Location: USS Nimitz, CO's Ready Room
Most COs hated dismissing members of their crew, let alone a member of the senior staff, but Daniela Moreno relished the opportunity. If she needed to remove a member of the crew, it meant they weren't doing their job and someone better and more capable could come in and take up the slack. She simply couldn't tolerate people who were doing their jobs well or were skating by and not living up to their potential. She'd been called maniacal by more than one person before, but she didn't see it that way; she knew what she wanted out of the people under her command and if they couldn't live up to that expectation, she found someone who would.
When the chime rang, she didn't even look up from the PADD she held just below eye level, she simply called out for the visitor to enter. She finished reading the report before setting the device down and motioning for the Marine CO to take one of the seats across from her. An uneasy silence had fallen over the room as Captain Moreno eyed the Marine for a few moments, finally coming to rest on the shiny silver bar that adorned the woman's collar. The promotion to First Lieutenant was a recent thing and not one that Moreno had advocated for, but Diaz had put the woman before the First Lieutenant Promotion Board before he'd died; Daniela wouldn't have been able to stop it if she'd tried.
"I'll get right to it, Lieutenant," she started in abruptly, killing the silence between the two women, "I've been reviewing the entire senior staff and I've decided to bring in a new Marine CO for the detachment. There are a wide range of available openings that I'd be happy to post you for if you just give me your list of desired assignments."
Alierin hadn't heard much about the Nimitz's new commanding officer since the woman had come aboard, but there had been some things that were hard not to notice. A listener by birthright, Ali had already picked up on mixed feelings on this Captain Moreno. Some appeared to like her: a seemingly professional and no-nonsense woman, some saw her as a refreshing change to Diaz's oftentimes fast and loose command style. But naturally there were others who were less than pleased. Ali had heard rumors that Moreno was already 'stirring the waters', that she was overly opinionated and overbearing. There were even rumors that a few officers had already been sacked.
In any event, Ali ignored most of the scuttlebutt. She was not the type to form quick judgements about people she'd never met, and hardly knew. She tended to give senior officers the benefit of the doubt, mainly because she believed in the ideals of the chain of command, and advancement by merit and ability; she believed that Moreno wouldn't have made it to the rank of captain had she possessed neither.
But as the meeting unfolded, Ali couldn't help but feel some of that idealism diminish. Perhaps not because of Moreno herself, but certainly because of the situation they were in.
"I see..." Ali said, after a moment of stunned silence after Moreno had stated her intention to replace her. At first she wasn't quite sure of how to react, but the timing of it all... their first meeting, led Ali to interpret it as nothing short of a personal attack.
"May I ask if you have already chosen a replacement?" If this was going to be a claws-out kind of encounter, than so be it. There was no point in wasting time cutting through to the heart of the matter. Did Moreno have someone favored for the role already or did the CO simply have reservations about her?
"I don't half-ass these things, Lieutenant. If I'm removing a member of the senior staff, then yes, there's a short list," Moreno said flatly with a nod.
B****. Ali thought to herself. She'd never really encountered someone who seemed so cold and methodical about the matter, more like a doctor cutting away infected flesh from a wound, and less like an administrator clearing the roster of those deemed... incapable.
Ali knew that she had her own shortcomings. In the Marines she was seen as a 'turtle' of sorts, one who was not hasty in terms of career advancement and decision making. It was not a favorable term. But Ali was also known as being a survivor, a good judge of talent, loyal, and also rather lucky. Those descriptors did seem to lend her some credit.
Though her own questions seemed innocuous enough, Ali was using some form of tactics and baiting a trap. If she was going to be replaced, she wasn't going to go without some form of a fight. Normally Ali wouldn't have dared talking back to a superior officer, especially not the ship's commanding officer, but for all intents and purposes it didn't really matter. If Ali was being sent away then it didn't really matter what Moreno thought about her. And a possible conduct unbecoming charge against her paled to the disgrace of being dismissed from a fleet marine force command.
"Very well, Captain." Ali said, trying to meet Moreno's gaze without conveying the negativity she felt brewing inside. "I'll be sure to relay that to my Marine superiors during my debriefing, along with how I was dismissed by a ship commander who had not once personally witnessed the operational ability of myself, or my unit." Though it was certainly the truth, Ali would be asked why she was replaced, and the circumstances behind it, her wording lent it the edge of a threat. Though her marine superiors back at battalion and higher up likely would... could not do anything in response to the actions of a ship commander, there may be other opinions among Moreno's equally ranked peers as to whether or not she did do things 'half-ass'.
Moreno laughed derisively at the Marine's attempt at intimidation. "Do you really think I'm worried about what you tell the Corps? As commanding officer, I'm well within my right to select my senior staff, without evaluation if I so choose. So tell me, Lieutenant, what part of that threat am I supposed to find intimidating?" Daniela studied the Marine carefully for a moment as her words tumbled off her lips. She had backed the Marine into a corner and her true colors were starting to show through. How the woman reacted now would say a lot about her.
"It wasn't a threat, Captain, just the truth." Ali said, not surprised that Moreno had seemed unfazed by her previous statement. "Probably just one of those misinterpretations between Marine and Fleet." Well, if the captain wanted to be a b****, Ali didn't see she had much to lose by being one too.
"So what kind of marine officer are you looking for, Captain? Big strong guy who can run a four minute mile better than he can do anything else? Or maybe one who keeps her personnel files cleaner than her platoon's weapons? Or perhaps the kind of officer that simply leads through fear and loathing? Sadly, I must admit that I'm not known for being any of those three."
"I'm looking for someone who keeps their house in order, Lieutenant," Daniela fired back immediately. "You haven't done that very well over the last four years. You consistently get too close to the people under your command and that makes them think they can take advantage of you. In the last 4 years, 8 former and current members of your detachment have had demerits posted against their records. I'll give you a pass on Thurn because of the circumstances surrounding it, but the other 7 are the product of you being too sloppy about keeping your people in line. I refuse to have that on my ship."
Ali was not surprised by the captain's cutting remarks. They were true, after all. She couldn't deny that one of her failings as an officer was her inability to play the stern, uncaring type. The marines under her command were people... not tools. Taking the extra time to get to know them, their inner strengths, weaknesses, motivations, well... Ali figured that was the difference between this new captain and herself. She wasn't content judging people solely by what was in some report.
Of course, there were a few in her unit that she had let get a bit too close... no one was perfect.
"So that's what this is about? A few privates willing to risk the wrath of their squad leaders just to get to know my favorite color? I'd think you would be more interested in knowing how many of them I bring back from a mission alive."
Daniela watched the fire in the woman's eyes for a moment. It was true that in the last 4 years Alierin hadn't lost a single Marine and that should count for something. In her rush to evaluate people, she'd overlooked that fact. Her response was measured, more so than before. "I'm not denying your abilities, Lieutenant, but I question how you run your unit. At the end of the day, I have to be satisfied not only with your result, but also with how you and those under your command conduct themselves, because it reflects directly on me as well as this ship."
Though Alierin understood some of Daniela's concerns, she thought the whole fraternization thing was a bit ridiculous. Diaz had never called her out in it, but then again... Diaz's interpretation of fraternization might not have been dissimilar. He'd never made a pass at her, but she'd certainly heard a few rumors.
"I guess sometimes the door swings both ways when you try to maintain an open-door policy with those under your command. But then again, my people are called 'listeners,' we can't help but be tuned in to the people around us..." Ali trailed off. She didn't really like talking about who she was, and preferred to maintain the illusion that she was human. It was a... simpler tactic to use when among people who would not otherwise know.
"Anyway, I guess what I mean to say is that if my marines have a problem, they usually take it up the chain. But I also make it known that I'm there for them if they want to get something off their mind. Most of the time it works. Some times a squad leader has to remind them not to waste my time.
"But it's reputation you're concerned about, I can tell you one thing. I'm in a pretty good position to know what each and every one of them plans to do during shore leave. If you're worried about a diplomatic incident, well... I wouldn't be. Diaz had to fetch a lot more pilots out of the brig than my marines."
Touché. The Marine had fight in her after all. Daniela eyed the woman carefully for a few moments. "One mission, Lieutenant. I'm giving you one mission to show me you can handle your house properly. If I'm not satisfied that you can, I'll find someone who can. Do I make myself clear?"
Alierin was momentarily stunned, but thankfully she was able to keep that from showing on her expression. Moreno didn't seem like the kind of woman who was easily swayed once she'd decided upon a course of action. Ali just had it set in her head that she wasn't going to walk away without an argument first. Had Ali actually won? She never won arguments... at least, not among her own people.
Still, the marine knew it wasn't really a victory... but more of a reprieve. Moreno had a clear idea of what kind of marine officer she wanted running the detachment on her ship, and Ali knew that she was unlikely to manage the metamorphosis in such short a time, if she could at all.
"Aye, ma'am." Ali said simply. Though relieved, she was not in the mood to express thanks. Moreno had been about to relive her of her command. Delaying that action was a relief to Ali, but it did not exactly make her feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Moreno watched the Marine turn on her heel and march out of the room. She wasn't convinced the woman had what it took. She'd know soon enough.