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Despite Flight Deck One’s seven-acre area and it’s five-story-high ceilings, The murmur of hundreds of people engaged in hundreds of conversations was loud enough to fill the precisely filtered air with a dull roar. A row of Tarantula-Hawk gunships was arranged behind the seating for the Argent crew, and Wildcat fighters were parked on opposite sides of the dais set up for the crew address. The vessels were a reminder to everyone present the magnitude of the firepower at the command of the young Skipper. In light of the non-public political situation, they were also meant to remind anyone with designs against DSS Argent what they were up against.
Argent’s majestic raptor-adorned logo was emblazoned on the wall behind the speaker’s platform, and a royal blue banner depicting Captain Hunter’s rank insignia and the Argent’s designation was draped across the front of the lectern.
At the precise moment the briefing was set to begin, the marine sergeant stationed at the egress hatch closest to the platform barked the command to come to attention loud enough to pierce the noise. The abrupt sound of virtually an entire battleship crew snapping their heels together exploded like a rifle bullet and echoed twice. It was suddenly quiet enough to hear Captain Hunter’s footsteps on the deck. He arrived at the lectern and set down his tablet.
A short burst of noise preceded total silence once again.
“I have ordered a standing yellow alert.”
A careful murmur quickly subsided.
“A Gitairn sensor beacon in Sector Eight last reported a transponder reception from the starship Dunkerque over sixty hours ago. The Dunkerque is a Strike Cruiser with a crew of 200 officers and men. Vice Admiral Hughes is in command. He is in the sector to show the flag and establish a forward post from which to observe activity along the Reach. Since the Sector Eight contact, there has been no sign of the Admiral’s ship or any other contacts in that region of space.”
Hunter paused. The crew listened attentively and silently.
“I have orders to navigate to the last known position of the Dunkerque and conduct search and rescue operations. There may be hostile forces in the area. We are authorized to defend ourselves and any friendly vessels. We will enter Gitairn space in approximately 28 hours. Between now and then our new department chiefs will schedule four sets of combat readiness drills, one for each watch.”
The Captain closed his tablet.
“I realize we’re still a shakedown ship with a shakedown crew. But I expect all of us to perform to the best of our ability. This is a battleship. Let’s make sure nobody forgets it.”
The sergeant barked again and the crew returned to attention. Hunter gathered the items off the lectern and stalked off the platform.
“Have the senior staff assembled in my in-board cabin in ten minutes.”
“Aye, sir,” the sergeant replied before saluting.
The Captain stalked down the corridor.
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