ashmusing: (on that hightop wire)
Ash ([personal profile] ashmusing) wrote2011-01-23 03:34 pm

Speak, Friend, and Enter: Geeks in Uniform

TITLE: Speak, Friend, and Enter: Chapter Three: Geeks in Uniform
FANDOM: James Cameron's Avatar
CHARACTERS: Norm Spellman, Trudy Chacon, OC
WORDS: 2052
A/N: Massive thanks to ceitfianna for beta-ing, and lordoflorien for cheerleading. The source of (my knowledge of) the quirks of the Ancient Greek and Russian colour-language is the excellent book Through the Language Glass: Why The World Looks Different in Other Languages, by Guy Deutscher.
STORY SUMMARY: Information Technician Norm Spellman first met Lance Corporal Trudy Chacon in on a ship in 2134. Twenty years later, Doctor Spellman and Captain Chacon (long-time friends and sometime lovers) are reunited on Pandora. This follows the time between, and what happens after.
CHAPTER EXTRACT: “You forgot,” he says, more than a little entertained by her monologue, “to mention ghosts.”

“Mmm, true. But they freak me out.”

Norm blinks. “So, what, cannibalistic corpses don't scare you, but ghosts do?”

Chacon grins. Or at least, she bares her teeth, which a number of species regard as a gesture of defiance instead of joy. It's a stance he can't really argue with. “Can't shoot ghosts. Can shoot zombies.”

He laughs softly. “Okay, that's fair.” He thinks for a moment. “Although, I think you can shoot ghosts with rock-salt.”

Geeks in Uniform

To start with, Norm wasn't sure if it was just coincidence that he tended to bump into Chacon after two in the morning on the deck of the Providence. She claimed insomnia when he asked, and that it was either wake up at four or go to bed after two, and yeah. That was, in fact, how she finished her sentence, complete with a stiff enough shrug that he didn't ask why she had trouble sleeping in the first place. If nothing else, he can hazard a pretty good guess. He said he didn't mind seeing her, which is true. As far as it goes. It just doesn't really go far enough to explain why one stormy night he finds himself discussing zombies in film with her for three hours in one of the common rooms.

He doesn't even like the horror genre. Scaring himself is not really on his list of life's pleasures, although he does understand the adrenaline rush that fear provides. What he doesn't understand is doing something to cause that rush when you can't do anything with it, when you have to sit in front of a screen and just watch.

“That's part of the fun of it,” Chacon objects. “It's safe. You can just sit there and enjoy the rush because you're not required to do anything. You're not gonna get wasted or fucked up or anything just by watching it.”

“Not wasted, I grant you,” he says, trying not to get distracted by how telling the term 'wasted' is. “But Armistice Day scared the hell out of me.”

“Oh, but I love that movie.”

Norm stares at her, and then has to brace his food against the wall as his ship hits another steep wave. “Really?” he asks her, once he gets his breath back. She moves back into her position in the corner, sucking spilled coffee off her hand.

“Yep. It's...amazing. And it really makes you think.”


“ old were you when you watched it?”

“Eight or nine.”

“Ohhh. That explains it.”

Norm blinks. “Huh?”

“You normally seem pretty perceptive when it comes to theme and subtext and all of that,” she says, flashing him a quick grin. He grins back, possibly a little too broadly, but it was a compliment.

“Thank you. Uh, okay, what did I miss?”

“All the dead soldiers coming out of the ground and urns to protest the continuation of war?” Chacon says, drily. “Pretty big anti-war theme there.”

“Yeah, I- hrm.” He rubs the back of his head. “Yeah, I did forget about that. But you don't find it, I don't know, depressing to think about?”

She sobers, and regards him for a long moment. She doesn't look older, exactly, but she's gazing at him with eyes that have seen far too much. “Not, depressing,” Chacon says, slowly. “But unsettling, yes. But that's why I love Armistice Day. It embraces that, without ever bein' all preachy or melodramatic.”

“I just...have this thing about the dead staying dead, I guess. Once you're dead, that's it. Game over.”

“Well that's depressing.”


“So I gathered,” she says, wry as wry can be. “I'm really not.”

“So I gathered,” he says, mimicking her tone as best he can. She takes it in the spirit it's offered, and grins at him. Then shrugs. “The other thing I really love about Armistice Day, is, you know, it's an anti-war flick without ever being anti-soldier. Those kinds of movies, I get so mad at. Can't watch 'em.” Then she shakes her head and shakes off the edge that had appeared. She leans forward, and those dark eyes of hers seem impossibly to brighten. “But that's what I mean. You can do so, so many things with zombies, play around with way more themes than in most other horror movies.”

“Different from vampires and werewolves and ghosts?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, come on, when was the last time you saw a working-class vampire, huh? Vampires are slick and elitist and shit. Ve ruled Romania when vour ancestors vere on a farm, and now can afford to buy everythink, because ve also practice the ancient craft of tax evasion.” Chacon's mock-Eastern European accent is terrible, and he really can't help but laugh before she grins, rolls her eyes, continues. “And then oh my god, werewolves. They're gangsters and punks. And if they are nobility, it's always the Scottish kind with kilts and bare chests, you know? But normally they're not, so it's upper-class civilisation verses lower class barbarity. And fuck that shit. But zombies,” and he loves the way she luxuriates in the word, “they're flexible.”

“You forgot,” he says, more than a little entertained by her monologue, “to mention ghosts.”

“Mmm, true. But they freak me out.”

Norm blinks. “So, what, cannibalistic corpses don't scare you, but ghosts do?”

Chacon grins. Or at least, she bares her teeth, which a number of species regard as a gesture of defiance instead of joy. It's a stance he can't really argue with. “Can't shoot ghosts. Can shoot zombies.”

He laughs softly. “Okay, that's fair.” He thinks for a moment. “Although, I think you can shoot ghosts with rock-salt.”

The Marine stares at him. “Yes,” she says, slowly, “because I carry rock-salt around with me. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that they can go through walls and you can see them and they are creepy. No ghosts.”

“No ghosts. Got it.”

“Good boy.” She grins at his expression. “So, zombies.”

“I'm listening,” he says, entirely honestly.

“As I was saying, they are really flexible. You can run with environmental themes, anti-consumerism, anti-uh, just how our society runs. All at the same time as either scarin' the hell outta folk, or makin' em laugh. Or both.”

“Like?” He grins at her expression. “I'm assuming you have examples?”

There is a moment of silence, and then she beams at him, her expression sunny and bright and lighting up her face again. “Damn fucking straight I do,” Chacon says, and proceeds to him give him a crash-course in the past two hundred years of Great Zombie Flicks.

– –

“Zombies,” Chang says flatly at breakfast.


“You had a hot girl's undivided attention for three hours and you talked about zombies. You make me sad, Spellman. You really do.”

Norm gives him the finger

– –

“Wa-a-a-ait a minute, back up,” Chacon says one night, rubbing her head.

“Backing up.”

“The Ancient Greeks used the same word for blue, brown and black.”


“And that word was violet.”

“...the Greek word for violet. Or purple. But yeah.”

“Well, obviously. But. According to them, I'm...violet. Purple.”


“With violet skin. And violet eyes. And ma-a-a-a-aybe wine-coloured hair. Like the ocean.”

“Sounds about right.”

“And they used the same word that means 'green' for honey. And turning pale with fear.” And honey, but neither of them have seen it, so it doesn't make much sense to mention again.


“,” she huffs a laugh, and then pauses. “Ow. I think you've actually broken my brain. How. What the hell?” Her tone is wondering.

He laughs a bit.“It's actually a pretty common thing in languages. They don't all view colours the same. Linguists used to think that it was actually a question of them having different vision, but this didn't make much sense.”

“Yeah,” Chacon says drily, “bit hard for the Ancient Greeks to have a different vision from the modern day given how early everyone cleared off for different parts of the globe.”

“Exactly. And it's not even a question of old languages versus modern ones.”


“Take Russian.”

“Don't speak a word of it, but okay.”

“I'm bilingual,” he explains.

“,” she says with a grin. “But okay, Russian.”

“In English, light blue and navy blue are viewed as the same colour, right? In Russian, they are two different ones.”

Even in the dark shadows on the deck, he can see her tilt her head. “So, without thinking about it, do y'see 'em as different or the same?”

He makes a face. “I can't answer that.”

“Oh, c'mon!”

“No, seriously. I can't do it off the top of my head. I've thought about it too much, I've lost that automatic preference.”

Chacon snorts at that. “Well that's what thinkin' too much gets ya,” she says, despite the fact that he gets the impression she thinks 'too much' about a lot of things. “What's the most common one? I mean, the most common colour-grouping?”

“Blue and green, I think. At least, it's the one I've run across the most. What's interesting is the Na'vi do that one, too. So, that kind of use of language seems related to culture-level more than species.”

“Interesting,” she says, but her tone is decidedly non-committal.

“Do you have a problem with the Na'vi?” he asks, curiously. It's the only thing he can think of to get her tone to switch like that, warm and interested to cool and clipped. She's silent for a long moment.

“I...dislike the media circus,” she says at last, speaking slowly. “I don't have any problem with them, I mean, they live on another damn planet. But the media circus? That....pisses me off. In a lot of ways. And all the books on them, and all the pontificating about what it means to have discovered a whole planet of tree-hugging hippies and, ” she makes a rude sound and waves the subject off.

He hesitates for a moment, and then says, “I think they are fascinating.”

“Lotta folk do.”

There is silence, oddly strained and tense given Chacon is one of the few people that he can say nothing to and feel nothing but comfortable when he does so.

“Look,” Chacon says at last, “it's...stupid, but...okay, yeah it's irrational.”

“What is?” Norm asks, softly.

She doesn't tap her foot or her fingers, doesn't shift or fidget, but just goes still; all her nervous energy whirling inwards, leaving her body perfectly still. “They've gone and found an entire planet made up of the worst clichés of Native Americans. All that bullshit about not affecting the land and being one with's a load of crap. When you're talkin' history. The wilderness the whites found? It was only there because all the Indians had died thanks to the virgin-soil epidemics before the whites got to that part of the continent. Both the continents. I mean, they treated the land better than Western society ended up doing, but they managed it. Like gamekeepers. And then that's ignoring all the buildings, all the cultures who had farms and rank. Like the Mexica Triple Alliance and the Inka are all just an aberration instead of part of a pattern. And it's...all the same crap. And the Na'vi are just. They've set it all off again.” She pauses, takes a deep breath. “And hey, maybe they really are so low down on the food-chain that they are like chimps or something, and they don't burn the forest to keep it maintained. They don't plant fruit trees and farm 'em like that. Maybe it's because they are aliens they can actually be all apparently one with nature because they don't change anythin'. But it just offends me, they're so much like that cliché which people hold up, and it's all started again. Which is stupid, I know, given my folks come from Peru, and no one's ever accused the Inka of bein' tree-huggers,” but she's saying it prickly, defensive, not apologetic at all.

“I...try not to tell people about what they should or shouldn't be offended about,” Norm says, which is one of those things he says where it comes off as patronising and he really doesn't mean it to be. But he's quickly learning that Chacon doesn't usually seem to take offence at things like that, like she's used to the slightly socially awkward and can decipher what they intend to say rather than what they have. He wants to ask more what she means, wants to know the facts and dates and history that is clearly in her head, but he bites his tongue. Later. Maybe. He wants to just be with her more than try and argue academic points that are clearly making her genuinely angry.

Later. Maybe.

“Good,” she is what she says. “Otherwise I'd have to kick your ass.” She's five foot four, tops, to his six foot two, and he believes it. “But hey,” she says brightly, rolling to her feet. “At least the Na'vi can't catch smallpox, y'know?”

“There is that,” Norm says. “You heading in?”

“Yeah. Might as well pretend to get to sleep.” Chacon grins at him and walks backwards, tossing him a lazy salute. “Night, Spellman. Catch ya later.”

He salutes her back, but when he himself heads off, he has her words that she said and all the ones she didn't running around in his head.

– –

“So, this is where you sneak off to!”

Both Norm and Chacon pause in their conversation and look up at the figure now standing in front of them with his hands on his hips.

“...yes,” Norm says at last, “because you've had no idea.”

Chang is standing in the shine of the newly-replaced deck lights, which makes it easy to see his grin. Chacon just raises her eyebrows at the intrusion.

“Chang,” Chang says, giving her a nod that is sharp despite his expression.

“Chacon,” she says, her replying nod more guarded.

“I,” Chang continues, “have been hearing a lot about you.”

Norm pinches the bridge of his nose. “Chang.”

“Quiet, minion.”

“Why should he be?” Chacon asks, and Norm is torn between wincing at her tone and grinning. And also concern; for all she had been obviously enjoying their conversation (a vital summarising of two of the last three seasons of Fantasia210, as Chacon has been at war and missed them), she is clearly starting to hit the edge of her ability to function without a decent night sleep. “He's off-duty, you don't seem like you need him. And we were geekin' out.”

Definitely losing her ability to judge things. At least Chang doesn't outrank her.

“Ye-es,” Chang says, eyeing her. “I've been hearing about that.”

“What,” Chacon says, eyebrows aching up again, “geeks can't join the Marine Corps?”

“It's more...I didn't think Marines would be geeks.”

“...right,” she says. “Well. We can. And we do join. And we're just as badass as everyone else.”

“Everyone else?”

“Other Marines,” Chacon says, and she's grinning as she says it. It's a similar expression to the one she had when explaining her thing about shooting zombies, but even at night, on the deck of a ship, there is a fierceness to the expression. It's a shining, brilliant, wolfish expression, a do you want to make something of it grin.

The dangers of infantry, and the Marines, it seems.

Fortunately, Chang seems to recognise it. “So, it's like a chicken-and-the-egg problem,” he says.

Chacon, warily, says, “what?”

“Geeks in the Marines. So, which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

“Egg,” she says, promptly. This time, her grin is merely sunny. “Y'never said if it was a chicken egg.”

“Yeah,” Chang says, “but that was implied-

“You never actually said 'chicken egg',” Norm says, aware that he is breaking male solidarity, but he can't help it. He's an academic at heart, born and bred to dissect sentences.

“Exactly,” Chacon says, and then laughs at Chang's expression. “It could have been a pre-chicken egg. Or a dinosaur egg. Which means that geeks join the Marines before Marines become geeks.”

“- I have no idea if that makes any sense,” Chang tells the stars, earning a giggle from the badass, geeky Marine.

“Perfect sense,” she says, loftily, and then hauls herself to her feet. Norm allows himself to feel a flash of disappointment (more than a flash, the emotion had been present since Chang made his presence known) at the signal for his and her conversation to be winding up, and then also stands up.

“0200-sense,” Norm adds, “is still sense.”

“Right,” says Chang, kind of smirking at them. Chacon looks at him for a a brief moment, and then shrugs.

“Should be headin' in, though,” she says. “Later.” This last part is directed at Norm, who nods in reply with a quick smile.

“Your girlfriend's punchy,” Chang observes once Chacon has gone.

“Insomnia's catching up with her, I think,” Norm says, and then stops. “She's not my girlfriend.”

“She certainly wants to be.” Chang shoves Norm's shoulder lightly. “Better hurry up and ask her.”

“She's perfectly capable of asking me if she wants.” If she wanted. He could ask, he really could. They are coming up to port in three days, and this idyll of late night geek-outs is running out of nights and he could ask. He wants to. But Chacon's vibrant, and attractive as hell, and easy-going, and those kinds of people are never single. It'd wreck things to ask.

Wouldn't it?

“Besides,” he continues, “you were telling me before that she was going to eat me alive.”

“Norm, Norm, Norm, Norm. This is why you're never going to laid, like, ever.”

“...I've had sex before, thanks.”

“Ah-huh,” Chang says. Norm half-glares at him, then shrugs it off. Then, with the grumpiness of people who know each other too well and not at all, they head inside themselves.

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