Duo laughed quietly to himself as he leaned against the back wall of the briefing room, safely hidden behind one of the massive projection screens that covered the front wall. The sound of the newest ensigns talking amongst themselves was a dull roar in the background. He couldn't tell for certain, but he imagined he could hear a definite whine in the sound. A small smile curled the corners of the Commander's lips. Most of the recruits hadn't been ready in any shape or form for their first day of basic--which was the intention. They were all probably tired, dirty, and in no small amount of pain...not the best of audiences.
"It's time." Heero, standing off to one side, said quietly.
Duo glanced down at his watch. "Yeah." He agreed. "Let's make them ours."
"Attention! Commander on deck!"
Duo smiled inwardly as Heero's bellow cut all conversation off instantly, and was immediately followed by the sound of a hundred people hastily standing up and snapping to attention. Outwardly, he kept his expression calm as he walked up the steps to the podium that stood in front of the projection screens he'd been standing behind. The room beyond the podium was dark, and he couldn't really see anything beyond vague shapes...but he had a feeling he had everyone's undivided attention. Acting on advice Zechs had once given him years ago, he'd found his little used full dress uniform in the back of his closet and put it on; he'd also made Heero, Wufei, and the senior ensigns put theirs on as well, just so he wouldn't have to suffer alone. The dress uniform wasn't terribly comfortable, and a little too decorated for his taste, but he knew that it looked pretty damn impressive, especially in a spotlight where the the gold from the myriad of braid, medals, and pins on it shone brightly enough to blind. The first time he'd done this, he'd felt silly, dressing up for a bunch of his own soldiers. He'd found out later, though, that it gave the right impression for the talk he was going to give...and also, in its own odd way, it showed that he respected his men.
"At ease." Duo waited for a moment until the sound of everyone shifting to stand a little more comfortably died down. "Go ahead and sit down, everyone. It's been a long first day, and I'm sure you're all very tired." As soon as everyone was quiet once more, he began speaking in earnest. "My subordinates assure me that you've all had a very interesting day--which means they've been doing their job. You hit the ground running this morning, and since then, everything has been about you working and responding while others watch. Now it's time for you to just watch and listen, and let me do all the talking. I'm sure you've all read your schedules thoroughly--" there were a few soft groans at that, and Duo was hard pressed to keep from smiling, "--and you'll notice that there is a two hour lecture scheduled for every night. Rest assured that this is correct, and you will be expected to attend and pay attention. Preparing you mentally for the rigors of active duty is just as important as preparing you physically, and we intend to do just that. By the time we are done with you, you will be able to repeat every word of the regulations in your sleep, and you will know every nuance of Confederate law."
Now he allowed himself a small smile. "That is not the subject of tonight's talk, however. We'll save that for tomorrow, when people that are far better at teaching than I will have the floor."
"I suppose that first of all, I owe you an apology. We were woefully unprepared for the sudden influx of recruits to this operation. In the last month, we've nearly doubled our numbers from what they were for the previous four years. I look on this as a good thing; it means that our efforts to maintain peace and order throughout the Confederacy have been effective enough that we are being given the funding to expand. Unfortunately, I wasn't ready for our good fortune, and because of that, I and my Lieutenants have been buried under paperwork and unable to give all of you the proper attention and orientation that you need. That is part of what the basic training and tonight's talk in particular are about--it's time that you were given a better idea of why you are here, and of who your superiors and peers are."
He held up one finger, allowing his smile to fade completely. "However, before you start feeling too relaxed, also remember that basic training and the level of discipline I have chosen to impose during it are a direct result of the actions of several individuals that were under the very mistaken impression that this is some kind of club or party, and not a military unit. You know who you are. Let me repeat myself just to make sure that everyone understands. We are a military unit, you are soldiers, and you will act accordingly. If that's not what you're here for, get out."
The smile returned. "Now that we're all on the same page, I'll introduce all of you around. In case you've been living in a box since you've arrived, I am the CO of this unit, Commander Duo Maxwell. You may call me Commander Maxwell or God...those are your only two choices. To my left are my Lieutenants, respectively second and third in command, Lt. Commander Heero Yuy and Lt. Commander Chang Wufei." Another spotlight illuminatred Wufei and Heero, both standing at attention, still enough to be mistaken for statues.
"Lt. Commander Chang is in charge of Division Two. He also has the mechanics and the research arm of this operation reporting directly to him. In addition, he is the first level pilot trainer, so if you qualify at the end of this section of basic, you will go to him. Lt. Commander Yuy is in charge of Division One, as well as the medical section. If you are qualified or wish to be a field medic, you need to put in your request to him. He is also the second level pilot trainer, so if you make it past Lt. Commander Chang, he'll be teaching you air combat."
"You will be seeing both of these men a great deal more often than you will be seeing me. They have full authority, so everything they order you to do should be considered gospel. If you have a problem that you feel will not or cannot be handled by your immediate superiors, report to them. I suggest, however, that you report to your immediate superiors and keep the chain of command intact. It's there for a reason."
"To my right is Master Sergeant Lance Gregory. He is the head mechanic." Another spotlight came on. To Duo's eyes, Lance was looking a little uncomfortable in his dress uniform, but it wasn't anything anyone would notice unless they knew him well. "In the hanger, he is God, and even I bow to his authority. All mechanics report to him, and he is the source of all mobile suit and other vehicle assignments. While Lt. Commanders Yuy and Chang give pilot certification, Master Sergeant Gregory has the authority to veto and suspend any pilot if he feels he has sufficient cause. I suggest that you don't make him mad."
"To finish up the introductions, I'd like you all to meet your immediate superiors, the senior ensigns. If you make it into the second half of basic training, you will all be placed in squads commanded by one of them, and I'm sure you've all noticed already, they are participating extensively in basic training as assistants to the Drill Sergeants. If you have any problems, questions, or you just need help with something, ask one of them. They will be as helpful as possible in facilitating you in finding a solution."
The soft vibrations of footsteps on the platform told Duo that the ensigns were all in place. The last of the lights came on, illuminating them. They all stood in a stright line across the platform, the few scant lines of the gold braid and insignia on their uniforms shining in the bright light. Duo allowed the corner of his mouth to twitch as he noticed Michael's hair; the boy had dyed it in honor of the first day of basic training, and it showed up as a lovely soft pink-orange, the color of peaches. "Going down the line, the soldier closest to me is First Ensign Michael. Michael has been with us from the beginning, and was the first recruit we brought in, whence his title, which he is the first and last to hold." As soon as the introduction was done, Michael saluted quickly before stepping back into line. "Next in line is Senior Ensign Winter. She has been here for over two years, and was the first Newtype to join our ranks." Winter nodded to the room before saluting, her hair shining darkly in the light. "After her is Senior Ensign Jordana Sevayin and Senior Ensign Khaiya Sevayin. They have been here almost as long as Senior Ensign Winter. You have probably not seen Senior Ensign Khaiya Sevayin before now; he's been excused from participation in training exercises because he's one of our senior reserach scientists." The two Sevayins saluted in perfect unison. "Lastly is Senior Ensign Tengoku Seimei. She's been with us for one year, though for all but eleven months of that time, she was working as a field operative and had never been on base until recently." Seimei saluted the audience with her usual precision. Duo nodded slightly to himself. "All five of these soldiers are fully certified and combat veterans ten times over. They are perhaps the best resources and allies that you could hope to find here."
Duo turned his attention back to the recruits. "All of these soldiers that stand here with me tonight have given themselves over to being Black Lions, and it is my high honor and privelage to have them under my command." He turned around and saluted, more for the benefit of the recruits than for those that he was showing his respect to; his soldiers already knew how proud he was of them. In nearly perfect unison, the everyone on the platform returned his salute, and he turned back to the recruits.
"Earlier I mentioned something that some of you may be wondering about--why you are here. Some of you think you know, some of you do know, and some of you don't have the foggiest notion--so I'll tell you." He leaned slightly forward over the podium for emphasis. "You are here because you are the best. You are here because no one else in the Confederacy has a chance in hell of doing what you will be doing. You are here because you have been chosen, by fate, God, karma--call it what you want--to be a Black Lion."
He straightened back up. "If you think you know what that entails, then I can tell you one thing--you aren't ready. I can stand up here and say that you're the best all I want, and I can have the potential of being right, but that doesn't make it a certain thing. Only you can decide what you will give and who you're willing to die for. Everyone that stands before you has already made their choice. We're all ready to die to protect the freedom and peace that so many soldiers before us bled to achieve. We're all prepared to give everything and anything--to give our lives--for people that we've never met, for people that we might not even like, and for people that don't give a shit about us." He glanced to the side for a moment. "Senior Ensigns...what are the five pillars?"
The five replied without hesitation. "Honor, loyalty, courage, strength, and service."
Duo nodded. "There you have it. Honor--we fight for peace, and we fight to protect those that are unable or even unwilling to protect themselves. Loyalty--we are all Lions, and we fight against those that would destroy our unity and our peace, NOT WITH EACHOTHER! Courage--we will never shrink in the face of death. Strength--we will never flag in the face of adversity. Service--we will never surrender, and we will never stop fighting. We will live and die for what we believe in...because we are the best."
"You are here because we are the only line that stands between peace and the deaths of millions that comes with war. Most of you grew up in the midst of the civil war. The memory of humanity dims with age, and people too soon forget the pain and destruction that war brings, and they are far too eager to start another one. There have been enough shattered lives. We exist because we want to protect what we love, whether it falls under the blanket of space, the colonies, the Earth, or the Confederacy, and because we are willing to give everything to keep what we love safe. If you aren't here because of that, you're in the wrong place."
"You are here because you are the best, and I will not allow you to be anything but the best. There is no room here for the indecisive or the lazy. We have no place for cowards. If any of you feel unprepared to handle the responsibility of being one of us, all you have to do is get up and walk out. We'll put you on the next ship to Earth, complete with severance pay, and you never have to see any of us again. You can go back to living an ordinary life, and probably die in your sleep at a ripe old age. If you choose to realize your full potential and stay with s...well, I won't lie to you. We are an organization that operates beyond the boundaries of what most ordinary people would consider to be civilization, and as such, we cannot be recognized or aided by Confederate or Colonial authorities. We cannot even allow ourselves to be seen for what we are. The mortality rate in our operation is high. It's pretty unlikely you'll live to be the same ripe old age as me," the corner of his mouth quirked up for a moment, "if there is another outbreak of violence. Even as things stand now, in our supposedly stable peace, we lose about a quarter of the soldiers that get sent out on missions. While our enemies don't know what we are, they can recognize our soldiers on sight. If you are captured, you will be tortured. To avoid capture, some have been forced to take their own lives, or to take the lives of their partners."
"The life we choose isn't easy," he said quietly, "and the rewards are far too intangible for most people to understand. I've told you the costs. Now it's up to you to find out what the rewards are. Most people say we're insane." He laughed softly. "I can only give them one reply. If we weren't insane, we wouldn't be soldiers." He raised his voice until he could hear it echo through the room. "Why are you here?"
There was almost no hesitation as the reply came in a roar that was almost deafening. "Because we are the best, SIR!"
Duo nodded and took a step back before stopping and saluting all of the recruits in the audience. He knew that behind him, the officers and Senior Ensigns were doing the same. "We've been fighting for you. Now you need to decide if you have what it takes to fight with us." Without a backward glance, he turned and walked off the stage.