Fi walked out of the military holonews broadcasting room suppressing a yawn. Oh, to Fierfek with it; he let himself yawn like a herpetology specimen.
This was the time of day the clones of Arca Barracks were ordered to informally keep up with news of the war and other major events of interest. A way for everyone to receive information they normally wouldn't be privy to in their mission briefings.
An interesting concept, but why did they insist of sending members of tight-knit units or companies to attend seperate broadcasts? Surely they were hoping those comrades would then mingle once more after the broadcasts and share the stories they'd heard, but then why not make them all watch each broadcast in succession? Were they that concerned about saving bandwidth? Hmm, maybe the war wasn't going too well after all if the economical realities had come to that.
Then again, whatever the reason was, he was more than grateful. He wasn't sure he could've standed sitting through another one of those newscasts right now. Now, his Omega-three were doubtless somewhere around here, ready to dazzle him with the fabled tales they'd just learned.
His mouth froze agape halfway through his yawn and one of his eye cracked open in mild curiosity when he heard an unfamiliar clone voice speak his number.
"RC-8015?" it asked. "Yes, what can I do for you trooper?" responded Fi, childishly slipping into mock-formal mode at the mention of his code.
"Message for you," he snapped as he handed him a datapad.
He read through it, aware that the expressional gamut of his reactions must be like a theatre to the trooper. He went from being mildly curious to amused, to embarassingly giddy, to concerned, to defiantly incredulous, to shocked, to excited and finally conspiratorial.
He just had to share this with his squad-mates. Oh, and with Delta, too. As he craned his neck over a sea of heads that were all painfully at eye-level, had a thought to the message's originator. If the stringent instructor had just given it to the trooper, he must then still be around. Not knowing which direction to devote his searching gaze, he tried looking everywhere at once.
Walon could see 8015 looking for him, and wondered how long it would be before he was found. When he finally decided to head to the first point and get Team 1 started, 8015 caught him. "Fi" stared at him as if he was trying to focus. Walon stared back.
Fi's attention was still spinning around, casting out in all direction, when a very inelegant about-face brought it bearing down on the stoic figure of Walon Vau.
He kept eye contact as well as he could as he wafted his way through the tank-bred crowd... as if there was any chance of losing track of the one man who didn't look like all the others.
Fi wasn't quite sure what his expression was when he reached the man. He was hoping it wasn't too expressive one way or the other. He tried slipping on the slightest of grins -which didn't hold- as he chose to play it safe and ask: "Sir! Permission to ask a question, sir?"
It hadn't taken 8015 long to get to him.
"Sir! Permission to ask a question, sir?"
Walon nodded. "If you must." What kind of question would he ask? He'd only known 8015 for a short time, but he already knew enough that it could probably be about anything. He was similar to "Scorch" in that aspect.
Already Vau's serious demeanor had answered Fi's question before he'd even asked it. "This is serious then, isn't it?" he proposed, making it more a statement than a matter that had any doubt at all, as incredible as it sounded.
So that Vau would effectively have something proper to answer other than simply staring Fi down saying 'Of course it is you silly clone,' Fi went on to ask something else, as politely as he could. "What might be the purpose of this, um, exercise?"
Vau almost smiled.
"Of course it is Fi. Training is always serious, no matter what it's about. Proper training keeps squads alive and intact, wheras improper training obviously doesn't." The commando twitched. Vau struck a nerve and he knew it. Skirata must not have been sober the day he was teaching them about mental abuse. They wouldn't get much farther in life if they didn't start learning now.
"As for the purpose, it is to see how well you all have learned to work together. It would be unfortunate if the only thing you absorbed was how to get into trouble." The squads certainly had done a lot of that. Fi and Sev had been the worst, almost actively attempting to foil the mission.
Vau saw a trooper approaching out of the corner of his eye. He had two datapads in his hands.
"Sir, two of the commandos you requested the datapads be delivered to could not be located." He looked edgy, as if not being able to find the commandos bothered him.
"Which ones?" Vau asked, taking the datapads from the clone.
"RC-1138 and RC-1309. They aren't anywhere." the clone looked even more bothered.
"Try better next time." the clone nodded and left. Boss and Niner were missing? Or maybe they had avoided being found. Vau would have to look into this on his own.
"Is there anything else you want?" Vau asked Fi. He still had to make sure the others were set before chasing after a pair of commandos. Squad leaders at that.
It's an exercise, exercises are meant to sharpen skills and induct experience, yes, yes. Vau's answers made perfect sense but they didn't quite put the emphasis on the one thing that stuck out at Fi like a sore thumb. Why is this exercise so unorthodox?
It couldn't possibly be that the inventiveness of the activity was lost on him, its own creator, so it had to be that the instructor was voluntarily not breaching the topic.
And what little wisdom Fi had was waving with both arms outstretched in his mind right now, signaling to leave it be already. Especially when the subject had already been interrupted by the same clone trooper who'd handed Fi his 'pad. The man was now reporting Boss and Niner's peculiar absence.
"No, sir," Fi drew out slowly as he nodded in a mark of disciplined respect.
Off he went to his assigned room, leaving Vau to search for the elusive squad seargents.
As Fi was departing, the thinning sea of troopers to Vau's nine started spreading as if a spear was being driven through it, with the old Mandalorian in its vector.
When the last of the clones had jumped out of the way of the incoming spearhead, it revealed itself to be a two-man entity comprised of Boss and Niner, fighting not to appear out of breath.
"RC-1138/1309 reporting, sir!" they said crisply in unison, saluting smartly. A little too crisply and smartly they realized too late.
The smart thing to have done would've been to appear seperately, a few minutes apart, in order to quell suspicion, but each commando's stubborness had kept him from volunteering to be the later one. They were both late enough as it is.
Late for what, they didn't know, but word had gotten out that Vau was looking for them for some reason, and it could only spell trouble if it was found out that they'd skipped holonews session. If they had any luck at all, that wasn't what Vau wanted to see them about.
They're together? Interesting. Vau thought to himself. They shouldn't have been that hard for the trooper to find unless he was truly that incompetent. Unless...
"It seems terribly convienient that you two would show up together after neither of you could be located. Care to explain?"
Boss flinched, his absolute dedication to discipline not knowing how to twist the facts subtly enough to remain true while providing an acceptable explanation. A voice inside him was also plaintively saying: 'There is nothing to hide anyways, is ther? We were just talking, mostly.'
Niner actually came up with something to say although he wished the Delta man himself, who had a better running rapport with Vau, had made that step. "We were discussing strategies in private, sir! Our attention to schedule was throw off, sir."
All of which, in a way, was technically true.
"Is that all you were doing? Or is there something you aren't telling me?" He looked directly at 38. The commando squirmed uneasily. Niner wasn't telling him everything. Maybe Boss would.
Boss took his cue from Niner and assumed his rightful position of closest personal acquaintance to instructor Vau.
"We simply discovered we enjoy discussing together. It was a little disconcerting at first, sir, given our previous disagreements." Trying to consider the subject resolved for all, he prompted: "How can we serve today, sir?" clicking his heels together.
Walon decided to not press any farther for now. It was better they learned to get along for this assignment. He handed the datapads to them.
"Come with me. Read those while you're walking." Vau decided to take them to room 1. He wanted to be sure the wouldn't get distracted on the way.
Boss and Niner felt under uncomfortable scrutiny as they read their respetive datapad. Judging from their simultaneous reaction, the 'pads apparently gave the same assignments. And unusual one, to be sure, but neither of them made a show of it, and both quickly reestablished their mask of profesionalism, wondering with a sideways glance which one had recovered first.
Boss felt the need to cater to his mentor once more as they reached the nondescript door 1. "Ready to begin mission, sir," he piped with a salute. If Niner hadn't still felt under Vau's microscope, he would've allowed his eyes to roll and smile to crack at the other's patronizing. Endearing in its own way, yet.
Vau actually did smile this time. Boss was always ready, he had always been that way. A born leader. As was Niner, but Vau was never sure about Skirata's batch. Previously, Vau was absolutely sure that the two squad leaders would butt heads in this assignment. Now he wasn't so sure.
"All right then. Do you have any questions?"
"No sir!" they piped in unisson.
At once they went through the door, the feeling of relief at having partially avoided Vau's scrutiny almost overwhelming their battle-readiness at the prospect of entering the unknown room.
(OOC: I'll let Boss and Niner go from now, since the interaction with Vau is at an end, but feel free to make him do other stuff! I can always pick up another NPC that he'll run into)