Title: The Justice Hawk
What elements I want the critiques to focus upon:
What do you think of this as the beginning of a story? Am I missing the mark by making this my first scene?
The Justice Hawk...
Jacquelyn stood at attention facing the door, shiny-shoed feet together, gloved hands at her sides with her back straight as an arrow. The comforting smell of shoe and metal polish that mixed with a chemically glue smell that seemed to be emanating from the short napped carpet below her feet made her feel strangely at ease. After so long being around the military, she liked the idea that everything around her was clean and in running order, even if the smell wasn’t on the list of ‘things I’d like to smell before I die’.
She mechanically reached for the curved double edged saber that lay crosswise across her back. She kept her arms at sharp angles as she took the handle of the fifty five centimeter sword from where it stuck up over her left shoulder. There was no one in the hallway watch her little ritual, but she did each motion to retrieve the ceremonial sword as if there were someone’s eyes upon her. Once it was free of the scabbard it was stored in, she carefully passed it down her body, not hitting it into the uniform cap she wore before she sharply and quickly flipped the curved sword so she could raise the wooden handle to hit it against the door.
Jacquelyn was unsure of herself as she raised the sword to knock on the door. She’d been called earlier in the day to what was essentially the principal’s office at the Dettingen Military Academy without a reason as to why. Her biggest fear had always been that she’d be called in and sent away from the academy, that somehow they would peg her as a fraud, despite her testing scores and her IQ. She just hoped that the highest ranking officer at the academy would see that it was just two weeks away from graduation and overlook whatever had come up that would cause him to call her to his office.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
She took a breath and smelled the faint smell of cigar smoke in the air. She stayed still, not looking to see where it was coming from and held the heavy saber handle just inches from the door. If someone had been inclined to open the door after the first set of knocks, they would have been greeted with the butt end of her sword, right in between the eyes. The sword, a shortened version of what the men at the academy carried, was still a heavy weapon and even the back end of it looked menacing when one wasn’t expecting to see it.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
When the door was pulled open, Rear Admiral Daichi Yamamoto stood, in full dress blue uniform, just inside the door watching her with a pensive look on his face. It surprised her to see that it was her commanding officer who pulled the wooden door open. She’d expected one of his docents to be the one to greet her. While she didn’t have personal experience of the protocol for such experiences, she’d seen enough people knocking on the office door to know the procedure.
“Cadet Stodder, reporting.”
Women at the academy were held to a strange unspoken standard; a woman must sound like a man, look like a woman, and think like a machine. Her voice came out in a tone that was very manufactured. She said her greeting with the toughest voice she could muster up, as she moved the sword toward her side again. The Rear Admiral gave one sharp nod downward and with eyes still on the floor stepped back one step, and motioned for her to come into the office before he raised his eyes to her again.
Jacquelyn replaced her saber into its scabbard and started to move forward. She didn’t exactly march into the room the way she probably should have, but she managed to keep her posture as straight as possible as she passed him. She found her way to a slightly worn spot on the carpet where it seemed, from the wear and tear that showed on the spot, that she would be expected to stand and wait to speak to him.
“Your life is about to change Cadet Stodder.” His voice came out as he rounded the desk and sat down facing her with as close to a warm sounding tone as he could pull off. Most commanding officers at the academy kept things on a professional level, not hinting at all that they might actually be human.
“You’re on our space yachting team, correct?”
She nodded at his comment as she took one step to the side, moving her legs a little bit apart to a more comfortable standing position, as he commanded her with a wave to stand at ease. She knew enough to keep her posture straight as she waited to hear what else the man had to say.
She hadn’t realized that she’d been day dreaming. Everyone in their fourth year at the academy was distracted at this point in the year wondering what their ship assignments would be. Most of course would go onto space craft carriers, but others who were looking to specialize were waiting to hear if they’d gotten top assignments.
“And you’ve voiced in your exit exam that you’d like to have a ship assignment?” He moved to look at a screen in front of him and read for a moment, reviewing what could have possibly been her exit exam although she always imagined that there was something a little more interesting that her professors and commanding officers were reading behind their hidden screens.
When he looked up at her he seemed to be waiting for an answer, so she gave him one. “Aye sir.”
“Then—“ He grabbed a printout from his printer and got up to lean over the desk and hand it to her. “Your life is about to change Cadet Stodder.”
“Sir?” It wasn’t meant to be said with too questioning of a tone, but a statement like that begged for questioning. She reached for the paperwork and waited for an answer.
“Congratulations,” he said breaking into a smile, “You’ve been assigned your internship year to The Justice Hawk Starskiff.”
“The Sandy–” She swallowed at the mention of the galaxy-famous name. “The Justice Hawk is my assignment?”
Her eyes scanned over the page silently, ‘To Rear Admiral Daichi Yamamoto, Dettingen Academy. From Federated Suns Planet Deployment and Distribution Command, (PDDC). Effective post Dettingen Academy graduation date, one, Cadet Jacquelyn Stodder, hence forth will be assigned to The Justice Hawk Starskiff, until such time that her internship with the Corustvin Military has been completed. At such time, and with the assumption that Cadet Stodder pass her captain’s examination, the assignment will be reevaluated.’
Jacquelyn straightened her back and stumbled a bit as she righted herself when she realized how poorly her posture had become. “Sir.”
“Yes,” The Rear Admiral said, “You’ve been nominated by your coach as well as the Dean of Cadets here at Dettingen for the assignment.”
Still stunned by the news she softened again. “Really?”
Jacquelyn didn’t understand how her name had even been sent to the nominating committee. She’d been a good space sailor, but the tiny fourteen foot Flood-Motion space sailor she used in competition now was no where close to being related to the larger Federated Suns Cup ships.
“Would you like me to reassign you?” The Rear Admiral asked letting a little bit of a joking tone into his voice as he sat down and readied himself at his computer screen as if he was going to press some magic button on it and take away her assignment as quick as he’d given it to her.
“No.” Her eyes widened. “No sir.”
“Well then,” The Rear Admiral explained, “I guess the next two weeks of your assignment here at Dettingen will be interesting.”
“Aye Sir,” she said with a smile straightening up. She moved her hand with the paper in it to her side and tapped it against her leg excitedly. Now that she’d gotten the news she wanted out of there so she could start celebrating. She moved her feet back into a more at attention placement and took a deep breath hoping that the motion would tell the Rear Admiral that she was ready to be dismissed.
“Celebrating is next on your list,” he asked, “Am I right?”
Celebration was definitely next on her list. While her options as to how and who she’d celebrate with were limited since it wasn’t cool to press your assignments into other’s faces, she knew that something special would be done to mark the occasion.
“Going to call your father and tell him?” He didn’t look her in the eyes when he asked her about her father.
The mention of her father caught her off guard a bit. She didn’t move or speak for a moment trying to figure out the connection. She and her father weren’t on the best of terms at the moment. Her decision to come to Dettingen and not proceed onto her father’s space yacht building company had been the straw that had broken the camel’s back. Her father had told her that she was throwing away her career and had banished her from visiting home during her Officer Candidate School training.
“I knew your father in college. I’m sure he’s very proud of you. I know he will want to hear from you. The Justice Hawk is one of the best assignments in the fleet.”
The Justice Hawk was definitely a good assignment, but not quite the type of assignment that would cause her to want to call her father. The term ‘hell freezing over’ entered her head at the mention of talking to the man who was biologically related to her, but hadn’t been physically near her in the last five years.
As the best space sailing ship to ever run in the Federated Suns Cup, the premiere space sailing regatta, The Justice Hawk was a legend, as was the team that ran her. It was not just a once in a lifetime assignment, but it was rare for a military academy graduate as herself, or a woman for that matter, to become part of the team.
“Aye Sir.” She was suddenly anxious to get on with her day. She didn’t want to talk about her father, or stand around trying to act composed when her excitement about her assignment was building so much inside her.
“Dismissed then Cadet Stodder.”
She gave him a quick salute, thanked him, then fumbled and thanked him and saluted again. She finally turned red and flipped a hundred and eighty degree turn in a precise movement and headed towards the door she’d come in.