Brass Tacks
Brass Tacks
Summary: Komnenos delivers some reports to Kai. The CAG discovers a bit about what makes Thorn tick.
Date: PHD147
Related Logs: Related Logs (Say None if there aren't any; don't leave blank)

Rather than seated at (or on) his desk this evening, the CAG's settled into one of the worn black chairs that line the ready room. In fact, he might be mistaken for one of the pilots getting some paperwork done, or awaiting a briefing; he's half in and half out of his flight suit, dark hair rumpled from recently being trapped inside a helmet, and a pad of paper on his knee being scribbled on.

At first glance, the ready room appears to be empty. Shrugging, Thorn nearly turns on his heel to walk out when he hears a soft rustle of papers from somewhere in one of the rows. Brows crinkling curiously, he steps down further into the ready room. Finally, he gets close enough to recognize Kai; he approaches the CAG, several folders carried in one hand, the other snapping up into a salute. "Captain," he intones roughly.

Kai doesn't look up at first. People wandering in and out of the ready room isn't generally cause for alarm, so he keeps on writing. When he hears the click of boots followed by his rank however, his eyes tic up and find Komnenos standing there. It takes him a minute to process this, like his mind's a million miles away. Finally, his pen's set down and the salute's returned. His expression doesn't so much as flicker. "Evening, Lieutenant. Something I can do for you?"

Thorn's folders are proffered, his arm extending rigidly towards Kai. "Th' last of the simulator reports," he replies, his voice flat as he nods at the top folder. "Baseship projections, mostly, based on extrapolations from first-generation baseship specs and augmented with readings I took on th' surviving basestar during th' recent battle." He clears his throat. "T' make a long story short, sir, I've finished with th' new aggressor templates and fully integrated them into th' simulator computers." Then, another folder is moved to the top of the pile, and his volume goes down a tick as he continues. "Report on th' recovery of what was left of Foxbat-4."

Kai doesn't bother standing. Benefit of rank: he can sit if he damned well pleases, while Anton does the legwork. The folders are reached for, and the top one flipped open while the ECO talks. He seems to be following along pretty well; maybe the cup of coffee he's already downed, empty cup by his elbow, helped out a little. "Good work." His lips twitch slightly in approval. "When will you have a demonstration ready for Captain Legacy and I to look at?"

Thorn blinks. "Whenever th' two of you can spare th' time," he replies. "Shouldn't be anything t' rig up a couple of sample skirmishes." His lips crinkle humorlessly. "I can put together something a little more complex given a day or two, though." He barely stops himself in time from crossing his arms and slouching in front of the CAG; instead, he stiffens even further and clasps his wrists behind his back, as if in a silent self-reminder.

"Mm." It's more grunt than anything else, really, though the Captain's eyes crinkle a touch at their corners in what nearly threatens to become a smile. A good minute or two is spent just reading the specs he's been given, the crisp turn of pages comprising the only sound from the man. Then, "Have a seat. You're going to break something at the rate you're going." Marek doesn't take his eyes off the folder.

Thorn hesitates ever so briefly, but slumps down into a nearby seat with another muffled clearing of his throat. Reticent as usual, he sits in silence, his hands gripping the armrests as the CAG reads over the contents of the folder.

Kai takes his time with the thing. Then again, with his flight suit tied off around his waist, and his tank tops plastered to his body with an hours-dry layer of sweat, he's probably fulfilled his CAP obligations for the day already. He scratches a thumbnail along the bridge of his nose, flips the page again. "I'd like you to answer a question for me. Unrelated to your reports."

Thorn tilts his head, his chin jutting forward quizzically. A BDU-clad arm comes up, his hand idly scratching at the tip of his nose. "Yes, sir," he replies, his face a mask.

"I'm in the process of doing rank reviews. Captain Legacy feels you aren't leadership material." There's a crisp sound as he turns the next page, blue eyes coming up for a heartbeat to meet Thorn's. "I want you to tell me why."

Clearly, that's the last thing Thorn was expecting, as his face blanches slightly and he stays quiet for a long moment, digesting the CAG's words. "Ah." He fidgets in his seat for a moment. "I…" Another throat-clear. "I would wager she doesn't think highly of my attitude, sir," he responds, his tone tight but controlled. "Or my… 'judgement', as it were." He pauses, taking a long, deep breath. "If that's th' case… while I don't necessarily disagree with all of that assessment, I'm not sure it can be directly correlated with my leadership ability, or lack thereof." There's another pause, Thorn's lips pursing slightly. "Not that you asked my opinion on that part, though, sir."

Kai finishes with the report, at least to his current satisfaction— pending a more detailed review. It's flipped closed and set aside, and the Captain eases back in his chair with his hands clasped over his abdomen while he listens to Thorn speak. "You have permission to speak freely. I'm most certainly asking your opinion, Anton."

"Frankly, I don't believe I've had much opportunity t' prove otherwise," Thorn replies, a hint of emotion finally creeping into his voice. His face twitches slightly at Kai's sudden use of the first name. "I can only think of two occasions where I had a chance t' act in a leadership role, and both times I was put in that role merely by default." A pair of fingers begin tapping the armrest lightly. "And I believe her issues regarding my judgement are in regards to personal matters, not professional. Whatever of a mess my personal life may be or may have been, I can't believe that I've given anyone reason t' doubt my job performance."

Kai shows no reaction to that facial twitch, whether or not it signifies displeasure with his use of the pilot's name. Another benefit of rank. He can call his pilots whatever he damn well pleases, when it comes down to it. Or rename them, as he sees fit. "You're right, and you're wrong, Anton. While your personal life is yours to conduct as you please, if you throw things in peoples' faces that they don't want to see, it can chip away at squad morale." He dips his head to indicate.. the ready room? The pilot himself? Who knows. "And squad morale fraks with your professional life, and everyone else's." He watches for a sign of understanding.

"I'm… beginning t' understand that, sir," Thorn replies hesitantly. There's no displeasure in his eyes, only mild surprise. "It wasn't my intention t' throw anything in anyone's face, believe me. I'm not that bloody confrontational." The slight curl of his lips isn't quite a smile, but for a moment it comes close. "There's… some things I'm still learning when it comes t' personal relationships. But, dammit, I am learning." He blanches at the sudden outburst, his shoulders slumping slightly. "Sorry, sir," he mumbles softly a moment later.

Kai's expression is tight, and as usual, difficult to read. He keeps his hands clasped and his fingers woven together, muscle bunched slightly in his shoulders due to their slump and the curvature of his spine in his chair. "I do." Believe him. "Look at me." Those words are quieter, though still hold the same thread of command.

Almost of their own accord, Thorn's eyes snap up to Kai's, blue meeting blue. He's silent, a number of warring emotions visible on his features as he sits silently, waiting for the CAG to continue.

It takes the Captain a few moments to speak again. He's not the most eloquent man, so maybe he's just trying to put the words together in his head. "Your private life is your own business. You don't answer to Captain Legacy on it, and you don't answer to me. So long as you aren't breaking regs— and if you are, I'll nail your ass to the wall and give her first dibs on you." He doesn't take his eyes off Komnenos'. "I'm not giving you a promotion this time around, because I can't condone officers slugging it out over a piece of ass like a couple of horny recruits who haven't seen shore leave in five months. You're a good kid, a smart kid, and I frankly don't give a shit who's shining your pole in your off time. You show me that you can rise above that, and we'll talk." He unlaces his hands, and scratches again at the bridge of his nose. "And if Black Cat has trouble again with who you bring to your bunk, you talk to me. I'm not going to have a senior pilot walking such a fine line of unprofessionalism." His voice, throughout, doesn't waver once.

Thorn is silent for several seconds as well as the captain finishes; several protests run through the man's head as Kai's words sink in. The only thing out of his mouth, though, is a soft "Clear as crystal, sir." The tapping of the armrests stops as pale hands lock together on his lap.

Kai nods slightly to that. Then, "If you've got something to say, now's your chance."

Thorn gives a tiny shrug of his shoulders. "Can't think of anything I haven't said already, other than 'I accept th' challenge', Captain."

"You accept the challenge." It's repeated in almost precisely the same tone, one corner of the Captain's mouth twitching in what could easily become a nasty leer— and looks for a moment as if it might.

Just like that, Thorn's fidgeting in his seat again. "I mean — the part y' said about rising above it, sir. It's just… Not t' sound immodest, sir, but I like t' think I'm the type t' rise t' a challenge, and if I put it in those terms — " He trails off, shrugging embarrasedly, a slight flush coming over his pale features. "That's all I meant."

Kai twists around slowly in his seat, fingers gripping the armrest, knees shoved over so far they're nearly touching Anton's. The junior officer can probably smell the cigarette he smoked, the coffee he drank, and the jello he ate not half an hour ago in the mess. His blue eyes are green in actuality, vivid at the moment as a broken, sputtering overhead halogen glints off them. "Then why do you sound so godsdamned frakking wishy washy about it, Lieutenant?" That is a challenge.

"Um." Thorn grasps for words for a moment, taken aback by the sudden shift in the conversation. "I don't know. Wasn't trying t' sound that way, sir," he responds semi-archly. There's another moment of fidgeting. "Never mind," he mutters.

As Thorn grasps and retreats, Spider just pushes more. He hasn't raised his voice once; it's all in his abrasive tone, and the way he doesn't relinquish eye contact. "You like to think. You weren't trying. You don't mean to be. Have some gumption, Lieutenant. Tell me what the frak you want, and stop making excuses for it. That's what I want to see."

"What I want?" Kai seems to have struck a nerve. "What I want is for people t' get th' frak over my attitude and pay attention t' what I can actually do. I wouldn't have made it this far if I couldn't hack it. I'm not cuddly, but I've shown I can get shit done." Thorn pauses, building up steam. "What I want is t' not have everything I do in my life second-guessed because I happen t' rub people th' wrong bloody way. Y' know, I used t' think I was a bad officer? But I do my job, I follow orders, an' I try t' conduct myself as best I can. May not be th' recruiting poster model of an officer, but frak all if I'm a bad one, and I want t' be regarded as an asset, not a frakkin' liability." His words trail off abruptly, and he sinks back down into the seat, a pinched expression on his face.

Kai's tonguetip trails over his lower lip slowly, something almost akin to a smile buried in the near-inscrutable line of his mouth. "Better." Better?! His voice is a little hoarse there, but softened a touch. He checks his watch, collects his papers and begins shifting to his feet. "Here's a little gem of wisdom my first CAG gave me, Thorn. Back when I was a young, hotshot pilot with a bad attitude that would've kicked yours in the balls and stolen its lunch money several times over. He told me, that he could lecture me till he was blue in the face about what I was doing wrong. But at the end of the day, I already knew, and beat myself up for it worse than anyone else possibly could." He closes a hand over the younger man's shoulder. "Sit for a while. Think about what you just said. We'll talk again about this." And he releases him, and heads for the hatch.

"Right, sir," Thorn responds, sitting motionlessly as Kai heads up for the exit. He looks slightly dazed, as though a part of his mind is still trying to process what just happened here. The wheels behind his head are turning madly, though, and he doesn't even notice the sound of the hatch as he sits quietly, thinking.

There's nothing further from the CAG. He has his reports, which he'll probably read over a smoke in bed tonight. And he leaves the ready room and it's flickering light, and Komnenos, to his thoughts. There's a dull clang as the hatch shuts after him.

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