by GN Jarek La'an

La'an ran an ungloved hand across the flight surfaces of the lander, his flight helmet under his arm and the unworn glove tucked into the belt around his waist. Usually a pre-flight inspection was a tightly controlled affair, a few minutes of check listed activity and signatures to ensure that the craft he was taking charge of had been maintained and readied for action. More often than not it was his co-pilot that took it on, allowing him to simply stroll on board as the repulsorlifts held the lander on a soft cushion of energy, the main engines idling and ready for combat thrust. Command had its perks after all, but La'an was a pilot first and sometimes the simple tasks provided a measure of equally simple satisfaction.

The lander was an unusual unit for a line squadron to run, taking the place of an entire flight of fighters. Theta had more often than not found itself flying unusual missions, so it seemed a suitable fit for the often crazy or unpredictable situations in which the squadron found itself. A thug of a craft, it mounted defences on a par with small capital vessels and had the cargo capacity to carry most portable military hardware and the troops to use it. What it basically gave the squadron was a stubborn, hard to shift fulcrum around which their other fighters could leverage the battlefield. It was their way, albeit unorthodox.

He ducked below the cockpit, a long wedge of the hull that lacked the elegance of its Lambda class sister on the far side of the hangar and looked more like the slanted slab of a prizefighter's nose. Where the Lambda's wings created a broad and striking profile, those of the lander were functional, operational and lacking in any finesse. Checking the seams of the armour plate and the inset sensor and weapons housings, he struggled to find a mark or speck of burnt carbon. Theta's technicians and engineers had excelled, as always, leaving the lander looking like it had freshly departed a Sienar shipyard.

As the exercises drew to a close the squadron would likely find itself patrolling the borders once again, facing an actual threat that would leave more than low powered carbon scarring from exercise lasers or the bright and sensor stimulating residue from dye carrying warheads. The wargames were great for building confidence and drilling the troops, but only a taste of real combat would give them the edge they needed to stay alive and deliver in the most dangerous situations they would likely find themselves.

"Good work, happy to take her back off your hands" La'an addressed the crew chief following him around the craft's exterior.

"Just try and avoid those exercise warheads, they're a bloody pain to clean off the hull."

"Duly noted, I'll try not to get hit - good advice." Both laughed as La'an added his signature to the dataslate, formally receiving the ship back into his care.