Taking Flight, part VI

Bear’s Rules for Self-Control

  • Visualize yourself piloting a real starship every morning. Imagine yourself reaching your goals.
  • Time on astralnet is a reward- Bear will unlock access when you have completed your daily goals.
  • Follow your daily schedule to build good habits.

Kali turned off her eyepiece, and the list, along with the accompanying schedule, disappeared. She shoved the eyepiece in her pocket, and gazed at the world around her with unhindered vision.

To Kali’s right there stood a white marble building. The building had a square shaped base, and the above floors were stacked on top of each other, each a little smaller than the last, so that it resembled a step pyramid. A wide, square door was carved into the front of the building, with the words Welcome to Flightcorps gilded just above.

To her left there was an expansive field of short grass and parallel strips of black paved runway.

Above Kali was the biggest, bluest sky she’d ever seen. She looked up and squinted into the sunlight just in time to see a grey fighter streak overhead, leaving a trail of white against the blue sky.

“Miss Chaudry?”

Kali turned and saw a blonde man with a small frame. He wore a senior cadet’s uniform, complete with stars and badges. He smiled- a little smugly , Kali thought- and offered his hand.

“I’m Cadet Miller. You must be Kali Chaudry.”

“Yes,” Kali said, not asking how he knew her name. “Nice to meet you.”

“Welcome to hell, Cadet Chaudry,” The senior cadet said as they shook. “You ready?”

Was she ready? Kali hesitated a moment as she considered the bare two weeks of preparation she’d had. She was getting used to her strict schedule of exercise, study, and flight simulations, but she was still dreadfully out of shape. Her legs and back were constantly sore from the relentless exercise regime that a lifetime of long study sessions supplemented with snacks hadn’t prepared her for. She hadn’t finished reading all of the preliminary course material, either, so she wouldn’t be academically ahead as she’d hoped.

Would her newfound dedication be enough to get her through hell?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps pounding the pavement. She turned to see Alex running toward her, already dressed in a freshly pressed and starched cadet uniform, complete with the white beret perched on his messy mop of hair.

“Sorry- am I late?” he panted as he skidded to a stop.

Kali turned back to the senior cadet. “I’m ready.”

#

“Are you really Kali Chaudry?”

The question was not so much asked as announced, loud and shrill, to the entire barracks. Kali looked up from her footlocker, where she’d been arranging her few possessions, to see a small crowd that was gathering around her bunk. In front of the crowd stood a skinny girl in pigtails, who Kali didn’t think could be any older than twelve years.

“Yes, I’m Kali. You are…?”

“I’m Sunny Owens- I’m going to try to be your main rival,” the girl said with a wide grin. “I’ve never really had a rival before, so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say something antagonistic right away, or try to make friends with you. Do you think a friendly rival or an enemy is a better motivator?”

Kali stared at the kid, certain she was joking, but not quite able to bring herself to laugh.

“Don’t be stupid, Sunny. I’m going to be Kali’s rival. I did better on the exams than you,” a tall brunette shouted from the back of the crowd.

“Who cares about test scores?” another girl added. “I’m higher rated on Brave Sector. We’re here to be pilots, after all.”

“Sure, but simulations aren’t the same as a real starship,” Sunny countered. “A lot of people completely choke their first time flying. Me though- I never balk in the face of a challenge. I have a fighting spirit!” the girl finished by striking a pose, her fist upraised.

“Are you- are you old enough to be here?” Kali managed to choke out.

The tension in the room seemed to break, then, as the crowd laughed appreciatively. The tall girl from the back stepped forward and wrapped her left arm around Sunny’s neck, while offering her right hand to Kali.

“Don’t let this kid fool you- she’s 18, and she’s pretty ruthless. I’m Jenna, by the way.”

“Hi- I’m Kali. This might be a dumb question, but how does everyone seem to know who I am?”

Sunny pulled her head from under Jenna’s arm, slid down, and hopped up on Kali’s other side. “Word on campus is that you’re the one to beat. You go by Kali-3 on Astralnet, right?”

Before Kali could respond, Jenna interrupted. “We all saw you race Ingrid. It was amazing- you came in just seconds behind, on the hardest course we’ve seen yet. No one thought a hobbyist could do it.”

Sunny put her hand to Kali’s ear, and spoke in a loud, harsh whisper.

Mumble mumble INGRID mumble.”

“What?” Kali whispered back.

I HEARD THAT INGRID RECOMMENDED YOU TO FLIGHTCORPS!!!!!” Sunny repeated, this time shouting in Kali’s ear.

The barracks door slammed open just then, and the girls sprung apart as Ingrid herself strode into the room.

Ingrid smirked, placing her hands on her hips, as the girls all scrambled to their own bunks. Then she walked up to Kali and gave her a withering stare.

“Listen up, peons,” Ingrid said, still staring at Kali. “Welcome to hell.”

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