From Common Diary Files
Day 67 Morning Alchibah
“The First Order of Business is that No One, I repeat No One; puts on a uniform before the Ceremony. That will be our little surprise to everyone.“Second; myself, COL Stuart, LTC Andrews and CPT McKenzie will be doing check rides for 2LT Benjamin, 2LT S. Pierce, Deputy J. Pierce and Deputy J. Parker Jr. on the run up to Mayflower.
“Third, CAPT Travis, CAPT Monroe and Cadet Bugbee will be running a round trip with their two shuttles and the Galileo to handle the other people attending. As I understand it a Cadet in the Space Arm is the equivalent of our Candidate. Therefore Cadet Bugbee will be given the courtesy due a Junior Officer, which ain’t much. But no one gets on his case understood?”
The room filled with a round of chuckles and outright laughs.
“Good, let’s get up there, shall we?”
Shuttle One filled with Jules and Hanna Parker, followed by Linda and Liza.
“I am sorry J. J. could not be with you,” Andy Stuart said, “but he’s busy getting his butt kicked by Mariana over on Shuttle Three.”
He actually got two smiles, ”Our son a pilot, it’s like a dream come true,” came from both of the older Parkers. Andy stopped by Linda, “If Ash didn’t think he was going to make it, he would have flown the check ride himself!”
Linda just gave him a tired smile back. Andy was still laughing as he slid into the right seat of the Shuttle.
“Ready to wind her up LT?”
Jai Benjamin’s face indicated that she was anything but happy. “I guess I’m as ready as I am ever going to be Sir.”
“Then take us up, LT. Liberty Security and Mayflower Control; Reaper burning trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower.”
As Jai pulled the stick she heard:
“Liberty Security and Mayflower Control; Ghost burning trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower!”
“Liberty Security and Mayflower Control; Magic burning trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower!”
“Liberty Security and Mayflower Control; Digger burning trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower!”
Her heart thumping like a drum in her chest she heard, “Liberty Security; Roger Firebird Flight, all singing clear and Pure. Mayflower Control acknowledged Firebird Flight.”
Jai jerked her head around and before she could ask the question the answer came.
“It’s your call sign after all, that is provided you can dock this damn thing. By the way what does the formation look like?”
“It’s a little ragged,” Jai replied, “but it’s a diamond!”
“Who’s ragged,” Andy asked?
“JJ and Summer” Jai replied.
“Watch it for a few more moments, if it don’t shape up; I’ll kick Mariana and Ash’s arse’s. What you thought Ghost and I were going to trust the real Combat Pilots to anyone else?”
“Boss,” Jai volunteered, “Summer is terrified of LTC Andrews.”
“Of course, LT. That is the precise reason he is scoring her check ride. She has a confidence problem in the Hot Seat. Unlike someone we know, that’s the only place it shows, so we work on it!”
Jai glanced towards the right seat and saw COL Stuart but, for a fleeting second she had a second sight of a howling Wolf. What gave her a shiver was that she preferred the Wolf.
Jerking her head back around she remembered to call, “Mayflower, Firebird Flight requesting Combat Peel.”
“Firebird Flight. Combat Peel approved.”
Jai led them into a low pass around Mayflower. On the Second time by JJ Parker seconded by COL M. Stuart peeled off and went into the dock. The next pass peeled off John Pierce with LT McKenzie in the right seat. Next pass peeled off Summer Pierce with LTC Andrews in the Instructor seat. Finally it was Jai’s turn with the Chief Wolf in her graders seat.
Jai was lucky enough to grease in on the open pad and turned to the right seat for comment. What she got was a grin and an open hand with the Silver Bars of a 1LT in them.
“What do you remember about your Q course LT?” Andy’s smiling face asked.
“14 hours of shear pain and terror,” I replied “Followed by some Big Lug telling me to stand up and look behind me. May I be so bold as to tell the Colonel that my left tit still hurts from where He slammed home that Badge.”
He laughed, “You may LT., but just remember. You crossed that line, no one did it for you. No one who has not crossed that line has ever worn that Badge and while You and I live no one ever will.”
Jai tensed even with her hand reaching out, She now knew the burden the COL was asking her to take and She froze for a moment. Her brain raced for the proper reply then it dawned on Her, “SOCOM Sir.”
Andy grinned and dropped the Silver pins into her hand. “Now let’s go down there and embarrass the hell out of three people who should know better.”
We hit the bottom of the Elevator ride and Col Stuart froze in the door. His hand snapped up in a cold perfect Salute. “Permission to Come Aboard Sir,” snapped out that Command Voice we had all learned to fear.
A young man in a gray ship suit spun around with a confused look on his face; then his spine stiffened and a high voice rang out. “Permission Granted Sir, Liberty Arriving;” as my foot was just about to hit the deck his voice rang again: “Firebird Flight Arriving!”
I looked at Mariana, Ash and JoAnn hanging their heads in their hands and decided I was glad that I was not them.
CAPT Travis walked up and said. “Welcome Aboard Sir, sorry I have to run but, we have a scheduled flight to fly.”
Andy grinned, “No problem Sir, Master Kiyoshi said that He would be waiting with your package and would appreciate a ride up. Seems He wants to see His works on display.”
“Of course,” Travis smiled, “that would have nothing to do with His attachment to Miss McKenzie I assume?”
“I assure you, I would not know,” said Andy with a grin. The two shook hands and turned their seperate ways. Our crew was standing with heads down cause they knew they had done fracked up! Dear God, Thank You it wasn’t me this time.
Andy barked to everyone, “ Ladies and Gentlemen, it will take the CAPT 90 minute’s to make the turn around. Therefore you have two hours to get suited up and ready. Flight Commanders, Report to me.”
I turned and ran, pausing only long enough to ask CAPT Monroe what room I had been assigned as I looked over my shoulder to see three Senior Officers getting their Butts chewed by the Master of the Art.
Two hours later I was standing in the hall outside what used to be Hanna’s Place waiting for the call.
“Let the Party Enter,” rang Travis’s voice. I looked at Summer and nodded, we started around the corners.
We marched up the aisle like the unit we had become, this was the first time the people of Alchibah had seen the Space Black and Silver that was Strike Force. At the front of the room stood CAPT Travis in the Sky Blue and Gold of the Seattle Space Academy; after Colorado Springs had gotten Nuked in the Long War, there was no better and at his side He wore the perfect replica of the Honor Sword of the Valedictorian.
In the front row stood Joe Fortson in the gorgeous Blue and Gold that was the old USMC Uniform and his face told anyone who cared to look that it was his right to wear.
Then Travis barked, “Let the Groom enter.”
The sound system suddenly split with the sound of bagpipes keening ‘Scotland The Brave’ when Andrew Stuart and Ashcroft Andrews turned into the aisle.
Joe and everyone who wore or had ever worn a uniform stood and saluted as the two moved up at a slow march pace. Around their necks were the simple ribbons on a Sky Blue Field with Five White Stars that was the Medal of Honor. We all knew that the Boss wore it but, Ash. That was news to everyone.
As they reached their assigned places Travis called out. “The Matron of Honor will proceed.”
Hanna Parker started up the aisle accompanied by a noticeably more sprightly Jules Parker.
Travis spoke again, “The Maid of Honor will proceed.” I guess Mariana qualified as She had no children but if anyone who worked with the boss thought she was a Maid they were delusional. Still those five Silver Stars were impressive as hell.
Then Travis spoke in low tones, “My lady, come forward.” Then the sound system rang with the sounds of “Waltzing Matilda.”
As JoAnn turned into the aisle the room once more exploded in salutes and I heard Joe behind me, “Never been in the shit, my ass. They don’t hand those out for Good Behavior!”
This as we all stood and saluted a holder of the Victoria Cross.
Could I be stupid if I said the rest of the ceremony was an afterthought?
Two hours later I was in a redressed Hanna’s Place trying my best to get drunk when Ryu sat down and asked. “You can’t get Mike out of your head can you?”
Andy was looking from across the room when Jai finally let the tears flow. “No, if us Girls had not egged him in to taking the rank He might not have gone with Bart. I know it’s not rational but I feel responsable. I don’t know if it means anything but; the not knowing is killing me.”
Ryu looked at her, “You think it’s not hurting anyone else?”