Author's Notes: These short stories or drabbles are meant to give a taste of events that likely occurred but we never saw in the FMP Franchise. Since I'm going to consider this canon for Sword and Shield… I thought I'd list them as such.
Sword and Shield: Flashbacks
The Hidden Tirade
3 November 1998
Merida Island, South Pacific
On Base Quarters for Captain Teletha Testarossa
Sergeant Major Melissa Mao stepped inside the base quarters, her gaze flicking around the small living room far underground. The digital 'window' beside the table and couches was showing a school of tuna. She smiled slightly to herself as she noticed that the platinum haired girl wasn't present.
Melissa took a deep breath and fought the urge to pull out a full cartoon of cigarettes and go to town. Normally she wouldn't have bothered fighting it, Tessa's quarters were nicer than her own and the girl may complain about her improprieties but never went so far as to actually reprimand her.
This time she might. Melissa took a deep breath again and leaned against the bulkhead door, her head banging against the metal. It sucks being the 'big sis' to your CO. Hard to know where interfering and advice stop and insubordination starts.
Maybe it's about time we have a nice big plague of insubordination. The Lieutenant may think that his methods will help but… She shook her head and made a sound of derision. It's just the new unit commander trying to make his mark. He'll ease off after a few months just like they all do when they're just assigned… Damn Clouseau, I thought you were smart enough to avoid that sort of thing. As the Sergeant Major for the SRT, she was responsible for the training and readiness of all the operatives… even Weber. Her hands shook slightly as she lifted the clipboard up and glanced back at the pair of reports she'd been given on one of the agents in the field.
Sousuke… She took a deep breath again. I understand why you did it Tessa, why you didn't fight harder for him to remain in Tokyo. We needed our one Lambda driver pilot to work the kinks out of the Arbalest. We needed him here. But in that whole damn conversation did we consider his needs? Melissa snorted. None of us thought that much about how he's changed over the last couple months… The stoic soldier we all knew isn't some machine like we thought he was.
She winced as she thought back to the lecture she'd given him in Hong Kong… "Forget about her, if you can't get out of damn van!" Great call Melissa, the damn kid was depressed and you tried to shake him out of it with that? She closed her eyes. I was wrong… when he got out of the van he looked so broken, cold and lifeless like that assassin in China… I knew I'd fucked up when I saw that look on his face.
We all fucked up. Melissa swallowed a lump in her throat and hung her head. We based our whole god damn battle plan on one soldier after ripping him away from the only thing approaching normalcy he's known, and then… She sighed. Kaname means the world to that kid, Tessa didn't want to see it, Admiral Borda was focused on efficiency not the personnel in question, Kurz knew we'd fucked up but no one listens to the horny German. Not even me.
She pushed herself away from the bulkhead and walked over to the couch and sat down. Now the whole SRT owes Kaname their lives… again! She shook her head and tried to chuckle. We try and get Sousuke to perfect working the Lambda driver system and she shows up, tells Sousuke to do it, and he damn does it… Five damn Venoms like it was a shooting range or something. Talk about whiplash.
She closed her eyes and sat the clipboard down on the low table. Corporal Yang's report as well as one that most everyone had missed… Al's after action report from Nanjing and the most recent battle in Hong Kong. The second had made for tough reading but it had managed to explain the cause for the Lambda driver's failure.
Emotional stability is required and good mental health… so who bonds with the damn thing? Our stoic sergeant… The pressure of his work load had to be affecting his mental health… which can't have been all that good to begin with. He certainly seemed stressed. Mao shook her head once more and sighed. So, we cut him off from the girl he has feelings for… tell him to work out the problems with the device and are surprised that it doesn't function during exercises?
The door opened with a hiss and Melissa took a deep breath as the slender form of Captain Testarossa stepped inside. Tessa was smiling as she stepped inside and let the door shut behind her. "Melissa!"
"Hi… how'd the meeting go?" Melissa asked.
"Fine, Sagara is on his way back to Tokyo already." Tessa cocked her head and glanced around the room.
"With or without Mithril?"
Tessa froze for a moment then closed her eyes. "With our support… he'd make an excellent poker player. He took a pay cut in exchange for being made part time and being allowed to continue guarding Angel."
"Command agreed to that?" Melissa asked.
"Yes… after he threatened to resign if they didn't."
He would… After what we did to him, who could blame him? Melissa nodded. "Good for him, now that Sousuke has kicked command's ass it seems I'll only have to do this once."
"Do what once?"
Melissa closed her eyes and rubbed her temple. "Permission to speak freely as your 'Big Sis'?"
Tessa slowly nodded.
"What the hell were you thinking pulling Sousuke out like that!" Melissa roared. "I mean… normally I think High Command is stupid as a door knob but this one takes the cake, and you went along with this?"
Tessa's eyes widened and began to shimmer with tears. "But…"
"You're the commanding officer of the TDD-1 Tessa! If you say jump Sousuke will ask how high, but there are things even he won't do any more just out of God damn duty." Melissa thumped the clipboard on the table. "Kalinin took a black marker to his service record so I don't know exactly what he's been through, but I do know for him to be the way he is it had to be rough, hellish even! You know he was considering leaving before he got the mission to guard Chidori?"
"Sousuke never had a normal upbringing, never had a day of school, or friends his age… Kalinin thought that the mission to Jindai High was the best thing that could happen to him. Someone like that can't understand the values Mithril is based on, and could get fucking frustrated at our attitude." Melissa shook her head. "Good thing it turned out this way or Sousuke might have been piloting one of those Venoms. I've got to say Tessa, for a pretty smart girl you've got one screwed up picture of who Sagara is!"
"Just shut up and listen. We all fucked up, I didn't realize how badly we'd fucked up till Sousuke went AWOL on the street, but we did and we should have seen it coming. If anything happened to Chidori while he was pulled out, we'd never seen him again except through a targeting reticle." Mao ground her teeth. "If anyone had read Al's after action analysis of Nanjing…" She shook her head. "Well, apparently no one considered to think about the thoughts of the AI… it is just a piece of equipment that monitors mental states…" She rolled her eyes. "But no, we think of Sousuke as some sort of machine, don't we… the perfect soldier. We all forgot he was a teenage boy tasked with guarding a teenage girl and the pair had to rely on each other to survive… Of course they bonded. Sousuke's so naïve he doesn't know what he feels for her and Kaname's too damn shy to admit how she feels. Plus he's got friends now, civilian friends. You know all this, since you took two weeks off to live a normal life for a bit..."
Tessa glanced down. "I knew I hurt him but… I didn't think it'd affect his performance."
"Didn't think it'd… Jesus Tessa, you're a captain. You know how important morale is! Of course it'd affect his fucking performance." Mao picked up her clipboard and shook it. "Especially if you looked at what the Arbalest's AI said was the cause of the Lambda driver's failure to function…" Melissa closed her eyes. "The system is keyed to the emotional state of the pilot, if he's fucking depressed it doesn't fucking work!"
"I know… I know…" Tessa collapsed on the couch and started to cry. "But uncle Jerry said it was the right thing to do strategically and I… I was afraid that Jindai would make him want to leave Mithril someday and…"
Melissa sighed. "And you wanted to steal him away from Kaname?"
Tessa shuddered. "He was so angry when he got back… underneath that stoic shell of his but I could see it and… I wanted him to hate me for it. We needed him: he's the only one that can operate a Lambda driver."
"And by bringing him back you made it so he couldn't." Melissa pulled her cartoon of cigarettes from her pocket and set it on the table. "I thought the stress of everything would break him… that's why I supported bringing him back but… I fucked up too. I'm a Sergeant Major. My job is to prep people for combat. Instead I didn't notice a fucking time bomb. Oh fuck it…" Melissa picked up a cigarette and lit it taking a long draw on it before continuing. "We keep forgetting that the emotional health of our soldiers is just as important as their skills and physical wellbeing. Sousuke has been broken for so long… he finally started healing by being in Tokyo, and we almost totally reversed the process. I'm as much to blame in this as you… I think the only one that knew we'd screwed the pooch with this was Weber."
Tessa nodded slowly. "He is Sousuke's friend… and I guess I am too." She heaved a sigh. "I feel like a fool and an idiot."
"Hopefully Sousuke did that for High Command for us." Melissa said. "Okay… I'm done. I had to get that off my chest."
"Do you think I've lost to Kaname already?" Tessa asked quietly.
Tessa, you're not even in the game. Melissa held back the answer and closed her eyes. "You're a good CO, hell you're a great CO… but even the best fuck up sometimes, and this whole thing was a cluster fuck from the top down. Sousuke might see you the way you'd like but are you ready to face the music with a court martial for fraternization?"
Tessa sighed. "Damn."
The door hissed open and a rather tired looking Kurz Weber stepped inside. "Oh hey Sis… Tessa-chan." He yawned. "You done ripping yourselves new ones yet?"