Chapter 3: Out with the old, in with the new.
"Personal log, computer, insert autodate. Heck, I know, Happy New Year, right?" Miller sighed, and fiddled with a string hanging from her cuff. "Not likely. President Santiago is dead. And any engineer who's ever worked on a ship or a station can tell you there's no way the official explanation of an accident with the fusion reactor is true."
Miller ran both hands through her short hair. "It's just bullshit. There's no conceivable 'accident' that could happen with an onboard fusion reactor that wouldn't leave time to get to lifepods. Either the computer was not monitoring the reactor – which says sabotage, to me – or the reaction chamber was ruptured on purpose. Sabotage, again. Or, make that 'assassination.'"
"Either way leaves me a very unhappy engineer. Earth finally had a President who seemed interested in more than just Earth's own interests. Heck, I even voted for the guy. It was really close between him and Clark, but in the end, Santiago pulled it through."
"And now? Who's gonna really believe that this was an accident? Nobody in engineering, that's for sure. Luis is coming up to talk after dinner. He's crushed – Santiago was from the South American Union, and was really popular there. Luis hasn't been able to get through to his family in Peru; I guess all the channels to Earth are full."
"And, to top things off, Sinclair has been reassigned – just like that. I mean, as far as I could tell, there was no warning on this at all. So, Ivanova's in charge till someone new's assigned. We'll see how long that takes." Another sigh. "Computer, save and close."
Miller threw some piles of papers into the recycler, and cleaned up the old take-out food wrappers, trying to make her place a little more presentable. "Ah, who am I trying to fool? Luis knows our habits, doesn't he, my lovelies," she said to some empty bottles and cans on the counter. "Though I should probably make sure there's nothing sticky on the couch."
Miller ran her hands over and between the couch cushions. "Good, safe for the fastidious." Just then, the door chimed its cheerful "doo doo doo deet!"
"Come on in!" she hollered.
Luis came in, looking grim. He was wearing a black poncho, of coarsely woven material, and carrying a bag.
"Hi, Sharon. Thanks for having me over." Luis had dark circles under his eyes, and his voice was flat.
Miller looked curiously at him. "No problem, Luis. What is that you're wearing? And, what's in the bag?" She gestured to the couch. "Have a seat – it's clean, I promise."
Luis sat down heavily. "I was wondering if you'd help me with something. I brought some things to do my family's mourning ritual for President Santiago. I don't know anyone else on the station from Naciones Unidas de Suramérica, and I thought that since you were a Foundationist, maybe you wouldn't mind helping me out with this." He looked away, and back again. "I know we're not close friends, but I really need to do this, and I didn't think you would be offended by my asking."
Miller sat on a chair opposite him. "Sure, Luis; of course I'll help. Of course." She spoke in uncharacteristically quiet tones.
Luis sighed, a hint of old tears in his voice. "This has been really hard, Sharon; really hard. For the first time, the first time in so many decades, I felt like Earth was really heading the right way. Santiago gave hope to all of us that want to see a galaxy of at least peace, if not understanding. And now? Now, I just don't know."
Miller was back to fiddling with the string on her cuff. "I'm right there with you, Luis. I've never been into the political scene, but it seemed like there had to be a better way than the superiority complex that Earthgov had been developing. Ever since the Minbari surrendered – and why that happened just as they were about to clean our collective clocks is beyond me – it seems like we've been getting more and more wrapped up in a vision of an Earth-centric galaxy."
"It's a great loss, Sharon. My family and I really believed that Santiago was going to help steer Earth in a saner direction." Luis opened his bag, and got out a piece of paper. "Did you know my father campaigned for Santiago?" He handed the paper across to Miller.
Miller examined the paper, and handed it back to Luis. "I see it's from Earthdome, but I don't read Spanish."
Luis smiled. "It's a copy of a letter from the President to my father, thanking him for his work on the campaign." He folded the paper into a small square, and set it aside. He removed another item from his bag. It was a small, cast-iron brazier, with four stubby legs. He set the paper in the brazier.
"For this ritual, we burn something symbolic of the person who has died, along with something personal from each of us. People usually use a small snip of hair." He took a tiny pair of scissors from the bag, and snipped a small lock of his hair, and added it to the brazier. "You don't need to if you don't want."
Miller held her hand out, silently. Luis handed her the scissors, and she added a snip of her hair to the brazier. "Okay, what do we do now?"
Luis said, "We have to do the burning in the kitchen area, so we don't set off the heat detector." They took the brazier to the kitchen, where Luis set it on top of the cooking surface. "I'll light it, and say the prayers."
Miller watched as Luis lit the brazier, and listened quietly as he recited several sentences in Spanish, and then said some words in a language she did not recognize. They both watched silently as the embers burned to ash.
Luis emptied the ash into a small container. "Tomorrow, I'll vent the ash into space. You're supposed to scatter the ash near where the person is buried, but since Santiago died in space, that's where the ash should go." Luis replaced the container and the cooled brazier in his bag. He removed the black poncho and added it to the bag.
"Well, that's done," he said. "Thanks, Sharon."
"You're welcome. I'm probably the least spiritual Foundationist you'll ever meet, but I think that was a very nice ritual."
They sat back down in the living room. Miller continued the earlier conversation about Santiago. "It's the whole galaxy's loss, I think. And, I have to say I don't have a good feeling about Clark. His campaign was nasty, and he had a lot of support from the 'Earth for Earthers' bunch."
"Time will tell, but I am also concerned." Luis hesitated, not sure whether to broach the next logical topic. "Sharon, what do you think about the reports of how the accident happened?"
Miller frowned, and went back to worrying at her cuff. "Well, you know, and I know, that the story we're getting from ISN is crap. But, we don't know why that's the story we're getting. I have to say, though, that I can't think of a comfortable explanation for the whole thing."
"Yeah," sighed Luis, "that's what I was afraid you were going to say."
A long silence followed. Uncomfortable with silence, Miller changed the subject – sort of.
"So, what sort of new CO do you think we'll get? I'm betting on a real hard-assed military type, myself. Never got why we had a lowly Commander in charge of this place. Maybe a Major, or at least Captain. Probably some war hero."
"I dunno," said Luis, "why would they send a war hero to a station where we have to get along with the Minbari? Seems like that would just tick them off."
"Ooh, yeah, good point. I've seen a ticked off Minbari lately – they're a lot scarier than you think they'd be."
Luis raised his eyebrows. "Should I even ask how you got a Minbari annoyed? No – no, forget it, I definitely should not ask. Forget I said anything."
"Oh, it all worked out, in the end. Just a difference of priorities, and, shall we say, negotiation style. All good, now. I learned a few things, for sure, but I'm definitely still no diplomat."
"Really?" said Luis, in mock astonishment. "I thought for sure you'd transfer to the diplomatic corps someday."
"Hardee har har. Any-hoo, I was just getting used to Sinclair, fraggit. Now I have to break in a new CO. Crap."
"I'll be sure to put in a good word for you," grinned Luis.
That's better, thought Miller, More like himself. Miller's combadge chose that moment to bleep.
"C&C here; Lt. Cmdr. Ivanova would like a word. Can you come up?"
"On my way. Miller out." Sharon and Luis stood up.
"Ooooh, you're in trooouuuble!" said Luis jokingly. "Whadja do?"
"Oh, shoosh. It's probably just routine. Or it will be, unless you make me late. Now I've gotta scoot. Ivanova is the last person in the galaxy that I wanna keep waiting."
Miller rounded the corner into the CO's office, where Ivanova had been holding things together since Sinclair's abrupt departure. As always, Miller wondered why there wasn't a door on the office. She stood outside the open doorway and said, "Knock knock." Great, start the meeting with the beginning of a bad joke.
Ivanova looked up from the desktop display. "Come in, Chief Miller." Her eyes returned to the monitor briefly, and she said, "Computer, close file." She looked up again and gestured to the chair in front of the desk. "Have a seat."
Ivanova rested her forearms on the desktop, hands folded. "Well, it's the moment we've all been waiting for. I just received word about Commander Sinclair's replacement. He'll be arriving tomorrow, and asked me to schedule meetings with the department heads. How's 0900 the day after tomorrow?"
Practically bursting with unasked questions, Miller said simply, "That would be fine."
Ivanova paused, considering. "Oh wait, I keep forgetting, you're not a morning person. Let's say 1100. Captain Sheridan will want to see everyone at their best." She studied Miller carefully, as if looking for a reaction.
Miller looked contemplative. "Sheridan, Sheridan... sounds familiar. I'm sure I've heard of him." She drummed the desktop with her fingers, then removed her hands hastily. "Oops, sorry. Sheridan... Hmm, it'll come to me, I'm sure." She looked back at Ivanova. "Anything else, ma'am?"
"One more thing. I got a message from Mr. Lennier, Ambassador Delenn's aide." Ivanova pulled up the file on her display.
Oh, shit, thought Miller. Shit, shit, shit. Here I though everything had come out okay in the end, but I guess he was still pissed as hell...
"Ah, here it is." Ivanova raised her eyebrows while she re-read the message. She looked back at Miller. "Well, Chief, I have to say I'm impressed."
Yeah, impressed how royally I screwed up this time, I'll bet. "Impressed?" Miller asked, nearly squeaking with anxiety.
Ivanova grinned. "You have a fan, Chief. Mr. Lennier says that he and the ambassador, who is still apparently indisposed, are both in your debt for your, and I quote, 'prompt and appropriate resolution' to the electrical problems caused by the ambassador's chrysalis. And, by the way, all the command staff are aware of the chrysalis now."
Miller sighed with relief. "Wow, okay. You had me going there, ma'am." Miller fanned herself for a moment. "Yeah, I think things worked out pretty well, there. You must have gotten my report, right? I mean," she backpedaled, "you must have seen the report I sent to Commander Sinclair before he left. It was a tricky problem, but so far there haven't been any repercussions."
Ivanova played with Miller a little more. "So, how come you're surprised to hear that Mr. Lennier is impressed, then?"
"Well, let's just say, we didn't exactly start off on the right foot."
"You, Chief? Say it isn't so!" Ivanova looked at Miller again, and said, "But seriously. I'm impressed too. The Minbari can be really tricky to deal with – lord knows Lennier has pushed my buttons on occasion – but it sounds like you worked things out nicely. Good work," she said briskly, standing up. She extended her hand to Miller, who stood and shook it firmly.
"Thanks, ma'am. I'll be ready for Captain Sheridan at 1100 on ..." she trailed off. "Ohhhh, boy. That Sheridan? The one who blew up the Black Star?" Miller waited for Ivanova's nod. "Ohhh, boy. This is going to be interesting... I wonder what the Minbari are gonna think of that choice. In fact, what do I think of it? Guess I better get everything ship-shape, huh?" Miller wandered out of the office, talking to herself, yet again neglecting a parting salute.
Ivanova watched in amusement. "Dismissed..." she said, to the empty room.
"Personal log, computer, insert autodate. Well, our new CO, Captain John "Starkiller" Sheridan, as the Minbari apparently refer to him, has come in with a bang. Well, luckily, no actual 'bangs,' in fact, but it was pretty tense there. It really looked like we were about to get pounded by the Minbari ship Trigati and her fighters, but Sheridan had them all figured out, and our guys were cool enough not to take the first shot. I also heard that the captain of the Trigati got caught red-handed in Ambassador Delenn's quarters trying to do her in."
Miller paused. "The casual observer does wonder what the heck is going on inside that chrysalis, that's for sure. But back to my own business. Since today was not exactly a calm and easy day down in the core, what with the threat of being blown to high heaven at any second, I didn't get things as orderly as I would like in Engineering. So, up and at 'em early tomorrow, to be ready for Sheridan's visit. Computer, save and close."
Miller finished her usual take-out dinner, leaving the containers on the counter.
"Clean uniform, check. Regulation hairstyle, check. Zit starting on nose, check. Alarm set for 0630, check. Coffee maker set to start at 0615, check. All set to make a super first impression." Miller carefully hung her uniform, ready for the next morning.
The lights came on. Way on. Suddenly. Early. "Good morning, Chief Miller, the time is 0630. You have the following new messages. Video message from Luis Cruz. Voicemail from Luis Cruz. Text message from Luis Cruz. Open messages?"
Miller sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. "Yeah, whatever, go ahead. Open video message from Luis Cruz," she said, stumbling into the living area. The coffee maker gurgled, its signal that it was nearly done with its work.
The Babcom screen came on. "Hey, Sharon, rise and shine! Don't forget – today's the meeting with the new CO, 1100. Just wanted to make sure you're not forgetting. Bye."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Computer, open voicemail from Luis Cruz." The Babcom system began playing Reveille, trumpets blatting loudly. Worse still, Luis's voice joined in.
"You've got to get upYou've got to get up You've got to get up this morning
You've got to get up You've got to get up Get up with the bugler's call.
The major told the captain The captain told the sergeant The sergeant told the bugler The bugler told them all."
Miller, hands over her ears, shouted. "Computer, shut that off! Delete message!"
"Message deleted," the system voice said.
"All right, all right, I'm awake, fraggit. Computer, open text message."
Mercifully quietly, the Babcom screen showed the message. "I thought that would work. Call me when you're up; can't leave anything to chance this morning. Luis."
"Sheesh. Okay, computer, open a channel to Luis Cruz, voice only."
The Babcom unit made its usual sounds while it waited for Luis to pick up on the other end. After a few seconds, Miller heard, "Hey Sharon. I guess it worked, huh?"
"Oh, it worked, all right, you moron," Miller said, cheered up by the whole incident. "I'm awake, don't worry. See you at 0715, my office, right?"
"You bet. Cruz out."
The coffee was ready, finally. Miller poured it into her lidded mug, and added six spoonfuls of sugar. She took a sip. "Aaah! The best part of the day." She put her coffee cup on a warmer, and then addressed her coffee: "You wait here. I'll be in the shower. Have to be good for the Captain's inspection, you know." Miller headed to the shower.
Down in the engineering section, Luis waited nervously in the Chief's office. It was 0717, and there was no sign of Miller.
"Hey, did I make you nervous?"
Luis jumped a foot in the air.
"Nah, guess not," continued Miller. "So. Let's go over the day. I'll clean up in here for a while, and you get with Alpha through Delta teams and brief them on the day's work. Which is what, exactly?" she queried.
"Alpha and Beta are on fighter repairs; they didn't take any hits yesterday but two of the pilots said they got some warning lights on the way in."
"Ah, crap," said Miller, "get 'em right on that; I hear the new captain was quite a fighter jock in his day. Last thing we want is for him to want to take a spin and get red lights all over the place. It's probably just the same innocuous thing we've been having with the Starfury fusion drive controllers, but still, see if you can change the threshold on that warning heuristic and get the warning lights to stay off."
Luis nodded in agreement. He continued, "Gamma's on a glitch in Wastewater Recycling, and Delta's on call for emergencies."
"Wow," said Miller, "when does that happen? Must be calming down around here after all." She grinned evilly. "Excellent – I can get them to help me clean up in here while they're waiting around," she said, surveying the mess in the office.
Cruz winced. Miller was fastidious about the public areas of engineering, and about anything at all that had to do with the actual functioning of the station. But, her office was a different story.
At 1055, a strong baritone voice inquired, "Chief Miller?"
Miller, who was engrossed in yet another unnecessary diagnostic, started violently, sloshing her coffee over her desk and her uniform. She looked up in horror, to see a tall Human at her open door. His rank bars glistened, practically shouting out "Captain on deck!"
"Sir!" Miller jumped up, and saluted, dripping coffee onto her face.
"As you were, Lieutenant." Captain John J. Sheridan strode to the desk, plucked a tissue out of a box, and handed it to a horrified Miller. He watched, expressionless, as she threw the sodden tissue into the waste chute.
"Yessir, sorry sir," Miller said lamely. "Engineering Chief Sharon Miller, at your service, if a little bit sticky."
Sheridan smiled. "Relax, Chief; happens to the best of us."
Yeah, and to me, too, apparently, thought Miller. Aloud, she said, "Welcome to Engineering, Captain. Where would you like to begin your inspection?"
Sheridan paused. "Inspection? Oh, no no, I don't need to do an inspection. I just like to meet all the department heads as soon as possible, that's all."
Miller looked crestfallen. "No inspection?"
Sheridan laughed. "Chief, you almost sound disappointed! I'd be happy to get out the white gloves if you want, but – "
"Oh no sir, that's perfectly all right. I mean, not that we have anything to hide, but … oh, never mind. Sir," she added, as an afterthought.
"I'll tell you what, Chief. Why don't we meet up in my office in ten minutes or so. That way we can just chat, and nobody will interrupt you. And, you can even clean up on the way if you like," he added, eying Miller's uniform.
"Yes sir, I appreciate it. I'll be there in ten minutes. And feel free to look around down here in the mean time – I mean, it's your station and everything." Miller winced, realizing how ridiculous that sounded. "Right. Your office, in ten minutes."
She headed out the door. Sheridan wasn't sure, but he thought he heard Miller muttering about "damage done in such a short time" on her way into the engineering bay.
Exactly ten minutes later, Miller managed to stop running just before she got to the Captain's office. Sheridan was at his desk. "Have a seat, Chief."
Miller occupied the same chair she'd sat in just two days ago, when she was talking with Ivanova.
"Sorry again, sir, about the mishap down there," said Miller, sheepishly. "I know I'm a real klutz, but honest, I'm good at my job."
"Oh, I don't have any question about that, Lieutenant. You come highly recommended by Commander Sinclair."
"Really?" Miller's eyebrows climbed her forehead. "Huh."
"Don't sound so surprised, Lieutenant. I know Sinclair; he's harder to read than Narn script written backwards in crayon. In fact, I think he'll fit in great on Minbar."
Miller remained silent, not finding anything appropriate with which to respond.
"So, Lieutenant, I'll get right down to it," said Sheridan. "I've read your file, and I have to say I'm a bit perplexed about a few things, and I'd like to get your perspective."
Uh-oh, here it comes, thought Miller. "Yes sir, what in particular?" she said, knowing already what he was going to bring up.
"I see quite a few reprimands, but I'm not concerned about those since they're all for things that I don't really see as having a lot of relationship to how well an engineer can do his or her job – you know, the uniform violations, barracks citations, et cetera."
Miller's jaw dropped in astonishment.
"Plus," added Sheridan, "they're all from CO's known to be hard on their engineering staff. Take Lefcourt, for example – just between you and me, I don't think there's a single person in Earthforce who hasn't gotten a citation from him on something. So, no, I'm not concerned about that, so relax."
Miller pushed her gaping jaw closed with an index finger. "Okay, sir; thanks. So, what does have you, um, perplexed?"
"Well, to be honest, Chief, it's the insubordination warnings. You know they're there, of course, and you know who they're from – Major Lefcourt, Captain Campbell, and and Commander Giannetti. But what you might not know is that all three of them contain nothing other than 'warning issued for insubordination' and the date. Nothing else."
Sheridan looked squarely at Miller. "I have to say," he continued, "that's pretty unusual. Most insubordination warnings in personnel files have pages of documentation to go along with them. So, I'm thinking that if you could fill me in on what happened those times, we might be able to avoid it in the future. And, you could do me a favor and relieve my curiosity," Sheridan admitted.
"Permission to speak freely," he added, anticipating her discomfort.
Miller carefully considered Sheridan's request. Finally, she began. "Okay, sir. It's like this. My father is career Earthforce. So were his parents, and so on. Way back. Me, I grew up knowing I wanted to be an engineer, so I got to see some really cool stuff when I was a kid. Dad even got me into the engineering bays of some of the ships they were designing way before the E-M war."
She continued, "So, I actually started studying spacecraft engineering in a non-military university. I knew perfectly well that I really, really wasn't a natural for the military. But, it didn't take long before I figured out that the most interesting, the most advanced – heck, the most anything in spacecraft engineering – was all owned by Earthforce."
Sheridan considered this revelation. "So, you transferred to Earthforce Academy, even though you knew you weren't the military type."
"Yessir." Miller fidgeted in her seat. "And all those warnings – well, I suppose I really was insubordinate. You see, I have this approach that tends to, um, annoy my CO's."
"Could you elaborate on that?" Sheridan pointedly did not fidget in his seat.
"Okay, I mean, yessir." Miller looked around the Captain's desk. "Do you have any paper?"
Sheridan opened a drawer and removed some sheets, as well as a pen. He passed them across to Miller, wondering where she was going with this.
"Thanks. So here's the basic problem. It's management thing, really, that I learned from my mother, but I think it applies perfectly to engineering as well." She drew a large two-by-two grid on the page. "Okay, the upper two squares represent tasks that are important – things that will really make a difference to the big picture." She labeled these each with "+important."
"The bottom two squares represent tasks that are not particularly important." She labeled these each with "-important."
"Now, the left two squares represent tasks that are urgent – things where it makes some difference whether the task is completed soon." She added the label "+ urgent" to both of the squares on the left.
"Finally, we have tasks that are not urgent – represented by the two squares on the right." Miller added the "-urgent" label to both the squares on the right. She noticed Sheridan starting to glaze over, and realized she'd better get to her point.
"Now, I never got in trouble with requests or orders that had to do with anything that was '+important,'" she said, pointing to the two upper squares. "Non-urgent tasks that are important are still important. And, I never got in trouble with the bottom right square here," continued Miller, indicating the square labeled "-urgent, -important." "And that's because if it wasn't important or urgent, the task usually never made it to my desk."
"Go on," said Sheridan, starting to see where this was going.
"Now here's the problem child," said Miller, gesturing to the square labeled "+urgent, -important." "Nine times out of ten, if a CO says an engineering or maintenance task is urgent, I get nervous. Because, see, the CO may or may not have the engineering skill to recognize whether the task is really important. And that's where I get myself into trouble."
"Because sometimes the CO wants it done right that second, but there are other things that you consider more important?" queried Sheridan.
"Well, not exactly that I personally consider more important," evaded Miller, squirming in her seat, "but more like, tasks where the order they're addressed in makes a difference to how things work out in the long run," clarified Miller. "Maybe an example will help. There was this time on the EAS Hood, with Captain Campbell. We had just had a skirmish way out near the Rim, and had damage to multiple systems, including Waste Heat Exchange.
"To make a long story short, the standard workaround to keep from having to shut down the fusion core temporarily, ends up making the whole ship uncomfortably hot inside. Needless to say, that made everyone really cranky, so Campbell wanted the temperature fixed right away. But, the problem was, the longer I waited to fix the real problem with WHE, which was melted cooling fins all down the port side of the hull, the more likely it was that we'd ruin more cooling fins."
"Hmph," said Sheridan. "So you wanted to repair the problem at the source before fixing side-effects of the workaround."
"Yeah, the by-the-book workaround, I might add. It's the standard and correct procedure when you're far from drydock."
"All right. So, what did you do?" asked Sheridan.
"Well sir, first I told Captain Campbell that my professional opinion was that I should repair the damage to the cooling fins before addressing the heat in the ship, and that the reason was that we might end up having to replace more cooling fins if we did it his way."
"So, did she ignore your professional recommendation?"
"Not exactly – she just thought I was trying to get out of doing more work later – she thought it was because I was lazy. But really, the problem was that so far out from home, if we had to replace too many cooling fins, we might run into supply problems. I tried to tell her that, sir, I really did – but it... just didn't work."
Sheridan sighed. "Chief, I don't know Captain Campbell personally, but I've never heard complaints of her being unreasonable."
"No sir," replied Miller earnestly, "I don't think she was being unreasonable. She just didn't trust me."
"And that's really the problem, isn't it," Sheridan concluded. "For some reason, your CO's don't trust you enough to take your professional opinion seriously, even though your record, when it comes to engineering proper, is spotless."
Miller looked down, embarrassed. "Yes, sir," she admitted, "I think you've hit the nail on the head."
Sheridan rubbed his forehead.
"Did I give you a headache already, sir?"
"No, no; just thinking."
Miller waited, swinging her leg nervously.
Suddenly, Sheridan looked at her and spoke again.
"When I read between the lines in your file," he said, "I see insubordination warnings that have to be there, because you disobeyed orders. But the warnings aren't fleshed out, probably because the CO knew that you were right. The fact remains, though, that the warnings are there. The picture that I'm getting is that you may have a hard time taking your CO's perspective on the importance of his or her instructions. For instance, did you consider that perhaps Captain Campbell was concerned that an overheated, ornery crew might make crucial errors? And that from the perspective of the CO of a ship with a crew of six hundred, that she might have been right?"
Abashed, Miller replied, "Um, no, not really."
"Lieutenant, you know as well as I do that trust is something to be earned. But, you also know as well as I do that I'm new here, and you've been around since the station was only half completed. And, you've been chief of engineering since the station went on line a year ago. Since that time, there are no reprimands of any kind in your record, and several informal commendations. Your record on this station, in your current position, does inspire me to trust your judgment. I can see without reading between the lines that you are more than competent at your job. So, in my book, you've come a long way towards earning my trust."
Miller looked back at him, astonished. "Thank you, sir!"
"But," cautioned Sheridan, jabbing an index finger towards her, "do not make the mistake of assuming that means you have free rein. I expect you to explain your reasoning if you disagree with my assessment of priorities. And, when my perspective as CO of a station with 250,000 people on it tells me you're wrong, I will expect you to follow my instructions. Are we clear?"
"Clear, sir." Miller paused, waiting to be dismissed. When Sheridan did not immediately dismiss her, she sensed he was giving her an opportunity, so she took it. "Sir," she asked, "can I ask you a question?"
"Go right ahead, Lieutenant," Sheridan said dryly, knowing there probably wasn't much he could say to stop her anyhow.
"Well, I'm wondering, do you have any idea why my CO's don't trust me?" asked Miller.
Sheridan looked at her askance. "Are you sure you really want me to answer that?"
"Well, not really," admitted Miller, "but I'll take the chance."
Sheridan hesitated slightly, and then nodded. "All right. I'm no psychologist, and I'm no telepath, but here's my guess. You seem to have a lot of nervous habits – like, watch your leg right now. You practically hurled your coffee all over yourself this morning, and you pretty much admit that you don't think you're prime Earthforce material. What all that adds up to, is that you look jumpy – like someone who has something to hide. And that will set off alarm bells for any seasoned CO."
Miller sat silently for a moment. "Well, sir, that's something to think about, isn't it."
"Yes it is, Lieutenant; yes it is." Sheridan pushed himself out of his chair. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have one more meeting to do before the Babylon 5 council meeting this afternoon. Dismissed."
"Yessir. And, thank you for your candor."
"Not at all, Lieutenant. People have to know where they stand with each other, don't they."
Miller walked uncharacteristically slowly back to the Engineering section. Sheridan hadn't noticed any habits that others hadn't pointed out before, but the fact that he had seen right away what it was about those habits that inspired her former COs' reactions was a bit unnerving.
When Miller returned to her office, there was a message waiting for her – from Lennier. She played it.
"Chief Miller, I would like to inform you that the extra power required in Ambassador Delenn's quarters is no longer necessary. All is well, and the ambassador and I thank you for your assistance. That is all." Lennier ended his message in the abrupt fashion typical of Minbari.
"Well, okey dokey then, I guess I know what I'm working on today," said Miller to herself. "Self improvement will just have to wait till tomorrow."