Not a soul left in the ready room except this thing at the duty desk that looked like a cross between a field mouse and a wet poodle, which was Carly.
"Where is everybody?" Jack said.
"They're not here, sir."
"I got eyes, Carly. Where did they go?"
"Drinking, probably. That's what they usually do when they don't have to be here, which is most of the time. They were only here this morning because they didn't have a choice. That's a big rule with Captain Otis. Everybody has to show up for quarters and listen to him talk. He likes to talk."
"Yes, he likes to talk, and he almost never has anybody to talk to, because everybody is almost always anyplace but here, because nobody wants to talk to Captain Otis, because they don't like him. I think he gets lonesome."
"Lonesome? He's got you here. On a semi-permanent basis."
"I know. I think he wants to adopt me."
"Lots of skippers feel that way about their ensigns, Carly."
"No. I mean legally adopt me."
"Then why don't you let him? You have anything better to do?"
"I can't let him adopt me because I'm already adopted."
"Oh." Jack didn't mean to be a dick. It just occurred naturally sometimes. "Sorry."
"Don't be," Carly smiled, or whatever it was she was doing with her face. "I set you up for that. I was just pulling your chain. Like I said, I have to think up lots of things to amuse myself, in my function as semi-permanent duty officer."
"I really am adopted, though, and I hope to find my real parents someday. I'm very interested in the field of genealogy. It's one of the things I research to fill the time while I'm on semi-permanent duty. I'd like to find my real parents, if they're anywhere to find. I want to discover what makes me tick."
"It's your ticker, Carly, your heart. Research some anatomy while you're at it."
"I know it's my ticker that makes me tick. I'm very smart."
"I know you're smart. You said that already. I'm sorry to hear it. I hope it gets better soon. Anything else wrong with you I ought to know about?"
"My ticker. I have a broke-dick heart. Like all the broke dick planes we have in the squadron, which is all of them, in spite of Captain Otis's Total Quality Initiatives to fix them."
"What about the flight simulators over in the training building?"
"They're all broke-dick too."
"Then how does the squadron do flight training?"
"It doesn't. That's the other reason nobody's here. I think that's the reason Captain Otis wants to talk to you--"
"How do you know he wants to talk to me?"
"Because he tells me everything. I deduce that's because he doesn't have anybody else to talk to, even his wife, probably. Anyway, I think he thinks you're smart, what with your brilliant service record and everything, and he wants you to come up with a Total Quality way to do flight training without airplanes or flight simulators."
"That'll take a Total Quality Miracle," Jack said.
"I know. That's another reason nobody's here, because Captain Otis is so totally full of shit."