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Saga Pre-Flight Checks [DDC 2019] - Updated weekly

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Volund Starfire, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Title: Star Wars Rebels: Pre-Flight Checks: The Journal of Ander Sonalex

    Author: Volund Starfire

    Timeframe: The years leading up to season 1 of Star Wars: Rebels (5 BBY).

    Genre: 2019 Diary Challenge, Star Wars Rebels

    Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Uncle George for the sandbox, Dave Filoni for the toys, and the Mouse for keeping the playground open!

    Author’s Note: Here goes nothing.

    EDIT: My apologies for the change in placement of the first post. I forgot the "title page."
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
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  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    A nice entry to Ander who has always loved piloting and starfighters. His family sounds well-placed but close-knit.
     
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  3. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 001

    My name is Ander, Ander Sonalex, and this is my story. My mother purchased this datalog for me for my seventh birthday, so I guess I should use it. I was born about a year before the Clone Wars broke out. I don’t remember much from that time because I was just a baby, but I do remember a little. My lack of memory is made up for by my mother’s stories.

    We lived on Coruscant. My father was a bureaucrat with the Republic Commissary Corps and my mother was a housewife. They met through my grandfather, an Admiral in the Republic Judicial Forces, at about the same time Emperor Palpatine was voted in as the new Supreme Chancellor. They were married for about five years before I was born.

    My parents had me through natural child birth, even though they could have surrogated. This was a point that my mother was quite proud of, but it made other members of high society look down on her. I don’t know why, but she assured me that it was a custom for her family. My grandfather supported it.

    When the war broke out, everything changed. My father went from a low-level functionary to a bureaucratic businessman. Suddenly, his little department gained the responsibility to feed millions of the new clones. This kept him away from the house more often than not, so my mother took primary responsibility to raise me.

    Sometimes grandpa would visit, as well. He was kept on because of his military experience and gained command of a Venator-class Star Destroyer! Not only that, but his ship had the honor of being the home ship of Skull Squadron! It was a Mandalorian starfighter squadron led by Fenn Rau, the man who trained the Clone pilots. Whenever he came home, he always brought something for me, usually starfighter-related.

    Grandpa never came home from the war, though. At the end, when the Jedi turned on the Republic and tried to take over at its weakest, his ship was destroyed. Mother couldn’t find out much, but she was told that a Jedi saboteur destroyed the ship in a suicide attack. I was only three, but I remember her crying for an entire day.

    Father remained in his job after the war, but was quickly promoted. He had a new idea for making efficient use of agroplanets. We moved from Coruscant to Ukio, an agroplanet in the Abrion Sector, when I was four. He was sent to oversee the streamlining of the agricultural collection process for shipping across the newly-formed empire. Later, it came out that he had bribed some official for the opportunity. The official ended up being jailed, but my father was too successful to punish.

    The agro-hub system that my father designed was huge. The main building took up about five square kilometers and had its own starport. There was constant traffic coming and going both day and night and the six space elevators were constantly running. From above, it looked like the Imperial seal with hovertrain tracks shooting out from the points to smaller hubs across the planet. The inside was mostly droid-controlled, but there were human overseers and Ukian laborers to make sure things ran smoothly.

    The upper floor of the Hub was off-limits to me unless I was with my father. It was the command center and oversight system for the entire planet. It looked like a capital ship bridge from my Clone Wars holodramas, with the walkways over recessed pits. In the center of the command floor, raised with windows to view everything, was my father’s office. It was the highest point on the planet.

    Just below the command level was our home. It took up the entire floor and had rooms for my parents, me, and ten guests. Besides the twelve living suites, there was a day room, droid room, and a couple rooms for the guards of guests who visited.

    The third level was the family rooms. It had the kitchen, dining room, study (that doubled as my classroom), the entertainment room, and another droid room. Our home was luxurious by Outer Rim standards, but my father always chided my mother about not holding to the Imperial Spartan ideal. She just laughed and told him to run the planet while she ran the home. It was a home, too; she always kept it warm and inviting to my friends.

    Father had guests over all the time. Some were high-ranking Imperial officers, senators, planetary dignitaries, and more. The most memorable was Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan. He had a little girl with him, a little younger than me, that was really inquisitive but also really shy. Then there was Moff Tarkin who controlled the entire Outer Rim territories.

    Below the family rooms was the garage. One half was used for the workers at the Hub and the other was a private hangar for my parents and dignitaries. It was big enough to land an entire Lambda-class T-4a shuttle. My father also kept his private Star Commuter 2000 in the bay for when he needed to go see the Sector Governor or travel to Coruscant.

    The next four levels of the Hub were split up into six separate living quarters for my father’s staff and the primary supervisors of the lower Hub. The suites were small, only four rooms each, and shared a common room in the center of the floor. I used to hang out with the couple of kids my age in the common rooms before we’d go to the game room in our living area.

    The capital of Sashasa was located one hemisphere to the east from the Hub and south of the equatorial ocean. There weren’t really any other cities on the planet, unless you count the smaller hubs in the agro network. The Ukians lived in farming communities that were separated by vast distances of fields, mostly gathered around distribution sites connected to the network.

    We’d go into the capital for Empire Day every year. The garrison and military school would always throw a parade and let people see the hardware. I didn’t care about most of the repulsorcraft, walkers, or stormtrooper armor. My only destination on those days was the starfighters. In particular, the Twin Ion Engine "line edition" space superiority starfighter. Unlike other kids, the commander of the garrison allowed me into the cockpit (under supervision) to see what it was like. I was hooked, but then again, it wasn’t news to anyone who knew me or saw my room.

    My bedroom was huge compared to the rooms of my friends. I had a bed, workstation, refresher, and closet. However, when you walked into my room, you could immediately see what my passion was. I’m not going to say that I was obsessed, but it was the only form of decoration I allowed in my room (much to the chagrin of our housedroid). I loved starships. Not just starships, but starfighters.

    My blanket was an Imperial military blanket that my mother got me when I turned six (though it was much larger than the actual bunk blankets in order to cover my bed). My walls were decorated with framed squadron patches from the most notable Clone Wars fighter units. I had an actual framed flimsi poster of Fenn Rau with his actual hand-written autograph. There were holodrama cubes featuring the most heroic Clone Wars pilots and battles and datacomics stacked on every surface. I had an Alpha-3 Nimbus-class V-wing starfighter holo-model alongside a V-19 Torrent, ARC-170, BLT-B Y-Wing, and a couple of other variants popular in the Clone Wars. There was even a physical model of a TIE Fighter on my desk.

    The game room had a holo-game system that my mother bought me with a couple of flight simulator games on it. They were so simple and easy that I had to set the difficulty level to maximum by the end of the first month of my owning it. Mother let me bring my friends up to the house whenever father was working for us to play, but even then I was better than they were. Even when the game was three against one (me), I often destroyed two of them before they got me. Mother often said that I got my piloting ability from my grandpa.

    Other than my game time, the rest of my days were spent with the tutor droid. Father told me that my education was more important than any of my hobbies, especially if I wanted to follow him in control of the Hub one day. I didn’t, but mother told me that I needed a good education to become a pilot.

    That was pretty much my youth. I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll sign off.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
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  4. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 002

    My father made sure that I was always moving. He told me that children should be “quick like fathiers, tough like leather, and hard like durasteel.” For that reason, I was required to be physically active from about the age of seven. Father made sure that I spent an hour a day in the feedback exerciser (set to children’s levels) and a half hour on the treadmill. After my daily workout, I spend the next two-and-a-half hours with my tutor droid, but that was totally boring and not worth talking about.

    Though my father did not like it, I preferred my physical activity to be with my friends in the Hub. It was full of gantries to run on, chains to swing on, sorting arms to vault, and other obstacles to run through. My father said it was too dangerous and that I should stay out of the Hub. My mother said it was too dangerous and that I should stay out of the Hub. My friends and I thought it was too fun to stay out of the Hub.

    I was at the edge of one of the spurs, sitting with my legs hanging over a ledge and leaning on the guard rail, when my mother pinged my comlink. Well, it wasn’t really a comlink, because it didn’t offer any kind of two-way communication. It was a personal locator and buzzer. The ping meant that I should return home. It was my eighth birthday, after all, and my mother wanted me out of the house for a while.

    I was just starting to stand, a cargo train drowning out the words of my friends, when Deak pointed up to the sky. I followed his fingers up and saw a sight that made my eyes go wide. Coming through the light clouds was the arrowhead of an Imperial Star Destroyer. I’d seen a couple over the years, but this one was coming straight toward the Hub!

    I took off running toward the central lift back to my house. My mother told me that my friends could come over for my birthday, so I shouted over my shoulder for Deak and Hemli to keep up. They both knew about the invitation, but I didn’t think they could actually keep up with me despite us running through the Hub almost every day.

    I leaped over the gap between two catwalks over a washing pool for the crops, ducked under a droid sorting arm and side-stepped a brace pole. After another ten steps, the catwalk ended with a series of chains meant to connect shaker crates to sort out the size of the crops. There were none connected so I leaped.

    There is something strange about leaping into space. Twenty meters below me was an open pool of warm water meant to wash pesticides off of any crops before they shipped. Just past the apogee of my jump, I grabbed onto a chain and used my falling momentum to swing. Rather than slow down at the end of the swing, I let go on the chain and landed on the next catwalk with barely my heel off of the edge.

    I thought back to the first time I tried that jump and how embarrassed I was when I had to change into dry clothes. Father was furious and told me that I could have been killed, but my mother was trying to cover a smile. She later told me that she and her sisters used to do the same thing in an abandoned building in level forty-two of her megablock on Coruscant.

    I caught movement out of my peripheral vision and ducked into a forward roll just as a repulsor-cart passed overhead. The Ukian driver yelled out, “ve oo’haetano, ka’eone!” He was telling me to be careful and calling me a child.

    I waved over my shoulder and shouted out, “na hste!” My response of “I will” in, what I have been told is terrible Ukian, was probably not heard by the driver. I didn’t know much Ukian, but I did pick up enough to know when I was doing something wrong and the right words to respond with.

    At almost the end of the run, a full kilometer of a sprint, I saw the doors to the turbolift straight ahead when a large wall stepped out in front of me. I dug my heels in to avoid the coming crash and was able to stop about half of my forward momentum before a pair of large hands grabbed my shoulders and I found my momentum directed straight up.

    For a moment, I was thrilled by the sheer height I was thrown. That moment ended with my sudden downward journey and my guts vying for the highest position in my throat. I’m pretty sure that my stomach won out. Before I either hit the floor or, worse, continued my fall to the solid ground far enough down to maybe kill me, those same strong hands caught me and eased me back to the ground.

    I looked up to see the flat featureless face of Sapot laDos, the Ukian supervisor for the central sector of the Hub. He smiled, showing a missing tooth, and shook his head. “Ander, mo hene’en hene mo eseho’ke ho’no amemeohe hotoma’e heneheno.”

    “I’m sorry, Sapot.” If I wasn’t properly apologetic, then the Supervisor would tell my father. However, I opened my hands, palms out with my fingers splayed and thumbs tucked. It was the Ukian sign of supplication and forgiveness.

    He chuckled in his low voice and reached out. His palm fit completely over my face as he shook my head back and forth in the same way Ukian adults often do to Ukian young. “Go… play,” he said in broken Basic as he saw Deak and Hemli coming to a stop further down the catwalk, both as out of breath as I was. He trundled back to his duties.

    The three of us were able to catch our breath before the lift opened on the suite. We came through the doors just in time for my mother, echoed by M3N-E (the tutor droid), Carmen, Deak, and Hemli all yelling “Happy Birthday!”

    It was a small party with lots of actually cooked food and sweet cakes, as opposed to the normal auto-chef means (my mother enjoyed actually cooking). Mother even let me have a small glass of wine, even though it was really watered down. She also apologized for my father’s not being there, but he was meeting with some kind of an Imperial delegate.

    My mother bought me a hologame console with an awesome starfighter game on it. It was fun! Deak, Hemli, and I all took turns trying to get the highest score in the gauntlet level without ever going through the tutorial. Hemli and I were vying for first place when I heard the lift doors open in the other room. Before I could even wonder if it was my father, the three of us were spooked by one of the loudest droid voices I have ever heard.

    “I understand there is a birthday boy here who likes starfighters!”

    I jumped to my feet and peered around the doorway into the main room, followed by my other to friends, Hemli’s starfighter crashing without the pilot. Standing just outside the lift was what I first thought was a droid. Then, my mind finally clicked on and I recognized who I was looking at.

    One of the things my tutor droid did was ensure I could recognize everyone in the Imperial Court. My father said it was important to know who I was speaking with if I ever met someone of high standing. The metallic limbs, synthskin coating, and the yellowish-red eyes could belong to none other than Count Denetrius Vidian! He was the most prominent efficiency expert in the entire Empire and was at MY birthday party!

    “Well, speak up,” his voice boomed out again. “Which one are you?”

    I had read up on the public information regarding his cybernetics and knew that he already had my picture, and probably my entire Imperial file, being projected over his vision. Heck, he probably knew more about me than I did. But, I played along with his game, because that’s what one did for the most powerful men in the Empire.

    “I am, my lord.” I walked through the door and stopped halfway through the room. I wasn’t sure if I should call him ‘sir’ or not, but his title was Count, so ‘my lord’ was probably a safe bet.

    “Of course you are, lad.” The closer I got, the louder he got. “Are you going to become a pilot, young man?”

    “Yes, my lord. If I can.” I couldn’t keep the excitement out of my voice. I loved starfighters and had ever since I could remember. The thought of flying one made flitterwings lift off in my guts.

    “Every pilot needs the proper motivation to be the best. So, I brought you this to inspire you. This is privileged information and won’t be released for another two standard months. It was designed by Zeehay Versio. Do you know who that is?”

    “Yes, my lord,” I lied. I had seen the woman’s name a couple of times on posters around the Hub, but didn’t really know who she was.

    “Smart lad.” He held out a tube and I ran up and bowed as I accepted it from him. “Now, you children go about playing your games.”

    Before I could open my mouth to respond, he had turned. His cape hit my legs. He stepped back into the lift and I realized that my father had been standing right next to him the entire time. My father smiled down at me before Count Vidian bellowed, “Come, Sonalex, this side-trip cut into our schedule.” His eyes went wide and he ran into the lift before the doors closed.

    The tube contained a flimsi poster. It was an Imperial recruiting poster featuring one of the newest Twin Ion Engine "line edition" space superiority starfighters. Standing in the open cockpit, armor gleaming like some kind of ancient warrior, was the pilot. Bold letters said ‘No Shields, All Guts: Insurgency? Insurrection? Rebellion? NOT ON MY WATCH.’

    When I finally stopped gawking at it, and showing my mother and friends, I ran straight to my bedroom and took down the picture of Fenn Rau that was hanging over the head of my bed. I deactivated the light shield over it and placed the shield frame around my new picture. I put the Fenn Rau flimsi in a standard frame and hung it above my dresser. It was still special, but nowhere near my newest picture.

    After that, I went back to the starfighter hologame and we all did head-to-head matches until mother said it was time for Deak and Hemli to go home. Even then, I still played that game for the rest of the night. I think I fell asleep playing it because I don’t remember going to bed, despite waking up there the next morning.

    My mother often told me that I’d wear the game out of I played it so much. I didn’t care; I loved every single level, every single mode, and every single fighter in it. I think my favorite was the Alpha-3 Nimbus-class V-wing starfighter. I got pretty good playing the Separatist Eta-2 Actis-class interceptor that the Jedi flew in their war against the Republic, but I didn’t want to be a Separatist (especially not a Jedi). I wanted to be the Republic that fought and won against the Jedi Separatists!

    It only took a couple weeks of playing and practice for me to be able to beat the game's campaign on the hardest mode, going up against the Separatist leader, Yoda. It was difficult to kill him in the skies of Coruscant when the Jedi kidnapped then-Chancelor Palpatine in an attempt to ransom him for surrender of the Republic. However, I was able to maneuver around the droid starfighters that were screening his fighter and blow him out of the vacuum before launching on the Jedi command deadnaught, Invisible Hand. A couple more months and I could defeat all of the Jedi bosses in the secret levels on hard mode, to include the Jedi Ace Anakin Skywalker and his wingman Obi-Wan Kenobi.

    Every now and then, I’d get a funny feeling while playing and look back to see my mother staring at me and smiling. She told me once that she thought it good I liked piloting. It was the same with her father, and she saw a lot of my grandfather in me.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  5. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 003

    As high as we were in the Spire of the Hub, the horizon was a long distance away. About halfway from the Hub to the Horizon there was a small dot of some kind that I always wondered about. When I first began to notice it, I thought it was just a bug on the window. Then, I received a pair of electrobinoculars from my mother for my tenth birthday.

    Using the image enhancement on them, I was able to see that the black speck on the landscape was actually a set of ruins. Even in the height of the noonday sun, they still looked dark and scary and just felt like a grease stain on formal clothes. I don’t know of any better way to describe them.

    I asked my father about them, as he was far more versed in the history of Ukio than mother was. He forbade me from ever setting foot in them and told me that we would never discuss them again. So, that meant I made it my personal mission to explore them at any cost.

    When I told Deak and Hemli about them, and showed them with my electrobinoculars, they agreed to come with me. It wouldn’t be easy to convince our parents, but it was definitely that important to do something so taboo. Also, personally, I wanted to show my father that he couldn’t run every part of my life if he wasn’t going to be in it.

    Deak came up with the story that we were going to go to the equatorial ocean and camp. He was able to convince his parents almost immediately, since they were from a culture that valued being connected to the outdoors. Unfortunately, he also had to convince his father not to come with him, telling him that he wanted it to be just for us to “find our spirits.” It was something from his homeworld.

    Hemli’s parents were a little more difficult to convince. Her mother knew both Deak and I, but said that it was unbecoming for a young lady to go traipsing about in the wilderness with boys. The thought of Hemli as a young lady made Deak laugh, the near black eye he was given for hinting that young ladies should wear dresses and asking where hers was made me laugh. However, in the end her father said it would be good for her to get out of the Hub.

    Unfortunately, that left convincing my parents. I knew my mother would go along with it, but my father had final say. It wasn’t because his word was law in our house, my mother ran that, but because we’d need to take a trio of jumpspeeders for the trip. Those would have to be signed out from the Hub.

    I broached the subject very carefully over dinner one evening. I said that Deak and Hemli wanted to go camping and invited me along. It wasn’t a lie. My mother thought it was a wonderful idea because it would get me out of the house, especially since she had ordered an upgrade for M3N-E that wouldn’t arrive from Chandrilla for another week. My father grunted his consent while reading a datapad.

    With the first part finished, I asked if we could sign out three jumpspeeders from the Hub to travel to the Equatorial Ocean to camp on its shore. My mother thought it was a wonderful idea, but father balked. He said it was too dangerous to go so far away. Mother brought up that there were no predators on the planet, but father said that we could crash and be too far for any help to get to us. Mother brought up that we were all quite good at piloting jumpspeeders (we all had been using them to race around the hub for half a year), and he went silent. Finally, he spoke up and consented to us checking out the jumpspeeders on the condition that they be limited to 120 kph and that we each take comlinks.

    I finished my dinner like, as my mother described, a half-starved Wookiee at a nerf buffet. I ran into my room and commed Deak and Hemli to tell them we were on for the morning. I had completely laid out all of the things I’d need for a week of camping.

    I had a utility belt that had several pouches containing a three-day supply of food capsules, a medpac, a tool kit, a spare power pack, a spare energy cell, a glow rod, a comlink, a liquid cable dispenser with a small grappling hook, and a couple spare pouches. I stuffed a roll of meshtape into one of the pouches and three more days of ration packs into the other. Finally, I clipped my electrobinoculars to the left hip.

    With nothing left to do, I decided to inventory my tool kit. It had the electroshock probe (for shorting out electronic components or soldering wires), fusion cutter (for cutting apart durasteel and similar materials), hydrospanner (to tighten and loosen all forms of screws and fasteners), laser welder (for connecting things), power calibrator (both for analyzing circuitry and to act as an emergency power cell), power prybar (for forcing things open), probe sensors, sonic welder (for connecting things when I couldn’t afford a fire), various circuits and connector wires, and vibrocutters (for things that don't call for a fusion cutter). It took me a minute to find my welding goggles, so I didn’t burn out my eyes, and put them in the kit before shutting it.

    My mother walked in while I was looking for my welding goggles and laughed. She told me that I was only going to the ocean, not Corellia. I told her that I wanted to be ready for any possibility. She got a solemn look on her face and shut the door behind her. She walked up to me and pulled a small package out from under her housecoat. Inside was a blaster in a holster.

    It was a modified deactivator hold-out pistol. Her father got it for her when she was a girl, after she got into some trouble with street toughs. Unlike normal deactivators, which only ionized droids, this one was capable of firing stun blasts. It had six shots and an optimal range of three meters.

    I just stared at it for the longest time and saw how it fit my hand almost perfectly. I’d never fired a blaster before, well except in one of the downloadable content updates in the hologame that let me play as a clonetrooper, but not in real life. She told me to be careful with it and not to shoot anyone or anything unless I absolutely had to.

    The next morning, mother signed out the three jumpspeeders for us after father had already gone up to the command level. She also signed out a field kit for the back of each of our jumpspeeders. However, unlike what was previously promised, she never asked the speederpool clerk to put the restrictors on the speeders.

    She told us that she would comm us every morning at nine and, as long as we answered and told her we were okay, she wouldn’t activate the trackers on the jumpspeeders. Then she wished us each safe travels and took the lift back up to the living suites.

    We made our way down to the ground level with the jumpspeeders collapsed. The moment we got out of the lift, we opened them up and made sure they were in good working order. Deak’s father was a maintenance technician at the Hub and taught us how to check them over and do quick repairs. We each connected our field packs to the back, filled the two canteens in them, and took off out of the Hub.

    We didn’t gun the engines, but it was so very tempting. Instead, we just traveled south at half speed. It took us four hours to reach the shore of the equatorial ocean. That’s when I busted out my tool kit and got down to work.

    I removed the location transponders from each of the jumpspeeders and hooked them up to a power recharger that Hemli was able to sneak out of one of the guest quarters. Deak programmed our comlinks to redirect to a set I may or may not have secretly borrowed from the speederpool when nobody was looking. If anyone did track us, it would show us as being on the shore of the lake while any comms would go to the borrowed comlinks. After a quick camouflage job and eating a little, we began the next leg of our journey.

    We were used to using the Undicur-class jumpspeeders to race around the Hub. My father said that we should learn to use them in case of an emergency. Three times a week for about the past six months, we practiced using them. Well, the practice/training was only for the first month. Since then, we’d see how fast we could push them (up to the 120 kph) he allowed. Now, however, things were far more intense.

    The short version is that it took us only an hour at the full 250 kph to see the top of the Spire and another four hours to reach the ruins. The long version is that we had a blast. There is something about speeding across croplands at full speed that makes you feel alive. After fifteen minutes, though, we each stopped and put on goggles, Hemli borrowing a spare set Deak had. Wind in the eyes at full speed isn’t as fun as the speed is.

    Besides the goggles, we also put on the all-temperature cloaks from our field packs. Those were necessary because of a storm system coming over the horizon. With our gear firmly in place, we got back to the serious and definitely not entirely amazing business of traveling to our destination at full speed!

    I’m not that good at math, but we should have reached the ruins after about two hours of travel at full speed after spotting the spire. At three hours, we stopped and reoriented ourselves. By that, I mean rising to the full 150 meter maximum altitude height and scanning the horizon with my macrobinoculars. Sure enough, I was off by a few degrees. Then again a few degrees when traveling 750 kilometers meant an extra hour of transit to reach the ruins at full speed.

    We reached the ruins at dusk, thanks to the 22 hour day of the planet. Not only was it dusk, but it was also in the middle of a storm. It began raining about fifteen minutes from the destination and the downpour began about five minutes out.

    We decided to wait on going into the ruins until the morning because we wouldn’t be able to see much. So, instead, we pulled the speeders close, collapsed them into storage mode, and connected the three sunshield rolls from our field packs into a makeshift tent between them.

    Even though the sunshield rolls blocked out the majority of the rain, it was still wet. It wasn’t cold, though, thanks to the cloaks. They actually sealed shut into sleeping packs. Just before actual nightfall, mother commed and asked if we were okay in the storm. I told her we were, that we were currently bundled under the rolls and waiting the storm out, probably going to bed down soon.

    The next morning, I was the first to wake up. The storm had passed and the sun was just cresting the horizon. Surprisingly, I wasn’t soaked. Sure, my clothes were a little damp, but the cloak kept most of the moisture away from me. It was chilly, but not cold. I went behind some bushes and took care of my morning routine before walking back and seeing the other two up. We ate and packed the sunshield rolls and slowly made our way into the ruins after the sun was fully in the sky.

    The ruins were not nearly as black as they appeared from the long distance of the Hub. The buildings were prefab plasticrete and most were covered with moss and lichen that turned them a light green. They were set up in two rings around a central courtyard, common buildings in the inner ring and residences in the outer ring.

    The courtyard was mostly grass with a large hexagonal platform in the center and six square platforms a meter away from it. The grass, though, was dead. It was strange, but all of the grass areas in the ruins were dead. Around the stonework was a brick path with small walks leading to the doors of the inner ring and between the buildings to the outer ring.

    There were six inner ring buildings. Each building looked identical to the next with a single door and no windows. There was a light over each door and the only thing that showed any difference between the buildings was one with a number of antenna on the roof (comm building) and one with power cables running down the side of the building into the ground (generator building).

    The outer ring was made up of twelve smaller buildings with a path from the ring to the doors. They were identical in their construction and outward appearance to the inner ring, but most had their doors blasted open.

    We all walked into one of the outer ring buildings, through a door that was blasted open, and were surprised by the sight. The building was separated into three rooms. The central room had a couch, a table with some cups on it, and some broken electronics. The two rooms on either side were identical. Each had four bunks, four wall lockers, and a refresher. Oh, there were also five bodies.

    The bodies weren’t anywhere near fresh. They were skeletons wearing scraps of cloth. Most of the cloth showed burn marks which said blaster wounds. It looked like they were attacked while they were sleeping or after they had just woken up. The lockers didn’t have much in them, either; old clothing, old and cracked leather belts and boots, but very little in the way of personal effects. A complete search didn’t reveal anything of interest.

    The rest of the outer ring buildings were similarly filled. Some of the skeletons were alien, some of them were younger, but they were all likewise surprised in their sleep or just having woken up. In total, we found fifty-four bodies. The most interesting thing we found in one of the buildings, the fifth we searched, was a personal holo-picture of a Zabrak named Tyzen telling someone named Sanya that he missed her and hoped to be able to see her soon.

    We took a break at high-sun to eat, the rations weren’t all that bad, and I commed mother to see if she forgot about the check-in. She admitted that she was testing me and if I didn’t comm her, she was going to ping us. I told her we were fine and reassured her that we were keeping dry. Hemli punched me in the arm after I stowed the comm and called me a momma’s boy. I smiled and said that I’ve never be more of a boy than her. She blushed and kicked me in the shin.

    The first inner ring building we explored, after lunch, was just a storage room. The door wasn’t even sealed, just closed, and it took Hemli and me to push it open. The room held a number of agricultural items that we’d seen around the Hub all over the place. It also had a sealed crate with a strange symbol on it that looked like some kind of a sword with wings. Inside were a bunch of ration pellets that were similar to those on my utility belt. The seals weren’t broken, so we filled some bags with them and stored them on our speeders.

    The second building was definitely a cafeteria. It had several tables, most with overturned chairs, and an old cooking droid on one side that was blasted apart. There was one body in this room that was similar to the rest, but it had a clean cut through its ribcage. Hemli felt the edges and said they were smooth. Deak got grossed out and asked me to pass him my hydrospanner. A couple minutes later, I had my spanner back and Deak had a bag full of various droid parts.

    The door to the next room was locked and the keypad didn’t have any power at all. The cables coming out of it definitely pointed to it being the generator room. I pulled out my power prybar and tried to force the door with it, but it wouldn’t budge. Instead, Deak used my tool kit’s fusion cutter to breach the door. It took about five minutes, but in the end the door fell in. Inside was Deak’s dream.

    The room had a fusion generator inside. It was dark, having shutdown as a failsafe when it didn’t receive the normal maintenance. He pulled the toolkit off of my belt and handed me the vibro-cutters. He popped a panel off of the reactor and began tinkering inside. After a few minutes, he told me to take the cutters and completely remove all of the antennas from what we thought was the communications building. He said that we didn’t want any problems to find us if the broadcaster was still running.

    Hemli and I went to the building and cut all the cables running up the sides. We both got on my speeder and used it to get on top of the roof to completely disassemble the antenna system. Well, not so much disassemble, but murder it with extreme prejudice. Hemli even yanked about a meter of cables from inside the building out and I cut them when she couldn’t yank them any further.

    We got back to the generator room to find Deak sitting back against a workbench with a smile on his face. He tossed my tool kit at me and then pushed a single button. There was a humming sound and then silence. He kicked one of the panels and the machine hummed to life. He said that it just needed a reboot and that it wasn’t even damaged.

    The next building was easy to get into. Hemli pushed the now activated panel and the door slid open. Inside there was something quite unexpected. There were blackened, melted slices across the walls, floor, and ceiling in the room. In addition to those, there were three bodies that were unlike all the rest we had found. These three bodies were all adult and were, for lack of a better description, dismembered. Also, they were wearing robes of some kind that none of the other bodies were wearing.

    The first body was lying against a wall. The bones were all cracked, every single one splintered. Halfway up the wall was an indented area that was fractured like the body was propelled into it by some super force. It had plasteel armor pieces on its shoulders and forearms and it actually had some items in its belt pouches that were, like the skeleton, broken.

    The second body was mutilated. The left hand was cut off at the forearm, there was a melted hole through the ribcage (front and back), and the head was cut off. All of the cuts and holes were just like the bones in the cafeteria, smooth and slightly melted. Hemli found the head in the corner, but the hand was missing.

    The third body was just strange. The neck bones were shattered, but not like the first body. They looked like they were crushed. In addition, the lower body was separated just below the ribcage. Hemli searched the belt and found half a strange looking comlink and some kind of rebreather.

    Hemli and Deak started going through the electronics in the room now that the power was on. Unfortunately, they were all wiped. I was looking around and found something quite interesting. Under one of the cabinets, stuck in the back where I could barely reach it with my small arm, I found the hand that belonged to the second body. In its grip was something I had never seen before.

    The object was a cylinder and the top was sheared off at a strange angle. It was about 25 centimeters long and definitely some kind of electronics. I didn’t know what it did, but it was really cool. I slipped it into my empty belt pouch and then pointed out the hand I found.

    We also located protocol droid in the communication building. Besides that, and a bunch of blasted communications gear, there wasn’t much in the building. The droid, however, wasn’t that severely damaged. It took Deak about an hour, but he said that it was beyond repair. So, except for him scavenging more electronics components, we decided to move on to the last building.

    The last building was similar in design to the outer buildings, but was more spacious. Instead of two bunkbeds per room, there were two normal beds. The lockers were also full of various personal items. We must have been in the commander’s quarters. In addition to the better accommodations, there were also no bodies in the room.

    We went through the four lockers and found one completely empty. Besides clothing, the extra personal items were quite interesting. One of the items was a long braid of hair wrapped in tan silk. Another item was a wooden sculpture of a Togruta woman holding a stick of some kind in a martial pose. There was also some kind of a coin with the strange winged sword logo on one side and a face of a man on the other. Finally, there was a quarter-full bottle of something that smelled toxic with a strange language written on it. Hemli grabbed the bottle before I was done trying to read the writing, pulled the cap off, and took a sip. Her face split into a huge grin.

    It was getting late and I suggested we stay in the command quarters for the night. We had sat down in the common room to eat dinner and talk. I said that, if nothing else, it would keep us out of the wind. Hemli thought it was a good idea, but Deak said that he didn’t want to stay somewhere that was haunted. Hemli laughed at him for that and he said that we could stay.

    We moved the speeders inside the storage room and then went around the ruins to shut off all of the external lights to keep things looking inconspicuous to anyone from the outside. After that, we closed all of the doors and made sure none of the internal lights were on.

    We activated the thermal generator in the command quarters and decided to look through what we all had collected. Mostly, it was electronics and food pellets. I didn’t bring up the strange cylinder thing I found. After a couple of hours of Deak using my tool kit to check the parts, a third of them were in a pile on the floor. The rest of then went back into the small pack he slung on his back.

    Hemli told us that we had a bottle of Togruta cider. She took another drink and passed it to Deak. He took a sip of it and started coughing for about half a minute. It burned my tongue, mouth, throat, stomach, and a couple other organs that I didn’t know I had. Hemli laughed at us and took another drink from it. We continued to pass the bottle around, and it got easier to drink. I don’t know why, but everything got fuzzy too. I’d never been drunk before.

    Deak and I took one of the two rooms with Hemli in the other. Halfway through the night, Hemli came into our room and sat on the bed next to me. I scooted to the edge of the bed and she stretched out in her own all-temperature before falling asleep.

    I woke up from the comlink buzzing on my belt. I went into the refresher and let my mother know I was okay and that we would be coming back either today or tomorrow. She told us that it wasn’t a problem and she was glad we were having fun. I didn’t tell her that it felt like someone set off a proton bomb in my skull.

    I used the refresher and found that the water tanks were full. So, I took a quick shower to clean up. Hemli took one after me and Deak took one in the other room, I heard him throwing up in it. We ate breakfast, very slowly, and drank a full canteen of water each. We decided that we’d spend until noon going back through to see if we missed anything and then head back to the beach and home.

    None of us really found anything of consequence, but Deak also didn’t search with us. Instead, he spent the entire time stripping what was left of the protocol droid down. I left him with my tool kit and he came to me for my extra power cell about two hours later. In the end, he had quite a haul on the back of his jumpspeeder.

    After eating, Deak shut down the generator and we made everything look like nobody had ever come to the ruins… well, aside from some scavengers. But, we had nothing to do with that. Afterwards, we burned out as fast as we could go. Our hangovers, what Hemli called them, were forgotten to the sheer acceleration. Two hours later, we were at the campsite.

    When we uncovered everything, Hemli jumped back with a screech. On top of the recharger, seated in a neat little web around the power outlets, was a medium-sized Fruit Spider. Two of its ten legs rose into the air and it ejected a pheromone that smelled like rotten fruit, its natural deterrent to being eaten by the various avian species that hunted it. I knew that its bite could cause really bad swelling, so I took a stick and shoved it off the equipment. It hissed in protest and walked into the nearby grass.

    Deak couldn’t help us uncouple the equipment thanks to the dead-arm punch that Hemli gave him for his laughter. It took another hour to get everything back into place on the bikes. The comlinks were another story because their internal tracking chips could tell anyone who found them exactly where they had been. However, I had an idea about that.

    After Deak dropped the programming on our normal comlinks, I set the three Hub devices on the ground and blasted them with the droid deactivator. The ion energy completely erased everything in them, most likely permanently. I collected them and dropped them in one of the saddle compartments on the speeder.

    We set off back home at half speed so as not to draw any attention. Four hours later, as the sun was nearing the horizon, we arrived back at the Hub. It didn’t take long to check the jumpspeeders back into the speederpool. After that, we all agreed to meet in two days and try our luck at more starfighter games.

    Father didn’t look up from his datapad as I walked into the house, but mother told me to get cleaned up and come to the table for dinner. I told her that the camping trip was fun and how we got drenched by the storm. We went swimming, dug some things up in the sand, and played around on the speeders. It was a total lie, but she bought it.

    After dinner, I went to my room and cleaned my tool kit. Both of the power cells needed recharged. While they were recharging, though, I pulled out the strange cylinder and began examining it. I had to shove it under some junk on the corner of my desk when my mother knocked.

    She asked me if I had to use the blaster. I told her that I fired it once because of a fruit spider that wandered too close. She laughed and said that her first shot was at a granite slug. She told me that she loved me and left.

    The next day, except for exercise and my lessons with M3N-E, I spent the entire day going over every inch of that cylinder. There was no way that I could find to disassemble it. It’s like it was fused closed, but there weren’t even any fusing marks. It was strong, whatever it was. The only damage was the slight discoloration of burned metal around where it was cut.

    The pieces inside the tube were so intricate and delicate that I was worried I’d break them if I put any kind of pressure on them. After a little work, I got them all to slide out as a single piece, pulling each and twisting two in opposite directions. When they came out, they fell and refused to go back in no matter how I tried to stack them. They weren’t even held together by any kind of screws or anything. They just fit perfectly in the housing in a way I never thought was physically possible.

    I had to cut down part of the cylinder with my fusion cutter, but it was slow going. Even though the metal was cut by something really hot, the fusion cutter was barely able to get through the outer casing. Under the pieces I managed to pull out, there was some kind of housing with a power cell. I’d never seen a power cell that was so small, but my power calibrator said it still held a charge even after all the years it was sitting there, and the charge was higher than even a blaster power pack.

    Inside the housing was a small crystal. It was the most beautiful thing in the world and the strangest. I’ve seen crystals before, but this one was special. It didn’t refract any light through it, no matter what I tried. I tried touching a colored light diode to it, and nothing. I held it in front of a visible laser and nothing. I tried holding it in a direct beam of light from my glow rod, and its shadow was completely opaque even though it was perfectly clear.

    I “borrowed” one of my mother’s cheaper looking necklaces and stripped it of the chain and wire before putting the stones back in her jewelry box. I used the wire to carefully wrap around the crystal, making sure to fully support it without it looking too tacky. With the chain, I made it into a pendant.

    While I was holding the crystal, it felt like a normal room-temperature rock. However, the moment I put it around my neck, it felt icy on my skin. I pulled it away in shock and it felt warm, but the moment it rested against my chest, it was ice cold again. I decided then and there to never take it off, no matter how uncomfortable it felt.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2019
  6. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Sounds like our buddy found a busted lightsaber. And the way the Crystal from it reacts to him, I suspect some level of Force sensitivity.
     
  7. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    All I can say for now is that you will have to follow the journal for a while to find out. I, quite literally, have this journal planned out over the next five years and may go further.
     
  8. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 004

    It took about six months for the crystal to not feel like ice against my skin. I never once took it off, determined to prove that I had more willpower than a piece of pretty rock. I won’t say that it wasn’t difficult, but I did win out in the end. The morning of my eleventh birthday, I woke up and thought I had lost the pendant in my sleep. However, it was still around my neck and comfortably body-temperature for the first time.

    As if I needed more of a reason to celebrate, my mother gave me my eleventh birthday off. M3N-E complained about missing a day and the detriment it would cause in my education. Unfortunately, when it came to my education and life around the house, even Meany couldn’t overrule my mother. So, I got the day off.

    I already knew how I was going to spend it, and had been planning to have the day off for the past three standard weeks. You see, my father told me that he would raise my allowed travel window around the Hub on my eleventh birthday. No longer would I be limited by ten kilometers during my normal daily fun rides, but I would have the run of a hundred kilometers around the Hub. Not only that, but I could check out jumpspeeders without the limiters (even though mother had been allowing me to do so since the camping trip).

    I met Deak and Hemli outside of the speederpool and we all walked triumphantly in. We were all decked out in our riding gear. Deak was in an old coverall with a helmet and goggles. Hemli wore a hooded poncho with her goggles holding the hood around her head. I was in a coverall with high boots and a pair of goggles around my neck. We each wore our utility belts and I started openly carrying my droid disruptor around.

    When my father first discovered that I had it, he practically exploded. It took my mother all day to calm him down. After that, I found myself in a class about how to maintain it, the basics of its use, and then target practice in slowly increasing difficulty. When I finished the classes, I began wearing it openly on my belt and nobody said a thing.

    Taigor, the Zabrak speederpool clerk took one look at us and raised his hands in mock surrender. “I don’t want any trouble with ruffians like you, take the credits and go.” After a moment, he broke down laughing and playfully punched Hemli’s arm. The first time he saw me with my disruptor, he jokingly called me a smuggler and threatened to turn me in for spice running.

    He had all three jumpspeeders already set out and geared (field kits on each, just in case). He made a show of removing the speed regulators on each, which wasn’t necessary as he hadn’t installed them in quite a while. He asked if I wanted to do the honors and tossed them each into the air in the room. I hit one, blew out a ceiling light fixture, and missed practically everything with my third shot. He just laughed and told me to practice more.

    We did a complete lap within our new barrier. Deak didn’t have the same limitations as I did, and Hemli’s parents said that she was limited to my range, but we each respected the limit I had. It was our thing, the one thing we could each share. Also, I’m pretty sure neither of them would be able to check out the jumpspeeders without me.

    Just after we parked for lunch, my mother commed me and told me to make my way home. She told me that my gift had arrived and been installed. I asked if it was okay to being Deak and Hemli, but she said it was for me alone. The two of them said they were going to have more fun within the range and would see me later. I waved and took off back to the Hub.

    We were eating under one of the tram lines leading in, so it was easy to follow it back to the Hub. I slalomed around the pylons set every five kilometers and slowed down only when I heard the alert klaxon of an impending crash, but I turned the repulsorlift vehicle up on its side and broke my momentum by traveling about twenty meters parallel to the ground on the wall.

    I dropped the jumpspeeder back at the speederpool and gave my thumbprint to sign it back in. I heard Taigor ask about the other two and I yelled out, before the lift door closed, that Deak and Hemli would be back before dark. I didn’t catch what his response was.

    When I got back to the suite, M3N-E asked if I had come to my senses and decided to study. I laughed at her and said that mother called me back. She gave a blurt in Binary and I put my goggles over her head. Luckily I was already around the corner when she threw them at me. I knew she would retrieve them and put them back in my room, but it was still a fun little game.

    I looked for mother all over the suites, but couldn’t find her. That is, until I looked in the game room. I still played the hologame at least once a week, but it had become rather boring. The last thing I tried was piloting a Torrent starfighter in a gauntlet against the entire Separatist Jedi Council. When I could win without taking a single shot, I moved on to more challenging things, like actual jumpspeeder piloting.

    Now, however, I found my mother standing next to something draped in a shimmersilk sheet. My curiosity was piqued. It looked like a one-man escape pod, but there were power cables coupling it to the wall. Likewise, the base was permanently affixed to the floor. I was stumped.

    “I noticed that you stopped playing your hologame,” mother smiled and looked at the unused system.

    “It became too easy,” I replied and tried peeking around the side of the mystery she was hiding. She slid herself between me and the new arrival. Her smile got bigger, but she tried to hide it.

    “I can only hope that you do not grow bored of this gift as quickly as you have that one.” She walked over, kissed me on the forehead, and left the room.

    When she was gone, I pulled the sheet off and just stared. It was a CS-Mark 6 Multi-Craft Holosimulator! A recorded message corrected me a moment later when it introduced itself as a CS-Mark 7! Not only that, but it also said it included the Imperial Military Training Protocols. It then broke me out of my shock when it told me that I was required to read the manual prior to use of the simulator. A datapad poked out of the side.

    I couldn’t get around reading the manual. It had eye-tracking software and took me close to an hour to finish the entire file. It basically told me about use and maintenance, health warnings, time limits, basic control uses, and the extra features.

    Not only did it have tri-holographic projection on the interior of the pod, but it used repulsor-assisted g-force inertial compensators to give the actual feel of flying. On top of that, the operating system featured a full combat-grade astromech droid brain that could control up to twenty-five independent combat vessels and an additional twenty-five non-combat craft in a single scenario.

    The moment my eyes finished scanning the manual, the control pad lit up on the side. I returned the datapad, which was also used to program individual combat missions, and opened the simulator pod. The first thirty seconds after I climbed in was the pod adjusting itself to my height, limb length, weight, and a couple other things I didn’t understand. After that, I activated a random scenario and pulled the helmet down over my head. I was inside a TIE Fighter!

    My first time trying it out, I ended up crashing. Okay, it was more than my first time. It might have even been more than my second time. In total, after a full hour, I had crashed a dozen times. After that, I crashed even more. When the timer finally told me I had spent the maximum four hours in the simulator, I think I had crashed about a hundred times. Each time was still just as exhilarating as the first!

    The next day, after my schooling with Meany and physical exercise, I went right back to the pod. This time, I decided to engage the Flight Simulator Training and Familiarization Protocols. It didn’t even include any actual flying, just cockpit layout and function. I ran through it over and over until I had every part of the cockpit memorized. It took me the entire day; two full runs per the four-hour timer. That night, I even dreamed of the inside of the cockpit.

    The day after, when I got out of class and exercise, I booted up the Level 0 protocol. It taught me everything I needed to know about basic maneuvers and speed. It took me through a winding circular track made up of hexagonal segments, six long connected by six short with open space between their connectors. I crashed into the walls a great deal, but only blew up about a third of the time for the first four hours. The second four hours saw me crash very little in the beginning and then not at all for the rest of the timed session.

    The Level 1 protocol taught me basic weapon function. The training track was identical to the Level 0, but it included eight pyramids on the walls of the long segments for me to shoot. I didn’t run into the walls, but I also wasn’t able to shoot every target at first. So, I did it again, and then again, and then again. By the second of my four-hour timed runs, I was destroying every single one of the wall targets on every run!

    Level 2 was identical to the first, but it included two large red double-pyramids that were static in the middle of the segments and required two shots to destroy. Level 3 put a three-column fixture into the center of the segments that I could either fly around or shoot four times to destroy. Level 4 started the pylons and double-pyramids rotating around the segments. Level 5 added a wall at the end of the long segments that covered all but one-sixth of the end and had a trapezoidal opening to fly through. Level 6 began rotating the wall at the end with the pylons and double-pyramids. Level 7 added in another wall after the first that rotated in the opposite direction. The final three levels were identical to Level 7, except that the rotation was quicker.

    I spent a full day on every level, two of the four-hour time cutoffs. I spent time with Deak and Hemli, too, but not as much. When I told them that I had a flight simulator, not like at the arcade in Sashasa, they both mocked that they had lost their friend forever. We still saw each other, but like I said, not as much.

    The day after completing the Level 10, and being able to destroy all of the targets (pyramids and balloons), I found something waiting for me inside the simulator. It was a flight suit and armor. When I took it out, I actually whooped for joy and sent M3N-E into a fit.

    I had received a TIE Fighter pilot uniform kit sized for me! The flight suit, boots, gloves, belt, armor, and helmet! Even though it didn’t have a neckseal, the chest box provided air through the hoses! There was a note saying it was from my father, but I didn’t believe it. My father thought the military was as useful as clothing for a droid. I knew it was from my mother.

    The helmet was made by the same company as the simulator, so the simulation plugged directly into it. While it did provide an internal radar system, as an actual TIE helmet did, it also cut my visibility by quite a bit. Beyond that, the armor was slightly limiting. So, I had to go through the entire training regimen from the beginning. Like before, I spent one full day on each block of training. A week into my second round of training, I found an additional flight suit in the simulator and a note asking me to swap between them and make use of the laundry between missions. I love my mother.

    A month after my birthday and I was beginning the actual combat training missions. In the first mission, my objective was to develop basic gunnery skills and then apply them against an increasingly challenging series of targets. As the mission progressed I had the option to continue with actual dogfighting. I was instructed to pay constant attention to my Threat Indicator Array, the part of my HUD that would light up when an enemy was aiming a weapon at me. It also told me to avoid head-on attacks as those were “usually suicidal.”

    There would be no opposition at first. In the dogfighting portion of the mission the V-19 Torrent would be my enemy. It wasn’t as fast or maneuverable as the TIE Fighter, but it had the same armament and stronger armor.

    The briefing instructed me in how to target something and how to read my targeting box to indicate a good shot. I was then instructed to destroy the container in front of me, which took about eight hits. It instructed me how to target something outside visual and use the sensors to bring it in range of my lasers. I destroyed Target 2 and was instructed to destroy the remaining eight targets.

    A Torrent starfighter, that the computer identified the pilot as Mover 1, launched from the nearby training platform. It was running through a simple patrol route and I was ordered to engage it. The next four V-19 starfighters moved faster and maneuvered more than their predecessor, but I was able to keep them targeted and destroy them.

    After Mover 5, another fighter launched called Fighter 1. It took me out on my first run, but I got it on my second. Fighter 2 through 5 got tougher, but I got through them all in one day. They shot at me and tried to dogfight against me.

    After Fighter 5 was destroyed, two V-19s launched from the station under the name Group Dodec. When they were destroyed, three fighters launched under the name Group Triad and then four in Group Quad, five in Group Quin, and six in Group Hex. One of the things I did learn was that you should open fire at a distance while the fighters are in formation to break them up and possibly score some lucky hits.

    After the last fighter in Group Hex was destroyed, two groups of six V-19 Torrents launched labeled as Group Dodec1 and Group Dodec2. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the next fighters to launch after they were destroyed were two sets of six shielded Z-95 Headhunters in Groups Dodec3 and Dodec4. After they were all destroyed, the mission was considered a success.

    I’m making this sound like I took all of the fighters out one after the other. Well, the truth is that it took me a week of practice to even get up to the end of the single-fighter dogfights. It was about another week before I saw the launch of the first two Dodec groups, then two more weeks to see my first Z-95s. In the end, it took me a full month to complete the very first training mission. Even though I was destroyed multiple times during each of my four-hour flights, I never once quit until I had beaten the last Z-95. In the end, I had shown that I was capable of engaging enemy craft in gunner combat.

    The second mission, which took up the entire third month of my eleventh year of life, was designed to teach me how to stay with my flight leader as I patrolled around an Imperial base. It recreated a typical pirate raid on an Imperial Navy supply depot. I was number 2 in a six-fighter patrol squadron maintaining a standard orbital patrol around Platform Depot 5. I was expected to follow my flight leader’s orders and do as he did. If Alpha 1 was taken out, I would assume command of the rest of Group Alpha. My primary objective was to intercept the raiders and destroy them. My secondary objective was to destroy any pirate craft attempting to steal supplies.

    The objectives of the mission was to learn how to follow inflight orders from my flight leader as well as to practice issuing inflight orders to my wingmen to see the advantages of group tactics. The raid would commence with an attack by Z-95 Headhunters followed by Y-Wings. If the Y-Wings could disable the platform, transports would arrive to pick up as many containers as they could.

    Not long into the mission, four Z-95s and four Y-Wings dropped out of hyperspace and began to attack. The flight group focused on the Z-95s, as they were the greater threat, but they were easily destroyed by the flight of six TIEs. Unfortunately, they were immediately reinforced by two more, one of which destroyed Alpha 1. I ordered the rest of Alpha to go after one of the Z-95s and turned to go after the other. When the Z-95s were all destroyed, I ordered to group to go after the Y-Wings which were trying to take down the platform.

    The Y-Wings were slower than the Headhunters, but their armor and shields could take multiple hits before going down. Add to that their turrets and you had a recipe for disaster. We lost another fighter going after them. During the attack on the Y-Wings, a group of six transports dropped out of hyperspace with 4 more Y-Wings and began going after supply crates.

    I had just finished the last of the transports and began focusing on the additional Y-Wings when the Imperial Star Destroyer Colossus dropped out of hyperspace. I was so awestruck by the sight that a Y-Wing blasted me and I had to start all over. After that, I kept my focus on the fight.

    With the arrival of the Star Destroyer, the remaining Y-Wings turned tail and ran. That didn’t stop me from chasing them down and destroying the last of them. I was then instructed to return to the Platform to end the mission. By the time the month was up, I had ended the mission with the four other fighters alive. I had demonstrated the ability to defeat an enemy attack.

    The fourth month after I got my simulator, I was finally beginning on the third training mission. I was tasked with taking out a large group of disabled spacecraft, hopefully destroying the support ships attempting to deliver their pilots to them. There were so many craft to destroy that I had to work quickly. It suggested that I attack the V-Wings first, since they were the hardest to catch when they start moving. Then, I could go after the support craft before they finish docking with the other starfighters. I was to leave the containers for last.

    I flew into the mission and accelerated toward the V-Wings and took them out. None of them fought back, so it was quite easy. After that, I targeted the smaller support craft that were ferrying pilots to their fighters. I caught the first as it was depositing its pilot in a Z-95 and the rest before they got even close to a starfighter. Looking through my sensors, I saw that I missed one of the Z-95s. However, it was still powering up its systems and I swooped in and took it out. The remaining Z-95s were dead in space and I could destroy them at my leisure… which I did.

    With all of the starfighters destroyed, I began working on the containers. My bonus goals were to inspect each container, which revealed weapons and armaments. After that, it was like shooting nerfs in a barn. When the last of the containers was destroyed, the Raider-class Corvette Perfect dropped out of hyperspace to pick me up. In the end, I showed a superb ability to destroy enemy forces quickly. In all, the mission took me exactly one hour to complete. But, that didn’t stop me from doing it again and again to practice for the rest of the day. I even decided to go after the containers first in future missions to try my hand against the fighters with full crews. By the end of the month, I could take them all out without any difficulty.

    The fourth of the built-in missions was a simple target destruction mission. A reconnaissance mission had discovered a probe in the region of Klaymor 4-2. I was being sent out to destroy the probe. I was told to be wary because it was expected that pirate craft were nearby. After the probe was eliminated, I was to return to the hangar of the Corvette Astin.

    I launched from the Corvette and had a long trip to reach the probe. The Corvette jumped out and, almost immediately, a pair of Assault Gunboats jumped into the area in hot pursuit of a Z-95. Since it was between me and the probe, I diverted momentarily to blast it at range. However, a pair of V-Wings jumped in and put themselves between me and the probe.

    One of the V-Wings got a target lock on me and launched a concussion missile, but I shot it before it could impact (at least I did the fifth time I flew the mission). By that time, they were on me and things got very interesting. The V-Wing is more maneuverable and faster than a TIE Fighter, but it is very lightly armored. I took one out and the other began harassing the gunboats. They were able to take down its shields and I finished it off with my lasers.

    By the time the V-Wings were destroyed, a new wave of trouble jumped into the fight, three Z-95s. When I engaged them alongside the gunboats, I learned that friendly fire wasn’t. I began shifting my target from anything they were dogfighting in order to preserve my life a little better. However, I was still able to land the final shot on each of the Z-95s before continuing toward the probe.

    The probe itself took only two shots to neutralize. After that, I turned to rendezvous with the Corvette Astin that jumped back in system. Unfortunately, a Pelta-class frigate, identified as the Rogelo, came out of hyperspace as well. It immediately disgorged two V-19 Torrent fighters that I turned to intercept.

    I took one of the Torrents out and three more launched. Unfortunately, I got too close to the frigate and it got me. The next run, I made sure to back off from the frigate to engage the other fighters, allowing the shielded gunboats to close the gap with the capital ship. In my attack run against the fighters, I took a shot. It didn’t destroy me, though; it just clipped my port solar wing.

    The Rogelo disgorged another four V-19s followed by another three. To their credit, the gunboats were able to take out one of the fighters shortly after it launched. Working with the two of them, and getting blasted out of space more times than I would like to have, we finally succeeded in taking out all the fighters.

    As the last fighter was destroyed, the Pelta-class frigate turned and jumped back into hyperspace. Both of the gunships did the same and I was left to fly to the Astin to dock and complete the mission. In the end, I learned how to avoid enemy craft and complete my mission. It only took me three weeks in total.

    There were many other missions after that, but I don’t want to get repetitive and use this journal as an After-Action Report for my simulator work. Let’s just say that I began using it for a full four hours a day after my schooling and workouts. The training missions were always difficult, and most took me a full week to score a perfect completion, but I was determined to be the best fighter pilot if it killed me!

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    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
  9. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 005

    From the time I was twelve, the only thing I had on my mind was joining the Empire. Well, it was actually a lot longer, but that was about the age that I really had to think about it. Because Ukio was a former Separatist planet, it had a preparatory academy on it that would “weed out the wheat from the chaff,” as the Ukians put it. It was designed to ensure only the best members of the former Separatist worlds were allowed to go to the Imperial military academies, both junior and senior.

    Deak was older than me by three months and Hemli was younger by two, so we all decided at about the same time to prepare for and apply to the program together. That meant a great deal of preparation, though. Preparation meant work. Work meant giving up our free time and play time to do what we had to do.

    Father, of course, protested Deak and Hemli coming up to our suite to be educated by our “top of the line” tutor droid, but mother sated his ire in the way that only mother could. M3N-E loved the idea of more students to torment, and made sure to show each of us just how stupid we were at every step of the process. Oh boy did she not pull any mental punches.

    In addition to the use of M3N-E, mother allowed us use of the gym. We all spent two and a half hours with M3N-E and then an additional two hours in the gym. We only had two feedback units and two treadmills, so Hemli and I used two machines while Deak used the other.

    After that we broke for food and then spent the next two hours in the game room. My mother purchased me a blaster combat simulator when I started talking about wanting to join the military. The simulator was part of the hologame system so it was both fun to use and tough. By the end of a year, we were all proficient in blasting droids, but Hemli always scored the highest.

    The last two hours of our day together was set aside for “speeder training.” By speeder training, it meant taking out the jumpspeeders and racing around like Kowakian monkey-lizards on hyperstims. We set up little courses to run through and overcome. Deak even rigged up a holster on the jumpspeeders for my disruptor to practice vehicle-mounted weapon gunnery.

    Deak was the first of us to enter the Pre-Junior Academy. It was strange spending three months with just me and Hemli. It wasn’t weird because she was a girl, but because it was just the two of us. The fact that she was a girl didn’t even come in to play because she was probably the toughest of the three of us. In those three months, I convinced my mother to let Hemli continue tutoring with M3M-E, using the gym, and the hologame for blaster training. Father didn’t complain, but I’m pretty sure that he also didn’t know.

    The day of my fourteenth birthday, my mother woke me up at sunrise and told me to dress quickly, eat, and meet her on the speeder deck. I knew what was happening and was so excited that I almost forgot my boots. However, M3N-E stopped me and had me dress all over again, and reminded me to use the oral care unit.

    I was alone for breakfast, so I had time to wait while the autochef prepared my meal. While I was waiting, I was absentmindedly twirling my crystal in a ray of light from the rising sun. That’s when it caught a beam and exploded into color that bathed me and the entire room. It caught me by surprise and I fell over backwards in my chair.

    I recovered quickly and held the crystal back up to the light. Sure enough, it still caught the light and threw an ever-changing spectrum across the entire room like no crystal I have ever seen before. I didn’t even have to spin the crystal for the changes in color. Unlike the beautifully refracted colors on the wall, the crystal was glowing only green.

    The autochef made a tone which drew my attention. When I turned back to the crystal, it was perfectly clear and no longer reflecting anything more than what a normal crystal would. I tried again to get it to shine more, but it didn’t. However, it was now reflecting the light through it. I played with it as I ate, but it was just a normal crystal.

    When I got to the speeder deck, mother was standing beside her airspeeder. It took me a moment to realize that she was standing beside the passenger door. She looked at me expectantly and then got in. I’d been piloting the jumpspeeder for so long that I wouldn’t ever pass up the chance to try my hand at my mother’s airspeeder. Heck, I even programmed the simulator to teach me just in case this day ever came (without the TIE gear that is).

    The airspeeder was a classic, introduced just prior to the Clone Wars. A Trilon Incorporated M-31 Airspeeder in fire-red, the only color they were ever produced in. I sat down in the pilot’s chair and it auto-adjusted to me. After a quick pre-flight check (mostly to impress my mother), I pushed the accelerator to full speed right out of the hangar.

    My mother let out a squeal of surprise as we went from 0 to 700 kph before hitting the open air. I was afraid that she might tell me to slow down, but then she started laughing and stuck her hand out into the air. She actually liked the speed, so I began slewing back and forth, which got more happy laughter out of her.

    After about five minutes, she calmed down and gave me the biggest smile I had ever seen on her face. She programmed the nav system to point us just north of Sashasa and then just sighed. I turned in the direction and dropped the speed a little bit. She told me to keep it fast until we got within sensor range of the city.

    She told me that her father used to do the same thing when she was much younger and it brought her back to her youth. The entire trip, she told me about grandpa. It was the most I had ever heard her talk about him at one time. He sounded like a true hero. I wish I had known him. He also began as a pilot in the Judiciary Forces and worked his way up to commanding a Republic Cruiser.

    Halfway across the ocean, I got a ranging ping from Sashasa traffic control. I dropped my speed to 400 kph as my mother sent them our travel plan and received an acknowledgement. I continued on, dropping to about a hundred meters over the shallow ocean and continuing toward the navigation point that appeared on the screen.

    I landed on the pad and moved the speeder between two others in a parking position. I made sure to shut it down properly, rather than the speedy shutdown that I desperately wanted to do. I was excited, but knew that I was probably being watched. Deak, on one of his leaves, told us that the instructors watched you every minute of every day.

    Mother and I walked across a wide track that surrounded the building and across the most manicured grass I had ever walked on. I was sure that every blade of grass was all the same length down to the millimeter. The single-story building was made of an Imperial gray plasticrete with windows and large double-doors that looked to be made of actual wood. They slid apart as we neared and I felt like I was walking into another world.

    I thought it would look identical to the proper Imperial architecture inside the Hub, corridors like they were torn from a Star Destroyer and the lit wall-panels. Instead, the inside was molded plasticrete with an archaic look to them. There was a skylight that allowed the sun to shine into the foyer hall. Hanging on the walls to the right and left, on either side of the hall entering the rest of the building, and beside the door, were red shimmersilk banners that bore the Imperial seal.

    We were met at the door by an actual person, not a droid. She was a little taller than me and probably a year older. She looked to be wearing an Imperial crew uniform, but it was blue in color rather than black or gray. Her brown hair was pulled into a braid that was then wrapped and held in place with a black band.

    The girl smiled at me for a moment and then greeted my mother. She motioned for us to follow her and began talking about the school. There were two classrooms for instruction, an indoor gunnery range, and separate dormitories for male and female students, though both would train in the same unit due to class size. We would be given fete weeks and holidays off, but would live and train at the school for the entire year. The classes were cyclic, so if we failed to reach a graduating score in any classes we would remain in the school for another year or until we passed the classes. She smiled and said that she was attending the sector academy with the next semester.

    We walked by one door—an actual wooden door that manually slid into the wall—and she said that the simulator room was beyond it. My ears perked up when I heard that. She noticed and a small smile crept across her features. She said that they followed proper Imperial protocols for the simulator room and that every student could opt to take the classes as electives in the evenings, but it was also highly suggested that I train on it, as I would be tested at the end of the year on all elective skills. The simulators included all Imperial single-pilot vehicles: starfighters, walkers, and repulsorcraft.

    Her tour ended in front of another wooden door with a plaque that proclaimed it as the Proctor’s Office. She welcomed me to the academy and walked off. Mother made a comment that she was kind of cute, but I tried to ignore it. She had been making similar comments with Hemli, and I continued to tell her that I wasn’t all that interested.

    Inside the office, behind a wooden desk, sat another woman. I could tell that she was short, even though she was seated. She had almond eyes and long hair rolled into a right bun at the back of her head. She looked to be wearing the uniform of an Imperial officer, but it was the same color blue as the girl’s. Her long fingers ended with nails painted the same color blue as the uniform. She glanced up at us and tapped a button on her terminal as we entered. A few moments later, a man stepped through the door.

    I just stared at him for a moment. He was wearing an identical uniform to the woman, but it also looked entirely different. The creases on his trousers looked like they could cut through a flimsy. His belt was polished as brightly as his boots. His hair was black, but there were gray patches on either side of his temples, looking like they were following some precise military order. His hands sported a pair of black gloves that he tugged at for only a moment before his stern features broke into a smile.

    “Ah, Tramanda, it has been too long.” He stepped forward and took her hands in his. He leaned in and kissed her cheeks before realizing he was in public and putting something resembling military protocol back in his demeanor. His aide didn’t look up from her terminal.

    “Take a seat, young man.” He walked into his office and my mother smiled at me and followed him.

    There was a simple wooden bench along the wall. It wasn’t comfortable, but I got the feeling that seeing the Proctor under normal circumstances wasn’t a good thing. However, I sat and tried not to look around too much. There was a framed flimsi of a Republic Attack Cruiser on the wall, the name plate calling it the Indefatigable. On either side, in the white margin, there were three columns of tiny writing. The first couple dozen looked like they could have been names, after that they were all just numbers. I’d guess there were about a thousand per column. They were too small to see.

    The door opened to the room and my mother walked out with a smile, the kind she always reserved for good news. “Go in, dear,” was all that she said. I saw her walk over toward the poster and her smile flickered a moment as she squinted at the first name on it.

    I walked into the room and the door closed behind me with a loud click. The room was definitely different than my father’s office. There was a large window that looked out toward the ocean with a plant on either side of the glass, their broad leaves reaching for the light. In front of the desk was a flat bench. A wooden desk was centered in the room, the desktop was clear of everything except for a terminal and a small model of a Republic Attack Cruiser.

    “Sit down, student.” The man’s voice was hard, but without anger. “Do you know why the Ukio Screening and Preparatory School exists?”

    I took a seat in the middle of the bench in front of the desk. It was just as uncomfortable as the one in the outer office. “No, sir. I thought it was like all of the other pre-junior academies.”

    “Preparatory Schools, the correct term, are different than the Imperial Academy system, cadet. They are only located on former Separatist planets. They are used to limit recruitment from those worlds, from these worlds. To…” He paused for a moment, “…ensure only the best candidates get into the Youth Academies.”

    He let that linger in the air for a few heartbeats; more than a few, in my case. I knotted my hands on my knees to keep them from fidgeting.

    “You don’t need to apply to the Preparatory School, student. Because you are not from this planet, but from Coruscant, you can apply straight to the Youth Academy in the sector next year.”

    “I know that, sir.” I sat up a little straighter as I spoke, trying to make my posture as perfect as possible.

    “So, why do you wish to apply to the Ukio Screening and Preparatory School? Know that you could possibly fail, be injured, or even be black-listed from entering an Imperial Service Academy. Is it just because your friends are entering our curriculum?”

    Deak and Hemli flashed into my mind momentarily, but I quickly focused on the Proctor in front of me. “Yes, sir. But, it is also because I want to be ready for whatever the Sector Youth Academy throws at me.”

    “Good answer, student. Very good answer.”

    Our discussion lasted for another half hour. He asked me about my schooling, and I told him about M3N-E and the courses she ran me through. I told him about my activities with the simulator at home and he made a note on his terminal. He asked about my physical conditioning and I told him about the feedback exercisers and treadmill, and admitted about my running through the Hub. At that last part, he actually smiled and told me that I was good for engaging in my own obstacle course, but it would be nothing compared to the Youth Academy.

    In the end, he asked if I had any questions for him. I did, but only one. “How do you know my mother, sir?”

    He smiled and nodded, answering my question with a question. “How much has she told you about your grandfather?”

    “A little bit. He commanded a Venator-class cruiser before he was murdered by a Jedi terrorist who blew up the ship.”

    The Proctor’s featured darkened for only a moment before he looked down and touched the model on his desk. “The ship was called the Indefatigable. There was a young lieutenant under him, his aide, who he threw into the last escape pod before the power plant went critical.”

    He looked up from the model and back at me. “That aide was quite infatuated with the captain’s daughter, but never got up the nerve to reveal it to her. After the war, he was able to resign from the active service and enter the inactive reserves to train students. He was assigned to a backwater planet and, after a few years, learned that the captain’s daughter was also living on that planet.”

    He looked at me expectantly for a moment as I ran the information through my head. “You were my grandfather’s aide?”

    “Admiral Norrus was a great man and ensured that the bridge officers, including the clones, made it off the ship at the expense of his own life.”

    His features hardened and his eyes narrowed at me, “but, do not even begin to think that you will get special treatment as a student in this school.”

    “No, sir.”

    “Good. Welcome to the Ukio Screening and Preparatory School, Student Ander Sonalex. Oh, and my title is proctor, not sir.”

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  10. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 006

    The uniforms of the Ukio Screening and Preparatory School were actually quite comfortable. Besides the blue color, the only difference between it and the standard Imperial Crewman uniform was a lack of gloves and hat. Unlike the coverall I had at home, the comlink was real and included a timekeeping feature (something I didn’t even know about the Imperial comlink).

    Living in a barracks was definitely something new to me. Even though the room could hold sixteen students, there were only nine in it. Across the hall, in an identical room, were the three females in our class. Rather than a bed to myself like some of the older students, I had a top bunk. The refresher was in the back of the room and had a communal shower in it. The biggest culture shock for me, though, was the complete lack of privacy.

    One of the good parts of living in the bay was that the guy on the bunk under me was Deak. He didn’t look any different, other than a haircut, but was definitely acting more confident than I remembered. He had me update him on everything happening around the Hub when I got to the barracks on my first day. I hadn’t even gotten my initial issue of uniforms sorted (four coveralls, two pairs of boots, two belts, seven sets of underclothing, hygiene kit, and a datapad with my course information). I told him all I could while he showed me how to properly fold and store everything in my locker.

    Classes were definitely interesting, but they took up practically the whole day. We woke up before sunrise and did physical training. After breakfast, we had ten minutes to clean up and get to class. Three classes before lunch and then three more before dinner. After dinner, we had four hours until lights out to take part in electives, study, and personal hygiene.

    To me, the elective portion was the best part of the day. I had to go through a couple weeks of elective preparation training before I could do anything, three hours a night focused on the basics of each elective, but then I had the run of the elective programs. Some of them were skill-based like maintenance and programming, some of them were combat-based like marksmanship and tactics, but I was more interested in the actual Imperial TIE Fighter training simulators. I’m pretty sure I spent every other day, at least three full hours, inside one of the ball cockpits.

    I still studied, but mostly my studies were focused on mathematics. It was my weakest subject. At least once a week, I’d go with Deak into the marksmanship range and we’d practice with the modified E-11 blaster rifles (the modification was that they were permanently set to sting-mode for safety). The next night, Deak would go with me into the maintenance elective because pilots needed to know how to fix their fighters (I was okay, but I knew I could be better). My days were so full that I completely lost track of time and didn’t even think about home once.

    I had been attending for a month and was in the middle of history class when my father burst into the classroom door. He yelled at me to stop being childish and to get back home. He told me that if I did, he would overlook my wanting to be a dog of the military. I told him that I was happy right where I was and it was where I felt called to be.

    I knew every person in the class by their first name, except for Teacher Waldin (whose first name for all of us was just Teacher). I felt closer to each of them, even the teacher, than I did to my own father. The only other place in the entire galaxy that I wish I had been, at that moment, was the middle of the Maw because of how embarrassed I was.

    Father told me that he gave me the chance to do this quietly and then walked over and pulled me out of my desk by the shoulder of my uniform. I grabbed onto his wrist, but didn’t have the strength to pry his fingers off of my coverall. All I could do was stumble along beside him as he dragged me to the main entrance of the school. He was ranting and raving the entire way about how he had worked too hard for his only child to become a stormtrooper. I tried to tell him that I was going to be a pilot, but he just shook me and told me not to interrupt him.

    Proctor Melthwep came out of one of the side rooms and interposed himself between us and the door. He was very calm and didn’t show any emotion at all. Beside him, as always, was Aide Arel. She was dutifully reading something on her datapad and tapping randomly at the screen, though she looked up when my father came to a stop in front of the head of the school.

    The proctor looked down at me and, without even acknowledging my father, said, “Classes go until seventeen hundred, Student Sonalex. If you wish to skip dinner to visit with your family, or skip your elective period, you may do so then.”

    My father’s face turned red in fury. He yelled, “You will address me and not my son, Tannon!”

    With that one word, spat more as an insult than an identifier, I saw Aide Arel’s eyes widen momentarily. She looked between the proctor and my father before typing something else into the datapad.

    At the same time, the proctor turned his passive gaze up to my father. He very calmly lifted his hands and tugged his right glove up his wrist a little before locking them again in the small of his back. “Yes, sir. May I assist you with something?”

    “You MAY get out of my damn face and leave me, my son, and my wife alone. She chose me and not you, Tannon. I bet that just eats away at you every night. Well, I won’t have my son waste his life on some backwater mud-ball like you when he has a future!”

    Proctor Melthwep cocked an eyebrow, completely unfazed by my father’s insults and reached out for Aide Arel’s datapad. The woman handed it over, already knowing what he was going to ask for. He consulted it for a moment and acted like he had all the time in the world. He even scrolled past a couple of items.

    “Actually, Ranu,” the proctor said using my father’s first name. “Qualifications for training assignments happen in the Youth Academies. We simply ensure that our students are as prepared as they can be for those training environments. However, should Student Sonalex finish his training here without incident, his scores already place him in a good position to request the Elite Flight training course through the Imperial Academy.”

    “Though,” he looked down at me, “it would behoove you to work more on both maintenance and marksmanship in the coming months, especially maintenance. Getting a little more math study in wouldn’t hurt, either.”

    He handed the datapad back to his aide and looked back up at my father, his arms going back to the small of his back. “So, I will ask you to release MY student and allow him to return to class, Mister Sonalex.”

    My father let go of my collar, dropping me on the floor, and raised his hands up toward Proctor Melthwep’s jacket. At the same time, the proctor’s right hand flew out from behind his back. I saw his hand twitch downwards and saw something silver shoot out of his sleeve into his waiting grip. My father’s hands stopped millimeters from the proctor’s jacket as the barrel of the holdout blaster dug into my father’s gut right below his belt buckle.

    All the blood ran out of my father’s face as he lowered his hands back to his sides, palms open and forward. The proctor’s face didn’t even twitch during the entire ordeal. He still looked like he was in a conversation with the parent of one of his students, not standing with a weapon in a man’s stomach and his finger on the trigger.

    The proctor looked down at me and shook his head, his tongue clicking and his lip curling into a smirk, “I know that this is only a school, Student Sonalex, but we do try to teach military bearing. You should be at the position of attention when in the presence of a superior and not sitting in a heap on the floor.”

    I stood up and pulled my coverall back down, adjusting my belt, and assuming the proper position.

    “Good lad, but in the future you should adjust your uniform while rising so that it does not take as long. It is the little things that will catch the eyes of superiors and ensure you are looked at first for promotion.”

    I noticed that he punctuated the end of the comment with a light push of the barrel into my father’s stomach. For her part, Aide Arel made no movement except to give me a once over. She glanced at the proctor and then back at me, making a waving motion toward her side. I looked down, and then brushed dust off of my hip before resuming attention.

    “Excellent,” the proctor said loudly. “Now, back to class with you. Your father and I have some things to discuss regarding Imperial law and assaulting officers of the Imperial military.”

    I looked to my father for only a moment before looking back at the proctor. I saluted and walked briskly back to the classroom. Everyone inside was quiet, including Teacher Waldin. She resumed the lesson when Aide Arel walked in front of the window and nodded. Behind her, I could barely make out my father walking toward the proctor’s office with Proctor Melthwep behind him, arms again behind his back.

    The only time anyone even made mention of the incident was when Proctor Melthwep asked me if I was okay at dinner. When I told him I was, he just nodded and walked on through to the staff table for his meal.

    When I commed mother for Empire Day, my father told me that my fascination with the military was only a phase and that I’d grow tired of it and would be ready to train for the future he picked out for me. I told mother that I didn’t think I’d ever grow out of it after he left.

    Nothing much really changed until a month later. I woke up to begin the day, dressing quickly and running to the parade field. On my way out, I felt someone hit my arm, hard. I turned back to snap at whichever idiot did it and was looking right into the freckled face, blonde hair, and blue eyes of Hemli!

    We weren’t really able to talk until breakfast and the three of us sat together. She started by thanking me for convincing my mother to let her use M3N-E and the gym, and then told me she beat my score on the marksmanship game. We all sat together in classes, and then at lunch and dinner. We didn’t see her after hours because of the elective orientation, but then we did all that together, too. Well, she and Deak used the speeder- and walker-piloting simulators while I was “locked in the ball” as they called it.

    We got two new students in after Hemli, and lost two more at the beginning of the newest semester for the sector youth academy. Apparently, any student who applies to the school is accepted. However, not every student actually passes. A week after Hemli finished her elective orientation, one of the long-time students ended up failing out. Failing meant being at the school for two full years and not having the necessary scores to be accepted at the sector youth academy in their next semester. So, our class was back down to twelve students from its fifteen student high, eights boys and four girls. On the plus side, I was able to move to my own bunk at the end of the barracks, no more sleeping on the bunk above Deak. He snored.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
  11. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 007

    There was a total of seven staff members at the school. Besides the proctor and his aide, there were five teachers. Four of them were educational teachers and the fifth was the physical teacher. Each teacher also doubled as an elective teacher in the various disciplines available after the normal school hours. The one that had the biggest impact on me, though, was the physical teacher: Coach Epoch.

    He was the oldest member of the staff, but had more energy than any two put together. He was bald, but his eyebrows were half gray. He had a tattoo on the left side of his head that read “band of brothers” and a small scar over his right ear. The first time I saw him, I swear that I recognized him from somewhere, but I couldn’t place where.

    He had this strange quirk when he trained us. Every time we attempted something, he compared us to his brothers. During sprints, we couldn’t run as fast as his brothers. During runs, we couldn’t run as far as his brothers. During the obstacle course, we couldn’t finish as quickly as his brothers. He even ran the blaster elective, so of course we couldn’t shoot as well as his brothers.

    Unfortunately, I was singled out by him on my first day. I wasn’t the weakest student in the school, but I also wasn’t the strongest. After my physical assessment, he told me that I spent too long using a feedback exerciser and not long enough using my muscles; I spent too long running on a treadmill and not long enough running with my legs. He also gave me the nickname that stuck for most of the year, particularly with him.

    It was just after I missed a jump on the obstacle course. I was lying flat on my back, having fallen about four meters, when he leaned over me and cocked his head. He told me that I did remind him of one of his brothers. With a smile, he proudly proclaimed that I earned the right to be called by his brother’s name. From that day onward, he only referred to me as Ninety-Nine. It was definitely a strange name for a brother and I definitely pitied his mother.

    After the incident with my father, I decided to take Proctor Melthwep’s advice. I spent only one day a week in the simulator, one day at the blaster range, one day at the maintenance class, and the other two studying. If I didn’t have anything to study, I helped Deak and Hemli with their studies. If we were all free, then we usually hit the gymnasium.

    The year flew by and before I knew it, we had the Festival of Stars Fete Week. This wasn’t just a full five days off from class, but was just before my birth month! After we returned from break, I’d have fewer than thirty days until my fifteenth birthday and my application for the sector youth academy! To say that it was wizard was an understatement.

    I wish that I could say Deak, Hemli, and I got ready to return home together, but I couldn’t. Deak left the previous month for the Youth Academy’s semester. So, it was just Hemli and me. Then again, it’s not like there was much to pack or anything. That didn’t stop the entire school from buzzing with excitement.

    The first morning of the fete week, Hemli and I were both called into the proctor’s office. As always, Aide Arel was behind her desk silently tapping away at a terminal. This time, however, she had a bit of a smile crossing her features. Before either of us could speculate on it, Proctor Melthwep called us in.

    We both entered and rendered a salute, which he then returned then motioned for us to sit. He asked about our plans for the upcoming week and we both confirmed that we were returning to the Hub to visit with our families. That’s when he cocked a smile and asked what we were planning to wear.

    Hemli and I looked at each other in bewilderment. Sure, I tried to get back into the clothes I had worn before, but they didn’t fit. I didn’t have a growth spurt like Deak—he grew twenty-five centimeters in the year he was here—but I did grow a little and was far too muscular to fit into my clothes. Hemli blushed and returned her eyes forward. She didn’t grow much in height, but she… well, she grew in other ways.

    The Proctor nodded and walked to look out his window. He told us that he was giving us both a fifty credit chit and use of the school’s utility speeder for the week. He told us that we will pay him back by returning the speeder in better condition than when we take it. He smiled and wished us a good fete week.

    I didn’t know what to say, but my training kicked in and I said “Thank you, Proctor” in unison with Hemli. He turned and smiled at us. No, he smiled at me. He then schooled his features and dismissed us. I didn’t know if the fifty credit chit was a normal thing, but I didn’t question it. I mean, credits were credits, right?

    We stood, rendered a salute, and walked out of the room. I closed the door behind me and looked at Hemli wide-eyed. I didn’t know what had just happened. Then, without warning, Aide Arel handed us both fifty credits and handed me the activation fob for the speeder.

    The speeder was a modified RGC-17 airspeeder that was white with the school’s blue logo on the front. Unlike the standard models that only carried two passengers, this one could carry four and had some storage area behind the rear seats. Those seats could also be folded down to make room for more storage.

    Hemli and I decided that a trip to Sashasa was in order, specifically to the mall complex, to get some new clothes. I joked about her maybe getting a dress and her retort was that she’d wear one if I did, followed by a punch to my arm. I grabbed my day bag and went out to begin a pre-flight inspection of the speeder. She came out and helped me finish before we got in and revved it up.

    It was a short trip to the mall complex, since it was in the north of the city like the school. The problem, especially on the first day of a fete week, was finding parking. So, we decided to land a few blocks away and just walk to the mall. It was just a little over a kilometer and the weather was beginning to cool from the humid planting season.

    We didn’t talk much during the trip, but we really didn’t need to. It was strange, though, passing groups of Ukians on our way to the mall. Not strange in a speciest way, but because I had only been around humans for nearly a year. There were more people in the city than Ukians, though. A few Ithorians gathered at a grass tapcaf, a Twi’lek mother walked by us with her eyes down even though the little one holding her hand stared at us in amazement, and a couple of Rodian mothers watched their children wrestle in a park. There were also some humans around, but they just kept going their way as we went ours.

    The mall was really crowded. It was nothing like the orderly school, and more than once Hemli was pushed into me by a random passerby. She told me that we probably should have thought to come here last week, and I agreed. But, we were there now, so we made the best of it.

    Even though I was hungry, I wanted to get the little shopping I needed to do out of the way before what I expected would be a greater crush of bodies as the morning turned fully into day. So, we made our way straight to the clothiers.

    When we walked into the small boutique, the only person inside was a slightly overweight Sullustan woman. She smiled, or what I thought was a smile, and greeted us in heavily accented Basic. She walked up and looked us both over, making a small mew of disgust at our uniforms.

    Before either Hemli or I could say anything, she turned and declared, “this will not do!” She ushered us both over to a tri-fold mirror and pulled Hemli onto the pedestal in front of it. She then began cycling through various settings on the control pad behind the platform.

    Each press of the button showed Hemli in a different outfit. Some of them were comically ornate while others looked like something a freighter pilot would wear. One press showed her in a skin-tight outfit with strategic slashes and caused her to self-consciously cover the bits that were exposed (and the bits that were not so exposed) in the mirror.

    After a minute, the woman asked if Hemli would prefer a dress or trousers, and then if she wished military cut or something more civilian. Of course the answer was trousers and military. The next five outfits looked quite good. Then the woman asked what the budget was. Hemli said “fifty” and then thought better and said “forty-five.” The Sullustan nodded and turned the dial once more to show another outfit. Hemli nodded and it was my turn.

    The woman did more adjusting when I stepped onto the platform. One outfit had Hemli laugh and tell me that I looked better in a dress than she did. Then there was a series of other outfits shown, including one similar to the skin-tight onesie that Hemli blushed in. My reaction was to put my hands on my hips and smile, but I saw Hemli blush and turn away.

    The Sullustan asked if I had the same budget, and I nodded. Rather than show me different outfits, she showed me only one. It was a pair of simple trousers with high boots and a white shirt with rolled sleeves just under the elbow. Over it was a black short-sleeved jacket that hung open. It was finished off with a simple belt in a popular gunslinger’s fashion: high on the left and low on the right.

    Thirty minutes after entering the store, we walked out in civilian attire with our uniforms carried in bags. Hemli’s outfit was similar to mine. Her blue trousers were tight and her long-sleeve white shirt was rather low cut. It looked tasteful with her tan compression top, though. Over it was a dark blue vest with multiple pockets. Black knee boots and a double belt finished off the look.

    We were both quite hungry, but decided that we would head to the south side of the city to get breakfast. The market district had better food than the more upscale commercial district anyway. Mostly it was because the commercial district used autochefs and the market district had people actually cooking.

    We both compared plans over breakfast and decided that sleep was on the top of the list for the week. Besides sleep, we decided that we would check the jumpspeeders out and go for an overnight camping trip. Actual camping with all-temperature cloaks rather than the Field Training Exercises that saw the class huddle together for warmth under the open (and usually raining) sky.

    After breakfast, we got a couple to-go orders for lunch and made our way back to where we parked the speeder. Unlike when we first arrived, we were drawing a great deal more attention. There were quite a few people openly staring at us and Hemli had someone whistle at her. That was thankfully the extent of it. I didn’t want to have to explain to the police why Hemli had killed someone and how that someone had one of their organs torn off and shoved in their own mouth… in self-defense.

    The maximum speed of the airspeeder was only 450 kph, so the trip took us close to six full hours. We landed at high sun to eat the to-go lunches, using one of the maintenance blankets to turn it into a bit of a picnic in an area between two farming fields. It was strange not to be in class, but the sunlight and relaxation felt good.

    We arrived at the Hub at about fifteen-hundred hours. It felt strange requesting landing clearance, but it was granted and we came in. I noticed that father’s shuttle was gone and wondered if I had missed my family leaving for a vacation off-world. Then again, if my father wasn’t here then it would be a true vacation for me. He’d barely said a dozen words to me over comms since the incident.

    Hemli said we’d meet the next day for lunch and took off to her home as I took the private elevator for mine. I found the house empty except for M3N-E. The droid said that my family was on their way back from Coruscant and would arrive the day after next. That meant I had a full two days alone at home.

    It turned out to not be alone, though. That evening, I got a comm from Hemli. She had been crying and asked if she could stay over with me. Apparently, her mother kicked her out of the house after an argument over “her future.” I didn’t ask any questions, only told her yes and then had M3N-E prepare one of the guest bedrooms.

    Meany was complaining the entire time, saying that father would not like a commoner staying in one of the VIP rooms, saying that it was inappropriate for a young gentleman to have a young woman over without his parents’ knowledge, and going on about other breaches in protocol. The droid switched into an almost motherly mode the moment Hemli arrived and doted on my friend while making me the target of her snipes for the rest of the evening.

    Neither of us slept in our rooms that night. We were up late talking on the couch in the family room. While she was at school, her mother tried to arrange a marriage between her and someone she had never met on her homeworld. She was told that it was tradition and their family would not break it because Hemli wanted to “play Stormtrooper.” That kicked off the argument that ended with her mother telling Hemli that she was no longer a daughter and canceling her access codes to the house.

    We woke up the next morning at zero-five on the dot. It didn’t really mean much, though. I hit the refresher and then went to my room to sleep more. Hemli, likewise, disappeared into the guest room. I didn’t see her until about noon when my stomach told me it was time to get up.

    Thankfully, M3N-E heard the two of us moving and had the autochef start making lunch. It was ready by the time we both groggily pulled ourselves to the dining room. I didn’t even complain when Meany sat us at the table, though the bar was just as accessible. However, the droid protested when we both asked for a cup of caf. We didn’t really talk over breakfast… I mean lunch, but it didn’t feel awkward at all.

    We spent the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing. We watched the holovid, played some games, and listened to music. I think the most exciting thing happened just after dinner. M3N-E came in with a package for the both of us. She went to the supply level and had them fab us some clothes in the style we used to wear everywhere since we both only had what we wore and our uniforms. It was sweet and I told her to take the rest of the evening and get an oil bath.

    The next day, same time as every day for the entire year, I woke up. That morning, however, I felt really restless. I changed into my uniform and was about to leave the suite when Hemli joined me, likewise in uniform. We both laughed as we went down to the ground and ran around the outside of the Hub. It was raining, but we didn’t care. Coach Epoch always said, “If it isn’t raining, then it isn’t training.”

    We got back to the suite and cleaned up in time for me to hear the door open. M3N-E announced the arrival of my mother and father quite a bit louder than necessary. I heard my father grumbling about why she was announcing it to an empty house. That’s when I walked out from my room, wearing the new clothes I got in Sashasa.

    Mother ran forward and hugged me, but my father just went on like I wasn’t even there. I was bombarded with several questions from my mother and then several apologies for not being there when I got home. That’s when Hemli cleared her throat from the door of the guest room.

    My mother got the strangest smile on her face and then said, “Oh, I guess you didn’t want me home when you got here.” That caused Hemli to turn as red as a cherry-apple and me to choke out a “mother” in wide-eyed and embarrassed chastisement. She simply laughed, but I heard father grumbling from the other room about uninvited guests.

    Father didn’t stay for breakfast, instead making up an excuse to go the office. Mother, always the cook, made us actual food from scratch and demanded to know how we both were and how the school was. I was used to the school’s autochef and the autochef at home, but I was definitely not prepared for my mother cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I can eat quite a bit, but I was almost to the bursting point by the time breakfast was done. Damn, I missed pancakes.

    We retired into the family room where the two of us continued telling mother of our past not-quite year of training. It culminated with Hemli telling mother about what happened at her home. My mother nodded and said that she would have a talk with Hemli’s parents on the subject, but that it was a conversation for another time. Until then, Hemli was a guest in our house and nobody would say otherwise. Mother punctuated that by looking toward the ceiling (i.e. father’s office).

    The next couple of days passed in a blur. Hemli and I took out a couple jumpspeeders and blasted our way as far south as the equatorial ocean and then over to where the ruins had been. There was nothing there except for a circle of dead grass the same size as the ruins had been. The moment I moved inside the crop circle, my crystal became ice cold. It warmed back up as we sped away from the circle.

    The last day of the fete week was the Imperial Fair in Sashasa. Mother wanted us to travel there as a family, but I told her it would be easier if Hemli and I took the school’s speeder, since we’d need to return for classes the next morning. It was the first time father actually agreed with anything I suggested.

    The fair itself was fun. Hemli and I stuck together and mother stayed with us, but gave us a little bit of space. I tried to tell her that Hemli was just my friend, and she nodded and acknowledged what I said, but I don’t think she believed me (or just didn’t want to believe me). Father stuck around for a while and then disappeared somewhere. That just made the day all the easier to handle.

    The look on mother’s face when I handed her the breaded nerf sausage on a stick was just as comical as it was every year. In the end, she ate it after slathering some Ithorian ketchup on it. I’m not sure if Hemli and I were trying to outdo each other in how many we could eat, but I’m pretty sure she won with twelve to my eleven.

    Father joined us when the sun began to set. We all flew about a kilometer outside the city and found a good place to land and lay out some blankets. It was a family tradition and it felt a little better having Hemli with us. She said it was her first time actually seeing the fireworks display and her third time attending the fair.

    This year, the city didn’t use a surface-to-air launcher to set off the fireworks. Instead, and much to my surprise, the fireworks were dropped from an Arquitens-class command cruiser! I think I was more interested in watching the cruiser than the display. Hemli was transfixed by the exploding lights.

    After the display, I hugged my mother and said that Hemli and I had to get back to the school. Father nodded and got back into his speeder. Surprisingly, mother hugged Hemli and wished her luck at the school and academy. After that, mother and father left back for the Hub.

    The two of us got back to the school at about eighteen-hundred hours. After I landed, and made sure to properly do post-flight on the speeder, the two of us just stared at the cruiser as it lifted back into space. When it was out of sight behind some clouds, she leaned over and kissed my cheek, thanked me, and then walked back into the school. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what just happened. By the time I started moving, she was already inside the school and out of bounds under the school’s rules on fraternization.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
  12. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Coach E. is a clone. The fact that Coach E. gives Narrator the name of one of his "brothers" as a nickname is good. Means he likes the kid.

    Looks like there might be a bit of romance blooming between Narrator and Hemli.
     
    Volund Starfire likes this.
  13. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    You'll have to wait and see. I'll become clearer later this year as well as in about three years (yes, I have this journal planned for multiple years).
     
  14. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 008

    The day of my fifteenth birthday began like any other day. I woke up and dressed, was berated by Coach Epoch during physical training, ate breakfast with Hemli, and then went to classes. I didn’t feel any different. I didn’t look any different. Well, that last one wasn’t exactly true. I felt a bit of a pull in the shoulders of my coverall when I was stretching, meaning I was probably growing a bit more.

    When Teacher Braste came in for second period, he told me that I was wanted in the proctor’s office. Everyone gave me a look, thinking I was in some kind of trouble, except for Hemli and a new girl that just arrived a week prior; Hemli knew what today was and the new girl was still getting used to how things ran in the school. I stood, left my datapad on my desk, and went to the end of the hall.

    Aide Arel was sitting behind her desk, as always, when I walked in. Wordlessly and without looking up from what she was reading, as always, she tapped something into her terminal and the proctor called out for me to enter. I walked in and rendered a salute before taking the seat I was offered.

    “Good morning and happy birthday, Student Sonalex.” He smiled up at me, his fingers folded in front of him on the desk.

    “Thank you, Proctor.” I noticed that he had a datapad sitting on his desk next to his terminal.

    “Do you know why I called you in this morning?”

    “Is it because of my application?” I couldn’t keep the excitement out of my voice.

    “However did you guess, Student?” His smile widened and he handed me the datapad. “I’ve used your student file to pre-fill most of the application, but you need to take care of the ones highlighted. After that, review your letters of recommendation and then send it.”

    It took me about half an hour to read through the main application. It included my scholastic scores and my elective scores. My math was higher than I thought it would be, but still not where I had hoped it was. I didn’t really need to enter in any actual data other than the question ‘why do you wish to become an Imperial cadet?’ After reviewing it all, I signed it with my thumb print and began reading the letters of recommendation.

    The first was from Proctor Melthwep. It followed a basic form letter talking about how I was personally known to him and was of good moral character. No history of insurrection, rebellion, or rendering aid to the enemies of the New Order and was fit in every way to serve the First Galactic Empire. I entered into the agreement legally and voluntarily. Finally, that he knew me for over one standard year with private interactions of at least twice per standard week in that time.

    His signature is what surprised me, though. It had his normal signature line that I had seen in my by-semester grade reports: ‘Tannon Melthwep, Proctor, Ukio Screening and Preparatory School.’ Below it was what caught my attention: Captain, Reserve, Imperial Navy. I didn’t realize that he was a full Captain!

    The next letter was from Aide Arel. It followed the same basic structure, some minor variations in how it was written, but there was an additional line at the end declaring me pre-screened for Imperial Security Clearance under some Imperial Security code. She signed it ‘Essabe Arel, Aide, Ukio Screening and Preparatory School’ and below it was ‘Lieutenant Commander, Reserve, Imperial Security Bureau.’ Aide Arel was an AGENT!

    The third letter was from Coach Epoch. It was identical to the previous two, but definitely more officially worded. It was like he copied it directly out of a manual. His signature was a little strange. His name was just ‘Epoch’ on the signature line, with Teacher, and the name of the school. However, below it was ‘RC-6132-78, Retired, Grand Army of the Republic.’ The reason his face looked so familiar to me every time I saw him was because it was familiar to me. I had seen it every time I watched a Clone Wars holovid. He was a clone! Not just any clone, but if I remembered my designations correctly from those movies, he was a Clone Commando!

    “Is there an issue with the letters of recommendation, Student?” The proctor still had the smile, but it now looked conspiratorial. I think he knew just what I was thinking.

    “No, Proctor.” I pressed the send button and handed the datapad back to him.

    “Let’s keep the contents of those letters of recommendation just between the two of us, shall we?” His smile widened.

    “Yes, Proctor.” I smiled as well, knowing that I had a secret and nobody else would know about it.

    I stood and saluted. He returned it and dismissed me back to class. On my way out of the office, Aide Arel gave me one of her very rare actual smiles and nodded toward me slightly. I thanked her, getting the response of a nod before her features returned to neutral and she looked back down to her terminal. Class for the rest of the day was uneventful compared to what I learned in the proctor’s office.

    A week later, during lunch, Proctor Melthwep announced to the room that I had been accepted to the Abrion Sector Youth Academy on Scarif for the coming semester. As with all the previous acceptance announcements, there were cheers and applause. I got slapped on the back a few times and shook a couple of hands. Hemli, who was sitting across the table from me, kicked me in the shin lightly and mouthed “congratulations” to me. After the clamor had calmed down, the proctor ordered me to report to the testing room the next morning instead of going to physical training.

    The next day began with me making a right-hand turn toward the proctor’s office rather than left out the door with the other students. Hemli gave me a punch on the arm as she passed and smiled before running to catch up with the class. I walked into the medical office, a place I only had to enter twice in the past year (once for a sprained ankle and once for the onset of Harvest Flu).

    I’m not sure who programmed the 2-1B medical droid, but they should probably be executed by physical examination like I almost was. Besides having the coldest clawed hands, its various probes were also like ice. I’m pretty sure that the droid was abused as a child and was taking its aggression out on me. After it was finished working me over like one of Coach Epoch’s hand-to-hand classes, it gave me a series of injections and inoculations. One of them made everything turn a peculiar shade of blue and time slowed way down. Through the entire interview, even the parts that didn’t involve my wearing clothing, Proctor Melthwep and Aide Arel were standing there.

    After the physical, I was taken out to the parade ground. That’s when Coach Epoch was able to have his way with me. For the next hour, I went through every physical fitness test that Coach Epoch could think up. I was running, jumping, doing pushups, crunches, pullups, and more things that I can’t even remember. By the end, I could barely feel my arms and legs, and my stomach was screaming at me. As before, the proctor and his aide were both watching the entire show.

    Soaked in sweat, I was walked into the empty mess hall by my constant supervisors. I was handed a ration pack and was told that I had ten minutes to eat before my next examination. I glanced over my shoulder once and saw the proctor and aide drinking out of disposable cartons. I recognized the label as nutritive beverage.

    After breakfast, I was taken into the first elective room. For the next half hour, I was run through a very strange series of tests with the E-11 blaster rifle. It was everything from static target shooting, targets appearing outside of my vision, targets that shot at me and disappeared if I didn’t hit them in time. By the end, I thought I did okay, but probably shot about as well as a Hutt relay team runs.

    The next hour was taken up by two more electives, followed by a ten-minute break. After the break was another two hours of electives. I felt a bit exhausted, but, finally, I was lead into my favorite room of the entire school: the simulator room.

    My first tests were on the speeder bike and then the walker simulator. After that, I was put inside the TIE simulator. What I ran through then, as if drawing directly from my one wish, was the hexagonal track that I first learned to fly a fighter through those couple years ago.

    As if by reflex, I went through the entire route. There were two long segments that were blank, then two with just the pyramidal targets, two with the double red pyramid balloons, and so on. I actually made it through the Level 10 segments and destroyed all of the targets in them. The moment I passed the last reverse-spinning gate, the simulator shut down and I crawled out. The proctor was smiling as I exited the simulator pod.

    There was another ten-minute break followed by another examination. After that was the mechanical examination. It went well. I had to disassemble and reassemble a power generator. After that was a series of five-minute encounters with small units of stormtroopers, vehicles, starfighters, and then capital ships. I did okay on these, but definitely had more of a mind for the space tactics part.

    I had another ten-minute break for lunch at noon. Again, there was another ration pack waiting for me, and the proctor and aide “enjoyed” a nutrient beverage. When I finished eating, the pair led me into the antechamber to the proctor’s office where there was a standard student desk waiting for me in front of Aide Arel’s desk.

    The datapad on the desk displayed my name and required a thumbprint unlock. It ran me through a series of files that informed me it was the Standard Imperial Academy Educational Test, gave me what I would be tested on (the same classes I had learned about over the past year), and told me that I would be observed through the entire exam. It ended by telling me that there would be no cheating and threatened immediate expulsion if I did cheat. When I finished reading it, there was a single button to start the test.

    I will definitely say that it was the hardest test I had ever taken. I kept my eyes down as much as I could while taking it. The moment I lifted them, I met the stare of Aide Arel right in front of me. It was rather unnerving. I think she was staring at me the entire time I was taking the test. Likewise, the proctor was standing behind me. It was so quiet that I actually heard the creak of his boots when he shifted his weight to lean against the wall.

    The tests on general science, arithmetic reasoning, and word knowledge took a half hour each. After a five-minute break, I was tested on paragraph comprehension, mathematics knowledge, and electronics information. There was another break and then tests on history, planetary sciences, and cultures.

    After the last test on the datapad, Proctor Melthwep handed me another ration pack and told me to eat at my desk. As before, I only had ten minutes. I was finished before that and got up to do some stretches for my remaining time. Again, the proctor and aide were drinking nutritional beverages.

    For the next two hours, I answered questions from the proctor about every aspect of my life. It included almost everything from my earliest memory to the previous day. I even told them about my trip to the ruins to defy my father and the trinket I brought home, but I left out that I obtained a crystal from it. The entire time Aide Arel was noting everything down on her terminal.

    Finally, the proctor dismissed his aide and had me sit down on the bench in his office. He told me that the testing was over and it would be about a week before I hear back from the academy. He tossed me a jogan and took a bite of one himself. He told me it was a good pallet cleanser after a day of rations, or a day of nutrient beverage. He was right, too.

    He kept me in his office until twenty-hundred hours for a debriefing. He explained what all of the testing was for and then we just spoke like two sentient beings do, not like a student speaking to a proctor. I asked him what Scarif was like and he brought up some pictures on his terminal for me to look at. I was definitely not expecting to attend a youth academy at a tropical paradise, but that’s exactly what was going to happen. He told me that it had one of the best R&R facilities in the Outer Rim Territories and suggested that I go to a couple of the “gaming” establishments when I get leave from the youth academy. After that, we spoke about my home life and he was actually interested in how I developed my love of flying. It was a conversation that I knew my father and I would never have.

    As the proctor said, it took another week for the interview process to be arranged. I made sure to prepare my uniform especially for the interview, crisply pressing it and shining my boots and belt. The proctor even sent me to the barber to get a good trim and showed me how to apply beard suppressant. I was all ready for my interview, or so I hoped.

    The comm room was quiet when I entered. The only other person in it was Proctor Melthwep. It felt strange that the school’s proctor would handle communications duty, but I was trained better than to actually question it. I greeted him with the proper snap to attention and he wordlessly pointed me to the holocomm pad. It activated the moment I stepped onto it and I was face-to-face with a female officer.

    The hologram bled most of the color from her, but I could see that she had olive skin and dark hair. She was also wearing a long coat over her uniform and her rank told me she was a Sergeant Senior. She was reading a datapad and did not even acknowledge my presence. I glanced at the Proctor and he shook his head in the negative with the smallest of gestures through her image.

    “Name: Sonalex, Ander; Provisional Operating Number: JE-361-549; Rank: Provisional Cadet; Current Assignment: Student, Ukio Screening and Preparatory School, transfer orders pending to Abrion Sector Academy for Young Imperials, Scarif.”

    Her voice held the upper-class clip that most Imperial Officers shared, but also a certain disdain as if the task she was performing were somehow beneath her. She continued rattling off what she read from the datapad. After what felt like an hour, but was probably about five minutes, she finally looked up.

    “You have a high peripheral awareness and your reaction time set a new record for your age group. Your physical strength is adequate, but only when supported by your other scores. Your accuracy with a blaster is terrible, but it is at least passing. Finally, you have solid reflexes and endurance. You would appear to qualify for the Imperial Navy, perhaps as a gunner?”

    The question hung in the air for only as moment before I responded, “I’d prefer to fly, Sergeant.”

    “Gunners do fly, Cadet. They fly on the largest craft in the Imperial military. How would you feel about being a stormtrooper?”

    “I’d prefer speeder pilot, Sergeant. But only if I couldn’t get starfighter slot.”

    She smiled, which was actually quite scary, because it was the kind of smile made by people who didn’t know what smiles were actually for. After her predatory rictus was covered by her military bearing, she looked me in the eyes, which was strange through the hologram. “Welcome to the Empire, Cadet Sonalex. Your administration will have the details of your transfer to the academy and the timetable for the next semester.”

    A month after the interview, I learned that Hemli was also approved for the sector academy. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be in the same class; her approval was for the semester after mine. I was still happy for her and said that we could all hang out on holidays and fete weeks. It took her a moment to realize I was talking about Deak, as well. He’d only been gone for a couple months, but it felt like both forever and that no time had passed at all. Her only response was to punch me in the arm and tell me that she was going to miss me.

    I was given a twenty-four hour pass to break the news to my parents. Somehow, the proctor included Hemli in the pass, and access to the school’s speeder. He told me in our first interview that he wouldn’t be giving me any special considerations, but I felt that he was. I didn’t mind, though. I knew that my mother liked her, even if she was trying match-making, and it would help keep my father’s ire under control (stranger in the house and all).

    We left the school after breakfast, getting a couple nutrient beverages for the trip, and arrived almost perfectly in time for dinner. Father refused to talk to me after I broke the news. Halfway through the meal, he excused himself and went up to the office. My mother, on the other hand, was gushing all over the place about the news and couldn’t help but tear up every time she congratulated me (which was often).

    After dinner, I found that she had already packed for my trip. I told her that I was only allowed to take one bag and had a prepared list. She looked crestfallen and I found out that she had literally packed my entire room thinking I was moving into an apartment. This caused Hemli to laugh louder than I have ever heard before. I punched her in the arm for it and my mother chastised me, at the same time, Hemli blushed slightly. I found out later that Proctor Melthwep commed my mother and told her the day I was accepted.

    Breakfast was quiet the next day and father, reluctantly, told me “good luck” before going up to the office for the morning shift. It felt forced and I suspected that mother convinced him to say it. She cooked breakfast for me, telling me that she wouldn’t allow me to leave without one more “family meal,” her gaze dropped to Hemli with a smile. Afterwards, she packed me a lunch and Hemli and I returned to the Academy.

    The day after Hemli’s testing, the proctor told me that my shuttle would be taking off at zero-six the following morning. After dinner, I packed my bag and went to the day room. Most everyone was studying, though a couple people were playing the hologame in the corner. Hemli, however, was just sitting on one of the couches staring at a spot on the wall.

    I sat down next to her and broke her out of her concentration. We spoke about absolutely nothing in lowered voices, and she kept looking down. Finally, I reached out and lifted her chin and asked her what was wrong. She said that she was really going to miss me and then paused. She looked to the side, squared her shoulders, and leaned forward, planting her lips right on mine.

    The entire galaxy stopped, except for my head, which started spinning. How do you really describe your first kiss? Her lips were soft. It made me feel light headed. I could smell the school’s standard bodywash on her skin. Her eyes were closed and mine closed, too. It lasted for a million years and for only a heartbeat, though it probably was about thirty seconds.

    When she pulled back, her cheeks were burning red. It took me a moment to realize that everyone in the room was staring at us silently. That silence was broken when someone said “It’s about kriffing time,” behind me. I turned my head and saw Aide Arel standing in the door with a look of satisfaction on her face. Those were the first words I had ever heard the woman speak. This caused Hemli to turn even redder and sink into her shoulders. I felt my cheeks heat, as well.

    Everyone filed out of the room a moment later when the chime for lights out sounded. Well, everyone except for Hemli and myself. Aide Arel looked at her datapad, made eye contact with the two of us, and pressed a couple buttons. She then smiled, held up five fingers, and left the room. My comlink showed a five minute countdown timer.

    There really was nothing for the two of us to talk about. We spent the next four minutes just silently looking at each other. Finally, with about a minute remaining, I slowly reached out and touched the back of her hand. At first, she flinched it away, but then laid it to rest over mine. I turned my palm over and our fingers curled around each other. Then the timer beeped.

    We both stood, not letting go, and walked into the hall. It was only a few steps from the day room to the center of the hall between the male and female dormitories. I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. She nodded and smiled before leaning forward and again placing her lips against mine. Then, at the same time, we both let go and turned to walk to our rooms. I noticed, just a flash for a moment in my peripheral vision, Proctor Melthwep standing in the window to his office watching us with a smile that was warmer than any I had ever seen from my father.

    The next morning, I woke up early and got myself cleaned up. I got out of the refresher just as the morning bell woke up the rest of the students. I put my uniform on and grabbed my bag. Strangely, the crystal felt warm against my chest. It made me smile.

    I walked out into the hall, looking around at the school’s main corridor for the last time, as the students were running to the parade field. As Hemli passed me, she took my hand and our eyes locked. It was just a moment as she walked, but it lasted hours. Then she was gone.

    The proctor flew me to the shuttle port, silent the entire time. When we got there, a lone Sentinel-class landing craft sat on the pad. He walked with me up to the boarding ramp. Before I took my first actual step off of Ukio, he said, “Your grandfather would be proud, Ander.”

    I turned back to say something, surprised by his use of my first name, but he was already walking away. I boarded, the only passenger in the huge compartment. One of the two pilots came down to give me a briefing about where the refresher was, how to use the restraint harness, and that the trip would last about three hours. The boarding ramp closed and I felt gravity pull away as we lifted off.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
  15. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Called it!

    [face_laugh]
     
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  16. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 009

    The shuttle trip was not as exciting as I was expecting it to be. A couple minutes after liftoff, the internal gravity came on. A few minutes after that, I was pushed to the left side of my seat as we entered hyperspace. Otherwise, I was completely alone in the huge, open bay of the shuttle.

    About an hour into the trip, the copilot came down the ladder from the cockpit to use the refresher. He stopped at the top of the ladder and asked if I wanted to see the cockpit. Seeing as how I was bored out of my mind, and wanted to see an actual Imperial shuttle cockpit, I jumped at the chance.

    It was actually a little more spacious than I thought it would be. There wasn’t much I could see out of the main viewport, other than hyperspace, but the cascading lights lit the inside of the ship up fairly well. I took a seat behind the copilot, in the number 4 position, and took in as much as I could.

    “What are you hoping to do in the Imperial military, cadet?” The pilot asked without looking back at me.

    “Pilot, sir.”

    “Oh, planning on joining us bus drivers through Imperial space?”

    “No, sir.” I responded eagerly. “Starfighter pilot.”

    “Got something against shuttle pilots, cadet?” the copilot asked. I was immediately on edge thinking I said something wrong.

    “No, sir. Not at all, sir. Sorry, sir.”

    “Cadet,” the pilot began, turning to face me. “The number one rule in the entire Imperial military…”

    He let the words hang in space for a moment while I leaned forward. “Is to know when someone is yanking your air hose.”

    Both men began laughing at that and I chuckled along with them.

    “Want to know what number two is, especially with you about ready to become a cadet, cadet?” the copilot again asked me.

    “Sir?”

    “When you hit dirt-side, you’ll hear lots of yelling. Some of it will be at others, some of it will be at your group, and some of it will be at you.” He turned in his chair to make eye contact. “The trick is to not take it personally. Recruits have been yelled at since before the Old Republic, through the Republic, and even in the Empire. Recruits will be yelled at long after the Empire, as well. It’s not personal; it’s just how recruits are turned into soldiers.”

    “And pilots,” the pilot interjected. “Heck, I had one instructor at Eriadu that yelled more than a hungry Hutt at supper time.”

    Both officers began telling stories from their cadet days. Eriadu, Chandrilla, Coruscant, Arkanis, and other places I had read about in history books and might one day see. After a couple of hours of these stories, a red light blinked on the control panel and the pilot looked at me over his shoulder.

    “Per Imperial Code, non-authorized personnel are not allowed in the cockpit of Imperial vessels during entry or exit from hyperspace. Per Scarif Control Orders, all personnel not cleared must vacate viewported areas of ships while above the planetary shield.” His face was deadpan as he said this. I swallowed and was about to stand when he smiled.

    “Be sure to report any if you see them, and strap in.” He winked and turned back to the main screen.

    The shuttle exited hyperspace and the planet flew at us, growing from a speck to something that filled the entire viewport. I let out a whispered “wow” at the sight and the pilot looked back and pressed a finger to his lips.

    There was a line around the atmosphere as we neared. The line was bright and hung just over the blue of the nitrogen layer. It was the planetary shield and was beautiful. There were strings of islands with the light blue-green of reefs around them, shallow blue oceans, and wisps of clouds. I could barely make out city complexes on a scattering of islands, imagining the denizens living in their paradise.

    We came around the shield and in view of two huge Imperial-class Star Destroyers flanking a ring-shaped space station. Besides the two star destroyers, there were four Arquitens-class command cruisers and about a dozen Gozanti-class cruisers in various configurations. Buzzing around them, like field-flies, were TIE fighters (I counted at least four different configurations). Between them all, in a steady stream of traffic, were dozens of ships above and below the shield. They were all Imperial craft, mostly shuttles and transports, and all flying a gauntlet through the larger capital ships.

    A glimmer of movement caught my eye around the planet, but I didn’t pay it much attention. It was a large moon with a deep craterous maw on its northern hemisphere and tracks of mines on its surface. There were more Star Destroyers around it, specks against its huge size at this distance. It was probably being used as a mine for raw materials or something.

    Sentinel-class landing craft SWR-00-01 requesting landing clearance for the Youth Academy.” The pilot said into open-space.

    Sentinel-class landing craft SWR-00-01, we have you scheduled for arrival at Youth Academy. Please transmit clearance code now.” It was a woman’s voice and she sounded both official and bored.

    The copilot pressed a button on the control pannel. A moment later the woman came back on. “Sentinel-class landing craft SWR-00-01, you are cleared for entrance. You are currently number thirteen in the queue.”

    The shuttle nosed down and pulled in behind a cargo container of some kind. They were moving slowly; one ship exited through the hole before another ship entered.

    “Now comes what we have all learned is the primary job of the Imperial Naval pilot, whether an adrenaline-fueled attack pilot or we humble and pleasant shuttle pilots,” the copilot said. A moment later, both men said in unison, “Hurry up and wait.”

    When we were fourth in line, the voice came back over and ordered all ships to hold position. Rather than sounding bored, her voice was stern and crisp. I looked quickly at the pilot, who shared a glance with the copilot. Before anyone could say anything, the shield below closed in the center of the ring. At almost the same time, an Imperial freighter turned and began ascending toward space at a high speed.

    The pilot pressed a button and I saw a readout in front of him glow to life around an outline of the shuttle. He activated the shields. The copilot did something else that I couldn’t see and another small screen glowed to life. A glance to the control panel on my right told me he activated the weapon systems.

    The freighter didn’t move very far. Two of the Imperial light cruisers and one of the Star Destroyers opened fire on it. What was left was pulled by gravity to land harmlessly on the solid shield inside the ring. It was over with in not even a moment.

    The pilot looked back at me and said in a low voice, “Perhaps you should head back down to the troop compartment and just forget what you saw up here.”

    I nodded and tried to say “Yes, sir,” but no sound came out. I returned to the compartment and fell into the seat. I reached up and pulled one of the restraints over myself. I had never really seen anyone killed before. Sure, I saw dead bodies; well, I saw skeletons; but this was the first time I had actually seen a living thing die. I guess I still didn’t, but I knew those ships required a skeleton crew of at least two, but most were crewed by twelve.

    The pilot came down from the cockpit and asked how I was doing. We had a short conversation about my not saying that I saw anything. I told him that I wouldn’t even know who to tell. He patted me on the shoulder and gave me the worst news of the day.

    Because of the little dust-up, we would be landing about two hours late. They had to ensure all debris was off of the shield before they could open it again. He radioed control that passed the flight plan along to the academy. I’d still get there; it would just be closer to planetary evening.

    The shuttle ended up touching down three hours late. The hatch opened in front of me and I got my first look at my new home for the next year. It was indeed a tropical paradise. I saw sand, palm trees, and low shrubs. The wind held the acrid scent of salt. The sky was just beginning to enter twilight, and the temperature was quite comfortable, albeit overly humid for my tastes.

    I picked up my bag and made my way down the ramp toward the Imperial Ground Crewman. He stored his light batons on his backplate and raised his visor. He told me that I was late and to follow him. He took me to a transport tube that ran to the actual academy. He didn’t say much, other than to ask for my travel credentials. I handed him the card and he ran it through a hand-held data scanner. There was no problem with it.

    At the academy, which was built into a huge pyramid structure, the ground technician pointed me to a cadet standing beside the main entrance. The cadet told me that he didn’t have time to give me the full tour and he was assigned to get me my initial issue of uniforms and take me to my barracks.

    He was one of the students from the next graduating class who was assigned as the tour guide for “late arrivals” by command as a punishment. He blamed me for being late and told me that tardiness wouldn’t be tolerated at the academy.

    The uniform I drew in supply was strange. It was a white shirt with dark gray shoulders and similarly-colored pockets on the upper arms. There was a pair of light gray trousers that sealed with the shirt under a belt at the waist. A pair of black gloves and boots finished the uniform. The uniforms were placed in a duffel along with a hygiene kit and a small bag for my personal effects.

    The older cadet walked me straight to my barracks and told me that I’d get a tour by following my fellow cadets, as they had all the knowledge I’d need. At the door, he turned and walked away.

    My squad was JAE078, unit Esk. The other members of my unit were Vinor Trible, Blad Tenlast, and Khan Kilis. The introductions came from Trible as the other two were already asleep. On the other side of the bay, also already asleep, was unit Forn. I was told that wakeup was at zero-five in the morning and I needed to hurry to get my shower and be in my bunk by bed check. He told me that the cadet refresher was one level up and the two doors on either side of the bay were closet space.

    The shower was in a larger room than I thought it would be for an eight-person bay, but it was far better than the refresher at the school. I got down to the business of getting clean when I heard the door open and two more heads activate. I turned around and saw two women in the shower room with me. Two GROWN women.

    Don’t get me wrong, I knew what women were and all that. I had been through all the classes, through the various briefings about decorum in the Imperial military, and whatnot. However, I’d never had a girlfriend before, and Hemli was… I don’t know… and I had definitely never seen one naked. Well, until now that is.

    “Look here, Miri,” the one to my right said. “It looks like a wayward cadet made his way into the officer’s showers.”

    “You don’t say, Jenyes. What’s your name, cadet?”

    I came to attention, still facing the wall. “Cadet Sonalex, Ander, ma’am.”

    The one to my left made a clucking noise with her tongue. “Are you reporting to the wall or to me, Cadet Sonalex, Ander?”

    I felt my cheeks get hot as I performed a precise about face and tried to keep my eyes locked on the door in front of me, cursing my high peripheral vision scores the whole time. One had her hands on her hips and legs akimbo and the other had her arms crossed under her… um, crossed. I gave my name again.

    Both women laughed.

    “At ease, cadet,” Miri, the shorter of the two said. I finally recognized her voice, as well as her light skin and black hair. She was the sergeant senior who performed the interview. I snapped my hands into the small of my back, spread my left foot shoulder width from my right, and kept my features as neutral as possible.

    “Amazing, Miri,” the one called Jenyes said, she was taller and lithe compared to the short, muscular sergeant, but had far larger… um… nevermind. “I am sure that this is a first for me. I’ve never seen someone at attention and parade rest at the same time.”

    My face felt like the surface of a star as I knew just what involuntary biological process she was talking about. The sharp bark of laughter from both did not help in the least.

    “What are you doing here, cadet?” Sergeant Miri turned and began washing as she spoke.

    “I was told this was the cadet shower, sergeant.”

    “I think you had a practical joke played on you, Cadet Sonalex, Ander.” Jenyes cocked her hip and rested her hand on it. She must have seen me swallow, because she followed it up with, “See something you like, young man?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” I answered too quickly and honestly. “I mean, no, ma’am… I mean… uh… um…” I shut my mouth and wished someone would just shoot me.

    “Will you stop teasing the cadet, Jenyes.”

    “But, they’re so cute when they’re flustered like this.” She tapped her fingertips against her hip, drawing my attention if not my eyes. I swallowed again.

    “I wouldn’t know, this one is too young for my taste. Anyway, you are just making things harder on him.” Both women laughed at that remark and my face felt like a supernova.

    “Are you done with your shower, cadet?” Sergeant Miri asked, looking over her shoulder at me.

    “Yes, sergeant,” I lied. What I missed tonight I could always wash tomorrow.

    “Then you had better get going. You don’t want to be out of your bunk during bed-check on your first day. Oh, and stow that necklace before the morning. Dismissed.”

    I snapped to attention and walked straight toward the door to the changing room when Jenyes called out, “See you around, cutie.” The door closed as both women were still laughing at my discomfort.

    Vinor Trible was still awake when I walked back in the room. My uniform was sticking to me as I had not properly dried, or rinsed a couple areas of soap, in order to be back to the barracks in time for bed-check. He got a kick out of my discomfort and then got a kick from the person on the bunk under his for laughing and waking him up.

    He told me that the refresher was in the back of the room and then helped me stow my new uniforms. He was a jerk, but he was helpful. He did comment that my necklace looked cool, but jerked his hand away when he touched it. He told me that I was strange for wearing something so cold. I just shrugged and stored it in my personal item bag along with my civilian clothing I wore from Ukio.

    I was able to finish rinsing in the refresher before bed check and then passed out completely. I don’t even remember having any dreams. Well, I did have one dream. It was what happened the previous night with Hemli, but then the dayroom became a shower and I heard Jenyes asking me if I liked what I saw.

    This was going to be a long year.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  17. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Ah, the age old tradition of playing pranks on the rookie. Next thing you know, somebody will be asking him for a left handed hydrospanner. :p
     
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  18. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 010

    It wasn’t the light that woke me, but the yelling. I wasn’t used to it, or the three hour time difference between Ukio’s twenty hour clock and Scarif’s twenty-four. However, I still had enough sense to roll out of my top bunk and come to the position of attention on the floor.

    The yelling had come from a woman. She was about 1.6 meters tall and muscular. She was garbed in a black Imperial Stormtrooper uniform with the rank of… Sergeant Senior. I knew better than to turn my head to look at her, but I felt the blood drain out of my face when she finally passed my field of view. Even in my groggy mind I recognized the woman I had seen the previous night. The woman I had seen out of uniform the previous night.

    “Cadets! Assemble! Get up! I said get up, you louse-infested monongs! You better stand with your toes on the line of your bunks or so help me I’ll go Base Delta Zero on your sorry hides!” She was yelling at the top of her lungs and then reached out and shoved either Kilis or Tenlast off of the bottom bunk (I didn’t know who was who).

    She turned her attention to the other who was already standing. “Kilis! I said attention! Do you know what attention is? Are you tired? Do you want to go back to bed?”

    The poor kid began sputtering out yes’s and no’s at the wrong time. It was something that Coach Epoch used to do to us. The best answer was just to keep your eyes front and answer “yes, ma’am.”

    She spun then and zeroed in on my bunkmate, Trible. “Trouble, what are you smiling at?”

    “Nothing, ma’am!” he said and then added, “It’s Trible, ma’am!”

    She was about to turn on me when he said this and I thanked whatever powers there were in the Empire that he had. It was like she hit a wall for just a fraction of a second before she spun back towards him. “You listen here, cadet! I will call you whatever in the hell I want to call you! I don’t care if you are an Admiral’s kid like Tenlast over there. You’re lucky I’m even granting you the right to have a name! I could just be like Carida and refer to you group of mangy gundarks by your operating numbers!”

    She got up in my face, sniffed, and then yelled at me, “Did you even shower last night, cadet?”

    My face turned red as I yelled out, “yes, ma’am!”

    “Are you sure about that? I didn’t see you actually shower!” A very wicked smile crept across her mouth.

    “Yes, ma’am!”

    “Do better next time!”

    “Yes, ma’am!”

    She spun from us and began going off on the other side of the room. One of the cadets was already up and towing the line like we were. It took me a moment to realize that the short blonde hair belonged to a female. The others joined the first lining up while the sergeant yelled at them. She called the first, with the short blonde hair, Skirata. The other three were Madon, Lowski, and Thule.

    She turned from them and rubbed her hands together. “Footlockers open! All of you, now! Now, cadets! Now, now, now!”

    I threw myself on the ground at the head of my bunk to press my thumb against the pad on my footlocker. It swung upwards with a mechanical rush and made a loud slapping noise as it hit Trible’s.

    She looked into each and began throwing items out into the middle of the small room. “Tenlast, is this how you fold a tunic? Kilis, your tooth gel is uncapped! Trible, your shower shoes are wet! Sonalex, show me your personal item bag!”

    I spun on my heel and pulled out the small bag. She opened it, poured my crystal out into her palm, nodded, and handed it back to me. “It was in the wrong location! It belongs under your boots and not on top of them.”

    The other side of the room got a similar treatment. She found one thing wrong with everyone’s footlocker and the offending item ended up piled in the middle of the floor.

    She walked back to the door and it opened behind her. I could hear yelling coming from down the hall, different voices as loud as hers. “You have exactly ten minutes to be in uniform and on the drill field!”

    I thought it was bad enough that my training sergeant was the woman I had seen naked the previous night. I was told that her name was Sergeant Basco and she was the one who took everyone on tour the previous day. She was a stormtrooper who was tapped for Instructor. Well, it turned out to be worse.

    I followed Trible out to the parade grounds and formed up with the rest of the unit behind Sergeant Basco with Forn forming up behind us. At the head of the assembly was the commander of the squad. I felt the blood drain from my face as I recognized the other woman I had seen the previous evening. She was standing with her arms crossed just like in the shower. She was wearing the olive-gray uniform of Imperial Navy and Flight Captain’s rank (the equivalent of a Senior Lieutenant, but addressed as Captain). She was introduced as Captain Tyla Jenyes.

    Sergeant Basco called back to us that we were going to do something called the Beach Tour before the sun rose. We turned and began running as a squad. The sand was softer than the hard-packed soil of Ukio. It was a little chilly, but it felt good. There was even a light mist from the waterline as it sprayed over us. I decided that I loved the beach.

    After thirty minutes, I decided that I hated the beach. The person in front of me kicked sand up into my face with every step. The sand gave way under my feet and made me put that much more effort into running. When the sun rose, so too did the temperature; it was about thirty-five degrees by the time we were finished. Besides the temperature, the humidity also shot up making it feel hard to breathe in the thick air. The light mist from the waterline was salty and made my eyes burn worse than my own sweat.

    It took us three hours to run the circumference of the island. Sometimes we were running with the waves lapping our ankles and a wall of volcanic rock beside us. Sometimes we were running through the underbrush and palm trees as they dipped right to the edge of the water, twisting between some that were too close together. Sometimes we were running on landing pads built over volcanic rocks.

    We would vault piles of driftwood and fallen palm trees. If that wasn’t bad enough, the northern side of the island was nothing but dunes that piled up about three meters each. So, we would climb those and run or tumble down the other side just to do it again. Anyone that tried to shift formation toward the harder wet sand found out that Sergeant Basco could run around the formation before they could get more than three steps out. Likewise, the other two training sergeants kept their units in line and had no problems yelling at any of us.

    I learned three things that morning. First, Sergeant Basco had to have been some kind of a droid because she yelled at us and kept pace while only breaking a minor sweat under her cap. Second, the captain was not in as good of shape as the sergeant, but only showed it by breathing heavily as she ran. Third, Coach Epoch was a complete wimp and didn’t prepare me as good as I had thought.

    After the run, we were dismissed for personal hygiene before breakfast. I thanked whatever powers could hear me when I was able to strip my uniform off. I was also sure that I had somehow smuggled half the sand on the beach inside my boots. It all went down the drain the moment the ice cold water of the shower hit me. It wasn’t a long shower, but it felt amazing. Also, I noticed that there was a laundry chute inside the refresher, so that helped.

    I learned a little more about the rest of my squad while we all talked in both the shower and getting ready. Trible was from Rishi and was the only other person to have gone through a preparatory school. Tenlast thought that he was superior to everyone else because his father was an admiral on Scarif, even though he barely made it through the run and had to be pushed a little by Kilis. The final member was from Molavar, and his family was all mechanics.

    During our meal, we sat opposite Unit Forn. A couple of them were kind of cute, but I didn’t really look at them as such. The tallest, and quietest, was a girl named Sanja Skirata from a planet called Concord Dawn. There was a redhead from Roon named Tala Madon. Admela Lowsyk was from Molavar and actually knew Kilis, but didn’t say how. Finally, Zena Thule was from Alderaan, but her parents lived on Ord Pardron and she was the most talkative member of Forn. She was the one who told the entire table the names and planets of everyone in the other squad.

    After we ate, we had strength training. After three hours of that, there was lunch. Drill and ceremony came next, teaching us all how to march, turn, and salute on command. After dinner, there was glorious free time. At least, so Sergeant Basco claimed. During that free time, we were given a class by the sergeant in how to properly fold our uniforms, how to properly polish our boots, and how to properly store items in our foot lockers. The day ended with being shown how to properly make bunks and then we were allowed to take showers before bed.

    I collapsed into my bunk and the world went black. Then, after what felt like only a moment of sleep, Sergeant Basco came screaming into the room like the previous day. I fell out of my bunk again, but it hurt to even stand. Every muscle was sore and stiff. Even though Coach Epoch was a clone that was literally created for battle, I’m pretty sure that Sergeant Basco could have taken him in his prime, and still had energy left to take at least three of his brothers.

    The day went just as it did the previous. I also learned a little more about Scarif, though. The planet didn’t have any kind of a wobble or tilt, so it didn’t have seasons. However, the star did go through a cycle that increased the temperature by about ten degrees over a decade before going back down. We were told that we were in the solar summer, meaning the thirty-eight degree afternoons were going to be what we would have for the remainder of our stay. However, Sergeant Basco told us that it would make us that much stronger for the coming academies, which she promised would be tougher.

    Thule asked about the moon in orbit, readily visible through the planetary shield, and asked if it affected the tides at all. Rather than answer her, Sergeant Basco told her to keep her mouth shut and eyes down. It didn’t concern her and shouldn’t concern anyone else. That told me that it was something special and made me want to know more. But, at the time, I just kept my head down and did what I was ordered.

    We were in what the instructors called the Orientation Phase. This meant that our entire lives were dedicated to physical training. After lunch, we received classes in the most basic information necessary for military service. The little free time we had was mostly meant for cleaning our gear and rooms before lights out.

    There were constant inspections by Sergeant Basco with the captain standing passively by. Of course, nobody passed and we got yelled at for everything whether it was good or bad. After the sergeant ranted out of the room, talking about getting a blaster to finish us all off or something along those lines, the captain told us how to properly pass the sergeant’s inspections.

    At the end of the first week, the captain told us what our current standing was in the room. Trible and I were tied for second place. He said it was because we were a good team, but I knew it was because we were the only two from prep schools. The only person over us was Sanja Skirata, who claimed that she was trained by her family.

    We were told that the top three out of our room would be given special privileges every week. This week, we were all allowed to send a message home. Everyone else was under the communications blackout for the two-week orientation. The three on the bottom of the board received extra duty; Killis, Madon, and Thule had to clean the entire hallway with the other low scorers from the squad after lights out.

    I didn’t send my message home, though; I sent it to Hemli. I told her what to expect, the temperatures, how to train better to not look like a flamba out of water, and that I missed her. I included a few lines for my mother and asked her to send them along. I ended it by telling her that we could keep sending messages to each other so we weren’t alone, even if we were surrounded by our fellow cadets at the academy.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
  19. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
  20. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    I didn't even think of that. I was looking at Trouble and respelling it a little.
     
  21. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Ah..... The Trouble With Tribbles. :p
     
  22. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 011

    The first morning after orientation ended, we were woken up by the lights and Sergeant Basco as normal. Instead of flipping footlockers or tossing bunks, she walked in and gave us a visual inspection. She nodded and told us we had fifteen to be in formation. Then, as quietly as she entered, she walked out the door. We all immediately thought it was a trap and Skirata and I said as much. We were out and in formation in five minutes.

    The Beach Tour felt just as difficult as it had two weeks ago when we first arrived. What did feel easier was running up the dunes, though nobody fell or rolled down them now. Vaulting the driftwood no longer tripped anyone, nor did ducking under or going over the fallen palms (depending on your height). When we formed back up in front of the academy, it didn’t take as long for me to catch my breath, either. Don’t get me wrong, my muscles were still burning and I was still covered in sweat, but not as badly as the first day.

    After breakfast, we all lined back up preparing for physical training. Instead of calesthenics, we were marched into the academy. We went into a lower level and were passed through a door in a single-file line. Inside the room, we were issued a helmet, a harness, and a datapad. Back in formation inside the drill hall, Sergeant Basco ordered us to learn every function of the helmet and harness by the next day. If we didn’t, there would be hell to pay and she would be there to gladly collect.

    That was it. We were dismissed back to our dorms for the rest of the day. We were told that we needed to be in formation before lunch and before dinner, but otherwise had the rest of the day to study. We all went back to our barracks carrying our new equipment.

    The helmets looked almost identical to the Imperial Combat Driver helmets, but there were subtle differences. The harness was more of a utility belt that attached over to the normal uniform belt. The datapad contained the manual for both. There were other files on the datapad, but they were all locked.

    I sat on my footlocker and began reading the manual. It didn’t have an eye-motion detector, but I knew that Sergeant Basco would find some way to quiz us on them. It didn’t stop me from trying it on, though. But, strangely enough, I had a moment of panic when I first put it on. Once it was on, it was so easy to see out of that I read the datapad while wearing it.

    The left cheek cap was for atmosphere air intake and the right was for suit air intake. Vision processors can cycle from infrared to smoke filter to maximum polarization. (I had to take the helmet off to read how to reset the polarization, though.) Audio intake volume and comm channel adjustment were jaw-based movements. Finally, the faceplate could be retracted with a button on either the left or right temple. At one point, Tenlast accidentally activated the squad channel and we heard a response from Skirata on the other side of the room over our comms to read chapter 9 in the manual before playing with the comms.

    That night, after dinner, Sergeant Basco and Captain Jenyes made a surprise inspection. It was nothing really bad, just to inform us that the helmet and harness would be part of the uniform from now on. On top of that, we were required to wear our helmets at all times except on breaks. This included during Beach Tours, physical training, and all upcoming classroom activities. Then we were told the helmets were our responsibility to clean and maintain as they were not part of our uniform.

    Captain Jenyes asked if anyone had experience with a tool kit for maintenance and repairs. I raised my hand at the same time as Skirata and the captain nodded. After dinner, I was to go to supply and draw a tool kit for Esk. Skirata was to accompany me for Forn. It was our responsibility to teach the other three cadets in our units how to properly maintain their helmets with the kit. Finally, the tool kits were to be considered parts of our uniform from that point forward and would be treated as such for inspection purposes.

    The next morning we were awoken in the same way as the previous. There was no yelling, no threats, and no raised voices coming from down the halls. Sergeant Basco gave us all a once-over, told Lowsyk to store her helmet with the visor down, told Killis to draw beard suppressant and begin using it, and gave us fifteen minutes to get into formation. I was thankful for the time because I got my harness twisted when I tried to put it on the first time.

    Rather than getting run on a Beach Tour, we instead went inside and began doing physical training. More than once a cadet’s helmet came off. After the fifth time, Captain Jenyes called us all back into formation and had me come up in front of the formation. Rather than chew me or anyone else out, she used me as a demonstration model in how to properly secure the chin cup. She then said, under her breath, that it wasn’t clearly written in the manual. I think it was meant for only me, but I saw Skirata nodding at the comment. After that, only one person’s helmet came off and they were “rewarded” with a sprint around the empty hangar floor by their training sergeant for not paying attention to the captain’s instructions.

    After breakfast, all of the squads were marched to a classroom. It was difficult to hear the instructor at first, but I dialed my audio pickup to a louder volume and it became easier. We were given classes in operating as a squad, clearing hostile territory, and ballistics.

    After lunch, we were marched into another classroom and given scholastics classes. Tenlast leaned over and whispered “If I wanted to study math, I’d have stayed home.” Lieutenant Jenyes turned from a parabola she was explained with a feral grin.

    “Allow me to give you another quick lesson, cadets.” She looked around the room and then zeroed in on Tenlast. “While you may whisper in your helmet, it will be amplified to a full volume through the vocoder. Next time, try muting the vocoder and activating a private comm channel or, and this would be the wiser choice of action, keeping your mouth shut and paying attention to the instructor.Cadet Tenlast, please report to Sergeant Basco during personal time for instruction in how to remain silent during class.”

    After dinner, we were dismissed from all classes and given actual personal time. Skirata and I broke out the toolkits to do maintenance. The others were very interested in the toolkit and Kilis almost burned his hand off with the plasma cutter. I asked Skirata if she wanted to hold an open class for both units in maintenance. She just shrugged. Thule seemed open to the idea, but both Tenlast and Trible said that we should keep things in the unit.

    That night, I did the servicing on each of Esk’s helmets according to the manual and had everyone watch me. Each time, I explained what I did, how I did it, and how to do it again. Kilis actually picked it up quicker than anyone else. Likewise, on the other side of the bay, Thule did her own helmet after watching Skirata.

    The next morning, we ran the Beach Tour in the helmets. I thought I was going to die, but it was actually easier. I didn’t get any sand in my face, didn’t breathe any sand or get it in my mouth, and the helmet actually kept my head cool in the humidity. That is, until after the run and I saw how much sand I had to clean off of my helmet in the 30 minutes of personal hygiene.

    I showered quickly and then spent the last 25 minutes scrubbing at my harness and helmet and hoping that I didn’t miss a grain of sand that would get me “additional training.” The rest of my unit did the same, to include Tenlast who was a little obsessive when it came to cleanliness.

    After breakfast, we formed up and went through an inspection. I think there were only two people in the entire training squad who weren’t gigged for having sand on their gear. Everyone in our squad was forced to do pushups while the instructors spoke about punishments. It wasn’t until after we finished that we realized the pushups were the punishments. Captain Jenyes told us that we should take our helmet and harness into the shower during personal hygiene and then scrub them down afterwards.

    We were run through the supply line again and were issued E-11 blasters and holsters. I thought the holster would go on the right hip for quick draw, but it instead went on the left. It felt realty strange having to holster the blaster rifle facing backwards on the left hip, but that was how it was supposed to be done. Tenlast was waving his around, and making shooting noises, when Sergeant Basco smacked him on the back of the helmet and told him the blaster wasn’t a toy.

    We were marched directly into the classroom and went over every single piece of the rifle. We learned how to adjust the shoulder stock, how to adjust the settings (but every setting was set to sting on our rifles for safety), how to reload a power pack, how to adjust the scope, how to link the scope to our visor, and how to break them down and put them back together. At the end of the class, every single cadet had to be shot with a sting blast to see how it felt.

    I was a little scared, but thankfully, we were all shot in squad order. I made sure to ground my teeth together before getting shot and kept from making a yelping noise. It felt like I was stung by a mornel wasp! It was only momentary, though. The pain went away after about a minute and the sore spot took about an hour to fully dissipate.

    The rest of the day went about the same as the previous, but we now had blasters on our harnesses. There was a dummy power pack in it for safety reasons, so nobody had a negligent discharge. During free time, we all went over the newly unlocked E-11 manual on our datapads. I read it on Trible’s while mine was on the servicing page of the helmets. To my surprise, Kilis did his and Tenlast’s helmet after I finished mine. I did some of the servicing on Trible’s, but he took over halfway through and didn’t mess it up all that badly (I had to loosen the faceplate pivot for him, though).

    The next morning was physical training and the class after breakfast had us breaking the blasters down and putting them back together again and again and again. By lunch, my hands were cramped from working all the pieces apart and back together. During personal time, we all practiced disassembling and reassembling our blasters. That night, all I dreamed of was disassembling and reassembling blasters.

    We learned how to clean out blasters the next day after the Beach Tour. After that, we had to dial our polarization up to full and then disassemble and reassemble the rifles without seeing them, over and over and over. That evening, Trible did the serving on his own helmet while we practiced disassembling and reassembling the rifles with blindfolds on, it was easier than messing with the helmet polarization.

    Sergeant Basco gave us an inspection the next morning. She found sand in the Esk refresher and told us that we would be running with our blasters out during the next Beach Tour. Otherwise, that was the only thing out of place for both units. She showed us how to hold our helmets for inspection, under our left arms, when they weren’t being worn. With that, she told us to fall out and get in formation in the hangar with holsters but without blasters.

    There was a Sentinel-class shuttle in the hangar with Captain Jenyes and all three training sergeants standing in front of the boarding ramp waiting for their units. The captain told Esk and Forn to make our way to the starboard troop bay. The bay was designed to seat two full squads of Stormtroopers plus five additional personnel. There were two sets of four seats that had a backpack in them.

    “This is so wizard,” Kilis said in the unit frequency. I pulled the backpack off of a seat and sat down nodding with a huge smile on my face. The shuttle was nothing new to me, but I had never been in the side troop compartments. I saw some rapid head motions from Forn and nodding, so they must have thought the same.

    “Buckets off, cadets!” Jenyes yelled. “Inside each pack you’ll find a pauldron with neckseal. Put it on and buckle the leads into the corresponding ports on your field pack, then attach the pauldron hose to your suit air intake. Replace your helmet and ensure the neckseal is properly engaged, your life will depend on it.”

    I put my helmet on just as the deck vibrations signaled lift-off. Kilis let out a whooping noise and got Sergeant Basco in his face, holding his helmet, and dressing him down in a low voice for the action. Otherwise, there was the constant feel of natural gravity beneath us signaling that we weren’t leaving the atmosphere.

    After about fifteen minutes of flying, not even at very high speeds, Lieutenant Jenyes ordered us to set our helmets for suit air. I made sure the hose was securely attached and noticed Trible doing the same. That’s when the hatch opened onto the night. Sergeant Basco ordered unit Esk onto our feet and to jump out the door. The only thing she told us was that our rendezvous was due east from the drop site.

    Tenlast was first to the door and hesitated to jump out. Basco looked ready to give him a shove when he leaped. I was next and felt the wind whipping at my uniform. I engaged the low-light filter and saw that we were about a dozen meters over the water. Basco yelled for me to go. I didn’t hesitate and just jumped into the night.

    Even though I knew how far I was falling, the impact on the water was still shocking. I could feel the cold through the uniform, but I didn’t get wet. I felt a sudden buffeting as a wave hit me. Not only that, but I started to slide under the waves due to the weight of the backpack.

    I turned and oriented toward the west using my heads up display compass and began kicking. I activated the unit channel and asked if everyone was okay. Kilis was a little slow to comment, but said he was closest to the shore. I switched to infrared and saw everyone but Tenlast.

    Trible and I both said, at the same time, for everyone to form up and move to the shore together. It took about ten minutes of swimming for us to reach the beach. There were several seatroopers, their white armor shining brightly in the low-light enhancement, that were watching us. One of them, the ID tag on my HUD showed him as a Lieutenant, was using a set of electrobinoculars to zero in on Forn about two hundred meters behind us.

    Not long after we all got out of the water, and I switched back to filtered air intake, Captain Jenyes came over the comms. She gave us a rendezvous point on out helmet nav systems that was ten kilometers to the south. We had one hour to get there and had to fully assemble the E-11 blasters in our packs by arrival.

    I pulled my pack off my back and quickly assembled my blaster. Kilis forgot his trigger assembly before Tenlast smacked the back of his helmet and told him to pay attention. I ran a function check and began running. The rest of the unit kept up and it wasn’t long before I looked over my shoulder and saw Skirata leading Forn about ten meters behind us.

    Only the beach was sandy, thankfully. The rest of the island was packed soil over volcanic rock. The palms were not too closely packed and the shrubs were low. I was quite surprised by how fast we all ran over the solid ground. It felt far too easy and we all sped up past our normal rate after a few minutes.

    I told everyone to do one last function check on their blaster as I saw Sergeant Basco and Captain Jenyes standing near an assembly point, the shuttle not far behind. My blaster showed a green indicator with a full 200 shot power pack. When I got to them, I came to a halt and saluted, “Unit Esk reporting as ordered, ma’am.” We had ten minutes to spare.

    Not far away, there were other cadets on the sand that were reassembling rifles. Sergeant Basco took Kilis’ rifle, aimed at the ground, and pulled the trigger. She looked at it and tried the shot again. She threw it back to him and told him that he had nine minutes to hand her a working rifle. He was the only member of the unit that didn’t pass the weapon’s check. After he reassembled it, it worked fine. He forgot to charge the rifle after installing the power pack.

    Ten minutes after we arrived at the assembly point, a chime sounded over the comlink. Sergeant Basco and several other training instructors intercepted all cadets returning late and I saw dejected looks from each. Moreover, not all of them had their rifles assembled correctly.

    Captain Jenyes ordered the squad to gather and take our buckets off. We were told that ahead of us was an obstacle course, its location already loaded into our helmets. Each unit had a separate flag that we were required to reach in order to successfully complete the course. The objective was guarded by Imperial personnel. All blasters were on training setting, meaning sting, and a hit meant we were out. Anyone alive at the end of the course would be rewarded. If the unit failed to reach the objective, then the unit would be punished. We were to form up, select a leader and prepare to move out.

    Tenlast declared himself the leader, but we all just laughed at him. Kilis said it should be either me or Trible. We both did lizard-toad-snake to see who would be leader and Trible won because lizard eats snake. With that, I looked toward the obstacle course and saw a barren rocky field, lightly covered with sand, broken up by clumps of shrubs and palm trees.

    A chime sounded to begin the exercise and I saw a ten-minute mission timer begin counting down. Trible started us out in wedge formation, but told us to be ready to shift into a file formation at the chokepoints between the shrubs; I was to the right and behind Trible with Kilis in the same position behind and to the right of me.

    Tenlast was the first to spot the flag as I was scanning for enemies. He announced it, but didn’t take off. Instead we all crept forward, bent low over our E-11s. I could hear the sound of blaster bolts and cadets yelling. Just then, someone in a gray uniform and body armor popped up from behind a shrub and illuminated where I had been with a series of three shots. The moment I saw the gray, I dropped flat rather than decide what it was.

    Trible ordered Tenlast and Kilis to spread out and flank him while he and I attracted the shooter’s attention. Trible fired some shots as the other two moved to the sides and I went forward past the shrub we were using for cover. I activated the infrared filter and dialed my audio pickups as high as they’d go. I heard a branch snap from the other side of the bush and made out a red blob in the leaves. I told Trible, using the unit frequency, to stay down but make some noise.

    Trible cursed and said something about his blaster jamming out loud. I heard another snap from the bush and rolled onto my back, firing straight up as the trainer leaped over for what he thought was going to be an easy shot. He hit the ground with a curse, both hands clutching at the place I shot, before looking at me and spitting. He asked if I had to shoot him ‘there’ and I apologized with a shrug. He chuckled and kept rubbing the one place I hoped never to be shot, sting bolt or no.

    By the time Trible regathered us all and began moving again, I saw other cadets walking back toward the rally point. Their heads were down and some had their faceplates retracted, disappointment on their features. The unit moved forward in pairs, the one moving being covered by the one not. Kilis and I hit the ground about twenty meters from the flag, located on the top of a two meter rise. They had the high ground, which would make this difficult. What’s more, there was an open area between us and the shrub line on the hill. Tenlast suggested we rush them, but Trible said it was a kill box. It was Kilis who suggested we split to the left and right to flank them, moving individually with one of the pair covering the other.

    I was halfway across the open space when a trainer popped up to my right and opened fire on me. I stumbled as I returned fire, just missing catching a bolt to the helmet from another trainer that popped up from my left. I dove over the shrub and fired on the trainer to my right, tracing three shots up his left side. To my left, I heard a shocked squeal and saw the trainer drop her blaster, her hand red where she had been hit. Unfortunately, Trible stood up rubbing his chest. He shook his head and retracted the faceplate of his helmet.

    There was one more shrub between us and the flag and three minutes on the timer. I used the comlink to tell Tenlast to go left while Kilis went right. They circled to either side, the two trainers watching me crawl up to the shrub from the front. I yelled “go” over the comlink and heard both making a run for the flag. A moment later, I jumped to my feet and saw the helmet of an instructor just to my left over the shrub.

    The instructor blasted Tenlast in the hip and spun around to target Kilis. Before he could pull his trigger, I landed on top of him with my barrel right against the middle of his back. He let out a huff as I fired and stood up out of reflex, giving me a toss right into the flag. I stood and picked it up. He gave me a strange look and then smiled, lightly clapping his hands as he lay back on the shrub.

    The squad took the shuttle back to the academy and we were given about forty-five minutes to clean our gear and selves before weapon’s turn-in. After lunch we had the normal classes and dinner. After dinner, rather than free-time, I was called into Captain Jenyes’ office. I was nervous, thinking that I might have done something wrong during the training.

    I walked in and she told me to take a seat. Unlike the proctor’s office, the chair was cushioned and had a back rest. Though, I didn’t lean back too much. Personally, I wanted nothing more than to take another shower and curl up in my bunk for the next week. I didn’t let it show in my posture, though.

    “Take your helmet off, cadet,” she said leaning forward on her elbows. When I did, she smiled a little. “There, isn’t that better?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” I said, keeping my features neutral and looking at a point on her wall rather than straight ahead at the middle of her chest.

    “Relax, Cadet Sonalex. This is a debriefing, not a chewing-out.”

    I slouched ever so slightly against the backrest and met her eyes. This made her smile on one side of her lips twitch ever so slightly higher, but she just leaned back in her chair and steepled her fingers, elbows resting on the armrests.

    “As you know, we monitor all of the unit feeds during training exercises. After your unit leader was hit, you kept Esk together and improvised when you had to. I would like to say that you showed some initiative, which was offset by that that little game to determine who led the mission.”

    “I lost two members of my unit, though.” I responded, taking a moment to add the “ma’am” to the end.

    “You did. That is just how battle goes. An Imperial soldier should be ready to die during a mission if it means the mission is a success. Were it not for them, you would not have been able to capture the flag.”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    “As of right now, you have the most training successes for the squad. Forn lost their entire unit save for Cadet Skirata, but she was unable to secure their flag in time. Now, go take your shower and get some sleep.”

    I stood, saluted, and began to leave the room. As I got to the door, she called out. “Be sure to use your shower this time, cadet.”

    I slid my helmet on to cover my blush as she laughed behind me.

    [​IMG]
     
  23. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 012

    Sergeant Basco stormed into the room. For the past month or so, her storms meant that something important was happening. She gave us a full inspection when we snapped to attention at the foot of our bunks. Tenlast was ordered to go to supply after dinner and draw beard suppressant. Trible was told to go with him and draw a new set of uniforms that fit. Skirata was told that she would be joining them both and Thule was told to see the medical droids for a hormone modification because of her acne. Otherwise, we passed and she gave us ten minutes to be in formation in the hangar, which was a change from the Beach Tour we would have taken if this had been a normal morning.

    The hangar was usually empty during our morning calisthenics, which should have been tomorrow, but this time it wasn’t exactly empty. The hangar had a full flight of six TIE fighters arrayed around it. A pilot and a technician stood at attention in front of each fighter. I fell into step with the rest of my unit and we came to a halt in formation. A squad of stormtroopers entered the room, splitting to stand with half on either side of the squad.

    The cadre entered the room behind the stormtroopers. Instinctively, we all came to attention the moment we saw them. Captain Jenyes stood centered on the squad while Sergeant Basco went over each Cadet in Esk and Forn. I was ordered to straighten my left cuff, which I did, and she continued down the line. Finally, she walked to the front and centered herself on our unit.

    A double door slid open on the wall we were facing and the cadre all saluted, with us copying the motion. Walking out of the doors were two people I had only seen in pictures. It was the tall and broad bulk of the commander of the academy, Commandant Ulgo, and the thin and wiry academy head of training, Taskmaster Terruss. They came to a stop in front of the formation and everyone dropped their salutes. The sergeants then looked back over their shoulders and ordered us to retract our faceplates.

    The taskmaster looked around at us like we were nerfs he was selecting for his meal. The commandant, on the other hand, looked like he didn’t want to be there. He extended his hand and his assistant placed a datapad in it. The commander read some things, scrolling with his black gloves.

    He began going from unit Aurek down the line questioning all of the missing cadets. Unit Esk was the only squad at full complement. Some voluntarily withdrew during or after Orientation. A couple failed during combat objectives, and one of the girls from Forn (Lowski) failed due to academics.

    He told us that the weak needed to be culled to keep the Empire strong. Over the next couple weeks we would begin to see where our strengths lay. He said that the class would be reorganized at the end of the day to form full units. Some cadets who were previously held back would be brought in to the squad and some others would be rearranged from other training academies on the planet to make the roster whole.

    He told us that as the next class was entering the academy with the new semester, the next phase of our training was about to begin. (I couldn’t believe that it had already been four months.) We would undergo numerous assessments that were designed to measure our physical prowess, mental acuity, leadership skills, and strategic adaptability. The assessments would be conducted in the Well, and would begin immediately.

    The training sergeants herded all sixteen remaining cadets into a circle around a square of light in the center of the floor. I looked at it and saw a very small seam leading out from it. I dropped my faceplate and dialed up the amplification to see that the floor was made up of hundreds of squares, about a meter on a side. Other cadets likewise closed their visors.

    Without warning, the squares inside the ring fell away into a pit. Several cadets took a step back. I saw Ulgo and Terruss exchange a smile. A couple squares in the wall of the pit detached and floated across on repulsors before being absorbed on the opposite side. Trible leaned over to look into the bottom of the pit and I grabbed his harness to keep him from falling.

    Again, without warning, the pit filled itself and rose about two meters into the air. Not only that, but I saw the sides of the now-pillar had rings on it surrounded by pale green blinking lights. We were ordered to find attachment points on it for our harnesses. I clipped my carabiner onto the closest ring and braced my feet against it, leaning back to let the harness support me almost entirely.

    I knew what was coming next and leaned back, bracing all my weight on my harness, letting my knees go slack, and pressing my hands against the pillar. The moment it began to ascend, I yelled out “Going Up!” We did go up, too. The pillar stopped about two meters shy of the hangar ceiling. Glancing down, I saw the stormtrooper helmets looking like marbles below.

    A chime sounded in my helmet and I heard the commandant’s voice over my comlink. He told us to climb down and to make it quick. I looked down and saw the flashing green of a ring about a meter below my feet to the left. I released my belaying lock and slid down to it. I used my secondary line’s carabiner to hook to it and released my first.

    Other cadets were moving slowly, some glancing down and quickly back up. I could tell who didn’t read their manuals regarding the harnesses. One cadet from Besh slipped and fell, stopping with a jolt before dangling by his harness, kicking helplessly.

    I was thankful that Coach Epoch included rappelling in our training, because that’s just what I did. Drop a meter, connect a carabiner, disengage the previous, and repeat. I had a good rhythm until one of the squares I connected to suddenly expelled itself out into open air by a meter. I had to swing back and forth a couple of times, missing the ring to hook to on the first try, and then swung down hard when I disengaged my previous hook.

    The roof above my head began to slide into the pillar and below me another slid out. It was two meters down and I risked unlocking my only connection to safety and dropping. Thankfully, I was used to heights from the “obstacle course” that Deak, Hemli, and I ran in the Hub. I flexed my knees as I hit and crouched to clip onto the flashing point beside the platform. It retracted and I fell down to the next connection.

    I got back into my rhythm going down and didn’t have any more surprise platforms blocking me. When my boots touched the floor, I retracted my faceplate and glanced around. Captain Jenyes’ voice came over my comm telling me that I was third. I backed away as Madon almost landed on me.

    When the last of the cadets got down, the commandant announced that the winners were Cadets Skirata, Berik (From Cresh), and me. He said that we would each get a free dessert ration and have a free period after lunch. Further, the top three winners would qualify for other rewards including weekend passes and other special details in the academy. The commandant then dismissed us.

    A week later, a training sergeant from another unit (Cresh/Dorn I think), interrupted our lunch. She gave us five minutes to form up in the Assessment hall. We all grumbled about it to ourselves, but I made sure to take one last bite of nerf cubes and vegetable mash. Trible handed me a ration bar as we walked quickly for the hangar. I shoved it in my mouth and made sure to swallow everything before we came into the bay. One of the cadets from Besh found out that chewing was audible over the vocoder.

    The pillar was already at its full height as we entered the hall. I dialed up my magnification and didn’t see any climbing loops on the grid. On the top, however, there was a glowing flag hologram. Sergeant Basco was already in the hall and told us, now up to our full strength of twenty-four, to form up in a circle around the pillar. The new girl in Forn was named Kandria Pavond. She and I hit it off because she shipped out with Deak from the school on Ukio.

    I knew that the next moments would be unpredictable, but I tried to be ready for anything. The previous day, we were ordered to run across the hangar, but the floor began undulating and flowing like waves. The day before that, the floor was moving like a treadmill at various speeds to the left and right.

    Sergeant Basco shouted “Cadets! Begin!” and a chime sounded in our helmets.

    I heard the low hum of the repulsors from the blocks. Rather than rising around us, blocks separated themselves from the pillar and began to rotate around the sides. The lowest row of blocks was about a meter up and rotated counter clockwise. Above it, with a meter of vertical separation and further out, was the next set of blocks rotating clockwise. They alternated like that every step up.

    I jumped for the first platform and pulled myself onto it. I was about to jump again when it wobbled and began to retract into the column. I leaped for the next and grabbed hold just as I would have been pushed off. I heard someone, I think from Cresh, say a word that would have earned him a demerit from Sergeant Basco or Lieutenant Jenyes if they had heard.

    I pulled myself up to the next row, and then the one further up. Before I could jump to the next platform, the one I was on retracted and I landed on an already occupied block. Skirata reached out and grabbed my belt as I grabbed her to keep from falling to the ground. It took me only a moment to realize where I had grabbed and I let go. She just shook her head and jumped to the next platform.

    The block I was on began to retract and I leaped for the next, catching the bar on the bottom of it and swinging myself up to crouch on the top. I saw fingers on the edge and reached down to pull Trible up with me. The one above retracted and I heard Skirata exclaim “fierfek” as she hit the platform below us.

    I was ready for the platform Trible and I were on to retract, but it didn’t. Instead, we just looked at each other. I shut off my microphone and raised my faceplate. A moment later, Trible did the same. “It won’t retract if two people are on the platform.”

    I looked down at Skirata who was also watching us. She nodded and strong-armed Thule onto the platform with her, raising her visor and passing the info. She then speared me with a predatory smile and closed her faceplate.

    Trible and I began making our way up, together. Close behind us was Thule and Skirata. I heard Tenlast complaining over the unit frequency about how we were cheating, but I muted him. We jumped and boosted each other up to the top of the next platform and then again.

    “Sonalex,” I heard Trible say my name over our personal channel.

    “Yeah?” I boosted him up to the next platform and jumped as he caught my arm. A moment later, I saw that Skirata was two blocks away from us.

    “There are only three winners for each assessment, right?” I jumped to the next block and he climbed up my body like a ladder.

    “Yeah.” We both jumped together and grabbed the opposite sides of the meter-wide block.

    “So, why are there four of us… KARABAST!”

    The block we were both on, two meters from the top, began retracting. I jumped left and Trible jumped right for the highest blocks. My legs flailed wildly and I felt an impact on the toe of my boot that was softer than a block. I pulled myself up and then reached down to pull Skirata up with me. Below, I saw Thule holding her stomach with her visor up, further down there were complaints from the people she puked on.

    I looked at Skirata’s expressionless helmet and shrugged. I saw her chest quiver a little, as if she was laughing, before she leaped for the next block. I followed and was the third to the top of the platform behind Trible and her.

    There was a ladder up to a catwalk that ultimately took us back down to the floor. After another five minutes, ten since the assessment began, the blocks slowly lowered everyone to the ground. The lowest three cadets were all given extra duty cleaning and only nutritive beverages for dinner. Me, Trible, and Skirata all got to make holocoms home after dinner.

    I commed my mom, not realizing that the time difference meant it was close to midnight on Ukio. She didn’t care and was excited to hear from me. I told her about what was happening at the academy and how I was doing. She told me that she had a message from Hemli and gave me her forwarding information so we could shoot each other messages at the academy.

    I was headed back to the barracks when I passed Lieutenant Jenyes’ office. I was surprised and came to a halt the moment the door opened. Standing there, the light to her office off, was the Lieutenant.

    “Stalking your commander, Cadet Sonalex?”

    “No, ma’am,” I said after snapping to attention. “I was walking back to the barracks after my holocom.”

    “I was just kidding, cadet. You need to loosen up a little.”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    She began walking and looked at me over her shoulder. “Good job on the assessment today.”

    Thank you, ma’am,” I said catching up.

    “Tell me, why did you kick Thule in the gut?”

    “It was an accident, ma’am. I didn’t realize she was jumping at the same time I did.”

    “Of course,” she said. However, I could tell that she didn’t believe me from the tone of her voice. “The Empire rewards those who strive for victory.”

    I didn’t know what to say, so I kept silent as we walked. She stopped in front of the Esk/Forn barracks and turned to face me. She put a hand on my shoulder, a little too softly and her lip quirked up in that predatory smile. “You did a good job today, Ander. Keep it up and you will be surprised by the rewards you will earn.”

    She straightened, pulled her uniform back into place, and walked away. I was about to turn in to the room when she looked over her shoulder and smiled wider. “I think I need a shower.” She winked and continued to the turbolift at the end of the hall.

    I went into the barracks and apologized to Thule for kicking her. She told me that it happens, but the next time she’d kick back. Skirata watched the entire exchange and gave me a nod as I went to my bunk. I thought I was fine until Pavond asked me why I was blushing. I lied that it was from the holo I had with my girlfriend. They bought it, especially Trible who gave my shoulder a punch and asked for the details.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
  24. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 013

    We boarded a shuttle rather than do the Beach Tour this morning. At this point in the training, the assessment phase, it was normal for things to get split up from an orderly schedule. I didn’t mind, though. Anything was better than getting stared at by the commandant and taskmaster while trying not to die by repulsorlift failure a hundred meters above the ground.

    Instead of running on the beach, we were shuttled out to the now-familiar obstacle course island. We weren’t dropped in the water like the previous times we made our way here. Instead, the shuttle came down low and we rappelled out of the hatch. There is nothing like the scream of the engine as you jump out of a ship and have only a thin line protecting you from falling to your death.

    We hit the ground and the shuttle flew on to deposit Forn at another location. I raised my faceplate and glanced around. The sun was just cresting the horizon on this part of the planet and it illuminated the moon in orbit.

    “Look at that,” Kilis exclaimed looking at the sky. I lowered my faceplate and dialed my magnification to full. There was a strange contrast as the sun illuminated the moon. There was a band all the way around the equator of the body and two more on the northern and southern hemispheres. What was surprising was that the huge crater on the northern half was perfectly contrasted between light and shadow. Looking at it directly overhead, without the haze of the planetary shield, it looked completely artificial; huge tubes, reactor conduits the size of space stations, and six equidistant nodes around it.

    The scene lasted only moments before the sun rose too high and the moon lost the contrasting light. It was really strange, though. It looked like it was constructed rather than being a planetary body. Maybe the Empire hollowed it out as some kind of docking facility for the construction Scarif was known for? I was snapped out of my ruminations by Sergeant Basco’s voice over the comlink.

    “You are to form up by twos and follow the coordinates in your heads-up displays,” her no-nonsense orders sounded over the static-tinged comm. Then, I saw a waypoint marker blaze to life before my eyes. The waypoint was five kilometers out and there was a thirty-minute time limit to get there.

    I began jogging at a decent pace when I saw Trible run up beside me. At least Sergeant Basco was sticking to the normal battle-buddies. I would definitely not have enjoyed being teamed with Kilis or Tenlast.

    Tenlast would have been telling me how much better he was at everything, bragging about having done everything, and failing at everything. Kilis, while he was smart, was too easily distracted. With either of them, there was a chance that Trible and I would tie for first and it would come down to which other part of the pair was dumber on that given day. With Trible beside me, we’d definitely come in first.

    “Why are you doing this.” Trible’s faceplate was up and his microphone was off. I know because I heard it through my audio receptors rather than comlink. I turned my mic off and raised my faceplate, too. The smell of the grass and palm trees was sweet.

    “If we don’t, then Basco might finally go Base Delta-Zero on our sorry butts like she always promises.” I pantomimed a bomb dropping into my hand before smacking my butt with it. That drew a chuckle from both of us and me almost twisting my ankle on a loose rock I didn’t see.

    “No, I mean why an Imperial Cadet?”

    “Where else am I going to get the ability to fly the fastest fighters in the galaxy?”

    “Where else are you going to learn how to strip down E-11s, run ten clicks, and practice tactical formations before breakfast? Remember how hard that first week was? Look at us now.”

    I dropped my visor and saw that we had already covered half the distance with twenty minutes left on the timer.

    “What about you?” I asked, baring my face again.

    “I’m going command track. Bridge crew first, hopefully sensors or fire-control, and then straight into the captain’s chair.”

    “Not sure if you noticed,” I vaulted over a large rock. “But Star Destroyers don’t have chairs for their captains.”

    “Then I’ll get one installed in the middle of the bridge. Who is going to stop me, I’d be the captain.”

    “Probably Tenlast’s dad; the Admiral.” I mimed a salute and we both laughed again. We dropped our visors and finished the run in silence.

    Our destination was an ancient looking projectile launcher on a tripod. It was white with blue markings; vintage Clone Wars because of the Grand Army of the Republic disk on it.

    “What the heck is this thing for?” Tenlast asked.

    “By now you’ve found your mortar launchers, “Sergeant Basco’s voice crackled through our helmets. “Your target coordinates are being sent to your heads-up displays now. The automated ballistics programs of the mortars have been disabled, so you’ll have to do the trajectory calculations by hand. Oh, and just a little note you might be interested in, cadets—the target you are aiming for is twenty-five meters from the other pair of cadets and their launcher. Don’t miss, otherwise the survivors are doing the paperwork.”

    “Karabast,” I swore. “Tenlast isn’t smart enough to qualify for Army Infantry and Kilis will probably get distracted and enter our location in by mistake.”

    Trible laughed nervously as he began entering the calculations on his datapad. I did the same. We got the same answer, which I saved and then we did it a second time to be sure. Again, it came out to be the same.

    “Trible and Sonalex ready to fire,” Trible reported.

    “Commence fire, one round, cadets,” Sergeant Basco replied.

    I reached forward, entered in the trajectory information, and pushed the activation button. There was a thump of the repulsorlift launcher and the orb shot off toward the target five hundred meters away. A moment later, I saw a cloud of dirt and smoke followed soon after by the sound of the explosion.

    “Direct hit,” Sergeant Basco said. “Good work. Now brace for impact.”

    I dove face-down on the ground next to Trible wondering if it would be the last thing I’d do. It wasn’t long before I heard the whistle of an incoming projectile followed by the ground heaving and a wave of concussive force and heat. My helmet’s audio pickups dulled the sound to protect my ears, but that didn’t stop me from feeling it.

    “Good Job, Tenlast and Kilis,” Sergeant Basco said as I stood to look at the crater blasted just a handful of meters in front of the ridge we were on. “However, you were ten meters off of your target. Sonalex and Trible, report.”

    “Just shaken up, ma’am,” I said. “No injuries.”

    The next day, we had our first formal inspection. The ceremonial uniforms looked like the standard Imperial officer uniforms in everything but their color. The jacket was white with a gray chest, the trousers were gray, and the boots and belts were black. Unlike the normal Imperial uniform, there was no headgear worn with the ceremonial.

    All three training sergeants took their time going over every single cadet in the entire squad. When they were done, Lieutenant Jenyes went over us. Kilis didn’t have his tunic buttoned properly, half of Unit Cresh was sent back to their barracks to polish their boots again, even Skirata was sent back to polish her belt because of a small smudge.

    After that, Sergeant Basco declared us “fit for viewing” and marched us into the hangar. The moment we all walked in, I was immediately on edge. There was a platform on one wall with a bleacher and a podium. In front of it was a mass formation of all the personnel in the academy.

    We were marched beside the bleacher and into formation. At that point Commandant Ulgo and Taskmaster Terruss gave us an inspection. Amazingly, they found a couple things that the training sergeants and commander had missed. Thankfully, the only comment I received was that my hair was almost outside of regulations and I should see to it.

    I noticed a couple of droids over the crowd and recognized them to be holo-recording droids that some journalists for the HoloNet News. The entire thing was being recorded. I had never been on the news before.

    We were ordered to attention and marched onto the stage and into the bleachers as Glory of the Empire, the Imperial Anthem, blared over the PA system. Commandant Ulgo walked onto the stage followed by Taskmaster Terruss. Behind them, Lieutenant Jenyes and the three training sergeants marched up and stood off to the side.

    I don’t even remember what the Commendant said. I wasn’t really paying attention. I was too busy looking over the assembled personnel and their uniforms. Stormtroopers, technicians, pilots, and the officers all stood at attention staring back. I even saw three of the white-tunics of Imperial Security Bureau in the formation.

    The holo-droids flew down and panned across all of our faces before flying back up to get a view of the room. That’s when I heard the Commandant say that we were at the halfway point of our training and would soon be branching into our individualized specialty training while still taking the assessments.

    We had the rest of the day off and could make a single holocall home. Mother was crying when I called after lunch. She watched the ceremony live on HNN and told me that she spotted me the moment I was in the camera’s field of view. Apparently, in my uniform, I looked identical to my grandfather.

    I spent the rest of the day relaxing in the barracks. At one point, Skirata invited to teach me a hologame that she grew up playing. I’d seen her playing it with the other members of Forn, but she said they didn’t give her any kind of a challenge. I decided to give it a try and got a crash course in the game of Cubikahd.

    It was really fascinating. Each player had four holographic knives and a game cube that was separated into 36 squares per face. When you placed a knife, it took up the eight squares around it. You could then move it to any point within the ‘threatened’ squares or any of the squares directly around them. The object was to get a player’s knife into the threatened area of two of your knives. When that happened their knife was removed from the board. The first player to have two of their knives taken lost.

    After an hour of practice, we began playing for real and it was tough. Though, I did win three of the seven games we played before dinner. She congratulated me and told me that I had almost the correct amount of skill to be considered a di’kut. Thule told me after dinner that the word meant idiot. Coming from Skirata, I took it as a complement.
     
  25. Volund Starfire

    Volund Starfire Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    Entry 014

    There was a message waiting for me from Hemli when I woke up. I had to wait to read it until after getting back from a Beach Tour. Knowing the message was waiting made the beach tour feel somehow easier. Either that or it was just my imagination. Then again, it was probably my imagination.

    She was finally able to send out a message during Orientation lockdown. She gave me a rundown of her normal day, which was identical to what I went through. Her squad was larger than ours with eight units rather than six, but a number of cadets had dropped and they’d probably consolidate to six before the end of orientation.

    She said that she saw me one morning as my squad was beginning the beach run. Her squad’s schedule was fifteen minutes removed from ours. She told me that I looked kind of cute with my head buzzed in a flat top. She was also wondering who the girl I was talking to was, but I could practically hear the mock jealousy in her voice. In the end, she wished me luck and hoped we could see each other at some point before I left.

    I marked the message unread, so I would remember to respond to it this evening. About then, Skirata tapped me and told me to get a move on. I looked at the chrono and ran with her to catch up with the rest of the units for breakfast. I didn’t know why she was waiting with me rather than running ahead. Worst case, it would have put her on top of the next assessment due to demerits.

    The assessments were coming quicker and quicker. Over the next week, we were having two to three a day. I knew they were ramping up from the one a week, but someone must have skipped the part where we did one a day.

    Pavond told us that was when she washed out into a physical training unit. They’d start cutting down the size of the squads. They’d either shift exceptional cadets into advanced units or cadets that needed a little extra help into a “motivation unit” until a new class advanced to the second semester.

    Skirata and I continued to win with the third place being Thule, Trible, or Pavond when it was just Esk and Forn. Unfortunately, Tenlast, Kilis, and Madon were typically the losers when it was just the two units. Though, none of our units were in the bottom three during the squad assessments.

    I jumped to the foot of my bunk at the position of attention before I even woke up. It was reflex after the seven months of training when the lights came on. I wasn’t the only one, though. Thule was the only person moving slower than everyone else thanks to a sprained ankle from the previous day’s assessment. She still got third place, but her ankle was the size of a jogan fruit. The med droids gave her a bacta injection and said to just favor her good foot for today.

    Sergeant Basco came into the room and gave us each a once-over. She said something low to Thule that I didn’t pick up, but the nod Thule gave in response caused the NCO to turn and begin barking at the rest of us.

    “Today you will be assigned directly to Commandant Ulgo. You’re getting down to the end of your assessments and will be separated for individual training after this semester.”

    “Some of you will be held to a higher standard under the Commandant,” she looked at both Skirata and me.

    “Others will probably find yourselves transferred to motivational units to give you that extra little push to become Imperials.” She said this last line directly in Kilis’ face before turning and looking at Modon and then back to Tenlast.

    There was no beach run or physical training. Instead, we were given a little extra time to clean and personal time. I wrote to Hemli and then my mom. I hit send just as Trible tapped me for breakfast. We ate quickly and lined up outside the mess hall.

    Sergeant Basco marched us to the hangar doors where we were handed off to Taskmaster Terruss who marched us inside. The blast doors were open and I could see shuttles loading cadets and even an AT-AT walker in the distance. The rest of the squad was in the hall, but they were under the control of their individual training sergeants.

    The Taskmaster halted us in front of a platform where Commandant Ulgo stood with a datapad. He officially reported us as Squad JAE-078.

    He gave us a short speech about entering as children and how in a few short weeks we would be leaving as soldiers. How our training would prepare us to serve the Emperor. He ended by telling us that we would be testing our strength and resolve today. Finally, he asked if we were ready to become stormtroopers.

    I gave the “Sir. Yes, sir!” along with the other seven cadets, but the idea left a bad taste in my mouth. I signed up to fly, not to pound sand in white armor. Then again, it was probably either part of the speech he was giving or a test to see our reaction.

    We were put at ease while Ulgo and Terruss discussed something related to the datapad. A moment later, both Kilis and Modon were ordered out of the formation and to fall in with Aurek and Besh. Both turned and marched away, but I could see a slump in Kilis’ shoulders. That’s when the floor began to drop.

    I don’t mean figuratively, I mean literally. The floor began to go down, dropping to the full depth of fifty meters, with the lit squares every meter to the top. The commandant told us that we were to climb out with all deliberate speed. The first three out would be assigned special duties while the bottom three would be assigned to the Taskmaster to better motivate them to do better in the future.

    When the assessment began, several blocks detached themselves from the walls and floated across the well. Some move straight up, some stopped is mid-movement and dropped straight down. I saw two run into each other for a moment before moving back to where they had begun. There was absolutely no order to how they moved.

    I jumped on one platform and then to another not far away. Getting closer to the wall, I leaped up and grabbed a third by the bar across its bottom and used that to pull myself on top of it. I looked around and spotted another platform that was rising straight up and jumped for it. I missed the platform, but was able to grab the bar under it as it rose.

    There was a wobble a moment after I grabbed it and I saw the tip of a boot just before Skirata leaped to another platform. We met eyes, at least I think we did since we both had our visors on, and she turned to scan for another platform.

    The one I had grabbed reached the top of its move and began to descend. Just then, I saw another platform detach from the wall and saw a third coming from the other direction. I swung across the bars of the three like a Kowakian monkey-lizard to reach the top of another platform.

    I heard the commandant talk about failure being unacceptable and the Empire having no use for weakness. Just then, I heard a warning klaxon from the platform before the world exploded. It felt like being shot by a sting blast, but all over. I saw blue flashes in my vision and realized that the platform shocked me.

    Thankfully, I didn’t fall off of the platform. I picked myself up and shook my head before jumping to the top of another platform and then another in quick succession as the original and one I vacated electrified. I jumped for another platform, but misread the distance.

    I would have fallen I don’t know how far if a black glove hadn’t shot down and grabbed my forearm. Instinctively, I returned the grip and pulled myself up onto the platform with Skirata. With that, we both jumped to a slower moving platform and then climbed past the lip to the top.

    Thule came up third, oddly enough. Out of breath, she shifted her weight and almost immediately dropped to the floor and a squelch over her comlink as it stifled her cry. Skirata and I were both beside her before she came to a final rest. She took both of our hands to come back to standing and leaned on my shoulder with the weight off of her ankle.

    “Quite the finish, cadets,” said Commandant Ulgo walking over to the three of us. “Cadets Skirata and Sonalex, you have both set a new record for this assessment.”

    He glanced at his datapad and up at Thule. “Cadet Thule, what did medical say about your ankle?”

    Thule stood at attention as best as she could and answered, “to stay off of it as much as possible, sir.”

    He tapped the screen of his datapad before looking back up. “Cadets, assist your squadmate back to her quarters. You are on bed-rest for the remainder of the day. After that, Cadet Skirata, see Lieutenant Rikil in the Special Forces training center and Cadet Sonalex, report to Lieutenant Jenyes in the simulator room. Dismissed.”

    “I’m fine,” Thule complained as Skirata and I both supported her weight back to the barracks. Even though she said she was fine, she still relied on us to do her walking for her.

    “Of course you are,” came Skirata’s response from behind her lowered faceplate. It’s funny, but I could actually hear the sarcasm over the artificially articulated speech.

    “I’m sure if you say it again, we’ll believe you.” I had my faceplate retracted and smiled up at her.

    “You’re both jerks, did you know that?”

    Skirata and I looked at each other and nodded. That caused Thule to chuckle and take a step wrong. She didn’t cry out, but I saw her bite her lip rather hard.

    We got back to the barracks and let Thule limp her way in. The moment the door closed, Skirata retracted her visor.

    “Special Forces,” I said impressed.

    “Flight sims,” she said with a smile and a nod.

    Not to be outdone, Thule chimed in with “Bed” as she lowered herself onto her bunk.

    Skirata and I shared one more look and both said, “you win.” With that, we left and headed to our separate destinations.

    The flight simulator room was darker than I thought it would be. It was also much bigger than the one at the school. There were six simulators lined up along the length of the wall, a view screen and holotable along another wall, and a full briefing station along the third. What I didn’t expect was the lone figure sitting against the holotable.

    My heads up display labeled her Lieutenant Jenyes. I walked up and saluted, saying, “Cadet Sonalex reporting as ordered, ma’am.”

    She returned the salute and took her helmet off. I’d never seen her in anything but her uniform before. The thought brought up memories of my first day and I felt my cheeks getting hot. I pushed it down and rephrased it as ‘I had never seen her in a flight suit before.’

    “Remove your helmet, cadet.”

    I did as ordered and held it under my left arm. She looked me over and nodded to one of the chairs along the wall.

    “Put the pauldron on and the harness. Attach the hose from the to your suit air intake.”

    I did as ordered and she motioned me for to the second simulator. The moment I was buttoned in, meaning the hatch was closed, I went through the pre-flight checks from memory. When the startup sequence was completed, I sat and stared at the black screens where the cockpit viewports should have been.

    “You did that all by Imperial code, cadet.” I could hear a strange tone in her voice over the comlink. “Not a single mistake. Tell me, have you completed the training circuit?”

    “Yes, ma’am. I scored a 98 on my initial assessment in the circuit before coming to the academy.” I hoped that I wouldn’t have to fly it again, as it was kind of boring. At the same time, any flying would be better than the no flying I had done for the past seven months.

    There was another pause, this time for about a minute, before the lieutenant replied. “In that case, let’s see what you’re made of. Don’t worry; I’ll be gentle… at first.”

    I could hear an almost predatory purr from her last two words as the screens blazed to life and I felt the repulsorlifts push me back into my seat. I was flying through a shipyard, but it wasn’t Fondor. I didn’t recognize it at all, but immediately began flying through the pylons and making myself a difficult target.

    My sensors identified a single fighter on an intercept course from behind a Star Destroyer docked. It was another TIE fighter and the only other ship in the area. It must have been her.

    I looped around a mooring clamp and flew into the superstructure of the shipyard, accelerating as I closed the distance on her. My sensors showed her angle toward the open end of the structure. I saw her fighter for just a moment before I dove through an opening and was sandwiched between the Star Destroyer and the dock.

    I maneuvered across the top of the hull and out into open space behind its cold engines, looping around one of the main engines and slowing to one-third power. At the same time, I cut active sensors and began a countdown in my head from five.

    When I got to one, I opened fire. I was a second off, but it didn’t matter. The pursuing TIE fighter flew right into the stream of laserfire I was sending out and had its left solar panel completely severed. It spun a short distance before disappearing.

    “You dirty son of a mynock sucking granite slug!”

    My eyes were wide, thinking that I was destined for something worse than the stormtroopers. Was there anything worse? I didn’t know, but I’m sure the lieutenant could have thought of something. Were there stormtroopers whose only task was manually cleaning trash compactors?

    “Where did you learn that tactic, cadet?” Her voice sounded much more professional than before.

    “A flight simulator game, ma’am.” I responded. I didn’t want to tell her that it was one of the tactics I used to defeat bosses, to include Jedi generals, in the game’s free flight mode.

    “Very good, but let us see what happens if I don’t hold back.”

    The screens reset into the shipyard with me in the same position I started in before. As I began a different tactic, this time hugging the Star Destroyer and making my way for the inner honeycomb of the shipyard, I heard her say, “I hope that you won’t hold back, either.”

    We flew thirteen matches that day. I only won five, and those were with me flying at the best of my ability. One of the matches, which lead to a draw, had us both hugging each other’s wing as we maneuvered through the superstructure before we hit a beam. The last thing I saw was her cockpit before it slammed into mine.

    I was sitting in one of the briefing chairs, my helmet and additional gear sitting beside me, as she sat in another across from me, her helmet and flight armor likewise beside her.

    “I’ve trained close to thirty pilots in my time as an instructor here, Sonalex. Each time, a cadet comes in and handles a fighter like it were just a blaster with engines. They are sloppy and unrefined, acting like a bantha in the cockpit and not being able to shoot and maneuver at the same time.”

    I swallowed as she leaned back, crossing her arms across her chest. “You’re different, though.”

    “Thank you, ma’am.”

    “I never said different was good.” Her eyes narrowed. “However, I can see that I don’t need to drag you through the basics, either.”

    She tilted her head and began to chew lightly on the end of her thumb. I could tell she was thinking something and was both excited and dreading what it was. She smiled and nodded a moment before standing.

    My reflexes took over and I shot to my feet, as well. Whenever a superior officer stands, everyone else stands up to. We were both standing in the same isle between the rows of seats and I immediately knew that I made a mistake.

    I had grown a handful of centimeters over the past seven months, but I was still shorter than the lieutenant. Not that it mattered because I was now about a hair’s breadth from her face, my chest pressing against hers. My eyes went wide at the realization and I threw myself back down into the chair.

    “Ma’am… I… um… sor… uh… should…” I stammered, feeling the heat creep up into my face.

    She only stood there, her smile going from predatory to gleeful as I sputtered. Then, after a moment, she stepped to the side and extended a hand. I took it and she helped me back to my feet, a good third of a meter between us.

    “That should be sufficient punishment for that dirty trick you pulled when we began flying,” her mirthful tone was still alien to me.

    “Yes, ma’am,” I said. I understood what happened. Just like in the shower, she was using her being a woman to… I mean… Okay, I didn’t understand what happened, but I knew that I was being punished.

    “You’re dismissed, cadet.” She picked up her helmet and armor and turned for the exit. “Take your gear, though. I expect you to be in it next time you come to the simulator bay.”
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2019