“First day on the job” I thought, with a slight smile, as I was starting my engines. I had been dreaming about this day for years, piloting small ships and cargo, and now it finally came.
As I checked the last information on the board of the ship, I noticed my hand were shaking a bit… Was I scared ? Maybe…
I remembered then what my father used to say about that. “Elyn, my sweet daughter. Why are we scared of dying ? So that we remember to come back home every night”. The memory of my father brought a smile to my lips as my ship disappeared into warp speed.
“I am not alone”, I thought as I saw stars melting into one pure light around me. “The squadron is with me”. I looked at my right and saw the other ships following my lead.
I felt so proud. I was still young, younger than most pilots in the squadrons and yet they had given me the command. I had thought the other members of the squadrons would protest or even refuse, but that wasn’t like them. They took me in, like one of their own. As if we had always been one family. I was their leader and they would follow me to the Beyond.
Joy was mixing with my fear as we approached to the rendez-vous point. I started breathing slowly to steady the pace of my heart. I had to remain calm. I had to come back home, to Father and Mother, to my beloved Trystane and to my little Mya… I didn’t tell them where I was going. It would be best if they did not realize the danger now… I wasn’t even sure I was either.
Suddenly a voice called out on the radio : “This is Elliot P. Finnley, pilot of “The Dark Star” to Silver and Gold Leader, come in!”. I activated my transmitter on my helmet and answered nervously.
“Silver Leader, I copy!”
Another voice replied.
“This is Gold Leader, I copy.”
“We are approaching contact zone. I want both your squadrons to stick with our ship as we arrive. We are to cut through the defenses and board The Bull as fast as possible. Let the other squadrons deal with whatever forces we will meet there, understood?”
“We are following your lead, Commander”, replied Gold Leader.
“You can count on the Silver Squad, Commander” I replied.
“We are arriving in 10.2 seconds. Prepare to engage your thrusters and reverse engines. Dark Star out.”
I started feeling very anxious. It all seemed so real now. All the simulators in the world could not prepare you for the moment of truth. The moment where you finally met the foe on the field, had to face their turrets, dodge every single blast for your life…
Like in a dream, I switched my radio to the rest of my squadron.
“Squadron Leader to Silver Squadron. All wings report in!”
To my greatest satisfaction, I heard every one of my pilots answering my call.
“This is Silver One, ready for orders”, replied Tuk Amodav in a calm, soothing voice. Tuk was the pilot of the “Wrath” and was known to be one of the most experienced fighters in the galaxy. He had already dealt with battles several times and been hurt. He had lost an eye, part of his left cheek and his right arm years ago during a Vegarel raid. Despite his fearsome appearance, he was a sweet and kind man, always ready to help and listen to anyone. He had offered me some good advice when I came to the squadron and his mere presence reassured me greatly.
“This is Silver Two, ready to deal with those punks!”, cheerfully replied Rosae D. Ellya. She was the only woman of the squadron beside me, and very respected by the other squadron members. Extremely beautiful and attractive, she had no difficulties in ordering men around. They would do anything for her as long as they could hope that she would be interested in them in any way. Rosae was an exceptional pilot, with a deadly aim and an even deadlier reckless behaviour in battle. I guess it could be one of the reasons why she named her ship “Firebolt”.
“This is Silver Three, and Rosae stop stealing my lines!”, complained Daylar Jaeskier. The Caribelli was known for his sense of humour and his way to always get the right word in the right situation. He was the poster boy of the Silver Squadron. Beautiful and dark, funny and witty, bad mannered and gentleman, he was really one of a kind. But it was in his modified starfighter, “Harmony”, that the true beauty of Daylar could be seen. The Gods smiled on him from the day he had taken the wheel of his first spaceship to this day. He could fly like there was nothing between him and space and his starfighter obeyed him to the eye. Men were saying Daylar was born to pilot… I disagree, space was made for Daylar and he ruled over the stars as the best pilot in our entire squadron.
“This is Silver Four, the starfighter “Fury” is right behind you, Elyn”, replied Nasser Ulgek. Nasser was the only Geamun of our squadron but nobody could argue and say that he had no place amongst us. Geamuns were more often found in marketplaces or in the senate than in the Army itself but I had seen with my own eyes Nasser training for a new mission. He was tall, strong and determined to be the best at what he was doing. He trained restlessly day and night and was the best rival Daylar could find. The two of them were inseparable, racing together in the narrow passes of Suliri or trying to beat the record of the other on the simulator. But behind that facade of competition, the two of them were the best friends that could ever be. In the squadron, we say we are one family, all brothers and sisters. But for Daylar and Nasser, this was even more true than for any of us.
“This is Silver Five, all wings are accounted for”, concluded Mace Dolzan. Mace was the most quiet member of our squadron. He rarely talked and preferred to listen. His words were rare but always wise. He seemed to see the world differently, watching it with a melancholy that always troubled me. Once piloting his starfighter, “Tornado”, he would become another person. He was one with his ship and with the squadron and seemed to rely on instinct as well as training. Exceptional pilot, shooter and racer, his whole life was centered around his duty to the Empire. Mace strongly believed in the Empire and the good it could bring to the galaxy. Loyal worshipper of the Faith, he would not hesitate to take his ship and travel the galaxy to protect the Empire and everyone in it. And for the very first time, I felt just like him… Thinking of my family and the evil that would fall on them if I failed.
“We’re going in, do not break formation. Gold Squadron and we are following the Dark Star towards the Bull. Protect the flanks at all costs !”
“Copy that, Silver Leader”, replied Daylar in a more serious tone.
Thank the Gods for Daylar. He could be funny when he wanted to but as soon as he realized how important the mission was, he would become the heart and soul of the squadron.
“Pilots, remember our words!” Daylar said “Strength and Valour, Honor and Duty…”
The other members of the squadron echoed him and I started to recite the code of duty of the squadrons, feeling stronger as each word was being said, until the whole squadron chanted together : “The Arrows of War, Through Fires of Beauty. We Are the Shields of Light that will bring the Dawn!”
As the last word died out, our ships emerged of warp speed, charging through a raging battle. The Dark Star pushed forward. I followed without hesitation. As chaos was unleashed everywhere around us, I noticed that I wasn’t shaking anymore. Fear had left me. I had no place for fear in my heart. Only my duty mattered now…