3: Greetings and Simulations (4/4)

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The Hammerhead simulator screens around him went black and the cockpit opened with a hiss as stale air from the replica cockpit met the fresher air of the simulator center.

Did I get him? Tell me I got him, Antes wondered to himself behind closed eyes.

He looked and saw Jamin and Camilo standing aimlessly about, chatting with each other. He wanted to join them, but didn't know how they'd react to him this time. Antes shook his head in disappointment.

Antes glared over at Dara's simulator as the hatch popped open and that was when reality settled in over him.

"He got me," Antes stated to no one in particular.

Dara climbed out of her simulator and headed over to Antes. She greeted him with a warm smile as he climbed down out of his simulator.

"We did it! We won!" she said, catching Antes off guard.

They were joined by the rest of Blue Team and all of Red Team, except for Izzy who, still in his simulator capsule.

"That was some hot flying in there, Antes," Camilo said with a crooked smile as he slapped Antes on the back. Antes ran a nervous hand through his dampened and mashed-down mop of hair before he replied.

"Thanks, but I got vaped."

Jamin spoke next.

"Maybe, but Dara survived. We won, man!"

Before anyone could add to the conversation, an excited yell echoed through the simulation center. It came from Izzy's just-opening simulator.

"Goddamn that was fun!" Izzy shouted, still hopped up on the adrenaline. He dropped down out of the sim capsule and bounded over to the gathered group of cadets with an exuberant smile on his face.

"That was some shit hot flying, Antes," Izzy started. "I mean that. But I almost had you." Izzy nodded his head toward Antes. 

"You're gonna have show me how you slaved the targeting data. That was genius."

Antes nodded at Izzy, "And you're gonna have to show me how you made your Hammerhead move like that."

"It's a deal," Izzy said with a smile.

Kalvyn nonchalantly checked his wrist chrono and his eyes went wide. His pupils darted from left to right making sure no one was looking at him. "Oh man. Guys?" Kalvyn led. "It's way past lights out. We need to get the hell out of here, like, yesterday before the Commander—"

"Before the Commander what?" a new voice boomed out.

The cadets whipped around to see Commander Warren standing at the door way, hands on his hips and a very un-subtle sternness on his face.

"That was pretty fancy flying in the sims tonight, cadets. From all of you," Commander Warren started, his voice level, perhaps even calm. "And I see you've all taken to give Mister Lanceville here a proper welcoming. I like the way Blue Team utilized superior anti-cap ship tactics to get the job done. But you were a little unfair on Mister Lanceville here."

He jerked a thumb in the general direction of Kalvyn and Jenson, "He had you two clowns on his team."

"Ouch, Commander," Kalvyn quickly quipped.

"Zip it, Jemara," the Commander snapped. "Whose idea was it to go against conventional wisdom and engage the frigate?"

Antes raised an apprehensive hand. "It was me, sir."

"Was it now, Mister Eslos? Where'd you get the idea to slave the targeting telemetry?"

"You, sir."

"Care to explain that one, cadet?"

"The third lesson from your exercise a few weeks ago. You used the data from our run, and handed it out to the other teams for their runs. I just figured out a way to apply it to space combat."

The Commander let loose a low whistle.

"Well you're just on a roll today, aren't you, cadet?" It was a compliment, sure, but in the Commander's sardonic tone, it came off as anything but. "Was it also your idea to use the sim center without authorization?"

Antes looked to the other cadets for—he wasn't sure, actually—support, answers, inspiration. He was about to stammer out an excuse when Izzy piped in: "Actually, it was my fault, Commander. I was the one who suggested Antes show me the simulators."

"Is that so, Mister Lanceville? You've been here all of half a day, and you're already breaking regulations. Not a good start, son."

"I apologize, sir. It will not happen again."

"It had damned well better not," Commander Warren growled as he turned his back on the cadets and began for the door. He looked over his shoulder at them. "Now get the hell out of here, all of you. Because of this you've earned a 0400 wake-up for yourselves."

Groans of annoyance came from the group of cadets and the Commander had stopped in his tracks. The cadets prepared themselves for another harsh reprimand.

"Congratulations are in order, you know?" He asked them, still not turning around.

Antes vocalized the cadets' need for clarification.

"You're only the second group I'm aware of to successfully win the Freedom scenario?

"Second, sir?"

"Look it up, Mister Myveson."

The Commander continued his stroll from the sim center. Then the lights went out, shrouding the cadets in darkness. The cadets filed toward the door in silence, the only sounds were the clinging of their boots.

"Jenson," Kalvyn said, a smile in his voice.

"What is it, Kalvyn?"

"Pay up."

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