Marlow headed off to face “Cluster Twin” Aenid. Of course, no one in Naval Intelligence ever called her that to her face. No one dared. Still, the name fit, and no one ever thought of her as anything else. Marlow had run afoul of Aenid before as an Ensign watch stander in Hawaii over the secure phone, and he still winced at the memories. The last time, three watches of work product on his watch team’s part had been quietly absorbed into an article of hers — unacknowledged. This time, Marlow softly said to himself “Eff that!”
As it turned out, there was very little for either of them to do. The division head’s bullet points looked an awful lot like a final draft. Marlow’s two-dozen words on “Red Death” had turned into a paragraph overgrown with technical jibber jabber utterly burying the key bottom line. Only an advance degreed engineer might have guessed that the “Red Death” represented a soon-to-be-operational strategic forces game changer in Asia and across the rest of the world. Cluster Twin looked beaten and visibly sagged, but she let it stand.
Her manifest defeated pose emboldened Marlow. “I think we could strengthen the piece if we highlighted the fact the ‘Red Death’ is a game changer.”
Aenid perked up like a shark who had just smelled blood. “I believe the boss’s instincts about emphasizing the technical aspects are sound. As a senior GS-14, I consider myself the lead author on this, but I will grudgingly let you also be listed. Marlow, when you’ve worked in this place longer, you’ll learn that management is usually right about these things.” Aenid obviously wanted to get into the GM-15 management game badly — she was already practicing on him. Marlow as a Fleet Lt — a very junior GS-11 equivalent — struck his colors and sailed off down the corridor.
Back in front of his large screen, Marlow waited for the FACETIME-like electronic coordination comment meetings to begin. He didn’t expect much of anything. The single page was now so unintelligible and dense that no one in Suitland let alone the world outside of Naval Intelligence would understand it. He was filled with a sense of career doom.
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