The warning sirens blaring in the pilot's quarters of the ISD Warrior were alarming in more ways than one. Normal Imperial operating procedure held that they should get a maintenance check every standard week, plus an annual retrofit... but the maintenance staff were as stretched as the pilot corps. The inter-ship comms unit that handled the alarm was broken, the droids that repaired the comms were broken, even the droids that repaired the droids were in a sorry state.
Still, they limped along. A fleet held together by gaffer-tape and stubbornness wasn't generally inclined to aggressive expansion, which meant a New Republic Senate focused on nest-feathering and infighting was generally inclined to let sleeping krayt dragons lie - especially if they looked more like womp rats.
As he strode along the corridors towards the briefing room, Colonel Gilbert Frown received an additional alarm to the actual-alarm and the state-of-the-actual-alarm: a pilot out of uniform. He challenged the young-looking fellow who on closer inspection seemed rather terrified.
"What do you call this? A level three alert calls for crew to be in their duty uniform! I'm pushing for Commodore Mitchell to also allow dress uniforms, but he hasn't approved my petition... yet."
Frown drew breath and noted the Sub-Lieutenant's insignia hastily attached to the standard issue Daedalus kit.
"Oh, it's our new pilot Lars Solstar! May I say that it was a pleasure processing your paperwork? I don't often get a chance to look at a Form-N00B1"
The booming voice of the Theta Squadron Commander interrupted: "Leave him alone, Gilbert"
"Your new man apparently hasn't been given any induction material or official Wing Two gear, Mark! Unacceptable tardiness, I should write you up."
Frown's voice suddenly became soft and gentle, beseeching: "Perhaps you could requisition it from the Logistics department when you get some free time, sir?" A stickler for orthodoxy, Frown was rather discombobulated by simultaneously being in charge of Colonel Schueler but subordinate to Admiral Schueler.
"No rush, Frowny," replied Mark, who had no such consternation.
The Wing Commander gestured wordlessly at the air, where the sickly ERRRRGH sounds seemed to pervade the atmosphere.
"The situation does seem more pressing than usual."
General Jarek La'an rolled his eyes as he strolled up, clearly in no rush to get to the briefing.
"It's a drill."
Frown was getting indignant. "It's not. I would be told. I'd be organising it."
"Every June, there's a drill."
"It's not a drill, we've already lost the patrol unit. Half of your Flight Two, in fact. I thought you might be more concerned! Torres and Caine were scouting the edge of the system when some Republic X-Wings jumped in and ambushed them."
"Uh huh. And did their ships blow up?"
"No, they kept hull integrity..."
"Like I thought. Training lasers."
"But they're dead in space and we detected no life signs!"
"Of course you didn't. Those pilots jumped ship after the big party celebrating how we outscored the Hammer in the last drill. And the one before that. And the one before that."
"Then who was flying?"
"Yoda. Or at least, a pilot AI he hacked together. Saves a lot of effort on our part... we volunteered those two, plus Astin, Darkhill and Lutwic for all the patrols. My sabacc game is really benefitting from all the extra practice."
Frown's expression of disbelief grew and grew. Seeing that he'd finally been stunned into silence, Mark Schueler turned to Lars Solstar.
"Okay, well we'll get you some flight gear, wake up Flight Three, have some breakfast and then pretend to kill some Rebels. Welcome to Theta, kid!"