NAMI MEDA’S OFFICE
Dr. Meda’s door was, in fact, large enough for Wasteland and his shiny new armor. He wasn’t sure when she’d enlarged it, but it was before he started having his sessions with her. The room itself was spacious, and Wasteland knew that the couch was both large enough and durable enough to accommodate him.
The doctor herself was seated in her chair, swiveled away from her workstation. She offered a cool smile. “Hello, Wasteland. Have a seat and tell me about your week, won’t you?”
Wasteland nodded at Dr. Meda, and smiled behind his helmet. One thing the doctor always did, was make him feel human. As much as he had disliked therapists and therapy in general in his previous life, Dr. Meda’s sessions had really helped him. He’d never admit it outside her office, of course. He sat, the new armor easing into the extra durable couch, and he put the massive gauntlets on his knees. “Hi Nami, uh… well, my week. It’s been…. a strange week. Uhm.”
He gathered his thoughts. “Well, started off pretty okay. Finished assembling the armor that you see before you. Had some very kind help from some of the Legion tech folks. I can actually fly without crashing into things, for a sustained amount of time. Which is beyond great. Flying is just…. amazing.”
He pauses, thinking, “Well, then there was this pyrokinetic in Boulder, Colorado. He’d… well, he had a history of burning people alive, people how were…. I don’t know, rich or well to do, or had a lot of media attention. Rooster and I took him down, as well as Throwaway…. What kind of codename is that? I mean, really. I feel kinda bad for the girl. I mean, I chose mine for obvious reasons, but… eh. Off topic. I got carried away taking him down, Rooster nailed him pretty hard, too, but… This guy, Otto de Fur, or whatever, had taken this classy strip joint hostage. A lot of people scared. And I got carried away.” He repeats. “I nearly beat this guy to death in front of people, I just got… so angry. He had all this power, and he gets off on being the center of attention and murdering innocent folks who didn’t do anything wrong.” The helmet shakes a little, side to side, clearing his thoughts. “Luckily, Bart was there to stop me from doing him in right then and there. Could have been really bad.”
“It’s a very human response to be overwhelmed by emotion,” Nami replies, “but I’m glad you didn’t have to go through that. It sounds like this villain stung you deeper than you expected, though, like it was personal. Do you have any idea why?”
Wasteland thinks about that, then shrugs, the shoulders of the suit groaning a little as it tries to mimic the subtle gesture. “I’m not quite sure. Maybe because my own relation to fire and heat? Or what he was doing?” The helmet looks down at the floor. “The guy was a decent pyrokinetic. Good looking guy, could probably have chosen normal profession he wanted, if he wanted to. He could have been normal.” Wasteland looks back up at Dr. Meda. “He could have had whatever he wanted, and what he wanted was to be an asshole. To hurt other people for no reason other than his ego.” He pauses, thinking. “It seems so selfish. I was maybe a little jealous of him. And angry that he wasted it.”
“You feel as though he squandered an opportunity that you never had?” Nami suggests.
“That. That, a lot.” He looks at one of his hands, the dark green metal, the articulated, thick, cold fingers. “I’m stuck in this thing, always will be, far as I can tell, unless I’m down in my bunker.” He sighs, the sound odd through the speakers of the helmet. “I mean, I get it. I’ve, we’ve worked through this, and I’m pretty okay now with the suit. And living in it. But it still hurts when I see that kind of stuff, you know?” He looks back down at the floor, then back up at Dr. Meda.
“And there was another Black Operation. Scorched Earth tactics. It was… messy. But I got the job done.”
Nami nodded, writing notes in her little spiral-bound. “Understood. I think it’s normal for you to feel that frustration and bitterness, Wasteland. You’ve suffered a great deal and operate under some deep limitations. About the other mission, then we can come back to that: how did you feel about it? Scorched Earth is more than nearly any of us are asked to do. Are you all right?”
Wasteland’s voice is steadier when he talks about this kind of stuff, he’s more sure of himself. At least regarding this mission. “It… was what it was. And it needed to be done. It had to be done. The people I’m sent after in these kinds of missions, they’re real monsters. And they’re also people.” He takes a deep breath. “The Freelancers get a bad rap, that we’re mercenaries, for hire. But it’s also true, I think, we’re still better than some of those others out there. I don’t think the Legion would have had the… I’m not sure what the word would be. Fortitude? Balls? Amorality? to kill the people I killed.” He pauses for a moment, thinking. “Maybe. I don’t know. But I do know what these people were doing. Had done. Were planning to do. I think, I believe, that anything less than extreme prejudice would have resulted in a lot more blood. A lot more pain for innocent people.” He looks at Meda, conviction in his words.
“I’d like to make the observation,” Meda taps her lips with a pen, “that this is the first time in any of our sessions that I’ve heard you talk about the morality of mercenary work. In fact, you very rarely seem to want to express any opinions about your missions at all.”
Wasteland blinked behind his helmet, then let out a little laugh. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. I’ve been…. I don’t know. I guess maybe being in the public light… Oh crap, Bart really got me thinking about politics and public eye.” He laughs, again, quietly. “You’re right. I guess I was just so… concerned, maybe. About what would happen to me if I didn’t get the cash to pay for the suit. For repairs. What would happen to people, I was willing to do anything, whatever it was. But, well, this mission, maybe? Or maybe just cycling back to other missions like this, thinking back, on the flight back?” He shrugs. “I don’t know. I guess maybe I’m getting a conscience? Wouldn’t that be inconvenient.” He says sarcastically, chuckling. “What do you think, Nami? Should I be… thinking about this kind of stuff, knowing that I’m going to have to do it again later?”
“I’m never going to discourage you from personal reflection, Wasteland,” Nami offered a small smile. “It’s a lot easier to manage our feelings and hang-ups if we go looking for them and we’re proactive about how to address them. If you know and understand these things—your resentment, your conscience—then you will be better able to manage them when they cross a line.”
He nods, understanding. “Makes sense. Find your weak spots, deal with them, make a plan of attack. That’s good, I like that.” He pauses, then chuckles. “I guess, intellectually, I’m fine. I was a good soldier. The mission was completed. Nothing unnecessary. I don’t feel guilty, at least as far as I can tell. I might have a few nightmares, but that’s par for the course.” He nods, feeling even more confident in himself than before.
“Have you had any new nightmares? New themes?” Nami resumed writing in her notebook. “I promise I won’t get too Jungian, but it helps me understand what you’re thinking about right now.”
He shakes his head. “Nothing too new, that I can remember. Always fire, like I’ve said a billion times before.” He chuckles, though there’s a distinct lack of mirth this time. “Different faces, different people. Mostly people I’ve burned or irradiated, like always. I think there’s more people though, faces in a crowd, rather than just one or two. I guess my body count is getting high enough my subconscious thought it was time to modify?”
“That makes sense,” Nami replied, nodding, “and it may also be your subconscious evolving its focus. Do you ever worry that it’s going to become too much for you to bear?”
He takes a long time to think about that, then shakes his head. “Honestly? If you’d asked me that when I first started, or even a few years ago, I might have said yeah, I was worried. But, I know I have PTSD. I am working with you on treating it. I can handle it, and I can handle this. I might have some bad days. Some really bad days. But… I think I’m going to be okay. I’m not worried about it becoming too much, not right now. I know I’m doing everything in my power to keep myself stable and balanced.” He looks off to one corner, then back to Dr. Meda. “So, I don’t think I’m worried anymore. Other than that irrational worry that everyone has, I’m sure.” He chuckles lightly.
“Good. So!” Nami clicks her pen and looks up at Wasteland’s helmet. “You knew I was going to bother you about this eventually. So let’s talk about your social life.”
“Abuh? Social life?” The helmet tilts a little. “Uhhh…. Rooster has invited me to do some make a wish stuff, soup kitchen, and support of the… ah, gender and relations equality stuff? Honestly they keep adding letters and I’m never going to get all of them right anymore.” He sounds a LOT more uncertain now. Missions, fighting, kicking ass and taking names? He can do. Social interaction? RUN FOR THE HILLS.
“Been thinking about it. Would like to, you know? Also maybe sponsor some stuff myself, once I get a…. I can’t believe I’m saying this…. a decent public image. I don’t know. Lots of people like that, out in the open, it freaks me out a bit.”
“What do you imagine a decent public image would look like, for you?”
Wasteland kind of boggles, and puts a hand up to his helmet, as if to run a hand through his hair. Some gestures never really die. “I honestly don’t know. I never thought I’d -get- a public image. This is all brand new territory for me.” His hand clinks on the helmet, and he looks at the gauntlet, realizing what he was doing, then puts it back down. “Maybe if the news says that I’m not a health hazard while in the suit? I guess? That’d be nice?”
“That’s not so much a public image as a health advisory. What kind of a person do you want to be, out there in the world?”
“Uhm. I don’t know.” He sounds worried, now. “I don’t want people to find out who I was. What happened back… where I used to live. I guess, I could be a guy. In a suit. Who punches bad guys from time to time…which is what I am right now.” He sighs and his helmet clanks down into his hands. “I guess somebody who doesn’t do too bad a job helping out.”
“You want to be seen as helpful,” Nami prompts. “As an aid, rather than a threat. It’s all right to want these things, Wasteland. You deserve them, even if they are hard to achieve.”
“Yeah. I’d like to be helpful, I think. I mean, a threat, sure, I’d want to be known by the bad guys out there not to screw around with me.” He shakes his head. “But yeah, there’s that worry, that when someone sees me really cut loose, which, I’m in the public eye now, my whole helpful image…” He makes the sound of a bomb going off, his hands gesturing to an explosion. “No more nice public.”
“You were in public when you were fighting Otto da Fe,” oh, so that was his name. Evidently Dr. Meda had read the debrief already. “You felt out of control. But your team brought you back, and it may not even have been knowing what you were going through. You are developing the toolset that you need. These things aren’t inaccessible to you, and you are not doomed to be an uncontrollable force of nature.”
“That was… “ He paused, and thought. Well, she was his doctor, and she hasn’t led him wrong yet. “I knew his name was something like that!” His weak attempt at humor subsided, then he nodded. “Yeah. They did. You’ve got a point. There’s that. I guess some part of me was still in control, too. As he didn’t just go up in flames as I touched him, so…” He shrugged again. The poor armor just kind of twitches the shrug. “How should I react when someone asks me why I burned someone to death, in the heat of a fight? Is there any good answer?”
“Every sapient being struggles with the overwhelming impact that our body chemistry and environment has on us. You were saddled with a more dangerous set of bodily impulses than most people. It’s hardly unheard of for humans to be blinded with rage upon seeing atrocities, or their loved ones being hurt. You’ve needed time to learn how to keep yourself under the tighter standards of control than most people need. But it’s a human thing. You still have a human heart and mind. You are a person. You can be seen as a person.”
He chuckled again, again without mirth. “I think so sometimes, other days, not so much. I want to be. I know some villains out there, some heroes, want to be seen as larger than life. God given, or blessed, or whatever. I’ll take being just a person, and not something monstrous.”
“We’ll get you there. One last question, and then you get your homework.” Nami clicks her pen and raises her eyebrows. “Is Rooster your friend?”
“Uh… yeah. I think so. At least we get along. Been out for drinks, we work well together… Nicer to me than some of the IT guys I’ve met.” He bobbed his head in agreement. “Yeah, I’d say we’re friends. Not the best buddies, but, you know.”
“Whom else are you friends with?”
Wasteland thought about it, and shrugged. “I don’t have anyone else. A few of the operations guys during my missions, we’re friendly enough, but we wouldn’t go hang out. Maybe some random folks over the internet, but obviously they don’t know who I am in the real world.”
“All right, then, here’s your homework for the rest of the month,” Nami offered him a tight smile, the kind that she only made when she was about to say something that he wouldn’t want to hear. “Make a new friend. Reach out to someone who isn’t in the Freelancers. Online is all right, but you need to actually reach out and be a person. Got it?”
Even behind his helmet, Nami could probably tell that Wasteland was giving her a mild glare. He was quiet for a second, then sighed. “I’ll…. do my best. I’ll try.”
“Good. You’ve got your homework, and I’ll see you in two weeks! Have a lovely rest of the month, Wasteland.” ((tag and scene?))((Yep! Thanks so much, this was a blast!))