*Note: This is a final draft by any means, just an excerpt or short story trying to get a slightly different view of my universe.
It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but she made the best of it. She applied retro thrusters, working in concert with the mono-tasked AI, coming to a relatively abrupt halt in relation to the cruiser docking at the base.
She was considered one of the best tug pilots and it showed, the controls had flipped to fine controls, but she knew exactly how much power would give them the centimeters per second relative velocity to contact the warship. What she mostly relied on the AI for was information about the other six tugs and coordinating. Most tug pilots operated the tug in a general sense, but the AI handled most of the fine details.
She blanked out, waiting for the ping that would give her the correct amount of time before all the tugs contacted. Certainly the wash from the tug engines gave the warship a bit of relative velocity, but it was generally negligible. There was no point getting frustrated with the other pilots, she had scars from fights that started from that frustration, in fact because of those fights and a single turned down promotion she was probably going to finish her career as an over-qualified tug pilot, but she would stick it out. (rank?)
The soft tone sounded and she pushed forward, contacting the ship on its tug plates at just over three cm/s. Magnetic couplers came online and fastened onto the small steel plates. Another tone sounded telling her that all the tugs were successfully attached. A tone following that told her that there was a little bit of velocity acquired. Tones couldn’t really map well to three dimensional space, but it did tell her the magnitude was well within operational parameters.
Now the part she detested, since she was enlisted and just one of seven tugs they had to be slaved for the final approach, and it was usually done by a lieutenant, sitting a ways down the dock. If she had read the assignments for the day it was a kid just out of pilot school, doing a tour of docking duty because he hadn’t quite made the grade to be assigned to dropships or fighters. Not that many had caused collisions, because the AI generally stepped in to regulate ham-handed pilots, but it rankled her that it was always the ones who hadn’t made the grade.
“Johnson,” Someone called her name, but it wasn’t a voice she recognized. If it had been, even an officer, she would have slowed to allow them to catch up, but otherwise continue walking to her destination. No one took it as insubordination from her, though they made sure no one else emulated her. She turned.
The young man approaching her was one of the pilots fresh from pilot school, but he didn’t have the characteristic hang-dog or scared puppy ways about him that most pilots banished to dock duty had.
“Yes sir?” She came to a stop, trying not to regard him in her usual manner, it scared most of the new pilots if they weren’t already afraid of her. She thought she also recognized a fire in his eyes that she generally only saw from ship captains. She straightened a bit.
“I was told you are the best tug pilot around, is that true?” He stopped a meter in front of her and kept his gaze level.
“Probably, sir,” she might snub some officers in subtle ways, but she never forgot ‘sir.’
“Stop being modest. I’ve looked at your AI settings, the only thing it does is coordinate and slave.” She was taken aback, when had he had time to look at her settings? He only just arrived yesterday.
“Yes, sir. I am the best tug pilot I know.” She paused, “Permission to ask a question.”
“You aren’t a normal pilot fresh from school, are you?”
He smiled, “I am fresh from pilot school, but you are right, I have a mission and an advantage.” Certainly intriguing.
“May I ask what those are, sir?”
“You may, but I can only answer one: I had a very strict upbringing and my father doesn’t like that I am not on track to captain a warship of my own, but rather went for pilot school.”
It didn’t take that long for her to figure out that he must be a son of a high-ranking flag officer, and glancing at his name tag it confirmed her suspicions. He was the son of the Navy’s Joint Chief, one of the three people that ran the entire military. She nodded.
He chuckled, “Quick on your feet and understated, well Johnson, it was nice to meet you.” He held out his hand to shake. It was unusual for salutes to be thrown, except during formal dinners, commissioning ceremonies, or promotions, but it was even odder to shake hands like a civilian. She paused, but then took it and shook it. “I’ll let you know when I can answer that second question. Just know when it comes to that you will be under my command.” He let go, smiled again, and turned waving as he quickly strode away the way he came.
She stood a moment considering that very odd interaction. For all her years she couldn’t think of one time that she had shaken hands while stationed at the starbase.
She turned to continue toward the mess. Also he seemed very cheerful, not just unlike all of the bottom of the bucket pilots, but unlike anybody she interacted with at any point during her assignment.