In the Navy

Scolluzer VII – Moon 3 – Federal Navy Academy School

Sakaane woke just moments before the bedside alarm went off. The unfamiliar darkness confused her; the room was pitch black and devoid of all sound save for the quiet hum of air circulation fans hidden away in the ceiling.

Then the alarm blared its buzzer next to her ear and she remembered. This wasn’t home; it was a small windowless cabin, practically a closet, in a space station light-years from where she’d been born. The alarm’s light reflected off the polysteel walls, bathing the room in a blood red glow that blinked on and off.

Just like the emergency lights on the passenger liner.

Groaning, she banished the thought and reached over to turn the alarm off. It was 0600 station time.

“Lights.” The overhead flicked on. Blinking, Sakaane shuffled from the room’s narrow bunk to the opposite wall, where a doorway revealed a compact lavatory. She squeezed into the tiny shower stall. The water was on the cold side of lukewarm and she gasped, muttering under her breath about how the accommodations certainly did not live up to the exorbitant fee she’d paid for only one night’s stay. But as soon as she’d looked up hotel rates the night before she’d realized such was station life: living in space was not cheap and any amount of real estate came at a premium.

The water did not encourage her to linger and soon enough she was dressed, checked out of the room, and standing before the doors to the academy with her travel bag slung over her shoulder. Excitement tingled through her. Without hesitation she pushed the door open and stepped inside.

This was an intake office only; the actual academy campus was located elsewhere in an area of the station secured against entry except for authorized cadets and other cleared personnel. The lobby was spacious, decorated in muted tones of grey and green, with the Federation’s flag dominating one entire wall. Several rows of chairs occupied the otherwise open floor space.

The door chimed to announce her presence to the officer at the counter on the far side of the room, but at the sound, a few dozen pairs of eyes turned her way: despite the early hour a great deal of the chairs were already occupied. All of the eyes belonged to young men about her age, most of them Gallente of one race or another, though she spied some Minmatar in the crowd as well, and all of them registered surprise at seeing her standing there.

She squared her shoulders and stepped forward, moving up the open aisle to the counter where a sergeant had paused in his duties to watch her approach. Some of the young men erupted into whistles and cat-calls as she passed by.

“How about approving my docking request?”

“Wanna polish the boom on my Incursus?”

“You can fly my Thorax anytime, baby!”

Sakaane felt the color rising in her cheeks but was saved from further heckling by the sergeant’s sharp order for quiet.

“Yes, miss?” he said brusquely to her. He was tall, black-haired, and if the creases pressed into his uniform were any sharper she supposed he might cut himself on them.

Her mouth was suddenly dry. This was it. “I would like to apply for the capsuleer program.”

The sergeant—“Bennett” was stamped on a nameplate affixed to his uniform—opened his mouth to reply but then frowned, instead giving her a once-over. She tried not to flinch; in that one quick glance she felt raked over from head to toe, as if he’d torn away every layer of her being, held it up for inspection, and then tossed it aside.

What did he see? She supposed she looked the least likely person to want into the navy: a young woman in her mid-twenties, thin but not especially athletic, dressed informally in a loose silk blouse and comfortable slacks. Her long honey-blonde hair was tied up in a fashion common with Intaki women, splayed into a large fan-shape behind her head thanks to a special pin that emitted a low-energy field.

The small moustache on Bennett’s lip twitched with apparent disapproval and her heart sank. But she raised her chin defiantly and steadily held his gaze, daring him to refuse her.

Finally, Bennett reached for a datapad. “Do you have any prior pilot experience? Any training whatsoever?”

“Nothing formal. A few pilots taught me enough to get a small frigate here, but that was more luck than skill.”

The moustache twitched again. “I see. Implants?”

She blinked. “Sorry?”

“Do you have any cranial implants or other augmentations?”

“Oh. No.”

The sergeant turned his attention to the datapad to input information, then handed it to her along with a stylus. She glanced down and noticed a box marked “Clean Applicant” was checked off.

“Your application authorizes the Federal Navy Academy to screen you for acceptance, which includes a background check, a complete medical exam, and further testing as required to determine suitability for the capsuleer program,” he said. “If you are deemed unacceptable for the program your application nevertheless authorizes us to draft you into regular service provided all other screening criteria is met. Should your background check reveal any criminal activity or outstanding warrants your application will be denied and you will be escorted to the local authority. Any questions? No? Have a seat over there. Return the application to me once completed.” He pointed to a chair near the edge of the room, away from the other applicants, some of whom still watched her with interest.

She sat down. Name, nationality, citizenship, planet of origin, next of kin… She hesitated at that last one and decided to skip over it, moving on to the rest of the form first. The questions were quite specific and some had technical terms she wasn’t familiar with. The very last question asked her to describe why she wanted to become a capsuleer and serve the Federation. She paused for several minutes, trying to formulate an appropriate answer, and glanced back over the other questions, noting with dismay how often she had checked off “No” or “None” or “Not applicable”. She bit her lip.

The blank ‘next of kin’ field stared up at her. Slowly, she filled in her mother’s name and the address at the nursery home. Then, she returned to the final question and wrote one line:

The Serpentis are a blight upon New Eden.

Sergeant Bennett glanced dispassionately over the datapad when she handed it back to him. “It will take some hours to run this through and complete the background check,” he said automatically. Then her answer to the final question caught his eye and he frowned again. “You sure this is what you want, miss?” he said in a low voice. “Capsuleer training is not easy.”

She smiled thinly and nodded. “I understand.”

With nowhere else to be, Sakaane decided to wait in the lobby while her application was processed. She sat alone, left to her thoughts and free to observe how the other loitering applicants fared. Some looked nervous and jittery, and she supposed she must look like them. Others lounged about, exuding careless confidence.

As the hours passed, no one was turned away, though she didn’t know if they had all been approved to become capsuleers. Bennett barked out names, calling the young men one at a time to the counter. The sergeant handed each a pass and directed him to a doorway where a junior officer waited to escort them away. Finally, only she and a few other latecomers were left.

He called her name, and when she approached him she saw a peculiar glint in his eye. Then he handed her a pass and gestured to the door, where the junior officer had appeared. “You’ll be taken to the medical wing for examination and preliminary testing for capsuleer training,” Bennett explained. “Welcome to the navy.”