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The Review of Bonsai Barnes

Posted on Fri Jun 28, 2019 @ 4:28pm by Master Chief Petty Officer Thomas Barnes & Commodore Michael Aravan

Mission: Refits and Reviews
Location: Ready Room
Timeline: MD 7 || 1100 Hours

The tall Commodore stood at the head of his LCARS conference table, a bonsai plant beside of him and a cup of coffee in his left hand. He had agreed to split the reviews with Maddy and they had mutually decided that one Master Chief Thomas Barnes would be best left in his hands. He looked at the bonsai tree, then at the file again before a smile crossed his lips.

=^=Master Chief Thomas Barnes, report to the Ready Room.=^= he ordered after a tap to him combadge, then sat down to work on the bonsai tree with a small pair of snips and a spool of monofilament wire.

Elsewhere, Tom was supervising one of the many ablative generator installations. The specifications had called for fifty four total units. The first fabrication round required forty to be placed all throughout the ship over the course of five days.

Tom wished he could say it was going better. It had taken Operations far longer than he had anticipated to clear out the appropriate areas, not to mention the logistical delays he'd experienced in manufacturing. The first three generators had not been properly composed in the industrial replicator, forcing the team to recycle the materials and make adjustments to the metallurgical formulas to keep them from materializing in a brittle form. These units were also quite large and had to be taken from the fabrication bays by workbee to each location. The Triumphant, sadly, didn't have enough workbees to accomplish the job.

Tom had been about to reach out to Deep Space 10 in order to request a few more workbees, as well as reach out to the Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Hunter, in hopes that some of the fighters could assist with tractoring these generators to each location. The Commodore's summons changed all of that. Being a senior officer, Tom knew what was up, but he'd personally hoped that this evaluation would have been delayed a few more days. All he saw now was more lost time.

Sighing, he left his office and headed straight for Deck Eighteen. Once there, he crossed the bridge and tapped the door chime.

"Enter," Michael called as he stopped working on his bonsai tree and waited for the Master Chief to come in.

The door panels slid apart, allowing Tom to enter the Ready Room. He quickly spotted the flag officer sitting in front of one of the many bonsai trees in the room.

"Good morning, Master Chief," he said. "Care for some coffee?"

"You'd have to not be human to refuse coffee," Tom said with a grin. If there was one thing he did enjoy when called to the Ready Room was the freshly brewed elixir of life when it was available. Of course, this only meant that the Commodore intended to have a serious discussion and Tom would be here for a while. A suitable tradeoff indeed, especially deserving of the off-hand remark he opened with.

"How are the bonsais?" Tom asked, partially because he knew the Commodore knew about the long-standing prank, and that the enlisted man genuinely cared that the trees hadn't been harmed throughout the ordeal.

"They're fine," Michael said as he went to pour the enlisted man a cup of his personally brewed coffee and brought it back on a saucer with cream and sugar packets on the side. "Maddy did an excellent job of babysitting the one you and she had abducted," he said dryly.

"It was a joint effort, taking care of your bonsai." Tom accepted the cup and saucer. "Though I will have to say, it's made me consider getting one of my own. Thank you for the coffee."

The Commodore nodded in return for the thanks as he sat down at the head of the table and pulled up Barnes' personnel file. "They require a lot of attention to detail, but your latest report on the ablative armor show me how detailed you are. I thought I'd need to get a degree in Engineering to understand most of it."

Tom sipped his coffee, taking the moment to note how his relationship with the Commodore had changed over the last few weeks. He'd come aboard initially as the Chief Operations Officer and had to focus on so many details each and every day. Tom had taken a habit to use a lot of terms and larger words in his reports, not to act as a smokescreen, but to build buffers into the Commodore's mind so that Tom could always ensure that he had plenty of time to accomplish his tasks. It pleased Tom that the same process was working despite the change in job title. This meant he could continue to sandbag his estimates by a multiple of three in order to get the job done correctly in the middle of a crisis.

"I have quite a few training materials at my disposal from my training school days," he offered the Commodore. "Us older men have to make sure we stay on top of the latest technology as to ensure we don't get eaten alive by the fresh and more technologically savvy recruits."

"I'm surprised you haven't taken advantage of our subspace Academy programs," Michael said as he listened to what the new Chief Engineer told him. "It's more up to date and has new information about the transwarp drive and updates on the quantum slipstream drives. Not to mention all the other areas that Engineering covers."

Tom chuckled. "No offense, Commodore, but I believe the materials for us enlisted men are better than what the Academy offers. Officers like to dream and theorize. We enlisted are the ones who are left to keep things working and running efficiently."

"Is that a fact, Master Chief?" Michael asked as if he'd just been personally challenged.

The Master Chief paused, realizing he might have struck a chord. "It's really just a matter of preference, Commodore."

"So you prefer something filtered to the enlisted ranks over what's being taught at the Academy?" the Commodore asked.

Tom fought the urge to raise an eyebrow, really thinking he'd done himself in already. He sat down at the table as to demonstrate his candidness. "I wouldn't call it filtered, Commodore. Just because we either chose to not go the Officer track or weren't able to pass the entrance exams doesn't mean that we're not capable of understanding what Officers receive. If anything, our manuals are a little less bloated."

"That's filtered," Michael said. "Less bloated with filler." He leaned back and gave a chuckle at how the Master Chief was seeming to get. "Relax, Mister Barnes. My brother Gage is a Marine Second Lieutenant now, but he spent most of his career as Enlisted before our last shore leave. He went to OCS and took and passed his tests. I'd be a hypocrite to say one is better than the other, I just wanted to know if you'd considered the Academy resources."

"Frankly, I get my hands on whatever I can get." Tom sipped his coffee, seeing that the rough patch seemed to be coming to an end. "I even considered going to OCS myself, but I didn't cherish the idea of starting at the bottom of the ladder again."

"Previous experience counts, but yeah. You've reached Master Chief status and that commands all the respect from a lot of personnel, officers or not," the Commodore said. "Me, I'm a Commodore, but that's only Ensign status to Admirals."

Tom commended himself for his level of self-control. If this were another time and if he were with someone else, he would have sprayed coffee from his nose with that remark. "And not many even get the chance to get this high. But it won't stop me from trying to learn. Besides, even Crewmen and Ensigns know a thing or two that they can teach us ancient ones."

"Then learn as you see fit, old man," Michael said. "As long as you don't learn new ways to torture my bonsais. I may have to beat you with an officers manual if you do, then we'll see what bloat can do."

Based on that comment, the Master Chief felt it best to not share his half-baked idea to switch the Commodore's and his wife's bodies from the other day. Not that he would have shared it anyway, but he certainly was going to make sure he never heard that. "Aye, aye, Commodore," he simply replied.

"Now tell me, in the time you've been on Triumphant, what has affected you the most and how you feel you dealt with it."

Tom took a moment to sip his coffee again. Already this was shaping up to be the most unique performance review, especially since it was starting like an interview more than an evaluation. "Frankly... I think it was the time we came across Zahara. I don't know why she picked me above everyone else to start calming down, but having to act out of turn to see to the crew's safety was not something I'd anticipated dealing with."

"You performed admirably in that situation, Master Chief," Michael told him. "You definitely went above and beyond the call of duty and you'll have my eternal thanks on that. In the time you've been on this ship, everything you've done has been above and beyond the call of duty and you've gone so far as to change departments when we had a need. You're definitely a rare person. Mister Barnes."

He smiled, though he tried to shrug off the platitudes with, "I'm really just here to serve, Commodore. I've always gone wherever I'm asked, or even told, to go. Such is the burden of being enlisted. Officers at least have the opportunity to turn down assignments. Enlisteds don't have much choice. And, that's not to say I wouldn't have chosen Triumphant. I've been in the service for more than twenty years now. No assignment has been as challenging or rewarding as this one."

"You're also a Master Chief now and in high demand," the Commodore pointed out. "I've already had to several people sniffing around the rank and file of my people and I don't appreciate it. They wouldn't like being poached, why is why I like to treat everyone on my ship good. I have treated you well, haven't I, Chief?"

Aside from threatening to hit me with an officer's manual? "Of course, Commodore. I wouldn't still be here if you didn't."

"It's an amazing ship to be on, and then there's other factors to consider," Michael said, hinting at his relationship with Maddy. "It's nice to have a Captain and a Commodore on your side, isn't it?"

Tom smiled, sipping his coffee yet again. "It does indeed. I must say, Commodore, it's nice having a command staff that cares. I've had plenty of good assignments, but people like you, and Mad... Captain Weisz, it's makes this ship not an assignment, but a home."

"Then continue to make it a home, Mister Barnes," Michael told him. "And I'll make certain to try to keep the Admirals away from you."

"As long as I leave the bonsais alone, right?" Tom really was asking in jest, but there was still a twinge of seriousness to it.

"I wasn't kidding when I said I'd hit you with an officers manual, Master Chief," Michael said and put as much seriousness in his face as he could even though he knew Maddy would try to kill him if he did. "I will have it replicated in paper format and bound in Targ skin."

Naturally, Tom was able to detect the jest in the Commodore's own voice. "I'll even replicate it for you. Besides, the ablative armor's gonna keep me busy for a while anyway. Not to mention regularly scheduled maintenance on the transwarp and slipstream drives. I think there's still a bit of time in there to keep the X-O out of trouble."

"You have an assistant chief now. Use them and don't forget to delegate time for yourself in the department. I understand the desire to do everything myself, but that's why I have staff," the ship commander told him. "Just make sure to read before you sign off."

That was one Tom already knew. In prior assignments, he'd slipped in several items into his supervisors reports and had gained certain privileges like Casual Fridays, ice cream socials, and even extended shore leave on Risa. He hadn't tried it here because, after all, Tom was a senior officer now. He had to play the part as much as he looked it. "Of course, sir. I shall endeavor to do so."

"Oh, and if I see ice cream social as an activity that took nine hours, I'll replace you with the Medical EMH," Michael told him.

Tom raised an eyebrow, wondering if Aravan was part Ullian or Betazoid. Shrugging it off, he sipped his coffee after stating, "Yes, sir."

"I only say that because when I was an assistant chief, it's one of the things I put through to my Chief and he missed it until it was time for reviews," Michael said with a chuckle. "We didn't actually do it, but I wanted to see if he'd catch it or not."

"At least it was caught," Tom pointed out. "Though, I will freely admit that I did once get my team an extra day of shore leave on a previous assignment. The team did need and deserve it, but my supervisor was an absolute hard-ass. It's amazing what freshly minted Ensigns think. He's a lieutenant now on the Rutledge and from what I hear he's a lot more caring and focused on teamwork and overall success rather than pride."

"That had to e one for the record books," Michael said as he made a note to look that up. "I see that your social skills are on par, leadership is on par and that Devereaux hasn't made you have a stroke yet, so those are all good."

"What areas do you see yourself needing improvement in, Chief?"

This was an easy response for him. "There's a couple things," he answered truthfully. "The first is dealing with Officers under my charge. Now, this isn't an enlisted versus officer thing. It was simple enough as Chief Ops, but now that I'm in charge of Engineering, the dynamics are a bit different. Operations is all about procedure and charisma. Engineering is about making sure things get done, and those things have to be performed by people with unique skill sets and troubleshooting experience. There's a few officers who are having trouble adjusting to all of this, and I'm working on it. It's just that I'm so used to taking orders from Officers, and now I'm the one wearing a lot of chevrons and giving the orders.

"The other is actually keeping up with the specialists. A good friend of mine always said to hire people who are better than you because they push you ahead. I never really understood that until now."

"If you need assistance in the officers under you who are having trouble accepting orders from you, send them to Captain Weisz," Michael told him. "This ship is supposed to be crewed by the best and brightest, not the misfits who can't take orders from someone of lower rank that's higher in the chain of command than they are. Officer or enlisted, that's a no-no."

"As for the rest, learning is never finished once you start it," the Commodore added. "So learn everything you can from them, but let them do their jobs and you do yours."

Tom nodded before sampling the dwindling coffee. "Yes, sir. Those are two things I will not hesitate to do."

"Do you have any questions for me, Master Chief?" Michael asked.

The Master Chief scanned his mind for a moment, looking for anything pressing that he needed to ask. He also wrestled with a dilemma; if he didn't ask anything, he might seem arrogant, but if he did ask something that seemed stupid or juvenile, then it might negatively impact the Commodore's opinion of his new Chief Engineer. "Honestly, Commodore," he said at last, "I really don't have anything to ask. Ever since I've known you, you've been helpful, looking after me and my team all the while holding that hard line that should never ever be crossed."

His eyes then lit up. "But, I suppose there is one thing. You've asked me to note my own weaknesses. Is there anything you feel I need to improve on myself? Aside from making sure transporters don't cycle in your Ready Room while you're in it, that is?" The very last question was, of course, in jest. Hopefully the Commodore would see it that way.

"Yes and no," Michael said. "It's something only you can do, but can you make sure Big Red comes on shift with a smile instead of a scowl from now on? I hear she likes lilacs and a good brownie." He added so the Master Chief wouldn't read any innuendo in what he said. If he did, so be it.

If it hadn't been for the Orions, Romulans, and other general hell the crew had been through the last few months, the remark from the Commodore would have likely phased the Master Chief. This experienced Tom simply blinked once and replied, "I'll do my best, Commodore, but I can't guarantee a perfect record. The lilacs though, I'll give that a shot."

"And don't forget the brownie," the Commodore said. "She has a habit of going to Bake My Day on the Promenade."

Tom chuckled. "It seems a bit unfair that you know my girlfriend better than I do, Commodore. I'll certainly keep that in mind though."

"To be fair, I've known her a lot longer than you have Master Chief," Michael pointed out. "I know what it takes to calm her down or get her fired up."

The Master Chief's smile remained. "I can't argue with that, sir. I can tell you too that she respects you greatly. I'm sure you already know that, but it's nice to hear it from someone else from time to time."

"That is is," Michael responded. "And I'd much rather see her calm." He glanced at the chrono. "And I should let you get back to work, Master Chief, but thank you for your candid responses and input."

"You're welcome, Commodore," Tom said, finishing his coffee with a single swig. "The ablative armor project is certainly keeping us busy. We probably still have about five or six days left to go on that."

"Then get to it," the Commodore said as he finished his own coffee and came to his feet to offer Tom his hand.

Tom rose from his chair to accept and shake the Commodore's hand. "Aye, aye." With a final nod, Tom turned and exited the Ready Room. All in all, the review had gone about as well as he could expect. The only thing he was not looking forward to was performing all of Engineering's reviews after the armor generators were installed.

 

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