Chain of Command – Snippet 18

Chapter Nine

7 December 2133 (two days later) (fourteen days from K’tok orbit)


USS Puebla, DDR-11

7 December 2133

LCDR Delmar P. Huhn, USN


LT Samuel M. Bitka, USNR


Uniform of the Day           Officers:                      White shipsuit

Chiefs:             Khaki shipsuit

All Others:      Blue shipsuit

0000         Mid Watch drills and training

0500         Breakfast

0530         BLUE Watch relieves RED, LT Goldjune OOD, LT(JG) Ramsey DEO

0600         Morning Colors

0630         Morning drills and training

1100         Lunch

1130         WHITE watch relieves BLUE, ENS Lee OOD, LT(JG) Sung DEO

1200         Afternoon drills and training

1700         Supper

1730         RED watch relieves WHITE, LT(JG) Filipenko OOD, LT Hennessey DEO

1800         Boat’s company muster for inspection

1830         All hands General Quarters. Anticipated rendezvous with Task Force 1

2000         Anticipated stand-down from General Quarters

2300         Late Supper

2330         BLUE watch relieves RED, LT Goldjune OOD, LT(JG) Ramsey DEO


  1. MORNING COLORS: All hands not on watch will assemble for morning colors. Colors will be presented at half-mast in honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
  2. DRILLS: Departments will drill on-duty watch personnel as follows

OPERATIONS:            Navigation by HRVS optics only

Reestablishing lost communication tight link in battle situation

TACTICAL:      Detection of hostile craft with HRVS optics using stellar occlusion method

Simulated target engagement at high closing rate vectors

ADMIN:           Casualty clearance

ENGINEERING:          No drills. All available personnel tasked to damage repair

  1. TRAINING: Department heads will insure personnel coming off watch immediately spend at least one hour on review training on their MOS and one hour mastering their next grade or a parallel MOS in their department. Review. Train up. Train across.
  2. TASK FORCE RENDEZVOUS: All drills and training suspended during the Evening Watch due to rendezvous with Combined Task Force One. All hands will go to General Quarters following inspection.
  3. CREW APPEARANCE: Crew to remove all facial hair and non-permanent ornamentation by inspection at 1800, haircuts high and tight. We will be holo-conferencing with other craft of the task force from this evening forward, including a large number of WestEuro craft, and every member of the crew must present a professional and squared-away appearance at all times. Don’t make us look bad in front of the Europeans.
  4. P. Huhn


Sam read the Plan of the Day again and shook his head. Two years ago he never would have imagined he’d be where he was, in the middle of an interstellar war, writing a Plan of the Day about haircuts.

He had never imagined that he would be in the first combatant action of the war, nor in the first craft damaged by such action, nor in the forward screen of the first offensive space task force assembled in Earth history, nor that he would suffer loss so early, nor that it would affect him so deeply that he would not be able to just put it from his mind and carry on. He did carry on, but it was as if Jules’s ghost silently accompanied him, watching everything he did. He had seen her three times, fleetingly, out of the corner of his eye, after that first time when her presence had unnerved him.

Most of all, he never imagined that almost a week into the war it would remain so ordinary, so routine, as if that first burst of terror and violence, which had lasted less than half an hour, had been simply a dream. He never imagined that when the vagaries of war catapulted him into a position of responsibility for which he felt entirely unprepared, and while hurtling toward what could be the climactic battle of the first campaign in the war, he would spend his time filling out forms, posting plans of the day, and overseeing the minutiae of crew training and discipline. Was this what war was really like?

Haircuts, Bitka? What the–?”

Sam looked up from his workstation to see Marina Filipenko, the new Tac Boss, floating in the open doorway.

“Yeah, haircuts.  You want the Euros to laugh at us for looking like a pirate crew?”

She gave a soft tug on the doorframe and coasted into the XO’s office. “So instead they’ll laugh at us for looking like a bunch of circus geeks. Jesus, what’ll he come up with next?”

Sam sighed and stretched. He’d argued with Huhn for fifteen minutes about this stupid order but hadn’t been able to talk him out of it, not that Filipenko needed to know that.

“Just do it, okay? And get some perspective: nobody’s life is going to be shattered by a haircut. While you’re here, what’s the progress on getting Ensign Robinette certified to stand watch as Officer of the Deck?” Sam had to make a conscious effort not to call the young ensign The Jughead.

“Slow. He’s trying but he’s got a long way to go.” Filipenko looked away and her attention seemed to wander.

“Something bothering you, Filipenko?”

“Bothering me? We’re up to our ears in a war, taking on the largest military power of the most technologically advanced race in known space, and we’ve got a weak spot in the crew roster.” She paused and looked at him, eyebrows raised. “You know who I mean.”

She meant the captain. Sam’s first instinct was to bark her down, but he’d done a lot of barking in the last couple days. He took a deep breath instead.

“You want a coffee? Fresh brewed, right here in my dispenser.”

She shook her head.

“It’s been a lot to absorb in just a few days,” Sam said after a moment, “a lot to get used to. You don’t need to tell me that. But the person you’re talking about is going to be fine–maybe not the easiest guy in the fleet to work with but so what?  Best thing you can do about him is concentrate on doing your own job, okay? Stand one watch at a time.”

“I’m not talking about being easy to work with, or this haircut silliness,” she said. “I’m talking about freezing on the bridge in the first attack. I’m talking about who made the call to realign the boat.”

Sam felt his face flush. He’d thought that was only between Captain Huhn and himself. If the crew were talking about it, that was trouble.

“Since the cloud missed us anyway it wouldn’t have made a difference, but I think you have things mixed up, Filipenko. I recommended realigning the boat–which was my responsibility as TAC Boss–and asked the Captain for permission. He gave it and we realigned. End of story.”

“That’s not what Barb Lee told me. She said he froze and you gave the order. It’ll be on the bridge holo-log.”