God, I hate the Navy!
Ensign Darren Sanders clenched his fists and stalked back towards his quarters, seething after the reprimand he had just received from the Commander over his perceived lack of respect towards his superiors. He had merely tried to explain that there was a new method that could be used to make the work they were doing more efficient, and he had refrained from calling the Commander a dinosaur for his old-fashioned methods, but the man had clearly sensed his disdain and called Sanders to the carpet for it.
He knew all about the attitudes that were found in the higher ranks. He knew about the expectations of respect and subservience. He had thought he was prepared, but the Commander just completely rubbed him the wrong way.
If I could just get off this damn ship, I'd be better off.
His insubordination, mild as it was, had already cost him three days of leave. They had finally made it to port after six months at sea and he had been looking forward to meeting his girlfriend in town but now all his plans were for nothing. He was stuck on board for another six months and if he didn't jump overboard before that time was up it would be a freaking miracle.
Deciding that he needed to cool off a little more before turning in, Sanders changed direction and headed for the upper deck of the cruiser. At least he'd have a good view of town from up there, and the wind off the harbor might cool him down enough to let him sleep.
Once he had reached the deck he moved to the rail and looked out over the harbor to see the lights of the city a few miles away. He wondered, not first the first time, why he had even agreed to follow family tradition and joined the Navy in the first place. His heart wasn't in it like his father's had been, or his grandfather (if his father's stories were true). He'd never felt the call of the sea or seen the need to become part of something that required so much sacrifice. He had the brains and drive to do so much more but he'd bowed to his father's influence and had set himself on a course that wasn't taking him where he wanted to go. He wondered if it wasn't too late for a career change…
He had been standing there for perhaps fifteen minutes when he finally decided it was time to go back to his quarters - it was getting chilly. Just as he was making that decision the temperature seemed to drop about 40 degrees and much to his surprise he could see his breath when he let out a slow exhalation. He felt all the hairs rise on the back of his neck and, sensing a presence behind him, he started to turn, almost expecting (hoping) to see the Commander behind him, ready to give another lecture.
The next thing he knew he had flipped over the railing and he was falling towards the deck below. He barely had time to scream before agony slammed into him and everything went dark.
Commander Barry Thompson adjusted his cover and stepped out onto the deck, shaking his head at the memory of his earlier confrontation with Ensign Sanders. The kid was a hothead, and more than a little full of himself, that was certain. Dan had warned him about Darren and Thompson had been chagrined to learn that the boy's father was right, but he had promised his old crewmate that he'd straighten Darren out. Learning to respect his senior officers was a well-needed first step in that process.
A short, strangled scream, followed almost immediately by a heavy thump pulled him from his thoughts and he started to search for the source of the sound. There weren't many crew members left on the ship, since most were out on liberty. He sincerely hoped the ones left behind hadn't gotten into a fight to take out their frustrations for being confined to the ship.
Thompson rounded the corner and almost tripped over something lying on the deck. A quick glance revealed that it was a body. He sucked in a breath in surprise and leaned down to check for signs of life.
No pulse. Damn it.
He started to call for assistance as the clouds parted and in the dim moonlight he saw the wide, dead eyes of the unfortunate man. Very familiar eyes.
He tried again to find some signs of life, but there was nothing. Dan's boy was dead.
"Damn it, son, what did you do?"
Soon a second thought penetrated his personal grief and he felt a sinking sensation in his stomach.
Oh, God. Not again…