Lens of History (31)

STEC Archives, Digital Document Division
Curator signature: Jer
Format: Electronics Record
Special Documents Division
History of STEC’s Media Division – 1961 to Today
Digital Archive Snapshots & Samples #19

A snapshot of the STEC “homepage” c. time [REDACTED].

As one of the earlier users of the internet, the shipgirls at STEC have a long and sometimes colorful history of using websites as a way to keep the organization’s personnel informed.

Hi guys. Mike here.

Tautog and Enterprise are taking a well needed break right now, so don’t really expect a regular update. Normally I’d send Jer to cover for them, but I got a break in my schedule and thought, hey, I figure I’d come and say hi. 

See, I’m actually not too sure what goes on here or what to talk about, so I figure I’ll just give a talk about exactly what it is I do instead. 

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Hollup. Great. What kind of Admiral has no idea what goes on on his own website?”

Haha. Got me there. Actually, I’m fairly hands off for the most part. The website updates, for instance, generally bounce around between a few shipgirls. Tautog and Enterprise are the main two, but you’ll find updates from other girls around. They have fun with their updates so I’m not one to limit what they can and can’t say on the site. I trust them enough to keep things tidy – after all, this is simply for us.

I do occasionally offer suggestions about topics or things of general interest, though, and of course – as you might have figured out by now – I do read the site pretty closely. It’s poor leadership if I did everything on behalf of my subordinates – I’ve got my job, they’ve got theirs. I’m lucky to have such talented people on our team, so I’m gonna get out of their way and let them do their thing. 

As for what do I do? The joke is that I command a LMD Mk. 2 – A Large Mahogany Desk (Mk.1 is a “Little Metal Desk”). That’s not too far from the truth. My job is to make sure stuff gets done, and right now, the best way for me to do that part is basically being a paper pusher. 

We’re as much of a bureaucracy as any other organization of substantial size, but in order to tackle big problems, we have to cut the problem into manageable, attack-able chunks. Our goal is not “making sure the Abyssals don’t nom the planet” or “Fight the Abyssals to a tie,” but winning the Abyssal War.  

This isn’t something I can just do with a snap of my fingers. Wars are won with a lot more than materiel and manpower, but if you don’t have either, there’s not much chance for victory. So, in our current situation, we need both in order to increase our chances of ultimate success. 

Let’s take manpower. Manpower is more than just handing weapons to people and filling up numbers. The US navy proudly boasts that she turns boys into sailors and that’s no exaggeration. We do all that and more. In STEC’s working environment, it takes a lot of brain to do the jobs we do today. Folks here know their jobs and know it well, but they’re also gonna have to be burning the midnight oil to ensure they stay on top things. My job here? I send out directives and notices from this office to the right people, and then get the right people to take the right classes or attend the right training or catch up with the right groups. 

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment. Not that many years ago, Mahan pops into my office and tells me she thinks her fairies and staff found a way to link unique energy patterns generated by living creatures to a particular critter. That energy data comes from the life sign monitors that we’ve found integrated in our shipgirls’ equipment. She gave me a week’s worth of reports and I learned that in that particular tech module, the biggest takeaway is that we think we can track that to each individual identity. I wrote a report to my higher-ups with her, filed that to you-know-who’s office, and within a week the response I got was: see if you can make it bigger.

We did. By we, I mean mostly the hard-working engineers, scientists, support-staff, shipgirls, and fairies that put in countless hours to make this happen. That’s how MERLIN came about. We’re still adding new capabilities every day to it, but now you know what we can do with it. In addition to solving one of our biggest challenges of identifying when an Abyssal’ll strike, MERLIN now gives us an opportunity to seek out “uniquely extraordinary” signals on the planet at large – i.e. finding more shipgirls to join the fight. The rest of what it does came later. 

So, who should know about this? In order of priority, every shipgirl, every personnel involved directly in counter-Abyssal operations, then everyone here at STEC. We don’t need everyone specialized in operating MERLIN, for starters, but it is integral to our mission at hand that everyone understands, in principle, what it can do and what its limitations are.

Here’s where I’m gonna grandstand a bit and tell you that you’re the finest bunch of men and women that anyone could hope to work with. Your enthusiasm and willingness to take every new learning opportunity as a way to improve your intelligence will go a long way in ensuring the long-term success of our mission. 

My job here, then, includes figuring out and making sure we don’t make stupid decisions to dampen that enthusiasm. Your duty might be to follow my orders, but it’s up to me to make sure those orders are sensible and the goals we set are reasonable. There’s no “your” corner or “my” corner here at STEC or on this island because I’m comfortable with the statement that it is OURS. 

That means another part of my job is to figure out what sort of things – money, resources, staff, amenities – we can provide to you to ensure your success. For me, that means I know exactly what’s going on in your specific situation, what we have, and what we don’t. I’ve the distinctive pleasure of knowing that we’re a bunch of straight shooters who tells it like it is. I do my best, but remember: “Admiral Yin” doesn’t know much.

If you put him in your job he’s not gonna do anywhere as well as you. He’s aware of this, so on one hand he holds you in awe and wants to learn as much as he can. On the other hand, you’re the expert at your particular task, and “Admiral Yin” is counting on you to tell him exactly what you need. 

Our cousins in the Army’s got a saying, beans and bullets, and when I thought about something to share, that’s the saying that first comes to mind. We’ve been pretty good on the “bullets” side, but the history of “beans” in STEC is one where I think probably deserves a book after we’re done. 

It’s a good story, so I’ll tell a bit of it. For the new guys and girls reading this, you know how your seniors are always going off on how the food’s great? Well, it didn’t use to be that way. Before we got Avalon into the water, STEC, like the rest of the navy, had to make every dollar stretch as far as it can. I’m still working with a lot of folks from those days, and back then folks were really living from paycheck to paycheck trying to make it to the next day. Oversight, while sympathetic, can’t do much about our situation – in light of how the conventional navy was hemorrhaging talent and men, the plight of one office of its research branch was very low on the priority list. 

Back then, given the utmost necessity of secrecy, STEC’s main source of sustenance were basically things that came out of cans or that can be frozen and thawed. Yeah, you’re reading that right. A top-secret organization working in the shadows to defend humanity from giant extradimensional monsters did it on Hormel canned hash. Adds a little extra impact to all of our plates when we gather together and say Grace before dinner, huh? 

Then, as you all know, I signed on with STEC right around the same time where our little magical critters started to appear en mass. All of a sudden it seems like all of our problems would be solved, and in the eyes of Oversight, it was. What little budget was allocated for sustenance got slashed further since fairies generated food that was “popular with the men.” After all, if it worked for our fathers in the Second World War, it’ll probably work for us, right?

STEC likes to put people on Logistics at first to learn the ropes, and in case you’re wondering, yup, I did that first too. I can still remember my first day on the job with Narwhal as we examined STEC’s sustenance depots. I thought to myself, yeah, there’s a lot of food here, but I don’t know if folks would really be happy eating this stuff. For starters, there’s a lot of Meat-and-Vegetable stew there. A lot of mutton (I thought to myself, are these even American?) and a lot of SPAM.

Then I learned (again, some first-hand experience here) that much like us, fairies had varying levels of cooking expertise and preferences. Then it came as a surprise to no one that the fairies themselves tend to prefer consumption of the more edible items on the menu. All of this got documented in one of the first reports I’ve ever prepared. 

Bluntly put, there’s significant amounts of concerns regarding sustenance. While there is unanimous agreement on the necessity of operational freedom and the maintenance of the status quo, there is also unanimous agreement in the rank-and-file that improvements would be desirable.

When it came to suggestions, I thought about what I’ve learned over these three weeks and pitched my idea. Some of the shipgirls mention their fairies cultivating land or fishing for sustenance. I thought it’d be worth looking into whether or not we can coordinate fairy efforts and have a centralized, organized inventory of what’s available. I then thought a bit more and put down what I thought was a somewhat unrealistic suggestion for the time. Langley had expressed interest in organizing and facilitating things in this area. Might it not be a bad idea to have her take care of food on STEC’s behalf? 

As you can imagine, when this made the rounds, there was quite a bit of push-back and feedback. Oversight isn’t hostile – remember, despite what you might think, they’re on our side too – but was understandably concerned with the prospect of pulling a veteran shipgirl off of active front-line duties and have her facilitate something that is almost entirely backline. I was understandably a bit nervous, but Jer told me back then the very same thing I’m telling everyone today. Be a straight shooter and tell ’em what’s going on. 

So I did. I finished delivering my report, and the gentlemen in the room rose up to shake my hand and thank me for my service and my time. They told me that while they know what’s going on, they’re counting on folks like me to give them the real details. 

“One day too, you’ll be here doing the same thing. I hope sincerely that you’ll do a better job than us.”

Fast forward to today, the solid A-grade chow we’ve got? Came out of that meeting. None of this stuff is me, by the way. It’s all thanks to you. I’m not the one cooking, for starters – Langley is. I’m not the one planting the vegetables – the fairies are. Can I cook or plant vegetables or do any of these things? No, I can’t. I don’t know much about growing stuff, and my cooking is passable on a good day.

If that’s my job, though, I’ll strive to do my best. Right now, though, my job involves getting the right people doing the things we need to get done. You can count on me to get out of your way and do your thing, but you can also count on the fact that I’m not a big bag of wind and that I know your thing, too. On this matter involving dining at our facilities, for instance, I am very thankful for everyone working hard to keep the base happy and fed. While I no longer collect feedback in person or heat up the grill myself, I consider it a privilege to receive these reports, and it goes without saying that I take them as seriously as you do.

That goes for everything else I receive too. Why? That’s my job. In order for me to make sure the things that needs to get done gets done, I need to know how they work. In order for me to give sensible orders, I need to understand the situation and know the players involved. It’ll be a disservice to all of us if I’m anything less. 

So yeah. That’s my job. I’m our biggest paper pusher, and I’m going to work hard to be the best paper pusher you’ve ever seen. We all deserve nothing less, and action’s louder than words!