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Amongst Stars: Torrid Squadron

Osetto's Avatar

01.07.2014 , 11:32 PM | #21
Chapter Seven

The starfighter banked right, the horizon rotating with the vessel. The divide that separated the surface and the sky was now a vertical one as the pilot struggled to keep up with Tessa's directions. His navicomputer placed the next marker straight ahead, all the while the neighboring console counted down a time limit for the objective. As the seconds dwindled away, the pilot soared through the checkpoint at the last possible moment to maintain his par time.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the applicant's hands loosened as his entire body unwound and his starfighter leveled out. But it was not the end of the test. Tessa quickly issued another command. The droid called out for a full reversal of direction, and the pilot hesitated. Pulling back as hard as he could on his controls, the Gallant pointed its nose toward the sky, climbing until it was upside down, heading back toward whence it came. Once more the pilot leveled out his craft, this time his hands remaining firmly rigid around the controls.

A harsh buzzing accompanied a red visual on the applicant's console, signaling an unsatisfactory display.

"Oh, come on!" Aiden bemoaned.

Tessa remained silent, except to relay the next series of directions. The pilot carried them out to the best of his abilities, but he was visibly shaken. The one mistake had thrown him off and the rest of his run suffered for it. Marks were missed, checkpoints only barely made. When the word came from Haron to finally return, he almost refused to believe it.

The Gallant returned to the hangar as those before it had. The cockpit's hatch slid forward and the applicant jumped out to Rem and Haron waiting for him. The scruffy Corellian scuttled across the folded wing as quickly as he could, hopping down by the commander's side.

"Please, you gotta let me run it again," Aiden pleaded, his usual cocky demeanor completely absent. "I can do better, I know it."

"I'm sorry Lieutenant Olenzo, but you only get one chance in this phase, same as everyone else," Rem calmly, but firmly, stated. "Your performance in the previous phases can make up the difference however."

"You don't understand, I-"

"Would you please inform Lieutenant Saldor that he is next," Rem interrupted.

The Corellian's feet remained planted as he stood with his mouth agape, trying to find the words but none came to him. All he could offer was the worthless contortion of his lips as nothing more than silence passed between them. Meanwhile, the commander and her executive officer continued to cast their unfazed sights directly upon the applicant. Finally conceding, the Corellian dragged himself back toward the other pilots, struggling to keep his head raised.

"You're next, Saldor," Aiden softly called out, his words barely picked up by the other applicants. The Duros supplied a quick nod, carefully raising himself from his seat and making his way toward the parked vessel. Aiden returned to his spot at the table, sinking in his chair. Whereas before the position spoke of a casual aloofness, now it only detailed crushing defeat.

"Didn't do as well as you'd hoped?" Leia asked, not an ounce of spite or malice in her voice. The Corellian offered only a barely discernible grunt as his response.

"You had a bad run," Loona spoke up, slightly more direct, slightly less compassionate than the Mantellian. "It's not like my test went perfectly. Everyone makes mistakes."

"And when they do, they try to not be a baby about it," Varah pointedly added. The Cathar remained rigid in her seat, arms crossed in front of her chest.

"We'll see how you do when you're up there," Aiden muttered.

"That we will," Varah replied, firm in her tone, as well as her confidence.

As the pilots continued their brief bout of friendly antagonism, Marvus saw a figure approach from deeper in the hangar. It was Chanta, head held high as she casually strolled toward the gathering.

"Welcome back Chanta," Marvus spoke as soon as she stepped into earshot. "Have good walk?"

"Yes, sir," Chanta politely replied. "Also had a good talk with Lieutenant Kayda."

"Now that's surprising," Marvus offered alongside a gentle chuckle. "She isn't much for talks, let alone good ones."

"Talked about ships and droids mostly," said Chanta. "I didn't realize how advanced Tessa was."

"Yeah, Tessa's a fine machine," Marvus declared.

"Just be sure not to piss it off," Erin interrupted.

"Speaking from experience?" Leia asked.

"Damned thing almost killed me," Erin quickly replied. "Put me in freefall before kicking the systems back online at the last moment."

"Hah!" Marvus laughed, slamming his hand upon the table alongside the exclamation. "She put you through a 'dead-drop', did she?"

"A what?" asked Zal.

"A trick Tessa likes to pull on pilots. Ones she deems too full of themselves," Marvus explained.

"Speaking from experience?" Leia repeated, somewhat more coy than last time.

"Erin? Full of himself?" Varah supposed, feigning a profound ignorance. The cyborg cast his sharpened gaze toward the now smirking Cathar.

"Isn't that a bit… dangerous?" Zal asked, the Nautolan's head-tendrils slipping from his shoulder as he tilted his head.

"No more dangerous than putting an organic behind the controls of one of the Republic's most advanced warships," Marvus joked. "Tessa knows the limits of the Gallant and herself. He was never in any real danger."

"I'll have to take your word for it," Erin muttered.

"If it's any consolation," Seraak calmly spoke up, "they say your first near-death experience is always the worst, so at least you've gotten it out of the way."

"Oh, yeah, I'll be sure to thank the droid for almost flying me into the ground next time I see it," Erin sarcastically offered.

"Well, now would be your chance," Chanta said with a smile, pointing behind the cyborg.

Turning around, Erin saw a lone astromech slowly making its way across the hangar. Cylindrical chassis, flat-topped conical head, red and white color scheme. It was one of Torrid squadron's astromechs. No owner. No attendant. Just a droid rolling upon the wheels beneath her rigid arms.

"I've already got one of them mad at me," Erin dismissed. "Don't need to antagonize the others."

"Actually, they're all linked," Chanta explained. "You piss one off, you piss them all off."

"She's right," Marvus added. "Though the Tessa currently in the air is separated from the others at the moment."

"Oh great, so I'll have until the testing is over until they all hate me," Erin muttered.

"Well, Lieutenant Kayda said that when they link together, data gathered during the separation is absorbed into the shared intelligence," Chanta recalled. "So I imagine if you're nice to another one of the units, it might balance things out."

"And the more units I can apologize to, the more impact that apology will have when they link back up," Erin declared, as if rapt with epiphany.

"Are you honestly trying to 'win' at apologizing?" Leia balked.

"Just maximizing a positive effect," Erin slyly stated as he raised himself from his seat. The other applicants watched as the cyborg chased after the roaming astromech.

"That… that won't actually work will it?" Gorman whispered.

"It actually might," Marvus answered. "At the very least, he's apologizing. Regardless of his intentions, he's treating Tessa like a person with feelings. Feelings to be manipulated, but feelings none the less. Small steps are better than no steps."

"People respect things they feel are extensions of themselves," Seraak explained. "Weapons, ships, and the like. But for droids, its different. They aren't blank slates for us to impart our own thoughts and ideas. But neither do they conform to our expectations of sentients. They exist in the middle ground between people and things. Its easiest to resign them all to mere tools and servants, regardless of their abilities. But Tessa isn't just another tool. She's part of the team."

"Is she like, the thirteenth member of Torrid Squadron?" Zal asked.

"The thirteenth. And the fourteenth. And the fifteenth," said Marvus. "All the way through to the twenty fourth. So I'd refrain from getting on her bad side."

The Devaronian let out another chuckle as the conversation lulled. Erin was off seeking the various astromech units he could find amongst the chamber. The rest of the applicants patiently waited. Soon, Rev Saldor would finish his run and the three remaining applicants would have their turn. The Nautolan. The Cathar. The Loner.

The Duros touched down in the hangar, his test complete. He offered a brief, respectful exchange with the commander and her executive officer. Returning to the pilots' table, Rev offered little insight into the quality of his run. His stoic face had no tells, and his deep-seeded humility would not allow him to boast. He simply informed Lieutenant Tobek that he was up next.

The large Nautolan quickly lifted himself from his seat, cracking his knuckles. "Wish me luck!"

Marvus shot the applicant a confident look before offering a firm thumbs up. Zal rushed toward the docked vessel, an eagerness in his step. The eighth applicant hopped atop the Gallant's wing and carefully squeezed himself into the ship's cockpit. As the hatch slid over the Nautolan's head, he situated himself with the controls and consoles, eyeing the displays as they readied themselves for the flight ahead.

"Alright Tessa, let's do this," Zal warmly said.

The Gallant lifted itself from its landing struts. For the eighth time, the starfighter emerged from the hangar. For the eighth time, an applicant was put to the test by the squadron's astromechanical assistant.

Zal tightened his grip around the Gallant's controls. This was his moment to prove himself worthy. As the first waypoint pinged on the applicant's console, he urged his craft forward, soaring through the open sky and across the testing area, the carrier soon a distant memory.

It was not only skill that fueled the Nautolan, but desire. Every action, every movement spoke of an energy deep within the pilot. One unfettered and unrestrained whilst in the cockpit. He wanted this. He wanted to join Torrid Squadron, ever since he first heard details of their deeds those many months ago. Zal knew what joining the team meant. He knew that it would be the end of his military journey. No more rising through the ranks. No walking away. His reach would forever be limited to that of his starfighter. But he was content with that.

There were certainly boons associated with Torrid Squadron. Their pilots were known throughout the navy and other branches. Known by military, politicians, and civilians alike. They were stars amongst stars. But it was not the fame that interested him. Not the notoriety. Not the prestige. Merely the chance to stand, and fly, amongst heroes. Torrid Squadron was a great many things, but the things it did were vastly more important.

And so the Nautolan flew the craft as best as he could. This was not a test. This was not a simulation. This was him throwing everything he had behind the controls of the Gallant. A branching point for the rest of his entire life, one he had direct control over. It was up to him to prove himself. He could not rely on the failures of others or the benevolence of the administrators. No niceties or pleasantries on his part would save him. Only pure skill.

Minute after minutes of expertly executed maneuvers unfolded as the Gallant danced across the blue sky, the horizon shifting and turning in the ship's viewports at the vessel did the same. Zal raced from checkpoint to checkpoint, performing tasks as soon as Tessa called them out. The Nautolan's performance was not perfect, but it displayed a remarkable competence with the advanced starfighter. Mistakes were made, but ultimately corrected. Commands that others stumbled on were successfully carried out if only by a hair's breadth.

After the final command was issued, Tessa signaled the test's completion. Haron Gregard's voice filled the cockpit, ushering the applicant back to the hangar.

The Gallant passed through the carrier's magnetic barrier, following the landing protocols to the letter. Folding in its wings, setting down upon its struts, the cockpit's hatch slid forward. All was silent and stilled for a moment. The previously boisterous and hasty Nautolan was hesitant in removing himself from the craft's interior. Carefully, he maneuvered his large frame out of the cockpit, slowly walking across the wing before hopping down to a waiting commander.

In the presence of Rem and Haron, Zal straightened out his posture, the act of which made him tower over the two superiors. His hands were by his side, clenched. His head held high, he struggled to maintain his composure amidst his heavy breathing.

"Lieutenant Tobek," Rem spoke up, eyeing the tall Nautolan. The applicant's shiny black eyes seemed to gaze off into the distance, unwilling match the commander's gaze. "Excellent work out there."

Seeing the commander offer a gentle smile, Zal instantly exhaled the breath he had been holding. Running his hands through his head-tendrils, the Nautolan attempted to compose himself as his body and mind were wracked with feelings of joy. Finally straightening himself out, the applicant offered the commander a firm, dutiful salute. Rem reciprocated, following up with an appreciative nod.

"You can inform Varah that she is up next," Rem commented. Zal finally lowered his hand and began making his way toward the other pilots. He walked with a bounce in his step rivaling the one he possessed prior to the test. The exhaustion welling up within his body could not hope to overcome the Nautolan's newfound pride.

The other applicants immediately picked up on the warmth exuded by Zal. He called out to the Cathar, telling her it was her turn. Varah quickly raised herself and made her way toward the starfighter with a brisk, determined gait. As the Nautolan sat back down, the others did not even have to ask if he made a good run. His attitude and demeanor all but spelled it out for them. While they were proud for him, they each secretly began weighing their chances in their own minds. They thought of the others. With only two applicants to go, it might soon become obvious who would be joining the squadron. Six spots. All it took to fill one was being better than four of their fellows.

Few had made their success readily known. Others held their performance close to their chests. Other than the Nautolan and the Corellian, whom wore their emotions on their sleeves, there was little to confirm about the other pilots. Whose boasts were genuine? Whose fake? The same went with humility, stoicism, and confidence.

The sirens of the hangar rang out in the pilots' ears. The Cathar was in the air. After her, all that remained was the loner. The man the pilots knew nothing about aside from his name. As surreptitiously as they could, they'd shoot a glance over to the man. Still he leaned against the wall, silent, arms crossed, eyes hidden beneath thick racer's goggles. Each and every one of them knew of his skills. They had a firsthand account of the past simulations. To think he might fail at this juncture was foolish. But that didn't mean some of the applicants didn't hope. After all, each failure meant their own success.

As the applicants dwelt on their future, the siren rang out in the hangar, this time signaling the applicant's return. As the testing drew ever closer to its end, it felt as if time was moving at an astounding pace. Minutes flew by in an instant without the intruding conversations of the other pilots. When left to their own thoughts, when forced to dwell upon their chance of success or failure, they could only drift ever closer to the determining point. The point in which they would receive their ultimate answer.

The Cathar returned to the table, every bit as stern and unfazed as the moment she left. However she performed, the others would not know until the spots were filled. The primal ferocity that rest behind her sharpened eyes could have detailed a suppressed anger, a boiling pride, or any number of emotions. Whatever it truly was, Varah would not say. In fact, the only words she would utter was the name of the next, and final applicant.

"Lieutenant Wardon," Varah called out, jutting a thumb over her shoulder back toward the parked vessel. Slowly, as all eyes at the table fell to him, Jerel pushed himself off the wall and began his calm, calculated walk toward the Gallant fighter.

Despite having stood by this entire time, his gait spoke nothing of fatigue. Step after step, he neared the commander and her executive officer, the three meetung beside the parked vessel's wing.

"Lieutenant Wardon," Rem said. "It seems you're the last person to be tested."

"I'm eager to prove myself," Jerel warmly offered with a polite dip of his head. Whatever stoicism or reserved tendencies he displayed back at the table, they were not present. The applicant was calm, soft-spoken, with an unbridled respect in his every word. The commander and her executive officer studied the final applicant. Fair skin. Short, unkempt hair. Peculiar goggles masking his visage.

"Might I ask about the goggles?" Rem asked, as courteous as she could.

The applicant lifted his head, returning with a gentle smile as he looked at them behind black lenses. "They're my good luck charm."

"Well, we'll see how effective they are, won't we?" Rem commented with an affirming nod. "Please enter the Gallant."

The final applicant supplied a dutiful nod as he climbed atop the starfighter's wings, making his way toward the cockpit with precise movements. Rem and Haron made their way toward the hangar's edge as the siren rang out for its second to last time. The Gallant starfighter raised itself and made its way beyond the magnetic barrier and into the open skies beyond the carrier.

The final test had begun and it wasn't long until the applicant had already proven himself a remarkably skilled pilot. With the first series of commands came a series perfect maneuvers executed by Jerel. As Haron poured over his datapad back in the hangar, even he marveled at the readings the ship was sending back.

"Impressive," Haron commented. "He seems every bit as capable outside of the simulators."

"Such a talented pilot," Rem stated. "Where was he previously posted?"

Tapping away at his datapad, the executive officer pulled up information on the last applicant. "Says he belonged to the core defense fleet. Nothing special. Low-level advising position, he didn't actually fly that much. Of course, it says here that was a new posting. He was transferred a few weeks prior. Transferred again a month before that. All called for by his superiors. It would seem he was passed around quite a lot."

"Any particular reason?" asked Rem. "Disciplinary actions? Performance issues?"

"There's not much in the records," Haron admitted. "In fact, there's not much regarding his past before joining the navy. Almost no biographical information."

"Did he voluntarily omit things from his record?"

"Information about the applicants was provided by their previous commanders," Haron stated. "Whatever we're missing, it's because of his superiors, not him."

"I don't understand," said Rem. "Who in their right mind would want to get rid of such a talented pilot?"

"Maybe he made them all look bad," Haron commented, eyes still glued to his datapad. Looking over the readouts from the Gallant, there was nary a flaw he could see. "His performance is practically perfect."

Then, as if to spite the executive officer, the datapad displayed a bright red ping.

"Well, almost perfect. He just missed a cue entirely," Haron stated, a hint of confusion in his voice.

"What cue?" asked Rem. "Audio or Visual?"

"Visual. He missed a readout on his console," Haron explained.

Rem held out her hand. “Let me see.”

Haron gave the commander his datapad, focusing on the particular notice. Looking over the device, no new faults appeared as the applicant continued his testing. Examining the cue Jerel had missed, it became apparent he was oblivious to it. Rather than trying to correct, he went completely unfazed. Every other cue was followed. Every auditory command from Tessa was instantly carried out. The commander began to rub her chin, a realization creeping upon her visage.

"I see," Rem muttered.

"What is it?" asked Haron.

"Something unexpected," Rem said as she handed the datapad back to his original owner. There was no disappointment in the commander's voice. Only interest.

Soon the test was over for the final applicant. Aside from the one missed cue, it was practically a perfect run, outperforming all of the other pilots. The siren rang out for the final time as the Gallant breached the magnetic barrier. Maneuvering through the carrier's hangar, the starfighter eventually touched down in its resting spot. Emerging from the cockpit's open hatch was the applicant, ever the calm soul. With a few deft movements, he traversed the folded wing and stepped down beside Rem and Haron, who eagerly awaited his return.

"Lieutenant Wardon," Rem spoke up. "That was one of the best performances I've had the privilege of witnessing. The fact that this was your first time in the Gallant makes it all the more impressive."

"Thank you, sir," Jerel politely said alongside the dip of his head.

"It was almost perfect," Rem continued. "However, you did make one rather large mistake."

"I did?" Jerel replied, a genuine confusion in his voice.

A smile graced the commander's face. "Don't worry. With your scores, I can confirm that you've earned a spot on Torrid Squadron."

"Really?" asked Jerel, smile beaming across his face.

"Yes, but I'm afraid I have one thing to ask of you," Rem declared. "You see, I figured something out about you during that test. You missed a very specific visual cue. And given your past performances, I can say it was something more than you not paying attention."

The smile slowly faded from Jerel's face as he took a nervous gulp.

"Don't worry," Rem assuaged. "I know some of your previous commanders might not have been comfortable working with you, but you'll find no such prejudices here. All I ask is that you go and tell the others yourself."


Rem thrust out her hand. Not for a salute, but for a handshake. The applicant hesitantly took hold before the commander tightened her grip. As her hand enwrapped his, she continued to look beneath the black lenses of the applicant's goggles. Her eyes spoke of understanding, of confidence, of belief.

The applicant supplied a quick, appreciative nod as they broke contact. With a deep breath, he made his way over to other pilots still situated around the conference table. The seated individuals had their eyes on the final applicant the moment he had landed and carefully watched his approach. Somewhat stifled was the previous calm, collected gait he possessed before. But he was still determined.

Standing in front of the large table, the applicant caught the attention of the other pilots. They had all returned from their various business about the hangar. As soon as all eyes were upon him, he slowly raised his hands, gripping the outer edges of his goggles. Carefully, he raised the thick bands of hardened leather baring black lenses, until they finally rest upon the applicant's forehead. The others went wide-eyed as they gazed upon the applicant's revealed visage. In the areas where the goggles had covered, there was only flesh, slight indentations where his eyes ought to have been.

Jerel Wardon, Miraluka male, age 29.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Caernos's Avatar

01.08.2014 , 07:23 AM | #22
As per usual, this is a great story and I am having a wonderful time keeping up with it (and your other works). It has been quite a puzzle trying to determine who you were gonna pick for your squadron. Some characters seemed like obvious choices, but I don't want to list them in case you decide to go all G.R.R. Martin and axe (in a manner of speaking) the ones I like.

Keep up the great work. Looking forward to seeing who made the roster and then what kind of action you throw them into.
Cynfor Cinderheart and the Cinderheart Legacy: The Ebon Hawk
The FanFic Works of Caernos:
Red Invitation, Parents,
Beskar Bonds and Cinder Hearts

Osetto's Avatar

01.08.2014 , 11:03 AM | #23
Quote: Originally Posted by Caernos View Post
As per usual, this is a great story and I am having a wonderful time keeping up with it (and your other works). It has been quite a puzzle trying to determine who you were gonna pick for your squadron. Some characters seemed like obvious choices, but I don't want to list them in case you decide to go all G.R.R. Martin and axe (in a manner of speaking) the ones I like.

Keep up the great work. Looking forward to seeing who made the roster and then what kind of action you throw them into.
Thanks for the comments.

I don't know if I've said this in another thread, but the original idea for this story was about Torrid Squadron recovering from losing half its team, including its leader. The first episode would have been about recruitment, and the 'disaster' would have just been backstory. But I thought it better to start with some action, as focusing on finding new members meant it might take a while before they were back on a mission. I also wanted to give the readers a glimpse of the antagonists.

Unfortunately this meant I needed to create and flesh out six characters, just to kill them off. But I didn't want them to be 'fodder' so I gave them as much detail as those I knew would survive. Then, in the next episode, I wanted Torrid Squadron to be testing new recruits, but I knew focusing on only six would mean all of them were expected to succeed, kind of eliminating the point of the test. So I had to make more characters destined for failure. I had to think up qualified pilots who would just happen to fall short. In the middle of writing, I started liking some of them to the degree that I thought of giving them a spot over a character I had thought up months ago.

But I suppose that's good. I never wanted any of the pilots to act as 'filler'. And I wanted it to seem like each of them had a chance. I made sure the description 'blocks' that followed each applicant's introduction was balanced as best they could be. Which was rather difficult considering Humans and non-Humans usually require different approaches to physical description. Then I had to make sure that 'being an alien' wasn't a character's defining trait. I wanted each of them to have a voice that could stand alone as a mere voice.

For those who make the roster, I've had them divided into three groups based a prime trait, much as I have other stories involving groups of characters. Body, mind, and spirit. I like to use a three-piece dynamic rather than a binary one. It allows for a little more depth than hot versus cold, fighter versus thinker, extrovert versus introvert. But it's typically been used regarding Force-sensitive characters, where the body, mind, and spirit are more readily defined and separable. With starfighter pilots, body doesn't necessarily mean physical strength, but bodily skill. Raw reflexes and command of their vessel in a straight-up dogfight. Mind pertains not only to intelligence, but forethought, patience, tactical maneuvering. Spirit involves emotion, empathy, cooperation. Each character flourishes with one trait and may fall short with the others, but their role often forces them to expand beyond any singular grouping.

The body is represented by Haron and Dunn.
The mind by Rem and Fen.
The spirit by Marvus and Seraak.
And two more will belong to each group when the roster is filled.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar

01.11.2014 , 10:30 PM | #24
Chapter Eight

The pilots stared dumbfounded at the eyeless pilot that stood before them, who threatened to buckle under the weight of their combined gazes. The facade had been peeled away. No longer was he the isolated, rigid loner. But he yet remained the most enigmatic of the group. Only now not by measure of his personality, but his abilities.

"Wait, wait, wait," Aiden spoke up, breaking the silence. "You're telling me we've been getting out-piloted by a blind man?"

"Just because I don't have eyes, doesn't mean I can't see," Jerel struggled to explain, almost abashedly.

"I think the bigger question is, since when did they start letting Jedi into the standard ranks?" Erin commented.

"I'm not a Jedi," said Jerel.

"I thought all Miraluka were Force-sensitive," Leia declared.

"Doesn't make me a Jedi," Jerel replied. "I was tested as a child. Didn't make it into the Order proper. Guess I've got Force-vision and not much else."

"He says, while sitting at the top of the rankings…" Erin muttered beneath his breath.

"I thought Miraluka couldn't see color, or any electronics really," Aiden added.

"We can, we just see them differently than you," Jerel explained. "I can distinguish individual colors, just… we might see the same color in different ways. I can tell red from orange clear as day. But my red might not be your red. It doesn't impact my flying, though. I've passed all my sight evals. I can read my instruments. I can look out my viewports. I just see things a bit differently."

"And he's not alone," Rem declared. The other pilots' attention was drawn to commander as she stepped beside the Miraluka. She stood tall, if not in stature then in spirit, her voice clearly reaching each and every man and woman sitting amongst their fellows. "Humans are not the only ones willing and able to defend the Republic. And as our ranks expand, it is only natural that we include those with different biologies. Mon Calamari, for example, see in a slightly different wavelength than Humans."

"Our people like to fly, so the Republic has prefabbed settings for us in most military vessels," Fen plainly stated. "Still, Rem made some tweaks to my fighter's software to better accommodate me."

"And I'll do the same for Lieutenant Wardon," Rem declared. "His performance makes him the prime candidate for acceptance into Torrid Squadron. Which means that whomever among you earns a spot on the team, you will have him as one of your squadron mates. I trust none of you have a problem with that?"

The applicants panned their gazes around the table. Amongst them sat the other members of Torrid Squadron who remained unstirred, backing their commander's every word. One by one, the applicants shook their heads, some more enthused than others.

"So if we know for a fact he's in, how long until we know the full roster?" asked Varah.

"Each and every one of you has displayed a worthy level of skill, of which you should all be proud," said Rem. "Lieutenant Gregard and I will need to take a deeper look into your performances over the various stages of testing before we can make a final decision."

Dunn looked to his commander. "How much time will you need?”

"A couple hours," Rem answered. She paused for a moment, turning toward her executive officer. "Maybe more."

"Alright then!" Marvus heartily exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "I get the feeling no one wants to sit around here any longer, so how about we get something to eat? If you wanna join Torrid Squadron, you're going to have to learn to love this place's mess hall. And believe me, it's a lesson hard learned."

One by one, the applicants and pilots of Torrid Squadron lifted themselves from their seats as the Devaronian made his way deeper into the hangar. Setting their sights on a connecting corridor, they were about to embark on a walk through the Den's far less open innards.

Jerel was about to take the rear of the roaming group when he felt a hand placed on his shoulder. Gentle, yet firm, the commander's fingers gripped the exterior of the Miraluka's flightsuit as she looked into the pilot's eyeless visage.

"Welcome to the team," Rem stated.

"It's an honor, sir," Jerel replied along a dutiful nod. Releasing her grip, the first official inductee to the squadron was released to the group. As the fourteen pilots disappeared deeper into the carrier, the commander and her executive officer were left alone. Rather, as alone they could be amidst the hangar of a large military vessel.

"Was that truly wise, confirming Lieutenant Wardon's inclusion this early?" Haron asked.

"No one in their right mind would give up a pilot as skilled as he. And yet, he was passed around from commander to commander without a single infraction to his name," said Rem. "His last posting withheld his species, because they thought we'd reject him. He withheld his species, because he thought we'd reject him. He kept to himself, limiting interaction with the others across every phase of testing. He needs to know there isn't a problem. The others definitely need to know there isn't a problem."

"You wanted to see if anyone outwardly objected," Haron commented. "I understand."

"And none of them did," Rem stated. "Of that, I can be proud. Though it does make the task of reducing the applicants a bit tougher now."

"I know, if only two or three of them could have been a bit more intolerant," Haron offered in his regal stoicism, albeit alongside a gentle smile.

Rem grinned. "Might want to drop the Imperial accent if you're going to make a joke like that.”

"I do suppose one of my former brothers could have once said the same in earnest," Haron admitted. The pair shared a restrained laugh with one another, free from the eyes and ears of the applicants. It was a succinct, but satisfying moment of jovialness.

The executive officer possessed a new aura of warmth, one absent from the previous phases of testing. A part of him felt the need to adopt the image of a cold, austere taskmaster for the applicants. Then again, a part of him truly was a cold, austere taskmaster. But he was not without his cares. Not without his emotions. But alongside the commander, he was tasked with rebuilding his team. Rebuilding his family. There was a time for emotion, and there was a time for logic. Unfortunately, Haron could not properly decide which of those times it currently was. He had a duty, to his squadron and himself. This was the one juncture in which he could not afford to make a mistake.

Torrid Squadron was a military outfit. It needed fighters. It needed people willing and able to act, to accomplish, and to sacrifice. But it needed more than good pilots. It needed members who were able to comply with and adapt to a unique command structure. Its members could not be judged by skill alone, but neither could such an important factor be dismissed. Each member had to act as both an individual and a teammate. The tests had provided valuable information, but they could not provide all the answers. Fortunately, Haron knew someone more than capable of processing all that had occurred the past few days.

Torrid Squadron served as a symbol, and it was imperative that it continued to do so. It needed the right members, and it was up to Rem and Haron to pick them. It wasn't a job for one person. Although the responsibility ultimately fell to the commander, her executive officer would continue to offer himself in whatever capacity required.


The commander's quarters. Formerly the dwelling of Commander Nolante and Haron Gregard, now only the nameplate of Rem Altess lay present beside the door.

Inside, the cramped dwelling was momentarily less so, the commander's meager belongings not stretching beyond a single half of the room. The other half lay almost barren, the executive officer's possessions having been relocated to a room of his own in the interim. In the months following the tragedy that had befallen Torrid Squadron, Lieutenant Gregard took up residence across the hall in a dwelling whose previous occupants had perished.

But the Lieutenant sat within the room once more as he conferred with the commander about the applicants. Sitting at his former desk, the executive officer eyed his trusty datapad, the records of the applicants' tests resting at his fingertips.

Standing over him was Rem, deeply immersed in her own mind. In the privacy of her dwelling, the tightly wound officer began to unwind, her uniform's cuffs and collar having been loosened. But it was a purely cosmetic display, as deep inside, the stress of duty yet remained. Burdening, but not overwhelming. If anything, it pushed her forward, as she was unwilling to see herself stall knowing others were counting on her.

The commander took a deep breath, releasing it a moment later as she properly gathered herself. "Have we got a tentative ranking yet?"

"Factoring in all the previous phases of testing…" Haron began, scrolling through the countless lines of data streaming in front of him. "Lieutenant Wardon is at the top, followed shortly after by Lieutenant Hayes. After them, Lieutenants Chanta and Tobek have the strongest showing. After that, it becomes a tad unclear."

"Disparities between the phases?" Rem suggested.

"Correct," said Haron. "Lieutenant Dardan gave one of the best performances in the leadership test, but struggled in the later phases. The opposite was true for Lieutenants Varah and Loodatah."

"What about between the third phase and the others?" Rem asked. "Any marked differences between the simulator and the actual craft?"

"Lieutenant Freeden did much better in the Gallant than in the simulator," Haron stated. "Lieutenant Saldor showed a decrease in performance transitioning into Phase Three."

"I take it we should value live performances over simulated ones," Rem suggested.

"It's up to you," Haron replied. "The discrepancies are small enough that their skills could be brought up to par."

The commander released a soft sigh as she paced behind the executive officer, eventually setting herself down on the edge of the Lieutenant's former bunk. "This isn't going to be easy is it?"

"No. Then again, we weren't expecting it to be," Haron calmly stated.

The commander began running her hands through her short, light brown hair, staring blankly into the distance. "If we confirm Jerel, Erin, Zal, and Chanta… that leaves us two spots. And six applicants. Leia is a better tactician than pilot, but that speaks more to her strengths than her faults. Gorman excelled in nothing, but possesses no shortcomings either. Loona was a natural when she got in a Gallant, but her performance in the first phase leaves something to be desired. Aiden gave an excellent showing in the simulators, but seemed to falter in the live test. The same was true for Rev. Varah… she reminds me a bit a Dala."

The commander's tone had drifted from factual to reminiscent. Haron lifted his gaze from his datapad to see his superior leaning forward on the edge of the bunk, forearms resting against her knees. Her sights were glued to the opposing wall, fixated on the cold, blank surface.

"We cannot overlook capable pilots for what reminds us of those we lost," Haron carefully reminded.

"Anyone who could remind me Dala is a capable pilot," Rem emphatically stated. "Everyone we lost, left us without an integral part of the machine. When Nolante put the original team together, he didn't just choose great pilots. He chose people that belonged together. People with unique skills that could work in tandem, fill in whatever gaps the others might possess. When Freemont left, he found the perfect replacement in Seraak. He knew that we were more than bodies in a cockpit. He valued our beliefs, our personalities, our shortcomings, our wants and desires. We have to do the same."

"That's not the kind of information they put in official records," said Haron.

"They do, you just have to look for it," Rem declared, lifting herself from the bunk. "Nolante hadn't met any of us prior, and yet he was able to form a team from purely raw data and his own judgment. And he had help, if I recall."

"Nolante did bring me in as an advisor, just after the project was put into motion," Haron admitted. "But all I did was filter information."

"And that's all you have to do now," Rem replied. "Biographical information. Academy records. Honors and demerits. Psych profiles and evaluations. The information's there, we just have to piece it together, you and me."

"Maybe we should have just interviewed the applicants in Phase Zero.”

"You can fake your way through an interview. You can't fake your way through an entire career in the service."

"You'd be surprised…" Haron muttered.

The executive officer looked up from his datapad, pivoting in his seat to face the standing commander. She had a spark in her eyes. Gone was the doubt and hesitance she had been struggling to expunge from her mind the past months. The strong facade she wore was no longer a facade, it was a pulsing energy that stemmed from deep within her core. In a single moment, with a single glance, Rem had put Haron's mind at ease.

"Alright, commander. Just tell me what to look for."
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar

01.21.2014 , 12:16 AM | #25
Chapter Nine

"So… that makes six," Rem calmly stated, taking a step away from the sitting subordinate.

Haron looked over his datapad, studying the roster they had created. "Nice balance of backgrounds and personalities. Wide range of skillsets and specializations. A capable ground team. Excellent work, commander."

Rem let out a light chuckle. "I didn't do it alone, you know."

"I just isolated pertinent information. You made all the right judgments," Haron replied.

"If you can do one, you can do the other," said Rem. "Even the most complicated issues can be solved when looked at with a careful eye."

"I see you've not lost your technician's mind since becoming commander," Haron warmly offered, bordering on a smile. "So how do we go about informing the applicants?"

"We'll send them home for the day," Rem decided. "Give those who didn't make it a message informing them of such. Tell them they'll receive a formal recommendation for advanced placement outside of Torrid Squadron."

"And those who did make it?”

Rem adopted a gentle smirk. "I think we can leave them with a little bit of suspense. I mean, they're in, we just have to process them."

"Everything should be in order… unless the admiral rejects any of them," Haron bluntly replied.

The commander tensed as a frigid chill shot up her spine. All of the comfort and confidence she had cultivated shattered in an instant. Her breathing hastened and her eyes widened, the commander's gaze darting from side to side as she lost her focus.

"Oh no. Trevel has final say," Rem muttered to herself. "What if he doesn't like one of the candidates? If he rejects one of them, it could throw off the balance we've worked to create. We need to plan a new contingency-"

"Relax, commander. It was only a joke," Haron admitted. "The admiral left you in full control of recruitment. He'd confirm anyone who made it past Phase Zero at your word."

The executive officer's grip on his datapad faltered as he felt the commander's fist driven into his shoulder. The playful blow elicited no pain, but was enough to shake the subordinate in his seat. Turning around, he saw Rem burning a hole through him with her gaze, mouth and nose scrunched in friendly frustration.

"Sorry. No more jokes," Haron politely stated.

"On the contrary, it's good to see spirits are high to enough to be making jokes," Rem said with a smile. "It's just your delivery that needs work."

"I'll not argue with either sentiment," Haron admitted with a restrained chuckle. "It's almost hard to believe we're about to become whole again. No more sitting around wondering what command's going to do with us."

"To be fair, that doesn't go away the moment we're back in action," Rem stated.

"But at least then I can feel like I'm doing something," Haron replied. "I don't relish the fighting or the danger… but I can't stand Torrid Squadron being grounded."

"You're not alone," Rem admitted. "We'll be flying again soon enough, six more by our side."

"It shouldn't take long to process the confirmations," said Haron. "I'm sure Trevel and the Senate will want Torrid Squadron back in the spotlight as soon as possible. The following days will be spent getting the pilots situated and moved in. We're going to have to shuffle things around in the barracks as we decide the new room assignments."

"You should move back in here," Rem calmly suggested.

"Are you sure? If you'd rather have a female roommate…"

"You're my executive officer," Rem declared. "If we're to work efficiently once we're back up and running, we need to maintain a close proximity, and I'm fine sharing a living space. Besides, with seven men and five women, there'd have to be at least one mixed pairing."

"What about mixing the old and new members?" Haron asked.

"We're all one team now. It's up to us to make sure we don't raise any artificial divides within the squadron," Rem stated. "But we'll also make sure to place the others according to their comfort level."

"Giving Dunn a quiet roommate?" Haron suggested.

"Exactly," Rem replied.

"We'll find a way to make it work.”

"We always do.”


Nestled within the heart of Republic Space, the grandest of the core worlds was surrounded by the constant comings and goings of thousands upon thousands of military and civilian vessels. Drifting upon the astral void at the edge of Coruscant's gravity well was an orbital station servicing and refueling a number of naval transports and cruisers. Amongst the constant movements on board and around the installation, six figures sat stilled.

Six pilots, waiting in a large hangar, surrounded by footlockers and large satchels containing their belongings. Applicants from the training of days prior. The newest members of Torrid Squadron. They had shed the flightsuits of their former squadrons, garbing themselves in casual garb for their trip to their new home. The pilots huddled around one another atop a set of benches, patiently awaiting the arrival of a ferry. The hangar was empty and silent, untended by the station's workers, unoccupied by docked crafts.

But the silence could not last.

Even in a hunched stance, Zal towered over his fellow pilots. Though no longer encased within a bulky flightsuit, his tall, muscular frame still proved atypical for a man expected to confine himself into a snug cockpit. The Nautolan passed his large, black eyes across the empty hangar, catching the others in his peripherals before settling his gaze upon the traveler's bag at his feet.

"Anyone else expecting there to be another test once we get there?" Zal genuinely wondered.

"There's only six of us and they're asking us to move in… I think we made it in," Erin declared, oddly comforting with his snark. The Human wore simple garb much as the others did, short-sleeved shirt and cargo pants composed of various browns and grays. The pale, exposed flesh of the cyborg's arms were lithe, and absent any apparent augmentation. The lieutenant's visible cybernetics seemed limited to the thin strips upon his right cheekbone and brow.

"I know, but it's still hard to believe we actually made it in," Zal admitted.

"Maybe for you it is," Erin stated, confidently leaning back against the hangar wall. The Human appeared the most well-put together of the bunch, not an ounce of physical or emotional stress visible on his person, not a hair or fiber out of place. "It was a test of skill. We passed. End of story."

"Astute," Loona commented. "Arrogant… but astute." The Rodian had a firm grasp of Basic, but her thick accent persisted despite the pilot's continued effort to be rid of it. Outside of her flightsuit, the pilot displayed a lean, well-trained physique, her exposed arms possessing a rough, pebbly texture.

"There's actually some truth in there," Jerel warmly offered. Gone was the loner who hid himself beyond the other pilots' notices. The Miraluka presented himself as someone who belonged, sitting amongst his fellows, no longer an outsider. The humanoid possessed the same unkempt hair and donned the same racer's goggles upon his eyeless face, but the smile that graced his lips was a new, but welcomed addition. "None of us don't belong here. We all passed the tests. We're all skilled and capable pilots. We did it. Feel good about that. Take pride in your accomplishments. Don't think yourself inferior or undeserving."

"They give that pep talk back at the temple?" Erin jokingly asked.

"On the contrary, one of the first things they try to instill in initiates is a sense of detachment," Jerel explained. "From your emotions as well as your fellows."

"Sounds depressing," Erin bluntly stated.

"It's a foundation to build on," Jerel admitted. "Something to let the younglings know what they're getting into. I left after a week, so I don't know how the studies progress."

"Probably for the best," Varah offered. "I'd pick a life in the service over the Order any day." Outside her flightsuit, the Cathar's light-brown fur was on display, covering her athletic figure. A picture of physical prowess, the pilot's dense musculature granted her a dexterous frame without the added bulk another species might possess.

"Really? Wouldn't want a little something extra behind those claws," Erin asked.

"I like being the only one behind these claws," Varah emphatically stated. "Don't need some outside force driving my actions."

"Odd thing to hear from a pilot," Erin commented. "Or did they not have a chain of command where you were stationed?"

"I'll follow a Captain before a magical energy field any day," Varah declared. "I can control my ship. Don't have to worry about it controlling me."

"You say that now…" Erin muttered.

"Those of us who didn't piss off our astromech shouldn't have to worry about that," Chanta warmly countered. The Selkath's voice still possessed the gurgling grit native to her species, but it possessed a genuine warmth behind every word. Without a flightsuit to conceal it, the pilot's figure was readily apparent. Dark-blue skin with an aquatic sheen covered her sturdy frame. She possessed little in the way of breasts or hips, her species' sexual dimorphism presenting itself solely in the two long tendrils that hung from the back of her head.

"Experimental hyper-intelligent droids aside, you still have nav comps that calculate hyperspace routes for you, targeting systems that correct your mistakes, dampers and throttles that keep you from maintaining total control," Erin bluntly listed. "The idea that you're flying free through space and sky is an illusion. The ship's doing most of the work, you're just along for the ride."

"Hmm, guess that means your scores the other day were nothing special,
Varah casually stated, sharp grin baring sharper teeth.

"Considering we were all beaten by a blind man…" Erin joked.

"I'm not blind," Jerel calmly replied.

"How long did it take to convince your instructors of that?" asked Erin.

"About a week," the Miraluka answered.

"You spend that week thinking it might be a repeat of the temple?" Erin asked with a genuine candor, dropping any pretense of humor.

The Miraluka paused for a moment. "Yeah, I kinda did."

Before he could elaborate, the eyeless pilot found a hefty arm wrap itself around his shoulders, pulling him close and squeezing him tight. "Don't worry!" Zal boisterously stated. "You're a part of Torrid Squadron now. No way they'd think about getting rid of you. The performance you gave, hell, you're probably as good as them!"

The squeezed pilot let out a soft chuckle as he found himself pressing into the Nautolan's armpit. "We're all as good as them. We are them," Jerel clarified. "We're all a part of the team, and we were let in for a reason. No more 'us and them'. Just 'us'. The twelve of us are brothers and sisters now."

"I hear that," Varah emphatically added, a touch of fire in her voice.

"Same here," Chanta added, somewhat more restrained. The others chimed in in their own way with silent and hearty nods.

Before the six pilots could continue their spontaneous bonding, their ferry slipped past the magnetic barrier at the far end of the hangar. The Republic shuttle possessed a utilitarian design, able to carry and rapidly deploys a full squad of troopers on the battlefield. The white and orange vessel touched down in the center of the open chamber, releasing a mechanical squeal as it rested upon its landing struts. Its hind ramp deploying, the pilots of Torrid Squadron quickly gathered their belongings, eager to climb aboard.

The pilots marched toward the transport, bags and lockers in tow. The trek was made in silence, any thoughts going through the pilots' heads not warranting speech. There wasn't much to them, as they were mostly pithy, rambling musings of a mind about to embark on an unknown journey. For all they knew of their new position, there was little they could truly expect. A prospect that would be frightening to any who had not experienced what they had. But to them, it was uplifting.

As was the shuttle that picked itself from the hangar floor, its passenger bay filled to half-capacity. The transport exited the hangar, setting a course for one of the many orbiting bodies of Coruscant. It was not an installation, but a ship. Had they viewports, the pilots could have seen the orbital station drifting further and further away, and the Den drifting ever closer. The carrier floated beyond the normal entourage of military crafts that surrounded the refueling station, sitting alone, patiently awaiting its newest denizens.

The transport carefully maneuvered into the Den's hangar, making its way deeper down the empty lane that stretched across the chamber. The Gallant fighters safely tucked to the side, the shuttle was free to set itself down in the center of the hangar, ready to release its passengers into the familiar space.

The pilots exited the craft onto the hangar floor, and into the welcoming gaze of Commander Altess. She wore the same uniform she had donned for their previous meeting, as did the executive officer at her side. The new denizens quickly but carefully made their way down the ramp, luggage firmly in hand as a warm smile graced the commander's lips.

"Welcome aboard your new home, pilots," Rem spoke up as the sixth pilot departed the shuttle. "Haron and I will take you to your rooms."

Rem and Haron had already begun to walk away from the new arrivals, not wasting any time. Despite the rush, the pilots were already beginning to settle in. They had begun to notice subtle changes in their environment. The hangar, despite its stockpile of military supplies and armament was surprisingly welcoming. And despite their time spent within, over the course of training it was a lifeless place, cold and off-putting. But nothing had physically changed. The vessels sat as they always had. The stacked crates sat as they always had. Indeed, the change was mental. Without the burden of the tests and their wants for acceptance, the pilots could see the hangar as something more. Part of a home.

And it was not the only thing that was different. The commander displayed a subtle shift, one beyond the pilots' previous perceptions. She was warm, welcoming. A person, rather than a judge. An ally, rather than a superior. A revelation born of a few short words. The fact that she referred to her executive officer as Haron, rather than Lieutenant Gregard, immediately put thoughts of their future within the squadron in the pilots' heads.

The group migrated deeper into the carrier, into the cramped corridors of the vessel's central workings. Passing by stockrooms, rec rooms, and armories before finally reaching the pilots' barracks. Six rooms. Three on each side of the hall, adequately spaced apart. Four of the six rooms had their doors opened. Two of the six rooms had pilots standing at their entrance. Marvus and Fen.

"Varah, Loona Loodatah," Haron spoke up, eyeing the datapad in his hands. "You'll be sharing room six. The Cathar and Rodian shared a brief look, finding nothing to protest with the decision. Securing their grips on their belongings, the two pilots ducked into their new abode as the group drifted further down the hall.

"Jerel Wardon, Erin Hayes," Haron spoke again. "You'll be sharing room five."

The cyborg offered the Miraluka a curious look. He offered his own eyeless gaze. Whilst the goggled pilot wore a warm smile, the Human maintained his stern countenance.

"I suppose I could have gotten worse," Erin muttered before ducking into the vacant room. The Miraluka maintained his gentle demeanor as he followed shortly behind.

"Chanta," Haron spoke, this time only single name. "You'll be sharing room four with Fen Kayda."

The Selkath stopped dead in her tracks, eyes widening as she processed the executive officer's words. She almost thought she misheard, but looking further down the hall to a waving Fen provided all the answer she needed. The Mon Calamari beckoned the pilot closer and she complied as soon as her mind returned to her.

"Lieutenant Kayda… I," Chanta managed to utter as she stood in front of the door way. Fen quickly raised her large, webbed hand to elicit a pause.

"You can drop the formalities," Fen stated, her stoic tone making it hard to pick up her feelings. Her expression was blank, and her voice utterly relaxed, bordering on cold. But before Chanta could mumble a reply, the Mon Calamari relieved the Selkath of the bag slung over her shoulder.

"We're on a first-name basis here," Fen commented as she took the burden of the other pilot's luggage as her own. "Or last name if you prefer. Or just your name if you've only got the one. Either way, we prefer to just drop the rank and title, expect maybe for the commander. That alright, Chanta?"

Despite the apparent coldness of the Mon Calamari's expression, she seemed keen on providing her new roommate a warm welcome. Staring into the other pilot's fish-like eyes, the Selkath provided a dedicated nod.

"Of course… Fen," Chanta said, struggling to overcome her sense of formality. The two pilots disappeared into their room, leaving only a single pilot alongside the executive officer. Staring at the last remaining dwelling, the Nautolan quickly began assembling the pieces in his mind.

"Wait, does that mean?" Zal sheepishly muttered.

"That's right, you're with me kid," Marvus spoke up as he leaned against the wall outside his room. The Devaronian's voice oozed with the coolness the Nautolan had expected of his hero. The large pilot's knuckles went white as he tightened his grip around his luggage, eagerly looking to the executive officer for confirmation.

"He's correct," Haron finally stated. "You'll be sharing room three with Marvus.

A toothy grin washed over the Nautolan's face as he carried his belongings into his new domicile. Soon, only Rem and Haron remained standing within the hallway.

"They seem to be taking their room assignments well," Haron commented. "Fine work, commander."

"They're pilots of the Republic Navy," Rem replied. "They're probably happy they only have to share a room with one other person. We've grown accustomed to the Den. This place probably seems downright luxurious to them."

"I suppose it has been a while since any of us has been subject to the standard fare of a military dwelling," Haron admitted.

"I can only imagine Marvus trying to acclimate to an airbase on the fringe of Republic space," Rem joked. "He thinks our food is bad…"

The pair shared in a restrained chuckle at the thought.

"So what do we do now, commander?" asked Haron.

"How about take it easy for a while?" Rem warmly suggested. "You've done quite enough the past few weeks. Relax a bit. Nothing to do now but wait for the pilots to settle in."

"I… of course, commander," Haron replied with a nod of his head, dutifully acknowledging his superior's suggestion.

Rem took a few steps back up the hallway, positioning herself in the middle of the six rooms. Panning her gaze, she saw that the rooms' doors were still ajar.

"Pilots," Rem called out, loud enough that she could catch their undivided attention. "Take the day to settle in. You'll be fitted for your new flightsuits tomorrow. Then… we'll embark on our first mission."

The was a pause, then the echoes of rustling as the new pilots poked their heads out of their respective rooms.

"Wait, we already have a mission?" Erin asked, adequately bewildered.

"Of course," Rem declared. "The Republic always has need for Torrid Squadron."
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar

01.21.2014 , 04:32 PM | #26
Chapter Ten

"When you said we had a mission, this isn't what I expected…" Erin muttered beneath his breath.

Twelve figures stood shoulder to shoulder, garbed in matching red and white flightsuits. The pilots of Torrid Squadron had been gathered together, each of them wearing a smile upon their face. Some were genuine, some forced. But the pilots were not alone. To either side of squadron stood their allies and patrons, military officials and politicians old and new who had pledged their support to the reformed group.

Across from them stood dozens more onlookers, directing a litany of recording devices toward the stilled group as they continued to pose together. Within the conference room nestled deep within the senate halls of Coruscant, images and videos of the new Torrid Squadron were being captured, ready to be uploaded to the Holonet.

Taking a break from the onslaught of attention, the pilots relaxed as an older gentleman stepped from their ranks, putting himself between the two groups. The graying Human possessed the uniform of a high ranking navy official and presented himself with an air of distinction and poise. It was Admiral Trevel.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he addressed the crowd, many of them eagerly recording the admiral's words. "It is my honor to formally announce the return of Torrid Squadron."

A soft applause filled the conservatively sized chamber. The pilots of Torrid Squadron watched as the gathered public passed their gazes between them and the admiral and back again. It was a familiar experience for the old guard, but the new recruits were unaccustomed to the attention. As the heavy gaze of the public fell upon them, they did their best to stand tall under the crushing burden. They were looked upon with kind eyes, ones that spoke of a respect despite having never met any of them. The same eyes the recruits displayed over the course of their training. The six new pilots quickly realized they were on the inside looking out.

The Nautolan stared back at the crowd with wide eyes and a sheepish smile. As the largest target in the group, more eyes fell to him and Zal could feel it. It was equal parts uplifting and exhilarating. The attention was to be expected as a member of Torrid Squadron, but that didn't make it any less unfamiliar. But whatever discomfort he felt, it was subservient to the welling pride within.

The cyborg seemed oddly adept at maintaining his poise and posture under the combine gazes of the wondering public. Erin relished the adoration, but prioritized maintaining his cool demeanor in the eyes of the onlookers.

The Cathar and Rodian offered similar displays of relaxed stoicism in the face of burdening attention. They retained composed postures, either ignoring or rejecting the displays of affection from the crowd. Whether it was a genuine uncaring, or a coping mechanism to deal with the public eye, Varah and Loona were keeping their feelings well-hidden.

The Miraluka attempted to do the same, but with a bit less success. Jerel stood across from the gathered crowd, goggles firmly set in front of his shallow, eyeless sockets. As confident and comfortable the pilot had grown in the company of his new fellows, he had reverted to his old reserved self as more and more eyes set their sights on him. Unable to slink away, all he could do was offer as genuine a smile as he could muster, drawing on the composure of his teammates.

The picture of said composure was the Selkath. Chanta stood tall with an unspoken passion in her visage, despite her calmed stance. Brushing shoulders with her allies, she had acclimated to an environment she would previously find unbearable. Beside pilots and admirals, politicians and citizens, all she could think about was her future. About what she and her squadron mates would accomplish.

And beside them all, the other six pilots stood as they had countless times before. They were accustomed to their time in the public eye, used to the popularity and the surrounding fanfare. It was a dance they'd danced before. Public displays, speeches, enlightening the citizenry to the pilots behind the crafts. Because that was what the public cared about. The pilots were faces, first and foremost. No manner of advanced technologies or military innovation could sate the public interest. They wanted to know the what, not the how or why. They wanted stories and exploits which could only be supplied by the best of the best. And it was Torrid Squadron's duty to provide to them. Respect and interest were as much resources to be monitored and reaped as funding and supplies.

"In the months since the tragedy that cost six brave pilots their lives, many have pledged their support and help in rebuilding one of the Republic's most prestigious naval outfits," Trevel continued. "But even after losing half their team, Torrid Squadron continued to serve the Republic and its citizens in whatever capacity they could. Providing logistics, delivering aid, refusing to back down in the face of defeat. But now, they stand renewed and stronger than ever. Whether they be pirates or Imperial aggressors, Torrid Squadron stands ready to face any threat to Republic space."

Another round of applause filled the chamber and the twelve pilots looked to one another. They wore faces of determination, standing together in body and spirit.


"But now, they stand renewed and stronger than ever. Whether they be pirates or Imperial aggressors, Torrid Squadron stands ready to face any threat to Republic space."

The admiral's voice filled the compact chamber, his words competing with the soft tones of an instrumental track. A set of speakers built into the walls supplied the utilitarian room with a bed of elegant music. The light symphony was persistent, but hushed, the naval officer's speech overpowering it.

The room was quaintly oppressive, walls and floors composed of dark metals. The chamber was constricted, sized enough to accommodate only a single bed and desk. Wedging himself between the two furnishings, an individual sat in a simple chair. A small holoterminal rest upon the desk in front of the figure, as did a litany of tiny plastic bits. Some of the pieces were separated into piles resembling refuse, the others had been conjoined to form a shape resembling a scale model of an Imperial dreadnought. The individual's large frame hunched over the filled desk, a pair of tweezers in his equally large hands. But despite their size, they moved with expert precision, belonging to a keen and calm mind.

Adding another piece to the half-finished model, the man paused as the admiral finished his speech. Setting the tweezers down, the individual carefully reached his blue hand over to the holoterminal, engaging a local comm.

"Sir," the man spoke, voice utterly deep, utterly smooth. "They've returned."

End of Episode Two
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Adwynyth's Avatar

01.22.2014 , 09:21 PM | #27
And-a 1, and-a 2, and-a SQUEE!
Horrendously bad fan fiction: Sith in a Pretty Dress

LaxKnight's Avatar

01.23.2014 , 11:58 AM | #28
I'm not sure if you remember me from commenting on your other material but this was a good read. I loved the whole selection processes the applicants went through and I was not expecting Jerel to be a Miraluka. That totally threw me off. There was one particular thing that caught my eye. There was a part in their about pilots fixing their own birds. As a mechanic in the military who works on helicopters, besides doing a preflight check I've never seen a pilot work on an aircraft besides flying it. It made me laugh. However I realize this is Star Wars and typically in Star Wars pilots tend to work on their ships like we do on cars. It's nothing wrong with your writing or a correction or anything, just something I wanted to share.

I can't wait for you to continue on this piece and all of the other ones you posted.
"I'm not blind, I just see from a different perspective." - Serenity Williams, Miraluka Jedi Apprentice

Osetto's Avatar

01.23.2014 , 01:23 PM | #29
Quote: Originally Posted by Adwynyth View Post
And-a 1, and-a 2, and-a SQUEE!
Haven't seen you in here before.

Happy to see you enjoying another story.

Quote: Originally Posted by LaxKnight View Post
I'm not sure if you remember me from commenting on your other material but this was a good read. I loved the whole selection processes the applicants went through and I was not expecting Jerel to be a Miraluka. That totally threw me off. There was one particular thing that caught my eye. There was a part in their about pilots fixing their own birds. As a mechanic in the military who works on helicopters, besides doing a preflight check I've never seen a pilot work on an aircraft besides flying it. It made me laugh. However I realize this is Star Wars and typically in Star Wars pilots tend to work on their ships like we do on cars. It's nothing wrong with your writing or a correction or anything, just something I wanted to share.

I can't wait for you to continue on this piece and all of the other ones you posted.
Yeah, I did a bit of research on real life Navy and Air Force practices, since in Star Wars, starfighter corps can sometimes resemble one, the other, both, or neither. In designing Torrid Squadron, I basically tried to make them out to be the navy's version of Havoc Squad, meaning every weird thing they do is unique to them, and not the standard for similar outfits. They're expected to be a bit more independent, doing things other pilots or squadron's aren't expected to do (despite the fact that the Den does in fact have its own staff of crewmen and mechanics, so they aren't alone up there).

Torrid-3 refers to both the pilot and their ship as a singular entity. They're meant to be inseparable. The pilots aren't responsible for fixing their ship, so much as not handing it off to the technicians with a sticky note attached saying 'fix please'. Only Fen really gets hands on with her ship, because she is a trained mechanic and needs a hobby. But because the Gallants are experimental and expensive, the idea is to instill a sense of care in the minds of the recruits. Its their ship, its their fault if something happens to it, and if something does happen to it they should have a hand in fixing it. Anything structural is typically handled by Den staff or when docked at a port, but with Tessa most pilots can handle minor alterations themselves. We'll get to see the pilots learning their duties and interacting with the Den's crew in future episodes.

But thanks for the comment. I actually love it when people point things like this out. But then again, I often have a better time discussing these stories than writing them.

And as this is the end of the episode, this will be a good place to pause for now as I work on some other stuff. Most of my stories are at a similar point, between episodes or at a natural break, and I'll work toward getting those that aren't to such a state before I start anything new. If anyone has any questions, comments, suggestions or ideas, I welcome them as always. Though I've only gotten 3 PMs over the course of all of my writings, so I guess people seem to trust me more than I do.

Thanks for reading, everyone.
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Adwynyth's Avatar

01.26.2014 , 12:40 PM | #30
Quote: Originally Posted by Osetto View Post
Haven't seen you in here before.

Happy to see you enjoying another story.
I wasn't exaggerating when I said before that I love everything you've written here.
Horrendously bad fan fiction: Sith in a Pretty Dress