Friday, June 11, 2010

Meanwhile, in the commander's office...

The ground swayed precariously under her feet, and the bile rose in her throat. She fought to keep it down. Professionalism aside, it would be the height of embarrassment to throw up in the middle of a meeting with Camp Blackwater's most senior NCO.

Adjutant Chef Jevalier was a tall man and broad in the shoulders. He walked with complete confidence over the constantly-moving floorboards, back and forth from the door to his office to the table where Maia sat and back again. The corners of his mouth pulled downward in what Maia suspected was a perpetual scowl, his brow furrowed. He stopped at the desk and placed both hands firmly down on it. "Remind me again why you're here, Miss..."

"Kessler," Maia supplied smoothly. After Delacoix and Chambers had identified her as the leader of their little group -- "Talking time, you're in charge," had been Kain's words -- Jevalier had lost interest in everyone but her, though given the relative dearth of women around the base, Maia wouldn't have been surprised if he'd taken an interest anyway.

"Right. Kessler. Why are you here again?"

"Paxton demonstration team," the words came more smoothly every time she said them, and would be even more smooth if she could figure out how to make the world stop rolling.

"Demonstration team," muttered Jevalier, and began walking back towards the door. "And Paxton sent you to Camp Blackwater to demonstrate... what, again?"

"Not sent, as such," she corrected mildly. "We're a freelance unit with a flexible territory designation, which means we go where the guns are." Jevalier shot her a look from the door, clearly suspicious. "It's a new initiative. A pilot project, if you will."

He walked back across the room again, and Maia envied his ability to look completely at ease despite the changing angles of the room. "An initiative to do what?" he asked. He looked like a caged panther, Maia realized, just itching for a chance to burst through the bars.

"We have a dual mandate," she said, launching into the pitch that she'd rehearsed to distract herself from the nausea on the raft the rice farmer generously called a boat. "First, to act as a roving sales team wherever Paxton products are sold." Jevalier looked like he was about to interject. Maia raised a hand, ever so slightly. "We're aware that you have regular contact with other Paxton sales teams, but in times of conflict, Paxton realizes that your regular orders sometimes won't be sufficient, especially in a hostile environment like this. We're merely here to supplement, in case any of your current equipment needs replacing or upgrading."

Jevalier was pacing again, and Maia closed her eyes a moment to steady herself. She could almost hear the grumble in his throat, and wondered if it was because they needed new equipment, or because they didn't.

"That was the first mandate. And the second?"

He was staring out the window, but no doubt he was listening to every word she said. Despite checking her papers five times, she could tell he still didn't trust her or her team. And at least for the latter concern, she couldn't blame him. "Like I said, we're a demonstration unit."

"Miss Kessler, your weapons are sitting in my armory right now. Believe me, there's nothing you need to demonstrate about them."

She knew the objection would come up. It was bound to. "You're perfectly right. In larger cities -- Okavango, Skavara, Strathcylde -- we have the latest products shipped in. To carry a full demonstration kit with us would be prohibitive both in terms of weight and cost."

Jevalier was back to the desk, staring directly at her. No doubt this was a look that had caused many new recruits to break down quivering. "So what are you doing here, Miss Kessler, if you have nothing to demonstrate?"

Maia had dealt with his type before. "You do have Paxton equipment here, don't you? We're here to show your men how to use their weapons to their fullest potential. Anyone can pull the trigger of a gun, but we're here to show you how to prevent jams, mitigate kickback, and show you a few tricks that maybe even you don't know, Adjutant Chef."

Jevalier sat down and leaned forward. "Tell me one," he said, the challenge clear on his face.

She wished, for the hundredth time this meeting, that the nausea would let up, just for a few moments. But, yet again, the universe ignored her. She breathed in slowly. "You use Paxton autocannons on your Jägers. My guess is you've sometimes been frustrated by the rate of fire. It's deliberately slowed to prevent overheating. But sometimes, you and I both know that you need to fill the air with lead. There's an override underneath the firing mechanism that will let you increase the firing rate for limited periods of time. Though, like I said, you'll run the risk of overheating if you use it too long."

That, at least, had piqued Jevalier's interest. "Is that so?" he said it slowly, and Maia could see the wheels turning already. He stood up and walked back towards the window, looking out over the swamps. She watched the trees moving back and forth beyond him, plants bigger than anything she'd ever seen in the Badlands.

He turned back abruptly. "Fine. 0800 tomorrow morning I'll muster a platoon for a refresher course. If I like what I see, we'll cycle the rest through over the next few days. In the meantime, I suggest you find somewhere to shower and bunk up for a few hours."

Maia smiled and nodded. In what she hoped was a smooth motion, she stood up, and immediately caught herself against the desk, the world spinning around her. Jevalier's eyes narrowed and he took a few steps forward. "Look, Kessler, don't get me wrong, but you look like shit. You're like a paysan recruit just stepped off the boat. You ever been on water before?"

Maia fought to keep the bile down as she shook her head and tried to keep her voice even. "Not much opportunity in the Badlands, I'm afraid."

Something in her voice must have touched him, and he placed a hand on her shoulder. "Go down to the quartermaster's and get some wrist bands. They won't help with the disorientation, but they'll at least keep your stomach settled." He straightened up. "Can't have you out in front of my men looking like this. They'll rip you to pieces."

Maia nodded gratefully. "Thank you."

He led her to the door, and two men in uniform were waiting to escort her. She smoothed her jacket -- dirt-encrusted and smelling to high heaven -- and made her way slowly along the rolling decks, her stomach rolling right along with them. She had no idea who was ultimately responsible for her being in this hellhole, but she vowed one day to find out and put a bullet directly between their eyes.


Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.