- Charm is now known as Joslyn
- Oxford has changed the topic to: "Ticker-tape parade rescheduled due to readiness update - see inside for details"
<Oxford> The cheers of the gathered crowd - most newly-enlisted or still awaiting deployment - fill the small auxilliary audience chamber of the Imperial Palace's eastern wing. Joslyn stands toward the middle of a short line of Albaean officers of all branches, waiting to one side of the low platform while a minor functionary delivers his interminable opening speech.
- Joslyn is admittedly a bit nervous. She saw the promotion coming, but…some things just didn't sit right with her. Not just yet, at least. This isn't the time nor place to voice those, so she'll keep quiet.
<Oxford> The mood is festive, even raucous. With the speech drawn to a close, the functionary clears his voice and declares with regal pomp: "To present these Honours, in recognition of particular service to the Imperial Crown of Albaea, all bow before Her Imperial Majesty, Queen of Albaea and of Hibernia and Empress of United Albaean Empire, Ophelia the Third!"
- Joslyn takes the cue and bows with the others. say what you want about the war, but you do not piss off the woman writing your paychecks. especially in front of an audience this size
<Oxford> As one, the enlisted in the room go completely silent. The only noise is the muffled rustle of dress-uniform pants shifting as they drop to one knee almost in unison. The officers waiting by Joslyn do likewise, holding the pose until the Empress has taken her seat in the audience hall's throne.
<Joslyn> It's a strange feeling, being this close to the woman who your parents so desperately hoped would bring news of your death…but hopefully the pay raise from her promotion would buy enough time…and enough food.
<Oxford> She is, Joslyn realizes, only a bit older than Joslyn herself, yet for her youth she looks every bit the nation's sovereign. Her face, framed by a deluge of golden-blonde hair spilling just so from beneath her golden crown, is stern and matriarchal, betraying not a hint of either enjoyment or discomfort.
<Oxford> Without any other cue being needed, the functionary - the 'Chamberlain Militant', properly - straightens from his bow, thereby giving permission for the assembled audience to do likewise. He draws a thin planner from behind his back, and begins reading off the names of those receiving awards at this ceremony. "General Babcock, Imperial Albaean Army, on this day Awarded…"
<Oxford> With each name called, the man in question steps forward and goes to one knee before the throne before rising, stepping to the side, and being handed the appropriate medal or commendation by his corresponding branch chief. The Army goes first, and wins the majority of the citations. Then comes the Navy; mostly men involved in the brief, fierce battle to protect the evacuation force as it left the Occupied Zone.
- Joslyn doesn't necessarily mind the wait. She's not expecting huge praise or anything. just a little more coin would be all the reward she really needed.
<Oxford> Two spots in front of Joslyn, a pair of broad shoulders snap straighter as the Chamberlain reads off the next name on the list. "Colonel Anders Macacre, Imperial Albaean Air Force, on this day awarded Promotion in Recognition of Brave and Noteworthy Service, to the rank of Brigadier General, with all the Privileges and Responsibilities of that rank."
- Joslyn rolls her eyes as subtlely as she can. he doesn't deserve anything by her count. but it's sadly not her call to make.
<Oxford> The big man steps forward like all those before him, arms held straight at his sides. After bowing and receiving his award, he beams proudly back at the remaining line of airmen and -woman.
<Oxford> Another officer goes next - some Major Joslyn was never introduced to - and then it's her turn. "Lieutenant Joslyn Parnocus, Imperial Albaean Air Force, on this day awarded the Imperial Cross of Albaea in Recognition of Conspicuous Gallantry in the Line of Duty, and Promotion to the rank of Captain, with all the Privileges and Responsibilities of that rank."
- Joslyn holds her head high for the moment. It's something to be proud of…right?
<Oxford> The barest trace of surprise crosses Her Imperial Majesty's face. Or at least, for a split second, it looks that way. The look is gone so fast Joslyn wonders if she imagined it entirely.
<Joslyn> "…Thank you, Your Majesty." It's all she can really say. There's so much more she wants to say…but that's all she can put together. Okay, she got her thing, no problem if the thing ends right about now, right?
<Oxford> The Air Force Chief hands her the medal and new rank insignia, shaking her hand in the same prefunctory way he did with the previous officer. As she leaves the platform, Joslyn crosses in front of the newly-promoted Brigadier Macacre, who gives her a warm nod. "Congratulations," he says, his booming voice held to just loud enough to be heard over the crowd's applause.
- Joslyn nods back and waits for all the pomp and circumstance to be over. she really wants to make a phone call.
<Oxford> The last few air force commendations go quickly, but another lengthy speech - something about sacrifice and service to the Empire, apparently directed mostly at the young crowd of enlisted - holds the ceremony for almost another forty-five minutes. At last, the Empress rises to leave, provoking another bow en masse. After she leaves, the rest of the crowd breaks up rather quickly, of to their various duties, or else back to quar
<Oxford> ters to prepare for the accompanying party this evening.
<Joslyn> someone isn't planning on being at that party if she can possibly help it. There are more important things to tend to - family, for one. Where's the nearest phone?
<Oxford> With a quick inquiry to the staff, Joslyn is directed to a small cubby just big enough for a telephone and a small writing desk, tucked away behind an inconspicuous wooden panel. For all its decoration, the palace is still a functional seat of government, and has the amenities to match. Joslyn is granted privacy as she places her call, a servant waiting outside the room.
<Joslyn> The number is familiar enough. The chat likely isn't going to be so familial. She is, after all, not eligible to be submitted to life insurance yet.
<Joslyn> "…Hello Mother."
<Oxford> The voice on the other end sounds startled, but it quickly fades to weariness. "Is that you, dear?"
<Joslyn> "Sorry to ruin plans of a vacation this winter, but yes."
<Oxford> "What are you talking about? It's wonderful to hear your voice." There's barely any pause between the accusation and her denial, but it's there.
<Joslyn> "…do you want to know what I've been through? How close it's been to you and Pa getting your big payday? Forget about the little girl, she's not going to be worth it…to your own flesh and blood! Do you have any idea just how much I've had to do just to have hopes of staying alive?"
<Joslyn> "Let me put it in terms you can understand. The last day before hostilities ended. I had to face a girl that couldn't be any older than I was. She'd over a hundred confirmed kills to her name, and I was next on her list. If I hadn't had two friends with me, willing to give their lives for me…"
<Joslyn> "Well, I'd like to have seen you pull that off."
<Oxford> "Dear! How can you think us so heartless?" Mrs. Parnocus feigns ignorance very well, and outrage even better. "You're our oldest daughter, after all. After you explained what the military'd involved you in, wasn't it merely prudence for us to take out that life insurance policy on you? You know we won't have money for Jeremy's education at this rate, and if the military denied your involvement…"
<Joslyn> "…and in all of that, you never thought it a good idea to bloody ASK me about it?"
<Oxford> "Dear! You had enough on your mind, didn't you?" The line is quiet for a moment, but before Joslyn can speak her mother continues. "Just because your Father and I argue about money from time to time doesn't mean we don't care about you."
<Joslyn> "…now why don't I beleive that…" Joslyn is starting to tear up. it's pathetic, really. "I've b-been sending you every pence I've earned, ge-getting promotion after promotion, and th-this is the th-thanks I get?!?"
<Oxford> "Darling! As if we'd cared about that money! Why I was just speaking to your Father yesterday about how I wish we'd never sent you to St. Cheswhick's. 'Free education or not', I told him, 'it isn't worth letting the military put our dear Joslyn in harm's way!' That's what I told him, you can ask him yourself." Joslyn can hear the sound of her mother's nose being blown just a bit too close to the mouthpiece, not to be outdone. "A
<Oxford> ll that matter is that you're safe and coming home to us and your brother."
<Joslyn> "…J-jeremy. I want to talk to him. L-least he won't lie to his big sis."
<Oxford> "Oh, he's out playing right now. I'll get him, though, hold on." The line goes quiet as she steps away from the telephone, and long minutes pass before the voice of a winded boy asks, "Sis, you there?"
<Joslyn> "Hi…Jeremy…how've you been?"
<Joslyn> It's taking a lot to not just break down here…but for the time being she's kept it together.
<Oxford> "Good!" her brother says quickly, before pausing to take a few deep breaths. "We were playing Air Defense, and it was my turn to be a Bomber, so…" Rather than explain further, he draws another breath. "How're you, Jos?"
<Joslyn> "I…I'm still alive, right?" She giggles a little. "…Is everything okay at home?"
<Oxford> "Yeah!" he answers happily. "School's been cut back to half-days, so even before break started we barely had to go."
<Joslyn> "Oh, gives you more time to play bomber, doesn't it?" Another pause, before the question she really needed to ask. "…How's Mum and dad?"
<Oxford> A little of the enthusiasm drops from his voice, but less than she'd feared. "They're healthy," he saws quickly, and Joslyn can imagine him looking around the room quickly to make sure it's clear. "They've been fighting less, too," he continues more quietly. "Dad keeps saying he'll get a job at a factory in Gravnaugh if business doesn't pick up soon. Mum likes it when he says that."
- Joslyn wipes the beginnings of tears from her eyes. "Okay…I'll be home when I can. Keep safe until then, okay?"
<Oxford> "'Course!" he says, bright tone returning to his voice. "He-ey, big sis…?" he adds, growing more hesitant.
<Oxford> "Is it true you work at an air force base? I heard Mum and Dad talking…"
<Joslyn> "…Yeah, I have been. Why, you want a pair of aviator goggles?"
<Oxford> "Uh-huh!" he says quickly, excitement in his voice. "Or a bomber jacket like the airmen wear!"
<Joslyn> "I'll see if I can get one for you. Anything else?"
<Oxford> "Do you think I could join the Bomber Wing when I'm older? I wanna Reek Horrible Vengeance on the Novs, like the radio says!"
<Joslyn> "…Let's focus on joining the Dean's list at school first."
<Oxford> "Okay!" he says in agreement. "Um, should I put Mum back on or are you done for now?"
<Joslyn> "Ask her if she has anything she needs to say first." Joslyn's voice grows a little colder as she says this.
<Oxford> Joslyn can hear him shout something down the hall, and a pause as he listens to the reply. Her brother's voice comes back on the line. "Nope! She just says to have a safe trip home and she'll see you soon!"
<Joslyn> "Right. see you then." Joslyn hangs up and takes a hankerchief, rubbing the last of the tears from her eyes. That didn't go nearly as badly as it could have, she reckons. But now she's got other things she's stuck doing, barring someone wanting her for something else…
<Oxford> The servant waiting outside the phone-closet sees her out of the palace politely but insistently, taking her as far as the outer gates and offering to call for a cab from there. The hotel serving as quarters for the honored officers is only a short walk, though, and only ten minutes later she's returned to her hotel room in the luxurious Grand Marquis.
<Joslyn> She's still in her Dress Whites, although she wouldn't have minded if the skirt were a tiny bit longer…no matter, it seemed she was among others in the same predicament, teenagers or otherwise. She's here to save face, if nothing else. But ultimately she needs to know something from the new Brigadeer.
<Oxford> The party is already getting underway, though the sun is just starting to go down. The hotel's ballroom - the main one, at least - is hung with a dozen crystal chandeliers, with rich red carpet stretched down the stairs across the white marble floor. A brass band plays an upbeat waltz as officers and their wives turn gracefully on the dance floor. Set back behind a row of gleaming white columns, a row of refreshment tables boast
<Oxford> light snacks and punch.
<Joslyn> And she didn't bring Caitlin to dance with. Pity. Still, she'll wait and look for the newly-appointed general, hoping she can at least do some good this week…
<Oxford> The opulence is understandable. On Joslyn's way to the table, she passes no fewer than three major-generals and a slew of colonels and lieutenant-colonels, but it isn't until the dance carries Macacre over to her side of the room that she sights the Brigadier General. He dances with a woman noticably his junior, wearing a rosy purple dress the color of sunset.
<Joslyn> …Well. So much for standing out. She doesn't even have a dress that would come close to what this girl is wearing - nor does she have the body to wear it that well. But she'll clear her throat and hope the general sees her.
<Oxford> He makes eye contact, for an instant, as his wife and he turn past her. Macacre catches the question in her eyes, and nods in acknowledgement, but this particular waltz is only halfway through. He continues on, back around the room until the pair are lost among the other circling dresses and uniforms.
<Joslyn> Well, he acknowledged her. Given that it's mid-dance, it's as good as she'll get, moving to the refreshment table and waiting for the waltz to end. Maybe have a light snack or two.
<Oxford> On the table are a wide array of light finger-foods. Though a few of the dishes strike Joslyn as unfamiliar, she also finds a few of her favorites. She's midway through munching down a second when she hears a throat clear behind her. "Cpt. Parnocus!" Macacre says with a jolly tone, "a pleasure to see you here!"
<Joslyn> "Brigadeer Macacre. I wish this been better circumstances but…" Joslyn sighs. "Apologies. It's not this place."
<Joslyn> "With us out of the field, I'm sure there are some efforts people like myself can divert our efforts towards…"
<Oxford> The band is starting up another waltz. This one is a bit slower, with a stately parade-ground drumroll in the background. "Oh-ho, looking for a new position to go with your new rank? Naturally, naturally."
<Oxford> "That's how promotion works, after all. What did you have in mind, then?"
<Joslyn> "Well…it's the pendants, Sir. The novs may not be nearly as far behind as we thought. At least, that's how I felt its use in the field."
<Joslyn> "They aren't focused on the safety of the user in the slightest, and without that regard for safety, they can allow the user to amplify the already chaotic nature of their abilities to overwhelm our focus users."
<Oxford> He nods. "Your report made mention of that, yes. I haven't had a chance to…" He trails off, eyes focusing in on something behind Joslyn. "Oh!" he remarks suddenly, "is that serviche?" He takes a step and a half-turn toward the table, while motioning for her to continue.
<Joslyn> "Put quite simply, they have the brute force to outmatch us in even combat, and enough girls willing to serve that when their first line does burn out from overuse of their magic, there's more ready and waiting to finish the job. If we hope to survive…we'll need to bring another level to the focus pendants. Quickly."
<Oxford> "Yes, well," Macacre says, in between mouthfuls, "that would be the hope. But that's more of a matter for R&D, isn't it? Chevre?" It takes her a moment to realise she's being offered a cracker with some sort of cheese.
<Joslyn> "No thank you. And yes, I feel my talents, especially my ability to manipulate metal, would be useful there."
<Oxford> "Oh, so you'd like to be transferred? Why, you only needed to ask!" The declined cracker disappears in a single bite. "The director there - civilian leadership, see? - man name of Iakobsen, good friend. He may be…" Macacre scans the room quickly, but comes up short. "Well, if I see him tonight, I'll put in a word."
<Joslyn> "One other thing…permission to speak freely, Brigadeer?"
<Oxford> "Are you sure that's what you'd like, though, Parnocus? Dreadfully dull work, I imagine. Research is no fast-track to the top, and right now you're one of the Programme's rising stars." He raises an eyebrow at the question. "We're all off-duty here, Captain. No need to stand on ceremony; speak your mind."
<Joslyn> "If I'm the one spearheading a project that lets us get the upper hand on the nov's focus users, without putting my classmates' health at risk…I feel that the track will steer my way. As for my other matter…"
<Joslyn> "…Frankly, I'm terribly surprised to see you here getting a promotion. Given the bloody mess your 'Big Wing' caused, I half expected you to be in the brig."
<Joslyn> "Us magicians need to be in a small group, so we can all know exactly where everyone is at all times. Two pairs go up, get the drop on a pack of novs, slip back while two more pairs head in to get another round. The lives of teenage girls is not worth trying out a strategy that has never worked in the history of warfare."
<Oxford> Macacre laughs loudly, but then leans forward to speak more softly. To an observer, he would perhaps appear to be sharing a private joke. "Of course, all that is obvious now. No, don't complain that it should've been obvious before; that isn't how high-level mission planning works." He leans against a pillar a bit and rubs his bald head ruefully. "Historically speaking, thought, you're dead wrong. Local force superiority wins al
<Oxford> most every time, from the ancients right up to the present. It's individual unit initiative that's a new concept, and one we're still trying to get the right balance of up there."
<Oxford> "But you're right, Big Wing was a failed strategy, no questioning it. If things had gone differently, I'd be as likely to be in a Novgo brig as in one of ours."
<Joslyn> "You have to remember that ultimately we're on the same side, Brigadeer. You've got about fifty…well, thirty-five now…but that many eager focus users who are ready to fight tomorrow if the order comes. Let us figure out what works best - we're the ones experiencing it."
<Oxford> He nods thoughtfully. "As officers, we'll always be judged by our records, and sometimes the past is misleading. Something unexpected happened out there, and I was able to react accordingly. Call it a back-up plan; I didn't expect to need it, but in retrospect the evacuation probably looked a lot more intentional than it was."
<Oxford> "We're still working on the best way to deploy assets with your set of capabilities, Parnocus, but don't think we're incapable of learning from our mistakes."
<Joslyn> "I'll trust that more when I start seeing you all learning from them. Good day, Brigadeer."
<Joslyn> Joslyn Parnocus knows that the war is far from over. That means she can't afford to rest on her laurels - if she wants to be on the winning side of history, she'll have to ensure that the next group of wannabe heroines have the best chance possible of surviving their battles.
- Joslyn looks out at the sunset-blazen horizon, with everything she's been though flowing through her mind. She'll have to protect people with her knowledge, to help them protect themselves.
<Joslyn> "…This one's for you, Criss-Cross." Joslyn smiles, before returning to the gala in earnest.
- Joslyn is now known as Charm
- Charm (ten.tsacmoc.ni.1dsh.803974AB-xus|mrahC#ten.tsacmoc.ni.1dsh.803974AB-xus|mrahC) has left #WorldWarBurst