I stood at attention. From the corner of my eyes I studied the room before me. It was filled with shiny stuff, chrome, gold, glass, and a black floor which seemed as deep as space itself. A shapely, slender blonde woman stood next to me, rod stiff and shaking slightly. Her breathing was ragged in her nervousness. Before me was a middle aged man with no hair on the top of his head and a slight bulge in the middle. Behind his huge genuine imitation wood desk stood two flags, that of Earth and the proud flag of the Hell Fighters, a golden eagle standing on the Earth.
Awed and stunned by my surroundings, and the thinly veiled antagonism in Commander Lebert's voice, I swallowed several times before I could answer.
"Lieutenant Anthony L. Rice, USC, 157 . . . "
"I just asked your name, Lieutenant, not your life's story." The commander looked at his two newest replacements with a disapproving scowl.
"And you?" the commander switched his gaze to the woman beside me. I had only met her on the trip out, which was short considering that all but a few hours were spent in stasis. The commander's question somehow managed to sound like an accusation. I decided that the commander was an expert at belittling people.
"Samp, sir, Lieutenant Marty E. Samp."
"I wouldn't be too proud of it, Lieutenant, I gave Spaccom very specific instructions concerning the posting of females to my outfit. Don't grow attached to this place."
"That shouldn't be a problem sir," she said unemotionally.
"What's that supposed to mean!" he jumped to his feet and leaned close until his sweating face and bent nose were inches from hers. I involuntarily moved a step closer, as if to come to her aid. The commander saw the move and smiled in a twisted, perverted way. I turned my eyes straight forward, swallowing my anger. This was all new to me, most people liked me once they knew me. I had no enemies that I knew of and I got along well with everyone, mainly because of my sense of humor. But I knew I would never get along with the commander, and since assignments to Bristol Ready Base were four years long, I knew it would be four of the hardest years of my life. The commander had taken command six months ago, so he would be there for most of my tour. I didn't like it. I didn't like it at all.
"I assign trash to Lieutenant Commander Temple," he said with some relish. "Report ASAP!" his shout was unnecessary and I knew it was meant to rattle us.
Samp began to turn away, but when she saw me standing fast, she jerked back to attention. The commander glared at her, then studied me with shrewd, malicious eyes.
"Dismissed," he finally said with a twist of his lips. We saluted and turned to go.
"I hope you like Black Wing," his snide comment followed us to the door.
"Screw you," I said under my breath.
"What?" his roar rattled the lamp on his desk.
"Shrewd view," I lied, herding Samp before me.
"Thanks," Samp said as we stepped through the door and it slid shut behind us, "I almost blew it.