Claudia Whitefur awoke with a bit of a start. She could have sworn she heard something, and looked over to her roommate, a white spotted Felanus named Rita Longclaw. Rita was sound asleep, purring lightly away. Claudia and Rita had been roommates since they joined the academy as civilian students. They were the same age, and had similar interests, Both were incredibly gifted, but they did have their differences. Claudia was an extremely light sleeper, while Rita could sleep through a thunderstorm.
While there was no sound to be heard, as Claudia did strain to listen for something other than Rita’s soft purring, she did find a sudden need for a refreshment. The dorm’s kitchen had a wide variety of juices available, and the students of House Falcon had run of the kitchen at all hours. Unless, that is, the cook was present. Then the kitchen was his.
Claudia slipped into her bathrobe, retrieved a torch and quietly ventured out into the hallway. She carefully closed the door behind her and began to tip toe carefully down the hallway. Oh, she knew that she could have slammed the door shut and Rita would have slept through it without a care, but that would have been extremely rude and thoughtless. So Claudia kept very quiet, even when in the hallway away from any of her sleeping housemates. She crept carefully down the stairs to the main floor and finally turned her torch on so she could see.
But she found she didn’t really need it, as she spied some light coming from the common area. There was definitely light, and now she could hear voices as well. She strained very carefully to listen to the conversation and try to make out to whom the voices belonged.
She heard Carmen Wingbottom and Willard Manfred, a pair of Vulpine students who were enrolled in the aviation program. It wasn’t uncommon for the pair to be up all hours of the night and into the morning talking about ship designs or fuel capacity. Claudia had caught them many a time. But this time was different, as Claudia heard them discussing the flight pattern of a cargo ship.
“Base load can’t be too much,” Claudia heard Carmen say. “’Specially for a craft this size.”
“It’s not a cargo ship per say,” Willard corrected. “It’s a passenger ship.”
“And we are going to need passengers,” Claudia heard a third voice. This stopped her. Carmen and Willard hardly ever discussed ships or flight patterns with anyone else. But Claudia recognized the voice. Jada Hawkspur. Had Jada been involved in some of their discussions since she was stripped of rank? Claudia had to find out, and so she boldly walked into the common room.
“I thought I heard Jada…” Claudia stopped talking as she saw Jada, Willard and Carmen weren’t the only ones here. Colonel Tyrell and Captain Mallard stood beside a small table where Jada, Willard and Carmen were going over what could have been schematics for a ship.
“Good morning, Miss Whitefur,” Colonel Tyrell announced with a grin. “Wasn’t expecting you to be up this early in the morning.”
“I.. um… heard a noise,” Claudia tried to explain, though felt a little foolish while she did so. “It turned out to be nothing, so I was coming downstairs to get a drink.”
“Most fortunate that you’re here,” Captain Mallard said as she took out a data pad and examined it closely. “Miss Whitefur, you volunteered for assistance with any training exercises that might crop up for the air cadets.” Claudia nodded as she looked to Captain Mallard, who continued talking once she received confirmation. “Today is the day, and I know it’s much earlier than usual for many of the students here in House Falcon, and that there was no warning, but that is all a part of surprise training runs.”
“What exactly am I supposed to do?” Claudia asked.
“If I may, Captain,” Jada said as she looked to Captain Mallard. The captain nodded and allowed Jada to continue. “This is the last training run for House Ocelot. There is to be another house taking part, but we don’t know which one. All we do know is we are expecting them to attempt to stop what House Ocelot has to do.” Jada motioned for Claudia to approach the table. On it was the design schematic for a Kingfisher class passenger shuttle. A twelve sitter with three pilot stations. The Kingfishers had limited shields and no weapons, and were used primarily for shuttling those wishing to travel to the Omega One Space Port.
“That’s like the shuttles that fairy into the ground based port here,” Claudia said, recognizing the design.
“Exactly,” Jada said with a nod. “But in this training run, we’re mounting a rescue operation.”
Claudia’s eyes opened wide. She began to understand the scope of the training session. Pilots from House Ocelot would be escorting and protecting the Kingfisher.
“Who do you need to fill the passenger list?” Claudia asked.
“I have that information here,” Captain Mallard said as she handed Claudia a data pad. “If you, and Colonel Tyrell, of course,” Mallard said as she turned to the Colonel and nodded respectfully. “Could wake the students on that list and have them meet int the common room. Mr. Wingbottom and Mr. Manfred will escort everyone to the shuttle craft. Private…” Captain Mallard caught herself, and almost continued by using a rank to identify Jada, but she couldn’t do that in front of a superior officer, even if she felt Colonel Tyrell had the same thoughts about Jada as Mallard did. “Miss Hawkspur will act as former air force and track communication to the squadron that will escort you.”
Claudia nodded, then looked to Colonel Tyrell who smiled and began to escort her back to the main dorm rooms on the second floor. As they disappeared, Captain Mallard turned back to the three pilots.
“Game plan, students,” she said in her most commanding voice. “Once more, then we begin to proceed.”
“I’ll prep the shuttle,” Jada stated quickly. “Get her ready to be airborne.”
“Once the group comes down, I’ll help ’em pair off,” Carmen added.
“When they’re ready, I’ll keep a watch out on the ground as we begin headin’ to the shuttle,” Willard continued.
“As the group is loading, I’ll keep an ear out for comm traffick,” Jada concluded.
“Excellent,” Captain Mallard said with a firm nod. “Miss Hawkspur, carry out your part now. I’ll head over to the House Ocelot Dorm and waken the cadets.” Jada nodded quickly and gave a standard military salute before she scampered off. Carmen and Willard tried saluting as well, but it seemed a little bit off compared to Jada’s. Nevertheless, Captain Mallard smiled and nodded to the pair. “Nice try gentlemen. Keep practising, however.” With that, Captain Mallard left the two, and hurried to her transport.
A two seater hover car, quick vehicles that helped officers get around the academy grounds with ease. For Captain Mallard, who had driven these vehicles enough times in her career, it was only a ten minute drive. She parked the small vehicle, turned it off and exited before making her way into the House Ocelot main dorm.
She strode with purpose through the common room, into the mess hall, up the stairs to the second floor and into the cadets’ barracks. The first room at the top of the stairs was always reserved for the house leader; in this case, Senia Felix. As faculty had master keys to each room, Captain Mallard opened the door without hesitation, and walked right up to Senia’s bed.
“Time to get up, Left-tenant,” she said as she roughly shook Senia in her bed. Senia awoke quickly, at first a look of annoyance on her face, then shock at seeing Captain Mallard. Her roommate, a white spotted Felanus, stirred in the bed across the room from Senia. “You may as well get up too, Corporal Talon.” Captain Mallard moved to the front of the room and watched the pair groggily look about. “Get dressed in your flight uniforms while I rouse the others. Meet in the briefing room and I’ll detail what you’ll have to do.”
Senia quickly nodded and raced to get into her uniform. Her roommate did the same, and the pair quickly dressed and gathered their gear, then headed to the main briefing room. They were the first to arrive, but were soon joined by many of the others in House Ocelot, all with questioning looks in their eyes. But Senia realized what was going on. This was it, this was the final test.
“We’re going up today,” Senia remarked to Corporal Talon. The Felanus looked to Senia and nodded in reply. “I’ll need a co-pilot, what with Jada …” She paused a moment, still not able to bring herself to speak the words aloud. Corporal Talon only offered a firm nod, indicating Senia didn’t have to say anything else.
Finally, Captain Mallard entered the room and walked to the front, facing the group of cadets. “At 0200 hours this morning, we received word a transport ship was entering this area of space,” she announced, treating this test as though it were a regular detail. “There’s a good chance there will be hostiles that will either want to capture the transport, or shoot it down. Our job is to offer protection for the transport until it gets to its destination.” Mallard turned to a map which displayed the area of the college campus, the air traffic lanes, the village, and most of Warrenshire itself. “Which will be right here,” she added, pointing to a place on the map; the landing field for House Bobcat. “The transport ship has a passenger manifest which has been uploaded to each of your data pads. There will be fourteen passengers, three pilots. All design specs of the ship are also on your pads.”
Captain Mallard said no more, but it didn’t take long for Senia to step forward. “We’ll need six aircraft,” she announced. “Talon is with me, she’ll be my co-pilot. Billings and Fitz, you take second. Hardy and Sharpspear, third.” She called out six more names, each pilot moving to the front of the room as Senia spoke. “We’ll have to co-ordinate communications and radar. Corporal Greta, that’s your job,” she said as she nodded to a stripped, brown coated Fenalus. Greta replied with a firm nod, then began to gather her own team. “Alright, we should be set. Let’s head to the airfield and prep the fighters.”
“I’ll remain here at the command centre with Corporal Greta,” Captain Mallard said as she looked to the corporal. “I’ll monitor your actions from the ground. Left-tenant Felix. Pilots,” she said as she offered the twelve pilots a salute. “May the Great Mother watch over you. Good luck.”