In the dream, Alistair was on a beach. He knew this without even needing to open his eyes. He could taste the salt in the air, and he could smell the bitter scent of the water beyond. He also knew, in his heart, that he was dreaming. Something about the sound of the crashing waves, and the feel of the sand was off, as if it was not real, an echo of a real thing. A memory. For a while, he simply lay on his back, taking in the environment with all of his senses but sight. Eventually, however, he decided that he should take a look at the beach he had found himself stranded on. He opened his eyes, sitting up, and turning to see what waited beyond the beach. When he did, he found that he was not alone. Three women sat on the beach, their faces shrouded by hoods, a massive loom resting on the sand before them. They were whispering, Alistair realized, but at first he could not make out what they were saying. He strained to catch their words, and eventually he was able to make them out. "It is said," Said the women, speaking as one, "That you are a great warrior." Alistair shrugged, tilting his head. "A warrior,yeah, I guess," He said, "But great? I'm not sure about that." "It is also said that you have defeated fire, and the sea," The women said. At first Alistair did not understand them. How could he have defeated fire, or, for that matter, the ocean? Eventually, the answer came to him. "Flame army," He said, "And tide, yes, I have." The women did not acknowledge him, they only continued to speak, occasionally manipulating the loom. "It is also said," They said, "That you are a leader of bees." Alistair nodded. He was the commander of Hornet army, yes, so in a way, he was a leader of bees. "But beware, young one," They said, finally turning to acknowledge him, "For your destruction is the only thing waiting for you now." Alistair was about to ask what this meant, when one of the women pulled back their hood, revealing the face of a snake underneath it. For a moment, the creature regarded Alistair, staring at him with it's wide, yellow eyes, the slits that were it's pupils following him. He noticed that it had a thread of brilliant orange in it's mouth, and somehow, he knew that the thread was related to him. Still, he did not know what to do, and he could only stare as the snake bit the thread in half. Suddenly, an immense pain wracked him, and he fell to his knees, grasping his chest. It was as if his heart had been ripped from his chest without him ever noticing. He could do nothing but clutch his chest, reeling in pain, as the snake slithered up to him. "I am the end, young one," It hissed at him, raising it's face to his, it's tail wrapping around him, "I am death." Alistair said nothing. He simply glared at the creature, as slowly but surely it crushed him within it's coils. **** Alistair bolted upright, staring into the dark of his commander's quarters, his eyes searching the pressing darkness, as if someone was waiting for him within it. When he found that he was alone, he fell back, laying his hands over his eyes. "It was just a dream," He whispered to himself, "Just a stupid, meaningless dream." He whispered this, but somehow the words felt false on his tongue. The dream had been so vivid, and it had felt so real, but then, sometimes that was how dreams were. Alistair knew that he had to drive it from his mind. So, he did the only thing he could think of. He thought about his last battle. He thought about every tactic he had used against Condor army, everything that had worked because his army was successful, or because he was lucky, every strategy that had failed, every trap he had fallen into. He thought, and thought, and thought about everything related to his last battle, until finally the only thing left to do was to remember how it felt to watch as four of his soldiers pressed their helmets against the enemy's gate, allowing him to pass through. When at long last he had run out of things to think about related to the battle, he opened his eyes, finding the comforting glow of the fluorescent light in his ceiling waiting for him. Another restless night was done. He got up, dressing in the black, grey, and yellow uniform of Hornet army, and went to the door. 'Now,' He thought, 'I just have to face the terrors of real life.' As he left his quarters, Alistair wondered if maybe he was better off sticking with the bad dreams. **** Cameron Longinus smiled as he got out of bed, stretching as he went to his locker to get dressed. He had enjoyed a night of wonderful dreams, in which he had been the most successful and prolific commander in the battle school. 'Some day,' He thought to himself, 'That won't just be a dream.' For now, however, he decided that being the leader of Hornet Army's A Toon was good enough. As he was getting dressed, the commander of Hornet, Alistair Blithe entered the room. Cameron nodded to the commander as he turned to face him, and politely called "Ho, Alistiar, sleep well?" Alistair did not respond, he simply turned to Cameron and frowned. "Guess not," Cameron muttered to himself. "Morning, Hornets," Alistair called to the room at large. A handful of soldiers answered Alistair with calls of "Ho, Alistair", or "Morning, commander," But most ignored him, attempting to remain asleep. Alistair frowned. "Sorry," He said, "I must be in the wrong barracks, I thought this was Hornet army, not Sloth." Several soldiers grumbled, annoyed, but Alistair did not relent. "Alright, fine," He said, pretending to give up, "I mean, I was going to let you guys out of morning practice if you got to the Mess within the next five minutes, but if you guys want to sleep in, I guess we can do laps around the station before breakfast." Cameron grinned, deciding to take Alistair up on his challenge. "Alright, A Toon," He shouted to his cluster of soldiers, "You heard the man, up and at 'em!" Cameron prided himself on the willingness with which his soldiers followed him, and he was not disappointed when almost all of A toon responded by rolling out of bed, and getting dressed in less than a minute. Still, one soldier lagged behind the others,lying in bed, gripping his stomach. Cameron walked over to him, frowning. "I'm sorry," He barked at the soldier, "What part of 'Up and at 'em was too difficult for you." The soldier groaned in discomfort, but Cameron did not relent. "Was it the up part?" Cameron taunted, "Because, if I recall, you struggled with that in the battle room too." The soldier was a larger kid, and Cameron had been dissatisfied with his battle room performance several times. If he was commander, this kid would have been traded. Unfortunately, since Cameron wasn't, he was still here. "Sir," The soldier muttered, "I'm not feeling too good, I think I have to go to the infirmary." Cameron smiled cruelly. "I promise you you'll have to go there if you aren't out of bed in the next five seconds," Cameron said. The soldier groaned again, and Cameron proceeded to place his foot on the soldiers back, rolling him out of bed with swift kick. The soldier gave what appeared to be several weak dry-heaves from the floor as he rose to his knees, although they could have also been sobs. Then, slowly, he pulled himself up and got dressed. Cameron smiled as the soldier fell into line with his fellow As, turning to Alistair. "Toon A is ready, sir," He said, "You want me to help these other slowpokes get in gear?" Alistair shook his head. "No need, Cam," He said, "It's not your fault that your toon is more ready than the others." Cameron smiled. Of course his toon was ready. Toon A was the best, because he was the best Toon leader. 'When I'm commander,' He thought to himself, 'I'll have my whole army out of bed this fast.' He grinned at the thought of becoming commander. He hoped that the day when this dream would become a reality wasn't far away.
Bojangles had heard the door open, and of course he knew it was the commander, but the bed felt Sooooo nice that it just wasn't worth the effort to get up.
"just a few more minutes mommy..." he moaned as he turned in his bed.
He was awake, just not enough. He heard the challenge and heard the commotion going on close by. A toon was always so...persistant.
Finally he leaned up, and yawned. He jumped from his bed and looked around, most of his toon were already waking up and moving around to get changed, it wouldn't take much to get them in line.
Bojangles grinned, and crossed his arms. Challenge Accepted! he thought to himself. He jogged in his usually commical matter to his locker to throw on his uniform and then proceeded to jog over to the door.
"Toon B! You know what to do, so just do it already..."
A few of his toon members straggled behind and formed into the line. Bojangles watched as Cameron marched down the hall, but he didn't care, what was the point in being first all the time? It only hurts the ego!
Bojangles marched out after words with the rest of his toon, when he suddenly felt more relaxed. Close enough...
Alistair sighed as he watched Bojangles leave. As always, he was a complete and total enigma. It didn't take long for the rest of the army to catch up, and in a moment Alistair was in the hall, following after them. He walked up to Bojangles, narrowing his eyes and staring at Toon B's commander. "Bojangles, I have to say, for the life of me, I have no idea how you manage to complete even the simplest task and...hey, wait, is your whole toon even here?" He asked, suddenly surprised to count only eight soldiers. He turned, spotting the two stragglers wandering, confused, with the soldiers of C toon. He rolled his eyes. "Bo," He said, trying to hide his anger, "How many times do I have to tell you that 'close enough' is never close enough?" Cameron smirked. He was always entertained by how incompetent Bojangles was. 'Oh well,' He thought, 'He just makes the rest of us Toon leaders look better.' Before long he found himself in line, waiting for the usual sludge that passed for food in Battle School. He didn't mind. He was the first person in his army in line, and being first could make even this mush taste good. After all, Victory was the sweetest spice.
It didn't take long for Cameron to find his familiar seat at the table, and before long he found himself sitting alone, watching as the other Hornets waited in line, chatting animatedly. He was quick to note that the soldiers in Toon B seemed to be dead set on starting a food fight, and he rolled his eyes as he watched them jokingly hit each other with what he could only assume was supposed to be biscuits and gravy. 'Idiots,' He thought to himself, sighing, 'If Bo had any competence as a leader he'd teach them some freakin' discipline.' He would have continued to dwell on Bojangles' incompetence, but he quickly found his thoughts interrupted. "So, is it yet another glorious day in the best toon in battle school?" Asked a familiar voice. Cameron turned, smiling as he saw Paul Judeman, another soldier in A toon walk up to him. "Always," He replied with a smirk, making room for Paul to sit next to him. He had no idea why he bothered to make space, the entire table was still available at this point, but he felt that he needed to make it clear that he wanted Paul to sit with him. The boy obliged, and together they sat and observed as Bo's boys attempted to spread their food fight down the line. "Can you believe that?" Paul said, gesturing towards the line, "Honestly, if I was a Toon leader, I'd never let my soldiers get away with that kind of stuff." Cameron nodded, agreeing. "Well, you aren't," He said, "And to be fair, I don't let you guys get away with that stuff either, so..." Paul grinned, punching Cameron in the shoulder. "Yeah, that's what makes you the best," He said, smirking himself, "That, and the fact that your soldiers are faster, stronger, and better shots than any of the clowns in B toon." "And don't you forget it," Cameron said, his smirk broadening. For a moment they fell silent, watching as Toon C's commander, Aaron Edgeworth, pulled one of his boys out of the way to keep them from being hit by a bit of flying mush. Cameron let out a heavy sigh. "Do me a favor," He said, turning to Paul just as several members of C toon responded with their own volley of food, "Go let the other A's know that if any of them participate in this ridiculous little stunt, they'll spend the entire next practice serving as target practice." Paul grinned, standing quickly. "Sir, yes, sir," He said, a sort of sick joy in his words. Cameron smiled, watching as Paul went to the line to spread the message. This was what made him the best leader in Hornet army. He expected nothing but discipline from his soldiers, even if that was something the other toons lacked. 'A good commander uses their authority to force their soldiers to be disciplined,' He thought to himself, 'After all, nothing makes a soldier more disciplined than the knowledge that someone higher up isn't afraid to smack them into line.' If Alistair was a better commander, he'd be here right now, giving Bojangles a piece of his mind. That said, if Alistair really wanted to keep Bo in line, he'd never be able to eat in the commanders mess at all. As Cameron thought this, he let his vision drift in the direction of the Commander's Mess, trying to see into the secluded room that housed the very best this school had to offer. He wondered what his commander was up to, and more than that, he silently wished that he could be there with him. 'Someday,' He thought, longingly, 'Someday.'
Bojangles had a slight frown, Close enough perhaps wasn't close enough, but for something like this, to him it didn't matter.
When Bojangles got to the lunchroom he took in a deep breath.
"Ah, the smell of morning crap!"
As he rushed in line to get a bite to eat. When he came back to the table some of his toon had already started flinging food around, he just shook his head. They were just having a little fun, as long as they weren't getting any one who didn't want to be part of it involved.
He took his first bite, and then everything started making sense. Why he had refered to the food as crap, and why kids were flinging it around instead of eating it, it tasted disgusting, almost worse then mystery meat day.
He was queasy after the first bite, and pushed his tray away. He knew he'd have to eat a little bit though, or else he'd be too hungry to even practice. So he forced his own food down.
He watched however as food flung from one end of the table to the other. As one kid got slapped in the face with...whatever it was that hit him.
Suddenly everything went black.
"Toon B, Sit down and shut up for a moment, and come around me, I actually have to talk about some strategies for a moment. So Drop your food, or eat and shut up and listen."
He sat down roughly, and shoved the tray out of the way as he watched his toon shuffle over and sit around him.
"Whats with you Bo?" some one asked, as if not really knowing.
"It's just time to actually think for a moment, so just use that brain of yours and we'll all be fine. Now, For practice assuming none of you fools do anything to off set our plan..."
He began discussing he plans with his toon, all of which were either really confused or actually paying attention. Some were used to Bojangles mood swings by now, others just observed and stayed cautious.
"So thats what were going to do...Understand toon?" He watched as he got half witted nods. "Now, just sit back and don't do anything to threaten our plans got it? Which means no more food flinging."
Bojangles yawned and then started tapping his fingers against the table, he had already grown bored, and for some reason people stopped flinging food. His toon suddenly was all around him, and staring a little but it didn't matter, after all, breakfast always sucked...
For a moment, Paul and Cameron simply stared at Bojangles, utterly taken aback by his sudden change in attitude. Finally, Paul broke the silence. "Well, what do you know," He quipped, "Looks like Bo has a brain after all." Cameron nodded, barely paying attention to Paul. "Yeah," He said, "He doesn't show it often,but he's actually capable of getting serious, and when he does, his soldiers pay attention." It was in moments like this that Cameron understood why Alistair bothered to keep Bo around as a toon leader. The kid was smarter than he looked, and while the strategies he had just discussed were hardly spectacular, they were at least well thought out. He had always wondered about Bo's sudden mood swings, and while he had only seen Bo's serious side a few times, he was always impressed at just how focused it seemed to make him. 'Huh,' He thought to himself, 'Maybe Bo really isn't the incompetent I've made him out to be.' He shook the thought from his head, instead deciding to follow Bo's example. "Alright A, I guess we should talk shop too," He said, calling to his soldiers. When most of them were around him, he started to discuss strategies. "Alright," He said, "Obviously we need to work on how to claim a star without exposing ourselves, if our last battle was any indication we leave our enemies way too much of an opening when we move from one star to the next." Across the table, Cameron noticed Toon C's commander, Edgeworth, snort derisively. Cameron shot him a glare, but decided that it wasn't worth his time to start a fight with Edgeworth. He might not see the importance of improving his toon's skills, but Cameron did, and that was what separated the elite from the average in a place like this.
Felix rolled out of bed as the last stragglers were leaving for the mess. "ugh" He grunted. The last several days had been so stressful. He had just been traded from the recently disbanded Hydra Army to Hornet and still hadn't really found a place in hornet. Felix threw his suit on and was able to catch up with the last few Hornet soldiers getting to the mess. In the mess he sat alone and just watched. He didn't really know any of these guys yet so he kept his distance. Why do they act like that? He thought as he watched Cameron interact with Bojangles. Felix only knew the names of these two because they were the only ones he was introduced to, he knew C had a leader but was unsure of D. It's like there are different armies within the larger whole of Hornet However, he knew it wasn't his place to be judging anyone so he just went back to his plate and once again suffered through a battle school meal.
As Alistair returned to the mess he took a moment to note his army's position. He noted with some joy that, while they were hardly as close as he would have hoped, they weren't at each other's throats. Yet. While watching his army he paused in the doorway, an action that put him directly in the path of a Tide soldier who was rushing to leave. She bumped into them, and while Alistair simply fell back against the door flame, she toppled forward, colliding hard with the floor. Alistair rushed to help her up, and found her glaring with him, her brown eyes blazing with a cold fury. For a moment he recoiled, but then he extended his hand to her. "Sorry about that," He said. "You should be," She hissed. In his younger days, this would have prompted a fight, and given her significant height and weight disadvantage he noted that it wouldn't have lasted long. He didn't pursue that option however. Instead, he realized that something else was probably bothering her. "What, somebody spike the oatmeal this morning or something?" He said, trying to cool her anger with humor. This attempt backfired. "No," She said, "I just had my toon leader explain to my whole army that yes, it really was my fault that we lost." Alistair shrugged. "Was it?" He asked. "No," The girl replied, bitterly, "If the idiot would have just let me keep wallsliding I would have gotten behind the enemy, and if I'd gotten taken out, well, that would be one casualty. Instead he drew attention to me, and we lost half of the toon." Alistair considered this statement, seeing both sides. By the sound of it, this girl had acted on her own, which was reckless and foolish. On the other hand, her toon leader sounded like an idiot. He was about to voice half of this thought when the girl shook her head, her frustration returning. "Why am I telling you this anyway!?" She shouted, annoyed by her own discretion, "Look, don't stand in doorways alright. It's hard enough to walk around this place without falling over because of the damn tilt to the floors, I don't need moron Hornets like you making my life more difficult." With that she stormed away, caught up in her own brooding. Alistair watched her go, somewhat wishing he could follow her. There was a sharpness to her eyes, and while it had been coupled with with coldness, he had seen that same sharpness before, in one of his earlier commanders. He had been fond of that commander, and he was certain that he would not be the commander he was today without them. This girl had reminded him of that long last friend, and part of him wanted to see if perhaps he could befriend her. After all, friends were hard to come by in this place. Instead, he turned into the mess hall, and he returned to his army. "Alright Toon Leaders," He said to the table at large, "Gather round, I want to talk to you about a few things."
Fayt awoke late in the Launchie Barracks and silently swore at himself for once again oversleeping. The seven year old prodigy had stayed up long past lights out the night before working at hacking into a teachers login and had finally managed to gain access to the Astrophysics Teacher's System. The pathetically small boy sat up knocking his desk to the floor he groaned realizing he had fallen asleep with the desk still out. Thankfully the program he had encoded in his desk saved his progress and blacked out his screen password locking it after he had been inactive for 30 minutes so none of the other launchies caught wind of what he was up to. He logged into his desk and immediately was alarmed that all his file had been wiped clean then he saw a message in the message que for him and pulled it up. The Message read....
Fayt Hornet Army Commander Alistar
He sighed. So they had finally transferred him into an Army? The others in his launch group had all been assigned armies already and he had been bunking with the newest launch group. He got up leaving his desk and began to search the corridors for Hornet Army Barracks
Alistair looked out at his toon leaders, looking to see how each of them felt about having their tactics evaluated. He always felt that it was best to try to read his toon leaders' feelings at times like this to see where they were, and he was not surprised by what he found waiting on their faces. Cameron's eyes reflected the same sharp self-confidence as always, as well as something that resembled expectation. Alistair had a feeling that the leader of A toon wouldn't like what Alistair had to say. Bojangles was surprisingly serious for once, and Aaron sat with the same quiet, unassuming confidence that he wore at all times. The commander of D toon, a rookie Toon leader by the name of David Berhardt looked nervous. Alistair almost wanted to laugh at this. He had been impressed by David's performance against Condor, and he hoped that hearing this would boost the boy's spirits. "Alright," Alistair said, smiling, "As you know I like to go over how we did with each battle, so after thinking over our brawl with Condor here are my thoughts." He paused, wondering how he should begin. He decided a little ego-stoking would be best to begin with. "As usual, C toon was supremely accurate,and took advantage of Stars that were well concealed to pick apart the enemy, D toon, did a good job of adjusting on the fly, A toon's aggressive tactics gave us an early advantage, and B Toon's unusual tactics kept the enemy off guard." The leaders beamed back at Alistair. Good, he thought, now they at least knew that he wasn't just here to tell them that they sucked. "That said," He continued, "A toon, your inability to back off made you unaware of your positioning, in your attempt to force the enemy back you straggled into the middle of the field and got surrounded." "Sir," Cameron said, already offended, "I think that's a little disingenuous, we had the enemy on the run, did you want us to just back off and give them time to recover." Alistair shook his head, unsurprised by Cameron's haughty defense of his mistake. He never wanted to admit that anything was his fault. "No," Alistair said, "But I think you should have had enough awareness to realize that you're angle of attack left you exposed." Cameron wasn't having it. "If the rest of the army would have pushed forward with us the enemy would have had a harder time surrounding us." Alistair hated this about Cameron. Now his mistake wasn't his fault, is was everyone else's. If they weren't helping him execute then he couldn't help any mistakes he made, apparently. "That's not how our system works," Alistair pointed out, "We always hold at least one toon back to cover our own retreat, and to pick off the enemy from afar, moving C and D up would have given the enemy the chance to get around us." Cameron opened his mouth to argue, but Alistair held up a hand. "Moving on," He said, turning to Bojangles, "B, your attempt to save A was sloppy, you would have done better to take the enemy from angles instead of trying to simply give A toon numerical support." Alistair waited for Bojangles to answer, unsure if the boy had even heard him. *** Cameron scowled, hardly listening as Alistair moved on to B toon's messy attempt to help his own toon. If Alistair couldn't see that the flaws in the rest of the army's strategies were holding them back, that was his fault, but Cameron wouldn't stand having his own tactics criticized because others weren't executing. If he was commander that battle would have been over within minutes of his initial assault. As it stood, Hornet had barely managed to win. He sighed, shrugging to himself. Hornet really was a pretty good army, he thought. Too bad it had an idiot of a commander holding it back.