AWD #302: The Face in the Mirror
The Face in the Mirror
Summary: Kelsey finds a new face in the simulators. It doesn't go well.
Date: 20/04/2016
Related Logs: None.
Epiphany Kelsey 
Flight Simulators
The Air Wing has access to flight simulators to train pilots off the ground in combat maneuvers and situations that are hard to replicate with regular dogfight practicing and this is their home. A rectangular room, the hatch opens up beside the bank of computers that control the simulations and what is seen by the individuals when training sessions are in progress. The sims are actual cockpits cut out of old frames and installed here to function exactly as the real thing, right down to oxygen plugs for suits. In front of each cockpit, complete with armored glass, are LCD screens that cover most of the front view to the front and above. There are two Vipers, two Predators, and one full-cabin Raptor available.
AWD #302

Day two. On the itinerary? Check out the Orion's simulator bank. Captain Arrington is standing within the room that houses the computers that control the simulators. Her jacket has been removed and tossed over the back of a chair, leaving her in the dual tanks. This reveals the tattoo that shapes over her left shoulder and up towards her neck. A trio of tiger lilies. The ink has faded, just slightly, with age, but not so much as to dull the handiwork. Based on what's scrolling on the monitors, she's either running a diagnostic or pulling down data. The simulators lie in the greater room beyond; dark and quiet. A mug of coffee and a binder sit on the desk. The former half-full and the latter untouched, by the looks of it.

The hatch opens and closes and the footsteps walking towards Pip slow. When she looks over, she see's a girl that is clearly not academy educated. There's Ensign pips, and flight wings, but she does not look a day over 20 or 21. Her hair is still a little damp from a shower, tied behind her head, and she's in her blues. As she approaches, she leans a little to the side as if to get a look at who is sitting at the computers. "Sir? Are you authorized to be here? This is Air Wing only without an escort…" There's no bark of authority or bite. Only curiosity and a touch of unsure standing. She can't see what's on the jacket, obviously.

Nope, the rank pips are hidden. Mostly. The fabric flopped over the chair. One would have to look at a strange sort of angle to see them. Epiphany looks away from the monitors after hitting a key to pause the scroll. You look at enough reports and you can mostly glaze through them. She'll find time to do a deeper consideration of the status of the pilots on Orion later. Got to trust those currently running the show, right? Or at least hope you can. The coffee is gathered up in left hand and the woman extends a hand as she takes a deep sip. She wears her age well, but she's got to be late twenties. At the least. The war ages everyone.

"Captain Arrington," she provides after swallowing the cooled liquid. "Just transferred from Crandall." Maybe word got around of that. A few came in that route, just the day before. And most of them found themselves settling into bunks that likely had occupants as recently as a month ago. The cup makes a bit of sound as she sets it back down. "And you are…?" There's her own curiousity in turn. Polite, but clearly turning the same query around on the girl that seems too young for this.

Kelsey stops close enough to try and see what's on the screen and doesn't bother to hide. It might remind Pip of a mother worrying about her kid with how she tries to peek at the screen. But her hand doesn't reach to take the Captain's yet. With the introduction made, the girl stands a little straighter. "Oh." The hand is reached for to shake carefully, a smile starting to creep in. "Ensign Wescott." She pronounces it 'Whes-kitt'. Pip has spent enough time on Picon recently to know where this girl is from, probably even down to the region. "I-" She makes a little driving motion with her hands, 2-and-10 on a steering wheel, up and down. "-fly Raptors. Sir." There's a conscious effort to make sure she is tacking 'sir' on there, but not to be patronizing. Like it seems a conscious reminder to herself. Definitely not Academy trained.

It's a base-level report of simulator sessions. Who was logged, scenario run, and the outcome. Not even instructor notes. It's enough that any red flags would stand out to be pulled for review later. If one so wanted. The names are of those who are still actively assigned to Orion. She filtered. No names of the deceased or transferred in sight. Epiphany's own handshake is a firm one. That sort of no-nonsense that many end up with further along in their career. While Kelsey mimes holding the controls, the Captain drops her right hand to her pocket and reclaims the mug with the left. "I see. I'm guessing you're recently trained?" Age. Hesitation. In some ways, the Ensign might as well be an open book. "Mind telling me how recently and with who?"

Kelsey had a reason for coming in here but looks like the confused cat that forgot what they were going to do when they got to the top of the stairs. Her hands come together in front of her and she fidgets with them a little. The Ensign plays well at trying to look relaxed but doesn't seem to really have mastered faking it til she's making it. "Sorta, yeah. I was Commissioned the last week of March." Just over seven months. "Sort of a fast-track, I guess." Kelsey is looking over the Captain and feeling the difference in age. "Mostly whoever I could get to train me. There wasn't much of a program. The war just started. Spent a lot of time in the sims on my own. Lieutenant Vashti helped when she could. Same with Lieutenant Kane, but she's being shuffled." No mention of officer training. "Captain Bennett, too. Mostly just me and the training programs in the sims, though." Beat. "Sir." There's a quick nod. "So did you request to come here, sir? Are you flying Vipers or Raptors?"

"Fast track happens. It's a war. You're not the first, nor will you be the last." If it changes the way that Epiphany regards the girl, it isn't clear in her expression. She just continues the occasional drink of coffee while regarding Kelsey. As if the Ensign were just more data to be taken in and processed. As the names are ticked off, Arrington nods; mental notes made and filed away for future use. When the query comes, she blinks slowly. "I did not. I was transferred here along with a few others. I'm a Viper stick, but I was training classes at the School on Caprica. Spent the last few months getting civilians at least halfway competent on Crandall. Guess they figured I'd done enough and they needed me out here." On the lines.

The pilot looks over to the terminals again and moves past Kelsey to one that sits idle. A few keystrokes are put in before she's gesturing to the Ensign. "Bring up your simulator records."

Kelsey nods slowly. At the very least she seems to understand that she isn't special, nor are the circumstances. Pip can see in her eyes that there is light and life and intelligence, but Kelsey doesn't seem to know what to do. A fish out of water. She glances back to the hatch as if hoping someone might rescue her, but there is the decision that she might survive this. What had the CAG told her? Right. She stands a little straighter and does her best to look more confident. "I think that's a good thing, sir. Just hope you taught them how to Officer, too. We didn't have time for that. It's caused me some problems. Not so much with the flying, but back on the ship yes." Awkward silence. Kelsey's inner debate on the intelligence of that remark might as well be stenciled on her forehead. Shake it off, kid. She's been given instructions and a quick nod. Taking a seat, legs cross as she pulls herself closer and under the console's tabletop. There's no hesitation and she pulls it up quick. Her first simulator missions were failures. A lot of them. Constant. Then one or two passes. Then there's a week of none and she started passing more when she returned. Quickly. After that, it is a lot of ground attack and medevac profiles. Some fairly advanced sims. Kelsey's records seem very good considering her time in position, but about average for anyone who has spent time in combat. "Sims don't say much. I wish they could say more but they aren't real. Nobody buys drinks for hitting the fake Cylons with a bomb." Beat. "Sir."

"I didn't have time. That part's all on Spree now. The Commander needed bodies in cockpits that could fly straight. I gave her that. It's up to Crandall to refine them." That base? Where it is? It'll make or break those fresh pilots. "Most go to school for four years just to learn how to be an Officer before they even get behind the wheel." It's a rather big downplay to the Academy, but it comes from a Flight School instructor. "And for some, even that isn't enough." When Kelsey moves to the console, Epiphany steps up behind her. The woman may not be tall enough to loom, but she's a mother. The presence is there. Pale eyes review what's displayed as Kelsey speaks. "Sims say enough. You use the simulator until it becomes rote. That way, when there's alarms screaming in your ears and explosions off your left wing, your reflexes kick in and not your brain. If you have to think about your next move in the middle of combat, it's already too late." She reaches an arm past Kelsey's shoulder, index finger extended to indicate the week-long gap. "What happened here?"

Kelsey makes a face while the woman is standing behind her. "I think if I learned how to be an officer first I would be a bette pilot. If I ever have to teach, I want to teach people my age and younger how to behave first. I'd give anything for an academy." Blergh. She completely forgets to tack on Sir and doesn't even realize it. Kelsey just stares blankly at the monitor. "Yeah. I know. Sims are there to teach and train, but not a substitution. I get tired of the dumb random failures in systems, though, sir." Wescott complains like any other kid her age, but there's the leading edge to her voice that she understands why. Brought back by the arm over her shoulder, the Ensign looks at the screen then down. "I was on Picon with Lieutenant Colonel Petra. Some things happened. We got stuck there." It's clear the topic makes the girl uncomfortable and she reaches for the keyboard to scroll down and away from it.

How to behave. Epiphany isn't able to wholly contain the quiet snerk that escapes her at that. If Academy taught people to behave… Instead, the woman just remains silent and allows Kelsey to speak. "Random failures? Like, say, a wire shorting out while you're in the middle of a dogfight? Simulators are meant to piss you off, Ensign. If they weren't, they'd be useless." At the way the girl reacts to the query, there's a slight arch of brow. More notes filed away.

"So, if you had your choice, would you prefer officer training or more time behind the wheel?"

Kelsey shrugs a bit. The scores on the screen taper off for consistent dates. Gaps. She becomes a more regular fleet pilot and records improve steadily. "I guess, sir. I've been shot at enough to know how the systems work. I'm not a super-ace and I've only got a few kills. Spent some time in Recovery. But I like to think I know what I'm doing up there most of the time." It's something no properly trained pilot would ever say. It lacks ego and confidence, but it is honest. Most Academy kids her age barely know more than the importance of bravado in officers and pilots, not even how to apply it. The finger stops once the Picon Gap is off the screen. "I'm learning to officer, sir. It's just taking me time. I want so badly to be a JG but I know its not the right choice for me yet. If I couldn't fly, or I flew less, in the meantime? I don't think it would help me improve, sir."

Flying out of necessity, Epiphany assumes, based on the staggered nature of the new gaps. The woman steps away and returns to the terminal she was using. The scroll is resumed. Name, date, simulation, pass/fail. She watches it rather than the Ensign. Maybe it'll take off some of the pressure. Maybe not. "What you're doing is a necessity, but it'll be harder. A lot more goes into promotions than just time." The sentence is spoken with the nature that she's said it before. Perhaps to a number of Ensigns over the years. "It won't net you better duties or even a better bird. Just more responsibilities and expectations. If you aren't comfortable as an Officer, it'd only be worse if you were promoted. Ensigns are expected to forget their p's and q's." She drains the last of her coffee and sets it aside as the list finishes. The woman is then settling into the chair and shuffling through the list, marking a number of them for further review. "I can't say officially, but I think I may recommend some shadowing of a naval officer in your duties. Someone who lives the regs day in and day out." And isn't distracted by the usual fluff that pilots are.

Kelsey lets her gaze drift from the monitor and follow the Captain as she moves, even through sitting. "I know. Promotions are about being able to take charge and see it through. The CAG says I have a confidence problem. I think I just have a nervousness problem." Her eyes drop, seeming to understand the concepts well. "I'm comfortable in uniform, just not always in my skin. I used to be on Deck. Some of the enlisted look at me as a traitor. I wasn't popular before I applied to kick up, either. I'm not a bad officer, definitely not a bad pilot. Just a little on the strugglebus to find my place with knowing how to conduct myself." The idea of shadowing a non-pilot makes her look ill, though. "The CAG has me asking around. Most officers." Those sea blue eyes lift back. "What do you think makes a good officer? What are the best? Worst?"

The woman catches that look in regards to a Naval officer and looks over to Kelsey. It's a long, level sort of look. "So because enlisted are behaving like enlisted, you want to hide behind the rest of the Air Wing. Is that it? Wescott, you're a Raptor pilot. Deck will be working on your bird. They're the ones who will be the most upset when — not if, when — it comes back in damaged. Marines are the ones you'll be hauling out of hot zones… or dropping there in the first place." The final question comes and Epiphany goes quiet for a moment.

That moment drags out as the woman continues marking off simulator reports for review. When she finally speaks again, it's in a quieter voice. "A year ago, I'd have said a good officer is someone who follows orders to the best of their ability, while remaining flexible and intelligent enough to fill in the gaps." Because there's always gaps. There's always unknown. "But now, I'd say a good officer is someone capable of working with anyone in any situation. There's too few of us to be afraid of someone's ire. The day they have to be hauled out and you're the one behind the stick, they won't care where you came from, just that you were there when they needed it." She turns, looking directly to the Ensign. "You want to be a good Officer, Wescott? Treat everyone well. Don't shy from them. Don't pick and choose. Reserve respect for those that have earned it, yes, but just be a good person to the rest."

"I didn't say I wanted to hide. And I don't. Honest, sir. I-" Kelsey stops and very purposefully. "CAG told me I need to stop defending myself. So I am. But I think I am not really explaining it well. I know they have to fix stuff I bend." There's a baleful look to the floor. Seems Kelsey has probably -really- broken something. Or multiple somethings. "I like rescuing Marines. And flying Preds. Both are aces." Of this, she seems eminently confident. While Pip thinks and speaks, though, her gaze lifts and looks away from the Captain while everything is absorbed. It is the sort of answer she probably needs. Who knows what people have told her, though she doesn't behave like a kicked dog. No signs of depression. "I can treat everyone right. I know I can. I suppose the problem is mostly with being shy and picking and choosing. It usually takes me a bit before I figure out I can talk to someone about personal stuff when I'm not flying." Because when you don't have to look the other person in the face, its easier.

"The reason I'd recommend a naval officer rather than another pilot is two-fold. One is they don't care how well you may or may not have flown or rated in simulators. The other is that their day-to-day life is being an officer. Pilots, well, we tend to be a bit more lax, even at the best of times. It helps the stress we're under." Especially in a war. "You're more likely to pick up bad habits from a fellow pilot. It's the best alternative I've come up with to an Academy." At least Kelsey had time as an enlisted. Epiphany left behind cargo pilots and the like. She's perhaps had to consider this. "Will they look down on you? Maybe. But I bet there's a CIC officer out there whose ElTee pips are still shining that would look askance at me. We're pilots, Wescott. You know who most of the jokes and cliches are about? Pilots and marines. You've got to learn to weather the looks and the jokes. The deckhands, the officers, they do it for their own reasons. Maybe jealousy, maybe camaraderie, but I think it's because they know every time we leave our post, we may not come back. It's easier on them." The continued, constant loss.

Enough of the simulations are marked and saved to a drive. Likely to be reviewed in her bunk later. It'll keep her busy until she has a proper duty chart. Arrington leans back, crossing one leg over the other. Her blues still have the awkward creases of long storage in a few places. "The war does two things that most people can't reconcile. It makes you want, desperately, to find someone to cling to. Especially if you've lost family. But it also makes you terrified to get close to anyone, lest you lose them too. That alone is going to put walls between you and someone who isn't in the Wing. It can't be helped and you can't blame them. My recommendation? Find another Ensign you can talk to. Then you can talk without worrying about rank."

Kelsey doesn't seem like the type to have ever even met an officer from Tactical - but she apparently had something bad happen with Petra. Or maybe just the situation. "I guess, sir. I mean, CAG has me asking people silly questions for now. I'm learning a little I guess. I don't feel bad when they make fun of me, though. I feel bad when they stare at me. My confidence problem, if the CAG is right, is just that I lack the self-confidence on the ship to be useful." There's a small smile. "In the air and space?" Just thinking about it a little seems to put wind in her sails. "My callsign is Squire, sir. It seems a few people think I've earned it." With Arrington leaning back, Kelsey looks back to her lap, letting her thoughts of flight keep her smiling as she does so. "Oh, no sir. I've lost. I have people I can talk to. I'm just nervous around someone I don't know yet. But i've got something to live for. My daughter was recovered with some of the other families. My baby girl is three. She makes me believe. The way she looks up to me, her momma, I know I have to change the world for her. And I know I need to be sure I can show it to her when its done." Kelsey chuckles a little and glances to the floor between them. "Don't suppose that makes sense, Captain?" she offers, not expecting many others to really get that.
Kelsey has reconnected.

In through it all, Epiphany is following and on board. She's tracking, processing, and likely formulating ways to use the information. "You're talking to me," she points out, quickly. Someone the Ensign just met and a superior officer, to boot. But then Kelsey is talking about her daughter and something in the Captain just shuts off. Her features go from inquisitive and open to blank. It's not that she no longer sees the younger woman, but a wall has gone up. One moment things were clear and the next… it's a defensive tactic and likely not an uncommon one. It's clear as day that the woman doesn't even notice she's done it. Instead, she grabs the drive from the terminal, tucks it into her pocket, and reaches for her jacket as she stands. When she speaks again, there's a more authoritative tone to her voice. "We'll figure something out, Ensign. If you want a promotion, you need to understand all of it. Not just the part where flying is fun."

"Yeah, I'm talking, but I'm pretty nervous, Captain. I normally become avoidant." At least the girl has smiled a little. It seems to keep her focused and buoyant to think about flying or at least keep it in the back of her mind. Kelsey is mostly looking at the floor but seems to catch the sudden change in demeanor. The Ensign doesn't cower but she immediately snaps herself away and rises to attention. "I'm aware flying isn't about fun, sir. Keenly. I know what it does to people, too. On the ground." The words aren't meant as a protest, just an offering made mindlessly while she tries to figure out where she- oh. Right. A little internal debate and she decides its better to not say anything.

Everyone has their hangups. Even the ones who are supposedly best equipped to weather this environment. It's likely clear enough that something was said. What it was, however, the Captain doesn't seem too keen on discussing. Instead, she's having to find new ground, herself. To distance it. To regain her bearing. She's at least more graceful at it. The coat is pulled on and hands that show her age more than her face work on the buttons. "It's flight. It's easy to get lost in it. We all do, at some point or another. But there's people both on this ship and not that rely on us. You have to be certain you can keep your head. It doesn't matter how often I or anyone else tells you to expect the unexpected… The unexpected will happen and it will blindside you. All people like me can do is hope that it doesn't cost anyone's life. You're allowed to be frightened, Ensign. You're allowed to be uncertain. You're allowed to be surprised. You're not allowed to let any of those things get in the way of performing your duties."

Kelsey seems fine with her eyes ahead at attention until Pip mentions keeping her head. Her wet hair turns with her head and she lets those eyes stare right at the Captain. This time the Captain said something that seemed to dig in like a needle under Kelsey's fingernail. A fist balls in her right hand and for a moment it looks like the former Deckhand might be spoiling for a fight. "I'm not afraid of failing in the air, sir. I'm pretty positive we are all going out that way, somehow, some way. I know what it's like to be terrified and have people look to you to save their life. That no longer worries me one bit. I'm just trying to figure out how to be a better officer on the ground so I can learn how to lead." Two beats, then the word sounds purposeful for the delay. "Sir."

"Hmm." It's a sound that fills a space as Epiphany watches Kelsey. "If you were serious about that, you wouldn't call the CAG's request to speak to Officer's the way you do. You call them silly questions. You shy from the idea of shadowing the best people to learn to be an Officer from. You're talking the talk, but refusing to walk the walk. You were right, earlier, when you said a promotion isn't the best path. You want it, but you aren't nearly ready for it. Not in experience nor mind." The final button is done and the fabric smoothed. "I think the most important question you have to ask is one you need to pose to yourself. Why do you want it? You could technically fly for the rest of your life as an Ensign. Why do you want to lead?"

Kelsey stares and Helen Keller could tell the Ensign was having a hard time holding her composure. Maybe its the quiet stuff she has problems with, when she's being non-confrontational. That callsign might make more sense. "I call the CAG on it because you have no idea how many times I get laughed at and blown off. The only people willing to answer the question seriously are the random Captain or the people whose asses I have slung out of the fire." The words are quiet but clipped. Kelsey isn't happy. "I shy from learning from people you consider the best. Captain, you don't know me except for a few nervous words and my sim tests." She finally gives a low shrug. "I want a promotion because I want to know what that means to shoulder it. Before this frakking war started, three people stuck their necks out to mentor me and they showed faith when everyone else called me Teen Mom Five. I want to be in the position to change lives. To reach out and take someone's hand and give them a chance. I have a debt to repay and all three of them are dead." The girl doesn't look away. "I want my daughter to grow up, look at her mother, and be inspired to do what fulfills her." Good Lords, she's an optimist.

If the girl is upset with her, it doesn't seem to affect Epiphany. She's an instructor. She's frakking it up if she's not pissing a student off. Someone pissed off, for the right reasons, will go to the ends of the galaxy to prove themselves right. Complacency is dangerous. So she just watches, letting the frustration play itself out. "Maybe you're asking the wrong people. Don't ask a pilot. Even before the war, most wore a deathmask. If you ask them what it means to be an Officer or a leader, chances are they won't be able to put it to words and because of the ego that we all have to have — the one the CAG wants to foster in you — they won't say they don't know. The laughter isn't at you, Wescott. It's at the world." To teach pilots, you have to learn what they are and what they are, nine times out of ten, is absolutely insane.

The woman picks up her mug and the binder, tucking the latter beneath her elbow. "That's a shit reason to want a promotion." It's utterly and completely blunt. "You can change lives without having a piece of brass on your uniform. I've met Commanders who couldn't be arsed to do anything that didn't earn them another medal. I've met enlisted who inspire even their own superiors to follow them into the fray. You are not your rank, Ensign. I could hand you that pip right now and it wouldn't mean jack or shit. Not to me. Not to anyone else. And one day you'd wake up and realize it meant nothing to you, either. What you are, Kelsey," she wields the personal name like a weapon, "is your actions. You want to be a leader? Lead. You want to help people? Do it. You want responsibility? Take it. Don't wait for the CAG or anyone else to give it to you."

Kelsey keeps those eyes locked on. But at the core of the look, there's something unhealthy. Hate. This girl has something unhealthy going on deep under the surface. Something she doesn't dare show anyone. Like anyone that survived Warday, she's broken. It's the point when her reason for promotion is called shit, her brows loft. A lot of rookies might get indignant. She just looks impressed and Kelsey's face has that edge of mockery. "It's shit." Lips purse and she looks away and nods. "Yeah, you're right. It's just that simple. Silly me. I've been fooling myself for the last six months. I haven't actually been motivated by that to save lives, sit 48-hour Ready-5's, to watch my own blood get blown across a windscreen a couple times. No examples were set and I've never lead a thing with reasons like mine." She nods and looks back. She's young but Kelsey wears the same war-weary Pip see's in the mirror. Kelsey has been to hell and never left. Like many of the rest. The Ensign isn't so much biting her tongue a choosing to leave it there. A hand reaches for the monitor in front of her and turns it off. Looking back, she has a stillness about her. Kelsey seems to be waiting to be dismissed.

"You said it yourself, Ensign. I don't know you. But I gave you clues. You have my rank. You have my background." Enough of it. Instructor on Caprica. Trained civilians into birds on Picon. "I've not been on board for forty-eight hours and I'm already doing evaluations. I don't even have a duty schedule yet. So what does that tell you about my own personal interests? What possible reason could I have to busy myself with going over everyone's simulator records? For prying into a fast-track Ensign's record so far?" If anything, Epiphany seems bemused. It's mild. Not mockery, no. It's someone who has been here before and knows she will again. "You said you want a promotion so you can feel the burden. If you're not feeling the burden yet, you're not doing enough. The work comes first, the promotion comes second. You know what happens when you get that title, Wescott? Nothing. Sure, the Ensigns will have to salute and call you sir. You may even get to lead a flight a time or two. But whatever burdens you've chosen to shoulder? They will weigh just as much. That blood on the windscreen? It will look exactly the same as it always did."

She shifts the binder, keeping it from slipping, and looks to the simulators beyond the computer bank. "In my experience, the promotion always comes the day you stop caring about it." Arrington goes to take a sip of her coffee, only to be reminded it's gone. There's a deep breath and she turns for the door. Before stepping through and effectively dismissing the younger woman, she adds: "By the way, you're scheduled for a simulator session tomorrow." Along with a few other names. Some the Ensign likely won't recognize.

Kelsey stares right into the Captain's eyes while the senior pilot speaks. The Ensign gives nothing away and looks like she's done talking for the moment. The anger on her face is right there, just beneath the porcelain mask. The only shift is when the Captain mentions one day leading something. That smile on her face is as dark as one the Captain has ever seen. After she speaks at the door, Kelsey lifts her chin. "How about you ask the TACCO if I've ever lead anything or set an example. Or stuck my neck out except to get myself more shiny bits. Ask him the last time he could remember I wore a single thing I've won. Tell me what he says." There's no sense of righteousness. The girl just deadpans it and turns to look back towards the roster. Great. Frakkin rookies.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License