Date: 9 May 2382
Location: Miramarr, California aka Fightertown, USA – Starfleet Combined Services Flight Academy
The hum of impulse engines waking to life was a common sound in the instructor’s lounge, along with the animated conversations between jockeys recounting past exploits or interests in current recruits. For five centuries, this was the mecca for anyone who wanted to fly, but didn’t want to steer. Carriers had evolved into starships, the legendary PB4Y-2 Privateers and F-14 Tomcats had grown into the Hawk-class and larger Peregrine-class multi-role fighters, and the separate branches of service among a hundred worlds had merged into one; Starfleet. It was a place of unity, education and peace. Thanks in no small part to the men and women who had walked these halls, of which there were far fewer now.
The small stack of PADDs detailing curriculum discussions and grading doldrums, while likely fascinating, had done little to distract him this morning. Because it was today seven solar years ago, that Pel Vertrais had gone from brother and Flight Leader to a beaten and insubordinate Marine in orbit around the speck of universe known as AR-558. If not for the grace of the Prophets and the defense of his former Captain at the inquiry, the Bajoran would be enjoying the sweet sweat of the New Zealand Penal Colony.
Now, his fingers flew across non-existent controls and eyes focused through a viewport long gone. On the backs of three Cardassian Hideki-class strikeships that had bore down on his kin.
“…they’re on me close, Howler One! Shrike Six, Shrike Eight, move to….”
“…gone! Six is gone, and I’m losing power..”
“I’m on your six, Shrike One, come left, two-two-seven by one-nine-zero!”
His Peregrine shook as two torpedos leapt from its beak and ripped one strikeship in two. Their kin had loosened their pursuit formation, but kept on the hunt, green phaser fire searing his brother’s impulse engines.
“My shields are gone!” the older Pel had yelled, “I can’t take another shot!”
Vertaris closed his eye for but a moment and begged the Prophet’s gace and aim, “Break planetward on three!”
The turn was supposed to reverse his brother’s previous vector, forcing the Cardassians to do the same and giving Howler One a top-down shot. He had no doubt he would shatter at least one of them, but prayed for both.
Even to this day, he wasn’t sure what went wrong, it was as if a Pah-Wraith had read his very mind. As soon as he yelled, “Three!”, his brother’s Peregrine started its turn, which was the instant the Hidekis both fired, catching the Starfleet ship’s center of mass. Only static on the comms and the shake of Vertrais’ fighter served as acknowledgement of the loss. What had followed next was a blind rage, as he had not only vaporized both Cardassians, but then made a full-impulse dive at the nearest Galor-class warship. His fighter rang with hit after hit of disruptor fire and smoke filled his cockpit, and then only darkness.
Coughing on the smoke of memories and feeling the hoarseness of his own throat from the screaming he didn’t know he was doing, the Bajoran sank back into his chair, with no energy left to read the doldrums in front of him.
Thankfully, it seems he would have to.
“Major Pel,” Captain DeTomaso walked up to the Bajoran, “I apologize for the interruption but I was wondering if you could help me out? My normal flight instructor is sick and I just need one more check-ride before I can fly solos.”
Pel nodded, glad to be free of the paperwork, while silently praying that he young Captain had only heard part of that episode. “Gear up and head for number 22. Flightline crew just finished prepping the Hawk for a checkout flight, so we’ll make sure they treated her right.”
After dismissing the junior officer, Pel allowed himself a private smile as he went to his office to grab his gear. The Captain could have asked any instructor for the favor, and would probably been encouraged to ask someone like Major Selmen, whose Vulcan precision made him the ire of many cadets. Sounds like he wants the job done right, but can he make a Hawk dance?
They headed to the row of parked fighters together and sure enough, at spot number 22, sat a freshly cleaned and tethered Hawk-class fighter. Unlike its larger brother, in the right hands, she would cut the space between air molecules.
“Alright Captain, run your pre-flight and warm up the engines.”
“Roger that Major,” Andrew began flipping switches and punching commands into the control consoles, “You’ve got a callsign sir?”
Pel almost instinctively replied with this old title “Howler”, but he hesitated. Because that’s not me anymore…he died over AR-558…
“Preacher”, he told DeTomaso, tapping his earring and chain, “comes with the territory.”
He then leaned over to the comm unit. “Tower, this is Instructor Pel. Setting flight plan November-Delta for tail number Alpha-27.”
The Hawk purred to life as the men swiped over pads and input commands. “Alright, we’ll start simple. Set course; one-eight-zero by zero-nine-one. Nice and easy, over the ocean.”
As he monitored his co-pilot’s rundown and compliance with the takeoff “What about you, Captain? You earn yours yet?”
“Nemo,” DeTomaso followed the orders, easing the Hawk to the correct heading, “I earned it while I was flying dropships,” He laughed as he increased the throttle, “Ground fire forced a water landing,” Looking over his shoulder slightly he smirked, “We still made the beach.”
Pel smirked at that, “An interesting title given to a man who saved lives. To then be called ‘no one’…or did I mis-interpret? I confess, I’ve never read the original.”
DeTomaso answered simply “Can one mis-read being called ‘Preacher’? A person of faith, even a Bajoran, doesn’t join the Marines without accepting the risk of fighting and death.”
The comm panel chirps to life, but the Major quickly silenced it. The response has sparked something he hadn’t thought about since AR-558. “We’ve passed the first mark, set course to one-nine-nine, and bring your altitude to 5 meters MSL. No worries about hitting a beach out here.”
This little bit comes from a stalled RP group O had the pleasure of being in, and one I hope restarts again. What do you do with a warrior who has no battles or glory to look forward to?
I hope you all enjoy.