"GET IN HERE NOW, CADET!" a voice from behind the door snarled. The young Cadet took a deep breath then moved through the doorway quickly, stopping two paces from the commander's desk. The cadet instantly snapped to attention, cracking off a rigid salute. "SIR FLIGHT CADET ORION REPORTING AS ORDERED SIR!" she bellowed as loud as she could, holding her salute until the commander dropped his.
"Orion, I called you in here to discuss your actions and flight ability here at this Academy," Commander Mead growled. Amberlynn was rigid as a board, staring directly ahead. She said nothing, but all sorts of terrible things ran through her mind. 'Oh God, what the hell did I do now?!' she wondered.
"You have EVEN managed to attract the attention of people outside this Academy. Tell me cadet, just how, pray tell, did you accomplish that?" he said, folding his arms in front of him as he leaned back in his chair.
"I...uh, don't know, sir," Amberlynn replied in a normal voice, trying to recall what she had recently done that would get her into so much trouble.
"Well I know someone who DOES know, cadet," Mead snorted. "RIGHT FACE!" he barked. Amberlynn executed a sharp right face and gasped loudly. Her eyes went wide as she suddenly faced the LAST person she expected to see: Duvall O'Leary. He had a grin on him as large as the Emperor's flagship.
"Good morning, sir," she said, instantly composing herself as she saluted the man. Duvall immediately rose and returned a rigid salute of his own.
"At ease, cadet" Mead said in a softer tone. Amberlynn instantly relaxed as Duvall came forward to get a close look at the girl. "Hi ya, Amber," he said, beaming with pride. "Sorry to give you the shock treatment, but we couldn't resist," he added with a smirk. "Understood sir," Amberlynn nodded. "Permission to speak freely, sir?" She turned to Commander Mead. Duvall shot a look at Commander Mead who smiled and nodded.
"Granted, cadet," Mead replied. Amberlynn stared at the two men for a moment then shook her head and smiled.
"You bastards" she muttered. Duvall broke into a jovial belly laugh as he embraced her warmly.
"Yeah, no doubt about it she's your kid alright!" Mead said with a grin.
"But why the name Orion, Duvall? I don't get it" Mead inquired.
Amberlynn traded looks with the big man for a moment, and then Duvall spoke.
"Its her mom's maiden name," he replied as Amberlynn turned to face Commander Mead. They had gone over this several times incase someone asked just where she came from.
Duvall knew the truth, as did Garrek and several others in the squadron. Garrek provided them with a top-level security clearance some time ago to find out who was trying to steal their ale. He also gave them a code that was able to create a file that listed Amberlynn as Duvall's daughter and noted that her mother was deceased.
Even though Duvall really never was married at all. Truth of the matter was, they really had no idea who her parents really were, and she could care less. As far as she was concerned her family stood right in front of her.
"Sir, I wanted to do this on my own, and not be treated different than anyone else" she stated.
"I see," Commander Mead replied, nodding in agreement.
"Garrek would be really proud of you, you know that?" Duvall said placing a hand on her shoulder.
"I know," she replied softly.
"Oh, by the way, here's a little something Garrek wanted me to give you just incase he wasn't able to make it to your graduation," Duvall said, handing her a small disk, then looking at his wrist chrono.
"Well the Lightning should be getting in about now"
"The Lightning?!" Amberlynn exclaimed, cutting Duvall off. "Coming here?"
"You betcha," Duvall replied with a grin. "Korvos didn't want all of his best fighter pilots away for an extended period of time."
"So you talked him into bringing it here so everyone could see me graduate," she said, cutting him off and shaking her head.
"THE 214th IS COMING HERE?" Commander Mead blurted out. "Oh God, Lock up the women and the alcohol, they are by far the biggest collection of screwballs, meatheads, and drunks in the entire Imperial Navy!!" Mead barked, shaking his head.
"Damn proud of it too!" Duvall stated with a big cheesy grin.
"Not to mention they ALSO have one of the highest kill ratio's of any fighter unit in the Navy including the 181st, sir," Amberlynn added. "They are also one other thing, sir," she said, looking up to meet him eye-to-eye.
"What's that?" he asked.
"They're my family. If it wasn't for them sponsoring me I wouldn't be here now," she replied.
"Understood," was all he could say.
The next morning proved to be extremely hectic, as everyone seemed to crowd into the auditorium. People came from all over the Empire: Dignitaries, Media, and right in the middle of it all were all the men of the 214th.
Once everyone had been seated, right at the stroke of 0900 the Imperial March began blaring off to one side of the auditorium as the cadets filed in past the bleachers. Many of the cadets snuck looks into the crowd, looking to see if any of their family made it to the ceremony.
"Where is she? I don't see her anywhere," Ivan said, straining to find Amberlynn.
"There she is!" Reggie said pointing to the end of the line as the cadets took their seats.
"Why's she at the end of the line?" Teela whispered to Dutch, who sat beside her. All he could do was shrug his shoulders.
"Sheesh, what's with all the reporters?" Sylja asked looking at all the people from the media. "Is this normal?" she added turning to Drake who sat beside her.
"Maybe they heard Jaina Solo was hiding out somewhere around here," He replied. That comment drew chuckles from everyone within earshot as Commander Mead approached the podium.
"Honored guest's cadets, members of the media, faculty and staff of Imperial Flight Academy 923764. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome each and every one of you here to be with us on this special milestone. This is the 50th graduation of this Academy." A round of applause sweeps through the auditorium. Commander Mead let the applause settle.
"At this time it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you today's guest speaker, one of the most decorated fighter pilots in the Imperial Navy. A man whose total air victories are second only to Lord Vader himself. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to introduce to you the Commander of the 181st Fighter Squadron Admiral Baron Soontar Fel."
"Well that explains all the press," Ivan whispered. "He's one of the biggest show-offs there is," he added quietly.
"SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" came from all around him as Fel, nodding to Commander Mead, stepped forward and took his place at the podium. "8 months ago today, 500 people stepped off a navy transport for the very first time. These people came from every corner of the galaxy, from all walks of life. Bringing with them all the hopes, dreams and desires; sharing one common goal; that one day, they would become fighter pilots in the Imperial Navy. Sadly, over the course of 8 long months, those first 500 who stepped onto the tarmac, were slowly whittled down to the 50 people you see before you this morning. Their dedication to duty and courage in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, truly speaks highly of them."
"It is with great pride that I look upon these 50 people today and have the honor to call them my fellow fighter pilots. May you shoot straight, fly fast and return safely from every mission. I am counting on you to serve his majesty Emperor Palpatine with the honor and dignity that only a Fighter Pilot can bestow." Another wave of applause swept through the auditorium.
Mead stepped forward and began to call out the names of the cadets. As they heard their names called, they walked up to the stage. Everyone clapped, and a few proud parents were shouting words of encouragement. They walked to Admiral Fel and saluted sharply, then shook his hand as they received their diplomas. A few of them held up the honor they had just received for all to see.
"FLIGHT CADET AMBERLYNN ORION.....POST!"
Amberlynn walked calmly towards the stage as the entire crowd cheered. Teela Harkov and Sylja Kuriakin covered their ears against the thunderous cheers and whistles from the pilots of the 214th. Amberlynn came up on stage executed a sharp left face and fired off a rigid salute. Admiral Baron Soontar Fel smiled and he returned a salute of his own, then handed her a diploma.
"Congratulations, Orion" he said as he shook her hand.
"Thank you sir," she replied, saluting him once more. She turned to leave the stage and glanced down at her diploma with a smile. She'd earned it.
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