Prangley picked Rodriguez up off the floor for the 4th time and frowned, “Are you even trying?” he hissed, low enough that the thought their new instructor wouldn’t hear, “You can do better than this.”
Rodriguez looked broken. She was tired, sore, her head pounded and she felt her power draining. She had been trying so hard, and although Prangely was the strongest in their class, she knew he was going easy on her, and still her barrier couldn’t hold strong.
“Again,” Prangley said, irritation in his voice. He wasn’t getting any practice, wasn’t getting any better or stronger, when she wasn’t trying to counter the softest warp he’d ever generated.
“I need a rest, Jase” Rodriguez muttered, folding over, hands on her knees and breathing deeply. Their instructor noticed and started heading over.
Jack took one look at Rodriguez, exhausted, Prangley frustrated and called for a time out.
“Go get your lunch early, guys. Back here in 30.”
There were a couple confused looks around the gym; they never got to go early. But there were no arguments; they’d be first in line at the cafeteria.
Rodriguez took another moment to get her breath before straightening up and moving to follow her peers.
“Not you, Rodriguez,” the instructor barked, “Come with me.”
Shit she thought to herself, I’m gonna get kicked out the programme.
A voice in her head told her it was a stupid assumption to make but it didn’t stop tears threatening to well in her eyes as she followed Jack into the office. The tattooed instructor gestured to one of the seats in her office and grabbed hold of a box, perching on her desk. Rodriguez sat and looked at the floor.
“Here,” Jack finally said and Rodriguez lifted her head; Jack was offering her half of a foot long sub, “You look fried.” She commented, simply.
Rodriguez took the sub and looked at it. Jack continued, “It tastes weird but it’s all high energy food. Don’t eat it all if you feel you can’t, they’re pretty filling.”
After 3 bites she already felt better. Jack had grabbed a file and was flipping through it as she heartily tucked into her half of the sub and Rodriguez noticed after a while it was her file.
“Any problems with your amp?” Jack asked casually, “headaches, burning, anything like that?”
Jack finished her half of the sandwich and eyed the Ensign who was struggling with the last quarter, “You think you’re done?” Jack asked and Rodriguez nodded, “What’s in this thing?”
“Better you don’t know,” smirked Jack, taking the remains off her. She scooted off the desk and led them out the office.
“Show me your barrier.” Jack started.
Rodriguez did as instructed and held up a bubble above her head.
“Hold it steady.” Jack began to circle her, around the edge of the barrier, “Widen your stance,” Rodriguez shuffled her feet wider apart, “straighten your back,” she did; she felt no difference in her barrier, “bring it down.” She finished.
Rodriguez felt so weak. Not her body but her mind. Jack circled back around in front of her student and stepped in close.
“We’re gonna try something new,” she said, “and I want you to trust me. Can you do that?” Her voice was softer, but still held that commanding tone.
“Something’s bothering you,” she assessed after a small nod from the Ensign, “you doubt yourself and it’s making you weak.” Her tone began to harden again and there was a new edge to her words, “when you’re on the battlefield, you can’t afford to doubt yourself, because that’s what’ll kill you.”
Rodriguez was stunned by the hard truth, her last instructor hadn’t been as tough.
“When you hear that voice in your head telling you that you ain’t shi— that you ain’t strong enough, you tell that voice to shut the f—the hell up.”
Rodriguez was still a little stunned but she nodded. Jack could see her still doubting herself and frowned, “We’re gonna try something.” She said, taking a few steps back and gesturing Rodriguez more toward the centre of the gym. “I’m gonna be the voice, and you’re gonna tell me where to shove it.”
Rodriguez blushed, “Ma’am, I can’t--”
“That’s no longer a word you can use, Ensign, got it?” Jack barked, “You’re gonna tell me to shut up, and hit me with a warp.”
Rodriguez hesitated again, unsure about attacking a teacher, but she moved with Jack to the centre. Jack’s biotics flashed over her skin in a barrier, “don’t worry about hitting me, I can take it.”
Rodriguez finally nodded.
“You’re not strong enough.” Jack barked.
Rodriguez was a little taken aback and whimpered a tiny, “Shut up”, scared to, more than forgetting to, throw the warp.
Jack yelled, “Louder, and hit me, Rodriguez! You’re WEAK!”
She widened her stance, “Shut up,” and threw a warp. It dissolved when it hit Jack’s knee.
“You’re pathetic, Ensign!”
“Shut up!” she threw the warp as she yelled this time – it hit Jack’s shoulder but she hardly flinched.
“You’re NOTHING, Rodriguez!”
“SHUT UP!” again she threw the warp with her yell and it hit Jack in the face, making her stumble backwards. She recovered and yelled again.
“YOU’RE NOT STRONG ENOUGH!”
“YES. I. AM!” this time the warp charged in her hand and shot out of her fist as she threw it forward, slamming Jack in the chest and knocking her on her ass.
Rodriguez clamped her hands over her mouth and froze, surprised by the sudden burst of energy. Jack grumbled and sat up; she was smiling wide, proudly, “Yes you are.” She affirmed.
Rodriguez: So... is that how you learned, Ma'am?
Jack, casually: Nah, i was conditioned with narcotics, electroshock and murder.
Rodriguez: .... Oh.