Klingseis Chapter Five
A fifteen minute journey is necessary to reach Major Hale’s office. He resides in the forward underbelly of the Ironsides, on the mirrored end of the ship from the pilot briefing room. The long trek hasn’t sated my desire to bite his head off. Hale is a Marine and I’m Navy. He is not in my chain of command, so he technically has no authority over me. Yet as a Major, his relative officer ranking is above mine, so I generally try to show the title the respect it deserves. But, that kind of respect has its time and place.
A single guard is watching the Major’s door as I close in, a meaningless presentation of power. I’m sure Hale requested the detail himself. I get close enough to read the plaque hanging on the side of his door. It boasts the Marine motto of “Semper Fidelis.” ’Always Faithful’.
The sentry offers a cordial expression as he sees me coming, which quickly turns to confusion. When I don’t slow down, his panic allows me to bulldoze my way into Hale’s office. He isn’t afraid of me, just of the reprimand Hale will deliver for allowing me past without warning.
Hale knows why I’m here, so I don’t bother with a grand gesture of incredulity. Pictures of himself with other top brass line the bookshelf behind him. The forest green carpet and burgundy leather chairs opposite his gray metal desk are the perfect shade to hide the years of stains that are undoubtedly hiding somewhere. He sits behind his desk, chair reclined, with a folder open across his chest. He obviously knew I was coming, and staged this little scene to oversell his busyness.
“Wing Commander, can I get you some coffee?” Hale says this with his token shit-eating grin.
I’m not sure why he occasionally uses my title instead of my name. Maybe that passes as charm where he is from.
“No, Major. I’m only here to find out why my pilot was arrested last night, and why I wasn’t informed until my morning briefing.”
“Well, as you know, my men and I are responsible with protecting your pilots from all our enemies…” He points over his right shoulder, which I find odd considering our current location in space has him pointing towards Portway. “…but also apparently protecting you from yourselves. Your pilot….” he picks up a folder and squints as he looks inside. “Lieutenant Ellis Richter, was found drunk and disorderly and picked a fight with a group of enlisted Marines in the Hangar Lounge last night.”
The Hangar Lounge is an empty bay adjacent to the flight hangar. It was later converted into an off-duty bar. Unofficially, it’s reserved for pilots and the crew of the flight deck. If you don’t have wings or a wrench, you shouldn’t be there. That one tidbit immediately makes everything about this seem suspect.
“Major, what were your Marines doing in pilot country?”
I know what Hale is about to say even before that condescending smile slithers on his face. “Lieutenant, all crew members are free to go any place on the ship that isn’t restricted by orders of the Commander, or limitations of rank. The Hangar Lounge is not restricted to officers. These Marines were perfectly within their rights to have a drink there.”
“How many of my people were involved in this brawl?” I ask, knowing it very unlikely that other pilots allowed one of their own to be ambushed by a group of grunts.
“There were others involved, to be sure, but the arresting officer figured since Mr. Ritcher was the one whom started the confrontation, he should be the one in the brig.”
Why does no one ever know how to use ‘whom’ correctly?
“And how many of your men are locked up with Richter?” Again, I already know the answer.
“None.” Hale looks back down at his desk and then glances back at the folder, acting as if he hasn’t already memorized the report. “Based on the reports given to the arresting officer, it was his conclusion that no Marines were in the wrong.”
“According to the arresting Marine officer.” I let the word roll out with as much venom as I can muster.
Hales looks back up to me and stares me in the eye. “Yes.”
I want to ask exactly how many Marines were involved in this fight, as part of me is very interested in knowing which side won, but I suspect Hale won’t offer the truth willingly. I’ll have to scare it out of Richter, later.
“Major Hale, what exactly is it going to take to get my pilot out of the brig?”
The smile that slowly creeps across his face induces a wave of disgust in me.
“Klingseis….This isn’t the kind of thing that I’d like to spend my time on.”
I’m fully aware where and with whom you want to spend your time.
“As you say, it’s an unwritten rule that Marines shouldn’t be in that area of the ship off-duty, just like Navy shouldn’t be in the ventral. I’ll inform my men to stay in the underbelly. All I need from you is a personal favor.”
I’m fully aware of the type of personal favors other women have had to do for men like Hale. The nausea kicks back in but I manage to swallow hard enough to speak. “What’s the favor?”
“I don’t know…yet. I’ll think of something.” Hale’s voice has a lilt that I can only assume is more flirting.
I’m done with this game.
I didn’t want to play this card, but the Major has forced my hand. I know that by doing this I’ll be burning a bridge, but just standing in this office makes my skin crawl.
“Major Hale, Lieutenant Richter is needed on-duty immediately. If you do not release him, you will be interfering with a mission that concerns the safety of this ship and her crew. I expect my pilot to be ready to fly within the hour, or I’ll be forced to file an official complaint required by regulations, one that will be investigated by Lieutenant Commander Briggs himself.”
Hale’s darkening expression conveys that my words have made an impact. It’s clear he wasn’t expecting me to invoke the top brass during this visit. It was a bit overkill to bring up Briggs, but I can’t allow Hale to believe I’ll tolerate his bullshit. I spin on my heels and leave his office, not allowing the Major a chance to respond. We both know that he doesn’t want the XO sniffing around. Though Briggs was a Marine, he holds them to an even higher standard than Navy personnel. He wouldn’t be happy with a group of enlisted infantry trained to kill with their hands jumping a single Navy officer. This is most certainly going to come back and bite me at some point, but for now I’m happy that my pilot is free.
Free for me to kick his ass.