2010-01-11: Welcome To My Parlour



Date: January 11th, 2010


Jo is the first to endure the dreaded psychological evaluation by Dr. Lansing. Will she make it out of the long, dark tunnel in one piece?

"Welcome To My Parlour"

Alpha Protocol HQ, Psych Offices

The psychology offices aren't the most glamorous wing of the building, in fact, it's little more than a collection of small-to-medium-sized rooms in an off-shoot of the medical facility. The shrinks that work there have the express privilege (read: misfortune) of sharing their reception staff with the medical personnel. Only one office stands out, and not due to it's size or spaciousness, but do to the fact that something different is printed on the window facing outside.

Special Agent Lansing, Tammy L.

As the only Special Agent currently on the psych team, Tammy was afforded certain privileges, not the least of which was having her pick of the available offices, which allowed her to pick one with room enough to store filing cabinet after filing cabinet of case files. In fact, it seemed one entire wall was covered in chest-high, metal filing cabinets. A large wooden desk was set up in the far corner, with a plush, high-backed, faux-leather chair behind it. A computer, a lamp, and various knick-knacks either occupied the surface, or were hung along the walls, degrees, diplomas, and the occasional photo. A tiny, thinly-cushioned and slightly uncomfortable two-seater couch was crammed against the wall immediatly adjacent to the door, and two more chairs were set along the adjoining wall at an angle. What little space wasn't taken up by the overload of furniture wasn't enough for a grown person to stretch their arms out and spin around without hitting something.

"Rachel." One of the other perks of the job was having an assistant that she only had to share with other special agents in her field, of which there were none. The blonde looks up with raised eyebrows as Tammy pokes her head out of the door. "When Miss Scott, just wave her on in."

At the responding nod of compliance, the psychologist's form disappears from the doorway again, back into the depths of her office.

Shortly after Tammy's interaction with her assistant, the sound of high heels clap against the floor, signalling the arrival of Katherine Josephine Scott — known as Jo to her family, and Lt Commander Scott to her colleagues. Dressed in a black pant suit (her work-clothes when not in the field) with her hair slicked back into a tight bun, her appearance is all-business. At her arrival, she presents the receptionist with a tight smile, "Hello. I have an appointment…"

The receptionist does her duty and waves the hunter into Tammy's office. Making no efforts to silence her entrance, the brunette lingers in the doorway of Tammy's office, arms crossed defiantly over her chest; she doesn't particularly like shrinks. Despite this, she presents Tammy with a polite, but cold smile, "Dr. Lansing?" She arches a single eyebrow as she glances about the room. "I've been mandated to have my head shrunk," her tone is hollow, not quite bitter, but it lacks a sense of warmth.

Having gone to the middle cabinet of the bunch, there were five in all, Tammy was making herself busy by pulling up Jo's file right about the time she walked into the office. She half-turns at the sound of her name with a small, congenial smile as she extracts a manila folder from the… mass of other manila folders. This one read 'SCOTT, KATHERINE J.' across the tab in bold, block letters.

"Please, 'Doctor' is only good for polishing my resume these days. But it's just as good as 'Agent Lansing', if you prefer. Come in, pick a seat."

Shutting the metal drawer closed with a slightly-echoing thump, followed by the tiny click of the combination lock engaging at the top, the dark-haired psychologist moves towards her desk, leaning over it to grab a pen from the 'No. 1 Shrink' cup located there. She also takes the time to grab the arm of her roller-chair, and drag it out and around the desk, towards the front, apparently so there would be no barrier between them. After smoothing down her skirt, Tammy takes her seat, the folder in her lap, pen in hand, and a warm, tight-lipped smile covering her lips.

"Shall we get down to business? You probably have a lot of bad-guy chasing to do. Now, before we begin," Opening the folder, she looks at the first few pages, containing the older woman's photo, base information, and fingerprints, Tammy glances down briefly, before looking back up. "Anything you say in here is confidential. This is only to determine your mental fitness and stress levels, so you can rant about your boss, or tell me all about your co-worker who keeps stealing your lunches. Just don't tell me you're going to kill them tomorrow. Okay?"

"Agent Lansing, it is," she says quietly with an empty smile. Choosing one of the chairs (rather than the uncomfortable-looking couch), Jo unbuttons her blazer before sitting down with near-perfect posture. She silently stares at the doctor as Tammy gets organized and then hesitantly crosses her ankles. She's uncomfortable, and unsure how Tammy will read her body language. Regardless, she leaves her ankles crossed and folds her hands in her lap.

She hmmms at the doctor's description as she shifts in her chair and then chuckles mirthlessly, "Good to know." She presses her lips together before stating, "Just so you're aware, Agent Lansing, I'm not a particularly emotive person. So if you're expecting me to cry or break underneath the stress, it won't happen." At this she leans back in her chair and uncrosses her ankles, planting both feet firmly on the floor.

Already, the doctor is flipping through the pages rapidly, coming to several blank sheets in a row and starting to write. Her handwriting is tiny, neat, and though there are no lines on the page, each word is kept tightly controlled in it's own little row, as if there were an imaginary ruler Tammy was using to write along. It's also highly illegible, almost undecipherable, except by other doctors. They must have some kind of training program on how to write like that.

"Well, Miss Scott," There's an easy smile, and a brief laugh of dismissal. "I'd say that life must be going pretty well for you, if the biggest thing you have to worry about is stepping into my office." Looking up, she holds up her writing hand, the pen between her fingers. "And I don't have any kleenex in here, so don't worry, I'll try to keep the emotional breakdowns I cause to a minimum. I know you must disappointed that I don't have a torture rack set up with a coffin full of spikes to relax in afterwards, but I'll try to make this as painful on you as possible."

There's a brief pause. "…That was a joke."

Clearing her throat, the psychologist picks up one leg, dangling it neatly to cross over the other as she repositions the folder in her lap. "So I read you're a Navy SEAL? I didn't think they let any women into that program. I saw GI Jane, annnnnnd it kinda makes me feel sorry for those guys. Did anyone else in your family serve in the Armed Forces?"

"Life is good when I do my job well." It hadn't been a good weekend. Peter had got away and Jo dressed up like a mime — it had not been a good weekend. The former SEAL chuckles and smirks at the joke, "Well, I'm glad you're not expecting a breakdown. I don't cry very often, it's a SEAL thing. And yes, I was a Navy-SEAL, honourably discharged several years ago. I could've served for more years, but family matters took my attention away from my service and being a SEAL requires everything a person has."

She nods at the question about her family, "My parents both served in the military. My father was a fighter pilot, and my mom was a lawyer in the judge advocate general core. I'm one of six children — all of which went on to complete some military service. I aimed high, started training from a young age, and demanded excellence for myself. That's how I became a SEAL." Her lips curl upwards into a smile.

The very vision of patience and rapt listening, that was the audible vibes given off by the woman in the high-backed chair. Not slouching, leaning forward just enough to make occasional notes without having to do more than bend her head down a few fractions of a degree. Her left arm was balanced on the arm of the chair, her fingers and thumb cupping her jawline while the pointer finger pointed straight up. Her right balances the folder on her thigh, held just so that she could write without an abundance of movement.

"That's quite a family tradition. I don't know of many children that can push themselves like that. Your parents must be quite proud."

More of that neat, yet messy writing. "What about your time with us here? How are you finding your job within Alpha Protocol?" Tammy pauses briefly as she takes her hand away from her face, flipping her hand through the air as she glances up at the various trinkets on the wall. "Do you like it, hate it, adjusting well? Rewarding?"

"My parents were proud of all of us. Military service from an entire family is entirely unusual, although they wouldn't have been pleased at my exit from the SEALS," Jo relaxes somewhat in her seat as she speaks about her family, but she tenses again moments later as another question is posed.

She chuckles slightly before shaking her head, "I don't hate it, doc. In fact, the polar opposite when I — we — do our jobs well. Americans need to be able to sleep safely in their beds. We make that possible. And the less they know the better it is for them. Parents tell their children lies for their protection all of the time, why shouldn't the government?" She clears her throat, "Besides, even our targets supposed 'accidents' cost lives. I have a prisoner in detention who hurt a colleague and apologized moments later. Apology or not, the damage was done."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I didn't go digging through the personnel offices for your personal history, so I only have your medical information with me, nothing on your family."

The smile dropping, Tammy clears her throat and moves past the awkward subject of deceased parents with as much efficiency as she could muster. Pen touches paper, and for a few moments after the ex-SEAL is done talking, the sound of ball-point scribbling is the only sound that can be heard. By the time the younger woman looks back up, the warm smile has managed to resurface.

"It's kind of an open secret among Special Agents that we lie to the people we're sword to protect, just like it's kind of an open secret among psychologists that everyone lies to everyone else, even to themselves. But, I'm curious, where do you draw that line? When lives are in the balance, how far is it acceptable to go to ensure people are safe? Does it stop at lies? Does it go farther? And if it does, then where does it stop?"

"And who gets to decide where those lines are? If you're given a mission, just how far can you reasonably be expected to go to complete it?"

Twitching at the next question, Jo coughs to hide her own emotional state. After clearing her throat, she manages an answer, "It doesn't stop until the American public is safe. I would shoot and kill one of my own brothers if it meant the safety of American people." Thoughtfully she closes her eyes before adding, "Theodore Joseph Allen Scott, my brother, currently wanted for desertion among other charges, is one of those freaks."

"Army-trained, specializing in hand-to-hand combat, Teddy was the picture perfect all-American boy. I learned he was different years before it amounted to anything. And then, 'accidentally' he killed our parents with his supposed 'gift'." Bitterness creeps into the woman's tone, although she smiles that same distant, cold smile, "I thought someone so disciplined could handle power like that. He couldn't. Can't. Teddy, and others like him, must be stopped." Beat. "Agent Lansing, I would do anything to protect the American public, even forfeit my own life. When I enlisted I knew I had to be willing to give up my own life. For this mission, this team, I'm willing to give up the lives of my family. The safety and security of our country are more important than my own happiness or salvation. I'll stand in for my own defense in hell."

"I… appreciate your candor. I can't imagine it's easy coming out with this to a perfect stranger." For a moment, there's a heavy silence in the room, so thick one could almost reach out and grab handfuls of it out of the air. After several more heartbeats, Tammy drops her eyes down to her notes and begins writing again, though there's not as much of it this time, precious few anecdotes added to the already nearly a third of a page she had filled out.

"I can't imagine you're very enamored of Evolved individuals. You seem to resent them for the loss of your parents, and that's a perfectly reasonable feeling considering the circumstances. But I would urge you not to think in terms of loss when it comes to making the world safe." Tammy's smile comes back, if a bit subdued, not quite the warm one it was before, but the doctor's smile, the one they got at hospitals that seemed only designed to impart that they knew more than you did. "When we sacrifice something important to save something important, we haven't really gained anything."

"Some people say that the Evolved among us are a glimpse into humanity's future. That looking at them is like looking at a telescope into the future, and that we should embrace that philosophy and learn what we can about the times to come. What do you think about that?"

Jo hrms at Tammy's speech about loss, "But we'll have gained safety for Americans, secured our place as a great nation, capable and competent. I think that's far more important than anything else. Stopping the terrorist threat is my first priority." She presses her lips together and considers the second question. Arching her eyebrows she scoffs, "The future? I'm not a scientist, Agent Lansing, I don't pretend to know the workings of evolution or humanity's future. But if they're the future, I would say things are looking pretty bleak for all of humanity. People that operate as nuclear bombs, or control others' thoughts have power that no person should know. No one can live up to that level of responsibility." She purses her lips before adding, "But there are other abilities that are perhaps somewhat useful, and substantially less dangerous. For example, an individual who could fly. The danger is really their own."

"That's an interesting viewpoint, about the danger only being to themselves. But is it? A person who could fly would be undetectable by radar. The perfect delivery system for a dirty bomb in a heavily-populated area, or a military base."

The scribbling pen finally comes to a halt, and the psychologist's eyes roam briefly over the written material, now spanning half a page of doctoral heiroglyphs that a sane person would need a decoder to understand. Clicking the end of her pen, Tammy stuffs the writing utensil into the breast pocket of her blazer, then quietly closes the cover of her folder before looking up.

"I think that's all the work-related material we need to go over for now. I do just have a couple more questions for you, though, about your personal life." With a subdued grin, she holds up her hand, as if to forestall protest. "Don't be alarmed, you only have to answer so far as it pertains to your job."

"Mostly what I want to know is how things are. Any problems at home that might negatively affect your career or performance? Any problems with relatives, relationships? Financial problems- we have great financial counselors, by the way -that might come up? Or… anything else you'd like to talk about? I have to warn you, this is your last chance to unload on someone who's legally sworn to keep your secrets safe."

"My personal life is fine," Jo quips back with a strained smile. "I have several friends that I served with that live in the New York area and romance is for the infirm." She shrugs at this. "My only complaint about work is the mime act I went through to try to catch Wil — a mark. I never ever want to dress up like a mime again. I not only missed my mark, but also ended up with this skin rash that took an ice pack to get down. Never again."

"I have nothing else to unload about. Honestly, life is fine. I have four brothers that I'm still close to, all of which are honourable men. I have several nieces and nephews. My life is good." She smiles at the psychologist, content that she's fulfilled that which was required of her.

"That sounds… horrible." A snicker. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to laugh, but I can't imagine the face paint was very comfortable. …Okay."

That one-word, simple affirmation signals the end of the 'Grill Session', and Tammy stands up, holding onto the folder with both hands. "Well then, I won't insult a former SEAL with questions of whether or not you're keeping yourself healthy with diet and exercise. But, um, this is a high stress job." Hugging the closed file to her chest, the younger woman crosses her arms over it. "So if you feel things at work or at home piling up, then stop by and make an appointment. We can at least make sure to get you pointed in the right direction."

Nudging her roller-chair out of the way with her leg, she moves back towards the desk, leaning over to plunk the pen out of her pocket and back into it's cup, and to set down Jo's file in the center of her desk with a small, half-laugh. "At least, that's what I say, but no one ever takes us up on that. We have to wait until their supervisors notice a problem and order them to come down here. Just remember that it's a lot easier for us to prevent things than it is to solve them." Straightening away from the desk, the head shrink moves to the door, placing her hand on the knob.

"If you wait until there's a problem, then you've already waited too long. And if you notice anyone else who's struggling, then do everyone a favor and tell someone. Don't think of it as squealing on them. It seems to be a point of pride around here to suffer in silence rather than get help. Well… Good luck out there."

And then the door is opened to allow the older woman to make her escape from the psych's lair.

After rising to her feet, Jo buttons her blazer again. "If I require assistance, I won't hesitate to ask for help." Her lips curl into a tight smile. "I hope I'm never ordered here. Although I do take orders very well." Of course, that goes with the territory. "I'll keep my eyes open for issues my coworkers have. I imagine that it won't be an issue for awhile as we all have to meet with you these days. But I will watch for signs." That said she walks to the door, but before exiting he turns back, "Thanks. It's impossible work, but it has its own rewards." That said, she disappears from the office, her heels clapping against the floor as she walks down the hall.

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