About Graveyard Shift:
A tragic accident, but in times of war, the public is not willing to accept tragic accidents. And so the Republic's government sends its best troubleshooter, Colonel Brian Mayhew of the Republican Special Commando Forces to initiate a cover-up.
This is a novelette of 14100 words or approx. 48 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone.
At the same time, Katharina Woywood, Captain of the Republic of United Planets battlecruiser Great Endeavour, was having dinner with Alfonso Gutierrez, Station Commander of Unity.
Katharina Woywood was forty-two years old with dark eyes, lightly tanned skin and dark hair that she wore in a severe bun at the nape of her neck. She’d been Captain of the Great Endeavour for six years now and wore the uniform well. But the Great Endeavour was not where her career would culminate. No, Katharina was going places. She’d make Commodore one day, perhaps even Admiral.
But for now, she was enjoying the downtime — enforced though it was — food that was not the standard shipboard grub for once and the company of Commander Gutierrez who was not just an attentive host, but handsome to boot.
They were having dinner in a room reserved for special functions, a circular chamber at the very top of Unity’s central pylon covered by a glass dome. The view was breathtaking. The planet of Legrelle far below, Unity’s revolving multi-ring structure all around and finally the stars above. It was like dining in deep space, only without the suffocation and explosive decompression.
Katharina regaled Commander Gutierrez with war stories of the Great Endeavour’s many adventures and her part in the battle of Zatar, all the while wondering what it would take to seduce the Commander and make love with him right here under the stars.
Katharina was torn out of her reverie, when the Commander suddenly scrunched his rather attractive forehead in a frown.
“Captain?” he asked, pointing at something behind her, “Isn’t that your ship?”
Katharina turned around and spotted the unmistakable outline of the Great Endeavour where it definitely wasn’t supposed to be.
“What the hell?” Katharina rose to her feet and walked up to the very edge of the glass dome. “I did not authorise this.”
Commander Gutierrez wandered over to join her. “Might just be a trial flight,” he said.
“I still didn’t authorise this. And the duty officer…” Blast, what was the name of the new third officer again? “…has strict orders to get my authorisation for any unplanned operation, no matter how small.”
“I’ll call docking control,” Commander Gutierrez said and promptly did, “Docking control? What’s the Great Endeavour doing outside its berth?”
“They requested permission to undock maybe two minutes ago,” the bored voice of the docking officer replied.
“And why?” Katharina demanded.
The docking officer’s shrug was almost audible over the com. “Trial flight, they said.”
“I did not authorise any trial flights,” Katharina insisted. She pulled out her com unit and called the bridge. “Great Endeavour, what in blue blazes are you doing outside the repair dock?”
“I’m sorry, but the bridge crew is currently busy with crucial flight manoeuvres. Please stand by.”
The voice from the com unit was young, unfamiliar and female. But then, the Great Endeavour had gotten in a bunch of cadets fresh from the Academy two days ago. Must be one of them.
“I can see you’re busy with flight manoeuvres,” Katharina snapped, “Unauthorised flight manoeuvres. And now give me the duty officer.”
“I’m sorry, but Commander Flynn is busy right now. Please stand by.”
Flynn — yes, that was the new third officer’s name. Though he wouldn’t be third officer for much longer, once Katharina got her hands on him.
“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to, nitwit? This is your Captain. And now put me through to Flynn.”
“Yes, sir…” Katharina could almost picture the com officer snapping to attention. “I mean, ma’am. Sir.”
Katharina was about to order the girl to put her through to Flynn again, but before she could, Gutierrez interrupted her.
“What the hell are they doing?” he exclaimed.
Whatever the Great Endeavour was doing, it was clearly wrong. The ship was too close to the docking clamps. It would…
And then it did. Katharina watched as her ship collided with the docking clamps and scraped along the length of the clamps. She winced, feeling the scratches in the hull of the Great Endeavour as if they were injuries to her own body.
“Give me Flynn now,” she yelled into her com unit.
“Your pilot is incompetent and a bloody idiot”, Commander Gutierrez remarked.
It was unlikely that the pilot had heard him over the open com. Nonetheless, he proved that he indeed was both incompetent and a bloody idiot and should never have been let out of the simulator, because he clearly panicked and made a mistake that would have made a beginner blush.
“No, no, what are you doing, idiot?” Commander Gutierrez exclaimed.
“Stop the bloody ship now,” Katharina yelled into her com unit, “Shoot the pilot, if you have to, just stop it!”
But it was too late. A split second later, alarm klaxons went off all over Unity.