The Cardooine Aerospace Academy: Tale 1

It was another late evening onboard the CRS Liberty. Crew members were either sleeping in their quarters, working their shift or relaxing in the several recreational areas of the warship.

One of these areas was a lounge, a dark and misty room in which the pilots of the Renegade Wing went to relax when they had the chance to do so, as rare as that was.

However, for twenty hours now, the Lounge had been near empty, as every squadron had been scrambled when an Imperial automated beacon had been detected while broadcasting to the nearby Ubiqtorate base on Yaga Minor. A full fleet with fifty Star Destroyers was stationed there and being chased by them was not something even Admiral Ra’kaat felt like doing. Therefore, the Renegade Wing had been dispatched to eliminate all the Imperials they would encounter while destroying the comm sat, just to make sure none of the Impstars would be running after them for the next month or so.

By now, the pilots would be flying back towards the Liberty, running low on fuel and extremely tired from being in the cockpit for seventeen hours.

When they did arrive, they landed their fighters and proceeded to the debriefing room.

Stryker didn’t dawdle during the debriefing and they were all dismissed after twenty minutes. Most headed to their bunks and the rest proceeded to the Lounge where they could relax for a few hours, have a night-cap and then hit the sack, relaxing slowly until they were drowsing in their lum mugs.

Jonathan "Condor" Rees and Joel "Darklighter" Phelps strode over to the bar, where Mixer was wiping a mug in his mechanical limbs. They both pulled out a stool, sat down and stared at the droid, who kept wiping and wiping the dry glass.

"Mixer, why are you wiping that mug over and over?" asked Condor, his face showing a perplexed expression. He couldn’t see any stains or dirt on, or in, the mug.

"Merely testing the latest program I’ve downloaded from the Alliance database. It makes me act more human by being distracted every now and then. My programming suggested that a good way to try this out was to be redundant in wiping a mug when someone would enter the bar. Clearly, it worked." answered the droid, setting the mug on a shelf behind him.

Both pilots chuckled.

"Now, what may I serve you?" inquired Mixer.

"A Corellian Aftershock for me, of course," said the Corsair pilot, smiling.

Joel slapped his hand hard down on the table and flicked a credit chit towards the droid.

"Make mine a Stawberry Twist. I need something to twirl my guts around."

The droid nodded and bent down to his task as the doors to the Lounge swished open.

Three men walked in, one of them waving his hands around in a recreation of the small skirmish that had occurred while eliminating the comm sat. Marc "Prowler" Desrosiers was drawing intricate patterns in the air, all while adding sound effects to the mix. Tony "Kid" Marco laughed as Prowler botched the sound of a TIE exploding and pointed it out to him by doing it himself. Michael "Vidster" Videlka was the last to clear the door, smiling as the bomber pilot kept on making crappy sound effects.

The three walked to the bar and ordered their respective favorite drinks, all while talking with Condor and Darklighter.

The five pilots then moved to a trio of couches made of nerf-leather and sat down with a new drink in their hands, the first one having been drained quickly.

For the next half-hour they discussed about what had happened during the last mission, where they believed the Liberty might be ordered to next and several other duty-related subjects.

Finally, they ran out of words and dead silence fell over them.

They all sipped their refreshments for two minutes or so before Kid suggested one of them regale the others with a tale of high adventure, based upon a youth full of trouble.

They all turned towards Prowler, who’d thrown his head back to finish his snifter of Corellian whiskey. When he lowered his head, he saw four pairs of eyes staring him as if he was a ghost.

"What! What did I do?" he asked, his expression incredulous.

Vidster smiled.

"I think you’ve been elected as the one that will be using his tongue the most this evening."

"Awww nuts!"

They all laughed.

Prowler mulled over his story selection for a moment, then nodded.

"Fine. I think a tale of my times at the CAA will keep you content for a while, " said the Cardooinian. The others leaned forward in anticipation.

Prowler smiled, "And so the tale begins. I think an appropriate title for this would be A New Hell."

 

Five years ago, my family’s business, RobbTek Woods - a wood manufacturing company that exported, primarily, Fijisi wood - finally hit paydirt. Fijisi wood became popular as a material to decorate residence interiors all over the Corporate Sector. Millions of credits started coming in under the form of orders and share purchases of my parents company.

In short, we were rich. My parents rapidly purchased a Empress-class residence station and we moved there, isolating me from my friends that still lived on the surface of the planet.

Of course, I quickly got over losing all of my friends, being engrossed by the four starfighters my uncles and cousins used to defend the platform. We had one Z-95, two Y-wings and an old TIE Bomber that had been refitted with medium-grade shields.

I spent all of my time in that hangar, staring out dreamily into space and thinking about flying. I also spent hundreds of hours in the flight simulator we had, and turned out to be a fair pilot for my age.

At that point, my parents decided that I should attend the Cardooine Armed Forces Academy and then the CAA, where I could develop the talent of flying that I’d had since I was a child and take a spot in the Cardooine Aerospace Force. I protested, of course, insinuating that private lessons would be just as good as going to some dumb academy. But in the end, I was shipped out to the dreaded place and registered as Trainee Desrosiers.

The first month, the preliminary training period, was hell. That’s the period where they make sure you’re in good enough shape to survive the two years at the Academy by making you run, swim and run some more, all while drill instructors are bellowing into your ears, urging you to go faster. They get you up at four a.m., make you run ten miles and do one hundred push&sits and then let you eat for a half-hour. Right after that, they toss you into the one hundred meter long pool, tie a 20-kg floating weight to each of your legs and make you swim thirty laps. Lunch is right after that, usually made of a concrete-looking gruel with bread. Water and milk are the only available drinks. You still and always have only a half-hour to eat. Skills time comes right after that. They train you in basic hand-to-hand techniques, as well as how to use a normal blaster. Specific training comes after the orientation-selection period of one month.

Needless to say, my opinion of the CAFA went from low to beyond exponentially-low in that short period of time.

Eventually the month passed and I was transferred to the CAA. I chose fighter pilot training, on-the-spot re-wiring skills and unarmed combat as my three training classes and was glad that I had succeeded in getting into the fighter training group.

Training at the CAA takes on the form of four-member groups. Each group gets a result at the end of their training and each member of the group must have worked hard to get a good result. I was paired up with three guys from the northern continent of Cardooine, Sverige.

Markus "Mach" Lindgren was a short man, talented in piloting and ground missions and a good tactical analyst. While rarely talkative in public, he became my flight partner and always had something to say over the airwaves. More often than anything, they were puns aimed at me and my ego.

Christoffer "Chrizze" Bengtsson was a medium height athlete, a good pilot with excellent sniper and infiltration skills. He and I trained at soccer together, during our free time. We’d spend two hours or so per day running across the one hundred meter field, kicking the ball at each other with ferocious speed.

Erik "Cloud" Lindh was an average height man, excellent shuttle pilot and demolitions man. He also was a fairly good slicer, which he and I complained a bit about when he pulled a stunt on me. He’d had my clothes delivery back-ordered for a pink training suit.

We were put together as a team and told that only teamwork would get us through this course, and that to beat it with high scores, we’d all have to make sacrifices.

Damn, were those instructors right.

Our first few months together were rough, as we always had different opinions as to how to resolve and complete our projects and never succeeded in settling on one thing.

More than once, we fought over our opinions. But I beat each one of them up only once when it came to dealing with our fists, as they would have to be taken to the infirmary to have their broken bones mended. After all, I was the one that was taking unarmed combat training everyday.

The fact that my tone was often scornful when dealing with the training officers of the academy didn’t help, of course. My team partners often yelled at me about that. More than once, we all got to do the "disciplinary" bit, which involves cleaning the latrines for the whole dorm.

In short, we were at the bottom of our class for the first year, never had any special duties, not the fun ones anyway, and never had permission slips to head to the town for an evening.

We nearly flunked out and it was only when my father, mother, uncles, aunts, cousins and sister came over to the academy to tell me how ashamed they were of me that I realized I was being foolish, childish and totally unfair to my teammates.

I had no right to make them fail at what was their dream and that I was no better than a bucket of Hutt drool while acting like this.

At that point, I took myself in hand.

 

Prowler stopped talking, scooped up his snifter, twirled the drink in it a little and then gulped it down, very, very slowly.

The other four were staring at him impatiently.

He smiled evilly, "I gather you want some more?" he asked.

They all nodded with big grins on their faces.

"Well fine. I’ll continue this story…"

The others clapped their hands together and settled back in their seats in anticipation.

"…Tomorrow," said Prowler, lifting his hands for silence.

A chorus of groans and complaints slammed him full in the face.

"Come on, man. Don’t let us hang by a thread here.." said Condor, his voice a plea.

Prowler shook his head, "Sorry guys, I’m falling asleep as it is and I’m on the second sprint duty group tomorrow morning and then I’m going to be flying recon with Bulldog during the afternoon."

Vidster nodded, "Alright. We’ll let you go for now. But beware, if you do not keep your word, the D.I.R.T. will grab you by the scruff of the neck and bring you here so that you tell us the rest of this story."

Prowler threw him a mock salute and said, "Aye, aye, sir. Will do."

At that, the five pilots got up, drained their drinks and headed out of the Lounge towards their quarters for some much-needed rest.

The story would have to wait another day…