Samantha – Getting the Prank Done

Samantha had tried to organize a company prank. Because everyone knew about it, the vote had to be unanimous, but one member of the company had voted against it. Disappointed, she called on the company commander to dismiss the company.

 

Marilyn nodded, but before she could speak, Randall Grayson, a plebe, spoke up. “Ma’am, I voted against it. I’d like to change my vote.”

She looked at him sharply. “Mr. Grayson, I won’t ask you why, but I will ask you, are you sure you now want to vote in favor?”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

She smiled. “Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we have a unanimous vote. We’ll get together again tomorrow evening to work out the details, but for now lights out is rapidly approaching. I remind you, don’t discuss this with anyone outside the company.”

That final reminder turned out to be the weak point in the prank.

Marilyn snapped to attention. “Company, atten-hut! … Dismissed.”

My plan was relatively simple. It was based on the earlier prank using the Green Beach. The men in the company who could get off base before Captain Simpson returned would buy so-called “girly magazines,” lots of them. We would make sure a 15th Company office window was unlocked. We would collect newspapers from the trash of other companies as well as 15th and store them in our quarters until we had enough to cover the office floor to a depth of two feet – we wanted to block the door but not make it impossible to open. Then after lights out on the designated night we’d tape all the nude photos from the magazines to the walls in the office and toss the rest of the magazines on the newspapers we were piling on the floor.

Then came the tricky part, closing and locking the open window. I’d figured out a way using dental floss to pull the latch closed and then pull the floss out the window without leaving a trace.

On the night before Capt. Simpson was to return, we waited half an hour after lights out and formed a relay team on the ledge. Everything went according to plan, except that a relay team member dropped one of his collections of papers. We watched helplessly as the papers separated and floated to the ground. Fortunately, Marilyn had prepared for just such an incident. She had put enough lookouts on the ground to pick up the stray papers and still maintain a lookout.

As luck would have it, the lookouts with the papers had just ducked inside when the remaining lookout started waving frantically and ducked into the hall, the warning that someone was coming. We all had to scramble to get off the Green Beach and not be seen.

When the lookout came out and signaled the all clear, we went back to work and finished up. I was the last one out of the office, because the latch trick was my idea and I had practiced it. The floss snagged on the first attempt, so I had to go inside and clear it. The second try was a success and the floss came out cleanly. In the meantime everyone else, including the lookouts, had gone inside.

As I was heading back to my quarters, someone showed up on the ground with a flashlight. I had to drop down and use the ledge for cover. For the next ten minutes or so – it seemed ages – I watched as he shined the light all over. I had to duck back as he shined it on the ledge where I was, but the ledge kept the light from reaching me. Thinking back, I know I was lucky the light didn’t alert someone in the quarters I was next to.

When the person on the ground moved on, I beat a hasty retreat and got back inside.

The next morning when Captain Simpson reported for duty, he couldn’t get in his office. Instead of noticing that the door flexed, he called the custodial staff. As a result he had a crowd of not only midshipmen but also other naval personnel. When the door opened enough to get inside, some of the onlookers saw the photos on the wall. It wasn’t long before it was all over the academy. Mission accomplished.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. One of the plebes had a conference with Lt. Hayakawa , our company officer, soon after the prank. The plebe, perhaps burdened with guilt, admitted to taking part in the prank. That evening Hayakawa had us assemble in the hall and formally dressed us down.

He finished with, “Would the person responsible for this step forward?” Both Marilyn and I did.

He looked back and forth between us once and said, “My office. Now!” Then he turned to the rest of the company. “I don’t want to hear any more about this from any of you … or from anyone else. Is that understood?”

There was a chorus of “Sir. Yes sir”s as Marilyn preceded me into the office.

When Hayakawa came in, we stood at attention in front of his desk, facing him.

Marilyn started, “Sir, may I speak?” I knew what she wanted to say, that she was the company commander and, therefore, responsible for whatever the company did. But Hayakawa said, “No.” I knew I’d get the same response.

He paced back and forth behind the desk a couple of times. Then he faced us and pulled his right hand down his face. “You two present me with a quandary. If I write you up for this, it’ll be on your records while you’re here at the academy and will probably keep you from holding any future positions of authority. I presume that’s important to both of you?” He looked at us as if expecting an answer.

We responded together, “Yes sir.”

“I’m glad to hear that. So the question is, what’re we going to do about it?” He asked. “There has to be some form of punishment. Perhaps there’s something we can do off the books. Do either of you have any kind of suggestion?”

Marilyn was the first answer. “Sir, first of all, I take full responsibility for what happened. I should be the one who gets the punishment.”

I had to interrupt. “Sir, if I may speak.”

He simply nodded.

“Sir, this whole thing was my idea. I talked midshipmen Pascal into it. If anyone should be punished, it should be me.”

Hayakawa hmmmed. “I respect both of you trying to take responsibility. But I believe there needs to be punishment for everyone. You two weren’t the only ones involved. I’ve been giving it some thought, and I think the company should do yard cleanup on Saturday.” He paused.

“Since everyone was involved, I can safely say everyone volunteered. That should make you all think twice before doing anything like it again.” He smiled. “To be perfectly frank I think it was a great prank. It’s too bad you have to be punished for it.

The relief hit me so hard that I actually shivered. That was the kind of punishment I could appreciate.

He had a final comment. “Just keep in mind that if something like this happens again I won’t be able to be so lenient.”

But I had more pranks in my future.

Samantha – It’ll Teach Teamwork

In high school Samantha had gotten into the playing pranks. She avoided anything that harmed someone else but didn’t mind embarrassing them. Plebe year had been too tightly controlled for her to come up with something but short-sheeting Wilson’s rack (bunk). Third class year was another matter.

Ashley, Danielle, and I remained in 16th Company, but once the third class academic year started, we were assigned to different platoons and got new roommates. Even so, my reputation had preceded me and my new roommates, Sarah McCord and Meghan Dreisbach, looked to me for leadership. They should have known better because I got the whole company in trouble.

I hate to admit it, but by the time we finished the third class summer training, I was bored. I hadn’t lost my motivation, but I needed to do something exciting, and I decided to involve the whole company.

I wanted to pull off a memorable prank and get away with it. The fact that we were quartered on the fourth deck gave me an idea. Outside our window was a wide ledge that ran the whole perimeter of Bancroft Hall. It provided access to every room on the deck that had a window. Since air conditioning had been installed several years back, most of the windows stayed closed and locked, but they weren’t sealed.

To keep up with current events when we were plebes, we all subscribed to newspapers, and most of us continued the practice afterwards so we could ask the plebes intelligent questions. That produced a significant amount of recyclable trash every day, and I had come up with an idea of how to use it.

The 15th Company Officer, Marine Captain David Simpson, was a real jerk with little or no sense of humor. He was suspected of harassing more than one of the female mids in his company, and we were going to pay him back.

Once the idea gelled, I got together with Sarah and Meghan to see if the idea would float.

I concluded with, “So, what do you think?”

Meghan’s eyes twinkled when she answered, “I think you’re out of your mind. How do expect to get the whole company to go along with this nutty idea?”

Sarah followed with, “I love it, but I have to agree: how are you going to get the whole company to go along with this?”

“Give me a little time. I’ll sell it.”

Actually, I had less than a week to sell my idea because Captain Simpson would be leaving for a three day TDY (temporary duty) in six days, and we had to be ready by then.

The upperclassmen were skeptical at first. “The captain’s a mean son of a bitch. You don’t want to mess around with him.” “You’ll get us all in trouble.” They were right about that one. “We can’t make the plebes do this. Heck, we can’t even be sure they won’t spill the beans.”

“I agree the captain is mean. I’m counting on that to keep anyone who finds out about our involvement from reporting us. And I can’t guarantee that we won’t all get in trouble for it, but I can guarantee I’ll take full responsibility if we are found out. And I also agree we can’t force the plebes be a part of this, but we do have to be unanimous. If even one person is squeamish, it will be a no-go.”

My strongest selling point besides Simpson’s reputation was that the prank would be a teamwork exercise. It would involve all of 16th company working together.

Marilyn Pascal, the current company commander, looked everyone over before speaking. “How do all of you feel about this?”

Brian Phelps, the one I suspected would be the least supportive, proved me wrong. “If we can get unanimous agreement, count me in.”

One by one the others agreed, and Marilyn addressed me. “How do we go about getting unanimity without pressuring the plebes?”

“A secret ballot. We’ll hold a short all-hands in the hall just before lights out, and I’ll give the details to the whole company. Then everyone will write yes or no on a blank sheet of paper fold it and drop it in a hat being passed around. We’ll count the results and announce the decision.”

Marilyn nodded. “Sounds good to me. I do want to clarify one thing: I’m the company commander, so if anyone has to take responsibility for this it’ll be me.”

Brian shook his head. “You won’t be alone. I’ll take responsibility too.”

The other first classmen joined in, adding themselves to the list of responsible players. I added, “I appreciate the support, but I’ll stand by my pledge.”

That evening when the company had gathered in the hall, I stepped forward. “Plebes, at ease. Everybody gather round. Get close. I want to keep my voice down.”

After I had explained what I proposed, I called for the vote. Marilyn counted the votes. When she finished, she announced, “There was one no-vote.”

I tried not to show my disappointment. “Well, any of you who were tense about doing this can relax.” I turned to Marilyn to dismiss the company. “Midshipman Lieutenant Pascal.”

Samantha – Herndon Monument

One of the traditions of the Naval Academy is the Herndon Monument Climb. It takes place at the end of the plebe year and serves as a rite of passage for the plebes. When the climb is successfully completed, the freshmen are no longer called plebes but “fourth class midshipmen.” I’ll let Samantha tell you about it.

We had made it. Ashley, Danielle, and I had completed the plebe year. We had overcome all the obstacles thrown at us during Plebe Summer and the academic year. We stood with the rest of the plebes waiting for the final event, the Herndon Monument Climb. We were all dressed in T‑shirts and shorts. We had taken off our athletic shoes, and we were ready.

The Herndon Monument was a 21 foot obelisk located near the chapel. The night before, upperclassmen had slathered 50 pounds of lard on the obelisk and placed a “dixie cup” hat on top. For us this was to be an exercise in teamwork. Our objective was to form a human pyramid around the monument so one of us could get high enough to collect the hat and replace it with an upperclassman’s hat, symbolizing the transition from plebe to midshipman.

At a signal we took off for the monument. By the time Ashley, Danielle, and I got there, the crowd around the monument was six or seven deep. I kept moving around, looking for an opportunity to help. Other female plebes had taken off their T‑shirts (our sports bras were more modest than bikini tops), as had most of the males, and were using them or offering them to wipe grease off the monument. I tossed mine into the mix, and one of the plebes hanging onto the second level put it to work immediately.

Finally, I got close enough to shove a couple of climbers up to the second level. About that time a nearby group collapsed, and I found myself boosting others into the gap. One of them reached back and grabbed my hand. He pulled me upward. I was so caught up in the effort that I climbed up to the second level without thinking and hooked arms with the two males on either side of me. Almost immediately someone was climbing up over me. A knee grazed my face and ended up on my shoulder. 170 pounds suddenly concentrated on that one muscle and it hurt. I gritted my teeth and held on.

I think three other guys climbed over me before the one under me collapsed, pulling me and several others down with him. Someone stepped on my hand before I could get up. Thank goodness for bare feet. I backed out of dense traffic rubbing my shoulder. I figured I’d done my bit, and contented myself with cheering the others on.

Surprisingly, time flew by. I watched and applauded as several guys tried to knock the “dixie cup” off with a midshipman’s hat. Finally, after a little more than two hours Philip Johnson put the midshipman’s hat on top to the cheers of the crowd. As the members of the pyramid worked their way down, we all chanted, “Plebes no more!” over and over.

Tradition has it that whoever accomplishes the task will become the first to make admiral. So far that hasn’t happened. I believe Philip is now a civilian, but he sure looked good holding that plaque with the admiral shoulder board on it.

As we were walking away from the monument, I heard a familiar voice. “Midshipman Pederson.”

I stopped and turn to look. It was Wilson. Now what? I thought the pressure was over. I snapped to attention. “Sir.”

With a smile he said, “At ease, Midshipman. I’m here to congratulate you on completing your plebe year. I knew when I first saw you that you had promise. That’s why I pushed you so hard.”

I was stunned. All I could say was, “Thank you, sir.”

“By the way, I never did find out who short-sheeted my rack. I’ve always suspected you did it, but I can’t ask you that because of the honor system.” He gave me a questioning look.

“You got me, sir. How did you figure it out?”

He laughed. “You were the only one with the gumption to do it.”

He shook my greasy hand. “Keep up the good work. I expect to see you make Brigade Commander if you work at it.” To my surprise he stepped back and saluted me.

He was a little optimistic, but that’s another story.

Samantha – Ashley

Although Samantha had headed off one emergency with Ashley, her roommate continued to struggle with the pressure of Plebe Summer. Samantha persisted in watching her progress until it came to a head after a particularly bad day at the obstacle course. The rope climb at the end of the course was the final straw.

I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of someone sobbing. I wasn’t surprised when it turned out to be Ashley.

Looking down on her from the upper bunk, in the dim light that came through our window I saw she had her face buried in her pillow. I climbed down and sat beside her on her bunk. I touched her shoulder, and she turned her head to look at me.

“Hey, are you alright?” I whispered.

She rolled onto her side and said softly, “Sam, I can’t do this. I almost didn’t make it through the obstacle course today.”

I could feel the pain in her voice. She had had a rough day at the obstacle course. She had quit part way up the rope climb and the course instructor had pushed her until she made a complete climb. Then when she ran the course for the record, she barely qualified. She had the worst time of anyone in the company.

I couldn’t accept her negativism. “Yeah, but you made it.”

She shook her head. “But we still have the confidence course to go.” She hesitated. “And I’m terrified of heights.”

That revelation took me by surprise. “But you knew coming in that the confidence course was part of Plebe Summer.”

She lay there in silence for moment, swallowed hard, and responded, “I know, but I was going to grit my teeth and do it. … Now I don’t think I can. I mean it’s been so hard … What if I freeze on the course?”

Time for a pep talk. “None of that. You won’t freeze. You’re part of this crew, and I won’t have it. Yeah, it’s been tough. It’s supposed to be tough. You’ve handled it so far. Don’t give up now.”

She sat up in her bunk and wrapped her arms around her knees. She peered at me without saying anything.

I continued, “Look, why are you here in the first place? What did you expect to get out of Annapolis?”

She waved a hand dismissively. “I don’t know. I guess I wanted to serve, and I love the sea.”

“Sounds to me like you do know. Has any of that changed?”

She shrugged. “I guess not, but …”

“No buts.” I stood up so I was looking down on her. “You can do it, but it will take a positive attitude. Danielle and I will be with you all the way. Now let’s hear it from you: you can do it.”

She sat up with her back stiff and straight and whispered, “Ma’am, yes ma’am. I can do it.”

I almost laughed out loud. Hearing “Ma’am, yes ma’am” applied to me was funny enough, but in a whisper …

––– # –––

The day of the confidence course dawned cloudy and windy. The paper said a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Fortunately Oscar Company had a morning session. The wind presented a problem. When Ashley, Danielle and I boarded the boat, it was marginal for safety.

When we arrived at the course, we were told that we would receive the course overview, but if conditions hadn’t improved by the time the demonstrations were to start, we’d have to be rescheduled. Great! Ashley had spent most of the evening before agonizing over this event. Now it might have to be put off.

By the time the instructors had briefed us on the course, the wind had slacked off enough that they could conduct the course demonstration. The wind didn’t get a whole lot better, but it was deemed to be safe. We were go for our practice run through the low obstacles.

I approached one of the detailers, and following protocol, properly asked if I could precede Ashley on the course with Danielle following her. Of course I had to explain why, that I was going to demonstrate how confidence would make the course easier and that Danielle would be behind her cheering her on. To my surprise the detailer agreed and arranged it.

I went through the low obstacles carefully to make sure I understood the best way to approach them. Ashley followed my example and had no problems. Then came the real thing.

I was doing well until we came to the rope bridge. I watched as the male plebe in front of me ran across the irregularly spaced wood slats, text book perfect. I wasn’t about to let any male outdo me. I hit the slats on the run and slipped on the next to last set. The safety harness kept me from really falling, but boy was my face red. I climbed back on and finished. Looking back I saw Ashley grinning and waving, and I blushed even more.

Ashley took the planks one set at a time … and made it all the way across without a hitch. So much for me setting an example.

Back on the ground Ashley and Danielle approached me together. I was ready to be in a huff. I had thoroughly embarrassed myself, but Ashley said, “Thanks, Sam. When you fell off the bridge, it showed me it was safe to make a mistake, even thirty feet in the air. I want to do it again.”

What else could I say but “Me too.” And we did.

Samantha – Weapons Training

Samantha has returned from her vacation and continues with her description of Plebe Summer. She had two roommates, Ashley Carr and Danielle Tennant. As the de facto room commander, she took a special interest in both of them. The first time at weapons training signaled a coming crisis.

Let me tell you about Ashley. She was one of the smaller female plebes. Blond hair, blue eyes, great figure, she had been the homecoming queen for her high school. If I’m any judge, she was beautiful.

However, she was also spoiled. Don’t get me wrong, she was my roommate and I genuinely liked her, but the pressures of plebe life got to her in a hurry. I mentioned the rack making problem before. That was only the tip of the iceberg.

There was more to summer than the Physical Exercise Program and keeping quarters dust-free. There was seamanship training. There was learning how to handle shipboard emergencies such as fires and leaks. There was marching in formation which included M-1 rifles and bayonets on occasion. And there was weapons training.

When we returned from our first PEP, I was worn out, but both Ashley and Danielle were really dragging. I knew time was limited, so I got on both of them to hurry up. Danielle took it as if she knew it was important. Ashley, on the other hand, grumbled, “Leave me alone. Can’t you see I’m dying here.”

I finally coaxed her into action that day and the next and the next … . I didn’t welcome the job, but we were supposed to be a team so I kept it up. There were other minor breakdowns, but I regularly patted her on the back or hugged her and told her to hang in there. She did, but I could tell she was growing more and more frustrated. I hoped the first day of weapons training would bring some relief because it meant we skipped PEP. Instead, it brought a new problem.

Ashley was still shaken. “But I really believed he had shot himself. How was I supposed to even touch a gun after that?”

She was talking about what happened in the gun safety briefing. As the trainer was telling us guns were dangerous and to be handled with the utmost care, a pistol went off. A midshipman near the front fell to the ground, and his gun skittered away. The trainer immediately ordered us to keep our seats and remain quiet, while the detailers converged on the fallen mid. The silence lasted only a short time. Then a buzz started. “What happened?” “His gun shouldn’t have been loaded!” “How bad is he hurt?”

In a matter of minutes a siren announced an ambulance arriving. Everyone went silent again. The EMTs picked up the limp body, placed him on a gurney, and covered his face with a sheet. All the while, the head trainer kept emphasizing how we had all seen the importance of gun safety in action. “You see what can happen if you forget about safety for just a split second.”

Then, right as the gurney was about to be pushed into the ambulance, the supposedly dead mid sat up and waved to everyone. The reactions were everything from a loud sigh of relief to anger at having been played. We found out afterwards that he was an upper classman who volunteered to play the role, but an unforgettable impact had been imprinted on all of us.

The rest of the day continued with training in disassembly and cleaning of the guns we would use, sight adjustment, how to hold and aim the gun, and range safety. Finally we got to actually fire the weapons.

During the pre-fire gun handling I noticed that Ashley had problems immediately. It was as if she was afraid to touch the gun. The detailers got on her to hurry up, but that just made it worse. I finally had to intervene. Using the appropriate protocol to address the detailers, I got permission to talk to her.

“Okay Ashley, here’s the deal. Someday you may need your weapon to save your life or someone else’s. It comes with the territory of being a naval officer. That means you need to know that your gun is going to work and work right. That’s what we’re learning here.”—Actually, I had already trained on the civilian version of the M9—“Think of it this way: as long as the gun is disassembled, the only way anyone can be hurt by it is if you throw it at them. You need to learn this, so grit your teeth and do it.”

I guess my persistence with her over PEP was enough. She smiled at that image. She went back to work and finished the day. Her scores weren’t impressive, but at least she completed the live fire.

After her outburst in our quarters, I took her shoulders and turned her so I could see her eye to eye. “But you did it,” I emphasized. “You faced that demon and overcame it.”

She grinned weakly and wiped away a tear trickling down her cheek. “I did, didn’t I?”

But I knew I couldn’t always be there for her.

Samantha – Alternate History

This post continues Samantha’s visit to the Alternate Earth. She sent it to me the night before she stepped into a teleportal to return to this Earth. I realize she has only given a digest of her visit, but she has promised me to answer any reasonable questions we receive. You can direct your questions to me at Gordon@gordonsavage.com or Samantha  at Samantha@gordonsavage.com .

Here’s what she had to say.

Are you curious about Alternate Earth? I know I was. Still am, as a matter of fact. I’ll have to visit again. Of course, that will be easy once teleportals are wide spread … unless we from this Earth behave so badly they shut off access.

One of my objectives for this visit was to look into how our histories differ. Most of the big changes took place as a result of World War I, or as the Alternates call it, the Great War. It all started with the Christmas Truce of 1914, where in many places along the front, like on our Earth, both sides put down their weapons and celebrated Christmas together.

Unlike on our Earth, the British Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, took the initiative and contacted General Falkenheim during the “truce.” Together they worked out a way to sustain the truce and approached the German General staff with a proposal to end the war by deposing Kaiser Wilhelm. Although Falkenheim was disliked by most of the staff, the British offer to provide most favored status to Germany was a strong enough incentive to win the Germans over. Wilhelm didn’t go quietly, but when threatened with public execution, he retired to Ludwig II’s estate on an island in the Chiemsee where he lived until he died in 1941.

The essential stalemate end to the war apparently robbed Hitler of his motivation. He was heard but basically ignored afterward. It also took away the opportunity for the revolution in Russia. Nicholas II saw the writing on the wall and turned the country over to a representative government. The communists took over the country but without World War II couldn’t later justify military action to take over other countries.

Once the war was over, the United States and Canada started exploring the possibility of unifying. At the same time Britain adopted policies similar to the Statute of Westminster making Canada an “equal.” After much heated debate about recognizing the British monarchy, in 1921 Canada and the United States voted to become the North American Federation, independent of but with strong ties to the United Kingdom.

More recently adoption of teleportal transportation resulted in economic dislocation and homogenization. Apparently the peace that lasted from 1915 to the present must have mellowed that world, making international cooperation easier when teleportals were introduced. I only hope we can follow their example.

My visit here is over tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting home and starting wedding planning.

Samantha – Alternate Earth

Author’s note: Although Samantha is a principal in a Science fiction novel, her character study takes place before anything speculative (sci-fi) does. This interlude with her on vacation, however, is after the story in which she is the protagonist (Antimatter).While Samantha is on vacation visiting the Alternate Earth, she sends in brief reports occasionally. I got this one today.

This has been like being in a whirlwind. When you can simply step through a portal and be somewhere else on earth, you can have breakfast in Seattle, lunch in Paris, and dinner in Tokyo and still catch a show in New York. After touring all sorts of places on this Alternate Earth, I needed to take a break to clear my head. I was surprised to find that Eric ­– Dr. Friedlund – was having the same problem. He had never had a reason to tour so many places so fast. He suggested a camping trip to relax.

He and his wife, Larissa, took me to a camp in the Pike National Forest. It was a fascinating experience. They have an electric RV. It gets lousy mileage, but it doesn’t need good mileage. It doesn’t have to go very far. There’s a vehicle portal just down the street from their house.

The transfer process took several steps. We drove up to the airlock, and Eric keyed in his personal Id. The pressure door slid aside. We drove in, and the door slid shut. He keyed in the destination, and the portal opened. My ears popped but not as badly as I expected because there was another airlock on the other side. We drove through to the other side, the portal closed, and when the air pressure had bled off the pressure door opened.

The camp is pretty much the same as one on our Earth. The only real difference is the vehicle and human portals. There are tents and RV scattered around with campers from all over the planet. There is even a family from Australia. The forest is beautiful despite the snow outside the camp area being about a foot deep. A lot of the campers have brought cross country skis. Eric and Larissa brought skis with us. It could be fun, but when we go back to Toronto in a few days, I have to go to work. I’m here specifically to get help from Eric’s team on security issues. So I think I’m going to just relax and enjoy the serenity.

I’ll try to send some more next week.

Samantha – Vacation

For those of you waiting with bated breath for more episodes of Samantha’s story, you’ll have to wait a few weeks. She is currently on vacation in the Alternates’ New York City. She plans to be on Alternate Earth four weeks and be back to continue her story thereafter. She sent this comment.

Today was my seventh day on Alternate Earth. It’s so much like our Earth and yet so different. New York is still a bustling metropolis, but people are walking down the middle of Broadway and the only show I recognized was Beauty and the Beast. Dr. Friedlund is showing me around and I have to admit it’s a little overwhelming. Let’s see, I’ve been here a week already. I hope to be able to give a coherent report by next week, but I won’t make any promises. TTFN.

Samantha – Wilson

Samantha’s plebe summer was a challenge from the start, but Lance Wilson had hit her stubborn button. She wasn’t about to be beat down by a bully. She worked with everything she had to make sure he didn’t have any excuse to put her down. Every time he criticized her, she worked that much harder and imagined ways to get back at him. In fact, getting back at him no matter what the cost became an obsession.

As far as I was concerned Lance Wilson was in my crosshairs. I was going to do something to get back at him, and it looked like I might have to get in trouble to do it. But by that time I was beginning not to care what kind of trouble I got into. I was ready to take a risk.

Our rooms, including Wilson’s, were on Deck 4. That meant we had access to the Green Beach, a ledge outside our window that ran around the whole of Deck 4. There was a story, probably apocryphal, about one of the plebe classes saving up newspapers and using the Green Beach to deliver so many crumpled up papers to the company commander’s office while he was away that he couldn’t open the door when he got back. I thought that might be my access to Wilson, but since then they had installed air conditioning in Bancroft Hall. Most of the windows were kept closed. Besides, Wilson had roommates, and I wasn’t after them.

Early on, much of our time was spent with military fundamentals, marching, formations, manual of arms, saluting. It was practice, practice, practice. As plebes we marched to every meal even though it meant going through Bancroft Hall to get to King Hall, and we ate at attention. If we wanted to have food or drink passed to us we had to stick out our paw and be recognized before we could ask for it. When we weren’t busy with training activities, we spent our time making sure our rooms were shipshape or memorizing material from Reef Points and articles from the newspaper.

Keeping our room in shape was an almost impossible task. The inspectors were looking for the slightest flaw. We did better than most, but we still got demerits. It was dust somewhere, or the bed cover’s corner wasn’t 45 degrees or a book was taller by a millimeter than the adjacent book on the taller side of the books on the shelf. And since we were a team we all got the blame. The demerits added up and to pay them off we marched, carrying our parade rifles – non-functional M-1s. Fortunately we didn’t do a lot of that.

When my turn came for Company Mate of the Deck or CMOD, I stood watch in the company office where I answered the phone, delivered messages, and sorted the mail. The first time I had the watch, I got my opportunity. A caller left a message for Wilson, and I was the one to deliver it. I realized this was my chance. I double timed to Wilson’s quarters. As luck would have it, all the detailers were in the yard. I quickly tore down Wilsons rack and remade it with the top sheet tucked in at the top and folded back to look like an ordinary top sheet.

As I left, I checked very carefully that no one saw me and dropped the message off in the nearest other detailers quarters. I expected one of the detailers there to deliver it to Wilson, which she did. I knew I’d get in trouble for mistaking her quarters for Wilson’s, but it disassociated me from the short-sheeting.

As expected, Wilson came to the company office and chewed me out about misdirecting his mail, but he didn’t ask me any questions about why I had done it. Maybe he thought his bullying was finally rattling me.

I waited for the rest of the day with anticipation for  him to discover the short-sheet, but the final assembly for the day came around and he treated me as he always did. So far so good.

Danielle, Ashley, and I hit the rack as if nothing had happened. They didn’t know what I had done and went right to sleep. I was too keyed up to sleep. I kept expecting Wilson to bang on our door and roust me or maybe the whole company. Finally, I drifted off. I dreamed once that Wilson was yelling at me and woke in a cold sweat. No one was there. I went back to sleep and woke to reveille.

While we were at PEP, I heard one detailer talking to another, saying that someone had short-sheeted Wilson’s rack and he was mad as hell. Yes! I almost paused in doing my crunches just to relish the moment. Of course there was the question of when he’d come to suspect me and what he’d do about it. But I could and would live with that if it happened.

Samantha – Plebe Summer Begins

At this point I could make an excuse that Samantha was too busy to get another episode to me, but to tell the truth my research left a lot of holes. I finally decided I would just have to be vague where I didn’t know the details.

Samantha got through Induction Day without any major problems. She did feel a loss when her family left, but that was something she already knew she had to deal with. Here’s her take on some of what happened over the next few days.

Plebe summer: it started as soon as our visits with family ended. Most of it was just plain hard, and despite my preparation I wasn’t a supergirl. I took my licks along with everyone else.

That first evening meal was interesting. Learning to sit at attention on the front four inches of my chair managed to bring the reality of my change in life into focus. My advance knowledge of Reef Points actually made me the target of more questions. I’m sure it was to see where I would miss something. I managed with only a few mistakes.

On the other hand, some of it seemed absolutely ridiculous, and Lance Wilson seemed to work on tripping me up. That evening in the hall outside our rooms he seemed to take an immediate dislike for me. He pounced on me as soon as we assembled.

“Plebe, how long have you been in the Navy?”

His face was less than six inches from mine. He wasn’t a bad looking guy. About my height, sandy hair, green eyes, but his frown would have burned the paint on the wall behind me. I was tempted to give a straight answer, but I stared him in the eye, unblinking, and responded as required, “All me bloomin’ life, sir! Me mother was a mermaid. Me father was King Neptune.”

I think that surprised him, but Dad had made sure I knew it. It may be that all the advance work I had done was what set Wilson off. He ran me through the whole series. I continued to respond correctly. Finally, he asked, “Plebe, what’s your favorite quotation?” He was right there in my face again.

I had to think about that, but I knew I wouldn’t have time. I spouted the first quotation that came to mind, “Sir, on the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory, sir.”

His frown darkened. “Plebe, that was by an Army general,” he growled. “You can do better than that.”

“Sir, yes sir. God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.”

“Nimitz. That’s more like it, but I prefer, ‘A ship is always referred to as ‘she’ because it costs so much to keep one in paint and powder.’” He smirked at that one.

The next morning we were introduced to PEP. That’s the Physical Exercise Program, an hour and a half of pure torture we would have to endure virtually every morning. As a long distance runner I was in better shape than a lot of my classmates, but even so by the time that first PEP session was over, I was exhausted. I can only imagine what some of the less prepared were going through. At least, Wilson wasn’t on my backside during PEP.

Then there was marching. We got into it almost immediately. I thought I was pretty good; in fact, I “know” I was pretty good, but that didn’t deter Wilson. When we formed up to march to meals or practice marching, he would be right alongside me, repeatedly tossing barbs. They were all trivial, like “Get in step” (I was doing my best, but the entire company needed to work on that), “Eyes front” (Okay, I admit I let my eyes wander), and “Head up. Chin back” (I was doing better than anyone else around me. Dad had taught me well). By the time we dismissed I was close to losing my temper despite knowing that was what he was after.

Room inspections were another matter. Again I knew what to expect, and I knew it took teamwork. We weren’t just responsible for our own stuff. We were responsible for our roommates’ stuff too. I tried to get that across to Ashley and Danielle but it didn’t sink in right away. Fortunately, it only took one of Wilson’s raking over the coals to do it. That may have been because of me, but after that I became the de facto room commander, and they both listened to me.

All in all the first few days were really challenging even as prepared as I was. And Wilson continued to dog me. I’m not exactly sure when it came to me, but I don’t take kindly to being harassed (I know, it wasn’t harassment. It was what he was supposed to be doing). I quickly decided that I was going to pay him back. The question was, how could I do it and not get caught?