Flynn took a step away from the court offices, ready to enact his plan, such as it was, when someone called his name. The name itself probably would have caught him, but he received a full address.
Though he had spent years being addressed as Captain, the weeks of the trial had stripped him of word’s feeling. It felt odd to be called captain once the verdict had come down. Flynn looked to see a woman in her mid-twenties in marine fatigues come up to him. She had lieutenant’s bars on her shoulders. Her light brown hair was in a ponytail, and her salute to him was marine perfect.
“I’m not a captain any more, Lieutenant. You can’t salute me.”
If she was embarrassed, she gave no sign. She dropped the salute as if he had returned it, and he couldn’t help but feel he had seen her.
“You’re from the Atlas,” he said, finally.
“Formerly, sir, yes. And before that I did a rotation on the Indus.”
It clicked for him, then. “The evacuation on Ptolemy.”
“Yes, sir. I was only a sergeant back then. I still remember how you helped those people. You wouldn’t give up, always insisting on one more shuttle while the Hierarchy was coming on. And you kept those people calm. Major Stansfield was getting ready to shoot them if they didn’t follow his instructions, but you stepped in and made it all right.”
“Stansfield was an ass. I made sure he got transferred off the ship,” Flynn said.
“Yes, sir,” she grinned. “He deserved it. You didn’t,” she nodded towards the court.
Was she in the courtroom? I didn’t look at anyone in the gallery. The eyes of the Members had been bad enough.
“It’s done, Lieutenant . . . Kimball. Stephanie Kimball, right?”
“Yes, sir,” her grin widened. “Doesn’t make it all right, though.”
“No, no it doesn’t, but there’s no use dwelling on that. It was good to see you, Lieutenant, now if you’ll excuse me.”
He turned, but she darted in front of him. “Yes, sir, that’s what I’m here for. I’ve got another week left before I’m out, and I’m not going to re-up. I’d like to be part of whatever you have going on next, sir.”
“What makes you think I have a ‘next,’ Lieutenant?”
“You Navy boys are always thinking and planning. It’s all chess moves trying to out-think other ships. So I think you had an idea of what to do if things turned out all right, and if they didn’t. I followed you from the Indus to the Atlas, so I’ll follow you here, too.”
Flynn rubbed his chin, thoughtfully.
“I need a crew. Some marine muscle would be good. I can’t promise much in pay or accommodations, and we’ll probably be leaving the core worlds behind.”
“I’m a marine, sir. Cramped space, bad food, long tours, and lousy pay are the job. Least this way I get to choose my CO.”
“Eltie, you’re hired.”
She grinned, and Flynn felt a smile touch the corners of his mouth.