Let me start by saying I did indeed find a crewman to explain what 'running the circuit of the ship' means. It's nothing more than a workout (a solid one…this ship is huge) by making laps around the outer corridors. And yes, that's exactly where I discovered Lieutenant Max Cutter. His call sign is 'Ripper' and if he didn't get the name from the array of well-defined muscle he has, I'll be shocked speechless.
I happened to catch him, conveniently, at the end of his run and begged for a few moments of his time to answer a few questions. He graciously granted access while he cooled down en route to the showers.
Again, what follows is the complete unvarnished exchange:
SS: So, lieutenant, are you a love 'em and leave 'em or keep one in every port kind of guy?
MC: I'm—wait---what? I thought these were questions about the preparedness training.
SS: They are. Yes. Which type are you?
MC: Uh, neither.
SS: Come on, Lieutenant. It's a simple question.
MC: A simple question would be 'Hot or cold?' or 'Blue or green?'
SS: Okay. Blonde? Brunette? Redhead? Or do you go for something more little more exotic?
MC: Hell, I don't have a preference. And frankly, if I did, I wouldn't share them with you. They call it privacy for a reason.
SS: Privacy. Hmm…what a concept.
MC: Look, I don't have time for this. Quals start in less than 12 hours. Do you have any idea what that involves?
SS: Yeah, yeah. Flight scenarios, strict rationing, alert status 24/7 for a week. We've been hearing about it ad nauseum ever since this exercise was announced. No one cares about that. They want the dirt, the inside scoop on what you guys do on your downtime. I intend to show people that.
MC: Christ lady, you're—what was your name again?
SS: Stella Snupe. I'm very close, personal friends with one of the admirals backing this exercise.
MC: Close…personal...that explains a lot. But it doesn't change the fact that you, Ms. Snupe, are a menace. You've been let loose on a crew that's about to enter hell and you're trying to dig shit up?
Give it 48 hours and you'll get all the crap you want. Huge, steaming piles of it. And trust me, it'll be as ugly as it sounds.
SS: Wow, that's kind of an intense reaction. No need to bite my head off. I'm just doing my job.
MC: Yeah, well, your job sucks. Happy shoveling.
And with that, my friends, the handsome lieutenant walked away. And just when I thought I was at the end of my quest, I received an interesting piece of advice from the ace pilot.
MC: You know, I'd lay odds your close, personal friend, the admiral, never lets you near a space carrier again. I suggest you enjoy it while you can.
So, after a rough start, that was a rather nice way to cap off the interview, no? I didn't quite find the level of detail I was looking for, but all in all I think we've got a better picture of the two top pilots in the fleet.
Lt. Cutter obviously takes all this M-PAT and qualification stuff very seriously. That's probably for the best. Add to it the fact that Lt. Harper doesn't suffer fools gladly and I'd say it's a solid one-two punch when they're in the air.
Something tells me that's a very good thing.
If anyone can survive the rigors of the upcoming week, my money's on them.
All for now—