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Hunter Matheson

Article 32

Article 32


Door to the Marine NCO lounge opened. Heads turned. Door closed. Matheson disappeared down the hall toward his bunk. Door Opened. Door closed.


MSGT Murphy—aka Murph—peered over his magazine to take a good look around. His brow rose slowly as a few shrugs winged toward him, along with suspicious expressions, quickly hidden behind games, magazines, or holovids—like kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar.


Putting his magazine aside, Murphy excused himself to cautious glances, and wandered down the hall. He stopped a second to fling a menacing look at a few prying eyes, then pressed the chime on Matheson’s door.


No response.


He chimed again.


No response.


Murph leaned a forearm on the door frame and knocked.


“What?!” shouted from the other side.


“It’s me, Gunny. How long you gonna keep me waitin?”


Within seconds the door slid open. “Hey, Master Sergeant,” said Kal, semi-apologetic. He had the same look the others had, only the others looked guilty and Matheson’s was more stressed out. “Come on in. I’d offer you a seat, but…” he shrugged, “...all the chairs are in the lounge.”


Murphy gave his usual half-smile and stepped in. “It’s the same all over the station, Gunny. I’ll just borrow this rack for a few minutes.” He took a quick glance around the room before he settled onto the bunk, where Matheson’s PADD caught his attention. “Studying up for Master Sergeant exam?”


“Uh… yeah, that’s right,” Matheson replied, quickly retrieving it. “Thought I’d get a leg up on it. You know, just in case.”


“Um.” Murph nodded, pursed his lips doubtfully, then leaned forward to rest his forearms on his thighs. “Even when the next exam isn’t for another 14 months, and there’s nothing in the exam that has to do with the UCMJ?” He nodded toward the PADD. “Pretty ambitious, Gunny.” He extended his hand for the item in question.


Kal stared briefly, then sighed and reluctantly handed it over.


Head ticked to the side, Murph’s brows knit as he opened the PADD and began to read. Only once did he glance up, but by that time, Kal wasn’t watching anymore. Soon his fingers whizzed through the data. Outside, the com signaled change of watch. Kal checked the chrono, then remembered they were still on station. He ran a hand through his close-cropped hair, then down the back of his neck, waiting.


“Huh,” said Murphy, then read aloud. “I’d almost forgotten this one. Starfleet Regulation 1165 prohibits ‘personal relationships between officers and enlisted personnel that are unduly familiar and do not respect the differences in grade or rank. Such relationships are prejudicial to good order and discipline and violative of service tradition. Conduct is prejudicial to good order and discipline if it calls into question the senior’s objectivity, results in actual, or an appearance of, preferential treatment, undermines the senior’s authority and compromises the chain of command. This regulation is a punitive article; consequently, it is a General Order and violation of it is punishable under Article 92, UCMJ’.” He looked up and handed Kal the PADD.


“What’s Article 92, Gunny?”


He was serious. It called for a deep breath and a slow exhale. “Well… Article 92 is a ‘General Court Martial, provided the Article 32 convening authority deems it appropriate’.” Yes, ever since the encounter with Syl, Kal had gone into information overload.


“And Article 32?”


Matheson blew out another breath and straightened up. “Article 32 is a ‘mandatory preliminary hearing under the UCMJ to ‘determine whether there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed and the accused committed the offense, whether the convening authority has court-martial jurisdiction over the offense and the accused, the form of charges, and the disposition that should be made of the case’.”


“Whoa, Gunny.” Murph grinned and used his heel to push back against the bulwark. “You’ve really done your homework. Ever think of going into the JAG Corps?”


It took Kal a minute to process that, wondering if Murph was serious. “Well… yeah,” he ventured. “I thought about it once or twice, but I’d have to go back to school after I finish this tour of duty. But, yeah. I’ve thought about it.” Or had just thought of thinkin’ about it.


Murph gave him an understanding nod. “So… just to test your skills here….” The Master Sergeant thought a moment. “What would you do if... say... your friend came to you and had a problem like that?” he said casually. “I think it’s called ‘fraternization’? I’m talking about a relationship that that… say… hasn’t gone far enough to get to an Article 32, but it kinda looks like it might get there eventually?”


Kal’s face flushed. If Murph noticed, he didn’t show it. “That’s a tough one, Master Sergeant. I’m not… quite… sure about that one. You got any ideas?”


“Hm….” Arms crossed and face skewed he took another long think. “Well... I b’lieve I’d tell ‘em to cool it. Talk it out. Come to some sort of agreement before it gets out of hand. Now, I’m no JAG, and I’m sure not a shrink, but that sounds reasonable to me. Sound reasonable to you?”


“Hell, yeah,” Kal replied, a little too enthusiastic. Again, the Master Sergeant didn’t seem to take notice. “I mean… sure. That sounds reasonable to me. Cool it. Talk it out. Come to an agreement. Real reasonable.”


Murph nodded, pushed off from the bunk, and gave Kal’s knee a slap. “Sounds to me that you’d make a good JAG, Gunny. Keep workin’ at it. I gotta move on out. Carry on.”

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