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Baptism // Rook background story 1

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*

Rook Beroya

  • Chief Mechanic and Droid Specialist
  • 2
  • I adhere to the Resol’nare.
Baptism // Rook background story 1
« on: April 05, 2019, 09:48:25 PM »
Snowflakes lazed down out of the sun-streaked sky, painting the world in brilliant whites and blinding golds. A not-unusual occurrence for early spring, at least here at Arumorot settlement, as opposed to at home. At home, everyone had lived in domes, and no one got to enjoy the weather, at all. Or so Rook had been told, over and over. She believed it, too. Father never lied. The elders never lied, the warriors of the Clan never lied. Rook was almost ready to write to in her diary, Clan Awaud never lies, despite her father’s baffling habit of veering into imprecise concepts like honor and duty whenever Rook tried to pin him down about just what her tribe was.

Err, her Clan.

Talz had Tribes; Mandos had Clans. But some Talz could become Mandos, and no Mando could become Talz. Which didn’t seem at all fair; Rook would like to be furry and warm without needing jackets and snow boots. The thought caused her gaze to dance over the locally armed Talz tribesmen scattered amongst the Clan’s garrison, forming a loose defensive permitter around the wooden palisade that marked the edges of Arumorot. The palisade wasn’t the real defense, of course. But it did help keep the wildlife out.

Vlemouth Station boasted some pretty awesome wildlife! In fact, at only nine-years-old herself, Rook found the planet almost perfect. She kept that sentiment to herself, though. It wasn’t widely shared in a settlement that had existed only since Rook was two. A modest wind sent the dazzlingly bright snow dancing through the air, coating the Talz, playing havoc with long range sensors, clogging vid pickups, and causing ghost-signals to ping through the remote on Rook’s hip. It made a sort of music, rippling and wild. The rising wind coaxed her heart into beating in time to the almost-tune. A giggle escaped as the wind gusted into true snow flurries, and sent a stream of light, fluffy snow sliding down the back of Rook’s neck, under her collar. That same playful wind sent more snow to dapple Kad’s winter camouflage, and then to roll over Elder Terroch in a tidal wave of fluff.

So thick and large was the snow flurry, that it blinded both of the Youth Warriors engaged in their ritual bout. That bout was why nearly all of Clan Awaud’s training battalion had gathered in the main assembly square, despite the snow.

Not that Rook would have let the light, fluffy stuff keep her indoors on so beautiful a day!

“Go Vera!” Rook called, as an echo of similar cries rang out from around the dueling circle. A stickler for tradition might complain that those yells qualified as ‘aid,’ but most wouldn’t. Kad’s hand came down on her shoulder in warning, as he struggled with the notion himself. Rook glanced up at him; he was taller than her. He’d always been taller than her. At thirteen, on the eve of his verd’gotten, Kad had become far more withdrawn and serious than he normally was.

So she stuck her tongue out at him and grinned, watching his eyes lighten before they both focused their attention back to her sister. Her beautiful, powerful and very determined sister. Vera was a bit younger than her foe, but she was viper-fast, strong, her body honed into a precision instrument. Rook knew that, better than anyone; she’d been her sister’s unofficial sparing partner, general confident and willing accomplice since she could walk. Rook’s excitement demanded expression, and she all but vibrated in place. Kad’s hand upon her shoulder was steadying, and she leaned into him, despite how the snow coating him covered her as well.

“She’ll win!” Rook assured him.

“She’s had her full growth for almost three years. Jak’s still growing.” Kad’s sharp gaze assessed the two, as he attempted to shove aside the emotions which insisted Vera must win, and sought the answer in tactical knowledge.

The Clan was taught to fight as children, as soon as they could physically perform simple katas or hold a weapon. But that was necessity, not Tradition. Per tradition, children were specifically trained in modern weapons, fighting skills, and military tactics starting at the age of eight. But this first stage of training was performed by their family: parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. Family skills, these. Stories, secrets, and techniques uniquely specialized to the child. A strong foundation, for the harsher training to come. At nine, Rook had officially only just crossed that first, important rite of passage, to cadet warrior.

Unofficially, Vera had been working with her since she could walk.

The frustrating thing was that children were growing, and physics didn’t care much about burning will power, cruel necessity or wildly desperate desire. So after the verd'goten, at 13 or so, clan youngsters became Youth Warriors, not full Clan Warriors as was true in some Clans. They were trained formally in artillery, heavy weapons, tactics, strategy, martial skills, orienteering. Everything and anything they could learn, all taught to the strict, demanding standards of the Chieftain. But they weren’t real warriors, not yet. Not until they attained their full growth, and then forced their body to re-learn the demanding art of physical combat and endurance. That little fact meant that Vera was going to trounce Jak, even though he was older, taller, stronger. Because poor Jak had yet to attain his adult dimensions, so physics was out to get him.

Which thought brought a frown to Rook’s face. “This isn’t fair. It’s not a fair fight. She should be up against a Clan Warrior.”

It was Elder Terroch who answered her.

“Life is never fair.”

Rook’s eyes rolled so far back in her head she thought they’d fall out. She had chanted his reply with him, as had half of the onlookers. It had to be the most hated, most often repeated truism ever.

Life is never fair.

That dictum seemed to be why her father (and thus the Clan) worried so deeply and often about honor. As if somehow sufficient Honor, Vision and Truth might possibly force a small bubble of fairness into existence through sheer will. Because clearly, fairness (however rare) was something that wouldn’t exist at all without concerted effort

The effort of rolling her eyes had drawn her gaze upwards, up up to the majestic near-pines and towering false-manzanita. The dark evergreens soared into the heavens. The parade ground seemed eternally shadowed, as their twined branches dropped tiny snow-coated time-bombs of sticky sap and metallic needles onto electronic devices, people and fixed defenses. Much like the icy snow-bomb that was even now slithering its way down Rook’s spine. She shivered, chilled by the damp beneath her thermal sweater and armored jacket. The itchy, stubborn sap never really seemed to dry, nor did it ever fully freeze. Instead, it floated through the air in crystalline perfection the envy of any fractal ever made on a computer. Then when it encountered warmth, the sap thawed just a touch too much, and turned into a viscous ooze.

One such snow-bomb plopped onto Vera’s head, and Kad was startled into a laugh. So was Rook ... and the unfortunate Jak. In the moment of Jak’s distraction, Vera struck. Off balance from the snow, blinded by the sap oozing over her protective goggles, still her strike was true! Vera’s left foot planted itself firmly in Jak’s visor, and he flew back a body length, hitting the ground properly and instantly rolling to his feet. A delighted Rook shouted her Clan’s battle-cry, and charged into the dueling circle. In a real fight, the blow might not have been decisive, but this was to first blood, and a few drops of gleaming crimson dotted the sparkling snow. Even before Elder Terroch called the point in Vera’s favor, or Rook had reached the circle, Jak and Vera had fallen back to their own starting positions.

Honor, even above victory.

Rook, Kad, and Jak’s sister Zex, swarmed the field ahead of the elders who sought to congratulate both warriors. Vera picked Rook up and swung her around, before releasing her to pick up Zex and throw the slender girl at Jak.

Zex was small for her age, but she curled into a ball and hit Jak squarely, center mass.

Jak caught his little sister with an umph of effort, his own somber mien lightening. Rook gave him a hug too, even as Vera and Jak were mobbed by other Youth Warriors. Inevitably, the kids were shunted aside by their older kin. Rook wanted to protest that Vera was her sister, and that Jak belonged entirely to Zex (the two had no other siblings to confuse the matter, unlike Rook and Vera) but the remote she’d rigged began to beep most angrily. Playing with the readouts a bit, Rook scowled then angled her device so that Kad and Zex could see the display clearly.

“Look, the main radar array is stuck pointing at the trees, again.” The readout was rigged to let Rook know the moment the array’s field of view was at least 30% occluded by trees or mountains. Currently, it was closer to 80%! Rook’s device wasn’t dependent upon the machine’s internal computers, but ran independently, using simple gps locators and a fancy CAD program to calculate the angle of incidence. The Clan needed to find the persistent glitch that had plagued their Main Radar Array since the vast, four-story beastie was installed here, after it’s difficult transplant from home. The pad beeped as it queried the radar’s own internal systems, and showed them green across the board! That could happen, if the fault was of short enough duration, or freak weather created a condition it’s internal systems thought could be compensated for. Careful concentration coaxed more data from the pad, and Rook grinned at her friends.

Zex gestured around them. “It’s just the snow flurry, right? Will that be long enough? Won’t the radar heat up in order to melt off the weight, and be pointed at the sky again in about 15 minutes?” She was less arguing, then visibly calculating if the three could get to the array before the fault was resolved.

Kad’s frown deepened, his ready anger rising near to the surface. “Fifteen minutes is a very long time,” he said, and a chill crept into the three children.

Rook hated feeling that way. Hated fear, and doubt. You couldn’t get anything done, if you worried. Almost, Rook argued with him. She argued with Kad a lot. Fifteen minutes wasn’t long at all, when you were playing. Or eating, or reading. It was not nearly enough time to fix something, or to truly learn something.

But her pad beeped again, distracting her. She studied the new data, then jumped and shouted, Oya!

“This is a fault not accounted for by the weather; we only have class three winds, and class four snow. The main radar array is rated up to a nine on the Beaufort Scale.” Nine was a decent but not really interesting gale. The snow had to be in the low teens on her custom-made ‘Beroya meter’ to be the sort of wet, sticky mess that managed to foul almost anything electronic. Nor, according to her sensors, had there been a freak super-cell, savage down draft or earthquake. No circuits were popped, or wires overheated. But a quick glance at the faces of her fiends made her bite back the urge to explain in detail all the things it wasn’t. They still didn’t understand. Nothing, not one of the 846 plausible faults painstakingly listed and monitored by Aunt Twon was causing the fault happening right now.

So what had made the thing fail, on this otherwise unremarkable spring day?

That was the 100-credit question, and they’d probably get a bigger bonus than that for figuring it out. She grinned in triumph, pointing to the false reads. “This is our intermittent fault.” she assured them.

Zex leaned into Rook for an over-excited hug, then broke away from them to sprint towards one of the gear lockers. “I’ll get the climbing gear!” The words echoed in the laughing shout delivered over her shoulder.

“Race you!” Rook hollered, chasing after. It was a full sprint, the competition earnest. Everyone, even Kad, wanted to be first onto the rig, the position of most risk. The need to be first burned in Rook; for the competition itself, for the scary-alert-delighted fear that only something which could truly hurt her provoked. Besides, Zex was far too cautious and slow, and Kad would tweak any button or lever he came across.

With a haste and precision that might seem strange to outside eyes, the three Mandalorian children donned first rate repelling gear from the communal stores. There was little outside chatter, no delay, no argument about who had won the race, or what was fair. Not now; not when they were on task. Even at 9, 11, and 13 the discipline of their calling had been hammered into them.

This wasn’t play; it was work. It was part of their spirit, their Resol’nare.

Support the Clan.

Even if only vaguely, each child felt the mystical connection to the Warriors of their Clan, who were currently off planet, engaged in a vicious battle to conquer and occupy a minor Hutt Lord’s palace. By age, the three were disallowed as of yet from being there. But doing this task, solving the problem here, made it as if somehow they were also standing beside their Clan. They were not slacking, not playing or resting while aunts, uncles, brothers and cousins were at war. They were doing what Rook’s Aunt Twon, Chief Engineer, would do, if she were here.

They were the sentinels, keeping watch for their loved ones. Keeping the faith. So no Elder stepped in, no Youth Warrior forbade them the right of risk. As it was Rook’s plan, this time she was Fire-Team Leader. If they were tracking down lost tourists for a fee, then it would be Zex; for fighting off a peak-bear, Kad. Which didn’t mean she got to go first, not even on the climb up the Radar. Kad had demonstrated his physical superiority by winning the race, so he won the honor of point man.

Everyone did what they did best, and what Rook did best was machines.

So Rook scrambled up the thick, twined metal columns of an alloy she couldn’t yet spell, with a belay line she trusted absolutely, in the second position. Kad had the lead; he skillfully managed both younger children’s safety lines, and his own rig. Magnetic pads in their gloves and boots helped with grip, but interfered with Rook’s ability to readily handle her own tools. The sun gleamed at her, as she rested a moment on the highest observation post. The snow gleamed with more glory than a night full of stars, the metallic pollen and sap making it glint and shimmer like the finest jewels. Up and up she climbed, leaving Kad at the observation post she had just rested upon.

Then it was into the first series of risers and crossbeams, as she and Zex began the dangerous climb down into the machine itself. Zex had easily followed her inside; Kad had not, though. He could not have, even if he’d lost the race. Awkwardly tall, with shoulders that didn’t yet match his height, he simply wouldn’t have fit within the path Rook had chosen. He wasn’t scrawny, like the children born just before and after the exodus tended to be. (An ill omen, some said. Poor nutrition, others murmured, if they wanted to risk a fight with whatever parents they were insulting. Transplant stress, Chief Surgeon Moyt called it. Rook thought it was grief; not even babies wanted to eat when they were sad.)

The cerulean blue of the sky, streaked with golden light and silvery clouds drew her gaze from contemplating Zak and the path before her. Rook loved climbing, and spared a moment to glory in the spring morning as a dozen cone trails in perfect formation drew patterns in the stratosphere. They were good, whoever they were; but Rook wouldn’t know anymore than that unless she got the radar installation working again.


She didn’t have a bad feeling, when she saw them. That’s what would bother her most, later. That she’d respected their skill, and thought the patterns of a sudden atmospheric insertion pretty.

« Last Edit: May 22, 2019, 05:02:44 PM by Rook Beroya »

*

Rook Beroya

  • Chief Mechanic and Droid Specialist
  • 2
  • I adhere to the Resol’nare.
Re: Baptism
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2019, 12:18:02 PM »
“Not ours. Not the Vlemouth authorities, the cone-trails are wrong. Could be Rebels. Or the Imperials, they’ve been pissed off since the Battle of Yavin last year. Or ...” Kad didn’t say who else they might be, but Rook could list them off in her head. His recitation had hurried her descent into the darkness, the ones unspoken spurring her worse than those he’d dared to name. They danced through her mind, lacing her sense of triumph with an uneasy tension. Hutts. Bounty hunters. Slavers, pirates, traders. Or worst of all, a renegade Clan. Death Watch fanatics wanting to pressure her father into joining them, or New Mandalorian traitors trying to force the Clan back into the slow death of a life of helplessness.

“Rook. Can you get the Radar working?” Kad snarled the quasi-order, pausing in his efforts to grant more slack so Zex and Rook could burrow even deeper into the Radar Array itself.

Technically, Rook didn’t have permission to fix the Main Radar Array; just to diagnose the problem.

Technically. The oddly elongated shadow Kad cast helped hide his expression from her. Flashes of blinding sun, crystalline snow, and near-black shadows broke her view of him into tiny, fragmentary pieces. The intensity of the gaze staring back at her through the mesh of tungsten, carbon alloys and copper cables carried neither doubt nor uncertainty with it. Kad wasn’t scared; just intense and focused. Typically brash and headstrong, with no thought or concern over exceeding their orders.

Rook was just as bad.

How could she fix a problem no one else had? Yet part of her just knew that she could! There were things she now knew about the fault, that no one else had ever known. And it couldn’t be that hard to fix, right? Or it wouldn't be intermittent! A grin flashed, and she tossed her head back, as if daring him to doubt her word.

“Of course.”

A second later, she tore her gaze away from that glimpse of sky and strength, to focus upon her own journey down into the bowels of the machine. The maintenance access hatches were sized for full adults. Those areas, with their more easily accessed circuits had already been meticulously checked by much more experienced engineers. The convoluted path she’d chosen to use crossed through unexplored territory, weaving through the overlapping armored segments that protected the bone and sinews of the machine. A fairly random pattern, with an ultimate goal of the hydraulics cylinders which controlled the movement of the parabolic. Rook keyed up the schematic of the Main Radar Array, and traced a least-time route inward, not merely to the hydraulics system itself, but also to the vast thermal engine that powered the beastly array. Some of the subsystems could run on standby power or had emergency backup. But to get the Main Radar Array fully operational, she’d need full power.

A gap in the armored segments that protected the bones and sinews of the machine loomed before her, revealing parts of the machine that only a droid normally saw. A few more typed commands woke six maintenance droids from their slumber. Using her aunt’s password to get deep enough into the Array’s computer system to wake the droids would get her in trouble, if only because she wasn’t supposed to know it. But if she was going to be in trouble anyway for trying to fix the Array, then she might as well have earned her punishment, right? So a few more keystrokes overrode the Auxiliary Power setting the fault had triggered, bringing the Array to full power, despite the strobing alarms that warned her the fail-safes were not responding properly.

Scrawny and flexible, Rook was able to shimmy through that gap in the armor plating, and into the bowels of the hydraulics system. She led Zex down vast corded cables that offered a slippery grip as they worked their way into the choking, dank caverns of metal. Hydraulics were an ancient tech, using doubled cylinders and a heavy-gravity fluid under pressure. In this case, the vast, chambers and plungers were designed to keep the array pointed at the sky, even under battlefield conditions. The indicators showed fluid levels topped off, the relays and circuit breakers intact. Rook sniffed carefully, but didn’t smell any hydraulic fluid.

Not any.

Even laced beneath the pine, metal and mold scents that assaulted her sensitive nose, that sickly-sweet, acrid smell should have been present. Suddenly suspicious, Rook levered open a sampling portal, popped open a glow stick, and watched as a greenish, metallic tinged sludge oozed out. It smelled like lightening and thunder, scorched honey and sweet pine. The ooze was vastly thicker than hydraulics fluid should be. How could the servos force movement against that much pressure?

“Now that’s positively disgusting,” Zex observed.

“Something got into the fluid. The heat and pressure must have caused a chemical - ”  A bright laugh exploded out of Rook, as she suddenly realized what she was seeing. “Look! Copper and gold flecks! The hydraulic fluid is ionized, which means it’s offering an alternate path ...” Even while she spoke, Rook was running diagnostics on her pad. How could you have a short, yet not a short, at the same time? You could if what was periodically causing the short was a liquid suspension with changing electrical properties! Electricity was always a pain to deal with, because it wanted to escape. Holding it in place was the tricky part.

The scream of an abused air-turbine engine skimming by at a dangerously low altitude shattered Rook’s ears. The entire installation shuddered from the concussion of multiple Mach waves shearing through the air. An insertion vector; the only reason to go that fast, that low, was to drop troops! Rook cried out, even as she slammed closed the sampling portal to stop the hemorrhaging of the bright, ionized fluid the concussive pressure and vibrations had forced into an explosion of electrified, slippery rain.

Like blood from the machine.

Rook’s COMM keyed to life before the aftereffects of the localized mini-quake even faded.

“Contact! Frack, Contact.

Rook, radio Arumorot.

Zex, on the double, set up in gunnery position four.”


Kad must have been moving as he talked, for the whole machine shuddered. Steel shrieked and protested as the entire four-story installation was slammed from stand-by to battle-stations. The manual override circuits changed from red to green, as Kad wrested control of the four built-in anti-aircraft guns from the Main Radar Array’s blinded computers, and swapped them to local control. Power seethed and sparked around Rook, the increased electrical load making her hair stand on end, as the anti-aircraft guns’ on board guidance computers lifted them into position. Small shield generators tried to power up and failed with a brilliant flash. Lightening arced across the ionized, gold-infused hydraulics system, threatening electrical fire within the Array itself.

The once reasonably safe job of climbing through the bowels of an inert machine was rendered deadly by the need for it to move. Smoke curled around Rook, but so far the fire-retardant in the hydraulic solution seemed to be doing its job. She choked on the burning, smokey air and pulled her re-breather over her nose and mouth before keying her COM.

“I’ll come up too! I’ve got high marks in gunnery.”

“Belay that! Get the radar online. None of our fixed defenses’ targeting computers will work with the Main Array offline!”

Zex punched Rook in the shoulder, unhooked her own safety line, and crawled up and up and away, leaving Rook alone, in a dark, smokey, deadly place. Hands shook, as Rook ripped free of all the cables and cording that had once meant safety, but were now a death trap. The gunnery positions and main dish needed to move. Servos whined, and a brutal, mechanical force tugged her backwards several inches before the last of her tethers fell free. Shaking, Rook keyed her COM, her breath coming in sharp, angry-afraid-exalted bursts.

“Arumorot Station,” a gasp for air, “this is Repair Team Alpha.”

A sharp, clear phrase.

“Invasion imminent.”

“Acknowledged, Repair Team Alpha.”⚡ Elder Teroch’s voice was utterly calm and focused. ⚡“You have .... 37 minutes, from my mark, before the Arumorot Shields spin up to full power and we won’t be able to open a portal for you.”

Rook waited, waited, waited for his mark, her finger jerking and spasming from overwhelming tension as it hovered over the button.

“Mark.”

A single sharp press started her timer counting down; she slaved the remote to the Array, to Kad and Zex. Paused a moment, then sent that warning out to every Clan COM unit currently away from the settlement. What Rook wanted, right then, was to race out of this death trap and go home.

She couldn’t though.

One should die as they have lived.

At nine-years-old, for the very first time, Rook Beroya made a choice. It wasn’t a very complicated one, but it was vastly more difficult than she would ever admit to another soul. She didn’t want to die.

But she’d rather die as a Mandalorian, then live as dar’manda.

« Last Edit: April 26, 2019, 12:25:56 PM by Rook Beroya »

*

Rook Beroya

  • Chief Mechanic and Droid Specialist
  • 2
  • I adhere to the Resol’nare.
Re: Baptism
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2019, 09:52:36 PM »

Mandalorians never let fear rule them.   

Not ever. It was hard to face fear, so Rook practiced by doing scary things, whenever she could. Yet it wasn’t enough, this time, to simply convert fear to anger or excitement. Even as tremors shook Rook’s body, she reached within, desperately searching for the anchor she needed. And she found it, in the legend of Mandalore the Destroyer, who had delivered promise, threat and purpose, all in one short speech.

Clan Awaud never failed in their duty.

Not even when there had been no more than a handful of them left. Legend had it that Mandalore the Uniter had orchestrated the Return, calling for Mandos from every corner of the galaxy to unify behind him and restore order to the Mandalorian Sector.

Beroyas never gave up.

Legend had it that Clans Beroya and Vizsla had stood together, uniting Mandalore to battle the whole Sith Empire! All Rook had to deal with was a couple of planets’ worth of cowardly slavers, picking on one small planet and the Clan that called it home.

Rook scrubbed at her face, the glittering mess on her gloves streaking across her pale skin, hiding the evidence of tears. She gathered herself, and tried to press forward. Steel, heat and the crushing grind of metal-on-metal blocked her path. Even if she could shimmy down the hydraulics cylinder itself, then what? Use her mag-gloves to create an alternate current, in order to de-magnetize the hydraulics chamber? Wait, wait, she still had to purge the fouled fluid. But this was a pump system.

And suddenly, she understood.

Just as steel knives scraped across one another would magnetize, so had the combination of the gold-and-copper fixing plant life on Vlemoth, it’s particularly fluffy, mathematically perfect snow, and the movement of metal on metal within the Array combined to magnetize the certified non-ferrous Tungsten alloy used in the hydraulics and power systems. The Clan had been chasing random-seeming faults all over the machine because the pollen and sap was being ionized in the hydraulic fluid, fused into the alloys when the metallic sap was ground between two gears, and closing random circuits if those two forces intersected when a sticky-snowbomb hit a warm surface. The result was the creation of ever-evolving circuits throughout the Array. But though the problem was complicated, the solution was simple.

They just needed a better ground.

Sweat dripped into Rook’s ears, down her neck. Which was weird, because she’d been cold all day. Her hand, still in it’s magnetized glove, tapped upon the cylinder. Then it flattened, the warmth of the cylinder enough to reach her despite the metallic gloves. It wasn’t ideal, to leave the fouled fluids in the Array. But if she purged them, nothing would move at all. Only if she didn’t, and the abused power system kept dumping excess heat into the Hydraulics ... it might blow up. That system should have been a good heat sink. But it hadn’t been installed with a conductive fluid in mind, so just as the system couldn’t bleed off excess current, it didn’t loose heat as swiftly as it should.

Laser-shots screamed far overhead. The powerful conclusive boom of return fire chilling proof that Zex and Kad needed to be able to aim their powerful weapons at the enemy. They needed full power shots, and their local Shields.


The pieces fell together in her head, like connect four or a really good round of Go. She saw it all, the power flows and structural weaknesses. There wasn’t time to fix it properly, but she could break the Array in a truly spectacular way. And maybe even keep the Array from blowing up, while she was at it. Frantic, she flung herself to the bottom of the the main hydraulic cylinder in a scrambling leap, and from there levered herself to the outside of the structure. The scaffolding rattled and moved, wind howled, smoke and flames rained down around her. All the while, she murmured commands into her datapad, recalibrating the CAD system to calculate the pressures needed to keep the unit moving. Those results she sent to the repair droids, knowing she was asking them to risk being crushed to death continuously correcting the pressure differential in each and every cylinder.

A shout of triumph echoed over the COMs, as Kad and Zex brought down their first foe. The machine shuddered and groaned, the sky filled with smoke and fire, light-speed lasers and old fashioned projectile weapons raining slagged metal and melted human remains through the air. With a howl of protest at the cacophony of battle, Rook sliced through the cables fastening the external repairs scaffolding to the Radar Array with her torch-welder. Her screech of terrified delight rose in pitch as the freed weight dropped like brick, flinging her up, through the scattered crossfire and battle debris. Lasers flared, nearly blinding her. They weren’t aiming at her but intersecting their arc of fire would kill her just as dead as if they had.

At the apogee of her arc, she tossed a grenade out and down. A mushroom of snow, ice, trees and rocks exploded beneath her, creating a small crater at the foot of the Array. Deep enough to hit bedrock, she hoped. Unclipping the metal cable from the scaffolding from her own waist, she wrapped it twice around a stanchion, snapped on a thermal weld, and then coiled the end of the cable neatly at the feet of gunnery station two, where Kad was firing at the enemy. That cable was rooted deep inside the array, as the scaffolding was rigged to be able to go nearly everywhere. All she had to do was get it into the air.

The loading compartment resisted her strength, earning a snarled swear word as Rook climbed  onto the ammo magazine, kicking fiercely. She used all of her weight to force open the loading compartment. A wave of heat so vast it pinked her skin and scorched lunges exploded around her. Steam geysered out. The missiles inside were hot to the touch, melting even her magnetic gloves.

Kad kept firing, the powerful recoil nearly enough to knock Rook loose. “What are you doing, Rook?!?”

“Fixing it,” she snarled back. “I need to change your next load out. Your, umm...” She flung the vast missile pallet out, barking her shins, leaping down upon it and pulling the fifth and final missile from the box-loader. In it’s place (and sacrificing this box-load’s fourth missile, too, for what she needed was much larger than a simple ship-killer) she loaded in a single round of the awkward but invaluable Magnetic Tangler Cable. It wasn’t an air-to-ground rated round. No, it was for Walkers! This one was AT-AT rated, with an armor piercing, magnetized harpoon tip and a metallic, friction-fusing cable that was nigh unbreakable.

“Yeah, your fourth shot from this load-out must hit solidly on a heavy troop carrier or supply freighter.” She locked the end of the round’s combat-rated wire to the repair scaffold’s heavy, braided steel wire cable that had flung her up here. Part of Rook felt ill, knowing what would happen to the people on that carrier. But fighters were often made of lighter, non-ferrous materials, and she needed a big, heavy ground. Transports used metal, real metal and a lot of it. With a shout she closed and locked up Kad’s box loader, then flung herself into the spotter’s seat, a bit behind and above Kad’s position. From there, she set the targeting computer to searching for the right target.

“I’ve got a thermal fault on my gun, Kad. She’s too hot; I can’t fire for 5 seconds!”

“Yeah I see it. You’ve got about ... 8 shots, before something melts. When it does, move to Gunnery 2.”

Rook winced and shook her head.

Kad swore as another screaming pass of their enemies went by, eating up shots. Return fire vaporized Gunnery Station 1 and sent a rain of molten metal crashing down, searing through her boot. Rook was too busy to argue about a change of gunnery position, or to do more than kick the melted fragment free. The whole Array was over-heating; soon none of the guns would work. A few quick commands typed into the targeting computer caused every heavy ship in the sky to glow with a red border. Another tussle with the same program and a zone was shaded in green upon Kad’s head’s up display.

“Those ships, in that arc, should place them on the vector we need.” Just in time, too; the enemy ships came around for another pass. Rook watched in something that was beyond terror. She’d have been scared if the Shields were up. Without them ... only the speed at which the enemy whizzed past kept the ships from a clear shot.

Then Kad’s re-jiggered artillery round was flung through the air, the cable hissing, shearing through railings. The armor penetrating head smashing through battle steal and locking on. The cable ran out ...

But it didn’t release.

Kad gave a shout of horror as their entire emplacement was yanked a few feet out of position. The Array screamed protest as 230 tons of fully loaded troop ship moving at combat speeds was suddenly, irrevocably tethered to the Array itself. A stanchion was sheared off of the Array as the cable swung the transport in an arc. An explosion of blood, metal and stone erupted as the transport crashed into the ground, only meters from taking out the entire array.

“Oooh.” Rook hadn’t quite thought what would happen if the cable was too long and the transport had impacted the Array before it hit the ground.

But even as Rook stared in horrified amazement at the death and destruction she’d orchestrated, the sound of the Array changed. The klaxons quieted from deafening to merely alerting people to battle damage. The Shields over the remaining three artillery emplacements began to spin up properly. Full power grazer shots now sizzled out of the machines, rather than only missile loadouts. But best of all, the scintillating tell-tales from a dozen lights and sensors all over the array came to life.

“Repair Team Alpha, we have a read from the Main Radar Array. Secondary forces at Gnaz station and K’tar outlook. Slave your remaining guns to primary control, and return to base.”

Rook shot a dizzy, triumphant look towards both Kad and Zex. The Array was working! The Shields were spinning up! They didn’t look happy. Blow something up with a grenade, and no explanations are necessary. Combat repairs never earned any respect, just as Aunt Twon said.

“You connected the anti-walker cable to the Array.” Kad accused.

“That thing almost hit us!” To Rook, Zek’s commentary was entirely unnecessary.

“Hey, you told me to fix it. I fixed it!” So to speak. Enough for this fight, anyway. But it could be fixed for real, later.

A small timer beeped on her wrist cuff, and all three children focused their gaze upon it. A false calm spilled around them.

“We have to go, now.” Fifteen minutes. Fifteen, to get down, to cross hostile territory in the face of the enemy. Rook’s heart began to pound again, the tension stealing the triumph of the moment as one more crisis asserted itself. That’s what her father called leading in battle - crisis management.

It should have been over. They should have worked hard enough, done enough, scarified enough. But life was never fair.

*

Rook Beroya

  • Chief Mechanic and Droid Specialist
  • 2
  • I adhere to the Resol’nare.
Re: Baptism // Rook background story 1
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2019, 05:42:03 PM »


INTERLUDE, Part 1

It was dark.

Memory lights glowed along the edge of the lake, the Clan’s losses not so much dulled as poignantly heightened by the shared burden. Like everyone else, Rook’s gaze was locked to the descending shuttles. It didn’t matter that Rook knew she’d have been told in private if her father or brother were dead. That she’d not be shamed by learning of so great a loss in public. But there were other people she loved, who may not come home. They would not, could not, shield you from every blow.

Mishuk gotal'u meshuroke, pako kyore.

Pressure makes gems, ease makes decay.

So she waited, as they all waited, each breath bringing her loved ones closer. By now, those approaching would see the battle damage, the flames of mourning glittering across the compound. Who could have prepared the Clan’s Warriors for the loss of those assumed to be safe? Like Zex’s mother, or Rook’s cousin Trey. A small sound of distress escaped her tightly-held control, and Vera’s hands came to settle upon both of Rook’s shoulders.

Kad stood to one side, notably alone in the clumped together families awaiting the shuttles. No one stood alone in a Clan; that was the point. But sometimes Kad seemed to forget. Or maybe it was how alone his father, Avin Solus, chose to live. No spouse, no other kids, no cousins or aunts or uncles. Rook’s hand snaked out to grip Kad’s tightly, and tug him near. He tensed, then shot her a disgusted look. But he tolerated her death-grip on his hand, at least for now.

(Find cool pic of dad, maybe a gif of those marching Mandos with the cool cape)

Snow, pine needles and leaves were blasted into the air as the shuttles touched down at last. The wounded disembarked first, right to the infirmary at the very bottom of the vast vheh'yaim that was the heart of the settlement. Then the heavy tech, and the warriors at last, and finally, finally she saw her father, her brother Kyrt marching in lock step with him. With a surge, Rook started forward but Vera’s hands tightened on Rook’s shoulders as her older sister leaned down to whisper, “Wait for it.”


Rook shot a startled look at Vera, then her gaze swept back over her father, her brother, the other elders coalescing around them. Her fingers protested as Kad’s grip suddenly tightened to painful. He maintained an apparent calm, even though the grip on her hand suggested he had figured out what was happening. Rook hadn’t! A brief glance at her brother assessed his slight limp and the less-then-perfect posture, all indicative of a recent wound. Her father was fine, which made sense, really. Kyrt didn’t have real beskar steel in his armor; it was custom made, but still ... only modern. So he got hurt a lot more often than her father, who had an ancient set of beskar'gam handed down through Clan Beroya for thousands of years. The spirit and will of their ancestors were woven into a metal that no one currently alive could even create, anymore. Watching her brother, the painful way he moved, broke her heart.

There ought to be enough armor for everyone!

Jak suddenly pushed Zex forward to stand beside Kad and Rook, drawing Rook’s attention away from studying armor and back to the baffling situation. Vera stepped not back, but forward, to stand with Senior Pilot (and Chief of pilots, though the Clan didn’t have a lot of fighting ships, yet) Avin Solus. History suggested to Rook that she was in trouble, save that as the warriors removed their helmets, respect was in their gaze. Something in the gravity of the moment kept Rook from asking the questions bubbling through her mind. Her attention danced over the elders and leaders of the Clan, as they gathered around.


Nam Beroya studied the three children, then fixed his gaze upon Kad.

“Kad Solus,”

“The truth the verd’goten reveals is the courage to face hostile forces without turning aside.”

“The honor of the verd’goten lies in keeping to the Resol’nare even when you are the one called upon to offer up your own life for your family, squad or Clan.”

“The vision the verd’goten shows the Clan, is that another warrior lives amongst them. Welcome amongst your vod’e, Kad Solus.”

He clasped the Clan’s newest Youth Warrior on the arm in a gesture more usually seen amongst equals or squad mates. Slowly Kad’s fingers released Rook’s hand, and he bowed with surprising grace to her father.

“Mando'ad draar digu.” A Mandalorian never forgets, he said. But what he meant, just then, was that Clan Awaud would never forgive.

Oya! roared from the throats of the gathered Clan with a ferocity that promised violence to come. Kad’s reply hadn’t been the traditional promise of loyalty to the Clan who had accepted him, yet his heated words echoed the rage in all of their hearts.

[color=FF7F00]“Chieftain.”[/color] After the crowd quieted, but before they dispersed, Elder Teroch spoke with a grave purpose.

[color=FF7F00]“The Combat Engineers request that your youngest child, Rook, be transferred to the Training Battalion early.”[/color]

“No.” the Chieftain spoke firmly, without a moment’s hesitation. Or thought, even, Rook felt. She squeaked an inarticulate protest, but was drowned out by more forceful disagreements.

“But she fixed the Array! No one else could have done that ...!” Kad’s anger surged to the surface.

“We’d have lost Arumorot or at least the Gnazz tribe without the Radar Array!” A grief-laced fury simmered from Zex.

The Chieftain listened to his Clan, allowing them to lay out their arguments and thoughts. As the flurry of protests died down, Nam Beroya shook his head firmly, gaze stern but not yet echoing of anger.  “No.” Implacable judgement resided in his single word.

Vera’s deep breath, and quietly concerned voice broke the silence that followed. “I concur with the Chieftain.” She met Rook’s demanding gaze, an oddly unsettling fear lurking in the older sister’s eyes. “Rook ... rushing things will only increase your risk, not your value.”

Wait, what? Suddenly Rook realized that Vera had known this offer was coming, had planned on voting against her. Was this division in the family why Elder Teroch had made the suggestion, not her Aunt Twon, the Chief Engineer? Rook’s accusing gaze swept to her brother Kryst, who stared back in ready challenge. She already knew his stance upon children being risked unnecessarily. There would be no help from that quarter.

Nam Beroya’s gaze settled upon Rook, drawing in her full attention with no more than a change of his stance. He leaned forward, making her feel as if only he and she had any say in the matter. As if she had only one heart to win to her cause. Something doable, anyway. He knelt, and asked gently, “Do you disagree, Rook?”

“I do. I want to be a Youth Warrior. I want to be with Kad and Vera and Zex, too. We all faced live fire, Buir! My courage did not fail. I didn’t fail you.” Light blue eyes burned with frustration, willing her father to understand. Her young voice was still harsh and rough from the earlier ordeal, the lingering grief, though it fell short of hysterical.

A moment’s consideration, and her father held up his hand, palm facing her. Firmly, he pressed her hand to his, palm against palm.

“You did not fail the Clan,” he agreed. “You acted with honor and courage. Now, move my hand.”

Rook tried. Push, pull, yank with all of her might, she could not achieve her goal. Even dangling from his extended arm like a fierce snow-cat, she could not budge him. Hand and arm remained fixed in place like a plinth of stone. The force of her efforts bruised her fingers, but to no avail.

Verd’ika,” The wonderful, gravely voice was filled with warmth and love as her father called her ‘little warrior.’ “Your heart is ready, but your body is not. You are too small, as of yet, for the full rigor of battle training.”

Rook’s face crumpled, and he pulled her into a bear hug.