The Valkyries Agenda, Part VI


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Scene Title The Valkyries Agenda, Part VI
Synopsis Sarisa Kershner travels to Iraq to secure the leader of her newly designed Frontline squad.
Date January 29, 2010

Camp Packhorse

Tikrit, Iraq

«Baker Six One Nine, what is your inbound?»

Sand blows through the dusty streets of a sun-baked village. Noise of the military post is drowned out by the roar of a helicopter coming in for a landing at a clearing just outside of the razorwire fenced in compound. Sand colored tents rustle with the downdraft from the chopper's rotors, and radio chatter squawks with noise of the new arrival to the Tikrit forward camp.

«This is Baker Six One Nine, delivering queen of cups to FC, over.»

Situated on the banks of the Tigris river, the desert down ot Tikrit is situated in what historians call the Cradle of Civilization, but this bombed out and smoldering hole of a city holds little else than civilization in these dark times. Plumes of black twirl up into the sky in the distance, from fires that still burn where a suicide bomber detonated a car just six blocks away from the Army camp. It's a harrowing place to be, but much of the world outside of the United States is rapidly leveraging itself towards this point.

«Affirmative Baker Six One Nine, you are clear to land.»

Once the chopper's skids touch down on the barren ground, a pair of Marines in desert camouflage and full body armor steps out from the helicopter, rifles slung over their shoulders. Behind them, a woman who is clearly not a part of the combat operation is soon to follow. Tall, blonde, dressed in a tan and white three piece suit. Her hair is tossed by the whirl of the propellors, the white scarf at her throat of silken cloth fluttering in the sandy breeze.

Adjusting her aviator sunglasses, the blonde woman ducks her head down until she is out of range of the chopper blades and is escorted by the Marines towards the forward command post's CO tent. Inside of that very facility, a member of this camp's armed force is situated behind a folding table as she has been for the last hour and a half, a stale cup of coffee seated next to her, and a bright lamp shining down on the map of the city in front of her.

USMC Second Lieutenant Felicia Varlane has seen a long history of conflict in her life, she's seen her fair share of changes and revisions through the military in that history. But what comes through those tent flaps isn't something she's ever had much experience with before. The blonde woman emerging into the COs tent looks around for Colonel Brade, not finding the man in sight. Instead, she pulls her sunglasses off, blue eyes settled on Felicia with an assessing stare.

"Lieutenant Varlane?" Sarisa can hardly believe she's saying that title with that surname as she approaches the table, offering out a leather gloved hand over it towards the Marine. "I'm CIA Special Activities Division agent Sarisa Kershner. I was told you'd be expecting me."

Expecting, yes. But not for what.

Whatever this meeting is, Felicia has been kept in the dark about it. That's not totally abnormal to the officer. There's security clearances to worry about and the need-to-know basis sort of thing. Much like most other missions she's received while stationed in Iraq, the Marine assumes that this is a new assignment to rescue another reporter caught by the Taliban. The map in front of her is almost unnecessary, she's traveled over the nearby terrain so often that she knows it by just closing her eyes. The coffee was more a formality than a necessity.

When the tent flap opens, Felicia quickly stands at attention and salutes Sarisa. "Ma'am." Then, as the woman isn't an officer of higher rank in the military, the brunette eases up on her stance and then shakes her hand. Her grip is strong, but not crushing - this is a woman who is quite used to strong handshakes and expects them back. "Yes, Ma'am." Unaware of the strangeness of being her name being associated with any sort of title, her face is neutral. None of the curiosity she feels is betrayed except for possibly in her eyes. "I was not briefed on the reason for your visit, however, ma'am. One of yours in a tight spot?"

"Actually, and quite thankfully, no. Every one of my ducks is squared in a row at the moment." Moving to stand behind the chair opposite of where Felicia is across the table, Sarisa folds those gloved hands behind her back and looks down to the map in silence, then back up to Felicia. "I'd thought that my presence might have been a give-away on that, but I don't figure you hear too much of what's going on back home out here in detail. While I am with the CIA, I've taken up a civillian contracting position with the United States Military under the purview of President Petrelli."

Dark brows furrow, and Sarisa pulls out the folding chair she's standing in front of, settling down into her seat and lacing her fingers together in her lap. "I'm here, actually, because your name came up in conversation between myself and members of the President's Evolved Affairs cabinet, when discussing the appointment of a second squad of Frontline in New York City." Sarisa reaches up, threading a lock of blonde hair behind one ear.

"I'll be frank, General Sebastian Autumn, Homeland Security's military advisor, ants you— specifically— to spearhead and lead Squad 2, which I'm already in the process of pulling together talented candidates for. It does mean taking you out of active duty and bringing you back to the States, but it also means a significant pay grade boost and a chance to get back on home soil."

Truly, Felicia was puzzled about the meeting with Sarisa. She hadn't heard the name before, and so she assumed that it had something to do with another rescue mission. However the bright flashing arrows that direct the conversation start to flash on and off at the mention of the names Autumn, Frontline, and, of course, President Petrelli. Though a trained marine, it's extremely hard to keep the surprise off of her face when told that her name came up specifically to head a squad of these caliber.

There's a few moments of silence as she attempts to come up with a proper response to all this information. The regular questions of 'me?' and 'wait, General Autumn knows my name?' are discarded for now. Those bely a more personal and self-centered attitude toward this re-assignment - if that is what this is. "I'm honored, ma'am." That is the truth of it. Then, she moves on to the obvious question. "If I may ask, is it really that bad in New York? Speaking frankly, ma'am, it's hard to hear anything out here that isn't directly related to the sandbar in some way. I've heard the basics of the organization, honestly, but I didn't realize that the City was in such bad shape to require such an expansion."

"Unfortunately, it is." Sarisa admits with a tilt of her head down. "Last year there were too many incidents for our single team to cover… Between terrorist attacks from a group calling itself Humanis First, to Evolved-powered riots in Chinatown involving the mafia. It was a warzone out there for a little while, and the initiative is being taken while the fires aren't stoked, to prevent any further escalations like that from ever happening again."

There's silence again from Sarisa, and she seems to be carefully choosing her wording with what comes next. "I'm not going to lie to you about the team selection, Lieutenant. We've had to make some… difficult choices due to our narrow pool of candidates. There's one army medical officer we're planning on courting once we can get a hold of him, with little practical field experience. On top of that we have a US Coast Guard officer, and an ex-Army ranger. Our one Marine on the team aside from you— Private Rachel Mills— is a solid member, she served on ground in Madagascar during that liberation operation back in December. But we also have a special dispensation for a civillian officer in Frontline. Ex-NYPD, comes from a specialized Evolved crimes branch called SCOUT. She's— I don't want to call her a loose cannon— bt you should keep your eye on her."

As Sarisa explains more about her position and Felicia's possible future with the organization, it's hard for her to keep the frown from showing. After a moment, it's impossible to do so and it downturns her mouth just slightly. It's not disapproving, it's more thoughtful as she attempts to realize the significance of trying to lead a group of members from a narrow candidate pool. While most of them have at least some military background, the last thing she wants is a loose cannon on the team. That just makes things hard on everyone. It does little for team morale.

"If she's someone needed to keep an eye on, may I ask why she's a part of the team? That sounds like asking for problems right from the start." Unless there's a good reason that the civilian has been given special clearance, which she imagines there is. "If she passed muster for a special dispensation, I'm sure she has the proper qualities, but I'm wary of the need to babysit any members of a team. The unit works best with complete cohesion."

"She was a good cop," Sarisa notes with a quirk of her head to the side, "a good cop who got herself in a complicated situation, and didn't quite deserve the shit-storm that followed. In a way I'm doing this as a favor, but I won't lie— I have some personal reasons to keep her in my own close attention, but by and large I think she's deserving of the chance. Her name is Elisabeth Harrison, and while she's got a temper and a mouth on her that's not fitting of the armed forces, she's also a good logistical head on her shoulders and a powerful ability to manipulate sound."

Rubbing a gloved thumb at the corner of her chin, Sarisa furrowed her brows and considers that a bit more carefully. "Furthermore, she's cooperated with the United States Military on a top-secret military operation overseas. She's not at liberty to discuss the details— nor am I— but Harrison's involvement was exemplary. She just has some rough edges, and I'd like to think you might be able to… sand them down?"

So there is an agenda to this after all.

"I wouldn't call it baby-sitting, but… being a role model?" One of the blonde's brows goes up, and Sarisa offers a hesitant smile to that fact.

If there was anything that Felicia didn't think she'd hear the words for, it would be 'being a role model'. That's the last thing she ever expected to be. "I see." And that's not a smart line from the brunette. She truly does understand what Sarisa is saying to her. As long as that temper and mouth doesn't affect anything in the field, she can work with that. As for the others, the woman frowns for a moment. Only one Marine. Well, she'll take what she can get.

"What are the other recruits' abilities?" It's important to start to work out the basics of where everyone will fit in so that she may be able to know what will work where. The lieutenant may be aware that she's asking lots of questions, but it's important for her to get a read on what this will be like before she can truly agree to leave behind the only adult life she's known. Leaving active duty for what is could be seen as a civilian job is a huge life change for her. Even if it does come with the cushion of a large pay raise. But, Felicia was never in this for the money and that is abundantly clear to those around her.

"Private Mills, your team's assigned weapons specialist, commands a short-range and highly versatile teleportation. She can move an entire six-man squad up about two stories, as far as we're aware. She only just recently manifested, so there's limitations on her power that need to be tried in the field." Sarisa looks down at her folded hands in her lap, brows furrowed in thought. "Captain Smith possesses superhuman reflexes, granting him a far beyond human agility and reaction time. He's your team's Intelligence officer, and former CEO of Stillwater Solutions, a PMC that actually had a few men out in this sandbox securing contractors for the Iraqi reconstruction."

Shifting her weight in her seat, Sarisa seems a bit uncertain about the other candidates. "I'm… not entirely certain if I'll be able to get one of the team in time. His name is Jeremy Prince, your proposed medical officer, but he's been a hard one to get in touch with. His ability is a telepathic skill mimicry. Anything— outside of your Evolved ability— that you know how to perform, he can do just as well, but he has a limitation for how many skills he can replicate at any one time. He'd be essential to the team dynamic. Lastly, there's Faye Crawford, the Coast Guard officer I told you of. She has a tactile telepathy that allows her to form long-lasting telepathic communication links with multiple individuals, and is scheduled to be your communications officer."

As Sarisa goes through each of the team members, Felicia nods, mentally ticking off their abilities and their proposed positions. While she doesn't write any of this down, she doesn't need to. It's all being stored mentally. The hesitation is noted and that also gets a bit of a tick next to Jeremy's name in her mind's eye. There doesn't need to be much verbally said about that. Instead, she needs a few more things nailed down before she can make an informed opinion.

"What is the chain of command? As a commander, who do I answer to and who do they?" That's important to know. It also will tell her a lot about how the whole operation will be run. She's not about to leave something she loves to do in order to be ordered around by a civ who has no idea what they really want. The last thing she really wants to deal with is with actual politics. While every job has it's own, she knows enough about Frontline and the people involved to be slightly wary. "I kinda like being where I am right now, familiarity-wise with the rest of the States. They don't know who I am and I only know them as a collective. I hear Lieutenant Spalding a lot. Is that what I'd be signing up for as well?"

"They answer to you, the chain of command is a bit like the British SAS to be honest, it's not quite what you're used to out here. You…" Sarisa tilts her head down with a smile, "answer to me. I happen to be Operations Command of both squads of Frontlint's Unit One. As far as Commander Spalding is concerned, he's in charge of his own squad, and you two shouldn't need to cross-polinate too often. However, you will be living at the Frontline barracks in New York with the other squad, it's designed to instill a sense of camraderie and family in the teams."

Standing up from her chair, Sarisa brushes sand off of the back of her slacks, hands returning to a folded position behind her back. "There will be times when one of your squad may not be available and you'll have to borrow one of Spaldin's people, or vice versa. But overall you should be autonomous. However, there is one matter to tend to before you settle in to the Factory. You'll be shipping out to Annapolis Maryland to participate in some team-building exercises and meet youe Squad, as well as learn how to utilize some of the bleeding-edge technology that Frontline offers."

There's a solid nod from Felicia again. She truly is listening, but that seems to be the best answer to the information that she's here to digest. "I have no objections to barracks." She's been living in them for the past three years. "Unless things have truly changed in the past four years, New York City doesn't have sandstorms for barracks contend with. Nothing says camaraderie like shaking sand out of everything you own." And it'll be nice to not have to worry about that. "I see."

When Sarisa stands, Felicia does, too. It's the proper thing to do. "But I won't have to worry about my face being all over everything? I'm not not one for posters." They add 10 pounds to everyone, she's heard. Not to mention the fact that she hasn't officially agreed to this. Of course, she'd be an idiot to say no if General Autumn specifically asked for her. This could either be the best or worst thing that ever happened to her career.

"You may, actually…" Sarisa admits with an incline of her head into a reluctant nod. "The Frontline project is still in its infancy, and we honestly need all of the good press we can get to promote it. Which is to say, you might be asked— as squad commander— to make some public appearances at functions. There's actually a Linderman Group gala coming up in the middle of February and all of the members of Squad 1 were invited, and I wouldn't be surprised if when I get back to the States I see an invitation for Squad 2 as well in my inbox."

Offering a hesitant smile, Sarisa shrugs her shoulders. "In a way, you're not just doing a public service by saving lives in Frontline, you're serving as a role-model to all of the Evolved children out there. Honest to god heroes in a very dark world that they can look up to. I know you may not feel up to the task right now, but it's a legacy you'd leave behind long after we're all gone."

The idea doesn't exactly sit well with Felicia. Being anonymous has really suited the woman quite well so far and she'd prefer to keep it that way. However, that's not exactly a good enough reason to keep herself out of what could promise to be a very good thing for herself and for helping her country.

"I don't dance," Felicia tells Sarisa without much humor behind it. Though it may, in fact, be a joke. The truth is she doesn't dance well and if she has to attend such a gala, she'll most likely be in the corner by the punch bowl determining who would be the best to take the field in ancient battles. Who would work best in the cavalry during the Civil War? The heels and tuxes make it harder to imagine everyone in war garb, but that's part of the fun. And while she thinks what she's doing in Iraq is worthwhile, she doesn't think of herself as a hero. Not truly. It's a nice thought, but she doesn't believe it of herself. "I'm not comfortable with being any kid's hero. I don't like disappointment."

"If I thought you had the capacity to disappoint, Lieutenant Varlane…" Sarisa narrows her blonde eyes and offers a guarded smile, "I wouldn't have chosen you to be their leader." The CIA operative nods her head once, looking Felicia up and down before crooking her lips into a more honest smile.

"I'll see you in Maryland."

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