Fresh Fish


rating: +9+x

Recruit Introductory Tour
Day 9 - 20:11:15, April 5th, 1990
Loche Na Sealga, Scottish Highlands, United Kingdom
Mobile Task Force Titan-1

"Where's that air support!"

"Get me a line to Command, Hollender!"

"Radio silence, Sir, I'm shut out of the system,"

"They fuckin' left us here,"

"Sir?"

Hollender shook his head, clearing his thoughts, "Sorry Sergeant, what were you asking?"

The man standing in front of Hollender was wearing his fatigues with the Titan-1 insignia stitched onto the left shoulder. Sergeant Sean Keating had dark brown hair, shaved to fit the strict, but necessary policies for MTF agents operating in the field.

Keating paused and looked up at Hollender, "I was telling you that the new recruits have arrived, Sir."

"Ah, right. Thanks," Hollender said, walking to the door of the officer's lounge.

"They're just out there."

"Yep, let's go," the Colonel said, swinging the door open.

Hollender looked across the atrium, spotting the many hallways splitting from the Wing-B atrium of Area-10. An array of coloured lines were painted on the floor, diverging down different hallways and crisscrossing around the connecting rooms. In the centre, the ceiling was made of glass, with rays of sunlight shining down on the main lounge area in the middle of the room. Several beige couches and chairs sat on a large, hexagonal maroon rug. Hollender looked upwards and saw the second and third floor where the barracks were located, the balconies and bronze railings reflecting the sunlight, overlooking the massive room. Several spiralling staircases connected to the balconies, landing on the ground floor.

About a dozen or so men and women wearing identical black fatigues rose in unison upon spotting Hollender, walking around the sofas to stand in a line.

"Take a seat," Hollender said, approaching the group.

They sat back down at the lounge, waiting for the Colonel to speak.

Hollender and Keating stopped in front of them, standing side-by-side.

"G'day, you all. Looking across the group I see a couple familiar faces from the Spec Ops course I trained at Area-03," he said, forcing a slight smile.

Keating passed a clipboard that he had been clutching to Hollender. He glanced at it before looking back to the group in front of him.

"Let's take roll call real quick before we start the tour."

He paused to look down at the list of names.

"Ariti, Petra?" Hollender said, raising his voice to reach the back of the group.

A tan arm shot up out of the group and Hollender's eyes followed the slim forelimb down to meet the eyes of a small, young woman. She had dark, black hair and even darker brown eyes. She smiled and said, "Here," enthusiastically.

Hollender smiled and moved to the next name, "Blanchet, Cartier."

"Over here, Sir."

Hollender spotted the half-raised hand poking up out of the crowd. As their eyes met, Blanchet waved.

He looked back to his list, "Connery, Edward."

A deep voice bellowed out, "Over here."

Hollender scanned the group and saw a large man sitting in the back. He smiled and nodded as their eyes met.

Hollender looked back to his clipboard, "Vincent Ludlow, Leonard McMahon, and Wilson Morricone."

Three arms shot up from the far right side of the group and Hollender looked over, spotting the trio of men sitting on a sofa.

"James Reed, Thomas Udesky, and Ennio Vance-Straker."

Three more arms raised and Hollender didn't bother to look at their faces.

"Leonard Vaughn, Joseph Vernon-Miller, Elizebeth Walker, and finally, Benedict Alden."

The last four arms rose from the crowd and Hollender passed the clipboard back to Keating.

"Sir?" Alden said, raising his arm slightly.

Hollender looked at the young man. He had fairly long dirty-blonde hair combed over in a perfect wave. Alden had a clean shave, and Hollender could tell he was noticeably shorter than his peers.

"Yes?" Hollender said, crossing his arms and leaning on a side table.

"You can call me Eggs if you'd like," He said.

Hollender peered at the small man, "Eggs?… What the hell kinda name is Eggs, ey?" He said, chuckling to himself.

"Well, Sir, I've been told I make very good eggs," Eggs said, a grin forming at the edges of his mouth.

"And your name is Benedict," Hollender said.

"That is correct, Sir."

"Do you make-" Hollender started.

"No Sir, I do not like Eggs Benedict. I feel like they're rather chuffed," Eggs said, sitting up in his chair.

Hollender chuckled.

"Excellent," Hollender said rubbing his hands together.

Keating lowered his voice and said, "I believe you're missing one, Sir."

"I know, Sergeant," Hollender whispered back.

Keating awkwardly shuffled backwards as Hollender stepped forward towards the crowd.

"And of course, joining us today is Iris King. We were in an operation a small while back and I'm glad to have her on the team," Hollender said, motioning towards Iris.

She suddenly looked up and locked eyes with Hollender. In her hands, Hollender's copy of The Hunt For the Red October sat open around three-quarters of the way through. She smiled widely and gave a small wave at Hollender and the rest of the group before looking back down to her book.

Hollender lowered his voice and turned back to Keating, "If you want to take the recruits and show them around the Mess, I'll catch up with you in a minute."

"No problem, Sir," Keating said.

The Sergeant stepped forward, "Alright everyone. If you want to follow me to the Mess Hall, come over this way. Remember for the future that the bright red line shows the way to our cafeteria here in Wing-B," Keating said, slowly walking to the right towards the wide opening where the Wing's considerably large Mess Hall was located.

As the group walked away, Hollender could hear Keating spouting random trivia about Area-10 to the privates, they always eat that stuff up.

Iris looked up at Hollender and smirked cheekily as the privates wandered far enough away to not hear their conversation. Hollender approached, slowly sitting down opposite to her in an olive-coloured armchair with his legs crossed on top of a short, glass coffee table. Iris sat sideways in the beige chair, her thin legs dangling over the felt armrest. Her sleeves were rolled up and Hollender could see several scars crisscrossing up and down her arms.

"How's the book?" Hollender questioned, crossing his arms.

"How's the leg?" Iris remarked as she placed the book face-down on the table and unscrewed the lid of her green thermos, pouring herself a cup of a yellow liquid. She filled the cup to the very top and slowly brought it to her mouth, taking a long sip.

Ignoring Iris' attempts to get a cheap reaction, Hollender asked, "What do you have there?"

"Juice. Mango Tango, to be exact," Iris said as she took another sip, "Why, you want some?"

"I just had some water, I'm alright for now."

"Good. I only have one cup and Lord knows I'm not sharing with you," Iris said, setting the cup down as she chuckled, looking at Hollender.

He sat up in his seat, pulling his legs against the soft, stubby legs of the chair.

"You doing alright? I barely had time to check in and the one time I saw you, you were completely out of it."

Iris snickered softly, "Yeah, that was when they drugged me up to keep me going."

"You didn't answer my question, Iris."

"Yeah, I'm fine," Iris said, burying her face in her book.

"Same thing happened to me, Iris. You can't use that tactic on me."

Hollender could see Iris mentally pause, trying to formulate some excuse or sarcastic comment to throw at him.

"Recovery has been harder than I thought it would be," Iris said, tilting the book down slightly, revealing her dim frown.

"Hey," Hollender said.

Fuck. What do I say.

"I want you to know that everyone around you has had the same thing happen to them. In a couple years, you'll be laughing about it in the bar with the other guys. You should see Dallas when he's had five or six Guinnesses," Hollender said, forcing a small chuckle.

"Thanks," Iris said, setting the book down in her lap, a small smile forming at the corners of her mouth.

"What do you think about joining the rest of the recruits and taking the tour around Wing-B? This'll be your home for a while so you might as well learn where your room is," Hollender said, pushing himself up off of the armrests.

"Yeah," Iris said, placing her shark-themed bookmark against the spine of the book and placing it in her black duffle bag, standing up.

She silently walked over to Hollender and gave him a quick hug. Iris' warmth pressed against Hollender's as her rich red hair brushed against the side of Hollender's cheek. He looked in surprise as she squeaked, "Thanks," and let go, striding over to the Mess Hall.

Hollender looked back to the table, spotting the large thermos sitting on the table. He screwed the lid back on and sighed, smiling to himself.

"That went well," A voice said from behind.

Without turning around, Hollender could tell that Dallas had been standing nearby the whole time. He heard the echoing footsteps against the concrete floor approach and he turned his head, spotting the man.

Hollender dramatically sighed, "I think so, yes," looking at Dallas' finely groomed brown moustache and thin beard.

Riley Dallas had a mixture of brown and green eyes, which bore straight through the Colonel. His light brown hair was longer than the other agents, to the point where it could pass for an actual haircut. Dallas' expression remained emotionless as he stared into nothingness, crossing his arms.

"You know where Stone is?" Hollender said, turning his head to face Dallas.

"With the recruits," Dallas said, still staring at the concrete wall above him.

"You want to head over there?"

"Yeah, sure," Dallas said, looking down.

"Hey, you good?"

"Nothing I can't handle."

"We can talk if you'd like. I'll warn you I'm not good at giving advice," Hollender chortled.

"I'll keep that in mind. Come on, you have a tour to give."

"Right, they should be getting to the rec room and bar right about now."

The pair walked through the large opening into the cafeteria, walking through the rows of plastic tables and orange plastic chairs. Through another doorway, Hollender heard the muted chatter of Keating and the recruits. Hollender pushed the double doors open with Dallas following closely behind and the cadets fell silent.

"As you were," Hollender said.

The warm, dim lights burned a soft orange, setting a relaxing mood in the room. Several wooden tables and chairs sat on his left. A few MTF agents surrounded the tables, eating beer-battered fish and chips, or a beef burger with large buns and potato wedges. A variety of tall glasses lay across the tables, most of them almost empty or empty entirely with small pools of white foam sitting at the bottom of the glasses.

All of the agents wore drastically different uniforms and patches, except the table in the back, where the dim corner table was dominated by the Goody-Two-Shoes Beta-1. They spoke in hushed tones and never talked to anyone else, or allowed anyone else at their table.

On the right, the bar was shining under the bright lights of the backbar, which was the only well-lit section of the room, with Domingo serving drinks to the patrons of the bar.

"Ah, Charles!" Domingo said, a wide smile forming on his face as soon as he saw the Colonel.

"G'day, Ding."

Hollender turned to the group of cadets, "This is Domingo, our resident sticky-beak."

"I was just telling the recruits here about your time in Ireland, near Blackrock," Domingo said, his deep laugh booming in the room.

Some of the agents sitting at the tables laughed as well.

"Ding, I don't think now is a good time for that," Hollender said, nervously laughing, "We can tell that story after the tour."

"Nah, I'm interested to hear this too," Iris said, sitting at a barstool in front of Domingo.

Iris' crossed her legs as she smirked, looking at Hollender and then Domingo. Hollender approached and sat down next to Iris, moving past the small crowd of cadets to the bar. He placed Iris' thermos on the bartop.

"Try not to lose it again," Hollender smiled smugly.

Iris' smile grew, "Dom, what happened at Blackrock?" she said as she snatched the thermos and shoved it in her duffle back.

"After an operation in Ireland, our team went to a bar near Blackrock for a job well done. Leftenant Hollender just had to challenge the Irish Captain that had joined us to a drinking competition in his own country. Of course, you can imagine how that went. Hollender was black-out drunk by the eighth shot while our Irish friend was just getting warmed up," Domingo said, dramatically gesticulating as he replayed the scenario from behind the bar.

The cadets laughed as if this was the funniest thing they had ever heard, laughing up a storm while the Colonel sulked with his arms crossed. Hollender looked to his right and saw Iris sipping the white foam of a Guinness out of an empty glass, a smile formed as she looked at Hollender.

"Christ, Iris. Calm down there, you have all day."

"Don't go scolding her, Charles. You're guilty too," Domingo said, smirking.

Iris forcefully placed the empty glass on the bartop triumphantly, "I didn't know you were an alcoholic, Boss."

"In this line of work you have to be," Hollender replied, recluding into the bar stool.

"Uh… well, let's continue the tour, shall we?" Keating said, motioning towards the door.

"Don't let Sean push you around, shinies, he's as strong as a snapped twig," someone sitting at a table said.

"Don't listen to Major Stone," Keating said.

Stone stood up from a table, carrying a tray with a crumpled napkin, crumbs, and a few potato wedges.

Stone wiped the crumbs from the corner of his mouth, "Good to see you again, Charles. I see you're having a wonderful day."

"If a certain someone would help me move the cadets into the next portion of the tour it would be a wonderful day," Hollender said, standing up and moving through the crowd of recruits.

Stone handed the tray to Domingo, who set it down behind the bar, "You're right. Time to move on, shinies," he said, standing next to Hollender and Keating at the doors.

He turned back and looked at the table, "See you in a few, Queequeg."

The pilot waved at him and resumed eating.

Sergeant Keating pushed the doors open, holding the door for Hollender and the recruits. Dallas and Stone trailed in the back, while Iris pushed through the crowd to walk next to Hollender.

"Next, we'll be taking a look at your sleeping quarters, on the second and third floor. In your introductory pamphlet, you should've been assigned to either Group A or Group B, Group A is with me, other one is with Keating," Hollender said, raising his voice to reach the back.

Several cadets reached into their backpacks and duffle bags, retrieving the small manuals and checking their groups.

"Oh would you look at that, I'm with you," Iris said, faking a disgusted look.

"How unfortunate," Hollender said.

The Colonel strode to the stairwell on the far side of the room, while Keating moved to the closer spiralling staircase. The cadets slowly moved to their groups, with Dallas moving to Hollender and Stone to Keating.

"Alright, so up here is where you'll be staying. Since this is a Protected Deployment Area, we have a much larger budget when it comes to comfort and luxuries. You should be thankful, my first assignment landed me in a tin-can of a barracks where all hundred-twenty of us had to share two bathrooms and a shower room," Hollender said, climbing up the staircase.

Hollender looked over and saw Iris shiver, holding herself.

The Colonel and the cadets reached the top of the staircase, revealing the hallway that split in three different directions.

"Alright. If your room is numbered 210 to 215, come with me. Dallas will take 216 to 220," Hollender said.

The group split up, with Dallas leading five cadets down the hallway on the right, leaving Hollender with Iris and five other recruits.

Hollender heard continuous scratching from behind his door. He turned and pulled his room key from his pocket, holding it against the card reader. It buzzed and popped open slightly. Small, spotted paws appeared, prancing up and down. Hollender opened the door and smiled as his new dog appeared in the doorway, dashing into his arms. The cadets instantly crowded around him, trying to get a peek at the small dog.

Hollender lifted the beagle into his arms, holding him against his chest. He turned to allow the cadets to look at the small black, brown, and white puppy.

"What's this little champ's name?" Eggs said, slowly moving his hand closer to the puppy, allowing him to sniff his hand.

"Luthor, fourteen weeks old," Hollender said, adjusting the baby blue collar around Luthor's neck.

"I love 'im," Eggs said as Luthor licked his finger wildly.

Hollender couldn't help but beam, "Alright, lad. Back you go," he said, placing Luthor on the maroon carpet in his room. Hollender closed the door and turned back to the group of recruits.

"Alright, I have your room keys here. Don't lose these because it's a huge hassle to make new ones. And if you need anything during your break period you can find the officers in here," Hollender said, pointing at a set of rooms at the end of the hallway and ignoring the scratching against his door.

Each cadet stepped forward and took a keycard from Hollender's outstretched hand. The rectangular cards were small and white, with a bar code on the bottom and a picture of the cadet's face printed on the top.

The recruits moved away, finding their rooms in the small hallway. One by one, they unlocked their doors and stepped in, placing what few belongings they had brought with them in their rooms.

Hollender watched as they disappeared into their rooms, and Iris entered room number 211, right next to Hollender's quarters, bollocks. He mozied over to the entrance to her room, noticing the dull grey colour palette of the furniture and carpeting. On the far wall, large floor-to-ceiling windows showed the beautiful countryside of the Scottish Highlands. The sunset illuminated the small space, with a warm glow enveloping the room. On either side of the window, large drapes hung folded against the wall. Hollender looked farther right, spotting the medium-sized bed and two bedside drawers with identical lamps resting on top of each. A small alarm clock flashed the numbers, '20:32' and Hollender saw Iris' thermos sitting next to the small, rectangular clock.

"Hey," Iris said, breaking Hollender out of his train of thought.

"Y-Yeah?" Hollender said, startled.

"What are ya doin' in here?"

"Just making the rounds," he said, trying to find an excuse.

"Sure, sure. Is the tour over?"

"Basically, yeah. Bathroom is at the end of the hallway, and you guys already passed through the Command Centre on your way here."

"Okay, well get out of here, I'm going to change into something more comfortable than these fatigues,"

"Just meet me in the hallway in a couple minutes."

"Yeah, yeah, Boss. Whatever you say."

Hollender stepped back through the doorway, closing the door behind him. Iris locked the closed door behind Hollender and he sighed softly.

One by one the cadets joined the Colonel in the hallway, dressed in informal clothing, mostly in soft pants, tank-tops, and slippers. Iris was the last one to step out, dressed in a dark red T-shirt.

"…Alright," Hollender started, "A couple ground rules for staying here. One, no shenanigans. I don't want to get complaints of you running around the halls past 12 o'clock. Second… workplace relationships are allowed, but just remember that the walls around here are very thin. Third, if you break something, you're fixing it or paying to fix it. I don't have to give any rules for the bathroom because you all have your own toilet and shower, and don't turn your room into a pigsty," Hollender said, motioning them into their rooms.

"One last thing. If you need anything during the night come knock on either my door, Stone's door, or Dallas' door. Preferably Dallas," Hollender chuckled to himself, "Alright, get out of here."

The cadets walked through their doors and closed them, and Hollender blew air out of his mouth as he began to walk away.

He heard a door open behind him and he turned to look at it. Iris stood in the hallway, looking at Hollender as if she wanted to say something.

She abruptly said, "See ya later," and shut the door.

Confused, Hollender turned and walked to the balcony, sighing. He plucked the glasses off of the bridge of his nose and hung them on the neck of his black turtleneck sweater. Hollender rubbed his eyes and temple, trying to clear his head as he watched the last rays of sunlight fade away.

"Hey," Iris said from behind him.

"Oh, hey Iris," Hollender said, combing his brown and grey hair with his fingers.

"You look nice without glasses."

"I'll make sure to wear them more often then."

"Har-har," she said, slinking next to Hollender, holding her hands together as she leaned on the railing.

"What are you doing out here?"

"Not tired."

"Really? I'd be tired."

"Well, that's because you're a 35-year-old man and I'm still young and youthful," Iris said, smirking.

"Uh-huh."

"Dallas mentioned that he likes to go jogging around the perimeter of the site, you want to join me?"

Keating ran up the staircase, out of breath, "Colonel Hollender, Major Stone told me to tell you to go to the Command Centre. There's been a development with the European Director of the Clear Skies Initiative."

Hollender paused for a moment, looking between Iris and Keating, "Alright, Sean. I'm coming."

Hollender passed Iris, moving towards the stairs.

He looked back to her, "Another time, I promise."

"I'll hold you to that."

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