Welcome To The Highlanders

7

Captain Erin McKinley sat behind a table at the head of the room. The room was empty besides the large man standing at her left.

She carefully ran a cloth up and down the claymore's polished steel blade. The blade was etched with the McKinley clan name in Gaelic runes and from tip to base was just about a meter long. The hilt was a basic cruciform style with wrapped black leather around the handle. The pummel was a heavy steel ring set with a single large emerald.

As she polished the blade, the doors at the other end of the room opened. Twenty-two new recruits to Hotel-01 walked in. They were dressed in basic black fatigues without any identifying marks aside from the Authority emblem on their shoulders. She ignored them and continued with her task while they took their seats.

Minutes passed and the group remained quiet. She caught glances of them as she inspected the flawless edge along one side of the blade. They were a mix of existing ASF forces and new inductees to The Authority. Those who were already with The Authority stayed quiet. They knew better. They had seen the things she had seen and were respectful of her position.

The first to speak, after ten minutes, was two men near the back. Barely a whisper between them but it was enough. Her eyes passed over the first one on the left. Black hair, sheared bald. Probably from the United States Marines judging from the tattoo on his neck.

Erin set the blade down on the black velvet laid on the table. Beside the blade was it's sheath, black wood inlaid with gorgeous silver filigree. She tossed the polishing cloth on top of it and walked down the aisle between the recruits. These were not fresh faced young men and women or teenagers. They were all experienced soldiers and experienced Authority Security Forces.

Nevertheless, they were still in desperate need of a good ass kicking.

She stopped before the man who had spoken first. He looked up at her with hard eyes and his facial expression stayed cold. In one swift motion, she cocked him across the face hard enough to send his seat over backwards.

"Patience!" She yelled, her Glaswegian accent heavily coloring the word.

The man on the ground looked more shocked than actually hurt. But he had the brains to keep his mouth shut as he got back to his feet and stood at attention.

She turned from him and looked at the room. "The first thing ye will learn is patience! We are a first response team. That means we don't get sent on little chores and errands while we wait. We get to stand at the starting line, ready to sprint when the gun sounds! Tha worst thing we can do is get bored, do something stupid, and not be ready when the time comes. Every second counts. Our record deployment is ninety-three seconds from alert to wheels leaving the runway."

Her steps were quick and sharp back to the table. She spun on her heel and stared them all down. She, a head shorter than most of them and three quarters their weight, glared most of them into looking away. "So before yer trainin' is complete, you will all know the value of patience. I am Captain Erin McKinley and I'm the Field Division Commander for MST Hotel-01. Today, you will learn just how far I and the rest of your new family is willing to go to get our jobs done! How far you are expected to go!" She stood stoic before them and they stared back. "Sergeant, take the ASF and go on your way. ASF that are transferring, I thank you for your continued resolve in the Authority's cause. Ye will all go with the Sergeant and he will give you yer own orientation. You needn't be hearing alot of this stuff again from when you joined The Authority the firs' time."

"Yes ma'am." The Sergeant who had been calmly standing beside her saluted and walked to the back door, "Fall in!"

The seven ASF that were transferring into Hotel-01 stood and followed him out of the room. The doors banged shut and they were left in silence again. This time it remained completely unbroken. They had learned a little already. Erin almost smiled.

"Alright. So, the pencil pushers already gave you the quick gab of what we're about and what ya'll signed up for. I'm here to tell you specifics of the team you're joining. Weird shit happens in the world and we get to go deal with it. Anomalies, events, and some of the most deadly horrors you can imagine. Many of you may have encountered it already. Like me, perhaps you saw some shit go down and you got strung up by some suits. You got asked what the hell was going on and you got your answer. Maybe you were so damn good you got a formal offer to join. Whatever the case, you're all a part of The Authority now. Research, Protect, Contain. That's the mission statement or motto or whatever. We do the protecting and containing." Erin leaned back against the desk and crossed her arms. She eyed every one of them and tried to guess which would be the first to run during training. Hard batch this time, she probably wouldn't be able to guess… not at first at least. There was always one to get mustered out and amnesticized back to his naive, innocent life.

Lucky bastard.

"As part of my MST, that's Military Stike Team, you will be above the law of the countries of this world. You will answer to nobody but those above ya in the Authority. You will be the fucking Men in Black out there. But at the same time, more will be expected of you than ever before in your lives. I will be personally kicking the ass of every single fuck in my command that decides to slack off. You slack off and people die. Not just a few either. This isn't some war between nations or some petty world war where measly thousands or millions die. We are on the frontline of humanity's very survival. The things we stop can destroy this world with ease." She raised an eyebrow as she looked them over, "Yes, not everything we get sent after can do that much, but it only takes getting lazy once to end the world. You will treat every threat as though it personally has you by the balls and is hanging your sweet little boytoy or favorite piece of ass over the burning pits of hell and eternal damnation. Any questions?"

Four hands went up.

"Good. The rest of you. You're fucking morons. None of you even comprehend what I'm fuckin telling ya so you all should've yer hands up." Erin snapped at them, "Another skill I will be learnin' ya is how to ask the right questions. Some of you might think asking questions makes you look dumb. Well in this job if you don't ask questions, you die. If you don't know what the containment procedures are on that city melting candy cane of doom you got handed, then you better fucking ask. Because if you have to stop and jerk that candy cane off every three minutes and sixteen seconds to keep it from melting the city, then you're really gonna to feel like a moron for not wanking the hell outta it on the proper schedule. All because you didn't ask a question. So, you."

She pointed to one of the first hands up in the front row. The man put his hand down and stood up at attention, "Ma'am! Specifically, what kind of threats are we facing, ma'am?!"

"I don't fucking know. They're all different. They're all completely nonsensical. I took down a guy wearing a magic glove that made him think he was a knight. Also gave him a serious psychosis and let him take a dozen bullets ta the chest and keep coming at us. Gonna be pretty rare when command can tell us what we're going up against… so we get trained to take down anything. We also get trained how to know when we're out of our depth. We scout it out and we tell command what they need to know to call in the right team… And when there's no one else to call in, then we get trained to jump headlong into the darkest depths of hell to drag Satan out screaming by his fucking throat. You understand?" She said with a nod.

"Yes, ma'am!" And he retook his seat.

"You all who jus' put your fucking hands up, drop 'em. You only put 'em up since I said something. Try again later." She scoffed, "You, cute one." She pointed at the man very nearly twice her size with a beard like a lumberjack.

"Thank you, ma'am." He stood and was more than a head taller than her. If he made it through training, he'd definitely be the biggest one they had yet. He didn't snap to attention, he appeared too relaxed for that but Erin could tell it wasn't out of disrespect. He simply understood the situation. "Ma'am, the gentlemen before told us we were joining an organization that seeks out and contains these dangerous objects from all over the world. They also told us that we have agents in every country and in every government. That we are not beholden to these countries. They informed us we would be acting within these countries without their consent." He took a breath, "Will you be asking us to break the laws of the countries we have come from?"

His accent spoke of northern Scotland. She knew there was a reason why she liked him. A frown crossed her face at his question though, "Fuck ya I will. If an entity has taken control of an orphanage full o' children and is making those wee lads and lasses run out the door on fire and blow up in your face, then I will in fact order you to put six det charges through the windows and bring the building down on their sad little heads. The things we fight are merciless. They have no compunction about using children against us or breaking every law including those of reality itself. So when you are told to do something, you do it because the person telling you is the only law you will answer to. Breaking that law has only one punishment: Death!" She looked over them slowly, "And the enemy will gladly carry out that sentence."

He seemed a mite uneasy but he retook his seat with a grim nod. She turned to the last two, "You. Girlie. What's your question?"

She stood up and clicked her boots, "Ma'am! How long will our training take, ma'am?!"

"Til I think yer fucking ready. This isn't the good ol army. I'm not here to break you down and build you up anew. You were hired because of your previous skills and it is those skills we will augment with our knowledge to prepare you for your job." Erin said and she gestured to the final recruit with his hand up, "Last one."

"Sup with that sword? That standard issue? Cuz I ain't gon'a be chopping someone with that." He spoke with an undeniable Brooklyn accent and he didn't get to his feet when he spoke. Erin glanced at him and then down at her sword. He was insubordinate but he was casual about it. His last position must've been one of superior rank where he rarely was reprimanded. That wasn't going to fly in her command.

"You're a special one, ain'tcha? Navy Seals? Maybe CIA or FBI? You heard of respect for superiors?" Erin glowered at him.

He stood, sighing and rolling his eyes while he did so. He snapped a quick salute, but his shoulders were slouched and his hands fell to his sides too quickly. "FBI ma'am and I find all this paramilitary pseudo science to be a bit out there. Yea, there's some shit we can't explain like the Bermuda Triangle or Big Foot, but is there really aliens and crazy magic out there? I just don't know. I took this offer because it seemed prestigious but the longer I'm here, the more it feels like a bad dream. Do you really believe all this?"

If he wasn't the first mustered out from mental distress, she'd eat her bonnet. Nevertheless, she met his gaze, "I do. Seen it firsthand too many times and if you make it through training, I can actually give you the files on The Bermuda Triangle and Big Foot both. As to the sword, no it is not standard issue. This is my family heirloom, a claymore from the McKinley clan a whole mess'a generations ago. Much as I'd love to go crazy on some anomalous arse with this beauty, The Authority frowns on the use of nonstandard gear in the field."

"Uh-huh." He said and slumped back into his seat. All Erin could wonder is how the fuck he ended up here?

"Alright. Question time is over. If you had more, to bad. You're chance is blown. Now, here's what's going to happen. You will leave those doors. You will be assigned your barracks by the man waiting out there. That is your home. Forever. In your rooms you will find all your standard issue gear waiting. Suit up and gather outside your barracks. Team leaders will gather ya'll up. You will start your training today and from here on training will be twelve hours a day until finished. Then and only then will I be calling you Highlanders! Are we clear?!" Erin yelled at them, her Glaswegian making it sound almost comically unintelligible.

"Yes Ma'am!" Most of them boomed back.

"Fall out!" She stomped her boot and snapped them all a salute.

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