In which G-force throws Adelie a curveball and Payne gets angry.
The bubble canopy hissed open, and a waft of fresh air promised stable ground. With weak knees and a queasy stomach, Nate climbed out of the Stingray. Adelie followed suit and he already had a quip on his tongue about the wildest rollercoaster ride he’d ever been to, as she dropped her helmet and bowed over the front wheel of the bird. He just had time to catch her braid before her stomach stated its own opinion about their performance.
He greeted her with a handkerchief and a breath mint as she finally came back up. “Better? Here, take this, helps with the vile taste.”
A weak smile. “Thank you.”
She steadied herself against the plane, the sickly green colour of her face slowly changing back to the usual lovely pale rosy-pink. Eventually, she grinned at him. “Sorry for pulling so many Gs. Hope you’re not going to be sick too.”
Nate shook his head. “No, I’m feeling okay-ish. Fresh air is lovely, though. D’you want to see the flight surgeon on our way to the debriefing room?”
“Nah, I think I’m all right.”
“You were awesome. Even though some of your moves had my stomach either up in my throat or down at my knees. I think it was all worth it.”
She blinked at him as she had to look into the sun. “You weren’t bad at taking down the enemy either. I admire your jamming tricks. They totally didn’t see us coming. This was highly enjoyable.”
“It was. We’re a good team.”
Major Payne clearly wasn’t happy with the overall results, which suggested a lack in the capacity for teamwork across both squadrons. He pulled up a spreadsheet with the results for every team. Next to Nate, Adelie gasped and squeezed his thigh.
“I knew we were good – I didn’t expect us to be this good.” She whispered. His beautiful partner in crime was right – they had indeed blasted everyone out of the sky as he had envisioned. Payne highlighted the first five teams in the spreadsheet.
“These teams were the ones who understood what the exercise was about. Teamwork. Putting your own need to shine behind the greater good. Working with whatever you get. Some of them were more successful than others in their attempts, but they all were professional and resourceful. No bickering, no insults. Instead focused communication. Not to mention skills and the ability to work together instead of against each other. This is how you not only get into Space Force, this is how you make a great career in the Space Force.”
“But Havisham and Klaiber trained together!” Someone in the back had the audacity to pipe up. Payne raised his eyebrows and with a dead-calm voice said: “So, they trained together. They sacrificed precious free time to get better at their craft. Either of you could’ve done the same. These two show a dedication I’m missing in a lot of you. You should not complain that they trained together, across squadrons even, but ask yourself why you didn’t.”