AWD #582: Riot Act
Riot Act
Summary: The Arpay Doctor, Jiminez, interviews SSGT Knox. It doesn't go well.
Date: 24/01/2017 (OOC Date)
Related Logs: Everything Arpay Related.
Dropkickst Knox 
Offices, Deck One
AWD #582

OOC NOTE: This is a scene I did with full permission and encouragement of players. If this feels contrived or inorganic, please contact staff. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Monkey directly.

The meeting was scheduled but Knox didn’t get much notice. Maybe a few hours. All he had been told was that Dr Becks Jimenez, one of the Arpay envoys, wanted to speak to him. When he arrives, Jimenez is already seated at the table in the offices on Deck One. There’s an MP posted outside, but it isn’t clear if its just an escort detail or for someone’s protection. Knox or Jimenez, that isn’t clear. She’s wearing her grey fatigue dungarees with her sidearm on her right hip. In front of her is a mug of coffee, a thermos, and an empty mug on the other side of the table. When Knox enters, she looks up with a pleasant smile and rises. There’s a two-tap to her heart with a fist. “Good afternoon, Mister Knox,” she says in heavily accented Arpayan. “I am Doctor Jimenez, Arpay Fleet Medical Command. You are of knowing razer device, yes? May I shoot you?”

Knox had been briefed inasmuch that he would probably need to have something shot into his eye. For anyone, that’s not a pleasant warning. Thus, he isn’t super pleased. The short notice and what he’s heard from the other Lines means he isn’t showing up in the best of moods. With low fraks to give, he’s in his mottled combat uniform with patches. Sans sidearm, like any NCO. The man gives a short greeting to the MP and closes the door behind him. The greeting isn’t all it was meant and the wording leaves something to be desired. But that salute. He’s seen that salute before. The guy is wary but returns it hesitantly. He swallows the urge to correct and nods. “Aye, ma’am. Proceed.”

“Oh, you recognize it? Excellent.” The Doctor doesn’t elaborate. She gives him a quick formal thank you and steps around the table. She aims the handheld device into his left eye and presses a button for two seconds. He can hear the sound of what sounds like static clicks inside his brain, but feels no pain. Afterwards, she steps back and waits for him to recover and pockets the razer device. One he does, she nods to him. “Thank you for the trust. This will be much easier with both of us speaking the same language. Please, take a seat. Would you like some coffee?” She slides the thermos over.

Knox waits and when its over, he blinks, needing to steady himself on the chair for a moment. He shakes his head to clear it. Hearing her speak, he can instantly understand her and its bizarre. He stares at her, dumbfounded for a solid five seconds. “Whoa. That was cool.” Wait, he just spoke her language. The guy gives a short, wry chuckle and tilts his head before taking the seat. The thermos is also taken and poured-from. “Thank you.” He takes another couple seconds to reset his brain and sits back, hand on the mug while he looks at her. “That uniform looks military. Am I speaking to an officer, a Doctor, or both?” Eyes glance to that folder. Its thick.

Jimenez doesn’t open the folder yet, she just clasps her hands in front of her, waiting for him. When he finally speaks to her, she holds her smile. “Both. I hold a formal military rank, but it doesn’t apply here. I’m not here as an officer, only a Doctor and interested party. You can even call me Becks if you prefer.” She ends it on a high note, hoping to keep this light. “Do you have a preferred way I should call you?” She then removes a device from her pocket and places it on the table. A blue light turns on. “Doctor Becks Jimenez interviewing a Six. State your name for the record please.”

“Understood, Doctor.” He keeps it flat, still unsure of the game she might be playing at. “I’d prefer to keep my calling professional, sir.” He’s making a short leap to assume they also treat Doctors as officers. “Call me what you prefer. I’m sure you have my file in front of you.” But when the recording device comes out, his expression goes flat. “Cooper J Knox. Staff Sergeant, Colonial Marine Corps. Serial Number Six Three Three Three Eight One Two Niner Eight.” Yep, this may as well be an interrogation now to him. He looks at the woman, not quite going so far as to clam up.

Seeing his reaction, Jimenez takes a long breath. “Sergeant, I’m sorry but recording these is standard procedure. I’m sorry. I should have asked your permission first. But these tapes will have to be played for my own Fleet Command. If you were in my position, wouldn’t you want to do the same thing in order to provide records to your own command if the roles were reversed?” She tilts her head forward.

“Possibly.” He relents a little. “Probably. That doesn’t make me any less comfortable, sir. I’m not inclined to say a lot, lest something go wrong here. I don’t want to be the cause of an interstellar war. We have enough problems, Doctor. Creating enemies of the Arpay between my own people, or the Lines, isn’t going to help anyone. So I hope you understand my reluctance, sir.” He keeps his words short and crisp as he looks at her.

Jimenez watches him and reaches for her mug. She sips it as she settles back from the table, creating distance from him – and more importantly the official and unofficial files in front of her. “I would call that fair. Then let us keep this organic, Sergeant. We can go one step at a time. And keep in mind you are free to leave at any time.” She means it sincerely, but there’s no missing it. He was ordered here. If he walks out it won’t say anything good. “I want to ask about what you said. You pointedly count yourself among humanity and separate yourself from the Lines. That’s a rather significant distinction.” She takes a long breath, looking at him. “I’ve obviously read your files and seen a lot of footage and recordings and I’ve read a lot of after action reports. I won’t be so dense as to ask you why. Your allegiance is clear. I just want to know what you think about the distinction. Anything you want to say is fine. I don’t have an angle I’m looking for. Your thoughts are enough,” she asides before sipping the mug.

“Right. And if I leave I should probably assume the act would speak negatively?” Cooper asks carefully before giving a further reply. The man is careful, if nothing else. Warning: Live Mines. Do Not Enter.

“It would depend upon the context of your departure. If you were offended or angry at a misunderstanding, that I one facet to take into account. However, if you simply refuse to answer questions?” She shrugs a little, one shoulder. “Then we have only to go on what is in your file. While it is impressive, it is not the whole story of you. I can read dry facts all day, Sergeant. You are not the sum of this..” and she gives a wry, upturned palm to the file in front of her, “..this paperwork. That is why I’m asking open-ended questions. If that will suffice, would you be willing to answer? …What you think about the differences in how you see yourself?”

Knox looks down and finally drinks some of the coffee. There’s a lot to think about there. It’s a fair offer and he can’t miss that. “Alright, I think I can do that.” The next words take awhile to consider. He stares at the table, the clock on the wall ticking long seconds while the silence is there. Finally, he looks back at her, “Doctor, you are a visitor. An obvious outside just because of how you look, but also because of who you are.” He doubletaps his chest, looking into her eyes. “Right here.” He holds it a moment. “If you looked exactly like the rest of us, you could blend seamlessly. You could be free to conduct your mission without anyone ever knowing better. But the problem is that the longer you spend with a culture, the more you see their world. Not just from your own eyes, but there in who you are. You cannot help but be affected by it. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that experience, but the thing is that when you don’t have your own culture? It fills the void. Not just stupid shit like technology or tangible junk. I’m not talking about that. I mean the people. Your friends. Your family. Do you get what I’m talking about?”

Jimenez has. More than she could ever compart to anyone here. But she keeps an expression of interest. What he said hit something deep inside her. “To an extent, yes. Having a vacuum of anything indicates that it must be filled. Nature abhors it. Human nature is no different.” She catches herself there and stops, making her own wry smile down at herself. Ahem. “Continue, please.”

“I’m sure you’ve seen the recordings of my testimony at my tribunal. I told that story once. I won’t do it again and waste my breath. But I want you to understand something.” He leans forward, both forearms on the table as he stares straight at her. “The Lines had nothing in their heads. Zero. When I counted myself as a ‘we,’ there was nothing there. Just orders and robotic bullshit that didn’t give us any purpose. We were told to go out and follow orders, that we had a mission and it was in our own and humanity’s best interest. It would result in war, but that these people needed it. They could no longer control themselves. They were beasts to be reigned in and they needed to sit at the kids table for the dinner party.” He lifts a hand and casually aims a finger at Jimenez. “You could never fathom what that meant to the Lines. They were blank slates with a mission. It gave the Lines purpose.” The hand drops. “Living with humanity, seeing the beauty of it. The pain. Gods, the frakking pain. It wasn’t the beauty or the highlights of parties. Anyone can fake that. But when a person hurts, they hurt in very personal ways. When humanity leans on someone else during a time of need, it isn’t because they want your sympathy. They need help. Frak anyone for turning a blind eye to that. You ask me what it means to me to set myself aside?” He tilts a shrug. “Fair. I call it pain. Pain and home. The Marine Corps never, ever quits. Especially not on each other. A lot of people talk about being able to bring violence and fighting for their friends. They shirk it through excuses or never have the chance.” He gestures the mug towards the stairs through several walls. “I never, ever have to wake up in the morning and wonder whether or not someone in that barracks has my back. We’ve seen each other at our worst and at our best. There are no excuses. There are no reasons needed. We fight, frak, and kill.” He just looks at her. “My division between the Lines and humanity isn’t the legal claim I hold to my name and status. Its that I’m a Marine and I love my Marines and I’d take a permanent death for any one in that barracks. Pain and sorrow, I’ll take it all. That’s my home, sir. Call me a Six and we’ll have a problem. THAT is my distinction.”

“Bear with me, Sergeant, but you do claim to be a Marine. Fair. You have legal status and rank, correct. But from what I understand, one of the basic building blocks of comraderie in the Marines is the universal understanding of the ‘Hell’ of going through basic training. But you never actually completed basic training.” Jimenez is trying to understand something, not make an accusation. “And your Marines still count you among their own. Our Army is similar but it does not seem as dedicated as you all. Do you believe their faith to be because of your fraternal tests of blood and combat?”

Knox just stares at her and his expression goes very hard. “Sir, you wanna roll that whole question back up on the doublequick before you find out just how much this Marine knows about hand to hand. Are you frakking clear as a bell on that?”

Jimenez looks back at him and sucks in a breath. The has to resist the urge to reach for her sidearm. That was an unintentional line crossed. Her face is hard as well, not wanting to back down from a threat. But memory serves, the man ripped a hatch off its hinges. Better to reapproach. “Apologies Sergeant, I didn’t mean to question your Marines. That was- out of line. I did not intend that.” Her own code won’t let her retreat. She wants to attack into a threat. There is a middleground. The woman leans forward and pushes the file aside and clasps hands around her cup. Her tone goes more soft, “The question was phrased very poorly. We are clear as a bell. What I intended to ask was if you believe that the Marines see you as you are because of who you are, or your actions, or a combination there-of?”

“I don’t see a difference, sir.” Knox still looks like he has his hackles up. “As an author once wrote, our actions delineate and define us. They make us who we are. What we do in the moment is all that matters. Our code makes us what we are. When we can’t uphold it, we stop being Marines. You can take that answer for what its worth but I’m not going to speak for my Marines. They can speak for themselves.” Assuming she takes the hint of whats in the files. He isn’t a platoon sergeant because people are strictly afraid he might throw a hissyfit. “Any other questions?”

Becks has to think on that. She sips her mug, feeling she’s hit the middle ground. Attack given in return. Time to shift gears. “Quite a few actually.” The woman glances to the folder. There’s an urge to reach for it and create the powerplay, but her hand only goes halfway. Fingers drum on the table before she looks back at him. “One of the guidelines my people have on how we define a people as being developed is based on whether or not they have culture. Would you say that the Lines have a culture?”

“Are you looking to piss me off, sir? Because you keep giving questions like this and you and I are going to have a problem. You want dialogue, we can have it. But if you keep sitting on this high frakking horse about how you alone get to decide what is and is-not a people, I’m happy to walk my Marine Ass out that door and you can make your own judgments.” He very, very precisely slides the mug of coffee aside and out from between them. “Doctor Jimenez, you walked through our door a week or two ago and you are sitting there in front of me and weighing judgment on the Lines based on after action reports and all your other little bullshit bullet points. I’m sure you even have a powerpoint ready to give. But I want you to understand something: You are not Gods.” Hands clasp, looking her right in the eye. “We have been fighting this war damned near two years without you. We’ve done a damned frakking decent job of it. You might have your fancy ship and thousands of ships, but do not forget for one godsdamned second that you walked through our door. OUR. You want a snap judgment in a few weeks of what we have been through? Or the Lines? I’ll give it to you in one word: Hell.” He makes sure every letter is annunciated. “You want to make a decision on who or what we are? Fine. Take your chess pieces and position them where you want and decide whether or not the Lines are worth it. But I will not sit here and listen to someone question our integrity or resolve. You want my answer? You can take your definition of ‘developed people’” he even uses air quotes just off the table, “and you can seriously just blow it out your ass. Because that’s what a high horse opinion is worth to me. You talk to me, person to person, or I’m out that door right now.”

Jimenez frowns deeper and deeper as the one-sided ‘dialogue’ continues from Knox. She just stares at him with a near-angry expression. Lips press together so hard they turn white. That pissed her off and broke her cool. After several seconds, she gives him a straight question: “Are the Lines slaves to their technology and the download?”

Cooper looks right back at her and his reply comes rapid fire, “Are you a slave to yours? How long would you last without your ships and tech? I’m guessing not long. You’d probably fold. It might take awhile. But if you gave up everything, how long would you last?” He leans closer. “Doc, let me tell you a secret a lot of people here know: None of the Lines want to keep downloading. They hate it. But they are willing to do it because humanity needs us. The Lines were created to fight the war that humanity could not, in its state. They have a goal. They have a purpose. They have a reason to exist and wake up every day. This isn’t rocket science to take the leap off the rumors I’ve heard of the Arpay. You’re a military culture. Does this sound familiar?” He holds her gaze. “Or am I hitting a little uncomfortably close to home?” He leaves the pause. “Sir.”

Becks just stares back at Knox. His reply doesn’t do anything to cool her down. There’s the idea that his words may have struck a nerve. A deep one. One she didn’t want to come out during this investigation. But it doesn’t directly show. It just comes out in her reply: “I think that’s all the questions I have, Sergeant.” She gestures to the door. “You may go.”

Coop gives a contemptuous smirk. “Shit, I thought you had more questions.” He rises from the chair and tucks it back under the table. “You want respect? Tell your people to fire a shot. Your sidearm might have wear and tear, but nothing like my Marines do.” He reaches for his cover/hat tucked into his pocket and puts it on, a final point of F-You to her and heads for the door, slamming it behind him.

Knox walks for awhile, trying to shake it off. That was a lot and something he was partially prepared for and in a lot of ways.. he just was not. He hauls a pack out of the armory, including a rifle, and decides he needs to work it off. The anger and frustration. Loaded down, he takes off on a run for his own PT around the corridors. He isn’t on duty so some Marines on patrol look at him as he passes. The first run fore and aft are done at a full run. He’s breaking a sweat finally and cooling off in his own ways. Running always helps. It clears the mind. He manages to slow to a job on the second lap around.

Waiting at an intersection, Jimenez is standing there with a simple leather satchel in her hand. She can see him coming fifty yards away and steps out to be seen but not block his path. “Staff Sergeant Knox. Could you stop for a moment? I want to say something. If you don’t like it, you can keep running.” Everyone else in the corridor glances to her with the weird language. Pus those eyes and ears. “Please!” There’s real emotion there.

Knox see’s her and hears her. The plan is to keep running. Nope, he isn’t going to stop. But the plea is something else. There’s something with it that makes him stop. He jogs to a slow halt and stops about ten meters beyond her. The guy slowly turns and makes his way back to her. Looking down to the shorter woman, he takes a long breath. “Look, I’m the wrong person to talk to about this. I’m too involved. I get what you are trying to do here, but you don’t want to talk to me.” He takes a long breath, shifting his rifle to be held along his side with one hand. “You want information on the Lines and who they are, Doc. That isn’t me. That hasn’t been me for years. I don’t have you answers, sir.” But he isn’t leaving yet. He’s waiting.

There’s a huge relief at seeing Knox stop. She holds her place and does her best for composure, but there’s still some of that relief showing. Some things are hard to hide. Hearing the reply to her plea, she blinks and looks down. Jimenez looks at her uniform and her satchel with her and swallows hard. There’s her own ingrained, home-taught desires. But also what she has learned. More than five years behind the lines, it was hard to swallow. Maybe now is a time to revive that feeling. She puts her bag onto a crate and reaches inside. She digs while she speaks, “We really got off on the wrong foot. I want to start over if you are willing to. No recordings.” She finds what she is looking for, a small passport-sized book. She hands it over to him. “Doctor Rear Admiral Becks Jimenez. I’m the lead on the diplomatic mission. We’ve already decided that the Colonials are worth backing. We are currently evaluating whether or not the Lines are a real race of human life or just unshackled AI.” It’s a hail mary from her end, but one she hopes will bridge. “I’ve talked to Jacob, the Fleet Commander for the Lines. He doesn’t have much to say but insists they are loyal.” The woman lets off a long sigh. “I am truly sorry how our conversation came off. My goal is simply to understand and relate. Cooper,” she risks his first name. “I want to support you. I do. But I need real backing. I need something I can take to my home so we can bring our fleet. Can you help me?”

Knox takes the booklet from her and opens it. He has no idea if it this legit or not, but he can read it. It certainly looks real. He holds it in his hands while she speaks, looking at it. As she finishes, he looks back to her. He just holds her gaze for long seconds, watching her. The booklet is then slowly offered back, closed. “After what I just said to you, why would you want to talk to me?” he asks, cautious. “I’m pretty sure I made my thoughts known with the slammed door.” There’s no anger there, though. Just skepticism. “What changed in the last half hour, Admiral?”

Even bigger relief. He’s talking. She takes the booklet back and tucks it into her satchel. “Please, just ‘Doctor’ or ‘Becks’.” There’s a low smile with it. “You said something about being in a place with no culture. Where there is nothing but orders. Order could be loosely translated to religion. No hope, no advancement, just your existence. I’ve seen those places, Cooper. There are a lot of them. I’ve spent a long time there. As much as I want to hate you right now, I need to tell you that you were right in a lot of ways.” She takes the moment to lean against the bulkheads. “Our normal classifications don’t really apply here. The thing is this: You’re the anomaly. You’re so far from the Lines that you are, without question, human. I think the tribunal was right to grant you what they did. You didn’t just earn it, you’ve lived it. Your response in that room were enough to secure yourself. I want to secure the others. The rest of the Lines.. other than One.” She gives him a half smile. “How can I do that?”

A lot of places like that. Places with nothing but that religion. No order. That seems to catch him. Its personal there. Standing there in full combat gear, there are certain mental positions that this weight carries with it. He looks back at her. “Tell me about them, Becks.” Nope, he isn’t answering her question just yet.

It wasn’t what she was expecting, but its what she has to work with. She tilts her head away with the memories and has to steel herself. Normally she takes time to prepare herself for this. Still looking away and down, “Your Twelve Colonies are not the only ones out there. Humanity exists on hundreds of worlds in this galaxy. Most have been overrun by the Machines. They take over, brainwash, and install themselves and leaders and Gods. The brandished religion dictates humanity should be kept at level of technology that essentially stops with grain processing. The overtaken worlds are enslaved to feed each other. When one is too large they pare it down.” She moves hair from the vision and behind her ear before looking back to him. “They cut off medical development to keep mortality high and workable for their needs. They ship men to work the mines, women to keep them happy. Most of the colonies with minable resources are dedicated to strip mining. They feed the Machines. Most have been at it so long they know nothing else. A hundred generations in some cases. This is not a new war. The war out there?” She shakes her head and takes a long breath. “Its unreal. You said you all were made to fight a war for humanity that it could not otherwise fight.” She looks at him, eyes glassed a bit. “Do you have any, ANY idea what that means?”

Cooper just stands there like a rock, watching her. Those hard, skeptical eyes begin to soften as she speaks. The more he goes into it, the more he regrets asking. By the time he looks back to her, he’s looking down, deep in thought. “Yeah, I’m getting the idea. Our local war is big for us, but its so local on the grand scale that its tiny. Godsdamn that sucks.” He reaches an arm out to lean on the bulkhead. He isn’t leaving. “And it almost feels like this has been pointless. But-“ He looks back at her. “But it isn’t. Because we kicked them in the balls and made them run.” He tilts his head. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Because we’re winning.” And Knox connects the dots. It makes him chuckle. “You’re not evaluating the Lines as allies. You’re evaluating them as galaxy-class warfighters.” The guy shakes his head and looks back at Jimenez. “Go ahead. Lie to me. I dare ya.”

Becks looks a bit stricken with the accusation and dare. There’s really no place for her to go with this one. “Fuck you. I hate you for getting this. But yes, yes we are.” She looks back at him. There’s humor there, but only a little. “Cooper, I want to make this plain as daylight for you. No hidden agendas here for you and I, just keep it between us for now? Okay?”

Knox snorts a laugh and nods. “As long as I don’t violate orders or oaths. Go right ahead, Admiral.”

“The situation is pretty bad.” She takes a more serious tone. “I tell you this because you are the bridge. You might have eschewed that role but you have to take this up one more time. I am talking to you, man to man. No questions otherwise. But its like this:” Jimenez looks to her satchel, almost as if begging it to save her. But she shakes it off and looks back to the Six in front of her. “We are fighting a rear-action. This galaxy is enemy lines. We’ve had to give it up. We are evacuating every civilization we have to another galaxy. We’ve been doing it for tens of thousands of years. We have no ability to naturally replenish warfighters to fight a real war against these things. Your people, in the past or not, could be the solution.” She looks conflicted. “The problem that I run into is an ethical one. A big one. You’ve made it clear your people no longer desire to download. You want to live as humans and die, like the rest of us. What most people don’t know is that my people fought a war over that very idea tens of millennia ago. We pushed it aside because we lost what it meant to be human. So when you say you no longer want it, my people understand this far better than the Colonials ever will.” Knoxx can probably see this coming like a brick wall at 100mph. “But you have the ability now. And the difference you and the Colonials could make would be insurmountable. The problems is that my people would fear you in such required numbers. Honestly, Cooper, your Lines are the greatest gift to humanity and your own worst curse upon yourselves. I despise having to be the one to bring this upon your people, but you don’t want bullshit. Now you have the table. Our chess pieces are played in panic.”

Knox sits there and listens. As she speaks further, his face goes further and further drawn. By the time she finishes, he looks like a white sheet. “Oh my Gods,” he breathes. “You aren’t frakking around. You’re serious. You need us to fight the war, the bigger one, for you. Or with you. With you.” He tries to make sure he has that right. “Sweet Apollo, do you have any idea what the hell you are asking of the lines? They would have to give up their humanity indefinitely, possible tens of thousands of years, to help humanity win this war in this galaxy. Are you serious?” It’s a dumb question. Not one meant to be answered. A position proposed in a random hallway on a battlestar at some random place in a galaxy, and Knox gets this. He steps off into the hallway and looks like he wants to punch something. He walks away a few meters, then back and past, just glancing at her. On the second return he shakes his head. “No. No frakkin way. You will never get the lines to keep downloading like this. Or that. I’m speaking for them right now: NO. Big effing letters. Downloading over and over again for a war that size? Becks, we are barely holding on like this. Absolutely not.”

Becks watches the pacing but seems to get a decent hold of what is coming. She lifts both hands in a surrender gesture. “No, not like this. Cooper, stop for a moment.” She waits. “Cooper, your people, the Lines, were never meant to deal with downloading like you do. Never. The human mind cannot handle it. Your minds are human, that needs to be heard. You cannot keep doing this. But what I’m saying is that your ability to create new warfighting bodies? Across all your lines? You could..” Her voice slows through it and she grinds to a halt there. She looks far away. The woman suddenly looks like she might cry at her own pain. “Wow.” She stops there and just shakes her head. There’s disgust on her expression, like she cannot believe something just happened. “I- Oh. Cooper, that was wholly inappropriate.” She gathers up her bag, embarrassed. “Cooper, I am so sorry. No, I’ll secure the Lines’ place. We’ll clear you all for evac, especially if you intend to give up the downloading. This was wrong. The whole venture was wrong.” She looks back at him. “Cooper, I am so incredibly sorry we’ve put the Lines through this. Come up with a name they would like to be called and we will ensure The Lines are registered. Please forgive me an my people. We never intended insult.” She packs it up and slings the bag to her shoulder.

Knox watches through it and at first he looks apprehensive. But as she continues, the guy seems to calm. Immensely. Watching her react like that and seem to be willing to walk away, the guy takes an unconscious step back. The guy glances to a fireteam walking by. He waves them off to continue. The man being in full gear gets a second glance, but the Staff Sergeant looks back at Jimenez now that they have a quiet moment again. “Thank you.” That’s all he says for a moment. “I am what I am, but I am also a Line. Thank you.” He takes a breath and steps back closer to her, looking down to her eyes. “Becks. For some of the Lines? There’s no winning the fight. Its eternal. The defense of humanity from oppression and slavery? That’s what we do. You want the warfighters? Maybe you will get them.” He takes off his glove from his left hand and offers it. “Let me in. I’m under orders to never read or project. I think this supercedes. If you are willing.”

Jimenez looks to the hand, eyes still glassed. She’s still upset with herself. There’s real hesitation. “Cooper, this isn’t your fight. This is our charter. Not yours.” But the hand is provided up. She knows.

Cooper looks her in the eyes. “You have the same charter we do.” He then takes her hand suddenly. Over a minute or so he reads it off her and eventually relaxes his grip. The guy lets it fall away. His eyes turn down.

“Sergeant, be wise. You know the truth. Be careful with it. Think of your people. Think of your future. Think of your Marines.” Jimenez eyes him carefully, but there’s caring emotion there. “Do you want this for them?”

Cooper looks back at her after he finishes processing it. Those eyes are hard. “Admiral, I frakking dare you to keep them away. We’ll see what happens.” He puts his glove back on and steps back. “I need to think. Sleep well, sir.” He then turns and takes off, actually sprinting again.

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