Word Count: 1,955
Summary: Lt. Irish (for Wingnut’s Challenge)
She probably never should never have been a pilot. That was the bottom line.
Crystal Wimmer looked at the officer before her and couldn’t hold back a smile. She’d done it. For the first time, she’d succeeded in passing a flight program, such as it was.
It wasn’t that she was stupid. Hell, she could out read and out study anyone she’d ever met. She had been despised at the academy for throwing the bell-curve to the winds, rarely scoring less than a ninety-eight or ninety-nine on any given test, be it multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, or essay. She was a learner – probably should have been a teacher… but she had loved planes.
Her dad was a pilot. Her brother was a pilot. Her uncle, and her grandfather, and even her cousin Elizabeth was a pilot. She came from a family of pilots. However, as they had grown up together, she had been sitting with a book on her lap while siblings and cousins jumped their bicycles and ran their races. Exercise for her was mental, not physical. As much as she hated to admit it, the knowledge of a pilot had to be instinctual. She didn’t have time to puzzle out what to do when flying; there simply wasn’t time. She had to do it, and then think about it later.
She hadn’t always known that she would fail. Her first days in flight school had been bliss. The physics and mathematics that normally stumped students had come easy to her, and that had impressed the daylights out of her teacher, Lieutenant Adama. He’d been a strict one, demanding their best and from her, and getting it. She didn’t think she’d missed a single question in any of his classes, be it Aerodynamics of Flight or Mathematical Reasoning. He had rarely smiled in class, but for her he’d always had one, usually shaking his head along with it as he picked up their papers and read over hers. She’d noticed that about him: he always looked over her work, as though he’d never seen anyone get the answers right before.
The problem in flight school had never been her knowing what to do; it had been doing it. After the first year, they had moved to the simulators, and then her troubles had begun. Lieutenant Thrace was easy-going, laid back, and generally pretty nice. She wasn’t above hanging with the students, and rumor had it she was even dating one of them although no one could confirm who it was or even whether it was true. But somehow that casual manner didn’t extend to Crystal. From day-one, the Lieutenant had seemed to ride her, making already uncoordinated actions into impossibly clumsy attempts to maneuver the simulated spacecraft. For three months, every day, Crystal had done her best. She really had; but it hadn’t made a difference. Come the day of final testing for the next phase of training, she’d been as inept as the first time she’d sat in that damned cockpit. What was in her head simply didn’t translate to her hands.
The last day of Viper training was one she’d never forget, if for no other reason than that Lieutenant Thrace had actually been nice to her. It still made her sick to her stomach to remember.
“We need to talk,” Starbuck had said. They were seated in the Lieutenant’s office; never a good sign. No one who ever went in there seemed to come back to the training squad.
The Lieutenant gave a deep sigh, easing back in the chair behind her desk and putting her feet up on the table. “I love to fly,” she said quietly. “It’s absolute freedom. I don’t have to think, or worry; I just do it. I love it.”
Green eyes, not unlike her own, had met hers then. “How do you feel about it?”
Crystal knew what was coming, so she didn’t bother to lie. “It’s easier to write about than do,” she remarked. “I know the actions – what they should be – but I’ve been a clutz all my life. I tripped over my own feet running in PT, and then usually took someone down with me. I know I won’t make the cut, Sir. I didn’t expect to.”
Questioning eyes had blinked rapidly as the instructor’s head cocked sideways. “Then why…?”
“The planes,” Crystal said with a rush. “They’re so… beautiful. I remember one day when I was growing up – I must have been about six – there was a Colonial Demonstration of Vipers. I stood there and watched, and it was amazing. They were… remarkable. I’d never seen anything so beautiful in my life. The first thing I did was run to the library and grab about a dozen books on them, their history, mechanical workings, aerodynamics… I wanted to know it all. My dad was a pilot too, and several others in my family. I guess I had just hoped that I could carry on the tradition. The books made it seem so easy.”
“They are beautiful,” Starbuck said thoughtfully. “But not what I’d call easy. Where are you from?”
“Canceria,” Crystal answered. “There’s a little town outside main Frenia, down on Caprica: Ira. Most people haven’t even heard of it.”
“I have. Pretty place,” Starbuck commented.
“It is. Trees and waterfalls, rivers so clear you can see right down to the bottom, and fields too big to see across. Come to think of it, I did a lot of falling in those fields as well; I never could run worth a damn.”
Starbuck laughed. “You’re smart enough to figure this out yourself,” Starbuck had said.
She had shaken her head then. “Call me Kara,” she’d said. “I’m not your instructor anymore.”
Crystal’s eyes had closed, but it hadn’t been a surprise. Hell, she’d known before then that she couldn’t fly.
But the next step down had been Raptors. The good news was that she had come with a report showing blatant incompetence with Vipers, so flunking out of that program had been easier and less painful than the fighters. There, she’d almost believed she could do it. Here, she knew going in that she couldn’t. And Crystal had never answered wrong on a test… less than a month after entering the program, she’d been back in basic flight.
She had retrained, rescored, and now she was staring at the next level down – the lowest grade of pilot for any Colonial Warrior. Shuttles. There was hope there, though. Shuttles could almost fly themselves, or so the books said. She’d never been in a simulator, but she thought she just might be able to do it. All she wanted was her wings, however tarnished they might be by the reputation of Shuttles as the lesser of crafts, the most automated and least instinctual. She didn’t mind that… she just didn’t want to let her family down. She wanted to say she was a pilot, just because so many of them were.
The sims were easier here, she had found that out quickly. She had been able to run the scenarios with little difficulty, even passing slightly above the average score. Of course, these were the leftover pilots – as she was. She was a failed pilot among other failed pilots; indistinguishable.
But she’d passed. Six months after entering the program, she was standing with her classmates, awaiting the presentation of long coveted wings. Wings, and a call sign.
Most of the squad had already been named, however informally. Crystal had not. There simply wasn’t anything outstanding about her. “Books” wasn’t appropriate. “Flunkie,” might be, but here they had all managed their share of failure. She hadn’t done anything stupid in flight school, or developed any outstanding features. Hell, the most original thing she could say about herself was that she was the only person in ranks who came from a town with a population under two-hundred. There was nothing special about that, not really.
Her father hadn’t been available for the ceremony, nor had Evan or James. Not even Elizabeth could get out of work to come to the presentation, so Crystal had no one in the audience that was “hers.” Frankly, she wondered how they would mange it. “Take, shake, salute,” she reminded herself. She supposed the school commander would have to pin on the wings himself. Normally, he put on the colorful shuttle arm patch, and a family member put on the wings. She guessed he’d have to do both. With her name at the end of the alphabet, she had a long time to wonder.
And then he was there. Captain Corrington stood before her with a smile, two patches, and wings in his hands. That didn’t surprise her. What did, was that he turned his head and nodded to someone. From somewhere in the middle of the crowd, Lieutenant Kara Thrace stepped forward, took the wings, and with that same smile she’d had in her office she pinned the wings in place. The Captain placed the shuttle patch, and then handed the nametag to Starbuck.
“You weren’t an easy one to name,” Kara told her with a wink. “Good flight, Irish.”
Crystal smiled, looking down as the Lieutenant placed the patch on her uniform. Sure enough, there between her first and last names, was the call sign created from her tiny home town. Irish. It was what they had all called themselves there, being so few and so unique. No one knew that; no one who hadn’t lived there. She wondered how Kara had found out.
Crystal shook the Captain’s hand, snapped a salute, and then did the same with Lieutenant Thrace.
A pilot, Crystal thought, looking down at the golden wings. Finally. A pilot. “How did you know?” she asked softly.
Kara looked her in the eye for a moment, and then something registered which Crystal hadn’t noticed – her eyes. Green with hints of brown, and hazel, and gold. Eyes that were fairly rare. Eyes that were dominant in her tiny home town. Eyes that were just like her own. One of those eyes winked at her as Kara smacked her on the arm. Ceremony done, it was time to retire the colors. Crystal stood there in shock, reacting automatically to the military tradition, and wondering just where Kara was from – how she had known about Ira – and why she had been so nice on that last day.
She might never know the story behind Thrace, but Lieutenant Irish was a Pilot, shuttles or not. In time, she would get the feel for the craft, allowing her to rely less on the automatic features and more on herself. She didn’t know it then, but finally learning the craft would be what would save her life when the war began. It would be what got her into the fleet when so many others were unable to do so, and it would be what required her transfer to the Galactica following her transfer to an FTL capable ship and those first chaotic jumps. Her wings, along with her rank, would be what got her back into flight, this time in Raptors because the Galactica had so few pilots who were trained. It wouldn’t be so hard this time, either. With the experience of shuttles behind her, and some confidence built in two years of flying, she would actually be able to manage the Raptors quite well.
It was odd the way life could work – how a simple bookworm from Ira could become a Colonial Warrior, fly Raptors into battle, and even see her name on the side of a craft. Lieutenant Crystal “Irish” Wimmer. Who would have thought it?