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Snapshots of Carida
Old 05-02-2011, 06:53 PM   #1
Jordan Lane
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Default Snapshots of Carida

Medical Report for Cadet J. Lane, [ID # missing]
Dr. A. Ivord, Captain
Infirmary, Ward 7, First Year Cadet Barracks
Imperial Academy
Carida
Yelona, 3 ABY


--- begin report ---

Patient status
Undergoing bacta treatment in tank #2, 1 of 8 scheduled hours completed.

Patient visit summary
Arrived at infirmary unconscious.
Sustained contusions to neck, stomach, lower back, buttocks.
Sustained puncture wound to stomach (see detailed visit report).
Sustained injury to back of skull; likely cause of unconscious state.
Brain activity normal; no permanent brain damage expected.
Bacta treatment ordered and begun.
Has not yet regained consciousness; mental health status unknown.
Full health analysis in progress by 2-1B medical droid.

Detailed visit report

According to her medical records, Cadet Lane has been treated at this infirmary twice before today, once last month and once at the beginning of this month. Those reports indicate similar contusions and scrapes as well as moderate injury to her reproductive system; illness was not the reason for either visit. Both times Cadet Lane admitted herself to the infirmary. She received swift treatment and appropriate medication before being released back to active status.

On this third visit, Lane arrived unconscious. She was brought in by Cadet B. Duval, who reported discovering a trail of blood that led to Lane in the shared dorm refresher of the North Wing of Ward 7. (A full debrief of Duval is being conducted by Instructor Harrond at the time of this writing.)

Examination of the patient revealed numerous injuries as outlined in the patient visit summary. Assault with a pointed weapon, such as a knife, is the most likely cause of the stomach puncture wound. This wound, in conjunction with the other listed injuries, was severe enough to warrant treatment via bacta tank. The patient's performance records indicate that it would be unwise to lose Cadet Lane as a result of these injuries. Bacta treatment should be sufficient to prevent any scar tissue or otherwise permanent damage developing as the puncture heals and will allow Cadet Lane to quickly return to her duties. No mention has yet been made as to the location of the potential assault weapon.

The aforementioned contusions may have been caused by fists or blunt objects. It is possible that Cadet Lane may have been held against her will and received the injuries due to attempts to break free. Bear in mind that this is a preliminary analysis based on medical examination; it will need the reports of Cadets Lane and Duval as well as any other witnesses before these conclusions can be confirmed. If an assault of this nature has occurred as the medical evidence suggests, it is the duty of the on-site medical officer to report it to the Academy leadership. It is then up to the leadership to take further steps as they deem necessary.

Preliminary analysis indicates that the patient is unconscious as a result of the head injury; the location of the wound indicates that the patient struck an object as she fell, as Cadet Duval reported the patient had collapsed on the floor near a sink.

The mental health evaluation will be performed upon completion of bacta treatment once the patient is conscious. That report will be filed as an Addendum to this report. The Addendum will also include the comprehensive health analysis once that is complete. Determination of Cadet Lane's capacity to return to duty will be based on these analyses.

[Addendum corrupt or missing]

--- end report ---
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A little post-traumatic stress relief (Part 1)
Old 05-14-2011, 11:08 PM   #2
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Default A little post-traumatic stress relief (Part 1)

Early Relona, 3 ABY
First Year Cadet Barracks
Ward 7
Imperial Academy
Carida


Jordan had once stood tall, proud of her abilities and her self-control. Her upbringing had focused on her development as a servant of the Empire, specifically as a TIE pilot. During those years, she practiced physical combat and exercised daily, studied regularly, attended a local academy as a teenager, and gained flight experience through the use of simulations. However, to accomplish these goals, Jordan had compartmentalized her feelings, her emotions, even her femininity, and locked them in a far corner of her mind. Strong walls separated these things from her rational thoughts. A substantial crack had formed when she had met a certain young lieutenant, but she had mended it well enough after his departure.

The shock of rejection from Carida had greatly damaged these barriers. She slowly rebuilt them with great effort over the two months she wandered Coruscant, and they were relatively tough once more by the time she finally entered the Academy. Even the two assaults she experienced left no lasting damage.

But the third one had been devastating, in part because it was brought on by her stellar performance in a training simulation earlier that day. Fear, even terror, had flooded Jordan's soul as she was pinned down, unable to protect herself against the combined strength of three male cadets. She had never felt so helpless in her entire life, and her assailants had relished it. Panic had taken over her rational mind, and she had suddenly lashed out against them with pure instinct. Then one revealed his knife. Not a vibroblade, but a sharp, horrifying blade of steel that glinted in the dim light.

Her walls had shattered.

Jordan was glad they had knocked her out shortly after she was stabbed. It meant that moment had not lasted long enough for her to lose her mind.

The post-bacta treatment session with the staff psychiatrist had produced a second near miss with insanity. During that evaluation, she had caged her emotions with pure force of will, and other than an increased phobia brought on by knife-like objects and a weakened constitution due to her wounds, the psychiatrist had seen no issues. Of course, he had not seen Jordan's tears once she had a moment to be alone.

Jordan was aware, due to the post-incident questioning she had received, that a cadet named Duval had taken the initiative to bring her to medical attention. A shiver of fear and self-loathing cascaded down her spine at the thought of needing that assistance. She was one of very few female cadets at the Academy, and she had been helpless to save herself. She hoped that man would not bother her again, yet she also wondered why he gone to the effort of... rescuing her, for lack of a better word. She had made a point to learn his face so that she could avoid him in the future.

It had taken days for the taste of bacta to leave her throat and over a week for her to return to the gym. Meanwhile, rumors had spread, as they had a habit of doing, and she was avoided, ignored, or the target of jeers and looks from a distance.

Now, it was about an hour after midday. Two weeks had passed since the attack. Jordan sat in the mess, alone, at a table situated next to one wall. If her schedule was flexible enough, Jordan would eat during the less crowded times so her outcast status was less obvious. As it tended to be quieter as well, it was easier for her to study while she ate.

This time, though, she was not alone for long. Another cadet walked up to her table and set his tray down across from hers. "Hey, Lane."

Jordan forced her feelings to remain off her face as she merely grunted in reply. She did not want to speak with Cadet Duval, but she also refused to share how much she wished to avoid him. Who knew how he would react to that knowledge.

He persisted by taking a seat. "What's up?"

She remained silent. Duval, unfazed, picked up his fork and began eating. After a few silent moments passed in this manner, it became apparent he was not going to leave without encouragement. Jordan looked up at him with a bland expression, again keeping her true feelings hidden. "Why are you here?"

His eyes met her gaze. "Is it a crime to take an empty seat in the mess?"

"No, but you did not need to choose one at my table." She pointedly glanced at other unoccupied chairs nearby.

He shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. "It looks weird when you sit by yourself. Instead of both of us sitting on our own, we can share a table. Is it so bad?"

You have no idea. "You are distracting me from my studies," she stated aloud.

Duval's eyes narrowed slightly. "Lane, I just want to help you out."

You would help me out most by leaving me alone. "I have no need of your help, Duval."

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh, so the fact that you could have died from lying unconscious in a growing pool of your own blood wasn't a big deal. You were just going to get up and take care of yourself at some point if I hadn't seen you there." He snorted. "Yeah, right."

Jordan worked her jaw as she searched for the right reply. "You believe that injury would have killed me?"

Duval waved his fork at her. "Shavit, Lane, you were really bleeding back there. The medic tossed you into a bacta tank, for galaxy's sake. What the hell happened, anyway?"

"You tell me. I was unconscious."

"I meant before you got knocked out."

"There is no reason I need to share that information with you." Why won't you just go away?

Duval shook his head emphatically, his free hand tightening into a fist. "You're wrong. There's a damn good reason. I want to know what kind of shit went down that left you so badly wounded. I've never heard of anything like that happening in the barracks."

"And you think I know why it happened."

"You were the one who got attacked. You've got to know why you'd be targeted like that."

Jordan's mouth flattened into a line as she pondered her response. "Look around. What do you see?"

Duval actually did glance about the room. "I see cadets getting or eating food."

"Notice anything about them?"

He looked at her. "Should I?"

This was getting old. "How many women do you see?"

"Only--" He cut himself off mid-sentence. When he did speak again, it came out in a whispered hiss. "Frakking hell. You nearly got killed over your frakking sex?"

Jordan nodded.

Duval tossed his fork on his tray in disgust. "Tell me who did it. I'm going to beat them halfway to Kessel."

Jordan's eyes flashed, and her tone gained some heat for the first time in their conversation. "You're a blaster-brained monkey-lizard if you think that will do me any good."

Duval blinked, surprised at her reaction.

"Now will you leave me alone?" She surreptitiously cast her gaze around the room. "Who knows, you could even run into trouble just for being seen with me. I do not sit alone merely to enhance my studying."

He clenched his jaw as he searched for an appropriate reply, but finding none, he just nodded and returned his attention to his meal. A few minutes later he finished and stood up, gathering his tray and utensils. "Watch your back, Lane," he said quietly as he stepped past her.

"I will," Jordan responded just as quietly. She did not look up at him as he left. She was unsure how many had noticed their interaction, but she would prefer to keep the hazing from spreading to others. It was the least, and the most, she believed she could do for her rescuer.

- - - - -

The next day, Jordan's schedule prevented her from visiting the mess during off-peak times. She would have skipped it entirely, but the grueling training regimen compounded by Carida's heavy gravity meant that proper nourishment needed to remain a top priority. Back rigid, head held high, Jordan waited in line and accepted her ration. At least the serving droids took no notice of gender. A quick scan of the room revealed no empty tables. Jordan was about to head for an unoccupied corner, intending to sit on the ground and live with it, when a hand grabbed her shoulder. She whirled, barely able to keep her food stable, and found herself facing Duval. "We have a spot at our table," he said.

Not again. "I told you--"

"You need a place to sit. Come on."

As much as she wanted to resist, Jordan's aching muscles cried out against the thought of sitting on the floor. She grudgingly acquiesced and followed him to a table where two other cadets were already seated. "Guys, this is Lane. Lane, meet Daren and Kidan, two of my roommates," Duval introduced them.

She nodded warily and remained standing as they assessed her. Duval took an empty seat, glanced between the girl and his roommates, and tugged Jordan into the last chair.

"You broke into the top thirty on an evaluation two weeks ago, right?" Daren asked.

Jordan's nod was almost imperceptible. She did not know how they would treat her as a result of confirming that knowledge.

Daren grinned. "That's pretty damn good, girl. I've only made it there twice, and I wasn't even close on that last eval."

Jordan blinked in surprise, her food still untouched. A positive reaction? She never would have expected that. Especially since they had to be in the same 300-cadet group to which she had been assigned for them to know her score. She had never noticed them before, but she also kept a habit of avoiding interaction as much as possible, a habit she had enforced since the attack two weeks ago. A tiny spark of hope ignited behind her broken walls, hope that, perhaps, her entire tenure at Carida would not remain as bad as it had been thus far.

Kidan nodded. "And there's no way in the nine hells that I could get into the top fifty, let alone the top thirty."

Daren clapped his roommate on the shoulder. "He got in here on a fluke, I swear. They must have given him easy questions on the entrance exam or something."

Jordan bristled at the thought of someone being easily accepted to Carida, given her own disastrous attempt. Then again, perhaps her gender had greatly contributed to her rejection, in light of how much she had been hazed since arriving here.

"You're a quiet one, aren't you?" Daren noted.

Jordan shrugged. "Not every cadet welcomes my commentary."

"We don't have a problem with you talking to us," Duval noted. He shared glances with his roommates. "Right, guys?"

They both nodded. "Beats the hell out of only talking to guys all the time," Kidan noted with a grin.

"Where are you from, Lane?" Duval asked.

"Imperial Center." She decided she needed to contribute to the conversation. That, and she wished to head off too many questions about her home planet if she could. "Where are you guys from?"

"Brentaal," Daren offered. Jordan guessed he was from a merchant family but could not conclude more than that.

"Thyferra," Kidan said, grinning a little. Jordan nodded at him, understanding a lot about this guy simply by learning his homeworld. She would be surprised if his family was not affiliated with one of the two bacta-producing corporations, likely giving him the benefit of a luxurious childhood. The fact that he seemed proud of it meant that he was with Xucphra rather than Zaltin. She barely refrained from shaking her head at the thought that he had bought his way into the Academy. She was no better, but at least she had the skills to excel.

"Raithal," Duval finished. Jordan glanced at him in surprise. Raithal has its own Academy. Why is he here?

He smiled, and Jordan realized she must have allowed some of her thoughts to slip onto her face. "Everyone I grew up with who planned to join the Army or Navy applied to the Raithal Academy. I felt like being different, plus it doesn't hurt to take advantage of the higher gravity here," Duval explained.

Daren laughed. "He has to tell everyone who finds out he's from Raithal why he's here instead."

Jordan did not exactly smile, but her features softened a little. "It is a valid point of curiosity," she admitted.

"Speaking of which, what's Imperial Center like?" Kidan asked.

"Crowded, with buildings on top of buildings on top of more buildings on top of... who knows what." She shook her head. "It might have been nice to grow up on a planet that actually had a landscape rather than a cityscape." Jordan blinked, surprised that she had volunteered that information. Then again, it was a good way to steer the conversation toward safer topics.

"Thyferra has a lot of landscape, but it's also really humid. Carida's kind of nice, in that sense," Kidan said.

"There are places on Brentaal that feel almost as crowded as Imperial Center. I can understand wanting a better, more natural environment to grow up in," Daren agreed.

"Yeah, well, just about everyone lives along or near the equator on Raithal, and it's still cold for most of the year, so I guess none of us came from a paradise world," Duval noted.

They spent the rest of their mealtime comparing their homeworlds, and Jordan actually found herself relaxing, a little, until a ten-minute warning buzzed from the chrono on the wall. A chorus of groans reacted to the sound, and the din of the mess grew rapidly as everyone stood and bussed their tables.

"Catch you later, Lane," Duval said as they parted ways outside the mess room. She was about to reply with something non-committal when Kidan chimed in by saying, "Yeah, see you in history tomorrow."

"Uh, yeah, sure thing." She stumbled over her words, unable to find a better parting phrase. Daren chuckled as they disappeared from sight. Jordan could only shake her head as she headed for her tactics class.

- - - - -
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A little post-traumatic stress relief (Part 2)
Old 05-14-2011, 11:11 PM   #3
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Default A little post-traumatic stress relief (Part 2)

After class ended with a blissful lack of attention called to herself, Jordan went to Ward 7's library to study. She remained there, poring over the text on her datapad, until she felt cramped from sitting so long. Jordan decided she should try to exercise before too much of the evening slipped away to ensure she would be in the best shape for the next morning's run. It also would help her sleep, as sleep had been harder in coming since... recently.

Once she had put her things back under her bunk and changed, Jordan headed for the gym. Most cadets would be grabbing dinner about then, so the place tended to be relatively empty at this time. However, this evening was an anomaly, as the gym was half-full. Most of the cadets seemed to be situated near the practice ring, where some sort of match was occurring. Jordan steeled herself and headed for the treadmills.

It was just her luck to be stopped by a trio of cadets. They were not the same trio who had attacked her, but she had never gotten along with any of the first-year students until today's lunch, so getting stopped by another cadet or group of cadets tended to bring bad news.

"Look, guys, it's the girl who ended up in a bacta tank. If that's all you're made of, you should just go home, little girl," one cadet sneered.

Jordan ignored them and tried to walk around the three young men. She failed when another stepped into her path. "Are you sure you should be in here? Fragile creatures don't belong in a place for real men. Oh, wait, you're not even a man!"

Jordan recognized this one. He was also in her training group, and she had outperformed him on their last three evaluations, but his name eluded her. She literally bit her tongue to prevent herself from responding.

"Maybe we should make sure everyone here knows that Lane's a girl," the third one suggested with a leer, reaching for the front of Jordan's shirt. She instantly stepped back and fell into a defensive stance, remaining silent all the while.

"Looks like she thinks she can take you on!" the second guy declared. The match in the ring had ended, so they had begun to attract an audience of their own, and Jordan forced herself to keep all emotion from her face. In truth, she was terrified. There were just too many of them, and she had not yet completely recovered despite the bacta treatment, physically or mentally.

Someone stepped to the front of the half-circle of cadets surrounding them. "So, Kreetle, all you can do is pick on someone you think is weaker than you?" Duval paused, a look of mock surprise on his face. "Oh, I'm sorry, your name is Creadle, isn't it? Well, I think 'kreetle' is far more fitting. Don't you?"

Jordan's eyes widened at his insult. What the frak does he think he's doing?

Creadle whirled to face the newcomer, his face reddening with rage. "Like hell it is, you pile of bantha dung!"

The second guy -- Leep, Jordan now recalled -- pulled Creadle back. "Why are you defending this girl, Duval?" He grinned, pointing at Jordan over his shoulder with a thumb. "You frakking her?"

Duval shook his head in mock sadness. "Exactly the accusation I'd expect from someone with a kreetle's brain. Oops, wait, wrong kreetle."

Leep looked ready to slug Duval. Jordan intervened by stepping between them, which at least forced Leep to pause for a moment. "What the frak do you think you're doing, Duval?" she demanded angrily. This was now the second time she had allowed emotion to show in front of him. "This is not your fight."

He glared at her. "Lane, are you telling me that I shouldn't step up for a fellow cadet?"

"Are you sure you're doing this only because we're cadets in the same training group and for no other reason?"

"It's gotta be because you're a girl. You need a man to defend you," Leep interjected, finding a moment to reclaim attention.

Jordan turned to face him. Her eyes narrowed, and Leep actually felt a chill from her glare. "You think I can't defend myself?" She pointed at the now-empty ring with her thumb. "Have a sparring match with me. No weapons. Right now."

He stared at her. "For real?"

She nodded, ignoring the sudden twang of fear in her gut. "Let's do this."

Duval glanced at Jordan, a line of worry creasing his forehead. His expression escaped her notice, which was a good thing. Their new audience followed the pair to the gym's practice ring. Jordan and Leep stepped inside and walked to opposite sides of the platform.

A tap on Duval's shoulder caused him to turn around. "What's going on here, Duval?" Daren asked.

"Lane's going to teach Leep a lesson. I hope."

"How'd this happen?"

Duval sighed. "There were some guys ganging up on her, and I let my big mouth step in."

Daren winced. He had shared a room with Duval long enough to know what that meant. "And now she's fighting him up there."

"Yeah."

"You know, if she does beat him, maybe we should ask her to train with us."

Duval blinked but refrained from responding as the fight stole his attention.

Back in the ring, Jordan had successfully dodged or blocked a series of Leep's attacks. Well, the blows that landed were heavy, so she knew she would feel them on her arms in the morning, if not sooner, but he did not need to know that. She finally landed a strong kick of her own; he blocked that, but not without a grunt as her leg made rather audible contact with his upper arm. Enraged, Leep started throwing wider punches, punches that became easier to dodge as he poured more and more energy into them. Her intensive training on Imperial Center was proving useful. Even though Jordan had not yet fully healed, her muscles remembered her years of practice, and she moved fluidly, almost on instinct, despite Carida's heavier gravity. Perhaps she had acclimated already.

"Stand still so I can hit you!" Leep cried out in frustration, sweat dripping down his face. That prompted a jeering laugh from part of the gathered crowd, which only fueled his anger and made his attacks even more sloppy.

Jordan started taking advantage of his openings to counterattack, first landing an uppercut to the jaw, then hitting him on his unprotected right side after he had raised his arm to slash down at her. A moment later she had hooked her left foot behind his right leg, and she brought it quickly back, tearing his footing from underneath him and sending him crashing to the mat. Jordan dove, giving him no time to react, and pinned his arms to the ground with her legs, her right forearm pressed against his neck. "Give?"

Leep's eyes smoldered, and he attempted to get up, but Jordan locked her muscles and kept him firmly in place. He finally tapped his left hand against the mat.

She released him and stood, turning toward the towel she had left on one side of the ring. Leep jumped up and leapt toward her, but Jordan had heard the creaking of the mat just in time. She spun on the ball of one foot, dodging his attack, though one hand grazed her face as he violently grabbed for her. Sharp lines of pain blossomed as his nails ripped skin off her cheek. Unfortunately for Leep, that pain merely fueled her own attack, and she shoved him to the mat face first, locking his arms behind his back. The breath left him in a rush as he hit the floor. "Are you done now?" she asked, breathing heavily.

He merely nodded.

Jordan stood again, warily keeping an eye on him this time as she again reached for her towel. "Anyone out there still wondering if I can defend myself?" she called out, her face flushed with exertion and the excitement of victory. Bruises were becoming visible on her arms and face, and a trickle of blood slipped down her injured cheek, but for that moment, she could not feel any of them.

"Yeah! I'm next," Creadle declared, stepping toward the ring.

"Hey, you're going to fight her after she's already fought someone else?" Daren demanded.

"No, he's not," Duval stated loudly, his mouth in a grim line. "He'll fight me instead. Right, Kreetle?"

Creadle cursed at him. Duval took that as acceptance and stepped into the ring. "My turn, Lane."

She stared at him. "I can handle--"

His hand brushed her shoulder. "Leave this one to me."

Jordan gazed at him for a brief moment before giving him a curt nod and climbing down from the ring's platform. It very briefly occurred to her that she had not shied away from his touch. Jordan tried to return her thoughts to the fight as she had planned to watch Duval take on Creadle, but her attention was stolen by a comment over her shoulder.

"Nice work up there, Lane," Daren said, clapping a hand on her upper arm. She winced, lacking the energy to dodge, as her muscles cried out against the contact. "Oh, sorry, you're probably pretty sore."

"Can't get out of that without sustaining some damage." She glanced up at him as she pressed the towel to her wounded cheek. "What are you doing here?"

"I heard about the earlier fight and came down to take a look, but by the time I got here, you were already in the ring. Duval told me he got you into it."

"It wasn't entirely his fault." She smiled slightly, her fatigue overriding her self-control. "It felt kind of good, too."

"Hey, you can smile!"

Jordan instantly slipped an emotionless expression onto her face.

"Relax. One smile isn't going to kill you."

Jordan clenched her jaw, preparing a retort when energy suddenly left her legs. Daren offered a steadying hand, and another cadet appeared next to her. She instantly tensed, dropping the towel and preparing her last reserves of stamina for defense.

"Easy," Kidan said, holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "I know better than to attack you after watching that fight, anyway. Not that I'd want to attack you."

"You've got better form and control than most first-year cadets," Daren noted. He glanced up at the ring. "I don't know if you could beat Duval, though."

Jordan's head shot up to see how the fight had progressed. Creadle's personality seemed similar to Leep's from what she had observed, so he probably let his emotions get in the way of his fighting, too. The larger Creadle was already flat on the mat, breathing heavily, and Duval looked like he had barely exerted himself. Well, he was sweating, but he was not breathing very hard. Jordan nodded without looking away. "I would be inclined to agree with you on that." She watched Creadle get up, try to slug Duval, and just as quickly get knocked down again as Duval sidestepped his attempt and punched the left side of his head. Jordan doubted Creadle would get up again.

A moment later Duval rejoined them, mopping his face. "That was less exciting than I'd expected," he said easily.

"You could have let me handle it," Jordan retorted.

Duval shook his head. "I got you into that mess. It was the least I could do."

"I don't think having that chance to showcase my fighting skills was entirely bad," she observed, glancing at Daren and Kidan.

"Perhaps, but it was still my fault. You did fight pretty well up there." He looked around at the three cadets before returning his gaze to Jordan. "Say, why don't you practice with us from time to time? You certainly don't have to, but it would sure help me out. They ask me for pointers all the time."

"Not all the time," Daren amended. "It would be useful to have someone else's opinion, though. I assume you got some sort of hand to hand combat training while you lived on Imperial Center to be that good?"

Jordan eyed them suspiciously, ignoring Daren's question. "Is this some sort of joke or trick?"

"I think it's a great idea! We should tell Pyro and Reaper, too," Kidan said eagerly.

She blinked, caught off guard. "Tell who what?"

Daren coughed. "There are five of us who train together sometimes rather than just exercising on our own -- the 'us' I mentioned earlier when we were talking about practice. Anyway, one day Petari started calling Duval 'Crusty' because he had a cold and kept using his sleeve to--"

"You don't have to keep sharing that story!" Duval interrupted hotly.

Daren laughed. "Anyway, it stuck, and so we all came up with nicknames for the rest of us. So, of the two you haven't met, Petari is Pyro, and Feradig is Reaper."

Jordan raised an eyebrow. "And you and Kidan?"

"Kidan is Dice, and I'm Razor. Now that you know, you have to train with us, and you'll get a nickname, too. It's only fair."

"Wait, what?" Jordan was developing a headache from the fight, and combined with her fatigue, all of this was moving way too fast.

"Call her Ice. She never smiles," Duval -- Crusty? -- offered.

"Hey, I kind of saw one earlier. I think," Daren -- Razor -- replied.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Kidan -- Dice -- noted. "You know, really, she's Black Ice. You know, the kind that you don't know is there until you slip on it, like Leep did."

Razor chuckled. "Whatever you say, Dice. Hey, Ice, do you need a synthflesh patch for your face?"

"I'll be fine. I don't want to go to the infirmary unless it's absolutely necessary."

"Did we schedule a training session for tomorrow?" Razor asked.

Crusty shook his head. "We've got a nasty run in the morning. We'll decide when the next one will be after we recover from that."

"Yes, and before that run I need to work out the soreness I gained tonight," she added.

"Same here," Crusty agreed. "See you guys in the morning. Ice, let's hit the mats."

She eyed him warily. "Literally?"

He stared at her before shaking his head. "Yes, literally."

The other two laughed as they parted ways. The newly christened Ice doubted this so-called practice group arrangement would last very long, but she thought she might enjoy it while she could.
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Subtle changes
Old 05-20-2011, 01:15 PM   #4
Jordan Lane
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Default Subtle changes

Mid Welona, 3 ABY
First Year Cadet Barracks
Ward 7
Imperial Academy
Carida


Dice landed on the floor with a thud, grunting as air was forced out of his lungs. "Frak, Ice! Go easy on me!" he gasped once he found breath again.

Ice offered him a grim smile. "You're the one who wanted to take me on."

"Yeah, well, remind me not to say that so lightly ever again," he muttered as she helped him to his feet. "I'm so done for the day."

Ice looked at the other four cadets standing or seated on the mats nearby. "Anyone else?"

Razor shook his head. "I can't afford to add any more bruises to this tired body."

"Same here," Pyro agreed.

"I need to stretch," Reaper said.

"I haven't been able to fight you for real yet, Ice. Up for a go?" Crusty offered.

Ice shrugged, feigning nonchalance. "Sure." She was actually quite nervous. She had observed Crusty's skills in the ring and against the others assembled in their corner of the room. Sure, they had practiced a few types of moves together, but they had not yet truly fought. She felt rather afraid of him.

Crusty stepped forward as the others moved back to give them room. Reaper began his stretching routine, paying only casual attention to them, but the other three watched them avidly.

Ice fell into a defensive stance, poising herself on the balls of her feet. She knew she had to be able to change direction in a split second with Crusty as her opponent. He began moving clockwise, his eyes looking for any possible weakness to use as an avenue of attack. She knew better than to give him that opening and vowed to allow him the first strike. Perhaps if he charged before she did, she could use that momentum against him.

They circled for a full minute, doing nothing but evaluating each other, before Dice threw up his hands in disgust. "I thought you two were going to fight!"

Ice was distracted for the briefest of moments by his outburst, and Crusty took advantage of it. She dodged, barely, and blocked his second blow just in time. The blow still hurt. Ice side-stepped to initiate a counter-attack, but he was too damn fast and caught her arm mid-swing. His grip was too strong to wrench away from, and Ice had to use the momentum of his attempted throw to break it. Her wrist throbbed once it was free.

Aware that her upper arm strength did not cut it for this fight, Ice dropped to a crouch and threw her right leg out, intending to whip him across the back of his knees. He jumped, but she still managed to catch his ankles, throwing him off balance and giving her an opportunity to jump up and tackle him.

That turned out to be a bad idea.

Crusty turned the movement against her, grabbing her forearms just before they made contact and spinning her around. He locked her arms behind her back and drove her to the mat.

The thud was just as loud as Dice's had been earlier, but Jordan doubted it had been as painful. If it was possible for a sternum to pop, hers just had. Her lungs felt as if they had deflated completely, and she rolled onto her back gasping for air. Stars swam in front of her eyes, and she knew her neck would hurt like hell in the morning from craning it to prevent her face from slamming into the floor.

Crusty blinked in surprise at what he had done. "Sorry, Ice. I shouldn't have gone all out like that. Are you okay?"

Ice ignored his offered hand. "I'm fine," she hissed through clenched teeth, getting up on her own despite the pain. She felt embarrassed and stupid. Yes, he was far better at this than the others, than Leep, than just about anyone she had ever fought, yet she had believed for a moment it would end differently.

Apparently those feelings translated into a rather nasty expression, as all the guys shied away from her gaze when she made eye contact. They quickly made their excuses and left the room. Perhaps they assumed she was about to raise hell with Crusty, or perhaps they knew better than to stick around when she had been so soundly defeated. Regardless of the reason, Ice was glad for the lack of an audience. She graced the victor with a frosty glare. "What. The. Frak. Were. You. Thinking."

Crusty raised his hands in a defensive posture. "I'm really sorry, Ice. My instincts kicked in. You were fighting hard, and I just... I'm sorry."

Jordan sat back down on the mat heavily. The ache in her neck and chin had spread to the back of her head, and her torso felt no better. She tilted her head from side to side in an attempt to pop it, but it only increased the pain.

"Is there something I can do?"

Jordan was about to reply in the negative when a thought occurred to her. "I'd love a cold compress."

He nodded, and she was glad to see him turn away. It kept her from seeing the concern in his eyes. Had she really attacked well enough for him to forget what he was doing and go all out against her? It seemed unlikely, but she also felt that he had not intended to fight so intensely.

If he had, she would have gotten the hell away from him.

Jordan shook her head slightly, ignoring the pain the motion caused. She wondered why she trusted him. At this point, she should refrain from trusting anyone. Yet here she was, in a small training group of male cadets save herself, a group which had lasted far longer than she had expected. Maybe she enjoyed the small sense of superiority she gained when she knocked one of them down to the mat. But if that were the case, why would she stick around alone with the one cadet in the group who could best her in unarmed combat?

Well, this would be the test. Whether or not he returned. Whether or not he returned with the cold compress. How long he took if he did return. Jordan had just finished internalizing these thoughts when Crusty reappeared.

"That was fast," she remarked after he passed the compress to her. Its coolness was most welcome against her aching head.

"I hurt you, Jordan. It's the least I could do." He was breathing slightly heavily. Had he run to the nearest medkit?

"Since when did you use my first name?"

"Oh, sorry. It... slipped."

Jordan arched one eyebrow. "Like hell it did."

"Okay, so I know your first name. I know the first names of everyone in our group," Duval replied defensively.

"But you only use our nicknames these days. I haven't heard you call any of them by their first names." Her eyes narrowed. "You think of me differently, don't you. Because I'm female."

He sat down with a sigh a respectful distance from her and rested his elbows on his knees. "I don't mean to, Ice. I just... I have a younger sister, okay? She's fifteen, and she's really different from you. But I've been her big brother for as long as I can remember, and she'd always run to me when she was in trouble or sad or anything. I guess that's made me overprotective of the women in my life."

"Get this through your head, Duval," Jordan snapped harshly, intentionally using his last name rather than his nickname. "I'm not a woman here. I'm just another cadet who's built a little differently. That's all, and you'd better remember that."

Duval's eyes flashed, and his own response became heated. "I don't frakking care what you think I should think. You got attacked and stabbed because of your sex and your skills. And I shouldn't look out for you?" He grabbed her shoulder. "They did even more than stab and punch you, right?"

Jordan could not meet his gaze.

"I knew it. I still want to know who they are. I'll beat them to within a centimeter of their lives."

She violently shrugged off his touch. "I get it, okay? I won't pretend to understand it, but I get that you have this misguided sense of protectiveness. I also get that you're damn good in a fight and that you might be able to beat them up as thoroughly as you claimed, but I still won't tell you who did it. Whether or not they get punished is up to the officer who took down my report."

Duval waged an internal battle as a myriad of expressions crossed his face, but eventually he relaxed a little. "Fine. Have it your way." He looked down at his hands for a moment, then back at her. "You feeling okay?"

"I'll live."

He sighed. "I really am sorry."

"Haven't you apologized enough?"

"No, I haven't."

Jordan blinked. "What do you mean?"

"I'm realizing I haven't respected you enough. You've got serious guts to make it so far in a place like this, and you've got the skills to back up that courage. I admire that and your determination to see this through. I shouldn't compare you to my sister, even though you're both women." Duval looked her straight in the eye. "But I don't want to hear about anything like that attack happening to you again. So I want to help, if I can, but I'll only give help you'll accept. You cool with that?"

She considered it for a moment. "I guess. Can you train me to fight as well as you do?"

Duval smiled then. "Sure thing. Can I ask one favor of you?"

"You can ask. I won't guarantee I'll comply."

"Call me Byron, to make things even from earlier. Crusty is still fine, too, of course."

She looked at him skeptically before replying. "Uh... sure."

"Great." Byron stood, and this time Jordan did not refuse the hand he offered. It would be a while before she realized how many defensive barriers Byron had breached simply by initiating a first-name basis between them.
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Knocked down again
Old 05-25-2011, 12:11 PM   #5
Jordan Lane
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Default Knocked down again

Elona, 4 ABY
A few days after New Year Festival Week
First Year Cadet Barracks
Ward 7
Imperial Academy
Carida


The door to Jordan's room opened. She glanced up from her datapad to determine who had entered. "We're trading bunks, Lane," the newcomer, a cadet she did not recognize, said. A full duffel bag hung from one of his shoulders.

Jordan simply nodded. This would be the third time she had been asked to change rooms. Regardless of what the rules truly were on the subject, in their ward, cadets could exchange bunks without instructor interference unless it caused some sort of problem, generally of the fight variety. With no outward sign of resignation, Jordan quickly gathered her small number of belongings and put them in her own bag. "Which room is yours?" she asked when she finished.

He pointed his thumb down the right side of the corridor. "Take a left at the first cross. It's the third door on the right."

Jordan nodded again, picked up her bag, and followed the directions she had been given. She wondered who she was stuck with this time. Perhaps the other cadet was moving to avoid someone rather than to join a new friend. Whatever. She would deal with it as she always did. If she could have a choice, though, she would prefer a lower bunk. It offered a better avenue of escape if she needed to avoid unwanted attention.

The door slid open as she hit the external control pad to reveal the unlit room beyond. Illumination from the corridor revealed that this room had only six bunks compared with her previous room's eight, with two bunks on the left and right walls and the final two against the back wall. Why had the other cadet wished to leave? Sure, the room was a bit smaller, but having two fewer roommates was a good thing in Jordan's mind.

"That was fast, Ice," a familiar voice called out.

Jordan's head jerked up in surprise. She stared at the top bunk of the back wall and could now make out a figure lying there. "Crusty?"

Suddenly the overhead lights flicked on, revealing that all bunks save the one below Crusty were occupied. Jordan blinked a few times. She knew everyone. "What the hell?" was as eloquent as she could manage to be.

Razor laughed. "Is that any way to greet your new roommates?"

"Come on, Ice, at least look happy," Pyro teased.

"What the frak did you do to that guy to get him to leave a six-bed room for an eight?" she demanded after a moment's pause.

"We did nothing," Crusty said with an almost straight face.

"And how long have you guys been room-swapping?" Jordan glanced at Dice, Razor, and Crusty. "I recall you said that you three were roommates when I met you, but what about Pyro and Reaper?"

"I got in here about a month ago, and I guess Reaper showed up maybe a week or so after that," Pyro said.

Jordan glanced around the room skeptically. "And then you got that cadet to trade with me."

"We happened to develop a snoring problem," Dice admitted.

"All at once," Reaper added.

"His bed had a bad habit of getting sand in it," Razor noted. "We had no idea why."

"For some reason, his towels would disappear from time to time," Pyro said.

"And I happened to mention that you might be easy to trade with," Crusty finished.

The corner of Jordan's mouth twitched. "Does this bunk still have a sand problem?" she asked, setting her stuff down next to it.

"That problem mysteriously vanished the moment he left," Pyro said with a wink. "It must have more to do with him than with that bunk."

Her mouth twitched again. "And the snoring?"

"I foresee a drastic decrease in nighttime heavy breathing noises in the near future!" Dice declared dramatically.

A smile finally broke out onto her face. "What about the towels?"

"We are convinced only his towels had the repeat desire to escape," Reaper stated, his expression bland.

Jordan burst out into helpless laughter. It was too much. She could not believe that they had contrived this situation to get her into this room. A small part of her wondered if they had ulterior motives, but the rest of her mind shoved that thought away, hard. She even got a lower bunk out of the deal. Ever suspicious in this environment, though, the female cadet inspected the sheets of her new bunk before sitting down on it.

Crusty's face popped into view from the bunk above. "Don't trust us?"

"It sounds like this bunk had issues. I had to make sure those issues had been resolved," she replied evenly.

"Aww, and I even went to the trouble to get rid of all the sand myself," Dice said, pouting.

She chuckled, her face softening a little. "Thanks, guys. Really."

"Coordinating our training sessions will be easier now," Reaper said with a slight shrug.

"I'm sure you'll smell better than that guy did, too," Pyro commented, waving one hand in front of his nose.

"Oh, yeah, he did stink, didn't he," Razor agreed.

Jordan shook her head, still smiling, as she started putting away her stuff.

The next two weeks passed relatively uneventfully, and the female cadet relished the newfound comfort of her latest living quarters. At the end of a long day, Jordan wearily returned to their room. She collapsed onto her bunk with a groan, glad that she had a relatively safe place to show a small sign of weakness.

Reaper, lying on his own lower bunk next to the door, glanced over at her from his databook. "Finish another run, Ice?"

She nodded, taking a moment to catch her breath. "I have been improving since I began training with you guys, but damn, I swear the instructors are out to kill me. At least Instructor Yareth acts that way."

"What doesn't kill you--"

"Only makes you stronger. Yeah, I know that's how the saying goes, but right now..." She stretched and popped her neck and back before looking around the nearly empty room. "Where is everyone?"

"They had some free time, so you can guess where Pyro and Dice are."

Ice rolled her eyes. Those two had a habit of going about their nightlife ways whenever they had a free evening along with a few other guys from the next room over. "What about Razor and Crusty?"

"I think Razor's off grabbing some food, and apparently Crusty's still on the last obstacle course. At least, he was as of half an hour ago."

The female cadet stared at her roommate. "Seriously? What the hell is taking him so long?"

Reaper grinned, a rare sight on his face. "Apparently he fell into the mud pit. He got so slippery that he could barely move forward."

Ice tried not to laugh, but she failed due to the mental image the news brought into her head. Of course, that had to be when their door slid open to reveal a rather brown Crusty. He had cleaned up somewhat to avoid tracking mud everywhere, but he was far, very far, from clean.

Reaper snorted as he tried to hold back his laughter. Ice buried her face into her pillow to hide her own.

"Oh, shut up," Crusty grumbled.

By this point Ice had forgotten her own fatigue. "I'd heard that you fell into the mud pit, but you look ridiculous!"

"Ah, so that's why you don't look surprised."

Reaper smirked at him. "We heard you were quite slick out there, Crusty. It's time you got a new callsign, anyway. Been a while since you had that cold."

Razor chose that moment to appear with a stack of clean towels. "I like it!" he declared. Then he grimaced. "Damn, Slick, you smell like a nerfherder. Go clean yourself up!"

The newly tagged Slick gave him a dirty look, no pun intended, before snatching a towel and stomping off to the shared 'fresher down the hall. This spawned another round of laughter from the three remaining cadets. Ice had not felt this relaxed in... her entire life, perhaps save for the moment she had moved into this room. She sat up and stretched. "I should use the 'fresher myself."

Razor tossed her a towel. "Hey, tell us how long Slick takes. There's no way he's going to be his usual speedy self."

Jordan smiled and nodded before leaving the room. She headed to her usual 'fresher stall. The Academy did not offer separate 'freshers for men and women due to the disparity in cadet gender, so she always used one as far away from the others as possible. She had fashioned a makeshift interior latch on the door on the last one, so she at least had a semblance of safety. As she made her way through the large, utilitarian room, she could hear Byron whistling as he showered, his the only other stall in use. She grinned, hoping to be in and out before he was done so she could finally beat him at this. She had received a lot of flak for taking longer than the male cadets when she first arrived here, though it had been a matter of seconds, and she lived for every chance she got to prove she could behave as masculine as they did. Jordan frowned. Maybe not every chance, but most of them.

Sure enough, she was able to clean herself before Byron finished. He had the disadvantage of starting out covered in mud, but a victory was a victory. Jordan had finished dressing when she heard him shut off his water. She made a mental note that he had probably taken seven minutes. Not long, but a far cry from his usual three.

Then she heard footsteps. Jordan looked up from putting on her shoes to see three figures towering over her. Three. Her heart thudded in her chest. Images from the attack months earlier flashed through her mind.

Hands from an unseen fourth member suddenly covered her mouth, and the other three grabbed her arms and legs. Jordan thrashed wildly, but combined they were too strong, even with her recent training. Suddenly she felt powder on her lips, and the hands over her mouth tried to shove it inside. It crackled when it hit her tongue, followed by a tingling sensation. Her eyes widened. They're trying to drug me! Panic set in as they forced her to a far corner of the locker room. There, where the lights had gone out, sat an old, unused shower stall. Jordan knew Byron was still inside the locker room, but she had no way to cry out or make any other obvious noise. Not that she wanted to yet again be in a position to need rescue, but she desperately wished to escape right then.

An eternity ticked by as they shoved Jordan into the unused stall, and the fast-acting drug, possibly glitterstim by the way it crackled in her mouth, began to take hold of her. Her limbs felt weak, her mind fuzzy. Everything moved in slow motion with a haze around her vision, though she could not see much in the dim light. Then she heard distorted voices, yet it did not sound like her attackers were speaking. Her muscles went rigid as she realized she could not see their lips moving.

"I can't wait to frak her, to put her in her place."

"Let's see how the little bitch reacts when the instructors find her on drugs."

"I should have brought the knife again. Her squeal when I stabbed her before was priceless."


Terror of a magnitude she had never felt before coursed through her veins like ice. She was hearing their thoughts. It confirmed that at least one of them had attacked her before. And now she was drugged and helpless. Moisture burned in her eyes, and shame threatened to drown her senses. Or perhaps that was the drug.

"What in space is going on here?" an even voice demanded. Jordan's assailants turned toward the source. A tall cadet stood there with a disapproving expression on his face.

"She was thrashing from taking a dose of spice. We were just hiding her until she got over it," one guy said.

Another cuffed the speaker's head. "We're not helping her! We're waiting for her to calm down so we can report her to the instructors. It's too hard to carry her when she's still feeling the effects like this."

"Is that your story?" the new arrival questioned, his expression unchanged.

"What else could it be?" a third assailant spoke up.

"From where I'm standing, it looks like you forced the spice on her so you could cook up this bullshit."

"Why the frak would we do that?" the fourth demanded harshly.

"Because at least one of you was involved when a female cadet ended up in a bacta tank in the infirmary." A faint smile touched his lips at their reactions. "News gets around." He glanced at Jordan. "I wouldn't be surprised if she was the same cadet."

A proper perception of reality slowly began to return to Jordan's mind as the mental voices faded, but she had very little control over her muscles. She had never felt so ill in her entire life. People took this drug for fun? Because they wanted to? What in the nine hells was wrong with them? She looked up, a bulbous haze still shrouding the edges of her vision. She could barely make out the newcomer, but she appreciated the fact that his presence had caused her attackers to let up on their too-strong grip. Her wrists would ache later. Who knew what other havoc the drug would wreak before it left her system.

"I'm going to give you one chance to leave. If not, then I'm going to report this to the instructors."

The four exchanged looks. They assumed that Jordan would remain pliable, or at least unaware of her surroundings, for a while longer, so only one remained at her side to restrain her. The other three advanced on the newcomer. But he was smiling as he took a step back, as if he wanted it to turn out like this. If Jordan could open her eyes a bit more and take in the details, she would see he was the first year gridiron ball starting wide receiver, someone who knew how to move in tight spaces, someone who knew how to kick ass. One of her assailants took a swing at him and missed wildly as the other cadet easily dodged. Irritated, the other two moved closer, one trying to tackle his legs as the other went for his face. Slightly off-balance by trying to dodge the first, the newcomer's face was grazed by the second's fist.

By this point, Jordan realized she had more control over herself than she thought. The drug dose may have been small, or the newcomer's arrival may have shaken sense back into her. Perhaps it was both. Regardless, she largely pretended to thrash and groan, maneuvering herself into a position where she could quickly push herself off the wall and floor and attack the one directly guarding her. It worked since the cadet was distracted by the fight his cohorts were trying to have, and she knocked him into the wall. Dazed more than wounded, he whirled on her, and Jordan was glad they had not had time to bind her. The memory of their thoughts earlier, if she had truly overheard their thoughts rather than hallucinating them, enraged her, and she plowed her fist into the guy's face. He fell to the ground with a thud, and the others turned to look. The newcomer took the opportunity to knock down a second cadet.

The two left standing rapidly looked back and forth between Jordan and the newcomer, evaluating their chances. They decided to attack the newcomer together, but that did leave Jordan behind them. Not that her rescuer needed help. They were down and out in under a minute. Feeling safe for the moment, strength left her in a rush. Jordan fell to her knees, dry heaving, despising herself for allowing the situation to occur in the first place. "Thanks," she eventually rasped. "Who are you?"

"Bellarius Aganox. They drugged you?" he asked by way of confirmation.

She nodded.

"And you fought back anyway. Not bad." He extended a hand. The motion surprised her, but in her current state, Jordan needed the assistance. Aganox helped her to her feet.

"I'm Jordan Lane."

"I figured. I'll take you back to your room and then call security on these guys. You're in no condition to do that."

Jordan could only nod. "Why are you helping me?"

"They're idiots. So far, you don't seem to be as stupid."

Meanwhile, Slick had returned to their room, finally clean and smelling fresh, rubbing his head with a towel. He glanced around the bunks, all empty save for one. "Where's Ice?"

Reaper frowned. "She left for the 'fresher right after you did. You didn't see her?"

Slick shook his head. "She should have come straight back here."

Amused by the other cadet's reaction, Reaper responded, "Oh, come on. She's an adult. You don't have to babysit her."

"I know that. I also know that she was really tired. Where else would she go?"

"You worry too much. Do you like her?"

"No! Not the way you're implying. I just want her to be okay. It wasn't fun to take her to the infirmary the last time something happened."

Reaper sobered and refrained from teasing his roommate further. "If it makes you feel better, go look for her. But I'm sure she's fine."

Slick nodded. "I'll do that." He was about to leave the room when a cadet he did not recognize showed up with Jordan. "Who the hell are you?" Slick demanded.

"Bellarius Aganox. This your room?" he asked Jordan, brushing off Slick.

She nodded.

"Sleep it off. You should be fine in the morning." He nodded and left, leaving Slick staring at him and wondering what the frak was going on.

Jordan took no note of his reaction and instead collapsed heavily onto her bunk. Byron, realizing how disheveled she appeared despite having just showered, came to her side almost instantly. "What happened?"

"Nothing." It came out slightly slurred. Slick and Reaper shared a look.

"I'll go take a look around," Reaper offered. "Maybe I'll catch up with that Aganox guy."

Slick nodded, and Reaper left the room. Byron then sat down on the edge of Jordan's bunk. He noticed she had begun shaking. "Jordan..."

The words came out in a rush. "I let it happen again. There were four instead of three. They drugged me. I heard things. They--"

He gingerly placed a hand on her shoulder, yet she flinched even at that gentle touch. "Shh. Relax. You're safe now."

"I'll never be safe here."

Byron sighed, feeling helpless. "Maybe you should see the psychiatrist. I mean, that's what he's--"

Jordan cut him off, speaking heatedly through clenched teeth. "There is no frakking way I'm going to see anyone about this. It. Didn't. Happen."

And he still did not know exactly what happened, either. Byron reached for her hand. "Jordan, I--"

She jerked away from him. "You weren't there after I regained consciousness in the infirmary last time. You didn't get interrogated by your instructors. You weren't told that you needed to keep quiet or get out. They don't care about abuse. They only care about results, about graduation rates, about training us well, about maintaining the status quo. They're not going to get upset if some male cadets have their way with a female cadet or even another male cadet. The main issue with the last time I got attacked was the fact they used a knife. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't have merited a second look." She glanced around their room. "Why do you think I was so happy to room with you guys? I began to hope that you wouldn't try to rape or otherwise abuse me after you offered to train with me. I became more confident after we'd trained together a few times and nothing happened." Jordan paused for breath, realizing she had just made a rather long speech.

Byron sat in silence for a moment. He had known that Jordan had suffered severe trauma from the incident that had led to her getting stabbed; he had not realized it had affected her on so many levels. "I had no idea."

"Good. That means I hid it well."

He swallowed, hard. "If you're in trouble, I'll come running."

Jordan looked at him with dull eyes. "You say that so easily. If I'm in trouble, how will you know?"

Byron could not respond. It had been an impulsive statement, and he now regretted saying it. His words did have a habit of getting him into trouble. "What can I do?" he whispered after a long silence.

"Train with me. Make me stronger." She tried to smile, but it held no joy, instead merely changing the shape of her mouth. It made her look even more unhappy. "Don't ever force yourself on me."

He wanted to take her hand, to reassure her, but he realized she would not want that right then. "Deal."

When Reaper and their other roommates returned, Byron said nothing. He now knew better than to speak up for her regarding something like this. Let them find out directly from the source. Jordan refused to explain anything that evening, but she eventually gave them a summarized version.

The incident still damaged Jordan's reputation. The truth was widely circulated, but rumors of her being a drug user followed closely on its heels. Blood tests before the incident, and after the drug had worn off, never revealed anything abnormal. She knew they would not. However, the Academy cadets loved their gossip, especially about a female cadet who did well in training, and the way she was treated in class and in training worsened compared to even before she had met Byron and the others.

Jordan's only peace was found with her roommates, and that peace could be shallow at times. The news of the fiasco at Endor only worsened everyone's attitudes, but at least it reduced the focus kept on the rumors surrounding Jordan. That was a small comfort in light of the defeat the Empire had suffered, and Jordan threw herself even deeper into her training, determined to make a difference once she graduated.
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Re: Snapshots of Carida
Old 05-26-2011, 06:06 PM   #6
Bellarius Aganox
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Default Re: Snapshots of Carida

Carida.

If you were an Imperial and you wanted a career as a Stormtrooper or a pilot, you’d wish to go here. Some kids found it easy with family connections, others had to fight tooth and nail to get where they needed to go. Some couldn’t, and wished they could. Little Imperial children dream to get here, and almost every enlisted Stormtrooper and pilot would kill to get here. I’m sure some of the people who I’ve met here probably did kill to get here. But make no mistake about freshmen and older; this is a military college. You have clicks. That’s normal.

First click you have are Stormtrooper officer candidates. First thing you notice is not a speck of lint. Nothing. These guys keep their hair in nonexistent form and never seem to relax. Tight shoulders, rigid backs. They live and breathe the Drill Code as if it’s the only thing they can survive on. All of them are human males. And only about a fourth of them come from families with money. These troopers are here for the best ground training that the Empire can provide, not to put in terms of service and then get the prestige of being Imperial officers and then leave. These guys work. I actually prefer to spend my time with them, since these guys aren’t ones to lie or be dishonest.

Like I said, they live and breathe the Drill Code.

And then you have the Navy personnel. Most of these people are fleet support officers, people who work in supply, ordinance, or places like medical who are taking their primary medical classes here at Carida or just simple naval command officers. These are normally people with money, or people who had a lot of family prestige. They’re more lax, more lazy, and generally quite the opposite of infantry officers. I guess that’s why I hate them.

But then, you have pilots. Best and worst of both. Either you had a hard working pilot who’s hard and crass, or you got an aloof and lazy pilot who’s here because of money. You’ll find us all over the place. Some of us will wear Stormtrooper uniforms because our intended career will have us flying dropships, or you’ll see us wearing medical badges, because we’ll be piloting medical frigates. We’re the smallest group of the three and yet we’re the most diversified.

We’re kind of a big deal anyways if you ask me, but that’s my vanity talking.

First day of class are usually rough. The beginning of the second semester and already a Navy cadet was put in a bacta tank because of a scuffle between himself and three Stormtrooper cadets. The grapevine was already hinting that he’d started it in the first place but it looks like the Stormtroopers finished it. Good for them. The hallways, at least the one I walked today, were bustling with people from all three groups. And, now, I’m a sophomore. Freshmen regarded me with respect, when they weren’t being ordered around. That was satisfying enough to see it, and great to even do it yourself.

At the corner of the social sciences wing, I stopped and pulled out my datapad to check what my first class of the day was. Sociology 101 with a Professor…dammit.

If there’s one thing I despise, its people who talk too much. Especially those who just regurgitate information.

Professor Alba Rentz, Sociology, was at the top of my shit list.

When he walked up and down the small aisles between seats, with that smug smile, it reminded me of my father in the worse way. His short cut hair, his glistening white teeth, and his imperfect smile. All of it. I barely made it into the classroom and sat down with my datapad opened and ready before I heard three chimes. Classes began.

“Almost didn’t make it, Mister Aganox.”

How about you jump into a fire, you stupid, ugly looking piece of ---

“But I did, Professor.”

He smiled.

“Don’t make it a habit.” He said, with that smug smile. Like I respect him anyways. “Class, my name is Professor Rentz. Two time winner of the Imperial Sociology Award and recipient of the Imperial Times’ Professor of the Year.”

He kept on talking, but only about himself, for the next fifteen minutes. I’ve heard this before, and I still hate it. Only now I knew how to tune out as I took out my datapad, near the back, and began to just lose myself for the next two and a half hours…

---

Finally, class was over. For the most part. I look down at my group assignment…frack. A group assignment. “With a partner, take the study of Merchant’s Study of Husbandry and compare it to modern day riot behavior. Assignment due Natunda, three weeks from now. All subsequent lectures will give further information to use in your project.”

I skip the rest for the moment. It’s just how to structure the report. But I looked around the class, seeing who was picking partners. It was kind of funny; there isn’t a lot of female cadets here at Carida, but, they always stick together. Four female cadets were already grouped up in pairs of twos, but they were all medical. The other male students had already broken up in to their groups. The Stormtroopers were all together, and the Navy were all lazily standing around. That left one other cadet.

Oh wow, her? I didn’t even see her when I walked in.

“Hey. You’re Lane, right?” I asked as I approached her. She looked up from her datapad.

She looked up. I couldn’t read her eyes. “Yes. Aganox, correct?”

Awesome. Last name basis. I already like her.

“Yeah…you wouldn’t happen to have a partner, would you?”

She looked around for a second before she looked back. "No. But I need one."

"So do I."

"Would you be free after 1700?”

I thought for a second. Nope.

"I'm good. Commons?"

"Sure."

Well, that's one problem taken care of. I nodded and then took my datapad and then walked out of the classroom. I was lucky, at least; after this class, it's physical fitness, all day. You can never go wrong with that.

---

Nothing feels better than conditioning. Muscles sore, the feeling of dehydration, and a bunch of shirtless men panting. Every cheerleader’s wet dream.

Taking a nice, long shower and then getting dressed in my uniform, I walked to the flight commons. I saw her sitting by a window, but with her back to the wall. Not just the wall, but also where she could slip out into the aisle too.

Better take note of that.

“Lane.” I said, simply, and she looked up.

“Aganox.” She replied, with a slightly raised eyebrow. There was something else too behind the eyes, maybe hesitation? Bah, forget it. I’m not here to get deep in her mind, I’m here to get this project done.

“I did a little work on the project before I went to practice.” I tell her, pulling out my datapad and opening the file, sliding it to her. “I tried to get a little bit done before next class. I don’t think, though, that we’ll be able to do a lot of work before the next lecture. That’s how Rentz teaches…” I tell her as I lean back in the chair. Plush leather? Damn. Gotta love Imperial funding.

“…what do you think?”
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Re: Snapshots of Carida
Old 06-12-2011, 04:11 PM   #7
Jordan Lane
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Default Re: Snapshots of Carida

Early Melona, 4 ABY
Second Year Cadet Barracks
Ward 2
Imperial Academy
Carida


At exactly 1600, the signal sounded for the end of the period. Jordan and Byron stood with the rest of their second-year mathematics classmates, saluted the instructor, and began filing out of the classroom. "What do you have next?" Byron asked after they entered the corridor.

"I'm free for the rest of the day. My Atunda schedule is fairly light," Jordan replied. "What about you?"

"I have a conditioning session in half an hour that goes until 1830," he replied.

Jordan flashed a brief smile. "Don't overexert yourself, Slick."

Byron groaned. "You guys aren't going to push for evening exercises on Atundas, are you?"

She attempted to look innocent. "It is a good way to start the week. Besides, you're the one who went on leave."

The previous week had been a holiday week, the Festival of Life. In general, first-year cadets used that week to investigate the specializations they wished to pursue in their second year or undergo intensive physical or weaponry training. However, Byron's marks had been sufficient to allow him leave, during which he visited his home planet of Raithal. Jordan's record was nearly as polished as her friend's, but possessing the wrong gender and lacking a place to visit, Jordan did not attempt to obtain a similar privilege.

Byron gave her a light punch to the arm to distract her from whatever thoughts had produced a slightly melancholy expression. "Tell me when your conditioning session is so we can make sure to do group workouts on that day, too."

"We have to work with everyone's schedules, you know," Jordan responded, a twinkle in her eyes.

They kept up their light banter until they made it back to their new room. With the change in academy year, they had all moved to the second-year cadet barracks, where most rooms housed three or four cadets as opposed to six or even eight. Single and double rooms comprised the rest. Razor and Reaper remained their roommates, while Dice and Pyro ended up with another guy in a three-person room down the hall. Razor, Reaper, and Ice had taken the liberty of moving Slick's stuff for him while he was gone, though he did not seem to mind the arrangement upon his return the previous day.

"Excited to work out with us again tonight, Slick?" Razor asked with a grin as they entered the room. "Be ready by 2000 or else."

Slick shook his head. "You guys planned this out ahead of time, didn't you."

"I may have seen your schedule before you did," Reaper stated with a straight face.

"You haven't gotten out of shape over the holidays, have you?" Ice teased.

"Okay, fine, I got a vacation and you guys didn't. Are we even after this?"

The other three shared glances. "Yeah," Razor answered for them. "We know better than to prank you too much, given that you're the strongest of us all. Then again, perhaps we'll be more even when you're more worn out."

Slick groaned, much to the others' amusement. He then noticed Jordan preparing to leave again. "What are you up to?"

"I'm going to grab something to eat before I meet with my partner for a sociology project."

"You have a project already?" Reaper asked.

"Yeah, from Professor Rentz."

"Ah, frak, I have him tomorrow morning," Razor sighed. "I have not heard good things about that guy."

She gave Razor a slight smile. "You have fun with that. See you guys at 2000." The female cadet then headed to the mess for a brief meal before walking briskly toward the flight commons. Her early arrival allowed her to procure her preferred seating arrangement, and she quickly settled in to look over her sociology notes and text before Aganox arrived.

Sociology was far from her favorite subject, so Jordan's mind wandered a little, thinking instead about her new schedule. The first year consisted of more physical than mental training, designed to remove those cadets who could not meet a particular level of physical fitness and aptitude. In the second year, that switched. Future grunts did not need to score as well as future Navy officers and pilots, but those who aspired to the last two options would be encouraged to change career paths if they did not perform well in their classes.

That thought reminded her of the need to excel in sociology regardless of her feelings on the subject, so she forced her attention back to it.

So focused was she on a section discussing modern day riot behavior that she did not even sense the other cadet's approach. "Lane."

Jordan glanced up. Startled, she had instantly brought up her defenses before recognizing Aganox. "Aganox," she replied, returning her features to their expressionless state. She hoped her reaction did not bother him.

He sat down across from her and slid a datapad along the table. "I did a little work on the project before I went to practice. I tried to get a little bit done before next class. I don’t think, though, that we’ll be able to do a lot of work before the next lecture. That’s how Rentz teaches..."

Jordan nodded, most of her attention on the datapad. Aganox had indeed done some work. This group project may not be as bad as she feared if her partner was this capable. She ignored her memory of when they met; it was something to consider at another time, if necessary.

"...what do you think?"

She glanced back up at him, his question breaking her reverie. "I think I am impressed by your initiative," Jordan said carefully. "Have you studied under Professor Rentz before?"

He nodded.

Jordan decided to be direct. "Then why did you want to meet about it today even though you knew we would not have much to work on?"

Aganox shrugged slightly. "It's a group project. We should get a feel for each other now while we still have a lot of time remaining before it's due."

She liked his response. "Have you read the text assigned before next class?"

He shook his head. "I only had time to begin the project work."

"I started it earlier, and I think it might be relevant to the project assignment. Do you have time to work through it with me?" Jordan hoped he would agree, if only to allow her a chance to assess his work habits and intelligence. She did not think him stupid, but she also did not know how his mind worked.

Aganox shrugged. "Why not? I'm free anyway." He pulled his datapad back and opened up their sociology text.

By 1930 the pair had worked through half of the assigned reading and had made notes on material that could be useful in their project. Jordan glanced at a nearby chrono. "I need to get going. I appreciate you taking the time to study with me, Aganox," she commented as she gathered her belongings.

He began doing the same. "Likewise. I'm glad to be halfway done before Datunda's class."

"You also made progress on the project the day it was assigned. I believe it is already coming along well." Jordan stood. "See you next class."

Aganox nodded at her before she left the flight commons. Once again Jordan was grateful for the chance to have a solid partner in a class group project.

- - - - -

Three days later, Datunda

Jordan, already seated in the sociology classroom, watched Aganox make his way to an empty seat next to her. He was a minute earlier than last time. "Lane," he said by way of greeting as he sat down.

She inclined her head toward him in response. "Aganox."

"You finish the reading?"

"Yes. You?"

"Yep. It wasn't so bad to finish what we'd started."

Jordan was about to agree when Professor Rentz loudly called the class to attention. For some reason he repeated his announcement of the awards he had won for his work. Jordan did not approve of such self-directed praise, and she certainly did not approve of him needlessly repeating the information from the previous lecture. What was the point?

The female cadet attempted to remain focused for the overlong class period, but she was quite grateful for the signal that marked the end of it. She did not know how much longer she could have put up with the professor's droning voice. Rentz had added a little bit of material that pertained to the project, but it was not as much as she had hoped for. He had hinted at more to come in the lecture next Atunda, though. Of course, that came with another large reading assignment.

"Are you free at the same time today?" Jordan asked after class.

"Were you thinking of working on the project or getting some reading done?"

"More of the latter. I believe it will be easier to remember this material when studying with a partner."

"Yeah, it's not the most fascinating subject in the galaxy. See you at 1700."

Jordan grunted in agreement as another cadet bumped into her before heading to her next class.

Following a routine similar to three days earlier, Jordan arrived in the commons early and found the same spot as before. This time, Aganox did not surprise her, and they quickly refocused on their sociology text.

"Finally, something I'm familiar with," Jordan murmured as she began the chapter discussing the Rights of Sentience and Human High Culture.

Aganox made a mental note of his partner's reaction but did not comment right away. A little while later they reached the section discussing recurring riots from the Yuzzem on the planet Ragna III. Jordan shivered involuntarily at the image of a male Yuzzem that accompanied the text.

"Don't like Yuzzem?" Aganox asked nonchalantly.

Jordan cursed herself for letting any of her feelings show. "I am not fond of them, no."

"They can be pretty intimidating. I didn't take you for the type to be bothered by that, though."

"They do not bother me," she replied curtly.

"So why don't you like them?"

"I agree with the Imperial policy of Human High Culture."

Aganox crossed his arms. "Seems to go deeper than that."

Jordan glared at the other cadet before steeling her features back to stillness. "What do you think of them?"

"They're strong and smart, and that probably explains why they didn't like it when the Empire took over their homeworld," Aganox said, tapping his datapad with a stylus.

"You do not agree with Human High Culture?"

"I'm just repeating what it says about them in the book."

Jordan set her own stylus down and looked at her partner. "How do you feel about aliens in general?"

"I have no problem with those who choose to support the Empire. Those who are against the Empire are the same as Rebels, or perhaps worse. I can't say I like non-humanoid aliens. What about you?"

She hesitated, carefully choosing her words before replying. "I am not comfortable around them."

"There a reason for that?"

"None of my experiences involving aliens have gone... well." When he appeared to expect further explanation, she sighed quietly and continued. "Imperial Center is relatively diverse despite being the capital of the Empire. Six years ago my cousin was injured when an argument broke out between two bounty hunters, a Trandoshan and a Duro. He sustained enough brain damage that he could no longer train to be a pilot."

"What happened to the bounty hunters?"

"Both were arrested. The Duro was sent to prison, but the Trandoshan was merely fined before being released. I understand that he was working for the Empire, but he contributed to the destruction of my cousin's future."

"I see. How is your cousin now?"

"The last news I received said that he was doing better, but his recovery has gone very slowly," Jordan replied evasively. She had no need to tell Aganox of her estrangement from her family.

"That's too bad. If he was like you, the Empire lost a chance for a good pilot. Now, back to these Yuzzem riots. We might be able to use them for the project. See..."

Just like that, Aganox had steered their conversation away from sensitive subjects back to the matter at hand. Jordan appreciated his tact, but she also worried that he might view her differently now. She decided it should not bother her as they had a task to do.

- - - - -

The next two weeks passed uneventfully, and the pair completed their project the afternoon before it was due. Once it was finished, Jordan stretched her arms, popping a few knuckles in the process. "I suppose that's it," she commented, her speech having relaxed in Aganox's presence as they spent more time together.

"Yep." As usual, he did not comment more than he needed to. She appreciated that about him.

"Think we'll get another project from Rentz?"

"From what I've heard, I'll be shocked if we don't, and soon."

Jordan sighed heavily, prompting a slight smile from her partner. As they made their way out of the commons, Jordan dared to venture a question. "How often do you exercise outside of scheduled sessions?"

"Almost every day, though I haven't done much today. Why?"

"Would you care to spar with me? I was idle far too long today, and I'm itching to work out."

"Sure." Aganox glanced at a chrono. "Food first? I'm hungry."

Jordan nodded. "All right." She had not expected a positive response, but she looked forward to an exercise session with the skilled cadet. Perhaps she could learn a thing or two to take back to her own practice group.
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Re: Snapshots of Carida
Old 11-06-2011, 11:07 PM   #8
Bellarius Aganox
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Default Re: Snapshots of Carida

Ahh, the smell of fresh air.

And the sound of breaking bones.

The sun was bright, the sky was blue, and the sounds and smells of the Caridan game field were alive with cheers and boos of the gridiron fans of the schools. The Caridan Troopers were pressing against the Corsucant Flight Academy's 'Sharks', the defending galatical champions of colliegate gridiron ball, and we were tied, 14-14. We had the ball, and the play was snapped. I was behind the linemen, turning from them and extending my hands, catching the ball that was thrown from our second-string quarterback.

I leaped and spun myself over the back of one of the Coruscant Flight Academy's linemen, the large man trying to reach up to stop me from attempting to gain an extra yard.The ball was locked in my hand, the feeling of synthetic pig skin against my ribs as I landed on my feet, my eyes locked forward as I forced my feet to carry on.

One step, two step.

Shuffle.

I don't even look at the linebackers coming in from the left. I wait for them to get in range, and I push my arm out. It stopped the defender as he attempted to reach me with his hand, as I pushed him back against my palm. My eyes locked on the goal line.

I was sweating. I had to make it. There was nothing else but victory in my head.

I could feel the man pulling on my arm, but gravity was in my favor, and I pulled him with me for those last few steps.

Three yards.

...two.

One!

...and then I stop, looking at the wide eyed medical midshipwoman, and the small crowd around me. She was on the verge of gasping, eagerly listening to my words as I stared at her in the eyes, before I swung my eyes to the left, to see the other people who decided to sit around me in the cafeteria in Carida's domitory wing. The cloudy day had made my free day a little less fun, and thus, I can pretend I take drama class and entertain myself.

The game wasn't that close. They got a lead early on but their star quaterback broke his back and we were just slowly tearing them apart. They won't even be a threat next year.

You just have to love coaches who specialized in special operations before becoming athletic coordinators at the school. Tend to be very aggressive.

“And then!?” The midshipwoman asked, her eyes locked with mine.

“And then we won.”

They all smiled.

Spinning a story is one of my favorite things, because it's saved me so many times. The art of a story, as I continued to talk a little more, is something that can make people utterly sucked in for a few moments and then they become to revere
you.

It's how I got Ensign Harick Dansun to my quarters last night, and it's how I got him to 'switch sides'.

I leaned back a bit as I smiled, before I looked at the nearby chrono. I knew I was cutting it close today but damn, I might actually be a little late to the library. The
slowness of my mind sometimes made me forgetful, and I had been actually rather excited to be working again with my seemingly only...

I hated to use this word. It implied I need one, or something akin to that. But Cadet Jordan Lane was perhaps my only friend on this college that I could...well...actually call a...

Nope. Can't do it now. Besides, you know the word I'm talking about so why do you want me to say it?

I stood up and bid my audience a goodbye, before I took off to the library, to do yet another project for Professor Arrogant Pompousness' class.

-=/[]\=-

When I got to the library, she wasn't here, and I realized that I was actually about thirty minutes early, at least I realized that when I looked at the datapad and wondered where the hell she was. She was even more punctual than I was, which
was a quality about her that I honestly very much enjoyed and liked, and I knew it had to be me when I looked at the datapad in my hand...and I was completely right.

It was ample enough time to begin writing a small note in my pad about the events last night, and wonder about if Harick's little forey last night into unknown
territory with me was but a simple act of experimentation with a man he probably figured he wouldn't see again after the semester, or an actual, albiet very reluctant, entrance into the world of Imperial disgrace.

Who knew? Time would tell. But I wrote these notes down regardless because I needed to do this. It was a simple matter of fact. I believed in very few things, but a penchant for superb record keeping was a big thing for me. As I wrote this, I gathered a few books on the history of sociology and the affects it has had on society in general, the topic of the partner project.

I realized then, however, that some of the collection of books I had so far picked up were, although perfectly fine texts that would help us, they were written by alien authors.

I stopped as I stood near the texts, getting everything collected for the little study/project session I planned with Cadet Lane, tapping my index finger against the texts, thinking to myself. I know for a fa---, well, educated guess, that the pilot herself would hate to read stuff by alien authors.

...Wait.

Am I being nice? This was new.

Tapping my index finger to one of them, I sighed and I took the datapads loaded with the alien authors and put them somewhere safe and out of sight. Better to not make her any more...

Wait, what the hell am I doing?

Before I could react and fix myself, I saw the pilot nearby, walking towards me. I smiled, and waved to her. I noticed a little bit of a difference in her stance; she appeared a little less uneasy, more relaxed even, but I wouldn't exactly go that far. She's never exactly relaxed, always kind of wrapped up tight. I honestly maybe seen her smile only a few times.

Maybe that's why I like her. She never seems to waste anything. Even her emotions.

And I thought I was cold.

“Aganox.” She said by way of greeting.

“Lane.” I replied back.

And then pretty soon, it was back to basics. Her asking questions, me replying. Myself asking a question, her replying. Back and forth, back and forth, talking and talking and writing and planning.

It was actually kind of fun, and nice. She's smart, I'll give her that. Strong, I'll give her that too. I'll give myself a lot of credit too and say I'm built like a brick wall when I get ready, you know, clenching the body. But she hits, when we were sparring, like a frakking charging ronto.

My datapad, in the middle of a small conversation about how sociology works not only within the Imperial society but also affects the other societies around it, beeped loudly. I sighed after I glanced down to see who was sending me the small bit of information: Cadet Harick. Reading what I saw, I knew he wanted to talk about what happened last night.

Cold feet. Of course.

It looked like he was still typing, so I wanted to stop this immediately.

“...Excuse me. I have a small problem, I'll be right back.” I said to Jordan, and I stood to get up.

But Fate has a funny way of punching me in the face. I slipped, my hands flying about wildly as I made a sound, a surprised gasp, before I hit the floor. Before Jordan could react, I forced myself to kneel, wobbling a bit as I stood up. “I'm okay, don't worry. I'll be back.” I said, fumbling around with the datapads on the floor, picking up mine before I made a bee-line for a secluded corner of the library.

As I walked, I began to think about a lot of things. Why I continued to do this, even though I know it is VERY much frowned upon in the Empire. Why I continued to endanger the careers of cadets around me. Why I kept on hiding my secret.

And then I remember. No matter who I am, I am loyal to the Empire. My blood will forever run black and white for the rest of my life, and honestly, that's ALL that matters. These thoughts carry myself for a few minutes as I walk, thinking also how huge this library really is as I pass row after row and common area after common area.

The Empire, I think to myself, affords a lot to future career officers.

...and then I think to myself my career can come crashing down all around me, and I began to feel a huge pull in my stomach, as if Jordan had punched it, and for all I know, she might just do that right now.

I was holding a copy of Rien Haldt's The Understandings of Sociology in General Studies, not my datapad. Not the one with my diary or the now possibly messages from Harick that Jordan is reading.

“I'm doomed.” I whispered, breathing very hard and very deep, my hands shaking before I stop myself.

“...time to face the music.” I sighed, biting my lip as I turned around, back to Jordan's area, wondering if she is loyal to the Empire like I am.

Loyal to the point of reporting friends for ungentleman conduct.

...Shit.

Last edited by Bellarius Aganox : 11-07-2011 at 03:54 AM. Reason: Formatting errors...and I spelt 'ball' wrong. SO SUE ME
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Equivalent exchange (Part 1)
Old 11-28-2011, 04:28 PM   #9
Jordan Lane
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Default Equivalent exchange (Part 1)

Early Yelona, 4 ABY
Ward 2 Library
Imperial Academy
Carida


Jordan blinked in surprise as Bellarius stumbled to the ground, but he recovered quickly, too quickly for her to offer any assistance. "I'm okay. Don't worry, I'll be back."

She could only nod, though she was unsure if he even observed the gesture as he swiftly picked up his datapad and walked away.

What happened? Jordan mused silently. She had never seen such a reaction from her partner before. He was generally so calm, collected, even solid. The only time she had seen more than stoicism had been during what felt like pointless sociology assignments or that sparring session they had done together.

Practicing hand-to-hand combat with him had been fun.

A glint from the floor then caught her eye, and she knelt to pick up the other datapad that had fallen. She figured it was the textbook Bellarius had been using earlier; that is, until she noticed the unusual words printed there.

Shocked, Jordan helplessly continued reading. Part of her knew she should stop, should put it down, should ignore it, should--

Yet she read the entire entry. It was not long, but it was long enough. An alert sounded, much like it had earlier, and Jordan realized a message for Bellarius had come in. She refused to read it, despite the temptation, and carefully blanked the display before setting it on her partner's side of the table.

Swallowing hard, Jordan forced herself to regain her composure. Pieces clicked into place; this was why she could feel so comfortable around him. He was not attracted to her, nor any other woman. She wanted to laugh in relief yet cry from the knowledge she had gained, neither emotion one she readily expressed. Far worse than her gender, his preference could doom a future career for the Empire. And she, likely more than any other cadet, knew what a loss that could entail.

Still, Jordan struggled with the fact that she was obligated to report such a breach of conduct to her superiors. The text on her own datapad remained out of focus despite her efforts to concentrate.

Though it felt like eternity, it was not long before Bellarius returned to their table. He looked concerned, and Jordan wiped her face of all emotion. "Did you finish what you needed to do?" she asked, forcing her voice to remain as even as possible. The words came out surprisingly well.

"Not yet. I seem to have grabbed the wrong datapad." He frowned, noticing the object in question had migrated from the floor to the table.

"I picked it up for you. It wasn't damaged."

"Thank... you." Bellarius stared at her, hard.

She barely maintained her composure under that steady gaze. "I can wait until you have finished your business," Jordan said to break the silence, choosing her words carefully. "It will be difficult for you to concentrate on our project if you have something else on your mind."

His eyes did not leave hers. "Yes, it will. You still intend to finish the current project with me?"

"We did well on the last project, and I would like to repeat that experience. Should something have changed my mind? Or did something change yours?"

He shook his head, taking his personal datapad this time. "I'll return shortly."

She nodded, trying her best to appear nonchalant as she returned her attention to the text. In truth, Jordan's mind was swimming with thoughts unrelated to their project. Before she realized it, Jordan had begun thinking of ways to distract others should the topic of her friend's preferences ever come up. That was a sure sign she had unconsciously decided not to reveal this to their instructors.

Even though that was exactly what Jordan was supposed to do.

However, Jordan just could not figure out what else she should do under the present circumstances. If she was not going to turn him in, she should help him instead. How exactly could she be of help? What would be useful? Would he even want it?

How the frak can I tell him I know his secret and make him believe I would never share it with another living soul?

"Hey, you're going down to the entertainment district tonight, right?" a cadet walking by said to his partner.

"Not so frakking loud!" the second cadet hissed. His glare quickly melted into a grin. "But yeah, I am."

"Got a hot date?"

"Something like that. It'll end well, I guarantee it," he replied, knowingly elbowing the first cadet.

The conversation sparked the strangest idea in Jordan's mind, but she could not get rid of it. She decided to behave normally for now - as normally as she could, at least - and then take her partner out on a date after they completed their current project.

Whatever this "date" thing was supposed to look like.


Mid Yelona, 4 ABY
Second Year Cadet Barracks
Ward 2


"Hey, Ice," Slick greeted her after coming back to their room for the evening. When Jordan did not immediately respond from her reclined position on her bunk, staring upward, he poked his head into her view.

She sat up as if bitten.

"Whoa, whoa, didn't mean to startle you!"

It took Jordan a few seconds to register what had happened. "Oh. Sorry. I was thinking."

"Thinking hard, apparently." He sat down on the edge of her bunk. "What were you thinking about?"

"Dates," she replied absentmindedly.

Byron coughed in surprise. "What?"

"I overheard some guys talking about it in the library the other day. I have no idea what happens on a date. What would you call a date?"

Slick never could have predicted these words coming from his friend's mouth. A moment of silence passed as he tried to digest Ice's line of questioning. "Well, I guess it'd be a date when a guy takes a girl out for dinner and some sort of activity, like going to a play or seeing a holo or something."

"How is that different from just hanging out?"

"Um, the guy plans it and pays for everything?"

"That doesn't seem fair."

Byron was starting to feel exasperated. "Maybe I'm just old-fashioned like that."

"So, if he was paying for it, why was the guy I overheard so excited about going on a date?"

He glanced away, scratching his right cheek. "Probably because he expected to take the girl back to his place, or something."

Jordan blinked as realization dawned. "Oh. Do all dates end like that?"

"No! I mean, not all of them... Why the frak are you asking about this, anyway?"

"I just couldn't wrap my mind around the idea, not knowing anything about it. That conversation was far too loud and inappropriate for the library, and it's been bothering me ever since."

Byron frowned, certain that Jordan was not telling him everything. "If you say so."

"Why else would I ask?"

Because someone asked you out on a date, and you're actually thinking about saying yes? "No idea. Hey, during my conditioning session today, the instructor showed us an interesting defensive move. We should try it out the next time all of us spar together."

Relieved that he had changed the subject, Jordan agreed.

In their sociology lecture the next morning, Jordan found a seat next to Bellarius, as she always did. The class started - after more self-propaganda from Professor Rentz over some paper he had published - with each student pair turning in their project. Jordan had been able to complete the assignment with her partner well enough, but the atmosphere had changed since the datapad incident. It felt more tense, more formal, than their first meeting when both of them had just begun the sociology class. Jordan regretted not telling him about what she had seen right away, but she had to find the right time, the right place, to do so.

She was going to trade secrets, after all.

Amid the usual sounds emitted by datapads during lecture sessions, a message alert chimed on Bellarius's device. Do you have time after class? I need to talk to you, the message read.

He threw a suspicious look at the source of the message. She covertly pointed at her own datapad; they were sharply discouraged from talking during class, but that did not stop the students from sending messages to one another. Neither Jordan nor Bellarius had tried it during lecture, however. They had only contacted each other before this to arrange meetings for project work.

What do you want to talk about? the reply said.

Something important, she responded.

His answer was long in coming. Jordan hardly heard the lecture as she waited. Finally, her datapad quietly beeped. I can give you half an hour.

Thank you, she messaged almost instantly.

Once the overlong lecture finally finished, Bellarius followed her lead. She headed for the library and did not stop until she found a relatively secluded alcove in one corner. Pulling out her datapad as if to study, she silently indicated Bellarius to do the same.

"So, what's this about?" he quietly asked after they sat down, though he sounded like he posed the question as a formality rather than out of curiosity.

"You're not stupid, so you probably already know."

"You did see it, then."

"I did."

"I'm still here, so you haven't reported it. Why?"

"Because I think it you're too good for the Empire to lose over something like this."

He looked surprised. "Huh. Really?"

"Yes."

"You're not going to use this as blackmail or something, then."

Jordan was afraid he would believe her capable of that, and it offended her, but she knew she should not show her feelings right then. Perhaps he was so nervous about the thought of someone like her knowing his secret that he could not think otherwise. "No, I'm not," she stated firmly.

"I don't have to worry about this sometime down the line when your conscience gets the better of you."

"No, you don't. I keep the promises I make." She leaned closer to him. "I asked you to meet with me to talk about this, and... to trade secrets."

"What, you have a secret like mine? With so few of them around, it doesn't matter if you like women."

"That's not it!" she replied defensively, barely able to keep her voice down. A small part of her noted how much emotion she was expressing in front of someone other than her sparring group.

A tiny grin brightened Bellarius's face for a second before vanishing. "You're going to tell me a secret of yours that compares to mine."

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because it's not fair otherwise."

"Fair, huh. I guess I should have expected that from you."

Jordan allowed some of her exasperation to show. "Will you shut up and let me tell you before I lose my nerve again?"

His expression remained unchanged, but his eyes looked less stern than earlier, possibly even amused. "Go ahead."

"My application to this Academy was rejected."

Bellarius stared at her, shocked. "What? How the frak did that happen?"

"I don't know. I am completely certain my entrance credentials surpassed many of those who were accepted. Yet..." Pain showed in her eyes as the memory of the rejection surfaced.

"So how'd you get in?"

"In an... unorthodox manner."

"Ah, I see. So your secret is that you got into Carida even though you weren't technically supposed to." He glanced around. "I'd say that your rejection was completely ridiculous, given the fact that you're doing better than a lot of male cadets here."

"You're also doing well here. Why would I want to reveal information that could hurt your career when you've already surpassed so many cadets in our year?"

"You didn't think I'd believe you when you said you wouldn't share my secret if you didn't share your own, huh."

"And you thought I'd use this information to blackmail you. Besides, like I said, this is more fair."

"I could tell them about you."

"I don't think you would."

He suddenly smiled. "You're right. I wouldn't. The Empire couldn't afford to lose you, either."

Jordan's smile mirrored his.

"I haven't seen that before."

"I don't show it often."

"That's a wise choice. I bet some of the cadets around here would get the wrong idea if you did."

"But not you?"

"No, I'm immune to its charms."

Jordan barely stifled a laugh. The rush of having changed emotion from nervousness and fear to camaraderie and banter was too much to take. "So, an idea occurred to me the other day. You're welcome to say no, but at least think about it. The reason you took off so quickly the other day had to do with what happened between you and that guy, right?"

He nodded.

"So the cadet was... nervous about what had happened that night?"

"Something like that."

"Maybe it would bother him less if he thought you just didn't care about gender."

Bellarius arched an eyebrow. "Oh? What did you have in mind?"

"Go on a date with me."

Her partner took the request in stride. "Hate to break it to you, but I've never been on a date."

"That makes two of us." A memory jumped into the forefront of her mind, and she roughly shoved it back down into the depths. "Well, mostly."

"Have you thought about what we'd do on this 'date'?"

"Sort of. I figure we can visit the entertainment district, hang out at a bar, and see what's going on."

"You drink?"

"I've tasted a few things. You?"

"Enough to get by."

"I haven't figured out more because I don't know enough about the area." Jordan glanced down at her datapad. "I don't really want to ask my old or current roommates about it. They'll respond with too many questions."

"Why don't I ask them?"

"What?"

"I'm a guy. It wouldn't be strange for me to want to know more about the entertainment district. You're talking about those cadets you spar with, aren't you?"

"Yeah."

"Invite me to the next session you have. I'll ask then."

"Okay."

And she did. Two days later, they were practicing in an open exercise room after Jordan made introductions. Slick and Reaper recognized him from the incident the previous year, but they made no mention of that fact. The addition of fresh blood to the group fired them up more than usual, and soon they had to take a break.

"So, we all have callsigns. What do we call you?" Pyro asked, not knowing him well enough to announce a callsign on the spot.

"Echo," Bellarius replied.

"Why Echo?" Dice queried.

"It's a bit of a story."

"That's okay," Slick told him.

Echo shrugged before speaking. "During a simulator run, they put me up against cadets who, in my opinion, weren't cut out to be pilots. Four on one. Maybe they thought they'd put me in my place or something. I took 'em all out without trouble, and afterward, they said all they heard was an echo before I got to them. The name stuck."

Reaper whistled. "Maybe we should be trying out the sims as well as hand-to-hand combat with this guy."

"I'm game," Echo replied easily. And then they returned to sparring.

Jordan had a meeting for another class, so she excused herself early, hoping that it would give Bellarius the chance he needed to ask his questions. He had not brought them up as they sparred, so she assumed he would raise the topic after she left.

- - - - -
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Equivalent exchange (Part 2)
Old 11-28-2011, 04:30 PM   #10
Jordan Lane
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Default Equivalent exchange (Part 2)

A few hours later, she met up with Byron in their room. "Aganox is pretty good," he noted.

"Yeah. It's always nice to watch you have to work for a victory," she replied, grinning.

"I still won."

Echo might have been a bit distracted, Jordan thought silently, since Byron was not difficult to look at. If it had not been for her awareness of Bellarius's preferences, she would never have considered that fact. Jordan forced the new idea into a far corner of her mind before speaking. "But you were the only one who defeated him."

"Like I said, he's pretty good." Byron frowned. "What'd you tell him about us?"

"Just that we spar together, and that all of us were once roommates. Oh, I guess I might have mentioned that Dice and Pyro were the ones who would skip out in the evenings to go to the entertainment district while the rest of us were more studious and stayed behind."

"No, you definitely mentioned that. He was asking about the place."

"Don't most guys ask?"

"Well, yeah, but I just thought it was strange that he'd ask us. Aren't there others he could talk to?"

"I have no idea. It's not something I readily talk about with male cadets."

"Good point. It just seemed weird that it came up, that's all."

"Have you been there?"

Byron hesitated for a second. "Once or twice."

"Why'd you go?"

"Just to find out what the fuss was about."

Jordan frowned. "Is that all?"

"Didn't you just say that this was a topic you avoided with guys?"

"Well, yes, but you're not just any guy. You're my roommate, and my partner. Is it wrong to ask?"

"No..."

Jordan, now a little afraid of Byron's reaction and her sudden curiosity, tried to backtrack. "If you really don't want to talk about it--"

"It's okay. I'll tell you. The first time really was just to look around. The second time... was a few weeks into our first year. It had been a hard day, and some of us went down there. I drank too much, and I woke up next to a girl I barely remembered meeting, much less doing anything with. I'm not a fan of one-night stands, so I haven't gone back since."

"Oh, I see. I didn't mean to pry."

"I wasn't planning on telling you unless it came up for some reason, like now. I didn't want you to think I was like those guys who attacked you."

"Byron, I know for a fact you're nothing like them."

He smiled, but there was little mirth in it. "I'm not exactly a good drunk. What would you do if I forced myself on you?"

It was a mostly frightening thought. "Use the advantage of the fact that you were drunk to overpower you and dunk your head in water until you came to your senses."

"Good. You wouldn't be passive about it."

"I wasn't passive against my attackers, either, but that landed me in more trouble. And there were more of them." Jordan shivered. "Can we change the subject?"

"Absolutely." So they discussed starfighter tactics until crawling into bed. Jordan only half paid attention to the conversation, however; the rest of her mind considered both what Slick had said and her date planning session with Echo the next day. Mixed feelings about both rose unbidden, and sleep was a long time in coming.

- - - - -

After lecture, the pair decided that Bellarius would act as point for the date to keep up appearances. He even declined to tell Jordan every detail about his plan; she had not expected that. It turned out that they both had a free schedule after 1700 hours, so they agreed to meet half an hour later near the exit closest to the entertainment district.

Out of character, Jordan arrived a few minutes late, wearing casual attire instead of the cadet uniform. "I was held up."

Bellarius was similarly dressed, and Jordan thought he looked rather nice. "I don't think I've ever seen you show up late," he noted.

She did not meet his gaze. "I was avoiding my roommates."

"You're hiding this from them?"

"I really don't know how to handle their questions."

"They're not stupid. I'm sure they'll find out eventually. We're doing this to be seen, remember?"

"I hadn't thought of that when I came up with this plan."

"You can always tell them it didn't work out. Or it was a dare, or a lost bet."

Jordan gave him a wan smile. "I can accept the lost bet scheme. Perhaps I lost during a sparring session."

"Well, you did."

"I won, too!"

"You can leave that part out of the bet."

"Okay."

He held out his arm, which she eyed for a moment before gingerly resting her hand on it. "I suppose I'm nervous, now that we're actually doing this."

"Relax. Might as well have fun if we can."

"You're acting rather gentlemanly."

"I am aware of how to be courteous to a woman, though I don't practice it much."

"Well, I can point out where you can improve if you want to pass yourself off as a gentleman."

"Oh?"

Jordan explained some of her upper class upbringing on Imperial Center as they made their way to a bar for dinner and drinks.

"Isn't that the kind of environment where they marry you off however they please?" he asked as they sat down at the bar.

"Don't remind me."

"Yet you came here to become a pilot."

"My father wanted a son who would rise through ranks in the Empire's service. He got me. I was raised to become a pilot anyway, and since I was able to avoid some of the more feminine things my mother expected, it became what I wanted, too. She still liked to parade me at social events, so I had to handle far too many 'gentlemanly' suitors."

A server droid interrupted, so they ordered drinks. The drinks arrived within seconds. "So, was your mother trying to get you married to someone before you came here?"

Jordan choked on her beverage before regaining her composure. "Nothing was ever settled on before I... left."

To her relief, Bellarius changed the topic to Imperial Center itself, since he had also lived there, and they chatted about life on the city planet for a while.

He suddenly trailed off in the middle of a story about a flight simulation, and Jordan could not miss the shadow of shock that crossed her friend's face. "What's wrong?"

"He's here, and he's been glancing in this direction," Bellarius replied quietly.

"That cadet?"

He nodded.

An idea flashed into her mind. "The next time you see him looking, kiss me."

He blinked. "What?"

"Our date will look more authentic this way, especially to him," Jordan explained. "You want him to think that--"

Apparently that guy had indeed glanced at them once more, for Echo interrupted her query by pulling her close and pressing his lips to hers.

It was far from Ice's first kiss, but it certainly was the first time it had felt so... different.

"I think we should avoid doing that again, if we can," Bellarius murmured when he pulled back, his face centimeters from hers, the hint of a wry smile on his lips.

Jordan was not quite smiling, but mirth showed in her eyes. "I agree. If I had a brother, and he kissed me, I think it would have felt like that."

That ridiculous statement set them both to laughing within seconds. It had been a long time since Jordan had felt this relaxed. "Dates aren't all bad if they're like this," she said once she had caught her breath.

"You like dates where you'd kiss your brother?"

Jordan chuckled. "I like dates where I can feel comfortable."

"I guess you need to date guys who like guys."

"But then it's not really a date, is it?"

"Nope, it's just two friends, hanging out."

"Friends, huh?" She smiled at him. "I like the sound of that."

"Same here."

They were then interrupted by a figure standing next to Echo. "Having fun?" Ensign Harick Dansun asked, his expression a strange mixture of curiosity and caution.

"You bet," Echo replied easily, his hand now resting on Jordan's in a possessive manner. Jordan was impressed by how smoothly he had accomplished that.

"Who's your friend?" Jordan inquired, forcing her voice to sound lighthearted.

"Harick, meet Jordan. She's also a cadet."

Jordan decided to try out her so-called charming smile on the man. He looked taken aback, if nothing else. Perhaps she was attractive?

Ha. She was kidding herself.

Harick then hesitantly smiled back. "Sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to say hi after I saw him here."

"Of course. Did you want to join us for a drink?" she invited him, curious about his reaction.

"Oh, no, I don't want to get in the way of your..." He glanced back and forth between them. "... date. Thanks, though." Harick then made deliberate eye contact with Bellarius. "See you around, Bellarius."

He nodded casually. "See you later, Harick."

"That went fairly well," Jordan noted quietly after she was certain the man was outside earshot. "What did you think?"

"I think your plan worked," Bellarius replied thoughtfully. "I never expected him to approach me again after the messages he sent me."

She grinned. "Good. How about another drink, to toast our success?"

"Great idea."

After they finished their meals, Bellarius took Jordan to an underground fight he had heard about. It was not a romantic option by any means, but the entertainment district near the Academy did not offer much in the way of cultured events.

Of course, it did attract a number of people, and it was just their luck to run into Pyro, Dice, and two girls they were with for the evening while there.

"What in the nine hells are you doing here, Ice?" Pyro shouted above the noise.

"I lost a bet!" she yelled back, hoping they would buy it.

"Nice going, Echo!" Dice called out. "So this is why you were asking about the place!"

Bellarius merely nodded.

"Have fun, guys!" Pyro said before he and his companions melted into the crowd.

"Well, we were definitely seen," Jordan observed wryly, barely audible. She hardly paid attention to the fight itself as she wondered how this might change things with her group. Or would they care?

A thought hit her just as the fight was ending. "Shavit! Don't we have that response due in lecture tomorrow?" Jordan exclaimed, slapping her forehead.

Bellarius bent over to speak into Jordan's ear in order to be heard. "We do. I finished mine."

"Frak. I was too busy thinking about all of this. I completely forgot."

"You helped me out by going on a date with me. Why don't I help you with the assignment?"

She glanced back at him. "But the library is--"

"I have my own room. We can work there."

"My datapad is--"

"You can use mine. Just send it to yours when you're done."

"You're being rather nice."

"What's a friend for?"

They quickly made their way back to the barracks. True to his word, Bellarius took Jordan to his quarters, where they worked on the task for about two hours before she finally finished. "Thanks again for helping me, Echo. This would have taken at least twice as long on my own."

He shrugged. "No problem."

"We didn't have any assigned reading, did we?"

Bellarius considered for a moment. "As a matter of fact, I think we did. I haven't read it yet, though."

"Damn. Why does he have to give us so much pointless work?"

"It's Rentz. It's what he does. I have it here." He picked up the datapad, sat down on his bunk, and patted the spot next to him. "Come on. Let's read it and get it over with."

Jordan nodded, suppressing a yawn. The reading itself was as boring as she had predicted, and she found the text swimming in front of her eyes as she struggled to stay awake.

Some while later, Jordan's eyes flew open as she realized she had fallen asleep. Taking in her surroundings, she realized she had been using her friend's shoulder as a pillow. Bellarius himself was leaning against the wall, still sleeping. He stirred when she moved, however.

"Sorry," she whispered. "Didn't mean to do that."

"'s okay," he replied, his voice slightly slurred from just waking up. "I fell asleep, too."

"I'm going back to my room now. Thanks again for everything."

"You, too. Good night."

"Good night. See you in the morning."

He nodded, smiling faintly. Jordan responded in kind before leaving. Back in her own room, she slipped out of her clothes as quietly as she could, shoving them under the blanket rather than putting them back in her locker, and crawled into her bunk. She froze when she heard Byron stir above her, but when nothing more happened, Jordan relaxed and quickly fell asleep.
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A hard road to self-discovery (Part 1)
Old 01-26-2012, 12:51 AM   #11
Jordan Lane
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Default A hard road to self-discovery (Part 1)

Late Yelona, 4 ABY
Ward 2
Imperial Academy
Carida


If Jordan kept a journal, the last few days' entries would have consisted of one word:

Hell.

Second-year instructors for endurance and flight training sessions rotated through groups of students multiple times a year to prevent cadets from developing bad habits or becoming complacent. In general, experienced instructors could better assess the skills and weaknesses of students with whom they had never interacted. It also prevented any one cadet from being favored, or disfavored, by a particular instructor for too long.

The latest change had occurred the day after Jordan's "date" with Bellarius.

Three days a week, Jordan had a combined physical fitness and pilot exercise session. The pilot trainer, Instructor Agerath, was a harsh but fair teacher who treated each cadet equally, so Jordan did not mind the amount of effort required to succeed in the tasks he assigned. Unlike Instructor Hadel.

The first day began with the usual warm-up. Unusual was the fact that Hadel had criticized her performance of the simple exercises. "Lane, you're not putting enough effort into your push-ups. Keep doing them until I see you do it right, then do a hundred more."

She had done over a hundred under his supervision before he approved of her "technique." Of course, that had been followed by another hundred. By this point she was far behind schedule, but Hadel had kept her working until she had completed the full session.

Only the break between the fitness and pilot halves of the course had allowed her to arrive less than five minutes late, though she had had no time to manage her appearance. Agerath had not asked her where she had been but merely nodded at her entrance and continued outlining the simulation plan. Jordan had been too tired to wonder why, and only sheer determination had prevented her shaking hands and arms from completely ruining her simulation run. However, her overall score dipped from the marks she had posted before the instructor change.

As they filed out of the room, Agerath called out to her. "Cadet Lane, a moment, please."

Barely able to maintain a formal stance, Jordan forced herself to ignore her screaming muscles as she turned to face her instructor. "Yes, sir?"

"This was a simple exercise. Explain to me why your performance today was worse than last week."

She was fully aware she could not use Instructor Hadel's training methods as an excuse for her results. "Sir, my attention slipped during today's simulation. It will not happen again."

He nodded curtly. "See that it doesn't. Dismissed."

Back in their room, Jordan collapsed face first onto her bunk, still in her gym clothes, and instantly fell asleep. When her roommates returned, they froze at the sight of her. None of them had ever seen her so worn out.

It was not a one-time experience.

Every day that Jordan had to attend the combined class, she returned to their room and crumpled. She had no energy for chat; she could hardly get into her sleepwear before she fell, exhausted, onto her bunk.

The disparity was so obvious that both Razor and Pyro, also assigned to her section, had commented on it after the second day's session had ended. There was one other cadet, Vidas, who received overly harsh treatment, but it still paled in comparison to what Jordan had faced. They did not consider their own training regimen easy, either.

And they did not know what to do.

None of them had brought up Jordan's date with that other cadet, Aganox, to her face. Of course, Pyro had shared that juicy information with Razor, who had then passed it on to his other two roommates, but by the time they could speak to her, Jordan already looked exhausted.

It did not prevent Slick from wondering about it, however.

Meanwhile, Jordan struggled daily to succeed in all of her courses. A brief moment with Echo early on had been time enough to explain her situation, and he pitched in when he could regarding their sociology class. Her roommates had also begun excusing her from their sparring sessions; she still attended from time to time, but not even half as often as before.

Yet she still had to face Hadel on her own.

It eventually came to the point that she looked forward to Agerath's simulator sessions despite her fatigue. Aside from the lack of sufficient sleep, her body's fitness level had improved in order to approach the overexacting standards Hadel forced upon her. It began to show in their pilot training. Jordan's marks had not slipped since that first day, though they were slow in climbing. Little had Hadel known that his efforts against the lone female cadet would end up helping her.

As it was a combined course, Jordan knew each instructor had access to the class performance records of the cadets they shared. It also meant that Hadel had learned of her results in the simulators and seemed to take every opportunity to wear her down further. She was well aware that instructors liked to use harsh language to spur their trainees, but she also had to wonder if the level directed at her was... within regulation.

It did not help that she had overheard her roommates quietly discussing it when they thought she had been sleeping.

"How are things going?" Slick had whispered.

"Slick, it's bad," Razor had replied. "It's rough to begin with, and Hadel's treating her pretty badly on top of that. Name-calling, gender bashing, extra workouts, all that. But the worst part is the way most of the other cadets in that session are picking up on it. She, along with Hadel's other least favorite cadet, Vidas, get lots of verbal abuse, especially in the locker room."

Slick's hand had then clenched into a fist, but he had bitten back whatever comment threatened to come out. Reaper's eyes had narrowed. "What are you and Pyro doing?"

"We've kept it from escalating to physical violence. There are enough cadets in there from our old classes that we can at least do that." Razor had sighed. "I want to do more, but I know that if we protect her too much, they'll never believe she can stand on her own."

"Any idea if any of the cadets in there are the bastards who attacked her before?" Slick had whispered harshly.

Razor had shaken his head. "I'm pretty sure they're not in there. I don't think they were pilot cadets, anyway."

Jordan had heard enough. She had pretended to stir in her sleep, making just enough noise to catch the attention of her roommates, who had quickly ended their conversation.


Ever since then, she had refused to discuss the course with Slick or Reaper directly. Let them get the details from Razor and Pyro, she thought spitefully.

She just had to survive until the Festival of Stars. That would grant the second-year cadets a week-long break as well as a welcome instructor change when they returned.

Mid-Relona, 4 ABY
Delta Exercise Arena
Ward 2


She had barely survived thus far. With a little over two weeks to go, Jordan wondered if she would make it to the break.

That day's endurance session had consisted of sparring matches between various cadets. The winner gained the dubious honor of continuing to face opponents, while the loser waited his turn to spar with other losers.

Six practice rings had been arranged in one section of the exercise arena, with four dedicated to winning competitors and two to the defeated. Hadel chose his four favorite cadets to begin the process, and Jordan was half-pleased to see Razor among them. Guess our sparring sessions paid off. I wonder if he wants to be singled out like that, though.

Jordan was glad she had not been placed in Razor's group. She held a pretty good sparring record against him, and she would not want to defeat, or nearly defeat, a friend in front of so many antagonists.

It did not occur to her that she had considered the thought of a public victory in this arena. Then, even that small pleasure dimmed rapidly once she realized she had been placed with Odenas, Hadel's pet cadet. A well-built young man, his nearly two-meter height towered over Jordan's much more petite frame. He had bested Razor in hand-to-hand combat before, along with every other cadet in this training group he had faced.

Jordan knew he had never gone up against the likes of Slick or Echo, though. A grim smile slipped onto her face for a split second as a daring idea took root in her mind.

The line moved quickly. Most of these cadets had not taken a lot of time to train for sparring matches such as these. It was highly likely that Hadel wished to use this so-called exercise as a way to wear down the spirits of the cadets under his tutelage. Or to further establish the authority of his favorite cadet. Or both. He had not bothered to explain himself, yet they were obligated to follow his orders.

Jordan had slept well the previous night, a rare occurrence these days. She felt like surprising them. All of them.

Eventually her turn arrived. At least ten cadets had preceded her, so she could take advantage of the fact that she arrived rested while Odenas had already expended some energy.

"You're going down fastest," Odenas taunted.

Jordan stepped into her favorite defensive stance, carefully poising herself to be ready for anything. "We'll see," she replied calmly.

His eyes narrowed, but then he lunged at her. Jordan easily sidestepped his attack and used his own momentum to flip him onto the mat. Undamaged physically, he stared up at her in surprise before launching himself back to his feet and eyeing her more warily. Then the punches began. She watched him search for an opening as she defended, keeping herself prepared for any further assault.

They fought for a good four minutes in this manner, neither giving the other any edge as each searched for the opponent's weaknesses.

Jordan found it first, and soon launched a series of her own attacks -- the first time she had gone on the offensive in this match -- that concluded with Odenas pinned to the mat, his arms locked behind his back.

Hadel's assistant, on task to observe, called the match. "Cadet Lane is the victor."

That caught the instructor's attention, but with another eleven cadets in line for that ring, he could not just cancel after his favorite cadet had lost. Not in front of another, albeit rookie, instructor.

Jordan felt weary yet exhilarated from her victory. She took to the remaining matches with relish, refusing to toy with the other cadets yet affirming her superior training and experience. A few of them leered at her, appearing to assume her defeat of Odenas just a fluke, but their minds were quickly changed after actually fighting her.

Vidas had done fairly well for himself, too, succeeding in the first "loser" ring for six straight matches. Hadel's face, reddened with anger, declared the day's events over. They still had twenty minutes until the official close of their session, but no one contradicted his order.

"That was stupid," Razor spat at her once they met up in the locker room. "Odenas is going to kill you for that if Hadel doesn't get to you first."

"Should I take this as a threat against my life?" Jordan retorted sarcastically, still high from the adrenaline rush of her success.

"Yes," Razor said seriously.

Jordan's face paled, but she quickly regained her composure. She did not see Pyro pull Razor aside a moment later, heated whispers flying between them.

During the simulator half of their course that day, word quickly spread of the "underdogs" and their accomplishments in the rings. Jordan did her best to ignore it and focus on the tasks in front of her, but a little part of her mind enjoyed it.

After they had been dismissed, Instructor Agerath called her aside. "Cadet Lane, follow me to my office."

She showed no outward surprise, but inside, Jordan was stunned. She did as ordered, forcing herself not to question his directive.

Once they had arrived, Agerath closed the door behind him, sat down behind his desk, and turned to face the cadet. "It has come to my attention that you did well in the endurance session earlier today, Cadet Lane."

"I am honored, sir."

"You shouldn't be."

She blinked. "Sir?"

"Right now there is a group of angry cadets who believe they will catch you off-guard in the corridor leading to your room. As you can see, they won't find you there. Instead, they will meet a group of instructors on inspection duty. I'm sure they will have some explaining to do at that point."

"Sir, I--"

"Shut up and listen, Cadet."

Jordan nodded sharply.

"I don't approve of cadets taking out their grievances on other cadets in this manner. If nothing else, it doesn't show good discipline for future deployment." He gave her a hard look. "I also don't approve of cadets knowingly putting themselves in harm's way. I'm quite aware of what has been going on in that endurance session. I'm also certain you know exactly what I'm talking about, yet you still insisted on publicly defeating Cadet Odenas. Cadet Lane, what do you have to say for your behavior?"

Coming from this angle, Jordan felt shame for her earlier aggressive tactics. She was also reminded of Razor's earlier reprimand on the subject. "Sir, it was rash and impulsive. I should have known better than to defeat him in such a manner."

One of his eyebrows arched. "Ah, so you are aware of your abilities."

Jordan stared at the floor, wishing she had not phrased her words like that. "I... am not blind to them, sir."

"Neither are they. However, that intimidates most of them. There are reasons why few female cadets make it into Carida."

A thrill of fear ran down Jordan's spine. Did he know?

"Gender aside, you do have talents to bring to the Empire as a pilot. Your efforts and our training will be for nothing if something happens to you here." The instructor's tone hardened. "If you are to die in battle, do it fighting against the Rebels, not squabbling with our own side. I don't want to hear about anything like this happening again. Understood?"

Jordan whipped out a crisp salute. "Yes, sir!"

Agerath nodded before standing. "I want you to reflect on your actions. Write an essay on what you believe a female cadet needs to do to succeed during her time on Carida." He approached the door and opened it. "It's due before the break. If I don't receive it on time, I'll mark down your grade. Is that clear?"

She saluted again. "Yes, sir."

He nodded again. "Dismissed, Cadet."

- - - - -
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A hard road to self-discovery (Part 2)
Old 01-26-2012, 12:54 AM   #12
Jordan Lane
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Default A hard road to self-discovery (Part 2)

Eventually, Jordan would take to heart this lesson regarding how and when to demonstrate -- or not to demonstrate -- her talents. For now, though, warring emotions fought for supremacy as the female cadet forced herself to walk slowly back to her room, taking a random route in the process. How did the instructor know about what happened today? Especially about those cadets planning to attack me? Then she remembered what Razor had mentioned earlier. It had to have been him!

She burst into their room full of righteous anger. "Razor! What did you do?"

Razor glanced up in surprise, but before he could respond, Pyro stepped in. "If you're going to blame anyone, blame me. I'm the one who came forward." He looked back at Razor. "I told you she'd be pissed."

"You went behind my back and told Instructor Agerath about everything?" Jordan demanded as her irritation boiled over.

Pyro glared vibroblades at her. "What, I should have just stood back and watched while my friend got pummeled by angry, revenge-seeking cadets who have been frakking told they could do that to you without any fear of punishment?"

That triggered alarms in the back of Jordan's mind, but she was too angry to pay attention. "You brought the instructor into this! It was my mess! You should have let me clean it up!"

"Yeah, because you did such a good job last time," Pyro snapped.

Recognizing the fire in Ice's eyes, Razor moved between them. "Pyro, cool off for a second." He whirled to face her, jabbing his finger centimeters from her eyes. "And you, Ice, get your head out of your ass so you can see we were looking out for you!"

The door hissed open. "Damn, it was hard to find a free shower stall to--" Slick, still toweling his hair dry, stopped in his tracks. "Pyro, haven't seen you around here in a while." His eyes moved from face to face. "Okay, what the hell is going on?"

Ice, arms crossed, her mouth in a flat grim line, refused to speak. Pyro stood silently in a similar stance. Slick glanced at Razor, who had kept his position between the other two cadets. "Will you explain things to me?"

"Ice took down Hadel's pet cadet in the ring today. No permanent harm done to either of them, but Odenas and Hadel were frakkin' pissed, especially when Ice defeated the rest of the guys in line." He glared at Ice. "Pyro overheard them plotting to 'take her down,' as they put it, after the simulator session ended. Something about catching her in the corridor on her way here. Hadel sanctioned it, though we could never tell anyone that without proof."

"Frakking hell!"

Razor nodded. "Pyro and I went to Agerath to explain the situation. He said he'd take care of it. Apparently Ice here didn't appreciate our involvement."

"It was my mess. I should have been the one to clean it up," she snapped.

Rage blazed in Slick's eyes before suddenly vanishing. "Ice, are you planning to fly a squadron all by yourself?"

She blinked, caught off-guard by the change of topic. "That's insane. There are twelve pilots in a squadron. You can't--"

"Exactly. You can't. If you did, you'd be abandoning your wingmate, your squad. Even if you flew perfectly, you wouldn't get praised for it. You're supposed to look out for your fellow pilots. Watch their backs." He moved close to her, his nose centimeters from hers. Jordan could not look away from the steel in Byron's gaze. "That attitude starts here, in the Academy. I refuse to believe that you'll suddenly have a switch flip in that thick skull of yours when you graduate that activates the team effort attitude you've never seemed to have." He grabbed the front of her shirt to prevent her from backing away. "Get this through your head, Jordan Lane. We're looking out for you because we're like wingmates. We look out for our own. We're not protecting you because you're a girl. We're not trying to defend you because we think you're weak. You're. Our. Wingmate. Get it?" He roughly released her, nearly knocking her off balance.

Jordan glanced at the other cadets. All of them nodded. Bewildered thoughts fluttered through her mind. She had to look out for herself, right? She had to fight, to excel, to prove she could do things on her own. She had to make sure everyone knew, beyond a doubt, that she was supposed to be here.

All this time, unaware, she had been battling the stigma of getting into Carida dishonestly. Hardly anyone knew about that. Yet she behaved as if everyone did. Her gender was only a small part of this.

Deep down, Jordan Lane herself doubted whether she had what it took to study at the Imperial Academy on Carida. Despite her marks, her success, her friendships, she based her entire identity on the fact that she had been rejected.

She looked around the room again. Apparently they did not share that opinion. None of them had ever asked, "Hey, how'd you get in?" Back when she had first met Dice, the others had joked that he had been admitted on a fluke. None of them had ever said that about her. In fact, their critical comments were restricted to things she really could improve upon, such as in sparring sessions or when they studied together.

Why could she not accept honest help, no strings attached, from her closest friends?

Jordan swallowed before taking a deep breath. All eyes had remained on her while she lost herself in thought. "I'm sorry."

None of them said a word, though Razor nodded.

"I..." She hesitated. Should she tell them? If she did, they could take it to their superiors. She would be kicked out of Carida. Yet they had fought so hard on her behalf. They would not do that to her.

Right?

She decided against it, for now. Perhaps she should talk it over with Byron. He deserved to know the most. She had already told Bellarius, after all.

"I didn't realize I was thinking that way. I'm a girl. I thought I had to prove myself. On my own, without any help." She smiled ever so faintly. "Thanks for getting my brain back on track. I appreciate your help. All of it. I really do."

A heavy silence settled on the room for a moment. Razor finally broke it with a sigh. "I am so not taking it easy on you the next time we spar."

"Oh, so you have been going easy on her?" Pyro asked.

"Okay, I meant that I'm going all out next time," he amended.

That brought out a chuckle from the group. It was not strong laughter, but it was a start.

The next day, Jordan returned to their room between classes to find Byron lying on his bunk, poring over a datapad. "Hard at work, I see," she commented, trying to sound nonchalant.

He merely grunted without looking up.

"Can I talk to you for a moment?"

"Depends."

"On what?"

"What you're going to say."

"Something important. It might help explain why I've been acting the way I have lately."

Byron's eyes met hers. "Really. You have something that would explain your behavior."

"More than what I said yesterday, yes."

"Why didn't you share it with everyone back then?"

Jordan broke eye contact to stare at her feet. "I was afraid."

Byron hesitated. "But you'll tell me?"

She nodded.

He sighed but set his datapad aside before sitting up. "Come on up here," he told her, patting a free space on his bunk.

Jordan eyed his gesture briefly before climbing up to take the seat he offered, such as it was. "Okay, spill," Byron said after she had situated herself.

"I realized yesterday that I've been fighting something all along, more than being a girl."

"There's more to it than that?"

Jordan swallowed. Her words came out in a barely audible whisper. "My application to this academy was rejected."

Byron could only stare at her for a full minute. "What?"

She nodded. "I don't know why. But my parents, well, they decided that I hadn't worked hard enough, that my academic performance had somehow been subpar for Carida. So they kicked me out of their home. I haven't been back there since."

He took a moment to digest this. He knew she had an estranged relationship with her parents, but he had not learned why until now. But that was not the current focus of their conversation. "Then how did you get in?"

"Someone I met helped rectify the mistake of my rejection."

"By 'rectify,' you mean..."

"It wasn't exactly through normal channels."

Byron caught her drift. "I see. So not only have you been fighting the perception the Academy has of your gender, but, for the reason you just mentioned, you think you shouldn't even be here."

"How the frak can you read me so well?" Jordan blurted out.

He shrugged. "We have been roommates for nearly a year now. Plus, the ways you've kept to yourself and tried to do things on your own implied something bigger than your sex, though I'd figured it had to do with the abuse you faced last year."

"So... you don't think less of me for not having been accepted?"

"Hell no. You've proven you belong here to everyone but yourself, it seems. Take care of that, and you'll be unstoppable."

Jordan smiled faintly. "I don't know. I don't think I can get ahead of you."

"You never know until you try." His eyes twinkled. "Then again..."

She playfully punched his shoulder. "Someone needs to downsize that ego of yours. Might as well be me."

"Hey, a healthy ego is good for you. You could learn from that."

Jordan's expression sobered. "You heard where ego got me yesterday."

"It just means you need to figure out when it's best to let it out. And having an ego doesn't mean you let everyone know you have it. Just remember to have some confidence in yourself. I certainly have confidence in you."

She flashed a brief, genuine smile at him. "Thanks, Byron."

"Anytime, Jordan. Anytime."
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Re: Snapshots of Carida
Old 03-09-2012, 06:22 PM   #13
Bellarius Aganox
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Default Re: Snapshots of Carida

MEMO TO THE CARIDAN JUDICIAL COMMITTEE
FRO: Commander Faril Roleff, Instructor, CIFI
TO: Rear Admiral Lycaenus Varel, IN, Head of Academy Operations
FW: Commander Marso Llysn, CIFI; Lieutenant Commander Janric Berick, CIFI
SEC-CLEAR: Blue
Attached Files: Bellarius_Aganox_Voice_Recording.haf3 (68ks)

Commandant:

The incident that took place twenty four hours ago has been reviewed and deemed to be just a mistake. The cadet in question, Cadet Bellarius Aganox, and his actions were however of suspect character but under further review have been classified as just an accident.

Cadet Bellarius was engaging other cadets in craft-to-craft combat in simulations above the fictional planet of Rakhval V, a program designed by Commander Llysn four years prior to the incident. This flight simulation has had zero corrective problems since its inception into our Level Three flight simulator rotation programs, and it is noted again that although Cadet Aganox's actions were corrected, they are the first.

When the time came for the standard ship-to-ship combat phase of the operation, Bellarius continued to fly in the standard Attack Pattern Alpha pattern; with his flank to his wing-man. After a period of five minutes, I myself noticed that Aganox began to exhibit individualistic flight tendencies that, although brilliantly executed, endangered the life of his wing-man and almost his entire squadron.

When the opposing forces' own cadet force, one Cadet Varric, tried to escape from the dogfight, Cadet Aganox chased him down into the broken medical frigate's fuselage, before both of them left after Cadet Varric's TIE Fighter attempted to break off and escape.

This is where the actions of Bellarius Aganox needed to be corrected.

During this convoy simulation, there is a group of civilian ships that follow along the intended flight path directly between directly between Combat Group A and Combat Group B. While the combat groups exchanged bolts between themselves around the convoy, both had orders to strictly avoid the civilian convoy. This simulation is an attempt to train officers and cadets in how to avoid civilian craft as well as avoiding needless death.

It is worth noting that Cadet Varric broke the rules first as he attempted to flee the area by slipping into the convoy. This, however, does not excuse Mister Bellarius' actions. Cadet Varric's TIE Fighter engaged Cadet Aganox's craft roughly nine hundred metres away from the modified strike cruiser that served as the convoy's primary personnel carrier. The TIE Fighters were too quick to hit each other (It is of my opinion that Cadet Aganox easily matches Cadet Varric's flight skill, which is unexpected from a second year cadet to be on equal terms with a senior cadet) properly, and since of both equal skill Aganox resorted to a tactic that broke the simulation proper.

After a few moments, he fired on the transport, and after a few seconds of continuous fire the transport exploded. Cadet Varric's craft incinerated in the explosion and roughly forty seven civilian lives were lost if this was a real test.

Bellarius demonstrated, however, a strong stance on his choice; when asked upon if he made the right choice, he said yes.

“I believe that I thoroughly engaged my enemy, disrupted their attentions with the explosion, and forced the convoy to leave the strike zone with one discision. No civilian should enter the dogfight unless they wish death. And no civilian should stay in the way of Imperial victory.” (Bellarius Aganox. See attached file, time index 14:48)

After correcting to the class that at no point should civilians be subjected to being fired upon by Imperial pilots unless knowingly breaking the law and endangering others, I found it not necessary to correct him further. His reasoning was sound, if a bit extreme, and with time I am of the opinion that I can mold him into a 'warmer' pilot. Prior to this inquiry, I understood this to be a dead issue.

I hope my report can end the chatter about this and close this issue immediately.

Commander Faril Raloff
Certified Imperial Flight Instructor
Carida Military Academy
Pilot Group A



-=[]=-



TO: Commander Faril Raloff, CIFI
FRO: Commander Marso Llysn
SUBJ: Good report!

Good job on the report, Farry! Heard what the Admiral said and he's dropping the inquiry now after he read it. Guess you have Lady Luck on your side after all if you can get Admiral Varel to back off after one report.

By the way, we're having another instructor barbeque in the instructor's lounge, this time Agernath's actually going to bring the steak. Hadel's not coming this time either; between you and me, I don't think he has a great taste in food or beverage. Also, I can tell you stories I've heard about Cadet Lane again. You think Bellarius is cold? -wink-

Remember, Farry. Pasta! You forgot it last time!

- Marso
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A time of battle
Old 01-20-2013, 05:42 PM   #14
Jordan Lane
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Default A time of battle

Somewhere on Carida

Soaked. Surrounded by rain and mud. Every muscle sore from hours of alternating between crouching and sprinting. The light armor they had been forced to equip now only added to their burdens.

Four of them remained.

The first fifteen minutes of battle had halved their twelve-cadet squad, with the sixth casualty, Dice, running out in a surprising blaze of glory to buy time for his teammates to retreat and regroup. They had, with grim smiles, taken the opportunity to route the dozen-plus opponents.

Unfortunately, that surge of adrenaline had not lasted long, and Pyro and Razor had gone down since then.

Ice tossed weary glances at her surviving comrades. Slick was covered in filth, recognizable only when he spoke. Echo had done well keeping the enemy at bay from their haphazardly fortified position, but they were running low on ammunition and thus options. Reaper had taken a shot in his left shoulder, and that arm dangled uselessly at his side. Crunching twigs and leaves revealed hostile forces encroaching ever closer.

Though as-yet unwounded by enemy fire, Jordan's shoulders, neck, and arms screamed for relief. The weapon in her hands felt heavier every moment. What the hell should we do?


Two days earlier
Satunda, Kelona, 5 ABY
Imperial Academy
Carida


Jordan glanced at a nearby chrono. Ten minutes remained in the lecture period. However, Professor Visera had already begun speaking on the concluding slide for the day. She barely kept her surprise off her face.

A tiny alert window appeared in the upper corner of her datapad screen. She tapped it. Think he'll let us out early? the message read.

She covertly glanced across the aisle at her best friend. When their eyes met, she rolled hers. Byron stifled a chuckle. Jordan then tilted her datapad toward Bellarius, seated on her other side, to show him the message. A smile tugged at the right corner of his lips. But, a short moment later, all of their expressions quickly lost any trace of mirth when the door slid open and Instructor Hadel approached the podium at the base of the classroom.

Visera nodded to him before returning his attention to his students. "That is all for today's lecture. Please remain seated, as Instructor Hadel has an announcement for you."

Jordan wanted to melt into her chair. Yes, she had survived the disastrous events surrounding her hand-to-hand combat performance, but Hadel had done everything he could since that incident to make her life as hard as possible without raising undue attention. Then again, with the introduction of a more watchful eye from other instructors, that had not worsened her experiences all that much. She preferred to maintain the status quo, as well.

The female cadet refocused her attention on the speaker. "We are reviving a tradition that lapsed a few years ago. There will be a battle between the infantry and pilot cadets."

Titters scattered throughout the room. "Are we going to fly with one hand tied behind our backs?" one student jeered.

"This is a ground battle. You have all been trained to defend yourselves in the event of a crash. Show us what you've got."

This time, gasps echoed.

Hadel raised a hand before any cadet could retort. "You have undergone extensive physical conditioning, marksmanship practice, strategic exercises, and you've been trained to properly wield blasters. Would you really back down from this challenge? Would you want the infantry cadets to believe that you have no confidence in your combat skills outside a cockpit?"

Roars of denial responded, and most students leapt from their seats to declare their future victory against the grunts. Hadel did not quite manage to hide his smile.

Jordan bit back a sigh. Most of her fellow cadets had played right into Hadel's hands. She too wished to exhibit her skill set against a well-trained foe, but she wanted to do so with a clear head, with negotiation still on the table for the coming exercise that had yet to be described. True, the instructing staff had the final say, but the pilot cadets had lost any chance to improve the balance of the coming battle.

With Hadel involved, Jordan had no doubt that the playing field would be unfair.

A hand landed lightly on her forearm. Jordan glanced up and found Byron now in the aisle crouching next to her. "This is going to be trouble," he said just loudly enough to be heard by both herself and Bellarius, who had leaned in closer to listen.

They nodded and turned back toward the front once more as Hadel and Visera called for order, and Hadel briefly outlined the upcoming skirmish. Each side would have ten units of twelve cadets each, and the goal was two-fold: obtain as much enemy territory as possible and have the most cadets left standing at the end.

Practice weaponry and armor would be used. "Injuries" and "kills" would be determined by the armor detecting a shot on some part of the body. Chest and head shots were instant kills, while limb shots counted as injuries. The armor would lock up a limb if an injury was confirmed in order to better resemble such an event in a real battle.

Then some welcome news arrived. "You are allowed to choose your squadmates if you do so in an orderly fashion," Hadel announced, which of course devolved into a cacophony of calls and beeping sounds as cadets shouted or messaged their intended partners.

"Come on, Ice, let's round up the usual suspects and see if we can snag a few more guys who are good with a gun," Byron said. He glanced at Bellarius. "You in?"

He grinned. "You watch my back, I'll watch yours."

Jordan smiled, suddenly excited about rather than dreading the coming fight.


Present time
Natunda
Lambda Four Field
Imperial Academy
Carida


After checking the reading on his weapon's ammunition capacity, Echo glanced over his left shoulder, then his right, and finally looked straight ahead again. To Ice, it looked like he was planning their next move, and relief washed over her at the idea of Bellarius taking charge. She knew she could place her full trust in him.

Amid the distinctive firing noises emitted by the practice weaponry, an odd note sounded. Jordan would have attributed it to her imagination and fatigue if it had not been accompanied by a sudden, searing pain in her left quad. With the armor they wore, a landed shot should have triggered the system to render her leg immobile, but she could still move it.

Not that she wanted to do so.

Jordan grunted and fell onto the knee of her uninjured leg, her grip loosening on her own weapon as she slid behind better cover.

The normally stoic Reaper actually gasped. "Shit! Ice, you're bleeding."

"From a blaster shot?" Echo demanded, though his gaze never wavered from the group of enemy cadets working their way up the hill.

"Looked that way," Reaper replied grimly.

"That shouldn't be possible," Slick hissed, unable to turn around without risking too much drop in their responding fire.

"I don't think... I bleed... spontaneously," Ice retorted through gritted teeth.

Reaper's eyes narrowed. "We need to notify someone. They should--"

"It's not that bad. I can still shoot," she interjected, refusing to allow her roommate to finish that sentence. There's no frakking way I'm going to make us forfeit over this!

"Fine." The way Reaper spat the word made it anything but. Jordan suppressed a sigh and tried to focus on supporting Slick and Echo's efforts to defend their position despite both of them glaring at her from time to time.

That is, until Slick cried out in pain, falling back as he clutched his right shoulder. His weapon dropped to the ground with a thick-sounding splash of mud.

Alarms blared throughout the field. "This exercise is over. Repeat: this exercise is over. If you cannot move because you were hit, your armor will soon be disabled. Place your weapons on the ground. Remain where you are until an instructor clears you. Repeat: remain where you are until an instructor clears you."

Jordan barely heeded any of it. Her own wound forgotten until the pain of crouching reminded her it existed, the three of them clustered around Slick. A blood stain grew steadily from the injury just below his collarbone, visible despite the mud, and his breathing was already labored. "Got anything to help?" she asked, her own gear soaked and muddied to the point of being more hazardous than beneficial.

Echo, worry creasing his forehead, reached into a vest pocket, and pulled out a clean cloth. Carefully wiping the mud away with one corner, he then pressed the clean section against the wound. "Keep pressure on that," he ordered, pulling Reaper's hands onto the cloth.

"What are you doing?" Ice asked as Echo got to his feet, concerned by the anger she saw blazing in his eyes.

"Someone out there used an actual blaster. I'm going to find out who, and then I'm--"

"--Going to report it to the proper authorities," a brusque voice cut him off.

Three heads jerked sideways to spot Instructor Agerath approaching them, two medics and a hoverstretcher close behind him. "Except you'll do no such thing as you were ordered to stay put, Cadet Aganox. Unless you feel like defying those orders in front of me?"

Echo's posture did not change, but Ice somehow knew he had relaxed. Slightly. "No, sir," he replied crisply.

"Good."

One medic pulled Jordan away from Byron and began clinically cleaning her injury as the other pulled the cloth away from Byron's wound to examine it. One glance prompted him to pull an injector from his medpack and administer a painkiller against Byron's neck after wiping the skin clean. Slick almost instantly fell limp, and only then did Jordan exhale a sigh of relief.

"Sir, how did you find us so quickly?" Reaper asked tentatively as Agerath disabled the practice armor's binding of his "injured" arm.

"The armor you're wearing also monitors your vital signs and transmits your location. We received an alert from the equipment of three cadets, including Cadet Lane's, and were preparing to move in when two more cadets were hit." Only Agerath's eyes betrayed his anger regarding the situation. Well, that and the fact that he had bothered to offer an explanation to Reaper. He turned back to the medics. "Get both of them back to the infirmary. Aganox, Feradig, you are to escort Lane and Duval there."

The pair saluted crisply. Echo and Reaper assisted the second medic to gingerly lift Slick onto the stretcher. The first medic finished bandaging Ice's wound before slipping his arm under her shoulders to help her to her feet. Reaper then stepped to her other side to offer his support in a two-man carry, while Bellarius remained at Byron's side. Jordan tried not to allow any surprise or distress to show on her face when they lifted her off the ground.

The trip back to the infirmary was of agonizing length, but they eventually arrived, and Jordan was glad to be placed on the bed next to Byron. His face had turned quite pale on their journey, and she wanted to remain nearby to watch his recovery. She refused to allow herself to think on anything else.

"You going to be okay?" Reaper asked, only his tone of voice betraying his concern.

"It's just a leg wound," she replied as a droid scanned the injury. "Slick has it worse."

"I know. He doesn't look so good."

A hand clapped down on Reaper's shoulder. "Give the docs some room to work, and they'll be fine," Echo interjected. "Ice'll keep an eye on him for us."

Reaper nodded in reply. He then glanced at Jordan. "We'll come by later to check on you."

"Thanks," Jordan replied before letting her eyes drift shut. The droid had injected her with something that instantly dulled her senses, and between that and the earlier battle fatigue, she could not fight the sleep creeping upon her.

A few hours later, she awoke, disoriented for a moment by the unfamiliar surroundings until they and her memories came back into focus. Jordan rolled onto her side and grunted at the tugging pressure that placed on her injured leg. The privacy curtain had not been closed, so she saw Byron in a calm state of rest, his chest rising and falling in a regular rhythm. The buzzing activity from earlier had subsided, and no one but the injured cadets occupied this area of the infirmary. Jordan was relieved to see the other three who had been shot also sleeping comfortably.

She felt another tug, but it was nowhere near her leg. Jordan swallowed, boxed up her feelings, and sealed them shut far away. Suddenly realizing her thirst, Jordan slowly sat up and glanced around for any source of water.

"You should still be asleep, Jordan," Bellarius commented as he walked in with two cups and passed one to her.

"Bellarius? How'd you know I'd need this?"

"Heard the monitor beeping change and figured you were waking up. I'm always thirsty after getting hit with painkillers."

"Sounds like you speak from experience."

He just shrugged.

Her gaze drifted to the other cup he held. "You brought two. One for yourself, or...?"

"Me. Didn't think Slick would be up yet."

She leaned back against the bed after raising the head more than halfway. "You heard anything yet?"

"Nothing official, but I talked to Agerath. Says some authentic weaponry made it in with the practice guns. Could have been an accident, could have been deliberate." His free hand clenched into a fist. "I'm taking them down if it was deliberate."

"Echo! You'd get kicked out! It's not worth it!"

"You'd be right there with me if he'd been hit worse. And I have to deal with the fact that both of you were shot right next to me."

"I'm sorry. I hadn't thought about it that way."

"You do have a habit of not thinking of yourself in these situations."

The words tumbled out before she could stop them. "Considering how much this Academy thinks of me, doesn't that come without saying?"

"Your friends have a higher opinion of you than that, and you know it."

"You're right. I'm sorry."

"Two apologies from Ice in a minute. That's a record. I should write that down."

She glared at Bellarius, but the smile growing on her lips removed its sting. "You got time to hang out for a while? I don't think I can fall back asleep any time soon."

"Sure."

Jordan flashed him a genuine smile then. "Thanks, Echo. I appreciate it."

"Plenty of eye candy, too."

Jordan knew exactly what her friend meant by those words. She chuckled and lightly punched his shoulder. Jordan had not expected to be able to laugh again for a while, and she felt renewed appreciation for the friendship Bellarius offered.
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Bedside Manner and Instructor Talk
Old 03-01-2013, 01:15 AM   #15
Bellarius Aganox
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Default Bedside Manner and Instructor Talk

I remember the look clearly. One of those million dollar scowls that could speak hundreds of thousands of words with just a tilt of the head and a show of emotion, but it didn't fill me with smug satisifaction that events like that did when I was a boy at Carida. Roleff was pissed, very much so, and he was usually the one with me, defending my actions. But now, looking at him, he was pissed. And that made me even more so.

Anger is one of those emotions that clouds judgment, makes reasoning with something or being reasoned with that much harder. I haven't been as furious as I was at the Academy before, never before in my life was I like that. There was a reason why they called me Echo; I can do orders without complaint, follow them to the letter, not let a wingmate dying distract me. Well, used to, but the fact was I was never as angry as I was right there, hearing the closest thing to a father at the Academy I had not understand me.

“Firing on a force damned ally!?” He barely contained his anger as he leaned at me from his desk. Of course he had the right to be pissed. Of course I also had the right to be angry at him. But it was three days ago, and with the review tomorrow, he couldn't accept that I had acted on virtue of the orders of the mission.

“He was attempting to surrender.” I hissed, before I added in the honorific “Sir.”, to wedge my thought in firmly. This seemed to only make him sweat and glare even more, and now the anger was either intensifying or I was getting so worried I could only get angrier. Probably the latter; I knew if I got kicked out, that was it. I was gone from my history. No money, no family, nothing. When you have a sand panther against the wall, he's terrified, but he's mean. I think that analogy fits perfectly.

“The number one objective of this mission was to not fire on each other, like every other training exercise. This is the third time you've done this with intent on destroying a fellow pilot. Explain.”

“I said he was trying to surrender, sir! We were losing and he was purposefully giving away our flight position in the asteroid field.”

Roleff was about to speak, and from what I saw, it was going to be horrible before a voice stopped him. It was a simple command, “hold”, but it grabbed the man's attention and he stopped. Roleff's eyes trailed over my shoulder to the figure in the corner that had, so far (and most likely thankfully), remained quiet.

“Cadet, be honest. What exactly was going on during the simulation, from your point of view? I know the incident took place three days ago, but you must still remember.”

I was worried. Whoever this black haired, thin man was, he gave me the creeps, but I had to answer. I saw the look Roleff gave him; I was under the impression at the time that either he was a spook or he was a higher rank. Deferrence and all that. But now, knowing what happened on the Vindication some years after I graduated, I know he was a spook. So I'm glad I answered his question the way he wanted me to.

“Cadet Odenas was complaining through ship com that we were fighting a hopeless battle. Four on two was not hopeless, so I informed him that he was wrong and tighten up around the veldspar asteroid. I wanted to ring around it and come up from below them, but he refused, and attempted to climb. I told him he was giving away our position, and he de-activated his com.”

“What did you do then?”

“I opened fire.” I responded back quickly. “One shot into the cockpit and he exploded. The aggressor flight followed the trail to the explosion, where I waited and then hunted them down once they split up.” It sounded so simple when in reality the entire time I was flying on pure instinct, and it showed greatly when I climbed out of the simulator drenched in sweat. But I hid using the asteroids as sensor blockers, and when they split up around Odenas' wreckage, I attacked.

Roleff, I think, would have been proud of me if I hadn't had killed Odenas in the first place.

“So, you believed your wingmate was betraying your position due to overwhelming odds against you, in his words, so you fired on him?”

I think my answer here was what decided the course of my life from this meeting, but I have to confess, I thought it was the best damn answer I could think of.

“He was a traitor. I did what I should always do to traitors.”

The black haired man looked at me for what felt like days when in reality it was only a few collective seconds before he smiled and looked back over my shoulder, to Roleff. His voice made me cringe; I still don't know what it was, but it made me simulantiously hate him and fear him as I looked back to the flight instructor. The look on his face cooled, and he looked back at me.

Again, before he could speak, the spook did first.

“Well, I think we're done here. I don't think there should be any such hearing.”

At the time, I was so excited. I went from being the sand panther in the corner back to the old hunter in the open field, ready to strike. But I'm older now, much more tempered, and I look back here and I should had been much more afraid.

“Are you sure, sir?” I asked, unable to hide my growing anticipation.

“Positive. I think you were acting in the spirit of the orders. In your opinion, you saw the pilot attempt, to my eyes, either leave the combat zone or try to, indeed, surrender to the aggressor force. And, in short order, you turned a potential near loss to a sound victory. I wish our current corps of pilots in the Navy emulated your style of combat, Cadet Aganox.”

I was beaming. I was swelling full of pride.

“I'll make sure the Commandant hears my report.” The man said, leaving the room quickly from his chair. That left Instructor Roleff and I in the room. And what he did next, I will never forget, and I am forever glad I did what I did earlier.

“Listen to me clearly, Aganox. I saw the recorder, and I know what you did.” He started, leaning forward. Gone with the anger, he was either bordering on quiet fury or tempered experience, but I knew the man personally and I know he was both. “I can't prove it and neither can the rest of the instructors who, thank the Emperor, don't know you like I do, but don't get involved in this Lane business, you understand? Worst enough I have a problem with you Cadets in my flight group, but I don't need you to go about looking into matters you shouldn't.”

I was going to ask how he knew, how he suspected, before he continued. “There is already enough problems with that situation than you realize. I don't need you tangled up in it. Not like that. Send in Cadet Odenas when you leave.” Roleff replied with a glare sent my way, his thin body standing up and looking at me.

“Yes, sir.” I spoke, lying about not involving myself any further as I shuffled, standing up and saluting.

He softened up as he returned the salute. “If it makes you feel a little better, Flight Instructor Agerath and I are investigating the incident during the exercise ourselves.”

“It does.” I couldn't help it, it really did. Knowing my instructor wasn't blind or dumb made me feel a little more at ease, and he looked a little relaxed as well. With a nod, he gestured to the door, and it didn't take long for me to grab the handle and walk out of it, dress shoes hitting against the floor as I closed the door behind me.

“Odenas.” I said as I turned my head to the small couch near his office, the one made of uncomfortable leather that made a student not want to be there. I saw the smug little shit look up at me with that smile on his face, right until he saw the same smug smile in my face. His face faltered as I gestured to the door.

“Instructor Roleff will see you now.” I said, and then turned my back on him and walked away. I know now I made an enemy, but back then, I was foolish and thought myself invincible. And who wouldn't? I went from a scared pilot to a powerful man in the span of fifteen minutes; who was getting excited at the prospect of life.

It's kind of the high that kills people.

So, with the rest of the day in my hands, I decided to take a stroll towards the medical bay. I didn't know for sure if I wanted to see Jordan or if I wanted to find something to waste time, but the closer I got to the medical bay, the more I began to think about the eye-candy that laid near her bed in the infirmary. I smiled and let a little bit of a skip into my stride as I made my way to the doctor's.

When I got in, I made sure I said hello to Jordan first when I saw she was standing up and in her standard uniform. I realized they must have discharged her, so I told her I was coming in to say hello, telling her I'd catch up to her in a second and winked at her, making sure I could tease her a bit as I made my way to the other side, towards the man who still plagues me to this very day.

Byron...is probably the closest thing to unrequited love I'll ever have in the galaxy, I think. It wasn't that he was particularly more handsome than anyone else, and I would contest he's rather above average but not stunning in that department, or that he was smarter or quicker or just understood me better. I wouldn't even say he treated me so much different from anyone else here in the Academy either; he actually treated me with some distance, because we barely knew each other.

Explaining love, at least from my point of view, is hard enough, but actually feeling it is about ten times worse because I can't even allow something like that enter my life. So, like a typical boy, I stifled it and pretended it never existed, which is beneficial on my part because I never allowed myself to get like...well, the Bellarius that I never allow myself to be. But Byron somehow manages to make it tug a bit.

At least before I throw it down. I don't need that Bellarius in my life anymore.

“Hey, Byron.” I said by way of greeting, looking at him. He responded in kind with a nod, a simple spoken word of 'Aganox' back at me. Hard enough to look him in the eyes, now I have to deal with him in a hospital bed. Looks so damn vulnerable right now.

Ignore, I thought to myself, disciplining myself and taking a seat next to him, spinning the chair around so the back of it was facing him and I was leaning against it. Nonchalant. I was going for that, at least.

“Figured I'd come down, give you a small update while you recover. Heard you're almost out of here.”

“Almost.” Byron rolled his eyes. “A few more days, maybe just one if I'm lucky.” He responded, giving me a moment to think how to word my thoughts before I spoke. I was happy enough to really even talk to him, let alone let him know my thoughts on what happened.

“Oh, good. We've all missed you in the practice sims.” I immediately thought as I gave way to him speaking before I realized that was a little weird for me to say something like that, barely knowing the man at the time. I breathed in. “But, I have some news about the shooting.”

Byron raised an eyebrow.

“I think it was Odenas, or at least he was part of it.”

That caught Byron's attention, raising an eyebrow at me. “You know?”

“Of course not.” I replied, looking him in the eye before I looked over my shoulder. No one was around, or at least no one I didn't trust to whisper around, so I looked back at Byron, hooking a slight smile. “But I think I'm on the trail. And I think one flight instructor is on my side...for now. But keep this between you and me and Jordan, alright?” I asked him.

Normally, I would have been a little more direct and to the point, but Byron had this effect on me. Has, really, still does, but stifling it down has gotten easier with age. At the time, though? I was surprised I was able to hide my real emotions as I looked at him. He nodded, giving me a chance to get up and turn the chair back around.

“I'm gonna check up on Jordan. I'll come by with some treats or something later.” I chuckled, to which I got a smile from Byron before I left.

I hoped, anyways, Jordan would like to hear what I suspected, but I was hoping she hadn't heard anything about the flight exercise. This is the second one I've had this semester against fellow students, and I'd hate to admit it but not only was that reputation affecting my social life here (if you could even have one at an academy, anyways)...but I was enjoying it.

As I walked to her, I thought about that. Bellarius the Butcher.

Had a good ring to it.
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