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Allie sighed and rolled her neck. Performance evaluations were coming due in a hurry and she was sacrificing sleep to make sure they were as correct and fair as they could be. After all, this paperwork carried a lot of weight when it came to a soldier's chances at promotions and schools. She signed her name one more time, the glanced at the two she'd set aside.

“Hey, LT, do you have a minute?” she called across the mess to her XO.

“Sure thing, Commander.” He straightened up, brushed off his hands, and took an empty seat across from her.

“I need to ask you something, but I don't want to offend or upset you,” she said.

“I doubt you'd do either,” he smiled, “but go ahead.”

“You've done NCOERs before, right?”

“Sure. Plenty of them,” he frowned. “Why? Did I miss something?”

“Well, kind of,” Allie replied, spinning the two datapads so he could see them. “When you did them before, were the senior raters ok with you just having one bullet point for some of these sections?”

Kaidan cleared his throat after glancing at the information in front of him. “Honestly, Commander, I haven't had it come up before. These two aren't the worst Marines I've ever had serve under me, but they aren't the best, either. I struggled to come up with even one point that didn't seem like I pasted it out of a guide book.”

“Really?” Allie asked. Kaidan was always diplomatic when talking about his troops, never really pointing out any problems. Instead, he managed to spin issues into something that didn't seem troublesome. She was surprised that verbiage didn't translate well onto the paperwork she had in front of her. “Well, these need more substance – at least two more bullet points each. Otherwise, this can affect their future promotions or even securing a slot for school.”

“I understand, ma'am,” he replied softly. “Doing these evaluations has never been something I've been good at. I can verbally say good things about the people who work for me, but as soon as I have to write it down, I'm at a loss.” He gave her a hopeful look and added, “I'd be open to any suggestions.”

Allie took a deep breath and studied him for a moment. “You know I really shouldn't,” she finally said. “This has to come from you. My signature only means it's complete, not whether or not I agree with the assessment.”

For the briefest moment, Kaidan looked like someone kicked his puppy. “I understand, Commander,” he said, his professional military face easily slipped back into place. He took the two datapads, stood, and turned away.

“Kaidan, wait,” Allie sighed. “If I help you with this, you have to swear you won't tell a soul.”

“I don't want anyone to get into trouble, ma'am, and I don't want these to be invalidated because you broke protocol,” he answered over his shoulder.

Allie cleared her throat and let out an audible and exasperated sigh.

Kaidan hesitated only a moment longer before turning around. “Well, if you insist,” he smiled, “you have my word no one will know.”