From: Oregon, USA
June 2-3, 1942
Aboard USS Gridley
Location: 75 miles east-southeast of Johnson Island
Attached to: TF 123
Mission: Surface combat
Ship's Status: Sys damage 1
Fuel: 345 (65%)
“Hey, Al…” began Ranker.
“Shut up, Ranker,” said Al Tanner, “I’m thinking.”
“Yeah, sure,” said Ranker diffidently. “But you said to watch for Odell, and here he…”
“Christ, why didn’t you say so!” snapped Tanner. He turned away from the rail and back to the bulkhead, where he began an industrious show of chipping paint. Petty Officer Odell came strolling around the uptake and stopped to survey the work that he, Ranker, and Vick were supposed to be doing. He said nothing for a moment. Tanner admired the timing. Odell was letting them sweat a little before he said anything.
“My grandmother could have finished this by now,” Odell finally observed pleasantly. The seas had moderated and the sun was out. It wasn’t terribly warm but Tanner began to sweat a little. Ranker and Vick were already sweating, but that was understandable. They’d been working.
“We’ve almost got it, Chief,” said Tanner. “Don’t we, guys?” Ranker and Vick nodded vigorously.
“That’s good,” said Odell, “because you aren’t stopping until it’s done. Clear?”
“Yes, Chief,” they all chorused. Odell started to walk away, and then turned back. Here it comes, thought Tanner.
“Oh, and Tanner,” Odell said. “It might go faster if you stopped goofing off by the rail and actually did some work, eh?”
“Sorry, Chief,” said Tanner. He tried to assume a mournful, slightly feeble attitude. “I wasn’t goofing off, I was puking. I must have gotten some bad meat at chow or something.”
“I see,” said Odell. “That’s a real shame.” He looked at Ranker and Vick and his voice sharpened. “Is that true? Has Tanner been sick?”
“Oh yeah,” said Ranker.
“Like a dog,” agreed Vick. “Throwing up something terrible. We keep trying to get him to go see the doc but he won’t quit workin’.”
“Crap,” said Odell disgustedly. “If Tanner said ‘frog’ you two would jump. I don’t know why I even bother.” He pointed at the bulkhead. “Scraped down and ready to paint. And you three don’t stop until it’s done.” He turned and stalked off, easily keeping up with the roll of the ship with his straddle-legged walk.
After he was out of sight forward Tanner kept working. Odell was apt to turn around and come back, just to try and catch him slacking again, but Tanner wasn’t going to fall for that one. His thoughts resumed their former course, though.
He really needed to find a way off this ship. And not to another ship, either, but to shore duty, preferably in Pearl or the States. The recent raid against the Marshalls worried him. The Japanese were obviously done expanding and instead were digging in. Everyone said so, and Tanner agreed. That meant they would be going after the Japs more and more. And the Japs would be waiting with all their guns, ships, and planes. It was going to get dangerous out here at sea. And dangerous didn’t sit well with Tanner’s determination to get through this stupid war with a whole skin.
The trouble was that the Navy took a perverse sort of joy in doing exactly the opposite of what you wanted them to do. Even Tanner, for all his cunning, had had no luck in manipulating the bureaucracy. It was too vast and too impersonal.
He could get kicked off the ship easily enough, sure, but he wanted his record clean. Ending up in the stockade wasn’t going to do it. Ma Tanner’s eldest boy needed to be someplace where he could feather his nest in comfort and come through the war with a clean record. He had the future to think of, after all.
He needed a cunning plan. Eventually, he felt confident, he would come up with one. He was good at cunning plans.