Space Dust (Peregrine Falcon)

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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1-3 posts per day, Multiple posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
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On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
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Adept, Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
Primarily Prefer Male, No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
The graduation ceremony for the First Men's Planetary Expeditions Academy was being held in the Sir Martin Schreiner Auditorium Hall, a massive building made of glass and steel. The building was located right at the core of the proud city of Morecambe, the capital city of the planet Khepri, which served as the heart of the United Planetary Alliance.

Despite the fact that Khepri was one of the largest inhabited planets controlled by the UPA, it wasn't the kind of place just anyone could gain access to. Most of the people who lived on Khepri were the elite of the Alliance, people tasked with maintaining the health and wellbeing of an intergalactic commonwealth that spanned twenty seven different solar systems.

However, for someone like Aeva Rivans, such restrictions were almost meaningless. It only took one wave of her badge to get her into some of the most restricted buildings in the Alliance, let alone something as simple as being granted permission to land on a planet.

With a population growing close to 500 billion people, there were still less than two hundred individuals who had the right to bear a Platinum Planetary Expeditions badge. It was a sign both of her value to the Alliance, and the great contributions she had already made towards its development. What made her stand out even further was that she was one of the five people in the history of the Alliance to earn the badge before the age of 30, and the only one of those five that was also a woman. Additionally, she was one of the forty seven who held the badge as a support, rather than a frontliner.

Many people considered Aeva a role model, the representative for an entire generation of Planetary Explorers. But Aeva had never put as much stock in the grade of her badge as many of her fellows did. To her, it was a convenience, something that helped her wave her way through the red tape that often slowed down government bureaucracy, and anything else that might get in the way of her ability to complete a mission.

However, she knew full well that the grade of her badge wouldn't affect anything when she was millions of lightyears away from the interstellar quadrant of the Alliance. The monsters that lived on these distant planets would happily bite through her in an instant if she gave them a chance, whether her badge was colored iron or platinum.

Whispers followed Aeva as she walked in through the massive double doors admitting a slow flood of people into the hall. Aeva could feel countless eyes on her, but she ignored their presence as effectively as she ignored the few people who came up to try and start a conversation with her. All of the people admitted to the graduation ceremony held some level of status in the Alliance, but Aeva wasn’t interested in them. No, her focus was entirely on the ceremony that was about to begin.

It was clear that the First Men's Academy had pulled out all stops for this ceremony, as per usual. The academy had been the highest ranked planetary expeditions school for the past 50 years, and well over two thirds of the current platinum badge holders were alumni of the school. The First Men's Academy brought in high-potential recruits from all over the Alliance, and successfully graduating from its rigorous curriculum marked a person as a member of the up-and-coming talent of the Alliance.

One day, these young graduates would bear the weight of the Alliance's health and wellbeing on their shoulders. These would be the people who would venture into the furthest regions of space, visit the most dangerous planets, to harvest the most valuable materials for dust attraction in the galaxy.

But there were always dangers associated with planetary exploration, and there was no way that the Alliance was going to risk seeing these promising talents perish in their early missions, when all new explorers were still learning how to transfer their knowledge into actual skill. That was why the First Men's Academy, along with many of the other Interplanetary Expedition Schools, had set up a mentorship program, something that paired new recruits with senior explorers. This would allow the more experienced seniors to guide and protect the young explorers from unexpected or dangerous situations, until the new recruits became competent enough to handle them safely.

Of course, the higher caliber the school, the higher level mentors they had the ability to invite. Despite having held her platinum badge for three years already, Aeva had only just now hit the minimum required age for the mentorship program, at 30 years old.

Normally, it was required for everyone at an eligible age to mentor a new recruit at least once every five years. However, people who held gold or platinum badges were automatically exempt from the mentorship draft, as they were considered far too valuable to "waste" on teaching other people. Some schools, the First Men's Academy among them, had the resources to occasionally tempt a gold badge explorer into agreeing to participate in a mentorship for their most exceptional students. However, it had already been five years since the last platinum badge explorer had accepted a mentorship.

Many people had reacted with surprise when Aeva announced she would be taking on the role of a mentor for the next year. More than half of those people had attempted to persuade her to change her mind, and stay focused on her real work. But Aeva had ignored all objections, and carefully searched through the dossier of graduating students to pick out her future mentee.

As Aeva casually seated herself in one of the seats of honor towards the front of the auditorium, she studied the mostly empty seats near her. Most of the invited honorable mentors would turn down their invitation to the graduation ceremony of their cadet explorer, finding it a waste of their time. They would wait until their pupil had completed all the after-graduation paperwork before finally calling them over to set up a first expedition.

Personally, Aeva found such a delay to be the real waste of time. She was here to grab her cadet as soon as the ceremony was over.

Aeva's timing was as exceptional as ever, with the opening speeches beginning less than five minutes after she'd sat down. Various people, including the academy principal, valedictorian of the class, and several honorable speakers gave speeches about the glory of the academy, the pride of the Alliance, and the value of planetary expeditions. It was rhetoric Aeva had heard countless times before; none of the information was new to her, or likely anyone in the hall. It was simply tradition.

After the speeches dragged to a conclusion, the proper graduation ceremony began. There were over 4,000 explorers graduating this year, and they were, one by one, presented with their exploration badges. A large majority of the recruits were awarded with tin badges. It was only a step above the lowest ranked iron badges, but that one step was something that millions of explorers could only cross with years of effort and dedication, and even more paid with their lives in an attempt to earn. The elites of the school were awarded brass badges, something that would allow them to take on the more lucrative explorations once they completed their apprenticeship. Only the top 0.1% of the graduates of the year, among all the expedition schools, were presented with bronze badges, starting their career only a single step away from entering the lowest of the high rank badges, copper.

As the graduation proceeded, Aeva's vaguely bored gaze suddenly sharpened when a familiar man stepped onto the stage. He was taller than many of the other graduates, standing at six and feet tall. She tracked his movements across the stage, as the sandy haired man proudly received a brass badge, under the announcement of his graduation with honors.

Under normal circumstances, Asher Tallart-Moore would be far from the most eye-catching of the graduates, even among the frontliners. Not only was he not one of the bronze graduates, but he had to be the oldest among the graduating crowd, at 28 years old. Under normal circumstances, he would be the last person someone would pick out of a line-up to be selected by a platinum mentor. Yet here Aeva was.

When Aeva had been flipping through the thousands of dossiers she'd received for the First Men's graduating class, something about him had stood out to her. Perhaps it was simply that she saw a lot of herself in him. Aeva had also graduated with a brass badge, her figure all but lost in the shadow created by the top explorers in her class. Also like this young man, she’d come from a colonial planet. Back then, half her mind had been still focused on how she was going to care for her family, brand new to the capital city after riding their daughter’s successful admittance to the Academy. Yet, her own mentor had picked her out from among that crowd, and there was no way she would be here without him.

It was time for her to pay forward the favor, and Aeva believed in her instincts. There was grand potential in this seemingly overlookable man.

Even though the speeches at the beginning were kept relatively short, in the scale of speeches, the ceremony was still drawing close to the two and a half hour mark by the time the last of the four thousand graduates had made their way across the stage. As soon as the final, parting remarks were made, a speech which was kept gratefully short, Aeva stood up, her gaze locked on the man she'd watched with such attentive eyes before. One hand extended to point a finger in his direction, before she flipped her hand over and beckoned him with two quick pulls of the same finger.

She knew he'd received her information the day before, probably in an equally long and boring ceremony when all the graduates received information on their mentors, but she had no doubt her presence at the ceremony would be a surprise for him. Not that Aeva was concerned about that. He'd had two and a half hours to adjust himself to that reality, and she wasn't about to sit around longer to wait for him to finish chatting with his friends, or whatever most graduates did after the ceremony was over.

It was time for work to begin.

“Congratulations on graduating,” Aeva began as soon as the young man approached. Her voice was unexpectedly dry for someone supposedly offering good wishes. There was a hard look on her face, and determination blazed in the depths of her blue eyes.

“Now it’s time for you to enter the real world. What I intend to put you through will likely be dozens of times harder than anything school put you through. If you come with me, your every waking minute, your very life, is mine for the next year. This is your one chance to back out if you think you aren’t ready for that." One brow rose, and a faint hint of a smile crossed her face. "You ready to go?"
 
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Falcon

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He wasn't the tallest graduate, nor strictly speaking was he the oldest. But he was up there with both. He wasn't even the top of the class. There had been a few other things he'd prioritized a little above constant studying. Work mostly, a few odd jobs here and there to help send money back to his dad in Chronos 5. A weakly game night with a few friends. Total seclusion wasn't good for anyone. That was his military training kicking in, he supposed. Always work with and support your team where possible. Even if it was just keeping up moral. He considered the few people who has accepted him here his team.

All of that considered he had no clue why he had been singled out the way he had. He was a good student, true, he was graduating with Brass after all, but he was far from the best. He was a bit older, understood life a bit more than the younger crowd, he had build up a previous career before going to the academy, but Asher knew full well there were others with better qualifications, younger bodies, and more energy. And yet the say before he had been informed that a platinum holder had not only decided to take a mentee, but chosen him. It was a bit overwhelming if he was honest. and yet he was honored beyond belief.

At first he'd thought it was some kind of mix-up, but he had been assured it was real. When he saw her at the ceremony he knew it was, or rather he knew her intent to choose a mentee from the graduates was real. It was fortunate, Asher reflected watching her watch them, or who he presumed to be her based on the photograph he'd looked up on the new the night before, that he had very little stuff and most of it was already packed. Military training again. He never had lost the habit of being ready to move on a moment's notice. He really truly hoped this wasn't some sort of elaborate prank.

Those fears were put to rest the moment she summoned him after the ceremony. Summoned was the only word he could but to such an obvious "come here" gesture. And then she congratulated him and he knew it was real. He was the one she had chosen for some reason, and he was not about to mess this up. But still, he couldn't help but crack a smile.

"With all do respect, You sound like my old drill sergeant, Ma'am, but yes I'm ready. I just need to grab my things." His vice was on the deeper side and a bit gruff, a bit like he was just getting over a cold or had been running laps, but not in an unpleasant way. His posture was good, and his body language made it clear he intended to follow her to whatever location she ordered.
 

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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SECURITY DEPARTMENT
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Looking for partners
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1-3 posts per day, Multiple posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
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On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
Primarily Prefer Male, No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
Aeva let out a faint laugh at Asher’s response, her eyes surveying the man up and down. He stood like someone raised in the military, shoulders square, feet firmly planted, chin jutting slightly forward. Just counting appearance, Aeva would have to give him full marks. He looked every part the frontliner, like someone who’d seen a decade of staring monsters in the face. Hopefully he’d maintain at least half this level of composure the first time it was just the two of them against a monster ten times their size.

“You must have had a very unique drill sergeant,” Aeva replied. It was hard to tell if she was being playful or blasé in her response to Asher’s comparison, but the slight tilt to her head showed she was giving it all the attention she thought it was worth. “I always thought they did more yelling. Never was a fan of that.”

Shrugging the matter away, Aeva stepped out from among the seats, walking a slow circle around him like she was inspecting a race horse. Her first impression from his dossier was only confirmed as she studied him further. So long as he had a good head on his shoulders, it was all but certain he’d be promoted to a bronze or even a copper badge before their year together was up. Aeva was confident in her vision. She’d picked a good person to mentor.

“Good,” Aeva continued, the word not really in direct response to anything. “Go get your things and meet me out front. I’ve never been fond of dilly-dallying around unnecessary things, so we begin immediately.”

Without any further word, Aeva turned away from him and began to walk away. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in speaking to her new mentee more, but simply that she didn’t consider this a good place to talk. If he had any questions for her, there’d be plenty of time on the drive from the event center.

However, despite the fact that she’d now turned her eyes away from him, Aeva’s thoughts continued to circle around Asher. How similar had he been to her? Aeva still remembered the time she received the dossier on her own mentor, shortly after her graduation. At the time she’d been just like Asher, another brass graduate among the mix, doing her best to prove herself, but hardly shining. Yet Emeryx had singled her out. Had Asher spent yesterday evening the same way she had the day before her own graduation, reading the dossier over and over again, wondering the whole time how she'd managed to attract the attention of a platinum explorer?

Then again, he was graduating with eight years on her former self, so perhaps he had more composure and self-confidence than she’d had. All she could hope was that she’d be able to fill Emeryx’s role half as well as the man had done for her.
 
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Falcon

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Fantasy, scifi, futuristic modern, fantasy modern, Action/adventure, Mystery, Fan-based,
He felt like he was in boot camp again. That gaze spoke of someone trying to assess his abilities in a single glance. In his experience someone practiced enough to give him that look usually could. She was wrong. It wasn't the yelling that made a drill Sargent, although it was certainly an employed tactic, it was the ability to intimidate. Still, Asher wasn't about to correct her. If he was lucky he'd get away will never having to admit exactly how nervous he felt in this situation.

He only offered a salute when she told him to go get his things. She had not, after all, given him much time to respond. Still it was a gesture of acknowledgment, one he hoped would be understood. He didn't delay much, just long enough to give a word here and there to those who would miss his absence. There would be time to call or message those he needed more conversation with later. That included his own father who had not been able to come to the ceremony. If anyone would understand it was him. They had had a lengthy chat about the state of things the night before, Asher would find time for another one once he had anything of substance to report. That presumed, of course, that calls would be possible from wherever they were going. If not then messaging would have to suffice...

His quarters were small. Not unexpected of student housing. But they were also undecorated. Everything was packed, and he had managed a deep clean the night before as well. Largely because he had cleaned when he realized he wasn't going to sleep. It kept his hands busy which in turn helped keep his brain from spiraling to the worst case scenario of finding out everything was a joke. He was still a bit stunned to know it wasn't. Once he grabbed his bags from the room ( a large blue duffle bag and a darker navy backpack) the space looked like he had never lived there. It was surreal in a way. But Asher didn't let himself dwell on the fact as he closed and locked the door.

The key was turned into the resident hall front office, his bags once more lifted over his shoulders as he stepped outside and made his way back to the auditorium hall to find his new mentor. Asher Tallert-Moore never once looked back.
 
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Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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SECURITY DEPARTMENT
Invitation Status
Looking for partners
Posting Speed
1-3 posts per day, Multiple posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
Online Availability
On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
Primarily Prefer Male, No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
There were many people who had come to the graduation ceremony. The First Men’s Academy was generally considered the school that produced the absolute best of the best when it came to planetary explorers, so the number of people who wanted to take a glimpse at these future experts was not small. Only those who had some measure of standing, or both a direct relation to the graduates and the money to make the trip, could actually enter the auditorium hall.

Now that the ceremony itself was over, some of the crowd had begun to make its way towards the exits. Most, however, stood around in small groups, taking the opportunity to socialize with others of high standing while they waited for the graduates to emerge, freed from the rules and regulations of the academy.

Many people would be interested in recruiting these stellar graduates into their various organizations or programs. Of course, the time they would be able to work independently was still a year down the road, after the graduates completed their mentorship program, but a year wasn’t a very long time. If they could get a graduate to sign a contract before then, it would only provide benefits.

Aeva walked without paying a speck of attention to those who surrounded her, every stride seeming to show a marked disinterest in any possible communication that might occur. A few people noticed her rapid progress and glanced away in disinterest, only to do a double take when they finally caught up with the badge they’d just seen on her chest. Those who were brave enough to approach her, however, ultimately gave way when it became apparent that Aeva wouldn’t slow when they stepped in her way. It was either move aside or collide with her.

She broke out from within the auditorium soon enough, stopping at the edge of the street to summon a silver, driverless car. It neatly pulled up to the curbside next to her, before the rear door and trunk both opened smoothly.

When Asher emerged from within the auditorium, he would find Aeva waiting next to the car, leaning casually against its side. Next to her was an enthusiastic middle-aged man, who seemed to be talking to her about some form of rare plant. However, it was clear from the way that he was rambling on without end that there was no chance Aeva had provided him even a word of acknowledgement through the whole, one-sided conversation.

“Toss your stuff in the back and let’s go,” Aeva said when Asher approached, before entering the car herself, leaving the man mid-sentence without so much as a glance. As soon as Asher was in the car, Aeva tapped on a clear glass panel, which released a rush of blue light. A second later, and the car began to move forward on its own.

Even though they were settled in the car, Aeva didn’t speak to Asher. Instead, she stared in the direction they were driving with a casual sort of disinterest. Despite the fact that she didn’t seem to be paying attention to him, she was actually watching Asher out of the corner of her eye, curious about how he’d react.

Her actions were a test of sorts, albeit not one it was possible to fail. She was merely curious as to whether or not he’d be able to break the silence with questions, even though she gave no particular indication she was seeking out conversation.
 
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Falcon

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Asher wondered what was going on when he saw the man she was pointedly ignoring, But her attitude made it clear she could handle it so he didn't try to intervene. Although he did offer a half hearted smile of apology to the guy as she announced they were leaving and told him to get in. He did no more that that though. Simply placed his stuff in the trunk, closed the hatch, and then found his own place in the empty passenger seat.

It was quiet at first, a fact Asher was grateful for as it gave him a moment to collect his thoughts and formulate the questions he wanted to ask. He wasn't the chatty type of person. He preferred to have conversation over small talk, in face he found chitchat for chitchat's sake a little annoying. But while his new boss started off giving him a moment to think she never gave him an opening to began speaking himself either. After a bit the silence became just plain awkward.


For a moment he sat comfortably. Then he began to fiddle with his wrist cuff, sliding the little keyboard that hid under the watch face in and out. it was simple tech compared to a lot of the new gadgets that were out lately, but it was serviceable. A leather wrapped metal band that supported a smart watch with messaging and call capabilities. A Birthday gift from some of his military buddies after he had lost his third phone during a strategic retreat. The safety bar meant it would stay on his wrist unless he removed it or something cut it off, and this particular module, while lower tech, was known for it's durability and long dust battery life.

Click he slid it open, click, closed, open, closed, open closed.
The scenery passed around them as the little car maneuvered it's way through traffic and onward toward their destination.

Eventually he sighed.
"Permission to speak, Ma'am?" and without waiting for her answer he proceeded as if she had given him a favorable one. "If I may ask, what's the plan from here? More class work? or are you going to drop me straight into the fire? or something somewhere in between the two?"
 
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Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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1-3 posts per day, Multiple posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
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On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
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Adept, Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
Primarily Prefer Male, No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
At the sound of Asher’s voice, Aeva’s head slowly turned away from where she had been vaguely surveying the reflection of the window. He’d asked her a question.

In a way, she was impressed.

This test wasn’t one she’d come up with herself. It was a trick from her mentor’s playbook, one she’d been subjected to on her own first ride. Well after their first year together, when Aeva had been thinking about all the man had done to prepare her for her role, she’d asked about some of the things he’d done.

This one was simple. It was primarily a test of self-confidence.

It was hard to speak around someone so much higher ranked than you, regardless of how much you were told about them being there to teach you. Aeva herself hadn’t been able to break that silence Emeryx had imposed. She’d been too star struck and intimidated to actually pick a subject, despite the countless questions she’d had circling around in her head.

But this wasn’t the moment to be reminiscing. She had questions to answer.

She raised one eyebrow at the man, a smile twitching across her lips. “What’s the point of asking for permission to speak if you aren’t even going to wait for an answer?” she teased, before promptly shaking her head.

“I know you’re born and bred military, but we’re explorers, not soldiers. You may compare me to a drill sergeant, but I don’t expect you to follow orders without question. Just make sure you’re picking the right time and place to ask a question.”

It was only after she finished that sentence that Aeva realized that it could easily come across as a rebuke, considering the leap he’d just taken to break the silence. That was not at all how she’d intended it.

A faint hint of pink touched her cheeks as she turned away again, facing outside until she was sure her heart rate was back under control. “Like perfectly safe car rides in the middle of a civilized planet, for instance.”

She gestured casually towards the touchpad at the front of the car, which had drawn a road network across the screen. “We’re currently heading to Planetary Expeditions HQ, where I’ve selected a few of the planets that have been marked for exploration. You’re going to read them over, and choose which one you’d go to from the information. And then we’ll start preparing for an expedition to the planet I’ve already selected from among them.”

Not the nicest way about it, but all but one of the planets in that list had hidden traps. She simply wanted to see his evaluation skills. He wasn’t some no-rank explorer, barely better than a meat shield, who’d yet to earn an iron badge. There’d be no trial by fire, beyond the unavoidable ones life always presented.

“You won’t be sitting in a classroom any longer. By this time next week, you’ll be on a planet no other human being has ever stepped foot on. But, regardless of whether you’re able to make the correct call or not on which one we go to, it will be a suitable planet for first lessons. Whether or not you consider that “class work” or “the line of fire” is up to you.”
 
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Falcon

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Asher blinked as he processed this information. "So... You want to see if I can choose that same planet you've already selected? If I don't choose correctly, will you tell me what it is you were looking for? or are we going to repeat the process each time until I can get it right?"

He could understand either way of doing things. Both were vary valid options. Either would let her see his decision making process, and correct any misconceptions he might have had, the other would let her see how quickly he could learn and adapt. Of course there were multiple ways to go about gaining knowledge of his thinking process. Asher had no doubt that this would not be his first test, although at least this time he was going to have the advantage of seeing it coming. He only hoped he would have as much a chance when it came to dealing with whatever monsters her chosen planet might hold.

He had other questions of course, but held onto them thinking it was probably better to get clarity on one topic at a time. there was no point in inviting confusion.

As he waited for her response Asher kept eyes eyes focused on his new boss, although she could probably tell it was a soft focus that let him have at least some idea of their surroundings as the little car continued to drive itself through the city.
 

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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SECURITY DEPARTMENT
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Looking for partners
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1-3 posts per day, Multiple posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
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On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
Primarily Prefer Male, No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
"I will explain my reasoning and, if necessary, any errors in your own judgement," Aeva replied promptly and definitively. "We may be mentor and mentee, but you are also my frontliner. Although I am capable, the places we are going will be dangerous, and my life will, at times, be in your hands. I have no intention of ever playing games with your knowledge and training."

Although it might not be quite as extreme as how she put it, Aeva's words were dead serious. In many regards, it was much easier to be a support trainee than a frontliner trainee. After all, frontliner mentors would often have to purposefully make mistakes to allow their support trainees to gain experience. That meant if their support wasn't quite up to par, the frontliner would naturally have the wiggle room to pick up the slack again.

It was a bit different training a frontliner. After all, in the end, Aeva was not a combatant. She could stall and divert, but her methods of fighting were crude or even nonexistent. If Asher messed up bad enough, it wasn't a guarantee that Aeva would be able to get out of the situation safely either. That's why it was so important to ensure that their first few planets were appropriate for training.
 
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Falcon

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Asher listened with attentive ears. It was a bit of relief that she felt the way she did. Not all of his superiors had taken safety so much into account during their training courses. More than a few had just set up the scenario and tossed the recruits in to see how they fared. He had a feeling, based on her comments, that Aeva's methods would be far preferable.

He nodded to her answer giving it a moment to sink in as he formulated how to ask his next question.
"May I ask what living arrangements we should expect? I know there will be lots of travel involved. Are we assigned a ship of some kind or will we transfer vehicles frequently?"

Asher had to admit to himself it would be nice if they were consistent, at least in ship modal if they did not get to keep the same one. He enjoyed playing pilot, true, but it would be nice if in a stressful situation, they didn't have to second guess the controls. Being familiar with one's tools could not only safe time on the long haul, but could potentially make the difference between a good day and a bad one.

Knowing one's ship was also important as the two of them would be the only maintenance crew the vassal might have as some points. Asher himself was not an engineer. If something went wrong Aeva was going to have to teach him as they went. Keeping the same machinery meant there was a better chance of him remembering her instructions. Not that Asher wanted to expect things to go wrong, but life experience had taught him better than to be an optimist.
 
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Peregrine

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Aeva waited patiently, giving Asher all the time he needed to put together his questions. After all, the entire point of this stretch of conversation was for her to study how Asher would behave around her. It would greatly defeat the purpose if she was to drive the conversation, or intentionally cut it off. He had until they reached HQ to ask her any questions he could think of.

Of course, there would be plenty of time for questions again later, but once they reached HQ questions would be put on pause until Asher had reviewed the planets.

Finally, Aeva's head shook in response to his question. "Most of the planets we will be scouting are in distant solar systems. Our ship will be arranged by HQ itself, with the route already pre-programmed." Abruptly seeming to realize what Asher would be thinking in that regard, Aeva cocked an eyebrow, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "Most explorers don't have experience piloting spaceships, so the process has been drastically simplified. Once you're off on your own and have ranked up a bit, you can see about getting a personal ship, if you want. I never bothered."

To Aeva, the ship was simply a method from getting from one place to another. As long as it would do its duty, she didn't care what kind of ship it was. Of course, HQ would never send out a platinum explorer on a standard issue ship, but she'd felt that way even when she'd still been a young support explorer, using the generic ships.

"As for planetside, that's, of course, another matter altogether. You should be aware of this, but our dust capacity will be limited to what can be created by a hand extractor. That means we will have no transportation once we land, beyond a personal exosuit. We will be moving and sleeping on foot while we survey. We will also have a limited number of times we can move the ship before we will have to return, so we need to pick our locations with care."

In that regard, exploration was the exact opposite of military service. Outside of the industrial sector, the military was the largest consumer of dust in the Alliance. There, soldiers would have access to the latest and greatest transportation, automation, and exosuit technology. Hopefully the last several years of training at the First Men's Academy would have culled those kinds of habits from him.
 
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Asher suppressed a wince at the news of dust rations. Oh well he would live with it. He had adjusted to the academy restriction as well as any cadet, but had hoped it'd be a little better once he graduated. Now he understood why those restrictions were in place. Still, it was nice to know what the living restrictions would be. Ii was also nice to know that sleeping and every day living conditions would change upon location. He could prepare himself that way.

As for information about the ship... well he'd learn once they got aboard whatever it was. It was a bit disappointing to learn that he probably wouldn't get to fly, but nothing said he couldn't take the time to familiarize himself with the controls just in case. He would feel better taking a look just to see too.... besides, they might have a lot of time to burn while they traveled.

"I have a few more questions, if you don't mind," he started again, deciding it was better to take advantage of the opportunity for conversation while he could. "it's most likely just going to be us right? Do you know if we might rendezvous with anyone else on the way to ... wherever we end up? I think there's set check in times... " Asher trailed off awkwardly as he rapidly tried to remember everything he had ever learned.
 

Peregrine

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Aeva didn't miss the faint look that passed across Asher's face as she spoke of dust rationing. Yes, she understood how that concept would be hard for a military man. Even the schools never truly illustrated exactly how precious and valuable every pinch of dust was during an expedition. Yet, ultimately, it was an explorer's ability to adapt to that scarcity and then find a way to flourish among its restrictions that would separate the great from the mediocre.

She didn't comment on his reaction. It was only natural. There were plenty of times Aeva wished she could bring military technology on their explorations. Yet, it was not possible. Any military outfit required a full-strength dust condenser, which was not a cheap piece of technology. If the planet didn't have enough resources to support the new outpost, everything there would become a massive loss. That's why it was necessary for explorers to make several different scouting expeditions, and determine the value of the planet.

"It will just be us," Aeva agreed. "Explorers move in pairs, and there's all but no exceptions to that on low evaluation planets. Even if some other team has accepted a scouting expedition on the same planet, they will be issued their own ship, and will be exploring a different part of the planet from us, to ensure that as much ground as possible is covered. You won't have to start worrying about cooperative missions until you earn your silver badge."

Frankly, Aeva wasn't fond of cooperative missions. A frontliner and support developed a certain rapport with each other, and adding another team to the mix often only complicated matters, throwing off reactions and relations that should be more reflexive than conscious. At least there wouldn't be any need for her to worry about someone trying to recruit her for another cooperative mission in the next year.

"We are going far, far away from the UPA, Asher, and we will be relying on ourselves to survive. Exploration is one of the most deadly occupations out there, which is why so many people fight tooth and nail to get admitted into the school you just graduated from. As far as communications go, we will have one untouchable, emergency supply of blue dust, designed to send all our gathered data back in the eventuality that we will be unable to return. It is a communication HQ never wants to receive."

There were some precautions in place, designed to protect the lives of particularly valuable explorers. However, Asher wouldn't even get a glimpse at those protective measures until he earned a copper badge. Unfortunately, low level explorers just weren't worth the extreme cost it would take to save their lives on a distant planet. Most distress beacons wouldn't even reach planet Khepri until a couple of weeks after they were sent.

"The moment we step on the ship, we're on our own, with nothing to rely on except exactly what we've brought. " It was a hard, harsh lesson, and not a nice one to hear. Yet, even Aeva in her youth hadn't been scared away by the fact. Everyone who wished to be an explorer would have prepared themselves for this reality.

All the same, she couldn't help but soften a little bit. "Don't worry too much. I'll keep you safe. It's my job, after all."
 
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"Won't have to start worrying...." Asher repeated softly to himself for a moment. "I take that to mean that cooperative missions with other teams can be... problematic?"

He momentarily hesitated at the idea that it was going to be just them. That, perhaps was going to be his biggest adjustment. He was used to working in teams. Used to having a variety of check and balances, of knowing there was someone he could call in a tight spot who who be able to help, just as he and his team would move out to help another team in need.

"I guess this means that for the foreseeable future we are each other's team... I'm not terribly worried about safety exactly. I'm used to uncertain conditions...."

He didn't finish that sentence although part of him wanted to. What he was afraid of was letting everyone down, letting her down. She had put a lot of faith in him, choosing him out of a crowd that included much more experienced graduates. well maybe not experience, but higher classroom scores for sure. What would happen if he couldn't cut it? and what if the time he didn't make it put everything in jeopardy? He wasn't stupid enough to believe that there wasn't some kind of system in place to pull Aeva out if something blew up in his face. She was platinum after all she wasn't expendable the way he was in the slightest. He was suddenly very award of the fact that if he messed up that badly he'd be better off not to come back at all.

No, this train of thought was not going to help anyone. The fear was there, yes. But he had to use that fear as a tool. Had to let it keep him sharp so he didn't make those mistakes. Don't get complacent. Be ready for anything. Stay alert, stay focused. Always strive for the best.

He repeated the mantra in his head, tried to find a more positive question. It wasn't long now before they were supposed to reach their destination, assuming they were taking the route he thought they were, but he soddenly didn't want to ride in silence the rest of the way.

"If we're going to be alone out there... I'm guessing that means calls home or anywhere else with a settlement, are best done before we depart?"
 
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Peregrine

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"Depends on who you get paired with," Aeva replied casually. "There's a reason all explorer teams are duos. Of course, some people like the added safety that comes from having more people around, more than they worry about the inconveniences that are born from inevitable communication breakdowns. But, as I said, you don't have a chance of getting assigned a collaborative mission until you earn your silver badge, so don't spend too much time thinking about it. It's a waste of time."

Aeva could spot Asher's anxiety at the notion of it just being the two of them. In that regard, it was different from school as well. Even there, it was never just two people. No matter if the training exercises were supposed to represent a two-person cooperation, there were still countless others watching from the sidelines, waiting for their turn. Then there was the professors, observing and scoring and evaluating and guiding. What was more, there was no time for a pair to develop any particular rapport with each other, as the pairings would constantly change. No, school was nothing like a true expedition.

"I know. You wouldn't have gotten recommended from the military, let alone been able to graduate, if you couldn't handle the uncertain. It might seem strange at first, but you'll grow used to it soon. Then you'll start to feel its advantages."

In the distance, it was already possible to make out the massive tower that comprised Planetary Expeditions HQ. A beautiful building comprised of bright, silver metal, the entire building was covered in pipes that conveyed glowing dust throughout the structure. Several docking platforms released flashes of yellow dust as vehicles came and went from the entire place. Aeva's eyes unconsciously drifted upwards, in the general direction of her own office and personal quarters. All platinum explorers had quarters at HQ, along with portions of the core support staff, but most of the others preferred to spend their free time somewhere else.

Glancing back at Asher, Aeva's head nodded. "Absolutely." One of the conveniences of being such a highly ranked explorer was the fact that she had priority access to just about everywhere. A few of the other vehicles slowed as their vehicle drew closer to HQ, before their car entered one of the docking platforms. Aeva stepped out of the car instantly. "Once we board the ship, you should consider us in a completely different universe. If there's anyone you want to talk to, or any other preparations you want to make, you should handle it before we leave."

As soon as they were both out of the car and off the platform, yellow dust swirled around the car, and it quietly vanished.

A sliding glass door admitted them into the building, which was as clean and polished as its exterior. However, despite its grand presentation, the lobby was almost empty. Only a couple of people were visible, and they were clearly heading for a destination. Aeva did the same, guiding Asher over to the elevator, which automatically scanned her badge as she entered. A moment later, and it was carrying the two of them up and up, into the heights of the building.
 
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Asher tried to take comfort in the fact that she seemed to have confidence him him. She wouldn't have chosen him without a reason, and she certainly wouldn't hold herself back by choosing someone she didn't believe could cut it right? That is what those he had confided in had told him the night before... speaking of which he was going to have some calls to make before they headed out.

But Asher wasn't given much time to dwell on his plans for phone calls as the car came to a stop and it was time to unload. Aeva confirmed, as he pulled his bags out, that communications would have to be done before they left. He could handle that. He'd just have to take the time to tell those he usually talked to that there might be long gaps between the periods when he was allowed to call. the only problem that would really cause was with his father, but he was sure that wouldn't be much of one...

As he followed her through the front door Asher found himself relieved that he hadn't tried to bring much with him. Between his backpack and duffle bag he had all the necessary items, and if he understood everything correctly it might be a long while before he would be able to call anywhere home again.

With all his bags he expected to get some curious looks, but there was almost no one there to see. Those who were present clearly had somewhere to be. For a moment Asher was tempted to gawk like a tourist, but Aeva was shepherding him along so nicely he barely had a chance to take it all in. The elevator doors chimed open and next thing he knew he was once again alone with her.

"Is it always this empty?" He asked softly and the doors chimed closed and the lift began to move so smoothly it felt as they were standing still. "And before I misstep, are there any social cues I need to observe while we're here? That sort of thing doesn't really get covered in class."

Social cue wasn't really the right term, but he felt sure she'd know what he was asking.
 

Peregrine

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Aeva leaned against the elevator's railing, arms crossed, her whole figure exuding an ease that said she'd taken this ride countless times before. HQ was a tall enough building that it would take a minute for them to reach the top, where Aeva's designated apartment was located, despite the speed at which it was moving.

"Pretty much," she replied, glancing around the empty elevator. It was large enough that five people could fit in it perfectly comfortably, and easily twice that if people weren't too concerned with personal space. "HQ's a large building, and most of the people here have their own spaces. Few people just hang around, unless there's something going on."

True to her indication, the elevator had yet to be stopped by anyone else calling for it. There was a decent chance they'd be able to ride all the way to the top without it getting stopped once. "As for etiquette, there's not much. Explorers are often a pretty rowdy bunch, seeing as we spend more than half our lives living like savages. Most of it's common sense. Don't punch anyone hard enough to break something. Don't punch someone with a higher badge grade than yours, unless you feel like getting walloped. Don't pick on a support unless you're confident you can handle their frontliner. Don't pick on a frontliner unless you're confident you can handle their support." Here an unexpectedly fierce grin crossed Aeva's face for a moment, before she continued with her bizarre list.

"If you're gonna drink in public, make sure you're prepared to share. If you're gonna grab someone without warning, make sure you're okay with getting punched without warning. Never punch an HQ employee. That's a fast way to get demoted.

"Oh, and don't spit on the floor. It's terribly rude to the janitors."

Aeva quirked one eyebrow. "That the kind of stuff you meant?"

She hadn't timed it, but the door to the elevator opened almost the instant she finished talking. Glancing at Asher, Aeva stepped out of the elevator and began to stride confidently down the hallway. It was completely closed off from the outside world, without a window in sight, and several bright lights illuminating a pale corridor, only interrupted by the occasional door.
 

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"Not exactly what I meant but still tells me what I needed to know," Asher answered with a lazy smile as he followed her out of the elevator. "Also makes this place feel more like the military despite being cleaner and more streamlined... I meant more of the "do not speak unless spoken to" types of things... protocol and so on and so forth...."

He couldn't help but trail off awkwardly as he stepped out after her and saw the seemingly endless corridor before him. it was very plain, very modern, and very much the same all the way down. he wasn't even sure he could find the room numbers on the few, sporadic doors they passed.

"They could have invested in a painting or two....unless everything looking the same is done for security reasons?" He couldn't help the comment that slipped from his lips, although Asher knew it was probably rude.

He tried to keep track of where they were going, but it didn't take long before he lost count of the doors. Aeve'a confidant walk told him she knew exactly where they were going. He just wished he did as well. He tried to make himself focus and remember the path as they walked. Asher had no doubt that if he lost his way now the story would be told the rest of his career.
 

Peregrine

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"There's very little point in drumming much protocol into your head, if you won't even have the chance to use it half the time," Aeva replied casually. "If you want actual niceties, be punctual, if not a little early, for any meeting you set. Otherwise your wasting other people's time, instead of just your own, and that won't make you many friends. Much beyond that, you'll learn pretty quickly if someone's fist flies at your face."

Aeva laughed slightly, before glancing sideways at Asher. "I might have overdone that particular joke. I'm only half serious. Most people will say something first, and will only follow up with punching if the former didn't work."

Aeva turned left down a new corridor, which much resembled the previous one, connected to the elevator. Her eyes had trained on the third door on the left. "There's not much point in decorating what amounts to a hotel corridor," she replied. "Not when everyone's goal is to get through it as quickly as possible."

She came to a halt in front of a door labeled 56-26, and a green light immediately flashed above it as her badge's proximity unlocked the door. Aeva didn't hesitate to twist the handle and push her way into the space.

What waited on the other side was an unexpectedly grand living room. The opposite wall had floor to ceiling windows two stories high, the panes separated by silver metal that glowed faintly with blue and red dust. The entire place was covered in a grey flecked stone floor, which was interspersed with dark, geometric carpets. Off to the left, beyond a kitchen, it was possible to see a set of metallic stairs leading up to the second floor. Aeva casually took off her shoes, placing them next to a little rack by the door, before hanging her coat on a peg.

"My assigned quarters," she introduced casually. "Your room is off to the right, the only open door. You'll be staying here for now, since we'll be leaving in the next couple days. Meet me in the office upstairs whenever you're settled in."
 
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56-26. Asher tried to commit that number to memory. If nothing else he could remember that, and if he somehow got separated from his new mentor in this place that would help him get back to her residence. Following her example he removed his shoes and set them in the little area next to the rack.

The inside was nothing like had had expected. In his mind Asher had envisioned something like a moderately comfortable hotel. And he was sure that for the lesser ranked explorers that might be true, but as he stepped inside the full weight of Aeva's platinum badge was immediately apparent. It was both modern and grand in one breath. The only thing Asher had ever seen that had compared had been the home of a Brigadier General who had chosen to treat his unit to a dinner after a particularly difficult mission.

His eyes quickly took note of the kitchen and what looked like it might be a bathroom door as well as a slightly open door he couldn't see into. But her words informed him that that was the room he'd be staying in. Asher could only offer a small nod as he took it all in. He had never in his life slept in a place as fancy as this. Part of him felt like if he didn't tiptoe he'd be in danger of breaking something. It was childish, but the feeling was there regardless. He was far more used to humble accommodations, and far more comfortable with simple things as well. Still, it was an insight into just how good the pay might be if he survived long enough, and did well enough, to advance in rank. He had plans for that pay. It could help his home colony greatly.

Aeva moved off to do her own things, and Asher was left to settle in on his own. Cautiously he moved to the guest room door, and let out a sigh or relief when he discovered it was much less fine than the rest of the house. It still looked like it belonged in an upscale hotel, but the hotel look told him that this was very probably how the the room had come when Aeva moved into the space. The matching wood and metals in the furniture combined with the same cool tones of the building lobby gave that away if nothing else did.

The room was build long instead of square which worked well for the space saving setup. Immediately upon entry Asher was met with a sliding door that led to a walk in closet behind a wall of built in shelves. On the wall opposite that was a large dresser with a decently sized mirror set on top of it. A think rug lined the stone floor as it led the way deeper in toward the large windows on the far wall. The full sized bed was set into a nook much like a window seat, with the pillows on the opposite side of a screen that judging by the controls next to it could be used for viewing video or reading materials. There was a little desk with a small computer set up as well. That was nice to see. it meant he could probably make a few calls before they departed in the morning.

All in all it was a good room. He'd be comfortable here.

It didn't take long for him to get settled. Asher had very little and most of what he did have would probably be coming with him when they left again, meaning it could stay packed. But a couple things were set out. The toiletries he'd need to get ready the next morning were placed on the dressed, a neck pillow for better sleeping alignment stacked on the bed, and a framed photo of his old unit with a little shadow box baring his Captain's medal went on the desk. He also stuck a physical copy of a book he'd been reading on the nightstand. Asher also took the time to comb his hair a little better before making his way through the living area to the stairs Aeva had gone up earlier.

He paused at the top step, looking around to see if he could spot the office she had mentioned. the man was very sure exploring uninvited would not be looked upon favorable, and he did not want to upset his new mentor so soon after meeting her. Damn but he hated first day jitters. Hopefully they would fade in a day or so. He needed his confidance back.
 
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