Head-On Collusion
Head-On Collusion
Summary: A meeting with the CAG results in a major butting of heads and an eventual understanding by at least one.
Date: PHD 195 (10-30-09)
Related Logs: Related Logs (Say None if there aren't any; don't leave blank)

Ready Room

The lights have been dimmed in the ready room this afternoon, owing to the fact that it won't be invaded for a good couple of hours by the next batch of pilots returning from patrol. The CAG's seated at his desk, getting some paperwork done as per usual. And by 'seated at his desk', he's literally resting with his butt against its edge, combat booted feet kicked out in front of him and crossed at the ankles. He's in fatigues today rather than his usual stuffy blues; his expression is pensive.

As directed, Kitty arrives, dressed in her blues which have been recently pressed. Kai's noticed almost immediately as is his expression, it enough to cause her to pause, her demeanor worried. "Sir," she says after spending a little time recovering, the Captain given a salute. She stays poised like that, the gesture along with her posture almost perfect, not moving for however long it takes Kai to give her permission to do so.

The CAG's known for being a jerk when it comes to protocol, and today's no exception. He surely picks up on the fact that someone's arrived, and furthermore, that they're awaiting his attention, when the "sir" is spoken. But he finishes off whatever he was jotting down, clicks his pen off, and sets both report and writing implement aside before shifting to his feet. He turns to face the young woman at the door and returns her salute crisply. "Lieutenant. Have a seat."

Kitty nods once her arm lowers, a single dip of her chin which is then brought level once more. "Yes, sir." Seating herself in a chair in the front row, Kitty simply takes to watching him; having had 'don't speak till given leave to' by Legacy recently, the JiG doesn't say a word, the ECO trying her hardest to be on her best behavior.

Kai pulls open one of the drawers in his desk and slides something out. It looks suspiciously like someone's service jacket. He follows Kitty the few steps to the front row of seats, and settles into one beside her; it might just be a small concession to not making her any more nervous than she probably is. "Tell me why you joined the fleet. And speak freely, please."

The folder is looked at nervously, Kitty casting her gaze slightly to the side rather than turn her head to do so. It takes her a while but when she speaks there's nothing in her voice to indicate her nervousness, her voice held level, no form of waver or tremble to be heard. "My brother and I lost our parents when I was nineteen, sir. I tried to take care of Panda but I…I couldn't hack it. Wound up in a lot of debt and wound up desperate for a way to provide for him. So I joined up to try and better our situation." Done, she looks at Kai directly, now, curious as to how he'll react to her having admitted that.

The Captain's blue eyes are on Kitty's, rather than the contents of the folder. He hasn't so much as flipped it open, but her picture clipped to the front indicates that it's undoubtedly hers. "Your brother's aboard this ship, if I'm not mistaken?" His voice is even, no hint of the steel that's often found in it during these types of 'talks'.

Kitty presses her lips together, the pressure of doing so calming. "Yes, sir. He's a lance corporal in the CMC. Been stationed here for several months." Her head angles to the side, now. "He's the one person I hold dearest to my heart and it's more than a blessing that we can be together. He's all I have now." Wincing, she finally looks elsewhere, her cheeks coloring from embarrassment.

Kai pauses at that, clears his throat lightly, and sets the folder aside. His thumb brushes absently at his upper lip, the nail scraping at the scar just above it. "By your logic, Lieutenant, the vast majority of us have nothing. Is that correct?"

Kitty shakes her head. "I wasn't trying to imply that, sir. I was just trying to explain how I feel about Panda. I can't speak for anyone else, nor would I try to if I could. We all have something. Something to live for or something to believe in. Something to hold faith in." She smiles a little. "May I ask why you're asking about my brother, sir?"

"I don't give a shit whether it's what you were trying to imply or not, Ajtai." It's not anger, it's not even irritation; it's simply mettle. Probably something they teach in Captain school. "You are a Lieutenant in the Colonial fleet navy." He holds her gaze. There's eye contact, and then there's pinning you to the back of your seat and daring you to move a muscle. "Everything we had, everything we knew, was wiped out. Gone. I'm glad you managed to reunite with your brother, don't mistake it for anything else. But if you think that's all you've got to live for. If you think that these people who walk that line, who risk their lives for you each and every day are not as much your flesh and blood as Corporal Ajtai,

Kitty takes her time in responding and when she does she speaks slowly, each word given thought before they're uttered. "I do care for the others and I do live for them. I…" She realizes something and her eyes widen for a second, a brief 'oh shit' expression flitting onto her features that disappears as fast as it takes hold. "Oh…" Her head leans back against the back of her chair, the only movement she makes, and her eyes close. "I see what you mean, sir. You're very correct."

"You see what I mean." It's repeated measure for measure, the CAG's voice a dead calm that barely hints at the displeasure beneath the surface. He simply watches her for a long while, in utter silence, and then reaches for the folder he'd set aside and climbs back to his feet. His boots strike the floor with a slightly uneven cadence speaking of a limp he mostly succeeds at hiding. "Get up." It's murmured as he's walking away, back to his desk.

Kitty nods even as she stands. "Yes, sir. I've been so used to living for Panda that I forgot that there are others who count on me and need me to do so for them, too." Her hands slide casually behind her back once she's out of her seat, fingers lacing together. If she has noticed Kai's barely concealed displeasure she doesn't hint to it, the woman unflinching.

"You're a soldier, Ajtai, not a godsdamned girl scout." The folder is tossed atop his desk, and slides a short way before hitting a tin cup full of pens. A few of them scatter across the desk itself, while one or two more hit the floor and roll away. He turns on the young woman, all five feet and eight inches, and nearly one hundred ninety pounds of him. He's not a tall man, but he probably could lay her out in one hit. "Give me one reason. One reason. Why I shouldn't take back those pins, and send your pathetic ass down to the supply officer to report for duty in the stock room?" There's perhaps a foot separating them by now. Perhaps less. His eyes, from this proximity, are revealed to be bright green in actuality, though they often appear blue in a certain light.

Kitty grits her teeth, Kai very dangerously close to pushing the wrong buttons with the JiG, the same buttons Thea pushed the other night which resulted in the Captain getting yelled at by her. "Because, sir," she practically spits out at Kai, "For all my frakking failings, I am a godsdamn -good- ECO. That's frakking why, sir." Not much shorter than Kai, it doesn't take much for her to look him in the face when they're standing, it requiring only a minute lift of her chin to do so.

"Wrong frakking answer." There's a fine undercurrent of heat in the man's voice. "Drop and give me fifty. Then try again. And you'd better hope to the gods that whatever comes out of your mouth next doesn't land you in even deeper shit, Ajtai. Fifty. NOW." The last is actually barked. Marek is not one known to raise his voice; it's husky and slightly hoarse from years of smoking.

Reaching up, Kitty undoes the buttons of her uniform's tunic and takes it off, the once-pressed garment then tossed onto the chair she just vacated. A push-up position is assumed and Kai's given the fifty he ordered, it taking Katherine a bit as she's not used to this kind of exertion. By the time she's done her face, hair and tanktop's soaked with sweat, and her face is red and she's breathing a lot harder as well. "Wh-what do you w-want me to say," she stutters out while bending from the waist, Kitty having to stand like so as she fights to catch her breath. "That I-I want to be here and beg you to n-not bust me and all that?" Finally able to breath a bit easier, she straightens and it's now that the tears that shine in her eyes can be seen. "I do want to be here. I am doing as I've been told. I've visited Doctor Mimieux and everything else…" Reaching up to wipe her forehead dry, the JiG pauses and then adds, "Outside of that, sir, I don't know what to say."

Kai's face is impassive as the jacket's unbuttoned and shucked off, and remains so as the young woman drops to give him the required set of pushups. At least he doesn't try to shove her down with his boot, or smack her in the face with it as a certain drill instructor's been known to do aboard Kharon. He does keep his eyes on her face however, and they stay there as she hauls herself back to her feet, breathing heavily. "Come here," he tells her evenly, the two words crackling with tension, even if the look on his face is inscrutable.

This time Kai has to wait a moment before he's obeyed as she stands there for a good half a minute, using that pause in obedience to calm down. "Yes, sir," she manages to get out in a mostly civil tone as she moves to wherever it is Kai wants her to be. Her hands are folded behind her back once more as she looks at the bulkhead directly in front of her, shoulders squared.

'Wherever he needs her to be' is apparently up close and personal. Close enough to kiss, were this situation a different one. And as far as waiting goes, Marek doesn't appear to be in a mood to get coffee while she gets around to obeying. He reaches out, and fists a good handful of her tank tops in his hand, using that to haul her in until they're practically nose to nose. He smells like cigarettes, navy soap and viper grease, in varying amounts. "I am not your friend. I am not your squadmate or your drinking buddy. I am not your squad leader. I am the commander of this air group, and I will not have dead weight in my wing. I don't know how the frak you ever made it through basic and into Black Cat's group with your piss poor attitude and lack of anything resembling motivation, let alone self frakking preservation. The only thing keeping your ass on the line right now, Ajtai, is the fact that she saw something in you that she thought was worth something." His fingers tighten fractionally in her tank tops, his mouth still inches from her ear; the muscle tension's felt right through his grip. "And the fact that I happen to think highly of her judgment. This is your last chance. I will not coddle you anymore, and neither will she. Figure your shit out." And he releases her finally, with a little shove that ought to stumble her back a step or two, without knocking her off her feet.

Kitty does indeed get shoved back a couple feet, it causing her to have to widen her stance even though she wasn't in any danger of falling. "Yes, sir." Her feet stay spread at about shoulder's width apart and she goes as far as to ball up her fist, perhaps anticipating having to defend herself.

As his words appear to garner no reaction from the young woman, save the balling up of her fists, Kai turns away from her. The folder's tucked back into his desk drawer, which is shut and locked; each motion is precise, and executed without a trace of anger. Thunk, click. "If that's all you've got to say for yourself, then you can pack your bags and get out of my wing." It's spoken quietly, and with a thread of.. something. It's difficult to say what. "Maybe Cortez can find some kind of use for you, but you don't have the balls to do this." He doesn't look up, this time.

Kitty blinks. "Every time I've tried to defend myself or say what's on my mind I've gotten into trouble for speaking out…" The dam that has been built in an attempt to hold back her emotions has already started to crumble and now there are huge holes and how she feels starts to show. "Tell me how I can get them, sir. Frakking tell me how I can grow those godsdamned balls I need to grow. Frakking -help- me! But don't you dare tear me down and tell me I'm not good enough to be in your airwing because that's bullshit and you know it. Or…maybe I'm not yet but I can be but I can't change and grow without some form of help. Frak me. Even just a push in the right direction would be better than the threats and shit." The tears finally start to fall, left to do so as she doesn't dry them, Kitty unashamed by the display.

"This isn't a kindergarten, Ajtai, this is a military vessel and we are at war." The CAG looks up finally, blue eyes meeting green when he finally gets a response out of the woman. "I don't have time to hold your hand. And I can't afford to risk my pilots' lives while you struggle to find yourself. Your skill is not what's at issue here. The bullshit coming out of your mouth, is." He steps away from his desk, but doesn't get up in her face this time. "I need to be able to trust you, and I need you to be able to trust me to lead you through hell and back again. Right now, what I see standing in front of me is a little girl who thinks she's still on the Demeter. Who thinks duty shifts amount to doing her four hours on the clock and signing off. Who doesn't grasp the gravity of what we're up against, and who's going to let me down when I need her most. That's what I see."

"I'm not asking for my hand to be held and I swear to Hera I'll frakking scream the next time someone says that. I don't want my hand held. I don't -need- that. Just five minutes worth of advice or something. That's all I need. I just need one bit of advice from someone who might have, at one point in their life, felt like I do. Who might have at one time been scared while facing the enemy." The rush of anger and adrenaline finally ebbs and Kitty finds herself having to sit down, the way her knees are trembling making it impossible to stay on her feet. "I don't want to be that person, Captain Marek. Gods, don't you see how much I'm wanting to become the person you need me to be? If I didn't I would have just said frak it and told Captain Legacy to go ahead and reassign me to the kitchen. But I didn't. And I'm not now. I'm here, trying to show you just how bad I want to stay in the Wing and how much I want to fly and for you to trust me, with my heart in my hands as I do. And it's getting to the point where I don't know how to do it short of bending over and kissing your boots or cutting myself so I can bleed for you." Out of things to say, the Lieutenant rests her elbows on her knees and puts her face in her hands, shoulders shaking.

There's nothing from Kai for some time. Seconds, minutes, maybe he's just giving Kitty a chance to regain her composure somewhat— or maybe he's considering what she's said. He takes up a lean against the chair next to her, finally. He's standing around behind it, facing the opposite way. "Every time." He pauses, then continues. "Every time I suit up, and strap myself into a viper. I'm afraid. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying through their teeth."

Kitty takes a breath in through her nose, the sound of which is amplified by her hands which are still cupped over her face. "Hearing you say that actually makes me feel better because I was starting to get the impression that you were some kind of emotionless robot or something, sir." She has been told the same thing by other pilots and yes, it did help Kitty some, but to hear Kai say that really helps soothe her. "Just one quick question, sir. How do you conquer it?" It's an easy question to ask but will probably be a bit difficult to answer.

Kai's lips twitch a little when he's referred to as an emotionless robot. It's probably something he's been accused of before. "I don't," he answers quietly. "If I'd conquered it, I wouldn't have much to keep me going while I'm up there pulling eight Gs and trying to bust a snapshot on my wingman's bogey." Ok, so stick jockeying is a little different from driving raptors. He twists around, his hand closing over the chair's back not too far from Kitty's shoulder. "You don't conquer it, you let it drive you, until all that's keeping you going is adrenaline. We're all going to die some day, Katherine. But if you let it get to you, it'll be a lot sooner than later."

Her face is lifted up from her hands suddenly and she turns around, looking a bit surprised, something Kai said shocking her. "That makes sense, sir." Kai's answer snaps into place, another piece of the puzzle she's needing to complete being put where it belongs. "That has to be where I am going wrong. I've been flustered because I've been thinking of fear as something I had to fight and beat. But now I see that it's something we can use as a tool." Perhaps not exactly what the Captain was getting at but perhaps it's close enough. "Wow."

Or maybe it's precisely what he was getting at. Either way, Marek blows a breath out his nose and briefly checks his watch. "Get some rest. And be ready to return to regular duty rotations in the morning. I've got a mission coming up that I'm probably going to want you on, so don't you frakking let me down." He pushes off the chair and heads for the hatch, fetching a pen and notepad from his desk on his way by.

Kitty stands. "Yes, sir. I will definitely be ready. And I won't let you down." She salutes the Captain while he makes his way to the hatch, waiting for him to exit the room. Once alone she sits back down, taking the opportunity to use the silence of the ready room to her advantage, picking now to think in peace.

The salute's returned, and a curt nod's the only indication that he's heard and acknowledged her reply. Then the Captain's gone, bootfalls masked by the sound of the hatch clanging shut after him.

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