‘A Let Down'
Debriefing room, Starbase 49
Noah Cutler shifted uncomfortably under the close scrutiny of his Captain's face, mere inches from his own. He expected to give an account of what had transpired on the ship but the debriefing had seemed more like an interrogation by the Captain. And if truth were told, Cutler didn't think it much of a stretch to believe that McGregor could resort to torture to get the information he wanted.
McGregor his hands resting on the arms of the steel chair Cutler cowered in, shrinking away from the captain's intimidation, pushed the chair back almost causing Cutler to pass out. Inwardly, McGregor beamed at causing such discomfiture so easily. Outwardly, he looked as if he were ready to murder and McGregor were willing to admit he was near to committing such an act. But he decided messing with the incompetent ensign's head would be much more fun; there was less chance of it resulting in a possible displinary hearing too and no need to hide the evidence. So causing mental distress to Cutler as an act of revenge rather than arranging an accident for buffoon was the option he opted for. Certainly, it was the option that meant less paperwork! And for McGregor that usually sealed the deal.
Just as suddenly as he shoved Cutler's chair back, McGregor stepped back folding his arms. He proceeded then to walk with heavy ponderous steps in a circle around the chair positioned in the centre of the room. Off to one side, Eddie Gardner bit his nails trying to get the dirt out from underneath them as he leaned up against the wall of the room. Resenting being here when he had more important work to be doing, Gardner was also despairing of McGregor's antics.
McGregor hauled another chair from the corner, trailed it noisily across the floor, and positioned it back to front to Noah. He then settled himself in the chair using the chair's back to lean his crossed arms on as he settled down for a chat with Noah face to face. His demeanour shifted from a face of thunder to a more amiable deportment as if he intended to put Noah at ease. The shift in demeanour actually caused panic and fear within Noah thrown yet again off-guard by McGregor.
"Let me tell you a story Cutler, one I believe has a resonance with what has occurred here today. It is the story of a Little Balloon."
The frown on Cutler's face was comical and Gardner had to cover his mouth. "Little balloon?"
McGregor rapped the ensign's knuckles. "Don't interrupt! Yes a little balloon." The Captain stared at Cutler as if to dare the ensign to try to interrupt him again. "The Little Balloon was small and hated to sleep on his own, but Mammy and Daddy Balloon had told him he was a Big Boy Balloon now and had to sleep in his own bed. Well this didn't sit well with the Little Balloon who wanted to get into bed with Mammy and Daddy Balloon. But his Mammy warned him and told the Little Balloon that he was now a Big Balloon and so didn't fit in the bed with Mammy and Daddy Balloon. The Little Balloon skulked away to his own bedroom in a huff, his Mammy's words ringing in his ears.
"Nevertheless, in the middle of the night, the Little Balloon snuck into Mammy and Daddy Balloons' room. He tried to squeeze in between Mammy and Daddy Balloon but sure enough, there wasn't room for him. So being a very bold Little Balloon, he let some air out of Daddy Balloon in order to make some room. Yet it wasn't enough to make room for the Little Balloon. So the Little Balloon being a very naughty Little Balloon let some air out of Mammy Balloon, for he did not dare to let more air out of Daddy Balloon. Still there wasn't enough room for him! So the Little Balloon let some air out of himself. And viola he fitted in between Mammy and Daddy Balloon."
Gardner grouched, "What's the moral? Try, try and try again?"
"No Gardner. If you would but listen to the end of the story." Turning back to an increasingly uncomfortable Cutler, the Captain slipped back into his storyteller voice. "In the morning, Mammy Balloon and Daddy Balloon woke up to find Little Balloon asleep in their bed and realised immediately what he had done. They were very cross and very disappointed. Little Balloon was slightly abashed and mollified by the stern looks of his parents. Mammy Balloon corrected him, ‘You did a very bold and silly thing Little Balloon. You disobeyed what we told you and snuck behind our backs. Not only have you let your Daddy down, you let your Mammy down, but most of all ... you let yourself down.'"
Under his breath Eddie muttered, "Good grief."
"So Mr. Cutler the moral of the story is, you've let us all down and turned out to be some huge disappointment altogether. Get out and go think about how you nearly got us all killed."
Downcast, Noah weakly turned on his foot and proceeded to leave the debriefing room. "You were a bit tough on him."
"Gardner, you know as well as I do that he allowed the death of two of our security team, widespread damage to ship systems and made the Kestrel a bloody laughing stock."
"I hope you didn't chew him out simply because you lost face in the eyes of others. Normally you wouldn't give a fig for the opinion of others."
"You know well that's not why I could toss him out of an airlock! Two of my people were killed."
"Yeah and it was down to T'Hos not the kid." Shifting to fold his arms, Gardner leaned back against the bulkhead again. "Blame T'Hos, or blame yourself for crossing T'Hos, but don't blame the kid for it."
McGregor shrugged his shoulders at this. "Why not? He was on the bridge at the time of the attack."
Gardner grinned smugly, as he pointed out, "And you were busy getting drunk at the time."
"Semantics Gardner, semantics." Eddie just rolled his eyes at McGregor's inability to accept blame for anything.
"I'm just saying, there's others who are more to blame than the kid." He shifted from the wall. "Now if you don't mind Captain, I've a ship to get back to and somehow try and fix."
"You'd better bloody hurry up too!"
"Skipper you fried every ..."
Hopping up off the chair with a gleeful smile, McGregor playfully slapped Gardner's cheeks. "I know what I did Chief - I did plan it that way. Saved all of your lives and yet I've had nothing but complaints from you, Molly and Judy. I mean Judy has nowt to grouch about. Hers was the one section the power dump was not directed!"
Gardner gave the cpatin one of his ‘Well duh!' looks, to which McGregor noticed not. "I think she's reacting to the scores of burns and abrasions in the aftermath. Some of our people were badly hurt in it."
"Oh and I just bet T'Hoss' biological weapony thing would've tickled! Where's the gratitude?" He shook his head forlornly. He almost looked genuine but just as suddenly he rounded on his engineer. "Where's your estimate on time of repairs?"
"At present, I'm not sure as to the state of disrepair! The Kestrel is a hair's breath from being mothballed. It doesn't help that you insist on as many original components pre your stunt as opposed to allowing newer computers and systems."
Horrified and outraged by such a suggestion, McGregor expounded. "The Kestrel is a lady. I will not have her defrocked, Gardner. Understand?"
"Well it's going to be tricky and we're going to need assistance from the Starbase and a push on parts. Don't suppose you can see to that."
A look of distaste crossed the captain's face. "Molly and I are going to visit our blumbering oaf of a commodore now to discuss what happened and where we go from here."
"Well with that attitude ..."
"HE is one one of those who are more to blame. He's going to be getting a piece of my mind. Trust me Gardner, you'll be getting whatever you want."
"Glad to hear it. Not so happy for the commodore. And what about T'Hos?"
"We fix the Kestrel, we ship out," his voice dropped to a deathly octave, "we hunt him down."
Gardner scoffed. "As simple as that."
The cold determination sent a shiver up Gardner's spine as McGregor baldly replied with predatory eyes, "As simple as that."
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