*General Med Service - a degree in medicine that covers a large amount of general knowledge. It does not have a specific focus, but it qualifies a person to perform basic medical services and assist medical personnel with higher degrees or focused studies in their tasks.
*Lower Form Education - This is a degree equivalent to what we would call elementary education
*Hazard Bag - A bag that can be safely and strongly sealed to enclose anything that poses a threat.
*Hazard Bag - A bag that can be safely and strongly sealed to enclose anything that poses a threat.
“This morning, before that animal showed up, I was talking to Charge Seren and he said you have three first rankings, and then Charge Cayson said you were qualified to do the medical exam. I didn’t know any of that.”
There was a hint of accusation in Corbin’s tone and Kel couldn’t help finding amusement in that. He and Corbin had only been getting to be friends and knowing each other going on a week, but apparently the young man was offended that someone knew something of Kel that he did not.
Of course, Kel knew he should be amused with himself as well. He’d liked and been attracted to Corbin at first sight, and he’d grown to like him more in the time they’d spent together since. He’d rather hoped his new friend would develop some similar interest in him, but it seemed that right now Corbin’s romantic interest was focused exclusively on Charge Seren.
And that thought saddened Kel a little as far as his own appeal to Corbin could go. Seren was a dazzling man…handsome looks, strong body, kind but firm authority. Kel knew he might be able to match their leader in intelligence and physical strength, but his looks would never be of the standard of Seren’s. He wasn’t unattractive…just plain. He had brown hair and brown eyes, soft facial features rather than the sharp and attention-grabbing looks of the Charge Pilot, and while he could hold his own as a Charge, he didn’t have that commanding presence that Seren did. It was hard to compete with a man like that.
And Kel honestly liked and respected Charge Seren. While it hurt his heart a little, he didn’t mind encouraging Corbin in ways to interact with their leader, because he could see that there might be a good match with the two of them.
In any case, he still found Corbin’s mild upset over not knowing something about Kel that Seren did a sweet thing.
“I wasn’t hiding anything from you, Corbin. It just hasn’t come up,” he told the smaller man.
Corbin seemed to accept that as he worked to set up their shelter. “What are your first rankings in?”
“Obviously culinary is one of them,” Kel said with a grin.
Corbin grinned back and laughed a little. “I would hope so since you’re handling all our food!”
“Well, I could be lying about that,” Kel teased.
“Nah, you wouldn’t lie,” Corbin said easily, and that simple comment of trust pleased Kel to no end.
“You’re right. I wouldn’t lie to you. I do have a first ranking in Culinary. I also have one in General Med Service, and one in Lower Form Education.”
Corbin looked impressed. “How come you’re cooking instead of doing one of the other two?”
“I thought it would be the best fit for me as Traveler,” Kel explained. “I enjoy cooking, and I knew it was a need yet to be fulfilled when I was approached about being a Traveler. The other two are always there if I’m needed; like today, I could use my medical training to make sure you were ok. In a few years I’m hoping to use my education ranking to its fullest. I have the training, and I’m privileged to be among the first to experience and explore this new planet, so I’m hoping to be assigned as a Lower Form teacher for any children born here on Neveah or who might be able to come from Arlytia.”
Corbin finished securing their shelter and stood up, stretching his arms above his head and then groaning just a bit.
“You ok?” Kel asked with a hint of concern.
“Yeah, just achy,” Corbin informed him. Kel watched as the young man’s eyes drifted across the sea of canvases and sought out Charge Seren’s shelter. “Do you think Charge Seren is ok? He said he might look at my map tonight.”
Kel started to pull out what he’d need to produce third meal for the Group 6 members as he answered. “I think he’s all right. He managed fine on the trek today, and we kept up a good pace. I saw Charge Ozias assisting him in getting his shelter set up so he wouldn’t have to use his arm.”
Corbin looked between Kel and Seren’s shelter. “Kel...um…would you check on him? I mean…you’re qualified and all, and maybe you could see if he’d be up to seeing my map tonight.”
Kel looked at the items in his hands and knew he needed to get a start on the meal, but he didn’t want to deny Corbin his request. “Sure, lad. I’ll check on him right now.”
The smile Corbin gave him made Kel’s stomach warm. He liked seeing the young Backer smile, especially when he was the cause of it. He put the pans he held down and headed toward Seren’s canvas.
As he approached, he saw Seren in conversation with several other Travelers. The man was rarely alone except at night when he was on guard duty; yet Kel had noticed that he didn’t seem too bonded with anyone except perhaps Pilot Sabik. He waited for a few minutes, hoping the other people wouldn’t take up too much of Seren’s time because Kel knew he needed to fulfill his own responsibilities.
He was starting to get a little anxious over the wait when the other Travelers finally seemed to finish their discussion and move on. He approached the Charge Pilot respectfully as soon as the people turned to leave.
The man turned and immediately gave Kel his full attention, although Kel noticed there appeared to be some strain in the man’s eyes. “Charge Kel, what can I do for you?”
“I came to see how you are, sir. Backer Corbin was just asking me if I thought your injury was all right, so I told him I’d check.”
There was brief appreciation in the nod Seren offered. “My arm is fine; or, it will be. It’s not a serious injury and Charge Cayson will check it and change the dressing in the morning. You can tell Backer Corbin that I’m grateful for his concern, but I really am alright.”
Kel considered ending things there, but he didn’t want to let Corbin down. “If you’re up for it, sir, I know Corbin would appreciate hearing that from you, and he’s still hoping you might have time to look over the map he’s been working on.”
Seren sighed. “I’d forgotten about that, and I’m afraid an issue has come up that I need to deal with.”
“Now?” Kel asked.
“Yes, unfortunately. I just need to gather a few items first and then I have a couple people I need to talk to.”
Kel nodded in understanding. “I don’t know how long it will take, but why don’t you join Corbin and I for third meal afterward? You still need to eat, sir, and it might even be a bit of a break for you.”
“That sounds good, Charge Kel. I’m afraid I can’t give you a time frame that I’ll be there, but I’ll plan to join you when I’m done.”
Kel smiled. “Thank you, sir. I’ll let Backer Corbin know to expect you and also that you’re feeling fine. It will relieve his mind.”
Seren gathered a couple items from his shelter before heading to where he knew Charge Carter was waiting for him. His head of security was good at his job and Seren trusted him, so he knew the man wouldn’t have asked for his personal assistance if he didn’t feel it was required.
Carter and Backer Lux were standing in wait with two other Travelers. Seren knew them by sight and name, even if he didn’t have a personal connection to either one. Backer Haley was one and the young man next to her was Backer Jax. Both were members of the science team, although he couldn’t recall their specialties at that moment. Neither one of them met his eye as he approached.
“Charge Carter. Backer Lux,” Seren greeted with authority.
“Charge Seren,” the men returned in unison.
“I understand there’s a situation of which you need to inform me.”
“Yes, sir,” Charge Carter replied.
Carter had already given Seren a brief explanation of what had occurred, but it was necessary to do a formal questioning of everyone involved. He also knew that the situation could be a delicate one, and Seren was a proponent of keeping a person’s privacy intact as much as possible. It was too easy for gossip to spread amongst their small group, and it wouldn’t do to have any Traveler spoken against.
With a wave of his hand, Seren directed Carter and the others to follow him. They went only a short distance, but a small outcropping of rocks near a stream provided some minimal seclusion and a sound barrier. Seren gave a curt order for Backers Haley and Jax to have a seat, and then turned his attention to Carter.
“Explain to me what it is that happened, Charge Carter.”
Carter nodded and immediately gave a detached and clinical explanation of facts. “Backers Haley and Lux are members of my Group 3. When we rested for mid-meal this afternoon, we joined with Group 4, which Lux leads. At that time, we were still within the wooded area of Neveah. As per routine, I, Backer Lux, and Backer Celeste from Purification marked off an area deemed safe for the rest period and instructed the teams of where the boundary lines were.
“When the time came for us to depart, I realized I was short two team members. Within a few minutes it was confirmed that they were not within the boundary lines, which gave cause for concern throughout the group. I gave orders to Charge Cael from the Sciences to take command if both Groups while Backer Lux and I looked for the missing members.”
Carter paused briefly, his eyes glancing just briefly at the two silent and shame-faced looking Backers sitting nearby.
“The search took approximately twenty minutes before Backer Jax and Backer Haley were found. Their location was roughly a half milia outside the boundary lines and their…actions,” Carter had briefly hesitated over that word, seeming to choose it over others he could have used. “…were preventing them both from being aware their surroundings and from acknowledging the limited time we were taking for our break.”
He stopped there and Seren, his face serious, turned to Backer Lux. “As Charger Carter has said, you were with him in the search. Do you have anything to add, Backer Lux?”
“No, sir,” Lux replied immediately.
At that, Seren focused his attention on the two nervous Backers. “Backer Jax. Backer Haley. Do you disagree with Charge Carter’s explanation?”
Quiet but respectful, “No sirs,” were given.
“Is there anything you’d like to add?” he offered.
Backer Jax looked up and briefly met Seren’s gaze. “Only that we regret our actions, sir. We were…caught up,” he said carefully. “And we allowed that to overrule our proper priorities.”
Seren nodded once, his gaze not wavering from the two Travelers. “You are aware that I take disobedience to your Charge and ultimately to myself very seriously?”
“Yes, sir,” they replied.
“Do you grasp that you not only put yourselves in danger, but also every Traveler in your group, and potentially the rest of the crew? You went beyond boundaries to an area that had not been checked for purity or safety. Plants you touched could be poisonous. The habitat of Neveah’s animals and vegetation might have been damaged by your recklessness.”
Briefly, Seren turned his attention to Carter. “Were all four of you checked for spores or anything else that could carry danger to the rest of the crew?”
“Yes, sir,” Charge Carter assured. Backer Celeste checked all of us and deemed us clean, but I still had each of us change our clothes and place the used ones in a hazard bag until they can be sterilized.”
“Thank goodness for that,” Seren acknowledged. His eyes turned back to the miscreants. “You’re lucky your Group Charge clearly has more sense than the two of you showed today,” he scolded. “Besides the danger you risked, you delayed the departure of two groups out of an area that just this morning we confirmed holds at least one breed of dangerous animal. You also appeared to have not considered that your own friends and coworkers amongst the Travelers would have been highly worried over your safety.”
If possible, Seren’s voice and gaze grew more intense. “We have entered an untamed land which will not always be merciful to us. Every individual is important and we will not take unnecessary risks. Calculated ones, yes, but not unnecessary ones.” His tone brooked no argument and the admonishment was given sternly. “I want to make it clear that I am not against relationships being built and developed among the Travelers, but not at the selfish risk of anyone’s safety. I will not tolerate that, and I have to wonder at how well the two of you actually care for one another when I think of your choices this day.”
Both Backers looked at him with shocked eyes and mouths open ready to dispute that statement. Seren cut them off with a piercing stare and a hand rose to order silence.
“I will not hear your argument to the contrary at this point. I would think that if there was a deep affection going on between you two, you would have considered one another’s safety instead of running into an out-of-bounds and risky area to sate desires that should have been maturely set aside until a more appropriate time and much safer environment.”
He stared the two down, making sure they understood his seriousness. When they’re acceptance was understood, he beckoned Charge Carter to him while issuing a brief instruction to Lux.
“Backer Lux, please remain to oversee these two while I speak with Charge Carter.”
Lux immediately stood at attention while Carter walked at Seren’s side to a distance far enough away that they wouldn’t be overheard.
“I want to discuss their penalty with you, Carter,” Seren explained.
Carter’s look became puzzled. “The decision lies with you, Charge Seren. I’m willing to give my opinion, but I trust your judgment, sir.”
“I appreciate that, Carter, but what I have in mind will directly affect you, and if it will cause a problem instead of correct one, then I will choose to handle things in a different manner.”
Carter nodded. “I’m listening, sir.”
“First, how well do you know these two?” Seren questioned.
“Not closely, but still fairly well, sir. I had interaction with both on ship, and I’ve been able to better know everyone in Group 3 since we started out. They’ve not been a source of problems previously that I know of, although you’d know better than I whether either one has any warnings or discipline noted in their charts. I will admit that I noticed the two of them growing closer, although I didn’t consider that they’d step out and disobey as they did.”
Seren did a quick memory search of the two Backers’ files and recalled that Backer Jax did have one verbal warning noted, but it was a minor error, just a misfiling of a folder that caused some frustration for his ship Charge. He had no intention of holding such a trivial mistake against the man, nor think that one mistake played into another.
“This is what I’m considering,” Seren started. “I want the two of them on Rights Restrictions, but I see no need to make this any more public than necessary, which is why I’d like to know if you and Backer Lux would be willing to take them as your responsibility during the remainder of the trek.” He looked with understanding at Carter and spoke with sincerity. “I know you and Lux are seeking to know one another better, and that you’ve chosen to share a shelter when we camp for the night. If you would take on this responsibility, it would mean forgoing that privilege so each of you could stay with Haley and Jax.”
Carter nodded, not in agreement, but in understanding so far of what Seren was saying and encouraging him to continue.
“If you and Lux choose to accept, Haley and Jax would need permission from you for everything. All rights are taken away accept what you choose to give them. Once the trek is done and we are back at the ship, I’d make an evaluation with the two of you to decide if the Restriction would continue for a time, if a different discipline is necessary, or if they’ve earned the right to have their privileges returned to them.”
He ended things there, knowing that Carter would grasp the fullness of this assignment if he accepted it, and also giving the man a little time to think on it.
Carter remained in quiet thought for no more than a minute before nodding with sincerity. “I can’t think of a fairer penalty than what you’re proposing, sir. Lux and I have time to get to know one another, so I believe he will accept the responsibility without thought of resentment. We’ll also do our best to make sure the details of the crime and punishment are not spread amongst the people.”
Seren was pleased with his security officer’s willingness and attitude. “Good man,” he praised. “I’ll stand with Haley and Jax for a few minutes if you’d like to explain this decision to Lux. I’m sure he’d like to hear it from you. When you’re done I’ll detail the consequences out to our offenders.”
It took Carter no more than two minutes to enlighten Lux of what would be happening. When the two of them finished, they stood on either side of Seren as he addressed Jax and Haley.
“Stand up, Backers,” Seren ordered. The two Travelers rose obediently and stood at attention despite their obvious nerves. Seren let them squirm for a moment in silence before explaining their punishment.
“I am disappointed,” he started, “that two such qualified individuals must be disciplined for such an offense as disobedience, lack of forethought, and dangerous actions. However, you both have proven to be quality and beneficial members of our crew in the past, so I am going to assume this was a one-time crime that will not be repeated.
“Your penalty, effective immediately, will be a complete Rights Restrictions for the duration of the trek. Backer Jax, you are assigned to Charge Carter. Backer Haley, Backer Lux has authority over you. The two of you will not leave their sight at any time. Absolutely everything from talking to eating to chores to personal needs must be approved by them before you may carry them out. If you are denied permission, you will not argue it. If you do argue or fight this penalty in any way, you will find yourselves before me once again, and I will not be so lenient for a second infraction. Once back at the ship, I will converse with Charge Carter and Backer Lux to deem whether or not a longer sentence is required, or if the punishment can be deemed completed. Is all this understood?”
“Yes, sir,” they answered, although Jax seemed to choke on his words for a moment, and Haley’s eyes had a sheen of moisture that she was clearly fighting.
Seren, never one to want to end things on a bad note, softened his tone a little. “This incident will be recorded in your files, but neither I nor Carter or Lux will share anything of it to anyone else. If you choose to speak of it to someone, that is your call, but your privacy will not be made public knowledge by us. I do hope you’ll take these next few days to think about the poor choices that were made and work to not repeat them.”
Backer Haley took a small breath and nodded with clear relief. “Thank you, sir.”
Backer Jax also managed to meet Seren’s gaze and his eyes showed his gratefulness.
With a brief nod to the two Backers, he turned them over to Carter and Lux to handle things from then on.