Seal of Confidence Prose in Star Wars: Shards | World Anvil

Seal of Confidence

On 18 Relona 12728, Emperor Gregor Vortapani let it be known that His Imperium did not permit slavery, and that to correct a great imbalance in His Imperium, he would be not only emancipating all of the Clone Troopers but also elevating one of the clones to a Vor Countship. Which one, My lord Counts, will it be?
All of the Beskar Aran had a meeting, family only, on the 7th of Selona in 12729, along with as many of the retired veterans of the 257th as could attend. This was the first time that so many of them were in one place; it gave Jenkins a giddy sensation that had several troopers "expediting" VN Ysadora away from her current location and into their meeting so fast that she was still typing a "no, Bossman; really, I'm fine, I'll get back to you!" message to Jedi Master Skywalker as she was herded into the convention room.

"Uhhm...." Vanya clicked off her 'Padd and stuffed it into its pouch without really paying attention; all her focus was on the uneven expression on Jenkins, and the belligerent expression on Brutto as he tried to form a physical wall between Jenkins and the rest of the Galaxy.
"Commander?" Jenkins said hesitantly. He flushed. On top of the wobbly thing going on already, it was not a good look for him.
"I'm right here," Vanya said in that deliberately assuring way she always did. That was the pattern: ever since the Twilight, ever since Darth Sidious tried to activate the Order and use the Bene Gesserit mind trick thing to do it, they addressed her by the old military title and she did not kick. Nor roll her eyes. She always said that one line, the same way, like it was a magic spell.
Brutto, as always when someone hinted that he might need reassurance, bristled.
"No," Vanya said. She met Brutto's eyes until his mouth started to close. Then she returned her gaze to the man on the bar stool. "I'm here, vod'ika," Vanya repeated. "What've you got?"
Jenkins flushed darker. Everyone thinks of me as the baby brother, he thought in resentment. He couldn't help it. I don't need coddling. I just need ... a little breather, that's all! Aloud, he said to Goss and Sparks, "You guys are way overreacting. You didn't have any reason to drag the Commander away from the sitrep with the Generals, you know?"
Tugging off her cloak, Vanya knelt about two and a half feet away from Jenkins. She could stay in that position for an hour, everyone knew, hands on her thighs, haunches over her heels. It was her meditation thing.
"Bossman One is gonna tell us all the same things he said yesterday," Vanya said factually, "and then Bossman Two is going to ask me what color some leaf was on some plant on that Ithorian whatsit, and then I'm going to tell them that I have a gosh darned date scheduled for tomorrow which they should gosh darned not bollox up, only I'm not going to say either 'gosh' or 'darned', and then they're going to pass me notes teasing me about 'young romance' while Master Yoda tries to figure out whether he disapproves yet, and then the Wonder Twins will turn out to have conducted another round of shenanigans in the back halls of the Council of Counts, and that's the sitrep."
Acer barked a laugh. A scattering of the other Venn guys followed suit.
"Commander Ysadora, cousins," Higgins a.k.a. "Paperboy" said from somewhere in the middle of the crowd. He might have been introducing her for a round of applause, or he might have been explaining her away. Either one worked. Vanya and the nearest Roughnecks ignored it.
Except that Vanya was not exactly ignoring it. She tilted her head slightly as she looked up at Jenkins' face.
"Little Brother," she said in Basic, "it is funny because it's true. You are younger than me. All of you are. Razak was born in Twelve-six-ninety-eight; most of you are within six months of him. Right?" At Brutto's nod, she finished, "I'm thirty-four standard years old. I was born in 'Six-ninety-five. I just," she waved her fingers to the side as if brushing away something tacky, "I wasn't a child soldier. You've been an adult longer than me. Anybody with sense would recognize that you're the elder. But there's stupid mystic mob plots, and there's cryosleep, and here we are."
They stared at each other for a moment.
Jenkins felt utterly alone, and felt too crowded, all at the same time. He hated it.
"You can resent me if you like," Vanya said as if she was offering to do the Master Sergeant a favor. "I think it's a distraction, though, because you don't want to look at your current problem. What have you got?"
Jenkins found himself chuckling. "You sound like Hudson," he criticized.
"I miss him, too," Vanya said quietly.
Her head straightened. She did a slow scan of the crowd, or at least of what she could see from her sunken position.
"Everybody's here, huh?"
Just like that, she was in. Jenkins wondered again how the woman did it. Experienced Jedi Masters had never twigged, much less connected themselves so effortlessly into the 257th's network. Even Jenkins had not detected the moment when she connected into the gossamer edges of the system, not really part of it, but not outside of it either -- like a poof of air, like a wisp of light twinkling at the perimeter. She was probably in when Goss and Sparks laid eyes on her in the first place, and Jenkins didn't notice because his head was already full to overflowing--
"Ahh." Vanya rocked back on her heels, satisfied.
Jenkins looked at the Jedi.
"You feel so bubbly-good that you've got no balance, you can't think, and you might throw up," Vanya guessed. "Close?"
"Got it in one," Jenkins said. He blinked several times. How did you know?
Vanya stood up, turning slowly to look around the entire assembly. "Everyone?"
"I'm not gonna vomit," Brutto said.
"I can still think," Paperboy announced again, cheerful as day two of a three day leave, from his spot in the crowd.
"That's the problem with you," Acer retorted, "you never turn off."
Vanya grinned briefly.
To Jenkins, she said, "Okay if I touch you?"
When he nodded, Vanya walked over, tossing her cloak across the nearest table. "Happens to everybody," she said sympathetically, "only most of them had it when they were, like, toddlers. So when it happened to me, I definitely knew I was drunk. Ani, that great big jerk, had me do katas until I got it under control."
Jenkins groaned. "Commander, I don't think I can do drills just now," he warned.
"No," Vanya laughed, "no, I don't think putting you back in touch with your body is going to be the trick here." She pressed her wrist on his forehead as if checking for fever.
"So what do we do?" Brutto demanded. "We ain't got time for this, you know? Some of us barely got away with a couple of hours in the first place."
"You want fast?" Vanya tilted her head back a little so she could meet Brutto's eyes from only a few inches away. "Go fetch an ysalamiri."
"No!" several men exclaimed.
Brutto decided his own voice had probably been drowned out. "I don't want to pull no plug, Commander," he said hastily. "But we got work to do."
"I get that," Vanya said. She looked up at the spot where the wall met the ceiling. "Okay, two questions. One, who's on duty?"
Jenkins could feel Vanya sorting through the nodes in the connection web, pausing over each one to identify individual and physical proximity, then brushing outward. She was nowhere near as fast as Jenkins, but she did so-so. Each person she touched ... "glowed" was the only word Jenkins could find; they glowed a little brighter when she brushed them, and when she moved on they dimmed again but not quite so far.
"Clea and Yvette," Brutto said. "They're in full kit, so most people won't notice we put pinch hitters in for the officers."
Vanya blinked, but kept her face turned upward. "Two: when will Rico and Razak get here?"
"Should be five minutes," Goss volunteered.
Jenkins knew what Vanya was looking for: Bus system, he thought, in civvies. Not controlling a vehicle. Trying to stay unremarkable.
Vanya squelched the impulse to roll her eyes. She understood that most people did not see individuals on first meeting the clone troopers, but she insisted that was because Tapani society encouraged a disturbing lack of attention to detail. "Okay," she said, "then for our purposes you two might as well be here already. Everybody knows the 'imaginary star' meditation, right?"
Several members of Clan Venn objected that they did not.
"Oh. Sorry. Chaplain Ysadora will teach that one to anyone who's curious, later. It's five minutes to a clear head and a clean focus. Today we'll do a different tack," and her voice changed slightly as she took her arm away from Jenkins' forehead at last. With the sudden touch of cool air on his skin came a more liquid sound to the Jedi's voice, not quite musical. "It feels odd because it's unidentified, what you're all experiencing. That's all. It's like the first time you stood in real life near a waterfall, yes? So much more than what you get from a sim, from a holovid. It's noise and light, sure, but it's scent. It's pressure. It's a vibration that reaches clear down into your bones. It's a moist drift of air on your skin, even under your helmet, a sympathetic ghost of motion to complement the water moving in its geological dance with the bedrock and the river."
Somebody -- probably Jenkins himself -- thought of a long-ago waterfall on Dendarii, and the impression of jungle scents whipped around the room like a holoprojection unfolding. But better: a scent so many of them knew, that they had enjoyed, that they would never find the exact match to it again. Those who had the memory directly leaked it, almost as vivid, into the nearest brothers and cousins in the Force-built network.
"Just like that," Vanya said delightedly. "A real waterfall is a whole experience. Just like this. Nothing like a simulation. Nothing like those decorative things the Vor like to put in their gardens. And not ... not dangerous, no; it just is. You're solid and competent and you can lean on each other. And your vode can lean on you. Everybody feels the waterfall a little bit differently, because everyone is in a different space and doing a different thing. That is why it's not exactly the same for any two of you. Easy, right? No reason to fuss. As you get used to the waterfall, even the great big noise of it will become normal, become background. Even the feel of the energy it stirs in your bones. That's just part of the space around the waterfall. You can relax into it, yeah? You can relax, you can be comfortable. You are not giving up alertness. You are not giving up your strength. You're letting the energy of the waterfall become your energy. Part of how you move. You won't rattle your teeth if you don't try to move against it. C'mon, Brutto, what's the fuss, Sergeant?" Vanya nudged him affectionately. "Get puzzlefruit in your pastry or something?"
"I ain't been on a picnic in three years, Commander, and I'm just now remembering that urban duty makes my hair itch!"
The men laughed.
I'll see what temporary detail I can dig out of my inbox for you, Sergeant, promised the dry voice of an officer too far away for vocal speech. Wouldn't want you to go any balder.
Vanya leaned over to kiss Brutto's already reddening cheek. "Take a VorCadriaan trip," she advised. "Their garden on Lalos isn't a patch on what Dendarii had, but it's nice. How's everyone else doing? Overstimulation settled down?"
On reflection, the assembled clones found that they were feeling okay -- a little buzzy, still, but no longer swaying in place.
"What did you do?" Jenkins asked.
Vanya patted his upper arm. "I hit you with a tuning fork," she said.
... hit us with a ... ?
Vanya chuckled. "I told you that putting you in touch with your body was not going to do the trick," she said, "even though that was what I needed the first time I really felt the life all around me. I needed to remember that I was separate, even while being connected. But, Jenkins, your problem has never been knowing that you're an individual while also being a part of a whole. You're brilliant at that already." Vanya waved around at all the other clones in the room. "The lot of you have been spending most of your time spread out in a bunch of directions at once. You've never once, not ever, all gathered this many members of the family all in such close quarters. Right?"
"Right," Jenkins agreed slowly.
Vanya smiled brilliantly at him; through him, at all of them.
You are epic, she both said aloud and whispered into their network. "You are a waterfall. All together, all of you focused in one place, on one dance with the bedrock and the river and the light? The Beskar Aran are thunder, they are sunlight and cool energy and pressure and a scent nothing else in the Galaxy will ever match, a living Force that makes itself felt all the way down into the very bones of any mere individual who would stand nearby. Only, when you all are apart for so long, you forget that you are, in fact, epic. So you were jostling each other like you'd forgotten what it is to dance together. And all I did was, I," Vanya mimed slapping a tuning fork against her hand, and then touched the tip of it to the back of Jenkins' hand.
"Oh." Jenkins looked up and around, seeing not only the faces of his brethren but the light each sparked in the Force, and the glimmering strands that connected each to all.
"Next time," said the twinkling little wisp as she reached for her cloak, "you will remember how this feels. Pick a shared sensation that resonates for all of you, something mild. Let it vibrate through on its own. You'll find yourselves in tune, easy enough."
Jenkins agreed; but by the time he was done looking at the network, the wisp had drifted away.
"She would have stayed if anyone suggested it," Razak murmured to the slightly younger man beside him on the cross-city bus. He had learned long ago that if he kept his voice soft enough, his mood mild enough, then the waterfall of his brothers would mask him even from a distracted intel specialist.
Captain Rico looked out the polarized window as he considered. "Vanya wants us to choose what we choose," he said at last. "Not what she wants. Or what we think she wants. Sure, she would have stayed, but then she never would have been sure that she didn't steer us somehow."
Razak frowned. "She dug up Jenkins' memory of Dendarii. To remind us. We chose our own path that day, and it worked out pretty well. We need the habit of choosing things for ourselves. That's a kind of steerage, if a delicate one."
Rico hesitated. "I don't think so, sir. I'd say she dug up that memory, yeah, but this isn't one of the complicated Jedi. This is Vanya. A waterfall we camped near because Vanya pointed out that it killed surveillance devices. She gave us some privacy. And then she walked away so she couldn't supervise us either."
Razak glanced at Rico in surprise. "I thought Hudson got that location from one of the Rebel Alliance crew?"
"Nah." Rico glanced at his mentor's expression. "Hudson and I got it from Vanya. She used to get sick of being worse at everything than the Skywalkers were. She'd hare off to do some rock climbing. General Skywalker found out about that. He ordered her to take along a spotter in case she broke her fool neck. She said that pretty much defeated the purpose of going rock climbing, so we might as well get some use out of her favorite challenge."
Razak checked on the road ahead as the bus turned in toward their stop. "Typical," he said. "Okay, son. Our chaplain is giving us space, not twisting our rudders. Let's go see what we can do with it, then." As he rose from his seat, he let the hum of the Beskar Aran mesh with his bones.

Takes place on 7 Selona, 12729, which falls between Spatial Relations on 12728/9/18 and Crime and Punishment which starts on 12729/4/6.


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