Pilots are Aedolian psychics who have completed the Pilot Candidate Program and been bonded to a dragon. These men and women are at the top of the military and, thus, at the top of the government. The one trait they all have in common, and the one trait that is necessary to be a Pilot, is that they are telepathic. In fact, if you’re a psychic you really have no choice—you’re going to be a Pilot if you can survive the intense training program.
Pilots are marketed as celebrities and war heroes, so when people discover that they are psychic and are drafted into the military, many respond with excitement. The reality is very different. The Pilot Candidate Program involves intense conditioning, indoctrination, and desensitization. It is a rigorous program designed to both beat the weaknesses out of an individual and build them back up again, and as a result the program breeds both brutal and damaged people. This does not mean that some people don't come out of it with their personality intact, though. A strong person can make it through the program relatively whole, but few people make it through the program without at least a few issues, considering the nature of it.
When they complete their training, each Pilot is chosen by a dragon, a process that can also be stressful as the Pilot is mentally probed and screened by a dragon that could very well kill them if dissatisfied. Once the Pilot has been chosen, the two forge a powerful bond, though it is the dragon that is most in control of the Pilot as opposed to the other way around.
In order to become a Pilot, the person must:
- Have some psionic ability.
They must have some telepathic ability to even qualify for the Program.
- Be an Aedolian Citizen.
It doesn't matter whether they were native-born or not. However, they must have Aedolian citizenship to qualify for the program. In order to become a Pilot Royal or Imperial, they must have been native-born as well.
- Have a clean background.
Clean as in, well, they don't want any former anti-Aedolis terrorists to become a Pilot, and a history of that would automatically disqualify them. (Not to mention, it would be enough to see them executed if caught.) Extensive background checks are run on each prospective candidate and it's iffy for them to even have a relative or friend who was accused of anti-Aedolis activities. They may still be allowed into the program if they have a useful skill, but even just knowing an anti-Aedolis supporter (whether they knew they were one or not) is enough to put them under suspicion and even have their freedom restricted. While they may still enter the program, they may experience extra hardships, hazing, and struggles for it.
- Be humanoid.
Pilots must be roughly humanoid. Nagas and centaurs, for example, don't really work, though a little alien blood and quirky features (odd skin colors, claws, tails, etc) is fine and even viewed as exotic. While Pilots are chosen and groomed for their abilities and leadership qualities, they also need to roughly fit Aedolis' "mold", as they are also very public figures and Aedolis is trying to project a certain image.
- Complete the Pilot Candidate Program.
All Pilots begin as Pilot Candidates.
- Actually WANT to be a Pilot.
There is no room for apathy. They want Pilots who actually want to be Pilots and who believe in Aedolis, otherwise it's a waste of time.
- Be chosen by a dragon.
While a candidate officially graduates after being chosen by a dragon in Stage 5, no dragon will choose them before they are Stage 5, and no one becomes a Pilot until they are chosen by a dragon.
Pilots have three uniforms: one for standard assignments, a slightly more fancy one for formal occasions, such as meetings with diplomats, and a third for flights on their dragons, which is a skin-tight jumpsuit, helmet, and breathing apparatus.
However, most Pilots do not wear the uniform in their day to day lives and there are a number of official missions a Pilot may be sent on that does not require the uniform. (Such as missions that require a Pilot to blend in with the crowd.) In their day-to-day lives, most Pilots simply dress however they want.
Facial hair is allowed, provided its kept well groomed, and as per a decree by the last Imperial, hair can be no longer than shoulder-length.
Pilots climb up the ranks via exemplary service and seniority. Ambitious Pilots who are dedicated and perform above and beyond the call of duty can easily make it to the top over the years, though the higher the rank, the larger the responsibilities. Rank is not determined by power level, but by performance. It's not about how powerful a Pilot is, but how well they use what power they have and the leadership qualities they display . A Pilot with weak psionics can still make it all the way to Royal and even Imperial.
The below is a general guideline of what the ranks mean and how to be promoted. There are exceptions; Pilots can be promoted faster if they perform above and beyond the call of duty by doing something extraordinary (such as heroic feats during a war, sneaking into an enemy base and disabling a major terrorist cell, etc). Most Pilots, however, will follow these guidelines.
- Pilot Imperial
- Only one Pilot may achieve this rank. This Pilot leads Aedolis alongside the Dragon Imperial. In order to become Imperial, a Pilot needs to be a native-born citizen. All Imperials are picked from Pilot Royal group and, occasionally, from the Nobles.
- Pilot Royal
- Only after years of exemplary service and an unblemished record might a Pilot achieve this rank. Royals are second in power only to the Imperial and so in order to qualify for Royal, a Pilot must show extraordinary leadership skills and loyalty to their nation. Most Imperials are chosen from the Royal ranks when it comes time to fill that position. In order to become a Royal, the Pilot must be a native-born citizen. They must also have served as a Noble for seven years. Characters of this rank should be in their mid-to-late thirties at least.
Every Aedolian city, with the exception of Haviah, has a Pilot Royal who serves as the city's leader. This Pilot is given the title of General.
- Pilot Noble
- Pilots with an impressive record of service and several years behind them can aspire to Noble rank. Imperials are occasionally chosen from this group. A Pilot needs to have served five years as an Echo to be promoted to Noble. Characters of this rank should be at least in their late twenties and they must be native-born citizens. Rare exceptions can be made. (With admin approval.)
- Pilot Echo
- The second largest group in terms of number of Pilots. Echoes enjoy more power and perks than Cardinals, but also gain more responsibility. In order to become an Echo, a Pilot needs to have served two years as a Cardinal and be in their early-to-mid twenties. This is the highest rank that a foreign-born Pilot can achieve.
- Pilot Cardinal
- Cardinals make up the majority of Pilots. All Pilots begin at this rank and are promoted or not based on merit and years served.
Means of Address
Pilots are addressed by Pilot + Last Name. For example, Pilot Smith. To get even more fancy, they can be addressed by their specific rank, too. For example, Pilot Royal John Smith. It is proper to salute them.
As a means of showing respect, civilians passing a Pilot by will often thank that Pilot for their service. A simple, "Thank you for your service," is customary.
Pilot Code of Conduct
While Pilots gain more freedom, they are still military and they still adhere to a military pecking order. When on duty, they are expected to follow proper protocol and address their superiors by their rank and last name. Insubordination is not taken lightly, and a higher ranked Pilot can discipline lower ranked Pilots for it with anything from janitor duty to a Network Lockout to a court martial. Severe offenses, such as assault and sexual harassment, earn a Pilot a court martial, prison time, demotion, even an end to their military career. Treason ends in execution.
There are also things a superior can and cannot order their subordinates to do. A higher ranked Pilot can order their subordinates to perform work-related duties but can never order another Pilot to do something that goes against the rules nor can they abuse their power by abusing their subordinates. (Such as ordering them to perform sexual acts and such.) Assault and sexual harassment (including coercion) is taken very seriously.
Off duty among friends, Pilots relax their standards. Off duty is off duty and a Pilot Royal can hang out with a Cardinal without rank getting in the way. Pulling rank in social situations outside of the job is a surefire way to get labeled as an uptight asshole. Some Pilots have an easy time switching gears from one role to the other while others have difficulty knowing where to let go and where the lines are.
All Pilots have an understanding that a person's mind is both private and sacred. As Pilots, it's one of their last havens, especially since as Candidates they would have all undergone having their thoughts routinely invaded. Forcing oneself into the mind of another Pilot is viewed as a violation and treated as an assault. Among civilians, it may be more difficult to avoid picking up stray thoughts, but the mind is still viewed as private; Pilots generally do not invade peoples' heads without cause, and doing so is considered a gross violation. Pilots are not thought police.
Only Inquisitors have the authorization to access another Pilot's mind, and even that is strictly monitored in a controlled environment. It's only after a lot of paperwork and clearance that an Inquisitor can do that. The only other person with the ability to order something like that is the Imperial or the dragons, who can order a Pilot to the Axis Point.
Main Article: Psionic Specializations
All Pilots have some psionic ability and all Pilots at least have telepathy in common. There are four tiers in which psionic abilities are divided, which lists the most common psionic abilities, though new abilities are always being discovered.
Jobs and Service
Main Article: Pilot Specializations
There are a wide range of jobs available to Pilots, and it doesn't all involve deployment. Pilots are not called on for every menial job; they are at the top of the military, the best of the best, and are more of a special ops team or SWAT team. They are not police officers or firemen and their missions should reflect that. The cities have police officers, bomb squads, and other military that can handle the day to day operations of a city.
A Pilot's job is more than just combat; they are in charge of running the country and carrying out operations that other military and police teams cannot.
When they are not actively participating in military missions, there are plenty of other jobs to be had, everything from tech support to instructing candidates to secretarial work to science to medicine to government work. The higher their rank, the more responsibility, and work, they gain.
By and large, Pilots are viewed as war heroes and celebrities. In the lower castes they may be viewed with distrust and suspicion, but to the more brainwashed masses, Pilots are marketed as idols. It keeps the public interested and boosts the nations morale and patriotism, makes them like them and relate to them, and thus makes them more complacent. If the media stays focused on who's sleeping with who and who's new and who's hot, people are less likely to pay attention to the darker things going on.
Sometimes, a candidate who doesn't quite fit the "mold" or doesn't quite meet all the requirements (such as Pilots with behavior issues, or who have expressed anti-Aedolis sentiments, or who are exceptionally weak, etc.) is given a pass and allowed to become a Pilot. This is rare, but it happens when a candidate has an exceptionally useful skill (such as precognition). However, these Pilots are restricted in ways others are not. They often have their rank capped and cannot move any higher than Echo, regardless of what they do. Many can't even move beyond Cardinal. Depending on their situation, they may never be allowed to mentor (or may not even be allowed around candidates) and may not be sent on many missions at all.
Just as Aedolis is dependent upon the dragons, Pilots become addicted to their dragons. Pilots are the only ones who can actually directly plug into, or connect to, The Network via the hardware in the dragons, and a Pilot soon learns that plugging in is more addictive than the strongest drug. The Network is a source of infinite knowledge and to directly connect to that source is highly euphoric.
This addiction helps keep the Pilots under control, and Dragons have been known to discipline their Pilots by denying them access to The Network for a period of time. Higher level Pilots also have the ability to lock lower level Pilots out, which they also do to discipline other Pilots.
While it's rare for a dragon to die, it sometimes happens. The death of a dragon can be both traumatic (if the pair were emotionally close) and physically taxing (even if no emotional bond was shared). It can be like losing a friend or mentor, or even worse, losing a piece of oneself. Of course, every Pilot reacts to, and feels, the death of a dragon differently.
Physically, it can be akin to withdrawing from a drug. The side effects can be as tame as feeling disoriented, dizzy, and confused to having auditory and visual hallucinations. Some Pilots even experience depression or suicidal thoughts and, at worst, go catatonic or mad.