Randi Trainor took a deep, nervous breath just as the turbolift
doors opened. She stepped out into the hangar bay, not at all
feeling confident for her first day as a flight instructor. Sure,
she had flown hundreds of successful sorties since graduating the
Academy herself, and had been in the cockpit since infancy, but this
was different. Her skills were natural, bred into her from a long
tradition of pilots in her family. She had absolute confidence in
herself at the controls of any craft, but she severely doubted her
ability to pass this knowledge on to others. Still, serving as a
flight instructor at the Academy was her assignment, and she had to
obey her orders.
"Ah, Captain Trainor," the familiar voice of Colonel Deads Jenson called out to her across the hangar bay.
"Coming, sir," Randi replied nervously, adjusting her uniform one
final time before walking towards Colonel Jenson and those around
him at a brisk pace.
"Captain, I'd like you to meet the flight I am assigning to you,"
Colonel Jenson said in a cordial tone, motioning to the three young
pilots standing at attention near him.
"So young," Randi thought silently to herself. She smiled politely
and nodded to each of them.
"Cadets, you are in for a special treat," Colonel Jenson continued,
"Captain Trainor is one of the best TIE pilots you're likely to
meet. You're lucky to have her as an instructor.
"You are being too kind, sir," Randi said nervously, her cheeks
reddening slightly from the praise.
"And you are being modest," Colonel Jenson replied with quick
banter, "Now, Cadets, I am turning you over to your instructor." He
nodded politely to Randi, mouthing "good luck," and then made his
way into the nearby turbolift.
Randi cleared her throat, doing her best to remember the briefing
she had prepared. "Why don't you all introduce yourselves?" she
asked the three young pilots.
"Well," the first pilot began, "I'm Darius Vick from Salliche."
The next pilot continued the introductions, "I'm Finn Burke from
"I'm from Corellia too," Randi said with a nod, smiling.
"And I'm Trent Barros from Talravin," the final cadet concluded.
"Excellent," Randi said with a smile, "Now, have any of you ever
piloted a craft before?"
The group remained silent and motionless, and appeared a bit nervous
by their obvious lack of experience.
Randi swallowed upon realizing she was dealing with pilots this raw.
"Well," she said as cheerful as she could pretend to be, "Let's get
Randi led the group over towards a TIE
fighter that maintenance had
moved off its flight rack for repair. "This," she said
motioning towards the craft, "Is a TIE fighter. TIE stands for twin
ion engine. It is fast and maneuverable, but lacks some of the nicer
things in life."
"Like what," Cadet Barros questioned.
"Well uh," Randi paused awkwardly, "...shields."
"Oh," the three Cadets all said in unison.
"Now, let's see about getting you some time in the simulator," Randi
said as she headed towards the turbolift.
"I don't think they're ready, sir," Randi informed Colonel Jenson.
"You've had them in the simulator all week, Ran," Colonel Jenson
said, looking up from the datapad on his desk, "If they're not ready
by now, then they'll never be."
"They're awfully raw, sir," Randi said, her reluctance to take them
up in a real flight obvious, "Give me another week."
"You've had your week, Captain," Colonel Jenson said in a stern
tone, "Now get those kids up there, and find out what they're made
"But..." Randi said, trying to plead for more time in the flight
"Dismissed," Colonel Jenson said, his attention turning back
towards his datapad.
Randi sighed, realizing she had lost the argument. She headed out of
Colonel Jenson's office to inform her cadets they would be
undertaking their first sortie.
"Now take it easy," Randi said over the comlink to the flight.
"Yes, ma'am," Cadet Burke replied.
"Do not exceed sixty MGLT," Randi said, adjusting her controls to
less than fifty-percent of her TIE fighter's cruising speed.
"A mynock can fly faster than this, ma'am," Cadet Vick said over
"Cut that tone, mister," Randi replied furiously, "Or you'll find
"Sorry, sir," Cadet Barros said responded. "This is ridiculous," he
said to himself off the comlink.
"Let's try a simple formation," Randi instructed, "Burke pull behind
me. Vick and Barros line up on either side of us."
"Copy, ma'am," each of the cadets replied over the comlink.
With Randi's TIE fighter in the lead, the other pilots positioned
their craft until the formation resembled a plus sign.
"Good, good," Randi told the pilots, beginning to feel more
confident in their abilities.
"Prepare to execute formation turn to one-four-zero on my mark,"
Randi informed the cadets, "...mark."
Although it was a bit sloppy by her standards, the cadets
nevertheless managed to execute the basic turn without incident.
However, Cadet Vick did turn a bit fast and nearly cut in front of
"Watch your speed, Vick," Randi said, debating whether to push her
pilots harder. She did not want Colonel Jenson to lose confidence
in her, so she continued through her routine, "Prepare to change
formation. Burke pull up next to me. Vick pull up above us, Barros
descend below us." Randi swallowed nervously before issuing the
Like clockwork, Cadet Burke moved his TIE fighter next to Randi's.
Then, Cadet Vick pulled his TIE above the group, while Cadet Barros pulled his TIE below the group."
"Great job guys," Randi told the cadets, genuinely impressed. "Now,"
she continued, "One more turn and then it's back to base."
"Aww," Cadet Barros transmitted.
"Prepare to turn to two-two-zero," Randi instructed the pilots,
Once again, the flight began their turn, but this time pilot error
reared its ugly head.
"You're too close!" Cadet Vick screamed over the comlink as Cadet
Barros's TIE veered off course.
Cadet Barros's TIE strayed upwards colliding with Cadet Vick's TIE
creating a massive explosion, which instantly killed them both. The
shockwave from the explosion caused Cadet Burke to lose control of
his craft, sending him directly towards Randi's remaining fighter.
"Loosen up!" Randi screamed to Cadet Burke over the comlink.
"Ahh!" Cadet Burke screamed as his TIE fighter spun out of control,
too shaken up to do anything about it.
The moment Cadet Burke's TIE fighter slammed into her own she hit
the ejector control, which sent her body shooting out of the top of
"Ugh," Randi groaned as the explosion from the two TIE fighters sent
debris colliding with her body. She could hear the emergency beacon
in her flight suit activate just as she lost consciousness.
Darkness and the sound of tapping on glass were the first memories
Randi had upon regaining consciousness. Her eyes opened and she was
horrified to see that she was submerged. She went into a horrific
panic before she regained her composure and realized she was inside
a bacta tank. Standing outside of the tank was Colonel Jenson, who
was tapping on the wall of the tank to wake her up.
Instinctively, Randi turned her head from left to right, looking at
each of the bacta tanks in the medical bay. Empty. "Damn it," she
immediately thought. She wondered if they were all dead. She knew
they were not ready, and now they had all paid the price.
As Randi was sitting on her medical bed, drying off, Colonel Jenson
"I am so glad you made it, Ran," Colonel Jenson informed her, "What
happened out there?"
"There," Randi paused, still in shock, "There was a collision.
Vick hit Durron ... Burke hit me. I just barely managed to eject." "Did,"
she asked, her voice getting quiet and sad, "Did anyone else make
"The Space Rescue Corps conducted an extensive search of the area,"
Colonel Jenson started slowly, trying not to tell her as easily as
possible, "You were the only one that made it."
Randi's eyes welled up with tears as she realized that she had
gotten everyone killed. She began sobbing hysterically and stood up
from her bed.
"I told you they weren't ready!" she screamed at
Colonel Jenson and began flailing her arms at him wildly,
attempting to beat him senseless. She was hysterical and could
barely see through the tears, so he had no difficulty easily
blocking each of her blows.
"Droid!" Colonel Jenson yelled, "Give her a sedative."
A 2-1B medical droid hurried over and injected Randi with a mild
tranquilizer. A strange smile formed upon her face as she slumped
over in Colonel Jenson's arms.
"Get your rest now," he said kindly, placing her back in bed,
"You're going to need it."
Randi stood in front of the board of inquiry, still not recovered
from what happened. She resigned herself to her fate, believing she
was guilty. She would take whatever punishment they gave her, and
she vowed never to fly again.
Commandant Enda Card, a respected line officer with over two decades
of experience, served as chairman of the board of inquiry, "In your
opinion, Captain," he asked, "What do you believe was the cause of
"Inexperience, sir," Randi quietly replied, never raising her head,
too afraid to make eye contact.
"Well," Commandant Card continued, "That's why Cadets attend the
Academy ... to gain experience.
"I was not talking about the Cadets," Randi explained, "I was
referring to myself."
"I find that hard to believe, Captain," the Commandant responded,
"Aside from this you have an immaculate flight record."
"This was not the right assignment for me, sir," Randi told the
panel, "I'm not a teacher."
"Then," Commandant Card asked her bluntly, "What are you?"
"Now?" Randi replied, "Nothing. I was a pilot, but now I never want
to fly again. Flying was the only thing I was ever good at ... without
flying I'm nothing."
"Never fly again?" Commandant Card questioned in dismay.
"Never," Randi informed the Commandant without hesitation.
"Ordinarily this panel would be inclined to agree with you,
Captain," the Commandant lectured her, "However, based on your
commanding officer, Colonel Jenson, emphatic plea before this body,
combined with your record as a pilot, it would do the Empire a great
disservice to discharge you."
"I will not fly," Randi said defiantly, raising her head.
"You will fly," the Commandant said, raising his voice in anger, "But
you will not fly a starfighter ... at least for anytime soon. Oh, but
you will fly. It is the ruling of the committee that you be demoted
to the rank of Lieutenant and reassigned as a shuttle pilot."
"I will not..." before Randi could finish her sentence, the
banged his gavel and the members of the board rose from their
positions and hastily exited the conference room.
"So I guess I have you to thank for this?" Randi said to
Jenson as she emptied her locker.
"Ran..." Colonel Jenson said in a compassionate tone.
"Save it," Randi interjected disgustedly.
"Right now," Colonel Jenson continued, "It hurts ... and it will keep
hurting. However, one day, you will want to fly again. Trust me."
"Whatever," Randi said, ignoring him as she finished packing her
"Don't give up, kid," Colonel Jenson said as he exited the locker
Randi sighed as she finished packing her duffle bag with the last of
her personal belongings. She took one look around the room, fighting
back the tears as she spotted the three empty lockers that once
belonged to her trainees.
"Goodbye," she said quietly, as she turned off the lights in the
locker room and headed towards her shuttle.
"Hey!" a cheerful female voice came from the officer sitting
next to her in the shuttle.
Randi did not turn to look at her, not really in the mood for
"My name's Bethany ... Bethany Sheppard," Bethany continued in an
almost annoyingly happy tone of voice.
"Randi Trainor ... people call me Ran," Randi explained.
"Great to meet you, Ran," Bethany said with a warm smile, "This is
going to be my first assignment."
"No, really?" Randi said in a condescending tone, which Bethany did
"Yep!" Bethany replied gleefully, "Just graduated the Academy. I'm
going to be the flight controller on the Warspite. What's
"Talkative," Randi thought to herself. "Oh," she began to answer the
question, "Shuttle pilot."
"In a sense," Bethany said with a smile, "We'll both be flying."
"Yeah..." Randi replied.
"Know anything about our assignment?" Bethany asked, "I hear the
Admiral is some politician turned officer."
"No," Randi explained, "I didn't really check up on it."
"You know..." Bethany continued before Randi interrupted her.
"Look," Randi interjected, "I don't want to be rude, but it's a long
flight and I just want to relax."
"Oh," Bethany replied, a touch of sadness in her voice, "Don't like
flying, huh? Kind of a weird trait for a pilot."
Randi lay in her bunk staring up at the bulkhead, unable to sleep. A
series of incessant beeps came from her holonet terminal. "Ugh," she
groaned as she sat up, and stared at the terminal. Reluctantly, she
reached forward and activated the unit. The display slowly powered
"Hey, sweetheart," the familiar voice of her father boomed from the
"Oh," Randi replied quietly, "Hey, dad."
"Are you okay?" her father questioned, "I tried to reach you at the
Academy, but they said you had been transferred."
"There," Randi paused, sinking down into herself, "There was an
"An accident?" Her father asked nervously, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Randi replied quietly. "Yeah ... I'm fine."
"Oh thank goodness," her father said, obviously relieved. "So," he
said, changing the subject, "Tell me about your new assignment."
"I'm a shuttle pilot now," Randi told him meekly.
"A shuttle pilot?" her father repeated, shocked, "What happened?"
"I got..." Randi said before stopping herself.
"You got what, honey?" her father asked compassionately.
Randi sighed deeply, lowering her head into her hands, "I got people
"What?" her father asked.
"The accident," Randi continued, "The pilots I were training ... they
crashed into each other. They all died. I nearly died ... I should
"Don't say things like that, Ran," her father said in a reassuring
"Dad," Randi said, finally raising her head as her eyes welled with
"Shh," her father said, "It's okay. At least you're still flying."
"No," Randi informed him as the tears began to flow, "I'm never
going to fly again."
"Ran," her father said, wishing he was actually there, "Flying is
everything to you. Don't give it up. Not now, not after this."
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," Randi told him.
"Okay," her father said, not knowing what else to say.
"How's mom?" Randi asked, sniffling.
"Mom's fine," her father informed her, "She's worried about you,
"Good," Randi said, trying to smile, "Look dad ... I'm going to go."
"You sure?" her father asked disappointedly.
"Yeah," Randi said, lowering her head again, "I'm sure."
"I love you, Randi," her father told her, placing his hand upon the
"I love you too, dad," Randi said, still crying, placing her own
hand upon his on her holonet screen, "Goodbye."
"Goodbye," her father said, nearly crying himself now.
"Transmission ended," the holonet terminal announced as the screen
"Admiral," Captain Tiberius Anson began, "I have a problem with one
of my officers. How do you want me to handle it?"
Admiral Claudius Rodney turned from gazing out of the view port at
the starfield before him, "What kind of problem, Captain?"
"It's one of my pilots, sir," Captain Anson continued with his
"Well, what about him?" Admiral Rodney inquired.
"Well, it's a she, sir," Captain Anson corrected him before
continuing, "And the problem is she won't fly."
"Then get rid of her, Captain," Admiral Rodney said bluntly, and
turned his head back towards the view port, "It doesn't seem like
that hard of a decision."
"Well, sir," Captain Anson continued, "It's more complicated than
"Go on," Admiral Rodney instructed, not turning away from the
viewport this time.
"There's an attachment to her assignment orders here from
Card at the Academy," Captain Anson explained, "It seems she was one
of his instructors and was involved in an accident ... all of her
trainees were killed. He assigned her here to get her wings back,
and he urged us not to let her wash out. He claims she's an
"Well," Admiral Rodney began, "Have you tried talking to her?"
"There's more, sir," Captain Anson said hesitantly.
"Out with it, man!" Admiral Rodney said in a frustrated tone.
"She hasn't exactly been," Captain Anson paused nervously, "Sober."
Admiral Rodney sighed, and then turned his head towards his
subordinate. "So, not only will she not fly, but she is in fact also
too drunk to fly?"
"Yes," Captain Anson said, "That about sums it up."
"Get rid of her," Admiral Rodney said disgustedly.
"But, sir," Captain Anson pressed on, "I served with
I owe him."
"What do you propose?" Admiral Rodney questioned.
"I was hoping you could talk to her, sir," Captain Anson said
timidly, "You are one of the most persuasive men in the galaxy."
"One of?" Admiral Rodney replied jokingly, "Fine, but you have been
in the navy for a long time ... I'm not doing this every time one of
your old shipmates calls on you."
Randi had seen many depressing sights in her day, but right now
nothing was worse to look at than an empty bottle. "Ugh," she groaned as
she reached for the next bottle of Corellian Ale, knocking her glass
over in the process. It shattered with an awful noise just as the
doors to her cabin opened. Into her disheveled room walked Admiral
Rodney. Randi saw this, her eyes going wide. She stood quickly, her
tunic hanging out of her trousers.
"Attention on," Randi said groggily, "on ... on."
"On deck?" Admiral Rodney questioned.
"Yeah," Randi said excitedly. "Attention on deck!"
"This room is a mess," Admiral Rodney said, surveying the clutter
like a battlefield, "And so are you."
"I'm sorry, sir," Randi replied, a burp escaping her mouth, "Would
you like a drink?"
"No," the Admiral replied instantly.
"I was just about to have another," Randi said, looking at the empty
table, "But I seem to have lost my glass."
"Look," Admiral Rodney said sternly, "Trainor ... you have got to get
a hold of yourself."
"What's it to you," Randi asked him, slumping down on her bed.
"What is it to me?" the Admiral thought to him himself. It was
nothing to him, it was something to his subordinate's former shipmate.
accounts," he explained, "You're an excellent pilot."
"Was," Randi corrected him, "an excellent pilot."
"In this squadron," Admiral Rodney continued, taking a seat on the
bed next to her, "I determine what people are and are not. And, like
it or not, you're a pilot."
"I'm not getting back in the cockpit, sir," Randi said, as she began
to tear up again, "I can't."
"Yes," Admiral Rodney said in a demanding tone, "You can, and you
"I don't want to get anyone else killed," Randi explained.
"I read the file," the Admiral explained, "It wasn't your fault. It
was an accident. It could have happened to anyone."
"Yeah," Randi replied, "But it happened to me."
"Sitting here drinking," Admiral Rodney lectured her, "And feeling
sorry for yourself ... that does not accomplish anything. Those pilots
are gone and it was not your fault. Do you think they would want
your career to end over this?"
"No..." Randi said, wiping mucus away from her nose, attempting to
"Then..." Admiral Rodney replied.
"Nobody would want to fly with me, anyway," Randi explained, "I'm
bad luck now, you see."
"Is that all?" Rodney asked, "Then I'll fly with you. I'm assigning
you to pilot my personal shuttle. I'm traveling home to Delaya
tomorrow morning. I want to see you in the hangar bay bright and
early, and sober."
Randi smiled for the first time in a long time, amazed that this
officer would trust his life to her piloting. She stood up,
adjusting her uniform, though it was still a mess. "Yes, sir!"
Randi stepped out onto a hangar bay for the first time in weeks. She
looked around the massive bay inside the belly of the Imperial Star
Destroyer. It was like a home away from home for her. She gave a
casual glance to a rack of TIE fighters reminiscently before walking
towards the Admiral's shuttle, which the hangar crew had already
moved into position for this morning's launch. She noticed that the
Admiral and a female officer were already waiting near the shuttle,
and she hurried over towards the group.
"Glad to see you made it, Lieutenant," Admiral Rodney said, only
half-jokingly, "This is Major Kiley, my adjutant, she will serve
as your co-pilot.
"Major," Randi said, smiling politely at Major Kiley.
"Lieutenant," Major Kiley nodded to her.
"Shall we?" Admiral Rodney said to the group.
Randi made her way up the walkway. Major Kiley followed, but the
Admiral stopped her with a casual tug on her sleeve.
"Better keep an eye on her, Major," Admiral Rodney instructed.
"Why?" Major Kiley asked.
"She may be a little rusty," the Admiral explained, "...or drunk."
"Great," Major Kiley said, growing pale.
The two made their way up the ramp. The Admiral took his usual seat
in the rear of the shuttle, while Major Kiley made her way into the
cockpit. She sat down in the co-pilot's seat, next to Randi, who was
finishing the preflight sequence to warm the shuttle up.
"Want me to handle takeoff?" Kerrie asked casually.
"No," Randi replied, "I got it."
Kerrie swallowed nervously before activating the comlink, "Warspite
control, this is the shuttle Kwai requesting clearance for
The voice of the tactical officer, Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca,
soon replied over the comlink, "Kwai, this is Warspite ... you are
cleared for departure. Warspite out."
"Acknowledged," Major Kiley replied, "Kwai out."
Randi activated the repulsorlift engines, which lifted the
the surface of the hangar bay. As she maneuvered the shuttle to exit
the hangar bay, the bottom right side of the shuttle scraped
along the deck plating, causing a horrible scraping noise.
"Oops," Randi said sheepishly, quickly adjusting the controls to
raise the ship higher off the ground.
"I do not like to hear 'oops'," Admiral Rodney chimed in from the
"Sorry!" Randi yelled back to him, extremely nervous.
Finally, the shuttle exited the massive hangar bay of the
Star Destroyer. Randi activated the controls that lowered the
"Feel good to be back behind the controls?" Major Kiley asked.
"Almost," Randi said, still getting used to the controls, "Hang on."
"Hang..." the Admiral could not finish asking his question before
Randi flipped the shuttle over, executing a barrel roll.
"That's better," Randi explained with a warm smile. With that, she
activated the controls that sent the shuttle into hyperspace towards