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Thread: The Calling

  1. #1

    Thread Semi-Open The Calling

    Cadet Redsun. Upon being notified of your new assignment to the Imperial Citadel, I confess to experiencing no small measure of surprise. Surprise, I suspect, that was dwarfed only by your own. Our calling, as sons and daughters of the Empire, can often take us in directions we least expect, but it is in how one champions the helm of his own destiny that is the true measure of a man. And, while you may never serve as an enlisted officer in the Imperial military, your Empress has called upon you to lead. You have trained your whole life for this. Serve your Empire well.


    For the eighth time, that morning, the cool blue image of Captain Weximan Redsun vanished. The burbling holo disc in Jeryd's palm fell silent, and was buried at the back of his footlocker, between his freshly-folded PT whites and a stack of Baastian Cain smashball cards. The footlocker closed with a snap. Jeryd rose from a foetal crouch, and once again, scanned the length of the expansive dorm room for eavesdroppers. There was only Kass, lingering by her bunk at the far end of her room, beside the door he'd just watched the rest of his unit file out of. Now that he could no longer hear the clipped monotony of his father's voice, the renewed silence was alarming. Still, Cadet Pheridae was too preoccupied with her revision notes to notice. She had a field medicine exam coming up tomorrow that had haunted her for the past week.

    "Hey," he said, gently pulling her from her thoughts, "Feeling confident?"

    "Not exactly," she said. She didn't even hesitate. "Those damn bacta dilution rates, again. So stupid."

    There was a familiar datapad in her hand, she gave it one last look, then discarded it without ceremony onto her bunk. For Kass Pheridae, that was dramatic. She was usually so calm, stoic even, to the point of being eerily still. It made sense, Jeryd thought. After all, who wanted a medic with unsteady hands? He watched her take a single breath, then exhale for what felt like fifteen minutes. She then snatched up her sinister-looking comb and started raking it through her mass of frizzy hair. She never once flinched.

    "You know what you are, right?" he said, and on cue, passed the hair band from the foot of the bed. She accepted it at once, and started wrestling her hair into submission. "You're one of those students who worries themselves sick before a test, and aces it, every time."

    She shot him a look, "Don't even joke about that, Redsun."

    "Come on. Kass! How many times did we go through those questions, eh? You've got this." He clapped her on the arm and nodded at the door. "We've got some free time. I'm going to give Jensen a spanking. Want to come with?"

    Kass considered the question, and behind her eyes, he could see thoughts of bacta dilution rates bubbling away. A hint of a smile crept through, and from her bedside, she swept up a duffel and shrugged it onto her shoulder.

    "Sure. I've been looking for a chance to put Saffi Smix on her ass, all week."



    In the six months since he first arrived, bruised and resentful, and under armed escort, the Imperial Citadel had truly started to feel like home. Despite the outrageous grandeur, there was still so much that felt familiar to someone like him - raised on military bases, with a military family, educated in military schools, graduated from a military academy - everywhere he looked there were people just like him, uniformed men and women united in ideals and purpose. In the beginning, he trudged through these illustrious vaulted halls feeling like a stranger in his own skin. And now? Now, he owned that shit. This was the Imperial Citadel, at the heart of Imperial Center, and he was training not to be just another nameless soldier, or one of tens of thousands of officers scattered throughout the galaxy. No. The officer pins he never got to wear had been traded in, long ago, and in exchange, he was to be forged into the absolute elite of the Imperial military. When he was through, here, even Captain Redsun himself would have to call him, 'Sir.'

    That was a thought that put some extra vigour in his stride. Kass matched pace without fuss, she being the second tallest in their unit. Together, they made an imposing pair. There was something else buoying his spirits, too. It had been 93 days since he'd summoned the courage to message his father about his transfer to the Citadel, breaking a twelve week silence. The last time they spoke, it was the night before his reassignment to Carida for officer training. The night his old life ended. The wait had been agony: 93 silences, 93 rejections. In the end, it was worth it, to finally hear his old man speak with that same Imperial passion he'd come to expect - it lit in him a fire he hadn't realised needed kindling. Vindication. Damn, it felt good.

    And it was in this family of cadets, the unassuming misfits and genetic anomalies of the galaxy, that he'd once again found this calling of which his father had spoken. There was Kass, originally a trainee medic, now a formidable hand-to-hand fighter who was also capable of stripping a T-21 in 48 seconds. Tolomy Pash, the Duros introvert, was a tactical genius and, frankly, every other kind of genius. He made a mouse droid sing for Thida on her birthday, and has taken to lightsaber combat like a quadduck to water. Thida, one of the two Rodian cadets in their dorm, was one of the best pilots he had ever seen. A true natural who never went easy on him, and she was also an artist with a hydrospanner; she worked an ion engine like a finely-tuned melodium. Then there was Neb: Nebbil Hoob was practically a different person to the naive and timid greenhorn who'd gotten a beating off Vissica for having six scuffs on his boots. Over time, the layers were peeled back to reveal a young man who was capable and full of confidence, with a knack for mind tricks that made him the best prankster in the Citadel. He was also one of the best marksmen in their unit, which came as a complete surprise, not least of all to Neb, himself, who remained about as bloodthirsty as a falumpaset. And while there were some things that may never change, the changes that were taking place in each of them were a marvel to behold and a testament to the transformative power of the Imperial military. Sometimes, when they were all together, it felt like they could change the galaxy.

    But it was not Neb, or Thida, or Pash he was heading towards. Ahead, stood one of the towering entrances to the Citadel, a column of white where the daylight stabbed into the gloom, and beyond, he felt him. Jeryd smiled to himself. He couldn't remember when it started to happen, or to what extent, but over time he became more and more aware of the presence that surfaced like a bright spot in the back of his mind whenever he was near Jensen Par'Vizal. From his current position, he had a strong sense of his direction, and the closing distance between them. More than that, however, he had a strong sense of him, of what made Jensen Jensen, of his current state of being. It was difficult to describe, an alien feeling that was at once also intimately familiar. Even at the best of times, Jensen felt like an impenetrable pressure-sealed crate of feeling, emotions packed so tight they might as well have been a fist. And, every once in a while, when the fist squeezed tight, a droplet of truth bleed through. It was in those moments he best understood Jensen Par'Vizal, and together, they had already been on quite a journey of their own.

    Their mentor was gone, now, and perhaps Luka would never be back; Jeryd didn't like to think about it. But, in his absence, they had each other. Maybe it was the final gift from the man who taught him to accept what he was, and showed him how to become so much more. It was a debt he feared could never be repaid. He wondered if Jensen felt the same way. He could ask him, once he was done beating his arse.

    When at last they passed under the cavernous archway, they were greeted by an immaculate Coruscant skyline of pearly white and blue. For as far as the eye could see, the horizon was clean, unbroken by the obnoxious stratoscrapers and gaudy monoliths common to Imperial Center. Here, the Citadel stood proud and singular, as rightly it should. In the dazzling sunlight, a million rooftops blazed like the surface a tranquil ocean, and above, the sky twinkled from the light of distant skylanes. Traffic around the Citadel was scarce and controlled, and with good reason. Though, being a native of the capitol, it did make him feel isolated from time to time, but all Jeryd had to do was to remember to look around.

    Before the dramatic descent of broad innumerable steps, and before passing the great bronzium statues that flanked them, Jeryd and Kass broke off to walk the expansive terrace that circled the perimeter of the entire Citadel. On a day such as this, it teemed with vibrant life; officers, troops, and recruits of all stripes rubbed shoulders, here, to walk, socialise, enjoy lunch together, or expend some surplus energy in the open air. It was here where most PT sessions took place, and dotted around the terrace at intervals were plenty of facilities for training. Indeed, scarcely five minutes could pass without hearing the clap of boots double timing the perimeter in perfect synchronisation. It was like sweet music to his ears.

    It was at one of these designated training areas, where there was the clamour and flash of crossed training sabers, that he spotted an unmistakeable head of slick red hair sticking out from the crowd. Jensen was sat amongst the benches, carefully studying the exchange between a couple of older cadets, a guy with a tattooed scalp, and some strange fuzzy alien with bulbous black eyes and gnarly teeth. Kass must have spotted Saffi, because she took off without a word, zeroing in on her prey like a shark with the scent of blood. So Jeryd ascended the rows of benches alone, weaving between clusters of cadets, and took a seat next to his unlikely friend.

    "Ten creds says the one with the teeth wins."

  2. #2
    There was a saying that Jensen had never been particularly fond of: The more things change, the more they stayed the same. Oh, there was truth in it to be certain, but that wasn't the part that earned the distaste. No, that belonged purely to the insinuation that there were certain things that could never be changed no matter how hard one tried; an inescapable fate, as it were; being snared by a black hole and only discovering the fact once you passed the event horizon.

    Nothing quite so dramatic had come to pass. Merely a shift. Old routines replaced new ones, individuals came and went from Jensen's life and yet he remained. Well, not just he, but a different he as well. Feeling others through The Force was still something Jensen was trying to get used to. The first time it had happened had been disquieting, a sense of detached self that wasn't self. The feeling still made his skin crawl, but at least now it was containable, the reaction internal, and disagreeable set aside in favor of the value and benefits it brought.

    It meant that despite his attention on the intricate dance of blades playing out before him, Jensen was well aware of Jeryd before the other ever announced himself. The fact had caused a ghost of a smile to be present on the red haired cadet's face that wasn't disingenuous. They had become a bit like counterparts, even before their mentor had departed. The connection was something that Jensen still found himself pondering over, confused at its existence and yet welcoming it all the same. He wouldn't go so far to say that Jeryd was becoming akin to a brother, but sibling was the title of the last person he had even felt a remote similar kinship with ages ago.

    It also meant that he had an open source for mirroring behavior. While Jensen had learned how to be as expected in most situations, he certainly wasn't going to brush aside the invaluable resource that Jeryd offered, both openly in the form of advice, and more subtly, such as now. Betting on his fellow cadets' performance seemed brutish, and in the past he may have commented as such… Now though?

    "Always backing the underdogs, aren't you?"

    There was a collective groaned reaction from the other spectators as the cadets clashed tightly and the tattooed one delivered a heavy headbutt to his opponent before kicking the other one away. The more alien appearing cadet quickly sprang back to his feet, recovering to the delight of some of those watching and the crackle of training blades meeting once more filled the air.

    "Ten and covering duties for the next three days and you have yourself a bet."

  3. #3
    "You're on."

    The deal was sealed with a clap of hands. Jeryd felt confident in his choice, despite Tooth Guy's moment of misfortune, for he recovered quickly enough and then some. There was some truth to Jensen's words, he supposed: being a younger sibling gave him a natural bias for the underdog, but it had also taught him to appreciate commitment and perseverance. A quality he identified in abundance amongst a very specific type of cadet.

    "He might be the underdog, but that's only because he's an alien. In a place like this, aliens have so much more to prove. You watch. He's going to fight tooth and nail for it."

    Tooth Guy was on the offensive, now. Sabers crackled and sparked on contact, and Jeryd watched intently; the rudimentary moves were performed with a graceful fluidity that came from experience, but when they tried to get fancy, they made mistakes, and looked like toddlers fumbling with rattles. An overhead blow was blocked, it turned into an adventurous spinning slash that forced Tattoo Head into rapid retreat; he tripped over his own feet and fell on his arse, meanwhile, Tooth Guy spun off, buzzing like a drunken wasp, and slashed at thin air. There were peals of laughter from the spectators.

    "I think that was supposed to be Form Four, the one with all the jumps and spins." Jeryd grinned broadly, delighted by the unintentional comedy, "I'd need a few drinks in me before I attempted something like that!"

    Fighting with a lightsaber was deceptively difficult, he'd learned that on his first day of training. There was nothing natural about swinging a weightless blade, especially when you were expected to do so with speed, accuracy, and power. It was like being asked to behave in a way that was contrary to the laws of physics and human anatomy, which in turn reminded him of his first Youth Ball, when he was a clumsy thirteen year old, and kept stepping on Maive Nebulosa's foot. Fortunately, his current dance partner was markedly more durable than Maive Nebulosa.

    "My old man sent me a holo, today," he said, suddenly. A look was cast at Jensen, fishing for a sense of expectation. He knew the story, well enough. Hell, Jens was probably more cynical about the values of Imperial old boys like Captain Weximan Redsun than he was. He reached out, and sensed a knot of tension that was all-too-familiar, like the breath before a plunge into icy water. Then, he took a breath, and realised the tension he felt was entirely his own.

    "It was a lot of what you'd expect: service, duty, what it means to be a son of the Empire. But then... he said it didn't matter that I wasn't going to be an army officer. Told me he was proud, and that I'd make a great leader. Yeah. I couldn't believe it, either."

    He cast of his doubts with a shrug.

    "Maybe I'll be allowed back home, after all." His eyebrows climbed in thought, and he considered Jensen anew: "Hey, you could join us. You know, try some food that didn't come from a can, for a change."

  4. #4
    The initial response when Jeryd had mentioned the holo had been a noncommittal grunt, more an amused breathe exhaled with sealed lips. Jensen knew enough to know the significance, and likewise Jeryd knew the lack of personal understanding that came from his compatriot. It was hard to imagine what a message from a dead man could contain, after all, and it wasn't something Jensen often entertained except when he felt particularly self flagellatory. It was a different story for Jeryd, though, far too real rather than the musings of what could have been. Jensen felt for his fellow, to be so blessed and yet oh so burdened...

    It was why he kept silent, let Jeryd speak his peace. But then... the unthinkable. The narrative turned and refocused.

    Jens looked towards his friend, a half smile placing itself firmly as a barrier between anything else. It was followed by another amused scoff.

    "Not sure your father would want the son of a lowly, disgraced Colonel in his house."

    It was the expected answer, the tit-for-tat that army brats shared. Not entirely self deprecating but admitting to the filth that one's lukewarm parentage could bring upon them. It was the cold answer, the one that Jensen knew to give to any of his fellow cadets that had parentage among the Empire's officers and any sort of linage to live up to. There was a similarity though, even if not immediately obvious. Reputations were difficult to overcome. And while the name Redsun was associated with a glory that was expected to be lived up to, Par'Vizal had an expectation to overcome. These truths weren't necessarily obvious to anyone but the progenies, but that didn't make them any less real.

    The reality was short lived though. As much as Jensen grasped tight to the expectations, the comfort and safety of the ridiculous shadows cast by their elders...

    He watched as Tooth's lightsaber crackled ever near Tattoo's face while the other braced against the onslaught. It was only once the more human of the two cadets finally surged through The Force and pressed his attacker back that Jensen took the chance to look away from the exchange.

    His expression was difficult to read, more so that it had no expression that was easily accessible to most. The fellow cadets may have described it as a blank stare, but Jensen knew that Jeryd knew better. There was nuance there, a realism that Jensen had learned to deflect.

    "I would be honored."

    And just in the instant the real showed itself, the lie took hold once again and Jensen leaned back casually in the bleacher style seat and let his attention draw back towards the older cadets.

    "You know, if nothing else than it'd be a change from this blight."

    So it went with them. It was a foolish opening that their mentor had created. Insight into one another that let Jensen every so often stop being who was expected and just be. It was brief, it was foolish, and yet... there it was. Never lasting for long, never meant to do anything than show... Well... Jensen wasn't entirely sure what. Trust? Maybe. A lack of caring if his friend saw beyond the facade? Maybe.

    Either way, it was gone in an instant.

    "Ha!" Jensen couldn't help but react as Tattoo had spun around and delivered a strike against Teeth's arm, the training saber singing fur and flesh beneath. Far from the devastating blow an actual saber would cause the opponent, but both of the older cadets knew in an instant that in a real fight, Teeth would be down an arm. His saber arm at that. The fight was far from over as far as the combatants were concerned, and that suited the younger cadets just fine.

    "You and I should really play dejarik sometime, Redsun. The insight.... Let's just say, I'd love to pick your brain in such matters."

  5. #5
    Slowly, Jeryd turned his gaze on his smug companion, eyebrows climbing to full attention, "Laugh it up, Slick. You can keep your mini monsters; I'll see you at the Sabacc table, son."

    He leaned back, legs apart, elbows propped on the row of seats behind, sacrificing his military poise for the old wegman swagger. It took an effort to break the habit, after all this time, but he still had plenty enough ego to make it work. Jensen helped, whether he had intended to or not. 'Honoured,' that was what he'd said. No-one had ever been honoured to join him for anything. Certainly, it was a line Redsuns humoured with practice, regurgitated by military, political, and bureaucratic types, because that was the kind of thing they said. Because his father was a decorated naval captain, his mother, a prominent political figure, and even then, no-one really meant it. Empty courtesies weathered by regimented smiles. But Jensen? He was not another flimsi-pushing wannabe vying for political points, or some boot-licking subordinate out for a promotion. Jeryd recognised that look, at once; the face of his real friend, the one he trusted with his life. Honoured.

    Jeryd's smile was broad. He gave Jensen a thump on the arm and said nothing.

    The battle was picking up pace, once more. Words of support, and of derision, rang out at intervals from the spectators like wayward blaster shots. Jeryd enjoyed the familiarity of it all; a healthy sense of competition was as vital to a military unit as heads full of drill instruction and bellies full of grub. There were men and women, all in matching colours, huddled in busy pockets over trays of protein-rich goop, talking, laughing, watching. All different, all the same. The entertainment was self-made, and though competing was never compulsory, it was always unanimous.

    The training sabers were moving fast, now, looping in and out of each other's path. When they grazed each other, it was with a hot sizzle and a flash that drew uniform gasps from the crowd. For a moment, it looked as though Tooth Guy had Tattoo Head tied up in imaginary knots with his tight ceaseless swirls, but Tattoo Head broke free, swatting his opponent's weapon aside. He'd found his rhythm again, and he advanced, with a swell of palpable excitement from the spectators. His blade hacked chunks out of Tooth Guy's defence, forcing him to backpedal, it wasn't a particularly graceful attack, but it was accurate, and deliberate, and relentless. With a snarl, the alien tumbled backwards, and, at once, Jeryd felt all the hairs on his arms stand on end. There was a low rumble that seemed to come from nowhere, and the human was swept up off his feet, and tumbled across the terrace like a piece of trash in the wind. Seizing his advantage, the alien took flight, closing the distance in a single leap, saber high above his head, hungry for the killing stroke.

    Sparks erupted from the immaculate terrace tiles. There was a flash as the human, having saved his skin with a simple dodge, brought his blade down hard upon his opponent's hand, breaking his grip and sending his weapon clattering to the ground. And, in one unbroken movement, he reangled his attack, and prodded the training saber forcefully into Tooth Guy's neck. With a sharp buzz, he fell on his arse, and it was over. There were cheers and boos in equal measure. Jeryd slapped a credit chit into Jensen's hand, and rose to his feet.

    "That's our cue. You're up, nuna legs," he said, rolling his neck. In his hand there was a small equipment bag, it was lightly jostled, then slung over his shoulder as he made his way down towards the combat square, "Come on, I've got a surprise for you."

  6. #6


    It was strange to say the sore spot on his arm left by Jeryd meant something, but it did. It was probably wrong to hope that the playful jab left a lingering mark, a bruise that would fade over the period of a few days, but briefly Jensen wished for it. If nothing else than something to look at in the mirror in the mornings as proof he wasn't simply floating along in this universe alone. It would stand with every other mark that he was about to receive and give in return. Proof that friendship could be achieved. Even if it meant thrashing your cohort to the best of your ability. Among all the gifts that his mentor had left him with, Jensen often wondered if this was the most valuable.

    The thought of an audience brought a momentary pause to Jensen's following of Jeryd. It was a temporary halt, played off by a roll of his shoulders as the red haired cadet took in the stock of those around. He didn't wish to lose before such people, but he didn't want his associate to either - Best they both put on a good show. That, at least, was how he quieted the discord, brought an abrupt end to any other memories that wished to present themselves.

    Instead Jesen let a languid smirk appear as he followed his fellow cadet to the center of the training area.

    "I hate your surprises, Redsun. But c'mon then."

    The drawl was fake, but so was his enthusiasm. The first more genuine than the later. The secondary... well, it could be stolen, or at the very least borrowed from every ounce willingly set forth into the universe from Jeryd. All Jensen had to do was replicate and mirror. It was a trick he'd figured out for ages, but only now knew how to perfect thanks to The Force. To anyone watching, it was too Cadets getting squared and pumped to beat the ever-living-frag out of each other in the ring. To Jensen and his copart, though. Well, it was hard to differentiate his true feelings, apply a filter as it were. Maybe to Jeryd he would seem just as ready and willing and he jumped from side to side and shook out the tight muscled in his neck, shoulders, and legs. Otherwise, the sphere of the stadium would end just around them and a field of authenticity would reign supreme just between the two Cadets; one where Jensen could let the constant facade drop and focus more on honing his abilities against a worthy peer rather than simply making a show for the other cadets.

  7. #7
    As they descended through the crowd, bets were already being taken.

    "I've got twenty riding on this, Redsun," came an unfamiliar voice.

    "Make it good, Par'Vizal. We want to see some blood!"

    Jeryd fired a look of disbelief over the heads of the front row, where he spotted Gorm Jolee, the eternally callous and abbraisive Iridonian blemish on the Citadel, and his chattering peons, Algosh Moll and Tyrell Catanna. They were exchanging credits and barking insults, already forming the most vocal chorus of his detractors. Their words ran off like rain water. As a veteran wegman, he was used to having an audience, indeed he thrived on it; the same could not be said of his opponent.

    From the edge of the arena floor, he watched Jensen warming up. The corner of his mouth ticked in amusement. He was making a good show of it, as he knew he would. It wasn't that Jeryd enjoyed forcing Jensen out of his comfort zone - well, he did, but what was the point in being mates if you couldn't dine out on each other's misfortune? - but this kind of thing was important, first of all, to himself, for the sake of his own sanity, and secondly, for Jensen. He wasn't sure which of them was in need of a little normality more. Maybe they could both play pretend.

    From inside the equipment bag, he unearthed a couple of training sabers, and tossed one to Jensen. He fired up his own, at once. It was a sound unlike any other, unmistakeable, as sharp and sudden as a blaster shot, followed by a low hum to keep the drone of cadets at bay. He marvelled at it, every time, a column of blazing white light, singing its song into the palms of his hands. It was in moments, such as those, that he felt like a spectator in his own life. It was the life of someone else, he was just wearing their skin, for a while. After a couple of practiced adjustments to blade length and power, the lightsaber was shut down.

    "Ready?" he called out, crouched tentatively over his open bag. A look from Jensen told him it was time. He reached inside to tamper with something, then stood up just in time to avoid getting bonked on the nose by it, as it rose swiftly into the air. The crowd stirred. A training remote, about half the size of a smashball, hovered just out of reach, burbling away as it contemplated, first, Jeryd, then Jensen.

    "After the third shot, we fight," he said, joining his friend in the centre of the arena. His training saber burst to life, once again. No sooner had Jeryd readied himself than he felt a strange sensation, almost like a chill, chase up the length of his spine. His body responded, not in a shudder, but with a stiff angled deflection. The first shot rang out, struck the blade, and hit the floor. His mouth formed a silent 'O' as watched the spot on the ground fade from red, to pink, to grey, then he raised his gaze to get a read on Jensen, across from him. He managed a nervous snort of amusement.

    "Jens, is this a bad idea?"


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