Title: Carry On
Author: Kim Q
Rating: PG
Length: Vignette
Flavor: humor

Notes: This story was written for the Uncharted Waters Writer's Challenge #2 "It seemed like a good idea at the time."  The prank is based on an actual USNA tradition, though there are conflicting stories as to how many plebes have ever actually succeeded over the years. Recipe is in first link at end of story. Set in early December 1973 just before "Long Live the King." Some slang terms are defined below.  Only very slightly edited from the posting on UW.

~~~~

Chief Petty Officer Curley Jones was a happy, happy man. His weathered face beamed with the same joy that bubbled throughout Seaview. Not only was the crew on their way home after a long mission, headed for Christmas leave, but once again, Navy had managed to beat Army in football. The Admiral had kindly allowed the game to be broadcast over the intercom for those with the duty watch and shown on the monitors in both the Crew's Mess and the Officers' Wardroom for those lucky enough to be off duty. Even now that the game had ended, the men happily chewed over each major play while swapping wild stories of past games and glory.

Heading towards the Wardroom to pay off the last of the three winners of the football pool, Curley sighed with contentment. The mood of the boat was so much better than it was just a few short months ago. The new Skipper was turning out to be exactly what Seaview's crew needed to recover from the tragic loss of their first Captain. Between the efforts of the Captain, the Admiral and the Exec, the crew and officers were once again bonded into a close-knit team.

The grizzled Chief of the Boat paused for a moment in the passageway outside the Officers' Wardroom, pleased to hear the sound of laughter coming from inside. He grinned as he recognized the voices of the XO and the CO relating yet another story of their past pranks at the Academy. Curley had a soft spot for the tough Exec ever since the fresh-faced young pup had reported as a boot ensign* to the boat where Jones was the Bull Nuke.* Just as CPO's had done for raw Ensigns throughout the history of the Navy, Jones had taken Morton under his wing, teaching him the ways of a submariner. He was mighty proud to see that raw kid grow to be the best Exec in or out of the Navy. Not that he'd ever let on, of course. Curley would never play favorites.

But he did have to admit that he was glad to see Morton blossom with the renewal of his friendship with the Skipper who'd been his roommate back at the Academy. The two young men were total professionals while on duty, forming one of the finest command teams Jones had seen in all his long years of service. But off duty was another story! The crew got quite a kick out of the antics of their commanding officers at those times. Even the Admiral enjoyed their tricks, understanding that it was a way for the officers and crew to let off some steam after the stress of yet another dangerous mission. He lingered a bit longer in the passageway outside the Wardroom, listening to the fun.

"He what, sir?!" yelped one of the junior officers, directing his astonished exclamation to the boat's normally imperturbable Executive Officer who was presently grinning like a Cheshire Cat. The subject of his story, Seaview's Commanding Officer, squirmed in his seat, an embarrassed blush clearly visible even through his olive complexion.

"You heard me. While an exchange student at West Point during our Youngster year*, our daring young Captain masterminded the tin-foiling the Superintendent's office*. Covered every single surface. The Sup had to wear sunglasses to shield his eyes from the glare of his desk lamp."

As the wardroom filled with laughter, the junior officers' eyes wide with worshipful respect for their bold Skipper, Curley decided it was a good a time as any to interrupt. "Begging your pardon, Admiral," he said apologetically. "But I've got some winnings to deliver and..."

"Winnings? Do you mean to tell me that there has been gambling aboard my boat? I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you!" the Admiral growled in mock indignation, the twinkle in his sapphire eyes betraying his amusement.

"Yes, sir. Does that mean you don't want your money, sir?" asked Jones with a grin, once more causing the group of officers to break up laughing.

"Put it in the Seaview Family Relief Fund as usual, Chief."

"Aye, aye, sir!" He turned to the still chuckling Exec. "Didn't you do some pranks yourself, sir?"

"I never had time for any pranks during Army-Navy Week, Chief," Morton replied virtuously. "Since I was on the football team, I was always prepping for the game itself."

Crane smirked at his friend. "Hah! I know you were too busy being the star quarterback our 2nd Class and Firstie years to have any real fun, Chip, but you did have time to play the occasional prank as well as set a record or two." Leaning forward, a wicked gleam appeared in Lee's hazel eyes. "And I don't just mean your all time passing record..."

"Passing record?" asked O'Brien with a gasp, trading shocked looks with his fellow officers as realization dawned. "You're *that* Morton? The Iceman? Legendary for cool control under pressure? Who set a...."

"O'Brien! Enough!" the discomfited Exec turned his best XO Glare-of-Death on the babbling officer, freezing the hapless man in mid-syllable.

Crane, giving Curley a secret agreed-upon signal, attempted to deflect his Exec's wrath from the shaken young officer. "I was referring to the rather unusual challenge you met our Plebe year! Don't think anyone has beaten your record," Lee said with a smug grin, enjoying the chance to make his friend squirm for a change.

"Our plebe year?" asked the confused Morton. "I don't remember any record..." Chip stopped abruptly, a look of abject horror creeping into his azure eyes. "Lee, you wouldn't...you didn't..."

Whatever Morton had planned on saying would remain forever unknown. For, at that moment, Cookie and his stewards, under the watchful eye of Chief Petty Officer Curley Jones, marched into the Wardroom carrying trays of lumpy brown pastries which they set carefully down in the middle of the two Wardroom tables.

The Wardroom full of incredulous junior officers of the mighty submarine Seaview were treated to the astonishing sight of the Exec turning first paler than a sheet, then flushing beet red while the Captain and the Admiral simply howled with glee. The stewards, prepared by their CO for this possible reaction calmly served up the treats to each officer. Those who were also Academy graduates looked at the round pastries with fond recognition while the others, Doctor Jamieson among them, just looked bewildered.

"Could one of you people explain all this please?" Jamie asked plaintively. "I gather that these desserts have something to do with an Academy tradition and that there's a reason why the Exec looks like he needs to visit Sickbay?"

Exerting every ounce of his fabled iron will, Admiral Harriman Nelson pulled himself together enough to answer his Chief Medical Officer. "It's simple, Will. During the week before the Army-Navy game, these desserts, called Cannonballs, consisting of baked apples in pastry, are served to the Midshipmen." Nelson suppressed another laugh at the pained expression on his Exec's normally calm face. "There's a tradition that any plebe who could eat all twelve Cannonballs plus the accompanying hard sauce served at one mess table would get be awarded a 'carry on' for the rest of the week or even month."

"Carry on?" Jamieson asked, still confused.

By now the Captain had recovered his own composure and took over the explanation. "Carry on means exemption from the rather strict requirements for behavior expected of plebes." He grinned at his blond friend who was staring down at the pastry in front of him as if it were a live rattlesnake. "Bottomless Pit Chip here is the very first plebe in the history of the Academy who managed to eat all twelve Cannonballs without throwing up." Once again the junior officers' eyes glowed with respect, this time for the formidable appetite of their Exec.

Jamieson just shook his head in disbelief. "Why on earth would you do that to yourself, Commander?"

Chip sighed unhappily. "It seemed like a good idea at the time." Amid renewed laughter, Morton glumly forced down bite after bite of the detested dessert, knowing that Cookie must be appeased if he were to ever get another decent meal out of the temperamental man. Seeing the Chief of the Boat make a strategic retreat, Morton realized that the old salt had also been in on the gag. He gave Lee, his so-called best friend and commander, a cool stare which quickly morphed into a calculating smirk that wiped the grin off of Crane's angelic face.

Retribution would be... sweet.

Fin

~~~~~

Links
http://www.edrington.com/cannonballs.htm

http://www.rgj.com/news/printstory.php?id=73335

http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=18322&archive=true

http://www.usna.com/News_Pubs/News/SearchNewsRead.asp?Article=3017

Slang
Boot Ensign - Ensign with lowest seniority, i.e. the new kid on the boat <g>
Bull Nuke - Senior Enlisted Nuclear Trained man aboard any nuclear vessel.  On a sub, he is just under the COB in authority.
Superintendent - Commanding officer of U.S.M.A., West Point
Plebe - 4th Class Midshipman, equivalent to college freshman
Youngster - 3rd Class Midshipman, equivalent to college sophomore
2nd Class - equivalent to college junior
Firstie - 1st Class Midshipman, equivalent to college senior
 




2006 Kim Q. All Rights Reserved