Round Ten of the World Weavers' Championship
Folding the last item he packed into his lightly filled duffle, he couldn’t help but think, ‘this is the last time I’ll see these quarters’. He sighed, his time at the Institute was done, a new chapter and new choices awaited. His mind drifted back in time …
He had excelled at the University, graduating early, not quite at the top of his class, but close enough to gain the attention of his world’s Military Institute. The training ground for military leaders that the fleet needed for the ever-growing machine protecting the Empire’s interests in space. It wasn’t just his grades. A multi-faceted degree in Analytical Mathematics and Political Science caught the attention of his soon-to-be masters.
The second son of a well-connected family of Nobel blood, Hiram Bilton was twice blessed. His name opened doors for him, and as long as he didn’t embarrass the family name, he was allowed more freedom over his destiny than his elder brother, the heir to the family title. So when he announced his intention to join the Empire’s military and become an officer in Her Majesty’s Fleet, his father showed the usual disinterest in Hiram’s choice.
The Institute afforded no early graduation, and its five years were a grueling marathon intended not only to train future officers but to cull out the chafe unworthy of service to the Empress and the Fleet. In the classrooms, Instructors insisted on the highest of standards from cadets. All of the students held the rank of Cadet for the first four years. Only those surviving into the fifth year of the grinding ordeal were granted the title of Midshipmen and allowed to serve aboard her Majesty’s training ship, the Brittania.
Midshipmen, caught in the hellish purgatory between ordinary spacer and officer, made the first four years at the Institute seem a longed-for paradise. More than half of the Midshipmen would fail to survive the training cruise. Some would fail academically, and others would fail physically. Some would die, the victims of shipboard accidents, conflicts, or their incompetence.
Hiram shook off the memories. He had survived. The new rank pips on his sleeve proclaimed that to the world. He was a Lieutenant in the service of Empress and Empire. In thirty days, he would report aboard his first ship, his real training to start, if he survived and flourished, perhaps he’d command his own vessel one day — if not, he’d be another death recorded in some ships log, fodder for Her Majesty’s Fleet.
But first, Hiram Bilton would return home. Home to the drafty, cold halls of his family estate. A place he hoped to escape, his reason for joining the fleet. The shadowy politics and intrigue held little for him. Let his brother have them, all of them. Hiram’s father was ill and failing. This might be the last time they met, given the circumstances. As distant as his father held himself, Hiram still felt some connection to his father, a link that dragged him home one last time.
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...I'm only the trombone player!