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The Synthetic War: Prelude
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Samara Tamblin
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 3:54 pm    Post subject: The Synthetic War: Prelude Reply with quote

Marauders

Ferro Outpost. USM Space. 8/5/17.

Samara sat in the cold steel luxury of the military shuttlecraft, light blue eyes staring out into the infinite blackness of space. Her entire life had been spent reaching this moment. Every bit of struggle, every late night cracking the books, every back-breaking day of training had lead to this.

She was a Private in the USM with a shot at joining the most prestigious Mech Unit in the USM. She was so close, so close to achieving her dream. Like her brother before her, she was going to be a Marauder.

“You believe we’re really doing this?” The young man beside her asked. He was Thomas Serles, a slim, excitable young soldier who had come up through the training programming with her. At 19, the Boros native was considered something of a prodigy, admitted to the academy early on due to test scores ranking off the charts.

A small smile crossed her lips as she fixed her gaze upon him. “It feels like a dream. I’m waiting to wake up in my rack back at the Academy to do another round of PT.”

His excitement was palpable as he stared out the window. “You think they’re gonna let us in a T-75 right away? I wanna see what the real thing is like.”

She let out a little laugh through her nose and shook her head slowly. “Marcus told me they didn’t let him into a suit until his second week.” She said, her smile fading slightly.

Marcus. Her older brother was second in command of the unit under their CO, Master Sgt. John Merichak until an op on Serras went sideways. Outmanned and outgunned, it had been Marcus who turned the tide. While every man and woman on his team made it out alive, Marcus had not. News of his death had come while she was in the academy. She’d scarcely given herself time to even grieve at his loss. It had certainly not done her any favors with her classmates, who believed she was dealt preference and leniency out of pity. Nevermind that she worked harder than any of her other fellow recruits. Nevermind that she spent hours studying and honing her skills even though it felt like a part of her had died.

The whispers didn’t fall on deaf ears. There were times she wondered if they were right. If she wasn’t being promoted and given the shot to join the Marauders based on her last name. Silencing those thoughts wasn’t easy, but she knew her worth. And if anyone doubted her, she would shove those doubts right back in their hostile little faces.

“Sam. Look…” Thomas said, breathlessly.

Samara turned her head and walked up to the viewport. The Andoran sat in the distance, a massive, imposing example of the might of the USM. She was an older ship, without the bells and whistles of the newer crafts, but her service record spoke for itself. The Andoran was a warhorse. In operation since before the Valerian War, she’d seen more than her fair share of action, and remained strong as ever.

Samara stared out the viewport and smiled.

This would be her new home.
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Last edited by Samara Tamblin on Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Shuttle touched down in one of the docking bays, jets of hydraulic steam firing off as it settled in. Samara and Tom shouldered their duffels as the ramp lowered to reveal a woman in one of the suits. She couldn’t have been more than a view inches taller than Samara’s 5’6” height, but in the suit, she looked like a giant, capping off at nearly 6 feet.

Her face was severe, blonde-streaked dark hair pulled back in a tight knot and a scar running along the left side of her jaw and sweeping up to her cheekbone. “FALL OUT!” She screamed at them.

The pair scrambled down the gantry past her, the suit responding as naturally as if she might be walking unencumbered. “Let’s go! Let’s go!” She commanded, herding them toward the middle of the hangar.

Samara looked around at the dropships currently under maintenance. The place was alive with activity as soldiers ran PT and munitions were carted about others in the yellow mech suits. The harsh slam of the metallic foot of the woman’s suit snapped Samara’s eyes forward.

“Eyes forward, princess.” She spat at the younger girl, staring down with contempt. “My name is Corporal Jin Wei. People around here call me Titan. You, however, will address me as Corporal or Sir or Corporal, Sir. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Corporal, Sir!” the pair sounded off.

“Well, look at that, you learn quick.” She said, heavy with sarcasm. “You may have been hot **** in that arcade they call the Academy, but schools over, kids. You’re in the real **** now, and I swear to whatever Gods you pathetic little urchins cling to, I will personally and literally boot your asses out of the airlock if you cross me or do anything to put one of MY brothers and sisters in danger! Do you get me?!”

“Yes, Corporal, Sir!” they responded.

It suddenly dawned on Samara that she knew this woman. She’d seen her in pictures Marcus had sent home. She hadn’t bore the scar yet, her hair was worn down, and it was obvious that the two of them had become pretty cozy. She’d always had questions about her brother while he was in with the unit. If she ever wanted them answered, the Corporal was her best shot.

“Alright. Pick up your **** and let’s go.” She said stepping to a tall, well-used rack, her eyes shutting momentarily, the armored plating on the legs separating at the thighs, knees, and shins. The chest and ab plates opened at the center, making it look like she crawling out of a chrysalis.

Samara grinned to herself watching her disembark. She couldn’t wait to get her own suit...if it ever happened. Wei led the way into the corridors of the massive ship. “Corporal, Sir. My name is-”

“I’m well aware of who you are, Private.” She said impatiently.

“Well...I know you were close to my brother-”

“Private,let’s get this straight. I am not your friend. That fact that you are Marcus Tamblin’s sister means absolutely nothing to me. If you’re thinking this is going to be a heart-to-heart bonding moment for the sisterhood, I’m afraid you’re going to be horribly disappointed. My job is to hone you into something useful. Right now, you are FAR from it. In fact, as far as I’m concerned you are positively worthless. Understood?”

“Yes, Sir.” Samara said, shrinking back, earning a pitying look from Serles.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Serles was dropped off in the men’s barracks and Wei continued leading Samara to the women’s quarters. The doorway slid open to music blaring inside. A red-haired woman hung from a pull-up bar, her OD flightsuit worn with the top down and tied around her waist by the sleeves. She grit her teeth breathing with every rep, a sheen of sweat on her forehead and darkening the neckline of her grey tanktop.

Behind her, sitting at a table was a petite, blue skinned Iridian female. Her four head tentacles swept back like long hair. Spread over the surface was a bunch of equipment. Electronic, mechanical bits and bobs everywhere. Her blue coveralls worn open to the navel, a white tank underneath and her arms bare where she’d cut the sleeves off.

“Ladies.” Wei said, entering the room. The human dropped from the bar with a grunt, grabbing a towel. The Iridian’s violet-colored eyes flicked up to her, a bright friendly smile on her youthful face.

“What’s up, boss?” She asked, her voice bright and cheerful as that smile.

“Got ourselves a new roommate.” Wei said, gesturing to Samara. “This is Private Tamblin.”

The redhead, wiped the sweat from her face and stepped over, offering a hand. A tattoo on her right arm showed a flaming skull with the silhouette of a dropship overhead and the words “KnightGuard” underneath. Samara took her hand, and for a moment thought the woman might crush her’s with the vice-like grip.

“Gabby Walden.” she introduced herself. “I’ll be one of the jockeys draggin’ your ass outta hot zones.”

“Wouldn’t count on it.” Wei said simply, a dig at Samara’s chances of becoming a true Marauder that didn’t go over the young recruit’s head.

The blue-skinned alien beauty stepped forward then, offering her own. Tiny scars littered otherwise flawless skin, gifts from her position as the head mechanic of the team. “Tey’lani Viscari, but most people just call me Tweak.”

“Hi…” Samara said, a bit awkwardly, silence hanging in the aftermath.

“Right.” Wei said. “Well, get your **** stowed. We’re meeting in the company mess in 20.” With that, Wei turned and left the room, Samara staring after her.

Tey’lani smiled and placed a hand on her back, ushering her toward a locker. “Don’t let the Corporal get you down. She’s like that with everybody at first.”

Samara turned her attention to the alien who just kept that cheery little expression up. “You know. That whole ‘tough love’ kinda thing.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to see that.” Samara responded.

“You’re Marc;’s sister, aren’t you?” Walden asked her point blank. Samara had figured they’d notice.

“Yes.” She nodded.

Walden eyed her a moment, a frown forming on her face. “I’m sorry about what happened.” She said. “We all liked him.”

Tey’lani simply nodded. Samara’s lips parted, but she couldn’t find the words, her eyes lowering.

“This is your locker. Your bunk is over there.” the Iridian gestured. “Make yourself at home.”
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Samara moved down the seemingly infinite corridors of the ship under the guidance of Tey’lani. The alien beauty moved with such a natural grace, she seemed almost ethereal, not a movement wasted or clumsy. Her hand pressed to a screen outside of a heavy, metal door, causing a series beeps before a soothing, feminine voice came from the speakers.

“Welcome, Specialist Viscari.” it said as the thick doors parted before them, the two women entering D Company’s mess hall. Most of the team were gathered already, sat upon chairs and some upon tables, chit chatting.

Three men were with Serles. Two of them were the prototypical tall, dark and handsome sort that the USM’s Propaganda team would have loved to slap on a poster. Their familial resemblance immediately visible. The third was a bit older, his hairline receding a bit, and the build of a pilot rather than a field operative.

“So, this moron’s down on the ground, screaming that he’s found an oil deposit, right?” He was saying, gesturing to the more youthful of the two brothers. Serles’ attention was completely rapt.

“He keeps the cutting laser going and going...and then BOOM!” The older man said, slapped his hands together. “This thing just starts sprayin’ everywhere. I mean, he hits a gusher. Thinks he’s gonna get a big pat on the back from top brass.”

The younger of the brothers had the weary, bemused expression of someone who’d been mocked for this story for years upon his face.

“Starts screamin’ ‘Oil! Call in a collection team!’” He chuckled to himself, getting ahead of the story. “Turns out, numbnuts over here had hit a sewage line.”

Serles burst out laughing as the older of the two brothers, just smirked.

The storyteller continued on. “So, I go, ‘Uh...Duster? I’m pretty sure oil don’t smell like that.’”

The younger brother, “Duster” held up a hand. “In my defense, the planet was abandoned for decades! There weren’t supposed to be any nearby settlements!”

Serles raised his brows. “Wait, so it was ANCIENT sewage?” It only made him laugh harder.

The storyteller laughed. “Covered in the liquid **** of our ancestors.”

Samara couldn’t help but grin. It was a disgusting story, but the camaraderie of the team was endearing. A pair of heavy footsteps came from behind. She half expected someone to be in one of the suits when she turned, but what she found was much more.

Nearly 7 feet tall, built like a tank, stood a Buldari. His leathery, grey and green skin covered at the shoulders, arms, head and back with a natural carapace armor. His red eyes and rows of sharp teeth looked like something out of a nightmare. The massive creature brushed past her, his voice a low rumble. “Excuse me.” he said, the words sounding uncomfortable upon his tongue.

Duster looked up from the group, lifting his chin in greeting as a smirk played across his face. “Tank! You been out eating kittens, brother?”

“I do not eat kittens…” The hulking alien said as if it were ridiculous. “Their fur is a displeasing texture upon my tongue…”

Duster snickered. “Well, gotta have your standards, I guess.”

“A-tten-SHUN.” Wei’s voice commanded from the other side of the room. “Sergeant on deck!”

A figure appeared at the archway.. Tall, lean-muscled and square jawed, he cut an imposing figure. The man didn’t wear the typical uniform, just a form-fitting compression tee that accentuated his powerful frame and pair of fatigue pants tucked into tactical boots. His silver and black hair, kept short and neat as those soft blue eyes took Samara and Thomas in.

He needed no introduction to her. Master Sergeant John Merichak was a legend. One of the most decorated and storied members in USM history. From the day he took command of the MHCU, he had cut a bloody path to greatness, earning his place in the echelons of history. The man had been up for promotion more times than he could count, but refused to leave his post in order to stay in the game. In all likelihood, she should have commanded his own ship, but he knew where his place was. John Merichak was a warrior. He belonged in the field.

The room went silent, everyone falling into line and standing straight. Merichak stepped out past Wei, the warrior woman following him with her hands behind her back. The Master Sergeant’s blue eyes crossing over the gathered team. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to commend you on a job well done on Vorel. Clean dispersal, swift pacification and a sound, *sound*ass kicking given by all.”

The team chuckled proudly, Duster nodding. “Hell yeah, Top.”

Merichak grinned, walking along their line. “Now, onto business. I’m sure you have all seen the two NEW faces among our ranks. For those of you who have not yet met, this is Private Thomas Serles and Private Samara Tamblin.”

Samara could feel the eyes on her...and the silent judgment behind them.

“They’ve been brought up to the big leagues on a provisional basis. I’m sure you’ll see to it that we find out what they’re made of.” He said. “Sound off, names and rank.”

“Jin Wei.” she said at his side. “Callsign Titan. Corporal and Second-in-command.”

A proud little smile crossed Tey’lani’s lips. “Tey’lani Viscari. Specialist. Call sign Tweak.”

The older of the brothers spoke next, his rugged features offering nothing but the still, graveness of a career military man. “Eaton Calix. Callsign Axios. Corporal.”

The younger brother came next. “Byron Calix. Callsign Duster. Private First Class.”

The huge Buldari then spoke. “You may call me K’tan.” was all that he offered.

“Or ‘hey, move your bag ass.’” Duster joked. The alien looked less than amused.

“My posterior is of average size for a Buldari male, welp!”

Samara couldn’t help the grin came to her. Merichak then walked forward and gestured to the remaining pair in the room. “And this is Chief Warrant Officer Dominguez. Call sign Stick and Chief Warrant Officer Walden, callsign Deadlift. They will be the angels over our shoulders in the field.” He elaborated, moving toward Samara and Serles.

He nodded slowly, eyeing both of them. “You all know who I am and what I expect.” He said. “I don’t want the best. I want the best of the best.. If that’s not you, I recommend you hop back on the next shuttle and head home to guard a storage facility. This is not a place for weak or soft, soldiers. I don’t care who you are, where you come from, what color you are, how many limbs you’re sporting or who your daddy was. Your name means nothing on this ship. Your past means nothing. What matters is that you fight. You fight, you give me your all, and you will do well here. Do not let me down.”

Samara could feel his eyes on her. She had a pedigree. A very well known and respected pedigree. Once again, those feelings of doubt returned. Did she belong here? WAS she the best of the best?

Merichak watched Samara with a stern eye. It felt as if he were burning a hole through her with his eyes, seeing every bit of a fear and doubt deep in the depths of her soul. Without another word, he said. “Dismissed.”
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the next week, Titan pushed her and Serles harder than any drill instructor they'd ever known. PT was a punishing, grueling experience every morning, but Wei ran through it like it was nothing. When Samara saw that, she swore not to show a hint of weakness. If Wei could do it, so could she.

At the end of the third day, Serles got to ill-advised idea to question Titan’s training. “Sir, what's the point of this?” He whined. “I mean, we're going to be kicking ass in the T75, anyway. Shouldn't we be training with those.”

Wei narrowed her eyes. “You have a problem with physical training, private?” She contemplated a moment. You want to step into a suit? Fine.”

Samara and Serles exchanged worried glances and followed. Titan lead them into the main hangar. The suits were all lined up before them with their different configurations for each person’s assignments and anatomy. It wasn't difficult to tell which belonged to K’tan.

Tey’lani sat atop his suit making repairs to one of the missile launchers. A cheerful smile and wave offered to Samara from her perch. The smile faded when she saw where Wei was leading them.

She stood before her battle suit and hit the access code, the armor parting. Wei stared at Serles dryly, and gestured to it. “Climb in, Private.”

A mixture of nervousness and excitement covered his face, the young soldier gripped the pull handles and mounted the suit. A grin split onto his face, ear to ear as he looked over the controls. Wei smiles sweetly, but it turned steely when she hit the access panel and the suit closed around him.

“You’re in the middle of a hot zone. Enemies all around you. Your suit becomes disabled. Escape.” She demanded.

He looked confused a moment until she drew her sidearm and fired, hitting his chest plate. “Now!”

He panicked, struggling to move the arm to no avail.

“If you cannot lift dead weight, then you cannot survive!” She fired again at the arm, Serles recoiling in fear.

“Time’s up.” Wei said, glaring at him. “You’re dead.”

Her fist pounded the panel, and Serles was damn near spat out of the armor, crumbling to the ground at Samara’s feet. Wei pushed him onto his back with her foot, clutching her pistol. “The T-75 is an amazing piece of equipment, but it is not invulnerable. You will need to become strong enough, capable enough to fight within AND without regardless of its functionality.” She told him. “You have to be able to escape your suit and be combat ready at any moment! I'm saving your life, so the next time you want to bitch about my training, consider who you're talking to.”

Wei moved up to Samara and stared her down. “Do YOU have any complaints you’d like to level, Private Tamblin?”

Those steely blue eyes turned to her instructor. “No sir.”
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2017 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Day and night were a blur in space. For a girl who’d spent most of her life on the ground, the transition was jarring, to say the least. Days had passed and she still couldn’t get used to the time shift, like the most extreme case of jetlag ever. So it was that she found herself climbing out of her bunk and walking around the ship.

At this hour, the hallways were pretty secluded. Just the normal creaks and light electronic beeping of consoles mixing with the dull hum of engines propelling the craft. Peaceful, she thought, moving down the hall, pulling an unzipped hooded sweatshirt on over her tanktop to fight the chill. Space was cold, even inside the ship.

The doorway to one of the many observation decks slid opened and the young recruit entered, making her way to the immense viewing portal. She knew it was damn near indestructible and guarded by the ships ion shields, but part of her couldn’t help but fret over the possibility of it rupturing and sending her floating. Such was life in space, she decided, taking up residence upon one of the benches.

As the sun disappeared around the gas giant Ferro, she was reminded of sunsets back home. Fentil wasn’t known for its industry. They had cities, sure, but mostly, they were farmers. Every now and again someone would escape the dead end life Fentil provided, but they were few and far between. It was certainly no life for someone like her. The day she’d been accepted into the Academy has been one of the best of her life. She was on to bigger and better things. A life of excitement and adventure. Though, treated to this beautiful sight, she felt a pang in her heart. Fentil was home. Fentil was where her father and remaining brothers were. How many sunsets had she watched from the roof outside her window, dreaming of being exactly here, on a USM warship, training to become one of the best? How many nights had she been called down to the dinner table by her father, the smells of the grill in the air, and his deep but kind voice filtering out from below?

She didn’t know when she’d be able to return to see him. There were no guarantees anymore. Marcus had proven that. Though they’d kept a regular correspondence, she hadn’t seen him in person since she was 13. He’d always been her protector growing up. A seemingly invincible
guardian angel, always getting her back. And then he was gone. Off to train, to become a soldier and have his own adventures. He’d told her much about his exploits, leaving out the nitty gritty of the realities of combat at first. Though, as time went on, there was a weight to his eyes in videos. A weariness that inevitably came from seeing and doing things that stuck in his heart. Even then, though, he was still Marcus. Her big brother who couldn’t wait to hear back from his sister, from home.

And then...the messages stopped. Days turned to weeks until that fateful day came when the USM sent a man in his dress greens to her room at the academy. She’d cried for hours before she could function at all. She was amazed she’d kept her composure throughout the funeral, in her recruit’s dress uniform. Mostly she’d felt a mixture of numbness and fear that her father would demand she resign. Instead, after everyone else left and it was just the two of them at his casket, he turned to her and simply said “Make him proud.”

The telltale hiss of the hydraulics as the door snapped Samara back to reality and a momentary panic. Axios stepped into the room startled to find someone inside. Samara hopped to attention. “Axios, sir! Forgive me, I couldn't sleep and-”

An amused little smirk played at his lips as he held up a hand. “At ease Tamblin. We're in the same boat.” He assured the nervous recruit.

Samara relaxed only a little bit as she watched him enter and make his way into the room, stepping up to the viewport.

“Jet lag?” He asked.

“Something like that.” She responded, joining him. “Right now it’s breakfast time on Fentil. I'd be getting ready to gather the harvest with my pop.”

“And midday back on Boros.” He added for her. “Trust me, you get used to it.”

“I hope you're right.” She nodded.

Silence hung there between the two of them for a long moment. “So, tell me. What was Marcus like back home?”

She grinned to him, “oh, REAL pain in the ass.”

Axios chuckled, “Sounds about right. That's brothers for you, though, right?”

Samara smiled, for the first time since her arrival, feeling truly at ease. “He was funny. Brave...unerringly kind. I remember one time during winter, we were playing soldiers with some neighbor kids and we found these chunks of ice we thought looked like guns. I ended up tripping and busting mine. When he saw me crying he gave me his so I wouldn't feel left out.” A fond smile worked its way to her lips. “He was always doing things like that. If a smaller kid was being picked on, you could count on Marcus to end it. If you didn't have a lunch in the school yard, Marcus would share what he had.”

Axios smirked. “Sounds about right. I can't imagine what it's like walking into his shadow. There's not a soul in this company who don't owe their lives to him.”

Samara knew that story all too well. Marcus had taken on a legendary status. “I mostly just want to live up to him. Make him proud, wherever he is.”

“You're a believer?” He asked, no hint of judgment in his tone.

“Aren't you?” She asked, nodding to the Mark of the Seven tattoo upon his forearm.

He glanced down, the smile on his face fading. “I used to be.”

“Used to be?” She asked with a cocked brow.

He swiveled his dark eyed gaze to her. “I've seen too much. Things that stick with you long after they're in your rear view. Children slaughtered...innocents rounded up and worked to death in camps...experimented on. Torn apart and put back together to see what they could create.” Axios shook his head, thinking. “If the gods exist...they don't care about us. And they aren't listening.”

“Sounds kinda bleak.” She smiled sympathetically.

He turned to her earnestly. “Life is bleak.”

“Then what's the point of it all if you don't believe in anything?” She asked.

He laughed lightly. “I don't believe in the gods. Never said I don't believe in anything.”

Samara leaned back on her palms. “What do you believe in?”

“People.” He said simply. “My team, the people we protect… there are good people in the universe. They're worth fighting for.”

That seemed to sit well with her as a yawn overtook her. “I'd better hit my rack. Thanks for the talk, sir.”

He nodded to her as she got to her feet. “Tamblin?” He said over his shoulder.

The young recruit stopped in her tracks, looking back at him.

“The name is Eaton.”
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wei paced officiously before Samara and Serles, her hands clasped behind her perfectly straight back. “When you are jacked into the T75, you will have full, real-time control. Everything you can do, your exosuit can do, but with up to 100x the strength.” She stopped before Serles. “You may think this means you are beyond hand to hand training. You would be mistaken.”

Serles remembered the incident during PT, eyes lowering ashamedly. Wei continued her pacing. “If you are unable to fight, your suit will be your tomb.”

Almost as if on cue the doors opened at other end of the room. From the doors stepped Byron “Duster” Calix and Tey’lani. The pair approached in PT gear, eyeing the recruits. “Private Tamblin, you’ll be squaring off against Tweak. Serles, Duster will be your opponent.” Wei informed them.

Samara felt a hint of disappointment. She felt this would be her chance to prove herself in combat against Wei. Tey’lani was a wrench puller, not a combatant. She could tell the alien saw it in her eyes, a smirk forming on her blue lips.

“Just go easy.” She said.

“I will.” Samara responded.

“I wasn’t talking to you.” Tey’lani said. She had been talking to herself.

The Iridian moved, circling her prey, her arms moving behind her back. Her legs carried her in slow deliberate movements, everything in her gait flowing smoothly with a dancer’s grace. Those violet eyes regarding her with mild, almost flirtatious amusement. Samara was almost entirely unprepared as Tey’lani’s body twisted in one fluid motion sending a kick that caught the recruit square in the chest.

Samara stumbled back, clutching her heart as the pain radiated, her blue eyes flicking up to the Iridian, that sweet, ever-present pleasant expression replaced by a face that read complete seriousness, her arms still behind her back. Her beauty turned into something terrifying.

A fire burned in Samara then as she lunged up, throwing a punch at the alien, but Tey’lani simply leaned out of its path. Samara threw an elbow back at her, but again, the Iridian simply slid out of the way. Gracefully, she dropped and swept the human’s legs out from under her. Samara hit the mat with a thud, her teeth grit, unsure if she was angry at herself of Tey’lani. “Rage is good.” She said. “But it makes you sloppy. Harness it.”

Samara somersaulted backwards, rising up onto her feet in one swift motion. Not a second spared before she advanced on Tey’lani, throwing a barrage of punches, elbows and kicks that the blue mechanic was able to dodge almost effortlessly.

Samara turned her body to one side and threw a long jab sideways. Tey’lani bent forward under her opponent’s fist , her leg extending back and arching upward as she pivoted her body, the back of her knee connecting with Samara’s neck and brought her crashing the ground, pinning her beneath an impossibly strong, muscular thigh.

“You’re dead, Tamblin.” Wei said from the corner, an amused grin upon her face. “And she didn’t throw a single punch.”

Samara’s face was bright red, her blonde hair wet with sweat. She wasn’t sure which was stronger, her rage or her embarrassment. Violet eyes stared down at her apologetically as she was released. Tey’lani extended a hand to her.

“You alright?”

Samara swallowed her pride and took the woman’s hand, pulled up to her feet. “Yeah. Ego’s a bit bruised.” she forced a smile.

“Tey’lani is one of the most naturally gifted warriors I’ve ever met, Private Tamblin. Her occupation within this unit is not an indication of what she is capable of. Therein lies the lesson. Never underestimate your opponent.”
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fight training went on another 4 hours, Samara’s body left bruised, sore, and soaked in sweat. Tey’lani put her through her paces, just as Duster had absolutely demolished Serles. The young lad had left for the medic’s quarters with a broken nose after accidentally moving into the path of feinted kick.

The shower was much needed today. The warm water soothed her tired, battered muscles, washing the sweat and blood away, but doing little for the pain. Samara stared down at her shaking hands. Once again, she was a little girl playing soldier.

When they were younger, Marcus had taught her how to fight. Those sessions had been similar, often landing the older Tamblin in hot water with their old man when Samara came in covered in scrapes a bruises. Marcus would take her out for an ice cream or a burger after to make up for it. She had learned much from Marcus.

Samara stepped out into the locker room, wrapped in a towel. The blue form of Tey’lani stood at her own locker. The sleek peaks and valleys of her back muscles rolling beneath her flesh as she pulled a shirt over her head. Samara watched as the woman adjusted her head tails out from the neck of the garment. Tey’lani turned her purple-eyed gaze upon the young recruit, a smile forming on her face. “Sorry about all of that. It’s-”

“It’s your job.” Samara said, waving her off and opening her own locker. “It’s fine.”

Tey’lani stepped up, leaning an arm against one of the other lockers as the human got dressed. “I didn’t hurt you too bad, did I?”

Samara didn’t much feel like having a conversation about how badly the Iridian had kicked her ass. The wounded pride and frustration with herself expressing itself in hostility toward her new friend. “I’m fine.” She snapped at her.

Tey’lani recoiled at the sudden outburst, a pained expression on her face as she took a few steps back. “I’m-I’m sorry.” She managed before stepping away.

Guilt poured into Samara as she gripped her crew shirt tightly. It wasn’t Tey’lani’s fault. No matter how much she wanted it to be. “Wait…” she said. Tey’lani stopped in her tracks, glancing back at her. Samara pulled the shirt over her head and swept her hair out from the collar. “I’m sorry. It’s just…”

“I understand.” Tey’lani said with a comforting smile.

Samara walked her way, the pair moving down the hall side-by-side, silent for the moment. “So…” the human began. “Exactly why the hell aren’t you an exo pilot?”

Tey’lani let out a small laugh. “Anatomy.” She said simply. “Female Iridian physiology isn’t compatible with the synchronization process.”

“That’s a shame.” Samara said. “You’d be useful in the field.”

An amused little grin formed on her face. “Mmmm...no.”

“No?” Samara balked.

“I’m not much good in real combat.” She said.

Samara smirked, a brow quirking. “Not much of a fighter when the blaster bolts start flying?”

“No.” Tey’lani said. “I’m not a killer. I don’t kill.”

“You’re a pacifist?”

“My religion prohibits it.” the blue-skinned woman explained.

“But you maintain the tools of war. Killing is allowed to go on because of you.” Samara said.

“It’s a bit...fuzzy in that regard.” Tey’lani joked. “I believe that what I do saves more lives than it takes. Not just my team’s, but the people we protect. I view it as maintaining the deliverers of salvation. Not death. And if the Gods wish to deny me access to Keth’Lah when my body is left behind...then I accept their judgement. Because I did what I believed was right.”

Samara smiled to her. “Tey’lani Viscari: Deliverer of Salvation. I like it.”

The Iridian turned her smiling gaze upon her friend. “Me too.”
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The next week was a brutal course in physical and hand to hand training. Samara had never been pushed so hard in her entire young life. Wei was an unforgiving tutor, intolerant of any sort of weakness. But, every time she got in Samara’s face, the determined recruit just fought harder. Even when she began to suspect Wei personally targeted her, she pushed herself to be better.

Samara crumpled down into her bed, every muscle feeling like it might just call it quits and slide right off her body. Wei had been particularly hardcore today, pitting her and Serles against one another in hand to hand after running an obstacle course with a full ruck. The exercise left her scraped, bloodied and exhausted. Most of all exhausted.

As soul crushing as the PT could be, she had noticed it was all becoming incrementally easier, her endurance and stamina increasing every grueling day. Arms that had once held a small amount of baby fat softness were now toned and carved out of granite. Every muscle had become defined as she neared peak physical condition. She wasn't sure where everyone else was, and frankly, she wasn't sure she cared.

She'd barely gotten her eyes closed when a chime came from the door. Samara moaned unhappily, pulling her pillow over her face. Again the chime came. Samara whipped the pillow away with a sigh.

“Somebody better be dead.” She muttered to herself, rising out of her bunk.

When she opened the door Serles was standing there, a big smile on his youthful face. “What are you doing in bed?!” He exclaimed.

Samara simply narrowed her eyes in response, fighting the desire to just throttle him right then and there.

“It's Unification Day!” He explained. “Come on, get dressed. Everyone’s in the mess.”

Samara blinked. She'd lost track of the days since they'd arrived. Everything felt like one long series of workouts and training. She couldn't believe she'd forgotten. Back on Fentil, Samara’s father would celebrate U-Day with the grill running day and night, feeding the neighborhood all manner of dead animal after the big parade. Fireworks lit the night sky as music played and people danced in varying degrees of inebriation. All the while her old man would sit there, nursing a whiskey and watching the proceedings with a sad, but content little smile upon his face. As she pulled on her USM zip-up hoodie, she wondered if he was home celebrating as they always did right now. The thought made her smile.

The sounds of music playing and exuberant chatting filtered down the corridors as they approached. The team was spread out all over the place, bottles of all sorts decorating the tables. Duster sat atop one of them playing a jaunty little tune on his fiddle as Eaton sat at his foot strumming an acoustic guitar along with him. Walden danced around with her co-pilot, Stick. Tey’lani moved about with her impossible grace, her body twisting and spinning to the music. He was a soldier, not a ballet dancer. Tank was sat at the table chowing down on...something. Wei and Merichak himself were stood at the far end of the room deep in some serious looking discussion, lording over a make-shift grill.

Just like home, Samara mused to herself, the thought bringing a bit of warmth to her heart. Duster caught sight of them and lit up. “Tyke! Tamblin! Get in here!” he called to them, jovially.

Samara looked to Serles then, an almost accusatory glance. “They gave you a call sign already?”

He flushed a bit and shrugged. “It’s...it’s more of a nickname.”

“Uh huh.” She said, a smirk playing across her lips. Samara took his hand, leading him out to where the others were dancing and joined in, the rollicking others.

“Young bucks on deck!” Duster called out from his perch, continuing the fiddling. Samara (and certainly Serles) didn’t quite have Tey’lani’s grace, but they managed, bounching and skipping around the gathering, welcomed in by Walden and Stick. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied Tey’lani approaching Merichak, her hands outstretched, dragging a smile even out of Wei. The older soldier held his up shaking his head in refusal.

The blue girl made a show of pouting turned away, only to suddenly be spun around by her CO. Merichak gripped the stunned Iridian around the waist, taking her hand and skipping along with her as the music continued. The Sergeant spun her around, a brilliant smile upon Tey’lani’s face as she whirled about with that preternatural precision and grace that was solely hers.

The song came to it’s close. The brother’s looked to each other and nodded. “Pickitup!” Eaton said, fingers drumming on his guitar the beat to John Ryan’s Polka, Byron grinning and launching right into the fast-paced, lively fiddling. Immediately, the room was alive with movement as the team restarted their dance.

They bounched and moved all about, changing partners as they went, the beat going faster and faster. It was a whirlwind of joy, bringing Samara right back home. Eventually they formed a circle, Tey’lani, of course taking the center stage first and twirling and flowing to the music like water. Serles was eventually pushed out and improvised a clumsy dig, his face going red and getting laughs from the other’s. Merichak pointed at Samara, interrupting his clap to the beat.

Suddenly, her heart dropped out of her chest. She shook her head violently. “Come on, soldier!” He yelled over the music. Again, she refused.

“Oh, grow a pair…” Tey’lani grumbled with a laugh, grabbing her by the hands and yanking her out giving the girl a spin. For a moment she just panicked, frozen. But then, she shut her eyes and listened. Her foot began to tap and the young recruit began to sway. Then she began to skip. And the next thing she knew she was spinning around, reversing her direction with every percussive touble tap of the drums. Cheers rose up around her and her eyes opened, the smile on her face so full it almost hurt. Stick hopped out onto the floor with her and the pair were off.

Wei sat at her position, watching the dance. It hadn’t been too long ago that Marcus had been there, whirling her around the dance floor. Suddenly, a great pain filled her heart and the smile faded. Wei turned away, her attentions back on food prep.

Laughter and hoots filled the air the music came to it’s abrupt ending.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The live music was soon replaced with recordings and the booze was flowing. Samara wandered away from a lively argument between Eaton and Tey’lani about thruster specs on a USM Valkyrie Dropship to find K’tan holding a squealing, wriggling creature in his giant, clawed hands.

“That, uh...That your pet?” She asked him, sipping from her drink, wincing slightly as it hit her. She wasn’t sure what it was Byron had given her, but he made it. She was pretty sure it was capable of degreasing a Battle Cruiser’s engines.

K’tan looked up like she MUST be joking. “Krillan Battle Fish. They are quite delicious.”

Samara’s brow furrowed as she looked from the shelled creature and back to him. “...you’re gonna eat that thing?”

He stared at it with a sinister little glint in his eyes. “Mmmmm. Yes, would you like some?” the Buldari asked pushing the creature toward her.

Samara’s stomach turned as it wriggled around at her. She shook her head quickly and choked out, “I’m good.”

“Mm. Just as well. Your weak human jaws are not strong enough pierce it’s shell.” K’tan said bringing it back to himself.

“You eat it with the shell on?” She asked, her nose scrunched up.

“I like the texture when it pops in my mouth. And the squeal when my teeth sink into its flesh.” K’Tan takes a big bite, the creature letting out a blood curdling shriek. Eventually, it stopped wriggling and he chewed. “Delicious.” K’tan said, mouth still full.

Samara stared in disgust. “That’s pretty gross.”

“Yeaaaaah…”Tey’lani said, propping an elbow on the girl’s shoulder. “You can’t really watch Tank eat and hope to hold down your own lunch.”

K’tan glared up at her. “And what would you know of it, Iridian? I would sooner watch my broodmother boiled alive than watch you shove whatever garbage it is you consume down your filthy gullet!”

“Tank….” Byron chided him, filling his drink. “Play nice.”

A low, agitated rumble emanated from deep inside the Buldari soldier. “Just stay away from me.” he snarled at Tey’lani.

Both women moved away from him. “Something I should know about?” Samara asked her. The blue skinned alien glanced her way. “You know anything about the history between the Iridians and Buldari?”

“The basics.” Samara responded. “The Iridians uplifted the Buldari and brought them into-”

“Into the galactic community, yeah.” Tey’lani nodded. “Well, the part they don’t like to advertise is that some of them rebelled. Among them were Clan Vik’Tar. And care to guess which clan Tank is from?”

“Ah…” Samara said, putting it together.

“Yeah.” Tey’lani nodded. “There was bloodshed and...well, it was unpleasant. He won’t let me touch his Frame.” She went on. “Prefers to fix it himself.”

Samara glanced back doubtfully at the hulking brute taking down the rest of his meal with one huge bite. “And...he’s a good mechanic?”

Tey’lani snorted. “Oh, Gods no! He’s awful. But I sneak in late at night sometimes and make repairs and adjustments behind his back so he doesn’t blow an actuator and lose a leg.”

Samara grinned. She spied Merichak sitting alone across the room and glanced to Tey’lani. “Excuse me.”

“Sure.” the Iridian responded, giving her a pat on the shoulder, making her way to the still. Samara approached the Sergeant and noticed him on a vidcall. A young man who looked very much like him (except with more hair) appeared on the other end. He was dressed in the blue uniform of the United Systems Army.

“We're deploying day after tomorrow on Bordmire. I'm really looking forward to it.” the young man said.

Merichak smiled proudly. It was the same kind of smile her father had when Marcus had enlisted. “That's great, Der. You be careful out there.”

“Don't worry, pop. It's just a good will mission. Making sure food and supplies get to where they're going. We'll be fine.” Derrick Merichak said.

She couldn't imagine how difficult it must have been, coming up under that pedigree. It was hard enough for her and Marcus was, all things considered, a relatively small cog in the machine.

“Love you, kid.” Merichak said warmly.

“Love you too, pop. Happy U-Day!” The image of Derrick disappeared and Merichak set the datapad down. He glanced over his shoulder at the young recruit behind him.

Suddenly, Samara felt like she might have intruded on his private life. Her face flushed and she was tempted to run until he spoke. “Tamblin. Come on. Take a load off.” he said, kicking out a chair across from him.

Samara swallowed her nervousness and moved over, sliding into the seat. “Sorry if I was intruding, Sir...I didn’t mean-”

Merichak waved her off. “That was my kid. Going out on his first deployment soon.”

She nodded, she’d heard that part.

“He’s been looking forward to it all his life.” he said, pride in his voice. “What about you?”

The subject turned to her, she was almost too surprised to formulate a response. “Y-yes, sir. I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Merichak nodded. “You settling in well?”

“Yes, sir. Very well.” Samara responded.

“Team mates treating you well?” He asked.

“Very well.”

He nodded slowly, a little grin slipping onto his lips. “And Corporal Wei?”

Samara couldn’t say she was overly fond of the woman, if she was honest, but telling your CO that your drill instructor was mean wasn’t exactly going to win her any points. “She’s...tough. But fair” She made sure to qualify it quickly.

Merichak laughed. “Smart, kid. You’re very smart.” He took a gulp of his drink, and looked up at her as he set it down. “That’s gonna serve you well.”

Samara smiled in spite of herself, looking a little bashful. “Thank you, sir.”

“Or it could be your downfall.” He finished, wiping the smile right off her face. “You have the makings of a good soldier, Tamblin. But you spend too much time up here.” Merichak tapped his forehead. “You second guess yourself. You over analyze everything you do, and that means you’re never quite as good as you could be if you learned to just go with it and trust your instincts.”

Samara had gone pale., swallowing hard as he laid it out for her.

“I’ve seen some of the most dimwitted jackasses I’ve ever known go on to become the best soldiers I’ve ever seen. And you know why?” He asked her. The Sergeant held up one finger. “Confidence. They were confident in themselves and their abilities.”

“Are you saying I should be less intelligent, sir?”

“I didn’t say that.” He said sternly. “You have to learn to trust yourself or you will never make it. There may come a time when you have to give the order that could hold your squad’s lives in the balance. I have no use for a soldier who can’t make decisions. It’s not like in the simulator, kid. We make decisions and people can die. We hesitate...hem and haw and worry... and they WILL die. It’s as simple as that. Understood?”

Samara nodded, her skin gone white as a sheet. She kind of wanted to go disappear into her bunk and never come out again. Merichak watched her an amused little grin forming. “Your brother had the same look on his face whenever I took him to task at first.” he chuckled.

Samara’s embarrassment broke, her fingers going to the bridge of her nose as a laugh escaped her. She grinned up at him, the two silent of a beat. “Was he a good soldier?” She asked him, the question having burned its way forward into her mind.

Merichak’s lips upturned into a warm smile. “One of the best who’ve ever served under me. And a damn good friend. It was an honor to know him.”

Samara’s eyes lowered, though her smile remained. “Thank you, sir.”
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The party went on late into the evening, when Wei busted it up. That night, Samara Tamblin had the best sleep she'd had since her arrival Even Wei’s rude awakening the next morning was barely an inconvenience. The team engaged a bit of light PT, fighting off their hangovers. K’tan was the only one who seemed in tiptop shape. Though, the Buldari physiology was a great deal…hardier than human or Iridian.

After several shots with Byron, she found he and the others were much more willing to joke with and acknowledge her during their exercises, much to Wei’s chagrin. The fried soldier glanced to her as they did push ups. “If I vomit on you, it's only because I respect you. Fair warning.”

Samara laughed through her panting. “I'll cherish the memory always.”

Wei hooked her foot around Byron’s wrist and swept it away, the hungover soldier face planting on the floor. “Cut the chatter, Princess.”

“That's demeaning, sir.” He deadpanned, his voice muffled against the ground.

Running laps felt like a special new hell to her. Samara’s head pounded from the alcohol and her legs ached from the dancing. But Byron was by her side, struggling on and damned if she was going to show her pain in front of the team. No, what she needed was a distraction.

“Where did you learn to play like that?” She asked in regards to his fiddling.

“The Academy. When me and E weren't in class, we were learning music. We had planned on forming a band after our term was up.” He answered.

“Let me guess…” she huffed beside him. “Parents put the nix on it?”

Byron shook his head. “Nope. We never knew our parents.”

“You're orphans?”

“I prefer the term parentally challenged.” He joked. “But yeah. Got taken in by the USM as Wards of the Guild and have been groomed for service ever since.”

“Do you have the option to resign?” She asked as they rounded a corner.

“Oh yeah! It’s still the USM. No mandatory service. Even for us filthy orphans.” He joked.

Samara chuckled. “No, I get that...you just don't seem the military type.”

“Is it my boyish good looks?” He deadpanned.

“Eh...more like the fact that you're a big goofball.” She smirked his way.

“You've been spending too much time around officers, Baby T.” Byron said with a chuckle.

Samara glanced up at him, unamused. “Baby T?”

“Yeah, you know. Baby Tamblin.” He grinned.

“That better NOT become my call sign, damn you.”
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A brand new, bare bones T-75 Mechanized Combat Suit stood before Samara. Designed to be modular and outfitted to suit the wearer’s needs. Her’s was in its default state, but to Samara, it was a thing of beauty.

“As your training progresses, you will receive your MOS and your suit kitted out with the weaponry and tools suited to your task.” Wei said standing behind the recruits.
Samara had to resist the urge to reach out and touch her suit, study every inch of the machine. Soon enough, she thought to herself. Soon enough.

“Now.” Wei continued, “You have both undergone extensive simulation training?”

“Yes, sir.” They responded in unison.

“Good. Well you can forget all of that.” She said. “You'll find the simulation is very little like the actual thing.”

Samara's brow creased in concern. She prided herself on her scores in simulated combat. She was ranked quite high amongst her peers, top of her class, in fact. Throwing that all aside did not sit well with her.

“Once the synchronization process has completed, you will be strong enough to crush steel, capable of limited flight, and will contend with operating at a different scale altogether.” She explained. “You will learn to function with your suit until it is more than second nature. Mount up!”

Samara could hardly suppress the grin threatening to fight its way onto her face as she pulled herself up and spun, leaning back into her suit. Slowly, she leaned against the back padding. With the release of a deep breath, her blue eyes shut.

Those eyes popped open abruptly, the girl gasping harshly. It felt as if someone had thrown her into a vicious undertow, her consciousness swirling wildly, every nerve alive and strained. The recruit’s fists clenched so hard she thought they might shatter. She couldn't even feel the chest plate closing around her or the gauntlet and grieves clamping shut over her limbs. It was only a few seconds, but to Samara, it felt like hours.

Her body jerked as it was released from the synchronization and her senses slowly came back to her. Samara panted, looking around. Serles looked like he was in about as good of shape, his skin a pallid shade of white. Suddenly, he lurched forward, expelling his lunch upon the deck, but even as he did, the robotic arm of his suit moved in time with his own to keep him from face planting.

“Easy, Private.” Wei said. “Get your bearings.”

Samara took in a deep, cleansing breath and took one step forward. It seemed as if she had no equilibrium whatsoever. The young recruit stumbled to one side, catching herself on a support beam. She had to clamp her eyes shut to avoid vomiting along with Serles. “Gods...why…”

“Why is it hard to move. Because you're using muscles you've never used.” Wei explained. “I read your record, Tamblin. Those high scores in simulations don't seem too useful now, do they.”

Samara couldn't have anticipated how jarring the effect was. She simply shook her head. Wei barely hid her smirk. “It will become easier the more you do it. But until then, you will struggle. And you will, I promise you that. But in the end, you’ll be a finely tuned instrument of warfare.”

Samara shut her eyes one more time, putting forth all of her focus into the here and now….and slowly she pushed herself up, standing up straight. She brought her hand in front of her face, the suit moving with her in perfect unison. Those blue eyes directed forward as she took a tentative step ahead, testing the limits and getting a feel for her relation to the floor. On the second step, she found herself a little wobbly, but she managed to self correct.

She glanced to Wei, half expecting her instructor to at least LOOK impressed...but she wouldn’t get it. Wei just kept that cold, almost bored stare. She turned to Serles. “Private. On your feet.” She said to him.

Fine, Samara decided. She didn’t need Wei’s approval. She was going to master this machine, and to hell with what “Titan” over there thought. This suit was her destiny and not even SHE could stand in her way.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Samara had the target lined up, dead in her sights. All it would take was the momentary squeeze of the trigger. Suddenly, her entire body lurched to one side as an attacker blindsided her. The young recruit crashed through the remains of a bombed out building, metal screeching as her suit slid across the dirt. The squidlike, robotic attacker was clambering over her, setting up for the kill. Well, Samara wasn’t having that. She backhanded the machine aside, her exosuit knocking bits of metal and electronics off with the impact.

She quickly rolled on top of it, placed the barrel of her weapon to it’s glowing, red eye and pulled the trigger, sending a burst through it’s body. Her head whipped to the right to find Serles dropping down from a rooftop. One arm held a squiddy (which was her initial target) by the face as the other jerked back to throw a punch. The clenched fist of his exosuit bashed in the faceplate of his attacker with one hit, the flailing limbs going dead.

While her attention was elsewhere another of the machines wrapped its tentacles around her leg. Samara found herself being flung through the air like a rag doll. Her exosuit clanged and scraped across the ground before crashing into the wall so hard Samara's vision flashed white.

Serles was slammed into by another and another as Samara lay helpless. She was hard at work trying to claw open her restraints when another squiddy came barrelling at her. She recoiled and prepared for the inevitable.

But it didn't come. Her eyes opened to find the squidlike machine frozen in time. As she lay there, the battlefield faded away and they found themselves in the holographic training room. Wei stepped out onto the field her hands clasped tightly behind her.

“I bet that was fun.” She said with atight little grin. “Kicking ass and taking names.” Her eyes locked onto Serles, keeping that amused look. “Fun, huh?”

“Yessir.” He responded reluctantly, a grin forcing its way out. Samara cringed.

“I bet. Right up until the point where you both died.” That tight smile went away instantly.

Serles lowered his eyes as Wei glowered over them. “The battlefield is not the place for your showboating or quest for glory. The only concerns you should have are your life and the life of the person beside you.” She stepped up to the pair of them and looked up at them. “If I'm supposed to be going into battle with you, I need to trust that you have my back. As it stands, I wouldn't trust either of you to have my back while moving a ****ing couch.”

Something deep down burned inside of Samara. Maybe it was embarrassment, maybe a bit of self loathing...maybe it was even annoyance with Wei. She didn't know for sure. All she did know was that she wanted to scream.

Wei must have seen some hint of it, because she narrowed her eyes. “Is there a problem, Private?”

Samara straightened up and pushed everything down as much as possible. “No, sir.”

“If you've got a problem, Tamblin have the balls to say it to my face.” Wei challenged.

Samara knew it wasn't a great idea, but it just came out, nonetheless. “I'm frustrated, Sir.”

“Well, that is something we can finally agree on.” Wei said, acid in her tone. “We sacrificed one Tamblin who was maybe the greatest warrior and teammate in the world for another who isn't fit to bear his name.”

Something inside of the young recruit snapped and her eyes went a bit darker. “I earned my place here.” She responded in a low growl.

“You got here on the coattails of his corpse.” Wei spat back.

“You don't know anything about me.” Samara glared, that fire now burning out of control.

“I know everything about you Tamblin. I know your instructors helped your weak ass through because you come from a line of men who actually deserved to wear the uniform.” Wei said. Samara towered over her in the suit, but Wei still seemed ten feet tall.

“You're lying. You don't know a Gods damned thing.”

“Am I?” She squinted at the girl. “I don't even need to be told about it. I see it in your every failure. Your every fumbling attempt at the job. There's no way such a shabby, lackluster disappointment like you made it this far on her own complete lack of merit.”

Samara's fist clenched tightly. Every inch of her wanted to crush the woman before her. Smash her into a puddle of goo. She didn't notice that the exosuit also clenched its fist. Wei glanced down to it, a smirk playing across her lips.

“You want to fight me, Tamblin?” She asked.

Serles finally spoke up, overcoming the fear that kept him silent. This was getting out of hand. “Sam…don't.”

But she didn't seem to hear. “You're damn right I do.”

Tension hung so thick in the air, Serles could damn near slice it with a knife. Wei’s voice didn't waver. Her expression remained neutral. She just looked Samara in the eye.

“Step out of your suit, Tamblin.”
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Samara climbed out of the exosuit, her blue eyes burning, not leaving Wei's as her neural connection to the suit disengaged.

Stern confidence remained on Wei’s scarred face as Samara approached, sliding back the top of her flightsuit and tying it around her waist by the sleeves. Wei remained unimpressed.

Serles followed after the fiery recruit. “Sam, please. Don’t do this.” He pleaded.

But Samara didn’t even spare him a glance. “Get out of my way, Tom.”

“Sam, you know you can’t win this! She’s your superior. They’ll boot you from the Fleet!”

“Rank is cast aside, Private.” Wei said, sending his heart spiraling into his stomach. Samara narrowed her eyes at the older woman. “But I’ll make you a deal, Tamblin. You win, I request for a transfer to another unit. You never train under me again.”

“And if you win?”

“You take a stroll down Washout Lane.”

“Sam…” Serles began one last time.

“Fine.” Samara agreed. The tension burst in one sudden strike, Wei dodging the blow and countering immediately.

Samara took the hit square in the back, but stumbled only a step before throwing an elbow back. Wei leaned away and concentrated on blocking the whirlwind of attacking fists and feet coming for her.

She had to give the girl props. She was fast, vastly improved in her form. But Tamblin was running on pure rage. Still not harnessing that fury in a way that might actually help her.

Still, Tamblin persisted, even when Wei threw quick jabs at her arms and ribs. It only seemed to make the attacking recruit fight harder. Maybe it was fear creeping in and compromising her confidence, maybe Tamblin was just improving, but Wei was not at all prepared when the girl’s boot connected with her chest. Nor when she followed it up with a jump kick to the same spot.

It took everything she had not to take a moment to be shocked. Instead, Wei braced herself for the next attack, blocking another kick with crossed forearms, segueing into knocking aside the following punch. Samara threw everything she had the woman, but Wei was good. The two warriors moved throughout the training room, both gaining and giving ground back and forth.

Wei kicked high, Samara barely dodging the impact and catching her ankle as it came back down. But her instructor had expected it. Wei launched her body into a back flip, her foot connecting with Samara’s jaw, sending the girl sprawling to the ground.

For a moment the world seemed to go blurry in Samara’s eyes. She grit her teeth and slammed her fist into the ground. Wei approached from behind reaching out to put the girl into a headlock, but Samara struck out, a closed-fisted backhand catching her in the cheek. Tamblin took the moment to arch her hips upwards and, in a one-two kick, nailing Wei in the stomach.

The instructor clutched her stomach, a sheen of sweat on her skin and her hair coming loose from the tight pony tail, panting and glaring as Samara did a backwards roll up to her feet. The pair of them let out a cry as they rushed for each other. Wei got ahold of Samara’s throat and wheeled her around, slamming her up against a wall, the recruit cocking back her fist to deliver what would be a devastating blow to her instructor’s face.

“Enough of this ****!” A gruff voice called out. Both women froze where they were a moment before they were yanked apart. A pair of blue arms grabbed Samara from behind as she was pulled away from Wei.

“Get off of me! Let me go!” she shouted, fighting Tey’lani’s grasp.

“You got lucky, washout!” Wei yelled, pulled away by Merichak.

Samara lunged forth, blood trickling from her nose and lip, bruising already setting in on her sweat-streaked face. “**** you!”

Wei pushed on again, but Merichak shoved her away from the fight and turned on Samara. “You cool off and get your ****in’ heads on straight! You’re both damn lucky I don’t bring you up on charges! Now what the hell is wrong with you?”

“She’s a vicious bitch!” Samara spat.

Merichack was right in her face. “You want out of this outfit, Tamblin? You want to take a walk up Washout Lane? You be my guest.”

“No, sir...I don’t want that. It’s just she said-”

“I don’t care what she *said*. You attacked a superior officer because she was mean to you? Harden the **** up, Tamblin. If you can’t take a few nasty words without losing your head, then I can’t trust you on the battlefield and you have no place in my unit. You get me?”

Samara suddenly became aware of where she
was and what was going on. Serles stood off to one side, an upset, judgemental look in his eyes. Tey’lani gripped her, impossibly strong from behind. And then there was Merichak. The old warhorse was fuming, glaring at her.

“Yes sir.” Samara calmed herself as best she could, her fists clenched tightly.

“You’re confined to your quarters until I figure out what to do with you.” He said. “And be thankful I’m not just throwing you into the brig.”

Tey’lani let her go and eyed the woman a moment, worry upon her face. When she calmed down regret would set in. But right now, she was still in that defiant, angry mood. “Yessir. Thank you, sir.”

“Dismissed.”

Wei watched as Samara left the room. The little spitfire had brass, she had to give her that.

“What the hell is going on with you, Jin?” Merichak asked, glancing back over his shoulder.

She quirked brow, hesitating as she pulled her hair back into its tight ponytail. “Sir?”

Merichak looked back, that reproachful look making even Jin “Titan” Wei feel about two feet tall.

“We’re having brawls with recruits now, corporal?” He asked, turning to face her, powerful arms crossing over his chest.

“I’m trying to train her, Sir.”

“Come off it, Jin, you and I both know that’s horse ****. You aren’t out there challenging Serles to a fist fight. And I sure as hell don’t remember you picking a fight with Duster when he came up. So what’s the deal?”

Jin’s jaw tightened. “She bothers me, Sir. She’s a spoiled, arrogant little princess who expects to be handed everything.”

Merichak looked to her doubtfully. “You know what I think?” He asked her. “I think she reminds you of him. I think she makes you feel something about Marcus and that scares the **** out of you.”

Wei didn’t respond. She didn’t have to, Merichak knew he was right.

“You’re gonna have to deal with what happened sooner or later, Jin. You keep this inside, it’s gonna devour you.” He said giving her shoulder a squeeze. “Now...as for Tamblin. Lay off a bit. The girl lost her brother. And she has it in her to be a damn fine soldier. Take that responsibility seriously. Consider what Marcus would do if he were here. Consider what he would think of how you treat his sister.”


Jin’s eyes lowered, the guilt trip taking hold. “Yes Sir.”

Merichak gave her shoulder a light slap. “Keep your chin up, Wei. Tomorrow’s a new day.”
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Rampart to Andoran actual, Dog Company is on site, over.” Marcus’ voice announced over the speakers.

“Roger that, Rampart. Homing in on your signal now.”

On the holo screen, Wei could see the helmet cam footage from that day. She could almost feel the chill of the wind on her face, the burning smell that filled the air, alerting the enemy militia that they were there. It had been a simple snatch and grab until everything went to hell. The entire city seemed to turn out to kill them. Baker Company was completely wiped out in the first attacks and lost their target in the massacre. Merichak had gotten their target extracted, leaving them to wait for evac.

That was when the building still existed, 30 minutes ago. Now it was time to get the hell out of there. “What’s the ETA on our evac?”

Stick’s voice crackled in their ears.. “This is Foxhound Six-Four, we are inbound. ETA 10 minutes. I’m going to need you all to get to an elevated position, copy?”

“Stick, it’s Rampart. I copy. See you in ten. We’ll leave a light on for ya.” Marcus said with a grin.

Marcus turned to her, a concerned expression on his grime covered face as he reached out. “Damn...that looks rough. You alright, J?” He asked.

Jin’s lips moved along with the video. “You don’t look so hot yourself, there, chuckles.” It had been a lie. If anything he looked even more attractive all dirty and battleworn. The pain was evident in her voice, but she didn’t dare show it on the battlefield. “I’ll be alright.”

Byron panned into view, awaiting the bird’s eye view on his heads-up display. “We’ve got a crowd headed our way.” He warned. “Armed.”

“What are we looking at, Duster?” Marcus demanded.

“Uh...looks like 50 plus...small arms, a few heavy repeaters. Looks like a few guys with demo charges.”

Wei jumped ahead, the events of that day proceeding in accelerated time onscreen. The attack had come from all over. The local militia were a swarm descending upon them like locusts. Even the ExoSuits couldn’t keep them all at bay. Watching it all rush by, she could still feel the heat as a Molotov cocktail burst beside her, the flames licking at her armor plating. She could smell the smoke, feel it burning her eyes. She could almost hear the gunfire, explosions and screams.

Finally she hit play again. The team made their way towards the remains of a bombed out building trading fire with the pursuing mob. K’tan wheeled around with his heavy repeater and ripped apart the foundation of a small building, sending the structure crashing to the ground between them and the mob.

“You plan that?” Byron asked weakly,, a field dressing pressed to a wound at his side as he clung, propped up by K’tan.

“Indeed.” The stoic Buldari responded.

“Lookit you! Beauty AND brains. Way to go, man.” Byron grinned, earning a grumble from K’tan.

Wei watched as her past self turned to Marcus. “That won’t hold them for long.” She said.

“Stay frosty, baby. We got this.” He said quietly so only she would hear. She remembered the smile it put on her face. Even in dire situations, he could always be counted on calming her down.

Marcus took point, moving down the street and calling out through his coms. “Foxhound Six Four, this is Rampart, do you copy?”

“Copy that Rampart.” the familiar voice of Stick crackled into his ear.

“Stick, what’s your twenty?”

“We’re inbound, but the zone is hot. Repeat the zone is hot, taking fire. We’re gonna have to get you guys out of there pretty damn fast.”

“Pull some of that fancy pilot ****, Stick.” Marcus said with a smirk.

“Oh, you know I will, sweetheart. You just stay vertical.” the pilot responded.

“Roger, Six Four. We’ll be ready.” Marcus responded. He wheeled around to the exhausted, battered team. “Weapons check.”

The team sounded off, just about everyone’s charge packs were cooked and couldn’t take another serious firefight. Everyone except K’tan. Marcus nodded and looked them over. “Right. Tank, we’re swapping gear.”

“Sir,” the Buldari protested. “Would it not be more beneficial for me to cover the team during our escape.”

“Negative. I need you to get Duster on that ship.”

“But sir-” he began.

“You’re the only one strong enough to do it, Tank. Now let’s get to it.” he ordered.

As the pair swapped out their weapons, Wei approached Marcus, talking quietly. “I don’t like that look in your eye…”

“What look?” he asked.

“That look like you’re about to do something stupid.”

“You mean heroic?” he flashed that dashing grin her way.

“I meant what I said.”

K’tan slapped the battery pack in and the cylindrical barrel of the repeater whirred to life, but didn’t yet fire. Marcus turned those baby blues up to her. “You know the rules. CO is last man out and right now that’s me.”

“We’re not leaving without you.” She told him.

“Well, you BETTER not. I don’t make it back, Duster’ll take all my ****.” he joked, but Wei was not having it.

“That’s not funny.” she said.

Marcus’ expression softened and he turned to her. “We do the job. And then we get to go home, yeah? Well, this is my job. I’ll be right behind you...and if I’m not...I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.”

It had been months and her heart still ached every time she thought about that moment. Those words echoing in her head every night. The way his eyes looked, the dirt and blood on his face, his hair, all of it etched deeply into her consciousness.

“They’re getting through!” Eaton called back, just before his weapon rang out.

Marcus turned to Wei. “Let’s get it done.”

She turned and opened fire on the militia, blast bolts bursting the masonry all around them. They weren’t trained soldiers, thankfully, so their aim was for ****, but their numbers were far greater. The POV jerked back as a blast hit her shoulder armor and knocked Wei back, but she continued pouring it on them.

“Dog Company, this is Foxhound Six Four. You kids call for a cab?” the voice came over the speakers.

“Taking heavy fire, Six Four.” Marcus called out spraying the crowd with a barrage of blaster fire. “Get us the hell out of here!”

He came up behind Eaton and edged his way in front. “GO! GO! I GOT YOU COVERED!” He yelled and unleashed hell on the natives. Eaton hesitated a moment as the Dropship roared into position at the top of the building.

“GO!” Marcus ordered.

Eaton took Duster’s other arm, assisting K’tan with his wounded brother. But Wei wouldn’t leave. She joined Marcus’ side and fired into the mob. Marcus spared her a glance. “Get outta here, what are you waiting for!”

“Not without you!” She screamed and dropped another attacker, small ballistic rounds pinging off both their armor.

“I’m right behind you, now MOVE IT, soldier!” He said, edging his way backwards as he continued shooting. Jin grimaced and followed suit, firing for all she was worth. She saw one of the natives climb out over the ruined wreckage and took aim. But nothing happened when she pulled the trigger. The gun was dry.

Marcus glanced her way again and opened his mouth to shout, but before he could say anything, Jin took a blast right in the chest plate, sending her right to the ground with an ear ringing slam.

He made short work of her shooter and reached back, desperately trading fire and checking on her. “JIN! JIN!” He called out, rolling her over. The wind was knocked out of her and her head hurt, but she was okay.

“Rampart, we gotta roll, brother!” Stick called into his earpiece.

Eaton jumped out of the craft and moved down to them, helping pull Wei to her feet.

“GET HER OUT OF HERE!” Marcus ordered as Eaton put her arm around the wounded woman to support her weight.

“Marcus…” she said weakly looking over her shoulder. But he couldn’t hear her, he was backing with them keeping their attackers at bay, the place practically glowing red from the heavy repeater. Jin was shoved back onto the ship just in time to see him turn to rush into the ship.. That was the moment when her world began to shatter.

Bolts hit him in the leg, blowing apart the hyrdraulics and machinery. Marcus fell to his side with an agonized yell. Wei saw her own POV as she got up to go after him in a daze. Again he opened fire.

A pair of hands grabbed her from behind as Marcus crawled toward them, blaster bolts bursting against the back of his armor. A molotov burst against the metal, sending flames over his suit, but managed to miss his flesh for the moment. Marcus stared up at her and screamed for them to go one last time as an explosive landed beside his shoulder.

“Stick! Move move move!” Eaton ordered.

Wei locked eyes with him as the craft pulled away, the images of everything they had and could have had flashing in her mind and ripping apart her heart. Then Marcus, surrounded in flames, grabbed the explosive and rolled over as the natives closed in on him. They kicked and clawed and punched at whatever they could get at until finally the entire thing erupted in a massive explosion, sending what was left of the building and much of the crowd flying in pieces and crumbling to the ground.

The image froze onscreen. The massive explosion that once been Marcus “Rampart” Tamblin still, like a photograph, just as she remembered it looking. Wei reached up and wiped the tear from her eyes. She’d seen this vid too many times. On the screen and in her mind. It was a constant, unwelcome companion and she just wanted it to go away. But every time she saw Samara and those eyes...so like her brother’s...it brought it all rushing back.

Merichak had her completely pegged. Samara Tamblin scared the hell out of her.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Turmoil is an odd thing. For one person it’s the end of the world, but the universe keeps on going, oblivious. Whatever angst and stress that plagued Samara that night was absolutely nothing compared to the incalculable numbers of lifeforms throughout the cosmos. It gave her a small sense of comfort as she sat in the observation deck, looking out upon the dotted abyss that was space.

Perspective could only help so much when you were in the thick of it, she thought as she tugged the hood of her sweatshirt over her head. How she’d managed to avoid a court martial was beyond her, but here she was. Living on borrowed time.

The door behind her slid open. Samara glanced back, catching sight once again of Eaton. The dark haired soldier smirked as he beheld her. “Well, well. If it isn’t the washout.”

“Har har.” She rolled her eyes.

“Did you REALLY try get into a fight with Titan?” He asked, dripping with amusement.

“She goaded me into it.”

He grinned and shook his head. “So. You still with us?”

Samara sighed, letting her hood drop and sweeping a strand of hair behind her ear. “I guess. Until Wei finds another way to boot my ass out of here.”

Eaton turned to her with a quirked brow. “It ever occur to you that the reason she’s so hard on you is because she sees something in you?”

Samara snorted. “I’ve been through that. It’s not what this is. She’s got a stick up her ass that could prop up a Lukeshian skyscraper. If she thinks being a bitch is going to make me want to work harder for her…”

“Easy. I get it.” Eaton said with a raised palm. “She’s a hard woman. Been more than a few times I wanted to strap her in an escape pod with rigging tape and shoot her off into the black.”

Samara chuckled and turned to him.

“...but,” he said, “there are few people I’d want more by my side in combat. She knows her ****.”

“So, I’m guessing you think I should just grin and bear it?” Samara asked, hugging her knees to her chest.

“Never said anything about grinning.” He responded with a smirk. “Just don’t let her get to you. Breaking you is her job. You cannot give her ammunition.”

Samara contemplated this a long moment. “Any tips on how to do that?”

Eaton blew a raspberry and shrugged. “If I figure it out, I’ll let you know.”

She laughed and shook her head “You are absolutely useless.”

“Yeah, I’ve been told that.” He said with a grin.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rather than go back to sleep after Eaton turned in, Samara found herself walking down to the flight deck. Music filled the cavernous room, echoing along with the sound of metallic pounding. A pair of legs stuck out from beneath a dropship, just a hint of blue skin peeking out between the socks and bottom of the pant leg.

A little yelp escaped the alien beneath the ship as she swore in a language Samara didn’t quite understand, a tossed wrench clattering across the floor until it smacked the heel of her boot.

“Whoa, there, slugger!” Samara chided.

Tey’lani slid out from under the shuttle, sucking on her injured thumb. Her head tilted to one side, a little grin forming. “Well, if it isn’t my favorite Washout…”

Samara’s cocky little smirk fell. “That’s gonna be thing now, isn’t it?”

Tey’lani smiled sweetly and nodded. “That’s the current plan, yes.”

The young recruit sighed theatrically before glancing at the ship. “What’s all this?”

“Blown capacitor. I tried to reroute the neg through the flux inhibitor, but it made the cathode array go haywire.” Tey’lani said, spinning what Samara was sure was utter nonsense like it was business as usual.

“Yeah...those damn capacitors.” Samara deadpanned as the blue woman sat up, wiping her grease-stained hands on the legs of her olive coveralls.

She scrutinized her young friend a moment, propped up on her arms. Those violet eyes seemed to dig deep inside of her, picking up every subtle tick and movement, leaving Samara feeling incredibly self-conscious.

“Something on your mind?” Tey’lani asked.

“Just couldn’t sleep. I had to get out of that room. You?” She asked.

Tey’lani smiled pleasantly. “I’m Iridian. We don’t need more than 2 hours of sleep. Figure I might as well get some work in.”

“Workaholic.” Samara teased, tossing Tey’lani a rag.

“Hey, just because you human slackers need 8-9 hours…” The Iridian grinned and got to her feet, finishing cleaning up.. “Where are you headed?”

“I...I don’t know.” Samara said.

“Yeah, you do.” her friend said with that knowing look. “You want to hit up the simulator, don’t you?”

Gods help her, the girl was right. Samara nodded slowly.

“And you need someone to run the program..” Tey’lani continued.

Samara went to speak,, but instead just stared perplexed. “What are you? A telepath?”

“Nah. Just a keen observer of human nature.” Her squadmate shrugged and smiled. “Though, to be fair...you’re about as easy to read as a picture book.”

Samara blushed a little smile playing across her lips. Tey’lani placed a hand at her back and started leading her away. “Come on. Let’s get you suited up.”
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Synchronization was still a jarring experience. It still felt like every nerve was on fire, making the second long process feel like hours in her mind. Samara’s eyes popped open as she gasped for air. Soon, everything calmed and she was back in control.

“Alright,” Tey’lani’s voice soothed into her ears. “What are you looking to do? Solo combat or team combat?”

“Team combat? You gonna go drag someone out of their rack?” Samara asked.

“No, smartass. The program records the brain waves, progress and abilities of its users. You’ll have a simulation of them at your side to train with.”

Samara’s brow furrowed. “Yeah, that’s not creepy.”

“It’s useful for situations like this.” Tey’lani said, a bit defensively. “I designed it to be as much like the real thing as possible.”

Samara’s brow raised, impressed. “You created the training program?”

“I did. And I could have tried to create a convincing AI, I’m a gifted programmer...but there’s simply no substitute for real field experience.” She explained. “The bravery, the fears, the personality, the will to not only survive, but to win? An AI can’t replicate that. At least not one I’m capable of putting together.”

The thought didn’t exactly sit well, even when Tey’lani explained it. The idea that they could copy your brain waves, thought processes...your likeness and turn it into a character in some game long after you were gone seemed almost a violation.

“You don’t like it.” Tey’lani said.

“What?” Samara asked, trying to play it cool.

“You think it’s wrong. What the program does.”

“It’s a bit...difficult.” She admitted.

“You want to train with the best. With a few keystrokes, I can put you in the field with legends.” Tey’lani said, pride filling her voice.

The concept was certainly intriguing, even if the moral ramifications were somewhat fuzzy. She could stand beside the men and women she’d only read about in combat. Though, of all the faces throughout history, only one stood out.

“Marcus. Put me with Marcus.”

From the control room, a smile formed upon Tey’lani’s lips. “You got it, Samara.”

The young recruit took in a deep breath as the world around her whirled an ever-changing array of color and light until it instantly became the interior of a drop ship. The acrid smell of smoke and the hum of engines filled her senses, bringing the illusion to startlingly realistic life. The loud clang of metal on metal rose over the sound of the engines as Marcus approached.

“On your feet, Soldier!” He called out.

The image of him nearly stopped her heart. Though it was only a few months, she felt like she’d been carrying him everywhere she went for years. So close, but just out of reach. But here he was. Her brother.

“I said,” he reached out and yanked her up off the bench. “On your feet!”

Yep. That was Marcus, she thought. Those eyes, mirror images of her own, that forceful, take-charge way of his. Definitely her brother. Almost perfect...if not for the fact that when he looked at her...there was no spark of recognition. This...man before her, though he looked and acted like him...it was only as real as a dream. A shadow of the real Marcus Tamblin.

“You get your ass in gear, Private. We drop on that bunker, eliminate all hostiles and give ‘em a hurtin’ they won’t forget, you get me?”

“I get you, sir.” She said, her voice cracking a bit.

He gripped her shoulder plating and moved close. “Cowboy up, soldier. We got this. Alright?” He assured her, that cocky little grin on his face, reflected in the one that crossed her’s. Marcus nodded with a smirk and gave her a slap on the shoulder.

Samara pulled up her weapons systems, bringing them online, her vision suddenly developing a heads-up-display via her neural implants. The heavy repeater gave test whir, ready to light up the first enemy she saw.

“Making our final approach on the DZ!” Marcus called back to her. “Fall in!”

The heavy feet of her ExoSuit hit the metallic floor as she approached. The door slid open and outside was chaos. Explosions riddled the sky, several fighters and bombers making their attacks alongside another drop ship.

Far below, their target waited. A bunker full of tier one targets and their elite guard. In moments, she and Marcus would leap from their craft and unleash hell upon them.

Suddenly the other drop ship was hit with a surface-to-air missile, the engine and crew compartment bursting in flames and debris before spiraling out of formation toward the ground, leaving a trail of smoke in its wake.

“Now or never, Rook! Let’s do this!” Marcus yelled. “Waaaaaaah-hooooooo!” He bellowed, throwing himself out into open air.

Not to be outdone by her brother, holographic though he might be, Samara leapt after him. The simulator worked in tandem with the neural interface to create sensations that felt almost 100% real. She swore she could actually feel the pull of gravity yanking her down from the sky as wind whipped at her hair and face.

The suits sensors tracked her descent, indicating she was nearing the ground and activating the repulsors. They fired off intermittently, slowing her down from terminal velocity. When she finally hit the ground, her knees buckled a bit as if she’d only leapt a few feet. Instantly, she and Marcus moved shoulder to shoulder, each covering a different direction.

“Clear.” He said to her.

“Clear.” She responded.

“This is Rampart, we’re on target, ready to proceed, over.”

“Roger, Rampart, good hunting.”

Marcus turned to his sister. “Stay on me, watch our six.”

She nodded as they moved onward. Part of her wondered if the precision with which he moved was due to the computer...but she knew better. Her brother was a perfectionist. He honed his abilities the best he could. This was all him.

How many nights since his demise had Samara dreamed of this. Standing at his side in combat, just as they did when they played as children. The Unstoppable Tamblins. A military force no foe could dare challenge. It’s how it was supposed to be.

Though, now...the team up existed only in a simulation. A mere fabrication. Here, her brother didn’t even recognize her. Here, it wasn’t real.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The doors exploded open, the two warriors, coated in blood, sweat and dirt stormed in weapons blazing, one covering the other in perfect unison. The pair had cut a bloody path through the base, tearing the security forces apart like a hot knife through butter. This time, there were no flashy heroics, no crazy dangerous stunts. The Tamblins were methodical, precise, and deadly together. As she watched, Tey’lani wished she could have seen them in combat together in real life. It would have been a sight to see.

A door opened to her right, an enemy soldier wielding a heavy disruptor rushing forth. She dropped to one knee and brought her rifle up just as Marcus did to her left. As one they fired once, dropping their opponents with headshots.

Samara panted, rising slowly to her feet. A grin forming on her lips as she turned to her big brother. That same victorious smile came to his features. “Nice shootin’, rook.” He said.

“Nice?” she said, looking mildly offended. “Screw you, Marc, I was ****ing awesome and you know it!”

He snorted and shook his head. “Gods, you sound like my little sister…”

Samara’s heart lurched within her chest. That smile faded to devastation as she stared up at his seemingly blind eyes. Marcus and the entire world around them froze in place. The face, the eyes she’d grown up with now looked at her but didn’t see her. Suddenly, it was like losing him all over again.

Everything but the frozen form of Marcus faded away to reveal the cold, sterile precision of the training room. Tey’lani watched aghast. “I’m sorry…” she said sympathetically.

“He can’t even see what’s in front of him. Can he?” Samara asked in a quiet voice.

“He’s a program.” Tey’lani shrugged, “Meant to capture the way he was in battle. A collection of data given physical form.”

“You can’t access more?” She asked. “I mean...you’ve captured his personality...can’t you just…”

“Get the rest of his memories?” Tey’lani asked. “That’s where the things get tricky, don’t they? It’s one thing to create a training sim of him using the broad swaths of his personality and abilities as a template...it’s quite another to try and replicate him entirely.”

Samara considered it a moment. Part of her didn’t care. She just wanted her brother back.

“What right does the dead have to stay dead?” Tey’lani asked her.

“But...could you? If...if you wanted? If...if someone needed it?” Samara inquired.

Tey’lani watched her friend through the portal. “Take some advice from me, Samara…” the Iridian told her. “Let the dead stay dead.”
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What it was that drew Wei out of bed, she couldn’t say. But it was the bass thumping from the T75’s blasting weapons that drew her into the training area. Tey’lani was hunched over the control console, her attention rapt in what was going on in the simulator.

Tamblin was atop a hill, drenched in sweat and guns blazing. She and her partner were surrounded by enemies, awaiting extraction as they provided cover fire for each other. Samara was a mask of concentration and precision, keeping her nerves in check like a pro. Wei had to admit. She was impressed.

“What the hell is this, Tweak?” She asked quietly.

The Iridian grinned, not taking her eyes off Samara’s simulation. “Hour 5.” she said. “This girl is a machine.”

“It’s 4 AM.” Wei said icily.

Tey’lani rolled her eyes. “You’ll have to be sure to reprimand her for wanting to improve.”

Wei shot her a withering look and turned her eyes back to the simulation. The girl was fighting her heart out, the strain and focus in combat evident on her face. The pair of combatants shifted positions and Jin saw, for the first time, who her computerized battle buddy was.

The avatar was almost as perfect as reality. Those eyes so electric, blazing with the muzzle flash of his weapon, that square jaw, clenched tightly. A mixture of fear, excitement and intense focus, just as it had been in their last moments together. The offer had been made for her to train with his avatar, but Wei always refused. The wounds were still far too fresh. But here he was, with his sister...and the two of them were like a blossom of death. A perfect team. She couldn’t imagine how difficult it was for Tamblin, but the girl was clearly working through it.

“They would have been amazing together.” Wei said finally.

Tey’lani looked to her, lips parting slightly in surprise.

Wei could feel the look, but didn't take her eyes off the display before them. “You tell her I said that, I’ll deny it.”

Tey’lani’s lips curved up into a smile. “Yes, Ma’am.” Violet eyes returned to the battle as the dropship roared in overhead. The crew compartment slid open and a heavy repeater opened up, absolutely laying waste to the attackers.

“GO!” Marcus yelled to his sister.

Samara didn’t need to be told twice. She leapt,the repulsor lifts in her suit kicking on and propelling her right into the crew compartment with a stumble forward. The young recruit whipped around to see Marcus turn and prepare to jump.

Just then, a missile came screaming at them, the pilot of the craft jerking away from its path. The rocket came so close, Samara had to lean aside as it passed through the cabin and out the other open door. She turned around just in time to see Marcus leaping, his trajectory would not bring him anywhere near the dropship.

Samara sprung forth, arm outreached as she slammed down on the deck of the ship. Their hands clasped as the ship continued pulling away. The weight of Marcus and his suit began to drag her out, but Samara hooked an ankle around a console, anchoring herself. She’d lost him once. It would not happen again.

Marcus looked up at her in wide eyed panic. Samara grinned down at him. “I gotcha, big brother. “

She pulled him up onto the craft as the craft took off. Then, everything was still. The fantasy was over and the crushing loneliness was back. Marcus was still gone.

Wei watched as the girl looked up at her brother sadly. “I miss you.” She said softly to the avatar.

A pain grew in Wei’s heart. For the first time she felt a kinship with the younger Tamblin. For the first time, she decided she understood her.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The wake up call the next morning was not exactly a welcome intrusion. However, a change in attitude of Samara’s drill instructor was. Over the following week, she found Wei to be downright helpful and patient. She’d even seen the woman crack a rare smile or two.

Every night, Samara entered the simulator with Marcus and trained for a few hours, every night she improved as a soldier. Every night, she did her level best to ignore the twinge in her heart when her brother didn’t even recognize her. It was better than nothing, she would tell herself to little avail. And that was with successful missions.

Sometimes they would fail. Sometimes she died. Those were the easy ones. But seeing her brother die again and again and again… Samara began to understand why people never chose those they knew as a partner in simulations. As much as she knew in her head that it was little more than a glorified video game, she still held him in her arms when he was bleeding. She still cried when his eyes went still. It would have been easy to cave. To call it quits and find another less painful way, but instead, she pressed on.

Samara hardened herself. She let it in, let the wounds scar over until they were an armor. By the end of two weeks, she’d seen him die 130 times. By the end, she could sleep afterwards.

It wasn’t him. It wasn’t Marcus. Marcus was dead and she was alive. She would use his shadow to bring her talents into the light, but the time to mourn was over.

The siblings stood on the bridge of a taken ship, the surrendered crew around them as they approached the viewport. USM ships dropped out of FTL filling space and decimating enemy ships. Marcus smiled .

“Starry night, Starry night...” He whispered to himself.

She turned her head eyeballing him a moment. They had even gotten that?

“Glittering, glittering oh so bright.” Samara finished, a weary smile forming as they watched.

Marcus turned to her, a perplexed look on his face. “How do you know that?”

She turned to him, a wry grin on her exhausted face. They were the first lines of a nursery rhyme their mother had sung to them as children. What the hell, she thought. She could play along. “Mom sang it to us.”

“*Us*?” He said indignantly. “My mother sang that to my sister and I when we were kids. She-“

“Made it up herself. Yeah. I remember.” She was dismissive of this overblown program posing as her brother.

He was quiet a long moment, gawking at her. When he spoke, his voice was different. It was small, confused. Scared.

“Sam?”
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tey’lani was in a panic. The simulation was supposed to end with the taking of the Drusella...this was not part of it. He wasn’t supposed to notice her, he wasn’t supposed to know her. There were blocks in place, inhibitors that limited the lengths to which the simulation should be able to go.

But here they were. Marcus Tamblin was recognizing his sister. “This is not possible…” She muttered to herself over and over again. The curious scientist in her wanted to let it play out, see where it went, but this was uncharted territory. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Her nimble fingers flew over the interface...but the simulation resisted.

Samara, in her suit, took hold of her brother by the armored shoulders, looking him in the eye. “Marcus, it’s me! It’s Sam! Do you know me?”

The pain and confusion in his eyes was readily apparent as they flicked to and from his sister, trying desperately to comprehend what was happening.

“How...why are you here?” He asked breathlessly before taking in his surroundings. “Where are we?”

Tey’lani worked feverishly, trying to shut down the program, but it seemed to have ideas of its own, rewriting the code even as she typed. The simulation didn’t WANT to end.

Samara withdrew her arms from her ExoSuit and took his face between her hands. Those blue eyes stared straight into his. “Marc, I need you to tell me the last thing you remember.”

He looked perplexed, frantic. “I...we...were on Telamir…”. Marcus winced as if fighting his brain to recall the information. “We were pinned down waiting for...for evac…”

No. No way he remembered his own death, Tey’lani thought in horror, freezing for a second at the console.

Marcus looked beyond terrified, his eyes wide and mouth hanging agape as images passed through his mind. “Oh Gods...Oh Gods…”

“Marc! Marcus! Look at me big brother!” Samara shouted. “I’m here. I’m right here. I need to know, is this *you*?”

Tey’lani knew exactly what the young recruit meant. The questionable ethics of the program were foggy enough without the simulation of a dead man gaining sentience blasting right past the boundaries like stampede.

Tears streamed down his face as he stared at his sister, but couldn’t see her.

“Marcus, come on!” Samara shouted. “Talk to me!”

Enough was enough. Tey’lani ripped open a panel, her hands feeling around for the main power cables.

“Sam…” he whispered in a quivering voice. “Please…make it stop.”

Samara shook her head violently. “Please, Marc..talk to me.”

He gasped wildly for breath. “Sam...I-“

In the blink of an eye, he and the room around them were gone. Samara was alone.

Tey’lani leaned back against the console, her eyes clamped shut as she tried to catch her breath and make sense of what had just happened.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2017 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fleet Admiral Lanning watched as the whole messy drama played out on the holoscreen. Samara clutching the simulated Marcus Tamblin’s horrified face.

“Sam...please. Make it stop…”

Tey’lani was a bundle of exposed nerves. This unintended consequence could mean some rather unpleasant things for her career, nevermind her conscience. The big, weathered hand of Merichak clamped gently on her shoulder, offering a small amount of comfort.

“Sam...I-“

Distaste on his aged face, Lanning sat in silence as the image went still. Both Tamblins stood across from one another frozen in time, clinging for dear life. The silence that hung in the room was deafening and seemingly infinite to the Iridian. Lanning reached up and ran his hand down down his mouth. The slightest shake of his weary head.

“Gods. Just what in the *hell* happened here?” He asked, turning toward Tey’lani.

She felt like her skin burned as her face flushed. “Sir...I assure you, the system was never meant to function like that. We’ve been running the simulator for years and it’s never had that sort of malfunction.”

“Malfunction?” Lanning asked incredulously. “Specialist Viscari, a machine slapping a label on upside down is a malfunction. This is something else.”

Lanning looked like a kindly old man, the image of the sweet old grandfather. But when those eyes were set upon you in disappointment, you felt like crawling into a hole and dying. Luckily, she was not alone.

“The question is,” Merichak interceded, “Now that we know about it, what do we do with it?”

“If the public gets wind of this, it’ll be a ****storm. And if our enemies get ahold it, it’ll be worse.” Lanning responded. The old man seemed tired. 55 years of service was bound to take its toll on anyone. He’d seen countless heroes rise and fall over the decades, and had dealt with their sacrifices every single day.

“This little experiment should never have seen the light of day.” Lanning told her cooly.

“I beg your pardon, sir, but my program has allowed the MCU to train with the best. With legends.” She defended herself with a grin. “If we want to create legends, shouldn’t they be trained by them?” The program was her baby. It hadn’t been easy to convince the brains at R&D to let her take a crack at this. She sure as hell wasn’t going to give it up without a fight.

“Legends.” Lanning said with a nod, his voice grave. “You know what I’ve learned about Legends, Specialist?”

Those wizened, blue eyes regarded her as the silence settled. “They’re all dead.”

Tey’lani’s eyes drifted downward.

“I don’t have time for Legends,” Lanning continued. “I need smart, capable soldiers without delusions of grandeur because they were trained by a ghost. You should have let the dead stay dead.”

“That’s exactly what I did, Sir. The avatars aren’t supposed to be able to achieve sentience, they aren’t supposed to be able to become self-aware.”

“It would appear you were wrong.” He countered. “You don’t get to play God and claim innocence when it backfires. You fiddled with something you didn’t fully understand. You resurrected the dead without being sure you could control them. Gods, Specialist, did you even secure permission from their families?”

Tey’lani went to speak, but nothing came out. She knew damn well she had not. She was more preoccupied with whether she could actually do it. She’d figured limiting functionality was good enough. It wasn’t REALLY their loved ones if they couldn’t truly feel, right? Right?

“And in doing so, you’ve managed to create a perfect tool for our enemies to use against us. The combined knowledge of every fallen MCU operator for the past 20 years, gathered in one place. All our weaknesses, all our strategies. You’ve potentially weaponized our fallen friends.”

Something deep down in the pit of her stomach ached.

“Admiral, she didn’t intend this to happen.” Merichak stepped in, placing a comforting hand on the shoulder of her grey and white dress uniform. “Let’s not string her up just yet.”

“Relax, Specialist.” Lanning offered a comforting smile. “Nobody’s being court martialed. But your experiment ends now.”

“Yes, sir.” She said in a small voice.

“What about Tamblin, Admiral?” Merichak asked. “She’s not going to like this. We give her a shot to talk to her brother and we just rip that away from her? She’s not going to be thrilled with that.”

Lanning had an amused expression on his face. “I was under the impression this was a military unit. Not a mental health facility. Shut it down, John.” He said gently.

Merichak nodded. “Yes sir.”

Lanning pushed up out of his chair and gathered his things. He took one last look at Tey’lani, a warm smile crossing his face. “What you’ve done, Specialist Viscari, is nothing short of amazing. A bit horrific...but amazing. Regardless of what’s happened...you are still one of the greatest minds the USM has ever had the privilege of calling their own.”

Tey’lani’s heart seemed to double over. Words of praise like that from the Admiral weren’t common. “Thank you sir.”

“You lost today. But don’t let it stop you. Good day, Specialist.” He nodded to Merichak. “Sergeant.”
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Samara sat once again on the observation deck, her knees pressed up against her chest. The word came down from Merichak himself. The training program was to be shut down indefinitely. It was like losing Marcus all over again, only worse. She was a hair’s breadth away from getting him back, she thought, but here she was. Mourning his loss for the second time.

It was childish optimism to think such second chances were possible. Sometimes the things that were taken could never be given back. It was a simple, undeniable fact of life...but it didn’t mean she had to like it. It didn’t do anything to numb the pain.

Blue eyes stared out across the infinite blackness of space, taking in its vast, unfathomable scope and, for the first time she didn’t marvel It didn’t look full of potential and life. Tonight, it just felt...empty. A vast nothingness. An abyss of incalculable emptiness spread out all around her, indifferent to all. It was equal parts crushing and incomprehensibly desolate.

Tey’lani seemed just as heartbroken over the prospect. The simulator was her baby. A brilliant, unprecedented piece of technology, and now at the first sign of trouble, it was being shut down by small men without vision.

She was glad they couldn’t read her thoughts. At least as far as she knew.

Footsteps came from behind her, barely audible. A pair of bare, blue feet padded quietly into the room. Samara glanced over her shoulder to find Tey’lani standing there clad in her Andoran hoodie and a pajama pants. The pair of them just eyed each other a moment. Both looking like they wanted to say something. Instead, Samara patted the seat beside her.

A little smile spread across Tey’lani’s lips. The Iridian slid onto the couch beside her, Samara wrapping an arm around her friend. The pair curled up together, just clinging to one another and staring out at sprawling, cold starfield.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Serles sat in his rack, legs crossed in front of him and a datapad in his lap. On Screen was a woman in her late forties, her dark hair and tan complexion defying her age. She was beaming with pride at her son.

Marcia Serles-Clovis was one of the brightest minds in the USM’s R&D dept. She specialized in long-range communications and helped pioneer the Rapid Connection Interface, allowing real time communication across the vast galaxy. Thomas had the opportunity to join her right out of the academy, but opted for combat training, much to her chagrin.

“You look so grown up! Look at you! I feel like I haven’t seen my baby in years.” She told him.

Serles blushed a bit, glancing around to make sure the guys weren’t around to hear. They’d never let him live it down.

“I know. I miss you guys, too. How’s Dad? Is he there?” Serles asked.

“No. He had to go off-planet. Some big meeting with the Admiralty board.”
Serles gawked a moment. “Is...is he getting promoted?”

His mother had a little knowing smile on her face. “They didn’t say...but…”

Thomas always had a difficult relationship with his father. Winfield Serles was a hard man. A career soldier and combat veteran. Try as Thomas might, nothing ever seemed good enough. When he won awards in school, the most he would receive would be a handshake or a nod. Got an A? Should have been an A-Plus. When he went to the academy and received high marks? Should have been made squad leader. Every single accomplishment was met with further pushing. It wasn’t enough for Thomas Serles to be good. He had to be the best.

“That’s...that’s great.” He said, forcing a smile. Having his dad on the Admiralty Board didn’t sound like it would exactly make his life any easier. “Well, if you hear from him...can you tell him I said hey?” Because he knew the old man would never reach out to him. Though it went unsaid, Marcia heard him loud and clear.

“You know he’s proud of you, Tommy.” She said soothingly.

“Yeah. I know.” He lied, forcing a smile.

Marcia offered a sympathetic look. She knew how her husband could be with him. More than once, she’d had to keep the soldier in line and remind him to be a human being to his flesh and blood for a change. But she knew him in a way Thomas did not. Spoke to him in a way that Thomas never would be able to. She knew that if he was hard with Thomas, if he pushed, it was because he knew the boy was capable of great things.

“Are they treating you well there?” Marcia asked him.

“Oh yeah. The guys are like big brothers I never had.” He responded with a grin. “They call me Tyke.”

“Wow, that’s great!” She beamed. “How’s...what’s her name? Sam?”

“Sam’s...She’s incredible. Mom...that girl is hardcore. When she’s not working with the team she’s been in-” He suddenly caught himself. The simulator wasn’t exactly public knowledge...and had just been shut down by Fleet Admiral Lanning himself. Probably not the best thing to spout off over and unsecured network. “Well, she’s always training.”

“Well, you just keep doing your best and you’ll be right there with her.” Marcia assured him.

He blushed again. Funny how even when you’re a soldier, your mother could make you feel about 5 years old. The sounds of voices approaching told him it was time to end the call. “Ma, I gotta go. But I’ll call you later.”

“Okay. I love you, Tommy.” She said, making a big smoochy sound.

The other guys busted into the room, carrying on loudly...except of course for K’tan. Duster came up, brows raised and chuckling. “Oh-hoho...Tyke! Who is THIS?!”

“Daaaaamn, kid...like ‘em older huh?” Eaton said with a smirk.

“Guys it’s my mom, alright?” He said in frustration.

“Ooooh...mommy!” Duster said. “Mommy can tuck me in any time!”

“You wouldn’t know what to do with this, Needle dick.” Marcia said with narrowed eyes.

Duster’s face fell, the color draining to a pale white. “So...this...this is a live call.” He knew damn well who Dr. Marcia Serles-Clovis was. He cleared his thoat. “Ma’am-er...Doctor, I apologize...I just-”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Marcia smirked. “You boys take care of my son, and we’ll call it even, you hear me?”

Byron was a little frozen until Eaton nudged him hard with an elbow. “Yes! Y-yes, ma’am! Thank you.”

Tyke was mortified, his head in his hand. “Mom. I’ll...see you later.” He reached down and cut the connection.

Eaton had the biggest grin on his face. “Nice job, noodle dick.”

“Hey! I didn’t know she was live!” Byron threw his hands up and looked to Serles. “Not cool, dude.”

“Well, stop hitting on my mom, jackhole…”
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