The Captain was known as Gutless Gus, they said he lacked courage. Then the real test came when they ran into the enemy…
Feeling angry and tired, I finally managed to get away from Rule Book Charley and find my quarters which I shared with the Engineer. I knew him casually, a glum reservist named Allyn. I had wondered why he always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. Now I knew.
He was lying in his shock-couch as I came in. "Welcome, sucker," he greeted me. "Glad to have you aboard."
"The feeling's not mutual," I snapped.
"What's the matter? Has the Lieutenant Commander been rolling you out on the red carpet?"
"You could call it that," I said. "I've just been told the duties of an Exec. Funny--no?"
He shook his head. "Not funny. I feel for you. He told me how to be an engineer six months ago." Allyn's thin face looked glummer than usual.
"Did I ever tell you about our skip--captain?" Allyn went on. "Or do I have to tell you? I see you're wearing an Academy ring."
"You can't tell me much I haven't already heard," I said coldly. I don't like wardroom gossips as a matter of policy. A few disgruntled men on a ship can shoot morale to hell, and on a ship this size the Exec is the morale officer. But I was torn between two desires. I wanted Allyn to go on, but I didn't want to hear what Allyn had to say. I was like the proverbial hungry mule standing halfway between two haystacks of equal size and attractiveness. And like the mule I would stand there turning my head one way and the other until I starved to death.
But Allyn solved my problem for me. "You haven't heard this," he said bitterly. "The whole crew applied for transfer when we came back to base after our last cruise. Of course, they didn't get it, but you get the idea. Us reservists and draftees get about the same consideration as the Admiral's dog--No! dammit!--Less than the dog. They wouldn't let a mangy cur ship out with Gutless Gus."
Gutless Gus! that was a new one. I wondered how Chase had managed to acquire that sobriquet.