Challenge #01147-C050: One for the Books

Admiral [Name] was arrested for extreme tactical and strategic stupidity.

(maybe something on one of Miles' reports? Either as an ImpSec agent to Simon, or as an Auditor to Gregor?) -- RecklessPrudence

[AN: Well it certainly wouldn't happen in my pet universe... the Peter Principle has been rendered null and void]

Ensign Swinton chafed under the command of Admiral Voreckles. He would not promote without combat experience and he refused to allow female officers and staff into combat at all. He assigned those he deemed prettiest onto the bridge or in the public areas so he could show off their shiny dress uniforms and how 'forward thinking' he was for the Imperial Auditor.

This one was relatively young for the title. Scuttlebutt had it that the twisted dwarf was the Emperor's Favourite and had got the role through outright and blatant nepotism.

Swinton had looked him up. Vorkosigan. And encountered a large number of redacted and classified blocks. This was a man for whom you cut your throat before he turned his attentions your way. It would save a great deal of time.

Her suspicions were confirmed when she was Being Decorative in Admiral Voreckles' shadow. Her job was to stand around and look pretty, and answer any questions in a positive manner whenever possible. And a neutral manner when not. And, if all else failed, to throw herself on the Auditor's genitals and thereby defuse an audit.

Swinton saw all she needed to see in the Auditor's lively grey eyes. How they tic'ed from detail to detail. Evaluating, summing up, theorising. Voreckles was weighed in the balance and found wanting before he'd finished introducing his command crew.

Vorkosigan was mentally dusting off the executioner's axe before Voreckles had finished putting his breath to, "And this is Ensign Swinton. She will be seeing to your every need during your visit."

Swinton saluted and said, "Sir," in a manner that would make a parade inspector weep tears of joy. And tried not to look like she should be wrapped entirely in gift ribbon and be laying on a platter with a crown of parsley. She could see Auditor Vorkosigan summing her up as a bribe within seconds.

"How are the drains?" said Vorkosigan.

The query came from so far left field that it may well have circumnavigated the globe in order to pitch from the right. Swinton didn't bother with 'er's or 'um's. "Speaking personally, sir, I have encountered no problems. I could have a more in-depth report in your hands inside of two hours and a thorough investigation in twenty-four hours. If that's what my Lord Auditor wishes," she said. Clipped and sharp. Businesslike. And with only the merest sidelong glance towards Voreckles to make certain she was performing up to spec.

A glance that Vorkosigan caught. Damnit.

"Very nicely turned out uniforms, Ensign."

"Sir," said Swinton.

"Are you all dressed up just for me? Or is this a regular requirement?" Translated: Is this a show or a full-time circus?

Swinton could tell he had already seen the signs of regular wear on her Dress Greens. "The Admiral requires all bridge crew to comport themselves as if the Emperor were visiting." She did not say, And he makes sure our uniforms are slightly more visually appealing than the male ones. And he dictates how we do our hair. And tells us exactly how much makeup to wear.

"Good for Gregor," muttered Vorkosigan. Aloud, he said. "I expect the Admiral has much more important things to do than to show me around. Take me on the tour that none of the other VIP's get. Show me the ordinary stuff."

A panicked glance to Voreckles, who gave her one of his infamous mono-shouldered shrugs. Sometimes, his entire command was a mono-shouldered shrug. You know what you're supposed to do. Get on with it.

Get on with it, she did. She showed him the dining hall. She showed him the officers' and the recruits' messes. She showed him the bathrooms. And she let him read the informal-but-mandatory rules and regulations for females working on board the ship. Including how much body hair was allowed. Then she showed him the salon.

It was marked as the ladies' gym, but there was very little that was heavier than a curling iron in there.

And, most damningly, she let Vorkosigan interview a healthy sample of the ladies on board. Let him hear how their primary duty was Looking Busy accompanied with a healthy helping of Looking Pretty. How they were essentially there to be decorative and little else.

Vorkosigan listened with steepled fingers and a scarily neutral expression. It had been a long time since an Admiral of the Emperor's Fleet had been charged with Misuse of His Majesty's Imperial Forces, but this... this was outrageous.

In the end, the women didn't need a bloody coup to wrest control of the ship off the Admiral. The enemy did that for them, with a boarding party whilst all the men were out trying to board the enemy. The women had been aching for combat, and took out all their aggression on the enemy. And had to be stopped from tearing them to pieces.

Vorkosigan was illogically proud of all of them, and referred to them informally as His Ladies all the way back to Barrayar.

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