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Thread: I, Sentinel

  1. #1

    I, Sentinel

    "Either you join my Sentinels and you reaffirm your allegiance therein, or your affiliation to any clan within this tower will be rescinded. Your entry to the Tower will be barred and your access to anything above basic security clearance levels will be denied. Your time, what little you'll probably spend of it on this side of the fence will be unwelcome, history will remember you as the woman that couldn't make up her mind. Who sat on the fence because she fell in love with the other side."

    It was the first day of boot camp, and the Commander's hard words were still fresh in memory. You didn't refuse Silverstone and expect to be let off the hook. It started as an offer, but ended in a zero option corner she had painted herself into. So here she was, reporting as one of several new Sentinel recruits to boot camp. If this is what it took, then by gods she would do it and do it well! Oh, hubris.

    The rookies were lined up, identified by name and given a number. "51902 Godfray.", she thought. "That's my name now. Great." The poor sods who had reported for orientation without wearing uniform were grouped together and marched off under the orders of a gruff sergeant. Jen didn't see them again that day.

    The rest were rounded up by a particularly brusque drill instructor called Sergeant Raft. After being assigned to their barracks and given a medical examination, the entire group was called out for physical training. First a two mile trek in the scorching desert. Then push ups, curl ups and pull ups on the front grounds. Another run, four miles this time. Then a timed obstacle course. Food, ten minutes rest, then more training. Learning form, line up, drill. A constant barrage of verbal abuse, rigid discipline and physical correction. No room for error, no room for thinking.

    Twelve hours later, every muscle in her body screamed for mercy. Her ears rang, her throat was parched and her bottom lip was split from a fall in the obstacle course. The first day of what would probably be several weeks of hell came to an end and she was finally given some respite and personal time. She ached everywhere - in her heart most of all.

  2. #2
    "My next boot camp phase is coming up for the new sentinels. Most don't make the grade. It's tough, gruelling, desert fighting, guerrilla warfare, brutal, old style grit, guns, reclaim. War, essentially."

    The Commander hadn't exaggerated. She had barely gotten enough sleep before reveille. During boot camp, recruits were not allowed to wear their NCU belts, and their nanobots would not be able to heal cuts, bruises and injuries, nor improve their rest whenever they got any. So when the drill instructor barged through the door of the barracks, she was on her feet before she was awake, but it wasn't fast enough and she couldn't hold back a loud groan. In a split second, his face was within an inch of hers. His breath smelled of coffee and cigars and every word he spoke was slow and deliberate.

    - Complaining, Godfray?
    - No, Sir!
    - You think you deserve to be here?
    - Yes, Sir!
    - I don't. I think you'll quit boot camp and crawl back to Tir with your tail between your legs by the end of the week. I've never seen a more sorry excuse for a Sentinel in my life!

    Anger flared up inside. She took his words as an insult. Having spent the better part of the last twelve years in serving the clans and the Sentinels, why wouldn't she? She tried to control the anger, but she had been told on orientation day that she wouldn't be allowed to neither manifest nor channel while in boot camp. Meta-physical hogwash, they had called it, either unaware that it was the safest outlet for the innate temper, or they just didn't care. Before she could think about it, she snapped a reply at the DI and instantly regretted it.

    - I'm better suited than many of the rookies here, Sir!

    He stared at her in silence for only a breath of a second before a grin spread across his face. "Damnit, Jen", she thought. "Why can't you ever keep your mouth shut?!"

    - Oh, we have a proud one here! A real champion. A better-than!

    She wanted to apologise, to take back her arrogant remark, but next thing she knew she was face down on the floor of the barracks - her neck pinned by strong hands and a boot between her shoulder blades. The drill instructor bellowed at her from above.

    - You arrogant little, I take offense that you breathe the same air as I do!

    The disciplinary actions that followed were anguish. Along with other recruits that had been disrespectful or not up to standards during morning routine, Jen spent the day and night in constant movement, without a moment's rest. They ran, they lifted, they climbed, they swam in full combat gear. When they weren't fast enough, they got a boot in their backs or a knuckle in the head. The drill instructors threw food at them while they were doing obstacle courses and they were only allowed to eat what they could catch without breaking the course. If one of them fell, they were all punished. If they didn't work together in a satisfactory manner, they were forced to do it again. All of them were pushed beyond their limits. She'd never felt more physical pain in her life, not even when she was being cut up by that shade all those years ago.

    In the middle of the night, after twenty hours straight, they filed up outside the barracks. Sergeant Raft walked back and forth between the bleary-eyed and frazzled recruits. When he spoke, his voice was warm, friendly, full of promises of a better day ahead.

    - None of you need this abuse. Who does? You're free to go any time you want. You'll get a good night's rest and a hot meal before you go back to your loved ones. Come on, people. Deliverance is waiting on the other side of those gates.

    A couple of people did. They raised both hands over their heads and stumbled towards the barracks. None of them were given a hard time. Jen considered. She started to lift her arms, then thought of the people who would see her go through with this, and of those who would be smug about it and say they expected she would fail. She thought of the reasons why she was there, and the promise she had made to Silverstone, then lowered her arms slowly.

    "No, not yet. Not quite yet", she thought. "Just one more day, Jenny. One more day."
    Last edited by Tussa; Mar 23rd, 2014 at 22:05:48.

  3. #3
    "I'm offering you this as a jump the queue sort of option. You join my Sentinels and you re-earn my trust, as the staunch anti-omni that you once were."

    It was becoming more of a habit now, even if she could no longer separate the days. Reveille after only a couple of hours sleep, half a breath of time to wash and only a moment more to eat, then physical training or discipline that kept going until they crashed in their bunks.

    The first week was almost over. Several had walked out, and not a day had passed without Jen considering it too. Her arms, ribs and part of her neck were covered in angry, purple bruises. Elsewhere, they were fading and turning an ugly shade of green or yellow. But every time she thought she had had enough, she remembered the Commander's words, bit down the pain and continued.

    She had gotten to know some of the other recruits, good men and women who came from all walks of life. Some were there to continue their military education, others to begin it, and all shared the same passion for the clans as she did.

    She learnt that unlike regular military training, the Sentinels didn't coddle their recruits by easing them into it, but threw them head first into the harrowing hell they were drudging through now. The recruits banded together in a camaraderie, an esprit de corps, to overcome the challenges. She found strength in that. Strength that was needed, because there was no room for weakness in the Sentinels, no room for doubt.

    They were there to become a force to be reckoned with, to focus - or in her case, refocus - to dig deep into their very beings and find the core of their identity as clanners - through blood, sweat and tears, honest or misbegotten as they might be. There would be no escape except by walking out, and her pride was still keeping her in the thick of it. Her pride, which was both her most famous ally and her own worst enemy, as Cher so poignantly had said.

    Without her being aware of it, the effort also dulled the intense longing and suspended the turmoil within . She would smile when she could and even pull a joke with the others, and the palliative effect it had on her aching heart would give her sorely needed mental stamina. Tough days were behind her. Tougher days were ahead.
    Last edited by Tussa; Mar 25th, 2014 at 23:32:31.

  4. #4
    "After today, you'll be working towards understanding what cost our independence came at and that it comes thanks to the freedom that others before us fought hard for."

    It wasn't all bad. True, she wasn't sleeping enough, and true, that angry ulcer on her foot was looking nasty and feeling worse. Her usual high metabolism had gone hyper, and the lack of food was sending her towards serious malnutrition. She was noticeably thinner and her once well-fitting armour was now too roomy. But between tender care outside camp and necessary treatment within it, she wasn't doing all too bad.

    She was passing most physical tests so far. Certainly not all. She lacked physical strength and was terrible at close quarters combat. But she was fast and did well on target practice. A couple of the recruits had jeered when she picked up a bow rather than an assault rifle, but their flap-mouthed remarks had earned them an earful from Sergeant Raft and an evening of digging holes and filling them again. No one brought it up a second time.

    For technical tests, she was average. It surprised her how quickly she learnt how to assemble an automatic weapon while blindfolded, but every time she tried to disarm a bomb, the alarm that told her she would've reclaimed had it not been a dummy went off.

    Where Jen shone, though, was on every test that had to do with the Sentinels. There was a purity in her conviction, a sanctity of sorts. Perhaps her views were naïve and perhaps she was wearing blinkers. Perhaps. But it didn't matter to her. This was what she knew, what she believed in.

    In every test, be it at the roaring demand from a DI during brutal operational training, a quiet question from a medic checking up on the suffering recruits or in a written essay done while borderline hallucinating from the lack of sleep, she proved that she knew the Sentinel way.

    For the first time during the nightmare of boot camp, Jen felt assured. For the first time, she thought she could make it.

  5. #5
    "To see your clan go dormant in your absence is one thing. To see it divided in your presence is downright distasteful."

    Throughout the days, Jen sometimes recalled and replayed in her mind the dreadful fights she had had with Cher and Tim, the painful conversations with a deeply hurt Kotts, the yelling, the screaming, the tearful begging, the insults and finger pointing. It had been ugly on all sides.

    "Divided in your presence", the Commander had said. Never one to mince words, he had repeated what others had said before. She had felt it was a deeply unfair accusation. Her choice was personal, it had noth-...

    - Godfray! Stop dragging your arse! If I catch you slacking off one more time, you'll be lifting logs all through the night!

    She snapped back to reality and the new, lengthy obstacle course. They were doing the course once individually and once as a team. Everything was timed. Just to make the whole ordeal worse, it was pouring down and they were running and crawling in thick, cold mud.

    Her performance in the first lap was half-hearted and she was not happy with herself. Her lack of physical strength made it hard to pull herself up and over the barriers and although she sprinted as fast as she could towards the end, her final time was dismal. She had to do better on the second lap!

    This time they were divided into teams and had to move a heavy crate through the course, which was designed so that they had to work together to get through it. They were off to a bad start, and Jen got annoyed at how far behind her team was falling. She was impatient and sneered at all of them. When one of her team mates struggled with one of the obstacles, she couldn't help but lash out at him.

    - You're too slow, Zane! What is wrong with you? It's your fault we're falling behind!

    There was a strong tug at her leg and suddenly she was kissing the mud, her mouth and nose filling with the earthy sludge. She was jerked up and the DI threw her back to her team mates and the crate they struggled with.

    - A chain is only as strong as the weakest link and you're it - not Zane!
    - But...
    - SHUT YOUR MOUTH! You will learn, one way or the other, that results come from working together! Team spirit depends on every action you take and morale on every word you speak! You are nothing without your team, Godfray!

    Her cheeks burned hot with shame. For the rest of the course, she pulled in the same direction as her team. They struggled with the crate, but they helped and encouraged each other one dreadful step after the other. She stood shoulder to shoulder with Zane, gritting teeth and working hard together. When they finally reached the finish line, they were all covered in mud from head to toe and their time was none too impressive, but it didn't matter. They had faced the challenge together.

    It turned out to be a good day after all.
    Last edited by Tussa; Mar 31st, 2014 at 21:48:58.

  6. #6
    "Affiliation with Omni-Tek, where it doesn't directly benefit the Clans, is dangerous."

    She was getting stronger, there was no doubt. The layers of soft, comfortable fat were melting away to be replaced by hard muscle. Obstacles were manageable, repetitions were tighter, drill was getting easy. She was performing better and it earned her acknowledgment from the instructors. There was a new strength in her and she liked it.

    Strength, however, is not just physical.

    Boot camp had given Jen ample opportunity to think through and consider her actions, her role and her future in the clans. She thrived in The Sentinels, no doubt. She had come to like the relentless training and she re-identified with the uncompromising policies, the unshakable surety of making a better tomorrow by hard resistance and unyielding strategy.

    She even liked the drill instructors and saw the value in what they were doing - breaking the recruits down to rebuild them to become fighters and supporters of The Sentinels. Some would go on to a career within the legacy clan itself, some would use the boot camp as a facilitator into other Sentinel-affiliated clans, and some would return to their original clans.

    A few weeks prior, Jen had been unsure what would happen. Then came her involuntary conscription to The Sentinels, but her initial reluctance had turned to no small amount of satisfaction. At boot, they were all equal. They were training with one goal in mind; to sink Omni-Tek's presence on Rubi-Ka and to resist the falsity of its indoctrination through any action necessary. All else was inconsequential or simply means to an end.

    As much as she enjoyed the purity of boot camp, her thoughts kept going back to her own clan. Assembly was everything to her. The dedication and commitment of the members were as strong as in The Sentinels. There, she had built and found and nurtured friendships, challenges and companionship all through a common goal to drain resources from the corporation. They were her real strength, not her muscles or ability to lift herself up and over an obstacle. At some point, she had been theirs too.

    Jen shook her head to clear it. Focus. She needed to focus. Not that many weeks left now. SIRE was getting closer and she dreaded it. The best thing she could do was to prepare physically as well as mentally for what was to come.

    And after...? She couldn't tell - but what she did know was that once more, principles and determination were clear in her mind.

  7. #7
    "It's not about the start, nor the destination. It's about the journey."

    - SIRE. Survival, interrogation, reclaim and escape. These are core skills you will have to learn and experience before your time at boot is over.

    The recruits stood lined up at the front grounds, being briefed about the toughest part of boot camp. Sergeant Raft and the other instructors explained what would happen and what was expected of them, and not a single one of the recruits looked forward to it, including Jen.

    - During the next few days, you will be divided into teams. Each of you will be tested for leadership and tactical skill. You will not have the benefit of your NCU or nano bots.

    Today was the day of SIRE preliminaries. For the most part, it consisted of classes and information. What to expect if captured, review of interrogation methods and resistance techniques, what to say and who to say it to and so on. Not that any of them believed that Omni-Tek adhered to any sort of code of conduct for prisoners. No...were they captured, they should expect a worst case scenario, and this was exactly what the SIRE program was designed for.

    - You will learn to endure and withstand for as long as possible.

    Training had gone well lately and she had just recently passed the medical exam that deemed her fit and ready for the next step, though there was still a nagging doubt in the back of her mind whether she could withstand the roughest parts of the program.

    Earlier that week, Sandra had reminded her of something. "It will bring back memories, Jenae.", she had said. It probably would. And Wayne, who had encouraged her with stories of his own experience at the Vanguard boot. "You have to get lost in your mind, turn everything else off.". She would try her best.

    She was no stranger to pain, physical or mental. Anyone adept at its delivery should be equally practised at suffering it, but no one was immune. Someone had once said that pain is for the living - only the dead don't feel it. If that was true, she knew she'd feel very much alive in the coming week.

  8. #8
    "The bootcamp is a gruelling exercise, designed to make sharp, loyal, Sentinels out of clansmen and women."


    The survival part of SIRE was a breeze. The recruits were dropped individually throughout various parts of Rubi-Ka and was told to report at a rendezvous point within a certain timeframe. They had no supplies or weapons, no help from their nano programs and no equipment other than a simple jumpsuit.

    Jen's drop was in the deserts of Avalon. She was to move from there to Wine in Belial Forest within 12 hours without getting caught, killed or otherwise compromised. Aside from the natural threat of the environment, the aggressive fauna and Omni-Tek personnel to boot, there would also be a few Sentinel-issued hunters, trying to make life difficult for them.

    She chose not to spend time fashioning a weapon, but decided to go for camouflage and speed instead. The plan was to get to the Stret River and follow it all the way to Wine. The hike through the desert was the worst. Water was scarce and the heat was awful, but despite the nearby OTAF bases and the rampant and aggressive fauna, she made it to Wailing Wastes unharmed, with only chapped lips and a hefty sunburn.

    Once she reached the lake near the Sentinel base, she drank fresh water until she was full. Parts of her jumpsuit was sacrificed to make strips of cloth and with added foliage, she made a rudimentary ghillie suit and started her trek down along the riverside.

    There were plenty of bumps and holdups, and she had to make several detours, trying to avoid getting spotted by the hunters. She was spotted once and shot at. One of the bullets grazed her hip, but she was quick and made it out of his line of sight and away. The graze wasn't bad, but it did bleed and she had to apply simple dressing. She'd have to clean it later to prevent a possible infection, but it could wait. Priorities first.

    After having spent so much time in the wilderness of Rubi-Ka, Jen's survival skills were in good shape. There were enough fresh water and edible plants along the river, and when she had to leave the bank, she navigated easily in the familiar terrain.

    In the end, she made it to Wine in one piece and before her time was up. Sure, she was full of cuts and bruises, but she had passed this segment with flying colours. That night, she got more than enough rest - which she would need for the next segment.

  9. #9
    "Pain is your friend. It 's your ally, it will tell you when you're injured, it will keep you awake and remind you to finish the job. But the best thing about pain is that it lets you know you're not ready for reclaim yet. Pain is for the living - only the dead don't feel it."


    She lay curled up in the corner of a dark room. The pain was excruciating. It blinded her, deafened her, disabled her completely. She barely had the cognizance to form a single thought. "Please just kill me."

    7 hours prior

    The recruits were briefed on common interrogation techniques as sanctioned by ICC. It was a study of human nature, really. Psychological manipulation which, when used by skilled people, could make most people talk. But today was not about a series of methods agreed upon by smug politicians patting each other on the shoulder, thinking they had done a good one for all war combatants.

    No. Today they would be tortured.

    One could argue the ethics of such training, but the Sentinels would rather have hardened recruits than pampered creatures of comfort. They had to be subjected to this, to know what it was like.

    They selected two trainers for Jen. A nano-technician and a shade. They couldn't have picked better. Or worse, if you looked at it the other way. She was given some information that should be withheld for as long as possible, escorted to a dank, dark room, where an opifex carrying a sleek blade waited. Jen knew, then, what was coming and her immediate response was uncontrollable shaking.

    "Put up a mental brick wall to shield yourself from the pain." She thought back to Wayne's advice and tried her best, but images of another room flashed before her eyes. Another person carrying a blade. Another set of injuries, nine years ago.

    It was only when she woke up in the med bay that she realised she had blocked out the entire ordeal. They said she had successfully withheld the information. When asked if she wanted to know what was done to her, she shook her head. Better not.

    The medics had temporarily activated her nanobots to finish the healing process and that she was report to her DI for the final assessment.

    It was the nano-technician. Again, she was sat in a room, but this time she was fitted with an NCU belt. For hours, he worked on her. He managed his time well, didn't push her over the edge too soon.

    Ionized radiation had her vomiting. Precision thermal pulses peeled her skin off in patches. Microwave radiation damaged her nervous system until even thinking was painful.

    When he told her that chemical burns was next, she started crying. The room stank of seared flesh. She couldn't see. Her fingernails were shredded from clawing at the concrete floor, her vocal chords were sore after all the screaming. Every heartbeat was painful, as if her blood was on fire. She longed for release, for reclaim.

    - ...please just kill me...
    - No.
    - Please!
    - Give me what I want and this will all be over. Or say nothing and I'll continue.

    No more. She could take no more. He had broken her.

    Tears ran from her blind eyes and down her cheeks when she gave up the information, and then everything went dark as she lost consciousness.

  10. #10
    "I think I failed."

    "Did you? Or did you succeed in finding out you have limits? Learning what they really are. Everybody has a breaking point, Jen. Everybody."


    Only hours after the last segment, fresh from being patched right up at med bay, Jen had been talking to Tim. The watchman's words about limits were comforting and gave her hope that at least she wasn't getting kicked out. It was annoying that the instructors didn't give any indication on the overall performance of the recruits, though, and it filled her with doubt all over again. She didn't like that feeling, so the next morning before they assembled for class, she knocked on Sergeant Raft's door and asked him straight out.

    - Sarge, I'd like to know how much negative impact yesterday had on my chances of passing boot.

    The sergeant lifted a brow at her and answered in his usual, gruff tone.

    - That's not your privilege to know, Godfray. You'll be debriefed after the final segment and then evaluated.

    - With all due respect, it would help me assess my performance and it could-...

    - So you think you should get more information than any of the other recruits?

    Jen swallowed and silently counted to three before replying.

    - No, but the Commander-...

    - Be quiet, Godfray. You may be the Supreme Commander's little pet for all I care, but he's not the chief around these parts - I am, and I don't care what he said or what you're worried about. Get out and get your ass ready for today's segment.

    By now, she had learnt the hard way that talking back was a very bad idea. She struck a sharp salute and headed out, double time.

    Reclaim training was exactly what it sounded like. First; class with medical personnel and engineers, learning about the history, technicalities and limitations of reclaim. The instructors had even brought in a scientist to explain about the concept of souls and storing its pattern. Then practical training and techniques for overcoming the rez sickness faster, dealing with the sharp pain of the first drawn breath of new lungs or the blinding light of hypersensitive eyes seeing for the first time. Getting up and moving while you were still so nauseous that you couldn't think straight. Finally, tactical training in the field and various scenarios.

    As crude and brutal as it was, the training was helpful. The instructors drilled them hard, and each of the recruits woke up at reclaim at least a dozen times or more. None of them were reclaim virgins, and they would laugh around at the age-old "hugging reclaim" jokes, all while being conditioned to not fear the final breath before reclaim, but rather stand squarely in its face and even welcome it if necessary. A Sentinel didn't run.

    Towards the end of the day, they were exhausted. Not physically, of course, because each time they reclaimed, a new body clone would leave them refreshed. Continuous soul reclaims were taxing on a different level. But for all intents and purposes, they turned in at night, well pleased and that much closer to the end of boot camp.
    Last edited by Tussa; Apr 24th, 2014 at 09:36:32.

  11. #11
    "Talk through actions."


    It was the last segment of SIRE, their final test. It was time to utilise everything they had learnt, to draw on their newfound strengths and use them to show the instructors what they had come away with from the lessons.

    The recruits were divided into small groups, each of which would be dropped near a hostile, Omni-Tek controlled location, given an assignment and expected to return to base. Jen's group was dropped in Clon****, between the Notum export facility and the Omni-Mining HQ.

    As soon as they touched ground they moved towards their goal. They took no chances this close to corporate property and fashioned basic camouflage for cover and used hand signals and neural links for communication.

    No one in her team saw or heard the ambush. One second they were creeping up towards the facility, the next, they were jumped by masked soldiers. There was virtually no time to react and although they resisted, they were soon neutralized.

    Jen woke up in tied to a chair in a small hut. She could hear the voices of her two team mates as well as those of several others, probably in other huts. It was very hot and humid. They were probably near the moss. Eventually, two people clad in Omni-Tek tactical gear entered her room and sat down across from her. They stayed for what seemed like half a day, asking questions and demanding answers.

    For two days, they exhausted the recruits - depriving them of sleep, exposing them to loud noises and blinding lights, humiliated them and applied fear tactics - though they weren't as harsh as she would've expected. It was always the same two people who talked with Jen. She told them several things, none of which held any truth. Her team was always interrogated individually, and were never allowed to see each other. Though they didn't know what the others said, the recruits messaged each other in code by softly clicking their tongues or rapping gently on walls during the few quiet moments they had. All three were holding out, and all three had chosen the same strategy.

    The break came on the second day. Jen was sat in her room when suddenly Zane, one of her team mates, broke through the door, a wild look in his eyes and a small gun in his hand. He had managed to wrestle his interrogator and incapacitated him by choking him then breaking his neck, then had gone to get Jen. Together, they got her out of her restraints and immediately went to find the third man of their team, Rollins.

    Without hesitation or wasting time asking what had happened, they crept out of camp. It would've been an easy route, had they not come upon one of Jen's own interrogators at the outer perimeter. Jen grabbed Zane's gun and planted two bullets in the man's head, but swore under her breath as his lifeless body fell to the ground. Too much sound, damnit.

    Sure enough, loud voices called out close by. The camp they had been held up in was flooded with lights and clearly, their escape had been noticed. They fled to a nearby thicket of trees in a storm of bullets.

    Running when they could, creeping when they had to, they managed to put some distance between themselves and their pursuers. It took them hours to clear a safe distance, but they all managed well and came away unhurt. Soon enough, they found themselves in Andromeda and through the whompah station in ICC, their salvation. They were back in the base within hours.

    As the three of them briefed Sergeant Raft, the door swung open and the two interrogators whom Zane and Jen had sent to reclaim entered, now dressed in the familiar Sentinel uniform.

    - Well done, team. Though next time, use a blade if you can, Godfray. A silent kill won't give away your position.

    Zane, Rollins and Jen grinned wide when they left Sergeant Raft's office. They had completed SIRE. Time to celebrate. They went straight to the mess hall and when the chef saw the look on their face, he dug out three small tubs of ice cream and handed them to the recruits.

    Life was pretty good.

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