AWD #308: Through a Glass, Darkly
AWD #308: Through a Glass, Darkly
Summary: Rookie pilot Niko Janik arrives from Picon, and meets his designated mentor, Ensign Kelsey Wescott.
Date: 25/04/2016 (OOC Date)
Related Logs: None.
Kelsey Niko 
Hangar Bay
It's big.
AWD #308 (10 NOV 2005)

New personnel are coming aboard the Orion regularly, filling out the many holes in the ship's complement caused by nearly a year of war. Today the ship has made a brief trip to Picon to pick up replacement Vipers, and according to the flight schedule one of the pilots coming up is Niko Janik, the trainee who was recently made Kelsey's problem. It is not an auspicious start: Most of the incoming Vipers are older Mark IIs, and not many pilot seems to have experience landing on a Battlestar. In fact the very first pilot is waved off by the LSO three times before finally getting the bird aboard, which causes no small amount of grumbling among the deck crew who are all waiting around for the rest of them.

As soon as the first viper is brought into the hangar the young pilot hops out of the cockpit and down the ladder, full of energy and looking around at the Battlestar's interior with awe. Nothing about the landing seems to trouble him in the slightest. Is he even eighteen? Oh look, there's a name patch on the chest of his obsolete model orange flight suit. JANIK, N. No squadron patch, no rank pips, but at least there's a name. Of course this would be the one.

Kelsey had to think hard about what to wear. It isn't a formal dance, but there's a mission to be had. The flightsuit just didn't work so she opted for the blues in the end. Less show of force. She went down to watch the landings and got there in time to catch the second Wave Off. And the Third. Part of her wants to be mad, the other just chuckles outwardly. When he's brought down she seems to emerge out of the crowd and walks over. There's a very subtle limp to her left leg, but is easily missed. The orange flightsuit sticks out like a sore thumb. Hands clasped behind her back, she approaches with a smile and glances towards where he is looking for a moment, then back to him as he closes distance. "Janik, right?" she asks before sticking out a hand. "Ensign Kelsey Wescott." Whes-kitt. Clearly from Picon. "Welcome aboard. I guess this is your first time on an aircraft carrier?" she chuckles. Oh yes, she's amused.

Where Niko is looking is obvious: The newer Mark VIIs. Like a kid who can't wait to get the keys to Dad's sportscar for a hot date. Oh baby. But the sound of his name brings Niko back to reality, and he gives Kelsey a grin. "Hey! Yeah, that's me." Helmet propped under one arm, he's not remotely close to attention. "Thanks! Yeah, most of my flight time's been atmospheric. Bugs in the teeth, you know? The landing was tricker than I thought." He seems upbeat, undetered. Mostly clueless. "But hey, first time for everything." Which reminds him of something. "Oh frak. Sorry, I forgot. Permission to come aboard? I'm supposed to say that, right?"

Kelsey just listens, the amusement rising on her face. Its obvious. "Hey, everybody starts somewhere. Gods-damn you are young," she chuckles. "Did you even finish high school?" It's a joke and the young officer seems to go easily with it. "Yeah, yeah, granted, permission to come aboard. Don't sweat the nitty just yet, eh?" She gestures for him to walk with her across the deck. "First rule? Don't get in the Deck's way. They fix your bird. considering that landing, you're gonna want friends." The woman is barely older than him and seems to know her way around. "I've been assigned to help get you acclimated to battlestar life and how to navigate all this." Her hands gesture around to the barely controlled madness of the hangar deck. "And how to teach you to be an officer. Which, honestly, is a bit funny. I'm like you. They pulled me off Deck to fly. I'm a Raptor jockey."

"I'm eighteen," Niko says, a little defensively. "I would've graduated last year, but…" He shrugs. The War. "Didn't happen. You don't look that much older than me." And he's clearly relieved not to have to remember what little protocol he was told, falling in beside Kelsey. "Deck," he looks around at the busy crew members, "Got it. Sure are a lot of them." He's even more relieved to have a mentor, but this news also has Niko halting for a second to look Kelsey over again. "Bus driver? Sorry to hear that." Like he's offering condolensces. Apparently he managed to pick up some of the finer points of Viper-Raptor relations, even on Picon. "So. What do I need to know?"

Kelsey shakes her head. "I'm 21. Took my GED at 17. Don't worry, I'm not judging on age. The only thing I have on you is proper military training. …And a lot of combat time." She looks over at him with a cheeky grin, then forward to navigate them to a ladder. When he stops to look her over, it's at the ladder. She has one hand on the rung. That grin is pure mischief. "Hey, Niko, you can give all the condolences you want. Fighter pilots make movies. Raptor pilots make history. ..C'mon." She leads him up the ladder and waits at the top before she says more. "Basic skinny is this: You're young and you're new. Everyone you're going to be flying with, for the most part, was getting into the academy at your age. They might resent it. Deal. Worst thing you can do is piss you pants. You're flying Vipers so your job is to kill. They're gonna size you up and see what you're worth. Lemme tell you this… I'm your friend. But the other pilots are going to see you as an outsider. Someone throws shit? Fire back. This is the fleet. This ain't Picon."

Niko laughs at Kelsey's comeback. "I'd rather catch a movie than read a history book, any day." And then he's up the ladder with a quick, athletic ease. For all the smack talk, he's quick to shut up and listen when she gets serious though. "Hey, I can stick up for myself. And it's not like I've never been shot at, you know? Yeah, I know I'm gonna get a lot of grief. But I can take it. In the end, it don't mean nothing. I mean, we're all on the same team, right?"

"Yeah? Well that's saying a lot about you. History wins wars. Bravado pisses farther." Kelsey just waggles her eyebrows back. She walks as she listens, though. They walk along the catwalk over the deck towards a hatch. "We're on the same team but here's the thing, Niko." She stops with her hand on the hatch and looks up at him. "You're an unknown quantity. None of us know just how you're going to work. We are the tip of the spear, my friend. These people need to know you're up for this. I have a job." She pushes the hatch open and keeps walking. "Close that behind you." It's offhand. "My job is to make sure you're ready for this, but not as a pilot. The Viper sticks will ruin the shit out of you in training. Me? I'm gonna help you. You're new to this life. I'm sure you've seen combat, but not like what you are going to see here. That's not to scare you, just let reality settle in." She looks over and up at him. "You're the first wave of new recruits that we're testing. I was in those shoes you're wearing a few weeks after Warday. My goal is to make sure you succeed, even if it's a bit unorthadox. Catch my drift?" Yep, she's got a playful smile.

"Hey," Niko retorts, "Not that I don't want to be alive when it's all over, but right now? I try not to worry about anything but flying. Maybe I'll read the book afterwards, you know?" He halts as Kelsey lays out more wisdom, then slips through the hatch behind her. Niko has to stop for a moment to figure out how to get it closed properly, and then he hustles to catch up, ducking around some oncoming crew members along the way. "Hey, I'll take all the help I can get." He smiles too, but there's a seriousness underneath. "Look, I know all these guys are better pilots than me. Nobody is gonna want to be stuck with the kid on their wing. I'm just gonna have to show them I'll be there when they need me, right?" He can do that. Or he thinks he can, at least. "So. What exactly does 'unorthodox' mean? I mean, I know what it /means/, I mean … what's the plan?"

Kelsey hears the first part and chuckles. "Yeah, okay," she laughs. There's a low shake of her head but the entertainment sticks. It's like looking back 8 months at herself. "No, nobody is going to want you. That's a fact. But I'm here to make sure they want to teach you or at least take you on." She continues walking them down the corridor, tossing a lazy salute to a pilot as they pass. "The attitude of just wanting to fly right and leave the rest for later? That's why I'm still an Ensign." She shakes her head. Damn you, Pip. "The plan is that I'm going to put you in the sims in off hours and grill you about how to be an officer. If you can't be an officer and fly, you're no good." The girl slows to a stop and puts a shoulder into the bulkhead out of the way. "Flying is half this job. You and I will be spending time together so I can tell you all the dumb things I did that I thought would get me respect." Those eyes hold up on him. "I got medals. I got kills. When your peers think you're insane and people won't fly with you, it means nothing. Niko, there's a balance to be found. People like you and me are the future. We need to instill that faith in the people above us. So I'll be pulling you for off-hours sim shenanigans. And I'll push you other ways. I'm not gonna let you frak up the same way I frakked up. You don't have time for it and neither do I. Cool?"

"Be an officer…" Niko repeats this bit and trails off. It's the first sign of uncertainty he's shown, even if this sounds more like lack of understanding than doubt. "Yeah, okay. If that's what it takes to fly with the best, I can do that." And then his eyes widen as she describes her own experiences. He might be a little skeptical, unsure if she's putting him on about some of that, but he's too far out of his depth to know for sure, so the kid keeps his mouth shut this time. "Cool," he confirms when she's done. "I'm not crazy, but I get that there's a lot I don't know. So … yeah. Whatever it takes. Cool."

"Cool." That's all she says for a moment, grooving her head. The expression softens and she reaches to grab his flightsuit and tug him along. Once he's walking with her again, she speaks, "The best thing you can do is respect the chain of command. I know you've got some of that already, but its more important here. You will obey the officers appointed over you - in uniform. Respect that, Niko. Really. Just don't take the bullshit." She chuckles. "And there's plenty of testing. It's gonna suck. Like you said, though, we're all on the same team. There will be days that are harder than most. When you've had a rough one?" She gives a more personal smile. "Find me. We'll have a few drinks. You can't legally drink, for now, but I'll help you out there. Knowing how to blow off steam is a factor you'll pick up over time. I'm not a big drinker but I know it helps take the edge off. But just remember, if you come to me for booze I'll want to talk about what has you frustrated. Cost of doing business, okay?" She pauses and looks him over. "Gods, we need to get you a flightsuit and pins. I hope they filled your locker. That orange is…garish."

Niko's not a small guy, for all his youth. But he goes with the flow and follows along as he's pulled after Kelsey. "Respect the chain of command. Right. So I just say 'Sir, yes sir' and do what they tell me?" As for the testing to come, he tries to shrug it off. "Aww, it won't be that bad. But if you want to buy me a drink?" He grins at that suggestion, "I sure won't say no. We can talk, or whatever, but I've … been through my own shit, you know?" He shrugs it off. "Everybody has. So don't expect me to get all weepy on you." And when his attention is drawn to his own gear, the young pilot laughs. "Hey, this is first line equipment. Straight out storage at the bone yard. Some poor frakker probably wore this thing in the last war."

"That's about the tall and skinny. Do what you're told and do your best with it. The big thing you're lacking is education. You'll need critical thinking skills. I put some books on your bunk I want you to read." Yep, that's all she has to say there. The idea of buying him a drink gets an easy laugh. "Oh, darling, I'm just not that kind of girl. But you're welcome to try!" she laughs again. The rest has her grow a little more serious. "Yeah, actually something I was going to work up to. But you hit it first." A long sigh leaves her. "You're gonna meet people on this boat who have sob stories about their terrible life and how much they lost and they've never spent a day on Picon. That's why, I think, I was assigned to you." No qualification to that. "People off Picon have seen some ugly stuff. I'm not gonna ask for tears, Niko. You do your thing, you cope how you will. Just don't start fights. See.." She shrugs a little, looking off while they walk. "The people on this ship have seen their own level of bad things. But you've seen yours. Maybe yours is worse. Maybe not. It's relative, hon." The voice is quiet for a moment. "We've lost a lot of friends in places we can never go back to. Just like I'm sure you have. If someone wants to bitch or cry, let them go. But you're not here to be a dry sponge. Respect it, walk. I'm guessing you know Captain Arrington?"

"Read? Sir, yes sir," Niko responds to the news about the book reading he has coming up without any great enthusiasm. "Hey, you started it," he protests when she laughs off his suggestion, but he sounds pretty easy going about the whole thing. "It's not like I was really expecting anything, you know?" And then he sobers as talk to turns to the various forms of damage people have suffered, and Niko is quiet for a moment as he thinks that over. "Yeah, everybody's lost something. I get it. I don't spend much time thinking about it anymore, really." And then he brightens again when Kelsey mentions the Captain. "Oh, yeah. Goose was one of the instructors. She was good, you know? A good teacher. Good pilot. Brass at Crandall were pissed when she transferred up here."

"Yeah, reading sucks but you're going to be doing a lot of it and I'm going to test you on it. No papers, no pens, no stupid scantron tests. We're going to skip the dry manuals and go directly to what matters. Judgment and Tactics. I'm not authorized to teach you the last but you're gonna learn it anyway." At least she's casual about it. His last has her groan a bit. "Yeah, I bet. She's aiming for the new CAG I think. Half of me wants to kneecap her. The other half I just want to like her. But don't hold loyalties, Niko. She might have trained you, but your loyalty is to your squadron. Period. Nobody else is more important. The thing is with getting deployed to a ship like this is that you weren't assigned to a billet. You were given a family. A lot of us. We might give you shit but…" There's a low laugh. "You might be a rook, but you're OUR rook. Nobody screws with you. It's in the family's best interest to kick your ass. After all, when the next crop kicks up, they'll need you to defend their asses, too, right?"

"Judgement and Tactics," the new guy repeats, not sounding very enlightened by the titles alone. "Okay." And then Niko is quick to shake his head on the point of Epiphany. "No, I mean … when I say she was a good one, I mean she gave a damn, you know? A lot of the real pilots down there, they don't even try. They figure the new guys are going to crash or get shot down in their first couple of missions, so why bother?" He looks irritated, but doesn't stay on that point. "I mean, I'm grateful for her taking the time to teach me and all, but I wasn't planning to go around sticking up for her, if that's what you mean? Like she'd need that from me anyway." And then he takes a moment to process what Kelsey says about family, and the rookie gives a slow nod. "Yeah, I think I get it. If that's how it goes, you won't hear me complaining."

Kelsey listens rather than try to head off the opinion. But she seems to understand on some level. "There's a lot of truth to that observation, Niko. New pilots die a lot faster because they lack the experience. On Orion, you might see a bit more of that. But again, that's why I'm here." There's less of an instructor edge to her voice and something more personal. "I might be a Raptor jockey you might feel kinda bad for, but I want to keep you alive, Niko. I know we're both Ensigns, we're basically equals, but we both know I have a lot I can teach you. I don't get a promotion or medal for this. I get to know that I helped a young rookie survive his worst month and come out the other side as a badass Viper jock. That's why the Captain assigned me to you." She glances up with a smile, then forward. It's too weird to think about in depth. She may as well be talking to herself nine months ago. "So I want you to commit to something Niko." Kelsey looks up to him. "You listen to me, I'll do my best to keep you alive and get you in the slot. When the next crop arrives, put your hand out and do your best to help them up like I am with you right now. Because it's going to happen. Recruits aren't going to get much older. You're eighteen. In a year, what are you going to tell a sixteen year old Viper rookie?" Kelsey nods a little. "When someone is kicking your ass, I want you to think about that. How does it matter? In a year can I pass this along? Any stiff-dick can sling a Viper or Raptor around the sky. It takes an officer to fight, fly, and impart. Who will you be in a year?"

Niko's expression turns serious as he hears Kelsey spell out the commitment she wants from him. "Aww frak," he mutters as she puts him on the spot. It may very be that he's never considered his situation from the other side, and now it takes some time to process. After walking few paces in silence the kid shakes his head and snaps a salute. "Sir, yes sir." He sounds serious this time, rather than cheeky. At least at the start. "I'll do my best to be just like you, sir."

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