NSS Dauntless, in orbit above Nepleslia Prime
"This way, Sergeant," the Navy cadet said as he led Sergeant Phaedra Volkov to the Captain's office. They stopped outside and the naval rating said, "The captain'll summon you when she's ready. Good day, sergeant." With that, the man excused himself and left Phaedra staring at the hatch to Captain Ironside's office.
Phaedra politely cleared her throat and smoothed out her uniform to ensure it was in proper order. She was unsure as to exactly why she was being summoned, but Phaedra was certain it was not for something she did wrong.
"Hopefully this will not go quite as badly as my last meeting with the captain," she thought. She knocked lightly at the captain's door and waited to be summoned.
"Come in, sergeant." The door opened as if on command to reveal a small but well decorated room filled with warm, colorful hangings and paintings. Captain Valencia Ironside sat behind her desk but stood to welcome Phaedra when the door opened. "Have a seat," she gestured to one of the chairs.
As Phaedra entered the office, her eyes took in the myriad of colors that stood out from the normally drab walls of a starship. It was a surprising change.
"Captain," she said with a salute and then continued to the seat that Valencia offered.
"You wanted to speak with me, ma'am?"
"Yes, Sergeant," Valencia said, returning the salute and taking her seat across from Phaedra. "The Admiral tells me you and your squad are to be permanently assigned to my ship. So, I think we should come to some understanding between ourselves. Unlike the boys, I think we can be civil," she continued, her tone sincere.
"I've met part of your squad, during the trip from Tange so I don't think we got off to a bad start but after that incident in the training mission, I thought it best we clear the air. Unlike the Admiral, I'm not so strict about formalities and that sort of crap. Hell, you can call me Valencia if you really want to when we're off-duty like this! But one thing I want stressed to you and your squad - the Admiral gives a damn about that nonsense. So try to make sure your squad can show some amount of respect. It'll make life easier for the whole ship. Any questions about that, Sergeant?"
"None, ma'am. I made my dissapproval of that incident clear to those involved. It was inexcusable."
Valencia cocked an eyebrow at the stiff response. "Sergeant, this is a social call. I'm not about to clap you in irons if you disagree. Though... that does sound like a fun thing to threaten the crew with when they're being lazy..." She grinned mischievously. "I think another thing we need to be clear on is shipboard duties and responsibilities. I got the sense from one of your Marines, that white haired girl, that she saw my ship as a glorified troop transport. Not in so many words but something like that. I've been looking at the Admiral's plans and I want you to understand, this is the other way around. Your Marines are, for better or for worse, part of my crew. If the ship is in combat and your Marines are aboard, I expect you to be helping with damage control. If we're boarded, I hope you can lead the charge to defend the ship. In return, when you're deployed on the ground, I will do my best as Flag Captain to make sure you and the other Marines get the most support. That's my understanding of our relationship. What are your thoughts?"
"I would expect nothing less of the Cavaliers, ma'am. I for one would not be able to sit on my ass while the ship was under attack." Phaedra folded her hands in her lap, appearing much more relaxed than she was previously.
"And plus it helps to have a place to call home; having a familiar place to return to after a mission helps morale tremendously, ma'am"
"Oh good. Since we've got more accomodations for troops than we actually have aboard, I can give each of your Marines their own room. I can offer you an empty officer's cabin, if you want," Valencia said, looking at Phaedra to watch her reply.
Phaedra raised an eyebrow at the mention of giving each Marine their own room.
"While I am not opposed to giving each Marine their room; I feel this may interfere with squad cohesion. While I was on the NSS Acadia, we had two to a room. I feel this a reasonable compromise between one to a room, or everyone in the barracks. Also, I would prefer if the Cavaliers were adjacent to one another. Also, I would not oppose an officer's cabin, but I would like to remain accessible to my squad. If an officer's cabin is not available near to the squad's quarters, I will simply take a nearby empty room."
Valencia shrugged. "Okay, that can be easily arranged. I'll have one of my officers work out the best placement," she said, writing on a paper notepad to get it done.
"That's about all the business I had. Do you have anything to bring up with me?" she asked Phaedra.
Phaedra thought for a moment.
"Nothing at the moment, ma'am"
"Good, now we can talk about more interesting things! So, tell me, what do you think of the Admiral?" Valencia rested her head on her right hand.
"The Admiral?" Phaedra steepled her hands in front of her, the metal of her left hand contrasting with the pale flesh of her right.
"I think the Admiral is exactly what the 4th fleet needed. I agree with the excellence that he demands of all of us; the need for order, discipline, and proper conduct."
"However," said Phaedra, returning her hands to the armrests of the chair.
"I do feel that he did not do well in conveying his orders to myself and the other boots on the ground; hence the need for Chief Santiago. While he excels at managing the fleet, I feel he did not necessarily understand how to use the Marines effectively. Again; something the Chief and I am working to address."
Valencia laughed, not loudly but still unequivocally a laugh. "He's got the same training I do. All we can do is run a ship and fly a desk. I was surprised he even remembered to talk to your Marines. I was more focused on the NMX space forces. Be nice, we don't know how to fight a ground war. That's why we send you Marines in."
"Yes, that is true. But then the Admiral should have given me the benefit of the doubt and let me fight the way I felt was necessary and not take weapons away from my squad's arsenal," said Phaedra sharply, remembering the debacle that was their last mission. Phaedra realized how her last comment sounded and then shook her head.
"Apologies, I should have been more assertive with the Admiral and should not speak that way about him."
"The man runs things his way, Sergeant. He doesn't seem the sort to trust easily. He refused to leave the bridge, even when there was nothing else he could do. What is it you Marines say? You can do the hardest job with the least equipment?"
She took a breath, as if preparing herself, then said, "While we're on the subject, I'm sorry if this comes across as rude but, I think putting the fault on the Admiral is harsh. It's easy, since he's the one in charge and who planned it. He's already taken the responsibility for the loss of 7 warships and the lack of operational success. You couldn't see it but when we left the system, he looked... defeated.
"How much, really, could he control the ground mission? Your Marines ignored his restrictions anyway and used AM weapons. So its not like you were actually affected by that minor restriction. Could he predict that the NMX had underground tunnels and hordes of troops just waiting underground? I won't pretend to know whether you could have done a better job or not, but you and your Marines were the ones tasked with the operation's true objective." Valencia left it unsaid that she felt the Marines had dropped the ball and owned part of the responsibility for the failure.
"Your analysis of the last mission is not unfounded. I do feel that the mission could have gone much better; but we were given very little intel on which to act upon. We entered the facility relatively blind. I feel that the lack of information we were given was the primary reason for the failure of the mission. However, I am also not blameless in the failure of the last mission. There were decisions I made that were not the best; there were multiple failings, and the Chief and I am working to correct them."
"I'd blame our inability to get intelligence on Admiral Wazu leaving us with no ships capable of doing sneak-and-peeks. Though, Admiral Valken should have fixed that sooner. By the way, how are things between you and the Chief? I hear it was quite a scolding you got," Valencia chuckled.
Phaedra crossed her arms across her chest.
"I can say we had a rocky start, but the Chief and I have come to an understanding. I do feel that everything I do is being critiqued by him; which is true in a way. I did have the position of Sergeant thrust upon me rather quickly and I confess I am still learning how to be the best squad leader I can be. But while the Chief can be a little harsh, his experience is what will mold our mass of new recruits into a proper fighting unit."
"And did this understanding come as you two lay in bed?" Valencia asked with a sly grin. "Word is that you were getting along pretty well after that bar fight. I wouldn't blame you, he is pretty dashing. And I hear he's taken an interest in you. You planning to come to more... intimate understandings of each other?"
Phaedra's cheeks blushed.
"Uh...buh...not quite. We are not...romantically involved," stuttered Phaedra.
"While I do not deny his attractiveness, and I have certainly noticed the way his eyes wander, we are currently not in a relationship in that way."
"Besides, he is my superior officer; that would be grounds for fraternization."
"Pshh, that's not an excuse. Who do you think is going to report you? Him? Me? I don't care as long as it doesn't affect operations. The Admiral? Actually, I think he's already under the impression you two are involved. He was the one who told me about the meeting and how well you two had gotten along afterwards. If Santiago tried to flirt, would you return the favor?"
Phaedra put a hand to her forehead.
"The Admiral thinks that we..." she trailed off.
"I must confess that I am rather inexperienced with relationships with the opposite sex. I mean...I know how sex works. They explain everything in training, but I guess I did not receive as much experience as one would growing up naturally. It is possible that the Chief has been flirting with me and I haven't noticed. I felt much more outgoing once I had some vodka in me but...I'm rambling aren't I..."
"Don't worry about it. Lots of great people ramble. Well, if he does flirt with you, have fun with it. Let me put it a different way, he's advancing on you and you can choose how much of a defense to put up. The more you resist, the harder he'll try. Don't give in right away. Oh, I need to meet with someone else in a few minutes. That'll be all, Sergeant. Dismissed." Valencia stood up to see Phaedra out.
"Yes ma'am," said Phaedra, following her out. As she stood at the door, she glanced around hallway to check for anyone nearby. She was just about to ask one more thing when Valencia spoke.
"Oh by the way, Sergeant. If you need someone to advise you, I'm all ears. Also, keep this to yourself but word on the grapevine is that the Admiral's getting a promotion soon. Enjoy your leave."
"Thank you, Captain," said Phaedra with a salute and a nod. With that, Phaedra turned and walked away.
"Hello, sergeant. Can't stop to chat, need to see the captain about something," Chief Santiago said politely as he passed by her and entered Captain Ironside's office.
"Hello, Chief," said Phaedra in a slightly less than monotone voice. If Leon Santiago wanted to pursue Phaedra Volkov, she would give him the fight of his life.