~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
Roger Guzman beamed over to the Star Base thirty minutes before Commander’s Call. His meeting with Lieutenant Commander Isenberg went well. The skipper was fairly receptive to his observations and advice. Still, it looked like it would be tough to break some of his habits.
As he walked through the lounge, he noticed two junior Star Fleet officers in a discussion, obviously some sort of disagreement. Both were using their hands as they spoke, often interrupting each other. For a Vulcan and an Andorian, neither species known for their display of emotions, they were positively animated. Guzman ignored them, or tried to.
Just as he walked passed, the Vulcan was saying something about “logic dictates ...” when Guzman heard a somehow familiar voice interject, “You wouldn’t know logic if it bit you ...” followed by the Andorian cut him off with, “As if your opinion means anything to me, Tellarite.”
Chief Guzman glanced over to see the Andorian making his point by jabbing the interloper, a Police Force ensign, in the chest with his finger. He changed course to intervene. “One would think that an Andorian should know the folly of arguing with a Tellarite, Ensign. But if you choose to do so, might I suggest you find someplace a bit less public before you make a scene?”
“I fail to see how this concerns you, Chief Petty Officer.”
“In my experience,” Guzman replied dryly, “Vulcans see what they wish, and do not see what they wish not to.”
“That is not logical.”
“Ah, yes. Logic. I have also found that Vulcans often make a discussion first, and then build a path of logic to support their desire. And my rank, Ensign, is Senior Chief Petty Officer,” he added coldly. Before the Vulcan could complain, he turned to his fellow policeman. “Your father knew the wisdom of watching an argument for a length of time before wading into the middle of it.”
“How dare you speak of my father, human?” demanded the incensed Tellarite.
“You are Saal, son of Gar Telko, are you not? I knew your father well.”
“My father died over twenty years ago.”
“Yes, I know. He saved my life, and the lives of many others, that day. I honor his memory, sir, and so should you. Have you read his books? Watched his videos?” Ensign Telko indicated he had not. “Which ship are you on? I’ll send you the files. In the meantime, might I suggest you three fine gentlemen move your conversation out of the middle of the traffic area?” He gestured to several empty tables. They grudgingly agreed to his terms. Ensign Telko said he was assigned to the Mazza as an assistant engineer.
“It’s like a high school reunion, isn’t it, Roger?” Guzman turned towards the female voice behind him. He wasn’t expected to run into her, although in retrospect he should have.
“Hello, Julie,” he said as he took her hands in his, and then kissed her on the check. He stepped back, still holding her hands, to look her up and down appreciatively. Time had etched her face as it had his own, and her strawberry-blonde hair didn't have the same sheen it did twenty years ago ... but she was still as beautiful as the day he met her. "It's so good to see you again. How long has it been? Six ... seven years?”
She led him to a table, on the other side of the lounge from the three ensigns, and he held her seat as she sat down. “Four, actually. At the indoctrination ceremony.” It was obvious from her tone that he should have remembered. He and Julie had run into each other off and on so many times over the years, it was hard for him to keep track. He wondered how she did so easily.
“Only four years? Seems like longer. Then again, our time apart is always too long and our time together too short.”
“You always did have smooth lines, Roger.” As much as she tried not to, she smiled. “Ever try any of them on the Commander?”
“Didn’t work – she’s immune to my charms. Hey, what’s with this?” He tapped her Chief Petty Officer rank insignia. “I thought you were picked up on the supplemental list two months ago. Where’s your star?” he asked, referring to the additional feature on his Senior Chief insignia.
“Some officers don’t believe in frocking,” she stated flatly, trying and failing to mask her annoyance with the situation. The tradition, dating back to the days of sailing ships, allowed those selected for promotion to pin their new rank on immediately upon notification even though the official date of rank (and corresponding pay raise) might be months away.
Guzman was dumbfounded for a moment. “You’re kidding, right? Who's your commanding officer?”
“Roger, don’t do anything stupid,” she warned him. “You’ll just make matters worse for me and my whole crew.”
He set his jaw, and she stared him down. Finally, he raised his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay. I won’t do anything. I promise. I’m just curious who your skipper is.”
“Do you mean the C.O. or the person actually running the ship?” Normally, Guzman would have had a snappy come-back to that: the CoB was the one that ran the boat -- the officers just borrowed it. But he knew that was the wrong thing to say. “I’m the Senior Enlisted Advisory on the Gendarme
. And before you say it, the SEA,” she pronounced it ‘see-ah’, “is not the same as Chief of the Boat. As I understand it, ‘CoB’ is an antiquated and somehow derogatory term. At least, that’s what the Exec tells me.”
“I heard some things about him. I had hoped they weren’t true,” Guzman said sadly. “Lieutenant Faucheux's reputation precedes him. I see it was well deserved.”
“Yes,” she agreed unhappily. “Not that I’m complaining, but I’m surprised Commodore Hammerstrom didn’t make him the skipper now that Commander Gonzales is retiring. Then again, she’s been ROAD,” Retired On Active Duty, a derogatory slang for someone that spends more time planning for post-service life than doing the job they still have, “for the past year. Believe it or not, she’ll punch out on terminal leave next week and already has a position lined up to work for the Whitman and Associates Law Firm.”
“I can believe it.” Roger Guzman had met the type many times in his twenty-plus years of service.
“At any rate, Faucheux has been pretty much running things for a few months now. Everyone expected him to get the center seat. I don’t know Commander Christensen and haven’t heard much about her. Got any scoop on her?”
“Oh, yeah. She was my skipper for three years before we both left the Magnum
for dirt-side. She’s ... complex. Not really moody, but you need to learn to read her. It’s too hard to explain; you’ll just have to get to know her before you can predict how she’ll react to things.” A sly grin came over his face. “But if it’s any comfort, her first tour as an Ensign was on the Sam Franklin
when Chief Rinehart was the CoB.”
She perked up at that. “Really? I wonder what his assessment of her was.” Rinehart was notorious for making or breaking junior officers. A comment or two from the Chief always seemed to end up in their Fitness Report, even though he, being an enlisted man, didn’t have any official input to it. Unfortunately, his brutal honesty and inability to keep his opinions to himself also cost him any hope of making Master Chief.
He shrugged. “We’ll never know for sure, since he died in the middle of that tour.” Although the man was dead, his legend and his legacy lived on in the many junior Petty Officers he mentored over the years. Roger Guzman treasured those memories. “But do you know who she asked for to be her CoB when she took over the Magnum
?” Julie shook her head ‘no’. He smiled broadly. “Gruhn.” He laughed at her wide-eyed reaction. Master Chief Gruhn was one of Rinehart's best pupils -- the apprentice that surpassed the master.
“Gruhn? Yager Gruhn?” She had a shocked, almost horrified, look on her face, which made him laugh all the more. “Why in God’s name would she want a Tellarite ....” she faded off into thought. Then a smile grew, oh so slowly, across her face until she was beaming. Tellarites was the most obnoxious, overbearing race in the Federation. To have one as your boss ... well, it was just best to keep them happy. It was very telling of Christensen’s leadership style by her choosing one to run her boat. “Roger, you just made my day.”
He smiled back and said, “Oh, it gets better. She went to Star Fleet Academy, not Police Academy. Care to take a guess who her roommate was?” Julie just shrugged. “None other than our own favorite space witch, Sarisha Sahani.” Julie’s jaw dropped. “Yeah, she survived Shimmer’s wrath more than once, and that alone should tell you have tough she can be. In fact, word is, she gave as good as she got.”
She looked over his shoulder and said, “Speaking of the devil, there she is now.” Guzman turned to see Commander Sahani and Ensign Tillman diverting their course towards their table. The two chiefs stood up as the officers approached.
“Commander. Ensign Tillman,” Guzman greeted them, “This is Chief O’Hara of the Gendarme. Julie, the ensign is one of our shuttle pilots.”
“We’ve met,” Chief O’Hara said, perhaps a little too quickly. Tillman crinkled her eyebrows in confusion. “I was at Stephanie’s graduation. In fact, I’ve known her father for years.”
Sahani had that light-bulb-over-the-head look. “Roger, wasn’t your mother’s name ‘Tillman’? Maybe you two are related.” She could sense Julie holding her breath.
“Nah, grandfather was the only boy with five sisters, and he tried nine times before giving up hope of having a son. If we’re related, it’s no closer than fifth or sixth cousins. Did you need to see me, Ma’am?”
“No, actually, I need to speak with Chief O’Hara,” she explained. “Privately, if you don’t mind.”
Ensign Tillman spoke up, “Chief, I’m scheduled for bridge watch. They want us to dock to the base.” She blushed with embarrassment. “I’d feel more comfortable if you were by my side when I bring her into the docking port, Chief.”
“Of course, Ensign, by all means,” he smiled, “We’ll talk later, okay?” he said to the other two women. As they walked away, Stephanie gave them a discreet little wave behind her back.
The commander turned to the chief and opened her moth to speak, but O’Hare blurted out, “She doesn’t know. And neither does he. And I want to keep it that way.” She had a very determined look on her face.
Sahani raised her hands in surrender. “We all have our secrets. Yours are safe with me.” Lord only knows what she’d do if someone let her secrets out. “You know, earlier today, Roger and I were talking, and I listed all his ex-wives. He said you two never tied the knot. Now I wonder why you didn’t.”
Julie waved towards a chair and took a seat herself. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t repeat this, especially to Roger, but I was married once for two years.”
“Bad break up?”
“Bad marriage. I was seventeen and didn’t know better; he was twenty-three and very abusive. He liked to hit me. A lot. He nearly beat me to death. Twice. You’d think I would have learned after the first time, but he always made me feel like it was my fault.” She stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. “So, the last time he started in on me, I hit him upside the head with a frying pan. I thought I killed him, so I turned myself into the police. As luck would have it, I only knocked him out. They ran a DNA check on him and found he was wanted in connection with the death of his first wife, and two girlfriends in high school.”
Sarisha reached out and took the other woman’s hands into hers. “Julie, I’m so sorry. Look, I know we’ve never been friends, but I had no idea what you were living with. I would have helped any way I could have.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly. “I appreciate that. So now you understand why I’ll never get married again. I can’t even live with a man, you know, shacking up. Roger and I tried it for a couple weeks, but I couldn’t keep my side of the bargain. I’ve been through counseling, and that helped, but my life is what it is. At least the nightmares went away.” She stopped and took a few breaths, and then pulled her hands back. “So, you said you needed to see me about something, Ma’am.”
The commander pulled a data chip out of a pocket. “Here’s a list of people we need you to release when we add the Marines to your crew. Don’t ask why. I’ll explain it after the mission, but I can’t tell you right now. Just that I hope we’re wrong about them.”
“I don’t know if I can help you.” The chief took the chip and inserted it into her PADD. “I gave my list to the Exec and Lieutenant Baku, our operations officer, and they edited the list.” She read at the list she was just given. “I had about half of these people on my list, but none of them are on the final list.”
Commander Sahani sat for a long while, hands clasped together and index finger tips on her lower lip, in obvious deep thought. “We can’t cancel the mission based on a gut feeling. You can trust Christensen, and maybe Stableford. But that’s it.”
O’Hara shook her head. “Stableford’s not coming with us. With the Marines onboard, we don’t need a tactical officer, so he’s going out on the LaMagne
to fill in for their weapons officer.” Her communicator chirped. “Time for Commander’s Call. Gotta run.”
“Jewels, just be careful. Watch your back.”
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~