I got my wish and I was informed that I was now a part of the Survey sub-branch. Surveying worlds and systems is actually a complex process that can take a whole year. It is really a branch that also deals with teams rather than the lone starpilot. The thing is this next term was a little more exciting because of it. It was also a lot more dangerous.
Because of my transfer I was asked to head to a training school for the next year. I was actually pretty excited because you can learn a lot in these schools and there was one school in particular that I was interested in – Intelligence School. When surveying systems, one of the opportunities you have is to go planetside to worlds that have not yet been contacted by the Republic and assess based on pretty stringent criteria if they are ready for contact. Also survey teams can be called upon for intelligence gathering missions and even wartime missions involving espionage. I found myself crossing my fingers again.
I got my school assignment while I was in the base offices on Aurora but I immediately walked over to a friend I had formed in administration a couple of years back and asked what I could do about it. They wanted to send me to specialist school but I knew with a little finagling I could get it changed. I called in a favor and found myself on my way to intelligence school. It was a year of intense training that culminated with me learning how to engage in hand to hand combat with a small amount of expertise and learned how to pick locks, open safes and pick pockets. Once that year was completed I knew the scouts would put me into something interesting.
Boy was I wrong, my next year I ended up on a survey team in a fairly unremarkable system other than its one trait which was to have an atmosphere absolutely hostile to human life. I spent the whole year walking around in a Vacc Suit trying to mark resources on a planet that the Republic had previously marked for industrial expansion probably with a robot factory and mining operation. We were there to confirm the findings of the exploration team.
That was one thing this year brought to me that was different and that was working with a team of three other people. In this case two old men who had the dirtiest minds and a woman who seemed to hate my guts. I was the operator of the spacecraft which we used to move everything from different points on the planet. I helped by also being a kind of cargo handler to move things around for the rest of the team. The woman was the Engineer and Robot operator and she absolutely shooed me away from the equipment. I often found myself with the two dirty old men who probably had a dirty joke or innuendo for me every other sentence.
One was the exploration expert and the other the scientist and they spent the vast majority of the rest of their time, when they were not trying to get into my pants, running over routine data and doing scientific assessments. For both of them it was their last mission as they retiring. My being eye candy paid off though as they both recommended me for promotion and I moved from RS-3 to RS-4 Skilled Worker. The last night we were in hyperspace before arriving at Aurora for their mustering out service, I snuck into each of their rooms and gave them a proper sendoff. The next morning for the first time in a year their were no jokes and both of them probably think they got the upper hand on the other one because they both had stupid grins on their faces. I smiled, let them each kiss me on the cheek and pat my butt and then watched them walk off to their ceremony. I had no rest because my assignment for the next year and already come through and I turned around and hopped another ship two hours after landing.
I arrived few weeks later on a planet that had a scout base and you know what those bastards in the scout service did to me? Base duty for the next year. There were only three good things that came out of it; the rest was the mindless tedium of shoveling paperwork for the survey branch. One, I improved my education at a college nearby. Two, I got promoted to Assistant Team Leader (RS-5). Three, I got laid far more often. Now before you label me a slut or something you need to remember a few things: 1) I am a spaceman and long term relationships are just not possible but I am still a sexual female who gets horny. 2) Medical technology has advanced to the point that a girl can pretty much control when she gets pregnant and I was in no hurry to do that. 3) The same medical technology has pretty much eliminated sexual diseases. I also wasn’t just banging whoever came along, I had only three boyfriends during the entire time at base but I kept them active in my bedroom as much as possible. Most of my breakups were simply the guy got transferred and we would kiss goodbye and both of us would move on. Still, I was happy when they transferred me back to more active duty.
I found myself with a new team of scouts ready to survey an entire system. I was assistant team leader and the Pilot/Navigator. Commanding the operation was Team Leader Joshua Sanchez. I list his name where I keep the rest anonymous because he died on this mission but not till the end and he would be my first long term companion since Regulus III. He was the exploration expert and in my mind this is the best role to also be team leader of survey team. The other two team members were a female scientist and a male engineer both of which were friendly enough and obviously a couple themselves at least on this trip. The nice thing on this trip is that no one minded too much that I looked over their shoulder or asked questions. I learned a lot about surveying planets. Most of this is done in orbit but when we ran into something weird we would drop planetside and Joshua and company would go check it out leaving me alone to watch the ship. At night the four of us would get together, have dinner and talk about the day and maybe entertain ourselves with a movie or games or something. In the end, we would retire for the night; the other two to a room, and Joshua and me to a room. I don’t know if it was love but out lust level was pretty high the whole time and it is nice just to cuddle when you have had a hard day.
The incident that ended Joshua’s life happened a week out of us heading back to our base to report and get our new assignments. I landed the ship on a flat plain next to some hills. Something in the hills was making weird signals for our sensors so the team headed out. I stayed behind to monitor the spacecraft and use the active sensors to watch over the rest of the team while they rode out in the enclosed grav car. I lost visual sight of them but kept in contact. They were looking at some weird caves when things went horribly wrong. The signal we were getting was an alien life form that had developed chameleon like properties and suddenly an unknown number of them attacked the grav car. The car had turret with a pulse laser so Joshua manned it and fired pretty much at random. One of the critters, which we never got visuals on, attacked the turret and Joshua’s head was taken off with it. The rest of the team managed to get out and drive back to the ship. I fired up the drives and hovered off the ground as they entered the grav car bay. I closed the airlock bay for the grav car and fired the thrusters and got the hell out of there.
I was the new team leader so I made the decision to head home early. Thankfully the other two cleaned up Joshua’s body and put it in a body-bag. Even so, every night I would go to bed and cry myself to sleep. We landed and gave our report. The scouts were kind enough to let us have the week we had left of our term off because of the death. I received my promotion to Team Leader but it was kind of hollow for me. I heard later that the Marines and Navy did a mission and pretty much wiped out the bastards. What became awkward for me was that Joshua’s wife and two kids showed up to claim his body and I had to put a pretty face on it. He had never said a word about them.
My second term ended and I once again wanted something different. I guess my grief caused me to jump back into work. I not only reenlisted but put in for a transfer again knowing full well I could end up back in Communications. I also got two other forms to fill out one for my personnel file – the anagathics intention form and a transfer notice of my father’s assists to my control. I had filled the forms out two years ago but it took this long for the wheels of bureaucracy to get me the money. The weird things was that dad’s account had been almost bled dry a day before the attack on Regulus III. All that was left was 50,000 credits which is a tidy sum but I knew my dad had saved up a lot more. The mystery of this began to turn over in my head but I never got a real chance to look into it other than to investigate reports when ever I had downtime. Something was not right and I wanted to get to the bottom of it but the Scout Service still controlled my destiny.