Rachel Susan Monier stood at the hatch on the shuttle deck, waiting for it to cycle open. She had arrived on the shuttle, having come by courier ship from Earth and had been told that she would be met. No one had met her, other than to place her on the shuttle. Now she stood at the hatch, her small duffel bag in one hand and her computer, containing her orders in the other. But no one had told her a thing other than billeting would be found outside the shuttle bay, that the regimental office was located near the bridge, and that she was now on her own. They were too busy to have someone take her up there.
Of course she hadn't needed the advice of those others about the locations of the billeting cabin or the regimental office. Even though no one had briefed her on it, she knew where they were. Just as she had known that no one would meet her at the shuttle bay or that the mission coming up would move them all from the explored section of the galaxy into an area where only a few scout ships had ever ventured and from which none had ever returned.
The hatch irised open and Monier stepped through into a dimly lighted corridor. Only a few people were walking along it and none of them looked as if they wanted a thing to do with her. They didn't even seem to see her.
She was wearing the uniform of a first lieutenant, though the rank was more honarary than real. She was a short woman, thin with jet black hair and large brown eyes. There was nothing unusual to distinguish her from any of the others in the corridor.
Without asking directions, she walked aft, studying the corridor. She reached a lift, waited, and then took it to the main deck. She exited, walked down a corridor that was brightly lighted and filled with people doing their jobs. She found the regimental office and entered.
In all the videos and holos she had ever watched, the new man reported in saluting. She stepped to the desk, glanced at the man sitting behind it, tried to salute and said, "Lieutenant Monier reporting in." She dropped her hand.
The man kept working for a moment and then slowly looked up at her. "First, you don't report to me. Second, you outrank me so there is no need to salute. And third, I'm a sergeant. You never salute a sergeant except in return."
"Orders," said the sergeant gruffly.
Monier set her duffle on the deck, shuffled through it and held out the computer disc. The sergeant tapped the desk on the right with his index finger and let her set it there. He didn't pick it up right away, but closed out the document he had been using.
"You reporting in?" he asked.
That stopped him again. He looked up at Monier, at the silver bar on her collar and asked, "How long you been in the service?"
Monier focused her attention and began to understand. She smiled and said, "Long enough, Sergeant. I'm just overly polite to my elders. Now please do your job and let the Colonel know that I have arrived."
"Yes, ma'am." He picked up the disk, shoved it into the disk drive, and watched as the screen lit. He read the information, scrolled down and then laughed.
"I was right," he said. "You were called to active duty just three months ago."
"That's right, Sergeant, but I'm a very fast learner."
He scanned more of the information and asked, "Just what is Long Distance Data Processor? Sounds like something that should be part of the computer."
One of the few things that she had learned was to say as little about her job as she could. There were those with the need to know and those with none. "It means that I work with computers," she lied.
She stood watching as the sergeant added her to the computer data base, checked on the authorization codes embedded on the disk and then removed it from the drive. He held it out. "Here you go. I think before you meet the Colonel you should meet Captain Price. He'll be your boss."
"Price," she said.
"Okay," said Monier. She stuffed the disk into her pocket. "Thanks."
"You go out the hatch, take the mid-lift down two stations. Intell office will be on the right. There is no sign on the door. That's how you know it's the intell office. Everything else is labeled."
"Thanks," she said again.
She left the regimental office and walked to the lift. She rode it down and saw Price leaving the office. Without being told, she knew the officer was Price.
"Good afternoon, sir. I'm Rachel Monier. I've been assigned to your office."
"Nope," said Price. "I've heard nothing about it."
"You will, sir."
Price waited until Coollege joined them and said, "You know Lieutenant Coollege?"
"Called Jackknife," said Monier.
"Right," said Price.
"You've been doing your homework," said Coollege suspiciously.
Price stood for a moment and then said, "You want to join us? We're going to get something to eat."
Monier looked at Coolledge and then at Price. "No," she said. "I think that I should get settled in first. Find my billet." That was a word she remembered someone using to describe the cabin she would use.
"If you are truly assigned to us," said Price, "then this would be a very good chance for us to get to know one another before we start in the morning."
"I believe..." started Monier.
"Join us," said Price. He turned to Coollege. "No reason for her not to join us is there?"
"Nope, Tree. None at all." Her voice had a sharp edge to it that Price ignored.
"Then it's settled."
"I need a place for my duffle."
Price waved at the hatch. "Drop it in there and we'll lock up."
As Monier stepped around him, Coollege leaned close and said, "I thought it was just going to be just you and me tonight, Tree. I wasn't counting on reinforcements."
"She's new and is assigned to us."
"So she says."
Monier tossed her duffle through the open hatch and straighten. She was smiling broadly. "I'm ready."
"So are we," said Coollege.