Tough Choices


michael_icon.gif prince_icon.gif rachel_icon.gif

Scene Title Tough Choices
Synopsis Michael Spalding shows up in Annapolis to see how the recruits are doing, and has a conversation with them about duty.
Date February 9, 2010

Annapolis Naval Academy

Annapolis Maryland

There's a certain wickness to the training regimen that General Sebastian Autumn and Commander Michael Spalding had put together for Frontline's second squad. Leaning to acclimate to utilizing the Horizon Combat Armor in a forced one-week exercise of every-day wearing has facilitated an amusing array of complications, one of which includes the mess hall.

This particularly spacious dining area at the Annapolis Naval Academy utilizes bench seating for the lone cafeteria style tables where most of the Marines in training come to eat. For most of them, it isn't a problem, for someone wearing a hundred pound titanium exo-skeleton over their arms and legs it becomes more problematic.

The hydraulics and leg bones on the outside and inside of each Horizon suit has a full range of flexibility, but increases hip width by a noticable amount, which makes repeated bumping and smacking of the studry metal frame into the corners of tables when getting up, or say an overhanging food tray quite likely.

It's these simple every day problems that is giving Squad-02 a proper idea of the limitations of the combat suit and the practical application for its maneuverability. It also just happens to be that very cafeteria that has become the makeshift training grounds for two of Squad-02's members— Jeremy Prince and Rachel Mills.

While they may not have intended to run into Second-Lieutenant Spalding here at the Annapolis facility again, the currently plain-clothes commander of Squad-01 is sitting down at one of the galley tables, biting into a sandwitch, while dark eyes are settled on Prince and Mills. Of course, he likely intends to chit-chat with the pair over lunch, but he's going to enjoy seeing them do so while inside of that suit.

Rachel frowns while looking down at the combat suit. "So fracking bulky. I mean, for Christ's sake. I thought the body armour was bad," Rachel mutters before her eyes come up and look around the mess hall, acutely aware of all the stares that will be flying around here if she tries to nagivate through that lunchroom with her suit on. She still hasn't quite gotten the hang of it. As the Marine's eyes look around, she happens to spot their taskmaster. She frowns, not really wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing her being a klutz. The cogs in Rachel's mind begin to turn as she weighs various courses of action. As much as she doesn't want to be special, the armour she is in makes her special already, and she has been practicing a little…

So, as the line to get food thins out, the Marine decides that she won't give Spaulding the satisfaction of seeing her bumble around. Knowing that the most likely result will be for her to get a fussing, she just smiles. So, one moment she is standing next to Prince, having been having a light chat with him on her way in. There is a flash of white light, and she is getting her food. Once she has that, there is another flash and she is sitting at the table across from Spaulding as she says in a voice that is full of smug satisfaction:

"Hey there, Sir."

If Rachel is worried about making a fool of herself in front of the squad leader for Unit-1, Jeremy wouldn't be thrilled at the prospect either - he's the last guy to join the A - no, B-Team as it were. Fortunately, he doesn't know the guy from the next generic grunt. One minute he's trying to catch up with another member of his new family, and the next she's pulled a Nightcrawler across the room. Shaking his head, he lifts two bulky arms to let his tray get deposited with his meal before he attempts to manuever through to where Rachel definitely made him a rotten egg.

It's not easy going. More than one cadet and officer alike gets a bad bump by Jeremy's rather embarassing attempt to move through the crowd in his exoskeleton. Luckily, its not too disastrous - no spilled food or broken bones. Eventually, he manages to heft one leg at a time over the seating portion of the table and smooth himself with the grace of a rhino onto his rear end to begin his meal. "Well. I guess that answers what you can do." This is said to Rachel before the other guy is given a polite, if not too militaristic nod.

Awkwardly trying to swallow his sandwich so he can respond, Michael holds up one hand and makes a circlular motion with his fingers, exasperatedly offering up a vocalized note of approval to Rachel with a clap of his hands. "Mills," he comments with a lopsided smile, "you know that's probably the most brilliant use of acclimation to the suit?" He's got a piece of bacon at the corner of his mouth. "Really, that's the kind of lateral thinking I was hoping to inspire in all of you. I'm glad we finally got a chance to sit down together too…" One hand comes up, thumb brushing at the corner of his mouth to sweep away the crumb.

"You're the only two members of Squad Two that I haven't been able to get a chance to talk to personally." Dark eyes wander over to Prince, followed by a return of his nod. "I guess both of you probably already recognize me by now," which is to say from the cover of magazines when Frontline first started, "but to be as formal as chewing on a sandwich will allow— I'm USMC Second-Lieutrnant Michael Spalding, unit commander of Frontline unit one, squad one. Now I know you're Mills, I remember reading your dossier…" He motions with one hand towards Prince, "and you must be Jeremy Prince? Agent Kershner told me about your recruitment, it's great to have you aboard squad two. Sorry you had to join the training late."

Rachel gives her own grin, before she shrugs her shoulders a little before she says, "Seemed to be the best way to not step on anyone's toes in here. Rather than trying to walk through like a beached whale." Her eyes ging over towards Prince for a couple of moments, before her eyes slide back to Michael and she says, "Well, good to finally meet you, Sir. Sorry about mising that training excercise the week before." Her head tilting to the side a little, before she begins to start eating with a measured delicacy in a slow and methodical manner. Much better than smearing food every where, thought it does have the unfortunate side effect of giving her the appearence of eating with all the daintiness of a spoiled little girl.

Jeremy lifts his hand up to salute the Lieutenant, though in the armor it doesn't look quite as good as it should. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, Lieutenant. I imagine she might have told you I didn't look too good, given the state of things. However, I assure you, I.. catch on quickly." He looks down at his tray, and attempts to manuever the arms of the Horizon armor to get to the food. He tries a few different combinations of movements to get it into his mouth, but fails to even get it off the plate. Narrowing his brow, he eventually gives up and just rests his hands on the table on either side of the tray.

Vibrant blue eyes peer at the Lieutenant for almost a full minute, sizing the man across from him up with a piercing look. It's not aggressive, but could certainly be a bit disconcerting. Then, with the fluidity of a snake striking its prey, one exoskeleton covered arm grabs a tot from his tray, throws it in the air and he catches it in his mouth before chewing, swallowing and following it up with a goofy grin a kid who just got away with something naughty might have on his face.

Rachel's apology would be dismissed by Spalding, but the focus that shifts from the brunette marine towards the blonde doctor is one of intrigue and interest. A crooked smile slides over Michael's lips as he watches how abruptly Jeremy adapts to the armor while eating, and nods his head with a look of approval. "I think you two are both getting the idea now. I like seeing team members learn to utilize their abilities to help them overcome obstacles. You shouldn't become reliant on them, because there's guys out there like us who can take away powers… but you've gotta use all the tools you were born with."

Glancing down at his BLT and realizing that he's going to be too talkative to really dig into it more, Michael instead folds his hands and gives a tily of his head in consideration of the pair. "So I appreciate your abilities to adapt, just remember anything that you have can be taken from you in the field of battle, even things you've come to rely on like your ability, or your sight. You've got to be ready to adapt to any changes the field puts forth."

Rachel pokes a little at her food before she replies to Spalding. "I know this, Sir. I have spent most of my life and all of my adult life in the Middle East," Rachel says to him as she sits there, her eyes looking up at him before adding, "So.. is there a fast forward part so we can get through the boring part?" She offers him a smile while she sits there, finally taking another bite of her food.

Jeremy resumes eating his food whenever he's not speaking, though this time with much less flair. He eats neatly, but with speed. He listens to Spalding, nodding at the Lieutenant. "Yeah.. I didn't always have this gift. I know how to get by without it. It's a tool, not a catch all. I got it." He looks at Rachel from the side, shaking his head. "Slow down, huh? If you get really itchy, I'm sure there's a firing range or something you can teleport on over too." He turns his attention back to Spalding. "I'm a doctor. I know you're not my unit leader, but you should know as well. I don't like to hurt people if I can help it. I swore an oath to do no harm."

"Sometimes the best way to defend a life is to take one, I've found myself in that exact situation since I took up this job. Squad One had to defend a group of police officers pinned down in the middle of Chinatown after a gang war broke out in the streets. We had Evolved Chinese mafia throwing cars around and— it was a mess." Dark brows furrow, and Michael folds his hands and rests his chin against them, leaning forward in his seat. "By the time Frontline was dispatched and we got on scene, it was a disaster, there were burning cars strewn up and down Canal street, bodies— it looked like a war zone." Brown eyes flick over to Rachel, then back to Jeremy.

"My team had to make some hard decisions there. We had to kill a few people, because there weren't many other options. Nonlethal weaponry isn't a perfect science, and even a papper-ball or rubber bullets can kill someone if they hit them just right. Look at that incident up in Boston a few years back after the Red Sox game. Some girl got killed by a non-lethal pepperball round. Sometimes, you just have to take the bad with the good, and sort it out inside on your own." Michael smiles, a bit awkwardly. "None of us really like hurting people, it's not why we do this job. But it's going to happen, and you definitely have to be prepared for it."

Exhaling a sigh and moving his hands apart, Michael bows his head and then reaches up to scratch at one ear. "I wouldn't be too eager anyway— Rachel— to get into the thick of things. General Autumn has a live-fire exercise planned for your squad tomorrow, don't forget. We've brought in an illusion-focused Evolved from DHS to serve as the operator of this little wargame, so you're all going to get a first-hand experience at a real combat scenario."

Rachel grins a bit as she hears that and she smiles, "Well, that doesn't sound so boring. Be nice to be doing something, soon. Not getting shot at every day is rather boring." She shrugs her shoulders a little, her eyes looking around. Well, being bored sucks, and if it takes bullets to not be bored, then it takes bullets.

If it takes bullets to not be bored, then there's definitely a problem. Jeremy leans back as much as one can on a bench without falling off, pushing his finished tray away from him at the same time. Yeah, he eats fast.

"I take the oath I swore very seriously, Lieutenant. I'll only hurt someone if I absolutely have to. I'm trained to do it. I've done it. But kill? I'm not certain I can do that, sir. Someone else on the squad is going to need to pull that trigger in that situation." He furrows his brow intensely.

He turns his attention to Rachel, her comments causing that furrowed brow to raise in surprise. "Please tell me you're kidding, because the other option is you're sociopathic. There's a difference between being a soldier," he nods respectfully to Spalding, "and wanting to get shot at. It's not right. How old are you, anyway? Nowhere near old enough for a death wish."

Nodding once to Jeremy, it's clear from the look in Spalding's eyes that his silence implies that he expects Jeremy to figure out the length and breadth of that sentiment on his own. Lecture time, on his end, can only go so far before he starts sounding like his father, and that's not exactly a dogma Michael really wants to ascribe to.

"I think Mills was just pulling your leg, Prince." Michael admits as he starts wrapping up his sandwich in its paper. "I'll admit though, she's someone who's spent more time out in the hot zones than any of us here. That military liberation of Madagascar you might've heard about on the news? She was boots on the ground there, and while I can't quite… agree with the desire to want to get shot at, I know how strange it feels to come back home from war and not know what to do with yourself. In that much I sympathize."

Rachel looks between the both of them, before a roll of her shoulder is given and she says, "Not so much a desire to be shot at, as a desire to not be bored. No offense at all to you and General Autumn's training regime. But, there is a routine to it, and I hate routines. I've found that bullets tend to break routines. So, anything to not be bored, you know," she says to the two men, before she goes back to eating. Of her time in Madagascar, or in war zones, she is silent.

"You know, you could try having a wrench thrown in your works before resorting to bullets." Jeremy just shakes his head again, looking at Spalding with an exasperated expression. "I've been in war. I'm not looking to go back. This is as far as I'm willing to go. Then again.. fighting Evolved.. could be even more of a threat. I'm sure we can get the job done, though." He turns back to Rachel, giving her a warm smile. "How about I surprise you every now and then, when you least expect it? Hell, I can get the rest of the squad in on it, too."

For all his usual stoicism and soldier-boy attitude, there's something about Prince's attitude that reminds Michael of his squad-mate Tristian Bentley. Barely able to stifle a laugh, Michael slides up from the bench table, picking up his folded sandwich and offers a look between Rachel and Prince with a broad smile. "You know, Prince…" There's a slow, bobbing nod of his head, "I think you're going to fit in to Frontline better than you think." There's a point of one finger at the blonde, and Michael steps up and away from the table, brushing a few crumbs off of the front of his jeans.

"I've gotta go have a talk with Colonel Jameson while I'm out here, or he'll come kick my ass all the way up in New York. You two have fun devising ways to keep Mills' anxious energy in check, and— try not to kill each other?" There's another crooked smile from Michael, followed by a shake of his head as he nods his head to both of his team-mates in farewell.

Rachel looks over at Prince for a moment or two before she says, "Make sure I'm not armed. Or you might end up with a bullet in a bad place." She winks at Prince, before she nods her head to Michael and then says, "I got some training I need to do myself." She looks over at Prince and says, "Mind taking my tray up for me? Thanks. You're such a dear," before there is a white flash and Rachel simply isn't there anymore.

Prince nods at Michael as he leaves. "It was nice to meet you, sir. Good luck." He blinks at Rachel, shaking his head. "I think you underestimate my desire to not get shot by high velocity pieces of metal, Mills." Then with a flash, she's gone, leaving her tray. Jeremy gets up, grabs only his tray and with the agility of a practiced user of the Horizon armor, jogs out of the mess.

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