~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
Guzman walked back over to the group just as Captain Littleton finished with yet another story about her father. He’d heard it before. Still, he laughed at the punch line. “Well, people, I’ve got people waiting for me in my office,” Littleton said after the laughter died down, “and you all have a mission to prepare for. I’ll see you at dinner tonight.” Everyone stood up as she left the room.
People were already filing out of the room when Guzman looked around the room for a familiar face he thought he saw in the back of the room. He shrugged to himself, thinking he must have been mistaken. He took a moment to chat with Master Chief Andrew Norwood, of the LaMagne, before joining the Magnum's captain and First Officer in mid-conversation. “Any reason we can't cut the crew loose for liberty?” the Exec was asking the Skipper. “Sounds like Star Fleet's going to do most of the prep work for us.”
Lieutenant Commander Isenberg thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know, Ryan. We can’t let everyone go, so how do you make it fair to those manning essential duty positions? What do you think, Chief?”
“Well, sir, I don’t mind Star Fleet helping out, but it’s still our boat, and I think we should do most of the grunt work. Still, I have a list of about thirty troops that have earned a few extra hours liberty. Might I suggest this: we’ll call a full-crew briefing to give them the cover story about the mission; then release those on my list until Commander’s Call. That will thin out the herd so we’re not stepping all over each other while loading supplies. Then we’ll let everyone have liberty after Commander’s Call until twenty-two hundred hours.”
“Hmmm,” Isenberg considered it, “Sounds like a plan. We still need to a seven-man skeleton crew and a security detail left onboard. You got a list, or do I ask for volunteers?”
Lieutenant Kingsley snapped his fingers. “All we need is one ship’s officer in command -- we could ask Star Fleet for some caretakers. In fact, let’s ask Commander Christensen.” He called her name just as she was heading for the door. When she came over, he gave her a brief run-down of the idea. She agreed it was an excellent suggestion and said she’s go ask Captain Littleton about it right now.
“Good. It’s settled then,” Isenberg said as he pulled out his communicator. He felt a little silly when he tried to use it at first, having forgotten it was turned off. It took two seconds for the device to perform its self-check before it beeped to life. “Magnum
, this is Commander Isenberg.”
here,” a male voice responded. “Lieutenant McShannon speaking, Skipper.”
“Pat, Star Fleet should be contacting you soon. They’re going to send some computer techs over,” Isenberg informed his subordinate. “Give them any assistance they ask for.”
“Roger that. They already sent a couple geeks over to survey for whatever they need to do next.”
“Oh, good. We’ll beam over in a few minutes, Pat. Have the crew assemble in the mess hall for a briefing in fifteen minutes.”
“You got it. Anything else, Skipper?”
“No, not at this time,” Isenberg replied.
Isenberg closed his communicator and put it away. Christensen noticed the perturbed look on his face. “Something the matter, Commander?” she asked with concern.
“Yes. I can’t put my finger on why it is, but protocol has gone to Hades in a hand-basket. And now discipline is starting to slip, too.” He noticed that Chief Guzman had opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again with pursed lips. “You look like you want to say something, Chief.”
Guzman nodded slowly. “Well, sir, I wanted to talk to you in private about this, but ....”
He paused, too long for Isenberg’s patience. “Come on, out with it, man!”
“Well, sir, I think I can fix the problem,” Guzman stated, “but first I need to make two people change their ways: Lieutenant Kingsley and you.” The two men both raised their eyebrows, looked at each other and then at the Chief expectantly. Christensen nodded knowingly. The Chief turned to the First Officer, “Sir, you’re not an instructor anymore. You’re the boat’s Exec now, and you need to start acting like one. That doesn’t mean you have to turn into everyone’s worst nightmare, of course, but you can’t be everyone’s best friend, either. You’ve got to kick some butts when it’s called for, sir.”
Since he was on a roll, Senior Chief Guzman decided to put his C.O. on notice, too. “Sir, with all due respect, the same thing applies to you. Give the Exec some free reign and let him do his job. I know you like to teach the younger troops, but that’s not your job now, sir. That’s mine and the Exec’s. We’ll run the boat; you run the mission. And as far as protocol goes: respectfully, sir, you’re the one that broke it.”
“Now wait a minute,” Isenberg started, raising his hand to shake his finger in the Chief’s face.
He stopped when Commander Christensen touched his arm. “Please, let him finish,” she said. As softly as she said it, the underlying tone made it an order. He clinched his jaw and motioned for the Chief to continue.
Guzman considered how to say what he wanted next. “Sir, you’ve only been the skipper for about a month now; the crew has had time to get to know you. They like you. It’s time to end the honeymoon. The first thing you've got to do is stop calling everyone by their first name.”
“I don’t do that.” He thought about it for a moment with his brows knitting together. “I don’t think I do that. Do I? Even so, what’s the problem with that? Protocol allows the senior ranking person to call those under him by their given name.”
“Yes, sir, that’s true. In private or informal settings, not on the bridge during combat maneuvers. The problem is the junior officers are now all on a first-name basis regardless of whether they're an Ensign, Lieutenant Junior Grade or full Lieutenant. And now the enlisted are doing it, too. I caught Petty Officer Moss and Crewman Stevens calling Lieutenant jay-gee McShannon ‘Pat’ to his face last week. And he didn’t correct them. It’s contagious, sir. The only ones not infected yet are the Marines, and that’s only because of McKendrey and Gunny Thorns."
Isenberg contemplated this for a long moment. “Okay, I can see that. But old habits die hard, Chief. Don’t expect me to change overnight. You said that was the first thing I’ve got to do ... so, what else do you want me to change?”
Before Guzman could answer, Commander Christensen interjected, “Why don't you let me buy you a cup of coffee, Thomas, and let these two get back to your ship?” She took him by the arm and started leading him away. “Go brief your crew, Chief” she said over her shoulder, “and you can resume this conversation in private after everyone’s calmed down. Tell me something, Thomas ....” she began as they left.
Kingsley was still watching them and didn't turn to Guzman when he said, “I think you struck a nerve there, Chief.”
“If you don’t hurt, you don’t heal, sir.” The younger man looked at him and nodded in agreement. “My apologies to you, sir, if you think I was out of line.”
The Exec waved him off. “No apologies needed, Chief. If anything, you were overdue with that. Come on, let’s go brief the crew,” he said as they turned into the transporter room and requested to be beamed back to the Magnum.
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~