Adelie grants Nate a glimpse into the harsh reality of being a woman in their craft.
Adelie’s professional face rarely showed emotion besides a polite smile. Now a deep crease sat between her brows and her mouth was a thin, hard line as she entered the Officer’s Club. Nate excused himself from his flight mates and walked over to where she stood at the bar, ordering something to drink.
“What’s up, Spitfire?”
“Nothing.” She grumbled, but the frown softened as she turned towards him.
“Need to vent?” He pointed at an empty table in a quiet corner. A reluctant smile and a nod. He took her elbow and steered her towards the table. “Tell Uncle Nate what’s bothering you?”
“I was just kindly reminded that some people think this here is not my place to be in.” She sighed, leaning into her chair. “When I was a racer, I had to deal with a lot of misconceptions and prejudice against women in the field. I’ve heard my fair share of jokes about of the female inability to park a car, I can tell you. I thought I learned how to deal with degrading comments back then. And…” She made a frustrated sound and took a gulp of her lemonade.
“And…?” Nate asked.
“Only 20% of all applicants are admitted into one of the academies. 8% are good enough pass flight school. I foolishly thought, with the selection process being as harsh as it is… I thought we would all stick together, no matter our gender? I was so, so wrong. And I’m sick of it. I’m one of 24 in the Albatross Squadron. I’m consistently in the Top 5 of the leaderboard…”
“This is a polite way to say that you’ve been leading the ranks since forever.” He interrupted her, but she merely waved his argument away.
“I think I’ve proven over and over again that I’m worthy to sit in the cockpit, but no. Once more some little prick thinks he needs to tell me I’m degrading the Space Force with my presence behind the stick.”
He took her hand, which restlessly pounded the table, and wrapped it between his own. “I doubt he can fly the Double Richthofen with your precision. Who was the idiot?”
Before she could answer, they were interrupted by one of Adelie’s flight members.
“Ah, the Princess. Trying to distract your only worthy opponent to eliminate further competition?”
He turned to face Pat “Parachute” Bukowski’s oily smile. “Excuse me?”
But before he could put Bukowski into his rightful place, Adelie was on her feet, carefully setting down her glass on the table. “Have you all lost your minds today?” She stood to her full height, shoulders squared, legs apart. Something in her stance had changed, although Nate couldn’t quite tell what it was. She suddenly had an intimidating air of authority, and he could very well imagine the officer she would once become.
“I don’t think someone flying ten ranks below me is in the position to tell me how I should handle competition, Parachute.”
She turned on her heel and left the Club in measured steps, head held high. Everybody made way before her, resulting in an image that reminded Nate of a queen leaving court.
“Nice try, chap. Get ice for the burn.” He slapped the gobsmacked Pat on the shoulder and followed Adelie out of the club.