on the smaller details. The emitters in the ceiling, ground and walls.

“This is some sort of holodeck then?” He summarised as he took a few more steps forward. “The amount of communications and sensor equipment this place is filled with is going to take an awful lot of time to get used to.” He then would let out a exhale of breath “Going to be a good challenge though. Compared to my other deployments.”

“Well deduced, Lieutenant Commander, it is indeed,” Michi replied, allowing a bit of approval to bleed into her tone. “I do hope you don’t suffer from vertigo.” As she rose from the Captain’s elevated chair, its little podium overlooking the main holotank, the emitters burst into glorious life. For others, she might have brought the emulation up slowly, sweeping it in from the far corners, spreading it like an empress’ train behind her until it swallowed the bridge entire. Such a spectacle would satisfy her own petty desire for theatre, and also serve as handy buffer time to give their brains a chance to adapt, to process and understand.

Not now, though; she dropped them into it dead. One moment, a metal cocoon, the next - near-orbit space, the starscrapers of Vekta sharp and clear and very, very close, the myriad small vessels flashing in the abundant sunlight, the bright points of light that were drone welders, at work on the outer hull.

“In an ideal world,” she continued, watching him closely, “Your department would have already arrived aboard, and you’d have had chance to run some drills and work some of the kinks out. Unfortunately, that’s not the case that obtains. You and I are the only living things - living organic things, I should say - aboard this ship at the moment. That said-” she nodded her head at the bank of comms consoles “-feel free to do a bit of testing, get a feel for this place. I’m sure we’ll be spending plenty of time here soon enough, but if there’s something obvious that needs fixing, then I need you to tell me now, whilst we’ve still got the yard dogs on tap.”

“Comms equipment is a little funny” He stated as he walked over to the comms desk, looking down at the holographic projection below. He did not suffer from vertigo however the sensation of walking in outer space did take some getting used to. “It is highly sensitive and for the most part it takes almost a full year to get a ships comms to work fluidly. A ship of this size though. I don’t know how long it will take.” James took a few second to load up the comms deck holoscreens and boot up the newly minted software within. “Feels weird being in something so brand new. I am used to being near equipment that has been used so much it is almost falling apart.” He began to cycle through the consoles before stopping when the screen displayed something that caught his attention, a smirk adorning his lips. “This place has Quantum Entanglement Communications? I had heard the tech was being rolled out, but I thought the network hadn’t been completed yet”

“It isn’t,” Michi replied with a catlike smile. “We have a dedicated ansible link to the hub back at Fleet Command, though. Top priority, from what I understand; they weren’t about to send us into the black with a comms lag.” She rose from her chair and padded over to him, supremely at ease in the cradle of the projection.

“I appreciate it takes time to turn a department into a smoothly-oiled machine, Mr. Cresswell, but I invite you to consider the physical component of your job. Comms flows into EW and Astrogation-” she began, indicating the banks of consoles on either side of the main panel he was sat in front of “-which is good, solid placement if ever I saw it. Tactical’s above and behind you, however - excellent from my position up there over the tank; I can see everything, but does it work from an operational perspective? Consider the following,” her voice had subtly taken on a lecturer’s rising and falling cadence, a shifting meter that called for attention.

“We are in the middle of a battle. Tactical is working gunnery, as it should, Astrogation is following the manoeuvre plan I’ve commanded, and you are managing communications. We have Marine attack shuttles inbound on one enemy vessel, and you’re involved in coordinating their run and liaising between ground-pounders and navy. There are also allied forces approaching sunward and you’re our liaison contact. Damage Control - also under you, since you’re the closest thing I have to an organic XO - is fighting fires and battle-damage across seven decks in four different sectors and your department is reassigning crew parameters and providing alternate routes to critical stations with the help of the AI. Given that - very rough, I admit - scenario, is the Comms station in the right place physically to interface effectively with Tactical, with Astrogation and with Command?” Her eyes were dark, her gaze sharply analytical, every scrap of her evaluating and testing.

“That’s the sort of thing I need you to think about now, Lieutenant Commander. Not so much the software, impressive and new though it is.”

“The department is physically positioned correctly.” James started. He had picked up on her tone, avoiding looking directly at Michi. He recognised that tone and approach. She was probing him, trying to see how he reacted, what his responses would be. “They wouldn’t put me here if it wouldn’t work in a combat scenario.” He took a second to look around the bridge, glancing at all the various panels. “This isn’t my first deployment. Sure i haven’t been on a ship of this size, but I know all the ins and outs. I am not going to let 16,000 crew members down.” He would stare at the holoscreen in front of him absently for a moment “I get that most people look at me and think I have used my name to advance my career. I just want to point out that my family name hasn’t helped me advance. I am a perfectly capable officer in my own right. And no matter what happens i am going to do the best i can to serve this crew and not let you down.” James let out a small sigh, lowering his head. “Sorry if it sounds like a rant. I am just used to having to give this speech on each deployment I do. Most people think I am either a stuck up entitled bastard or an incompetent twit who has been given everything on a silver platter. I just wanted to assure you that this wasn’t the case.”

“Enough, Lieutenant-Commander!” Michi’s voice was low - she almost never raised it in anger or rebuke - but sharp, and it crackled round the deserted bridge like a summer storm.

“A fine speech, but entirely the wrong end of the stick.” She reeled off a list of his medals and commendations with a flourish, steady gaze not leaving him as the litany echoed around the room. “Not the sort of record I would expect to see from an idiot, no matter how monumentally well-connected. It may surprise you to learn, Lieutenant-Commander, that I do have some appreciation for your position.” Her voice was still scalpel-sharp, colder than liquid helium. “The Navy might not be what people think of when they consider the Maganza bailiwick, but I still belong to one of the so-called finest families of the Union. With all the advantages - and disadvantages - that carries.” A deadly, loaded pause.

“I asked you to consider the position of your duty station precisely because you are an experienced communications officer. Nothing else. The Apollyon was designed by our finest minds, yes, but on occasion real experience may defy theoretical convention, and, almost uniquely, we are currently in a position to do something about any shortcomings in design, before we find ourselves in a suboptimal situation out there.” Another pause, this one less-charged. “If you are content with it, Lieutenant-Commander,” Michi continued, her tone much more normal, “Then we’ll say no more on the matter. But I advise you not to consider everything through the lens of your antecedents, nonetheless.”

“The positioning is perfectly fine. Nothing needs changing” James felt somewhat awkward for what he had said and decided to change the subject “Well let us see what else we have here...” He began going through the consoles again working from screen to screen. “The ship only has a single comm point for the Quantum Network. Makes sense. According to the panels it is behind that door over there.” He pointed across the bridge to a single door. Getting up from his seat he walked across and walked through the door he had previously mentioned. The room on the other side was a fairly small room. Holo-emitters decorated the walls and floor much like the bridge. A single small elevated platform was in the centre of the room.

“I am guessing you stand in the middle and it will project your image to them and vice versa. Almost as if you are standing there talking in person.” He walked around the room inspecting the emitters “Only two people can activate the system: Myself and you, given that it is a restricted comms channel. Gives you a place to have a private conversation too.”

“Indeed, although I think - I haven’t followed all the connections yet - it can ping a couple of other secure terminals - my office, for example. Strictly as secondary relays, though.” Michi paused, leaning on the sturdy blast door housing that had - until so recently - covered the entanglement room.

Hopefully, Cresswell would consider her words again later, in the echoing privacy of his own head. He was undoubtedly competent, but there was a glaring weakness in his own psyche, even Michi could see that.

“Anything else you’d like to see, Lieutenant-Commander, before we wend our merry way to your quarters?” She kept her tone light and warm; the correction had been served, and all was well. Michi was a great believer in praising in public, and punishing in private - or as private as it could be, on a ship with an omnipresent AI.

“I think that i have seen everything i need to see for now. I am going to have to spend the next few days going over the whole department and making sure everything is working correctly. It will also take some time to go over the crew assignments and all the rest” He smiled somewhat weakly as carried on. “Do you know when the rest of the senior staff are coming aboard?” He asked.

“Over the next twelve hours or so,” Michi replied. “Staggered, due to prior commitments and distance, of course. Which reminds me - dinner at nineteen-hundred. Senior staff only; it’ll be a good chance to begin to break the ice. M’steward knows how to lay on a decent spread, and we have the advantage of Apollyon’s I’ll have Nemesis alert you nearer the time - it’ll either be my quarters or my yacht, depending if we manage to make the cubage modifications or not.”

“That is great. It gives me the rest of the day to get my quarters organised and start to the task of getting up to speed with the comms systems that a ship of the size has. Going to be a monumental undertaking. I will contact you if I need anything.”

“Excellent.” Michi smiled like a cat, and dropped back into the captain’s chair, quickly surrounded by a haze of holographic terminals, screens and hard-light interfaces. “Dismissed, Lieutenant-Commander Cresswell.”

It took a while, however he eventually found his way to his quarters after asking for directions. There was no way he was going to remember the layout of the ship during his deployment here. At least everything was signposted. His quarters were located fairly close to the bridge. The comms department was usually close to the bridge so it did make sense for his quarters to be closeby. The room was split into two parts; a sleeping area and a work area. The sleeping area had a double bed, mirror and a few storage compartments. It was nice, nicer than most other ships he had been on. The work area had a desk filled with monitors and computers and the walls on both sides of the room was full of monitors, all of them currently offline.

James took a seat at his desk and with a slow sigh began to boot up the systems one by one. It was going to take a while to bring the ships systems online. But he wanted to power up every sub-system he could before everyone arrived. The whole discussion with Michi had rattled his brain somewhat. He knew he had issues with his family and his status. Always having something to prove. He was just insecure about how people reacted to his family connections. He had met plenty of people like Michi who didn’t care for his status. There was however many others who reacted in a more hostile way to it. And he disliked the confrontations.

Peter Skrit

It was a slow morning for Peter so far. He had arisen from his luxury bed at four this morning, deciding that he couldn’t sleep any longer. Curiosity had gotten the better of him. He was used to corporations hiring him, then telling him half of the story. This though, this was different indeed. Peter knew nothing. Nothing at all. He had attempted to try and use his contacts within Loingsech to discover anything about what was going on. Nothing. No one knew anything. Or at the very least they were stonewalling him.

Still, he had gotten two free nights in this place: Kinmokusei. This wasn’t his first stay here. He had been here several times, always on business however. This was one of those high-end luxury places where it was really easy to hide a murder or two. It gave off the illusion of glitz and glamour with the casino and the whole seven-star luxury vibe, but, its clientele fell more on the seedy side. At least most people wore suits around here. Just because you disrespected the law doesn’t mean you can’t make an effort to look presentable.

Peter had spent most of the morning getting prepared. He had three hours until he needed to be in the lobby and that was more than enough time to make sure he was all dressed, packed, and ready to go. He took the time to take a shower before leaving. Unlike most it wasn’t a cold shower. That would just make him uncomfortable for the rest of the day. He had never seen the appeal of cold showers. He had by this point in his life assumed that people took them to wipe away the sins off their body. More symbolic than practical. Peter preferred his hot showers, letting the heat moisturise his skin. He didn’t think in the shower like most people either. He just got in, washed and out.

Peter spent more time on his hair than he did with the shower. Making sure it was parted correctly and not a single hair was out of place. Years of wearing his hair like this had forced it to stay in position. Getting dressed was a simple affair; blue suit with black leather shoes and a special white, blue and orange stripped bowtie to top it all off. He had bought others. His suitcase had an assortment of bowties along with his black suit and his pistol. His datapad was currently on the side of the bed. He had spent most of the night reading different files of his before finally nodding off. He picked up his pad and suitcase and took one last look of the room. Its colours were nice, but it was now time to leave.

It was 6.45 in the morning when Peter arrived in the lobby. He had guessed everyone else who had been selected for this secretive job would also be assembling here. Peter didn’t really want to draw any early attention to himself, so he decided to go sit in the corner on a velvet sofa while reading his datapad, occasionally looking up from his pad to scan the room and its people. It wouldn’t be long until it was time for action.

Slowly 7am rocked around and he could finally see what was going on. A group was getting ushered into a van, clearly the group he was looking for. Before the door would close, Peter would job up to it and get inside. He wouldn’t really say much of a word, just a nod before sitting down and getting ready to go. He would spend the journey staring at his datapad, reading an article on the Loingsech Corporation.

It didn’t take long for the van to reach its destination. Once the van arrived it opened its door and Peter climbed out, looking around the surroundings that they had been taken to. Not exactly the same as the place they had left originally. “Such a nice place you got…” He said as he looked around and his eyes laid on the cybernetic woman infront of him. “Miss???.....” He carried on, extending his hand out and trying to get the towering woman to give her name.

Vekta Prime Orbital

James was somewhat quite excited for this interview he had today. He had submitted his application for the ship quite a while ago and now he was going for the interview. He was thinking for a moment about his father. Would he be proud if his son got a senior position, heck, maybe even captain the first ever Union dreadnought? Possibly not. After all, every Cresswell before him had been an Admiral or even higher. The Cresswell name had a lot of weight with it. Some good, some bad. James had worked hard for the positions that he had taken aboard each ship he had previously served, however some people… a lot of people assumed that he just got the positions that he got because of who his father was.

The reality was somewhat different. Him and his father had a tense relationship. His father had done more to hinder his career in the navy than he had done to advance it. To start with his father was supporting, helped him more and more as he worked up the comms ladder and then helped him secure his first posting as the executive officer of a ship. After that, thins changed. He became less and less helpful, even going so far as to try and block any further promotions.

He was currently on leave from the Winchester to attend the interview. The break only lasted for a few days, but it was nice to not always be within the confines of a single ship. Vekta Prime Orbital however was a different beast entirely. He had arrived yesterday and had spent the night in the family home that they owned here. It was used by all of the family members who travelled around. It wasn’t luxurious, but it wasn’t a dump either. It beat having to stay at a hotel however. The station was one of those weird amalgamations, half civilian, half military. Though most orbital stations had that sort of divide, James never got used to it.

The interviews were taking place in a series of interview rooms in some sort of office somewhere deep within the station. It didn’t take James long to get there. He had used his credentials to bypass as many of the checkpoints as he could, but as he got closer and closer to his destination he found it harder and harder to skip them eventually having to give up and wait in line. He took good care to make sure that no one scuffed his uniform. He had spent far too long this morning making sure everything had been meticulously placed and was as shiny as could be.

He eventually made his way to the appropriate building. Entering inside he would pass his identification to the receptionist who would check it and then give him a room number: Floor 4 room twenty eight. He looked at the elevator for a second and then decided to use the stairs, he could a small distraction as he made his way there.

James had made his way through the long winding corridors until he had found the room he wanted: 4-28, the 28th Room of the fourth floor. Not exactly rocket science. Taking a second to stare at the door he would take a deep breath, composing himself and taking a moment to make sure that he was still presentable. Brushing his shoulders lightly, he would place his hand on the console to request access. Hearing the affirming beep he would enter the room, the door automatically closing behind him with a somewhat satisfying hydraulic noise.

The room was something he would have suspected to see at a police station. All one colour, just a desk and two chairs, one opposite the other. A single light in the centre of the room the illuminated the room, leaving the outskirts of the room somewhat shadowed in darkness. This wasn’t the sort of atmosphere he was expecting for an application process like this. But oh well. Taking a further moment to compose himself he would then take a step forward towards the desk.

“Lieutenant Cresswell. Congratulations on being selected for the interview. Please, take a seat.” An older, dark haired woman greeted him as he stepped into the room. James would take a moment to observe the woman as she spoke before offering his hand for a handshake, eventually sitting down onto the chair and adjusting himself so he was a little more comfortable. He hated these kind of interviews.

“Thank you for taking the time to interview me and even consider me for such a prestigious appointment” He would cough lightly for a second, still working through a few small nerves “Sorry about that, been a long journey. Anyway Ma’am ready to start when you are” He would smile towards the older woman sitting opposite.

“Well, judging by your application, you possibly have the necessary experience required for the role. But this interview will be what decides that…” The woman paused with a slight smile on her lips. “I am going to ask you a little about your service history, specifically your two tours of duty about the UNSF Valhalla and the UNSF Winchester. Let’s start simple. Tell me a little bit about you experience on board the Valhalla.”

“Ah the Valhalla.” He took a somewhat deep breath "Good ship. A Destroyer. My first ever XO posting. Quite a momentous occasion in my career i guess. Sure my father and grandfather were XO’s at a younger age, but at 29 I thought I was more than ready. I had worked in comms alot before then so it was nice to do something different. I figured that having experience of communications and protocols on a bridge would be useful as a XO. That was such a bad assessment. It wasn’t until we were out on deployment that i realised just how much you have to do as a executive officer. Every tiny little detail is yours to deal with. Every piece of bickering, arguing and decision making. I understand why it was important, the captain can’t be allowed to make every tiny decision, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to do any of the strategic thinking” He would let out a small sigh before carrying on.

“But I learned. I discovered diplomacy is a paramount skill when trying to deal with people and the running of a ship. Then we started getting into trouble. The Valhalla was assigned to the outskirts of Reach, things were starting to stable up somewhat over there. But as per usual there was still some savages out there who refused to give up. They never give up. The Valhalla was simply there as a force projection exercise. Remind them that we were always watching. Every now and again a small ship would come out and engage us. Nothing we couldn’t handle. We had those flashy new X01 Model broadsides back then. Not so flashy now, but then… well they packed a punch. The problem with pirates is that they refuse to see reason. Blast a few of their smaller ships away and they only go and send bigger ones. It only took a few more days before an actual challenge began to appear. They had sent this heavy cruiser. More of a flying heap of garbage than an actual ship. It had been modified and retrofitted so much that it was impossible to tell what the base model was. We assumed battlestations as normal, i was on the bridge alongside captain Abernathy. Everything seemed somewhat routine. Sure they were bigger, stronger technically. But we had weapons to deal with that. We just needed to get close and take the first few shots. The cruiser had longer range weapons than us, it should have fired first. But it didn’t. In Fact we got off the first salvo. A missile barrage against the outer hull. The barrage even tripped their shields”. He let out a small sigh once more

“It shouldn’t have though. Something wasn’t right. A barrage of that power shouldn’t of tripped a cruisers shield. I tried to warn Abernathy, but he didn’t want to hear any of it. ‘Never ignore a opportunity’ I remember vividly him saying that before ordering the ship to get closer and get into broadside range. So we get closer and closer, until suddenly the shields on the cruiser flicker back to life and they fire their own broadside. Our own deflectors dealt with the first half of the barrage, the shields absorbed what they could before even they had to shutdown. What was left of the barrage ripped through the hull, tore several decks up, almost severed the ship in two.” James fidgeted in his seat for a moment “I honestly thought that this was going to be the beginning of the end. That I, would end the Cresswell legacy as a XO on a destroyer. Not exactly living up to the family name am i?” He asked to himself. “I guess you are familiar with the Cresswell families, dedication to the admiralty?” He asked the woman questioning him.

“We aren’t interested in your family relations, Lieutenant. We only care about your capabilities and if you are the right man for the job. Please, continue.” The interviewer reminded him. James was somewhat shocked by her response. Most people were usually quick to comment on how they had heard of his father and his position.

“Well…” James carried on “Captain Abernathy was a typical captain of the time. A glory seeker. Never really cared much for protocol, he wanted to make a name for himself. There is nothing wrong with that however there is a time and a place for that sort of behaviour. With the ship now almost carved in half it was inevitable that they were going to try and board us. They wouldn’t want to destroy the entire ship. If there were pieces of it they could scavenge or take for their own, they would. I wanted to pull back, try and use whatever power we had left to get out of boarding and more importantly firing range of that thing. We were still faster, we could have left and regrouped. Abernathy had a different outlook. He deduced that they couldn’t board us if we boarded them first. Our marines are better than whatever they could cobble together and lancers could lead the charge and mow them down. But were a destroyer. We didn’t have much in the marine department. Captain Abernathy was going to personally lead the charge. So before i had a chance to interject he went to get suited and booted and left me in charge of the bridge. Not exactly a smart decision” James flicked around with his hand before carrying on.

“So the boarding party lands aboard the pirate cruiser. Every marine and Lancer that Abernathy could muster was joining in on the boarding. We used our broadsides to soften up a boarding spot for them, and off they went. To start with it started to go well. They were aiming for the reactor room rather than the bridge. It was a much shorter route than fighting all the way to the bridge. The problem was that for every pirate they killed more and more took their place. It was a losing battle. Even if they took the reactor, they wouldn’t be able to hold it long enough to then extract and for us to get away. That was what Abernathy wanted though, and that was what we did. I never agreed with it, but he trusted me with the ship, so the least i could do is be a gentleman and hang around” James would then lean forward somewhat in his seat. “Problem was, i could see he was going to lose. In a few minutes they would have enough energy to fire off a broadside, and they were looking like they were about to launch their boarding parties. We had security personnel, but nowhere near enough to fight off invaders. So i had to make a tough choice. I didn’t know then that i was going to save the captain. I thought they were all going to die. So i ordered the ship to pull back, get out of broadside range of the cruiser”

“The crew didn’t like it. Of course they didn’t. We were leaving people behind, but still. We either left them behind, or we all died. We finally managed to get out of range after a few minutes. I didn’t want to leave them behind. But what choice did i really have? We spent a short while just staying out of their attack range. We had another round of missiles ready to fire. We could duck into range, fire and get back out before their broadsides could get us. SO that is what we did. I ordered the ship into range and we fired, even with friendlies aboard we let every missile we could fire go forward. We aimed more towards the bridge of the ship and away from the reactor, so that way we spared the lives of crewmen” A smile crept onto James lips “I really shouldn’t give myself credit, but it worked. The missiles tore the cruiser a new one, hitting the bridge directly and taking out their leader. I refuse to call them an actual captain. Fire control had gone too. We had cut the head off the beast. We had won. The captain and the remaining marines got back into their boarding crafts and returned to us, where we then broadsided the piece of scrap metal one more time to blow it to smithereens. It was a great day for all who survived…. not such a great day for those who didn’t make it” James bowed his head “After the fight we limped back home for repairs. We did a few more tours after that in the Valhalla before it eventually got decommissioned. Thought they were most certainly alot more normal than our first deployment. I captained the ship a few times while Abernathy was off being a hero.but overall it was a good lesson learnt. Made me who i am today”.

That last sentence hanged in the air for a second. His mind turned to his father. He wouldn’t have been on the Valhalla if it wasn’t for his fathers help when he first joined the navy. Since then though, everything had been such a uphill battle. Was his father going to be involved here too? Was he going to block or try and make it impossible for him to advance? Those thoughts raced among his mind until he pulled himself out of them with a sigh “But yes, that was the Valhalla”

“I see.” The woman typed in some notes on her datapad as the Lieutenant described the most notable of the Valhalla’s tour experiences. “What about the UNSF Winchester? Where there any combat engagements of note that perhaps defined your current experience and skill set in your field?”

“I have only recently joined the Winchester. It is a destroyer, much different from the Valhalla. We have only been out on two tours as the current crew. So there hasn’t been much of a chance for engagements. We have been mostly on patrol, helping out small civilian ships navigate around the Union. It has been an interesting deployment however. Civilian ships have a strange assortment of equipment and protocols. Obviously when you are in the military you are used to dealing with equipment of a certain nature. Working alongside civilian ships has given me a really broad range of knowledge of different communications equipment. There probably isn’t anything i can’t interface or communicate with now. Though there is something to be said for my XO skills now. The Winchester has a totally different style to my time on the Valhalla. To start with the crew is much bigger. You have to be a lot more diplomatic when making decisions. Not everyone is going to be happy with the choices you make. And it is always over the most silly of things. However if you can minimise the amount of annoyance you cause the crew still operates at the best efficiency possible. Dealing with the public has also been a tough challenge.” He would lean back a bit in his chair to get comfortable.

“The captain of the Winchester never really likes to be disturbed on the bridge. So everything, everything went through me. So everytime we hailed a ship, i was both the voice and the face of the ship. I guess it explains why i always do my best present myself so well” He would sit up and look over to the woman before carrying on “I do apologise that it isn’t the story you would expect me to tell. I would have preferred to tell you a story where i was a hero and there was loads of explosions and stuff, but in reality the Winchester deployment has been quite quiet. And i prefer it that way. Most deployments in ships go by without a hitch. So i only have a small repertoire of stories that have any kind of action in them above day to day operations” James was somewhat self conscious about his answer. In reality he had only a few opportunities to actually do anything most people would define as interesting. Comms work was always classed as being boring, and most people never wanted to be an XO when they could just become captain themselves.

“We aren’t necessarily looking for stories of grandeur here.” The woman replied nonchalantly. “With a ship like the Apollyon, you are more likely to see action than just be on regular patrol. We wouldn’t have built a ship such as a Dreadnought for the sake of tracking brigands. But that’s not the point here.”

She then began to present the man with a question. “How do you feel about the fact that in this day and age that general human privacy is compromised? That we are being watched and observed, every move we make, every word we say, is listened and watched, and all that meta-data gathered in one place.”

“Well that is sort of a strange question” He started, taking a second to ponder it. “I don’t exactly know any different i guess. I have always grown up in that kind of environment. I suppose it would be nice to have some secrets, but with the lives we have chosen to lead we can’t have that. It does i suppose make atoning for mistakes harder as nearly every person under the sun, well, suns has heard about you mistakes. It is is a sad price i guess. Maybe we should have more privacy but with the data we have on people we can advance the sciences quicker and at least you no longer get spam adverts to things you would never buy. All the data we collect on people allows companies and cities to create unique experiences for everyone. The universe is almost tailored to you.” He would cough for a second before stopping and looking at the interviewing woman. “Bit of a curveball question that Ma’am, are you going to start giving me therapy and asking if I have daddy issues next?” He questioned her in return.

The interviewer only smiled. “You will find that out if you end up getting selected, Lieutenant. Tell me. If you were placed in a fleet combat situation, where a constant stream of communication from allied ships is coming in at an alarming rate, difficult to decipher and understand. How would you pick out the important information from the garbage? How would you find the relative information that is important to the Captain and their stratagems?”

“Well…” The lieutenant started “You catalogue information. Communications in fleet formations is abbreviated in such a way that you can listen and filter out things you don’t need to listen out for. You can filter it out either by order or by shipname. Generally you want to listen out for the command ship giving out signals and any ship which is around your size or bigger. As a frigate you really want to just focus on ships in your vicinity as your limited range means the rest of the fleet comms are somewhat useless.” He stated.

“It does get harder if you are the command ship though. Every other ship is going to want your attention so as a Comms officer i would relay all strategic messages through to the captain, and any other messages, requests or movement orders to the CiC and the XO. Which currently would be myself. Sometimes being XO and Comms can be a real help as you can filter a lot of the traffic away from the bridge by just dealing with it yourself. otherwise you have to focus on filtering information. Nothing is undecipherable, it is all about your approach, and the resources you have to work with” He finished his answer and felt a little more confident that he did before he started. He had focused most of his career in Comms, he really was a Comms man first, XO second. Though he would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t enjoy the XO work more.

Satisfied with that answer, the interviewer took some final notes, and placed her Datapad down onto the table. “I believe that concludes the interview, Lieutenant. You will be informed of any news once the selection process has been completed. I wish you luck in your selection. Feel free to see yourself out.”

James would nod and rise out of his seat, taking a second to brush himself down before nodding to the interviewer, turning on his heels and leaving the room without saying a word. Normally he would have said a proper and full goodbye, but his gut was giving him mixed feelings about the interview and how well he actually did.

I was going to make a minor edit to my character, but I believe the deadline has past, so I will leave it alone.
This is very interesting. I would most likely go for the military commander or a bridge officer.

Okay, i think i am happy with this for now. Will make a few minor alterations, but the concept of the character is there for all to see.
This looks amazing. I have just woke up and read this. I am going to make a character for sure, but I am going to take them in a different direction to most.

His name is Peter Skrit, a former corporation executive, turned CEO for a while and then finally a "problem sorter" for larger corporations. Peter isn't the muscle, he hires muscle. What he is the guy corporations call when things need dealing with, whether they be rivals, taking out employees that have "talked" too much or anything in between. Years of playing the corporate game have given him an impressive array of contacts and favours, and he has more CEOs on speed dial than most people could count to.

I am going to work on his character sheet tonight when I am back from work and not on my mobile xD
Okay, here is my dilemma.

Codex's character was sort of pivotal to the whole of the plot. The idea was she took charge of the Guild and steered those characters around, without her it sorta gets a bit difficult.

Would anyone be up for adopting her Character. I was going to do it at the start but I realise I can't play both leaders at the same time.
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