Chapter 6: The Head and the HeartA discordant mix of pulsing electronic sounds and frantic chatter filled the air in the simulation area at the new X-fighter academy on Moonbase. A group of people in EDF flight suits had converged around a cockpit unit, aghast at the score that this particular pilot had amassed thus far on the Braincom training program. The record still belonged to one Shiro Hagen, but the mysterious female pilot, decked out in full flight gear which hid most of her features, was getting very close indeed to beating the legendary space pilot's high score. Her eyes were hidden underneath a visor but the lower part of her face gave her away as being around cadet age. She had a steely look of determination on her face though as she put her electronically simulated Braincom fighter into a series of death-defying manoeuvres. Lieutenants Hercules and Lee, who had been studying data on a view screen in another part of the area, decided to investigate the commotion. Hercules stared at the score in disbelief, ‘Damn! Looks like she’s gunning for Shiro’s record.’ Lee cheekily concurred, ‘Yeah, she’s already beaten yours.’ Hercules quickly pointed out in his own inimitable way that she had in fact also beaten Lee’s as well. Indeed, the pilot in question currently held all of the single fighter and L.A.A.S records apart from Shiro’s. Shiro himself, was in his quarters, freshening up after the training mission. He was deep in contemplation, so much had happened in the last couple of years. Fresh from graduation and straight into the adventure of a life time. He had shed so much of his innocence and altruism during these brutal campaigns and lost friends who were like family to him. He put his helmet on and stared at himself in the mirror; placing a hand over the eye that had been home to a symbiotic entity not too long ago. He had been lucky, the condition had been, physically at least, far from permanent unlike poor Captain Carter's, he thought. Shiro wondered whether there could have been a way to save his old mentor; to stop himself from having to shoot his beloved friend down on that asteroid. He played out what happened that day, time and time again in his head, but in his heart he knew a good man like Carter could never live with what he had done, what he had become. Shiro’s musings were abruptly interrupted by the sound of his wrist receiver's beeping tones. ‘This is Captain Hagen.’‘Hey Shiro, it’s Hercules, you need to come down to the simulation area now!’‘Hi Hercules, Is there a problem?’ Shiro said in a concerned tone.‘It’s an emergency all right, your high score is at risk!’Shiro sighed, relieved that the current situation was at least not life threatening, ‘Ok, Herc I’m on my way.’ Life threatening it may not be, but Shiro was certainly competitive enough to want to find out if his high score was in jeopardy. He did have an idea of who might be attempting to break his record, which put a glimmer of a smile on this brave young Captain‘s world weary face.Back at the simulation chamber the excitement level had risen further, the mysterious pilot had reached level 10 or level X as it was referred to by any pilots skilled enough to have ever reached it. It was an un-winnable scenario. A single Dai-X fighter craft versus an Imperial Battle Cruiser. A test to see how long a pilot could survive in an impossible to win confrontation.This pilot didn’t seemed to have been told that though and was managing to evade the main energy weapon mounted on the Kathaar cruiser’s domed shape nose by flying dangerously close to the superstructure of the giant vessel. Gasps were heard from the group at the sheer audacity of the pilot, however her laser blasts were doing no real damage to the ship. The Imperial Cruiser’s standard shielding was strong enough to repel the fire power of a single Dai-X fighter. The pilot’s score was growing ever closer to Shiro’s though with every second she remained in the simulation. 2800 - 2810 - 2820, The score kept increasing. 20 more seconds and the high score would be hers she thought. At that moment Captain Hagen walked in and stood just far enough away from the group to watch, but not be noticed. 2880 - 2890 - 2900, Hercules looked around, wondering where Shiro had got to, and on seeing Shiro exclaimed, ‘Someone’s gunning for you Shiro!’ At the mention of the word Shiro the pilot’s demeanour changed. Away went her steely gaze, and she looked away from her head’s up display for a fraction of a second to steal a glimpse of her hero. Fractions of a second are everything in space combat, and when her gaze returned to the simulation she found herself diving uncontrollably into the side of the battle cruiser, unable to pull up her fighter exploded on impact. She looked at the score, 2970. Just a few more seconds and the record and Shiro’s respect would have been hers she thought. She slumped back in her cockpit deflated, despite the cheers and congratulations from her fellow space pilots. She was still only a cadet, but she could fly better than almost anyone in Star Fleet. What really annoyed her was that she had let her emotions get in the way of her flying. Her feelings for Shiro were strong, both as a mentor and as a person. She so wanted him to see her in a positive light. The crowd walked away, and seeing Shiro make his way to the cockpit, Lee and Hercules chose to make their exit also, but not before exchanging a knowing look between them. Shiro walked over to the cockpit to greet the dejected pilot,‘I know, I know, I lost concentration, I flew with my heart not my head. Guess I look kinda silly huh?’ said the young pilot as she lifted her visor to reveal her beautiful features.‘You know what you did wrong, which is the main thing. You have so much potential. You fly with your heart, but your head must be clear in the heat of battle.’‘Says the man who flew the Dai-X into the heart of a battle cruiser’ she said with a respectful smile.Shiro returned the smile, what could he say? He had been just like this young 19 year-old, brave, but sometimes reckless. He had fought with his heart at times, true, but experience had shown him the benefit of restraint. Shiro pulled out an object from his pocket and gestured the young pilot to open her hand. Her heart beat increased, this was the man she respected, adored. ‘You’ve earned this... Space Pilot Emma Steel.’ Shiro said, placing the object into the promoted pilot’s hand, ‘We’ll iron out the kinks as we go, but Star Fleet command needs good pilots like you.’ Emma couldn’t believe the words she had just heard and a huge shocked smile formed on her face as she looked into her open hand which revealed an EDF fighter pilot’s eagle pin. She was now a Space Pilot and an elite one at that as her pin denoted that she was X-Fighter classed. ‘Thank you Shir...’ she gushed, before stopping to compose herself and then giving her superior the appropriate salute, restarted her sentence, ‘Thank you Captain Hagen. I won’t let you down sir.’ she said, trying her best not to break out into fits of joy. One of her dreams had just come true, she would now have to work on the other one, she thought.Before either of them could say another word, Shiro’s receiver started to bleep out a melodic sequence of tones indicating that this was an important message from Commander Crow. Emma watched Shiro’s startled face and was shocked, she’d never seen her mentor look this way before. Shiro had been given some shocking news by the Moonbase Commander, The F01 had made contact with his father. They would be going back to the accursed Thalian Zone.
I like parties, I like fun, I want to live in a hamburger bun!