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In the main auditorium, the rest of the students and instructors sat on the edge of their seats.

"What's the time? What's the time?" Tick-tock shouted desperately.

"Three minutes, fifty six seconds," Sunspot said with a satisfied grin. "It is over my friend."

"Come on, Sab!" Tick-tock said desperately.

"Would you both shut up?" Overdrive screamed over his shoulder. He was on the edge of his seat with steepled fingers.

"Come on, Man," Berserker said leaning back in his chair. "Quiet Riot's got 'em dead to rights. Saber is never gonna make it to the asteroids. I don't know what the hell he's thinking."

Overdrive looked up at the holoscreen as Quiet Riot moved in for the kill. Suddenly, Phil fired his nose mounted maneuvering thrusters at full blast. The RCS system glowed with a bright flash of plasma as Phil and Kickstart's T-Bat flew straight up and over and somersaulted backwards around the pursuing spacecraft like a ski-jumper coming off a ramp. For a brief second, the nose of Phil and Kickstart's bird glided less than a meter away from Quiet Riot's canopy. The two women looked up in shock as a waving Phil and a screaming Kickstart passed behind them. Then, the men came to a stop directly between the impulse engines of Quiet Riot. It was a total reversal. Suddenly, Saber was in absolutely textbook firing position.

"OHHHHHHHHHHH!" the other students said leaping from their seats.

"WHAT WAS THAT!?" Beserker shouted putting his paws behind his peaked ears. "How did he do that!?"

Now, Quiet Riot were the ones that had no choice but to try and run towards the Belt of Phinda. The pair tried rolling laterally to dump some speed, but Phil was already anticipating that desperate move. He moved right with them and stayed on their tail.

"That's my boy!" Overdrive screamed. "Get 'em, Saber! Get'em!"


"OH MY GOD!" Kickstart yelled from behind him. "What just happened?"

"We got behind them," Phil said bringing the crosshairs of his targeting sensors online.

"Where did you learn to do that one?" Kickstart asked.

"Don't know," Phil replied shaking his head. "I've never tried that before. Just got lucky I guess."

"WOOOO!" Kickstart said as his fear finally gave way to exhilaration. "Yeah, Boy! Let's go!"

"I'm on you now!" Phil shoutedas Quiet Riot continued screaming towards the relative safety of the asteroid belt. He and his machine were working perfectly together. Phil could feel what it wanted him to do. No matter what his opponents tried, he was one step ahead of them. His move was too much for Quiet Riot. They were expecting him to fold when they came out so aggressively. Now, Phil could tell from their desperate maneuvering they had no idea what to do. Just like his wife's aikido in the martial arts ring, he had turned his opponent's momentum against them.

It was coming all rushing back: the pride in his skills, the thrill of the impending kill, and the rush of the glory to come. He remembered how badly he wanted to win, and how much he wanted that trophy. After today, no one would ever call him "Busdriver" again. Instead, he wanted them all to say that he was one of the best fighter pilots to ever live.

The steady beeping of his targeting sensors grew faster and faster. Quiet Riot gunned their engines to full in the final hope of escaping into the belt. Phil moved his reticle over their spacecraft. All he had to do was press the range finder button on his control yolk to get target lock. His thumb moved towards the toggle. Phil remembered all the taunting and demeaning comments from those two since he first arrived two months ago. All the terrible things they had said about his crewmates and his ship, all the rumors they had started about him, and finally the ridiculous charges that he didn't care about anyone but himself. Now, Phil would show them who they had been messing with. He moved to press the range finder…

"You better show those fighter jockeys what the crew of Lady Blackjack is made of. Good luck, Mr. Lexington."

Phil's mind flashed back to the last words Annabeth had said to him before he left the Pershing. Then Katie's words in his quarters flashed through his consciousness.

"If you wanna play, play. If not, don't give it a second thought. Just do what you gotta do to finish with pride."

That's when Phil finally understood what had been bothering him. Winning would bring short term glory, but it wouldn't bring pride to his ship, his family, or himself. Quiet Riot loved flying just as much as he did. They wanted to win just as much as he did, but they didn't have a Pershing to return to. All they had was their barren asteroid base and their endless patrols along the Neutral Zone.

Phil was part of a crew that regularly received accolades from the highest levels of Starfleet and the Federation. Quiet Riot never received any praise at all. Instead, they just did their thankless but essential job day after day, week after week, month after month. They wanted that trophy not for the glory it would give, but because it would remind them that they were still in the fight with the Federation's enemies. It was a symbol that they mattered too...

Phil knew that the real way to bring pride to his ship and to himself would be to let others have what they deserved. Slowly, he pulled his thumb away from the button.

"SABER!" Kickstart screamed. "They're almost in the asteroids! Lock them up!"

"No," Phil said shaking his head. "No joy! It's no good! It won't lock up…"

"What!?" Kickstart screamed as he frantically ran diagnostics on the T-Bat's systems. "Everything is perfect! I don't know what's wrong."

"It's ok," Phil said as he watched Quiet Riot scream into the Belt of Phinda. "We'll go after them and try again."

Phil burned his thrusters and altered course to follow into the asteroids. In a few seconds, he was dipping and dodging around rocks the size of skyscrapers.

"Do you have a fix on them?" Phil called back to Kickstart.

"No!" his Sizzo desperately replied. "There's too much interference!"

Phil continued maneuvering around for a minute, visually scanning for any sign of Quiet Riot's T-Bat. He was forced to cut his speed to almost nothing to keep their spacecraft from hitting pieces of floating ice and debris.

Suddenly, the shrill sound of a steady tone echoed through their helmets. Phil and Kickstart spun around to see Quiet Riot's T-Bat directly behind them with weapons armed.

"I found them…" Kickstart said dropping his shoulders with utter disappointment. Phil was glad his helmet's visor was still down, because he was smiling underneath.


Phil landed their fighter on the runway alone. He slowly taxied to their parking spot and opened the canopy. The crowd of other students was already out of the auditorium and running towards the tarmac yelling and hollering at the top of their lungs.

A sonic boom echoed through the bright, blue morning sky as Quiet Riot brought their T-Bat through the stratosphere into a screaming victory loop around the airfield. The mighty roar of their impulse engines still couldn't drown out the cheers as they dropped a single burning victory flare from their fuselage. Then, they circled around to touch down themselves.

Phil watched from his cockpit as the two women parked their spacecraft, threw off their helmets, and slid down their ladder into the waiting arms of the crowd. All the tension and conflict of the past was forgotten as Quiet and Riot were hoisted up onto shoulders and carried around in jubilant victory. The women held their helmets high as the other crews chanted their names.

Phil finally unbuckled his harness and climbed over to the ladder. He looked back to see Kickstart still burying his head in his hands.

"I don't know what happened! We had them dead to rights!" he shouted angrily.

"Shit happens, Man," Phil said giving him a supportive tap on his shoulder. "Come on, we did incredible this class. We got nothing to be ashamed about."

The two men climbed down to the tarmac where the only two people to meet them were Overdrive and Tick-tock.

"You did great, Man," Overdrive said supportively. "You alright?"

"It's all good, Brother," Phil said looking back over to Quiet and Riot fifty meters away. They both were holding each other in a bear-hugged embrace. Out of nowhere, Beserker pulled out a bottle of replicated champagne, shook it up, and started spraying them. Quiet and Riot opened their mouths and started gulping the bubbly down. Soon, their faces were covered in a mix of sweat and synthehol.

"I still can't believe it…" Kickstart said shaking his head. Tick-tock threw his arm around Kickstart's shoulders.

"Don't worry, fellow Sizzo," he said. "Everyone knows it's always the pilot's fault."

Phil burst out laughing.

"Besides," Tick-tock continued. "You guys lasted nine minutes and eighteen seconds! That's means I'm ten strips of latinum richer!"

"Good for you…" Kickstart grumbled.

"It also means the first commiseration round is on me tonight," Tick-tock said leading them all back towards the locker room. "You can order anything you want…as long as it's not expensive."

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