How Maddic Got Happy
Word Count: 4428
Swift Spirit Racer
Created by Knight
The morning lesson had come to a close. A few of the cadets remained rooted in place. Maddic sensed something was up. He ran a hand along his horns and looked at the eager faces staring at him.
"Okay, what is going on?"
All eyes and some heads turned to the ringleader. A Theelin like himself that showed some promise. His purple skin drained of its vibrancy under all the staring. Maddic appreciated for a moment that he was half-Theelin and his dark skin didn't flush the same way as other Theelin.
"Well Captain, we know you flew for the Rebellion..."
"We got our hands on some of your records..."
"You looked at my records?!" Maddic grimaced at the cadet pilot.
The cadet paled, "No, not sliced. Not in the New Republic records. No sir!"
"Well then? What magic did you use?"
"I. Sir, I found your old races on the holonet, sir." The poor cadet stuttered a little.
Maddic blinked. Some of those races were years before the Clone War. Maddic was surprised that any of those would still be easy to find.
"Sir, you were a racing pilot? What circuit?" Another eager pilot jumped in.
"How'd you end up in the Rebellion if you were a winning racer?" Asked another.
Maddic sighed, "FINE! I did race." He burned his gaze into the second pilot's eyes, "I raced in a few different circuits." Finally he turned to the third with the hardest stare. "I couldn't race my entire life. Besides, at the time most of the circuits were rigged. The most prestigious races were ones I wasn't allowed to fly my way; or win."
— Years before the Clone War, Cansarca —
Maddic Chread poked the tip of his finger with one of his horns. It was habit of his when he was bored or distracted. He tried his best to pay attention to Irxiid's pre-race inspection, but there wasn't anything that the grouchy mechanic had done that Maddic wasn't already aware of. The Trandoshan mechanic yanked off another panel from the lower engine. "This." Irxiid thrust a claw at a small louvered box with tubes on either end. "This is a new passive heat sink."
There was a pause. Maddic realized he was supposed to be responding to Irxiid. He nodded, and continued to absentmindedly play with his horns. "I know. Air cooled. In atmosphere it should help keep number one from overheating. You put them on two and three last week. Helped with time trials."
"So you are in there." Irxiid put the panel back. "You should be able to push the big engine a little harder."
"That should be good for the straight-aways before marker ten." Maddic mused. "I think I could actually win this one..." A shrill voice made Irxiid to look over Maddic's shoulder. Clearly no longer listening to Maddic.
The half-Theelin turned to see who was the owner of the high pitched voice. Near the hangar's open doors were the team's owner, Gadley Plouter, an older human who had put the team together as part of his 'retirement'. Plouter wilted as a short and wide Klatoonian jabbed a finger into the old man's chest.
The high pitched voice belonged to this agitated Klatoonian. He spoke fast enough that Maddic could only make out occasional words.
"What's that all about?" Maddic turned back to Irxiid and gave his head a slight nod back to the conversation in the distance.
Irxiid's eye's flicked to the two, then back to Maddic. "Really?"
"Yeah, really." Maddic frowned. Something seemed off if Irxiid assumed he knew the Kaltoonian.
"If you don't know, then..." Irxiid looked nervous. "You should ask the boss when his 'friend' leaves."
Silently they stopped what their pre-race checks and sat to very obviously eavesdrop on the conversation.
After another minute of the Klatoonian shouting Gadley down, they could see his eyes narrow. Apparently satisfied, turns and stomps away. Plouter leaned against the hangar door frame and clutched his chest.
"The boss okay? One of those human 'heart attacks'?" Irxiid asked out of genuine worry for the old man.
Maddic scrunched his face in doubt, "I don't think so. He'd probably be clutching his chest and on the ground. He's still upright." Though when Gadley turned and saw the two, his face was pale and sweaty. "Then again. I could be wrong."
Maddic walked over with Irxiid right behind him. As they approached, Irxiid pulled ahead of Maddic. "Hey boss, Chread says he doesn't know your friend that just left. I thought everyone knew him?"
Gadley turned and seemed to regain some of his color. "Oh that! He's more of a messenger than a friend, don't you think? Besides, Maddic didn't really need to know about him."
Maddic heard Irxiid let out a soft hiss. "You did tell Maddic what that messenger delivers and for whom, right?"
Gadley looked away nervously.
Irxiid growled. "He doesn't know?! Gadley! The race is in three hours!"
Gadley looked pale again and began to stammer. "I.. I.. I know Maddic can be trusted to do this at a moment's notice. I..."
The team's junior tech, who Maddic only knew as 'Blit' appeared from behind Irxiid. "No time like the present Boss." She said in a surprisingly bossy tone.
Sad, pleading eyes tried to avoid Maddic, "There's a Hutt..."
"Isn't there always." Irxiid snorted and crossed his arms.
"Yeah, well, this Hutt, Pogum. Well, he's fixing the race. We don't get to win." Gadley explained.
Maddic hated to admit it, but he checked race odds from the official bookies. He liked to see where he stood. "I got that part. Our odds aren't long enough to make a mint on. No one is going to beat our door down fixing the race in our favor." Maddic thought for a moment at the most recent odds he'd seen as his boss continued his melting act. The longest odds were... "Theltix? This Hutt is rigging it for Theltix?! That Rodian hasn't had a good season in years. If he ever had a prime, it'd have been his rookie year!"
Maddic realized if that was the case, there must be something he's missed. He spun around looking at the techs. "What's the line? What's promotion pushing on Theltix?"
Blit looked away. Irxiid uncrossed his arms. "That he's been training. Secretly somewhere near Wild Space. Supposedly he's made huge improvements. Gotten enough attention to pull in new sponsorships."
Maddic raised an eyebrow. All the pilots knew Theltix. The Rodian knew how to fly, but did whatever he could to not practice or exert any effort. "Where's he really been?" Irxiid shrugged, "I've seen him around the pubs. Nothing new there. The sponsorship seems real though."
"Just as likely a shell company set up by Pogum the Hutt." Blit rolled her eyes.
A shaky hand gripped Maddic's arm and he turned to Gadley. "Look, Maddic. Pogum is like any Hutt. He means business. He'll kill you, me, and everyone on the team if Theltix doesn't win convincingly."
"Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"
Gadley looked down and was surprisingly quiet.
There was a tense pause as everyone waited for Gadley's excuse. The pause lasted far too long and was finally broken by a raspy laugh. Everyone turned to Irxiid who had a wicked smile on his face.
"You are a coward aren't you boss? Too scared to tell him, so you assume our official odds mean you don't have to. Isn't it?"
Gadley shrunk. "I... Yes. I didn't think I'd have to. Our odds aren't outstanding. We aren't some stalking fathier either. I didn't think we'd need to have this conversation. You wouldn't even have to know the race was fixed!"
Maddic felt the urge to shout the man down. Felt a significant urge to clock him. The greatest urge was to go run the race. He glared one final time at Gadley and then silently walked to his ship.
— Last Lap, four gates from the finish —
The tenth gate flashed past. Maddic smiled as he banked into a turn. No one was there to watch out for. No one to cut off the perfect turn. No one ahead of him to force him to cut his throttle.
It was incredible. It always was in first, and the Tri-flame racer Swift Spirit could keep him there with the massive engine he sat on. He'd taken first from Theltix at the eighth gate of the second lap. Maddic had the biggest smile on his face the whole time since.
The only thing that kept the moment from being perfect was all the screaming in his ears. It hadn't been difficult to ignore it at first, but with each gate Maddic passed in first, the louder it became.
A squeal from Gadley pierced through Maddic's fun, "Maddic! Stop ignoring us!"
Maddic considered this for a moment, but rolled into another turn with a little extra speed and flair. That was more important than responding. A healthy amount of spite may have been another reason.
"I know you can hear us!" Gadley sounded like he was really losing it.
There were more screeches as the old man tried to reason with Maddic. It really got to Maddic that he'd been written off as incapable by so many. Bookies and a cowardly boss had made him such a non-factor on the circuit. Made his blood boil.
Now, however, he was showing Gadley he should have believed his pilot and crew. Gadley should not have assigned them a value based on a bookie. Especially when the bookie's are so influenced by mob bosses and their bribes.
Another gate flashed past. Just to be cocky, Maddic stamped on a foot pedal and kicked the Swift into a barrel roll. After a revolution and a quarter, Maddic let up on the pedal. With the racer standing on its wing again, Maddic pulled back on the stick into one of the last few turns in the race.
It was all part of the plan. It wasn't a well thought out plan, but it was the best way Maddic could think of to fight back. Hutt's be damned.
Static cut off Gadley's unhinged screams. The sounds of a struggle on the team channel made Maddic laugh. The channel popped a moment of harsh static as the sound went dead. For a moment, there was the thought that Gadley had burst some kind of blood vessel and died right there on the air.
Static returned and so did a raspy voice. "Maddic, I know you can hear us."
Maddic key open the team channel. "Irxiid! My favorite Trandoshan!"
"I know what you're thinking."
"I doubt that."
"You're thinking that you'll be able to just fly away. Outrun Pogum and whatever bounty hunter he sends after you."
Maddic was a little shocked. First, Irxiid wasn't entirely wrong. Maddic did think that. But that wasn't the plan. He felt a little hurt that he'd just leave Irxiid or Blit high and dry like that.
"Well guess what? We can't run as fast as you and we'll be dead before you leave the system if you don't snap out of this!"
Maddic supposed that this meant his plan was convincing. Not telling anyone will do that, though he hadn't meant to worry Irxiid like that. Gadley though? He absolutely meant to do that to that coward.
"Maddic?! You have just one more gate before the finish. You have no time to throw this and make it look good. You've killed us, you selfish half-breed!"
That stung. So much so that Maddic realized he had been too hot headed, and should have told at least Irxiid about all this. "Don't worry. Gadley just needed to be reminded not to under-value me. I have this all planned out."
"Oh yeah?" Irxiid replied sarcastically. "How do you think you're going to do this? You got some secret runaway Jedi or something going to pop up and help you?"
"Just watch." Maddic started pressing buttons. Red lights began to flash on the console. Numbers on a display started to increase. An alarm started to sound in the cockpit. The sequence had been to shut down the main thermal pump and seriously over-rev the engine three over on the starboard side. This was causing it to overheat, even with the new passive heat sinks. Before long, the engine's heat caused it to start to bellow black smoke as parts started to melt. Soon it stopped altogether.
The ship became harder to maneuver and Maddic had to really concentrate to get the racer through the second to last gate. That was still the easy part. Maddic really wished he could hear over the blaring of the alarms and scream of an overtaxed engine. He wanted to know when to brace. The rest of the pack could catch up quickly.
A red blur flashed past. Theltix in his souped up Incom chassis. Clearly in a hurry to get back into first. Another racer overtook Maddic, then another.
A fourth passed, but it wasn't a blur as it passed. This one dropped purposely and banged their fuselage onto the starboard wing. Maddic wasn't prepared for someone other than Theltix to try to dish out some punishment. The world twisted as the bulky racer bounced hard. It was briefly visible to Maddic as his ship rolled from the hit. It looked more like a flying box than a racer. Perfect for some dirty racing.
Maddic wanted to be furious at the pilot, but it would have to wait. There was a more immediate struggle to stop the spin he was now in. In addition to the already dead engine three, the collision had crushed the canard on the end of the starboard wing. A quick glance let Maddic see the little s-foil had torn away as well.
Thankfully, despite the crumpled dents, the starboard aileron still had some function. Unfortunately something else had severed power or fuel to the maneuvering thrusters on the starboard wing. Maddic struggled, but slowed the spin.
As Maddic regained some control, he also made sure he was still on target to get to the finish line. From practice, a dizzy Maddic recognized where he was and started to gently nudge the Swift Spirit along the last legs of the course.
White-knuckled, Maddic kept speed up as much as he could. No one else overtook him in the last stretch. If someone else decided to play dirty, all they'd need to do would be to breathe on his racer, and it would have knocked him out of the race completely.
Maddic passed through the finish gate. More warning lights had lit up. Engine two had finally been pushed too far. If the lights told the truth, the engine had caught fire. The ship was relying entirely on the big number one engine.
There was thankfully a lot of relatively flat farmland in the straightaway out of the gate. There was plenty of space to crash the Swift Spirit and be able to walk away. Maddic started to pull the main throttle back to lose a little airspeed.
Immediately, the damaged wing and torn edge of its s-foil pulled harder as it caught more drag. Maddic clenched his teeth as he fought to keep the ship level. He stamped on the left foot-pedal in an attempt to yaw to the left. What maneuvering thrusters on the starboard side that still worked weren't very effective to counter the pull of the damaged wing.
Another pull back on the throttle and the Swift Spirit started to lose altitude quickly. A little too quickly. Still, Maddic waited a heartbeat longer than he thought he should before he jammed the throttle on the big engine wide open. The hope was it would pull the stricken racer up at the last second so it would skim the fields. It would still be a crash, but one that Maddic controlled, and one he was more likely to walk away from.
The attempt worked as well as he could hope. The last second of sudden thrust stopped the racer from slamming into the ground. It skimmed over the open fields as though Maddic was trying a water landing.
It didn't last. If the racer had been built for water landings: skidding over the croplands might have worked surprisingly well. The Swift Spirit, in all its engineering brilliance, had stuck a large engine just under the pilot, with a big air intake as part of its belly.
This intake started to suck in whatever Cansarcans grew in these fields and killed Maddic's last engine. Once the belly of the ship met the soil, the intake became a plow. It built up and brought along a mound of soil with it. It did slow the racer down. Just much faster than Maddic had anticipated.
When the racer finally stopped, Maddic rushed to get unbuckled. He reached down by his feet and grabbed a fire extinguisher and popped the canopy. Maddic clamored out and aimed the extinguisher at the fire still burning on engine two.
Maddic emptied the canister on the fire even when it was completely covered in foam. Just in case. With the canister still in hand, he dropped down from the racer and walked a few meters away. Maddic took a deep breath and rubbed his chest where the safety harness had dug deep as the ship crashed.
Maddic looked at the gouge his ship had made across the fields and smiled. He'd made it look good.
— The team hangar. Hours later. —
The cargo speeder backed into the team hangar. As it slowed to a stop, Maddic thanked the driver and hopped out of the cab. The driver hopped out as well only to climb onto the flat bed that made up most of the large speeder. The grizzled man started undoing straps holding the Swift Spirit down.
Maddic strolled further into the hangar to look for any signs of life. The workspace was silent. Maddic moved on to the offices and storage rooms in the back. In Gadley's office, Maddic found Irxiid and Blit sharing drinks.
"Are you old enough for that?" Maddic said.
"Just Cansarcan spring berry juice." Blit held up her cup.
Irxiid leaned forward in Gadley's desk chair. "Fifth isn't bad."
"That's what I got? Could have been better."
"In a perfect world, sure. I'll take what I won from a last minute bet though."
"Oh I did. Blit too. Bookies gave us that greedy look too. You know; when they see someone bet on long odds."
"Idiots started to believe their own rigged numbers." Blit giggled and held up some credits.
"CHREAD!" A scratchy voice shrieked through the office from the hangar. All three looked at each other in panic. Senses had left them, and instead of trying to sneak out the back, made their way to the hangar. When they arrived they saw the hangar's overhead crane moving into position over the wrecked Swift Spirit. In front of that was the same Klatoonian that had been barking at Gadley.
This time, Maddic noticed the thug was armed. "Chread! You disobeyed the great Pogum the Hutt!"
Maddic furrowed his brow and itched one of his horns. "Did the feed cut out in Pogum's suite? I got fifth. I hear he bet big on Theltix."
"Pretty lucky." Irxiid purred.
The thug stamped a foot. "You didn't follow the plan."
"I followed it, and gave it some flair."
The Klatoonian continued to look unhappy. "Pogum doesn't like people changing his plans without him knowing."
This was about when Maddic expected the thug to draw his weapon and try to shoot him. Instead Gadley entered the scene followed by a tall and unfamiliar Neimoidian.
"Oh." Gadley was all he could manage when he realized what was happening. His new friend kept quiet, but Maddic could see the universal expression of smugness.
The Klatoonian turned a quarter so he could keep both groups generally in his front. His head swiveled back and forth, scowling at anything his eyes landed on. Finally he growled, "Plouter, you're in for it too. Letting your pilot insult the great Pogum!" The thug raged and drew his blaster.
"Maybe you should wait a moment before you shoot a Haor Chall executive or its newest employee." The Neimoidian cut in with a smooth tone. Like he owned the place and the situation and no one was going to tell him otherwise.
The Klatoonian's heavy brow wrinkled as he took in the newcomer. "And that is supposed to mean something to Pogum the Hutt?"
The Neimoidian's smug smile widened and he raised his hands out of his robes, palms out. "Ah, of course. The incalculable Pogum the Hutt. Much like many Hutts, certain their power extends to all things."
The Klatoonian took this critique as praise and beamed about being an underling to Pogum. "That's right!"
The Neoimoidian's smile faded, tilted his head and looked a little concerned. "What they don't always pay attention to, is other organizations that have things they don't." He raised a hand. "Take Hoar Chall: a successful corporation making speeders, spaceships, droids even! While we're successful, we're also a part of the Trade Federation. So many businesses teamed together wield a lot of power. Much like the Hutts."
The Klatoonian gave up trying to figure out if he and Pogum were being praised or insulted. He had kind of given up on the whole situation and let his blaster droop.
The Haor Chall executive's face turned cruel. "What we have that the Hutt's lack, is legitimacy. If you shoot me." The Neimoidian gestured to himself, then swung his hands palm up towards Maddic. "Or our newest and certainly valuable test pilot."
Maddic felt as confused as Pogum's thug. Did he get fired? Did he get a new job at the same time?
The Neimoidian pulled his arms back into his robe. "I'm sure the great Pogum the Hutt doesn't want the kind of attention that the Trade Federation could turn his way. Am I correct?"
The Klatoonian at least could see an out better than he could insults. He grumbled and holstered his blaster. Without saying anything beyond a long low growl, the thug slunk out of the hangar.
"Did that just work?" Maddic heard Blit whisper to Irxiid.
Maddic walked up to the pair. It was a supremely weird circumstance that each of the beings before him was either his current or former employer. He looked at the smug Neimoidian. "That was smooth." He turned to Gadley, "This is how you handle things, Gadley. I hope you took notes."
Blit attempted to hold back a snort. When she started to fail, Irxiid elbowed her. If they would have been closer in height it would have been in the ribs, but the Trandoshen towered over Blit. The snort turned into a gurgle as the elbow connected with Blit's neck.
Gadley cleared his throat. "Yes. Well, I have bad news, Chread."
Maddick doubted that.
"This gentleman has a need for a pilot of your caliber and has offered to buy out the remainder of your contract with the team."
What Gadley left out was that Maddic had nearly put them all on Pogum's hit list and that his life would be better without Maddic on the team.
The Neimoidian smiled again. "Indeed I have. I would like to welcome you to the aerospace and interstellar division of the Haor Chall Engineering Corporation as our newest test pilot. I am Cou Tellid, said division's vice director."
"Don't I get a say in this." Maddic realized he'd just been given away without any input. Granted, Maddic had planned to chew out Gadley and quit before this had happened. That this had fallen in his lap was amazing, but there was no way that Maddic would let on about that.
"Yeah, about that." Gadley looked away. "I don't think I'm cut out for the racing life. I'm going to dissolve the team."
There was the audible sound of the mechanic's surprised gasps.
"Cou here found me just after you crashed Maddic. Didn't take long to convince me." The stout old man looked at Irxiid and Blit. "I'll help you find new jobs before we close up shop completely. Not going to leave either of you hanging."
Maddic smiled. He may be a coward, but apparently Gadley could do the right thing when needed.
"Ah, what a bittersweet moment." Cou crooned. "The end to one chapter, but new ones opening up for all of us."
Maddic was slightly worried the Neimoidian was about to break into poetry. Instead Cou flung his arms out and put one around Maddic's shoulders.
"Come chat with me and we can go over negotiating your official contract with Haor Chall. After your performance today, I think you'll find this is an opportunity not to be missed!"
The two walked out of the hangar, away from the wreckage of the Tri-Flame and his racing career.
— Back in the present aboard the frigate Regis's Briefing Room —
For a moment, everything was silent. Every cadet still sat absorbed in Maddic's story. Finally one raised a hand. Maddic pointed at the cadet to let them ask their question.
"That was your last race?"
Another cadet burst out their question, "Where'd Irxiid end up? What about Gadley?"
Maddic didn't have to work hard to remember that, "I lost track of Irxiid not long after that. Didn't care a fig to know what happened to Gadley after that." He started to trail off, "I never got Blit's real name..."
"Wait, your piloting was used for modeling droid brains?" Another jumped in.
"And flying against them for testing." Maddic confirmed.
"Does that mean you were a separatist?!" The Theelin cadet gasped.
Maddic thought about it for a moment. "I suppose being a part of Haor Chal means I was."
Wanting to be done with all of this, Maddic abruptly changed the subject. "Don't forget I'm expecting your astrogation assignment next time." He began to walk up the aisle out of the briefing room.
"That's it? You can't leave us with a bombshell like that?!" The Theelin cadet turned in his seat.
Maddic threw his head back and sighed loudly. He knew full well that the cadets would never cease asking for more stories now. "Fine. If there's time after the next lecture, I can tell you a bit about those days."