I hovered just outside the circle of Dockside officers surrounding Captain McGuire, trying to catch his eye. No doubt they were busy, what with launch just six hours away, but I really needed to bring this issue up with him post haste. McGuire was known for his temper, as well as his disdain for civvy staff members. Since I’m definitely a civvy I dared not interrupt. Hendricks, our Chief Operations Officer here on LF-4, finally left the little cluster of uniforms and the Captain cast me a skeptical glance.
“What is it, Abbot? You’ve been dancing around there like you’ve had to piss in the worst way for the last half hour. Get it off your chest.”
Clearing my throat, I stepped forward, close to the remaining circle, yet not actually joining it. Fleet boys have an overdeveloped sense of personal space and have been known to deck anyone stupid enough to intrude. The three remaining officers stood nonchalant regarding me with smiles, bordering on sneers. I paused, uncertain of myself, of the situation. “Get it off your chest,” was a questionable invitation at best.
“Sir, I need to talk to you about the supply situation.” The sneer on Lieutenant Du Val’s face melted into a blank, unreadable expression. Lieutenant Anderson looked at her watch.
As Dockside Logistics Specialist for this launch it was my job to make sure everything was properly procured, delivered, and stowed aboard the ship before we sent her on her way. Once launched there’s no turning back, no resupply. First Crew would not emerge from stasis until the ship reached its full cruising speed, in about three years. The survival of the colonists depended upon a full manifest.
I cleared my throat again. “There seems to be a problem.”
Lieutenant Du Val frowned, folding his arms over his chest. Sub Lieutenant Gamble assumed Parade Rest, hands behind his back. His half smile-half sneer remained on his face. Anderson looked like she suddenly remembered something needing doing, and departed at a good clip.
I did not interpret the officers’ body language as good signs, and felt my situation growing tenuous.
“May I speak to you in private?”
Captain McGuire scowled, ever so briefly, then jerked his head to the side, dismissing the others. Du Val saluted and walked away, casting a black glance my way. Gamble stood off to about 3 meters and resumed his at ease position.
“What’s on your mind, young lady?” McGuire asked, his countenance all sincerity and concern.
“I’ve just finished my inventory, Captain, and there are critical shortages in the supplies.”
McGuire looked puzzled and stepped a bit closer to me. “What do you mean? Last week you told me everything was well accounted for.”
“Last week everything was well accounted for. I supervised that inventory personally, and everything was there down to the last gram of coffee.”
“Then how can there possibly be any shortages?” he asked, scratching his graying beard. “And what kind of shortages are we talking about here? Food? Medicine? Materials?”
“Yes. Yes to all of that. Plus equipment. Two tractors are missing. Otherwise, about 30% of the food and building materials have disappeared, and fully half of the pain killers.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “That can’t be right. All those supplies have been under guard and seal since their arrival. Either you must have made a mistake upon delivery, or are mistaken now. I can’t see how they could have just gotten up and walked away.”
My stomach dropped.
“With all due respect, Sir, there was no mistake. Then or now. Obviously someone has stolen these goods, and in doing so put the lives of hundreds of colonists in peril.” I could not help letting my eyes drift toward Sub Lieutenant Gamble. As if being reminded he was there, Captain McGuire turned and signaled the Officer over. As Gamble approached I took a reflexive step back.
“Yes, Sir?” Gamble stood rigidly at ease.
“Joe, Liz here seems to think there is a problem with the supply inventory.”
“She says close to a third of it has disappeared.”
Gamble’s face remained a study in stone.
“You can confirm that Warehouses 6 and 7 have been under 24/7 security?” McGuire looked stern.
“And that the contents were moved, in their entirety, aboard the SS Hudson last night?”
“Yes, sir. I observed the transfer personally.”
“But–” McGuire cut me off with a gesture.
“And that the hold has been under constant guard since being sealed?”
McGuire turned to me with a skeptical, half bemused look on his face. “I think you must have made a mistake, Ms Abbot.” I opened my mouth to object, but he cut me off again. “Now don’t fret. We’ll double check everything, and believe me, if anything is missing – one, I will personally lead the investigation, and two, we will not launch until any shortfall has been filled. Thank you for coming to me with this. We’ll get on it right away.” He turned to Gamble. “See to it, Joe.”
“Yes, Sir!” Sub Lieutenant Gamble saluted, smirked at me, turned on his heal, and marched away.
McGuire glared at me. “I think we are done here, Ms Abbot. Dismissed.”
He walked off, leaving me drained and shaken.
I knew what I needed to do. I had to downlink right away. I turned and rushed back to my quarters.
I locked the door even as I noticed my message board blinking. When I called up the text any hope for support melted away. Instead of a reassuring message from Captain McGuire, it was orders. I was being reassigned. I was the new Logistics Specialist for SS Hudson. I was to report onboard within the hour. As I reached for the communications console my door swept open. Two Marines stepped in, one to each side, followed by a grinning Lieutenant Du Val.
“Good afternoon, Liz. Come with us please. Oh, don’t bother to pack.”
© 2014 by J. M. Strother. All rights reserved.
NASA image believed to be in the public domain.