February 20th 2392
'Flight Cadet Braggins is an above average pilot, and it would be my honour to recommend him for duty as an Officer with the System Defence Fleet...however, his barely acceptable math scores and his refusal to accept standard military doctrine leaves me no other alternative than to assign another pilot. Flight Cadet Braggins is therefore assigned to the 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron as a Sergeant Pilot.'
The words of the report still burned the sixteen year old as he left his new Commanding Officer's office and made his way to his small room. Being a Sergeant usually meant he would share, but as a pilot he was afforded certain luxuries that other enlisted personnel didn't benefit from – such as a room to himself; it was little more than a box with a cupboard and a bed, and a tiny window that looked out across the airfield and over the dark blue ocean that covered most of Dhar'hyyk, but it'd do.
Not really much to spy on with nothing but ocean between us and the nearest city...
A roar in the distance caught Paul's attention and he watched as a pair of Valkyries roared down the runway at full throttle, blue cones of thruster wash trailed from the two powerful engines as the afterburners propelled the nimble aircraft to launch speeds. The planetary defence Valkyries were all aging craft, Impulse and Warp Drives replaced with more conventional ramjets and rocket boosters for atmospheric and suborbital flight, and the energy weapons stripped out in favour of accelerator cannons and missiles; they were hardly a new pilot’s dream assignment; but they were an important part of the frontier world’s security force, and had proven more than once to be enough to deter opportunistic raiders that got through the outer perimeter.
It was actually the older Valkyries that had landed Paul in his current predicament; he had, perhaps boldly, claimed that even older Valkyries should still retain their transatmospheric capability and weapons load in case something more modern than a raider break through; railguns and missiles were great against your average smuggler, but they’d do little beyond irritating even the smallest combat vessels in service with, for example, the bordering Romulan Empire Infuriatingly, his instructors had not agreed with Paul despite several mock combats “won” in both simulators and in training aircraft – the resulting arguments, which apparently had escalated to the Ministry of War and the Lord Commander herself, had cost Paul his choice of assignment, but ultimately meant his time would be spent flying for the love of flying rather than flying endless patrols and routine inspection checks.
As he looked out of the tiny window over the airfield, he could see more Valkyries moving onto the apron. These ones carried long-range fuel tanks and a heavy camera/scanner pod in the weapons bay – they were Recon Valkyries, outfitted with more fuel for longer range and sensor pods for spying on potential threats at the cost of agility and firepower. The scanner pods could be jettisoned if the Valkyrie got into trouble, but it was rarely done – the information carried within was often considered by pilots to be more than worth risking their lives for. Not that a Recon plane had been shot down in over two decades, since the aborted Lusankya City rebellion of 2366.
Putting his bag down on the small bed, Paul didn't have time to dwell on his situation – he was due to arrive in the Briefing Room in full Flight Gear in just over fifteen minutes, and he had yet to report to the Quartermaster's Office to pick it up. Checking to make sure he had his identification papers, the appropriate requisition forms and perhaps most importantly - his keys, Paul hurried across the base, hoping that he wouldn't be late for his first operational briefing.