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Dance Dance Rebellion
By Bulldog (inspiration from Lock)
Contributions by: Jalb (via video), Gremlin

ISD Conviction Commodore's Stateroom

Barand sat in his office silently contemplating the various threats, visible and invisible, currently on the board arrayed against him. On the one end was the New Republic, specifically Renegade Wing who had fought him to a draw twice and stymied his other plans multiple times. He'd held a nominally strong grip on the reins in the beginning as he rode the wave of patriotic fervor, but it didn't take a genius to uncover the fact that if you kept losing or ending in a draw that you'd start to lose the undying support of your subordinates.

The report he'd just read was wildly inconclusive. It wasn't Frell's fault, as she'd only just started her internal investigation and had cast a wide net. Future reports would hone in on the kernels of truth, and then he'd have the list of officers harboring insubordinate ideals. Time, though, was not necessarily on his side. His agents were hearing more and more vague rumors, and the number of reports was becoming alarmingly more common in recent days while he recovered from his recent injuries at the hands of those Renegade Wing menaces on Skoth.

He entered the security cam records on his personal terminal and browsed through a couple of suspected future mutineers, being sure to keep his tabs sufficiently random to mask his targets from those that may be counter-snooping his machines to stay under his radar. As he did another randomized pass through the system of Captain Rastagar's Acclamator Rising Star, something peculiar caught his eye.

Barand leaned in close to examine the footage, and he let out a low, involuntary chuckle. A stormtrooper was in the barracks dancing in front of a screen. Their normal body, arm, and leg armor was still equipped, but instead of the standard stormtrooper bucket helmet, the trooper was wearing a slick VR headset.

Barand continued to watch, utterly perplexed at what he was seeing until some of the trooper's bunkmates arrived and started cheering the dancer on. Only then did Barand understand what he was seeing, at least he thought so. He thumbed the transmit button on his commlink.

"Yes, Commodore?" his secretary answered pleasantly.

"I need to get in touch with Captain Rastagar. Please set up a call immediately."

***************************************

CRS Vigilant SSD

Bulldog was at the usual spot in the bar drinking absentmindedly. There had been some sort of bug going around the crew lately, and it reflected in the sparse population in the lounge. Iggy seemed to be feeling the stress as his profits plummeted as fewer patrons were healthy enough to swing by for a drink or three.

"I might as well close up shop at this rate," Iggy said aloud.

"You don't pay your droid servers anything. What overhead could you possibly have to pay that you can't afford to cover with current revenue levels?" Bulldog asked as he laughed.

"You are... more articulate than expected considering how much bourbon you've been served tonight, Captain."

Bulldog nodded and winked. "Just doing my part to keep you flush."

"You don't pay me at all for your drinks, Captain," Iggy replied quietly. One of his photoreceptors blinked on and off in an approximation of a wink.

Bulldog shrugged smugly. "What can I say, the best part of my contract with the Rebellion was a last minute addition."

"Surely it was accepted due to the officer's low estimation of your skills and luck to survive long enough to make it a bad deal on his part."

Bulldog smiled and winked back. "The longshots pay out the best sometimes," he said, then slammed the last finger of bourbon into his gullet. "Load me up with another double of my special stash if you will."

Iggy lowered himself to reach a special bottle of 12 year old rare bourbon. He rose again slowly, revealing the special bottle furtively so only Bulldog could see it. His ocular receptors brightened and dimmed repeatedly in an approximation of an eyebrow raise.

Bulldog's mouth watered at the sight of the most beautiful alcohol he'd ever tasted. The anticipation was almost the best part of the rare and pricey booze. Almost. Generally he started his drinking with higher quality alcohol and slowly stepped his way down in quality as he continued to pursue oblivion and noticed the taste less. Today, though, he was feeling like adding a treat in the middle of his usual routine.

Iggy seemed to notice the anticipatory slavering Bulldog was displaying, as per his namesake. If a droid could be petty, Iggy would be the poster-droid for such a situation. He moved slower than Bulldog had ever seen him move before as he reached for a fresh glass, removed the cork, sloshed the bottle around slightly, and finally started a slow but precise pour only a droid could pull off without measuring implements.

A sharp whistle cut through the air, jarring Bulldog out of the moment. He looked over his shoulder while he rubbed smarting his ears.

"EVERYBODY OUT!" A gruff MP shouted, his mixed-species squad filling in ranks behind him. They all wore a mask or some type of rebreather that covered their mouths and noses. "Ship's going on quarantine! If you are feeling ill in ANY way, head directly to medical. Otherwise, go back to your quarters until given the all clear or if you are directly ordered out by a superior officer!"

Bulldog turned back around, but Iggy was still clutching the glass he'd just filled with premium bourbon. He reached for it, but Iggy rotated his body to pull it out of reach. "I'll take that to go, Igs," he said pleadingly.

"Negative, Captain. Alcohol is not allowed to leave the confines of this establishment."

"Then let me drink it now you blasted droid!"

Iggy's ocular lights dimmed. "And let you waste such a premium bourbon with a chug? I think not, Captain," he said as he started pouring it back into the bottle carefully.

"NO!" Bulldog snapped angrily, reaching for the bottle. At that instant, three pairs of hands roughly grabbed different parts of his body and pulled him away from the bar, and the mischievous bar droid.

***************************************

ISD Conviction Commodore's Stateroom

"Begging the Commodore's pardon?"

Barand smiled politely. "Speak."

"Why are we doing a virtual dancing competition?" It was one of the Captains that was recently displaced from his old Imperial Class Star Destroyer and moved to one of the many Acclamator-Class Assault ships he'd received in return. The Captain was angry, and possibly rightfully so at the seeming demotion, but he was smart enough to control his emotions publicly. "Surely there is a better use for our attention during trying times as these."

Barand felt for the man. He truly did. He had been pushed into a lesser posting through no fault of his own due to a redeployment of intelligence assets from above. At the time, he'd been seething over it. However, due to a happy timeline of events, it ended up moving him into the position he'd been in at the Battle of Endor, and that had ended up with him in command of his own Star Destroyer, and then set him on the path to the leadership position he straddled precariously today.

He sighed and smiled politely. "Truth be told, I was informed about some interesting network traffic coming from Captain Rastagar's Rising Star, and asked him to investigate the cause in case there happened to be an intelligence leak that needed to be addressed. The Captain in turn found the cause: a Stormtrooper playing this game during his downtime. While I was at first worried about the network traffic due to the server-to-peer communication for this game, Captain Rastagar confirmed that the trooper was smart enough to be very careful with his identity. If anybody were attempting to track the Rising Star, they would need to know that this trooper's identity and their posting.

"What's more, Captain Rastagar sent over that trooper's activity log on the game, and the performance logs of that trooper's ship duties at my request. There is a very positive correlation between the times after the trooper plays the game and their performance marks on the range and during other duties after gaming sessions."

"This... still seems silly," another captain replied.

"Yes, I realize that this seems like a silly and pointless distraction, ladies and gentlemen," Tol Barand purred dangerously. "But I assure you, this is just the thing our senior command staff need to reboot our brains." The rest of the captains and executives included in the conference were silent, clearly not on the same page that he was on regarding this mandatory activity. "Questions or concerns not related to feeling silly while participating?"

Jaevion spoke up, being the only other executive in Barand's stateroom. "What... what do we get if we win?" Echoes of agreements with the question filtered in afterward.

Barand laughed. "Well I'm certainly NOT going to offer a command incentive for the winner, as that would be extremely silly to award such a thing based on the dancing skills of the officer," he said with more healthy chuckling, happily noting that many polite chuckles echoed back at him. "I will say that perhaps there will be a monetary or vacation incentive, however. I have honestly not really decided yet. Rest assured, whatever I decide for the incentive will be worth the effort."

Barand shifted in his seat, and then made a show of standing up in front of all involved. He began to move around as effortlessly as he could appear to move in an attempt to allay any suspicions that he was still laid up in his hoverchair. It also showed his subordinates that he recovered quickly, much faster than most men that had suffered the injuries he had recently. Secretly, he wanted this competition to show his detractors that he could and would surprise them if they attempted to move on him when they thought he was weak.

"We shall convene on the same server in two hours time. I suggest, to hide your identity from any of the public players, you use an ‘avatar' of some sort. I have randomized your usernames to hide any possible identities as well, but you will all have access to that information to see who is who. This will be a winner take all event, with no consolation prizes handed out. If a random player from the public beats us, then nobody wins. Dismissed."

The captains and executives winked out of existence quickly. Jaevion smiled as he rose. "This is an interesting approach to a team building exercise. I look forward to seeing who will win. My credits are on Commander Feing. That man moves much better than many people know."

Barand smiled and nodded in agreement. "While I know what the Commander is capable of, I think I might shock some people with my moves."

Jaevion barked out a polite laugh. "I'll certainly look forward to it, Commodore," he said as he left the office at a leisurely pace.

After the door closed, Barand keyed his communicator.

"Frell."

"Lieutenant, I need your presence in my stateroom immediately."

"On my way."

While he waited, Barand did a leisurely stroll around his room with his personal scrambler to locate and disable the recent batch of spy devices that had almost certainly been installed in his office. What came next would need to remain private. He found four devices sprinkled throughout the room. Once they were disabled, he pulled them from their locations and set them on his desk as he sat down. A knock at the door drew his attention away from the devices. "Enter."

Lieutenant Oshi Frell walked into the stateroom and saluted him crisply on the other side of his desk.

Barand returned the salute, and then put a finger to his lips and pointed at the devices with his other hand. Oshi's eyes widened at the implication that her superior was being spied upon by officers on his own ship. He handed her his scrambler and motioned for her to do a lap around with it. He did this because he'd done it repeatedly in the past, and didn't want to allow the patterns of his previous discoveries to blind him from other possible locations.

Oshi swept the room carefully while Barand sat back down to rest his aching knee. She noticed the device indicator pointing in the direction of an innocuous looking decorative plant near a sitting table at the center of the room and frowned. The thick, bulbous leaves were the perfect hiding location for such a device. After a few probing fingers, she found the device setting off the sweeping device. Another deft motion later and she had it in the palm of her hand. She rolled it around in her palm until she found the power switch, and thumbed it off. "According to this device, we're clear, Commodore."

Barand smiled. "Thank you, Lieutenant. The discovery of these four devices had blinded me to that one."

"Is this a common occurrence?" Frell asked with a look of horror.

"I've had suspicions recently, so I procured this device to do a sweep. This is the first time," Barand lied smoothly. He'd been finding these devices almost the moment he took command after Endor.

"This is troubling. Who would be so bold as to spy on you on your own ship?"

"Well, that is up to you to discover in time," he replied coyly. "Now, though, I have another task for you."

Frell resumed proper posture and set her jaw. "Of course, Commodore. What would you have me do?"

"The captains and executive officers of the entire force will be participating in a fun team building exercise. I want you in here with me observing them. With the information you've gathered already and my baseline assessments of the men and women, I want you to identify if any of them are traitors or harboring traitorous thoughts based on their performances. It will be a virtual dance competition," he said with a grin.

Oshi frowned with uncertainty. "Ok. How exactly will I tell if they are traitors or if they just don't care about the competition?"

"I expect you to identify if anybody is acting out of character, Lieutenant. Do we have a slacker that suddenly seems to care about doing well? Is there somebody that usually has exemplary marks that decides to throw the competition? Look for actions against established patterns, and we will be able to narrow our searches in the future."

Oshi nodded, but she still wasn't exactly confident. "I'll do my best, Commodore. Shall I do this from my office?"

Barand shook his head. "No, I'll have you remain in here."

********************************************

CRS Vigilant Buccaneer XO Single Quarters

Bulldog was bored. He'd been in his room for 2 hours. To break the boredom, he'd attempted to have Weight come by, but was informed that the droid pool was on lockdown as well. He opened a new bottle of bourbon and took to playing a solo game of Power Hour, with small sips every minute.

His communicator chirped 30 minutes and half a bottle of bourbon later.

"Clark."

"Are you in?" Gremlin's voice asked.

"In what?"

Gremlin's exasperated sigh was audible. "Have you not checked your messages, Bulldog?"

"No."

"I'm trying to organize a virtual dance off to pass the time. Your participation and in turn influence with getting some of the Buccaneer pilots would be appreciated."

Bulldog scratched his head, noting that he'd lost feeling in his scalp due to how much he'd drank during power hour. "Virtual... how?"

Gremlin's excitement picked up at the opening in the conversation. It was clear she'd been expecting to be rebuffed, so she spoke quickly. "It's a new game. You create an avatar and username and you play with other people over the holonet!"

"That seems... dangerous for OpSec?"

"Aye," she replied. "We're making it a standing order to not use any personal identifiers in your username."

"And the brass is onboard with this?"

Gremlin snorted. "You think I wouldn't have talked to Krayt and Jalb first? They think it's a fine idea and might even participate! If you decide to join, send me your username so I can distribute a list to the participants so we can track who's who! I'll share the server link closer to the time of the competition that we'll utilize to compete!"

"Will it be private?"

"Nah, it'll be fun to mix it up with some randoms, donya think?"

"I guess."

"Good, I'll mark yeh down! Can't wait to see those moves! Gremlin out!"

Bulldog set his commlink down and sighed heavily. "Great. I'm not drunk enough for this," he said as he eyed his liquor cabinet. "Best get started..."

********************************************************

Acclamator Rising Star Captain's Stateroom

Captain Rastagar felt silly, but he was the first of Barand's officers selected to dance against a randomly selected opponent. Apparently the lobby they had joined was not private, nor was it filled to capacity with the numerous Imperial officers of the task force. As such, some random players were also in the lobby, and he was the one that got to draw first blood, so to speak.

He felt the eyes of his peers staring at him virtually, and the feeling of being examined made him extremely shy. As the screen counted down, he saw the virtual spinner point at his opponent's avatar, which appeared to him as a red protocol droid. Rastagar blew out a sigh of relief at not having to be the first being to go in the entire room, and relaxed himself slightly as he thought about which dance moves he would utilize when it was his turn.

The red protocol droid immediately put its hands up as if in surrender, then started a herky-jerky motion by bending and rotating at the waist, coupled with one arm staying up and the other bending down as if the person was indeed the robot their avatar belied. They waved mechanically with their still bent-upward arm, rotated their neck back and forth, and then slowly lowered their arm so both were now sticking out, but bent downwards at the elbow. As the latest arm bent down, the dancer slowly allowed it to wave right and left, as if the elbow joint of the droid they were impersonating was loose.

"This person is really committing to doing the robot," Rastagar said with a laugh as he watched the scene unfold. The retro dance move brought him back to his childhood when he'd first seen it done by a human performer on the streets of Cerberon.

The red protocol droid had shifted to moving its arms down to its sides with the forearms and hands pointed forward. It started slowly moving them in alternating fashion back and forth as they continued to bend and rotate in different directions at their waist.

Rastagar laughed even more, but then the countdown timer reached zero and the screen showed his Twi'lek avatar on the screen. His nerves returned, and then he felt a cold sweat replace his hot embarrassment as he realized the silly vintage robot dance he'd just watched his opponent do had completely mesmerized him to the point that he completely forgot what he was going to do...

****************************************************

CRS Vigilant Corsair Squadron Officer Commanding Office

Syntax stood in his officer's cabin examining the Twi'lek avatar of his opponent as they brought their hand up to their open mouth as they were frozen with nerves or some other sensation organics were constantly overcome with.

Truth be told, he hadn't expected to make it out of the first round, but apparently he would be moving on because his opponent couldn't muster up any dance moves within their allotted minute of dance time. As the countdown timer reached zero, his opponent still hadn't managed to do much more than rotate their hips slightly as they couldn't recover their senses.

"YOU WIN!"

The overly hammy game announcer's voice sounded so familiar to Syntax that he spent the next several cycles running through his databanks to find the source of the voice. With his remaining time, he decided he would reference various media sources to find more dance moves he could utilize in the coming rounds.

******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Shared Corsair Bunk

Bone looked on at Frosty as he mentally prepared to participate in the wing's shenanigans. The two were trapped in their tiny shared bunk due to the sudden quarantine, so it would be nigh impossible for either of them to do any one thing privately for the duration of the biohazard lockdown. While he'd decided not to participate, he felt that it would be fun to observe the organized event and keep track of who was who based on the list of usernames Gremlin had disseminated to the participants' datapads.

On the screen an... unsettling yet arousing avatar greeted them.

"That's... strange," Frosty said, his mouth slightly agape.

Bone likewise was dumbfounded by the overtly sexualized Gamorrean in a very skimpy rainbow-metallic bikini and tight, orange pants on the screen staring back at them. The game's rendering even devoted processing power to realistic drool physics, and was putting them to use.

"What am I looking at here?" Frosty asked, hoping he was concussed and seeing things as opposed to rationalizing the idea that somebody specifically went out to make up a hulking, sexy green pig. "Is this real life?"

"Yeah," Bone replied, still unsure how to process the sight himself, and he'd seen quite a bit during his colorful life in the margins of society before he'd been sentenced to a life on the straight and narrow.

The buxom Gamorrean struck a pose: legs apart, one hand pointing to the ceiling, the other resting on her trim (for a Gamorrean) waist. She wiggled her hips from side to side, sharp movements in time with the beat while her upraised hand alternated between pointing to the ceiling and her belly-button, her smooth midriff exposed by her asymmetric rainbow bra-top and bright orange hot-pants. She bopped downwards into a deep squat, shoulders now moving in counterpoint to her hips, accentuating the curve of her body as she tossed her head from side to side, long purple hair flying. Shifting her weight, the Gamorrean turned sideways on to the viewscreen and placed her hands on her knees, backside jiggling in a move that was illegal in half a dozen systems.

Frosty snorted out a disbelieving laugh.

Bone snapped out of the hypnotic state he'd been lulled into by Frosty's outburst. He grabbed Frosty's datapad to look at the username and compare it to the list Gremlin had provided, if only to avoid looking back at the gyrating, sexually confusing pig.

Back on the screen, the voluptuous Gamorrean drew herself up to her full height. She finished with a quick spin, arms out, head tilted to let her hair whip through the air, before freezing in the pose where she'd started: one hand up, head high, a triumphant smile on her lips.

She held the shape for a couple of seconds before taking a step backwards, grinning with delight, barely breathing hard.

Frosty stood there, dumbfounded.

Bone continued to scan the list of names to match the gamer tag to a Renegade pilot. Complicating matters was the fact that the room was full of random gamers as well as the Renegades, so there was a chance this user wasn't known to them. The timer chimed, drawing his eyes back to the screen where Frosty's two-headed cat/dog chimaera avatar stood, unmoving despite his time starting. "Dude?"

Frosty snapped out of his stupor, but was clearly shaken by what he'd seen. He panicked, falling back on the only dance move he could do in his sleep; a move from his childhood. He started shuffling his feet while remaining in place, sometimes kicking a leg out here and there in a rhythmic pattern. His hands remained at his side throughout the whole thing to continue to draw the attention to the paces he was pushing his legs through. Time quickly ran out before he'd even had a chance to transition into anything more flashy.

"You really crapped the bunk," Bone said in a good-natured jibe.

Yeah yeah," Frosty said as he waved the comment away without disputing it, knowing it was true. "I didn't see you join in. What's the matter? Chicken?"

Bone laughed. "No, but after seeing the turd you just laid out there for all to see, I think I made the better decision."

"Whatever. Who was my opponent?"

A devilish grin crossed Bone's face. "You really don't want to know."

Frosty looked at him expectantly, but quickly a grim realization crossed his face. "Oh. Oh no," he moaned as he buried his head into his hands.

"Gremlin's never gonna let this one go," Bone said as he broke into another fit of laughter.

"Zip it! Maybe she won't realize it was even me..."

At that moment, Frosty's datapad chirped. Without thinking, Bone checked the message, and his laughing fit broke into an even more raucous bellowing. He doubled over in pain as he laughed harder and harder, falling off of his bunk onto the cold deck as he lost control of himself.

"That was her, wasn't it?"

Bone couldn't stop laughing long enough to catch his breath to reply, so he nodded with tears streaming down his cheeks.

"Damn it!"

******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Shared Corsair Bunk

Knight was laughing raucously after having watched Gremlin and Frosty face off. He'd been laughing so much that he hadn't been able to see the winner on the screen through the tears in his one organic eye. Thankfully his cybernetic replacement from Endor was able to keep things relatively clear for him, though it hadn't been facing the screen as he was bent over laughing.

A chirp from the game drew the screen back into focus for him, and he nearly fell off of his bunk when he saw that he was the next one up. His TIE pilot avatar rolled its neck on the screen while his opponent was in an orange rebel pilot flight suit with a cartoonishly oversized afro. "Who is that? Seems pretty unsafe for them to use a rebel pilot avatar..."

The game chose Knight's opponent to go first, giving him time to rifle through the username list to see who he was going against and who needed to be admonished for being a little too on the nose with their avatar identity.

After double checking the list and the name on the screen, he found it wasn't actually one of the Renegades at all, which drew another laugh from him. "Guess it's a good sign politically-speaking that a rando is using one of us for an avatar, though that hair is definitely not regulation."

The Rebel pilot started staggering around stiffly with outstretched arms. Knight immediately recognized the dance as an older spooky-themed dance that went with an equally corny song. Still, the player doing the dance decided to press on despite their complete lack of rhythm. They mimed stirring a giant cauldron, then made a show of bringing a hand up to their eyes as if they were looking off into the distance.

Knight tuned out the rest of the dance, knowing that they'd soon start alternating raising their hands and then a bunch of other soulless and dated dance moves. He started mentally preparing for his own routine, deciding to go a little retro and very holofilm with his choice based on the music currently playing for his opponent. The timer on his opponent ticked down the last 10 seconds while the afro'd rebel pilot stumbled through the remainder of the ancient dance they'd chosen.

Knight rose to his full height and rolled his neck and shoulders in anticipation. The timer counted down and then his TIE pilot avatar stood in the middle of the screen. He started with his feet shoulder length apart and slowly swayed from side to side with his hands in his pockets while nodding his head subtly.

He started moving as if he was ice skating, changing the orientation of his body each time he took an imaginary side-to-side stride. After a few strides, he stopped with his back facing the camera and subtly shimmied his body while raising his arms slowly with jazz fingers. Once his arms were above his head, he did a smooth step-through to turn 180 degrees to face the game screen.

Briefly checking the time, Knight realized that he'd over-estimated the speed with which he'd be able to execute the dance sequence and that he'd have to speed things up slightly. He reached one arm to the side and mimed pulling himself in that direction. He did it again in the same direction, then quickly reversed it with the opposite arm twice to end up where he'd started. Once back in his starting spot, he reached both hands up into the same direction and mimed pulling something down repeatedly until he brought his arms to his waist and finished the sequence with a vigorous crotch thrust.

He smirked as he realized the crotch thrust had come naturally. He hadn't meant to do it for fear his superiors might be watching, but having done it felt freeing. He hugged his hips while swaying, then transitioned into a funky backpedal to sideways shuffle with one hand up. He kept the arm raised and strutted backwards with exaggerated steps that crossed over each other.

He bumped into the far wall slightly, and it jarred him out of his dance slightly as he'd realized he completely lost himself in the dance and forgotten where he was. Knight recovered quickly, however, and jumped his feet over a shoulder-length apart and squatted down. He put one hand down between his legs and swam it up to above his head slowly, as if it was a fish on Mon Cala slowly rising to the surface.

Knight blushed as he suddenly realized he'd been crotch-thrusting throughout the entire swimming motion. He stood up and slapped the swimming hand away with his other hand. The hand that had been swimming went up and to his right, and the hand he'd used to slap the other went down and to his left. He moon-walked to the side while shrugging his shoulders with the beat. As he reached the edge of his dancing area, he pointed with one hand and dragged it across the room, as if calling out every viewer and avatar in the gaming lobby.

Knight smirked and waved his arms slowly as if he were in water and his arms had no bones in them, appearing to bend in places where no joint existed. After waving from one side of his body to the other, he fake-punched himself in the chin with one arm and allowed his body to turn that direction, then did it again with the other arm to turn himself back. He shrugged his shoulders and mimed a monster snapping massive jaws around prey with both arms spread out as the jaws, and quickly repositioned his head to be inside of where he'd just mimed something being eaten and put both hands in front of his face with very active jazz fingers.

The countdown was nearing 10 seconds, so Knight quickly edited out a large portion of the transition moves and rolled forward, ending up on his backside on the floor facing the camera and pointing directly toward it. He spun and dragged one leg across the floor as he smoothly regained his feet with his back facing the camera. He spun around and started kicking his legs to the side and reaching down with the arm on the same side of the leg he kicked out, and then alternated with the other side.

He was about to jump up into the air, but the countdown buzzer sounded, letting Knight know that his time was up. After a few moments, the votes flooded into the system from all in attendance that he'd defeated his opponent resoundingly. He sat back on his bunk and took in some deep breaths, a sheen of sweat running down his forehead.

"All too easy."

*******************************************************

ISD Conviction Commodore's Stateroom

"Lieutenant Frell, what do you think about Captain Jaevion's decision to do an old and dated dance maneuver in this exercise?"

Oshi was trying but failing to stifle a giggle at the very retro dance the captain of the Conviction had busted out during his turn. It was old enough that she couldn't remember seeing it anywhere other than kids cartoons centered around the spooky holiday season. With supreme effort, she composed herself. "I am unsure why he chose to do the Monster Mash, Commodore."

"Best guess?"

"He... doesn't strike me as a very creative man in the few times I've interacted with him while not on the bridge of the ship in professional operations." She held her breath, hoping she hadn't overstepped her bounds by besmirching the captain of the ship and her direct superior.

Barand nodded once, deep in thought. "I agree with your assessment. He is an interesting paradox of a being: creative and daring in ship combat and maneuvering, but very reserved and plain when not on duty."

Oshi breathed easier knowing that she hadn't created a faux pas by her assessment. On the screen, some type of crashball athlete in full uniform was about to square off with some sort of cat-like humanoid in tribal attire. "Who do we have here?"

Barand looked at the usernames and the list of usernames from his subordinate participants. "The athlete is Lieutenant Hawley, XO on the Rising Star, and the primitive beast is a random player. Captain Rastagar was completely frozen during his turn against the random player that affected the red protocol droid avatar, so let's hope Hawley has more composure."

The beat faded in, and the athletic avatar immediately spun around and started vibrating her hindquarters rapidly toward the camera. The vibrations began to build in size until the avatar was twerking violently from side to side. After a few seconds, Hawley's avatar fell toward the ground in a squat and slammed her butt against the floor. She used the momentum of the slam to pop back to standing, and threw it back toward the camera.

Barand's eyes widened as he watched the display of vulgar dancing from one of his subordinates. "This is... an interesting choice to display in front of your peers."

Frell snickered. "True, but one could say it's a sign of bravery and strong will to do something like this despite knowing that you are being watched by superiors and other peers. Very bold."

"I agree with your assessment. Perhaps Lieutenant Hawley is ready for a promotion. We have a new fast attack ship in need of a captain and crew coming back from a repair depot. We could use somebody with such a daring personality at the helm," Barand said as he typed a few notes into his datapad. By the time he looked up, Hawley's turn was over. He pulled up his list of participants that still had to go from his group and nearly missed one of the most interesting dance medleys he'd ever seen. Only the surprised gasp and laugh from Frell drew his attention back to the screen.

The tribal cat humanoid avatar was rifling through a series of dance moves made popular throughout the years, but immortalized in a sophomoric holofilm where one character was forced into a dance-off in a same-sex cantina they had unknowingly stumbled into. It was a film from a different time when such subject matter was played for comedy.

The avatar started trotting to the side with alternating finger guns at the hip up and down as if drumming them on their hip. Once the cat reached the front of the camera, they backpedaled rapidly and transitioned into hopping back and forth while using one hand to fan their genital area while holding the other hand over their head. After a few cycles of this, they jumped to a stop with their hands out to the side as if gracefully landing from a fall.

The tribal warrior started seductively running a hand down it's chest to its crotch a few times, then mimed humping the air in front with two thrusts. Then he resumed doing the trotting finger guns as he approached the camera up close, culminating with a 360 spin and a rude gesture aimed at the audience.

He took a large hop away from the camera and landed with feet spread wide apart. His body started gyrating with the beat from side to side while he ran a hand with two fingers spread into a V across his face, then alternated with the other hand in the opposite direction. He then lunged forward and skidded across the floor on his knees, ending with one knee on the ground and one foot bent outward, humping the air again.

He must have realized he was humping the air too often, so he quickly rose to his feet with his hands on his waist while he moved his knees closer toward each other and then away from each other with planted feet, doing this a few times while he mapped out his next maneuver. While the facial recognition software wasn't very reliable, a look of confusion was evident on the cat's face. The avatar lunged forward into an exaggerated stomping motion that brought him to within a meter of the camera, filling the screen with his face momentarily.

He hopped back to both feet and hunched forward as he flexed his muscles in celebration, then turned his back to walk away while waving a dismissive hand. He then reversed course and started walking in a tight circle while pumping one arm at his side. He did a sloppy frontal jump kick, waved his hands in some martial art vaguely reminiscent of Teras Kasi, then did a much cleaner sidekick, bringing his foot back down and motioning for the imaginary opponent to get lost with a thumb pointed over his shoulder.

He did a weak frontal open-footed round house, then brought one hand up to his ear as if to say he couldn't hear something, and pointed across the room at various spots as he gyrated with the beat. He did a few quick 360 hops in quick succession, then mimed pulling out his commlink, pulling up one leg in front of him while resting an elbow on his knee and putting his other hand on it as if resting and having a conversation.

To finish the routine out as the time was expiring, the cat was clearly out of ideas and did a similar maneuver to the earlier pointing in different directions like a sprinkler, except this time they were grabbing at empty air. He did one more quick 360 hop, and then hunched forward with his arms bent outward, as if he were a robot that had just powered down.

The voting was quick and just as lopsided as the last time one of the Rising Star officers had faced off against a random opponent, and the result had been the same this time. The Man-Cat avatar was the victor, and the brave but unfortunate Lt. Hawley was an unfortunate loser.

"Well, I guess it's a good thing we don't have many good dancers in the force," Barand murmured aloud.

"Why's that?" Frell asked, looking up from her datapad.

"Because it would mean we're wasting time working on dance skills rather than working hard to win the war."

*******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Buccaneer XO's Single Quarters

Bulldog collapsed into his bunk, his chest heaving. He had never danced in that manner before, nor would he have done so publicly even if he were so inclined. The level of sheer embarrassment of all eyes being focused on him while he made an ass of himself in person was too mortifying a thought to bear.

While it was true he wasn't completely anonymous now, as Gremlin had provided a list of all of the Renegade Wing personnel that were participating, this wasn't quite the same as doing it while in the same room as these people. Besides, he could always have plausible deniability and say he paid some lowly ensign to come in and dance for him if anybody were to poke fun at him... after he busted their nose up first, of course.

"I'm not drunk enough for this," he cursed as he levered himself out of bed and strode across the room to grab a bottle of bottom-shelf booze and poured himself a full glass. On the screen, a giant plant-being was facing off against a no-nonsense drill sergeant-type character.

The giant plant was attempting to do a form of breakdancing, but their lack of skill was evident early on when they tried to spin on the floor on their butt and didn't even make it one revolution before getting up into a downward dog position and wriggling around awkwardly. They attempted a few other moves that were executed clumsily and poorly, but the timer mercifully ran out soon after.

The drill-sergeant character started hopping on one foot from side to side, with both arms pointed in the opposite direction as if they were revving a speeder bike. They mixed in a few more hip-hop-like moves, but they didn't have to work too hard or get too creative considering the effort of their opponent before them. The crowd voted quickly to declare the drill sergeant the winner.

"Who was that green giant?" Bulldog asked aloud, checking the username against the list Gremlin had provided. Scanning down in alphabetical order, he found that it had been Angel of all people.

"Huh," he snorted as he took a large gulp of whisky. "I guess I assumed she'd be a bit more graceful than that."

*******************************************************

ISD Conviction Commodore's Stateroom

"Well, it seems Commander Feing didn't seem to work too hard and chose not to really go full bore on that one," Barand trailed off.

"Indeed," Frell responded. "Though, that could be explained by only working as hard as necessary to win, which isn't necessarily a bad thing."

Barand shook his head. "Correct. I find no fault in that line of logic, and it's completely in line with how he acts in the line of duty."

Frell furrowed her brow as a thought crossed her mind. She shook her head quickly as the thought passed.

"What was that?" Barand asked, clearly catching her expression.

Frell scrunched her face in thought as she mapped out her next words carefully. "Well, I was just thinking that I've seen him ruthlessly destroy people before. I'm wondering if he just isn't taking this totally seriously, or if he really treats random people with more leniency than an enemy or even a subordinate officer, Sir."

Barand chuckled. "Ah, I see the conundrum. Yes, you are not wrong."

The screen chirped, alerting them to it being their turn. "You're up, Commodore."

"I believe it is you that is up, Lieutenant," Barand replied, motioning toward his recently repaired knee. "Make me proud."

Frell knew she shouldn't have been shocked at the sudden turn of events, but she was. She'd never fully trusted most of her superior officers, but she'd felt that her recent task had garnered a little more honesty and candor between her and the Commodore. She sighed and stood up quickly as it was her turn to go first.

The countdown reached zero, and she quickly fell into a common wedding dance that she'd seen repeatedly throughout the celebrations she'd attended. Often done with an entire group of people doing the moves in synchrony, it looked a little silly with just one person doing it. However, she was put on the spot and completely unprepared for it. The avatar on the screen was of a no-nonsense businessman with a three piece suit and black tie to complete the aesthetic.

She took four steps to the right, then four steps to the left. Each step she moved her arms with the beat. Next she did four steps back, and on the completion of the last step, she took a step forward and used one arm to smack the deck in front of her. She used that arm to push off and step back to her standing position. She stepped her front foot forward and brought her back foot forward in a kicking motion that also spun her 90 degrees to the side. She repeated the steps as before, but this time she added a chassaiz move and used one arm above her to mime a lasso above her head.

She added a few more variations to the moves as she remembered them, but she was worried as the timer ran out that she hadn't done a good enough job and might lose the match for the Commodore. She broke out into a cold sweat as she braced for his roth.

Barand stared at her coldly. After a few moments of silence only broken up by the beginning of the music for their opponent, he spoke quietly. "Why didn't you do more?"

Oshi fought to keep her panic from rising and taking control of her speech patterns and facial features. She took her usual amount of pause time to gather her thoughts, and then responded confidently. "I felt it would be more believable for you to pull off that dance maneuver given your recent injury, Commodore."

Barand pursed his lips and his nostrils flared. "I see."

Oshi knew enough about her superior to know that flared nostrils were not a good sign. "I did not wish for your subordinates to assume you were cheating or attempting to show them up by going crazy on the first round."

Barand's nostrils flared again, but this time he relaxed and smiled tightly. "I see. Perhaps it was unfair of me to spring this on you without warning. I applaud your effort when put on the spot, though I would prefer if you did something a bit flashier next time through so there is no doubt about a victory."

On the screen, a commando-looking avatar with a death stick sticking out of his very scraggly face was doing a very bad rendition of a hand-jive. It was clear that the player didn't have any moves of their own, or else they would have transitioned into something more exciting by now.

After the time ran out, the voting was extremely close. Oshi held her breath as the votes rolled in slowly. After a moment, the game chimed and declared them winner, by the slimmest of margins. She exhaled visibly in relief.

"More effort next time," Barand said as he typed a few notes into his datapad.

*******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Corsair XO's Single Quarters

Wolf was extremely nervous about the coming competition and was regretting his decision to participate. Gremlin had all but bullied him into participating, using her charms skillfully while wielding his sense of FOMO like a jackhammer against him. What had ultimately tipped the scales in the direction of joining had been the fact that Gremlin had convinced Bulldog of all people to join, so the fact that another squadron executive officer aside from the vivacious Zeltron participating made it seem a bit more ok for him to play along, even if ironically.

When choosing his avatar, Wolf panicked and chose the first thing that came to mind: an adorable, cartoonish wolf popularized by kids' holos. Horrified by the childish appearance, he tried to reverse the decision but locked it in by accident instead. It appeared onscreen to indicate the moment of his embarrassment and anxiety was upon him. What was niggling at the back of his mind earlier was practically screaming for attention right now: he had no idea how to dance!

Mercifully, the game's randomizer chose his opponent, a default avatar in a green skin-tight bodysuit, to go first, giving him more time to actually research some sort of dance maneuver he could quickly learn and use. He reached over to his desk and snatched his datapad with such force that he almost threw it across the room in his manic panic. He looked up briefly to see his opponent starting their routine.

The default avatar started nodding with the beat of the song. He then started to sway from side to side, then mixed in a few arm movements that appeared a little awkward, belying the fact that the player wasn't a very skilled dancer. However, it was clear he had good body control as his movements were smooth, despite the awkward dance moves being displayed.

As the music built, he added more rotational movement to his routine, but it was still borderline adolescent school dance material. As the beat came to a screeching halt, he raised one arm and pointed with a finger while rotating his hand as if to say ‘let's run it again'. He started clapping while still bouncing his body back and forth, and then began the routine over again.

Wolf sighed in relief as he saw what he was up against, and didn't nearly feel as bad about himself as he had moments ago. The video he was watching on his datapad ended, and he thought he'd memorized enough of it to be convincing. He looked up just in time to see his opponent's time was over and his cartoonish avatar appeared on the screen.

He bounced his body around with the beat, mainly moving his shoulders around with the beat at first as he got comfortable with himself. He started swaying his arms with the movement, then began violently gesturing and waving his arms in different directions as if to warn possible enemies away from his personal space.

He then settled back and started bobbing his head around in different directions, keeping his body in place so his neck was moving around as if he was an action figure. He transitioned into a similar movement his opponent had done, but didn't intend to keep doing it nearly as long as the green bodied default avatar had.

Next, he stopped and mimed checking his watch, as if his opponent wasn't worth his time. He started taking hopping steps back as he rolled his shoulders again, alternating bringing his hands to his mouth as if he was wiping sweat from his face before returning it to his waist while the other hand came up. After a few times, he stopped stepping and spread his legs shoulder length apart and started thrusting his pelvis forward and back, using one hand to point at his crotch. Then be brought the other hand up and briefly pointed, and then mimed spanking somebody in front of himself in an exaggerated fashion.

He was getting tired, and forgetting some of the moves he'd just witnessed before he started, so he started scrambling. He started doing a series of awkward frontal kicks and a combination of fist strikes. He lost his balance, but recovered quickly and transitioned into a side profile stance while he stuck his rear end out and started popping it out and in. He hopped and rotated 90 degrees so he was facing the camera again and stuck both arms out in front of himself, bouncing his body with the beat while he mimed reeling in some sort of fishing implement with his hands.

His mind completely went blank at that instant, but he still had time to fill so he went back to the spanking motion, adding in more variance with the angles and hand positioning. Realizing he was doing this for an awkward amount of time, he then started humping the air in front of him, pretending his hands were pulling something or somebody toward his thrusts.

He cursed loudly as he panicked, and stopped air-humping as he realized this was not a very professional routine. With seconds left to fill, he started pointing at his head with both hands from different angles, then mimed holding up an overly large necklace pendant to the camera as time expired.

His camera finally stopped filming, and he immediately jumped off of the floor as if it were now molten lava. He lay on his bunk, mortified at what he'd just displayed for all to see. He almost wished Syntax would appear at his door and bury him in paperwork that would last throughout the rest of the month.

*******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Rogue Squadron Officer Commanding Office

Jalb was having a wonderful time watching the various members of the wing sparring with each other in the digital dance space. While he'd hoped there would be more Renegade on Renegade serving rather than Renegades versus random players, it was still fun to see which of his pilots had the loose inhibitions to really get into the competition.

He saw his own avatar, a disembodied helmet with the blast shield down with gloves and boots appeared on the screen next to his opponent, a white-shirted and black tied slim office drone with a Boba Fett helmet. Adding to the nerd aesthetic, the Fett mask had some very thick black-rimmed glasses attached to the viewport while Jalb's blast shield had a common Macquarrian hopping mammal known to throttle humans in the wild with powerful hind legs.

Jalb stood and rolled his shoulders in preparation, but the game chose his opponent to go first. He slumped a little bit as he realized he had a minute to wait, but he decided to use that time to look up the username of the person he was facing off against to see if it was a friend or random. Scrolling the list Gremlin had provided rapidly, he found that it matched up with Loth-Cat. "Sorry for your luck, kid," he chuckled.

The Nerd Mando avatar of Loth-Cat started doing some sort of a line dance that you'd find in rural dance halls or other insular societies at weddings or some other sort of party gathering. It was clear that they had not experienced much dancing from the rest of the galaxy yet, as they were going through the scripted motions, miming when the parts came up that they'd do si do around a partner or do some other hand-holding maneuver.

The rest of the routine carried on with painful mundanity. Jalb actually felt bad that the wing hadn't had more cause for dancing at celebrations and vowed to change that so the members from more insular or isolated societies could experience the joys of music and losing yourself in the beat.

He grinned as the time ran out and rolled his shoulders and neck. "Sorry for the visual beatdown I'm about to deliver, kid, but it's for your own good."

His avatar appeared on the screen and a short countdown let him know when he'd be ready to deliver the goods for the rest of the galaxy to see. He started with his side facing the camera and lifted one leg slightly off the ground. He started kicking it slightly out in front of himself while working both arms back and forth out of sequence with the leg, making the leg go forward while the arms went back. He continued to hop in place on his grounded foot to make the move look a little more complex.

After doing that for a few cycles, he put one arm at his waist while raising the other above his head, pumping his fist while continuing to hop on the same leg he'd been hopping on and kicking out the other, but this time the arm and kicking leg were in sequence, going away from his body at the same time.

He hopped to turn his body toward the camera while continuing to move his arm and leg. Once facing the camera completely, he stopped hopping and brought his feet together. He swung one arm in front of his body, keeping the other arm about a shoulder-length apart from the other while moving in the same direction. He swayed his arms in the other direction, but this time one of his arms swiped behind his body while moving back to the opposite direction. He then brought both arms back the other direction, and when he swayed them to the opposite side, the arm that had been behind him last time swung out in front this time, and his other arm went behind him as they moved back.

He sped this up to an ungodly speed in a show of coordination and skill, but also slowed his pace and sped back up randomly to make it seem even more complex. Time started to tick down close to zero, so he stopped flossing his arms and stuck both hands forward with thumbs up while sticking his tongue out.

Realizing he still had a few seconds to fill because he'd timed his ending poorly, he wiggled his hips awkwardly while holding his thumbs out. "And that, kids, is how you kick it old school!"

His datapad chirped repeatedly as time ran out. Shuffling over, he saw they were a mixture of messages of congratulations or good-natured ribbing. A message from Gremlin mentioned that his avatar made it difficult to see the complexity of what he was doing during his routine, having no torso to show his arms and legs moving around. He frowned, and realized that he might actually lose because his tongue in cheek avatar would backfire.

Looking back at the screen of the game, he saw he was almost unanimously voted the winner, with only one vote directed toward Loth-Cat. Relief flooded through him once the results were tallied and displayed. He opened up his account console and decided to modify his avatar to avoid losing in the next round.

*******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Corsair Shared Bunk

Knight stood at the ready for his next matchup. He knew that Syntax was the player behind the red protocol droid avatar, and he wanted nothing more than to blow his OC out of the water in this round. Being the first matchup of the second round made him want to go really big to kick the round off right.

Unfortunately, Syntax was chosen to go first yet again, meaning Knight had to wait patiently for his turn while also giving him time to possibly overthink his routine. He'd decided to run through a highly classical dance routine made popular by an old holo that followed two gangs at war, but they fought through dance. It was an acrobatic routine that required lots of space for twirling kicks and hops. He eyed his bunk and the space he'd cleared out for it, unsure if it would suffice. He mentally cut a few of the wilder jumps that required more space just to avoid the chance of making a mistake. He was thankful his bunkmate was currently quarantined in medbay so he had more space for the contest, and then blanched slightly as he realized he had just been thankful that his squadmate was sick enough to be in medbay.

Syntax started his routine by miming a being in a grocery store pushing a shopping cart. Periodically he would reach to the sides, high and low, to examine and put an imaginary product either into his cart, or back to the shelf.

After what seemed like an eternity, he transitioned to pretending to start a primitive foliage clearing device that required a pull-cord start. This was a very old maneuver, considering most landscaping devices were either droid operated, or just required a button press to start.

Knight was laughing at the absurdity of the routine his OC had executed up to this point, but he knew he'd be able to win with what he had planned. He stood as Syntax's time was about half over and prepared to center himself, but a knock at his door startled him. Before he could answer it, his door opened and some medical technicians barged in with boxes stored on hover-sleds. "What's this now?"

"Sorry Lieutenant, we were told we could put our excess medical supplies unrelated to the treatment of the current epidemic in this room," a Ishi Tib orderly replied sympathetically. "We weren't told that it was currently occupied, however."

"Well, it's occupied. These can't go here," Knight replied impatiently, glancing back at the screen and realizing he was extremely short on time.

The Ishi Tib shook his head. "Negative. These materials need to go here now so we can go back and move the excess sick crew into the new space."

"I'm in the middle of a competition here!"

The Ishi Tib's eyes closed halfway in disdain. "Sir, a game is not a good enough reason to disregard our orders," he said, all hints of sympathy replaced by outright annoyance. "If you have a problem, take it up with your CO. He signed off on the order."

Knight's eyes widened with the realization that Syntax was attempting to sabotage him. He looked back over to the screen as the medical staff exited his room after dumping the materials all over his already limited dancing space. The red protocol droid was now miming shaking and rolling dice repeatedly. His bright white ocular receptors seemed to be staring directly into his soul, and if a droid could smile, he imagined Syntax had a shit-eating grin on his face at this exact moment.

"Game on, you treacherous sentient calculator!" he snapped out as he attempted to clear some more space for his routine as the timer counted down. As the warning timer reached zero, he started his routine.

He started by slowly strolling toward the camera with bent knees, using one arm to snap his fingers while throwing it forward to the beat of the song. He began mixing in traditional ballet dance movements, but each time he attempted to pirouette one of his legs caught on some of the newly deposited medical supplies and caused him to stumble. A Ciseaux almost caused an avalanche of boxes filled with bandages. His attempt at a Sissonne banged one of his toes against a solid crate of syringes.

Realizing things were going extremely poorly, he mentally chopped down his routine that would have made use of his already limited space to doing only jumps or hops that landed in place, but anything that outstretched his legs ran the hazard of catching on some other new obstacle that had recently been delivered to his bunk at the behest of his apparently treacherous and very competitive OC. With time running out, he threw in a few jete's and mixed in various twirls and twists as the best finale he could muster with all things considered.

He attempted to do a twirling 360 with one leg outstretched, but it connected with a box of saline bags and caused an avalanche. Some of them burst under the pressure of his kick, and others ripped open on jagged parts of his bunk near the floor. He slipped on the now soaked deck and hit his head on another box on the way down.

As he lay there dazed on the floor, he saw the votes go toward Syntax's victory, eliminating him from the event.

"Awesome."

*******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Corsair Squadron XO Single Quarters

Wolf had gotten over his bout of embarrassment after his last round and was fully prepared to give himself over to the competition completely. He'd spent the intervening time since his last round researching the holonet for a new routine to run through and felt really good about what he'd come up with. The number of winning routines based on pop-culture holofilms made him feel good about his next choice, a bit of choreography from a superhero holo where the titular hero breaks into an ancient tomb while dancing with earbuds in, defeating traps and monsters as he dances his way through. He decided to add the ending dance off against the villain at the end, hoping it would provide the extra pop he needed to carry the day.

He stood as his avatar and Gremlin's sexy gamorrean appeared on the screen, and hoped he was picked first so he could defeat the Spectre executive officer. Luck, however, was not on his side and the randomizer selected Gremlin first. Slumping his shoulders, he sat back down to wait for Gremlin's routine to end.

The gamorrean began going through the motions of a very familiar routine. Wolf's stomach immediately filled with dread.

"You've got to be kidding me!" He shouted as it was clear that Gremlin was doing the exact routine he'd planned to run through, only the natural kinesthetic coordination of her species was better at it than he'd ever be.

As the timer got low, she even began the final dance off scene choreography, completely deflating him. A knock at the door drew his attention away from the screen and his digital immolation. "Enter."

A masked orderly shuffled in once the door whooshed open and hand-delivered a single piece of flimsiplast. "Compliments of the Lieutenant Colonel, Major," she said as she left as quickly as she'd arrived.

Wolf took one look at the paper he'd been handed and his embarrassment changed to a resigned defeat. He sighed loudly as he re-read the typed text of the note.

Major,

I have discovered some strange net traffic from your terminal. In concordance with the cybersec guidelines created by OpSec, I have forwarded the suspect traffic to all command staff and security to review. This includes all squadron executive officers for their additional opinions and expertise.

Also, per those statutes, you have to fill out all of the requisite forms in quintuplicate (a copy for each relevant department) to prove if the traffic was intentional, why it was necessary, and how you could have found your research information through previously approved channels.

Those forms should be arriving momentarily, in hard copy, because your terminal access has been restricted to protect from possible hacking.

Regards,
9-LOM "Syntax"
Corsair Squadron Officer Commanding

True to the letter's warning, another knock came at the door. Without waiting for an answer this time, the courier droids opened the room and an avalanche of single sheets of paper collapsed on top of him. If droids could laugh, Wolf could have sworn he heard the delivery bots let loose a chuckle as they exited the room.

He pulled himself out of the pile of paperwork, noting pleasantly that he'd miraculously avoided the death of a thousand papercuts. Unfortunately, he was only able to extricate himself fully in time to see the timer on his dance routine click to zero, to the jeers and boos of the digitized fans.

"This is what happens when I let myself hope..."

*******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Buccaneer XO Single Quarters

Bulldog was laughing at the confusing ending of the last dance battle. Clearly there was some sort of outside interference, and he couldn't wait to see what it was that ended up interrupting Wolf's routine before he'd even begun. For the sake of his fellow XO, he hoped it was something good.

His Cathar avatar appeared on the screen next to a new avatar he didn't recognize. A quick scan of the username said it was Jalb, confusing him momentarily as the Rogue OC's previous avatar was a helmet with disembodied hands and boots. Now though, he was wearing a skintight blue spandex onesie, with naught for a face except two black circles drawn on for eyes with corresponding severely arched eyebrows and a squiggly line for a mouth.

"Trying to psych me out with a costume change, El Tee Cee?" Bulldog snorted. "Never happen," he said with conviction brought on by multiple drinks, downing the rest of his double of bourbon in one rapid gulp. He stood and shook his head, then let the shaking carry down the rest of his body to the tips of his fingers.

The screen indicated that he would be up first and started counting down from 10 seconds. The beat was a retro style, and instantly he was inspired to draw upon moves from the era that inspired the beat. His mother enjoyed the types of steps he was about to attempt, and the thought of her breathed new life into him.

His avatar filled the screen as the timer reached zero and his time began. He started by bobbing his head violently to the side with the beat. He then bent his knees and leaned to his left, undulating his body with the beat as he ran two fingers in front of his eyes with one arm, then threw his body to the other side and repeated the hand gesture with his other hand. He stood up and waved his hand in front of his face back and forth, as if to say nobody could see him.

He jumped back, then started stepping from side to side as if he was sizing up his opponent. He then mimed pulling a rope with both arms, shuffling forward with each pull. As he reached the center of the bunk, he did a 360 twirl, and ended with two air crotch humps at the camera with his hands behind his head. He turned to have his back facing the camera and cocked his arms at his sides. He slid his heels out to the side and spread his arms out about shoulder height. He brought his heels back in with his arms in unison, then kicked one foot out forward. He then repeated the sequence with the other leg.

He mimed pulling two blaster pistols from holsters and brought them up to his side, pointed toward the ceiling. He then shuffled to the same side a few steps, hopping to a stop and pointed the guns in both directions with a twist of his torso. He then leveled the finger guns at the camera and triggered the imaginary hammers that were his thumbs. He blew the barrels and holstered the guns after an elaborate twirling sequence.

He gathered himself, then brought his arms in front of himself, and rotated them around each other in front of his chest as he approached the camera again. Once he got close to the camera again, he put a straight arm out in front of himself and the other above his head. The arm above his head he brought down to his side, then waved it above his head, while the other arm he mimed turning the wheel of a large hover truck. The arm above his head was now cocked in front of him, and he mimed pulling a large air horn repeatedly. He continued to pull the imaginary horn cord while he shuffled in a complete circle.

He brought his hands to his knees and bent down, but he wasn't sure how much endurance he had left in him. Throwing caution to the wind, he exploded all of his limbs outward, his feet going wide to his side and his arms going out above his head to each side. He quickly brought all of his limbs back in, and locked his fingers, rolling his arms from elbow, through the locked hands, to the other elbow repeatedly in a rolling wave. He turned to the side and ended the sequence with a sharp elbow thrust toward the camera.

He took a few steps back while bobbing with the beat until his back was up against the far wall. Taking a moment to psych himself up, he saw he only had seconds left to spare. He took rapid steps forward, then slid on his knees across the deck and ripped open his shirt. While his avatar wasn't wearing clothes, the intention of the move was relayed properly. He stayed where he was, his chest heaving as the clock reached zero.

Jalb's new blue avatar took over the screen. He was clearly doubled over in laughter at Bulldog's routine, but he hadn't realized that it was his turn to go, so the first few seconds of his dance off time was occupied by his laughing fit.

Once he realized his turn had started, he stood straight up, but was still apparently psyched out by Bulldog's retro stylings. He started awkwardly rotating his hips, then stuck one arm straight out in front of himself. After a few beats, his other arm was stuck out too. Next, he flipped his first hand, followed by the second. He then brought the first hand to his opposite shoulder, followed by his other hand to the other shoulder.

He put one hand to the top of his head, quickly followed by the other. Before they had been there for more than a second, he brought them down to the opposite side of his waist in sequence. Each hand then found purchase on the avatar's rear end, and lingered there for a while as his avatar's eyebrows raised up and down with the intention of looking seductive, but it only managed to evoke a comedic effect due to their drawn on nature. He brought his hands to his hips and rotated them in a provocative manner, again wagging his eyebrows.

Bulldog watched as Jalb then took an exaggerated hop and turned 90 degrees and continued the same sequence anew. He burst into another fit of laughter as soon as he realized this was all Jalb had to offer this round, clearly blowing his entire payload in round one against the outmatched Loth-Cat.

He swiped a quick message to Loth-Cat to let them know he'd avenged his youthful pilot's first round loss before even waiting for the voting to commence, and then sent a video message to Jalb that consisted of him doing Jalb's routine while taking chugs straight from the bottle.

*******************************************************

ISD Conviction Commodore's Stateroom

"Well, this should be an interesting matchup," Barand mused as his avatar appeared next to Feing's on the screen. The contrast between their business avatar and Feing's drill sergeant was as stark as the difference between their personalities. Barand was no-nonsense in the line of duty, but wielded his authority with varying levels of fiat based on what the situation called for at that time. Feing, however, had one intensity setting: maximum.

"Looks like he's up first, Commodore," Oshi said as she saw the screen change. She settled into her seat to see what the ruthless commander had in store for them.

The drill instructor on the screen immediately cocked his leg out to the side and arched that foot so only his toes were touching. He then began to bounce in place with the rhythm.

"Is... he taking it easy on you?" Oshi asked, her voice pitching with uncertainty.

At that instant, Feing's avatar raised both of his hands to the same side, one arm straight out and the other underhanded but still raised. He started a hopping shuffle slightly to the side of his outstretched arms and made a beckoning gesture with his hands with each hop. After a few hops in the same direction, he reversed his stance and repeated the hopping maneuver in the opposite direction.

He then started taking large steps forward and to the side, using the same-sided arm in a swimming motion, alternating steps and arms as he made a large circle throughout his dancing area. Once he made a full circuit, he resumed his first movement, but this time he was making a motion to push something away rather than beckon it closer.

He hopped 180 degrees suddenly so his back was to the camera. He raised his hands above his head and brought them together at the palm, and also lifted one leg and cocked it at an angle in front of himself. He slowly brought his hands down and lowered his foot, spinning to face forward in one smooth motion. He resumed his exaggerated hops to the side, this time putting his front arm out to the side while making wide circular motions with his back arm.

"This is an interesting display of grace from a man I've personally seen choking the life out of somebody," Barand said in a hushed awe.

Time was running low, and it brought on the most unexpected finale. Feing's avatar stopped moving with his body facing to the side. He then started a shuffling backwards movement where his rear foot would be on its toes and the front foot planted flat on the deck would drag backward, as if he were walking on a low-gravity celestial object.

A rowdy round of applause erupted throughout the ship, the sound even permeating through the sturdy walls of Barand's study. The sound jarred him and Frell to the grave stakes they were now up against. Oshi stood and shook her nerves off while also limbering up her body once again as her time would begin soon.

"How do you plan to top that finale?"

"The cheer from the ‘crowd' came from that final move," Oshi said confidently. "It wasn't even remotely related to the style of dancing he'd been doing up to that point, and was a very cheap ploy to grab a nostalgia pop. I'm just going to run through an entire dance sequence from a very popular movie from that time period. Should get that sort of a reaction from the entire thing."

Barand arched an eyebrow as he leaned back in his chair. "Confident, are we?"

The timer began and Barand's business-suited avatar took center stage. Oshi began a slow hopping twirl, raising her arms at varying heights as she moved. Up, down, higher, higher, lower, higher her arms moved as she twirled with her head tilted to the side. She ramped up the speed of the move as she twirled around faster and faster and let her arms take on a more wild pathing.

Just as suddenly as she'd sped up, she stopped with her back to the camera but continued to hop, this time clapping with the beat and bobbing her head around. She mimed looking through some files before carelessly throwing them off to the side.

She slowed her hopping pace to leaving the ground every other beat, while still bouncing her body on the ground every off beat. She swung her arms and kicked her legs as if she was walking in place, mixing in 180 degree spins here and there to change things up. Toward the end of this sequence, she started patting out a rapid beat on her upper thigh while throwing her head back and around violently.

She stopped hopping and mimed violently strumming an older stringed instrument, then began hopping up and down in place while twirling and waving her arms around again. Suddenly, she planted her feet on the ground and stuck her hands in her pockets. She started walking her feet sideways, first moving the heels outward and toes pointed in, then the toes out and heels in.

Once she went to the other side of the room in this manner, she turned her body to the side and mimed an exaggerated walking that was an iconic scene that included three of the titular characters of the holofilm doing it in synch, but her movements were an adequate facsimile to evoke the response she was going for. Every couple of steps forward, she took a step backward, before resuming moving forward again.

Once again she reached the far wall, and spun to face the camera again. Now she walked her way across the room by sliding both heels in one direction, then dragging her toes along next. She bent her elbows and held her hands off to her side, but let them hang limp in the air to dangle with her movements. As with the previous sequence, she went in the same direction for a few beats, then reversed course for a beat before resuming her previous direction of dance travel.

Barand's ears perked up at the sounds of cheering vibrating through the walls and decking above and below his office. Clearly Frell's assessment was accurate, and also it was very clear that he had a crew onboard that either skewed slightly older or was very into classic holos.

He'd been distracted by the sudden cheering and missed a few of her steps, but she was now at her finale. She stood still while facing the camera with both arms at about head height and started shaking them and her body. She continued the shaking as she collapsed to her knees, then slumped forward to the ground and stopped moving.

Barand thought she'd made a tactical error because there was still about 5 seconds left on the countdown timer, but she surprised him by athletically hopping to her feet in a sudden burst of movement, then spun to put her back to the camera and raise one clenched fist victoriously above her head. The cheering on the ship reached what had to be a deafening volume in more populated areas of the ship.

He clapped his hands as the timer ended.

Oshi turned, her face flushed and loose strands of hair dipping into her face. She shook her head and blew the loose strands out of her eyes and stood there facing him, her chest heaving as she gulped down oxygen. She smiled triumphantly. "See, told you."

*******************************************************

ROUND 3

CRS Vigilant Unknown Location

Syntax stood for his semi-final match. While one could say his tactics against Knight and Wolf were underhanded in the spirit of the competition, his logic circuits said that if you weren't trying to find every angle possible to win, then you were asking to lose. He moved venues to avoid any possible retribution from any of the victims of his previous interference. Again, no reason to remain a stationary target. He had gone to one of the secret locations on the massive Mon Cal ship where droids would congregate from time to time, free of the fleshy presence of their oblivious overlords. He set up his mobile rig along some pipes and shooed away some MSE droids to make sure he had the space he needed.

His opponent was selected to go first. The slick businessman avatar stood and began another routine from an old holo movie, as they'd done for their previous rounds. He'd analyzed the dancer, and was 92.6% certain it was a female playing with a male avatar. After the player had won their last round, he'd begun utilizing half of his processing power to track the user's IP address as it connected to the public dance server.

He had devoted another quarter of his processing power to scan historical media for more dance moves, and the final quarter of his processor was dedicated to digging up ways to interfere with Gremlin or Bulldog, depending whoever won the other semi-final dance round and would ultimately be his opponent. Both pilots had once been subordinates under him when they'd been assigned to Corsair, so he rifled through their files at a breakneck pace.

The businessman was doing the beginnings of the dance medley from the middle of the old holo where a young adolescent was blowing off steam in an abandoned warehouse. The half of his processes dedicated to finding this player to interfere with them bounced around the different data packets carrying the bits in the holonet to the server. Once he isolated one that contained the information that matched his opponent's actions on the screen, he began to follow that pathway back through the holo relays.

His intrusion met some resistance as he neared the source of the gamer, indicating it was somebody with some sort of cyber security suite that was active. The severity of the speed bump wasn't known to him at first blush. As he pulled over the 25% of his processing power that was focused on Bulldog and Gremlin to bring it to bear on his new hurdle, a bit of familiar security code flashed across his vision within digital space.

"Imperial!" His vocoder blurted out frantically.

He attempted to pull back before the security countermeasures could spring their digital trap and fry his circuitry, but he was only partially successful. Half of his processor was instantly powered off, leaving him slower than even the lowest form of sentient intelligence.

He stood, motionless, while his opponent finished their routine and the screen flashed for him to begin. He attempted to draw upon the routine he'd stored in his databanks, but the pathways between the stored data and his motor functionality were damaged. His ocular receptors flashed on and off as he attempted to work around the damage.

Once that proved unsuccessful, he devoted everything he had to fixing the software damage. Progress was made, but it was slow. With half of his dancing time gone, he finally made enough headway to load some of his routine and put it into motion. He released a small spray of oil onto the deck of his office and then slid across it with his back toward the camera. He spun around, and then started pointing his hands in front of his crotch while he thrust his hips back, then alternated by thrusting his hips forward and pointing to his posterior.

He attempted to pull the next dance steps and the transitions for them, but again his processor shut down and the previously repaired neural pathways were sapped again.

The timer ended, and his head slumped forward as he shut himself down to restore his memory to a previous save state.

*******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Spectre XO Single Quarters

Gremlin punched the air in delight as the program told her she'd advanced to the next level. On screen, the sexy Gamorrean copied her moves. Gremlin danced from foot to foot, shaking out her arms, keeping the beat going in her body as she waited to be matched with her next opponent.

The music changed to a stronger, more forceful rhythm, almost martial at the start. Gremlin bounced in place, waiting for her opponent to arrive; the on-screen Gamorrean writhed attractively and batted its eyelids in a come-hither gesture. Abruptly, their opponent appeared on the holoscreen, the countdown began ... and it was game on!

She recognized the avatar of her opponent, the tribal human-sized cat belonging to Bulldog. He was chosen to go first, which put her off slightly as she was up and ready to go. Shaking off the frustration, she stepped back and watched what the Buccaneer XO was up to.

His avatar began a familiar yet surprisingly still unused routine from an old holovideo for a popular song. In the video, the singer shocked his date for the night by transforming into a monster of the night, and then did a synchronized dance with another group of ghoulish characters.

It started off twitchy, as if the monsters were shaking off the cobwebs, and then included plenty of slides, shoulder shakes, shuffles, and pelvic gyrations. Gremlin was honestly shocked that the Captain's legs had that sort of dexterity in them. As time ran out, he even did the look over his shoulder ending where the original video turned the seemingly normal singer back into a ghoul as an end of video stinger.

Gremlin stepped back toward her camera and blew out a breath in preparation. She shook her shoulders and nodded vigorously as her competitive juices began flowing. Her countdown began, and she cracked her neck in both directions to loosen herself up. She focused back on the screen just as her countdown reached zero.

The first few moves were easy enough, mostly some fancy footwork that increased in tempo; Gremlin added in some arm moves just for fun. The Gamorrean danced energetically, but the game had clearly stepped up a level - the transition from one move to another was more jarring, giving the dancers less time to react.

Gremlin spun in place, her hair whipping out in a circle before she came to a stop facing the right-hand wall of her room. On screen, the Gamorrean - flanked by two Askajian dancers - pretend-walked a few steps forwards, toes extended, arms pumping up and down before facing the camera again, flicking their upraised right hands backwards and forwards. Hip-bumps, shimmies, head tosses and high-kicks followed (Gremlin was singing along, but had to stop because she was getting out of breath) but the freestyle section caught her by surprise; she improvised some exuberant twerking, nearly colliding with her bed at one stage, though she stopped herself from falling over.

The music rose to a crescendo. The Gamorrean went into a final spin, paused, and descended to the floor in a combination of a death drop and mangled splits. As the music faded, Gremlin clambered back to her feet, grimacing slightly as her left knee protested at the unexpected final move, then made an elaborate bow to the camera. This time, she was breathing heavily but she could still speak. "You know - we should do this in the Ready Room every week!"

Gremlin stood there, her chest heaving from her exertion. She stared at the screen expectantly, awaiting the judging decision from the crowd vote. She took a healthy draught of water, tilting her head completely back to drain the receptacle. She looked back at the screen just in time to see the results, spitting out the remaining water in her mouth as her brain processed what her eyes saw.

"WHAT?!"

******************************************************

CRS Vigilant Buccaneer XO Single Quarters

Bulldog was sweating profusely. He'd slowly been losing his coordination throughout the event as he'd continued to drink enough to keep him into dance mode. It was a fine line between drunk enough to dance and too drunk to stand, and he was teetering off the edge in the direction of the latter. He shook his head to clear his vision and center himself, but all it did was send him teetering off to the side, slamming his shoulder into the bulkhead.

The pain was just what he needed to wake up slightly and come up with a new sequence of dance moves. He'd used most of his ammunition in the previous rounds, and his remaining arsenal was not nearly as impressive. His opponent had just completely undressed Syntax in the semifinals, figuratively speaking. The mystery man was not one of the Renegades according to the list Gremlin had shared at the beginning of the event, so he was flying blind as far as to what the random gamer was capable of. For all he knew, it was a professional dancer, or even an acrobatic woman with much more coordination than him in his best condition.

The warning timer started counting down from ten, and the music faded in, rising in volume with each tick on the clock. It was a popular rhythmic dance anthem with a singer shouting the lyrics with great emotion. He took a healthy quaff of bourbon as the timer reached zero and the screen showed his avatar.

He started by bending his arms at the elbows in front of him and swaying back and forth as he slowly turned his body with each step in line with the bass beats of the song. After making it halfway around he loosened his arms and let them sway with his body movement, taking larger hop-steps in different directions until he was faced with the holocam. He did a jumping 360, bending his knees as he landed and rose up quickly, waving his hands in front of his body as if to dismiss his opponent while simultaneously kicking his legs out to the side and back in repeatedly. He ended the sequence with a large jump back and a chopping motion toward his crotch.

His breath was short, but he still had more than fifty seconds to fill. He started vibrating his torso rapidly with his arms straight at his sides as he started walking closer to the camera. As he got up close again he raised his arms up and waved them around in an intricate pattern, then forward in a similar pattern, then out to his sides a few times. Finally, he brought his hands down toward his genitals and started making a rapid motion hand over hand as if he was unfurling a large hose as he backed up away from the camera again, culminating in a motion you'd use if you were attempting to underhanded-splash a large amount of water into somebody's face.

The clock seemed to have not changed, and Bulldog's breath was becoming ragged with the exertion. He dropped into a lazy hopping shuffle back and forth and let his arms sway with the movement while he attempted to come up with another move to use, but his muddled brain was having a hard time coming up with anything. He stopped his shuffle and did a foot-sliding 180 to face the camera again. The booze he'd been drinking all day started to affect him in a different way, with all the movement upsetting his stomach. It threatened to come back up if he continued much longer.

He started bobbing his torso with the beat while he brought his arms up and waved them around as if to point toward something his distant opponent should look over their shoulders to see. He repeated this with a few different variations on body positioning and sides of the room, but he knew it wasn't a good enough way to end his dance sequence if he had any hope of winning.

The timer was counting down, so he did something drastic and hoped it wouldn't break his camera setup. He grabbed it and pulled it along with his body until it was in the center of his billet. He spun it slightly with his hand and then jumped over the tripod while also twisting 180 degrees to land facing the now spun camera. He ended with what he hoped looked like a strong flexing pose, panting heavily as the sweat poured off of his forehead onto the floor in front of him.

Once the countdown clock started again and his avatar was no longer on the screen, he fell to his knees and vomited into a trash receptacle.

He missed the beginning of his opponent's dance routine while vomiting violently, but he managed to look up in time to see them doing some sort of dance sequence that was vaguely familiar from his youth, associated with a group of young male singers in one of their music holovids.

The no-nonsense businessman avatar snapped their feet a little over shoulder length apart and raised their arms slightly away from their hips. After holding the position for a beat, they started shuffling from side to side, shrugging their shoulders with the beat. After a few beats of this, they started raising their opposite arm with the side they stepped toward, and then using that bent arm in a motion as if to pull them back the other direction, where they switched to the other arm to do the same back in the original direction.

Suddenly they brought their bent arms up toward their head and thrust their pelvis forward while they seductively brought their arms down, as if they were using their hidden abs as a washboard for some manual laundry. They repeated this a few times whilst shifting their torso orientation. After a few cycles, their hands ended up down near their genital region while they leaned forward and shifted their shoulders in different directions, suddenly throwing their upper body backwards and crossing their arms only to put one hand forward with one finger up a moment later.

They quickly brought their hand back and crossed their arms again as the avatar started shimmying again, stepping forward and back with the beat once more. They opened up to face the camera again and started a rolling wave with their arms as they bent forward and backward at the waist. They started swaying their arms and did two rapid 360 spins, and somehow appeared to keep their face pointed at the camera despite their body continuing through the maneuver, whipping their head around with it at the last possible moment.

The timer was getting lower, and the dancer stopped moving altogether and turned sideways. They looked at the camera and made some magical gestures as their body seemed to levitate an inch, but they came back down and the person shook their head angrily and made a ‘wait' gesture. They focused again, and this time their body seemed to levitate about 6 inches off the ground, with what looked like nothing beneath their feet and the deck. Moments later, they came down and they gestured with an empty hand out in front of them and mimed dropping a microphone.

With that, the timer reached zero.

Bulldog stared from his seat on the floor near his trash bin at the simulated dance crowd going crazy, dumbfounded. He closed his gaping mouth once he'd realized it had been open in awe. "How in the Sith did they karking levitate?!"

*****************************************

ISD Conviction Commodore's Stateroom

"Bravo!" Barand cheered from his hoverchair off to the side of the room, clapping enthusiastically for Oshi, who stood sweating and panting in the middle of the office. "Absolutely magnificent moves, Lieutenant," he complimented.

She brushed a loose strand of hair out of her eyes. "Thank you, Commodore."

"I have to ask," Barand started, scratching his chin. "Where did you see those moves before?"

Oshi blushed as she looked away and betrayed an embarrassed smile. "I... uh... learned it from a boy band I was obsessed with as a tween. Silly, I know. But I had to scramble because the guy we were facing used about two of the maneuvers I had planned to use!"

Barand nodded and smiled, filing away that bit of information Oshi had offered up freely for possible later leverage. "Well, I appreciate your dancing as my proxy. Of course, this must stay between us for obvious reasons."

"Of course, Commodore," Oshi replied dutifully as she re-secured the uniform she'd unbuttoned to move more freely. She was still panting and felt the heat radiating from her face as she continued to come down from her dance high. "My lips are sealed."

"And I look forward to your report on whom you think might be harboring disloyal dispositions based upon their performances or lack thereof."

"Aye aye," Oshi said as she came to attention and saluted crisply, still huffing.

Barand returned the salute, giving her the respect she deserved by getting out of his chair and standing. He walked her out of his stateroom and watched her go.

The people waiting nearby or doing maintenance work all stole furtive glances at Oshi, noting Barand's smile and her face still red with exertion, and made the usual lowbrow inferences.

Barand noticed the people, and immediately knew that the rumor mill would start churning within moments about a possible affair between himself and a junior officer. Coupled with the frequent communications and meetings between the two, in the wrong hands it could lead to a very uncomfortable situation. He turned and winced, half at the pain in his knee and half at his stupidity for being so oblivious to what it would look like having Frell leave his office in the state she was in. His nostrils flared as anger at himself welled up from within. He keyed his personal commlink as his door closed, leaving him alone in his office again.

"Feing."

"Commander, I have just been given some troubling intelligence by Lieutenant Frell regarding traitorous activities by an officer here on the Conviction."

"Where."

Barand smiled at the direct nature of the Commander. "Engineering control deck. The intel points directly at the head of the department, but myself and the Lieutenant suspect it is actually that officer's second in command. Please bring both of them to my office immediately, with a fleet trooper escort."

"It will be done, Commodore. By the way, congratulations on your victory in the contest."

Barand snorted as he turned off his commlink and put it back into his pocket. "Best to just cut a head off of the hydra to get the rumor mill talking about that rather than that other ridiculous insinuation..."

He slowly limped back to his desk and sat down, mentally preparing himself for the intellectual dance he would soon engage in with a traitor. These were the battles he enjoyed most, where he was unmatched and unrivaled.

**********************************************

2 Days Later

CRS Vigilant Enlisted Mess Hall

Wolf was nervous as he looked on at the gathering of Angel, Gremlin, Shadow, Frosty, Gnoizic, and Foo as they took their places at the front of the hall. He shook his head in proxy embarrassment as he suspected his friends were likely about to make fools of themselves, and by some strange mental gymnastics, he felt that the enlisted men and women would hold him responsible for their tomfoolery. If he could have melted into the durasteel wall to escape, he would have. He also wondered how much dirt Gremlin had on the other participants, because surely she'd badgered them as much as she'd cajoled him a day ago when she tried to recruit him for this little side project.

The music started to play while the completely annoyed, bordering on hostile, crowd of troopers attempted to continue their discussions over the new sounds. They looked at the source of the noise, and if Wolf was being honest with himself, he felt like they would shoot the portable stereo if they had their blasters on them at their mealtime.

Due to the buzz from the dance competition Gremlin had set up during the miniature quarantine the ship had undergone, somebody had gotten the wild idea that they should put on a miniature dance routine for the rank and file of the ship to show them that the snub pilots weren't so bad.

Wolf actually agreed with the last sentiment. Nobody really liked fighter pilots, with their cockiness and ability to seemingly flaunt many rules and regulations that would normally get, say a private in the infantry, drummed out of the service. But, somebody had to fly to keep the big ship safe from the bad guys' smaller snubs. Most ground pounders were self aware enough to know that they didn't personally possess the requisite skills, so they merely tolerated the pilots.

The routine started out well enough from Wolf's vantage point. It was a medley of sorts that changed with the different songs to accompany that style of dance. Each member was given some solo elements to perform while the others continued a background group choreography.

Frosty's skipping, kicking dance was accompanied by some peppy string and flute music, punched up for dancing with heavy synth weaved in and some added bass. It was the same dance he'd done during the dance competition, and he actually drew some boos from the crowd from those that had actually watched.

Gnoizic in full Mando gear seemed to be doing some sort of hip-hop western dance, popping and locking different parts of his body. He transitioned to pointing in one direction, then hooked his thumbs behind his belt in front of him and did a quick jig with some more rapid fire moves, ending with a thrusted palm toward the crowd and a slide back into line. Nobody seemed to boo him, but whether that was due to the skill of the dance or the Mandalorian gear, Wolf wasn't sure.

Foo, wearing a bright white headband and blue wrist bands while shirtless, did a rendition of what had to be the worst dancing Wolf had ever seen. He started out swinging his arms back and forth as if he were walking, and ended up thrusting his pelvis at the gathered crew a little too often. He transitioned to pumping his arm in the air while bobbing his head, but missed his cue to move back in line and was yanked back forcefully by Gnoizic to get him out of the way of Shadow.

Shadow had decided to go full on martial arts with his routine, hopping through a dazzling array of kicks and flip/roll combinations. This drew the first pop from the crowd as the troops had finally found something they could appreciate with the routine they'd been subjected to. Wolf nodded in appreciation at Shadow's selection and the thought the CQB expert had put into his routine with the audience in mind.

Gremlin strode forward, completely in her Zeltron element and started doing a seductive yet complex hip-hop dance that drew whistles and catcalls. Wolf shook his head with a grin at the outpouring of enthusiasm he'd expected from a crowd like this.

With each routine and song switch, the backup dancers were becoming more and more disorganized as they forgot a step here or missed a beat there. Only Gremlin, and to a slightly lesser degree Shadow, had managed to remember all of the steps and execute them with fidelity. At one point Frosty bumped into Foo as the former spun the wrong direction during Gnoizic's solo. Foo in turn stomped on Gremlin's toes. Later, Angel smacked her hand on the Mando's helmet while Gremlin was in front of the crowd, so Wolf figured he might be the only one to notice since all of the soldiers' eyes appeared to be glued to the red sexpot.

Finally, Angel moved forward while the rest of the crew did a modified version of the robot. She attempted the breakdance she'd tried during the game, but had more luck this time around as she'd had more time to practice the routine. Unfortunately for her, however, the backup group got into real trouble. Gnoizic did a twirl with his arms spread out, assuming the other two pilots to his sides would be ducking for their part of the routine, but he was off-beat and ended up smacking both Frosty and Foo in the face and back of the head respectively. Frosty was taken off his feet by the metal-gloved hand of Gnoizic, and he didn't get up. Foo fell forward with the blow to the back of his head and took a kick to the face from Angel as she spun on her head with her feet in the air, which sent him spinning into Gremlin. The two of them collapsed into the wall, jarring the portable stereo into silence. Angel tumbled off to the side as she'd lost her equilibrium, slamming a flailing foot into Gnoizic's crotch as she went down. The Mandalorian gripped his crotch and collapsed on top of the diminutive break dancer.

The mess hall was deathly silent after the calamity that they'd just witnessed. Wolf winced as he prepared for the booing and the worst case scenario he'd run through his mind the entire time leading up to this day, where the entire enlisted mess threw food at him and otherwise hazed him until he couldn't show his face outside of his cockpit or quarters ever again.

A halting clap started near the back of the room. More hands joined the first, having shaken off the disbelief of having witnessed such a rube-goldberg of comedic errors. Then more hands, until the entire room was filled with a cacophony of cheers, whistles, whoops, and thunderous applause.

Wolf's mouth hung agape.