The Apprentice Starship Engineer: Book One The Link




The Starship



Book one

The Link




Daniel B Hanks



Cover photo taken by Drake Wilson on planet 9732

Edited by Marisa Chenery – [email protected]



The Starship Apprentice Engineer


Chapter 1: Union of United Brothers and Sisters

Chapter 2: Margret

Chapter 3: I am not on a farm. It’s a starship

Chapter 4: Tests

Chapter 5: No one knows a Bender drive like you Jack

Chapter 6: You will be taking Bob’s place

Chapter 7: Planet 9732

Chapter 8: Kidnapped

Chapter 9: Shop Steward

Chapter 10: Extended Excursion Vehicles (EEV)

Chapter 11: The Jackson-Hinton Massacre

Chapter 12: The Core

Chapter 13: Sandra Wilson, a fleet soldier

Chapter 14: Journeyman

Chapter 1: Union of United Brothers and Sisters

I followed Dad up the stairs of the worn-looking building. He had his bulldozer expression on, complete with set jaw and furrowed brow. He jammed the up button for the elevator and stood waiting, not making a sound. The doors opened, and I followed him in. Mom and Dad had a big fight last night. Nothing new at our house. Mom found out Dad was having an affair a few months ago, and was trying to get out of her marriage contract with him. It said they’d have to stay together and raise me. Dad didn’t want the contract to end, and said I had to go to college. Mom argued, and set up a meeting with the union.

Marriage in the old days was for life or until the participants grew tired of each other. Fifty years ago, doctors discovered the cure for aging. One of the many social impacts was the universal adoption of marriage contracts. My parents’ contract was for the raising of one child and would expire when I graduated from college or picked another life path. Mom is very persuasive and always gets her way.

The lobby was sterile, filled with worn furniture. The only thing interesting was the girl behind the desk. She had short, black hair with a wide purple streak running through the middle of her head. Her left eyebrow was shaved and a broad gold band rose from where it should be and arched around her eye, ending below her cheekbone. The gold facial tattoo and her bright hair might have marred her beauty, but her tight, dark red shirt and narrow waist made her a babe in my mind.

“I’m Mr. Wilson. I have an appointment to see Mr. Morrison,” Dad growled.

She nodded and tapped on her console. “Please take a seat. He’ll be right with you.” 

  Dad stalked over to a chair in the corner, sitting with his jaw clinched and arms folded across his chest. I smiled at the girl, who ignored me. I joined Dad, taking the seat next to him. To pass the time, I picked up a magazine and leafed through its pages.

Uncle Tommy, Mom’s brother, was in the union and had talked to the office manager, a friend of his. That was how I’d gotten this appointment. Mom had made Dad go to this meeting after she’d talked to Morrison, the union office manager, who’d been too friendly toward her. Dad had scoffed, and Mom had replied, “Not everyone wants to whore around like you!” And that had started last night’s fight.

A buzzer rattled at the young woman’s desk. She looked up and smiled at me. “Mr. Morrison will see you now.”

I followed Dad into the office. As we entered, a happy-looking man with a huge smile rose from his chair and came around his desk to meet us. He took Dad’s hand like a preacher thanking him for coming and offered coffee, water or pop before we could take a breath.

Mr. Morrison looked out into the lobby. “Is Mrs. Wilson coming?”

Dad shook his head. “No, she has an upset stomach and couldn’t make it.”

Mr. Morrison looked dejected as he took his seat behind the desk. “Drake, I understand you wish to join our union and become a journeyman starship engineer?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“Let me start by explaining our training program. We begin with basic tests. They’re to make sure you’re qualified to take on an apprenticeship. If you pass the tests, we’ll place you on the next available ship. Once placed on one, you’ll be assigned to a journeyman, who’ll train you. You’ll need to complete our self-paced training courses during your off hours. You’re required to complete a minimum amount of training per year to continue your apprenticeship, which is for four years. Most people take five, and only three out of ten become journeymen.” He smiled. “It’s not easy. You’ll have to earn it, but being a starship engineer is a great career. Remember you’re not alone. There will be union members to help you. Your journeyman and union representative will be great resources. Never forget we’re a Union of United Brothers and Sisters, and we take care of each other. Welcome to the Union of Starship Engineers and Operators,” he said, holding out his hand.

I was put off by his enthusiasm, but managed to take his hand. The way he talked, I was doing something great and wonderful, but I admit I was just being pulled along by my mom. This wasn’t my choice.

“Drake, today is the moment in your life where you’ll say that was when everything changed,” he said with glistening eyes. “Don’t worry if you have trouble with the tests. We’ll get you union classes. You’re our brother and we’ll take care of you.” He gave me a big toothy smile. It was so silly for him to call me brother. He turned to my father. “Charley, initiation fees are one thousand credits. First month’s dues are two hundred, and testing will cost one hundred and fifty. Will you be paying the total now or will we need other arrangements?”

Dad handed him his card. “I’ll pay now,” he said, giving me a glance. “You want this, son?” I nodded as Mr. Morrison scanned his card.

Mr. Morrison smiled. “Very good,” he said as the reader confirmed the funds had transferred. Another card slid out of a small machine. Morris snatched it up with a theatrical flair. He held it up and read loudly, “Drake Wilson, apprentice of the Starship Engineers and Operators Union!” After a dramatic pause, he solemnly handed it to me. “Keep this card with you always,” he said. He stood and reached across the desk. I shook his hand. “Again welcome to the Starship Engineers and Operators Union. It’s been a pleasure to meet you both. Stop by the front desk. Sibyl will need your signature and will have more information for you.” Mr. Morrison came from around his desk and then clasped my father on the shoulder. While warmly congratulating my father and me, he expertly ushered us out of his office, leaving us standing in the lobby by Sybil’s desk. 

Sibyl handed me the largest pile of papers I’d ever seen! “Can I get this electronically?” I asked.

She smiled and pulled the pile back. “I just do that for fun. Here it comes,” she said, striking a key on her console. “You’re scheduled to be tested on Tuesday at nine. If you can’t make it, you should call by noon on Monday to reschedule or your test payment will be forfeited. Do you have any questions?”

“Yeah. Want to see a movie?” I asked.

She laughed a pretty and delicate laugh. “You can’t afford me. Come back after you make journeyman.”

“Okay. I guess I’ll see you on Tuesday at nine then.”

I felt weird as I followed Dad out of the union building. A mixture of emotions hit me—excitement about going out on a starship, fear if I didn’t make journeyman and loneliness. I’d miss my home. 

On the way home Dad kept making comments. “One big happy family, if you’ve paid your union dues.”

Mom gave me a kiss as I walked through the door. She looked hot dressed in an evening gown with a plunging neckline and no back. “Dinner’s ready. Don’t wait up. I’ll be late, if I even return tonight,” she said with a smile.

“Where are you going?” Dad asked loudly.

“None of your business,” she replied in the same tone as she walked out the door.

Dad’s face turned red with rage. He stomped upstairs to his room and then slammed his door. I threw myself onto the couch and pulled out my union card. Was it real? I never saw this coming. I liked my Uncle Tommy and loved his stories about traveling to other planets and stations. Never had I thought of being on a starship as an engineer. Most of my friends were going to college. I’d registered and been accepted. Then Mom had caught Dad with the girl at the seed store, and my life changed. Now I was going to be a blue-collar guy. A union man.

* * * *

I arrived at the test early. Mom had shown up yesterday, looking tired but relaxed and confidant. She’d made a point of reminding me that she loved me, no matter what happened between her and my father.

Sybil had me fill out a bunch of forms on a tablet. I didn’t know my social security number, and I had to call Mom. Sybil looked up at me, and I felt my face flush.

“Mom, do you know my SSI number?” I whispered, feeling myself blushing again as the girl looked up and smiled.

“Let me check. I thought I put it on your assistant,” Mom said.

“Oh yeah. Sorry, Mom, I have it.”

I looked up. The girl shook her head. After finishing the forms, I handed her back the tablet. She checked to see if I’d completed them before returning it. She pointed at the signature line.

“You need to sign this,” she said.

I signed and then slunk back to my chair.

After a few minutes, she got up. “Drake Wilson, come with me.” She led me into another room. She wore a short, pleated skirt, and I noticed Sybil had wonderful legs as I followed her into the testing room. She handed me a tablet, and said. “This is your test. I’ll be proctoring it as the manager is out. You have four hours.” She took a seat. “You may begin.”              

The first few questions took a couple minutes as I was distracted, then I settled and picked up my pace. Being home schooled I’d always felt uncomfortable about my education. At question twenty I realized my parents had done a great job teaching me. After racing through the test in just under three hours, I walked over to where she played a game on her assistant and handed her the tablet.

She looked at her watch. “You still have another hour. You just can’t quit!” she said.

“What? Oh no,” I said with a smile. “I’m done. I finished the test.”

She looked at the test scores and scowled. She peered into my eyes. “Are you wearing contacts?” I shook my head. “If you’re caught cheating on a test, you can be expelled from the union.”

“I didn’t cheat.”

“Take off your jacket and give it to me,” she said. I handed it to her. She checked the sleeves and pockets. “Roll up your sleeves.” I rolled them up as she sat on the edge of the table. “How the hell did you get such high scores?”

I shrugged. “I know stuff I guess.” She handed me back my jacket and sighed.

“Come on, we have a few more things to go over.” After sitting at her desk, she looked up at me. “The next time I see you, you’ll be a journeyman,” she said. “I get off at four.”

“Four sounds great, but I’m broke, without a dime to my name. I’ve just enough money to get back to my parents’ house.” What a loser I am, I thought.

She smiled, looking me over. “That’s okay. I’ll buy this time. You can work off your debt later.”

“Ah, meet at four then?” I asked.

“My house at five.” Her console chimed. She looked at it, then scowled. “Dam.” She lifted her gaze to me and let out a sigh. “Here’s a job for you,” she said, striking a key. My assistant chimed. I started to read, then looked up as she put on a jacket. She grabbed my hand, hurrying me out of the office. “Hey, knuckle head, look at the departure time. You only have four hours.”

I looked over the job posting. It was for a science ship, the
, headed out into deep space on a mission that could last up to seven years. She pulled me out of the lobby and then locked the door behind us.

Sybil, pounded the button for the elevator and swore under her breath. “You live at the Terrace, right?”

“Yeah, north side, number eighty.”

She looked at her watch and shook her head. “Natty, can we get to the Terrace and back to the spaceport in four hours?”

“Well,” her assistant said, “not legally, but the way you drive maybe. Take the Springfield freeway east to exit thirty-three.”

The elevator groaned as the door jerked open. She pulled me in. “I took this job at the union to piss off my father, John Westernman.” She paused as the elevator moved, then hit the button for the garage. “Dad financed the trip you’re on. He’s paying the whole tab. When he finds out I held up the trip for an apprentice, he’s going to have kittens.” She laughed.

She called the shop steward on the
. “Linda speaking.”

“Linda, Sibyl at the union hall. I have an apprentice engineer for you to replace the one who quit. We’re in route, but will be late by an hour. Don’t let them fly without us, okay?”

“You want us to hold the flight for an apprentice?” Linda asked.

“Yeah. We’ve been having trouble with Westernman and want to make a point with him.”

“Okay. It’s madness, but we’ll do it.”

She smiled and closed the communication. “I haven’t had this much fun sense I posted Daddy’s pictures with a hooker.” The door to the elevator opened, and I followed her into the garage. A burnt-orange sports car in front of us opened its gull wing doors. “Dad’s favorite car,” she said.

It took me two tries to get into the rider’s side. As my door closed, the tires squealed and the car threw me into my seat. We shot out into the street without slowing, weaving through the automated traffic.

“Fasten your belts,” she said. I looked over at her. She wore a five-point harness that pulled her skirt up dangerously high. She reached over and brushed the inside of my leg, sending an electric thrill through me as she buckled the belt between my legs. “That’s better,” she said, patting my knee.      “We don’t have much time so can you call home and get someone to pack for you?”

I hit my emergency button. My mom’s assistant responded and Mom appeared on my screen. “Mom, can you pack for me? I have a ship to catch in four hours,” I said.

She looked shocked. “Ah, sure. How long are you going to be gone?”

“It’s a science mission, Mom. It might last seven years.”

“Seven years!” she said as she started crying.

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