To those who have followed this fic, sorry for the delay. Writer's block along with life put a halt on all creative endeavors for a time. Thankfully, a new year has brought renewed motivation! As always, many thanks to those who have fav'd, alerted and reviewed this ongoing fic!
Review suggestions are always welcome- the list is continually updated!
Side-note: I am no strategist or armed services veteran, so if you are expecting a military analysis of the movie's merits or its character depictions, you'll most likely be disappointed. Instead, you should look at this fic more like I do: "Mystery Science Theater 3000 meets Mass Effect 2 meets Modern Movies"... Oh, to be as funny as MST 3000... It is good to have goals. *grin*
I hope you enjoy the show!
Saving Private Ryan
In preparation for vid night, the affectionately named "Flotilla Furniture"- various multi-colored floor pillows, Zaeed's gun-metal grey La-Z-boy recliner, Joker's folding director's chair and the black leather sofa from Miranda's office - had been moved into the armory. The furniture was placed randomly in a semi-circle around the large mobile projection screen which sat in front of the door -currently locked- separating the room from the CIC. As the vid credits started to roll, the lights came on casting a brilliant luminance throughout the room. Some of the squad mates quickly tilted their heads to the ground, as though attempting to hide their face and eyes – which were curiously glossy - from the rest of the crew.
Commander Lakota Shepard, who sat behind everyone on an armory table, glanced over at Grunt who stood up, yawned and then stretched his arms above his head. Narrowing her eyes suspiciously, the Spectre asked, "Grunt, did you fall asleep during the vid?"
The krogan stretched one more time before replying, "Only the middle."
"After they seized the beach from the enemy with bloodshed and glory, I took a nap. Then I saw them do battle to hold the town."
"Those were the beginning and end scenes of the vid!"
"The best scenes, too," growled the krogan unapologetically.
"Don't be too hard on him, Commander, not all of us were as enamored with this vid as others," stated Chakwas, who was seated on the black leather couch. The frown on her face made it very evident she was annoyed. "Personally, I've never appreciated it when a director attempts to bamboozle the audience with cheap manipulations."
Kasumi also sat on the couch, but was sitting between the medical doctor and Jacob. Confused, the thief asked, "Bamboozle, Doc?"
"I've seen this ploy before," said the older woman. "The audience assumes that the vid is meant to be a flashback. It's NOT though. The audience thinks it's a flashback because they see an old man at the cemetery, then it cuts to Captain Miller fifty years before. Audiences are used to seeing similar set ups and film devices to tell them that they are now seeing a flashback. They think they're so bloody brilliant because they understand this without the director resorting to music cues or fuzzy camera peripherals." The doctor's nose crinkled as she sneered, "But they were lied to all along!"
"I think the Doc was bamboozled," teased Garrus, "and I think she's just a tiny bit upset." The former C-Sec officer leaned back into his bean bag and smiled a turian smile.
"It's a cheap Spielberg manipulation trick!" retorted Chakwas loudly.
Garrus pointed a finger at the doctor. "And I agree with you," he said. "There is a fatal flaw to the story telling in the vid."
"What do you mean?" questioned Tali. She was relaxing in the yellow bean bag to the left of the turian.
"The vid is told from Ryan's perspective, right?"
"Yeah, so what?" challenged Jack, who was leaning on the wall near the doors leading to Mordin's lab. Her arms were crossed defiantly in front of her chest.
The turian looked around the room to confirm that everyone was listening before continuing. "He doesn't meet the squad until a few days into the story and Captain Miller never gives him a detailed account of what happened on the beach or how they finally found him. So how did Ryan know what the squad was doing in the beginning of the film?"
Jack tilted her head contemplatively. "Scarface has a point."
Miranda leaned forward on the red bean bag that she'd been lounging in and then stood up. "Mr. Moreau, what the bloody hell are you wearing?"
The pilot glanced down at his outfit – a vintage replica of a World War II Army Ranger's uniform, including the helmet which he was wearing on his head. "What? This old thing? The trousers are actually very comfortable. You'd think the wool fabric would chafe, but it's actually very soft."
Lakota shook head while her hand palmed her face. "For the love of all that's blue," she groused. "Joker, where in the hell do you find this stuff?"
"Well, you see, Commander, there is a site on the extranet that specializes in making custom outfits. I'm a member and get some really great deals when I buy more than…" The pilot stopped talking when he realized that all eyes in the room were on him. "Oh, I get it," he said to the ridiculing stares, "that was a rhetorical question. Fine. Just remember that history will one day look back at this moment and who will be wearing your scantily clad leather outfits? Not me, I say! NOT ME!"
Turning to face Grunt once again, Lakota asked, "So that was it? You only saw the first and last thirty minutes of the vid?"
Yawning, Grunt nodded his head.
"What about all of the scenes in between?" The Spectre's voice carried the tone of incredulity with it.
"They were annoying... like insects you want to squash," explained the krogan, "so I read this…" He held up a datapad with the digital pictorial book Predatory Sharks on the screen. "Then fell asleep."
Miranda shook her head and scoffed, "All of those men going after one person was a serious misallocation of military resources."
Lakota turned her head sharply, glaring at the ex-Cerberus officer who was standing only a foot away. "Seems like I've heard that from you before," she accused.
"You have, Commander," replied Miranda curtly.
"Okay… who agrees with Ms. Lawson?" Lakota looked around the room. "Raise your hands."
Miranda, Zaeed, Legion, Samara, Thane, Grunt, Mordin, Garrus and even the Spectre all raised their hands while the rest of the crew – Tali, Kasumi, Joker, Chakwas, Jacob and Jack kept their hands down.
"Commander?" The ex-Cerberus officer's brow crinkled in confusion. "You agree with me?"
"Yeah," said the Lakota in a whisper so low that only Miranda could hear. "I wouldn't have spent the creds on me, either."
Jack noticed a few people staring at her and angrily adjusted her crossed arms. "What are you looking at?" she barked. "There's no way I am siding with the cheerleader!"
Tali adjusted her position in her bean bag so she could look squarely at Garrus and even though she was wearing a mask, her body language made it very clear that she was glaring at him. "Garrus!" she yelled, then slugged his raised arm.
"What!" he said defensively. "I was only joking."
"Remember, Shepard came and saved you on Omega!"
"That's true," mumbled the turian as he lowered his hand. He looked over at the commander and said, "Come on, Shepard. Put your arm down. You've completed so many missions to 'save one man' that it's practically tattooed on your back." He quickly shot a glance toward Jack. "No offense."
The tattooed biotic puckered her lips and blew the turian a snarky kiss from across the room.
"Or save one woman," countered Miranda.
"Or alien," said Joker.
Legion scanned the room before adding, "Or synthetic unit."
"Or krogan," stated Grunt.
"Grunt, that's what an alie-" Joker was immediately interrupted by a low growl coming from the krogan. "Ah… never mind. Throw asari, drell, turian, quarian, geth and human on the list. You might as well toss in hanar, batarian, elcor, volus, vorcha and baby pyjaks, as well. Shepard's young and she's got time."
"Garrus," said Lakota, "I only saved your ass so I could keep the Normandy. It was in the fine print."
"Oh no," muttered Tali to herself. "Here we go again."
"Please, Shepard," retorted the turian. "You wouldn't know what to do without my good looks to inspire you."
"That's partly true. You do bring in the girls… then I take them away." The Spectre quickly pointed a finger at Legion who she knew was recording the whole conversation. "That was a joke."
The front flaps on Legion's head whizzed and banged until they were arranged in a way that made the geth looked perplexed. "Processing."
Mordin who was lounging in a green beam bag lowered his hand and then stated, "Captain Miller in combat for two years. Shaking hand undoubtedly a reaction to stress of prolonged combat."
"Yes," said Chakwas, "I agree. His insomnia was part of it, too."
"Combat stress?" Joker readjusted himself in his director's chair. "How come Shepard's hands don't shake then?"
Garrus chuckled, "Because she's unshakable."
"Human behavior unpredictable," replied Mordin. "Individuals process stress inconsistently. Sign of mental instability. Key markers often hidden."
The pilot looked over at Lakota as though scrutinizing her every movement. "So what you're saying is that Shepard may be experiencing combat stress, but we don't know."
"What?" exclaimed the Spectre. "That's a bunch of crap! Garrus, what have you been telling them?"
"You are a cynical, suspicious woman, Shepard," said the turian.
"No I'm not! Who told you that?"
Tilting his head in contemplation, Mordin said, "Would have to monitor subject more closely."
"Sure, I get it," said Joker. "You're a scientist. You don't think, you observe." Hastily, the pilot recanted, "Wait. That didn't come out right."
Samara, who was sitting on the floor in the yoga pose called 'the lotus,' had her eyes closed and appeared to be meditating. Without warning she opened her eyes and commented, "Did anyone notice how clean Private Ryan was compared to everyone else? No smudges of dirt, no facial stubble."
"Just another way the director leads the audience to subconsciously identify with Ryan's innocent nature," said Thane. The drell was sitting next to Jack on a table that showcased various sniper rifles. Every now and again, after he gazed upon them, he sighed longingly.
"Okay, Grunt," said Lakota, "what did you like about the vid?"
"Like? It's not about like, Shepard. It's about battle!" proclaimed Grunt. "Humans are squishy, but brave. They are also stupid. Where were their shields? Their armor? And why did they cry for their mother's when they were injured? They are not krogan."
"That's true, Grunt. Few are."
Chakwas crossed her legs, then laid both hands upon her knees. "The first twenty-five minutes contains the most believably shocking combat sequences I've ever seen. The taking of Omaha Beach was viscerally disturbing and emotionally deafening."
"That's what real war is, Doctor," said Zaeed from his La-Z-Boy recliner. "A goddamn bloody mess."
"The sound of all of those bullets pinging off helmet reminded me of running around with you on Freedom's progress, Commander. Your aim was awful," teased Jacob.
"I'd just woken up from a two year coma," countered the Spectre. "You do that and then we'll talk."
"The director was biased," stated Samara, who had changed into the 'staff pose'. She was still sitting on the floor, but now had both legs stretched out in front of her and both hands were beside her hips actively pressing into the ground. "When the American soldiers were killed it was tragic. When they were wounded they cried out for water, morphine or – as Grunt pointed out - their mothers. But when the German soldiers were killed, there was nothing but silence. Nothing to give empathy to their deaths."
"Another deceptively calculating move by the director," asserted Thane. "The enemy is cast in an unforgiving light."
"And the Americans are just a sketchy band of combat clichés: a cocky Old New Yorker, a dependable sergeant, a whining Jewish kid and a cowardly translator," said Miranda as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. When she realized her posture mimicked Jack's, her hands immediately dropped to her sides.
"That's true, but there is some truth in clichés," said Kasumi. "Look at ourselves. In a way, some of us resemble those clichés in the vid."
"Oh yeah!" said Joker excitedly. "Kasumi is totally right! This group could totally pass as the characters in the vid."
Jacob frowned skeptically. "Okay. I'll bite. What about Private Jackson, the sniper who prays before taking a life?"
"I'm going to have to go with Thane with that one. I know that's stepping out on a really thick limb," said Joker sarcastically, "but I'm gonna do it."
Nodding his head in agreement, Jacob then asked, "And Captain Miller?"
"That's an easy one," said Kasumi. "Shep, of course. Who else?"
"Private Carpazo?" barked Zaeed. "The jackass who got himself killed by trying to save that little girl!"
"Well, it sure wouldn't be you," Jacob shot back.
"Goddamn right it wouldn't be. Idiot jeopardized his whole unit with that lame stunt."
"I say Jacob," answered Joker. "Carpazo is ripped; Jacob's got a six pack. Hell, he's probably got an eight pack." The pilot glanced over at the thief. "Kasumi, care to weigh in on this one?"
The pilot pointed a finger at the thief. "And there, my friends, is an example of T.M.I"
"T.M.I.," repeated Legion as the flaps on the geth's face formed into a frown. "A historical reference to the partial nuclear meltdown which occurred on Earth at the Three Mile Island power plant in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States on March 28, 1979. It is also the informal title to the Monroe Institute, a nonprofit education and research organization devoted to the exploration of human consciousness located on Elysium. Ton-mile, a unit of freight transportation quantity, is cited also as T.M.I."
Joker let out an exaggerated sigh. "It means 'too much information'."
The geth paused momentarily then stated, "Our database has been updated."
"So who is Private Reiben?" challenged Lakota. "The mouthy one who questioned his superior officer."
"For attitude alone, I say it's Jack." Miranda smiled slyly. "It's a stretch though since Reiben doesn't have all those… colorful tattoos."
"You want color?" threatened Jack, as her biotics flared along her right arm. "Come get it, bitch!"
The ex-Cerberus officer's facial expression looked unconcerned, but her loose, 'ready for battle' stance said otherwise. "Or colorful language."
Before Jack could retort any further, Jacob asked, "And Sergeant Horvath?"
"Definitely, Miranda." Joker looked around the room for other assenting opinions. "You remember how Horvath was ready to shoot Reiben? Yeah, not like we haven't seen that before," the pilot mockingly rolled his eyes and pointed one finger at Miranda and one finger at Jack. "But instead of guns we get to see biotic pissing matches that will rip everything around them apart on the molecular level. Damn. Makes you wish for the good old days when bullets were the only things to worry about."
"I think Tali would be a good match for Private Ryan," declared Garrus. "When we first found her on the Citadel, she was young and relatively inexperienced in combat. But now look at her- badass to the bone. And be extra careful when she has a shotgun in her hands."
"Thanks, Vakarian," said the quarian. "That means a lot."
"Just telling the truth." Garrus leaned over to the quarian and whispered, "Remember that next time you threaten me with the shotgun."
"Private Wade, the medic?" asked Jacob.
Kasumi tilted her head in contemplation. "I'm going to have to go the traditional route and say Doctor Chakwas."
The female doctor smiled, and then queried, "What about Corporal Upham, the translator."
"At first, he reminded me of Liara," said Joker. "You know, before she became the great and powerful Oz. But then I remembered that she never froze in a fight. Which is weird because she'd never been in combat before. Must be an asari thing. Kind of like krogan are born warriors, asari are natural born commandos..." The pilot smiled sheepishly at Samara. "And that's when I thought of that guy on the Citadel that Shepard intimidated."
"Shepard intimidates a lot of people," said Zaeed in a tone that was filled with admiration and humor.
The pilot turned around to face Lakota. "Commander, who was that guy on the Citadel that you freaked out?"
A confused look flashed upon the Spectre's face as she mentally ran through a list of people she encountered on the Citadel over the years.
"Oh come on," said Joker, "you met him again on Illium, then shot him."
Lakota eyes lit up in remembrance. "Oh… Conrad. Conrad Verner."
"Yeah, that's the guy. I know he's not part of the squad, but he fits the profile." The pilot sat back in his seat. "He was such a tool."
Chakwas frowned in disagreement. "Corporal Upham signified the loss of innocence in war. In the beginning he thought that soldiers could be innocent, but ultimately succumbed to the evils of war when he shot that German soldier."
"Still a tool," said Joker.
Jacob nodded his head in agreement. "Private Mellish?"
"Garrus," answered Joker definitively. "He had a stick up his ass when it came to the Germans, but he was a funny guy."
The turian narrowed his eyes at the pilot. "Then I guess the platoon only needed to worry if he pulled that stick out of his ass and started beating people to death with it."
"Ah, yeah… right." Joker coughed uncomfortably. "Moving on."
"There are numerous selfless acts portrayed in the film," stated Chakwas, "but they fail to deliver any profound message."
Pursing her lips as though in deep thought, Kasumi said, "Selfless acts…. There was the woman in the typing pool who took time to inform the top brass of the three Ryan deaths."
"Miller and his men searching for the Private Ryan," added Jacob.
Interested in the positive nature of the conversation, Tali piped in, "The re-writing of Carpazo's bloodied letter to his family. First Wade, the medic had it, then it was picked up by Miller and finally Reiben."
"What the hell was in that letter to make is so important?" asked Jack.
"It started out with 'How are you?' so I don't think the letter's message was all that meaningful," explained the quarian. "I think the importance was the way it showed the soldiers' commitment to their 'brothers' in battle. They were willing to take on the responsibility of making sure that the letter got back to their friend's family. They knew that they could have just as easily been killed and knew how their families would feel if they were to get the same devastating news."
"Yeah," conceded Jack. "Whatever. A bunch of bullshit emotional baggage."
Jacob stretched his right arm along the back of the couch which just happened to be behind Kasumi's shoulders. "There is also the mercy they showed the German soldier."
"And we see how well that turned out for everyone," said Joker sarcastically, as he rolled his eyes.
"That is exactly my point," said Chakwas. "The central message becomes muddled as the film progresses. Each of these singular acts of human decency fails to achieve the desired outcome, or achieves them at a very high price. The development of the story fails to take into consideration the thematic foundation to Captain Miller's search."
"If there ever was any-" Joker raised both hands in order to make quotation marks in the air with his fingers. "-'thematic foundation'…" As he shrugged his shoulders, he looked at Chakwas. "It's just a vid, Doc."
Ignoring the pilot's commentary, the human doctor continued. "The end result is frustratingly patchy- equally brilliant and lackluster- and delivers a profoundly mixed message. Are we meant to think that war is an impersonal meat-grinder as in the opening battle, or that a few good men can make a difference, as in the climax?"
"It's both," explained Zaeed. "I told you, war is a goddamn foul and bloody mess."
"Despite weak thematic development," commented Mordin, "emotional elements captivate. Visually unforgettable. Would watch again."
Zaeed concurred, "I would, too. For the weapons alone. Seeing those classic beauties rain destruction down on their enemy was enough to bring a tear to my eye." The mercenary turned toward Shepard. "We need flamethrowers."
Miranda shook her head. "I agree with Dr. Chakwas. Technically, it may be a realistic war vid, but dramatically, it barely delivers."
"I thought this was supposed to be a comedy," lamented Tali.
Garrus frowned. "A war vid as a comedy?"
"Tom Hanks was in it."
"Not every vid he is in is a comedy."
"Obviously, I know that now," said the quarian. "It's just that I was hoping for something more cheerful. A romantic comedy, like 'Fleet and Flotilla' or a documentary like 'Omni-tools: The Things You Don't Know'."
Lakota overheard Garrus and Tali's conversation and smiled. Then she scanned the room and frowned. "What's up with Kelly missing these vid nights?" Turning to Miranda, she asked, "Do you know where our counselor is?"
"I believe she had some reports to finish up, Commander," replied the ex-Cerberus Officer as a smirk curled at the corner of her lips.
Before the vid:
Kelly looked at her monitor and read the invitation one more time. "To prepare for the war vid, Saving Private Ryan, you have been given a list of military slang terms from Earth's World War II era. Please research all possible meanings for the following acronyms: SNAFU, SUSFA, TARFU and FUBAR. Submit your findings via the provided equipment. Grammatical errors will not be tolerated."
After the vid:
Kelly, a research fanatic, was asleep at her desk. Next to her on the desk sat a vintage replica of a Royal P281 1942, portable typewriter – circa World War II, a pristine stack of white typing paper, and a box of typing ribbon. All around her desk and floor were scads of crumpled up pieces of paper – the carelessly discarded typo-filled drafts.
On the piece of paper that was fed into the typewriter, the following words could be found:
SNAFU – Situation Normal, All Fucked Up or Situation Normal, All Fouled Up
SUSFU – Situation Unchanged, Still Fucked Up
TARFU – Totally and Royally Fucked Up or Things Are Really Fucked Up
FUBAR – Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition or Fucked Up Beyond Any Reason or Fucked Up Beyond All Repair
Typing on this ancient machine is FUBAR…