Exiting warp in the Frost system; the Fleet station should be on this side of their sun, Alex reported as Follys warp bubble smoothly collapsed, dropping them back into the normal universe with hardly a quiver. Ill handle traffic control while you talk to the quartermaster.
On it, Cindy replied from a neighboring console.
Hey Tess! called out a cheerful voice as a female husky morph suddenly appeared on Cindys display.
Cindy, actually, Cindy said with a grin as the husky had started looking confused at the fox on her screen. Though Im sure Tess is around here somewhere if youd rather talk to her.
Holy shit – Old Man Fosters running with a crew again!? the husky laughed. This should be fun.
Oh? Cindy asked. Did you know the last crew?
Ha! That was a little before my time, but I happen to know that they left a lasting impression on this station, the husky said with a grin so big that it looked like it should hurt. By the way, Im Ensign Wade, call me Veronica, she told them. How much of a hurry is he in this time?
Neal didnt say anything about us being in any hurry, and we could already see you guys have a couple ships ahead of us, Cindy told her.
Traffic Control is warning me of a four hour minimum wait to transfer cargo – though it could be over six, depending on how well the other transfers go, Alex told her.
Thatll give the others time for a little shopping, Cindy agreed.
Therell be more of you? This just keeps getting better and better, Veronica said with another grin.
You seem far too excited that Folly has a crew... Cindy suggested.
Lets just say I know that something out of the ordinary happened one time the old Pogo Stick came in to drop off supplies – twice actually …
Oh? Cindy asked.
Oh, yeah, Veronica replied. Since we have plenty of time, give me a just a second to find it … It was closer to a minute before her window shrank into the corner, a new scene taking her place.
Starbase Firewall, Traffic Control, this is Pogo Stick. ETA to docking range fifteen minutes. Be advised that we are a little pressed for time, Chakat Faststream was telling a female lion morph in a Star Fleet uniform. A side window on the screen showed no other ships at or near the station.
Roger Pogo Stick, one-five minutes to docking range. This is Lieutenant Second Class Oran. Our main shift just started, so we should be able to get you in and out promptly. May I ask the reason for the rush? she politely asked.
You guys just happened to be in line with where we need to be in a few days. As were pretty sure at this point we cant make the first bonus for getting there early, we figured we could drop off your supplies and still get there without getting hit by the late penalties. If we can be done and out of here in under six hours well be in good shape, if you tell us longer well have to fly by again some other time.
Well have to really drag things out to make you guys hang around six hours, Lieutenant Oran assured hir with a chuckle. Let me forward you to our quartermaster while I tell the cargo crews to get ready. Dock twelve.
Dock twelve, copy, Faststream said just before the display changed to that of a bored looking poodle morph.
Quartermaster, the poodle didnt quite sneer as she looked up from whatever she had been doing.
Pogo Stick inbound with your supplies, Faststream replied.
Were in the middle of an inventory over here, your offload will begin in ten and a half hours, the poodle snapped at hir before disconnecting the connection.
Well, that was rude, Faststream muttered before hitting a button on the intercom panel. Dreamy? We may have a problem …
Be there in a minute! came the quick reply.
While shi waited on Dreamweaver, Faststream called the station again.
Hello again, Pogo Stick. To what do I owe the honor? Lieutenant Oran asked.
Your quartermaster just told us you guys are busy doing an inventory, and an unload delay of over ten hours … Faststream said with a frown.
The Lieutenant sputtered for a moment before saying, Theres no inventory going on as far as I know of, give me a second, she said as she opened another window on the comm screen.
The screen opened to show the poodle from before. Hey, Debbie! Just what so-called inventory are you running that has a higher priority than unloading a supply ship? Lieutenant Oran demanded – just before the window closed.
Why that little – Oran started to say before Faststream interrupted her.
Dont bother, shi said as a second head appeared over hir shoulder. You get all of that, Sis?
Got it, Dreamweaver agreed. Turn us around and line us up, I want to be able to go to warp in the next minute or two. Lieutenant, if you would please connect me to your quartermasters office one more time? And make sure youre recording, shi added with a grin.
There was more glare than sneer on the poodles muzzle when she appeared yet again. Dreamweaver gave her a smile as shi said, I understand there will be a delay of over ten hours in your station being ready for us, is that correct?
At least ten and a half hours! the poodle snarled at hir.
And while were in a bit of a hurry, theres no way to expedite things at your end? Dreamweaver sweetly asked, still smiling.
NO! Debbie snapped.
If anything, Dreamweavers smile grew even wider. Thats all I needed for my captain. Well try again sometime when youre not so busy, shi said before looking off camera and saying, Engage!
The Star Fleet recording was left showing a now very surprised poodle sputtering protests to a no longer connected channel.
Oh … shit … Cindy snickered as the recording ended.
Yeah, but it gets better, Veronica warned her.
How could she top that? Cindy wanted to know.
Veronica just grinned. A couple weeks later they tried again to deliver those supplies. This time its your captain against the base commander!
Hello, Commander. Is there a problem? said what looked like a much older Neal Foster, a cup of tea could be seen to one side but otherwise the table in front of him was empty.
I want to know why the hell you didnt drop off the supplies like you were supposed to two weeks ago! the commander demanded. Like the quartermaster, he was a poodle, but he was sneering so hard he looked more like an ugly bulldog.
Raise your voice like that again and I wont be delivering any supplies this time either, Commander, the older Neal snapped back. He hadnt raised his voice, but his tone promised mayhem.
Dont you try to threaten me … the poodle started, only to now see the human was smiling a smile that he didnt like at all.
Ever hear the expression Power Corrupts? Neal asked. Its a very simple concept, giving someone power empowers them to do more than they could have without it. The problem comes about when said empowered person then abuses that power to their own ends – say like someone causing a deliberate delay to push something past her shift so she doesnt have to do the work …
That was no excuse for you leaving!
Actually it was, Neal countered. As my crew told yours, we had only so much time that we could waste here.
Star Fleet has a higher priority than anything else you might be delivering, the poodle growled.
Only if theyre paying for priority service, Neal replied, Which they dont bother to do for these standard supply runs. On the delivery we were making, the bonus and late penalties alone were much more than Star Fleet was offering to pay for your little run, and this delivery wont be considered late for another six weeks.
I want to know what type of punishment you gave your crew for leaving this station without our permission!
I gave them each a piece of the profits their actions caused, Neal replied with a tight grin. It looks like were back to power corrupts, Commander. While you are the highest authority of your star base, you are not of this ship – thats my command. Mine is the power to decide where this ship goes and when, who has what priorities, if any. If I dictate to my crew that they may try to make a stop unless its going to risk a higher paid job, then I expect them to do it, Commander. Im assuming you reviewed the recordings of the event, I certainly did. Neal could see that the poodles glare was more guarded now, but there was also a more stubborn or mulish look to his eyes. What I saw was a ship and station ready to quickly and efficiently get supplies moved – all but one person, the one person that it all hinged around. My read on it was she didnt want to do all the paperwork that accepting your supplies would entail, so she came up with a very poor excuse to make it wait for a later shift. You wanted to know what punishment my crew received, well Commander, why dont you tell me how you disciplined your daughter? Yes, I did my homework and I know you two are related, I think this is part of why Star Fleet doesnt like relations among members reporting to those above them.
She was never told why you needed any rush on anything – not that a Starbase has to jump to some freighters demands.
Of course she wasnt told, Commander. As we saw, she kept saying no and then disconnecting on all callers – even those that outranked her. By that same token, an independent freighter like mine doesnt have to sit around waiting on a Starbase thats too lazy to get it in gear. Though, as an independently owned freighter, I do have one small advantage over you. Neals grin grew as the poodles eyes narrowed. I report to me, if I screw up so badly that Im losing money, its my own damn fault. But if you or yours screw up, you get the privilege of explaining it all to Star Fleet.
You cant threaten me, the poodle again told Neal, his glare back to full strength.
Whats to threaten? Ive already sent Fleet the recordings of our first visit with a Is this a new standard that we civilians should learn to put up with when dealing with Star Fleet bases? Their replies were No, and Well look into it, so Id imagine me threatening you at this point would be somewhat anticlimactic, Commander …
Just for that, Captain, Im thinking of ordering a full stem to stern inspection of your ship and cargo!
That would be within your rights as a Star Fleet base commander – that is if you had any probable cause in mind other than petty revenge. Of course I would then be within my rights to protest your highhandedness to Star Fleet. I would also be advising Star Fleet that the other supply runs that theyve already entrusted to me will be delayed … hmmm, considering the size of my ship and the amount of cargo, and figuring in how your quartermaster will be dragging her heels at all the work youre little inspection will make for her … Id best warn them that due to your actions their supplies will be a minimum of a year late, possibly longer.
Glaring at the rather smug looking human on his screen, the poodle hit a button on his desk. Red Alert! he half shouted. Launch the ready fighters at once – they are to physically disable the Pogo Stick! The last he said while now grinning back at Neal.
Putting my ship at risk are you? Neal calmly asked. Very well. Bridge. Full emergency power to the engines, I want warp speed now.
Warning! Base proximity – a computer-like voice was heard saying in the background.
Override safeties and engage! Neal ordered. Their idiot excuse for a commander has no concerns for our safety, so I have less concern for theirs, Neal told the now shocked looking poodle just before his image disappeared – and the recording showed that the base was suddenly shaken hard enough to knock the poodle out of his chair.
The recording shrank to a lower corner as injury and damage reports started flooding in.
Cindy took a deep breath and looked at Veronica. I wonder how much trouble he got into for that little stunt?
Veronica snorted. Your captain knew just what he was doing. Records show he went directly to the next Starbase and gave that base commander all the recordings from his side. He even offered to let them inspect his ship if they thought it necessary, but he wasnt going to risk his ship and crew to that unstable poodle and daughter act.
So... what happened?
I dont have access to everything, Veronica admitted, but we do know that there just happened to be a galaxy class star ship in port when Pogo Stick showed up there, and three days later they showed up here with the supplies – as well as a full IG team.
IG? Cindy asked.
Inspector General. A special team made to check on every aspect of a command for problems; and I heard they tore this base a new one when they came through.
Oh my … Tess gave us an informal inspection once. We were so smug when she started …
And felt like running with your tail between your legs long before she was through? Veronica chuckled. Believe me, Ive been there a time or two too.
I take it the poodles didnt fair well?
Veronica frowned. Well, its considered a bad sign when theres an unplanned change of command less than three hours after an IG team arrives, she pointed out. And all the departments were run through the wringer, and part of that was all the heads of those departments having to rewrite their last few performance reviews for their staff from memory – and then having to justify them.
To remove forced reviews that the base commander had influenced? Cindy guessed.
That too, Veronica admitted. Though he wasnt the only one, it seems they had quite a good old boys club running between him and his friends. Records showed that the IG team spent a whole month here, weeding out the problems.
Id think a lot of people would have been unhappy with the man whod created such a shakeup, Cindy commented.
Fewer than you might think, Veronica told her with another grin. There were a lot of good people working here, but they were being forced to work under the yoke of bad command.
So, do you just so happen to have their next visit? Cindy wondered.
I thought youd never ask! Veronica laughed as a new recording came up.
Starbase Firewall, Traffic Control, this is Pogo Stick. ETA to docking range twenty-five minutes, Chakat Faststreams hair was longer this time, but shi didnt look too much older. The side window showed six ships either near or already docked with the station.
By chance, the same female lion morph was there to greet hir.
Roger Pogo Stick, two-five minutes to docking range. This is Lieutenant First Class Oran, welcome back. Itll take me just a moment to get the lanes cleared for you!
Get the lanes cleared? Why? Faststream asked with a raised eyebrow.
After what happened the last two times you guys were here? Standing orders are to expedite whatever you require, the lieutenant told hir.
Were in no hurry this time, Lieutenant, well wait our turn.
The lieutenants grin was a little forced as she said, Were being watched very carefully after what happened to you guys last time, Shir. Itll be my tail if I dont follow orders.
Understood, Lieutenant, Faststream acknowledged. Please conference in your supervisor – and ensure your recorders are running.
Yes, Shir, she said, and in less than a minute the screen split and there was a Rakshan male staring at them. His comm badge was that of a lieutenant commander.
I understand there is a problem with our arrangements? he said without preamble.
Faststream smiled. While its sometimes nice to be treated special, it sometimes can cause more harm than good. I know a couple of those ships out there, and I know how upset their captains will be if Pogo Stick is seen to bump the queue. If you would please, as a favor to us, just place us in line?
The Rakshani just stared at hir for a moment before saying, Lieutenant, add them to the end of the queue. Shir, as it will be several hours before it is your turn, we have a shuttle service if any of your crew requires station leave while you wait. Also, if you would, our compliments to your captain, and would he like to join our base commander for dinner?
I will ask, Faststream told him, To increase the chances of his reply being a yes, Ill see if I cant convince our cooking staff to mutiny for the evening, shi added with a smile as shi did something to the panel in front of hir.
Thank you, Shir, the Rakshani said with a curt nod just before he dropped off the line.
Hes rather no-nonsense for a Rakshani, the lion told hir with a small smile. You always know exactly where you stand with him. Quite a step up from my last boss.
Faststream looked ready to reply, but something on hir board caught hir attention. Giving Owen a wink, shi split the screen to add Neals stern looking face.
Your siblings just went past my door saying Youre on your own tonight sucker! You wouldnt know anything about that – would you? he said, ignoring the ill-at-ease lioness on the other half of his screen.
Faststream gave him a smile as shi said, Youre always telling us that making friends is good for business, and the new base commander has invited you to dinner. As we know how hard you work at setting a good example for us, I knew that you would accept – which means we dont have to cook tonight.
Neals head did a half shake as he snorted. Where did they place us in the queue? he asked.
Dead last – as I requested, shi replied. We can use the station time and I thought you would want to hide any special privileges from Hartorn.
Jumping Jack Flash is here? Yeah, low profile until hes clear, then well see if we can find out what hes been up to. Tess? Full passive scans, I want to know which way they go.
Aye, Boss, another voice was heard to say.
Finally looking at the still shocked looking lieutenant, Neal said, Let your base commander know that I accept, and Ill let you and Faststream work out the timing.
Cindy chuckled as the screen went back to just Veronica grinning back at her. And here Id thought we had pushed him to his limits a couple times – Ill have to let the others know we have yet to scratch the surface.
Dont go getting too cocky, Tesss voice told them. The Captains threshold can change without warning.
And for no apparent reason, Neals voice chimed in. His chuckle when Cindy and Veronica exchanged worried looks confirmed that he was watching them even though he hadnt popped up on their displays. And dear Veronica, since you like airing my dirty laundry so much, Ill let you tell that reprobate excuse of a base commander of yours that no, I wont dine with him tonight – but that he is welcome to join me. Oh, and tell him he can bring along that excuse for a cook that hes so proud of – Ive already asked my cook to see if she cant whip up a little something to impress our guests.
Veronica didnt look like she really wanted to relay that message, but she nodded before looking at Cindy again and giving her a nod before the screen went blank.
Are you trying to get her in trouble for showing me those clips? Cindy asked the blank screen.
Not at all, Neals voice replied. The lack of video was somewhat explained when she then heard what sounded like a wrench or some other tool bounce off a hard deck – most likely at the other end of the ship in engineering. Gilbert, their current base commander, and I met long before he was assigned here. Heh, we even went through our own little supply snafu, which he handled much better that those poodles did. Which was one of the first things he learned about when he came on station as the new commander. It seems every new base commander – as well as the quartermasters and traffic control – are shown those first two recordings Veronica showed you. I called him more than just a reprobate the first time we met up here.
You saw the ass kissing they were trying to pull in the third recording? Now ramp it up from someone who knows I dont put up with that shit.
So hes used to you calling him a reprobate?
Among other things, was all Neal admitted to.
Standard orders while visiting the base, groups of three or more.
And extra points depending on how long you guys can keep Weaver from finding out about those recordings.
Damn, Cindy muttered as Alex snickered in the background.
Copyright © 2013 Allen Fesler Redbear1158 (at) either gmail or hotmail dot com
Chakat universe is copyright of Bernard Doove and used with his permission.
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