Captain Hudson reached the end of the document in front of him and sat back, blinking in confusion at the contents. He tilted his head to the right mulling over recent events with this particular crewman, but his mind still came up empty. A knock at the door interrupted the headache he felt coming on.
"Ah, Commander. What can I do for you?"
"Actually sir…I thought you might have some questions about that." Ford nodded his head at the document.
"So, you knew he was planning this?"
"Only through the grapevine, sir." Hudson gestured to the chair across the table and Ford took a seat.
"And what do you think, Commander?"
"Honestly, sir? Something like this would typically be denied."
"But…" Hudson was very careful to keep the irritation out of his voice. No one on this crew ever asked to speak freely.
"But, well Lucas is not just any science officer."
"Ensign Wolenczak already gets preferential treatment because of his situation."
"Yes sir, and he also gets preferential targeting because of it, too."
Captain Hudson and Commander Ford both grew quiet. Images of Lucas with guns pointed at him or unconscious on the floor swam through their minds. For was right, protecting Mr. Wolenczak was hard work.
"So you think I should allow it, then?"
"Sir, I think his request is just a formality and won't really affect what the ensign does one way or another."
"You think he's already started, then?"
"I've helped him improve his aim." Ford stared at the table. "He made the request after we returned from the Russian Missile incident."
"So you thought that giving an ensign unauthorized training was a good idea?"
"No, sir. I thought that if Lucas was going to be playing with guns then there were worse people he could learn from. My saying no wouldn't have stopped him and I don't want for Lucas to feel like he can't come to me with requests."
"You think I should authorize it, then?"
Commander Ford met the Captain's eyes, took a deep breath, and then nodded.
"Even his request to be trained as a fighter pilot?"
Again Ford nodded his eyes hardening.
"I just can't believe he would make this request after…after what happened to Freddy."
"Sir, I think it's because of her that he made that request. We all miss the Lieutenant, both as a friend and professionally. And after what happened to Brody…all of this has affected Lucas more than he lets on."
"He's not even twenty, yet, Johnathan!" Ford sat back, eyes wide in shock. It wasn't often that the captain raised his voice or used first names.
Ford stood. "According to his UEO record he is 29. You've heard my opinion, Captain. Permission to be dismissed?" Ford didn't wait for permission, striding to the door.
"If I deny this, would you still train him, Commander?"
Ford stopped, but didn't turn back. His voice was cold when he spoke next. "Any word on Mason Freeman, sir?" He paused at Hudson's sharp intake of breath and took the opportunity to open the door a crack. "Lucas inspires a lot of passion in people, Captain, and it's not always friendly. I'll be on the bridge if you need me."
The door clicked quietly closed. Captain Hudson sighed again and rubbed his temples. He pushed Lucas' request aside and pulled out Mr. Piccolo's current progress file. He'd gotten the letter from the UEO this last mail run and now was as good a time as any to deal with it. He punched up the bridge on the com system.
"Yes captain." Tim's cheery voice answered and a vein stood up on Hudson's forehead.
"Have Warrant Officer Piccolo paged and sent to my quarters."
"Yes sir." The cheer and hope left Tim's voice as he replied.
"Oh and O'Neil?"
"Could I have a few moments of your time after your shift ends?"
"Of course, Captain. Piccolo's on his way, sir."
"Very good, Hudson out."
The captain quietly read through the report, occasionally making a mark with a pen. He underlined all attempts at advancement Tony had made, and how many times he was denied. As the numbers added up he gained a new respect for the ex-con. Few soldiers had been held back as often as this man and kept such a good attitude about their service. After eight months with this crew he had yet to catch up on learning everything about every man. He'd started with those files marked most urgent by the UEO and was struck again at how Piccolo had been slighted by them. A knock on the door again interrupted him. Without waiting for a response the door opened and a familiar head stuck through the space.
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Ah, Piccolo, very prompt. It's open." A smile spread across the captain's horrific face and he stood to greet the man who was fast becoming one of his favorite subordinates. "Close the door behind you."
Piccolo's face looked concerned, but he did as he was told, coming to stand across the desk at attention. Tony's eyes widened, but he didn't flinch as the captain rose. Hudson was very careful to keep his face neutral as he slowly circled the warrant officer.
"Looking sharp, Piccolo."
"Thank you, sir."
"Though I don't know why we even bother making a name tag for you."
"Sir?" Piccolo's mouth dropped open in shock as the captain took his name tag from his shirt.
"Have a seat." Both men took their seats on opposite sides of the table. Tony fidgeted nervously while the captain shuffled his papers in front of him.
"You've been logging a lot of hours in the fighter lately."
"Only until I got them both destroyed, sir. I've mostly been in the simulator, lately."
"I thought you read the full report on that incident?"
"I did, sir."
"Then you understand that the destruction of both vessels was through no fault of yours."
"Yes, sir. Sorry sir."
"However it is about that mission that I called you here."
"Sir?" Piccolo looked a little nervous and Hudson rushed to get his point across.
"Your new rank is Lieutenant, Squad Leader. Enclosed in this envelope are your new orders and responsibilities, please read them carefully."
"I'm being promoted again, sir?"
"I feel that you have earned it, Tony."
"Thank you, sir, but what about Lieutenant Commander Kimura?"
"Her rank is yet to be determined."
Piccolo nodded and a moment passed in awkward silence. "Was there anything else sir?"
"Just a few more questions if you don't mind." Hudson looked up from the two documents he was inspecting.
"You've been spending a lot of time in the simulators?" Piccolo nodded again. "Sometimes up to 17 hours a day."
"I don't really keep track. It could be that much." Piccolo shifted uneasily in his seat.
"Well, it appears you have discovered a way to be in two places at once, Lieutenant."
"Would you like to share your secret with me?"
"Not really, sir. I made a promise to someone."
"Ensign Wolenczak perhaps?"
Piccolo sighed and stared down at the table. "I'm sorry, sir. I take full responsibility for this. Please leave Lucas out of it and it won't happen again."
"You two are close, Piccolo?"
"Sir?" The captain just raised his eyebrows and waited. "Well, sir, I've watched the kid grow up. He's like a younger brother. We bunked together for over a year and my couch is always open to him."
"Has he used that couch a lot, lately?"
"I don't think he likes his new room, sir. Mine is closer to the moon pool and Darwin has more room in my windows."
"Has the ensign spoken with you about any requests he had planned on making?"
"A little, sir."
"And what's your opinion, soldier?"
"Speak freely, Tony."
"Well, sir. I think every man should know how to defend himself. And honestly, I think Lucas needs it more than most."
"Thank you, Lieutenant. I'll take it under advisement. Is there anything else on your mind?"
"Um, yeah, quite a bit, actually." Piccolo bit his lip and blinked quickly to clear his eyes. Hudson pretended not to notice. "You've done a good job, Captain. You don't pry and you give us time to…to catch up. But, I think maybe we need some outside help."
"Those of us who lost 10 years. It's hard. We've been coping, but I think some of us are starting to bang our heads against the wall."
"What exactly are you suggesting?"
"I don't know…I'm not the brightest person here, but I'm trying. Maybe some doctors or counselors for some of us to talk to."
"I'll put in the request today."
"Thank you, sir." Piccolo stood to leave, saluting and turning to the door.
"Congratulations on your promotion. Draw up a training schedule with Lucas. I want the real numbers on both of your simulator runs."
"Thank you, sir."
"And Tony…thanks for making the request for doctors. I've been kind of wondering about it, but no one would give me a straight answer on whether it was needed."
Captain Hudson looked at his watch and rubbed his eyes tiredly. He had an hour and a half before O'Neil's shift ended, just enough time for a nap.