Wedge lay on his back under his desk, only his feet sticking out. He planted his boots as solidly as he could on the floor, trying to shove himself a little deeper, but one foot slipped. Since he was still trying to push with it, it struck out, connecting with his rolling chair, which flew back against the rear wall of his office. As an echo of the bang and his grunted oath floated through the room, he reached up, pulling wires out from where they were housed in the underside.
"Stupid thing...always--stupid!--when I--stang!--need it..."
The console that was built into his desk responded to his efforts with silence, and he pushed out from under the desk. A pair of brown eyes glared over the edge at the screen, scowling severely as he saw it was still dark.
Worming his way back under the desk again, Wedge pulled more wires loose from where they had been pinned to the underside, one end twisting down towards the power outlet, the others up through the desk and into the main console. He glowered at each wire in turn, shoving them aside, until he found one where the insulation was frayed. Taking it gingerly between thumb and forefinger, he studied it for a moment, then touched the damaged insulation.
Shaking away the pain of the mild shock, Wedge swore again. You would think that as a General, I could at least get a console that works most of the time! They expect me to do all this stupid datawork, but on what?!
"You all right under there?" a familiar voice asked. Wedge tilted his head backwards, to the gap at the far side of the desk, and saw a pair of upside-down booted feet. Wedge awkwardly shuffled out from underneath his desk, twisting around until his knees met the floor, and then paused to rest for a moment. Drawing a deep breath to dispel some of his exasperation, he looked over the edge of the desk again. Tycho looked back at him, eyebrows raised; slightly behind him, the startled young face of Lieutenant Menae, a junior administrative aide, looked around his shoulder, hovering uncertainly in the background.
"I'm just fine, Colonel, thank you," Wedge replied, still kneeling behind his desk. "Were you looking for me, Lieutenant?"
"Um, yes sir," she replied, stepping around Tycho and holding out a datapad. "I have your requisition forms ready for signature, and the week's duty roster has been forwarded to your terminal."
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Wedge answered as he pushed to his feet, quickly scanning the datapad before adding his signature code at the bottom of the form. "Now if I could just get this blasted thing to work, I could sign off on the roster and get it back to you too," he added disgustedly, handing the datapad back and glaring at the blank terminal screen on his desk.
"Thank you, sir. Ah... Sir, are you having problems with your console? I might be able to help."
"Please, Lieutenant, be my guest," Wedge said, waving toward the uncooperative device. "Or else fetch me a hydrospanner from the hangar, and I'll convince it to work the old-fashioned way."
Lieutenant Menae crossed behind the desk, disappearing underneath as Wedge turned to Tycho, arms crossed over his chest. "This terminal has been a problem ever since I moved into this office. I swear, we didn't have this much trouble keeping equipment running on half our Alliance bases..."
He was interrupted by a quiet double-beep, and his terminal screen blinked to life. The lieutenant appeared from behind the desk again, much more gracefully than Wedge had, and stood. "There you go, sir. Do you need anything else?"
"Ahh... no, Lieutenant. Thanks again." Wedge returned the young woman's salute, surprised at his terminal's sudden willingness to cooperate. Lieutenant Menae left, and Wedge eyed the screen suspiciously as he retrieved his chair and sat, waiting for it to blink off again. He pulled up the duty roster with no problems, and still the screen stayed on. "Hmph. It'll wait till she gets back to the admin. wing, and then it'll blink out again."
Tycho chuckled, taking a seat across the desk. "Upset that the lowly young lieutenant managed to fix the desk you've been fighting with for half a year?"
"Of course not," Wedge replied haughtily, rising to cross to the small caf maker on a sideboard across the room. "I never claimed to be an expert at tech stations or terminals."
"Uh huh," Tycho answered. "So tell me, when are we flying next?"
"The roster's still up; go ahead and download it to your datapad," Wedge called over his shoulder, dumping more dried caf in the top of the machine. "Since you're here to review it anyway..." Wedge flicked the switch; but instead of starting its cycle, the caf maker emitted an awful grinding noise. He frowned, flicking the switch off and on again. Still no caf; just more grinding.
"Having more problems, General?" Tycho asked, a too-innocent tone in his voice.
Wedge sighed, his eyes falling wearily closed. Come on, Antilles; they pay you to fly million-credit starfighters, and now you can't run a simple caf-maker? "I think it's going to be one of those days."
Lieutenant Menae managed to remain composed as she crawled out from under the desk. Her hand didn't shake as she saluted and made her way out of the office. She even remained calm, cool, and collected as she took the turbolift down ten floors to the administrative suites. But when she approached her office, her pace quickened, desperate to get behind closed doors...
She keyed in her code, the door swooshed open, then swooshed closed with equal efficiency behind her. She leaned her back against it, her head tilted back, staring at the ceiling. Only then did she allow herself to break into hysterical gales of laughter.
"What?" the lieutenant she shared her office with asked, looking up from her datapad.
It was several minutes before Menae could speak, swiping at tears with the backs of her hands. "Oh, that was just too funny!"
"What was funny? Come on, now you have to tell me!"
Menae flopped, weary and boneless from laughing, into her chair. "I just came from General Antilles' office. I was delivering the requisition forms that he had to sign, and to tell him that his duty roster was ready and downloaded."
"Okay...so far not terribly funny."
"Just wait. When I was close to his office, Colonel Tycho was arriving from the opposite direction. So we went in together to see the General."
"Uh huh... Still waiting for the punch line..."
"Oh, hush! Well, when we got into the office, he was on his hands and knees under his desk. Seems he was having a problem with the screen of his console. Seems like he'd been having problems for a while. Which isn't surprising, considering he has one of the old 1600s, but that's neither here nor there."
"Is there a punch line?"
"I'm getting to it! After we'd completed our bureaucratic stuff, I asked if I could help with his console. I'm pretty used to dealing with the 1600s. He said sure, and I slipped under the desk. Now, I could see that he'd been fiddling with the wiring a bit, and even saw some exposed wires, but the first thing I looked at was the switch for the power feed. You know, the one at the side, that you turn off when you're performing maintenance? So you don't get shocked?"
"Uh huh. I think I know where this is going," the other young lieutenant said with a smirk.
"Of course. I could see scuff marks from his boot all around the switch. Not as far back as the terminal switch, but all around the screen one. It was, of course, flipped to the off position."
Menae's office mate was now laughing as well. "Did you tell him?" she managed.
"What? No, of course not! Not with Colonel Celchu standing right there. I wouldn't embarrass him like that," she added with a smile. "But I might send him a short message later, just so he doesn't get frustrated again, and rip the screen right off the desk."
The other lieutenant chuckled some more. "Well, if I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times..."
They repeated the mantra together. "Where would they be without the admin staff?"