"Welcome to EMS Ambulon, students!"
"I am Meihomei
of the armed forces, do any of you know what this means?"
"Everyone knows the Telbun is what happens to someone who teaches soldiers how to soldier for a living, Zim!"
"Eh, a nice turn of phrase that, student, what is your name?"
"I am Academy student Maelle Comma, Zim!"
"And what do you think I do, to teach others how to soldier?"
"Seems to me Zim that between enduring adverse conditions, the actions of the enemy and a soldier's bad luck, you remind them that while they endure, they're still the best we got, Zim!"
"My, and you're still in school?"
"I hope to graduate this term, Zim!"
"And does any of your classmates have anything to say about this?"
"Student Comma is our valedictorian, Zim, we let her do the talking sometimes..." The student who managed those words was the only one not hiding a smile.
"My, what a smart teacher you must all have..." Beat. "...but then, I know retired Taimini Dragenfels, I owe her a beer, seems there's some sense in this year's class, and my time won't be completely wasted. Attention to orders, students, I want the eight of you to get up on the rigging and put down the mainsail, the six of you up the rigging for that mizzen, six of you to reinforce the mizzenmast with the pulleys, you three at the mooring cables, and you four will be touring the deck, I want to see this ship ship-shaped in no time, do you hear me? Oh, and before we move on, do all of you know what those navy terms I used mean?"
"Students released to duties, make me proud!"
"And me Zim?" Asked student Comma.
"You get to rest your brain, you're on navigation duty, plot us a course past Megamisama Lighthouse
, direction Valkyrie Bay
, and after that, you're on the helm."
An hour later...
"Elements caught with their pants down, you can actually read a sextant?"
"I was taught by my late father Zim."
"And your father was?"
"A Border Guard
, served on ships all his life, could teach a sailor a thing or two, I miss him."
"Well, he certainly did a good job, so what did you expect to get to do here? I noticed you started when I said you were on navigation."
"I am the highest-ranking student, I expected ... I expected to be in nominal, often ignored command, Zim."
"You are the highest-ranking student here, and the privilege of commanding others is earned! I'm pleasantly surprised you know your way around navigation, it's especially important as you go higher in rank."
"So, I may not get busted back at Flag-girl
, you think?"
"Told those Mizzens you assigned that their ropes were slack, gave our new sail centre a boat twirl to unfurl her sail before she broke her arm trying to twist it loose without coming back down, and Zim? I'd appreciate it if you had noticed. You were watching them..."
"And I was watching you, and you did it just right, I had no need to say anything, you had it handled."
Maelle Comma, it is my Mei privilege to inform you that you are therefore to be referred to as acting Adjen
of this boat, and your flag, such as it is, will ride in pride of place. on the first mast on Ambulon, just like Empress Kagome's once did, hundreds of years ago, before she founded Kagomei. Do I need to explain to you just what an honour this is?"
"Zim! No Zim!" She didn't think she had started crying, but... well those happy tears, just as long as no one else saw...
"For the next eight bells, or until ordered otherwise, you are Ambulon Flag-bridge
, and are to be referred to as Ambulon-flag in official communications, repeat after me, not Ambulon-Factual, not Ambulon-Actual, Ambulon-Flag, got it? You are to file our passage notice to the lighthouse, and our plans to the lifeguards there to loiter in Valkyrie Bay working up exercises as ordered by Meihomei herself."
Later, in the communications cabin.
"Megamisama-Zenith, this is Ambulon-Flag, Megamisama-lighthouse, do you copy?" Her voice was shaking, she had done this a few times... in her dreams.
"We read you, Ambulon-Kagomei." Replying using the agreed upon formula, even as they were very surprised indeed, in the lighthouse, both to be replying to that coded word, and to be even seeing the ship today, they expected the ship at last light, not dinner time, even for a fairly proficient crew.
"Megamisama-lighthouse, be advised we are planning to loiter past your watch into Valkyrie Bay and conduct workups by order of Meihomei."
"Ambulon-flag, we'll be watching, and recording, seems you have real sailors aboard to even make it to us this soon. We were expecting your crossing next shift!"
"Lighthouse, I don't know what you mean."
"I shouldn't explain the joke, Ambulon, but the code between us and the Telbun is that he says to talk to us as Ambulon-Factual if the student needs work, Ambulon-Actual if the student needs just a little polish. In 12 years, it's the first time we've ever had someone who either mangled their orders or was actually told by the Telbun to communicate as Ambulon-flag, meaning they should be teaching at the academy, not taking classes. But judging from what we see here, Ambulon, it's not a garble, that's a taut sail!"
"Ambulon to Lighthouse, you expected half a sailor? On Ambulon
?" She was insulted.
"Apologies, Ambulon-flag, but I've seen half-sailors on Ambulon before. If anything, it's the first time I'm seeing a full complement of full sailors on her. And a damn nice sight it is! Compliments from us, Ambulon, when you make it back to shore, let us know, we're buying. For those of you old enough to drink, anyways!"
"All of us are of legal drinking age, last I checked, lighthouse, but we don't all drink, you better pack some ribs too!"
"Orange ribs a la Tsou, we're making notes."
"Over and out, Lighthouse."
"Stay safe and proud, Ambulon!"
Ten minutes before shift end, on the flag bridge.
"No, what did they say?"
"They said the sail was pretty taut and tried to bribe the crew with drink, I cut off their wicked attempt at bribery."
"Oh? They didn't compliment you on the smoothest passage through the The Neck of the Heart
in at least 12 years?"
"Was that what it was?"
"Acting-Adjen Comma, this is the first cruise of Ambulon where I've not had cause to correct or instruct even half the crew, you beat me to it with most of them. I'm supernumerary here, and I shouldn't need to tell you that it is quite unusual for me to be so."
"I am flattered, Zim."
"Tacks, you can call me Kon."
"What's that name, Kon?"
"Tacks, because you're hard as a brass tack, and you'll be for sure, as much of a pain in the ass as one to someone, someday. You're a true fussbudget, not taking any flak, but not making mistakes of your own either. Anyone who wants to go up will have to worry you'll knock them back down on your own way to the top."
"And you can tell all that in a shift, Kon?"
"I can tell I don't have to teach you about the sea, and precious little to tell you about sailors. I get all the specials here, on Ambulon, the students whose parents hope will be bright stars, and the students who'd rather be left alone, but who show unusual insight. I don't say that little spiel about your flag being on the same mast as Kagome herself often, and not just because it's a rarely deserved comparison."
"I try not to think of all the flags I've seen going up who didn't deserve it nearly as much as yours."
She blushed, then remembered herself. "Will that be all, Zim?"
"Oh, go get some rest, of course, Ambulon-flag, you're relieved. spear-haft Quinn
! To the flag deck!"
"You think only officers can lead?"
"No, he can, he's just rough, unpolished, coarse some time."
"Ah, yes, but that gives me something to do! Get some sleep Zim, I've not lost Ambulon yet, and I plan to hand her back to you for your shift."
At the end of Spear-haft Quinn's shift.
"Student Quinn, I commend you for your taking mad risks in your repairs to our splintered mast top, but that shouldn't be necessary. Learn to do things the safe way, this Navy needs to keep sailors after they've done heroics, not bury them at sea, am I making myself clear?"
"Aye, Zim, you are."
"Send Mast Dulong
to me on your way down."
"Going all formal on me?"
"I... think I better shape up, no way am I going anywhere good if there's a Maelle Comma to compare me against."
"Oh, you noticed she knows what she's about huh?"
"Aye, Zim, she even helped me with knots, and I thought I knew a bit about them..."
"Your three merits in class, and your extra-curricular badges in knot-making?"
"How did you know about those?"
"One of my cousins was your instructor, he does indeed know knots. However, he does not know sailing like Maelle Comma does."
"What do you mean?"
"Maelle was able to help you because she understood the context of the knot, not the knot itself. Am I making sense?"
"Totally, just knowing a knot is better than another if your rope is getting wet is useful, but if your rope is already rubberized, you look for other things."
"Except, that's not what I brought you here for, Mast. It's time for me to get forty winks, so I'm leaving you in command of Ambulon, you'll be Ambulon-Actual for the duration."
"Thank you Zim, do I leave the flags as-is?"
"You leave the flags as-is, we change them with the sunrise, remember?"
"Doesn't that mean the people with the graveyard shift don't get a chance to shine?"
"If they do a good job, we leave their flag on while someone else is on flag bridge. An old navy tradition."
"Not happening, not while Adjen Comma is on this ship."
"You're telling me there's something someone can do on a workup cruise that would out-wow her?"
"Hmm, well it WOULD be difficult, but it's not impossible. Besides, My flag
doesn't have to stay there either."
"Won't everyone throw a fit? You stepping down for a bunch of students?"
"Let them, this year, we are lucking out, two of the three command students are getting commendations, from me."
"And the third?"
"He's not started his shift yet, and he's got the most difficult job, he's gotta make sure I can sleep."
"I'm sure I can manage a steady boat, Zim."
"Not disappointed? That you don't get to shine?"
"Zim, if I get to shine, but to make you lose sleep, after you spent two shifts watching us...? I'm not that selfish."
"You may just end up higher than Mast in this Navy, Mast Dulong..."
"Ambulon-flag-bridge, Ambulon-flag-bridge, please respond."
"This is Ambulon-Actual."
"Ambulon-Actual, Megamisama-Lighthouse, scopes show you're drifting towards the Lai Dang/Tsou demilitarized zone, confirm your position, and confirm positive control, acknowledge."
"Lighthouse, this is Ambulon-Actual, instruments show... Wait, you said confirm positive control, give me a few..." He took his portable communicator, he had a feeling he was going to need it.
"I'm hearing a report that we've broken off, is there slack in the wheel?"
"No Zim, there's NO slack, none at all."
"And you didn't think to notify me?"
"You thought I'd just run off and wake the Telbun, so you'd rather suffer in silence?"
"Do you know what that is, Tammonier?"
"A teaching moment, I'm not the great sailor the Telbun is, I doubt anyone else is. But I still have two arms and two legs, and a voice, and as the acting Flag, I can order someone to go belay those lines before we wind up in another country!
, are we secure?"
"Aye, just took a little bit of lasso to get it right."
"Tammonier, are you slack?"
"I can keep us steady now, thank you, Zim, for the assist."
"Lighthouse-Nadir, do you copy?"
"This is Lighthouse-night-shift, I copy. Position-check please, Ambulon?"
"Position check, is 100.200 by Jade Bank, I am confirming by a visual check of the stars, do you concur?"
"Concur Ambulon-Actual, we concur you are no longer drifting, and your position is within Kagomine Territorial Waters, in time for this not to be reported as a violation of the treaty, thank you for your prompt response, Ambulon-Actual."
The next morning...
"Was there any event worth reporting this shift?"
"We slipped our moorings for a bit, drifted, Lighthouse called before it became a big issue."
"Lax bridge discipline?"
"Oh, and I thought I was the one who decided what those were?"
"Err, well I hope you'll agree. I mentioned the two hafts involved that they should trust their commanding officer more."
"Not telling me we didn't have positive control could have landed us in Tsou soup..."
"Ah, yes, that seems to happen almost every year, I keep suspecting someone's cutting or loosening the moorings here."
"And yet we work up here every year?"
"Yes, I'm not so old I fear to be wakened up in the night, Acting-Adjen, it was a pleasant surprise that you handled it without me, but you shouldn't have felt bad waking me up if you hadn't caught it in time. Besides, it's the best place to learn how to handle a sailing ship, the Neck has the most wind of any place in Kagomei
"But I did, Zim."
"How do you know that?"
"Lighthouse confirmed we were twenty kilometres out of the demilitarized zone."
"That's a good catch... Of theirs, I bet."
"What, not going to say you were responsible?"
"They told me there was a problem, and even advised of a fix. I just did what I was told. And told the sailors with me what they could have done better."
"Which was exactly what you had to do, Mast Dulong. That you are taking responsibility for this, as a mistake, even while you had no control over events says good things about you. This is going to my report to Meihomei, tomorrow, as an example of what officers should do, take responsibility and teach sailors."
The next morning. The three flags on Ambulon were all full, at the centre, the Neverraven sorority flag, marked with the Adjen's triangular-pennant-within-a-flag, to the right, the Bullpup Rampant of the Gryffindour, with the decorated spear haft denoting the rank of the same name, and to the left, the Coiled Cobra of the Snuffering, with a tiny flagless mast to indicate the rank of mast.
"Zim!" They all came to, as was prescribed for Attention to orders
"This training cruise has been marked by many firsts, I want to highlight the noteworthy efforts of Mast Amidon Dulong and Decorated Haft Quinn, they earned an extra ration of beer on land when this cruise is done, on me! As for your commanding officer, Acting-Adjen Maelle Comma, she won the high privilege of a regular shift at command, and before any of you get any ideas, no one has earned that from me, nor have I seen any earn this on Ambulon, since I've been a CADET! If someone asks you who is a Sailor's Sailor, cadets, what do you answer?"
"That was yesterday's answer! Today's answer is Maelle Comma, she keeps it up, I'm activating retirement. At any rate, this ship, including all of you you cadets, and your outstanding officers, have earned the official glowing attention of a letter from Meihomei herself! I will read."
From: Kagomine Palace of Megamisama
By order of Meihomei and spoken in her voice and at her pleasure
To: OR-10 Telbun Tadros Dandelion, Ryder Swanwick.
Dear distant cousin and Telbun, Most Mei Greetings,
I am most pleasantly surprised that for the first time since I've assigned you as my Telbun of the Forces, you've found a cadet cruise worthy of your praise.
Knowing what you've said about proficient commanders and crews before, I expect no less than this crew is fiercer than any Slashbeast, more knowledgeable than a Nisei Sage and loyal and brave to a level that would make my Valour-keeper, your mei cousin, Marhamat Dandelion take notice.
I will commend those at my Naval Academy for putting together such a strong and proficient crew, and await eagerly their progression to the ranks where they can assist the rest of my Mei Navy.
I commend through you those cadets,
I commend even more highly through you their officer-cadets, whose leadership seem so far to be impressive, as I got your positive evaluation of their first trial a day early, showing unusual initiative, fortitude and dedication to duty.
I know you also helped, but these results show these cadets had lots of inner talent, leaving you lots to work with.
I also know, cousin, that you hate giving praise, so I'm astonished you found it in your heart to give this much, this fast.
Today, Meihomei is proud of her Navy, Proud of her Ambulon, and Proud of all aboard her. If this cruise keeps those high results and effort, I plan to welcome these cadets home myself, as they show qualities my whole Navy must embrace.
Keep up the good work, in the name of Kagomei.
There was a lot of blinked away tears from the cadets, and even the Telbun had seldom be so moved by a letter from his ruler.