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A Moment in Time


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A lone man sat in the dimly lit room located in the east wing of the Cleostratus base. He was typing away on his laptop, his thick brow knitted in a frown. He was making no headway in his research but yet he continued trying. He wanted to immerse himself in work and forget about everything. He rubbed the ring on his middle finger with his thumb, a habit he picked up since he started to wear the ring. Mildly irritated with himself, he shut down his laptop. His twiddling with the ring brought back the very thoughts that he wanted to push away.


Dropping himself onto a couch, he relished the comfort of the cushions as he tried to relax. Reaching for the remote, Xavi Romero turned on the sound system. A smile touched his face as the song "Always" blasted from the speakers. He laid there, feeling the music massage his body and mind. The chorus of the rock ballad touched his heart profoundly, and he started to sing the song out loud, with fervent passion of one who is experiencing the story told by the lyrics.


He sighed and let his mind drift to his beloved Adrianna. It has been a while since they had a fight that was so bad. It was bad enough for both of them to agree to take a break on the relationship. Xavi was not too keen on the idea but he knew he had to give her the space she needed. Adrianna had gone back to her Earth for a short vacation with her girl friends. As he laid there, Xavi cursed himself for not realising that he had been too caught up with work to realise that there was a strain on the relationship. He just hope it was not too late to salvage the situation.


Some time apart would be good for both of us, he thought. He had faith in them and that was enough. Closing his eyes, he drifted off to sleep with the touch of smile tugging at his lips. As always, he dreamt of her again.

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  • 1 month later...

Xavi woke up with a slight headache. Slightly irritated with the mild throbbing of his head, he got dressed. He had an appointment with two newcomers. He sighed as he scanned their resumes.


Kids, he said silently. No doubt here with hopes of making a name for themselves with little knowledge of the dangers involved in this line of business.


Deron Makihara. Kanon Zetsubo.


He repeated the names to himself and made a mental note of their general appearances. He tossed the files onto his desk and picked up a black folder. His agents had carried out background checks on theses fresh recruits. Dropping himself into a comfortable armchair, he began scrutinising the individual profiles.


Xavi spent close to an hour going through the data gathered. When he was finally satisfied with himself, he proceeded to the meeting chamber. As he walked along the corridor, he went through the mental notes he made about the two young Soldiers-to-be.


The Soldiers of Fire was a mercenary organisation. They deal in almost all sorts of business, as long as they are well paid for their work. Smuggling, assassinations, bounty hunting and espionage are some examples of the kinds of missions they take up. Every Soldier is loyal to their Commander. They maintained absolute neutrality in the war between Naturals and Coordinators and continue to hold a neutral position when dealing with any nation.


Each Soldier is elite in the field of work they are employed for. Most of the members Xavi had under his command were veterans of war. So it was interesting to see two young ones in the reckoning for a place in his organisation. They had better be prepared for his test.

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Deron knew that today would be a day that he could never really prepare for. No matter what he tried, or how he attempted to prepare, there was no way for him to understand what could be in store for him. The man knew that he was getting into a very dangerous line of work, but it was the only way for him to do what he wanted without getting involved with the war directly. He knew that if he wanted to prepare at all, the only thing that he could think of was trying to find out what he had to offer to the Solders of Fire.


But, what could the man do that others could not? What was so good about him, which would make the organization actually want to take him up into their ranks? Sure, he was loyal, and hardworking, but at this level the same could be said for anyone. In order to guarantee himself a position into the ranks of the Solders of Fire, the twenty two year old knew that he had to find out exactly what he was great at, and make sure that they knew about it.


Well, I guess my greatest strength would have to be my knowledge on computers. I can hack basically any system, and leave no tracks. I did study engineering, but I’ve always been a skilled hacker. I guess that's probably all I can really say, I don't have any experience with much else.


Deron got dressed in his normal black attire, top and bottom, both what looked to be fairly formal wear. Black pants, and a long sleeve button up shirt, the only thing that off set the outfit were his black high top shoes. They looked like they were made for basketball, or running, but Deron felt that he would need them. Should he ever need to do some kind of physical activity, and he knew that dress shoes would be hard to run in.


As the man made his way to the meeting, he wanted to make sure that he would be prepared. But, without having any kind of idea as to what he would be asked, all he could do was walk in knowing what he had to offer. There was no point in trying to think of every question they had to ask, it just wasn’t logical, and a huge hassle as well. With two knocks on the door, Deron just made sure that they knew he was outside, before he opened the door slowly.


As he walked into the room, he closed the door behind him, making sure that he didn’t slam it by accident. He wanted to do well in this meeting, just so that he could get accepted into the organization. If this didn’t work out, then he would have a hard time getting any line of work that he was looking for.


“Hello there. My name is Deron Makihara, it’s nice to meet you,” The man said, as opened his right hand, and held it in front of the man already in the room, looking to shake hands with him.

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He hated getting up in the morning. That feeling as if you have to force your body into motion because your brain still lagged behind, still asleep even though your body was awake. On top of that headaches didn't help either if you had been up till one in the morning, excited about your new job for a change. Zet couldn't believe he actually got into the Soldiers of Fire so much so, he spent all of the night before, lying in bed, wide away, staring up at the ceiling. The blood in his body had been pumping so hard as excitement raced through his body, keeping his eyes shut for more than a few seconds was next to impossible.


And now he was paying for it dearly this day as he forced his body to go into overtime, the bags beneath his eyes never going away no matter what he did. After dressing up in his formal attire of all black dress clothes, save for the red t shirt beneath, he made his way through the halls of the Soldiers Of Fire place of work, back as straight as he could force it, no thanks to his hunching over so much, with a slight smile of excitement in his tired, weary eyes. Up ahead as he rounded the corner, he saw someone else enter into the same room he was suppose to be going in as well. "So.. I'm not the only one being reviewed eh? Well, no problem. Ill simply to the best of my abilities as always, and whatever happens, happens." He told himself, taking a deep breath as slight nervousness started to creep in.


During his "All nighter" he thought over everything that had happened, and might happen in the future. Thoughts of actually finding his skills and talents to good use, and discovering new ones as he worked with this organization on their missions to come. That only brought a slight smile to his face as he neared the door, just as the man in front of him closed it. Guess he didn't see Zet approach, but that was just fine with him.


He too knocked three times before opening the door just as the man in front of him finished his greeting and introduction. With a big smile, "Good morning. Names Zetsubo Chishio." He only glanced at the new comer, and nodded his head at him as he closed the door behind him. His baggy eyes going straight for his new leader's as he approached, ready to shake hands if he offered as he stood next to the new comer as well.

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Two young men stood before him. Their uneasiness to be in the presence of someone as well-respected as Xavi was apparent to the Commander of the top mercenary organisation. Both men stood at attention about a pace apart from each other.


"I believe we know each other, at least by name, so I shall not waste time on introductions. You may address me as the Commander or Romero Sir. And I expect you two to refer to your seniors as 'sir' or 'ma'am'. Is that clear?"


The recruits replied, "Sir, yes sir!"


Their voice betrayed their nervousness. Xavi smiled inwardly. If they were not unsettled, what he was going to say would no doubt confuse them. He was the founder of the Soldiers. The organisation had a very strong bond. It was not just the excellence of the Soldiers in their work. It is true that all Soldiers had undergone gruelling training. However, the intense bond between every Soldier is the key to them being successful.


They work as a team, fight as a team, win as a team, lose as a team. That was a rarity in among other freelancers as they would be more interested in their own gain rather than helping their fellow comrades out. An honour code runs among the mercenaries, but the Soldiers' Creed is clung on to more fervently by the men under Xavi.


"The Soldiers of Fire go by an adage, 'For Strength and Honour'. Strength not just physically but also psychologically. Honour the Soldiers before you as well as those that come after you. Respect your enemies. We, the Soldiers, do not tolerate the dishonourable.

"You might say, we smuggle, we assassinate. So what honour is there? I wonder as well. How can there be honour in the work we do?"


Xavi paused and observed the recruits.


"What honour is there? Tell me."

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He listened closely to what their leader had to say, as he thought over everything he was telling them. then it came for the question about honor, and the only response he could offer off the bat was quick glance before looking ahead of him, not sure how to answer that. Honor in smuggling and assassination? That was a hard one for him to answer for it never crossed his mind. There was an answer tough that kept stabbing at him in the back of his mind, but he couldn't quit pull at it to get it out.


When it came to honor in the things he did, he never really paid much attention to it, more or less just doing whatever it is he felt was right, and would benefit him in the long run so long as it had a challenge attached to it. But he went for it anyways, "The honor.. comes not in the actions we take, but in that when we carry out the assignment given to us, we do so knowing full well the situation are heading into, and knowing that we can take responsibility in the actions we take. Also, we do so with pride within ourself, our job, and within our leader." He told him, not really sure if thats what he was looking for, but thats the best that came mind for right now

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Kanon made a fair attempt at answering the question Xavi raised. The young man was looking back at him intently, anticipating any slight hints indicating the answer was acceptable. Xavi was not about to let him find out. Keeping an absolute straight face, he gave a curt nod in response to the recruit's answer. He wanted to let Deron have an equal chance to impress him.


"What about you, Deron? What say you?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

The harsh sounds of knuckles cracking was only really audible to the one who had cracked them, one Dimitri Shirokov. Today, he was really rather unmotivated, uncaring, and tired. This wasn't the "I'm tired of life" kind of tired though. This was the kind of tired one was when they wanted to just lay in bed and do nothing all day. The kid known as "HAX" in the arcades of Kusanagi city was now in some crater on the moon's surface, living a pseudo-military life. These people were mercenaries, hired out to do pretty much any and every job they could get their "enterprising" hands upon. To Dimitri, all that meant was that he had a new place to stay for a while on his eternal trek through the stars. Eventually, he'd probably need to run from this place as well, and change his life all over again, just to evade capture for the crimes of his past association. When he ran from here though, he'd have to set up a new identity for himself, which meant another hack job.




Looking up at one of the clocks installed within the walls, he realized he was ten minutes late for the rookie initiation stuff, orientation, whatever. He didn't care too much. But as he rounded a corner, he realized that he'd stumbled to the office where the very whatever-you-call-it was being held. His dumb luck, as usual. Choosing the safe route, he pressed his back against the wall and listened in, all the while looking like he was just lounging about, almost as if he owned the place. Talking something about honor and strength and all that jazz, what a bore. Dimitri's family had taught him real honor, respect, and loyalty. That was why he was on the run now. Nobody even knew he was running, either. They just saw another unmotivated-looking kid. The charade was old, but it was working. He had only one thing to fear, his old name. September city police might not be looking for him anymore, but if he was suddenly discovered and reported, he'd be hauled in for evasion of authority. There was no turning back.


That's why he just kept looking forward, never flinching, never looking back. There wasn't any point in finding out where he'd gone wrong, or if he even had. The past was set, and so was he. And that was why he'd been able to succeed this far.

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The young man appeared hesitant when Xavi asked the question. He smiled to himself. The fresh recruits were always so keen to impress. They fail to realise that the harder they try the greater the embarrassment. Deron seemed as though he finally decided on an answer and was about to reply. However, Xavi cut him with a raised palm. He reached into his pocket and took out his cell phone. Flipping it open, he spoke with no attempt to hide his irritation at being interrupted. "I said I am not to be disturbed until I'm done with these two."


"I'm sorry, Sir. The boy, Dimitri... he's suspiciously loitering outside the room. Pardon the intrusion. I thought I should let you know," the guard captain's voice came over the phone.


Xavi nodded in appreciation. "I'll let it slide this time round. Let me handle him."


He strode toward the door and opened it. The boy had his back pressed against the wall, obviously trying hard to listen to the conversation going on in the room. Xavi raised an eyebrow. "What's all this sneaking about? You're late, young man. How can you show that you are sincere in becoming a Soldier if you can't be punctual?"

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"I said I am not to be disturbed until I'm done with these two." The words brought a quick quirk to Dimitri's eyebrows as he overheard only one side of a conversation. Must have been over some personal communications device. It ended quickly enough with "Let me handle him." It wasn't too hard to guess exactly who that particular "him" was going to be. Dimitri closed his eyes and sighed, getting himself ready for tongue lashing that he would expect from an irritated military commander. It was an unavoidable consequence of getting lost in thought as he got lost in the halls, but he had hoped that he'd be able to delay it until the formalities were over. After all, what was more annoying than an interruption?


"What's all this sneaking about? You're late, young man. How can you show that you are sincere in becoming a Soldier if you can't be punctual?" That was it? Just a pair of questions and a "young man" to boot? Normally, Dimitri would be glad he wasn't getting yelled at, but in this case he was somewhat disappointed.


"Sorry about that. I wanted to catch as much as I could without interrupting anything. I'm sure you were pretty ticked when that call came in to warn you of me being late, right?" He sighed, rubbing his forehead with his left hand. "As for punctuality, talk to my past employers. This isn't a habit of mine. I got caught by a killer case of insomnia last night as I was trying to sleep. You know the feeling right? You get a job, or rather a mission for you, and you feel restless all night? Doesn't help that this facility is easy for me to get lost in. Won't happen again, man..."


The use of the word "man" led Dimitri to a quiet groan and burying his face in his hand. "...Sir..."

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"...Won't happen again, man..."


Dimitri let out a groan and buried his face in his hand, as he corrected himself sheepishly. "...Sir..."


The commander shook his head in disappointment. His initial irritation and subsequent flash of anger at the sloppiness was beginning to fade away. He could tell that the boy was sincerely sorry for his blunder. No one wants to give a bad first impression. Besides, Xavi spent hours painstakingly going through the records of the recruits. He knew Dimitri was right about his punctuality. His former employers gave positive testimonials of his work ethics.


Xavi let out a soft but audible sigh. "Alright, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Fall in with the others. I want to keep this short."


Dimitri obliged, seemingly relieved that he was let off so easily. Xavi levelled his gaze at him. "I would like to hear your answer to my question."

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"Honor..." Dimitri held back a small grin as he fell in line with the 'back' row of soldiers. Because of the sudden change in the Commander's position, that back row had actually become the front. While other more professional soldiers were standing stiffly in attention, Dimitri was more lax in his stance. Feet apart, knees bent a little, and his thumbs were hooked into the edges of his front pockets. He was a civilian, and he would need work. There was no attempt from him to hide that from his commander. His lack of professional appearance couldn't be hid from the experienced.


"To the outside, we are potentially murderers, smugglers, dealers and fences. We fight, we kill, we steal, and all for money. To the outside, we have no honor. We are criminals to them. Our honor is within the organization. To each other. We support each other in all that we do, as befitting a team. We do not take from one another, nor do we deny one another, so long as we are Soldiers. Though the world may scoff at our existence, we may see each other and find honor in our dedication and loyalty."


Dimitri looked the commander straight in the eyes, with a confidence that seemed ill fit to his face. "I trust that that was the answer you sought from me. Sir..." But a moment later, Dimitri cleared his throat with a gentle laugh, that sheepish expression on his face as usual. He felt he'd gone overboard on the whole talk about honor, and that was pretty evident through his body language, which was almost screaming "discomfort".

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"We do not steal, recruit," was Xavi's immediate response. "That goes against our honour code and if I catch any of you doing that, you will be punished accordingly."


He paused to gather his thoughts as well as to regain his composure somewhat. He had a tendency to feel irked when others accuse his organization of theft. "We smuggle, we assassinate, we retrieve items from our client's enemies - if you think that is stealing, let me correct you. We do not steal for ourselves. We merely act as intermediates for people who wish to obtain things by underhand means."


As expected, looks of disbelieve mixed with amusement were prominently displayed on the faces of the recruits. Xavi made a mental note that he had a lot of work to do with this new batch before they could become a full-fledged Soldier.


"You will understand what I mean. Someday... Someday.... But for now, we have more important things to attend to. We need to make you three look presentable. I have a special appointment and I would like to bring the three of you along. The senior Soldiers are mostly out on missions and I'm short of representatives to be present with me."


Xavi scrutinised Dimitri, noting the apparent lack of military experience. This one's gonna need a lot of work, he told himself.


"First things first... Kanon,"


"Sir, yes sir!" The young man responded.


His enthusiasm amused Xavi. They tend to take things a little too seriously. They will grow out of it. They all do. "Show Dimitri the proper posture to be standing in attention."

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  • 2 weeks later...

(OOC: Sorry for the lateness ))


"EEEEHHH?!?!?! Huh? Wha? ME?!" was the first thing that came to mind when he asked him to show the correct posture. Why the hell did it have to be him? Oh well. Since he did not have much choice, he might as well though he was not sure himself.... "Stand tall and proud.." He said first as he did so, "With chin held high in respect for yourself and your superior" Once again, he made sure to do so... "With feet together and hands either clasped behind your back or in front of you." He said lastly as he placed his hands behind his back.


He HOPED that was the right way to do so, otherwise he made an idiot of himself for nothing. Oh now wouldnt THAT be picture perfect? There he would be, standing at attention military(?) style when he did not need to be. Well, at least he thought this was the correct way to do so, so maybe he could at least get some points for trying?

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Xavi watched as Kanon guided Dimitri in the proper posture and nodded. "Not too shabby, I'll say," he commended. He made his final address to the recruits, "I believe you have been shown to your respective rooms here on Cleostratus. You have been dismissed. Pack whatever you think you'll need for our trip to December City. Meet me at 0800h tomorrow at Bay 11 of the East Wing hangar."


With that, he swept out of the room, leaving the recruits to mingle and get to know each other. In time, they would become brother-in-arms.

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