The simulator cockpits opened without a second between them, allowing the two aspiring pilots to check out their team-mate without such interruptions as the passing of time.
It was odd, reflected the pilot emerging from the right-hand cockpit, to have flown a mission before even knowing the name of your wing, let alone seeing his face.
For it was obviously a he, the voice had been rakish, conjuring images of dark hair, bright intelligent eyes and a crooked smile. Probably tanned, toned and for lack of a better word, perfect.
The first pilot blinked. Well, I was half right. was the thought as the second pilot waved as he exited the opposite cockpit. The crooked smile was intangible, replaced by a wide grin. The eyes green slits, looking through the harsh light, before speaking;
"Three to one!" The dark haired pilot said in a friendly manner, although boastful.
"I gave you a chance."
"Oh, you lust after my superior reflexes."
Lusting was right. Superior reflexes, however…
Before the first pilot could reply the Commanding Officer walked over; the clapping of boots onto metal flooring even harsher than the light. Wedge Antilles, respected member of the Rebel Alliance, veteran of two Death Stars and according to some pilots - most, if truth be known- more of a hero than Luke Skywalker himself. Also currently recruiting for a new Squadron.
"Good news or bad news?" He asked. Exactly what was expected from an icon of Starfighter Command. Or what would be Starfighter Commander, after the last of the Imperial forces were squashed. Straight to the point with little small talk or time for pleasantries.
"Good news." The other pilot responded immediately, unfazed by this hero. "Then the bad, then a stiff drink."
His eyebrows quirked up for a millisecond, as though he was testing the Commander, not caring whether he was in the squadron or out.
Although he didn't have to - three kills verses one, no point in him feeling shown up.
"You all scored kills, which is good. You'll have to be if you're chosen." A reminder that this wasn't just a battle for survival in the mind, but in reality.
Survival scenarios were the last images conjured in the pilot's mind as the dark haired man licked the perspiration from his lips. Battles could be fought and won without blood or death, perspiration rates still rocketing dizzyingly high, gasping for air as though from lack of oxygen during space flight. Breathing for each other would soon follow; mouth to mouth for recreation not resuscitation. A tongue other than his own would lick perspiration from his cheek, working across lips to the nape of the neck, then down…
The mind so far from space flight now. Concentration was key here. What was Antilles saying?
"-ocol one-seven-nine." Skipping the good news was the order of the day, it seemed. "Gold One; three kills. Very impressive." - the green- eyed wonder nodded absently. So cool, whilst sweat continued to drip. It ran through a deep channel in his face and as though for the first time the scar was noticed; how it wasn't before was a mystery which those eyes must have had something to do with. The scar twisted the left half of an otherwise handsome face; as before, almost entirely perfect - "Gold Two; one. That's one point to Gold One and three to Gold Two."
"Sir?" Attention turned from the scar and back up to confused eyes, past a slightly wrinkled nose.
A man standing behind Antilles spoke. Had he stood there before? He'd probably walked over whilst attention was focused on other… things. This man was rounded, short, with dark hair and blue eyes. Not as good-looking as the other dark haired trainee, even with the scar marking the other's face. "Protocol one-seven-nine. The last trainees put it succinctly, `each wingman earns the points his wingman scored.' No complaining."
A smile cracked, not onto the scarred man's face. This time it was the first pilot's turn to grin, "Like I said, I gave you a chance!"
The comment hung in the air as though an electric current had passed from lips to lips. Electricity was but a precursor to the welling feelings as the two pilots' eyes met; perhaps not in the green eyes, but in the mismatched pair staring into them.
"What?" A new voice, a human male. The rounded man had brought with him the other two trainees, the male who spoke and a Bothan. "That's not fair. You didn't explain that! That's cr-"
Antilles cut the voice out with a "Gold One and Two, dismissed... Grinder," - he nodded at the Bothan - "Chedgar," - and to the human - "you stay. We can discuss your team performance and potential in greater depth." He glared at the human, who now knew his chance of making the squadron was minimal.
As Gold One and Two turned to leave, Wedge added to them, "DownTime. The first group of candidates will be there. Do not discuss your performance or the mission parameters with any other trainees who haven't yet completed the scenario." He smiled easily. It looked as if they were both in.
Walking down the corridor eyes once again met. A deep breath. Now was the time for introductions, after the first `mission', after the easy banter, after the easier mind illusions. "I'm Ton Phanan."
Why was that so difficult? More to the point, why did the other make it look so easy? "Now I know who to mark down on Kill List." He did not mention his name.
"I am immune. I stole your superior reflexes, remember?"
The other gasped. "You steal my kills and my reflexes, and appear immune to my charms?! You need to see a doctor."
"I am the doctor."
The scarred man looked Ton up and down; quite obviously. Ton licked his lips involuntarily. "You might want to work with some flesh,"
Ton smiled back. It was strange that the banter was so easy. Despite the disappointment in discovering the other man's personality, it seemed that some things were getting easy.
"Need a glamorous assistant?"
Some things were getting hard.