Ensign Shankar stepped onto the bridge.
His first impression was confusion, then dismay. Wasn’t this supposed to be the heart of the flagship of the fleet? It certainly didn’t look like it. It was a rather normal looking room, no different from any of the others he’d seen. It was a lot smaller than he’d expected as well. But there were people. Lots of them. Almost too many for the small space. And every seat seemed to be taken, until he saw some extra stools lying in the corner. Shouldn’t those be packed away? What kind of flagship is this, which takes interstellar delegates and seats them on crummy stools?
Still, he was here. And he was no interstellar delegate, despite having come from pretty far across the galaxy. He’d been asked to report to the bridge of The Goonj as soon as he reached spaceport Delheim and so he still had his luggage with him. One of the nearby navigators told him to just leave it there. A glance at her insignia revealed her to be an initiate – basically a short service volunteer. There were a lot of them about. Why was the bridge being manned by people with little more training than a few hours of terrafleet navigational simulation?
Well, it wasn’t like he had received much more training than them. And at least they seemed to know what they were doing here. He didn’t. Dropping his things, he stepped onto the Maesters’ Deck. Which was another ordinary room. The Maester was away at the moment, but the Vice-Maester was in, and she was who he had to meet anyway. Majorim Kanwal was her name. A large figure, she could easily have been imposing. But, like everything else about this place, she surprised him with her warmth. Over the course of two successive cups of Tribian Essences (served, again surprisingly, by a person rather than the ship itself), she gave him an overview of the place and how things were done there.
There was no one devoted to communications. Rather, everyone handled that as pertained to their task orofile. Manning the Persuasions Task was Minorim Harshi. Heading the ships’ Indoctrination Center Outreach (which arranged for materials contributions from the Empires’ local Indoctrination Centers) was Minorim Ruchika. Minorim Rishika coordinated with processing a lot and Minorim Anjali seemed to be working on new symbols for attracting recruits to the Imperial cause, which would then be utilized by Minorim Harshi. In the far corner, Minorim Meena sat quietly engrossed in her work, whatever it was … there were many others too, but he wasn’t to have much interaction with them. Maester Anshu Gupta, he was told, was attending several fleet meetings and would be back in a few days.
Apparently, he was expected to find his own work to do. Everyone who joined The Goonj was. What?! What kind of ship didn’t even know what to do with its crew? He reminded himself that The Goonj had achieved an exemplary service record over the decade-and-a-half since it launched, despite utilizing a paltry portion of the Imperial Largesse. There were plenty of other ships out there that gobbled up the contents of the Emperors’ Treasury and had little to show for it. They must be doing something right here.
He paid a visit to the Processing Hub next. By now, he wasn’t surprised to see how low-key it looked. There were lots of Acolytes here, of course. Unlike most such people, though, these ones greeted him warmly and genuinely seemed to take pride in the work they did. A visit to the Throughput Office introduced him to Mistorums Imran and Uttam. Uttam greeted him affably, although Imran seemed a bit preoccupied. Deciding it best not to interfere, he went straight to the Maester Mechanicum Station.
It should have been renamed. There was no Measter Mechanicum. The Processing Hub seemed to just run on its own, with no one in charge. The Station was instead being used as an extension of the Bridge. Manning Fleet Coordination and Reporting was Minorims Anita and Jigisha, who were complete opposites. The first was intense and rather high-strung, while the other was more slow and steady. There was also Minorim Bhavna on Verification and Decoding (basically checking the reports of partner ships) and the always-hyper Minorim Sampada, whose work specifically involved the ongoing rescue and salvage operations of the Coronal Mass Ejection-hit Uttarakhaneim Prefecture.
Minorim Anita also corrected a mistake of his regarding Vice-Maester Kanwal – apparently she was a Minorim too! Damn. This ship seemed overly populated by Minorims well past their Union age…
At this point, it was getting late and so he hastily made his way back to the Bridge. He still had no idea where he’d be staying. And, from what he’d seen so far, Delheim was an expensive spaceport…