Chapter 4, Part 3: Training Day "Oh get up already, you didn't even have that much to eat, so stop puking." Gideon next to the wheezing Applejack and sighed as the cowgirl puked again, "OKay, fine, get some rest, we'll start again after lunch." He stood up and walked off as Applejack struggled to get her breath and stand back up, shaking his head, "Torq's gonna have a field day with her. Three fucking days and she still pukes after a nine-hour endurance run." He passed through the training room's door and walked over to a wall console, tapping the phone function and dialled a number. It rang twice and then the phone was picked up as the video function showed an attractive female face, "Hello?" "Lilith, its Gideon. I'm calling to confirm you're still available to provide some basic psychic training for my new protoge?" 'Lilith' nodded a touch eagerly at the mention of training and Gideon was very, very glad he had a Mind Shield implant, while there were more powerful psychics in The Fleet, Lilith was in the top two even though she was only a Captain in OSR. Gideon knew the reason for that, Lilith was flighty as hell and there was a long-running bet going as to when she would decide to quit the OSR for another service or just retire to private life. "She received an initial grade of S-3 on awakening, that put her about equal with you when your powers came in, and I need you to fit in some basic interrogation resistance techniques for her as well." Lilith's eyes flashed with something unidentifiable, Gideon never cared to figure out what. He had enough nightmares when he slept. "Psychic and physical?" Gideon nodded at Lilith's question. "Try not to break her. I want a still sane protoge when I come to pick her up. I'll drop her off later." Lilith giggled as she shook her head. "I'll come pick her up! I want to meet her!" With that she hung up before Gideon could say otherwise, prompting the OSR Colonel to hang his head and sigh, she probably traced the call back just so she could pull that on him. Gideon straightened and turned as the door opened to reveal a very disheveled Applejack, sweat soaking her training clothes, who stumbled over to a bench and flopped into it as Gideon walked over to her. "Different sort of exercise, isn't it?" Applejack nodded wordlessly as Gideon continued, "You've got a way to go yet, the guy in charge of the physical side of the training, Battlemaster Torq, will be far more tougher than I am." Applejack turned her head to stare at him as Gideon nodded, "It's true. Torq's been known to make his trainees do laps with the edges of the course lined with landmines to stop anyone trying to stop and rest. The course gets tighter and tighter, so before long its either keep running or lie down and get trampled. Or get blown up, which most of the trainees do just so they can stop running for a couple of days." Applejack let out a groan that sounded more like a harsh rattle as she slumped further. "But here's todays good news, you get a break from the physical side of training to work on your psychic powers." It had been long enough and Gideon had since run out of basic exercises to teach the cowgirl. Now it was time to see if she could handle being in the same room with Capt. Lilithium, the Pistol Witch of OSR. "I've arranged for you to be trained by OSR's top psychic operative. You've done well with the basic exercises I've given you and that should give you a decent start while under her tutelage. You'll be seeing her after the morning psychical session from now on, learning psychic techniques and how to resist interrogation, after that will be firearms training and more physical training." Applejack nodded as some colour returned to her grey complexion and she got back to her feet. "Okay then. I guess I better get changed before she arrives. Don't wanna meet mah new teacher smelling like the back of the Apple family barn." *SQUEAL!* Gideon shivered at the sound while Applejack barely had time to turn before a blur tackled her to the ground and resolved itself into a pale, brown-haired young woman busy holding Applejack's face to her impressive chest as Gideon closed his eyes for a moment. "Applejack, meet Capt. Lilithium. OSR's best psychic and our resident interrogation specialist." Lilithium for her part simply 'squeed' in delight and hugged the weakly flailing Applejack tighter as Gideon tapped her shoulder, "You should give her some air now." Applejack chose that moment to pass out. ------------ Applejack woke up and blearily looked around to find herself lying down on a rather fancy bed and looked around the room. Whoever owned the place like their lace and frills, they were everywhere, and a glance to the side found that Applejack was sharing it with a very large collection of stuffed animals before she heard the sounds of conversation. Gently getting to her feet, Applejack gingerly made her way to the door and listened in. "So that's the trouble. The current set of beacons are all pointing towards a set of beacons in Fenspace again, and it gets worse. You know Mal-3's Fenspace/Battletech crossover? That's where they are. The Lone Wolves don't know about it, but I have to tell them at some point, the Seven Revelations were a major hit to their morale and frankly...frankly I want to see Mal-3 get his way for an Invisible Mask operation like what we did with Stargate and Farscape because if we treat this like normal...fuck, I know they're the best but apart from Kerrus, they all blame themselves Lilith. I'm scared they could call a Revelation prematurely and if that happens, its almost certain that Nightingale will follow." A sad sigh, "I don't know what to do." "The only thing you can do. Tell them you trust them to get the job done without making any mistakes and that when the time comes you know they'll be successful in finding the beacon. You chose them for a reason after all." That must be Lilithium and Applejack had to admit, she had a wonderful voice. Not to mention a soft... Applejack shook her head as Gideon sighed again, "I hope you're right. But they're not going to believe words, so the only way to convince them is to take control of the initial infiltration operations myself. I want you on board as well, the Boscoes are cagey fuckers, going to need some proper mind ripping done. Now then. Applejack!" Applejack jumped a little, "If you're done listening in to a private conversation, come in and sit down!" Applejack pushed the door all the way open and entered the main living room, noting the decor before spotting Gideon and Lilithium sitting at a small table. Lilithium had a teacup in front of her while Gideon had a mug as he casually chewed on some fancy-looking biscuit. Finding an open seat, Applejack sat down and smiled weakly, "Guess I shoulda been quieter eh?" Gideon shook his head. "Lilithium is a psychic, she knew the moment you woke up because you aren't trained in keeping your psychic powers suppressed." Gideon took a sip, "That's what she'll be working on along with some advanced concepts. In any case, its time I left to get Applejack registered for transfer over to the Ascendant Justice. Call me when your session is over." Lilithium nodded as Gideon set his mug down and stood up, "See ya later. I'll see you at the meeting later Lilith." As Gideon left, Lilith turned her gaze to Applejack, who smiled weakly again, "So uh...ya ain't gonna hug me again are ya?" Lilith blinked in surprise before giggling. "Sorry about that. But it was just that when I saw I thought cutecutecutegonnahugherneedtohugherhugshugshugs and well I decided to hug you! Didn't you like my hugs?" LIlithium asked as her smile dipped a little. "No! Uh, yes! I mean I liked it but...Darn it!" Applejack flushed as Lilithium started giggling again. "Yer teasing me, ain't ya?" Lilithium nodded, "Its what I do, well its what I do when I'm not killing people or making them better with my scalpels and needles, and the pins, the hooks, all the saws..." She trailed off with a far-away look as Applejack blinked. "So uh, how exactly do you make them better?" Lilithium smiled and Applejack felt something, a pressure, starting to build up in the room and did it seem a little darker? "First I get told if they are bad people. You should take a walk outside some time, amongst all the people. The good people are the ones who live their life with a smile, but you see them, you stopped one, the ones who just want to hurt people. You can tell straight away that they're bad people. Why? Because they don't stop doing bad things." Applejack blinked, was Lilithium always sitting this close to her? Why did it feel so cold? It was a trick, it had to be a trick. "But sometimes the bad people are threatened into doing bad things, which makes the ones threatening them bad people as well, but the ones I really hate, the ones that really make me angry, are the ones who do it because they're bored, because they have nothing to do but do bad things to people. They are all bad people." It was getting a bit hard to breath, but that wasn't right. Applejack swallowed and took a deep breath. There, that was better, it was getting easier now. She blinked as suddenly she was eye to eye with Lilithium, the woman's eyes blazing with...something, something that made Applejack's blood run cold and her breathing hitch even though she couldn't identify it. "It used to be easy, when bad people did bad things, the bad people were killed, because they didn't come back at all before we arrived here. But we weren't bad people, even though we did bad things, we knew each other, we helped each other. But the other people..." Applejack felt sick, the pressure was everywhere and she couldn't move, it was getting harder to breath. "Before we came here, bad people were put in jail until they stopped being bad or died, but sometimes they lied about being good and went on to repeat their crimes, because they can't see any other way. But I think its because most of them are either bullies who think its fun to hurt people because they simply don't understand, or they're acting out because of the emotional or mental pain they're feeling." Why was it getting harder to breath? Why couldn't she look away from those eyes? "Really though, they can get past all that if they tried hard enough, but most of them don't want to learn and when they don't want to learn, then words become useless for teaching them. You have to use action to get across a very important point. Do you want to know what that point is?" Applejack could only nod, unable to do anything else. Lilithium leaned in close to her ear, "Don't ever hurt someone unless you are okay with being hurt back." Applejack's eyes widened as Lilithium giggled again, but it seemed wrong, off for some reason. Why could she hear music? "Did you know that I am very good at keeping people alive? Even when they don't want to be? There are ways you can hurt a person to make them wish they were dead, so many ways, but I only let them die only when they are good people again, or when I am told to." Lilithium pouted, "Gideon doesn't care if they become good people again, all he cares about is what they know, because if they don't tell me, it could endanger The Forum and he's right." Applejack was feeling short of breath, why couldn't she breath properly? Where was that music coming from? Why could she hear voices? Applebloom? "Endangering the safety of the The Forum, and the continued safety of the people living in it, is wrong. But words always fail to teach them, so I use pain." Cousin Braeburn? What're you doing here? It's freezing, why don't you have a coat on? "Pain can teach people. A child who burns her tongue on hot soup will know to wait until its cooled and the soldier who is careless with their weapon will learn to be more careful when it hurts him. Pain is amazing as a teacher, because no-one wants to have more than one lesson with it." I can't move, why can't I move? "Of course, therapy and drugs could help people get better, and before I did this that was my job, and sometimes its a real help. Do you know why? It's because of friendship." Why couldn't she breath? Why was it so dark? She needed to get out! Let her go! "My patients are my friends. And because they're my friends I need to know everything about them to learn how to make them better people." Let go! Let Go! "And to find out the reason they went bad, because everyone has a reason. And its important, even if another person thinks it silly or small, but they never are because everyone thinks differently." Let go! LET GO! "Some people think I just do things to play with them, but they're wrong, I don't because I am really trying to help them and I like to think that I do!" Please! Let me go! "They leave eventually, they all do, but when they leave I never seek them out, because I know that I hurt them, I have no illusions about the pain that I cause them, about the trauma I inflict that makes them break." Let me go! I said, LET ME GO! "But if they let me, I do everything I can to fix them, make them better than before!" I won't let you beat me! I wanna live! "I do bad things, I do them because there are people I care about living here and I want to protect them!" I still have to get home! I have to see my friends again! "I love people and even though Death is cheap now, it still hurts, and once upon a time, Death was the end, and one day it will be true again." I have to see them again! "Because we aren't all military, there are civilians here, people who joined to see a better life at the end of the journey. But ships get attacked and destroyed, and there are the children, children who haven't died, for whom Death is not cheap. But there are people who don't care about that." Why aren't you letting me go! Please! Let me go! Please! Ah'm begging ya! "I cause pain, I hurt people for the information in their heads, and I like what I do. And so, when I get a person who doesn't care, its my job to make them care." Please... "Do you care?" YES! ---------- When Gideon returned to Lilithium's quarters, he could sense the raw psychic power in the air, and it was only getting stronger as he approached the door. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself for a gibbering wreck in the middle of Lilithium's living room, and pressed the door intercom, "Lilith, its Gideon, I'm here to pick Applejack up." The door unlocked with a buzz and Gideon opened it. To be met with the sound of laughter as he walked in on Applejack and Lilithium chatting like life-long friends as Lilithium motioned him to a seat and he took it gratefully, he had been all over the place getting the registration documents processed since Applejack would be a late entry into the training program, "I take it her first lesson is complete?" Lilithium nodded with a smile. "She's strong and she's learned the Mindfray technique quite quickly, I'd be happy to keep teaching her until her classes begin." Gideon glanced at Applejack, who nodded, and smiled. "Well then, I'd say same time tomorrow?" At their nods, Gideon stood up, "Sorry I can't stay long, I'm just here to pick up Applejack and take her to her weapons training. Come on, let's go." The pair traded good-byes with the psychic and left. As they entered an elevator, Gideon turned his head slight towards Applejack, "Well?" Applejack shivered as she closed her eyes, opening them to look at him tearfully. "It was like she was crushing me, all I could do was just sit there, stuck in mah own head, screaming at her to let go. I...I nearly lost it there." She turned fully to him, "How can someone so sweet be so..." "Disturbed? Utterly insane? Completely and fully broken in mind and soul? I could go on all day with the descriptions surrounding her, but it would be an insult to her. The truth is..." Gideon sighed, "The truth is Lilithium is just one of those people who really are as sweet and kind as they look, appear and act, but should you ever raise their ire...imagine if you found out that Pinkie Pie would murder anyone who angered her and use them as cupcake ingredients." Applejack shuddered as Gideon nodded, "That's how disturbing it comes across as. She's really a nice girl, but when she's on the job its like watching some kind of demon at work." Applejack sighed as she slumped against the wall, "Did you every get her mad?" Gideon nodded. "Once. I lost an arm so I could calm her down long enough to apologize." He shook his head, "Look, Applejack, Lilithium likes you, she truly does. Don't hold her first lesson against her, okay?" Applejack smiled weakly, "Ah'll try, but its kinda hard when you know she could destroy you with a thought." Gideon shook his head. "No, its hard because you're being taught how to do the same to other people. It's hard because you can't reconcile that sweet girl with a person who would happily and gladly tear secrets out of a man's head as she removes pieces of bone and burns skin." Gideon glanced down at Applejack, "Give it time, and you'll eventually get used to it. And hey, she's a marvellous friend. Plus..." He smiled wistfully, "Her macarons and chai are legendary." Applejack snorted, "Ain't it just like a guy to think with his stomach." The two shared a laugh as the elevator continued on its journey before it stopped with a musical chime. "And here we are. Welcome to the OSR Gun Range, and welcome to your introduction to the wonderful world of guns, Applejack." Applejack stared at the walls lined with weapons of all kinds, and felt something stir in her, a fiery urge to wield them as Gideon led her towards a series of booths in front of a large, empty room and indicated the walls behind her. "We'll start you off with the pistols and here's something you might not know. Every person sometimes feels a calling to use a particular pistol, we can't explain it and neither can they, all they know is that the pistol they choose is the one they are most comfortable with. Some, like Lilithium, use only pistols but I want you to at least know how to operate other weaponry available. Just in case." Applejack nodded and approached the wall. Feeling that same sensation again, she looked at the wall, and at the array of pistols before her. She reached out and took down a pair, "I'll use these." Gideon raised an eyebrow, "Interesting choice."