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Fighter Weapons School: Tellar Prime, Federation Space

The bright sun of Tellar Prime was still well below the horizon as Phil and Kickstart walked towards their T-Bat for pre-flight. The other pilots and Sizzos had also woken early to watch the fireworks on the auditorium's holoscreen. Most had lined up along the tarmac to wave and cheer for the only two crews that were still wearing pressure suits. Kickstart was strutting along like a showboating boxer before a match much to the delight of the others watching. Phil walked with his helmet under his arm and a face like stone. Everyone except him wanted a show. He just viewed this ridiculous match as the last thing in his way before graduation.

The memories of Quiet and Riot's condemnation on this spot three weeks ago were still fresh in his mind. He had been accused of many things in his career, but never before had someone accused him of putting pride before the safety of a teammate. Now, he would be going against those same women in a fight to take away the accomplishment they wanted most. Phil wasn't sure if beating them this morning would make him feel better or just prove once and for all that he was really just in it for himself.

Overdrive and Tick-tock were waiting for Phil and Kickstart outside their T-Bat.

"Are you boys ready?" Overdrive asked slapping the crew on the backs of their thick suits.

"You know it!" Kickstart shouted jumping back and forth from one foot to the other and punching his fists in the air.

"Now," Tick-tock said as his blue, Andorian antennae straightened towards them, "I know you want to get it over quick so you can touch back down and start drinking, but if you could put on a show for a while...at least for nine minutes…that would be great."

"Hey, Asshole," Overdrive said turning to his Sizzo, "did you really place a bet on how long this dogfight would last?"

"Hey, I didn't bet against our boys here," Tick-tock said defensively, "I merely placed a friendly wager with Sunspot that Quiet Riot would give ole' Saber and Kickstart a challenge…"

Phil was mostly ignoring them. He looked across the flight line to see Quiet and Riot already finishing up their checklists. No other crews had come to wish them well. They were getting ready for this all by themselves.

"They weren't in the locker room when we were suiting up," Phil said leaning on the boarding ladder of his fighter. "How long have they been here?" he asked Overdrive.

"They were here when we got out here, Brother," Overdrive replied. "I think that's the second time they've gone through the list. They want everything to be perfect."

"Ain't gonna matter!" Kickstart said climbing past Phil to get into the cockpit. "I called the engravers last night to let them know to go ahead and start putting our names on the plaque."

"Alright, Sab," Overdrive said noticing Phil's discomfort. "Is there anything you need? Last cup of a coffee? A small bite to eat?"

"No," Phil said shaking his head. "I'm ready."

"Alright," Overdrive said with a nod. "Good luck, good hunting. We'll be watching down here."

"Thank you, Brother," Phil said reaching out and shaking his hand.

"Don't mention it. Do your thing," Overdrive said as he turned and walked away with Tick-tock to join the other students.

"Remember! At least nine minutes!" the Andorian shouted before Overdrive slapped him across the shoulder.

The sound of a spacecraft throttling up caught Phil's attention. He looked over to see Godfather's A8 roaring down the permacrete runway with his impulse engines at full afterburner. The captain's wheels left the ground. Then, he roared spaceward against the backdrop of the rising sun. As Godfather's bird passed through the sound barrier, the crack of a sonic boom echoed through the cool, morning air. This was it. It was time to go.

Phil looked back to Quiet Riot's T-Bat. They were already in the cockpit preparing for engine start. He didn't know how Betazoid telepathy worked. He wasn't sure if his thoughts were muted at this distance or they could hear every confused thing passing through his cranium at this moment. Either way, for his own self-worth, he still wanted to try.

"Hey!" Phil shouted inside his mind. "I have no idea if you can hear me, but 'good luck.' I really mean it."

Suddenly, the two women simultaneously looked towards him and stared for a few seconds. If they did respond, his human brain didn't process it. Then, Quiet Riot both reached up and dropped their dark visors over their faces.

"Yo, Pilot guy!" Kickstart shouted down from the cockpit. "I kinda need you up here to finish going through all the bullshit we gotta do to take off in this thing!"

Phil didn't say anything. He merely took one final breath of unprocessed atmosphere while staring at the beautiful dawn. Then, he threw on his helmet, locked it to the neck collar of his suit, and climbed up the boarding ladder.


Phil and Kickstart's T-Bat shot through space at full impulse. Selat, their instructor-safety, followed far behind them in her A8 just inside of visual range. At this point, the instructors were here just to check the block. They knew they weren't in control anymore. In fact, the instructors were pretty sure they would learn a thing or two this morning.

"Alright, Alright, Alright," Kickstart said making adjustments to his instruments. "I have Godfather's transponder loud and clear at 357 Mark 061, Range 188,000 nautical miles. You're taking us right to him."

"Roger," Phil said quietly as he scanned the blackness of the void through the canopy.

"C'mon, Saber," Kickstart said referring to Phil by his callsign. "You gotta loosen up. No pilot ever got weapons lock by being tight on the stick. It'll be alright. We got this."

"Right, Brother. Sorry," Phil said pretending to shake out his limbs for the benefit of Kickstart. His Sizzo still had no idea why Phil was actually nervous. It had nothing to do with whether or not Phil believed he "could" take down Quiet Riot. Instead, he was concerned with whether or not he "should."

"I have both of you on my sensors, Kids," Godfather's voice sounded on the instructor subspace net. "You are cleared to engage. Tally Ho!"

Suddenly, Kickstart's instrument panel chirped out a warning.

"Here we go! Unknown contact, bearing 017 Mark 127 Range 278,000 nautical miles and closing at full impulse," Kickstart shouted out.

"Don't jump the gun, Mate," Phil cautioned. "We're near the inbound shipping lanes to Tellar Prime. It could be a 'civvie.' I'm gonna change heading. If they change to match, then we know for sure."

Phil gently slew the controls to point the nose of their T-Bat straight at the unknown signal. Kickstart watched the blip on his screen turn to perfectly match their movement. Then, he sucked in a breath when it actually started to accelerate towards them.

"Contact turning to 0-0-0 Mark 0-0-0!" Kickstart shouted. "Range 198,000 nautical miles and closing. WE ARE HEAD TO HEAD! They just kicked in the after burners."

"Alright, Ladies," Phil said arming his targeting sensors and raising his shields. "Game on!" Without warning his Sizzo, Phil engaged their after burners as well. A fifty meter long trail of burning fusion exhaust spit out from their spacecraft. The sudden rush of raw acceleration pushed the men back into the seats.

"AHHHHH!" Kickstart grunted as he squeezed his leg muscles to prevent from blacking out. "DAMMIT, SABER!"

"Hold on back there!" Phil screamed.

"110,000…nautical…miles….89,000….62,000" Kickstart shouted gasping for breath as he overburdened diaphragm attempted to suck in air from his helmet.

As the blood slowly pulled away from Phil's eyes, his ability to see colors slowly began to fade. However, he could just make out a strange red star directly to their front. It shimmered with an odd, irregular glow and Phil could definitely tell it was getting larger by the second.

"You wanted a chance to prove you're the best," Phil whispered to the strange object. "Well, we're right here!"

The glowing object quickly transformed into the silhouette of another T-Bat. Despite starting out on opposite ends of the system, the two spacecraft were now screaming straight at each other at a significant fraction of the speed of light. They shrieked past each other. The two pilots: Phil and Quiet, adjusted their headings to prevent a collision at the last possible nanosecond. The T-Bats passed back to back only ten meters apart. The massive shockwaves of their after burners hit so hard, it almost cracked the transparent tritium of their canopies.

"HOLY SHIT! WE ALMOST DIED!" Kickstart bellowed as he turned around to look out the back of their cockpit.

"You've never played chicken before?" Phil said keeping his eyes focused directly in front of them. "They're just screwing with us."

"Now would be a great time for some of that crazy pilot shit you do…" Kickstart said still watching Quiet Riot's spacecraft. Phil was about to perform his trademark "U-Turn" maneuver when Quiet Riot gunned their maneuvering thrusters and performed it first. The back of their bird spun around perfectly one-hundred eighty degrees to point their weapons directly at Kickstart and Phil. Suddenly, the two men were on the run.

"THEY STOLE YOUR MOVE!" Kickstart yelled.

"What did you think they were doing all those hours in the simulator?" Phil replied without any hint of surprise. "I'd be shocked if they hadn't figured it out yet."

"Shit, Man! We are totally defensive! Go! Go!"

The beeping of Quiet Riot's targeting sensors sounded inside their helmets. Their opponents were moving closer and closer to weapons lock. Phil gunned his engines again pushed his stick hard over. They entered a steep dive while barrel-rolling to the left and to the right.

"Where the hell you going, Man?" Kickstart asked as his head bounced from one side of the cockpit to the other.

"Away from them!" Phil said. "What's our range to the Belt of Phinda?"

"What?" Kickstart said shocked.

"The range to the asteroid belt!" Phil screamed. The beeps of Quiet Riot's sensors grew closer and closer together. Once they became a steady tone, it meant that they were dead.

Kickstart looked down at his sensors.

"187,000 nautical miles 285 Mark 310!" the Sizzo answered.

"Alright then," Phil said diving hard down and to the left.

"You'll never make it!" Kickstart said desperately.

"I know that," Phil said. "But I want them to think I'm running…"

"WHY?" Kickstart shouted. Quiet Riot had now closed to almost perfect firing position. Phil estimated they were less than five seconds from locking them up.

"Because," Phil replied calmly. "I haven't given up all my tricks yet."

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