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Hang In There, Baby

Posted on Mar 24, 2017 @ 2:01am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Mar 24, 2017 @ 2:03am

Mission: In Place of God

= Hang In There Baby =

(cont’d from “Place Setting For One”)


SCENE: ExO’s Office

STARDATE: [2.17] 0323.2140

Jake’s old office down in Main Engineering had always been sparsely appointed, and he’d managed to bring all that nothing up to his new office on Deck 1 in less than one box. The best part was he didn’t even need to unpack. The office was bigger than his old one, and the desk was probably technically nicer, but Jake was still getting used to how much quieter things were up here. Down in Main Engineering, there was always some kind of noise; if not the conversations of his staff, then the omnipresent thrum of the warp core. People told stories of engineers who knew their ship so well they could detect a problem just by the hum of the plating beneath their feet, and Jake knew enough to know these stories were no legends. It was impossible to spend every day twenty feet away from your starship’s beating heart and *not* develop a sense for how it should look, sound, and feel.

Jake decided he was waxing nostalgic for two reasons: one, because the PHOENIX’s new Chief Engineer, Malin-Argo, was currently storming his way up from below decks to chew Jake’s ear off about some problem with Ensgin Ryan, and two, because he didn’t want to think about Xana, or the one actual thing he *had* brought with him to his new ExO office: the PADD containing their divorce paperwork, which currently sat in a closed desk drawer next to him.

After leaving Xana’s quarters the night before, Jake had dug the PADD out from the back of his dresser, and had spent a long time sitting at the foot of his bed looking at it. Even though he knew he was being selfish, was actually *hurting* Xana, whom he *did* love despite everything that had passed between them, Jake still couldn’t bring himself to add his signature to the forms. After awhile, he’d set the PADD down on his bedside table, climbed into bed, and slept restlessly. This morning, he’d absently grabbed the PADD as he left his quarters, deciding he’d do something about it, one way or the other. Then, he’d realized that he couldn’t think of anything to do about it other than sign it, and so he’d stuffed the PADD back into a drawer. Out of sight, out of mind.

Well. Almost.

The door chimed, and Jake looked up, grateful for the distraction. “Come in.”

Malin-Argo entered. The Grazerite looked mad, but then that had been true every time Jake had met with him. Jake decided that might just be the way Malin-Argo’s face looked, as he gestured to one of the chairs set on the opposite side of his desk.

“Commander. Have a seat, please.”

“If it’s all the same to you, Commander, I think I’d rather stand.”

Jake shrugged. “Suit yourself. What can I do for you?”

“I want something done about Ensign Ryan.”

Jake quirked an eyebrow. “Like what?”

“I don’t want her on my staff anymore.”

Jake sat back in his chair. “Well. That’s a pretty serious thing to say. May I ask why?”

“Her performance has been substandard since we left spacedock, she’s been late to her duty shifts, and just now in Main Engineering, she was openly insubordinate,” Malin-Argo said, ticking off each of his complaints on his fingers as he spoke. “I appreciate the young woman has experienced trauma, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with the efficient operation of my engine room.”

Jake bristled at Malin-Argo staking that claim, but he tried not to let it show on his face. In the days since they’d left port, Jake had kept a careful eye on reports from Main Engineering, secretly hoping to see dips in efficiency, maintenance issues, or some other evidence to prove that he’d been a better chief engineer than the Grazerite could ever hope to be. Unfortunately, no such data had been forthcoming; all signs pointed to Malin-Argo being a supremely qualified, if unpopular, replacement for the PHOENIX’s CEO.

“Insubordinate,” Jake repeated. “What did she do?”

“She was openly defiant and hostile,” said Malin-Argo.

“I see. And did anyone else see this?”

“It happened on the floor of Main Engineering,” Malin-Argo said. “Out in the open.”

“That’s not what I asked you, Commander.”

Malin-Argo shifted his weight uncomfortably. “I had just dismissed the morning briefing. The rest of the staff were seeing to their duties-”

“Nobody else saw it?” Jake asked.

“I can’t be certain. It hardly matters; the behavior was unacceptable whether anyone was there to see it or not.”

“This other stuff, about her not performing,” Jake said, folding his hands on his desktop in the way he remembered instructors at Starfleet Academy doing it all those years ago. “I’ve seen Ensign Ryan in action, Commander. We’ve both seen her records. She’s a very gifted engineer.”

“Then she is squandering her talent,” Malin-Argo said. “Or she is too damaged by her experience with the Neo-Essentialists to perform to the best of her abilities. Either way, it is not my responsibility to pound her into shape.”

“You’re the leader down there,” Jake said. “That’s pretty much your *biggest* responsibility.”

“With all due respect, sir, you have seen *my* record,” said Malin-Argo. His dark eyes seemed to shine, but despite the anger in his tone, the Grazerite let none of it show on his face. “This is not my first command, and I am well aware of my responsibilities as senior officer.”

“Oh yes,” Jake said, trying not to grin. “You’re obviously an inspiration. Rousing speeches and all that.”

“This is a serious matter, Commander,” Malin-Argo said, putting extra emphasis on the rank, as if to remind Jake that he had three collar pips of his own. “If you will not take it seriously, I will escalate this to Captain Kane.”

As must always be the way, the schoolyard games end when one of the participants threatens to go get a teacher. Jake sighed.

“Very well,” Jake said. “Your request to have Ensign Ryan removed from your team is denied.”

Malin-Argo’s eyes widened. “What?”

“Without calling your record into question, you and I have a disagreement as to the responsibilities of a leader,” Jake said. “If Ensign Ryan’s work is suffering as a result of trauma from what happened at Point Bonita, I think she deserves better than to be tossed aside. Furthermore, I think she represents too great an asset to this ship to be dismissed simply because you find her inconvenient.”

“So you will do nothing?” Malin-Argo asked. “She can flout my authority, fail to meet my standards, and still she-”

Jake held up a hand. “Let me finish. Obviously, her insubordination is unacceptable. However, seeing as how there was nobody there to see it-”

“That we know of,” Malin-Argo added quickly.

“In my opinion, the damage to your authority was minimal,” Jake continued. “In light of that, I think the best course of action for everyone involved would be to get her the help she needs, so that she can get back into fighting shape.”

“I cannot be expected to simply absorb the negative impact of her presence in Main Engineering,” Malin-Argo said. “It is not fair to me, or to the rest of my staff, who must work even harder to close the gaps she’s leaving.”

“I know those people,” Jake said. “If they thought there was a problem, they’d be here talking to me.”

**They sure as hell wouldn’t be talking to you,** he thought, but wisely decided not to say out loud.

“Then their loyalty is commendable, but it is not their opinions that matter. It’s mine.”

“And you’re not exactly the huggiest guy on the ship, are you?” Jake asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t take your meaning,” the Grazerite frowned.

“I think we should get a second opinion,” said Jake. “Counselor Dalziel has the most experience in these matters. We should see what she thinks.”

“Counselor Dalziel is not an engineer-”

“And this isn’t an engineering problem,” Jake said. “It’s a personnelle problem, and Eve is most qualified to deal with it.”

“And if the counselor determines Ensign Ryan is unfit for duty?” Malin-Argo asked.

“Then I will relieve her,” Jake said. “Not before. You’ve got a genius on your hands down there, Commander. We don’t want to lose her. Trust me.”

Trust looked like it might be a step too far for the Grazerite, but the chain of command was clear enough. Malin-Argo didn’t look satisfied, but he relented.

“Very well,” he said. “We will see what Counselor Dalziel has to say first.”

“Good,” Jake nodded. “You’ll thank me, Commander.”

“That remains to be seen, Commander,” Malin-Argo said. “Am I dismissed?”

“You’re free to go,” Jake said. The Grazerite spun on his heel and disappeared through the doors without looking back.


SCENE: Counsellor’s Office

Jake stepped into the counselling center. Eve’s office was up a short hallway, and though there was a door, Eve usually kept it open, to help encourage her crewmates to come to her with any problems they might be dealing with. Jake had never asked how many people took her up on it; in his experience, the only time Starfleet officer’s willing went to Sickbay or the Counsellor’s Office was when every other part of the ship was on fire. Starfleet officers were usually a pretty stoic bunch, in spite of spending every day sailing into an endless expanse of cold oblivion that was totally indifferent to their survival. They tended not to talk out their problems so much as modify the main deflector dish and shoot plasma beams at them. Counselors like Eve fought an uphill battle, every day; seeing to the mental health and well-being of a population of extremely driven, intelligent, overworked, type-A personalities who spent all day long in an environment that might kill them at any moment. Emotional issues were sure to crop up, and were even more sure to be dismissed by all the extremely competent and self-actualized Starfleet officers who were far too busy to be suffering from them.

Jake nodded a hello to Owen Arion and made his way towards Eve’s office. As usual, the door was open; Jake could see Eve, seated at her desk, doing some work on her desktop terminal. Jake knocked on the door frame, and Eve looked up. Her eyes widened slightly when she saw Jake.

“Jake,” she said. Then, “Sorry. Commander. I’m still getting used to that.”

“I was a Commander before, too,” Jake said.

“You weren’t First Officer before,” Eve said. “Come in, please. Have a seat.”

Jake accepted her offer and settled into one of the comfortable chairs opposite her desk. Eve closed out of her terminal, then turned her attention to him.

“So. I owe you an apology.”

“Yes,” Jake said. “Though I think maybe I owe you one, too.”

“I shouldn’t have done that in front of everyone,” Eve said. “I have no excuse.”

“We’ve been on this ship a long time,” Jake said. “I guess I’ve never been the most formal officer in the fleet. Hell, I once called the captain ‘Mike’ to his face in front of a room full of people.”

Eve blinked. ‘You did?”

“Yeah,” Jake laughed. “You could ask Barton about it, if anybody knew where he ran off to. The point is, I know a lot of things have changed, and you’re not the only one trying to catch up, and you don’t have to apologize to me for that.”

Eve smiled. “Thank you.”

“Still,” Jake said. “I don’t appreciate my personal business being aired like that, without my permission. Rank or no rank, that’s not something people should do to each other.”

Eve nodded. “I understand. And I am sorry.”

“So,” Jake continued. “Officially, as your superior officer: your conduct was unacceptable, and that can’t happen again. Unofficially, as your friend: I know why you did what you did, and though I didn’t like your approach, I appreciate your concern.”

“Thank you.”

“So. Still friends?”

Eve smiled again. “Of course.”

Jake smiled in return. “Good. Now I need a favor.”

Eve snorted. “And I need a raise.”

“We don’t get paid.”

“Figure of speech,” Eve sighed. “What do you need?”

“It’s Lynette,” Jake said. “Ensign Ryan, I mean.”

“What about her?”

“Malin-Argo came by my office this morning,” Jake said. “Apparently, Ensign Ryan has been late for work, her performance is slipping, and today she gave the boss a little too much backtalk for his liking.”

“Insubordinate behavior?” Eve asked. “Did anyone see it?”

“Malin-Argo doesn’t think so,” Jake said, shaking his head. “And even if they did, none of them are going to roll over on Lynette, not for the likes of him.”

“He isn’t that bad, Jake,” Eve said. “Not everyone is easy to work with, but he’s a decorated officer with a long service record.”

“I know,” Jake said. “But I want to give Lynette the benefit of the doubt. She saved our bacon back on Earth. She saved the whole damn planet, as a matter of fact.”

“She did,” Eve nodded.

“Anyway, Malin-Argo wants her thrown off his team,” Jake said. “In my opinion, that’s hasty. I don’t want to lose a gifted officer just because her department head is rough around the edges.”

“Malin-Argo has the right to request she be transferred away, just like she does,” Eve shrugged. “Especially if what he’s saying about her performance is true. What do you want me to do about it?”

“I was thinking you could talk to her,” Jake said.

“Jake,” Eve said. “If you think she needs counseling, order her to counseling.”

“I don’t want to push her,” Jake said. “Not like that, anyway. She could, I don’t know, close down or something. Don’t people close down?”

“If you want to practice your psychiatry terms, here’s another one,” Eve said. “Projection.”

“Fair enough,” Jake said. He sighed. “She already doesn’t think command has her back. Malin-Argo is basically waiting for an excuse to dump her. And after what she experienced with the Neo-Essentialists… I guess I just think she deserves to have her trust in her support systems validated, you know?”

“Counselling doesn’t work if you don’t want it to,” Eve said. “If she doesn’t think she needs help, I can’t help her.”

“I just need you to tell me if she’s fit for duty,” Jake said. “Not to sound like Malin-Argo, but will she bend or break? I think we need her around here, but not if it’s not in her own best interests to stay.”

Eve considered this for a moment, then nodded. “Okay. I’ll talk to her, try to get a sense of where she’s at. But I have to stress that this is *not* a formal appraisal of her mental state. It would be unethical for me to subject her to that without her consent, and unethical for me to share the results with you outside of the requirements of my duty to the ship. Do you understand?”

“Yeah,” Jake nodded. “No ink blots. I got it.”

“I mean it, Jake,” Eve said. “I can’t sign off on anything related to her, one way or the other, without a formal counselling session. You’re getting my gut instinct and that’s it.”

“That’s what I need,” Jake smiled. “Thank you, Eve.”

“You’re welcome. Is there anything else?”

“Yeah,” Jake said, looking around at the walls of Eve’s office. “I saw a poster in my simulation, back when we were on the holodeck. Cat, hanging from a tree, with a caption that reads ‘Hang in there, baby’...”

“Goodbye, Jake,” Eve said. Jake chuckled, and he turned to leave.


NRPG: Hope I did okay with Eve!


Shawn Putnam


Jake Crichton

Executive Officer



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