Weatherby turned. Hustling after him down one of Resolution‘s narrow corridors was a short man with unkempt blond hair and a five-o’clock shadow Weatherby found unduly irritating; or, perhaps he was letting his opinion of the man influence his judgment. It was either now or some less convenient time later, so he stopped, cautiously polite. “Mr. Church. What can I do for you?”
Lloyd Church jogged the last few steps, pulled a notepad and pen from his pocket, and scribbled until the ink began to flow. The commander watched the pad suspiciously, as though it might bite. Church sighed. Getting a good quote out of an officer was, on a good day, as hard as pulling his teeth without his permission. It didn’t look like Weatherby was having a very good day. “Do you have a moment? I’d like to ask about the action off Argo.”
Weatherby’s head moved fractionally, first down, then up. ‘Nod’ was perhaps too generous a description.
Church waited a beat to see if Weatherby would simply leave—that had happened before. The commander remained, likely against his better judgment, so Church posed his first question. “Can you sum up the action in a few words?”
Weatherby replied, “Bloody.”
There it was, the legendary reticence which characterized every Navy man. Church pressed him. “You brought home a victory with a cruiser and a frigate, while a battlecruiser in the same company failed to do the same. How did you conduct the battle?”
“Cleverly,” Weatherby said dryly. “Come now, Church, surely you’ve read my report by now.”
Church sensed an opening. He shook his head. “Commander Resolution answered press questions, but we’ve not seen the full report.”
Weatherby raised an eyebrow. “What do you know?”
“In short,” Church said, “your squadron engaged a lone Exile protected cruiser and forced its surrender, taking heavy damage in the process.”
“If the base commander saw fit to say so little, how much more do you think I can get away with?” Weatherby said.
The reporter sighed. “Commander, I’m only asking for the roughest of sketches. As it is, I have a fifty-word story and seven hundred words of padding.”
Weatherby watched him steadily for a moment, then relented. “I had hoped to fight a running battle, but… circumstances at the start of the engagement did not permit it. No plan survives contact with the enemy, as they say.” Church just managed to keep from rolling his eyes. They did indeed say that, every single one of them, and they all thought it was somehow clever. “Warspite closed with Reprisal to draw her attention away from Hermes, while Commander Lassiter provided supporting fire from a distance. Warspite took her knocks, but Reprisal strayed too close. I was able to take her under fire with Warspite‘s point defense fit, and she surrendered soon after.”