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Isenberg found his second-in-command right where he left him, in the corridor talking with his old friends. In a way, Isenberg envied Lieutenant Kingsley. Ryan seemed to have friends everywhere. Then again, he’d been an Advanced Tactics instructor at the Police Force Academy and so had met a lot of other cops.
The lady Commander stopped in mid-sentence of whatever she was talking about when they approached. “Well, Chief, I thought you were going to give up on this Mickey Mouse outfit. Just can’t let go, can you?”
“No, Ma’am. They caved in and gave me what I wanted to stick around for a few more years.” Roger Guzman hooked his thumb under his collar to show off his Senior Chief rank insignia. “And the Magnum’s all mine now. It’s not the Wilson, mind you, but it’s a good enough boat.”
“That’s great! I told them to get you off planet and back to a ship where you belong.” She looked at Isenberg, “I don’t think we’ve met, Commander. I’m Yvonne Christensen, currently in command of the station on Cygnus. Before I promoted myself out of the job, I had the dubious pleasure of being Chief Guzman’s commanding officer on the Magnum.”
He took her hand and found it to be slim and soft. She was probably of Swedish decent and very pretty by most men’s standards -- tall and slender with a soft soprano voice. Some men he knew would view her as the perfect trophy wife. He didn’t. That wasn’t to say he didn’t find her pleasing, but he preferred women who were a bit more athletically built. And he simply wasn’t attracted to blondes as a rule.
“Thomas Isenberg,” he replied, releasing her hand, “and I now have that dubious pleasure of having him as my Chief of the Boat.”
She cocked her head to one side. “Isenberg? I don’t ever recall seeing your name in the blotter.”
“I had a break in service,” he said, not wanting to go into a long explanation. “And thank you for the wonderful ship,” he followed up to change the subject.
“Ah,” she replied, understandingly. “Yes, the Magnum’s a pretty good boat; she’ll serve you well. Although I must warn you that I’d take her away from you in a heartbeat if I could,” she said, smiling. He was sure she meant it. “I’m forgetting my manners. This is Lieutenant Stableford, also formerly of the Magnum, now on the Gendarme. And I just met Lieutenant Flynn, also of the Gendarme.”
Isenberg shook their hands. “Any relation to William Dexter Stableford?” he asked the younger of the two. He’d met Mr. Stableford only once, a couple years ago, but he was sure the sandy-blonde hair and bright blue eyes were the same.
“Yes, sir. I’m William the Third,” he made it sound like a royal title. And why not? Billy D. was called the King of Casinos by some. Interesting that his son should be on the Police Force.
“So, I presume your here for the same meeting we are. Any idea what it’s all about?” Isenberg asked as he began leading the way.
The question was directed at Commander Christensen, but Flynn was the one that replied, “Nope, just that the que-bee summoned us.”
The other two Lieutenants wore the same puzzled expression that Isenberg felt on his own face. He took a sideways glance at Guzman and saw the Chief had clinched his mouth shut in anger. Christensen stopped and turned to the junior officer, “Lieutenant, I would really appreciate it if you did not refer to high-ranking Star Fleet officers in that manner.”
Flynn opened his mouth in what was probably some smart-assed retort, but then he thought better of it as the icy chill of her tone reached his brain. “Aye aye, Ma’am.” It was the only safe reply.
Kingsley leaned over towards the Chief. “Que-bee?” he whispered. Isenberg didn’t quite hear the reply: all he could make out was “Queen,” but it wasn’t hard to figure out what the “B” stood for.
Stableford still had a confused look. “You’re not talking about Captain Paxton, are you? Hardly the way I would describe her.”
“I believe that’s exactly who he meant,” Commander Christensen answered as she began walking again, “although I hear she just got divorced -- again -- so I suppose she’s changed her name back to Jones.”
“Actually, it’s Littleton now,” Isenberg corrected. “I’m guessing she’s a chief’s brat, but I’m not sure which one she belongs to. You seem to know her, Chief; care to enlighten us?”
“Aye, sir, Jones was her mother’s maiden name,” Guzman explained. “Her father is David Littleton. Maybe you’ve heard of ‘Big Guns’ Littleton.”
Who hadn’t heard of the former Command Master Chief Petty Officer of Star Fleet, the top policy maker for all enlisted affairs, Isenberg thought? “Sure, I’ve heard of him. Never met him in person, but I heard many a story.” He chuckled. “In fact, my dad had several old Chiefs, including a few Littletons, over to a private send-off for me before I left for the Academy. It’s parties like that are why I don’t drink.” As he recalled, David’s fame began with his exploits as a Petty Officer Third Class during one of the many border disputes the Federation had against the Kzinti. It was during that time he picked up the nickname ‘Big Guns’, although there were two versions to the story -- there’s the one told in polite company and then there’s the unvarnished truth.
The polite story goes tells of a young Machinist Mate capturing an entire Kzinti strike team single-handedly without firing a shot from his pulse rifle. In that story, he supposedly said ‘the one with the biggest gun wins’. The truth, as told by Marine Sergeant Major ‘Little John’ Littleton, Gunnery Sergeant Rebecca Littleton-Andrews, Fleet Master Chief Michael Littleton and Senior Chief Timothy Isenberg, eyewitnesses all, was that the young hero didn’t have a weapon (not in the standard sense) at the time, and in fact didn’t have a stitch of clothing on -- nor did a certain freighter captain’s daughter.
Young David Littleton met the young lady while rebuilding the settlement on Endeara Prime. He went with her to help get the water turned back on in the housing complex, and one thing lead to another. After he -ahem- checked out her plumbing, he heard a noise below the fifth-story balcony. He looked down and saw several Kzintis preparing to raid the compound. Having no other method of warning the camp, he did something rude to the feline warriors -- he guessed correctly that they wouldn’t like getting wet -- to get them to fire a couple shots at him, thus warning the rest of the defenders. The only weapon in that story was his soon-to-be father-in-law’s antique double-barreled shotgun.
And that was just one of many, many stories attributed to the Littleton clan. There were four brothers named Littleton -- James, Peter, Anthony and Richard -- in the Pathfinders that surveyed much of what is now the Federation under the banner of the United Earth Space Agency. Their exploits were legendary. As was the number of children they sired, most of whom (along with children from three other Littleton brothers and a few cousins) found their way into Star Fleet or one of the other services. And so did their children’s children.
All totaled, there were thirty-six second-generation Littletons that made it to Chief Petty Officer or higher, and well over a hundred third-generation Littletons were now moving up through the officer ranks, and now the next generation was old enough to enter the service, too. The running joke was that if the Littletons should stay so prolific, they’ll take over Star Fleet in a few more generations. With a family history like that to live up to, it’s no wonder the Captain went by her mother’s name when she was an Ensign and a Lieutenant. No young officer could truly make a career for herself under that shadow without undue influence, or even the appearance thereof. There would always be someone who questioned whether a promotion or choice assignment was earned on merit, or simply due to nepotism.
Christensen nodded. “That makes sense. Wonder why she decided to change her name now.”
“Probably too hard to keep up with the Joneses,” quipped Stableford.
The Commander grimaced. “I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor, Lieutenant.”
“No, seriously, Ma’am. Considering whom the Captain’s mother is, it’s probably easier to hide out in the Littleton clan anymore. I thought you knew: she’s the daughter of Samantha Jones, and grand-daughter of Emanuel Jones, one of the co-founders of Smith & Jones Shipping.”
Wow. She didn’t need to be in the service, Isenberg thought, with that kind of money. Even at a typical three-percent family share, he figured her trust fund was worth more than her Star Fleet pay for her entire career.
“I’m curious how you know that, sir,” Chief Guzman commented. “That’s not something she goes around advertising.”
The junior officer shrugged. “My father ships exclusively with S & J; it’s the only way to keep the Cartels out of his casinos.” That was an interesting statement, for everyone always assumed Billy D. was mobbed up. “I met the Captain while dealing with her sister, Katherine Jones-Smith, who’s now the V.P. in charge of operations for the company. In fact, she told Katherine to hire me for their security team.” The way he said that last part, it sounded like he was still tempted by the offer.
They rounded the corner and saw several people outside the briefing room. Two armed guards stood beside the door, and a Star Fleet Ensign was checking ID cards of those waiting to enter the room. It was a rather eclectic mix with a couple Star Fleet officers, a few more Police (whom Kingsley seemed to know, of course), some Merchantmen and from other services, and even a few wearing S&J company uniforms. The Merchantmen were under Star Fleet command, of course, so it made sense that they’d be here. But Isenberg found it odd that the S&J freighter masters should be involved with whatever was going on. Obviously, Captain Jones / Littleton had a hand in that. So much for the rules against conflict of interests, he mused.
Senior Chief Guzman, following protocol that enlisted should enter before / leave after officers, jumped in line and handed his ID card to the Ensign. After he was cleared, he went in and shook hands with two other Police Force Chief Petty Officers. Ryan Kingsley followed suit and was cleared, but when Lieutenants Flynn and Stableford presented their IDs, the junior officer turned them away. “I’m sorry, sirs, but you’re not on the list.”
Stableford shrugged and turned to leave. But Flynn berated the Ensign, “What do you mean, we’re not on the list? Of course we’re on the list! The Exec ordered us to be here! Check it again!” He handed his ID card back to -- threw it at -- the Ensign, gathering the attention of the two armed-guards in the process.
“The Exec, sir? Do you mean Captain Hunt, the base’s executive officer? He’s at Star Fleet HQ for a conference.” He checked the ID again, knowing full well that the name wasn’t on the list. He tried not to make a big show of it, but he did go down the list to manually verify the name -- just in case there was a typo.
“No, the X.O. of my ship, of course! Why do you think that I would know this Captain Hunt?” Flynn asked in disgust.
“Well, sir, I’m afraid you’re not on the list,” the Ensign handed his ID back, “and your exec doesn’t have the authority to get you on it, sir.” He turned away to check the IDs of the other Star Fleet officers.
Stableford turned back, “Come on, Jake.” But Flynn just stood there, his whole body shaking with his fists clinched white-knuckle tight. Stableford grabbed him by the arm. “Jake, let’s go grab a drink or something.”
Flynn pulled away and glared at him angrily. After a moment, he noisily let out a deep breath and forced his body to relax. “They let the Chief in,” he hissed.
“Well, obviously, the Chief’s on the list,” Stableford responded with patient annoyance. “Now, quit being a jackass and let’s get out of here before you do something stupid again.” He grabbed his friend by the arm and led him away.
The group watched as the two disappeared around the corner. Commander Christensen shook her head. “That young man has issues.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Jake’s always had some issues,” Lieutenant Kingsley confirmed unhappily, “but that’s a new one, even for him.”
The Ensign finished checking the rest of the IDs without incident. He then asked Commander Christensen, as the ranking officer, to take control of the room until the briefing started. They entered the room; it was typical of a mass briefing room with several rows of barely-comfortable chairs each equipped with a small desk that folded down along one side. A low-rise stage was at the front of the room, complete with a speaker’s podium and a pair of flags. The front wall was actually a large viewing screen, currently displaying the United Federation of Planets logo. She checked her timepiece and noted they had about three minutes left. She gave them enough time for last minute social greetings, then ordered them to take their seats at the thirty second mark
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~