Title: Flight School: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story
Fandom: Star Wars: X-Wing series
Characters: You, Wes Janson, Hobbie Klivian, Wedge Antilles
Disclaimer: Not mine. Non-profit organization.
Summary: It's your first day of flight school, and it's definitely not what you expected.
Author Note: virusq requested this back in October, and I finally finished it. Just in time for her birthday!
The format doesn't lend itself to internet reading very well. Sorry.
You walk through the doors of auditorium 11-B in the New Republic Training Center and pause for a moment, taking your first breath as a pilot. Smothering an idiotic grin, you move toward the front of the room, angling for the small group of trainees already gathered there.
Halfway down the aisle, someone slams into you from behind, almost knocking you over. You catch a glimpse of a man sprinting past as you catch your balance on the nearest chair back.
“Sorry!” the man shouts over his shoulder. In that brief glimpse of his face, you lose all ability to breathe.
Major Wes Janson just ran you over. Wes Janson.
You knew you were going to meet him, of course, that he and Major Klivian were teaching this course, but that intellectual fact never quite translated into a living, breathing Major Janson capable of knocking people over.
Major Janson, having reached the end of the aisle, leaps onto the dais and skids to a halt behind the podium. He ducks, and datacards scatter all over the floor.
“Sithspawn!” he yells, straightening. Noticing the rest of the trainees, all staring at him in much the same way you are, he pauses, says, “What are you all doing here?” and then tears back up the aisle toward you.
- rev up your courage and introduce yourself, go to section D
- get the hell out of his way, go to section B
You take a quick step backward and slip into a row. As Major Janson runs past, he tosses you an abbreviated salute and shouts, “Extra credit!”
In another second, he’s gone.
You turn to your fellow trainees, taking an open seat on the edge of the group.
“Was that,” a young woman asks, “our teacher?”
“I think so,” the male Bothan next to her says. “We’re in the right place, right? He seemed confused to see us.”
“He’s like that a lot,” another voice says, and you all turn with guilty starts toward the dais. A man has appeared behind the podium, apparently entering through one of the auditorium’s side doors. He looks sadly at the datacards scattered around his feet.
“Sir?” you venture, raising a hand. “Are you…you’re Major Klivian.”
The man nods, then lifts his head to look at all of you. “Rule number one: Never believe a word Major Janson says.” He pauses to let that sink in. “Unless it has to do with flying, targeting, or shooting. Then you can believe him. But if he ever offers advice or wisdom on any other subject - especially alcohol, entertainment, or dating - do the opposite.” He surveys you, looking as though he were officiating at a funeral. “Your lives will go much smoother. Trust me.”
None of you quite know how to react.
- offer to help pick up the datacards, go to section G
- offer to fetch Major Janson, go to section E
You step into the hallway and find yourself face-to-face with Major Derek “Hobbie” Klivian. You try not to grin like an idiot. Judging by the expression on his face, either you’re not doing a very good job of it, or his pet died that morning.
“Did W - Major Janson say anything when you saw him?” Major Klivian asks.
“He was looking for some schematics, sir. He thought I might have them, but when I didn’t, he ran out of the auditorium.”
“And you don’t have them?”
You’re starting to wonder if you’re supposed to have schematics after all, though you read every datacard Starfighter Command sent you three times and there wasn’t a single schematic in the mix. “Um, no sir. Should I?”
Klivian shakes his head and starts jogging down the hallway. When you don’t follow, he stops a few meters away, sighs, and waves you forward. You stumble over your feet trying to catch up.
“No,” Klivian says, and it takes you a moment to remember what your question was.
“Oh. Thank you, sir.”
He gives you an amused look. “There aren’t any schematics,” he says. “Not that I know of. And if there were, Janson wouldn’t be able to do much with them anyway.”
You frown. “So he…”
“Was kidding. Get used to it.”
“Right.” You think a moment. “He was pretty agitated, though, sir. Maybe—“
“Trust me.” He turns a corner, still jogging. He slides an ident card across a scanner and pushes open a door, then turns to you. “Technically, you’re not allowed in here. You’ll be handy, as Wes is more likely to behave when there are rookies to impress, but if you get caught, I can’t guarantee that, well…”
“What?” you ask.
He looks at you sadly. “That you won’t get kicked out before you’ve even started.”
You suck in a breath.
He steps through the door and holds it. “Your choice.”
- follow him and risk expulsion, go to section H
- play it safe and head back to the classroom, go to section L
You clear your throat, take your life into your hands, and step into Major Janson’s path. You’re not completely sure he’ll be able to stop in time, but he manages it.
“Major Janson,” you say, straightening to attention. “An honor to meet you, sir. I’m—“
“Do you have the schematics?” he asks.
You blink. “Schematics, sir?”
“Schematics! For the thing! The thing I’m supposed to be doing but can’t because there are no schematics.”
“I—no, sir. I don’t have any schematics. At least, I don’t think so.”
He squints at you. “Oh. You’re new. Never mind.”
He bounds past you and disappears through the door. You’re not done staring after him, your mouth hanging open just like your mother always warned you against, when another man pokes his head into the room. It’s Major Klivian.
“Is Wes in here?” he asks.
Your mouth falls open further.
“I mean, Janson. Is Major Janson in here?” His eyes scan the room.
“N-no, sir. He went—“ Your voice dries up, and you point out the door, then realize it looks like you’re pointing at Major Klivian and drop your hand.
Major Klivian sighs and seems to shrink a couple centimeters. “Figures.”
He disappears, then reappears almost immediately. You try not to jump.
“You,” he says. “What’s your name? Wait—never mind. I won’t remember anyway. Come here.”
- follow Major Klivian, go to section C
- explain that you’re there for your introductory pilot seminar, go to section F
Major Klivian sets his datapad on the podium, then begins what appears to be some sort of battle of wills with the holoprojector. It flashes on and off, and Major Klivian looks sadder and sadder.
You raise your hand. “Sir?”
He glances up at you, then looks back down at his datapad. “Yes?”
“Would you, um, like me to see if I can find Major Janson, sir?”
He stops messing with the brightness level of the screen and really looks at you. “If you can do that…well, then you’re in the right place.” He indicates the back exit of the auditorium. “Go on, then. And good luck.”
You’ve just put your hand against the door control when he calls, “Follow the shouts of outrage.”
The door opens, and with a last glance at Major Klivian—and the stares of all the other students—you step into the hallway.
To your right is the building’s main lobby, with halls and stairways branching off to other classrooms, offices, simulation rooms, and workshops. To your left is an institutional hallway with several doors that junctions with another corridor about fifty meters down.
- go right, go to section K
- go left, go to section O
“I’m here for the - the pilot training,” you say, your sentence coming out more like a question. “The training that’s supposed to be starting, um, now?”
Klivian gives you a look. “Can’t start it without instructors, can you?”
“Well, no, sir, but—“
Klivian pulls his head out of the room and the door shuts. You stand there for a moment, looking at the handle, then turn and move down the aisle to the small group of other trainees. They’re all staring at you, which makes the aisle feel much longer than it actually is.
You slide into a seat, and the Bothan male next to you turns and says, “Don’t worry – they’ve been doing that for the last fifteen minutes. Popping in and out. It’s kind of like watching a holofarce.”
“Maybe it’s…some sort of test?” you hazard. “Like, to see how we respond to unexpected events?”
“That’s what I said,” a woman says, turning around in her seat to glare at the Bothan. “That or it’s some sort of rookie hazing.”
“Or they’re just idiots,” the Bothan retorts. You can tell this argument has been going on for a while.
“They’re not idiots,” you say automatically, surprised at the firmness of your voice. The Bothan gives you a look. “You can’t have survived as long as they have and be idiots.”
Before he can reply, the side door of the auditorium opens, and Major Janson enters, frowning at the datacards strewn over the dais. His gaze moves to the group of students and stops on you.
“Did you find those schematics?” he asks.
- say no, go to section M
- say yes, go to section I
After a long, awkward moment, during which Major Klivian merely gazes down at the mess of datacards scattered across the dais, you raise your hand again.
“Sir? Can I – would you like help cleaning those up?”
“Hmm?” Klivian looks up. “Oh. Yes, thank you.”
You scramble out of your seat, hop onto the dais, and start sweeping the datacards into a pile. Most of them are labeled the way you’d expect them to be labeled: “Lesson 5,” “History of the Y-wing,” “Geographical Identifiers of an Enemy Base.” But one is simply labeled, “BANG.”
- show it to Major Klivian, go to section J
- slip it into your pocket, go to section N
You step through the doorway, and Major Klivian smiles. Getting expelled suddenly seems a small price to pay.
This hallway – offices inhabited by, according to the nameplates, generals and admirals and a few captains – has a different atmosphere than the quietly intimidating corridors you’ve become familiar with in your short time at the Starfighter Command. It feels alive, busy, tense – and a little confused.
A shell-shocked secretary stands in a doorway, gaping at the pile of datacards and sheets of flimsy at her shoes. You hear an agitated murmur coming from a few of the offices, and then a bellow from farther down the hallway.
“Thought so,” Klivian says quietly.
He stops, and you hover just behind him, peering over his shoulder.
Major Janson backs out of an office, followed closely by a brown-haired man who looks mad enough to spit blaster bolts. He’s also, you realize with a start, General Wedge Antilles.
“I didn’t do anything this time, Wedge, I swear!” Janson says, backing into the wall. Antilles keeps moving until he’s nose-to-nose with the other pilot. Then he just stands there, waiting. “I didn’t!” Janson repeats. “Really!”
“Don’t even try the innocent act, Wes,” Antilles says, low and deadly. You shiver and sidle closer behind Major Klivian.
“But I am!” There’s a pause. “Innocent! Not acting!”
“He is,” Klivian says. “We’ve got a class in, um, ten minutes ago, and Wes was just in there.” He indicates you with his head. “Ask the new kid.”
All three of them turn toward you. You swallow. “Um, yeah. Yes. He was. Sir.”
Antilles measures you for a moment, and you try not to fidget. He gives Janson one last, suspicious look, and turns toward his office.
“Fine, Wes, but if I catch you in my office again, you’ll regret it.” He stops and narrows his eyes. “Remember – I have resources.”
You think Janson pales slightly at those words, but you can’t be sure. In another second, General Antilles is gone, and Janson is coming toward you and Major Klivian.
“Thanks, Hobbie,” Janson says, clapping Klivian on the shoulder. He turns to you and grins. “And you. Extra credit.”
You’re definitely grinning like an idiot as you follow the two pilots down the hallway and back through the security door. Just as the door shuts behind you, Janson pauses, smiling smugly, and lifts a hand.
You hear a small whoomph, and then Antilles’ voice bellowing, “JANSON!”
Major Klivian rubs a hand across his forehead. “What’d you do this time?”
“Oh, it was beautiful, Hobbie. I got my hands on the schematics of this hallway and ran a welding torch through the ventilation shaft and into—“
“Wait, there were schematics?” you ask.
Janson looks at you oddly. “Yes. I thought you were bright. You seemed bright.” He looks at Major Klivian. “Is this one bright?”
Klivian winks at you. “Seems to be. Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”
You straighten. “Yes, sir!”
You’ve got a good feeling about this.
You freeze for a moment, but at the intense look on Major Janson’s face, you hear yourself saying, “Yes, sir.”
He looks surprised, then pleased, and you try not to hyperventilate from the panic currently overloading your nervous system.
“Really?” Janson says, beaming at you. “Great! Bring ‘em on up, and we can get started.”
“I don’t – um – I gave them to Major Klivian.”
You resist the urge to clamp your eyes shut and brace for impact.
Janson moans. “Why’d you do that? Once he realizes what they are, he’ll never give them back.”
The woman who’d been arguing with the Bothan earlier raised her hand. “Excuse me, sir, but what were they? The schematics, I mean? If they were for the class, perhaps one of us could go down to the administration office and ask for another set?”
Major Janson twitches. “They weren’t – classified. They were classified. Sorry. Very important, nothing I can share with you.” He glares at you. “Or with Major Klivian.”
As if he’s been summoned, Major Klivian steps through the side door of the auditorium, spots Major Janson, and frowns. Janson looks trapped for a moment, then smiles brightly.
“Hobbie! Just in time. Let’s teach these kids how to fly!” He kicks a few of the datacards under the podium.
Major Klivian climbs the few steps to the dais, ignoring you and the rest of the students completely. You’re very okay with this. “Wes, what’s going on?” he asks.
“Nothing. I mean, learning. Learning is going on. Or will be, as soon as we start the passing on of learning.” Janson stops himself and adopts a casual stance. “Hey, did one of the kids give you a datacard? It’s mine. Nothing important, just shopping lists and, uh, life goals. No point in you even reading it. I can take it off you now, if you’d like.”
Klivian’s expression becomes even more suspicious, and you sink so low in your chair that the head of the guy in front of you blocks your view of Major Janson from the nose down.
“You don’t shop,” Klivian says. “You always eat takeout.”
“I thought I’d start,” Janson replies. “Can I have the datacard, please?”
“I don’t have it.”
Janson shoots you a look, and you’re not sure if he’s confused, angry, or relieved. Probably all three at once.
“Oh,” he says. “Okay, then.”
“Can we please teach now?” Klivian asks. “Before they all walk out and we get fired?”
The morning goes by quickly, a basic overview of the course. You’re sad to learn you won’t get to fly an actual fighter for almost six weeks, but it looks like there’s plenty to keep you occupied until then.
On your way out of the auditorium for lunch, Major Janson grabs your arm and hisses at you in a stage whisper. “So…you didn’t give it to Hobbie?”
“No, sir,” you confess, hoping he doesn’t throw you out of the program for one stupid, blurted phrase.
He peers at you. “You never had them at all, did you?”
You shake your head miserably.
“I panicked,” you admit. “It just came out.”
To your surprise, Janson chuckles and pats you on the back. “Don’t worry, kid. I’m used to people being star struck in my presence and getting tongue-tied.”
“That’s not why,” Major Klivian calls from the dais without looking up from his datapad.
Janson frowns, but otherwise ignores his colleague’s jibe. “If you do happen to find a datacard with some interesting schematics on it, say of the building’s ventilation system and a certain general’s quarters, I’d appreciate it if you handed it over – to me, no one else – and promptly forgot all about it, all right?”
Not knowing what else to say to this, you respond, “Yes, sir.”
Janson winks, calls you a good kid, and shoos you out the door.
You never do find a datacard, but four days later, the building is evacuated when General Antilles’s office fills with a bright pink smoke that sends everyone who comes in contact with it into paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter.
Major Janson catches your eye over the crowd as you mill about outside and winks. You smile. Whatever else this course might be, it’s definitely not boring.
You pick it up and stare it for a moment, then hold it out toward Major Klivian. He looks up from his datapad and takes the datacard from you.
“It’s warm,” you say.
Klivian sighs. “Rule Number Two: Always follow your commanding officer’s orders, even when you don’t understand them. It could save your life. For instance—“ He looks at you and then up at the other students sitting before him. “—get down!”
Something in his voice makes you hurl yourself to the dais floor and cover your head with your hands. As you drop, you catch a glimpse of Major Klivian throwing the datacard as hard as he can in the opposite direction before flinging himself down beside you.
Half a second later, the datacard explodes in a burst of fireworks. Red, blue, and green, they shoot up toward the ceiling and over the heads of the other students, who make various high-pitched noises and try to crawl under the seats. You peek out from under your arms and gape up at the display, flinching whenever a spark lands on exposed skin.
The fireworks only last about thirty seconds, and almost before the last one has fizzled out completely, the back door of the auditorium flies open and Major Janson stands in the doorway.
“Welcome to flight school, kids!” he shouts.
No one moves for a long moment while Janson grins, and then Major Klivian groans and pushes himself to his feet.
“Sometimes, Wes,” he says, “I kind of hate you.”
“Yes, but only sometimes,” Janson responded jovially, “and only kind of. Besides, now they’re properly initiated, and we can get down to business.”
Carefully, with half an eye on the blackened case of what’s left of the datacard lying a few meters away, you stand.
Janson squints at you from the back of the hall. “Hey – extra credit, right?”
“Yes, sir,” you respond. “You…dropped that datacard earlier? On purpose?”
His smile widens. “Of course! A fine bit of acting, if I do say so myself. If it weren’t for this war, I’d have been in the holos.”
“If it weren’t for this war,” Klivian counters, “you’d be a fry cook on Taanab who got jumped by swoopies on a monthly basis.”
The Bothan, his fur still a little ruffled, says, “Can we perhaps start the class now?”
Striding down the aisle, Janson gives a theatric sigh. “Boring, the lot of you. I can tell.” He jumps up onto the dais and gives you a closer look. “Except maybe you.” He turns to Major Klivian. “I like the looks of this one, Hobbie.”
Without looking up from his datapad, Klivian says, “Please don’t pick favorites the first day of class, Wes. You nearly got us sued last time.”
Janson winks at you. “Get off the stage.”
You jump down, glad your fellow students don’t seem to have heard the exchange. You’ve heard horror stories about flight school and how many people wash out each year, but Major Janson likes the looks of you. Right now, you feel like you can do anything.
You turn right, trying to stay out of the way of all the bustling aides and officers. A large, circular desk in the center of the lobby is manned by an intimidating human woman with steel-gray hair and a gaze to match. You’re still ten meters away when she starts staring you down, and you almost veer off at the last minute and go look for Major Janson in the refresher.
“What?” she asks flatly once you stop in front of the desk. You flinch.
“Um…have you – Major Klivian would like to know if you’ve seen Major Janson in the last few minutes.” You straighten and try to act like you know what you’re doing.
She arches one terrifying eyebrow and says, “Oh, really?”
She sighs. “Listen, kid, you’ve got the first day twitches, so I’m going to go easy on you this once. Go back to your class, keep your trap shut, and pray you learn something. Until then, leave me alone.”
She shifts her chair a quarter-turn away from you and focuses her attention on the comm board. You hover for a moment, trying to decide if it’s worth angering her for the slim chance she might actually tell you something.
You take a couple steps back, and someone slams into you from behind. You stagger sideways and see a man slide to a halt in front of the desk, using the imposing piece of furniture to stop the last of his momentum. When you recognize him, you almost fall over again. The odds of getting run over by the same man twice in half an hour have got to be big.
“Trudi!” he shouts, and the battleaxe actually smiles.
“Wes,” she says warmly. “Causing trouble again?”
“As always. Hey, is anyone looking for me?”
“Actually, sugar, there is a little—“
You pop up next to him. “Major Janson!”
He jumps and whirls to look at you. He seems relieved at first, but then squints. “You look familiar.”
“I’m, uh, one of your new students, sir. Major Klivian asked me to find you.”
Janson’s eyebrows lift a few centimeters and he looks impressed. “A sneak attack. Nice.” He thinks a moment. “All right. He wins this round.”
“Round?” you ask, but Major Janson is already walking back toward the auditorium.
“If Hobbie can’t find him, Wes doesn’t have to teach,” Trudi tells you almost fondly. “It’s a game.” Her face hardens as she remembers who she’s talking to. “Now scat, kid, before I decide I don’t like you.”
You jog after Major Janson.
He glances at you over his shoulder. “Good, you’re coming. I’d hate to mark you down for missing your first day.” After a few steps he says, “So Hobbie sent you after me, did he? Clever tactic.”
“Actually, sir, it was my idea. He didn’t seem too bothered whether you were there or not.”
Janson stops and stares at you, the beginnings of horror growing on his face. “He didn’t seem bothered? Not bothered?” He stops and gathers himself. “Trust me, kid, Hob—Major Klivian is always bothered.” He thinks for a moment, frowning, his gaze flicking from the auditorium door back to the lobby. You expect him to make a run for it, but then he nods. “All right, kid. Let’s go see how interesting we can make this class of yours. I’ll show him ‘bothered.’”
You follow, already writing off today’s class in your mind. You’re pretty sure no one is going to learn a thing, except perhaps just how much Major Klivian can take from Major Janson before he snaps.
A smile creeps across your face. Sounds like fun.
“I don’t know,” you say. “I think maybe I should…”
Klivian nods and lets go of the door. Without another word, he turns and walks down the hallway, leaving you on your own. You stand there for a minute, watching him go and hating yourself a little, then turn and head back to the classroom.
When you push through the auditorium door, you stop for a moment, dumbstruck.
Major Janson stands on the dais, explaining the flight training course’s progression and scoring system. When he spots you, he stops and says, “Oh. The late one without schematics.” He waves to the row of seats containing the other students, who are all staring at you. “Sit, please. I don’t want to squint at the back of the room every few sentences to make sure you feel engaged in the teaching.”
You hurry to the front of the room and sheepishly take an empty seat on the aisle. The young woman next to you gives you a haughty, dismissive look. You wish you could crawl inside your datapad and disappear.
“And now,” Major Janson says, “a pop quiz.”
You feel as startled as the rest of the students look.
Major Janson looks right at you. “Where, at this precise moment in time, is Major Klivian?”
“Um.” His expression looks perfectly serious, so you answer as best you can. “Looking for you, sir. In the, ah, officers’ corridor.”
Janson looks pleased. “Correct! Or I assume correct, as I didn’t actually know. But a good answer nonetheless.” He looks at his wrist chrono. “Which gives me about…”
A side door of the auditorium opens, and Major Klivian walks in, looking annoyed.
Janson smiles. “Hobbie! Good of you to join us. I thought I might have to teach this whole course on my own.”
Major Klivian crosses his arms. “I’m sorry. I was under the impression there was an educational crisis, due to the half dozen emergency comm messages I got on my way over here twenty minutes ago.”
Janson looks confused. “Comm messages? That’s odd. From who?”
“Couldn’t have been.”
“Oh, really?” Klivian says in a tone of voice that turns the question into a flat statement. “So you don’t know anything about missing schematics and the ruination of the future of Starfighter Command?”
“Nope.” Major Janson smiles and sends you a tiny, sideways glance, and you suddenly have the feeling the hardest thing about this course will be separating the actual information from the instructors’ arguments.
Major Klivian sighs and climbs the steps to the dais. “Then let’s get started.”
“We started ages ago, Hobbie. You’re late. Very, very late. Really, if I could give you a grade, it’d be – in fact, you kid-types out there, remember that Major Klivian was late on his very first day, and mark him down accordingly on your evaluation forms at the end.”
“Another thing to remember,” Klivian countered, “is that Major Janson has the emotional maturity of an eight-year-old, so bribing him with candy will probably work. I prefer high-quality, black market liquor.”
Janson nods. “Any questions?”
You bend your head over your datapad to hide your smile. At least you won’t be bored.
“No, sir,” you say, scrambling to your feet. “I’m not sure what—“
“What about the rest of you?” he says, cutting you off and scanning the other students, his hands on his hips. There’s a quiet, uncomfortable scuffle, a few heads are shaken, and then the woman sitting in front of the Bothan raises her hand.
“I think…I might have something, sir,” she says.
Major Janson’s face lights up, and he leaps off the dais and over the first row of seats. You’re afraid he’s going to vault the second row as well and land in the woman’s lap, but he stops at a kneel in the chair in front of her, leaning over the seatback toward her. “Really? I think I love you.”
The woman blushes and fiddles with her datapad for a moment, then holds it up so Janson can see the screen. The delighted look on his face seems to slide onto the floor, replaced by a dull blankness.
“That’s an X-wing,” he says.
“Yes,” the woman replies, shrinking back in her seat. “It’s from the library. I just thought—“
“I know what an X-wing looks like,” Janson says. “I can take one apart and put it back together in under an hour.”
“Yeah, that’s not true,” says a voice from the back of the auditorium.
You and the rest of the students turn in unison to see Major Klivian leaning against the wall next to the rear entrance. Still in unison, you turn back to Major Janson.
He glares at Major Klivian. “Hobbie! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
You glance quickly toward Klivian and see him raise an eyebrow. “Also not true.”
“Okay, so maybe I haven’t been looking for you precisely. Or at all. I lost the schematics.”
A dozen heads swivel back toward Major Klivian, who looks just as confused as the rest of you. “Schematics? What are you talking about?”
Janson waves his arms above his head and throws himself into the aisle. He makes a stabbing motion at the large display screen behind the dais. “The schematic plan things for the class! With the…structure and the – the scheme! Thing!”
Something clicks in your head and you stand, pulling a sheet of flimsy out of your pocket. “Do you mean the syllabus, sir? That outlines the course schedule and subjects?”
You hold up the flimsy. Behind you, Major Klivian makes a noise that might be a strangled laugh.
Janson gapes at you for a second, then shouts, “Syllabus!” and flings himself toward you. For half a moment, you’re afraid he might hug you, but he just snatches the flimsy out of your hand, scans it, and holds it above his head. “Syllabus, Hobbie! What kind of ridiculous word is that?”
You turn to see Major Klivian walking down the aisle, hands in his pockets, looking mournful, and wonder if he’s okay. You don’t think inquiring about his personal life would go over well at this point, since you’ve known him for about three minutes, so instead you just nod.
“You sent me four code red messages this morning because you lost the syllabus?” Klivian asks. “I’ve been trying to find you for an hour.”
“I was on a quest.” Janson frowns at the syllabus. “‘Protocol and the Chain of Command’? Who put that on here?”
“I did,” Klivian said.
Janson redirects his frown toward the other pilot. “That doesn’t sound fun at all. Can I take that week off?”
Klivian tries to snatch the syllabus out of Janson’s hands, but Janson hides it behind his back. “No, you can’t.”
“You’re no fun, either.”
“So I’ve been told.”
Janson turns to you, flashing the syllabus at you from behind his back. “Can I keep this?”
“Um.” You glance at the other students, all of whom look about how you feel, and say, “Of course, sir.”
Janson grins and points a finger in your face like a blaster. “Extra credit.”
The Bothan splutters behind you, and you can’t help grinning.
Janson bounds toward the dais, shouting about how it’s time to get this old bucket in the air, and you sink back into your seat, suddenly tired. You have a feeling you’ll feel that way a lot in Major Janson’s presence.
Before joining his fellow instructor on the dais, Major Klivian sets his hand on your shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll get you another syllabus.”
A syllabus, you imagine, will be the least of your concerns during this course. You hope you’re ready.
You pick up the datacard and stare at it for a moment, then quickly shove it into your pocket. A quick glance up shows that Major Klivian hasn’t noticed, focused on getting his datapad to cooperate with the room’s holoprojector. The other students are watching the instructor battle technology. No one’s paying attention to you.
You hurriedly gather the rest of the datacards into a stack and hand it to Klivian with a muttered, “Here, sir.”
He thanks you distractedly and you go back to your seat. You’re fairly certain you’re imagining things, but the datacard feels warm in your pocket. You’re also certain this datacard has nothing to do with the rest of the educational versions stored in the podium, and you think you know who put it there.
The holoprojector whirs to life, illuminating the wall behind Major Klivian. He smiles in grim satisfaction and a course syllabus flashes up on the screen.
“As you’re aware,” he says, “we—Major Wes Janson and I—are going to teach you how to fly starfighters. This will not be as fun or glamorous as it sounds and as you’ve all no doubt been dreaming for a good part of your life. It will be, alternately, extremely tedious and incredibly difficult. Forty percent of flight trainees wash out in the first six weeks, and this class will be no different.”
He stops for a moment to let this depressing fact sink in. You’re very certain by this point that the datacard in your pocket is getting warmer. You start sweating, wondering if the label “BANG” is at all literal. You’d prefer not to blow yourself up on the first day. You’re pretty sure that’s not something you’d ever live down.
Before Major Klivian can continue, the side door opens and Major Janson strolls in, his hands in his pockets. He’s whistling. Major Klivian watches him approach with a weariness you associate with parents of small children.
“Did you give the doom and despair speech yet?” Janson asks.
Klivian sighs. “Yes. I just finished.”
“Good.” Janson hops up onto the dais and crams himself behind the podium with Klivian, craning his neck to see the screen of the datapad. “You’re still on the syllabus? I thought you’d be on targeting systems by now.”
“That’s week fourteen.”
“Yes. Read the syllabus. Week Fourteen: Weapons and Targeting Systems. You helped me write this four days ago.”
“Why did I let you put it that late?”
“So the newbies wouldn’t blow themselves up while they were still in the hangar.”
Janson thinks a moment. “Yeah, I suppose that makes sense. Less mess.”
More than one of your fellow students are paler than they looked when you first came in. You shift in your seat. The datacard feels like it’s burning through the fabric of your standard issue uniform, and your instructors’ casual conversation about exploding trainees is not helping your imagination.
Your hand shoots up in the air. “Sir?”
Janson and Klivian look at you.
“Which sir?” Janson asks.
“Uh, you. You’ll work.” You jump out of your chair and dig frantically in your pocket while you hurry up the aisle. You pull out the datacard and thrust it toward Major Janson, who automatically takes it. “I think this is yours.”
Then you run the other direction.
Janson manages to say, “Oh, sh—“ before you hear an alarming whumph and everyone in the room suddenly starts yelling and coughing.
Twenty meters from the dais, you stop and turn around. The front of the auditorium is filled with smoke, so thick that you can’t see anyone else. The smoke is coming your way.
You drop to the ground as the smoke rolls over you, making you cough. Over the general ruckus, you hear Major Janson yell, “Class dismissed!”
Major Klivian adds, “A visit to the infirmary might be a good idea.”
“Yeah,” Janson shouts. “That.”
None of you have to be told twice. You’re nearly trampled in the rush for the exit.
So much for your first day of flight school.
You turn left, pausing at each door to peer through the small windows set near the top. They’re mostly classrooms filled with students in uniforms just like yours, officers lecturing at the front. The rooms not being used for teaching are dark and empty. For a brief moment you consider searching them more thoroughly, but you doubt Major Janson is hiding in a closet.
At the end of the hallway you face another choice between left and right. Left so far has been boring and unproductive, so you choose right. You don’t get far before a security door blocks your way. It manages to be nondescript and intimidating at the same time, and you stand for a long minute, thinking. The ident reader next to the door blinks steadily, and on a whim you slide your ident card through it. The blinking pauses while it thinks, and then a red light flashes twice. After another pause, the neutral white light starts blinking again. The door remains resolutely shut.
You sigh and decide to go back to the auditorium. There’s no way you’ll be able to find Major Janson.
Before you’ve completed your turn to retrace your steps, the door beeps and slides open. A woman dressed like a secretary brushes past you, her arms full of datacards. She’s not paying you any attention, so before you can talk yourself out of it, you take a long step through the door.
It closes behind you, and you try not to wonder how you’ll get back out again.
The hallway in front of you is full of people moving to and from offices, all of them looking very serious and busy. You try to act like you know where you’re going and keep your eyes peeled for Major Janson.
You’ve passed half a dozen offices when someone grabs your arm.
You yelp and spin around, coming face-to-face with a man who looks vaguely familiar.
He eyes you knowingly. “I didn’t think you should be here. How’d you get in?”
“Someone…left the door open?” You swallow and hope they at least let you pack your things before they kick you out.
He sighs. “Right. Where are you supposed to be?”
Something in his face twitches, something you think might be amusement, but you’re not sure. “That bad, huh? Escaping already?”
“Oh, no, sir! Major Klivian sent me to find Major Janson.” You cling to the small, foolish hope that somehow these words will solve everything and you’ll be allowed to go about your business without being dishonorably discharged or shot or publicly humiliated.
“Well, he’s definitely not here. Wes avoids this hall as much as possible, and when he is here, it’s because up to no good. Come on.” He turns toward the corridor entrance. “I’ll let you out.”
You walk behind him for a few steps then cautiously ask, “Excuse me sir, but…why wouldn’t Major Janson be here?”
“He’s allergic to authority.”
He stops in front of the door, pulls his ident card out of his pocket, and slides it through the reader. His fingers obscure most of the name printed on his card, but you’re able to make out a few letters—DGE ANTIL. The door beeps and slides open, but you don’t notice, because you’re busy gawking at the somewhat-familiar man standing before you who has suddenly become Wedge Antilles, one of the New Republic’s greatest heroes. He looks different in normal clothes, more real. You give a small, strangled squeak and try to close your mouth.
He looks at you, his expression a mixture of curiosity and amusement, and tilts his head toward the open door.
You sputter for a few seconds and finally manage to say, “Sir! General Antilles—it’s…I can’t even tell you how I—“
He pats you lightly on the shoulder, then unceremoniously shoves you through the door. “I’ll see you in week four!” he calls before the door closes.
The last thing you see is his wink.
You stumble back to class in a daze and only manage to snap out of it when Major Klivian is coerced by one of the other students into talking about the Battle of Hoth. Major Janson finally shows up at the end of class, seemingly for the sole purpose of announcing that there’s a party in the mess that night and any student of his who doesn’t show up will have their final grade docked fifty points. He and Major Klivian argue for ten minutes about whether or not he can actual do this, and then class is dismissed.
For a first day, you think, it went pretty well.
stringing words together
a journal of fiction
- Star Wars X-Wing: Flight School (You, Wes Janson, Hobbie Klivian)