Original series Suitable for all readers

 

On Elite Special Agents and Support Staff, the Care and Feeding of

 

By Shades

 

 

 

Hobby, noun. An activity engaged in for entertainment. These are vitally important for the  continued mental health of your Special Agents and the prevention of boredom and stress. It also aids in preventing expensive repair bills when your Special Agents attempt to relieve their boredom without the assistance of a hobby. 

 

 

“Wait a second, lemme get this straight.” Magenta turned an incredulous look upon the only British captain in their midst. “You're a WAAF colonel, so that's all airplanes, jumping out of  helicopters  and going off into the wilds in jeeps, right?”

 

Paul nodded. “Yes, that is some of what I did,” he hedged, unwilling to divulge too many details.

 

Pat frowned and scratched his head, once again looking over the printed out brochures that Scarlet had brought with him to the lounge - all glossy photos of dark holes in the ground, underwater rock formations and people toting diving gear and big grins. “So why on earth do you go pot holing or cave diving or whatever you call it? It doesn't fit.”

 

“Yeah,” Ochre chimed in from his spot on the other end of the couch from Magenta. “You'd think that a guy like you would be into something above ground,” he went on. “Like hunting or snowboarding or something that doesn't involve the possibility of drowning in a hole.” He frowned for a moment, banishing a memory from his rookie days - helping a police dive team fish out an unlucky cave diver who'd gotten lost and sucked his tank dry.

 

“Hunting never really appealed to me but I tried BASE jumping once, when I was still young and crazy enough for it,” Paul replied and took a sip of his tea.

 

“BASE jumping?” Magenta queried. “Isn't that the one where people jump off bridges, tall buildings and public monstrosities like those Car-Vu things?”

 

“Exactly,” Scarlet nodded. “It's quite a rush really, jumping from a tall object instead of out of an airplane with only seconds to pull the ripcord. A friend of mine invited me along to a jump session not too far from our base at the time and I was hooked on it for almost a year.”

 

“So what happened, how come you didn't stick with it?” Ochre frowned and scratched his chin. “Going from jumping off bridges with a 'chute to diving in caves is a pretty big change.”

 

“There... was a small incident.” Paul grimaced faintly, partly at the memory, partly at his own stupidity at the time. “I had loaned someone else my parachute for a jump and they hadn't packed it correctly. I  failed to check it before I took my own jump.” He set his mug down, pulled off his left boot, propped his foot up on the table and rolled up his trouser leg, letting the dark red scar  that stretched up to his knee and dipped down under his sock speak for itself. “The idea of jumping from tall buildings never really held much appeal after that.”

 

 

0o0o0

 

 

Treatment plan for Won'tstayinbeditis, a common ailment that afflicts most Special Agents and higher level Support Staff when forced into any kind of medical-related inactivity that they deem unnecessary.

 

 

“Doctor, these things are hideous!”

 

Edward Wilkie looked up from tinkering with one of his recently unpacked and reassembled robot nurses to see one of his new human nurses, Nurse Tarris if his memory served, brandishing a paisley pajama shirt as if it were cut from small-pox blankets. “Ah, I was wondering where those got to.” He grinned and approached the horrified nurse, tucking a screwdriver in his back pocket and carefully wiping his hands on a cloth before relieving her of the garment.

 

“Please tell me you're having those reduced into rags for cleaning,” Nurse Tarris begged. “They're an offense against a thinking person's sensibilities.”

 

Edward laughed. “Exactly! That's why I shipped the blasted things up here.”

 

“... there's more of them?” Tarris actually winced at the thought.

 

“Yep.” Fawn swiftly folded the eyesore garment and set it into the cupboard earmarked for patients'  clothing. “They help prevent ward escapes, which I think is gonna be a problem with the lot the colonel has shipped up here.”

 

“I... beg your pardon, Doctor?” Nurse Tarris blinked, confused. Patients trying to discharge themselves were nothing new but generally they were never hard to corner and put back to bed. Big brawny orderlies, four point restraints and the threat of Foley catheters tended to help with that. 

 

“Have you ever worked military, Nurse?” Fawn grinned.

 

“No I'm civilian, John Hopkins, remember?”

 

“Ah yes, of course, surgical and intensive care specialist.” Edward nodded, then got back on track. “Military generally hate confinement, especially medical confinement. All to do with something about being told 'sit, stay' when they'd much rather be out doing something else, especially when as far as they're concerned they're fine,” he explained. “Much like your average rugby player or local bloke. Only problem is that military get trained how to sneak about so they're much harder to pin down and we've got special forces and spies here which is worse.” Fawn frowned. “That sneakiness added to sheer bloody-minded stubbornness makes them all flight risks once they can control all four limbs again.” 

 

“So put them in backless gowns a couple of sizes too small,” Tarris shrugged. “Most people don't like the idea of running around with everything hanging out the back door.”

 

“Yeah, but military aren't most people. Group showers and all that. Most of 'em don't really have much of a sense of modesty left after that so backless gowns don't worry them as long as there's something there,” Fawn countered. “They do have a sense of self respect and pride though so when left with the option of running about in gaudy PJs or going starkers, most of 'em would rather stay put than be seen in either condition.” He shut the cupboard door with a grin. “So whenever a patient comes in who'll be a flight risk, we slap those on 'em and they'll be kind enough to stay put until we're finished with them.” 

 

Tarris turned that over in her mind for a moment, then graced the doctor with a mischievous smirk. “Doctor Fawn,” she declared, “I like the way you think.”

 

 

0o0o0

 

 

Locomotion in a variable environment may prove difficult for some Support Staff and Special Agents to adapt to, depending on their prior training. Allow time for adjustment and be sure to lay in proper stocks of ice packs in the meantime.

 

 

“Walking on a carrier is one thing, walking on a flying one is completely different!” Captain Blue exclaimed in a rare fit of pure irritation, nursing his shoulder after yet another unintentional encounter with a wall. “At this rate we should all go and draw body armour from Stores for protection.”

 

“It will come to you eventually. Just be patient,” Captain Black calmly advised his companion. He himself knew all too well the rigors of learning to anticipate and adjust to all of Cloudbase's little movements in any direction. Keeping geosynchronous position was one thing when you were well above the atmosphere and its restless movement, keeping  that place inside the atmosphere required constant adjustments and compensation for jetstreams, wind currents, pressure zones and turbulence, hence a generous portion of one of their primitive-thought capable Seventh Generation super computers was reserved solely for station-keeping purposes.

 

Unfortunately the computer was still 'young' and still learning how to read the incoming data, fine tune its predictions and properly change position in a manner both timely and gentle. Because of that the base occasionally over-corrected with usually disastrous results for anyone not paying attention or carrying anything liquid.

 

“Will that be before or after we all bash our bones to bits?” Ochre grumbled, rubbing his elbow as he and Captain Grey approached from the other direction. “Now I know why the nurses were joking about 'How do you spot a Cloudbase newbie? They're the ones asking for ice packs  and ointment.'”

 

“I don't know what you're all complaining about,” Captain Grey smirked, the ex-WASP officer easily settling into the slightly rolling gait that the more seasoned Cloudbase staff had adopted. “I didn't have any trouble at all.”

 

“Goody for you,” Ochre sniped back.

 

“Pain seems to make you peevish,” Grey observed, still smirking.

 

“Funny that, so do smart–”

 

“Enough,” Black cut in before the two could escalate things further. “I believe the colonel is waiting for you in the conference room, Captains.” He nodded towards the appropriate stair. “I will see you all in the gymnasium afterwards for close quarters combat training.”

 

“Great, more bruises,” Ochre grumbled, reaching for the rail as he made his ascent.

 

“I'll see you then.” Captain Blue nodded politely and excused himself, also taking hold of the rail.

 

Captain Grey eschewed the rail and nimbly took the stairs two at a time. Conrad half turned to go, but a slight change in the feel of the deck under his feet made him pause and brace himself. The flying base made a sharp lateral lurch in response to an air pocket under the starboard bow, sending a pot of soup sloshing over in the kitchen, three crewmen dashing to the nearest sink with hot beverage burns and one overconfident captain tumbling down the stairs to land in an ungraceful heap at Captain Black's feet.

 

 

0o0o0

 

 

On the care and feeding of your resident Techie. Due to their different working environment and daily routines Techies tend to develop 'odd' feeding habits which they adjust to their needs. Monitor and direct your Medical staff to intervene should you become concerned about your Techie's health.

 

Lieutenant Green uncurled from half an hour hunched over the keyboards to stretch in his seat with a groan, feeling his spine pop in two places and his knuckles pop in four. With the new base still settling down and the new crew settling in, the odd teething problem was only to be expected. A flying super secret base only made things a little more interesting and complicated when a proverbial spanner flew into the works. “I'll have to ask how the deck crews managed to lock both hangar control officers out of the log-in system,” he muttered to himself. “It took far too long to open up access again. Got to fix that, there could be an emergency in the future that requires quick access.”

 

Glancing about and seeing no sign of the colonel, Green carefully got up and crossed to the small kitchenette tucked in a corner of the control room to fix himself a cup of tea. After giving the plant material enough time to steep he had just settled down in a chair to enjoy it (and rather proud that this time he hadn't spilled a single drop in transit) when Colonel White entered the room, several buff-coloured files tucked under one arm.

 

“Good afternoon, Colonel.” Green quickly stood, cup still in hand.

 

“Good afternoon, Lieutenant.” White glanced at the junior officer, saw the strange object in his hand and performed a picture perfect double take. “Lieutenant, what on earth is that?” he demanded.

 

Green blinked, glanced about for whatever the cause could be of his commander's concern and looked down at the green tinted gourd in his hand, filter straw neatly resting against the metal collar around the lip. “Oh, it's just some Yerba Mate, sir,” he explained.

 

“Yerba what?” Colonel White drew closer, curiosity winning out over caution. He knew that the tech-types had some odd habits, but he'd never heard of this.

 

“Yerba Mate.” Green repeated, proffering the traditional gourd for inspection. “It's a South American loose leaf tea, a natural stimulant and high in antioxidants. Much better than coffee or normal black tea. It's best when brewed in a gourd and you sip it through a filter straw. It's quite good,” he enthused. “Would you like to try some, sir?” Green offered.

 

Er, no, not right now.” White shook his head, not quite sure what to make of the dark green brew, nor the odd smell it gave off. “Perhaps later. As you were, Lieutenant.” 

 

“Aye sir.” Quite unaware of the odd look his commander threw in his direction, Green sat down and returned to his tea break, determined to finish his drink before the next problem decided to rear its ugly head.

 

 

0o0o0

 

 

Let sleeping officers lie. Sleep is a rare and precious commodity to all Special Agents so allow them as much undisturbed rest as possible. If they must be woken, for safety reasons make all attempts to wake them from a distance.

 

 

Brown glanced over his shoulder at the recumbent figure stretched out on one of the lounge couches, feet hanging over the arm rest and bright red cap pulled low over his eyes. “Y'know,” he commented as he turned back to the poker game, “no matter how many times I see it, I still don't understand how he can sleep anywhere, any time and apparently be comfortable.”

 

“It's a survival thing,” Grey advised, scowling at his cards. “Or so I've heard. Sleep where you can, when you can, because you don't know when you'll get another chance. Gimme two.”

 

Ochre flicked his gaze at the subject of the discussion and dealt out the requested cards. “Sleep on command or not, I don't think he's sleeping too well,” he observed, squinting at his own hand.

 

“Huh?” Brown looked back at the sleeping Scarlet, inadvertently giving Magenta a perfect view of his cards. Sure enough Scarlet seemed fairly restless in his doze, twitching and shifting, while what was visible of his mouth was pulled back in a grimace. “You think it's a nightmare?” Brown asked the others.

 

“Maybe.” Ochre glanced at the others at the table. “Should someone wake him?” There was a moment of uneasy silence as the men looked at each other, waiting to see who would volunteer for the job.

 

“I'll do it.” Magenta laid his cards face down and crossed to the couch. “Hey, Scarlet.” He reached out and grabbed Scarlet's shoulder, intending to shake him out of his sleep. He never got that far.

 

Blue eyes snapped open but showed no recognition or comprehension as Magenta suddenly found himself slammed flat on his back, the air whooshing out of his lungs and two calloused hands tightening around his throat. “Whoa! Friendly!” Magenta yelped, struggling helplessly.

 

Scarlet blinked, awareness returning. “What...” That was all he had time for before Ochre lunged from his chair, yanked the British officer off Magenta and threw him facedown, one arm locked up behind his back and a knee digging into his spine through his vest.

 

“Stand down! Stand down!” Scarlet grunted, somewhat muffled by the carpet. “It's all right, let me up.”

 

“Are you sure and do you need to see the shrink?” Ochre glanced at the others and made sure they were in a position to act should Scarlet snap before he carefully released the captured arm and got to his feet, backing off a step or two.

 

The British officer pushed himself up into a kneeling position, rubbing his shoulder with a wince. “No, no, it's the training, I'm sorry.” He looked at Magenta, now sitting on the couch and looking a little pale. “Are you all right?”

 

Magenta nodded, a wry smile on his face. “Yeah, I'm intact, but what the hell was that? Must've been some nightmare.” He tried to crack a  grin, but no one else smiled.

 

“It was...” Scarlet scrubbed at his face, eradicating the last few traces of sleep. “I'm sorry, I've been on edge for a while, unfamiliar surroundings and all. An unexpected awakening triggered certain... training.”

 

“Don't worry, Scarlet.” Magenta magnanimously stood and offered a hand to help Scarlet up. “I know what you mean. Unfamiliar surroundings, unfamiliar background noises, unfamiliar people, bad dream and then someone goes and grabs you so you just react since you can't tell situation normal from not normal yet, shoulda seen it coming.” He offered a rueful smile, then smirked at the others' surprised reactions. “What, being a crime boss isn't just flashy cars and loose women, you know.” 

 

0o0o0

 

 

On the perils of opposing personality types. Newly formed groups of Special Agents, especially field specialists brought together into a unit, have been known to clash because of their varying backgrounds and personality types coming into conflict. Expect some discord as they get used to each other, but shared activities, common goals and common 'enemies' will help them to properly bond into a unit.

 

 

Feeling decently awake at 0600, Conrad collected his breakfast and made his way to the patch of colour that was the table staked out by his fellow captains. They hadn't started their proper shifts yet so while he trained them in Cloudbase protocols all seven captains were all on the same schedule, training and eating together in an effort to further build the bonds that the senior agents would need once Spectrum came fully online.

 

This would be his first breakfast with all of his fellow captains and he had to admit that on some level he was looking forward to it. He had always felt like someone on the fringe of social groups, alone and observing people from a distance, dipping in here and there to nudge events in a direction he preferred. Here was a chance to start fresh with people who didn't have a clue about his background and actually build proper working relationships. Perhaps even a friendship or two.

 

When he reached the captains' table and scanned for a spot, he was quite surprised to note the order they had already arranged themselves in. 

 

Ochre and Magenta sat at the very end of the table, clutching cups of hot coffee and looking decidedly mutinous at the early wake up. Brown was next, rubbing sleep out of his eyes and smearing butter somewhere in the vicinity of his toast. Opposite him, Grey was not quite all there as he sliced a banana into unequal chunks while Blue muffled a yawn while he read a paper. Scarlet sat at the other end of the table, looking downright perky as he added honey to his oatmeal. “Good morning,” Scarlet greeted the senior agent cheerfully, ignoring the twin scowls from the other end of the table. 

 

“... did I miss something?” Conrad queried as he found a seat between Brown and Blue.

 

Ochre glowered at the world in general and stabbed an accusatory finger at Scarlet's end of the table. “He's one of those disgustingly obnoxious morning people,” the former World Policeman growled. “We don't talk to him until after coffee.”

 

 

0o0o0

 

 

A base psychologist is a necessary asset for any base as a 'safe person' for your Special Agents and all other staff to talk to and get advice from, as well as monitoring the general morale and mental health of your staff. However they will need to first gain the trust of your staff and earn their respect before being allowed into their confidences.

 

 

“Well, Doctor?” Colonel White steepled his fingers in front of his face and waited expectantly for the report.

 

Doctor Cinnabar, a.k.a Doctor Martin Jakes, psychologist, looked up from the files he was flipping through with some amusement. “Firstly, Colonel, I must ask, who on earth assigned me the code colour cinnabar? I mean, honestly, who came up with the idea of assigning the base psychologist the name of the ore that mercury is extracted from? Mercury was a common cause of mental disturbance before people realised that it is quite toxic. It has to be someone's idea of a prank.”

 

“I would have no idea about that, Doctor,” Colonel White replied, carefully hiding a smile at someone's fairly subtle joke. “But back on topic, Doctor, what is your assessment thus far of the Cloudbase personnel?”

 

Cinnabar shifted, moving to lean back in his seat before he remembered he was sitting on a stool, not in a chair, and corrected himself before he fell over backwards. “You've certainly got an interesting situation here, Colonel,” Martin began, plucking certain sheets of paper from his file. “It'll either work fantastically or fail spectacularly. The support staff are all all right but most of your senior agents are quite used to being in charge and they're all alpha male types, high on testosterone and adrenaline, not to mention two would have been at each other's throats if the rest hadn't pulled them off each other, according to the notes on their first meeting.”

 

He flipped through some more papers and continued. “All of them have issues either trusting, confiding in others or building good relationships because of training or personal circumstance; five have the unfortunate background of places where people like me come under the category of 'bad people who can't be trusted because they'll pull you off the job and put black marks in your file' and one couldn't trust anyone outside of himself with his personal problems, forcing him to be highly self-reliant and not to mention he's also very good at making himself look harmless to others.” Cinnabar frowned. “The Angels are just as bad, highly independent female adrenaline junkies, some of whom have intelligence or spy service backgrounds, but thankfully they're much more likely to talk things out amongst themselves and come to me when they need help, and as I mentioned before the support staff are generally good about talking to psychologists.”

 

Martin looked up at the colonel. “It's the senior agents who concern me the most. Here you are, putting all these very, very different personality types and backgrounds in the equivalent of a pressure cooker - a highly demanding, high stress job where, by your own admission, they're quite likely to be shot at on a regular basis and three of them haven't got the background training for that. I don't like to play Devil's Advocate, but this is a recipe for disaster if not properly managed.”

 

“I assure you it is properly managed, Doctor Cinnabar,” Colonel White replied, leaning back slightly in his chair. “Their shared training, goals and their training of each other have helped to forge them into a cohesive unit, shoring up each other's weaknesses and building up their strengths. Their assignments will take care of their adrenaline needs and the facilities on base can deal with anything that is left. They will have regular leave ground side and the base facilities to deal to any accumulated stress. Any 'alpha male' issues will be dealt with by me,” he finished, the air of finality on the matter quite clear.

 

Cinnabar concealed a smile at the mental image of a canine version of Colonel White, snarling and bristling at a pack of brightly coloured dogs and bringing them to heel. “They certainly respect you, Colonel,” he replied instead. “And the 'racehorse' approach you've taken to your staff is a tried and true tactic.”

 

“Indeed.” Colonel White nodded. “The best resources, the best rest facilities and the best care when 'in the stables' and they can then be 'flogged half to death on the racecourse' to quote Sterling; that is where you come in, Doctor, as a part of that care.”

 

“Yes, but first I have to somehow convince a pack of self-reliant, reluctant to trust, adrenaline junkie males that I am actually here to help and won't rat them out if they're having issues.” Martin grimaced and snapped his file shut. “This is going to be very interesting, Colonel, I look forward to the challenge.” He stood and offered his hand to the colonel.

 

Colonel White stood and shook the doctor's hand. “None of us would be here if it were not a challenge,” he replied with a smile. “I look forward to working with you.”

 

 

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