Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
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The aptitude evaluation tests were given over a stressful two weeks. There was no studying which made you feel even more helpless as these tests pretty much determined your destiny and most of the cohort wanted into the Command Corps for the fast track to ship command.
Alas, most of them were disappointed but Jace and I got the option for the Corps and we did not hesitate for sending our applications. Cryst, having a talent for math and sciences, had the option of Engineering or Signals and picked the former in hopes of becoming a chief engineer on one of the Navy's big ships one day.
Despite her being in a different naval division, a lot of our intro courses were the same and she spent most of her studying and free time with us instead of other engineers. I didn't mind as I liked her. I thought about trying to become more than friends with her but I could see plain as day on Jace's face that he was totally smitten with her short brown hair and slight stature and I held back my flirtatious instincts. For her part, Cryst seemed oblivous to Jace's affection and treated us both the same with her easy going manner and distinct unfeminine manner.
I often wondered if her ignorance of Jace's feelings was real or not. Did she just not want to hurt his feelings, or was she really that clueless. Surely a pretty and smart girl like that knew the signs, so I figured she was just playing it safe. For his part, Jace was too worried about rejection so never came out and actually asked her out on a date or anything (not like we had a whole lot of free time for relationships with the massive coursework we were assigned on top of our daily regimen of physical activity and hands-on training). I was surprised that a tall and handsome guy like him would be shy around the ladies but it turned out he grew up on a deep space mining outpost with his father and three brothers and only saw other people through holoreels and the occasional supply trip twice a year to the nearest station. An environment like that builds character but not familiarity with societal niceties.
So we remained a trio of friends precariously balanced on small beans over the swamps of relationship confusion. Compared to secondary school and its raging hormones and developing brains, it was easy.
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The year of training was intense and difficult but the constant effort made the time fly past. As three month courses finished and another set began, Jace and I had less overlap with Cryst's increasingly engineering related courses and it meant we had to pick up our own study habits since we could not rely on her organizational skills to see us through. We spent many a long night quizzing each other over the details of the latest chapter, drinking Extra-Caffeinated Quafe to keep alert. Power curves, acceleration graphs, transversal velocity calculations, space-time deformation mechanics, inertial dampener emergency repair procedures, the list goes on and on.
On top of all the learning, hands on training was introduced in that year. First we used simulators with live-feedback controls, and then after 9 months we finally got into space on Kestrel and Hookbill frigates specially converted for trainers and trainees. Each flight we were assigned a different post with different responsibilities and we were expected to know them all to a competent level. It was hard stuff but it was an amazing feeling as we got better and more experienced. The first time we navigated the ship through warp to a beacon and "destroyed" a training drone was a high unlike anything I had experienced up until then.
Finally the year was complete and we received promotion to Ensign. Our class had a wild party on Kisogo station and we drank ourselves into the worst hangover of my life the next morning. Still, bright and early, Jace and I met in the commons square and marched to the office to submit our names for consideration to the Capsuleer program.