I won’t have sales posted on Sunday again. I’m travelling once more. I have to say, I’m enjoying this retirement bit, lol. This time we’re heading to see family in California. So, I’m working on a short story for an anthology that needs to be done by August and gah! I’m stuck! Doesn’t matter, I’ll work my way through it. I’m also planning on having China Fleet Club finished by October. So, while I’m writing and hunting for a cover, here’s an unedited sneak peek.
CHINA FLEET CLUB
I sat at my desk fielding calls from departments insisting their problem be corrected first. Luckily when I took over as chief, I instituted a first come, first serve system. The boilers were our first concern. They helped run the whole ship, regardless of what anyone else thought. The galley was next. With a crew of over eight hundred souls, no one did well on an empty stomach.
Pulling into Hawaii with no major systems down was a stroke of luck. The old girl we rode was a destroyer tender, built in 1938. She was an aging beauty. The boatswain’s keeping her in fine form. The teak decks gleamed. There was always someone hanging by ropes over the side to paint her in every port we hit.
I’d been on other ships. I chuckled. A mandatory having crawled my way from Seaman Recruit to Senior Chief Petty Officer. Now, I commanded the Machine Shop and a couple of others in Repair. It was satisfying. I seemed to have hit the sweet spot for advancements. I’d hit Senior Chief in minimum time. I’ve been in for 12 years and was well on my way to Master Chief.
But no other ship was the USS Prairie. She crawled under your skin. The history of life and death wafted from her bulkheads. No nonskid steel under your feet when the wind whipped through my hair, teasing my cover from my head when I stared out to sea. The old girl showed her years but she carried it well. Teak was standard when she was built, but the skill of keeping it gleaming lost except for the few ships that carried it.
Here, the boatswains knew.
Even in the bowels of the ship, care was taken. Brass gleamed, even hidden in the corners. We took pride in our work and it showed. No one wanted to disappoint our hostess, the old lady. Our old lady. If you didn’t know her age, it didn’t show. We made sure to keep her humming in satisfaction.
Every lady wants to look her best at all times. Every crew member made sure she did.
“Chief, the air is down in the torpedo shop again.”
I sighed. Time to get back to work.
“Where are they on the list?”
“Which time?” Evans, Petty Officer 3rd class had an attitude.
“First call, Evans.” He’d learn.
“Yesterday. Soon as we pulled out of port. Since they’re calling again, shouldn’t we put them on now and erase the first call? Teach them to keep bothering us.”
“Show me the log.” The torpedo shop was getting done now. One way to teach the arrogant ass in front of me to follow my rules.
Evans rolled his eyes and handed me his log.
I cross referenced it against mine, frowning. “Why was this call not logged on the master log?”
The ass just shrugged.
“I didn’t have time.”
“Not good enough.” I checked his log against mine. “None of your calls are logged.” I stood up. “So, until this are done, expect to be working on them. All of your calls should have been done.”
“What? You can’t…” Evans trailed off looking at me.
“Oh, I can. Let’s head to the torpedo shop. Looks like they are the first ones on your list.”
He turned, expression furious. Luckily, he kept his mouth shut.
“Don’t forget your tool box. You can’t fix anything without it.”
He pivoted, heading to the cabinet the boxes were in. Grabbing a tool box that looked pristine, he swung it out, heading stiffly to the ladder. Ascending them, I followed. Not close enough to get “accidently” hit by the heavy tool box, but close enough he knew I was following.
Sniggers followed. I glanced around. “Better make sure your calls are all on the master log or we’re all going to be working around the night.” The guys still lounging around sprung up, checking their logs. The master list would be done by the time I returned. I smirked, hearing the scrambling. Keeping them on their toes was my job. I intended to keep doing it.
My crew were hard working, but it didn’t do them any good to let them get complacent. I could guarantee we’d be on top of the repair list before we hit Japan. If the jobs were well in hand, I’d do a five-day schedule. We’d be able to stay on top of maintenance of the basic equipment and emergencies that popped up. That would ensure there was no complaining someone didn’t serve duty. Each of my Machinist Mates would have a day served and get four days in town.
Evans might be a problem. He came on board just before we left on Westpac. I’d noticed he liked to delegate. Not a problem in my book, but he didn’t appear to be doing any work. That would change now.
The torpedo shop was below the mess hall’s galley. The armory was at the edge of the mess hall across from the torpedo shop. The smells must drive them crazy. It was no wonder there always seemed to be someone from Weapons up sneaking a snack. It was a wonder they weren’t the most rotund of crew members on board.
Evans disappeared down the ladder into the torpedo shop. I followed leisurely, snagging a cookie from one of the mess cooks. The chocolate chip melted in my mouth. I groaned my appreciation. They always seemed to have a cookie or brownie handy to appease my sweet tooth.
Licking my fingers, I wasn’t watching my footing. Stepping down to the first step of the ladder, a red-haired whirlwind smacked into me. Bouncing down the ladder, but hands grabbed the railing, and a slim young seaman pulled herself up and slid past me, her body soft and supple against mine. I stiffened, instantly aroused.
The whirlwind blew past me, the near disaster not bothering her at all and I watched her jump down the armory ladder and banging on the hatch began shortly.
“Turner let me in.” More knocking ensued.
The clang of the armory lock opening reached my ears.
“Jeez, Trace, what took you so long? Master Chief is pissed at me again.”
“I was spanking my monkey. Want me to come to the hatch hanging out? Or did you want to help?”
“Eww, you’re gross.” The rest of the conversation became muffled, the lock ringing loud and clear across the mess hall.
Snorting and shaking my head, I checked my path this time, descending into the torpedo shop. Coming to the bottom, I grinned to see Master Chief Malek glaring at the ladder.