It's a Cadman story I started for 14valentines before I realized that the big challenge would be getting the ONE story done. It was a) a flimsy excuse to write about the Naval Academy and my crappy thermo professor, and 2) a fic with an agenda. And while I could, in theory, save it for next year, I'd rather dump this now and write something better next year.
"Burke!" Midshipman Second Class Laura Cadman walked up to her squad's lunch table and beamed at her favorite plebe. "What's your favorite platform?"
"The DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, ma'am!" Burke shouted at the top of his lungs.
"Weapons forward to aft, go!" Laura called back across the table.
"The weapons forward to aft on an Arleigh Burke class destroyer are," Burke bellowed, and took a breath. "Two Mark 41 vertical launch systems with 96 cells, capable of launching both Standard and Tomahawk ASM/LAM missiles, the NATO Evolved Sea Sparrow, designation RIM-7, two 20 millimeter Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems, and two Mark 46 triple torpedo tubes, ma'am!"
"Music to my ears," Laura said. "What's so cool about the Arleigh Burke class that she's your favorite platform?"
The Arleigh Burke was Burke's favorite platform because Laura had told him it was his favorite platform when she had been his squad leader over plebe summer, but no plebe she had trained would be dumb enough to point that out.
"It has no right angles, so it appears the size of a Yard Patrol craft on enemy radar, ma'am," Burke replied.
"Cool," Laura said and decided to leave him alone.
"Permission to report additional information about the Arleigh Burke, ma'am!"
Laura didn't give a flying fuck about destroyers except for the entertainment value of heckling plebes, but Burke was going above and beyond the call of duty and that was worth her attention.
"After the bell," she said, just before the Brigade XO rang the ship's bell that sat on the "Anchor" podium in the middle of King Hall.
Laura went to attention and then to parade rest when the order was given. She listened to the first few anchor announcements, then let her attention wander. The number of announcements was always in direct proportion to the awesomeness of the food, and it was chimichanga day. She had a while to wait.
Finally, the brigade was called back to attention and invited to sit. Laura waited for the two firsties at her table to take their seats and then pulled out her own chair. Her classmates sat down with her, then the youngsters took their seats and finally the plebes were able to sit down stiffly, their eyes fixed on invisible, far-off places.
"All right, Burke," Laura said. "Report. Educate me."
"Ma'am, Admiral Burke was at the commissioning of the DDG-51," Burke announced, looking at her. The DDG-51 was the first ship of the class, the one that bore the admiral's name. "And he said, 'This ship was built to fight; you'd better know how.'" Burke snapped his eyes back into "the boat," the thousand-yard stare all plebes cultivated. Laura wondered how he managed to be expressionless and beam at the same time.
"Does that motivate you, Burke?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am, it does!" Burke bellowed, and immediately shifted to the side to help unload the food from the platter the King Hall worker hurried to their table.
"Good, because it motivates me, too," Laura replied.
The squad leader, Bryan LeBrett, always had the food start with the plebes. Laura liked that about him. She liked his attempts to get in her pants less, but after a year and a half, his attempts were mostly for entertainment value and she wasn't hesitant to call him a friend.
"Do chimichangas motivate you, Burke?" Laura asked as the food went around clockwise.
"Yes, ma'am, they do!" Burke replied.
Chimichangas motivated Laura because their net amount of calories, helpfully provided on the website next to the menu items, meant she really should run eight miles that night instead of five. When the metal pans came around, she took one of the fried burritos and passed on the rice.
"Hey, Bryan," she said as the firsties took their food. "I'm leaving after the bell, okay? I need to go see Professor Cox."
"Voluntarily?" he asked, taking a chimi and pushing the pan with the extras -- because yes, Charlie Bullward, their football center youngster would need at least another one -- to the center of the table.
"Yeah," Laura said, not really wanting to talk about her grades in front of the plebes. "He marked me completely wrong on problem four and I did the initial equations right. I just converted wrong. He should give me partial credit for that, shouldn't he?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm sure," Bryan agreed. "I did something like that on the last test and he gave me three-quarters of the points back."
Laura ate her lunch and listened to her classmates rate the plebes and Burke report to LeBrett on the likelihood of their fieldball team beating 15th company. Laura had been the first girl to play on her company's fieldball team when she was a plebe. Fieldball was a moronic mix of soccer and lacrosse, with a ridiculous rule set and only two venues of play: The US Naval Academy, and the New York State Penitentiary. She'd racked up a concussion, an ankle sprain, and finally a dislocated elbow before she'd defected to 3-on-3 basketball.
"'Scuse me," she said to table when the bell rang again, signaling permission to leave at will. "See you guys later."
Bryan waved at her over his shoulder.
Laura left her apple in the cubby of her desk and grabbed her schoolbag. She cut from her own company area to fifth wing, then down the second-class ladder to the 0-deck and through the third wing to the outside. She glanced out over the Severn as she skipped down the steps to the basement level entrance of Chauvenet Hall. It looked gray and angry, choppy as waves crashed into the seawall.