Asking the Impossible
The entire ship’s crew was standing at attention in front of the platform. Commodore Maxby moved to the podium and called at ease. He started in using a matter-of-fact sort of voice normally used when delivering bad News. “Men and women of the HMS Dauntless, the hull that surrounds you now is your home. The men and women that are standing at your sides are your brothers and sisters. Those of you that have served aboard an æthership know this to be true. Those of you on your maiden voyage will discover this soon enough. A Captain’s address to the crew should fix in their minds the Captain’s expectations. My expectation is excellence! If you are performing your duties at 100%, one hundred percent of the time, you are meeting my minimum expectation. Any less than that will put this, your new home, and these, your new family members, in danger. For any of you who would give any less than all for your shipboard kin, I will find a new home for you on a ship where everybody only looks out for themselves.”
“I know many of you have heard that I run a ship by the book. The rumor is accurate. I will point out, that for the past few years I’ve been the man writing that book. I suggest that all of you become very familiar with the book or I will be forced to throw it at you. I am an easily offended author and courting my displeasure may include brig time. You will notice that the marine company is not among us today. That is because they are not your brothers and sisters. They, for all intents and purposes, are extensions of myself. They are my eyes, they are my ears, they will walk among you to enforce my will, and if you fall short, they will be my boot as well.”
“In the coming months you will be put through torment that will make Hades seem like a holiday on Ganymede. Our shakedown cruise will entail refitting almost every system on this ship. I will be scheduling constant drills and exercises to bring our efficiency rating to exceed Æther Fleet par. In a number of months we will engage in war games to test our combat readiness and immediately after this we have our final Æther trials. All during this time we will be running errands for every Ukp minister who voted Yeah on the Dauntless budget. There will be no rest for any of you until we made our 1A rating from the inspector general’s office.”
“To get you acclimated to what things will be like in the near future, I will let you in on a little secret. The heir apparent, Prince Frederick, will be christening the ship tomorrow morning. Like most ceremonies, the crowd is expecting to see the bottle crack against our hull and the bulk of the ship will rise on graviton beams into a nice low orbit for final refit and revisions. This will not be the legacy of the Dauntless! This crew has 24 hours to get the ship fully functional. We will rise from the yards tomorrow under our own steam and start our first mission immediately. I expect to see all non-essential personnel in their æthersuits standing at attention on the hull for the ceremony. Considering the time it will take to don your suits…” Maxby looked down at the antique pocket watch he kept in his breast pocket and continued, “that gives you all about twenty-three hours. That is all. You are dismissed.”
The crew stared as if waiting for the punch line. When it sank in that their new Captain was not joking when he asked them to perform the impossible, they looked at their officers. The officers had accepted the situation as unattainable as it may have seemed and waved their crews to duty stations. The formation at once became an anthill of scrambling crewmen racing to achieve the unachievable.
Maxby turned to Ayers who stood to his right and said in low tones, “The best way to get acquainted with one’s co-workers is through the baptism of fire. Necessity bonds men together better than any glue known. These activities will forge the group’s resolve instantly, instead of all that pecking order and pissing contest rot that usually occurs. Plus they now are united against a common enemy, a demented madman who is determined to break their wills on the first day. Namely me.” Maxby’s eyes met Ayers’. The Commodore was not seeking acceptance but confirming understanding. “Mr. Ayers, I want you to be on the lookout for any crew members that seem not to be making the grade.”
Ayers answered in a tone of condemnation, “And what do you want me to do with them, sir?”
That penetrating smile momentarily touched upon Maxby’s face as he said, “Mr. Ayers, it is your job to make sure they DO make the grade.”
This time Ayers returned the smile.