Just a Gentle Squeeze
Just a Gentle Squeeze
Summary: Corporal Castillo conducts Hera's first training class.
Date: 2/17/09
Related Logs: None


Training Classroom Hera - Deck 4

95 ACH 23797 Souls

This training classroom boasts raised stadium seating for twelve. Each chair has integrated massage system, climate controls, and video emplaced desktop that slides out from the floor, adjustable height and lumbar support. The front of the classroom has a computerized video display with a 120 inch vapor crystallized mini-hyper definition display that can display any training film or data required.

----< Condition Three - Duty Area >----—-

Contents: Castillo Pepper Wireless 1915

Exits: [O] Out


The training classroom is mostly prepared to receive students for the evening's training session. Each of the seats has a well worn training manual set on it. At the front of the training room, a table has been brought in with a collection of handguns set on it. Castillo mills about here, checking and double checking that each weapon is functional and, more importantly, not loaded.

Pepper steps in, file folders in arm, and makes her way toward one of the seats in the front row. Surprise surprise. She offers Castillo a small smile. Given how pale her face is, it's likely all she can manage. "Good evening, Corporal," she says quietly - apparently so as not to startle the man with the guns.

Recognizing the voice, Castillo turns around at the greeting. "Good evening, sir," he replies in kind. He makes a waving gesture at the myriad of available seats and say, "Sit wherever you'd like." There's a pause and he turns away for a moment to retrieve the last of the firearms and finishes his obsessive function and safety checks. "You're a little early, sir. I hadn't expected anyone to show up for another ten or fifteen minutes."

"Quiet night in CIC," she says, voice low and quiet. For a moment she glances around then chooses a seat front and center, as might be expected. One file gets opened, front flap folded back to reveal a pad of lined paper. The training manual is put up and to the left - though left closed. "Is there anything I can help with prior to beginning, Corporal?"

It doesn't take a genius or a psychologist to see that Pepper's bothered. Castillo can only imagine why, but the events of the past 36 hours have put a strain on all the crew. "Just one thing, sir," he says and walks over to the ensign. He hands the officer the weapon by the barrel, presenting her the grip. "I want to see how comfortable you are with the weapon. See what I'm working with. Steady grip and all that," he explains. At least that's the excuse; he's really interested to see if her nerves are shot or not. "It's not loaded, so you don't have to worry about a discharge, sir."

Pep cants her head to the side as she looks up at him - whether or not she realizes what he's doing isn't clear. It's likely she doesn't, given the curiosity in her eyes. She studies the weapon for a moment then takes it - handling it as if she were born to. Given her family - it's likely she was. The grip is taken, barrel pointed down to the deck plating immediately as her hand curves around. The first thing she does is finger the safety, verifying position. Once it's in hand, she pushes to her feet, slowly, positioned so that he can best observe her technique.

Castillo stands off to the side, observing the young ensign. "Take aim at the center of the display, sir," he instructs and watches for any minor shaking or tremors.

She might be pale as all hell, but her two-handed grip on the weapon is comfortable - no sign of shaking or tremors. She takes aim, head tilted ever so slightly as she sights. There are three things in her focus - the gun, the target and the instructor.

The corporal studies Pepper's hold and grip on the pistol. "Alright, sir," Castillo says with a satisfied nod. "I'll take that weapon back now." He extends his hand, waiting for the firearm to be presented back to him.

Another check of the safety and she's turning the weapon to him, grip first, and offering a small smile. "Military family," she explains quietly. "When other girls were out buying makeup, I was shooting targets. I haven't been able to shoot, except for qualifying. So this is a good refresher course."

Castillo takes the weapon, pulls the slide back and locks it open. "Well, one day you'll have to indulge me and tell me what went wrong that you joined the Fleet instead of the Marines, sir," he replies with a small grin. He makes brief eye contact with Pepper and twitches his eye in a ever-so-slight wink to let her know he's making an attempt at humor. A couple of the security personnel mill in about now and Castillo gives them a wave to any of the chairs. "Grab a seat, we'll start in a couple minutes," he says.

Pepper laughs softly and slides back into her seat, tucking a bit of hair behind her ear. Instead of answering, she nods to the assorted personnel. Of course most of them are giving her the slightly odd look that states "what the hell are you doing here?" She doesn't seem to notice, however, and starts by heading her page with the date, time and purpose. There's a reason she's a decently in demand aide.

A few more personnel slide in at the eleventh hour and take a seat, bringing the classroom to half capacity. Castillo watches them with extreme interest, silently chiding the last to arrive as is custom with many military instructors. "Good evening," he begins. "I'm Corporal William Castillo, your instructor for tonight. This is a firearms instruction course, but since all of you should already know how to shoot, I will be lightly touching over the basics. Then we'll go to the range where each of you will qualify on the M45, M57 and M58 pistols. As we aboard ship, we will not be qualifying with the ERLs." He crosses his arms across his chest and continues, "I just have a few rules for my classrooms. The first is that I don't expect to hear any chit chat. If you wish to ask a question, or make a comment, you will raise your hand and I will call on you. Those training manuals are the only copies we have. Don't rip them, tear them, write in them or use them as tissue." He pauses and moves back to the table where he leans against it. "Now, lets go around the room and give some brief introductions. Tell me who you are and what you'd like to get out of this class. We'll start at the front row and work our way around." He gestures to the star in the front row, Pepper, to kick it off.

Nothing he says really seems to surprise Pep much at all. She dips her head as he gestures for her to start, then stands. Her voice is low, quiet, though it carries. "Ensign Pepper Peters, CIC," she says by way of introduction. "It's been quite some time since I've been able to shoot - not since my last qualification. So I'm taking the opportunity for a refresher and to hopefully learn something new from the Corporal." As she speaks, she turns to include everyone, meeting eyes as she goes. Those who've been with the fleet for awhile might recognize it as a characteristic of the…former Commander.

The other security personnel chime in their introductions, Petty Officer 2nd Class Trille, Specialists Gorgon and Craigs, and Crewmen Tagge, Busey and Loren. They all mirror a similar response to the Ensign, although Crewman Busey explains that he wants to learn how to 'frak up a Cylon'. The joke elicits some laughs, which Castillo does not share in. "Alright then," he says. "Most of you know me, I'm Corporal Castillo from the Battlestar Genesis MP detachment. I've served in the Colonial Marines for 6 years as an MP, then discharged and did private security work for three years until the Cylon's hit. I was on the Hera as an employee of Mr. Fulton when the Galactica found her and re-activated a couple weeks later. My main task since I've been back has been to oversee, validate and correct ship security during the transition from civilian to military role. Training is the final phase of my assignment here." He stands upright and claps his hands together loudly to get everyone's attention. "Now, who here knows what single action and double action is?"

Once she sat down, Pep was relatively attentive to everyone else's introductions - smiling at the appropriate times, nodding at the appropriate times. That clap, for some reason, sends a shock down Pep's spine and she jerks slightly. For the moment, she doesn't raise her hand - someone else can take that question. Words are written down on the sheet of paper - single action, double action.

No one raises their hand, so Castillo continues. "Single action and double action refers to the 'action' of the trigger. Single action performs one action which is to release the hammer. The hammer is cocked manually or via gas operation. Double action performs two actions. One to cock the hammer, the second to release it. Now, a firearm can be either single action, double action or a combination of single and double action." There's a pause as Castillo waits for any hands to be raised.

Pep seems familiar enough with the material - though she's still taking detailed notes, attention focused squarely on Castillo. She does, however, glance briefly around the room to see if there are any questions. Fingers smooth over the paper in front of her, pulling it straight and taut again, perfect.

"Alright, now the M45 is a double action revolver. It has no external hammer that you can manually cock, so when you pull the trigger it cocks the hammer and advances the cylinder simultaneously and then releases the hammer," Castillo continues. "The M57 is double/single action. Your first shot is double action. Each subsequent shot is single action with a lighter trigger pull to release the hammer. The M58, is a single action pistol. You must cock the hammer manually before operation." There's another pause as he continues, "To add more confusion, you have different variants of the M57 and M58 with different actions. Now… why is this important? You need to keep in mind how your firearm operates so you know how much pressure you need to apply to the trigger with your finger. The M45 and M58 are consistent, smooth pulls. The M57 is not… for that first shot. Pull too hard and you will foul your aim."

Notes are made on the sheet in front of Pepper - neat and precise, in a small, even hand. As he mentions the M57, she cocks her head to the side, glancing over at the weapons on the table, as if she's mentally identifying each one there and what it does. Then it's back to Castillo. Yes, she's almost preternaturally focused on the lesson.

Castillo continues, "The type of round you fire will also impact your accuracy. The larger calibre ammunition provides more stopping power and penetration, but also reduces accuracy due to recoil. Your M45 and M58 uses 11.43 millimeter rounds which are effective against armored targets like your average toaster. The M57 uses a smaller round: 5.7 millimeter and is really only good for stopping soft targets. You will need to rely on your ERL to take down a toaster with that weapon." He stops talking for a moment as he walks over to Pepper. Fishing into his pocket he produces a 11.43mm and 5.7mm round that is capped with a rubber bullet. "This is a training round and also used when non-lethal force is required." He hands the bullets to Pepper and asks her to pass it around. Likewise he takes a regular lead jacketed round, a hollow point round and armor piercing round for both calibers. He hands them to different security personnel and asks them to pass them around the room.

Pep takes the bullets, dipping her head as she studies them, comparing them side by side in her hand. They're weighed, the imperceptible weight difference noted, before she turns. The bullets are passed to the security officer behind her with a small smile. Then it's back to Castillo, head cocked to the side slightly.

Holding up a round in the air he says, "Cartridge." Pointing at the top he says, "Bullet." The brass casing is next, "Casing." Then, flipping the bullet upside down he says, "Primer cap." He continues to hold the bullet aloft. "The primer cap is the detonator for the propellant inside the casing. The detonation causes rapid oxidation of the propellant. As the bullet is only crimped into the casing, it is the weakest point of the round. The energy of the explosion propels the bullet down the barrel and out towards your target." The MP now walks forward to collect all the rounds he's passed around. "Any questions so far?" he asks.

Pepper shakes her head to indicate that no, she's not got any questions. Leaning back in her chair, she crosses her ankles, settling her pen on the paper, point first, held aloft, studying the man in front of her. There's a considering expression on her face, more contemplative than anything else.

"I'm not going to get into atmospheric effects on the trajectory of a bullet in this class. You're either going to be operating in the controlled environment of a ship, or if you're really unlucky, in a vacuum. Your targets are not going to be far away enough to be affected by gravity, nor are there going to be windage to compensate for," Castillo explains. "Now, before I touch on firearm safety in the range, is there anyone here that has not fired an M45, an M57 or an M58 before?"

Pep's hand remains down and she smiles a little, a bit crookedly. Finally she succumbs to the temptation and glances around at the other officers to see if there are those who haven't fired the weapon. She makes a note on her pad again, underlining "Gravity."

A few hands are raised as Castillo waits for an answer. "Alright, everyone put your hands down. We'll go over each weapon," he says and walks to stand behind the table. "Everyone come on down here and I'll introduce you to your new best friends."

The pen gets put aside, precisely lined up against the side of the paper, and Pep slides out of her seat to move down to the table. Behaving, she doesn't touch, merely studies each weapon in turn - though she steps aside so some of the others can get in first, get closer.

Castillo goes through pointing out each weapon's functions and then disassembles then reassembles them. It's a process that takes about 10 minutes per pistol. Plus another five to let each student that needs to familiarize themselves with the weapon to do so. Finally, with it all concluded, he says, "Alright. We'll go head to the range now. Each student will be issued eye and ear protection there. You are to wear it at all times until I give the all-clear to do so. Your weapon will always be pointed downrange." He lets that synch in and continues. "I will give each student 10 cartridges for the weapon they are qualifying on. When I give the order, you will load your weapon. Do not fire until I give the command 'fire when ready'. If I say cease fire, you will cease fire. To qualify on your weapon, you must hit the target silhouette seven out of ten shots." He pauses and looks to each student in turn. "Any questions?"

Pepper takes her time with each weapon when it's her turn, taking only a few seconds with each one before she's passing it on to the next person in line. Once the range time is announced, Pep's gathering up her things, tucking the pen away, closing the file folder. "No, Corporal," she says quietly, in the same way someone else would say "No, Sir." There's a certain level of respect toward Castillo, one that usually isn't present between officer and enlisted.

The rest of the students also respond like Peters, except for Crewman Busey, "Uh, Corporal, what about these rubber bullets. Everyone knows they don't fly straight." Castillo listens to the crewman and nods. "No, they are not as accurate as a regular bullet… at /distance/. Your targets are only 10m away. If you miss, it's all you and not the bullet, but thank you for your insightful question. Now, you get to help me carry these firearms to the range." And with that he presses two M45s, barrels down, into Busey's hands. "Everyone else, meet us at the range."


Small Arms Range Hera - Deck 4

95 ACH 23797 Souls

This room is rather small. Plexi-Steel divides the room into a small walk from the hatch that leads to a door marked 'SIMULATORS' while the transparent dividers show the main portion of the room, which is a firing range. The Range itself has a few lanes of normal booth tables with divider walls, while the last lane holds a frame with three interlocked circles of steel with a strap chair in the center. This Gyrochair is used for the training of pilots by distupting their personal inertial sense of balance, to acclimate them to the effects of viper maneauvering. Along the back wall is a reeinforced Small Arms Locker with integrated locks. This holds a variety of military weapons and training ammunition for them. Paper targets are used in the lanes and the structure of the Range itself is designed to deflect horribly missed bullets away from the people using the Range.

----< Condition Three - Duty Area >----—-

Contents: Castillo Pepper Wireless 1905

Exits: [O] Out [SR] Simulator Room


Castillo and Busey trail the rest of the class in and the corporal sets down the firearms in each bay. One of each model is set in the two lanes. Once that's taken care of, the MP goes to the weapons locker and punches in a code. Opening it, he turns and says, "Line up for your safety gear."

Pep's somewhere in the middle of the line to get her gear, accepting it with a smile and a quiet word of thanks. It's donned without ceremony, and she turns to help adjust the earwear on one of the security personnel, smile a bit wry. Two lanes, a group of people, and several weapons to be played with - errr, qualified on. At least she tucked the files somewhere else.

Castillo pulls out his own safety gear and puts it on, then withdraws a few bricks of cartridges from the locker and two magazines for the M57 and M58. He closes it the locker door, securing it and walks over to the lanes. "Alright. We're going to shoot with the M57 and M58 first, then conclude with the M45. Peters and Trille are up first." Yes… putting the two highest ranked students first and in the spotlight. He hands them each their 10 rounds in turn. "Load your weapons."

Pepper heads up to the lane, taking her cartridges from Castillo with a dip of her head. "Thank you," she says quietly. First there's the equipment check - again. The weapon -was- out of her sight. Safety first, in both respects, then a quick check before the weapon is loaded, muzzle pointed low and downrange. Again there's that natural handling of the weapon. Handling it seems to be easy for her. Shooting, maybe not so much.

Castillo walks behind each shooter and visually inspects the weapons from over their shoulders. "You may fire when ready," he says.

Pepper brings the weapon up. Her stance is perfect, natural. But when the time comes to pull the trigger, something…happens. She pulls the trigger as ordered, ten times. Only one shot hits the target where it's supposed to. Eight more scatter around the edges, wild. One sails right on past the target. When the shots are done, she lowers the weapon, muzzle pointed down range, and just stands there staring at the target.

"See, I told you those rubber bullets will frak you up," Busey comments to his peers. The corporal ignores the remark and goes through the motions of recording the scores and reseting the targets. Once complete Castillo says, "Shooters clear the lanes. Next up, Gorgon and Craigs." The qualifications on the M57 continue as Tagge and Loren, then finally Busey go. The results are varied, and all but Loren, Gorgon and Peters qualified on the weapon. "M58 qualification is next. Peters and Trille, you're up again." Castillo hands them the larger caliber rounds now and says, "Load your weapons."

Pep, of course, stepped quickly out of the way when the call came, shaking her head slightly, as if to clear it. She watches the others closely, watches their placement, studies their stance. There's no hiding the blush on her cheeks though. When her turn comes again she steps up to the line, checking the weapon again, then loading it properly. No longer by rote, each movement is paid careful attention to.

Castillo visually inspects the shooters again. Satisfied and then clearing the area around the shooters he says, "Fire when ready."

Thank heavens the range is designed the way it is. Everything goes horribly wrong on Pepper's second shot, to the point where only the quiet pinging of a ricocheting bullet can be heard downrange. She didn't just miss, she missed badly enough that the walls now have a few more dents down there. Her color rises again, a sickly pink, but she keeps pulling the trigger. Three of the shots actually group neatly together while the other six are even wilder than her first attempt. Again proper procedure is followed and she lowers the weapon, muzzle pointed downrange.

Castillo squints, in a mock flinch, as the bullet ricochets down range. Once the shooting is over he announces, "That is why you always wear protection. No matter how good you are, something can go wrong." There's no further color commentary from the corporal. He records the results and brings the other security personnel up to shoot. There's overall improvement with all the shooters and only Tagge fails to qualify on the weapon. "Take a break everyone while I get the ammo for the M45s," he says.

Well, Tagge and Peters, that is. While she looks like she's about to toss her cookies, she makes her way over to Tagge and offers a small smile. "It's always a little more difficult when the weapon's in your hand," she says quietly, apparently trying to commisserate a little. Given the choice between settling to the back of the group and licking her wounds and connecting with a fellow crew member, she goes for the later. Not quite the spoiled little rich girl of reputation.

Returning with the final two bricks of ammo, Castillo calls to the students. "Form up," he says. "Now, the M45 can only hold eight cartridges. So, you all will load five on my instruction, then shoot on my instruction. Once you've expended your rounds, reload and shoot again. Remember, this is not a race - take your time on each shot." He starts pulling out the cartridges and sets them on the counter of each lane. "Peters and Trille, you're first again. Load when ready."

Pep forms up on her lane again, picking up the weapon, checking it thoroughly, then loading in the five shots. There's a little bit of grim determination on her face as she does this - taking her time to make sure everything's right. Then she glances over to Castillo, jaw set stubbornly. There's only the faintest of tremors in her hand.

Castillo walks behind both shooters, examining both lanes and clearing the area around them. He stands next to Peters, more interested in her shooting than the Petty Officer's. Watching her he says, "Fire when ready."

Pepper seems a little more comfortable with Castillo behind her and lifts the weapon, pulling off five shots. These are done much more slowly than the last couple rounds. Once five are off, she loads the next five, focusing on the target in front of her, and pulls those. Three are neatly grouped. The rest are scattered, making a very nice abstract pattern.

Again Castillo records the results and rotates the rest of the students through the lanes. Loren and Busey didn't qualify on the revolver. "Alright, remove your safety gear. Class is over. I'll send the attendance and qualifications up to your supervisors. Those that did not qualify will meet here this time next week to be retested. Make use of some range time if you can get it authorized," he says. "Leave your equipment on lane two. Ensign Peters, if you'd stay a moment, sir. Everyone else is dismissed."

If Pep's surprised - ok, well, this time it shows, just a little. "Of course, Corporal," she says, sliding out of her gear, neatly lining it up on lane two. Then it's out of the way of the others, off to the side until Castillo is ready for her. Those looking at her would likely say she's relaxed, except for the tension in her shoulders.

"Mind helping me with that gear?" he asks and starts to collect the stuff from the lane. After all, the worst shooter does get to help with cleanup duty. What it's really for is private time that the instructor and student have to address and correct any deficiencies. He doesn't wait for the ensign to reply before handing her several set of ear protection.

"Not at all, Corporal," she says quietly. Yes, she knows that it wasn't really a request. Clearly she doesn't mind, the way she reaches out for the gear. She's been through enough classes to know what's coming - and to know what needs to be done. No hesitation in doing the dirty work - it just gets done, quickly and efficiently.

"So, why do you think you had such a poor outing, sir?" the corporal asks as he starts to put the gear into the locker. He treats the conversation as more of small talk than something dreadfully serious.

"Because I'm woefully out of practice," Pep replies without hesitation and without excuse. "I haven't spent near enough time on the range as I should have and it's reflected in my performance, Corporal." Simple, matter of fact. Back to the lane she goes to get the rest of the gear. "Shall I get the cleaning supplies for the guns, Corporal?"

"No, not yet, sir," Castillo says. He withdraws some more rounds from the locker and heads over to lane 1. "Put your safety gear back on," he says and starts to load an M45. "The first thing to make sure you get right is your stance." The MP turns sideways so that his left leg is ahead and then bends his knees slightly. "You need to make sure your promoting healthy blood circulation, else your muscles will get the shakes."

Again, a bit of surprise, but there's a reason she's always been the star pupil. The safety gear gets donned again and she moves over toward him, turning slightly so she can mirror his stance. Her knee dips just a little too much and she corrects, bringing it back up.

"Never lock your arms. You want them bent to they can act like a shock absorber… and, it promotes better circulation than locking your elbows," Castillo continues. "Of course, you know that breathing is important. They pretty much drill that into you. But the most important part about good marksmanship is the trigger squeeze. It's the hardest to learn, on a handgun, too." Castillo illustrates each part of the demonstration even to the point of 'air shooting' with his trigger finger.

Pep is attentive. Clearly she's heard all of this before, but she's attending to the Corporal as if it were the first time she heard it. There's a sense of youthful earnestness there. "Never jerk the trigger," she adds quietly, lips quirking in a very small smile. "It's a very gentle pull." Her eyes follow his finger for a moment, then trail up his arm, taking in the twist of his shoulders and the turn of his torso.

"It's more than a gentle pull," Castillo explains. "You need to keep your first and second joint rigid, If you bend your first joint on a pistol, you tend to pull the frame to the left or right. Which means your barrel's pointed off, too." He shrugs a moment and adds, "Some marksmen find their own thing and you might, too. Just need to be aware of all the motions you're going through while you practice." The corporal then loads the pistol with eight rounds and takes aim downrange.

She watches him carefully as he takes aim, stepping out of the way as soon as he raises the gun. It's as if she's sighting with him, glancing from gun to target then back to the man shooting. No, there's none of that "awareness" or anything of that nature. She's watching him in the same way she likely watched her academy instructors.

The corporal unloads the brass from the pistol and puts in eight cartridges. "He sets down the gun and gestures down range. That's about four or five dead toasters right there, sir. That'll be your shooting if you keep at it." He takes a step back and says, "Take your time, squeeze off one road at a time. Remember to think through each step, each motion."

Pep picks up the gun and checks it - even though it was just used. Then she takes out her eight and loads them. Each movement is perfectly fluid. She's done this hundreds of times before. Once it's loaded, she calls, quietly, "Clear." Habit, perhaps? Then she pulls the trigger. The first shot hits where it was supposed to. Second is just outside the zone. Third - good. Fourth - bad. And so on. She DOES do quite a bit better than she'd done the last go around. Half of them went where they were supposed to, and no deckplating was harmed in the firing of her weapon. When the last shot's pulled off, she lowers the gun and calls, again, "Clear."

"Much better, sir," Castillo says with a genuine smile. He removes his ear and eye protection and sets them down on the counter. "See, you're already shooting better."

Pepper doesn't look overly satisfied with her performance, but she offers Castillo a little smile. "Thanks to a good instructor," she says quietly. The gun is put down and she slides her own protection off. "I'll work on practicing a bit more and will be here next week, if that's alright with you?"

"That'll work, sir," Castillo says with a nod of his head. He looks around the range and makes a waving gesture at it. "I got this under control. You can set those down there," he says about the ear protection with a gesture to the counter.

She cocks her head to the side slightly, putting the items down where he gestured. "Are you sure Corporal," she asks, studying him. "Quite a few weapons to clean. Last one here generally helps with the cleanup." At least she's ladylike enough not to say that the screw-up's the one who gets to clean the weapons. Now that the weapon's out of her hands, there's an air of tension about her, restrained energy.

Castillo nods affirmatively, "Yes, sir." He clears his throat and says, "I'm sure you're needed in more important places right now." There's the unspoken, yet understood, message regarding the recent tragedy in command in that sentence.

That stops her in her tracks for a moment, then she shakes her head slightly. "I'm not, Corporal," she tells him softly. Her words and expression should tell him all he needs to know and more than he wanted to. "The meetings will be going on most of the night," and she's been shut out. "I have the time to take care of them, if you need to head on. I can stay to help, or if you'd prefer the quiet time, I can take off." The choice is his.

"Well, if your itchin' to help, you can help me police up all the brass here," Castillo replies. The training manuals could wait a bit. They're not exactly on the high priority list for thieves. "And yah, I imagine they'll be going on for a bit. Probably even ask Fotilas to come back as XO." The corporal starts picking up the brass around lane 2, then stops himself. "Frak, this will be a lot easier if I got the damn bucket first."

Pepper chuckles quietly and heads over to get the bucket. "I'll grab it," she calls over her shoulder. "And no, Captain Fotilas won't come back as XO. It's not in his heart to. Even if he's asked, he'll politely decline." She seems relatively certain of that as she procures the bucket and starts back toward him, setting it down between the two lanes. Then she goes about the job of scooping up spent brass, crouching as she reaches for the pieces and methodically dumps them into the bucket.

"Yah, well, there's a lot of stuff we don't want to do, but we have to, sir. There's a whole lot of people counting on us to keep them alive, you know? Being picky about what you want to do, when you can do it, just doesn't seem right to me," Castillo remarks and starts dumping the brass into the container. "Oh, and uh thanks for getting the bucket," he stays between loud clangs.

"He started out not too much differently from you," she says quietly, after a moment. "He started out as a Marine and got told they needed him to move - so he did. He's got the heart of a warrior, stuck behind a desk. Doing a job he doesn't feel anywhere near qualified enough to do. He got his pips just nine days before the attacks and was tossed into the XO spot." Knowledgable - and fond. "If he's -needed- he'll come back. But not unless he's absolutely needed."

Castillo nods silently after Pepper gives the recap about Fotilas. "That's one of reasons why I'm happy to be a knuckle dragger," he admits. "Plus, I'm always big on having a strong cadre of NCOs to support the officers. So, how are you handling all of this?"

Pep glances over at him and smiles a bit wryly. "Careful with being so good at what you do, Corporal," she says quietly. "Otherwise you're going to find yourself mustanged." As he asks The Question, she starts to turn slightly and ends up losing her balance, falling backward on her can. Lips purse slightly and she just gets back to work from that position. "It's difficult," she admits, reaching for a piece of brass then scanning for more. "But right now those in charge need for me to keep things together, and that's what I'll do." There's quiet for a moment, nothing more than the dull twunk of brass hitting the bucket. Then she looks over at Castillo, cocking her head to the side. "How about you?"

"I'm not so sure I'd take a commission, sir," Castillo remarks. "The shrink did say I was in good mental health. I'd hate to prove her wrong," he adds with a grin. The brass is not as pooled up as much as it has been, so the corporal is spending more time hunting and pecking for brass. "I wasn't really plugged in to any of command. As much as I hate to say it, I'm just doing my job, you know?"

"Not always a bad thing," Pep says quietly, smile tinged with sadness. "Sometimes it helps to be distanced." Up to the crouch she goes again, reaching for more of the brass in her lane. Yes, she's quick with it and is soon standing. "And what was it someone was saying a few minutes about about being picky about what you want to do," she asks, cocking her head to the side, brow quirked almost teasingly. Almost - because she can't quite manage full teasing at the moment. Over to his lane she goes, scooping up a couple missed shells.

"Yah, I walked into that one, didn't I?" Castillo admits with a grin. The brass is policed and he crawls under the counter into the firing bay. "Would you mind grabbing me the other bucket for the bullets, sir?" he asks and starts walking the length of the lane and grabbing all the rubber he can find. "So did you hear that they officially made Sergeant Brown the MAA?"

Obediently she goes to get the other bucket. Quite an odd little reversal of roles, it would appear. Though it seems that on the range, he's Sir. She returns in a moment and leaves the bucket where he can easily reach it before going back down her own lane. "I didn't, and I think it's a wonderful choice. I've only met the Sheriff briefly, but I've read the reports and know the reputation." And knows not to use pronouns, too. "I, ah…kind of got banned from Marine Country for a little while. And to be quite truthful, I was sheltered from the Marines. The Commander was of a mind that I'd not stand a chance against an amorous Marine with dastardly intent." It's said with a bit of fondness. "With the exception of one, every Marine I met was more interested in business than anything else."

Castillo nods his head at that. "We're usually good about not dipping our pens in the fleet inkwell. Not always, but hey… we're not perfect all the time," he remarks. "I'm just glad command finally made a decision. I didn't really care for having an acting MAA running around. Lot's of folks don't respect a title when 'acting' is in front of it." He considers a moment as he picks up a couple bullets, then decides to broach a sensitive subject. "So, you and the Commander were close?"

"He," she begins then trails off for a moment. "It's complicated, but he was a close friend of my father's before the attacks. After, he took me under wing, as his daughter. He and Captain…and Mister James Fulton, the original owner of Hera, were all I had left by way of family." She continues the process of picking up the bullets, one after the other. It's a simple, repetitive motion. "I'm glad to see the decision was made, too. The Sheriff has always done an excellent job and the title is deserved."

"Yah, Mr. Fulton was an alright guy. I regret not saying a goodbye to him, or a thank you, before he died," Castillo says as he rounds up the last of the bullets and dumps them in the bucket. "You know… for keeping me… well all of us on the Hera, in one piece until we met up with the fleet." He grabs the bucket and follows Pepper around with it until she's done with her side. "I'm sorry that you lost both of them, but in a weird way… it's good. It'll help you relate to most everyone else that's lost everyone, you know?"

Pepper goes still for a moment, just squeezing her eyes shut tightly, and nods. "Yeah, it will," she says softly. Quite a few people have mentioned that Pep wears her heart on her sleeve - now's no different at all. "Uncle James was a good man, a very good man. He … returned some things I'd left on Hera the last time I was here, back when it was still his plaything. I've been blessed." Blessed enough to lose not only her real family but the one she'd created as well. Then it's back to work again, until the last rubber bullet has been picked up and returned to the bucket. Without another word, she goes to the locker and starts pulling down two sets of gun-cleaning supplies.

Castillo also heads over to the locker to secure both the brass and bullet bucket. He takes a moment to tidy everything up in there before securing it closed again. "I'm not a religious man," he says as he joins Pepper at the counters. He selects an M58 and starts to break it down. "But, I've got a healthy respect for fate. Especially now with everything that's gone on and I can't help but think that everything that's going on is doing so for a reason, you know?"

"I just wish that fate would clue us in on just what that is," Pep says in a very low voice. Yes, she's fighting back tears. Though the tears haven't won, not yet. "Which ones do you want me to take," she asks, glancing over at him. "It's going to be hard, I know, but we make do with what we've got and keep going from there. Sometimes, though, it's hard to keep in perspective just -why- we're fighting so hard."

Castillo reaches over and hands Pepper an M57. "It's not so hard, sir," he counters. "It's our job, it's what we do. Fight. Adapt. Overcome. Live." He goes back to his M58 and starts cleaning the slide and barrel. "If that's not good enough, just remember we have all those civilians out there counting on us to keep them safe. It's no different than before the toasters hit us. We took an oath to die so they can live. Only now, the stakes are higher 'cuz we're it."

Pep studies him for a moment, hands drawing in front of her - even the one with the gun, though she does keep it pointed down. "In theory, yes," she says quietly. "It IS that easy. We keep fighting for the ones we love who are left alive. In practice…in practice, the more you lose, the harder it gets to keep that in sight." She moves over to a stool after getting a bucket of sand for each of them, and settles down with the bucket between her feet. The process of cleaning begins. For some strange reason she goes a little green as the cleaning solution is opened and applied, but she doesn't stop. "It goes in cycles, honestly. It's something everyone goes through or has gone through. Most of the time we ARE fighting and forging forward, determined. But sometimes, late in the night, the why of it overwhelms."

"Hell, sir," Castillo replies, "I don't know one person from another out there." He makes a general gesture to the fleet. "I'm not in this because I got any loved ones to still fight for. I coulda just absorbed back into the civilian fleet, but I didn't. See… that's what makes us better than the toasters. We care about our own. Them? Frak, they just make more of their buddies when we blow 'em up." He looks like he wants to continue, but he picks up on Pepper's pallor. "Um, you OK, sir? You're not gonna blow chunks all over the deck are you?"

She starts to reply to him, opens her mouth to say something, then he Goes There. He mentions blowing chunks. Apparently that was just enough to push the poor Ensign over the edge. Luckily it's the bucket of sand that gets the worst of it. She's got the presence of mind to put the gun down, pick up the bucket and turn her back to him before she is delicately, decidedly, blowing chunks all over the sand. It sounds like her body's trying to get rid of her toenails, from the inside.

Castillo's face wrinkles as Pepper loses her dinner, lunch, breakfast, and apparently yesterday's dinner, too. He sits there, waiting for her to expel everything before he ventures forth an, "You OK? Need me to ring up a medic… or an exorcist?"

Everything for the past few days comes up until, finally, she's leaning forward, braced on her legs, head over the bucket. "No, thank you," she starts, then pauses. "Water, if there's any here. If not, don't worry about it." Her voice sounds raw, rather like someone who just finished abusing their vocal cords should. "Sorry about that, Corporal. You shouldn't have had to witness that."

"I don't think -anyone- should have to witness that, sir," the Corporal replies with a bit of humor. His nose wrinkles a bit and he stands. "Yah, I'll get you something. You just sit there and I'm gonna set this somewhere to uh… fumigate." Castillo stands and grabs the bucket to get the smell out of the firing range. "Be right back."

She reaches down for the bucket. "Please, don't," she says, looking up at him with wet cheeks. "You shouldn't have to. I'll take care of it." Right. She looks about as able to handle that bucket as a newborn kitten is to handle a rabid pit pull. Of course, she's likely way too slow to catch him. Mortification will set in, eventually.

"Oh, I'm not volunteering to clean this up for you, sir," Castillo says with chuckle. "I'm just getting this thing the frak outta here. You just stay put and stay away from those cleaning agents," he says with a tone of authority in his voice. The 'MP' tone. And just like that, before any further protest can be mounted, the corporal disappears outside with the offending bucket of sand.

Hooking her heels on the rung of the stool, Pep simply folds her arms over her waist and bends forward. "Yes, SIR," she grumbles, though there's very tired humor in it.

A few minutes later, Castillo returns with a large cup of water and a second smaller 'spit cup'. Thankfully, the smell has cleared out for the most part. "You still alive, sir?" he asks as he extends the two cups to the young ensign.

As she hears the footfalls, she uncurls and puts her feet back on the floor. "Still breathing, last I checked," she offers, barely able to meet his eye. "Thank you, Corporal." She takes a slow sip of the water, a careful sip, then a second. "Didn't mean for that to happen. It just snuck up on me." Yep, mortification has set in. He could fry an egg on her cheeks. "I should be good to finish the rest up in just a couple minutes." Well, it was already established that she's stubborn.

Castillo shakes his head, "No worries, sir. It happens to the best of us at the worst possible times." There's a bit of a grin while he takes his seat. "You don't need to stick around and help me finish cleaning the weapons. In fact, I insist that you don't. You don't have anything you got to prove to me. Besides, you need to be in tip top for Colonel Carter."

Pepper doesn't move from her stool. She simply sips at the water, taking it slow - as if it's happened before. "I'll keep you company for a couple minutes," she says quietly. "Just until I think I can make it back to bunks." A soft, quiet sigh escapes, then she's shaking her head, smiling faintly. "What a mess. Literally and figuratively."

"You got the stomach flu, or this happen every time you have to perform weapon maintenance?" Castillo asks jokingly, trying to keep the situation light. He reaches down and caps any remaining cans of cleaner and instead goes about breaking down the rest of the weapons.

Pepper, oddly enough, debates her answer for a moment, watching his hands as he works. "I'm pregnant," she tells him, voice soft and quiet. "Which is why the last thing I ever heard from the Commander's mouth was "Get out."" She takes another sip of water, gripping the cup, though she seems outwardly relaxed. "Command and Lieutenant McKenzie know, but I haven't told anyone else yet. Four more weeks until I'll be comfortable making it public. After the danger's past." Danger? They -live- in danger. "With everything that's been going on, my fiance' and I have been too busy to really do much more than make sure the other's eaten."

Castillo blinks at the revelation, all of them and is silent for a moment. Then his expression is a bit more serious and he leans forward, "Sir, I appreciate you wanting to keep something like that on the down low. But, hell, you gotta be a bit more careful, huh? There's all sorts of crap you're breathin' in here and while I don't know if it's bad for your little nugget, I sure as hell wouldn't want my gal shooting guns and working with this chemicals. I reckon your baby's daddy wouldn't care for it much either." He pauses for a moment, adding a statement before asking a question that's not eating at him. "No one will hear about this from me, sir. You got my word. I gotta know, though… have you been sleeping or are you still burning the candle at both ends?"

Her expression softens into a smile and she shakes her head. "Colonel Carter would have his foot so far up my ass I'd be tasting shoe leather if he found out I wasn't sleeping," she says quietly. "I promise, I'm getting at least six hours rack time a night. Sleep?" A shoulder lifts. "That's been a little harder of late, but I'm getting the rack time. As far as the cleaning of guns, there's nothing in the literature that says it's a bad idea, the air is recycled quickly in here, and I was careful not to get much of the chemical on my skin. But I take your point and will be more careful next time. I didn't think much about it, truthfully. I was always taught that you use the gun, you clean it immediately."

"Yah, I bet he would and he probably wouldn't be too upset if I ended up having to detain you to get you to sleep, either," Castillo says. The humor is back again. "So, let's get you outta here and to your bunk. I'll escort you to your berthings. You can worry about that bucket later… or send Busey to take care of it." He rises and offer a hand to either help the ensign up, or take one of the cups.

She hands him the empty cup and gives him a wry smile. "I'll take care of the bucket before I go to bed for the night, Corporal," she says with a shake of her head. "I HAVE missed the can a few times and it doesn't bother me to clean up my own mess. Thank you, though." And yes, she means it. "It'll take me a few minutes in the head to clean the sand. When it's bleached and dry, I'll bring it back - though that won't be until late tomorrow night. If you had to detain me to get me to sleep, my fiance' would likely have a litter of kittens. I've been doing my best to abide by the spirit AND letter of what Medical gave me." The smile fades a little. "The last thing I'm going to do is risk the life of the baby."

"Well, then that's settled, sir. The bucket can wait until morning because your nugget need you to rest after that nice abdominal workout you had," Castillo says. "Just one minute, sir. Lemme get this stuff secured." And the corporal starts picking up the pieces of firearm that are spread out and all the other odds and ends. They're stuffed haphazardly into the locker.

Pepper opens her mouth to object, then simply watches the Corporal and shakes her head. Finally, watching him stuff everything away, she asks, "If I promise to go directly to my bunk and go to sleep, would that stop you from creating another hour's worth of work for yourself, Corporal? I'll go to the bunks and leave you to your work." There's only a little uncertainty in her voice.

"I'm a Marine, sir," Castillo replies with a bit of pride. "I only have two modes of operation. Working that involves killing and working that doesn't involve killing. An extra 10 minutes or an hour ain't gonna make any bit of difference in my day," he says. There's a smile and he walks to the hatch. "I'm not walking you because I think you're gonna run off somewhere. I just want to make sure you get there OK, sir. Same courtesy I'd extend to anyone in my class that fell ill."

At that, Pepper simply gives up the fight and nods. "Alright, Corporal," she says with a soft laugh. "Thank you." Then she moves out past him, still holding the half-filled cup of water. "At least I'm not going back to Genesis tonight, as was the plan. It'd have been a rather long walk for you. Though," she pauses, head tilting to the side. "That would have been less out of your way and more on your way home, wouldn't it?"

"Home is where you hang your hat, right? Truth be told, I rarely see the enlisted berthings, sir. Too much to do between here and the Genesis. I just hang my hat wherever I need to grab some shuteye," Castillo says. He starts to walk behind Pepper, taking the subordinate position as they head down the Hera's corridors. "It'll even all out as soon as I wrap things up here."

Pepper makes her way down the corridor, glancing over her shoulder at him in a little bit of surprise. She doesn't say what she's thinking - for once. "Perhaps the Colonel will see clear to make sure you have a berth here on Hera," she says quietly, musingly. And then quiet as she leads the way to the proper floor.

"Eh, the chair at the MP desk in the holding cell does just fine when I can't catch a shuttle back," Castillo says. He's clearly not one for being fussed over. "Besides, I think the Sheriff would have a cow if I took a berthing here. It's tough being popular, sir." There's a long chuckle that comes from him at that comment.

"Humph," is her quiet reply as she draws up in front of the officer berthings. "The Sheriff can come to me with any complaints. Given how valuable you are to Hera's crew at the moment, a berth over here makes sense, especially given the amount of time you're spending on Hera." Apparently she learned well from the Commander. It's there in the stubborn set of her chin. "Thank you for seeing me back, Corporal," she says, a smile chasing the stubbornness away. "I'll likely see you for the next class, the classroom portion of close quarters combat, unless something takes me off Hera or the Colonel needs me."

"I'll look for you in the front row again, sir," Castillo says with a polite nod of his head. "And, if you have trouble getting to sleep because of runaway thoughts, I got two cures for you. Listen to the wireless or recite the general orders over and over again. Knocks me right out." He smiles, comes to attention briefly and says, "Good evening, sir."

Pepper comes to more of a formal attention stance and dips her head, once. "Good evening, Corporal," she says, tone formal. Then she's gone, slipping into the berths and closing the door quietly behind her.

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