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    SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Bad John
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    SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on February 20th 2017, 3:55 pm

    An upcoming project that fondly regards one of my favorite series.

    Our character is an up and coming member of a new wave of genetically enhanced super-soldiers. In this early gamut of tests, they must prove their killer instincts and triumph over creatures who regularly trod on humans and treat them as prey.

    Our setting is a highly advanced human society with dreams of expansion out into the further reaches of their domain; regardless of what it takes in human life, they will progress forward and master the adversity of the known world.

    You can probably guess which series I'm talking about.

    Last edited by Bad John on March 1st 2017, 11:22 pm; edited 3 times in total
    It's Kruger
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  It's Kruger on February 21st 2017, 7:04 pm

    Spider-Man 2?
    Bad John
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on February 21st 2017, 10:15 pm

    Animal Crossing

    Final Fantasy VII
    Bad John
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    1.1: Locker Room Talk

    Post  Bad John on February 22nd 2017, 2:59 pm

    The metal hallway that led to the locker and equipment room was ominous to say the least, lit only by a few dim floor lights that gave the place an earthy glow; it was never a good sign when the laboratory technicians showed a hint of theatric flair.

    Seven youths adjusted their armor. They all wore the standard fatigues of the SOLDIER program; sleeveless tunics, long pants and leather boots, their fabric dyed blue to mark their status as beginners.

    They grasped their allotted weaponry from the walls; in a world of guns, cannons, and sorcery, these youngsters were given simple iron long-swords. The largest of them grimaced at the blade as he pulled it from the scabbard. "Barbaric, but I guess it'll do the job." Kydomis slid the blade back into the scabbard, and pulled the scabbard's strap over his back. He snatched an apple sized orb from a small, open foot locket underneath the blades. His teammates helped themselves to the weapons and orbs while some laced up their boots and attached their shoulder pauldrons.

    Most of the seven were too lost in thought to consider speaking, but one found his nerve and spoke up, making conversation. "Hey, Apatet. Any news from the future?" Alken slipped his helmet on over his black hair. The visor scarcely obscured the glow behind his pupils; they were well on their way to being fully blooded SOLDIERs. Every one of them exhibited a surplus of agility, strength, and stamina; the glow in their eyes was proof that there was Mako energy in their very cells.

    Despite that, Apatet's brow furrowed with worry as she bit her knuckle. The blue eyed, red haired SOLDIER glanced up at Alken, shaking her head. "I've had a few different visions of what'll happen, but here's what matters; this is a pass or die endurance test against monsters. We're expected to defend ourselves for an indeterminate amount of time."

    Looking up, a pale skinned SOLDIER quirked her eyebrow at Apatet. "Whatcha mean, indeterminate?"

    Apatet shrugged her shoulders. "Every time, I die or pass out before the test is finished. Most of you die as well. Lioke, you died protecting me more than once. Thank you for that."

    Lioke, the pale skinned you who'd asked, slumped forward and grasped her forehead. "Son of a bitch, that sounds bad."

    Alken took a breath, latching on his shoulder pauldrons. He grimaced as he tried at the left one; his hands were shaking a bit, and he always had trouble latching on the left one. It was a running joke that he spent longer attaching it than he did actually wearing it. With the pressure on, and potential death imminent, his six groupmates looked away as he fumbled with the small latch underneath the plate.

    Oddly, Lioke approached him. "Stay still. Fucking hell." Lioke latched it on for him, patting the back of his helmet, then gripping it in her palm. "I need you to preform out there. Don't choke out there. Break some bones, okay?"

    Nodding, Alken's nerves evened somewhat. "Yeah, I got it. Thanks." He turned, unsure why she'd singled him out. Putting his sword on his shoulder and sitting down to think, Alken patted his fist in his palm. "Maybe we should group up. We've all got Materia, so we could aim in every direction and nuke 'em." Lioke stepped back, sitting across from the others as she inspected her blade.

    Apatet shrugged. "We didn't try that once. That could work."

    "Grouping up could just get us killed quicker." At the back of the small recess in the hallway, Anaideian furrowed her brow. "No point making plans now. We don't know what exactly we're dealing with; and no, I do not count Apatet's make-believe seat-of-her-pants future-seeing nonsense."

    "Oh come on, Anaideian. Stop being a skeptic." Alken intervened, coming to Apatet's defense. "Her predictions have been accurate lately. Scary accurate. You gotta admit, she's usually right."

    "I hope she's not right, Alken. She just told me that I die. What the hell?" Lioke glared at Alken, who stood his ground, though a bit taken aback.

    "What're you on my case for? Obviously I don't want you to die." Alken strapped his sword to his back, adjusting his helmet. Before the argument could escalate, Apatet spoke up.

    "We ALL died at least once." Apatet furrowed her brow, stroking her chin as she thought of a way to explain. "Every time I look forward is different. We can figure out a different future. We just need to work together and outfight our opponents. We've done well before. Alken calls them 'hot-streaks' whenever I mention them. He's kind of a wild card, and his ideas usually get us further in. The farthest we've got was a time when the wall exploded. I got hit by a rock and was fading out, but I heard someone screaming for us to get down. We were all alive, as far as I could tell; some of us were bleeding, but hanging in there."

    "...Hot dang. Maybe that's the end of the thing. We just need to make sure Apatet isn't knocked out this time, so next time goes better." Kydomis grinned, folding his arms, having 'figured out' the solution.

    "...Y'know we're not actually in her vision, right? If we die, we don't get a second chance." Alken chortled as Kydomis torqued his jaw. "But yeah, I see your point. Apatet, I'm trusting you. Try to make sure we do everything like we did in that vision, and let us know when you're about to get hit by the rock. Alright? You're the leader."

    "The hell she is!" Anaideian stood in defiance of Alken's edict. However, the argument suddenly died on her lips when she realized she was utterly outnumbered. Everyone else was willing to go along with the plan.

    Except two. "Hybria. Gaeria. Surely you're not willing to go along with this?"

    "I'm exactly willing to go along with this," Gaeria answered. "Apatet's predictions have made me money. What have you done for me lately? You punched me awake yesterday." Abandoning any attempt to convince Gaeria, the skeptic turned towards Hybria. The woman's long hair fell down to the small of her back even with her helmet on. She looked up at Anadeian and shrugged.

    "What good would my vote even do you at this point? Just give it up and go along with this; I'd rather die playing along than being a dick."

    "You people are fucking crazy. Nobody can predict the future. It's impossible." Anaideian ground her teeth. The youngest, at fifteen years old, she was still the most fiercely outspoken. "We need to actually prepare ourselves to fight to the death. If you go in believing in mysticism, then we'll lose focus. We're all gonna die."

    Apatet shrugged her shoulders. "You're better off not playing along, actually. On average, you lived the longest by watching your own back, Anai."

    "Good to know." Anai for short, the uncooperative teenager took her longsword and tied back her hair. Strapping the scabbard to her hip, she started down the hallway and towards the cutting room floor; an ironic name. It was where the SOLDIERs that the public didn't know about went to die; those executed for repeated insubordination or Mako mutation, felled during training, or butchered during unorthodox experiments.

    Even now, the youths felt they were the lucky ones; they were still alive, and on their way towards another painful test, as opposed to the dead.

    "Welp, no use wasting time here. Anai, wait up." Alken walked after her, and naturally, the others followed. Soon, they'd grouped together in an uneven line. Another reason they were lucky; even against these odds, they weren't alone. Even Anai would defend her teammates. A year of watching each-other's backs, offering each-other tips and favors, and generally being a team made their collective water as thick as blood.

    As they all approached the steel, rising doors, Gaeria chortled. "Think hiding behind the door counts as a strategy? I mean, they want us to use our heads, right?"

    "Don't be a pussy. We got this." Hybria boxed Gaeria on the shoulder for his hesitance. "Get ready. They're about to open up."

    Apatet gripped her a green, glimmering orb in her hand. The bright, shining bauble was her preferred weapon; it was Materia, magic made stone. Her Ice Materia would come in good use. "At the start, they'll send out one powerful monster for each of us. Once you've finished your opponent, move to support each-other. Who has the Restore Materia this time?"

    "I can't really sense which ones I'm holding yet. I donno until I've already cast with it." Alken, embarrassed, scratched the back of his neck. "What've I got?"

    Kydomis, ever the handyman, glanced at it for a moment, his blue eyes assessing the orb. "Lightning. Lucky. I got fire."

    "Trade?" Alken and Kydomis switched Materia happily, both satisfied.

    Suddenly, Hybria strode forward and bumped Alken's head against Kydomis's. The two winced painfully as their helmets thunked against each-other. "This isn't a fucking Wutai swap meet. Stay on topic. I've got the Restore Materia, Apatet. What do you need me to do with it?"

    "Just don't drop it. In one reality, Alken slips on it and loses his front tooth." Apatet's frank delivery of the news made Alken yelp with disapproved shock.

    Suddenly, the door shuddered, and light spilled underneath it, illuminating the SOLDIER's shoes. They quickly snapped to attention, fists tight, shoulders square and heads high.

    The intercom made a scratching, whining noise as the proctors of the examination formally began. The massive, square room was stained with dry, black markings on the concrete walls; mostly burns from acid, electricity and flame, or the remnants of sterilized biological material. The entire room stank like medical equipment and dried blood. The proctor cleared her throat as she spoke into the microphone.

    "Cadets, I've but two orders for you to follow. Protect yourselves at all times. Protect each-other at your own discretion. Aside from that, I bring you greetings." The doors on the far walls of the stadium sized staging area suddenly began to open, hateful eyes piercing the darkness behind them as seven bestial silhouettes emerged.

    "Welcome to hell on earth, SOLDIERs. If you can't survive this gamut, your life was forfeit to begin with."

     Thanks for reading! It looks like these poor young gents are in a bind.

    For reference, these are the standard SOLDIER fatigues.

    Welp, I'm off to work on my Metallic Knights short story, so expect the next chapter of this sometime after that.

    Last edited by Bad John on February 24th 2017, 2:42 am; edited 2 times in total
    Bad John
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    1.2: Cadet Group 8

    Post  Bad John on February 23rd 2017, 2:04 pm

    Metal beat against chiton, claw, and hide as the battle progressed on the monitor. Louder than the tinny shouts and explosions were the adjustments of a rolling office chair. Honestly, until one of them surprised him, or one of them died, Professor Amechanio was only half paying attention while intermittently working on his mathematical proof, scribbling away characters and numbers, occasionally indulging himself a small live sketch in the margins.

    "Professor, how many waves will we be subjecting the Cadets to? They've been fighting two hours with only ten minute breaks between rounds. They're surely at their limit."

    "Good. Their limit is exactly what we're testing." Professor Amechanio normally didn't take the loss of SOLDIERs in combat training lightly, but this was a special case; due to poor luck, or the intentions of one of the higher ups, Cadet Group 8 had gone from fifty youths to seven in the space of a single month. For eleven months, Cadet Group 8 had been down to seven members. Impressively, they accomplished tasks that, while scaled down, were meant for groups with greater delegation ability; or, in layman's terms, more SOLDIERs.

    Unfortunately, it was hardly economical to waste resources privately training seven teenagers while wasting the resources of the deceased forty-three. So, these seven kids were essentially crash dummies for one of Amechanio's tests.

    How much did desperation, exhaustion, and fear weigh into the use of latent Mako energy? Could SOLDIERs be made more powerful with the threat of death looming?

    Amechanio's experiment had proven a few things; they were certainly team players, and their fighting ability, even with so little practical experience, was not to be taken lightly. Even Anaideian, infamous for her competitive nature, was moving for the good of the group rather than slaying easy adversaries to pad her resume.

    But Amechanio wasn't looking for a triumph of human spirit. He hardly even believed in the effectiveness of teamwork or emotional attachment against raw power. What he wanted was individual output. The breaking of a Cadet's natural limits through stress.

    If seven youths had to die to confirm or deny his findings, then so be it.

    Apatet held her ground, even as the bizarre creature before her beat against her sword. She raised her guard in the nick of time for every rapid swing, repelling the scythe tipped hands that nearly gored her face with every swing. A particularly ill-timed guard made Apatet stumble, falling on her back.

    The creature was a horrible one indeed; its strikes were heavy, and it had naturally embedded weaponry and a size advantage. A creature native to the northern caves, its beady eyes locked onto Apatet as it lumbered forward, intent on goring and eating the SOLDIER. Covered in red and tan skin, the mole-like beast fumbled forward in search of a meal.

    It possessed a drive to kill unlike any natural creature; monsters were distinct from animals for reasons above a SOLDIER's pay-grade; something twisted in their DNA compelled them to kill.

    Apatet knew she had nothing to fear, despite her racing heart and aching arms. She'd seen this before; Kydomis trade her sword for his Lightning Materia, and back her up.


    Right on schedule. Apatet turned and caught the green Materia. Kydomis was already sprinting towards her. He held out his hand as Apatet backed away from the creature. As it followed her, single-mindedly focused, Kydomis snatched her sword, and attacked with both arms.

    Dual wielding long-swords, Kydomis slashed the creature across the chest. It lurched forward, swinging down its sickle clawed hands as it had with Apatet. It Kydomis was far stronger than her; he drove the creature's swings back, and countered before the creature could reply. His blades hewed through the beast's thick red and tan skin.

    Leaning forward, Kydomis scored a hit that hewed off the creature's left arm. "KYDO! Move aside!" Apatet, having gained her second wind, aimed a single, empty hand. Drawing out the latent magic of the Lighting Materia in her grip, she prepared a targeted combat spell. Kydomis, on cue, leaped to the right, exploiting the creature's lost limb to move unhindered.  As the creature turned to go after him, Apatet took her clear shot.

    A furious lightning-bolt illuminated the room with a deafening crack. The mole creature fell, a scorch mark over its heart. For good measure, Kydomis drove Apatet's sword through its skull. "Damn. You've really been practicing." Kydomis remembered when her use of Lightning Materia felt akin to a joy buzzer. Now it was strong enough to stop a bear-mole's heart.

    Apatet grinned pridefully for a moment, before both heard Gaeira bark in pain. They rushed to assist him against his opponent as the fighting continued.

    Nearby, Hybria was facing the strongest of the beasts. The monster was shaped like a tremendous armadillo, standing easily two feet taller than its intrepid SOLDIER opponent. Hybria brushed back her long brown hair, gritting and grinding her teeth. "C'mon. C'MON." She suddenly sheathed her blade, tilting and popping her neck. The creature took it as a challenge, and began loping towards her.

    Once it had gained some momentum, the beast rolled into a ball, its hard shell rubbing against the floor and building traction. The creature rolled a damn-sight faster than it ran. Hybria paced back as the creature jetted towards her, then jumped out of the way.

    As the creature swung in a wide circle to come around at her, Hybria landed and planted her feet. She wiggled her arms, loosening herself up and preparing for the impact.

    The creature had stricken her once before; the blow caught her unaware and rubbed the skin off her right arm. Standing her ground might be painful, but it was part of her plan.

    The rolling beast tore across the floor, and Hybria caught it. Shoved back several meters, she held the sides of the beast and dug in her leather boots until the two came to a stop. Hybria snarled, lifting the creature.

    As she held the creature, a blue, wispy matter came off her skin. From the gallery, the Professor was finally getting interested in the skirmish. As Hybria dedicated all her being to mauling this creature, she vented and harnessed her latent energy, aiding her efforts. Though she didn't know it, she was exerting ten times her highest level of physical strength.

    Hybria bore her teeth as her arms strained. The creature's armor was too hard to cleave or break, and it rolled into a ball every time she struck at it. There was no breaking this beast's armor.

    That's what Hybria was counting on. Grasping two of the plates on opposite sides, the SOLDIER pulled with all her might. There were soft, chirping protestations from the creature as Hybria rent off one of its armor plates. Finally, she tore the circular plate off. Pulling her sword from the scabbard, she stabbed it through the weak point she'd made, holding onto the stolen piece she'd prized from the monster. The glow on her skin dissipated before she could even notice it. The massive, carnivorous beast fell to the floor, its blood pooling at Hybria’s boots.

    The creature’s hide would make a good buckler, if she could find a blacksmith capable of shaping it. She turned, and saw Gaeira, Kydomis, and Apatet stabbing something to death; good for them. Hybria was pleased that her teammates were holding their own. Looking in the other direction, she saw that Alken had bested his opponent.

    Standing over his decimated adversary, Alken was covered in bruises. He’d still won out despite looking worse for wear; he managed to cut his opponent in half. A naga, the beast was once a feral humanoid covered in scales; now its muscular body lay on one side of the SOLDIER, its lengthy tail on the other.

    Alken caught his breath, leaning on his blade. Lioke stood behind him. He heard her coming and spoke up. “I’m fine, but it was a tough bastard. Had to break both its arms just to finish it off.” Alken’s sword wasn’t the only thing covered in blood; his fists were scraped and dripping with the stuff; he’d been using his bare hands more than his weapon.

    “Here’s your Fire Materia back.” Lioke slipped the Materia into the holster on his hip; she managed to incinerate her opponent without wasting too much effort seconds after he let her borrow it. “Rest for a bit. Catch your breath.”

    Alken nodded rapidly, breathing in through his nose and out though his mouth to halt the burning of effort in his lungs. As he recovered. Hybria clapped her hands together to get the small squad’s attention. She yanked her Restoration Materia off the small holster on her hip. “Form up, people. Healing magic won’t make you less exhausted, but at least you’ll be less beat up. I’m sure you don’t want to hang onto any bruises before the next round.”

    “Yes please.” Alken immediately approached Hybria, who pointed an open hand and sent a soothing buffet of mint-colored mist towards her teammate. In an instant, the torn skin on Alken’s hands was soothed, and the bruises on his arms and face lightened until it seemed he’d just gone for a light jog. There was still monster blood on his hands and weapon, but that was a job for the showers.

    Despite being their most feared and effective combatant, Hybria was no slouch when it came to healing. “Gaeira. You get over here too. I can smell death on you from here.” Kydomis helped Gaeira along, supporting him as he limped. Gaeira had suffered a broken leg, but Hybria erased the damage in seconds. Soon, the entire group was huddled together in a seven-SOLDIER formation.

    The largest doors on the far side of the arena groaned open as the youngsters got their act together to continue. “I’m too exhausted to draw anything from Materia,” Lioke admitted. “I used it all up last round. Sorry, guys.”

    “No problem. I can barely hold my weapon straight.” Gaeira had suffered worst from the ordeal; though skilled in hit-and-run tactics, his endurance used itself up twice as quickly.

    “I’m just generally unhappy, if that counts.” Kydomis panted. “We’re a real black hole when it comes to limitations, aren’t we, fellas?” He managed a hearty laugh as the doors came halfway open. “…Do you think these monsters are too shy to come out, or too big for the doors?”

    “Well, at this point, I’d prefer a big opponent. The smart ones are always a bitch.” Gaeira roused his guard as their opponent ponderously dragged itself out into the open. Green skinned and possessing a multitude of slithering, arching eye-stalks, the monster was their sole opponent, and well in excess of seven meters in height. The creature exhaled purple fumes from a wide, thick lipped, razor fanged mouth.

    “…Holy shit,” Kydomis muttered, his stoic positivity broken down by confused horror. “This ain’t a test. They’re just trying to kill us at this point.”

    Hybria squinted at the beast. “What even is it? I've never seen something like that monster.”

    “Here’s the cliff notes version.” The creature, either out of politeness or its slow movement, gave the SOLDIERs plenty of time to talk. Kydomis quickly rattled off the relevant information. “That thing is big and slow, but it turns oxygen into a toxin that leaches your stamina. Once you’re poisoned, it takes its time eating you. Its teeth are like spears, and those tentacles can crush a car engine once they’ve wrapped around it.”

    “So if we don’t kill it, every molecule of air will be poison soon?” Lioke didn’t like those odds.

    “If we can.” His expression grave, Kydomis dug in his boots.

    “Then let’s do my plan!” Alken grasped his Fire Materia, channeling every ounce of his remaining energy into the orb and hoping for a return on his investment; he’d almost used himself up as badly as Lioke, but he was confident he had more magic to give to the cause. “Our best chance is to hit it with all the magic we can and blow it up at long range, right?”

    Apatet nodded firmly. “We didn’t try it last time. Our best bet is to stall until the wall bursts.” Raising her Ice Materia, and the Lightning Materia she’d borrowed from Kydomis, she prepared to attack as well. Anai, hesitant before, turned her Fire Materia towards the task. “We’ve got three SOLDIERs with magic left to use. Make your shots count!” As the trio stepped forward, the other four moved behind them with swords at the ready to finish the job.

    “READY!” Alken’s hand was already wreathed in flame. Apatet’s right hand sparked with electricity, her left coated in frost that spread and shattered, crawling to her elbow before ebbing back down to her wrist as she corrected the magic’s course. “AIM!” Anai ground her teeth together, her short hair rippling as she drew almost more magic than she could contain.


    At Alken’s command, the trio let loose a chorus of spells. The Malboro was pushed back at first, then completely vanished, only its vague shape visible behind a wall of fire. As Alken and Anai pounded the beast with balls of brilliant flame, sparks and bolts split the haze, hammering against the Malboro’s green skin.

    Lioke pumped her fist as the creature slid backwards. As Anaideian, Alken, and Apatet emptied their reserves of magic, Hybria vocally cheered them on as the cadet's spirits were lifted by the bombardment. “CRUSH HIM, TRIPLE A! Show that bastard what SOLDIERs are made of!”

    Alken was the first to give out. The green orb on his belt dimmed as he failed to draw any more magic from it. Anai carried on for a second longer, before collapsing to a knee. Still, Apatet rained lightning and ice from both hands. When she stopped, the SOLDIERs waited for the smoke to clear, wondering if their adversary was still alive.

    Their answer came when the smoke turned purple. Its skin blackened by the assault, and most of is eyestalks drooping, damaged, or completely blasted off, the Malboro slithered forward on its remaining legs as the SOLDIERs watched in abject despair.

    It seemed that total failure was approaching. The creature exhaled a gust of toxic, sour breath that spread across the arena.

    Apatet patiently waited.

    Soon, for better or worse, the Northern wall would explode, and she’d probably miss the ending.

    Last edited by Bad John on February 23rd 2017, 3:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Bad John
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    Author's Note.

    Post  Bad John on February 23rd 2017, 3:36 pm

    Just wait until you see how mean the world is outside this little bunker. There are situations in which our characters will be even more fucked than they are now. Being a SOLDIER ain't easy, even in boot camp.

    Rest assured, there will be quieter character moments in which their personalities and dynamics are explored, and they have a little fun, but for now, make due with some explosions, blood, poisons, and temporal future seeing shenanigans.

    For clarification, however, all sentient life can use Materia to a degree; it's literally whatever spell (or spells, or effects, or curses, or advantages) it is, compressed into a ball. Bringing it out takes a certain sort of stamina that's not linked to your physical exertion; you can feel it draining once you get the hang of it.

    By the same ticket, magic can be done without Materia with a little bit of training, and the more adept you are with Magic, the more magical endurance you have, and the more powerful you are while using Materia as an enhancement. This is not the case, actually. Only certain peeps can use magic without Materia assisting them.

    Granted, there are artificial remedies for magical exhaustion; you can chug some ether and feel your stamina pump back up, and throw fireballs like an asshole all day. Even an otherwise untrained pleb with a Fire Materia could rob a bank with fire spells if he put his mind to it. It's considered a cheap, but effective tactic in battle when you're facing an opponent too dangerous to handle with a weapon (you literally do it ingame in most Final Fantasy installments).

    That's how Magic and Materia works. Tune in later for the next chapter.

    Last edited by Bad John on March 1st 2017, 2:10 am; edited 1 time in total
    Bad John
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    1.4: Teacher

    Post  Bad John on February 24th 2017, 12:48 am

    Staring down the scorched, ugly beast, the SOLDIERs already found themselves losing strength; the purple haze was all about the room, and despite Hybria's desperate attempts to keep up a constant stream of antidotal magic, the effect was overpowering her restorative spells. Soon, her Materia went dim, and Hybria slouched. Despite the urge to breathe, she kept her breaths short and deliberate.

    "Don't breathe," Apatet pleaded with her teammates. "Just hang on a little longer. It'll happen soon, I know it’l-" Lioke's hand suddenly surged out, grasping the redhead by her collar and reeling her in close for a private chat.

    "Do you have any magic left?" Lioke looked around, pointing nearest wall. "If you do, make it happen. Blow up the wall and get us out of here." Practical to the end, Lioke was still considering methods of escape.

    "If we abort the test by force, they'll brand us deserters! They'll kill us!" Apatet pulled away from Lioke, who lost her grip on the fabric of Apatet's uniform. "Besides, I don't have the strength. I tested it; those walls are meant to withstand spells from First Class SOLDIERs. I wouldn't even dent it. Not even the doors are vulnerable enough."

    Lioke grimaced. That was her only idea. "...So, this is the end, huh?" Swallowing, Lioke just focused on keeping her breathing light.

    "If it's the end, then who cares, right?"

    Alken, gripping his weapon tight, narrowed his eyes on the Malboro. The creature had moved only five feet from the door since it arrived. "...We nuked most of its eyes, so it won't notice an attack from above, right?" The SOLDIERs weren't listening to Alken's words; they were busy assessing the blue-green mist dissolving off his skin. Alken's eyes glowed powerfully as he choked up on his sword, clenching it so hard the handle bent slightly, the leather fraying.

    “…Alky, you’re leaking.” Kydomis stepped back. Despite Hybria unconsciously achieving the dissolution of her limits mere minutes ago, none of the SOLDIERs had seen. This was the first time they’d witnessed such a phenomenon; it seemed Alken was exuding pure power and killing intent as he prepared to attack.

    Lioke, getting ahold of herself, realized what Alken was saying. “Wait! Don’t do anything stupi-“ Alken dove into the fray before she could finish. All he was aware of was the fight; if he didn’t succeed, he and his teammates were forfeit.

    The clomping of bootheels shocked the technicians back into work. A pair of SOLDIERs, clad in black fatigues, stepped into the room. It was almost pure chance that they’d arrived today. A young woman and a massive, black bearded man, they both possessed the commanding presence and tight, professional air of career killers.

    “Don’t mind us, boyos. We’re here to look in on the next generation of SOLDIER.” The massive man had eyes as cold and sharp as ice, but the friendly, jolly glow of a town craftsman. “This is the situation room of Group Seven, right?”

    One of the technicians stood, saluting. “Sir. We’re actually overseeing a training exercise for Group Eight.”

    “Ah. The Ghost Group.” The huge SOLDIER strode forward to look at the monitor. The smaller woman with him remained in the doorway. The massive sheet of iron on her back nearly blocked the entrance to the room.

    The technician nodded. “Professor Amechanio stepped out for coffee, but the test is winding down. We only had one monster left to throw at them.”

    “…One more? Surely a cadet group in the single digits only warrants one, period. They should be in standard fitness training this close to graduation.” The SOLDIER torqued his jaw as he looked at the screen. It was an old, chunky monitor with a grainy resolution, and he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. “…Is that a Malboro? Fully grown? In an enclosed space?” The SOLDIER’s eyebrows arched up, his mouth falling open for a moment. “Why aren’t they fighting it in an off-site, open air facility? What the hell is it doing in Midgar at all?”

    Alerted by her colleague’s tone, the SOLDIER in the doorway looked up, folding her arms and stepping nearer to get a look for herself at the developing situation. The laboratory techs, dropping their recording equipment, hastily stood to defend themselves, terrified that the SOLDIER before them was on the verge of going berserk. “What are these readings? Is this not a combat test?” With a rugged snarl, the bearded man yanked some of the papers off the table. After making a three second effort to read them, he tore them apart in his callused hands, staring at the screen counter. “…Have they been fighting that Malboro for two and a half hours?” The counter told no lies; the experiment had been going on for two hours and twenty-eight minutes.

    “No, sir. The Malboro entered the room five minutes ago. Before now, they’ve been fighting an assortment of monsters hand picked by-“ Before the technician could continue, the bearded SOLDIER stared him down, shutting the man up with a look before speaking.

    “Send in the support teams and extract those cadets. On the authority of the Shinra Electric Power Company, I’m aborting this farce immediately.”

    “The Professor ordered us to wait, sir. The support teams are on standby for an incoming test with Cadet Group Nine, more than ten minutes from this wing of the facility.” The technician, guilt in his voice, shook his head. “My hands are tied, sir. If I get in trouble with Amechanio again, I’ll lose my job or worse, even if a pair of First Class SOLDIERS come to my rescue.” The technician mistakenly expected pity from the giant SOLDIER, who simply glowered at him, disgusted.

    “…A grown man concerned with rescue, while teenagers fight to the death as you look on. Why waste time rescuing a lot of gutless wastes?” Both SOLDIERs glowered at the screen. Without preamble, the duo stepped into the hall. For a moment, it seemed they were satisfied with just taking their leave.

    “DOUBLE TIME, ETECHNIA!” The man barked the words to his ally, and the two rushed off. The floor, where their boot-soles had been, was torn as they sprinted off to stop the experiment personally.

    Alken charged forward, rushing straight at the Malboro. His teammates pleaded with him to stop, but he dared on, moving at top speed despite the cramping in his muscles. As he neared the Malboro, its poison was thicker in the air. Soon, Alken decided to hold his breath entirely and work with the lungful of murky air he had; breathing would only debilitate him further.

    The Malboro, with Alken in range, was not idle. Its forward tendrils, mainly used for locomotion and capturing prey, lashed out to grasp him. Alken jumped over them, and they floundered dumbly with no eyes to guide them. Taking to the air with a powerful leap, Alken prepared to strike, allocating his remaining fury and frustration into one arm.

    The Malboro’s last eye stalk snaked around and found him in mid-air. In a blur of green and red, the creature swatted Alken with a single, metal crushing blow. The SOLDIER’s blade was snapped in half, his left wrist broken and his pauldron dented to hell. Unarmed and injured, it seemed Alken’s attack was canceled.

    Fortunately, he wasn’t planning on using his sword. Alken came down on the Malboro with a punch that dented the floor beneath it. Bones popped, one of the creature’s fangs breaking off as purple gas piddled out of its mouth in pathetic wisps, rather than mighty gouts. For a moment, it appeared Alken had won out.

    However, the Malboro was only stunned by the blow; though it was severely injured and writhed in agony at the impact, the beast was alive, and wide awake.

    Another lash of its tendril folded in Alken’s ribcage. He hacked up blood as the tendril snaked around his chest like an anachonda. Though the Malboro could have squeezed him to death then and there, it instead opened its mouth, lowering Alken towards it.

    In a flash of silver, Lioke hurled her sword in a well-timed throw. The blade hewed through the tendril holding Alken. The SOLDIER fell to the floor, his helmet popping off as he landed. Unmoving, it appeared Alken had finally retired from the fight.

    “NO!!!” Lioke’s protestation meant little; the Malboro opened its mouth, its eye-stalk still locked on Alken. Hungry and in utter agony, it needed to eat, and the SOLDIER was the nearest, easiest target.

    Apatet, despite the agonizing fear of seeing one of her friends on the cusp of death, found her gaze magnetically pulled North. There were cracks in the wall. The other SOLDIERS failed to notice, but there were deep, resonating thumps against the metal, faults appearing with each blow.

    When the wall burst, accompanied by a gout of blinding flame and deafening noise, Apatet spent her remaining second in prayer before a rock the size of a softball caught her on the scalp; her helmet did it’s job, protecting her skull, but the visor was broken, cutting her forehead and knocking her unconscious instantly.

    As her back hit the floor, the remaining SOLDIERs turned to see the cause of the commotion. Two figures strode through the broken wall. The youths found their eyes drawn to the largest.

    Every cadet knew of this giant. Towering over his SOLDIER kin, this First Class warrior was a legend, even to the most stoic of recruits. He was Alalonn, the Dragon Slayer. Gripping his customized longsword, he assessed the situation before taking a single step towards the Malboro.

    “I’ll tend to the cadets. Etechnia, the rest is yours.” His teammate, Etechnia, stood in his literal shadow, but wore a weapon fit for a giant; a thick five foot slab of sharpened iron. The Buster Sword was an uncommon but brutally effective implement in the hands of a SOLDIER, and it was about to be put through its paces.

    As Etechnia slowly started towards the Malboro, Alalonn set to work. He fished his prized Materia off of his waist, channeling the power within it. Leaning forward, Alalonn gave forth a breath of his own that dwarfed the Malboro's in power. The room suddenly grew hazy with heat, the air warping.

    “What’s he doing?” Hybria looked around as the purple mist slowly dissipated. She felt her strength returning; Alalonn, through his exhalation alone, burned every particle of the Malboro’s toxin from the air and purged the room’s purple tint. “Whoa…” Hybria, impressed and relieved, stood to attack the Malboro and protect Alken. “C’mon! Let’s sav-“

    STAND DOWN! We’ll handle this from here, cadets!” Alalonn’s order froze the cadets in place as he set to work. Channeling another form of magic altogether, the SOLDIER reached a hand towards the unconscious, mostly broken Alken. He lives. Excellent. Alalonn smiled, before glancing down at Apatet, his grin fading. She’s down, but breathing. It looks like debris did her in. I suppose I was overzealous, breaking the wall so violently. Well, no casualties regardless.

    Alalonn’s gesture towards Alken bore immediate results. For a moment, Alken hovered as the gravity spell affected him. Before the Malboro could bite down, the young man was yanked away from it, directly towards Alalonn. The bearded SOLDIER caught the cadet in one hand by the base of the neck, carefully lowering him down. “Cadets, give me a Restoration Materia, immediately. Your teammate is still alive, and he's been brave long enough. Time to ease his burden.”

    Lioke snatched Hybria’s healing Materia and threw it over. The bearded warrior caught it, setting to work the instant it was in his hand. Alken, still unconscious, took a breath of fresh air. His eyes were dark; oxygen deprivation had nearly killed him even without the Malboro's help. He'd breathed so much of the toxin, Alalonn was impressed he could still be saved.

    With Alken and the other cadets out of the way, Etechnia was clear to strike.

    Clearing the distance instantly, the woman grasped her sword tightly, holding it forward. The Malboro stared her down with its remaining, baleful, agonized eye. With no words or preamble, Etechnia jumped forward and swung.

    The first slash tore upwards through the creature’s lip, goring deeply into its facial tissue. The Malboro, in panicked retaliation, swung every available forward tendril it had. Stepping back, Etechnia countered. To the conscious SOLDIER cadets, it appeared she’d simply spun in a circle. Alalonn saw the truth; it was a tight series of defensive slashes in multiple directions. A fine cut. Every tendril that had set upon her was severed, and she was completely unharmed.

    Stepping in once again, Etechnia raised her weapon high, and swung down. The second blow killed the creature, nearly chopping it in half. Flicking the blood from her sword, Etechnia put the weapon on her back, turning and briskly walking back to Alalonn, who had already finished repairs on Alken’s skeleton. He was still asleep, but he was stable and healthy again.

    “Does this mean we won?” Kydomis asked.

    “Not really. But them winning was almost the same thing.” Hybria grinned, sitting down on the floor as Alalonn healed the unconscious Apatet’s scalp.

    “If you have the strength, rise, and carry your siblings.” Alalonn glanced around the room, his keen eye observing the carnage before him. Not a single fallen SOLDIER, but piles of monster corpses. “…Such savagery,” he muttered.

    “We started makin’ piles, but eventually we were too exhausted to bother, and let ‘em be where they were. Alken tripped over one though, so we started making piles again, but then we decided to stop because Alken was embarrassed that Lioke was making a big deal about moving the bodies so he wouldn’t trip…she gets weird about him, but we try not to talk about it while they’re here.”

    “Half of them are here. Kydomis.” Gaeira pointed to the conscious, listening Lioke, who was staring daggers at him. “Idiot,” Gaeira added for good measure. Kydomis was notable for his complete and utter lack of tact, and his haste in addressing personal issues with relevant parties in the room.

    “…I don’t regret bringing it up. Someone has to.” Kydomis stood by his statement, folding his arms.

    “I hate to interrupt this…whatever this is,” Alalonn interrupted the dispute. Hybria dragged Apatet over, while Anai and Lioke pulled Alken into the crowd by his ankles. “I wasn’t admonishing your brutality, I was complimenting it. Your skill is superb. To have slain so many foes in the space of two hours, and to endure Malboro poison for so long…” While Alalonn hated to think how exhausted the cadets must have been, and how hard they fought, their skill was indeed remarkable. “I’ll be perusing the recordings myself, but if you all withstood as long as you did, you’ve exceeded the skill of Third Rank SOLDIERs. You’re easily Rank Two, and in good standing.”

    “Holy wow.” Kydomis flinched back at the compliment. “I-I mean, thank you, sir. Holy crap. Holy fuck. Sorry, sir. I’m just…you’re my hero, and I’m kinda freaking out right now.” Hybria interviened, patting Kydomis on the back.

    “It’s okay. You already impressed the guy, bud.” Hybria grinned.

    Etechnia, having cleaned her blade and latched it to her back, approached. “Sir. Something of note; the Malboro’s skull was unusually fragile. There was likely a spiderweb crack in its forehead. One of these SOLDIERS managed to crack four inch thick bone with a training saber.”

    “Actually, he used his fist.” Gaeira pointed to the downed Alken, who laid comatose on his back. “He wears out gloves rather quickly.”

    “I’m sold,” Alalonn stated simply. “I will be taking over your training from this point forward, SOLDIERs. As a First Rank, I can, at my discretion, personally train up to ten cadets. You have no say in the matter. I will be no harder, nor softer on you than necessary to beat you into useful and productive subordinates. Be the best of yourselves, and expect nothing less than victory at all times. Etechnia will relocate you to your new quarters in the Fourth Sector, so pack for a train ride.”

    Etechnia reeled, sputtering for a moment at Alalonn’s sudden and major commitment to training these youngsters. She yanked off her helmet emphatically, tucking it under her arm and marching towards Alalon.

    To Hybria’s shock, the girl wasn’t much older than the cadets. Her rags are solid black. Is she a First Rank? How the hell’s she a First Rank? She’s barely seventeen. Jealousy barely registered; Hybria was merely impressed. If anything, she was in awe; the girl had put down a Malboro with total confidence, while the seven of them only barely managed to survive by luck. However Etechnia became this strong, Hybria resolved to follow in her footsteps.

    “Sir, isn’t this decision rather hasty?” Etechnia furrowed her brow, stepping toe to toe with Alalonn. “You’d probably be rubbing Amechanio the wrong way. You’re already stealing the tapes of his research, and you damaged the staging area. Now you’re going to steal an entire Cadet Group?”

    “Who cares?” Lioke asked. “There’s just seven of us, and he said he wanted to do it. I don’t want any more of this sealed bunker meat-grinder bullshit. I want to go with the bearded guy.”

    “I concur.” Anai leaned down next to Apatet, patting her on the cheek in an attempt to wake her. “Psst. C’mon. Get up.”

    “It’ll work itself out, Etechnia. Pack up, we’re going back to Sector Four,” the bearded SOLDIER said. Etechnia’s brow reddened with anger; rubbing her temples, she turned away from him. What was done was done; no point tormenting her blood pressure. “SOLDIERs, return to your quarters, regain your stamina, wake your allies, and get ready for a new day.”

    “Yaaaay” came a voice from Alken. Flinging his arms skyward from his laying position, he cheered on Alalonn’s speech. “New day! We’re number one!” His arms fell limp to his sides as he sat up, half awake. “Wait…what are we talking about? Did I lose time? Where the fuck am I?”

    Author's Note.

    Fun facts about the group.

    Lioke is designated "the odd but practical one."

    Hybria killed a man before joining the superSOLDIER program.

    Alken tends to say "right?" a lot like a white girl before doing something suicidally dumb.

    Kydomis is the best one.

    Anaideian's name is hard to type, so I gave her a nickname mid chapter.

    Gaeira is the worst fighter, but he holds a power so great that no mortal can resist it; he can cheat insanely effectively.

    Apatet can see a bunch of different futures. They appear at random when she's sleeping, daydreaming, or meditating. She can take steps to make possible the ones she prefers, but like any mortal effort, it won't always work out. One day, it might even land her with buyers remorse.

    Stay tuned for next time.

    Last edited by Bad John on February 24th 2017, 8:58 pm; edited 6 times in total
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on February 24th 2017, 1:13 am

    OH. Etechnia is Nicole, and you can probably guess which one is Blaine.

    I love you Morgan
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Shad0wChas3r on February 24th 2017, 2:50 am

    Bruh. My dude literally punched down a wall and said, 'I'll deal with the Cadets, you take on the gaseous hentai monster.' to whom I can only assume is one of the smaller members of his own squad, then proceeds to negate and even buff the effects on the Cadets.

    I loved this story before Alalonn, and honestly got super attached to Alken thinking he was the rumored 'Blaine' character. Now, I'm even more ecstatic, stoked even, to see more. All the other characters, as with many of your works, are also extremely personable and easy to understand their personalities, some just from the way they start their sentences.

    I'll admit I know next to nothing about Final Fantasy, I've always had an interest in playing them, but with (fifteen?) plus games out now, it'd be pretty expensive to play them all, not to mention my already extensive ensemble of games to keep up with.

    I'll do whatever research I can so I know what's going on while I follow this story, and I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment.



    Thanks for Reading!

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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on February 24th 2017, 2:57 am

    I recommend Final Fantasy VII. It's on Steam for about five bucks, and takes three minutes to download.

    You don't need to play them all, or even play or research more than one to understand this story.

    Even then, you could go into this story blind; I'll worldbuild enough to keep unfamiliar readers in the loop. When the characters leave on their train ride, there'll be some exposition.

    By the way, Alken is the John-B069 analogue. He won't be as much of a "main character" as you'd be used to; the characters will mostly trade off that role as needed for character development. You'll notice some familiar traits; open-hearted, prefers to use his fists in a struggle, head-strong, a little oblivious. But, there will be a few differences; one of which will be directly related to his lack of focus as a "main character," and how his teammates view him. Lol.

    Thanks for reading, Morgan!
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on February 24th 2017, 3:00 am

    OH, and also, yes. Etechnica is Alalonn's finest and most upright student; dude likes to help fellow SOLDIERs improve, and took Etechnica under his wing for reasons yet unknown.
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Shad0wChas3r on February 24th 2017, 3:18 am

    Bad John wrote:I recommend Final Fantasy VII. It's on Steam for about five bucks, and takes three minutes to download.

    Regrettably, this old glorified calculator can't even run Minecraft at it's lowest settings for fuck's sake. However, I'll definitely keep this in mind. I've heard lots of positive things about the seventh installment, so this may be something I'll invest in when I can.

    You don't need to play them all, or even play or research more than one to understand this story.

    Even then, you could go into this story blind; I'll worldbuild enough to keep unfamiliar readers in the loop. When the characters leave on their train ride, there'll be some exposition.

    I thought (considering I'm completely uninitiated to the creatures or lore of the franchise) that you did a great job helping me visualize the monsters and their individual threats when you described them. Never once did I have a problem imagining the creatures based off of your descriptions.

    I just mentioned researching in case you made subtle references to the actual lore of the game and I got caught unaware as a result. The only thing I remember was the Chokobos? Uh, the Ostrich things that the characters could ride on. I call them Not-Moas because they remind me of Moa.

    By the way, Alken is the John-B069 analogue...

    ...Thanks for reading, Morgan!

    I had some suspicion that Alken was the John analogue if he wasn't the Blaine analogue, though John and Blaine both have some similar personality traits that it was easy for me to mistaken the underlying truth. Nonetheless, he's one of my favorites of the Cadets just from first glance, though I'm also very interested in Apatet, Hyberia, and Lioke.

    The others are equally interesting, but Alken and the three I named are the ones I found most interesting.

    Anyways, the pleasure was mine and I cannot wait to read more.



    Thanks for Reading!

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    1.5: Road to Sector Four

    Post  Bad John on February 24th 2017, 4:12 pm

    Alright, Etechnia. Run a tight ship. Firm, but fair. Don't be cruel, but expect loyalty, and speak to be listened to.

    In all honesty, this was Etechnia's worst nightmare. Though she was surprised with Alalonn's decision at first, now that she had a few hours to ruminate on it, the decision made a twisted kind of sense.

    This probably wasn't only training for the cadets. Alalonn was trying to build a peer group for her. He was vying to brute-force her into socialization. In truth, she'd been alone for quite a long time; her assignment to SOLDIER wasn't exactly under the best circumstances, and her ascension to First Rank due to natural talent and Alalonn's teaching left her woefully alienated; there were no other First Class soldiers at her young age, and she struggled to see her adult colleagues as anything more than coworkers and superiors.

    Etechnia was self conscious enough to see that her social skills left a lot to be desired. But still, fixing that problem scared her. She had no idea what role to take, or how her position as the superior officer and responsible party would influence her chances of actually connecting with these seven strangers. Everything in her future, from today forward, was a total mystery, dependent on abilities that she'd never sharpened.

    Marching across a metallic bridge, Etechnia took a moment to appreciate the low, silent beauty of the surrounding capital. Wreathed in black, bright lights shined in every direction of the city-scape. The hazy fog of industry gave the upper strata of the higher plates a glowing, wispy mystique. The most technologically advanced city on the planet, it needn't even touch the earth itself; supported by a mighty central pillar and eight Mako reactors, the city hung off the ground beautifully, drawing power from the earth to light the way for its citizens.

    Such safety, unfortunately, bred greed, corruption, and crime. Etechnia reminded herself of her duty as a SOLDIER; to enforce the benevolent will of Shinra, and to defend the people of Midgar.

    As the train approached, the blonde SOLDIER adjusted her hair. She expected her cadets to be late, and to have to lay down the law with them early on. Deciding to collect herself and prepare a tacit and strict speech, Etechnia stepped onto the train to find a place to sit.

    "SOLDIER. I hope you're well. We'll depart immediately." The conductor saluted her, standing. The man was past his prime, and had a prosthetic instead of a natural leg. His professionalism gave Etechnia a much needed boost; even in spite of whatever tragedy had damaged his body, he was still diligent and quick to respect the chain of command.

    "At ease," Etechnia intoned kindly. She paused for a moment, looking him in the eye. "Conductor, you're actually mistaken; this is short notice, but we're actually bringing a group of seven SOLDIER cadets along with us. I hate to alter your schedule, but you'll have to wait for a while longer for them. They must be accounted for."

    “All seven are onboard. Checked their number and IDs myself. All seven. I gave ‘em a ride around the city to kill some time and keep ‘em entertained. Alalonn cleared it; it seems like they’ve been through the ringer.” The old, crippled conductor stretched his arms, reaching for a cup of coffee. Taking a deep inhale, he swallowed a gulp and set it down. Hot coffee gave the jolly old man life.

    “They’re a rowdy bunch, but good hearted, near as I can tell. They’ll make for good SOLDIERs.” The conductor slicked down his eyebrows with a thumb, sitting in his chair. Pressing a button on his wide, intricate console, he opened the door to the passenger cars, revealing Gaeira and Alken, asleep on the benches in their fatigues, the hard plates of their armor carefully lain out nearby. Lioke was also present, reading a novel. Noticing the First Class SOLDIER, Lioke stood and saluted crisply. “The others are further in the back.” The conductor pressed a few more buttons, priming the train to begin its journey. “Alalonn himself says he’ll board at the next station. Said he had to ‘chew out a candy-ass professor.’ Pardon my French; mostly his words. I added ‘candy ass,’ because he made it sound appropriate when describin’ the guy. Is there anyone else unaccounted for, ma’am?”

    Etechnia, her expectations pleasantly defied, shook her head. “Set off when ready, conductor. My apologies for the delay.”

    "Name's Charron, by the way. We've met before, Etechnia." Charron smirked at her. Etechnia was a bit taken aback by her mistake. "Don't worry; we all have our flaws. Maybe a six hour ride with some kids your age will set you right. You're young enough to forget a face every now and then."

    Etechnia, her face visibly reddened with embarrassment, nodded. "My apologies, Charron. You've taught me a valuable lesson. Thank you, sir."

    "No apologies necessary. Just go make friends, and keep our streets safe. I reckon that's thank you enough." Charron grinned at her. The red nosed, silver haired conductor turned back to his work, disengaging the breaks and slowly throttling forward. Grasping the microphone, he spoke clear and strong into it. "All passengers, breaks are disengaged, and we're building speed. Please brace yourselves for disembark."

    Author's Note

    Spacing today's chapter out into two posts. I'm liking this story thus far; feels right. I have a firm picture of it in my head, and the words and scenes just sorta come to me.

    The hard part is going back and editing the shit out of it to clean it up. Lol.

    I'll probably post this up on FF.net and see how people like it, so stay tuned for the reviews of the unwashed masses, provided anyone reads it.
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    1.5: Rpad to Sector Four P2

    Post  Bad John on February 24th 2017, 11:09 pm

    “Hey. Train’s movin’. I guess Etechnia and Alalonn are here now.” Kydomis was ever one to state the obvious. Sitting on top of a rolling foot locker, he watched the windows. In a room with Anai, Apatet, and Hybria, he felt somewhat out of place; he didn’t normally hang out with any of these three. The foot locker slowly started to roll towards the back of the train as it picked up speed. “Whoooooa. Guys, this is kinda fun.” Hybria turned towards him, chortling briefly then watching proper as Kydomis stood on top of the locker, balancing as he slowly skated along.

    Anai rolled her eyes, utterly uninterested. Apatet didn’t look away from the window, watching as the lights of Midgar began to speed up, darting by and leaving luminescent trails. As they entered a tunnel, her view was obscured by plates of steel, so she turned back towards Kydomis in time to see him softly collide with the wall and fall to the floor.

    Hybria quickly hopped on top of it. “Here, Kydo, Get on, and kick off the wall. This’ll be great.” Kydomis cackled briefly, rubbing his hands together and jumping on. Apatet watched the silly game with a grin on her face. It was nice to see her teammates happy, even if they were causing trouble for whatever reason.

    “Full speed ahead!” Kydomis bent his knees, letting the footlocker rest against the wall, then thrust forward. The foot locker rolled like a slug through a gun barrel, immediately shooting through four train cars.

    Unfortunately, Etechnia was in their path. The woman saw the SOLDIERs riding on their steel, tiny wheeled chariot and jumped with shock before going into fight mode. Thinking quickly, she drew her buster sword, swung it horizontal with the blade facing down, and braced it against the floor. The foot locker slammed into it. As Kydomis and Hybria hurtled off, Etechnia lowered her head quickly, the two sailing over her.

    With a tremendous crash, Hybria and Kydomis landed in the first car.

    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW…” Oddly, the plaintive wail came from neither of the foot locker’s riders; it was from Alken. On his way past, Kydomis had accidentally booted Alken directly on the top of the head. “What the hell? Who hit me?” Alken pushed himself upright, rubbing the top of his head. He had deep brown eyes, and by fate, he was the most grounded and friendly of the SOLDIERs. His curly black hair was hidden by a simple wool hat with a chocobo feather laced into the bill; a gift for luck from a friend. “Hey, you two alright?” Alken, ignoring the throbbing pain in his head, rushed to help his teammates up. Grasping Hybria by the arm, he hauled her up, then started picking up Kydomis. “Did the train suddenly brake or something? We’re still moving.”

    “You alright, Alken?” Lioke crossed the room and examined his head briefly. “Yeah, you’re fine.” As she returned to her book, Etechnia rolled the group’s foot locker into the room, her mouth set in a firm line of disapproval.

    “Whose is this, and why isn’t it in the cargo hold?” Etechnia stood straight and tall, her hands behind her back. Despite being a year or two older than this lot, she wasn’t very much taller than many of them. Kydomis actually had her beat by a few inches, and was likely still growing.

    “It’s ours,” Alken said calmly. “I’ll take it to the cargo hold, ma’am. It just has a few board games and books, so we left it out. I can see now why it’d be pretty dangerous to leave it unattended.”

    “At ease. This wasn’t your fault. Those two were rolling around on it.” Etechnia put on a laconic face as she prepared to chide Hybria and Kydomis, taking a breath and figuring out which words to use.

    Fun is fun, but it must be practiced in moderation. No…something more firm. I expect you to conduct yourselves as SOLDI- Suddenly, Alken’s words echoed in her mind. Something seemed strange.

    “What do you mean, the foot locker is ‘ours?’” Etechnia asked the question without thinking.

    Alken shrugged his shoulders. “…Well, most of us didn’t have a lot of excess stuff when we joined, so why bother with multiple trunks? That’s pretty much everything we own in there.”

    Etechnia nodded. “Ah. I see.” After a moment, Etechnia slid the metal trunk under a row of benches. “There. If you need anything from it, just put it securely under a bench when you’re done. Like that.”

    “Yes ma’am.” Hybria nodded as she accepted the advice, glad she hadn’t been chewed out by someone barely a year older than her. Kydomis wasn’t sure how Alken had gotten them out of a tongue lashing, but he appreciated it all the same.

    “Sorry I kicked you, Al,” Kydomis remarked. Alken shrugged, not fully grasping the situation, but forgiving him all the same.

    Etechnia felt a bit dumbstruck; her sympathy for the cadets cost her opportunity to lay down the law with them. Even still, she made the choice to let them off easy, and felt better for it.

    “Want to play cards with the others or something?” As he asked, Alken pointed his thumb towards the rear car. Lioke, intending to come along, stood up and placed a bookmark on her page. “Best to play cards while Gaeira is asleep. He cheats.”

    “…Okay.” Etechnia followed Alken and Lioke, unsure what to make of the invitation. Perhaps I’ve been overthinking every aspect of this. New strategy; don’t think at all.

    As they walked, Alken grabbed Gaeira’s ankle and dragged him off the bench. “Lioke. Mind getting his other ankle?” Astonishingly, Gaeira remained asleep, even as his blue haired scalp hit the floor. Lioke obligingly grabbed Gaeira’s left boot, and the two continued to lead down the hall.

    “May I ask what you’re doing?” Etechnia made no move to intervene, despite how bizarre and disrespectful what they were doing seemed.

    Lioke looked back at Etechnia as if the First Class SOLDIER was insane. “SOLDIER protocol. Don’t leave a vulnerable asset alone if it can be relocated.”

    “Don’t worry about Gaeira. He’s slept through worse, and he’d do the same for us if we couldn’t walk.” Alken looked back at Gaeira. If anything, he was even more asleep than when they’d started.

    Etechnia raised her eyebrow. “Then why not wake him up and let him walk on his own?”

    “Because then he would cheat at cards.” Alken chortled. “See? It all makes perfect sense.”

    Her brow furrowed with confusion, Etechnia considered the fact that she would be stuck with these odd ducks for years.
    Bad John
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on February 24th 2017, 11:24 pm

    Alright! Made my two parter deadline.

    Fun facts; the chocobo feather in Alken's cap is from a good friend; Alken has no idea who that friend is, because it was given to him anonymously by one of his teammates. It is a constant reminder that somebody always has his back, so he can fight his hardest without regret.

    Kydomis is the only member of the team with living family. He joined to support his mother after their home was destroyed; a piece of the city's plate fell on Sector 5 and wiped out his home, leaving them in a pretty shit situation.

    The term "Northerner" in regards to Hybria means she's part of a tough race of humans that lives in the mountains. They're sorta like Vikings, but without the pillaging; just a bunch of chill people who hunt monsters with axes and drink ale and brawl. Hybria never got to grow up there, but she would have been a legend in the North. Now, she has to settle for being a legend in Midgar.
    Bad John
    Freelancer Operative

    Posts : 1224
    Join date : 2013-01-17
    Location : A box in the United States.

    Valentines Day Drabble.

    Post  Bad John on February 25th 2017, 1:13 am

    This is a quick side story; it takes place two years in the future when the cadets have graduated and taken their places as Class Two SOLDIERs.

    I don't normally do Holiday themed stuff, but I figured I'd do a Valentines Day thing late, because I have no idea what day that holiday is on, and Always Sunny did a hilarious Valentines episode, so I wanted to pay the oft hated holiday its due.

    For the record, Wutai is an Eastern place that went to war with Midgar. Midgar won, and now they're mostly at peace. A lot of displaced Wutai ended up in Midgar. Now, a lot of folks are of Wutai heritage around Midgar. I didn't want to keep saying "Wutai" and have someone think it's a slur for the Japanese or something. Just throwing that out there.

    Lioke and Alken wandered the city streets of Sector Four; which was to say a series of sloping scaffolds that descended into a swirl of lights and yellow caution paint. The “Underground City” was awash with life and foot traffic, along with the occasional ride up the express and industrial elevators. Poor suckers without passes had to walk, or use the community elevator, which stank of amassed humanity.

    Despite its problems, the city’s tunnels were aglow with lights and sounds, like a geode’s crystals set in a steel and earth outer crust. Beautiful, to those accustomed to Midgar’s lack of sun, sky and green. Unfortunately, the dark aesthetic was only pulling more looks towards the Second Class SOLDIERs.

    In the low lights, their telltale eyes glowed. Alken covered his eyes with his helmet’s visor, but it did little, so he adjusted himself to being stared at. There was some admiration in their faces; he thrived on looks like that. But he could tell the scowls were getting on Lioke’s nerves. “Don’t mind them. Just the unwashed, huddled masses.”

    “It’s bullshit. They want us to be strong, and revolve their lives around our protection, but when they see us face to face, it’s like they want us in chains.” Lioke tucked her helmet under her armpit, grumbling a low curse. Alken recoiled a bit; it certainly wasn’t a flattering word she’d used.

    “Hey. Don’t let ‘em spoil your time.” Alken patted her on the shoulder, then turned, noticing a street performer. The young woman was singing a song familiar to him. He stopped, clapping his gloved hands along with the rhythm. As the young woman strummed her guitar, increasing her volume in light of the attention, Alken started singing along.

    Lioke tried not to show it, but she liked that about him; he was one of the strongest people she knew, but he was approachable. A crowd slowly gathered around, singing along with the old folk tune. When the final chord came down, the crowd applauded, tossing gil into the woman’s guitar case.

    Alken, fishing out his coin pouch, rolled a few gil into his hand. “I can spare a few gil for a good time like that.” Lioke watched as he flicked ten coins in quick succession; an obscene amount for a tip.

    That, she hated about Alken; he was a country boy. He wasn’t streetwise in the least. Lioke noticed four people suddenly and keenly looking in their direction; they were all wearing the same thing as well. Black suits and button up shirts. Great. Turk wannabes.

    Lioke turned to alert Alken, but he wasn’t far behind; he’d noticed the approaching threat and wasn’t going anywhere; he knew something was up, but wasn’t sure who the threat was. Lioke had always been a damn sight more perceptive than her peers. Her Mako blue eyes could pick out a target in an ocean of people.

    “Thank you, mister.” The young woman with the guitar stood up; she had Wutai heritage, from the look of her. Shutting her guitar case, she smiled gleefully at her haul, before noticing what Lioke was staring at.

    The four men crowded around as the group dispersed. They grinned at each-other; they only needed to wait for the SOLDIERs to leave before they could make their move. Alken caught sight of them, realizing the dilemma he faced as the hooligans stared him down.

    If he actively dispersed them and walked the girl home, he’d make a mockery of SOLDIER by overreacting to a group of men in suits. Besides that, they would come after her later anyway; more than likely, they had other goons lurking nearby who would go after the defenseless thing. Seeing the trouble on his face, Lioke chortled, and picked the obvious solution.

    Adopting her most authoritative voice, Lioke approached the girl. “Come with me. I’m afraid I must issue you a citation for busking on public property. If you want to strum that thing, get a permit.” Alken picked up on her plan, patting his visor; he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it himself. “It won’t take long, and there will be no expense on your part. Mostly a formality.”

    Before the girl could panic, Alken leaned in and whispered. “Play along.” The two hustled the busker off to safety. The gangsters behind them watched, teeth clenched with fury that they’d lost their chance to score easy money.

    As the three walked along the scaffolding, Alken cleared his throat. “Y’know, inn prices on the outskirts of Sector Eight are one time fees, since the projects have such a weird layout. I imagine the city of entertainment would tip better.”

    “…Yeah. If only I had that kinda cash. But with this, I’m well on my way.” The woman, only two thirds of Alken’s rather average height, looked up to him in more ways than one. “Y’know, usually people who are so powerful are…unfriendly. You two are super nice.”

    “You should see our boss,” Alken remarked, laughing. “Dude’s a huge, loyal, First Class SOLDIER. Taught me most of what I know.” Lioke rolled her eyes. “But, I imagine the nicest is Lioke here. She’s been looking out for me since I was fourteen.”

    “…Not nicest to everyone.” Lioke looked off at the scaffold across from them, careful not to let them see her face.

    “Eh. Nicest to me. That counts.” For a moment, Lioke and Alken forgot the busker was even there. The young woman seemed to radiate pure glee at the two’s exchange.

    “Aw. You guys are good together.”

    “Thanks!” Alken replied. Lioke remained stoically silent, turning away from the two completely. For the rest of the walk across the scaffold, she moved completely sideways. Alken and the busker desperately tried not to laugh.

    As soon as Alken and Lioke were alone, she stopped him, grasping his arm firmly and turning him towards her.

    Yessss. Naturally, Alken smiled a bit triumphantly; he’d said some decently smooth things tonight. This was the natural progression of his daring, fast and loose game of romantic chess.

    He discovered he was dead wrong when Lioke reached out, turning his helmet backwards and blinding his vision. “What” Alken choked out as Lioke circled behind him, grasping the leather, suspending straps of his uniform and yanking them over his head, crossing them so that they clamped down on his arms, pinning them to their sides. His pauldrons, attached to the leather, trapped his elbows to keep him from bending them. “GODFUCKINGDAMMI-” As Alken tried to turn, Lioke unlatched the metal and leather mantle of his uniform’s belt, yanking it down and fastening it around his knees. Standing blind and unsteady, Alken tilted around. “Oh god, this move? Again?! This is some seriously cadet level shit right now, Lio-“

    Before he could finish her name, Lioke booted the side of his leg, and Alken fell over like a bowling pin. Alken writhed around, trying to free himself from his own uniform while Lioke glared down at him. “Don’t embarrass me in front of people like that. That kind of talk is seriously private.

    “Neat. I’ll remember that going forward. But do you think this might have been a slight overreaction?”

    “No, not really. Especially since you gave that girl half your spending money for the month.” Lioke was hesitant to help Alken; honestly, watching him squirm around was hilarious. If she had a means of recording it, other than simply committing it to memory, she’d do so in a heartbeat.

    “…Well, about that…” Alken paused when he heard footsteps approaching. Lioke, spotting a small crowd of approaching men with weapons, immediately yanked Alken to his feet and turned his visor around. “Ouch. Gonna rub my eyebrows off.” When he got a look at the approaching crowd, he sneered. It was the men in suits. Lioke yanked his pauldrons back into place, and he pulled up his mantle, freeing his legs. “I hate that move,” Alken hissed bitterly as the strangers approached.

    Most carried simple metal knucklebusters, but some held bats. The man in front held a sword. “Y’know, the Young Kirks would be pretty damn famous if we took the heads of two uppity SOLDIERs. I’ve seen you blue-noses around for years, but I’ve never seen you fight. My bet is that you’re soft; Shinra doesn’t need protectors. We’re miles above land. So we don’t need a bunch of lazy good for nothings like you, paying lazy good for nothings like that guitar bitch.” The man with the sword raised his blade, and his gang members, two dozen strong, gave a scattered cheer of approval and amusement.

    Alken hadn’t been listening. “Your blade is really dull, man.” Alken himself wasn’t carrying his weapon, and neither was Lioke, but neither were intimidated by the crowd of Kirks. “You should oil and sharpen it, even if you don’t use it often.”

    “I use it all the time, cutting down dogs like you who bark out of turn.” Fearing the loss of face, the boss of the Young Kirks snapped back his most clever line; his followers cheered for solidarity’s sake.

    “No, you don’t. The blade is rattling around in the handle. The moment you hit something solid with that, it’ll snap.” As Lioke picked up where he left off, taking the man to task on his blade maintenance, Alken laughed uproariously. “And you’re OBVIOUSLY ripping off the Turks with that name. If the actual Turks find out, do you know what they’ll do? Nothing. They won’t care. That’s how important you guys are in the grand scheme of society. Young Jerks.” The final line at the end was the icing on the cake; Lioke knew it’d make Alken’s side split.

    “HAH!!! YOUNG JERKS! LOOKIT HIS FACE!” Alken pointed a finger at the Young Kirk’s leader, who gripped his sword and charged forward. Lioke dove in front of her comrade, raising her shoulder.

    As she predicted, the blade snapped at the handle against her pauldron; she had faith in Alalonn’s metal, and it paid off yet again. However, the spreading, numb ache up her shoulder set her into a rage.

    “Do you have any idea…” Lioke growled at the Young Kirk’s leader, who stumbled back, terrified as Lioke’s pores began to exude vibrant blue-green wisps. “HOW MUCH THAT FUCKING HURT?!” Lioke’s fist pistoned forward, striking the Kirk’s leader on the sternum. Lioke, a five-foot-four, seventeen-year-old woman, sent the grown man flying backwards fifteen feet. The Kirk’s leader landed at the feet of his subordinates, wheezing and wallowing in pain. That was the unfair strength of a SOLDIER; none of these men would have stood a chance against these two, even when they were cadets. All they could do was land a cheap shot and piss them off.

    “Guys, the boss didn’t last a second!”

    “He cut her, but she didn’t die! Is she a zombie?!”


    As the Kirks turned to escape, leaving their boss twisting in the wind, they realized that their path was blocked. Wreathed in blue vapor, Alken barred their escape, pulling up his helmet’s visor to look them over, his dark eyes burning with a mako tint. “Hey hey, gentlemen, your boy swung a fucking sword at us, which was a major mistake. You can try to run, or fight back. Surprise me."

    Alken had never been accustomed to tough talk; Alalonn simply taught him to let his enemies underestimate him. It was a tactical boon.

    However, the Kirks, having witnessed the SOLDIERs' punching power and incredible speed, were acutely aware how much trouble they were in.

    One of the Kirks roused his courage and rushed Alken, throwing a right straight. Alken made no move to dodge, but lowered his visor and tilted his head forward. The man split his knuckles open, and didn’t move Alken an inch with the strike. “KA-CLINK,” Alken mocked. Stepping in and thrusting his boot, Alken kicked the man backwards, sending him flying through the crowd. The Kirks, deciding to go for broke, charged Alken and Lioke, intent on overwhelming them with sheer numbers.

    Lioke rolled her arm. “Attack pattern gamma,” she stated firmly. In truth, the strike from the sword didn't even hurt; she was participating out of spite.

    “Good pick! Roger!” Alken and Lioke sprang forward into battle, barehanded against twenty-odd men.

    The fight was completely one-sided.

    Orphea gripped her guitar case, having watched the battle from an alley. The power the two SOLDIERs had exerted, with such calm and clarity and confidence, made her head spin.

    Her guitar case was full of money thanks to them, and she hadn’t had to waste time outmaneuvering the Kirks; they were easy enough to beat down one on one, but a crowd of them was dangerous.

    Her mind made up, Orphea decided to follow in Alken’s example.

    She had no intention of going to Sector Eight to make it big as a musician. She was going to join SOLDIER. She just needed the money to pay off a real Turk. It would take quite a while, even with this haul, but she knew she could do it.

    She suddenly fell backwards on accident, and landed on something hard and painful. She rolled over to see what it was, only to find it was tied to her belt. It was a coin satchel; not hers. She took it off, checking the contents.

    It was Alken’s coin pouch. In it was more than enough. She grinned, realizing she’d see him again; sooner than expected.

    "MAN. I really needed that." Alken flexed his hands. It had been a while since he’d punched a normal human; he still had a knack for going just hard enough to incapacitate without causing any organ damage. The ones that Lioke went to work on, Alken had to fix with a healing spell to make sure they survived arraignment. Calling in a Turk cleanup crew to round up the incapacitated Kirks was oddly satisfying.

    “Say, Alken.” Alken glanced over at Lioke, who was using healing Materia to repair a small scrape on her hand. “What were you about to tell me before the fight started.

    Clamming up, Alken looked away, clearing his throat. “Forgot, huh? Oh well. Doesn’t matter.”

    “…I’ll probably be eating in the cafeteria for a while. I like city food, but I’m not so into all the vigilante work.” It was a hasty lie; Alken would rather not reveal that he’d used his spending earnings to buy a stranger’s way.

    “Yeah. Me too.”

    Yes. She bought it.
    Bad John
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    1.6: Like Nobody's Watching

    Post  Bad John on February 26th 2017, 8:47 am

    Alalonn had a lot on his plate, so it was only appropriate to let his students go ahead of him. Bounding from railway to railway, he wondered how his new students, and his (technically) former student were doing.

    Etechnia was a lonely, solemn girl. Though Alalonn and his friends were there for her whenever she faultered, they weren't her peers; they weren't fumbling through the process of growing up. Those seven cadets could form the peer group that she would grow with.

    But for now, they needed him to be their rock. His powerful legs churned, sprinting at full speed along the railway in pursuit of Charron's train. He left a trail of Mako blue as he rushed along; it followed him as surely as his sharp, metallic footfalls. He carefully vaulted over a live rail; best not to step on the ones that held electric current, even in his boots.

    Perhaps I should research methods of travel that don't requireIf Etechnia forgot his name, I owe him three hundred gil. Deciding to kick into high gear, he burst forward, leaping, allowing himself to decelerate, before taking another bulletlike stride.

    Alalonn's brute physical power among SOLDIERs was unmatched; of freakish strength and stamina, even for his massive size, running down the train was trivial. It was simply theorized that he had the best raw material for Mako exposure; whatever the reason, besting him in battle was no easy feat, and to escape his wrath, you’d better be quick about it.

    Soon, he saw the vehicle's tail lights. Spotting him, Charron dropped the train's speed. "So you think I need help, old timer?" Alalonn bent his knees and launched himself in the air. Sailing over the cars, he landed on top of the second car. Crap, I undershot it. I was aiming for the first.

    Kydomis, under protest, walked towards the back of the train with his hands in his pockets; they'd taken a vote on who was going to go get the foot locker, and through a precise and rigorous marketing campaign, Alken convinced the others to make that jackass who kicked me go do it.

    The sullen SOLDIER cadet was rather floored, but impressed; Alken was usually foolishly forgiving when it came to life, but for once he'd stood his ground and taken revenge. It was a small, petty prank, but it was successful.

    As he walked through the second car, he was jarred by a sudden impact on the top of the train. Kydomis flinched, looking up. DAMN! Are we being boarded? The others won’t hear because of the music! The emergency escape slide suddenly came open as Kydomis put his fists up, bouncing on his toes. Whoever they are, I’ll beat their ass before the others can even get involved! I can take whoever drops down!

    The fight completely left Kydomis when Alalonn landed on his leather boots, shaking the train compartment again. Rising to his full height and grinning down at the cadet, Alalonn reached up and shut the emergency compartment. “Passengers, do not be alarmed. Alalonn has boarded the train.” Charron’s voice came through the tinny intercom, announcing his arrival.

    “Excellent instincts, cadet. You were ready to fight the moment I landed on the train, weren’t you? Your fists were tight and your eyes were on me.” Alalonn patted Kydomis on the shoulder, looking around. “Where are the other cadets? Where’s Etechnia? She should have been here to greet me by now.”

    “Uh…well, she’s with the others in the rear compartment, but now’s not a grea-“ Before Kydomis could continue, Alalonn, curious, began towards the rear compartment. “Whoa whoa, hold on sir! Ah crap oh man oh jeez-“ Kydomis ran towards the lead car, grabbing the foot locker and dragging it as quickly as possible to catch up.

    Too late. Alalonn, an impish grin on his bearded face, burst forward and left Kydomis in the dust. He wanted to see what was going on back there for himself. As he neared the rear car, its door shut, he started to hear faint music; men singing, trumpets, guitars…it was some sort of old rock song.

    Watchin’ you, from a distant place~
    I'm Callin’ you, from my home base~

    Grasping the handle, Alalonn carefully and slowly opened the compartment. The cadets were gathered around, laughing and cheering on the one in the center, Alken, who appeared to be fighting an invisible enemy, his arms intricately and carefully weaving as he constantly switched feet.

    My satellite’s spinnin’ right out of control,
    Transmission to the moon, now my message is go,
    And the moon is so cold, it’s so cooooooooooold~

    As the song broke into a guitar solo, Alalonn began to understand exactly what Alken was doing; he was dancing, and dancing his ass off by the looks of it. As the music played, he stepped down hard with the ball of his lead foot, stepping onto it and spinning incredibly quickly, keeping his head facing the direction he was going all the while. He stopped abruptly, his foot on the seat, before leaning back and transitioning into the next move.

    I can see crumbs on your face~

    Alalonn bit his lips as hard as possible to prevent himself from laughing. He began to sputter, and grasped his Master Materia, casting a mute spell on himself as he burst, his sides splitting. Wiping a tear from his eye, he looked around the room; they hadn’t noticed him yet, oddly.

    The cadets seemed into it, clapping along to the music and pointing when Alken performed a tight backflip, landing in a brisk pose before drawing his hands across his face seductively at his audience. Can't fault him for his dedication to the act, Alalonn decided. From a technical standpoint, this was an incredibly complex and sustained series of improvised, balanced movements; that boded well for Alken’s close combat ability, which Alalonn was already impressed with; the boy had put his fist damn near through a Malboro's skull and then some. As far as Alalonn could tell from the footage, he was a genius fighter in melee range; most of these kids were one in a million talents, from the looks of it.

    Knowing he had little time, the SOLDIER began assessing individual reactions. Lioke already saw him; they locked eyes for a moment, then Lioke went back to watching Alken. Without saying anything or interacting with anyone, she simply watched the dance, snapping her finger to the rhythm.

    Anai didn't notice him, and didn't seem to care about what was going on in the room. When Alken passed her, she did look up at him reproachfully; Alalonn never noticed her eye color before. They were red and bright as rubies. He wondered what nationality she hailed from; her family must have been drifters from damn near the antipode, because he'd never seen something so out of place.

    Apatet was watching while training, laughing as she balanced a stable jet of fire in her hand; impressive control. He knew she could wield two elements at once from the combat footage; he'd perused some of her individual performance, and it was apparent that she was the team's strongest mage.

    Watchin’ you, from a distant place~

    He finally noticed Etechnia, who was sitting beside Hybria. Alalonn had never seen her sit so close to someone before. The First Rank soldier had the cadet’s arm around her shoulder as the two watched, laughing at Alken’s moves. Alalonn’s eyes widened. The girl was glowing, laughing and chatting with Hybria actively; it was the first time he’d seen Etechnia having fun.

    As far as Etechnia went, this idea was already bearing fruit. Alright, enough of this. Alalonn decided on the best way to get their attention, when the perfect chance presented itself. Alken, swinging off of a bar, slid towards Etechnia, offering her his hand for her to join in. Etechnia was hesitant, but outstretched her hand, moments from taking the chance and trying something new; that's when Alalonn’s callused hand grasped Alken’s wrist.

    Every single eye in the train car stared at Alalonn with eyes and mouths wide open with mortified shock, excepting Lioke and Anai; Lioke had seen him coming and was otherwise unflappable, and Anai was highly amused by the development. Alken looked like he was watching his world fall apart; one of the greatest living SOLDIERs had caught him ball-room dancing in uniform.

    “That’ll do, cadet,” Alalonn said, a calm grin on his face as he stood and turned off the small stereo that was playing the music. Alalonn looked around the train car at his mortified present company.

    “GUYS! ALALONN’S-“ As he rushed into the room far too late, Kydomis lowered his voice, staring down at the floor as he continued, “Alalonn is…already here. Sorry.”

    “At ease, Kydomis.” Alalonn couldn’t stop smiling, but he managed to keep his laughter contained for the sake of his impressionable company; they were teens, after all. If he mocked them too much for having a spot of fun (strange as it was), they might develop a complex and start working too hard. “I assumed dancing was out of style. I suppose it’s better this than fighting. I’m glad you cadets are comfortable enough with each-other to unwind. It’s completely necessary for your long-term health.”

    Etechnia stood at attention, looking a bit nervously around the room, unsure what to expect. In her tenure as a SOLDIER, she’d never broken a rule, faced a humiliation, or even suffered a setback other than loss in a physical brawl; loss that tempered her resolve. Genuine embarrassment was new to her; it was almost a bizarre relief to finally know the sting of doing something stupid and being caught.

    Continuing, the bearded SOLDIER folded his arms and walked the train car as he spoke. “Fun is fun, and I won’t rule against you spending your free time on social activities such as this. But when you’re on the job, I expect you to give me every drop of blood, sweat, and Mako you can. You will not be emperiled with suicidal tests; I’ll do my best to ensure training incidents remain minimal. But know this; I will not be soft on you. You will do what it takes, or you can ask Charron to let you off at the next stop.”

    Alalonn turned his eye towards Alken, who had rushed to a seat next to Lioke and Anai. Hunched forward like he’d been gutshot, he stared at the floor with something like despair. Alalonn approached him, giving him a quick box on the side of the helmet. “Always remember that I have your best interests at heart, but I’m watching you…” Alalonn calmly drew a pair of sunglasses from his pants pocket, extending and putting them on as he gazed down at Alken. The cadets wondered what wisdom the serious, bearded warrior intented to impart.

    From a distant place~.” Singing a single bar of the song to complete his scathing pun, Alalonn walked away, whistling as he shut the compartment door, whistling the song as he went on towards the cab to greet the conductor.

    Kydomis suddenly grinned, standing by the doorway. “Heh. He’s got jokes.”

    Lioke glanced up at Etechnia, who breathed a sigh of relief. “…You’ve known him for a while, haven’t you? Does he normally let things slide like that?”

    “Yes,” Etechnia replied. "Normally, so long as it isn't hazardous behavior. He tends to interpret the law suit to suit the citizen."

    "Dancing isn't against the rules," Lioke replied.

    "...It's not not against the rules," Kydomis remarked. "I mean, has anyone around here ever encouraged it?"

    Anai furrowed her brow, something failing to add up in her head. “If you've known him for years, then what were you so scared about when he came in?”

    Etechnia swallowed hard, taking her seat. “Because, in a social setting, he’s as reckless as you lot. I thought he was going to start dancing too.”

    Charron turned as the door opened behind him. “It took you this long to come greet me, eh?” The conductor wiped his nose, looking back at Alalonn as he entered the locomotive’s cab, leaned against the wall. “Pay up. Etechia didn’t remember me.”

    “You’re wearing hair plugs, you bald old dog." Alalonn seemed more amused than annoyed by the deception. Etechnia didn’t have a photographic memory, but she could recognize a face as well as the average person. Charron used to thrive on that; an ex-con and one of Alalonn's closest friends, the conductor was incredibly skilled at making slight, but effective alterations with a poor man’s supplies. It was how he eluded capture while running bootleg drugs in the Midgar slums.

    Alalonn observed the man's face as Charron rubbed his chin rather proudly. "You’ve got colored contacts in, highlighting work to lower your cheek-bones, fake moles, and a prosthetic leg. All in all, not a bad disguise.” Alalonn paused, glancing down at the leg as Charron stood. The way the limb folded down at the ankle slightly to support him as he turned was the tip off. Alalonn gasped. “Holy…is...is that real? What happened?”

    “Would you believe me if I said I chopped it off for three hundred gil?” Charron coughed as he stood straight, despite the strain of the false limb. “It was one of those Combatant Droids. It musta gone haywire and strayed from its flight route, because I T-boned the bastard. HE was a flier. One of the helicopter blades on his hands nicked me bad. I was in a coma when my wife told ‘em to amputate.” At a loss for words, Alalonn let Charron continue uninterrupted. “She was so scared I’d be mad. How could I be mad at her? She saved m’life.”

    Alalonn nodded, glad to know that Charron’s family wasn’t suffering due to the incident. “I just wish you told me, Charron. I could have pulled strings. Gotten you the best replacement on the market.”

    “As if I’d buy the first leg they’d give me, or take a handout from your sorry self.” Charron grinned. “I did a month of comparison shopping. This old bastard doesn’t look pretty, but it’s tough.” Charron knocked on his titanium leg. It was thick, with redundant plating. “I pity the bastard who catches a kick from this beauty. If anything, I’m stronger. Pay up, by the way.”

    “Maybe they’ll make you immortal, old timer.” Alalonn rolled his eyes at Charron’s bluster. “Replace every piece of ya. Make you out of plastic and copper wire.” Charron laughed heartily, but held his hand out. He expected to be paid, and Alalonn’s distractions weren’t working. “Man, you’re stingy. If you ever need help moving your stuff into a new house or apartment, just let me know. Can’t have you and your wife doing heavy lifting on three legs.”

    “Ah, bugger off, Al.” Charron and Alalonn shook hands before the huge man turned to depart. “…And Al. Thanks. I know you woulda done right by me. I woulda called if I could, but it was said and done by the time I had the chance. Now go tend yer cadets.”

    “Don’t sweat it. If you can do it yourself, why bother calling me?”

    “I ain’t got no jobs for a SOLDIER anyway.” Charron watched Alalonn leave the cab and walk back into the passenger cars to relax for a while.

    Soon, the cadets would have a grueling wall to climb. For now, better to let them relax.
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on February 26th 2017, 7:53 pm

    A little worldbuilding info; taking a break from a new chapter tonight, so I may as well do at least that much.

    You've probably noticed Alalonn and the narration referring to "limits" in reference to a SOLDIER's power. Well, that's a narrative slant I'm taking on a gameplay mechanic called Limit Breaks; you've probably heard of them, so I'll just explain how they work in this particular iteration of the universe.

    A standard human trait is the ability to summon adrenaline to assist in fight or flight. Limit Breaking works based on that, but with magic and willpower tied to it; extreme stress or desperation can cause a human to unlock and utilize latent physical or magical power that they haven't tapped. Said power is often drawn from the planet's Lifestream, and by extension, Mako, which is the planet's lifestream condensed. Everyone gets a little bit of it; enough to do at least one or two badass things in their lives.

    SOLDIERs, artificially imbued with Mako, can learn to temporarily surpass their limits at will, with the main threat being physical exhaustion. Alalonn is particularly skilled at using short burst of Limit Breakage in conjunction with physical combat. He was already a physical specimen before he could do that. Now, he can lift whole houses, run down trains, and even briefly manipulate a Master Materia, which is a big deal.

    Ordinary humans aren't too far behind if they really push themselves. As a human being subjects themself to physical combat and stress, it becomes easier to tap into their Limit Break. By default, a SOLDIER usually surpasses a human in every regard, but a battle hardened human could even take Alalonn to task if properly motivated to train.

    The actual Limit Break is the attack that the person uses. For example; Hybria's first and most basic limit break is simply called Maul. Using her superhuman speed, she runs an opponent down, hooks her fingers (or teeth if necessary) into them, and either tears them open, or rips off whatever she has hold of. She's a very savage fighter, and when compelled to defend her life with all she has, she resorts to the tools that mankind used before we wielded metal; tooth and claw. Upon achieveing a Limit Break for the first time, your body just sort of moves on its own in accordance with the way you normally do things.

    Socially speaking, a SOLDIER cadet's first Limit Break is something to celebrate; it's an important milestone. Unfortunately, nobody noticed when Hybria used it to beat that armadillo's ass.

    Another piece of information; where do monsters come from, and what distinguishes them from regular animals, or "beneficial" monsters like Pokemon?

    The long answer is that monsters were once ancient animals and people, imbuded with a power that is the diametric opposite of the Lifestream. It causes mutation geared towards combatting the dominant species of the planet; humans.

    The short answer is that a dude or a squirrel ran into the major, overarching villain of this piece, and they were transformed forcibly to suit that malefactor's needs.

    There are sentient monsters, especially humans transformed into monsters. There are also mythical creatures who don't fall under the category of monster; take a dragon for example. They're not monsters because that force within a monster that causes the mutation isn't present.

    You could run into a monster that was once a dragon; Alalonn did, and that's where he got the name Dragon Slayer; by obliterating a horrible, dragon shaped monster.

    Thus ends your dose of world information. Later, people.

    Last edited by Bad John on February 26th 2017, 7:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Shad0wChas3r on February 26th 2017, 7:59 pm

    Great stuff, I damn near passed out laughing when Alalonn put on the shades and gave a quick solo as he was walking away.

    I had heard about Limit Breakers, because I recall Cloud (who I think is the main character of FF?) had a Limit Break attack? I play a lot of Smash Brothers Wii U when I get a chance, and people that play Cloud use a final Smash that's called Limit Break. That being said, I never actually knew what a Limit Break was other than a brief source of untapped power, so thank you for clarifying that.



    Thanks for Reading!

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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on February 26th 2017, 8:19 pm

    No problem for the clarification, and thanks for reading, Morgan! I'll do my best to keep things interesting. Next chapter marks the beginning of Alalonn's training, so expect a bit more "troll Alalonn" next update. Lol.
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    1.7: Future Vision!

    Post  Bad John on February 27th 2017, 6:54 pm

    A single stone began Midgar's descent into ruination. Playing on one of Sector Four’s many scaffolds, two girls threw small river stones at each-other; magic toys that produced no impact upon striking a material surface. Children in more naturally diverse areas would skip them across manmade lakes or pools, but the rowdy boys and girls of Sector Four simply threw them at each-other in games of war.

    “GOTCHA!” The fated stone bounced off the red cheek of one of the children harmlessly, and went over the side of the safety railing. Dropping anything else from a scaffold would be a finable offense, but a harmless toy, or an object under a gram, hardly qualified as a safety hazard.

    The rock fell quickly, bouncing off a railing and continuing its fall. It landed on a merchant’s shoulder silently, startling him. Snatching it off, believing it was some sort of beetle, he inspected it to see a Shinra logo etched into the side. “Damn kids,” he muttered, tossing it over his shoulder and continuing his route.

    The rock bounced against the roof of the express elevator, balancing on the corner of the freighter before continuing its fall downwards. Soon, there were no scaffolds to slow its descent. Bathed only in the red, flashing lights of the excavation elevator, it fell down into a place where few dared to tread, Shinra troops with rifles waiting on platforms to discourage the curious from progressing downwards; one of the few times the law of Midgar benefitted the people at large. The cavity of Gaia was not to be explored lightly; the troops true purpose was to prevent any unknowable horrors from coming up to visit human society.

    Falling into true darkness, the stone finally found obstruction, bouncing against the floor of the cavern, before slipping into a hole. Without coming to a stop, the rock’s journey took it to a cavern where it was acutely noticed by a waiting, watching, curious presence.

    In his dormant state, even the trivial enchantment that gave the rock its child-safe properties were difficult to break, but the creature had an intricate knowledge of magic. The stone glowed a sickly, pale hue as the cavern’s presence unraveled the magic wards, magic twisting off the stone like a candy’s wrapper. As the stone freefell into a domed cave, unvisited by man for millennia, the presence guided its descent with the delicacy and care of a craftsman, using the tiny winds of the settling cavern to tilt the stone towards him.

    Finally, the rock bounced off of its target. Though corpselike and silent, the presence’s physical form finally began to stir its forced slumber. A twisted mass of flesh and randomly assembled bones, the creature’s priority was to form a mouth; surely one must express joy after being freed from unearned bondage.

    “…The human’s wards…I’ve finally broken them.” The cavern’s walls seemed to shrink back from his terrible tinny, reverberating voice.  His smile widened to the size of a farming sickle as he began to take humanoid shape. The writing thing in which his conscious was nested began to churn and retract as he created a living form from the useless leavings of his former glory. Arms stretching skyward, a sigh of relief escaped his lips. Though his vision was obscured, he could still clearly sense every human soul above him.

    There was so much to grasp on such short notice; his creator’s knowledge was shared with him the moment he arose. The humans had been busy; they had thousands of years of research and development. Machines once complex and abstract to them had been made real and improved ten times over. They’d put floating installations in the sky, and their elite lived in a city that hung over the dirt, suspended by engines that burned the very substance that Mother needed to feed upon.

    An insult. The Lifestream belonged to Mother and her alone. As the cavern’s presence came to understand humanity’s abuse of that precious nectar, he grew to hate humanity even more. His mood grew worse. The humans had mother’s dormant body, and were playing with her cells. They’d condensed the Lifestream into Mako, using it for power. They’d even bathed their young in it to create abominations with glowing eyes.

    He thought of his brothers and sisters; those gifted with Mother's touch. While they had propagated to a great number and spread across this world’s accursed surface, they’d also degraded greatly, languishing in his and Mother’s absence. Too few of them had the capacity for thought, or even proper service to mother. He’d have to create fresh warriors.

    He tore himself up from the floor, leaving behind most of his biomass in a bloody heap as he took his righteous shape; broad shouldered and bald, his slotted eyes grew, adjusting with the darkness as he turned towards the quivering, writhing flesh he’d left behind. A few meters of his mass would be enough.

    Apatet seemed rather pleased today. Though the other SOLDIERs had awoken and dressed with a relatively stable level of energy, the redhead had been quietly smiling ever since she’d gotten out of bed and laced her boots. The only person who seemed to mind was Hybria, who gazed at her somewhat suspiciously. “What’re you so giddy about?”

    The seven were sitting at a metal table in the small compound’s cafeteria. Originally a seismology outpost during Sector Four’s settling days, Shinra had converted it into a suitable location for the advanced training of an elite few SOLDIERs. On a typical day, Alalonn simply used it for exercise, since it was the closest gym; while certainly not a regular gymnasium by any standard, it was without doubt the closest place he could physically exert himself in Midgar without causing a disaster.

    “I had a vision. That’s two in three days. I think I’m getting better at it.” Pleased with herself, Apatet waited for someone to ask what the vision had been.

    At the word “vision,” a high pitched squeal came from Gaeira’s mouth. The look of horror on his face indicated that his world was falling apart before his very eyes. Indeed, everyone at the table had mixed reactions of concern and shock. Kydomis stood up and swung his hands violently. “Fuck this. I’m going back to bed.”

    Apatet seemed rather jarred by their reactions, before remembering her last, longest, and most terrifying gamut of visions, in which she relived hear death at the hands of Dr. Amechanio’s experiment for as long as she had slept, over and over until she found the right set of criteria for survival.

    “Guys, hear her out.” Ever the voice of reason, Alken remained seated after the initial shock. “Remember her predictions from before? Most of it was kinda good. Hell, even her last vision saved our lives, even if it wasn't the most fun in the world.”

    Kydomis, who was halfway out the door, shrugged his shoulders, turned and came back in the room. Despite being a passionate person at heart, Kydomis was easy to talk down and reason with, even when the pressure was on. He returned to his seat and tensely sat down as the group looked at Apatet, ready for her divination.

    Turning away, Apatet reconciled the fact that her revelations spelled “doom” in the minds of her colleagues. Dejected, she placed her hand on her face, leaning on her elbow. “Never mind it. It wasn’t important anyway.” First, they didn’t believe her; before being reduced to seven cadets, the entirety of Group Eight considered her an outcast. Now, they were convinced, and it was even worse. Apatet wondered if there was a spell that would make her shrink away and disappear.

    “…Apatet, you alright?” Kydomis grew concerned with her body language. “I didn’t mean to..." Kydomis considered his words carefully, trying to articulate his feelings without hurting her more. "…Look, the visions ain’t you. They’re just visions. I got nervous. The future freaks me out. I’m sorry.”

    To the surprise of the group, Anaideian stood from her seat, walking towards her red haired teammate. Dropping a hand down on Apatet’s head, Anai seemed a bit stumped on how to proceed; physical contact was not her strong suit. “I was very rude to you before. I have no excuse, and I am ashamed; I was unduly harsh even while you took control of the situation and saved our lives with vital information. For that, I truly apologize. I will not doubt you again.”

    Despite her tense body language, loner sensibilities and oft cruel words, Anai was a deeply honor-bound person. With her dignity restored, and Apatet’s spirits lifted by the kind display, Anai returned to her seat, and the group stared at the young, redheaded seer-SOLDIER, waiting for her verdict.

    “Whether you tell us or not is up to you,” Alken said. “Either way, we’ll respect your decision.”

    “Who died and made you boss?” Hybria leaned over and punched Alken on the bicep, who winced with pain. “I want to hear it, Apatet. Am I gonna meet my soul mate?”

    At the idea that it might be beneficial to them, the situation quickly took a turn for the worse. Lioke, leaning back in her seat, scowled at Hybria. “Is someone going to finally hit that bitch back? I’d like to see that.”

    “Fuck off, Lioke. Alky’s fine. It was just a love tap.”

    “Nope. I’m bruising, actually. Considering how dark my skin is, you must have hit me pretty hard.” Alken pointed to his arm; indeed, the injury was darkening, shaped like Hybria’s fist. “Hey, Apatet. Do I complain to human resources and finally get my new amendment added to the SOLDIER regulations manifest?”

    “That dumbass ‘personal space’ rule you wrote?” Gaeira laughed. “If Apatet had a vision about that, she’d have died of boredom before morning. If you want people to stop touching you, then move away when they try to touch you.

    “You literally slept for twenty-four hours by choice, more than once, and you’re calling me ‘boring?’” Alken stood from his seat. “And it isn’t exactly that easy, Gaeira. Life happens fast. See?” Reaching across the table, Alken tried to poke Gaeira with a single finger. Gaeira, seeing the contact coming, simply leaned away. On the other side of the table, Alken couldn’t reach him. “Don’t move, you’re invalidating my argument.”

    As Alken and Gaeira started to argue and snap at each-other, Hybria suddenly punched the person closest to her; Anai. “Do I punch too hard?” Anai’s body convulsed with shock and pain when the blow hit her arm, and her olive skin showed a red, fist shaped impurity where Hybria’s fist had been. Anai turned, grasped Hybria by the back of the head, and rammed her forehead into the metal table. The room went silent; even Alken and Gaeira, who were gripping each-other by the collar, on the cusp of a physical fight, paused to see how Hybria would respond.

    The brute of the bunch, Hybria usually punched, manhandled, tossed, shoved, or otherwise assaulted her peers with impunity. Now, she’d been challenged. Both Hybria and Anai stood, squaring off. Hybria had several inches, and had quite a bit more muscle than the slim, red eyed Anai.

    Alken and Gaeira looked each-other in the eyes before letting go and stepping away; Gaeira was too lazy to commit to a physical fight unless he knew how long it would take, and Alken had no real desire to hurt him. Taking a breath, Alken stepped onto the table, put his fingers to his lips, and whistled hard and loud, drawing everyone's attention and halting the action.

    “I think we should let cooler heads prevail here,” Alken stated firmly. “Let’s show Alalonn that we can be the best of ourselves, and go five minutes without fighting, or dancing, or almost dying…I mean, we can do that, right? Let’s set a precedent, sit down, and wait for breakfast like civilized SOLDIERs. Who’s with me?”

    “I hope those cadets are hungry.” Alalonn grinned with satisfaction at the meal that Etechnia had prepared. She walked proudly beside him, hands behind her back. A veritable wunderkind, Etechnia had a hand in most sections of the arts; cooking, to her, was just as much expression as recipe, and she wanted to make the most welcoming breakfast possible for her new friends. “Do you think they brought their Apa-tites?” Alalonn chortled; the cadets had no shortage of pun material in their names. Etechnia groaned; Alalonn preferred to think that her enjoyment and his jokes had an inverse effect. The better they were, the worse she perceived them.

    “…Sir, that was good wordplay, but don’t ruin this for me.” Etechnia had woken up two hours early to prepare enough food for the group; Alalonn was pushing along a cart with three levels of steel drums and bowls.

    Etechnia heard shuffling and shouting; the cadets were likely playing some game. When she opened the door, it was utter bedlam. The SOLDIERs were fighting all over the room.

    Alken flew past Etechnia, slamming into a wall and falling face flat. Etechnia quickly rushed to help him up, but for some reason, he remained completely straight, his legs locked together and his arms pinned at their sides. It appeared someone had bound him up with his own costume, turning his helmet backwards, wrapping his leather, suspending armor around his arms, and yanking his inscribed mantle down to his knees to keep them trapped. Gritting her teeth, Etechnia started to help him up. “WHO’S THERE? Lioke?! Come to finish me off, huh?! Go ahead and do your worst!” Alken defiantly scowled as Etechnia rolled her eyes, turning his helmet the right way so he could see. “Oh. Hi, boss.”

    She knew she could count on Alalonn to set right the quarrel. As she helped Alken readjust his costume, she wondered why the fighting hadn’t stopped.

    Alalonn was holding Hybria and Anai by the backs of their shirts, keeping them as far apart as he could. Anai flailed, scratching his arm. “Stop it stop it stop it” Alalonn grunted as he was swatted and scratched from both sides by the two cadets, losing his balance for a moment as Hybria tried to kick Anai despite the distance between them. “ALRIGHT, patience is gone.” Yanking them together, Alalonn bashed Anai’s head against Hybria’s. The two were instantly rendered unconscious by the blow. Alalonn dropped them both to the floor. With that, the cadets finally lost focus on their individual grudges and brawls. “CADETS, fall in!”

    Kydomis, who was strangling Gaeira, stood up. He had a black eye, and Gaeira was missing a chunk of his hair. Healing both of them, and restoring Gaeira's hairline, Alalonn paced the room, looking around to see if everyone was accounted for. Lioke was sitting, relatively unbothered by the scuffle after disabling Alken; if anything, she’d enjoyed it while it lasted. Casting an offhanded revival spell on Hybria and Anai, Alalonn folded his arms. Dazed, Anai and Hybria wandered into formation as the cadets formed a tight line. “Where’s Apatet?”

    “Up there.” Kydomis pointed at the ceiling. Apatet was hanging from a lighting fixture. The moment the fighting started, she climbed up and stayed, afraid to get involved. She dropped down rather gracefully, then joined the line beside Kydomis. “I gotta admit, smart move.”

    “Sir. I deeply apologize for our indiscretions. I attempted to calm everyone down, but Lioke blindsided me. Things pretty much spiraled out of control from there.” Alken rubbed his shoulder. “I would like to propose an alternative uniform for the SOLDIER program. I believe our current fatigues have an exploitable flaw.”

    “Yup,” Alalonn said calmly. “We called that a ‘SOLDIER wedgie’ back in my day." Alalonn nursed a scratch on his face from Anai’s nails. “Alright cadets. I’m not going to ask how or why. I’m just going to make one rule; you get four a month.”

    Etechnia raised her eyebrow. “…Four punishments for gross violation of decorum per month? For how long?”

    Alalonn shook his head. “No, they get four fights like this a month. That was your first, so use them wisely. Go over the limit, and I get the hose. Trust me on this, you do not want me to get the hose; high pressure, freezing cold water, and I'm very liberal with the amount of time spraying it.”

    Etechnia’s hands raised to press at her temples, but before they made it all the way there, Alalonn continued. “Now all of you sit down and eat. Etechnia worked hard on your first meal here, so eat it like it’s your last day on earth. If you don’t finish every bite, and thank her, your punishment will be severe.” That managed to please her somewhat, so she lowered her hands to their sides in a neutral position.

    Grabbing the handle of the cart, Alalonn wheeled it beside the table. The cadets rushed over, grabbed a plate each, and briskly returned to their seats. Etechnia had to admit, Alalonn's discipline methods tended to work, despite the lack of proper conduct.

    He had trained her, after all.

    “…Say, Apatet.” Alken, curious, looked over to the seer, who sat down to eat. “What was your vision anyway.”

    “Was it that a fight would break out?” Kydomis sat down with a plate across from her, eyebrow raised. “Doesn’t make sense for you to be happy about that.”

    “Oh. It was this, actually. That we’d sit down and eat a good, home cooked meal and have a long, friendly conversation before training. It was nice.” Apatet smiled brightly. “It will be nice, I mean.”

    “HAH!" Kydomis leaned back in his chair, getting ready to eat. "Future joke. Solid.”

    Alalonn, puzzled but beginning to understand, cut in. “…Visions?”

    The cadets paused when they realized they’d discussed their most bizarre and outlandish secret in front of their commanding officer; they hadn’t discussed whether or not they should tell anyone. Apatet had never talked to an adult about it, and until recently, more than half of the seven were not seriously convinced.

    In her visions, this had never occurred; Apatet had accidentally altered the future, as she saw it.

    “…Can you see the future?” The huge SOLDIER was half talking to himself as he leaned forward, staring at Apatet. He looked around the room for a moment at the cadets. Suddenly, his shoulders shook with a dark chuckle. “Well I’ll be damned.”

    I figured Apatet's visions were important enough to warrant a mini arc.

    Also, bad stuff's happening beneath the Underground City of Sector Four; boy, is that bad stuff bad.

    Fun fact; the characters roughly follow my naming scheme for armor sets in Metal and Mettle; all human characters are named for Greek personified concepts and gods, with some slight alterations. The truest villains, however, will be named for devils and spirits of misfortune, with often heavily altered names; the followers of the main villain have exotic tastes when it comes to names, some of which are borderline unpronouncable by humans, or just too weird to bother with.

    For example, our current arc's villain and resident cave dweller;

    Keuthreuthuony, the Maw of Jenova.

    Pronounced Key-you-threw-though-oh-knee.
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on March 1st 2017, 2:08 am

    No chapter tonight, unfortunately. Just a bit of world-building information on Gaia, SOLDIERs, and Materia.

    Gaia, the planet on which the characters live, is in essence a living being. The Lifestream is its "soul," and stores the data, memories and consciousness of every creature that's died on her surface, serving as an "afterlife." On its own, the Lifestream is peaceful and beneficial; however, it's also incredibly powerful.

    For the most part, it flows around in rivers beneath Gaia's crust. Physically, it looks like flowing, green and white bands of floating, glowing fluid. You don't wanna directly touch this stuff, regardless of how pretty it is; here's why.

    The Lifestream's condensed, liquid form is called Mako (literally meaning "Magic Light" in Japanese). It is a coveted and incredibly useful fuel which can power engines, cannons, and other stuff. As nice as the Lifestream is, you do not want to physically touch or be near a non-contained source of Mako; the stuff can be lethal if you get too much on you. Prolonged exposure can lead to a few things:

    1. Genetic Mutation, and no, not the glamorous kind.

    2. Permanent Mako Poisoning, which leads to severe mental illness.

    3. Death. Just straight up death.

    Even contact or close proximity to the less volatile vaporized Lifestream can sap your energy and put you at risk for poisoning. Remember; if the green stuff is floating, don't touch it. If it's a liquid, don't touch it. If it's a solid orb, that's Materia, and it'll give you rad powers, so do touch it. We'll get to those later.

    The SOLDIER program is comparable to the SPARTAN program. SOLDIERs are injected with the cellular data of a creature believed to be an ancient (RED FLAGS FLYING). The creature consumed Mako instinctively, so her dormant cells allow creatures, in this case SOLDIERs, to process and contain Mako energy "naturally," when normally being exposed to raw Mako would instantly incapacitate or kill a person.

    Afterwards, they're showered in Mako in controlled bursts. If the procedure is successful, the results are pretty much immediate; their eyes will sport the distinctive glow, and they'll slowly notice an uptick in their physical abilities.

    SOLDIER augmentation promotes pretty much every effect of the SPARTAN augmentation; heightened reflexes, greater physical strength and stamina, and durability. SOLDIERs also have a boost in brain activity; this isn't very prominent among Group 8, since not many of them are deep thinkers or scientific minds; but if you back them into a corner, you see how creative they get. They quickly they form plans, work as a team, and react to occurrences on the battlefield as one. Gaeira and Apatet in particular are brilliant strategists, and in terms of martial skill they far outshine the cadets in other groups due to their reduced number and the rigors of producing the effort of an entire Cadet Group, which normally has fifty cadets. Essentially, they had to git gud or die, so they got pretty damn good; good enough for a First Rank to decide to personally train them.

    Another advantage is a greater proficiency for Materia Use. Alken's barely above novice level with Materia, but he can utterly represent with it against weaker monsters, and even powerful adversaries would try to dodge it rather than dispel or endure it. Apatet, on the other hand, has more powerful spells, and can use two Materia orbs at the same time.

    SOLDIERs are not, on average, taller than normal humans. Though they're universally in good shape thanks to their augmentations

    The augmentation process is a careful process. Too much Mako can turn someone into a Makonoid; a horrible humanoid abomination with insane strength and a very short lifespan. Too much of the chemical that facilitates the consumption of Mako is actually not as bad; it's way worse. Granted, if someone objected you with too much of it, you wouldn't know it; you'd be someone and something totally different, so at least you wouldn't need to stress about it.

    The screening process is simple; you must be mentally strong to be a SOLDIER; the mentally weak would succumb to Mako Poisoning during the showers.

    The Turks, a group employed by Shinra, are mostly responsible for rounding up recruits; meaning they creep on orphans or children from broken homes, stuff them in a train car, and take them to Shinra for the screening process. You can join by choice; most SOLDIERs do. But, some kids enter SOLDIER because their parents had nasty debts, or they were just straight up kidnapped;  and the latter happened to Hybria, Anai, and Gaeira (although Hybria went willingly after hearing what the job entailed). After enrolling, you're examinated for mental weakness.

    And my last point, the solid form of the Lifestream and Mako, Materia. Materia, in all forms, calls upon the specific power allotted to cast spells, or augment the user. They look like apple sized, circular glass balls with wisps of energy floating beneath the solid surface. Let's wrap things up by covering the types of Materia.

    1. Magic Materia (Green): The only type seen thus far, they allow for the casting of spells. Alalonn's Master Materia affords him the use of all offensive spells; ingame, it's all spells in general, but I felt that healing spells as well would be OP, especially when his colleagues carry Restorative Materia anyway. Restorative Materia, which cures ailments and injuries, fit into this category as well, and their magic can mend pretty much any ailment.

    There is a sort of "cutoff period" for healing a detached limb of a mutilated organ; if the Restorative Materia is used too late, there will be permanent scar tissue or outright missing parts, or the severed limb will not heal, making its reattachment pointless since it's rotting tissue. Restorative Materia can resuscitate a medically "dead" person, but it must be done immediately, and takes a truckload of effort.

    2. Summon Materia (Red): Allows the user to call for help from a deity. These take a lot of patience to master, as the chosen deity might not give a fuck. The deities are not gods; they're merely powerful creatures who have died and returned to the Lifestream, and can be evoked to fight for a short time before returning to it. You can actually summon the spirits of loved ones, but that is considered a dick move; being brought back to life, as a human, is a traumatic experience, and if the mage doesn't do it right, their loved ones can come back wrong. It's kinder to let the dead rest.

    3. Command Materia (Yellow): Facilitates telepathy between the user and a chosen target. These tend to be used by rich folks due to their gold hue in the right lightning and the usefulness of telepathic speech, but SOLDIERs and Shinra Troops can requisition them for quiet missions. Churches and Cults tend to use Command Materia to give people a "voice of God" experience, but most folks are too smart for that trick. Just one is enough for the user to communicate with anyone they like within a mile's distance if they're talented with Materia. Someone like Apatet could be a mobile communication's hub for the team. Someone with less Materia aptitude needs to focus on just one person, or look at them to do it; that'd be Alken, the weakest Materia user of the group. A normal rich dude who wants to use Command Materia to gossip would need to make eye-contact, and even then could only convey basic emotions.

    Master Command Materia allows the user to not only communicate, but read minds. Honorable SOLDIERs like Alalonn would only use this as a last resort, as it's a deep invasion of privacy and a chilling experience for the victim.

    4. Support Materia (Blue): This Materia briefly boosts the magical prowess of the user, allowing brief bursts of magic. This can even the odds against a powerful enemy. It doesn't last forever though, and using it excessively can cause your own magical stamina to deteriorate, forcing you to retrain.

    5. Independent Materia (Purple): This Materia boosts the user's strength in a specific way, augmenting their speed, stamina, or even their intelligence for brief periods. They're basically the opposite of Support Materia. They're used to quickly turn the tables against enemy forces, but becoming reliant on them is the calling-card of a bad SOLDIER.

    WELP, that concludes our worldbuilding shit for today, but I do need to issue a retraction; normal humans cannot use magic without Materia. Only a special kind of person can perform magic without Materia, and even then, getting the hang of it is a difficult process. There's actually a character going through that right now, in universe.

    But, I'll leave you with one fun fact about the actual game.

    Oddly enough, Cloud Strife never made it into SOLDIER. The shame of failing to make it in, the severe injuries Sephiroth gave him during the latter's betrayal, and the horrible "reunion theory" experiments they conducted on him broke his mind. He reconciled this by inventing false memories belonging to an actual SOLDIER. For the first half of the game, Cloud is literally insane, and once he gets over it and remembers who he actually was, he becomes a much nicer person.

    It's a shame the english audience got a shitty translation, and that audiences tend to Flandarize characters; everyone remembers Cloud as the dark, brooding, one winged figure from Kingdom Hearts instead of who he actually was.

    G'night, people.

    Two things I forgot to mention in the original post.

    1. Certain SOLDIERs are augmented differently, resulting in a greater yield of power, but far more potential risks. The majority of current characters are "normal" SOLDIERs, but there are a few notable standouts; that'll be addressed in the plot, so I won't fuck it up now by spoiling it. Just know that not all SOLDIERs are created equal. I won't confirm anybody as an "unequal SOLDIER," but I will explicitly deny one thing; Alken isn't. He's a powerful fighter, but he's normal. I'm not running a Gary-Stu factory over here, and I'd rather not play favorites with plot elements. Poor fucker's gonna have to make due with what he's got.

    Speaking of Gary-Stus...

    2. If you've ever played Kingdom Hearts, you've probably seen Cloud with a wing at some point. Spontaneous, beneficial, controlled mutation (such as wings, extra arms, etc) is one of the symptoms/benefits of being one of the "unequal SOLDIERs" that I just mentioned. Sometimes it manifests subconsciously, causing the user to sprout something that aligns with their personality. Sephiroth grew a single black wing to mark his symbolic status as a fallen hero. But, in truth, it's just his cells making something useful for him to use. As time went on, Sephiroth gained more control, taking more powerful and disturbing forms.

    It's not a sign that you're really stronk or that you're from heaven or something; it's essentially useful mutagenic fashion statement.

    Cloud shouldn't have one. Since no evidence points to him being able to make one physically make one, it's more or less impossible for him to have one; if he sprouted a wing, the implication would be that he's one of the biggest threats on the planet. Disney and Square took artistic license and slapped it on because fangirls liked it, and it made him look like the opposite of Sephiroth. You see Cloud's dopey little wing, then you see Sephiroth's huge fuck-off black wing, and realize they're enemies.

    Cloud having a wing then means absolutely nothing, really. It was probably just a weird article of clothing he was wearing.

    Eat a dick, Disney. Eh fine they're okay.
    Bad John
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    1.8: Hindsight

    Post  Bad John on March 2nd 2017, 4:47 pm

    As Alalonn stared at Apatet, slowly canting his head, he forked some eggs and popped them into his mouth. "You're a miracle worker. A...damn. Etechnia, help me out here. What's it called?"

    Etechnia seemed far more startled by the news. "Sir, I believe our young friend Apatet is a Thaumaturge." At that, Etechnia smiled. "Bravo. Apatet, you are literally a one in a billion talent."

    "...One in a what now?" Kydomis raised his eyebrow. "What?"

    "A Thaumaturge. A miracle worker." Alalonn explained. "Surely you've heard of the phenomenon. Mystics and miracle workers who can perform magic without Materia. Many folk claim to be such beings for show and profit. But, like Etechnia says, they’re literally one in a billion."

    Apatet's mind spun for a moment. She never considered herself something so rare or important; she always thought of herself as the squad's worst fighter. Now, a pair of First Class SOLDIERs had paid her one of the rarest compliments, and it was quantifiably true.

    Alken, bumping his hand down on his palm, understood. "Yeah, I saw a faker once. There was a fake Thaumaturge who came by on my farm and performed fire tricks. It turned out he was hiding Materia in one of his...cavities." The dark skinned farm-boy shifted uncomfortably at the description when Hybria loudly giggled from her side of the table. Lioke put her hand to her mouth, trying not to make Alken more uncomfortable by laughing. "You mean Apatet is a real one?"

    "Of course. Thaumaturges are know to possess an array of otherwise unattainable powers. It seems Apatet is a seer." Alalonn gave Apatet proud smile. "To think I netted one in a group of seven cadets. I'm a lucky bastard, that's for sure." Apatet lowered her head, her face nearly as red as her hair. "Were you that embarrassed when I paid you the compliment the first time?" Alalonn laughed.

    Kydomis was snickering for another reason.

    "...Wait, so he hid Materia in his ass?" Kydomis leaned towards Alken, who grimaced.

    Lioke quickly chimed in. "How many? Did the cops come?"

    "Did you see them take the Materia out?"

    When Anai, from out of nowhere, put the final nail in the coffin, the cadets quickly started laughing at Alken's expense.

    Alken buried his face in his palms, shaking his head. "ALRIGHT, that's three. You guys know the rules." Alken quickly lifted a pad of paper. "When an embarrassed party is outnumbered, the larger group gets three jabs per embarrassed party. Gaeira, I see you over there waiting to say something. Save it for next time, asshole."

    Gaeira huffed, sad that he didn't get a chance to land a shot while he could. "Fair enough. Anai's was funny enough anyway."

    "Thank you," Anai calmly replied.

    Etechnia inspected it from across the room; it simply said Cadet Group 8 UnOfficial Rule-Book.

    "And for the record, I just saw the stage show, and heard about it after someone busted him in a town over. My dad already knew though; he saw the guy walking funny, and called it days before we heard the news." Alken relaxed, placing down the pad on the table.

    “Careful with the rule-book. It’s my turn to carry it tomorrow.” Hybria leaned forward to take it away from him. “Better yet, just give it to me now.”

    “You’re not allowed to take it until my rotation is up.“ Hybria reached for it, but Alken stayed back. “Get away.” Hybria made another swipe. “Stay back! Damn you, you have no honor!

    “…This genuinely goddamn fascinating, cadets, but none of you have taken a single bite. Your food is getting cold. Talk while you eat.” Alalonn’s order made Hybria and Alken abandon their conflict and sit down. Not a single cadet had taken a bite yet; Apatet already knew it would be a pleasant surprise, and wanted to see the other’s reactions. She only had one vision, but it was strong enough that she could hear and taste; smell and touch weren’t working well, but it was the major improvement that made her day. So, she waited for Kydomis to take the first bite.

    The blonde SOLDIER patted a pile of scrambled eggs with the top of his fork. “These are eggs, right? They’re…brighter and fluffier than mom made.” Kydomis wondered for a moment if they were safe, before deciding that fortune favors the bold. Forking some, he bit into it.

    Kydomis froze, his body shaking for a moment. “…What is this…?” Kydomis chewed swallowed, and ate another bite. “This…is the best thing I’ve ever eaten…” Kydomis made rapid progress towards clearing his plate. The others, curious, started eating in turn. Etechnia watched with glowing pride as they universally seemed to like it.

    Hybria’s fist came down hard on the table. “SON OF A BITCH, this is great. Etechnia, are you some sorta chef in your spare time? Do you take cooking lessons?”

    “No, actually. I’m self-taught. It just…makes sense to me.” As she watched them inelegantly dig into their food, she glanced at the notebook. “What exactly is in that notebook?”

    Alken lifted it up, chewing and swallowing before speaking. “It’s essentially a peace treaty. Since we’re always around each-other, we tend to get into a lot of interpersonal fights. So, I brokered a truce between the two warring factions, and we drafted this rulebook to dictate our rules of engagement when it comes to teasing, fighting, or stealing from each-other.”

    “…You steal from each-other?” Etechnia’s good mood was completely spoiled by that deeply disturbing news.

    “It’s not like we live on opposite ends of the city. We all basically own the same stuff.” Hyrbia grinned, and took another swipe at the rule-book, attempting to snatch it away. Alken managed to move away before she could get it. “Damn. I was gonna make a ‘stole the show’ joke.”

    “Oh. Well, now I feel bad that I avoided it. I would have really enjoyed that.” Alken frowned, before turning to Apatet. She seemed more glad to be alive than he’d ever seen her. Normally she was low-key and dreary, but it seemed this was the confidence boost she needed to believe in her abilities.

    “Well, give me an example of your rules.” Alalonn, interested, bit into a strip of bacon, holding it half in and half out of his mouth while he waited Alken to open the book.

    “No tripping people. That’s way less funny as time goes on, and eventually it just leads to grudges and unseemly engagements.” Alken looked up at Alalonn, adjusting the brim of his hat. “An unseemly engagement is a fight that involves prior baggage. An ideal engagement is a spontaneous and easily settled fight stemming from a minor or humorous disagreement.”

    “That’s surprisingly reasonable.” Alalonn nodded approvingly. “For a young man your age, you have a depth of diplomacy and intelligence that could be very useful. Nurture that trait, son. It’s a trait few men possess.”

    “Thank you, sir.  I shall.” Alken grinned brightly at the compliment. Lioke’s attention shifted towards him.

    It’s about time someone else noticed. There wasn’t much about the subject of Alken that she didn’t know, frankly. Her close watch had begun years prior to their induction; her ideas of pursuit not long after. Losing track of what she was doing, she kept her stare until Hybria gave her a quick, soft elbow.

    “Eat.” Hybria whispered quickly. Lioke quickly went back to eating, keeping her eye on her plate.

    Alalonn, having finished his meal, stood up. “Etechnia, I have to submit a few documents; just some regulations reform I’m trying to push through.” Stretching his shoulders and taking a moment to let his stomach settle, the First Rank SOLDIER walked towards the door. “Lead the cadets in their training exercise. Choose the simulation labeled ‘Cadet Group Practice One.’ it should be pre-loaded. Take note and give advice as necessary, but they should do fine.”

    “Sir, yes sir!” Etechnia saluted Alalonn as he took his leave. The cadets cleaned their plates, all standing and stretching out to prepare themselves. “Alright, Cadet Group Eight. Today we’ll be giving you a short workout in the Vision Room. If you aren’t familiar, it serves as a safe simulation deck; nothing like the barbaric cutting-room floors you visited yesterday. State of the art in every regard.”

    “That’s what I like to hear,” Lioke remarked calmly. I don’t know if I’m just caught in their pace, but I’m starting to like those two. Alalonn and Etechnia had made a good first impression for sure. The seven were ecstatic to get to work and show what they were made of.

    The next chapter will be action oriented, interlaced with a few one-on-one chats between the group members.

    You'll also be meeting Alalonn's brother and a fellow First Rank SOLDIER, so look forward to that. I'm ironing out a few things regarding his character, but I think he'll come out well!

    Last edited by Bad John on March 2nd 2017, 5:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
    Bad John
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    Re: SOLDIER: The Gaia Wars

    Post  Bad John on March 2nd 2017, 5:14 pm

    Smol Infodump before I call it quits for today and start planning next chapter. This one regards SOLDIER Ranks and dress code.

    SOLDIER cadets are required to wear a light blue variation of the SOLDIER uniform. Their weapons are generally less effective and more fragile, since they're for training, and their armor is simple synthetic cloth and leather. In battle, only the helmet and pauldrons offer worthwhile protection, and even they are pretty cheap and interchangeable.

    Cadet groups tend to number between fifty and two-hundred, and there are usually colossal casualties during training; for the most part, nobody knows these kids. Even if they have parents or friends, they lose all access until training is complete, or they're reunited in the Lifestream. Alalonn abhors the amount of casualties that are deemed "acceptable," but it's really unavoidable for the most part. Even with the screening, some kids die in the Mako showers due to medical conditions, and some kids just die of exhaustion or during accidents. Cadet Group Eight was infamous for being nearly wiped out almost entirely due to poor luck.

    Third Rank SOLDIERs are the most common, numbering in the hundreds. Most never make it past this point, and serve as the closest thing to cannon fodder you'll find in the program. Usually they serve as guards in Shinra Tower, or get sent out in groups to make problems disappear quietly. They wear purple fatigues, and are given longswords, standard Materia, and rifles.

    Second Rank SOLDIERs are rarer. There are around a hundred currently operating. Cadet Group Eight, by Alalonn's estimation, has already qualified by surviving Amechanio's bullshit sealed-room Malboro test, and the individual combat performance he observed from that incident. First Rank SOLDIERs often bring Second Rankers along for missions as backup, but for the most part they have the same general duties as Third Rankers.

    Their dress code is relaxed; they can wear any color of the uniform they like while working under a First Rank representative, but while working standard security or military operations under Shinra without a First Rank representitive, they wear red fatigues. They also get to use personal weapons in combat, rather than defaulting to standard issue kits. They're only supposed to get standard Magic Materia, but it's not uncommon to find them with better gear.

    First Rank SOLDIERs enjoy almost total freedom, and have a say in the program's regulations, rules, and actions. They can lead strike teams, select targets at their own discretion, and take cadets under their wing and graduate them outside of standard training. First Rank SOLDIERs, for the most part, are aloof and arrogant; there are several exceptions to this, however; Alalonn, Etechnia, and a few others are stand outs for their kindness and willingness to bring out the potential in their younger/weaker comrades.

    I don't have a solid number on how many First Ranks there are, but it's less than twenty.

    For all ranks above cadet, SOLDIER uniforms are made of a tough armor weave. It's flame resistant, incredibly durable, and noted for being pretty comfortable; most SOLDIERs choose to wear their uniform at all times, and Gaeira often sleeps in his.

    The leather suspenders are made to keep armor in place. It can latch on larger pauldrons, and attach chest or back armor if a SOLDIER chooses to do so; chest and back armor is compulsory for Third Rankers in enemy territory, or monster-rich environments.

    Monsters prefer to target SOLDIERs on sight; what makes them more attractive prey is unknown, but it's a pretty huge benefit for the population; once a SOLDIER arrives, the monsters pretty much leave everything else alone and go after the SOLDIERs, unless they're smart enough to know how dangerous they are.

    It's never been questioned or commented upon why the uniforms are sleeveless. If you asked Alalonn, he'd say it's to keep your arms unencumbered, and aid with swordsmanship. If you asked Lioke, she'd say it's so women can stare at male SOLDIER's jacked arms.

    Have a good one, folks!
    Bad John
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    1.9: Training

    Post  Bad John on March 5th 2017, 9:37 pm

    “Man. It’s beautiful out here.” Kydomis held his hand up to block the sunlight. “…Or, in here I guess?”

    “We understand your point, Kydo. And yeah, it certainly is.” Alken squinted, letting the feeling of sunshine bathe over his skin; he hadn’t realized how much he needed it until he felt a facsimile. “Makes me miss the farm. As much as I like Midgar and Sector Four…I haven’t felt UV rays for a full year.”

    “Your skin is actually a shade lighter from back then.” Lioke raised her eyebrow at him. “There are sun rooms in Sector Four, and in the base. Places where out of towners can get their fix, or rich people can tan. I’ll show you one when we get out of here.”

    Gaeira nodded, confirming the information. “My dad used to visit those all the time when he was here on business. They pump in air from the surface; it helps rich dudes keep from getting stir crazy. They even got nice little palm trees.” Gaeira didn’t remember his parentage fondly, but he did recall climbing a palm tree; that stood out in his mind.

    “Thanks, Lioke. I didn’t know that.” Alken nodded at her, appreciative of her concern. The group began to spread out on their iron platform; their footsteps were eerily quiet despite the tinny surface. Anai had shared her own life experience, coaching her six teammates to keep their footsteps soft, even while off-guard. It helped to deal with blind monsters.

    “Gaia knows you won’t stay in for long,” Hybria taunted. “You’ve always been pale.” Lioke shot her a look as Hybria smirked, turning away. “…Even the air feels fresh. This is awesome, Etechnia.” Hybria looked around for the First Ranker. Noticing her confusion and urgency, the others tried to find her as well, evaluating their surroundings. “Guys, I think she’s already in position to attack. Stand together.”

    “Right.” A unified voice came from the entire group as they formed ranks. They’d come as they awoke; unarmed and in their base clothing, blue sleeveless tunics, mantles at their stomachs and leather boots. They hadn’t even worn their pauldrons or helmets. Alken kept his fists tight at their sides; being unarmed mattered little to him.

    The group was on a broken shipyard in the ocean. Saltwater surrounding them, rippling and lightly lapping at the iron pillars and condemned, rusty, floating ships, the water reflected rays of light all around.

    “I’m actually not liking all this sunshine,” Apatet grumbled. “If this were real, I might be burning alive right now.”

    “You’re a SOLDIER though. I don’t think your skin is fragile enough to burn.” Anai patted Apatet on the shoulder with the back of her hand. “Don’t sell yourself short, Apaturge.”

    “Heh. I like that one.” Alken grinned as they came to a boundary; the oil platform tapered off at a jagged edge, leading to a sixty-meter drop onto the platform below. “Welp, want to jump it?”

    Grinning, Gaeira stepped forward and punted Kydomis off the edge.


    Kydomis plummeted, turning in midair and landing on his feet. The ground beneath him cracked, and a tingling numbness spread up his legs, but he was none the worse for wear. “GET DOWN HERE SO I CAN WRING YOUR NECK!”

    Alken, taking a running start, leaped, flipping through the air and spreading his arms to slow his descent. Lioke and Hybria waited as the group took turns diving off the platform and down onto the next. Soon, the two were alone. Lioke could tell that the eldest of the group had something to say to her.

    “Why are you being so weird around Alken? I get it, you grew up together, but he’s a strong guy. He can look after himself. Don’t make things weird between the two of you, or things will be weird for the group.” Hybria folded her arms. “We can’t afford for things to get weird right now. We have a huge opportunity to be, like, top SOLDIERs. Be his friend, not his keeper.”

    Lioke said absolutely nothing, glowering at Hybria quietly for a moment. “What’s up, Lioke? You can talk to me.” Hybria tilted her head, her glowing tan eyes focused on Lioke for a moment. “…Waaaaait. Is this, like…”

    Hybria held up her gloved hand, extending a single finger. Making a circle, with her other hand, she thrust it inside.

    “Yeah,” Lioke replied simply. “That.”

    “…Huh. That makes a lot of sense. Never mind everything I just said; this is more important.” Hybria had never even considered it until now, but the depth of Lioke’s caring for Alken was a total anomaly in her personality. “No offense, but off the battlefield, you don’t really seem to give a shit about anyone else. You just knew what shade of brown he is. You’ve got it bad.” Hybria torqued her jaw slightly. “You know as cadets, that kind of thing isn’t allowed yet. Plus, he's from a farm. Farm people are really conservative and reserved.”

    “I’ll do the honorable thing and wait until he’s of age, of course. He has a bit more growing to do.” A slow smirk crept across her face. Hybria furrowed her brow.


    “Is it?”

    Yeah. When you make your approach, don’t come in all creepy; Alken scares easy, so you won’t want to startle him. Need a wingman?”

    “Nah. I’ve got it under control.” Lioke sprinted off the platform, jumping at an angle and lowering her head. There were panicked shouts from below as Hybria watched Lioke fall, diving like a bullet. Hybria smirked, impressed when Lioke slipped through a hole in the oil rig’s hull like a thread through the eye of a needle, diving into the clear water below. The other cadets looked down through it, and cheered, clapping when she surfaced in the water.

    Hybria hopped down to join her peers, plummeting after them.

    At her console, Etechnia’s mouth was wide open, her eyes wide open with shock. She quickly slammed the record button and cut out every moment of relevant audio before composing herself. Straightening her eyebrows and finding the Vision Room’s controller, she turned on her microphone.

    “Cadets? Can you hear me? Hold on, let me find my headphones…”

    As Alken pulled Lioke up onto the platform, a sudden voice jarred the cadets.

    Cadets? Can you hear me? Hold on, let me find my headphones…

    “Huh. I guess in here, Etechnia is god.” Kydomis stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I guess the food will be great, but there’ll be a whole lot more rules.”

    “Hah! Well said.” Alken chortled. He was buffeted by a punch to the shoulder from Apatet.

    “Show some respect, cadet,” Apatet folded her arms, staring Alken down. “She can probably hear us. Besides, she's really nice.”

    “…Why not punch Kydo then? He made the joke. I just laughed.” Alken rubbed his arm. Apatet’s punches didn’t carry a whole lot of force, but she had sharp knuckles.

    “…You’re right. Sorry. Kydomis. Come here for a moment.” Apatet raised her fist.

    “No. On account of you’ll punch me.” Kydomis lifted his fist. “I reckon now that I know you’re gonna punch me, I can probably punch you first.”

    Apatet furrowed her brow. Martial conflict always vexed her. “Perhaps I’ll wait, bide my time, and punch you at an opp-“ Before she could finish her threat, Alken quickly jabbed her on the arm. “AH! Why?!”


    “You guys are in cahoots,” Apatet’s accusation was met with gasps of appalled shock. “We’re all thinking it. Kydomis, Alken and Gaeira have been in a little clique for months.”

    “Yeah. We’re men. And we’re outnumbered. We’ve gotta stick together.” Gaeira folded his arms. “You guys gang up all the time.”

    Alken shook his head adamantly. “I do not endorse that statement. I stand by the rules, and have no acting alliances. I denounce Gaeira.”

    “Besides, that’s sexist.” Anai stared daggers at Gaeira for his stance on the matter. “There’s an almost fifty-fifty split; four women, three men. That seems like a fair deal.”

    “…Yeah, you’re right.” Gaeira decided not to stand by his guns. Taking a seat, he waited for Etechnia to finally get the hang of her console.

    Ah. There we are. So, cadets, today you will be testing your abilities against the Combatant Series of drones; as you know, they’re built for automated city defense in hostile environments. Just one of them is equal to a C-class monster.

    There was audible typing as Etechnia cued up a few programs.

    Of course, you’ll need able gear, so I’ll be dropping a medley of weapons and Materia about. You’ll find standard longswords and Magic Materia among randomly generated melee weapons, so take your pick! Use whatever feels most natural.

    Etechnia seemed a bit more on edge than usual, Apatet noticed. “Miss Etechnia, is something the matter?”

    Nothing at all, Apatet. Thank you for asking. I’m just getting control of this confounded thing…

    It seemed she wasn’t a computer person, but after a moment, there was an audible pop; like bubblegum pricked by a needle. The floor around them clattered as bright, green baubles of Materia and rattling weapons clattered to the ground.

    Apatet decided to go with what felt natural; she grasped a standard issue longsword. Brandishing and swinging it, she noted the song of the vibrating metal. Kydomis turned when he heard it as well. “Holy crap. That’s no trainin’ saber, that’s the real deal.”

    Nothing but the best in Sector Four!

    Etechnia seemed to like how the cadets marveled at the little things.

    Alken opted for something new. As he looked around, a certain weapon seemed to call his name; it reminded him of something. Picking it up, he observed his choice; a long handled short-blade. Its handle was nearly as long as the blade itself, and it had a good, comfortable weight to it. “Cool,” he said quietly.

    Ah! That is a potent but now obsolete weapon called a sweep blade. They were used to clear monster incursions from Junon. Since they’d come up from the ground, Shinra forces used those blades to stab down on their opponents before they could fully surface. I’ve never personally trained with one.

    “I gotta get me one of these.” Alken’s entire concept of martial combat had come from his father; as a boy, he learned to box from his old man, and watched him trounce a parking-lot full of punks with nothing but a new shovel from a hardware store. Now, Alken junior had his shovel.

    Hybria crouched, grasping a long handled metal axe. She draped it over her shoulders, planting her foot proudly on a rolling Materia to elevate it somewhat. “I like this. This thing makes me feel… important.” Hybria spun the weapon in her hand, planting the blunt side down hard. She didn’t know it, but she was born to wield one of these; northerners were a hard folk.

    Kydomis picked up a spade; sharp and fanned on one end, with a round, punishing hammer on the other. “Gaeira, there are all sorts of hammers over here. Try one ou-“ Kydomis paused when he saw Gaeira’s pick; a slender rapier with a simple iron guard. “Nevermind. That suits you just fine.”

    Gaeira flourished his weapon, his dark blue hair blowing on the wind. Gaeira quickly turned to Apatet, shooting her a joking wink. “Whaddaya think?”

    “Absolutely elegant Gaeira.” It was partially a joke, but in truth, Gaeira did seem to be the last word in chivalrous conduct while holding the rapier high. However, her perception of him as a lazy jackass broke the illusion; he’d sooner read a magazine or watch a wrestling match than save a damsel in distress.

    Anai picked up a pair of iron daggers, gripping them tightly to test the handles; they didn’t bend in her grip, and the blades didn’t rattle. She was pleased enough.

    Lioke chose last, grasping and lifting a curved blade. A Wutai sword, the simple katana had a good, straightforward feel. Tightening her hands around it, she bent down to pick up a Lightning Materia when she noticed a scabbard on her hip. Indeed, all seven SOLDIERs were being given scabbards for their selected weapons, strapped to their suspenders.

    Let me get you all kitted out, and we’ll be on our way.” Before she could react, a helmet appeared on her head, along with a pair of simple, small pauldrons on her shoulders. Her clothing shifted as well from simple cloth to a strange new material, colored purple.

    I’ve taken the liberty of granting you all fatigues with the standard issue armor weave; pardon the purple color. The standard issue rags don’t come in cadet blue.

    “I don’t mind a temporary promotion,” Hybria said. She felt her heart-rate spike when she realized that the fight was about to start. The bitter taste of defeat still hung on her after their last battle; it was almost enough to make her hesitate. “I’m ready to get started when you guys are.”

    “Yeah. Let’s do this.” Kydomis grinned. “This is a simulation, after all. No need to be scared, and no need to be nice either.”

    Then show them how brave you are, cadets! Your first adversary has spotted you!

    Lioke saw the creature first, as usual; her perception never lied. Following her gaze, they watched as a strange, slender creature leaped up onto the deck. It seemed to float on the ground; its feet were silent ball bearing wheels that guided it side to side as it observed them with a single, glowing red eye. Its fingers extended; six inch metal claws, each one. It was six feet tall; towering over the cadets. The beast burst forward, six of the seven raising their guard.

    The cadets watched as Alken did what he always did; whether it be by turning the other cheek, or springing into the fray, Alken was always so mind-numbingly brave. He sprang forward, sweep blade at the ready.

    Alken choked up on his blade as he sprinted at the automaton. It charged in kind, the two meeting in a clash of sparks; Alken blocked one of the android’s hands with the blade, and the other with the handle. Rotating his sword to break the droid’s balance, he slammed his leather boot into its green, synthetic skinned torso. The robot skidded back as Alken landed on his feet, his right hand wreathed in flame. “C’MON!” Apatet had coached him well during the train ride; he grabbed a Fire Materia right off the bat, and was using a calming breathing technique to accumulate more magic.

    In a blinding flash of red and white flame, Alken sent his mightiest fire spell yet at the droid; crude and explosive, but dangerous at close range. The robot failed to dodge, and took the blow head on; its plate mail was superheated, its optic lens breaking. Its body was shattered by the concussive force, hurled backwards. “TAKE THAT!” Alken pumped his fist victoriously as the others stared, a bit dumbstruck by his decisive victory.

    Turning, Alken noticed another droid approaching. Before he could spring into action and strike it, Hybria surged forward. She smashed its optic with her palm, her hand gripping its head and crushing it like a tin can. She turned and smirked at Alken, forst stepping back and swinging her axe, the blow tearing the droid damn near in half; same result, half the effort. Hybria was quick to remind her peers who the top dog was. Alken rolled his eyes; Hybria could have the pecking order if he was on the winning team.

    There’s more where those came from! On your guard!

    The cadets looked around as more of the droids appeared, ramping up from the shipyards below to attack.

    “They’ve got the edge on us in strength and stamina, but they’re fragile! Rip ‘em apart!!!” Hybria’s order emboldened her squad mates, who sprung into the fray. Anai found herself facing off with one of the droids; it rolled around on its wheels, circling her with claws extended. She turned to face it, keeping her eye on her opponent.

    When the droid surged forward, she stepped in. It thrust both arms, so she sidestepped, swinging her knee up; the blow jarred the droid’s arms, opening its guard. With a quick, careful swipe from the point of its jaw to the base of its neck on both sides, she unseated and removed the droid’s head. Landing on her feet, she turned and pointed her knives towards another opponent. Before she could engage, Apatet rolled behind it, holding her hand up. She fired a bolt of lightning that lit the metal floor blue for a moment; the droid had a scorched hole where its micro-reactor had been. Anai gave Apatet a thumbs up for the assist, before they paired up and moved to separate from the rest of the group.

    Kydomis caught the arm of one of the droids, bending it backwards and forcing it to the ground. He placed his boot down on the robot’s chest and slammed his spade home, gutting the robot. It stood and swiped at him, catching the fabric of his pants; the fabric didn’t snag or tear in the least. “I’m liking these new rags.” He stepped in and brought down his spade on the droid’s head. Looking around, he noticed that the odds were mounting; more of the droids were appearing. “Spread out! We’re outnumbered! Gaeira, I’m with you!”

    “Then hurry up, slowpoke! There are FLYING ones coming!” Gaeira leaped down for cover, and Kydomis followed with a rowdy war-whoop. As Alken dove off the oil platform for the ships below, Lioke and Hybria followed.

    Falling quickly, Alken noticed a droid with helicopter blades for hands. It flew up underneath him, ready to dice him to pieces. “Shit!” Alken lifted his sword, but wasn’t certain he had the precision to block six fast moving blades at once.

    Lioken sped past him like a bullet, katana borne high over her shoulder. Turning in a summersault over the combatant droid, she issued a pair of cuts that severed its arms. As the android fumbled through the air, Alken rammed his elbow against its face, finishing off the disarmed robot. “Thanks, Lioke!”

    “Be more careful, dumbass.” Lioke’s knee jerk response was rudeness, but Alken still seemed to appreciate the gesture. Landing on an old helicopter deployment derrick, Lioke rolled over her shoulder and checked for any nearby hostiles. There were several bearing down on her already, skating along on their rolling feet. Licking her lips, Lioken attacked.

    Etechnia watched with rapt interest, her microphone muted as she glanced at the seven, split screens. Her glowing eyes darted between them. “AH! Good show, Lioke! Put that katana through its paces!”

    Abandoning the platform, the cadets had jumped down into the shipyard below, splitting into three small teams and staying close enough to call out. Etechnia noted their teamwork; they moved as one by instinct. It was like watching a pride of lions. Part of her ached to be part of their little world.

    All of her burned to protect it, and see it flourish. She was beginning to understand why Alalonn decided to take them on; they would be a colossal asset when they were older.

    “How's the test, Etecchnia?” Alalonn’s booming voice jarred her from her reverie. “Look who I managed to drag in?”

    Etechnia looked past Alalonn’s broad body to spot a familiar face; a red eyed man with jet black hair, the tan gentleman was of normal height; which was to say he came up to Alalonn’s shoulder. Despite his tired, Mako glowing eyes, he smiled brightly when he saw Etechnia. “Good to see you.” Alalonn’s half-brother, Sophron the Black was a friendly, if brooding character. In his early twenties, he wore a red cloak over his black uniform, with a pair of sharp, silver gauntlets on his hands. Materia Orbs across his belt, Etechnia was taken aback when she noticed a red orb in one of the holsters.

    “…You’ve mastered Summon Materia?” Etechnia stepped forward, wrapping her arms around Sophron in a tight hug. He wheezed, constricted by her grip. “Congratulations! I know how long you’ve been trying at it.”

    “Thanks. I’m only thumbing the depths of what it can really do, but people are already making a big deal of it. Sophron the Summoner, Conjurer… I do often miss being Sophron the Black.” As the gloomy, tan skinned SOLDIER lamented his new monikers, Alalonn looked up at the screen.

    “Oh, they already started? I figured they’d still be arguing. I was looking forward to that.” Alalonn watched the screen, raising his eyebrow. “Better performance than I expected. Let them ride the wave for a bit before turning up the heat.”

    “…What’re those, Third Rankers? They move well. You helping Third Rankers and cadets?” Alalonn turned back towards Sophron as he watched the screen. Realizing they were the seven cadets Alalonn had briefed him on, Sophron’s eyes widened somewhat; he wasn’t normally taken by surprise; the SOLDIER was usually a step ahead of his surroundings, but this defied his expectations. “They’re absolute monsters. New augmentation procedures?”

    “No. Just experience. They’ve been facing danger fit for fifty cadets for a full year; it’s only natural they’re advanced.” Alalonn raised his eyebrow at Etechnia, who had a rather curious look on her face. “Hiding something over there?”

    “…Nothing.” Deciding to be discreet, Etechnia pressed a button on the console, deleting a few minutes of audio. Etechnia turned back towards the screen to watch the festivities.

    Kydomis, at first, assumed Gaeira’s weapon choice was stylistic; he was proven dead wrong when he saw the SOLDIER use the slender blade.

    As a combatant droid swiped at him, Gaeira stepped back, then lanced the blade through the automaton’s elbow, destroying its limb. As the robot stepped in to strike again, Gaeira ducked under the blow and stabbed the robot up the chest cavity. Circling his blade, he disconnected its core from the housing, killing the droid on short time.

    “Where’d you learn to use something like that?” Kydomis looked around; they’d cleared the area, and decided to take a short break. Gaeira slicked back his hair, wiping sweat from his brow.

    “My dad. He gave me regular fencing lessons.” Gaeira raised his eyebrow at Kydomis, curious. “Where’d you learn to use that spade-hammer thing?”

    “Mom owns a bar. Taught me to whack people with a broom when they wouldn’t pay their damn tab. Once, a sewer gator tried to drag dinner away from the shop, so I taped a hammer to the other end. I showed that fuckin’ gator who’s boss.”

    “…Then how was it still a broom? Did you take the brushing part off?” Gaeira tried to picture the weapon in his head.

    “No. The hammer was hidden in the bristles.”

    Nodding, Gaeira understood Kydomis’s point perfectly. “Ah. So the gator wouldn’t suspect it?”

    “Exactly!” Kydomis crossed his arms, proud of the old invention.

    “…Normally, Alken’s the one to burst your bubble, but an alligator wouldn’t know what a hammer was in the first place. You could have probably just thrown the hammer at it, and it wouldn’t have seen it coming. They don’t know what appliances are.” That was Gaeira's best attempt to explain. "What say you to that?"

    Kydomis torqued his jaw, considering Gaeira’s argument. “Tactically speaking, I think my plan worked best. If I threw it, the gator could have caught it and used it to fight back.”

    “…Alken’s better at this. I give up.” Deciding he’d run into a logical brick wall due to Kydomis’s use of personification on animals, Gaeira found a dry place to sit and rest.

    Kydomis sat down as well, catching his breath. “…Does it seem weird that we’re tired?”

    “…Yeah, it does.” Gaeira wiped his forehead with his thumb; he was sweating after the several minute skirmish. “You’d think our stamina would be indefinite in a skill based test. Etechnia, what gives?”

    “Why is it that in this fictional world, we languish in exhaustion?” Kydomis posed the oddly theatrical question; Gaeira chortled, seeing the humor in it.

    Very observant of you. While the combat, environment, and injuries are false, the effort you expend is real; while you meditate in the vision room while linked to the server, your muscles are straining, moving, and tensing as though you were exercising. The muscle memory that you build, and the effort you expend in this room will carry over to your real bodies.

    “So this doubles as strength training. NICE!” Kydomis planted his feet, standing up and preparing himself for more. Spinning his spade and gripping it in his hands, he watched as more of the androids came along the deck towards them. “Let’s beat some ass!”

    “Alright then. Let’s to this.” Gaeira stood, snapping his blade forward and holding it upright, saluting his robotic opponents as they approached. “Back to back?”

    “Back to back!” As the robots rolled in, feinting left and right to surround them, Gaeira and Kydomis guarded eachother’s blind spots, standing back to back. Gaeira lashed his hand to the side, sending a hasty thunder spell; the magical blow knocked one of the robots off the ship. As a combatant droid rolled forward to slash at Gaeira, Kydomis swiped the hammer-end of his weapon around, smashing the robot’s optics. He stepped in and threw a front kick, knocking the robot back.

    “There’s a whole lot of ‘em, and they move so quiet.” Kydomis furrowed his brow. “Be careful that you don’t get flanked.” Kydomis looked up, his eyes narrowing as he saw something hovering in midair; an aerial combatant, flying along towards them with propellers for hands. “Gaeira! We got a problem! There’s a flying one about to hit us from above!”

    Gaeira quickly did the relevant math in his head. Looking up, Gaeira suddenly crouched down. “Jump off my back and take it out!”

    Kydomis didn’t question Gaeira for a second; trusting the plan, he turned away from the enemy, stepped on Gaeira’s back, and as Gaeira gave him a boost, he sprung into the air. The ground combatants leaned in and lurched forward as Gaeira slammed his palms to the ground and cast the strongest thunder-spell he could. The old metal carried the current well, the robots stunned by the flash of energy. Gaeira rolled away from them quickly, trusting the rest to his squad-mate.

    The cadet SOLDIER’s weapon gave him an easy reach advantage; he stabbed his weapon forward and slashed the aerial combatant’s head clean off. As he turned in Midair, his body began to glow bright blue, Mako streaming off his skin as he came down towards the stunned automatons. “Y’ALL AIN’T NOTHIN’!!!”

    Kydomis came down in the center of them, bringing his hammer-spade down against the ship’s hull. Something told him that it would be enough; and indeed, it was. The shockwave of the blow dismantled the droids at close range. The others were sent flying into the saltwater below. Having broken his limits, Kydomis destroyed nine of the androids at once.

    The hull strained and cracked, a long seam forming at the epicenter of Kydomis’s attack. Suddenly, both halves began to lean into each-other. “Holy crap.” Kydomis looked at his weapon, which had been bent into a crumpled zig-zag pattern. “Gaeira, did you see that?”

    “I’m over here!” The force of the impact had sent Gaeira hurtling towards the bow of the ship. Walking back towards Kydomis, he seemed rather disheveled. “You gotta warn me before you do that. What kinda spell did you cast? Was that Gravity Materia?”

    No, Gaeira. That was a limit break. When stressed, the Mako in your body explodes to life, granting you power beyond your natural limitations ” Alalonn’s voice came through the godlike intercom now. “And a fine limit break it was. Quite a shockwave.

    “Thank you, sir!”

    Lioke tore across the deck of the ship, fully aware that she was being followed by a pair of relentless homing missiles. She glared angrily at her opponent as the others attempted to physically overpower it.

    A massive android with an industrial jet under its waist, it hovered along without touching the ground as it swung its fist, sending Apatet flying backwards with a powerful straight punch. Painted green to denote its military origins, the robot was covered in missile and grenade launchers; Alken and Anai had already slashed off some of its turrets, but some were too thick to cleave through.

    As Lioke desperately avoided the flying missiles, the turned to cast magic on them; however, she found that Alken had leaped into her way.

    Catching one of the missiles with his hand, he batted the other away with his sword; it detonated on the ground, but he endured the head and concussive force, gripping the missile he had caught. “GUYS! INCOMING!” Alken hurled the missile at the robot, and it detonated against the automaton’s back. Falling onto its side for a moment, the military grade automaton quickly recovered. “Dammit. What is that thing.”

    “An airbuster. Shinra tech, built for suppressing rebels.” Lioke caught her breath for a moment. “Nice save. Thanks.”

    “No problem,” he replied, charging back towards the fray.

    Hybria, taking advantage of the airbuster’s stunned state, swung her axe down on its face; she smashed out another of its five eyes, leaving only two remaining. The droid lifted its hand, its palm slamming against her side and sending the cadet sailing away.

    Apatet, staying in the robot’s blind spot, cast an ice spell onto its missile turret. Anai mounted the droid and sliced the damaged weapon with both knives, tearing it off. She moved to climb on top and tear into its face, but the airbuster caught her by the leg, tossing her aside. Targeting Anai with its grenade launcher, the droid fired. Apatet watched helplessly as the incendiary bombs approached Anai, who was still recovering from being thrown.

    Gaeira snatched both out of the air. “KYDO! CATCH!” Throwing them up to the blonde SOLDIER, Gaeira watched gleefully as Kydomis caught them, landed on the airduster’s back, gently laid them there, and leaped off. The grenades detonated, sending a splash of flame about the airduster’s chassis.

    Landing on his feet, Kydomis stepped back as the airduster targeted him.

    Hybria pounced on the airbuster’s face. With her axe stowed on her back, she simply stabbed her hands into its eye sockets. The telltale glow of Mako drifting from her skin, Hybria strained with both arms. The airduster’s face warped, slowly parting as Hybria tore its head in half.

    The robot’s processor exposed, Hybria leaned in and wrapped her teeth across the green, microchipped board. Pulling back, she tore the airduster’s brain out.  Letting go and dropping off of the automaton, Hybria spat out the foul tasting robotics. “That’s why I’m on top. Take note, people.”

    Anai brushed herself off, tossing and catching the knives in her hands. They felt natural. Suddenly, they faded from her grip, and the world seemed to deteriorate to black. Feeling the pressure of a pair of eyelids, she sank into what felt like a deep slumber.

    The cadets awoke groggily, drenched in sweat and exhausted. Sitting up and stretching, Anai remembered that they were never in a real environment. She gripped her hands, crestfallen for a moment. She missed her knives.

    “Wow. I didn’t realize the vision room makes you feel like shit when you wake up.” Kydomis sat upright, rubbing his face.

    “The sudden state change makes you realize how much energy you were expending.” Apatet laid down on her cot. The vision room was lined with multiple, stacked in bunks like a dormitory. “Plus, we were essentially exercising in our sleep. I don’t imagine that would be a good feeling in any context.”

    As the cadets took a moment to breathe and relax, the door swung open. Alalonn stepped into the room, followed by Etechnia. Sophron, gazing past his half-brother’s colossal shoulder, remained in the hallway. “Excellent work. You’ve cleared my preliminary examination. Get used to that program; that will be a slow day. Tomorrow morning, prepare to get your ass kicked.”

    Hybria raised her hands triumphantly; a life of constant challenge was the life for her. Gaeira, at the opposite end of the spectrum, couldn’t help but smile. Even if it would be hard work, at least he was doing it with his comrades.

    Alalonn, noting their enthusiasm to continue, decided to wrap up the reprieve and let them start their recovery cycle. “Today’s lesson will help me determine your weapon preferences. Alken and Gaeira, you’re a couple odd ducks; I haven’t seen a SOLDIER wield a rapier or a sweep blade in years.”

    “That’s us, sir. We get results in ways you wouldn’t expect.” Hybria leaned against the wall, stretching her arms until they popped comfortably.

    “Who’s that?” Lioke, pointing to Sophron in the hall, guided the cadet group’s attention towards him. Sophron stepped into the room, his hands in his pockets.

    “Holy crap, he has Summon Materia.” Apatet’s eyes locked onto his belt. He looked up at her, pointing to her with his clawed gauntlet.

    “I’m Sophron. Alalonn brought me in to instruct the Thaumaturge. I’m not a miracle worker myself, but I can offer you general guidance in magical mastery. A magic tutor of sorts.” Sophron kept his eye on Apatet, evaluating her for a moment. She seemed intelligent enough; she certainly fought carefully. “The more you learn about Materia usage, the easier it will be to cast without it, and take advantage of your other abilities. Keep your mind clear, and we’ll have you making miracles in no time.”

    Apatet bowed her head. “Thank you, sir. I look forward to learning from you.”

    “…You don’t have to call me ‘sir.’” Yawning and shuffling off into the hall, Sophron drifted off into the distance.

    “Take a break, kids.” Alalonn pointed out of the vision room. “Get something to eat from the cafeteria and catch your breath. After that, fitness training, then light’s out. Enjoy your free time.” Alalonn turned to walk out, with Etechnia following. Alalonn turned and held up a hand to his eldest protégé. “Keep ‘em out of trouble. You’re in charge.”

    As Alalonn left Etechnia alone with the cadets, Hybria snickered, leaning against the wall beside the door. “Looks like you’re stuck with us.” Etechnia shifted somewhat uncomfortably as all eyes settled on her.

    “What’s the matter?” Kydomis chimed in. “Scared of social activities?”

    Etechnia torqued her jaw, folding her arms. “No. And I’m not participating, I’m chaperoning. Don’t forget who’s in charge here.”

    “But for how long?” In the right mood to play along, Apatet wrung her hands villainously. “Hybria’s vindictive. She’s gunning for your position, and we’re her humble minions.” She jokingly leered at Etechnia.

    Etechnia furrowed her brow. “…I remember it being a rule that you can only do three jokes at one party’s expense.” Grinning, Etechnia held her ground.

    “If you want to be the boss of us, acting like Alken isn’t a good place to start.” Hybria’s joke elicited a sad groan from Alken. “Well, fine. You’re the boss. Mind taking us to get somethin’ to eat?”

    Last edited by Bad John on March 7th 2017, 9:41 am; edited 1 time in total

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