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The Journal: Chapter THREE

It was a late start for Ensign Travis Folen today. Lieutenant Dorien doesn't want him to his post until 17:00 so he figured he'd need all the sleep he could get. He finally got up around 11:00 and went down to the mess hall for morning chow. Hoping to get some exercise in he ate quickly and didn't try to socialize or introduce himself to anyone today. He finally got down to the Officers Fitness Gymnasium around 13:00. He stopped by the commissary beforehand and bought himself a decent pair of track pants and an imperial logo tank top and is now jogging around a small track that runs around the edge of a Scoopball court. Various other Officers are using the facilities but Travis's mind is lost in thoughts about the journal he has found in his room.

"I really should have just turned the damn thing into lost and found." He tells himself as he shakes his head. He knows that now that he's started reading it, it's going to be hard to stop.

His heart rate is been up for about 30 minutes now and he decides to slow down. He falls into a fast walk and takes a swig of water from the canister he has hanging from the loop on the side of the track pants. After a few minutes he circles around the track near the entrance to the Gym and makes his way out. There are so many people on board this ship that Travis is convinced he hasn't seen the same face twice since he's arrived. He keeps to himself all the way back to his quarters. He hops in his sonic shower once he returns and get's ready for the day. He spends a few minutes getting into his uniform and checks the time.

"Almost 15:00…" Travis says quietly to himself as he reads the time stamp on his terminal.

Travis takes a seat at his desk and opens the drawer. The journal and the datadisc are right where he left them. He picks up the journal and opens it to the last page he read.

""Entry 3:

I had my swimming race last night! Barret snuck us into the aquatic combat training facilities around 22:00. I totally kicked his butt! I think he let me win though…"

"Barret eh?" Travis says as he removes a small note pad from the desk and writes the name down.

"…Seeing him with his shirt off, I was sure he'd have lapped me three times before I finished my first lap. He was in really good shape and he gave me a serious case of stomach butterflies when he smiled at me while wearing so little. After he let me win, we sat on the edge of the pool and talked for a while. He was a real gentleman though, didn't try anything and I was impressed. Most guys I know would have tried to get physical right away. He walked me back to my quarters and kissed me on the cheek. It was so sweet! He's turning out to be such a softie! Eesla says I'm in love! I try to tell her that's crazy but maybe I am? I'll just have to see where it goes."

"Eesla. Another name to cross check." Travis thinks as he writes the name down as well.

"…Work has been ok, kind of a slow week. Fleet has us doing patrols in the Colundra Sector, so not a lot of traffic going to or from the ship. My CO seems to really like me though and gives me a lot of praises. It feels good to have everything going so well! V-"

Travis puts the journal down and pulls up the crew manifest database. He searches for all Officers on board with a first or last name of "Eesla". 25 results. 2 males and 10 females have the last name "Eesla", and 13 females have "Eesla" as a first name.

"Well I know it's a female, but I don't know if it's a first or a last name." Travis says as he looks at the information. "Could be a friend of hers or maybe her CO?"

Travis re-reads the last sentence of the entry. Based on the distinction between referencing Eesla and V's CO it doesn't seem to suggest the same person. Travis clears the search and enters the name "Barret" into the computer. 242 results pop up. Unfortunately with Travis's clearance it doesn't provide information on their department and there's still no telling if it's a first name or last name. Travis leans back in the chair.

"We know V.V. is a girl." Travis thinks. "We know she is from Talus, has a friend named Eesla, and knows some guy named Barret from Engineering. She came on board about 7 months ago. There's 180 V.V.'s on board that could be our author, at least 23 possible Eesla's and 242 Barrets."

Travis rubs the bridge of his nose. The clues are there but there's not a whole lot he can figure out on his own.

"Maybe Dayana was right, I should probably just ask Lieutenant Dorien to help." Travis says to himself as he closes the journal and puts it on the desk. "But not today. I should stop worrying about his and focus on my duties."

Travis pulls up the ship schematics on the terminal and gets familiar with the Ventral Side Turbolaser Array. Location, operating FOV, power output ect. He spends the next hour and half brushing up on all the pertinent information.

When he finally checks the time again it's nearly 16:40. He gets up and checks himself in the small mirror in his washroom. He straightens his black Officers uniform, secures his Code Cylinders into their pockets, and adjusts his hat. He takes a deep breath as he looks at his reflection.

"Here we go." Travis says aloud as he turns and exits his washroom.

As he heads for the exit to his quarters he glances at the journal on the desk. He decides to take it with him, hiding it behind his belt and under his tunic in the small of his back. He turns and heads towards the exit and leaves his quarters.

He strolls down the corridor with a propped up confidence. He carries himself as if he's been on the ship for years not days. He enters the turbolift and hits the button for level 55, the bottom most deck along the center axis near the main Docking Bay.

The ride is long and various crewmen and officers board and de-board the lift before Travis finally reaches deck 55. However he is still much closer to the stern of the ship than he is to the docking bay section. He gets on a small crew pod that runs along a rail line down the middle of the ship going from stern to bow. He rides it for a few minutes covering a distance of nearly 700 meters before getting off at a stop somewhere near the middle of the ship and close to the front of the main docking bay. There are almost no crewmen walking about in this section of the ship. The corridors are much smaller and less "polished" looking. Pipes and exposed electrical systems can be seen along the walls. Travis makes his way down to a nearby corridor junction. From there he takes an access stairwell to an even smaller corridor. This corridor runs along the outer most hull of the ship inside the main docking bay and as he passes by a small viewport he stops and peers through it.

The view is impressive. This small viewport sits along the forward most point of the main docking bay and sits just above the two Ventral Side Turbo laser Batteries. Travis can see directly across the main Docking Bay to the Main Shuttle bay on the far end. Above him he can see the various access hatches for the TIE Fighter launching bays and various launch bays for other landing craft. Below he can see an endless sky of stars. Travis smiles and nods his head slowly in approval. This sort of thing is exactly why he joined the Imperial Navy. Eventually he turns and continues down the small access corridor until he reaches a small alcove. Above the alcove is a small sign.

"Ventral Turbo Laser Control Station Two"

Travis boards the small lift in the alcove and hits the activation button. As it descends he gets his first look at his new work station. On the first level, the one the lift exits onto, Travis spots two visible work stations both with command chairs. On either side Travis can see access ladders leading to another level below and out of sight. Across from this first level is a large viewport overlooking the barrels of the turbolasers themselves and showing the firing arc of the weapons system. Standing behind the control stations are Lieutenant Dorien and Ensign Nevran, they are both watching as Travis descends. Beside them are two crewmen and as the lift stops, Lieutenant Dorien approaches.

"Welcome to the Ventral Side Turbo Laser Control Station Two, Ensign Folen." Lieutenant Dorien says.

"Thank you sir." Travis says as he steps off the lift. He looks around the room briefly.

"I believe you've already met Ensign Nevran." Dorien says as he holds an arm in Ensign Nevran's general direction. Ensign Nevran is smiling at Travis.

"Yes I have. Good evening Ensign." Travis says with a slight nod of his head.

"Allow me to introduce Petty Officer Nom Onasi, and Petty Officer Erran Cormin." Lieutenant Dorien says as the two crewmen step forward, they each nod as their names are said. "Petty Officer Onasi will be working the night shift and will be your Fire Controlman."

Petty Officer Nom Onasi is a dark skinned human with short curly black hair. He steps closer to Travis and extends a hand to Travis.

"Good to meet you sir." Onasi says as they shake hands.

Travis notices that Onasi's smile is big and very honest. Travis gets the impression that Onasi is honestly happy to meet him.

"Petty Officer Erran Cormin works the day shift and works primarily with Ensign Nevran and I." Lieutenant Dorien says. "Follow me please."

Lieuteant Dorien heads over to one of the small access ladders and climbs down. Travis follows him. Travis looks around the sub-deck, there are various access hatches for maintenance as well as 2 primary turbolaser firing control consoles and 2 smaller auxiliary control consoles. A crewman sits at each station.

"Crewmen, on your feet!" Dorien shouts at the seated crewmen. Each is wearing the typical light grey jump suit. They scramble from their seats and rush to take up a small formation before the Lieutenant and Travis. Two of them are male and the other two are female, and all of them are very young, no older than 18 years of age.

"This is Ensign Folen, he is our new night shift supervisor." Dorien says to the crewmen, they each look at Travis.

"Good evening Ensign Folen." The crewmen say in a poor attempt at speaking in unison. Travis holds back a smile.

"These are our Gunners mates. Going down the line, we have Crewman Callista Redd…"Dorien says as he points to the female on the far left, she smiles and nods at Travis.

"…Crewman Wolam Alder…" Dorien points to the young man standing beside Redd.

"…Crewman Arix Longstar…" Dorien points to the next male.

"…and finally, Crewman Alluria Creel." Dorien points at the female on the other end, she smiles as well.

"Crewmen Redd and Alder work the day shift and thus…" Dorien says as he takes a deep breath. "…Ensign Nevran and I get the joy of commanding them." Travis picks up on the obvious sarcasm in the Lieutenants voice.

"We know how proud of us you are sir!" Crewman Alder says with a big smile. The other crewmen hold back their silent laugher as best they can.

"Yes, indeed I am Wolam." Dorien says with a slight frown. He turns to Travis. "Crewmen Longstar and Creel will be working with you during the night shift."

"We look forward to working under you sir." Crewman Creel says as she bows slightly.

"*cough* Suck up! *cough*" Crewman Redd says under her breath.

"Enough Crewmen, back to your stations!" Lieutenant Dorien says as he shakes his head. The four crewmen rush back to their stations. Dorien turns to Travis.

"Under normal operations you will have one Fire Controlman upstairs with you, and two Gunners Mates down here." Dorien explains. "During any major engagements all four Gunners mates will be down here, two at the primary firing stations and two at the auxiliary stations. You will be down here managing them while Ensign Nevran and I, along with our Fire Controlmen, Petty Officers Onasi and Cormin, work upstairs. In those circumstances it can get crowded and hectic, but we have to have each other's backs, and we have to assist everyone as best we can. Even if that means taking a seat at one of the firing control consoles."

"Yes sir." Travis says.

"Being one of only two turbo laser batteries on the ventral side of the ship, this control station is a prominent target for enemy ships during engagements." Dorien explains. "We do have shielding in this section but nothing is perfect. I won't lie to you, the risks are great down here, but we also form a vital function for the ships battle operations."

Travis listens closely and nods his head as the Lieutenant speaks.

"While the ventral turbo lasers are not meant for planetary bombardments there is a chance we might be called upon to perform one in certain rare circumstances. If for example, the ship gets an emergency request to provide fire support to ground troops, sometimes the ship cannot bring the port or starboard turbolaser batteries into range fast enough. We can't afford to wait for the bridge to call the targets, we must be ready to fire as soon as the order comes down, and as a result we have to anticipate the Captains needs and ensure that our targeting computers have a lock on all targets we deem high risk or high value at all times. That is your primary duty. It'll take some getting used to but luckily Petty Officer Onasi is very good at his job and will be a valuable asset for you."

"Understood sir." Travis says.

"Let's get back up there." Lieutenant Dorien says as he turns back towards the access ladder. He climbs the ladder back up to the command level, Travis follows him. They approach the Command Console.

"Take a seat Ensign." Dorien says as he waves towards the chair before the Command Console.

Travis takes a quick deep breath as he sits down. He suddenly feels nervous. Lieutenant Dorien is standing right behind him, while Ensign Nevran, Petty Officer Onasi and Petty Officer Cormin watch.

"This is the Control Stations Command Console." Lieutenant Dorien explains. "From here, you can monitor all ships exterior operations. You can pull up current speed, trajectory, alert status, sensor data, damage reports, shield status, inbound and outbound traffic, and those sorts of things. Some of this data might seem irrelevant but any of these might become crucial if we are called upon to fire on a target."

"Yes sir." Travis says as he nods his head.

"This weapons platform possess XXY-9 Dual medium-" Dorien begins before Travis interrupts.

"XXY-9 Dual medium turbo lasers with a maximum energy output of 15,000 terajoules. A maximum sustained output of 3,500 terajoules. The entire emplacement is protected by quadanium steel plating and a level 6 shield barrier." Travis says as he pulls up the targeting controls on the console. "The targeting computer can accommodate 35 simultaneous targets to a distance of 100,000 kilometers each. Target lock time is estimated at point six seconds for stationary objects larger than ten square meters and upwards of 2 seconds for ones smaller. It can successfully target objects moving at a relative speed of 70,000 meters per second with targeting delays of less than 10 seconds."

Lieutenant Dorien raises his eyebrows and looks back at Ensign Nevran, she smiles at him.

"Not bad Ensign Folen." Dorien says as he looks back to Travis. "You'll soon learn that knowing the technical data is not the same as knowing the unique characteristics of this specific battery. She has a mind of her own some days. I'm glad you've done your research but don't let that knowledge get in the way of learning the ropes down here. Memorized information is not as practical as it seems."

Travis is slightly embarrassed and feels himself wanting to sink into the seat.

"Ensign Nevran is going to stay with you for a few hours to get you up to speed. Crewmen Redd and Alder are off duty now, as is Petty Officer Cormin. We'll be back in the morning. Good luck you two."

"Thank you sir." Travis says.

The Lieutenant relinquishes command of the Control Station to Ensign Nevran and retires for the night. The Lieutenant, Crewmen Alder and Redd and Petty Officer Cormin all squeeze onto the small lift and ascend into the ship and are gone.

Travis turns to Ensign Nevran as she sits down at the Fire Controlman's station beside him.

"Let's run some drills shall we?" Nevran says, sending a smile towards Travis.

"Sounds good." Travis says as he quickly looks away from her smile. He does his best to resist the blush that is trying to take over his cheeks.

After being pulled from the clouds by Lieutenant Dorien, Travis shields are down, and Nevrans charms will be dangerously effective.

"I'll go supervise the Crewmen while you two work." Petty Officer Onasi says as he heads towards the access stairs and climbs down.

"Thanks Nom." Ensign Nevran says.

"Alright Ensign Folen, let's start off easy…" Nevran says as she punches in some commands on her station, the console before Travis begins to show simulated targets.

The two spend the next hour or so running various drills and Travis feels a growing confidence as he succeeds in every step. Nevran is a good teacher, patient and confident. Fortunately for Travis she doesn't send any dangerous smiles at him the entire time and he is able to concentrate on his work more easily. Eventually they finish the final drill and they both sit back in their seats.

"Not bad Ensign." Ensign Nevran says as she looks over at Travis. "You're picking this up well."

"Thank you." Travis says, he dares to look at Nevran who instantly smiles at him, he manages to return the smile before turning his gaze back to his console.

"I think the Lieutenant likes you." Nevran says.

"Really?" Travis asks. "I didn't get that impression."

"Trust me, I think I know him well enough. He's impressed, even if he doesn't say so." Nevran says, her voice hints at the smile she's sending Travis's way. He tries to ignore it.

"That's good to know." Travis says. He is slowly bringing the entire Turbolaser emplacement around to look over the main docking bay, the room vibrates slightly as the motors turns the entire control station around. Eventually the movement stops and the viewports show a view of the Docking Bay.

"Ensign Nevran, what is that section across the way there?" Travis asks.

Nevran looks out the main viewport. Across from their position on the far end of the main docking bay is an array of lights.

"The array of lights under the Shuttle Bay?" Nevran asks.

"Yes." Travis says as he stares at it.

"That's Docking Bay Launch Control I believe." Nevran says. "Why?"

"Just curious." Travis says. "That's where they manage all inbound and outbound traffic right?"

"Yup." Nevran says as she looks down at the console before her. "It's getting late, I'd love to stay and keep you company on your first night, but I need to be back in here at 11:00. I should definitely head out, but don't hesitate to call me if you have any questions, i'm a light sleeper."

"It's ok. Thanks for all your help getting me settled." Travis says as he stands up with Ensign Nevran. "Goodnight Ensign."

"Dayana." Nevran says.

"I'm sorry?" Travis asks as he slightly cocks his head to the side.

"I'm off duty now Travis." Nevran says. She smiles at Travis again. This time he allows himself to enjoy its beauty and smiles back at her.

"Goodnight Dayana." Travis says.

Nevran turns and makes her way to the small lift. Travis watches at it ascends out of view. He turns back and sits down at the Command Console. He watches the display for a few minutes before looking up at the viewport. He looks across the Docking Port at the Docking Bay Launch Control.

"That's where V.V. was stationed." Travis says to himself. "I wonder if she still works in there. Heck she might even be in there right now."

Travis remembers the journal in the small of his back, he reaches through the opening in his uniform and removes it, opening to the last page he read from.

"Entry 4:

It's been a really busy week! There was an industrial accident on Troiken and the Captain has us involved in relief operations. Commander Lousen has gone down to the surface with an engineering detachment to help with repairs of the Xexto's power plant facility. Of course that means Barret had to go with them. I miss him already. Eesla says that's all the proof I need that I've fallen for him. Maybe she's right. Fortunately it's been so busy I haven't had time to really think about it. I've been directing a seemingly endless stream of ships coming and going from the Dark Star! I must have handled at least 40 docking procedures this afternoon alone!

The Lieutenant says I'm doing really well and he continues to give me praise. He's even asked that I be transferred to work the day shift so he and I can work together more closely! Things continue to look up for this Talusian!

-V"

Travis sits back and looks out the viewport again.

"If her Lieutenant thought so highly of her, then they must certainly be able to tell me who V.V. is. I should make a trip over there soon and see if I can't find her." Travis thinks to himself.

He is so lost in thought he doesn't hear Petty Officer Onasi climbing up the access ladder and approaching.

"What's that?" Onasi asks as he sits down beside Travis.

Instinctively Travis closes the book and puts it back in his tunic.

"Pardon?" Travis says as he quickly looks over to Onasi.

"That book." Onasi says with a smile as he turns his gaze to the console before him. "Some light reading to keep you awake?"

Travis isn't sure what to say for the moment.

"It's ok sir, I won't tell on you. Ensign Nevran brings books down her sometimes too. Not a lot to do on the night shift. I don't blame you." Onasi says as he works at his console.

"Yeah, makes sense." Travis says with a nervous laugh. "Thanks."

"No problem." Onasi says.

Travis wants to keep reading from the journal, but he's not willing to share this secret just yet, and he definitely doesn't want Onasi asking any questions. He decides to keep it in his tunic for now. He spends the rest of his shift in what his brother would call "business mode". Every so often he catches himself day dreaming of Dayana's smile.