Legion of Lawndale Heroes
LLH 11.1 - 'Out Here On My Own'
Being close to a Legionnaire is certainly a difficult thing at best – and the closer one is, the more difficult the task becomes. Is it any wonder that, of all the Legionnaires that have married (a pitiful number at that) only the two marriages between Legionnaires are the ones that have lasted and thrived? Being a parent of a Legionnaire is equally difficult, like watching a child go off to war, even moreso to be a close or lifelong friend and confidante – but the heaviest burden of all must be to be the sibling of a Legionnaire.
Consider, then, the extraordinary burden upon Trent Lane - in the days before the Battle of Legion Tower. Already defined by society as a slacker, virtually abandoned by family, no worthwhile friends to speak of for support, and the sole familial/authority figure in residence for his younger sister Jane – and by all accounts, presenting (at best) a lackluster showing in that area. (For the sake of consideration, we will set aside any greater mention of his musical aspirations and the pursuit of same – especially considering the tension between Trent and Thomas Sloane, upon the Legion's return from their first visit to the U.S. Academy for Extranormal Studies.) How, then, must have it felt for Trent to suddenly see his younger sibling – the 'baby' of the family, who in a sense, raised herself – thrust into a world that he'd always dreamed of; a world of impossible riches and the worry of financial disaster a blissfully forgotten memory, one where he was respected for both who he was and what he could do, a world where his name meant something?
It is here that we see the beginning of a better Trent Lane, for despite the feelings that he must have experienced – the slight (and later-admitted) jealousy, the feeling of being abandoned by the last of his family, so to speak, and the reversed feelings of ornamentation he would deal with as 'the brother of Jane Lane' – Trent would continue to position himself so that he would be able to assist his sister... even if it were only to be there to smile at her upon her return.
The revelation to the world that the Legionnaires were super-powered beings - 'super-heroes' - was a bombshell of global proportions.
It was also vindication for many around the world who had, for years and decades, been ridiculed for what they claimed to have witnessed. No one, however, was to claim greater vindication than the citizens of several cities in California, upon the Legionnaires going public with their abilities.
Alone in the world, the California cities of Silver Hills, Reefside, Turtle Cove, Mariner Bay - and especially the cities of Angel Grove and Briarwood - ran a single headline on the day the Legionnaires went public: 'Power Rangers ARE Real.'
Farkas Bulkmeier and Mackenzie Hartford, Power Rangers Forever!
ELEVEN WEEKS LATER...
All the world over, so easy to
People everywhere just wanna be free
Listen, please listen, that's the way it should be
Peace in the valley, people got to be free
His voice ringing out nicely, Trent Lane sat in the circle of people around the roaring bonfire, his fingers moving without effort across his acoustic guitar as he sang.
You should see
what a lovely, lovely world this'd be
Everyone learns to live together
Seems to me such an easy, easy thing should be
Why can't you and me learn to love one another
Heis eyes momentarily slid over to Sandi Griffin, who sat three spaces away from him in the circle, her eyes following the dancing tongues of flame as if she were searching for a deeper meaning... 'Deeper' wasn't a word he'd have used in the same sentence with her – well, not for a long time.
Something changed inside of her – something changed outside, too, if that's where you want to stop looking...
Sandi was getting into shape. He'd heard Jane – from the few times she'd been around lately – mention her with a surprising mix of annoyance and grudging respect. That Marine who'd showed up several months ago to help get them all in shape looked like he'd been earning his paycheck; the last time he'd been out to the Legion compound, he'd seen her running – and the girl running the course wasn't the same one he saw in that picture a while back, half-passed out on the ground and looking silly.
This girl had her eyes on the Prize. He knew that look.
He watched her run for a bit, then realized exactly what he was doing and turned away quickly.
If Jane – or Daria – ever saw what you were just doing – the way you were looking her over...
His eyes moved over from Sandi to Stacy, and he focused on singing as his eyes touched hers for a brief moment... and she gave him a smile.
THAT smile. The smile only a woman has, when she sees you looking at her – and her attitude is 'Go ahead and look. I know what you're thinking. I don't mind.' The look Angelina Joile used to build herself a career.
Something had changed about Stacy – no, something had changed IN her. She went into the hospital after that car wreck, and it was like she came out... new. (That was strange, too – the local news jumped on the story of her getting hurt like a stray dog on a Cluster Burger – and then, the story just disappeared. Just... gone.) She was the same, but... different...like fixing up your old beater with a brand new engine, shocks, replacing the cassette player with a DVD player and satellite radio, all digital dash – but not doing any real bodywork, aside from a good hand wash and a coat of wax. People will see it and not really think anything's different – until they get near it when it's running...and then, they can barely hear the sound of the new engine running... but they know something's really, really changed.
It was the way she walked that caught his attention first – that was the first big signal on how much she'd changed. Stacy was always the hottest of the Fashion Club girls – but now, it was like she knew it... and it didn't matter. She walked like a lioness – slow and easy, one foot after another, carefree in her jungle and yet, ready to swat something down if she wanted without a thought – of if she got hungry. She still pushed that into the background when she was around the Fashion Club girls, but when she was by herself, or was just being herself...
She tossed her hair as she walked, and seened to look over everything around her without even trying, knowing that she was attracting the attention of everyone in sight. Presence. That's what it is. He remembered Vincent talking about meeting Louis Gossett Jr. at a lecture, and whaat it was like when he walked out on stage – like someone turned on a light and you couldn't help to be drawn to it, like a moth to flames, knowing what was going to happen – but still...
Dangerous, that was the word for her. Needy, clingy Stacy Rowe had gone the way of the dodo bird, and the Queen of the Forest had taken over – Why did THAT come to mind? –
New rule – never be alone with Stacy. Ever. AGAIN. I've seen that look before – when I was over at Nick's and his little girl was watching that Degrassi stuff. Dark Emma. The blonde chick with the tilted baseball cap and that look that said 'Don't even resist. Just come with me...' She's got a brand new six-shooter, and she plans on making notches in her gun belt. A lot of guys are about to get their hearts broken – a lot of guys who probably don't even know that they have hearts.
He let his eyes drop down to his fingers as he played.
All the world
over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
I can't understand it, so simple to me
People everywhere just got to be free
He made an effort - a SERIOUS effort - not to look in Daria's direction. Don't ever go there. Toss that map into the trash, and don't ever buy a new one.
Something had happened over the past several months that nobody – but NOBODY! – ever brought up, like if there are aliens and no government wants to admit it, because they know that people aren't ready to deal with that new reality. That's the way it seemed to be in the Legion, too.
Daria had gotten hot, too. Mad hot. Kelly Garrett hot. Rachael Leigh Cook coming down the stairs in the red dress in 'She's All That' hot. Let's have two cultures fight a ten-year war and wipe out a people so one guy can get laid hot.
The exercise had done her a world of good – and Trent stopped himself from thinking in detail how.
Not. Going. There.
Even more – being away from the constant sludgebucket that was Lawndale High had taken a touch of pressure off her. Daria had wasn't wearing her 'boy-repellant' outfits as much, which raised her a couple of numbers on the hotness scale alone.
Yeah. All that physical training had really worked for them all – but because they see each other every day, they still see the people that they've always been...
He shifted on the log he was sitting on, and as he looked up, he focused on Helen Morgendorffer, who seemed to be enjoying his songs more than anyone else there. She sang along with him, a garland of dandelions on her head, with her hair long and flowing, and she wore snug, threadbare denims and a tie-dye t-shirt that answered any questions about her figure that he'd ever dreamed about asking...
"You sing very well, Trent.Why haven't you ever tried to go any further with it?"
The air around Trent got colder – or maybe it's just the universe telling me which level of Hell I'll end up in if this goes any further – God, and the cold's affecting her, too – I swear before God that if you make me blind right now I'll never remember looking at Daria's mom like that-
He turned around and screamed; Jane was standing there, in her Legion uniform, and she was holding a small, blazing ball of light in her left hand as she stared down at him.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"I- playing a song-"
The air around them suddenly got much colder; as it did, the ball of light in Jane's hand grew brighter and brighter. "Trent..."
"Janey, please, I wasn't going to do anything with Helen-"
"Going by first names now? You pig-!"
Trent screamed as the ball of light was flung at his head-
Trent opened his eyes; he was back in his room, and pulled a blanket over as the cold air suddenly registered upon him. "That was some dream you were having, bro."
He lifted his head up. "No more 'wildlife wonder' pizza leftovers... that dream was too far off the tracks..."
Rolling himself up in the blanket, Trent let another thought flow through his mind.
Or maybe – it's too close to the mark. I've known Daria ever since her family came to Lawndale; I couldn't ask her out or anything because she was underage – well, not really, but her dad's not the dude to get on your case. Now, though, she's seventeen, she's out of high school with her diploma – her GED, but if I know her, she's going to make them give her an actual diploma – and the way she looks now, man, she's always had some nice legs...
"Can't go there."
He turned again, and his eyes went to the soft red glow of the Legion insignia, easily visible on the side of Legion Tower in the crisp, darkened air of this early evening in late May – stupid window.
Trent got up to close the window, and as he shut and locked it, he leaned against the wall and looked out at the tallest building in Lawndale – almost forty stories high, he recalled Jane telling him.
A strange sense of longing suddenly flowed through Trent, and he couldn't tear his eyes away from Legion Tower. Not just because Janey was there, and not because of Daria – even wearing that Legion outfit, she's still one of the coolest chicks I've ever met –
Trent stared out the window for a long time.
The gun was black and decidedly ugly as Armalin set it down in front of Sandi. "Before we begin, Griffin – I want to tell you that I'm glad you've at least tried to settle down a bit. 'Gung-ho' is a good attitude to have, but common sense and brains work a hell of a lot better."
"Thank you, sir."
"If I thought for a moment that you were going off half-cocked and doing something stupid again, I assure you that we wouldn't be standing here right now," he told her. "Don't thank me – you've earned this."
Sandi looked forward, and Armalin nodded slightly. She'll do, he thought to himself. She's worth the effort now.
"Most people will tell you that a person should start their training with a .38 revolver or a .22. semi-automatic pistol," he said, setting a loaded magazine down besides the pistol. "I started you on the Glock 17 – the 9 mm semi-automatic – because that weapon is the most common weapon that you'll encounter when dealing with armed citizens and law-enforcement officers, and that caliber is the most prolific pistol caliber that you'll come across."
Sandi looked at the gun. "That's not a Glock 17."
Armalin smiled. "Good. Having you shoot for an hour every day for the past month has taught you something. Why did I start you on the 9mm instead of the .45?"
Sandi looked around the large, underground area that was the Legion shoting range, and then back to Armalin. "It doesn't have much recoil, and the 9mm's have a larger capacity - usually a two-to-one over a .45."
"Right – most 9mm pistols hold between ten to eighteen rounds. The thing is, you want a round that'll put your attacker down and keep him down with one round – better one round that stops the bad guy than four or five that keeps his head down. That's the .45 ACP. The U.S. military has been using that round for almost a century. Why would they use a specific round and caliber for so long, Griffin?"
"Because it works."
"Exactly." Armalin nodded. "The M1911A1 pistol was used by the American military from 1911until 1985, when we went to the 9mm to conform to NATO standards. However – U.S. Special Operations forces... as well as anyone else who's allowed or who can get away with it... uses the .45. It's simply a better round for the task."
He gestured towards the pistol on the small table in front of Sandi. "This is the Glock 21SF semi-automatic pistol in 45. ACP. Thirteen-round magazine, front rails for a mounted tactical light or laser designator, tritum sights, and a factory-approved Comminoli external safety. It was redesigned for persons with smaller hands, and this is actually a pre-production model – one of a handful in existance. They're not scheduled to hit the general market until the spring of 2007."
He handed Sandi a pair of eye protectors, and motioned towards the 'Mickey Mouse' hearing protectors on the wall. "You're a natural shooter, Griffin – and since you don't have an active power, armed self-defense is something that you should be proficent in. I'm not saying that you should go armed – and certainly not if you go into action with the rest of the Legion – but you being able to handle a weapon, and handle it well, is something most people will not expect from you."
"It'll give me an edge."
Armalin raised an eyebrow at the way Sandi spoke. "Yes. You'll have an advantage most people won't see coming. Put your eye and hearing protection on, and then - pick up your sidearm. Do not load it until I tell you to."
That's one thing that's changed dramatically about her, Armalin thought, taking a silhouette target and sending it downrange as Sandi put her eye and hearing protection on, she takes orders now.
Sandi waited until the target stopped before she picked up the weapon...
"Load your sidearm and chamber a round."
Sandi did as she was ordered. "Aim for your target, grasp your sidearm securely - and slowly squeeze off your first round. Allow yourself to get used to the recoil of the weapon."
Standing with her gun held with both hands – a proper Weaver stance, she's been listening to Nemec, too – Sandi sighted in on the target and fired.
The target moved slightly as the heavy slug punched through the shadow-figure without effort, and Armalin smiled as he saw that the first round was about two inches below the 'X' mark on the sheet, and about two inches to the left. "Continue."
The sounds of gunfire rang out through the shooting range...
"What's wrong with you lately?"
Tom Sloane yelped, almost spilling the large cup of orange soda sitting on the end table next to him as he sat on the couch in Jane Lane's room. "Huh? Oh – sorry, Jane... I must have – I mean, I was thinking, and my mind was just wandring off..."
"You've been doing a lot of that lately," the raven-haired girl said, walking two fingers up his chest and onto his cheek as she pressed close to him. "What – haven't I been enough to keep your attention lately...?"
Tom blushed deeply as she moved his hand and placed it on her thigh, then locked her eyes with his. "Does this bring you back to the here and now...?"
In all of his years, Tom was never as embarassed as he was at that moment... because right then, his eyes involuntarily went across from her thigh to-
Jane suddenly found herself alone; the wind made by Tom's leaving at super-speed made her hair blow slightly, then settle back. "Damn," she said, leaning over and taking a huge swallow of Tom's now-forgotten soda. "Can't a girl even pretend to be a vixen every now and then...?"
As soon as I tell them about this new power, I am so dead – I can't control it all the time yet, and it kicks in at the exact wrong moments... God, Jane, if you knew what I just did a few moments ago, you'd have used your powers and launched me into deep, deep, deep space-
Damn. People think that it would be cool, and X-ray vision is a very cool power on paper, but in real life...!
Tom tapped his head again and again on the wall next to the door inside his apartment, and thought dark and cruel thoughts (involving butane lighters and squirrels) about the people who wrote comic books for a living. And this isn't really isn't even X-ray vision... granted, it's along the same lines... more like the images you see in the machines at the airports; far, far clearer and sharper, though, but with no color... I can see everything – shapes, words, inner workings of things – I can even see inside someone's body... their heart pumping, their blood flowing, and if I focus in even closer, I can see the blood cells moving through arteries...
I wish I had someone to share this with – yeah, I know I should have told the Colonel about it even before he went to Washington...
That was something else that was new – besides my 'shape-vision'. Hopefully I'll come up with a better name for it. Armalin had gone to Washington the week after Sandi had come out of the hospital – the shape-vision came in VERY handy that night!- taking her with him, and when he returned, all of the others (especially Brittany!) reacted to the sight of the silver eagles on his shoulders. Brittany had grilled Sandi unmercifully for details, and just to get her to stop that squeaking voice, Sandi told her how they went to the White House (the other Fashion Club girls nearly died with envy later, when they heard Sandi talk about meeting the twin daughters of the President)...
Tom looked over the rows of ribbons and other insignia on his dress uniform, including the gold wings of a Marine aviator, and the unusual sword-and-shepard's crook emblem of gold just below... wonder what that is? It's not a SEAL insignia – that's what Magnum, P.I. and Admiral Chegwidden on JAG wear on their uniforms – but he's got a Navy Cross like the Admiral does, too... wonder what he did to get that? And he's a pilot, too – I guess Charles didn't know that, from the reaction he had when he saw them...
Brittany and even Daria sat with mouths open as they heard Sandi talk about how the British Ambassador and the Crown Prince were at the ceremony in the Rose Garden, talking about how, during Operation Desert Storm, Armalin had shot down six enemy helicopters that were attacking British Royal Marines. He did it with a sniper rifle, shooting even after the helicopters located him and had started firing rockets and machine guns at him... Apparently, the recon mission he was on had been declassified, people were being recognized for what they had done, and he was at the top of the list.
They promoted him two steps, Brittany said, cutting Sandi off as she told them about how tall and cute the older Prince was, while the younger, red-haired one kept wanting to hear more stories about Armalin's time in the desert. People only get promoted like this when the people on top don't want to give them something else and if they promoted him from Major to full bird Colonel...
I think that's why they kept calling him 'Sir Kyleton', Sandi said, making the room go still. When I got to talk to Wills later when we had coffee (Quinn actually fell off her chair upon hearing that, Tom remembered with a smirk), he said that some general Armalin worked for didn't want him to have some honor medal, so even though it's just honorary, his grandmother appointed him as a-
Medal of Honor, Brittany said, her voice holding awe in it. They were going to give him a Medal of Honor...? I knew he was hardcore, Charles echoed, but not that hardcore... damn.
He dismissed the envious look Charles had as he looked over Armalin's Wings of Gold, and focused back in on the way Sandi looked as she lay semi-unconscious on the floor, with flames coming closer, seeming to sense her presence as they inched closer, eager to lick at her flesh... Quinn came through big-time that night, he recalled, tracking Sandi's phone and guiding him and Jane towards the fire –
The other big surprise was Daria. After Sandi's signal had stopped – her cell phone had melted in the flames – Quinn's sister had somehow managed to scan the area for mental patterns, and after being told where he and Jane were, she pointed him in the right direction.
That was when it first happened. He somehow, strangely enough, saw through the walls and the flames... and through Sandi's clothes. Tom used his super-strength to punch through the wall, and his invulnerability to run in and carry her out unharmed (as a exam later showed, Sandi had just a mild touch of smoke inhalation), but he insisted on using his flight power to carry Sandi back to Legion Tower and the medical bay there.
That way – his shape-vision wouldn't accidentally kick on. The problem was, however, it did kick on, or in, or whatever, and at the worst possible times over the past two months. Like when he was doing sparring sessions with Daria and Jane (his invulnerability meant that they could hit him as hard as they wanted). The thing is, they would grunt and make noises as they lunged and struck out at him, and it sounded just like the sounds the women on those late-night cable movies and shows would make as they-
The blue bear. This was definitely what they meant when they told the story of the blue bear – about the kids that were told that they could have anything they could think of, as long as they didn't think of a blue bear. Naturally, that's the first thing that you'd think of... and that's when it happened. Jane was practicing spear-hand strikes, and getting into it, because her 'Aieeee!' was more like a 'Aunnnggghhh!", and it was a real turn-on, because she was really putting everything into it...
It was as if she was wearing Saran Wrap that someone backlit through her entire body. Wow. He never realized that Jane's stomach was that firm and that flat. He never thought her body was just so... so... oh, my God. She's got a vicious little body. Of course I want to get her clothes off, but this is – this is wrong , and then there's Daria-
Tom was so stunned by the view his new power afforded him of Jane's virtually-nude form that he forgot for a moment as to why he was there. He was reminded six seconds later, as his entire field of vision went suddenly, totally black... and then, he saw Jane's fist slowly receeding from his face. That was when his nose began to tingle with pain...
Even worse – Daria had decided to use him as a punching bag a few minutes later. She began to practice throwing her snap-jabs to his solar plexus with greater speed and accuracy, stopping herself an inch away, as Armalin had instructed... He tried, he prayed, he pleaded silently for God to thrn him into a eunich or one of the 'Straught Eye' guys for the next ten minutes – but Daria had a certain tone to her voice, and when she looked him directly in the eye and made that grunting noise as she thrust her right fist forward...
This has to be what was in the Ark of the Covenant. This view – in full, living color...
Tom walked without stopping through the apartment, straight into the bathroom, peeled his clothes off without a single word, stepped into the shower, and jerked the handle over to 'cold'.
The sudden shock of the ice-cold water shocked him back to reality, and away from the image of seeing the elder Morgendorffer sister through every stich of clothing she could have ever worn. The day that his shape-vision kicked in, Tom decided then and there that there were three – no, four things in life that he was absolutely certain of.
1.) The boys that went to the former Lawndale High school were absolute IDIOTS. No doubt about it. Every single one of them... except for, surprisingly enough, Charles. Apparently, even with the way he'd always acted around girls (he'd heard the stories), he'd always singled out Daria. Every other single guy there is a world-class MORON if they didn't notice Daria before...(Tom remembered coming across 'Ultrasuave Universe' on the Internet Archive after Charles had joined the Legion and taken it down, and saw the shaded image... better tell him to do something about that before she sees it and has him killed.)
2.) No matter how it comes out, no matter how I tell the others about this new power... never, never, EVER tell Daria that I accidentally saw through her clothes. The coroner will list my death as a 'suicide'.
3.) Under no circumstances whatsoever, until I get control of this power, ever go anywhere near Daria's mother. I saw her once when my mom was at something at the courthouse. Oh... God.
4.) Burn #2 into my soul. She'll never... let... it... go.
Tom stepped out of the showed, and grabbed for a towel. Working the heavy towel all over himself (and noticing that even the towels were very nice), he slipped into a robe, stepped out of the bathroom – and stopped cold as he saw Stacy standing at the table in the center of the room, a small kitchen cart with several covered dishes beside her.
"Uh... hello, Stacy..."
The young woman just stared at him. "What's that?" he said, his stomach immediately rumbling as the smell of the foods reached him. "Is that ribs...? I love ribs! They served ribs today or did you-"
A loud squeak echoed from Stacy, and Tom walked over to her, noticing how the red color in her cheeks went all the way into her scalp and down into her toes: she was wearing a powder-blue top, denims and sandals, and –
With a sound that started out as a gasp, wanted to grow up to be a scream but ended as a mangled squeak, Stacy darted out of the apartment. Not as fast as Tom could move, he noticed, but definitly moving at super-speed. Wonder what her problem was-
Tom looked down, closed his robe, and retied the belt.
Oh, yeah. Karma. It gets us all, eventually.
The thirtysomething waitress in the green/gold Global Flapjacks uniform came over to the table. "I just served these pancakes to you about five minutes ago. They can't be cold."
"But they are," Trent said, taking a bite of his food. "What is this, man? I thought every flapjack was supposed to be hot and fresh off the griddle."
"But I saw the cook flip them off onto the warm plates before I brought them over-"
"The plates are cold, too. See? Touch it."
The waitress reached out, and her face changed as she looked up and back towards the kitchen. "I'm sorry – let me fix this up for you right now. I'm sorry about this..."
"It's cool," Trent said. "Hey, can I get another order of hash browns with that – extra crispy?"
"Sure thing," the waitress said, now noticing Trent's looks, with the pancake crisis taken care of. "Anything you want."
"Careful – you'll make other girls jealous if you go for her because of her... hot stacks."
Trent looked up to see Anthony DeMartino in the booth directly across from him. "Oh. Hey, Mr. DeMartino..."
"Good evening, Trent," he replied, taking a sip from a huge coffee mug with a faded military emblem on the side. "How's life treating you?"
"Okay... I guess." Trent felt slightly uncomfortable talking to Anthony – not because he was a former student of his, but because (for the first time in a long while) he seemed... calm. "How's things for you?"
"Couldn't be better!"
Trent noticed the table in front of Anthony: the small stack of legal pads, a small shortwave radio with a pair of earphones, a half-eaten stack of apple-cinnammon pancakes on a plate with a trio of link sausages, and a worn laptop computer that was easily showing its age. "I heard that you were working at Men's Warehouse, or Applebee's-"
The sound of Anthony DeMartino laughing – not manical, or evil, or unbalanced, just rich, happy laughter - gave Trent a truly eerie feeling. "You have to love the Lawndale gossip mill, don't you? I'm out of the teaching game – took the early retirement package and started doing something else!"
Anthony laughed as he turned the computer screen so Trent could see it. "My novel. My second one, to tell the truth!"
"I had to find some way to bleed off the stress of teaching, didn't I? Anyway, I sold the first one over the summer – first in a series – and from the chapters I've sent in with this one, they're talking big money!"
"So, how come you're still here, instead of moving off to New York or someplace?"
For the first time, Anthony seemed to deflate. "I've got... I've got a friend here. I'm letting her stay at my place until they rebuild the high school and she gets her job back."
"Ms. Defoe's staying with you?" It came out of Trent's mouth before he knew it, and the way Anthony's eye suddenly twitched brought back old memories... "Sorry to bring it up, man."
They were both silent for a few minutes; the waitress brought back Trent's order and a big smile for him, and then refilled Anthony's mug and gave him a big smile also. "I usually come in during the off hours to type – there's background noise, but not too much," Anthony said. "Say, how's your sister doing? I've seen those Legion commercials – looks like she's got a good thing going, right?"
The stack of steaming-hot pancakes before him suddenly lost their appeal to Trent. "Yeah. Yeah, she does."
"Your sister and her friends helped me out – a lot. Tell her I said hello, and that if they need anything – even someone out of the loop to talk to – my door's always open for them."
He sipped from his mug. "So, what have you been up to lately?"
Trent looked over at Anthony, and then back to his meal with a somber expression.
"Nothing. Nothing at all."
"...I gave her the 21SF for some familiarization fire earlier. I don't think that she'll have much problem with it, but nevertheless, continue having her shoot one hour every day for the next month with the 17. If she wants to spend extra supervised time with the .45, I'd like for you to supervise her."
"I can do that," Sgt. Nemec said, sitting up in her chair. "She's not bad, and getting better. What I like is that she's learning how to be thorough – she polices the area for her brass, practices good range safety, keeps her weapon cleaned and serviced... the girl's finally pulled her head out of her ass. She's not born again hard, but I don't mind walking on the same side of the street as she does anymore."
"Good to hear," Armalin replied. "Speaking of other weapons - how's she doing with the Mark Three?"
"Both she and Taylor have done their qualifications. If you want to issue them full-power Mark Threes for field use, I don't have a problem with that."
"Griffin's doing a five-minute mile now," the short, heavily-muscled physical instructor spoke from the other end of the table. "Lane's got competition coming her way. She'll win every time, but Griffin's started to find that she's got more fight in her than she ever knew. She just won't quit."
"She runs an extra few miles more than the others – well, except Lane," a second instructor chimed in. "She's learning to like the pain, and to push through it. They're all taking the PT seriously – and it shows."
'Outstanding," Armalin said, sitting at the head of the conference table. "What about Ruttheimer – how's his flight training going?"
One of the flight instructors – a tall, thin man with whitish-blond hair seated at the other end of the table, spoke up. "Excellent. He's doing solo prop flights now, and I'll start him on jet training before the end of the year," the man said. "He's a natural. He's got the brains and the skills – now, as soon as he gets a little more confidence..."
The man smiled a big smile, and several of the others around the table shared a laugh. "If I were a woman, I'd pray that Ruttheimer never gets a uniform and a set of wings to stick them on. God forbid he were to start flying off a carrier – he'd take every decent women in sight that he wanted."
"I remember the type, Jahr," Kyle laughed, remembering his two deployments aboard USS Emancipator – and some of the adventures he and his fellow Marine aviators had shared with the women throughout the Med... he'd always remember that wekend on Corsica; him, his RIO and that idjit Sorich with his RIO Benja – well, the Porterhouse Challenge was a challenge that no Marine, and certainly no Marine aviator, could refuse – and it wasn't as if the ladies, once they understood what was ging on, didn't all but line up to help out...
"Still thinking about that bet from the Med?"
"Don't know what you're talking about, Sarge." Armalin did an admirable job of keeping the smile not only off his face, but out of his voice, the assembed group thought. "Jahr?"
"I'll start getting him aquainted with T-38's – we'll get two out at the airport next week-"
"Hold off on that. In fact, I'd like everyone to push back their scheduled training regimen back eight days."
The conference room rumbled with sound, and Nemec quieted the others down before turning to Armalin. "Eight days. Do you think that they're ready for that?"
"That's a question that I'm asking all of you," he countered. "Well, ladies and gentlemen – are they ready for a trip into the woods? Randall?"
The wiry Black man with very light brown skin and green eyes pushed his glasses up from the tip of his nose. "As far as the Legionnaires go in the handling of their powers, I have to give them the green light,"he said. "They're all showing remarkable progress in controlling their powers at their current levels, and several of them are going to start developing their abilities in differing manners. There's also the ones that probably will find that they have latent abilities; Morgendorffer, D – being a psi – is probably the most likely candidate for that."
"Yes, that life-scan ability did come out of nowhere, didn't it?"
"That's not the only ability she's developing," Randall said. "I was on a speakerphone this morning, talking to my fiance – she's down at EPCOT; she's got the translator job there with Disney... anyway, we start speaking in Aramaic, she loves to keep me on my toes, and Daria comes in – she wanted to get a copy of that brief on psionic defenses, and she asks me about it. I tell her where it is and about a section I wanted her to look over when she asks me what language the person on the phone is speaking. That's when I realized that the two of us have been talking in Aramaic as soon as she stepped into the room."
Randall saw the raised eyebrow, and held up a copy of a report. "It's in today's updates."
"Okay, then. I'll read it later. Anyone else?"
"Everyone else is good to go – ability-wise."
"Samuels – how's Taylor's medical training coming along?"
Three seats away from Armalin, a handsome, yet bookish man in his thirties spoke with a cultured and polished New England accent. "I want to go home."
Kyle's face took on a look of dismay. "Has her training gone that badly?"
"I want to go home. Keep the cheese – I just want out of the trap."
Samuels dropped his head in his hands, and received unanimous looks of sympathy from around the room. "Okay. Has Taylor demonstrated any other aptitudes or interests?"
"She knows tactics, and she likes shooting things," Nemec perked up. "Hell, the girl shoots at my level. Apparently, she's been a shooter since she was in single digits – her maternal grandfather was a Civil War re-enactor, and he taught her. She's dead-on with pistol, shotgun or rifle, and she's sneaky as hell in the woods – I think that would easily apply to urban combat, as well."
"Infiltration and sabotage techniques?"
"Add that to that sneaky, one-track mind she has, polish her up on her martial arts, get her as fit as possible so that people will look at her balloon body instead of her face – throw in her invisibility – and I'd say you've got yourself one hell of an infiltration unit," Nemec finished. "I sure as hell wouldn't want her coming after me at night – she's got footwork like a barnyard cat with a grudge, and she's already got some nice force in her blows. Yeah, with some training and experience, I'd say that you've got the makings of a decent T-1000 with Taylor. She's wasted in medical."
"I'll talk it over with her. Anyone else? Comments, opinions, questions?"
No one spoke.
"All right, then,"Armalin finished. "Let them have a decent night's sleep. Tomorrow – we send them on the Outlast."