Part 1"It is time Monroe"
Monroe bowed in front of his commander who had become so much more over the last twenty-three years. His heart was heavy. This day marked the end of Commander Lewis' position on the Phoenix. A new commander was to be chosen on this day.
Commander Thomas J. Lewis stood on the bridge of his ship. His tired brown eyes looking farther than the blackness could reach. He had spent fifty years flying through the darkness hoping to find a place to call home other than his ship. What he found was frightening.
Wars between planets and civilizations, all hungry for power and wanting to stake their territory. Visions of past battles haunted the commander. He had seen so much death and destruction. So many innocent lives lost at the hands of renegade fighters whose sole purpose was to destroy every living thing in sight.
It had become too much for the commander. Now his health was failing him and he had no other option than to turn over his command and hope that his cause would still live on.
Monroe waited patiently, sensing the turmoil in his lover's presence. "When you are ready commander."
Monroe was an everlast. Named so because he was immortal. He had seen many who came before the commander but none who strived so hard to end the wars and make peace between the feuding realms. There was also none that he had grown so fond of. His world
would become a lonely place with the absence of his friend and mentor, but he vowed to follow the next chosen commander.
Commander Lewis turned towards his bowing lover and smiled at the formal gesture he no longer required from him. He reached his aged hand out and ran his fingers through the dark hair of his companion who would never join him on the other side. He willed himself to be young again and rejoice with his love, but alas it wasn't meant to be. He smiled with much regret.
"Let's go, love"
The star ship was huge. Perhaps one of the largest in existence and the Commander had decided to invite the prospective candidates to board the ship. He had spent weeks looking over hundreds of profiles. Finally he selected three that appeared to be the best. He read every article and transcript available on the three he had favored before inviting them to the ship. Next would be a face to face meeting that would determine the final decision.
The main conference room was currently filled with the three anxious guests. It was an honor just to be on board the ship. The thought of becoming the next commander of such a distinguished vessel only added to the anxiety.
All three heads turned as the door slid open and Commander Lewis entered. The trio began to stand to show their respect but was halted for their efforts.
"Please....don't get up." The Commander took his seat at the head of the table and looked up. On the outside the Commander was all business. He projected confidence and self-control. On the inside the Commander felt as if he was going to lose control at any given moment. 'Which one of you will take my place?' he asked himself. His eyes searched each face before him as if there would be some special marking that would proclaim who the next commander would be.
The first applicant was General Douglas Baker. He was a handsome man in his mid thirties who had served in the district 7 legion for 15 years. A skilled pilot who led the legion in captures, he was also a husband and proud father of two little girls. His green eyes told the truth that his boyish features tried to hide. He too had seen many battles, but like the Commander he dreamed of bringing peace to the nations surrounding his homeland.
Next was Lt. James T. Miller. His red hair was cut close to his head in military fashion. He sat straight in his chair and his clothes were pressed to perfection. Lt. Miller was well known and respected for running one of the best-organized fleet of ships in this region. His organizational skills were fine-tuned and he was a decorated soldier. He chose a military career over becoming a husband and father.
Commander Lewis looked on to the next candidate. Special agent Robin L. Sword. The only woman out of 213 to apply. The Commander was impressed with her profile. Top in her class at hand to hand combat, she excelled in weaponry and search and seizure tactics. Every covert operation she had led ended in success. Agent Sword had only killed in matters of self-defense and vowed to fight for the greater good, hoping that someday
blood shed would be a thing of the past. She was single and expressed her interest in returning to pilot status if not chosen as commander.
At 26 years old Robin believed her youth and inexperience with large command ships would prevent her from being chosen. She never dreamed she would make it to the final stage of selection. Now she sat in silence as the commander looked at her.
The Commander took a deep breath and spoke to the three soldiers before him. "You have been chosen out of hundreds of prospective replacements. I would like to commend you all for your efforts in ending this war."
The Commander took a deep breath. He looked to Monroe who stood at the door. The warm smile he received gave him the strength to get through this.
"I have scheduled an individual interview with each of you. You will talk with my assist" the commander motioned toward Monroe "then you will speak with me. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to voice them."
Three heads nodded in acknowledgment. The Commander grinned at the enthusiastic looks before him. "I will make my final decision tomorrow. You will each stay in your own room and will be given a series of tests that will determine things about you that have nothing to do with war or commanding. If one of you are to replace me I want to know more about you than your military profile can show."
Again three heads nodded in understanding. The commander continued to speak.
"If you are chosen you will start immediately. You will work under my command for as long as I am able. Monroe will be able to assist you with most of your questions if I am unavailable."
A guard at the door interrupted the commander. "Commander Lewis, the information you requested, sir."
The Commander nodded to Monroe, who stepped over and retrieved the file from the guard
Turning on his heels, the guard disappeared as fast as he had arrived.
The Commander opened the file and read over its contents. A brief summary of disciplinary action that each soldier before him had proscribed to his subordinates. For a split second Monroe saw the first expression since the meeting began cross his partners face. Anger.
"Lt. Miller." He paused as he continued to read the facts presented before him. Disgust filled his elderly body.
"You are no longer eligible for this position Lt." The commander dropped the folder on the table and looked the red haired man in the eye. "I would suggest that the next time you feel the need to whip one of your crew members for making a mistake, you be prepared to take the first 10 lashes of his punishment. You will be escorted off this ship immediately."
The lieutenant could feel his anger rising. "He deserved it."
The Commander stared intently into his green eyes. "He made a mistake Lt."
"A mistake that could have cost our lives."
"I will not argue with you about this Lt. you are free to go."
The Commander called for a guard to escort the Lt. to the docks where he would be deported back to his station and possibly stripped of his rank.
The young soldier who had been on the receiving end of the Lt.'s whip had sent out a radio signal to his family. It was his first assignment and his excitement blinded him to the fact that his simple 'hello' to his family would bring him such punishment. The signal was sent on an open frequency and heard by anyone listening. The young soldier did not identify himself so the transmission could not be linked to any particular place. The Lt. over reacted and whipped the young soldier to near death, an action that led to his disqualification of potential Commander status.
General Baker and Agent Sword sat quietly. The energy that flowed from the elderly commander had not aged like his body. Blue eyes watched as the Commander took several deep breaths to calm his emotions.
The Commander did not believe in such harsh punishment. He was upset that this information was not available to him prior to this meeting.
"Well...." he looked at the remaining two candidates. "If you don't have any questions I will let you retire to your rooms to begin your testing."
As the commander stood to leave, both the General and Special Agent stood. His face did not betray his thoughts. He inwardly smiled at the difference in the two soldiers. Agent Sword stood at least eight inches taller than the General did. The general had the look of a weathered soldier and the agent had the look of determined youth. It would be interesting to see the results of their tests.
Robin stepped into her room. It was built to accommodate no more than what was necessary. To the right sat a desk with a small lamp. On top the desk lay a pad of paper and an ink pen. Folded against the back wall, was a bunk to sleep on. The only inviting piece of furniture in the room, was an over stuffed chair that the 6'1 agent fell into without a second thought.
She stretched her long legs out and easily propped them on the corner of the desk.. She closed her crystal blue eyes and took a deep breath. She let the events of the day unravel in her mind.
She had been training new recruits when she got the letter. A small envelope sealed with the mark of Commander Lewis. She assumed it was a 'thank you for your interest but I regret to inform you' letter. Instead she found that she had been chosen as one of three final selects.
She would attend a special meeting, aboard the Commanders ship where she would undergo another series of tests. Robin wasted no time in preparing for departure. She had no family or friends to say goodbye to or wish her well. She gathered her belongings for the overnight stay and waited for the passenger ship to pick her up.
Now here she sat. One of two selects. The thought of taking more tests made her nervous. She had never let anyone get to know her personally and felt as if she were being violated by exposing such personal information to the Commander.
"What if I don't have enough experience. What if I fail these tests....what if......."
She took a deep breath in an effort to calm herself. She could do this, especially if it meant becoming Commander of this ship. She mentally kicked herself for allowing her insecurities
to play such havoc with her abilities.
A knock on her door brought her out of her reverie. Her blue eyes shifted to the door as she stood up. "It's now or never." She told herself. Monroe waited for the door to open before entering.
"Hello Agent Sword. My name is Monroe. I am here to start your interview"
The tall agent smiled down at the warm brown eyes looking up at her. She motioned for him to enter and the interview began.
"Agent Sword I would like to state that everything we talk about in here will be kept between you, me and the Commander. If you are uncomfortable with these questions you may keep your answers to yourself, but I need to inform you of the importance of answering all of the questions. Are you ready?"
Robin nodded her head "Yes sir."
The everlast smiled at the title. "You may call me Monroe, Agent Sword."
"All right. I'm ready, Monroe."
The questions started out simple enough. Full name, height, and weight. Date of birth. Citizenship. Rank and identification number. Soon the questions began to get more personal. Parents name, brothers and sisters, Marital status, sexual orientation, dependents.
Robin answered all of the questions without hesitation. For a fleeting second she felt a pain stab at her as she spoke the name of her parents and the name of her brother for the first time in six years. But the pain didn't last long and she was on to the next question. Single. Prefers women. No dependents.
"Do you wish to find a life mate Agent Sword?"
She rubbed her chin and looked to the ceiling for an answer. Robin hadn't really thought about a life mate. She was so focused on her career that the thought of finding someone never interested her. However, she contemplated the question and answered.
"Perhaps someday Monroe."
"Would you leave your position as Commander to bond with your life mate?"
"No. I would require someone who would stay with me aboard the ship."
Monroe smiled at the immediate response. He liked this tall woman. She was no-nonsense and straight to the point. Just the kind of leader the Phoenix would need.
"How do you feel about taking command of the ship and having to work under the orders of Commander Lewis?"
Robin took a deep breath and answered with all honesty.
"Monroe...I will not lie to you. I have never commanded a ship of this size. I don't doubt my abilities to take command, but I would be delighted to work under Commander Lewis for an indefinite amount of time. His knowledge and skills can only enhance and strengthen my ability to command this ship more effectively. It would be my honor to follow his orders."
Monroe listened and made notes as the agent continued to talk. She was making a strong impression on the everlast. He did not want to make any decisions before interviewing General Baker but he had a gut feeling that he was talking to his next commander already.
The interview continued for a few minutes and then it was time for Monroe to move on.
"Agent Sword, thank you for your honesty and willingness to answer these questions. I wish you well."
The tall woman smiled at the everlast. She really liked the little guy. Something about him made her feel at ease. She hoped she would be able to work with him if appointed to the position of commander.
"Thank you Monroe."
As Monroe reached the door, he turned to speak to the agent. He could feel the power that radiated off of the woman. She looked regal. Her black hair fell free around her shoulders. Monroe guessed her height to be around six feet, even through the flight suit she had on Monroe could see the muscles of her body. He hoped the commander would be as impressed with her.
"Agent Sword, Commander Lewis will be arriving here shortly to speak to you. Do you have any questions?"
"No. I think I'll be okay."
"You'll do fine. The commander is an excellent judge of character Agent Sword. Just be yourself."
Monroe turned and walked out the door, then down the long corridor. He hoped the Commander felt better. Monroe remembered the way Commander Lewis had demanded against Doctors orders, that he personally interview the candidates. 'At least there are only two now' Monroe thought to himself as he stopped outside of General Baker's door. 'Here we go again'.
Agent Sword closed her door, and sat back down in the over stuffed chair. She found herself getting nervous and decided to try and work it off. Since this room was only a fraction of the size she needed to accommodate her normal workout; she opted for the only thing she could do. Push-ups.
She pulled her long black hair back into a loose pony-tail and performed a few stretches to warm up her muscles then positioned herself on the floor and began her work out. Her mind becoming focused on the task at hand as her body channeled all the excess energy into what was becoming a vigorous work out.
"48....49....50..." Without stopping the agent pulled her left arm behind her back and continued on for twenty more one armed push-ups. Half way through her last set she
heard a soft knock at her door. She quickly jumped up and ran to open it.
"Commander Lewis, please come in."
The commander looked at the tall woman closely. She was sweating and breathing hard.
"Are you all right Agent Sword?'
"Yes sir. I was just working out to release some of my nervous energy."
The Commander couldn't help but smile at the woman. "Honest. I like that." He thought to himself.
Commander Lewis took a seat in the chair and ordered the tall woman to unfold her cot and have a seat. Robin wasted no time in following his instructions.
"I trust that Monroe explained everything to you."
"Yes. He made everything very clear, sir."
"Good. Now, I want to talk to you about this ship."
Robin listened intently as the elderly man explained that the ship was home to over one thousand crew members. All of which took direct orders from him. Most were civilians who volunteered their services and developed into well skilled workers. There were two hospitals on board the ship and several nursing stations in between. The center of the ship held a large area called the Rink. The social gathering place for anyone and everyone who wished to go. Most of the ceremony's and activities took place in the rink. Kid's loved it.
The agent's eyes never left the commander. She knew his reputation for being a kind and gentle leader. He was good to his crew and expected everyone to work as a team. She liked the commander and knew that he could teach her all the things she didn't know about commanding. That is if he chose her to replace him.
"Agent Sword, I would like to know if you plan on finding a husband and having children?"
"With all do respect sir, I informed Monroe that perhaps some day I may look for a life mate, but I made it clear that 'she' would have to be willing to stay with me on the ship. That is if I am appointed to the position sir."
The commander nodded his head in understanding.
"Do you have any questions you would like to ask me agent?"
"Sir, I would like to be considered for a pilot position should General Baker be chosen as commander."
"Very well Agent Sword. Anything else."
Commander Lewis could tell that the young woman wasn't holding out for the commander position. He believed that the woman possessed every skill needed to command the large ship, still he liked her modesty.
The commander stood to leave the small room. "You are free to roam the ship Agent Sword. Please make yourself at home and enjoy your stay here."
"Sir.....I guess I did forget something"
The commander turned and waited.
"I just wanted to thank you for this opportunity."
"You are welcome Agent Sword. You were chosen because you possess skills and expertise in areas most people wouldn't dream of pursuing. I feel you would be an asset to any crew."
Robin couldn't stop the grin making its way across her face at the compliment.
"Thank you, sir"
The commander nodded his head and left the room. He had already spoken with General Baker and was now anxious to retreat to his room. Monroe would be along soon and the two of them would go over the interviews together and make the final decision.
Robin reclined her long frame on her cot and closed her eyes. She felt that the interviews had gone well and sensed that both the commander and Monroe seemed to like her. Now it was the waiting game. She forced herself to relax. Her blue eyes counting the stars that hung softly outside her window. Before long the silence of the room lulled her to sleep. There would be plenty time to count stars later.
Back in the commander's room Monroe laid in bed, his arms wrapped protectively around the commander. It didn't take them long to reach a decision. Both men agreed that Special Agent Robin L. Sword would become Commander Sword in the morning. The decision was based more on Robin's personal profile instead of her military profile.
Her record was impeccable. She had the skills. That wasn't a problem. The commander's heart went out to the woman who had lost her family at such a young age. She didn't speak in depth about the raid. She didn't have to. The commander could see it in her eyes. For a brief second they hardened and lost their sparkle. He knew the pain. He had felt it first hand years ago. Luckily, Robin had taken a terrible tragedy and turned it into the driving force behind her success. Commander Lewis knew she would lead the Phoenix to greatness.
As the day came to an end, it brought with it a new beginning, a beginning that would bring with it the hopes of hundreds of thousands of civilizations, wishing for peace. A peace that would be delivered to them by the unknowing, sleeping agent who would be appointed Commander in less than ten hours......
Continued In Part 2