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Dawn spread serenely across the waters of Kittery. As the shift from nocturne roused the weary souls of Tesla’s crew, Vanessa sat by herself in the furthest corner of the mess decks as possible from everyone else. As she poked at her burnt bacon and eggs, reveille sounded. Slowly the chamber filled with personnel, all grumbling and complaining, but still in groups, after all a bitch’n sailor is a happy sailor. The few times she did look up, she had a snarl on her face: the others, milling, talking, laughing, Vanessa hated them all. It was so horrible to be the one with unrequited love.
“Food untouched, blue makeup, hair down and a scowl.” HM2 Carter laughed as he plopped down in front of her, “Date night a success?”
Carter was a generally good looking man, tall, clothes well-tended, and so far as Vanessa was concerned, altogether unlikable. Dark skinned people didn't tan, and some, like Carter thought they did not need sunscreen, but he should have used it last weekend when he went to the beach to surf or whatever. He waited expectantly with his bowl of Fruit Loops.
“Go to hell, scheisskopf.” She didn’t even look up.
Carter had made no secret that he wanted her, and she made no secret that it was never going to happen. The command had cautioned him, and he knew enough not to make a move, but it was still annoying. Having been a former independent duty corpsmen on a submarine, Carter did not know how to take ‘no’ for an answer, another reason she hated sub guys. At least he had paid the price for his repeated transgressions. He was just another reminder of how alone she felt. He was a joy vacuum. She couldn’t wait for his tour to be over, just a few more months.
“Van, you have to realize it by now, he’s just not that into you, there are rumors…”
“Bryon, shut up, and listen to your own advice.” She glared at him, “He talks to me and not others, he lets me hold his hand, he remembers my sister…”
She didn’t know if she was trying to convince herself or him. It really didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. The world was grey when Hanover was not around, and the few times he responded was like a trip to Oz.
“You know he has a photographic memory…”
“The term is eidetic, jack ass,” she returned her gaze to her tray, and sighed, “And I’m the only one he doesn’t correct on that.”
“Hanover doesn’t know what he has.” He tried, he really wanted her, “Van, I, want you to be happy.”
“You have a funny way of showing it.” She got up and headed for the scullery, “Where’s HM1 he’s senior oncoming…”
“Not right now,” he followed her, “His daughter got the mumps, he’s taking care of her, I’m covering until he gets here.”
She turned back to look him up and down, “That doesn’t sound like you, turd blossom.”
“Yeah, well, HMCS is making me, I can’t afford another demerit right now. What you got?”
“And, you wonder why I don’t like you.” She sighed under her breath, then aloud, “HMCS has the keys, we need to get to turnover.”
They made their way silently to the roof of the barge where the rest of the offgoing and oncoming watch sections waited. The sun was a few centimeters above the horizon, the offgoing and oncoming watch sections milled in loose ranks waiting for turnover to begin. It was weekend, not much was expected to happen. Conversations ranged across topics as diverse as favorite animes, to ships qualifications, and of course, the rumor mill that included talk about Vanessa and Hanover. She did her best ignore the talk, and co-worker walking beside her. The pair made their way around the crowd in silence, toward the front where the watch team leaders waited.
Before they could get to the front, however, HMCS Williams stopped them, “HM2 Hutchington, Captain is here for turn over, and you don’t need her seeing you like this. Go fix yourself up, then start preparing the records for transport, as for you Carter…”
With a sigh, she looked longingly at where Hanover stood not even trying to pay attention to the happenings of the ship, though he probably did notice everything that was going on. Except her. Then she made her way into the barge, with a heavy sigh.
After the mid watch, some found it tough to stay awake. Some tried to catch a cat nap, sailors get very good at power napping, or sleeping for short bursts when not on the clock. Most, however, just stayed awake, pounding no-doze and energy drinks. Hanover did neither, when he was awake he was awake, when he was asleep, he was. Besides, it was Sunday and most of the crew would not be in, just the unlucky that got chosen to stay and start the big move to the ship, the most junior people that there was, and the duty section.
The top of the barge continue to fill up with the people participating in the turn over. The conversations shifted as the gaggle somehow organically shifted to ranks. Suddenly, Captain Grace stood in front and the sections were called to attention. Thus began turnover.
As the senior duty personnel turned over all the intricate details of the quiet day before under the watchful eye of the captain, conversations were muted. Hanover, like always, skirted the fringes, only making a haphazard half-ass attempt to toe the line.
“Why are you doing this to her, Hanover?” whispered Moats, as the rote of turnover droned into infinity.
Like most in the unenviable position of having to work day after duty, Moats’ uniform was rumpled as a turkey. He hadn’t bothered to change his top even after spilling coffee on it, even though he kept a spare on board. His hazel hair was disheveled, and his too pale nerd’s flesh threatened to burn even in the morning light.
“I don’t like standing at attention, that’s why I’m back here, Captain’s lucky I showed up at all.” Hanover harrumphed, trying not to look too bored.
“I’m not talking about the captain, though you should have more respect for her…” they weren't looking at each other, that would be too obvious, but he did motion his head to add meaning.
Never having been able to relate to anyone else, only a small group of people, those forced to deal with him on a daily basis ever got to know him. These few people had accepted his sometimes tedious and quirky tendencies as the price for having the acquaintance of the brilliant but anti-social man. Some, like Moats, had begun to attempt to adjust the tendencies to little avail.
“Respect has to be earned, she hasn’t mine.”
Hanover had made it clear he didn’t like playing the game, any game of politics. It was one of the reasons that, despite an excellent record of getting things done and spending 8 years in, he was still only a second class with no hope of being first. He didn’t care one way or another, it was the military, meaning he could not get fired. Moats was a hard charger that was only 3 years in and a second. This was almost a record for operations specialists which were over manned. He did his best, like most others that Hanover tolerated, to get him to realize the game was the easiest way to get through life.
“Getting this ship as young as she is, is worthy of respect whether you want to admit it or not.” Moats sighed, “Direct respect is not always possible in large organizations. But back to my point, I’m talking about Vanessa.”
“What about Hutch?” he barely stopped himself from turning to face Moats.
After Moats made certain no one important was watching continued, “She likes you, like, really likes, like you wouldn’t even have to ask to get in her pants…”
Despite the pain of desire threatening to light him on fire, Hanover sighed, “There’s a thing called fraternization…”
“Which doesn’t apply if you are the same rank, and before you say it, harassment only applies if she doesn’t want it. And like I said…”
“Getting attached to people is a losing game.” Hanover sighed, “I’m not going to lose.”
He had gotten close to someone once and she was not inclined to return the favor, though she did like to string people along. With her, there was no such thing as commitment. Like anyone else that lost seldom, he was not about to try again. Only fools tempted fate, but others confirmed… No, too dangerous.
“You have to be in the game to lose,” the other whispered, “Same with winning.”
Life was a game, but love had no rules he could divine, without rules, it was not a fair fight, “I don’t play games, politics are stupid, and I am not stupid. I have to think about the future.”
Turnover had been completed in record time, there really was nothing to turn over. The sections were dismissed slowly the crowd dispersed, those that were lucky left to enjoy their Sunday departed, the others waited to help move the armory and med bay. Moats and Hanover were in this crowd which formed a loose gaggle around GMC Nyftala.
“You claim to think about the future, to not be able to not,” Moats tried again as assignments were handed out, “Yet, you are rapidly approaching the point where you will not be able to re-enlist because of time in rate, you know higher tenure....”
“I know, and that’s different,” Hanover sighed, “Politics gets you nowhere, and committing coitus at the incorrect juncture is dangerous…”
“Dude, politics is what landed me first class in four years, you have no emotions, like a robot, you could play the game better than anyone else…”
“I prefer to let my actions speak for me, I refuse to brown nose my way to the top.”
“Look, Hanover, my sister is doing the whole civilian thing, you think this is bad, wait till you can get fired for even being about to mouth off. Trust me, politics are everywhere, and the better you play the game, the better friends, and in greater number you will have and be comfortable with your life.” Moats put a hand on Hanover’s shoulder
“I don’t need comfort.” He cringed, “But not touching me is a start.”
“Everyone does at some point, I just hope you get it before it’s too late.”
“If people would stop touching me, I’d be fine, let’s just get the armory moved and get some pizza while it's early enough to enjoy the day.”