Katsu remarked a while back that the new guys all seemed to respond
pretty well to the Commmander, as in taking him really in stride..
here is another viewpoint on discovering you new boss is a supposidly
dead gundam pilot... <grin>

--------------------------------------------

**thoughts**

Awakenings in a Strange World:


     
Connel had never been more relieved to get off a shuttle. 
Sitting with children was usually not a problem for him, and often
brought back pleasant memories of his niece and nephew.  This trip he
had wound up sitting by a seven-year-old brat and his nanny.  The
child fussed, whined and threw temper tantrums at the least little
thing.  Connel was so glad to be off the shuttle that he almost
tripped over a seam in the terminals' carpet in his haste to get to
the baggage claims area.  He had completely forgotten that the
gravity here was heavier than on Mars.  If his reflexes had been a
touch slower, he would have reminded himself with a painful sprawl
over a hard floor.

     
A sign directed him to the left and the baggage claim area. 
A long arm easily snagged the heavy duffel that held most of his
worldly possessions.  A few repeats of that grab gathered up Connel's
guitar and drum, safe in their padded cases.  The harp took a bit
longer to surface, causing Connel more than a little concern.  If the
harp had not been such an awkward shape he would have spared himself
the worry and carried it on.  Finally the odd shaped case made its'
appearance and Connel snatched it up with protective and relieved
hands.  Figuring out how to carry everything else while leaving space
in his arms to cradle the precious instrument was a bit of a
challenge.  Once he had everything settled he knew he looked more
than a little bit odd. 

At least this time he was not stopped and questioned by planetary
customs.  The ship transfer on Atropos had been livelier than he ever
wanted to see again.  The customs agents there had never seen cases
for a harp or a drum and had questioned him endlessly about what was
in the heavily padded hard cases.  The would not let Connel open the
cases and show them the contents, as if they felt that there was
something dangerous contained within and that if opened Connel would
rain death and destruction down on them.  One of the agents had not
found Connel's wry comment that the worst he could do was break their
coffee mugs if the harp was played without being tuned first very
amusing.  At least they had finally let him make his connecting
flight and the incident gave him something to write 'Liza and the
kids about.  If he knew his sister, 'Liza would be rolling with
laughter at the absurdity of trained customs officers bailing for
their side arms at the sight of a bodhran and harp in travel cases.

Now all he had to do was find his ride.  Connel made his way outside
to the pick-up and drop-off area and found his contact almost
immediately.  The four other young people who were bombarding him
with rapid-fire questions were a big clue.  Each of the others had
two largish duffel bags dropped at their feet.  The grizzled man
looked up with an expression that looked faintly relieved.

"You O'Shay?"  Connel gave the harassed man a lopsided smile.

"Yup, one and only.  Er, I'd shake your hand but I sort of have them
full."  The wry comment provoked a smile and nod.

"Sergeant Theo Riappas, I'm the ferry man for today.  Count
yourselves lucky, you all get to fly to base today rather than ride
in Master Sergeant Gregory's overblown pontoon boat.  This way
crew."  A jerk of his square chin got the whole cavalcade moving
toward a Hum-V.  "We have to hit the civilian airport, it's only five
minutes or so from here.  Hop it folks."

Connel helped the others pile their gear in and decided to make life
easier on them all by taking the least comfortable seat, in back with
all the gear.  He barely had time to get settled before they were
moving.  A quick grab at the tailgate kept him from going headfirst
out the back.  Connel had one very belated thought as he waved the
dust away from his face.

**What in hell am I doing here?**





     
Connel blinked at the carefully choreographed chaos around
him.  Hangers never seemed to be empty, or quiet, they always seemed
full of sound and motion.  All he had to do was get to the door on
the other side of this organized madness.  Right.

     
At least he had been able to memorize the map of the base on
the flight over.  The other kids had barely glanced at their copies. 
He snorted softly and cradled his harp a bit closer to his chest.  A
deep breath and Connel started the peculiar dancing step that would
get him across the hanger without disrupting the traffic flow already
running at full tilt.

     
Behind him he heard one of the other new kids try the same
trick and caroom into someone else.  Connel smiled and started
whistling a jaunty tune under his breath, there was always one kid
who jumped first.  Knowing how to move in a crowd had saved him being
flattened more times than he cared to recall.  A few steps later he
was safe on the other side of the chaos and making his way deeper
into the maze of the base corridors.

     
Connel was very glad a few halls later that he had taken the
time to memorize the map he had been given.  It let him find the
Commander's office without being completely turned around.  Calling
this place a maze was a severe understatement; it had more kinks,
corners, and turnabouts than a termite mound.  He gave himself a good
mental shake and freed a hand to open the door.  Someone was singing
in the room on the other side.

     
The door finally slid open and Connel's first view of the
singer was legs.  Very long shapely legs with delicately turned
ankles.  Connel absently noted the high heels and the dark seam
running up the back of the singer's hose.  A dark line he could not
wrench his eyes from had his very life depended upon it.  His eyes
moved up to slender hips and a very short black skirt.  Connel
swallowed hard as the singer turned and forced his eyes up the
slender form to look at the face attached to those legs.

     
Black hair; long silky black hair that Connel's hands itched
to touch.  A face like a fallen angel and a set of true golden eyes
that were looking at him like he had lost his mind.  The elevated
eyebrow and the soft voice snapped him awake.

     
"Can I help you?"  Connel jumped and cursed his fair skin, as
he blushed redder than his carrot colored hair.

     
"I er... Sergeant O'Shay to see the Commander?"  His voice
squeaked at the end of his rushed words and Connel found himself
wondering was he a Sergeant anymore, was he something else now? 
Commander Noin had mentioned a promotion, to what?  Stilling his
spinning thoughts was not going to happen.  The beauty in front of
him smiled and set his mind running on another path entirely.  **Why
isn't she... he... why not a real smile why a fake one?  Dear gods
what the hell am I thinking?  I just met this person.  ** Connel was
barely aware that he was being ushered into the office, he was to
busy watching the lovely who had to be the Commander's secretary to
pay attention to the man behind the Commander's desk. 

A soft chuckle got his attention, and gave him a whole new set of
reasons to stare.  The Commander was a Gundam pilot.

After several moments where Connel was sure he made an utter ass of
himself by staring and spluttering like a fool he pulled himself
together.  He even managed a salute, and was relieved and profoundly
grateful his new commanding officer waved it off and told him to sit
down.  In a few more moments Connel was sure his knees would have
given way and he would have made a bigger idiot of himself by
thumping to the floor like an unsteady toddler.

"Relax O'Shay, I'm not in the habit of eating my subordinates." 
Commander Maxwell smiled up at him from behind his paper-laden
desk.  "I just like to know who I'm going to have working under me. 
Zechs and Noin spoke very highly of your organizational skills.  One
of my Lieutenant Commanders conducted your initial interview. 
Commander Chang seemed impressed at you level headedness."

Connel blinked blankly for a moment and then mentally kicked himself
hard.  The calm Chinese man who had questioned him on Mars was
another Gundam pilot, and he had been oblivious.  What kind of an
idiot was he?  The slender man across the desk from him chuckled
again, apparently his thoughts had been clearly readable on his
face.  At least he was amusing, but he had better say something
intelligent soon.

"I... normally try to think with my head Sir.  I just don't think
I've been doin so good today."  He smiled sheepishly and prayed that
he hadn't just confirmed that he was an idiot.  The warm smile and
delighted laugh eased his mind.

"You've had a long trip and several surprises, so don't be to hard on
yourself.  You had good luck in your timing on getting here.  We are
currently in a short break between training phases so you have a
little bit of time to get yourself settled in.  Sorata has your room
assignment."  The smile that had been lurking flickered into a brief
grin.  "Don't let him scare you, he doesn't bite.  You will probably
be working with him a great deal as you get settled into your new
duties."  A light on his desk monitor flickered on making the
Commander frown briefly.  "Well I'll have to cut this interview
short, duty calls.  I will make a point to find you later to
continue."

Connel managed to get to his feet and salute without dropping
anything; he knew a dismissal when he heard one.  Back in the outer
office, he found himself looking down at the now identified Sorata,
who looked up at him with another smile that did not reach his eyes. 
Connel found that annoying.  **Somehow, some way I will make you
smile for real.  **

"The Commander said you have my room assignment?"  **Stick to the
mundane, Shay.  And watch and learn.  ** The dark haired lovely came
up with a slip of paper and another practiced smile, Connel had to
fight down the urge to kiss the hand as he took the little paper.  He
did manage a real smile and a sincere thank you and took himself out
before he could make a bigger idiot of himself.

In the hall Connel leaned against the wall and asked himself again
just what in hell he thought he was doing here.  As with all the
other times he had asked himself that question, the answer that came
up out of his subconscious was 'trying to make a difference'.