For three months, Flynn and Eltie did short runs from Pallas Station to Genoa, a new agricultural colony near Vela. The colony constantly needed parts, equipment, and medicine, while Flynn brought back textiles. Unfortunately, Flynn noticed an increasing tendency for Calypso to need repairs.
Such is the life of a ship captain. He was used to the need for repairs. Even Atlas needed regular repairs, but, unlike on the Fleet ship, Flynn didn’t have dozens of mechanics overseen by a chief engineer to keep things in check. Flynn made what repairs he could since his engineering courses in the academy, but most of the systems were beyond him, and he ended up having to pay Pallas engineers for the repairs.
He oversaw one such group of engineers repair the primary reactor, which had copped out on them before they had even reached Genoa on their last run, forcing them to use the auxiliary reactor for most of the trip, burning up a lot of fuel for the power returns. One of the engineers in particular struck Flynn as familiar, but he didn’t entirely know why.
Finally, when the job was all done, the familiar engineer said, “Nice to see you again, Captain.”
“Yes, sir. Well, sort of. I did my final six months on Atlas under your command.”
Flynn pictured the man in uniform, and it started to come back to him. “Chief Petty Officer . . .”
“Sherman, sir. Chief Petty Officer Henry Sherman.”
“Right. Captian’s Mast.”
Sherman winced, embarrassed. “Yes, sir.”
It started coming back to him, now. “As I recall, you had a habit of making repairs, effective repairs, that were outside of Navy guidelines, and in your off time you tinkered around.”
“Yes, sir. That’s probably what cost me the Chief job. I was retired and ended up out here making repairs. Sir, I just wanted to say, I don’t believe what they say about you. You were a good captain, tough, but fair. You could have busted me back down to a first class, but you didn’t. The rest in my division thought so, too.”
“I appreciate that, Chief.”
He waved a hand. “No need for that, now, sir, I’m inactive. Call me Hank.”
“Well, I’m a civilian, Hank, so there’s no need to call me Captain.”
“Sorry, sir, I couldn’t do that. You’re still the captain in my book, and you’ve got yourself another ship—a fine one at that—so you’re still a captain.”
“Thanks, Hank.” Flynn smiled, then caught what Hank had said about the ship. “Listen, do you miss going out?”
“Sure. Nothing like seeing the galaxy and making repairs on the go. Most of this stuff is swapping parts out. No real challenge.”
“You like to tinker.”
“Right, sir. The Fleet had regulations on how to do things, and those are proper, but sometimes you can’t do what’s proper, you know? So we had to make repairs as best we could some times because we needed the ship ready to go.”
“Right. As I recall the Senior Chief had it out for you for some reason.”
Hank shrugged. “I was a better engineer than she was is all.”
“Well, Hank, it just so happens I need a good engineer, someone to keep me flying on the go. Would you be interested in signing on with me? Can’t promise you much, but you’ll have a bunk to yourself.”
Hank grinned. “That sounds just fine, Captain.”
Looks like I’ve got an engineer, now.