Shoot the Sun, Part two

Seaman Apprentice Warren Bailey was assigned to gather the weather information to the Meteorologist and Oceanographer who were keeping track of temperatures of air and water and the exact position of the readings when taken. The scientists also took water and air samples each morning.

Warren wasn't an expert although he did see the need to keep track of temperatures, barometric pressure, humidity, and wind. After all, those were needed to predict sailing conditions. He listened to the exchange between the men but only understood a tiny bit of it. The way they spoke was almost like a foreign language.

The Seaman tried to make heads or tails of it but was lost. He spoke up, wanting to at least get the gist of what they were finding with the results. Warren knew that if he understood what they were watching he could help them better.

"Excuse me, salinity? Therma—whatsit?"

Roger, the Meteorologist did his best not to laugh at the young man's confusion. "Thermohaline circulation. Think of it as the density of different temperatures, salt, and how ocean currents move."

Warren didn't even pretend to understand what he just said and the confusion must have shown on his face.

The Oceanographer, Pete Sanders, gave it a try. "The colder the water the saltier it is. So cold water is denser than warm water. They also move at different speeds. The water samples we've taken so far show that the water is colder and saltier than back home in the same areas."

Warren nodded, beginning to see the light. "And is that good or bad?"

"Neither. It just means that the water is colder here than normal. Now it's our job to find out why. It could be that the Earth has a different axis or perhaps because of the lack of human-caused green house effects."

"Or," Roger added to Pete's explanation, "slight changes in this Earth's history made minute changes in the weather patterns. Let's say that a volcano didn't erupt here like it did back home. The result being that there is less heat and gases in the air. It's the ripple effect."

"Okay, I think I get it. Since this is an alternative world anything can be different. You just want to know how much different it is."

"Exactly! We'll make a scientist of you yet young man."

"I hope not. My mama wanted me to be a lawyer but I wanted to be a Coastie."

 

Commander Hume got on the speakers and asked that all the scientists gather in the Officer's Wardroom. After a long delay everyone was gathered in the room and the Captain entered and greeted everyone.

"I'm sure all of you are curious why I've called this meeting. Each of you are aware that this mission was organized quickly and we had little time to discuss details." She paused and looked at every one of them.

"Because of the restrictions set by the ruling body of the colony we had to set sail with less than an ideal number of crew and Cadets. The number of watches needed to run smoothly require my crew to stand sixteen hour watches with virtually no days off. This is where you come in."

Marla and Janice made eye contact. They had talked this over the evening before and had agreed on the terms. This was the first step in having the scientists help out on the ship. In the future the Captain would begin having them learn other skills and duties. In the meantime, the scientists heard the words of the Captain and knew their free time was about to be taken away.

"None of you have the training of even our basic Seaman, of course, but there are things you can do to give my crew more personal time and sleep. Duties such as KP, cleaning, and some types of watch duty."

Kyle protested first. "Now wait a God damned minute! I--"

 

"Keep your tone civil with me, Mr. Waterford."

The Microbiologist took a breath to begin his argument but Captain Harrison stopped him cold.

"I want you all to understand something. This is not a pleasure cruise nor are we here to be at your beck and call. We all have to get along for the next few years. When we aren't stopping to do actual research or studies you have very little to do. It's hardly fair that the ship's crew has to feed and clean up after you when you have so much free time. Plus, a little help on your parts will go a long way to ease the tensions onboard."

Janice examined the faces of the twenty-two scientists and saw that most of them would cooperate. She continued, "I'm asking each of you to donate four hours of your time a day—a short watch. Keep in mind my crew will still be pulling twelve to sixteen hour watches even with your help and that of the Cadets. The Cadets also have to still continue their education onboard while learning all the duties required on the Asimov.

"Doctor Fletcher and I went over a duty roster that we believe will best suit everyone. It will be posted on Doctor Fletcher's Cabin Door for your review. On it will be the location of your duty station and the name of the crewman or officer you are assigned to. Any questions?"

No one said anything, but Janice still saw a couple of surly looks. She hoped she didn't have to lower the boom on anyone because it would cause bad blood.

 

The OIC walked past the galley door and looked around. "Where is Mr. Waterford? I though he was supposed to be helping you today?"

The supervisor shrugged. "He never showed up. Figured he forgot."

The woman grunted and picked up the phone to contact the department head, who in turn contacted Commander Hume. He already had his instructions in case any of the research team failed to show or refused duty. He sent two strong arms to escort Mr. Waterford to the waist deck.

The Captain walked to where the man was being detained. The waist deck was chosen because several other scientists were assigned duties there and would pass on to the others what occurred. One of the watchers was Jeren Nunez. She saw the attractive Captain walk by and felt a shiver of desire crawl along her skin. The woman had such a presence it made breathing difficult. The woman knew whom she was and how to get there and her self-confidence caught the geologist's attention from the beginning.

She watched Captain Harrison as she walked up to Kyle Waterford and stopped a few paces away, her face stern.

"Would you care to explain why you weren't at your assigned post, Mr. Waterford?"

"Because you aren't my boss. The University employs me. Since you aren't paying me you sure as hell not gonna make me work your crappy little gopher jobs."

The Captain smiled but there wasn't any humor in her eyes. "I may not sign your paychecks but I certainly have authority over you, Mr. Waterford."

"The hell you do."

"Ahh, but there is where you're wrong. Since you didn't feel like helping out in the galley I can only guess that you aren't hungry. You are confined to your quarters for the next 48 hours. You may not leave them with the exception of using the head. If you are found outside your quarters for any other reason you will spend three days in the Brig. Also--"

"Wait a minute--" One of the security detail placed a beefy hand on Kyle's shoulder, causing him to stop midway into his protest.

"You will only receive bread and water for the length of your confinement. The ship's physician will examine you to determine that you are in good health and then you will be escorted to your quarters. Understood? Now, the next words out of your mouth will be either 'Yes, Captain Harrison.' or 'Yes, ma'am.' Anything else will double your punishment."

Kyle ground his teeth for several seconds then forced him self to utter a 'Yes ma'am.' before he was led away.

A few minutes after eight bells Kyle's roommate entered their tiny cabin.

"I heard you fucked up again, Kyle. What are you trying to do, get tossed overboard?"

"Fuck off. That captain is one power-hungry bitch."

"Maybe, maybe not, but she's the only game in town. My old man was a Navy seaman and he always said the captain of any ship is right even when they're wrong. Their word is law. So get it through your thick skull that whatever Captain Harrison tells you to do, do it! Don't argue or whine about it." Ben watched his cabin mate's face and gave up. Either the idiot learned or would suffer for it. It wasn't his concern.

 

Jonathon Kramer looked down from the crow's nest in delight. It had been a struggle to reach it but the view was worth it. He grinned at the seaman who had talked him through it and was now adjusting the belt clips.

"This is great! Now, you said you'd teach me how to do a watch shift. What do we do way up here?"

The young man laughed at his enthusiasm. "Watch duty is simple compared to watch on Old Earth. We don't have to watch for buoys and lights or even other ships. Now we just watch for anything in our path that might damage the ship. Watch out for reefs and rocks. If you spot any water that is discolored let me know. We're sailing fairly close to the coast and don't want to run aground. The ship has radar of course but the GPS system is useless without satellites." The seaman handed Jonathon a pair of binoculars before looking around with his own set.

The paleontologist was glad he had dressed warmly as the breeze swooshed past. The sway of the ship seemed more pronounced this high up, forcing him to think about his balance. He lifted the binoculars to his eyes and looked around. In the distance he could make out the shore. It would have been South Carolina had they been back home.

The landscape was spooky with its lack of cities and ports. There weren't any fishing boats or cruise ships. Up in the windy crow's nest the only artificial sounds heard were the sound of the sails in the wind and the crash of waves against the bow. Jonathon shivered and cleared his throat; thankful he wasn't alone, where a man could easily get lost in his own thoughts.

 

Marla was helping one of the crew collect the dirty laundry from the rooms. She hadn't thought about how she would wash her clothing but she was about to learn. The laundry was tossed into a large canvas tote on wheels and would later be cleaned and returned to the individuals. It would be up to the crew to fold and store the clothes once they were returned.

She learned that the ship had a small desalination plant aboard as well as generators and other modern equipment. She was thankful to know that her clothes wouldn't be washed with salt water. She was also surprised to learn many ships had civilians do this service but there were none permitted on this assignment.

In another section of the ship Jeren put away her cleaning supplies and headed for the small cabin she shared with the other two female scientists. It was cramped as all rooms were but it was only marginally better than the quarters where the crew slept on 'racks'. Their bunks barely gave them enough room to turn over and since their rooms were at one end of the ship, the motion threatened to toss them out of their bunks while they slept.

She glanced at her watch and figured she had just enough time for a quick shower before going to the wardroom for dinner. Each evening three scientists were invited to dinner in the small officer's mess. This was done so everyone would get to know one another gradually. Jeren grabbed a towel from her locker and her robe and slippers. She would change once she got back to the cabin.

The scientist went to the small cubical and quickly got inside and closed the latch. The time permitted for each shower had her tempted to cut her hair since she never had time to condition it. She turned on the water and gritted her teeth until it turned warm. Once wet she turned off the water to lather up and shampoo. Once that was finished she turned the water on to rinse off. She quickly toweled her body dry and put on the robe and slippers. Jeren gathered her dirty clothing and headed back to the cabin.

Captain Harrison left her private quarters, wanting to head for the wardroom a bit early; wanting to speak to her officers before the scientists arrived. She turned the corner and was nearly knocked over by a female in a robe. A glance told her it wasn't one of her crew because the woman didn't get the frightened of bumping into an officer look.

Janice looked at the woman briefly and resisted the urge to give her a slow once over. The woman was voluptuous with glorious dark hair and almond shaped eyes of cornflower blue. The woman, certainly in her late thirties, smiled up at her with full lips and an appreciative smile. The officer was instantly uneasy.

If they were anywhere but a military vessel she would be more than happy to return the smile and get to know the woman better. The climate for gays was only slightly better than it had been ten years ago but not much. She had worked very hard to keep that aspect of herself secret. She put up her poker face and ignored the obvious attraction, pretending she didn't see it.

"Pardon me," she said politely and continued down the passageway.

Jeren remained where she was, leaning against the bulkhead. She could still feel the tingling where the Captain had brushed against her and wondered why the woman's eyes had glazed over like that. She had felt the pull between them then watched the Captain back off. The Captain…Jeren smacked her forehead. Idiot, she's military and not about to out herself on her own damned ship.

The geologist sighed. Well, it was going to be a two-year voyage and anything could happen. In the meantime, she needed a cold shower.

To be continued in part 3

 

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