Part I: After the Promotion
General Hav Antiel finally sat down in the cantina of the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Warrior. He was tired. Good tired. It had been a long and significant day: the promotion ceremony and its preparations, the reunions with old friends, the heavy conversations with the TIE Corps Command Staff about his future, the obligatory and uproarious celebration at the bar, which was waning, at last.
Hav appreciated how the TIE Corps celebrated promotions; one pilot’s success meant a party for everyone. Still, it felt good to sit down alone at the bar after this long day. A chance to reflect on the promotion, the conversations, everything.
“I’ll have a Zekks on the Beach, B-33R,” said a familiar voice. “And put it on the General’s tab.”
Colonel Zekk Terrik crashed into the stool next to Hav. They had talked earlier that day, and Hav had even thanked Zekk in his speech.
“You doing OK?” asked Zekk. Hav shook his head and exhaled, his version of a quiet chuckle.
“‘Course, I am. Just made General. That’s a life goal achieved. If I look tired or something, that’s probably because it’s been a long day.”
“Oh, good,” said Zekk. “I thought maybe you were doing that thing where you go sit by yourself looking depressed because you got the thing you wanted.”
Hav squinted at Zekk, shook his head and rolled his eyes, then laughed.
“Maybe it is something like that, I guess.”
Zekk clapped him on the back.
“You’re a General now, Hav. You can’t sit in the cantina looking like somebody kicked your mouse droid. People look up to you now, just like they’re going to look up to me when I’m your boss in three days.”
The droid bartender placed Zekk’s eponymous drink on the bar with a hearty thud and the Colonel gave the universal symbol for keep ‘em comin’ without looking up.
“There’s nothing wrong with a little introspection,” said Hav. “I gave my speech—killed it, by the way—and did my duty greeting so-and-sos and looking serious and important. I’m just the kind of General who prefers to end the night with a contemplative drink alone.”
Hav could tell Zekk was staring at his new rank bar as he listened, a row of four blue rectangles above four red rectangles, and Hav paused to admire it in the mirror behind the bar. It was beautiful in its symmetry, and very Imperial in that way. He’d drawn rank badges with crayons as a kid, made pretend versions out of toy bricks. Seeing it there, really there on his uniform was going to take some getting used to.
“OK, I’ll leave you be,” said Zekk. “But first, open this.”
Zekk grinned as he tossed a small, wrapped present. The paper had Imperial Cogs in various colors, and Hav noticed course, brown hairs stuck under the tape.
“Firebreaker wrapped it. Open it!”
Hav struggled with the tape before smirking and cutting it through with his Grand Order of the Emperor dagger.
“Showoff,” said Zekk as he gripped the lightsaber hilt at his side.
Inside the box was a desktop holodisk. Hav lifted it up and activated it. A small blue hologram appeared of a Zekk and his partner Elissa smiling and embracing, a loth-cat in their laps.
“This is really nice, Zekk. Thank you,” said Hav.
“We named the loth-kit ‘Hav.’”
“Of course you did,” Hav laughed. “I really appreciate this, Zekk, but why a holodisk? Why not a bottle of Corellian ale or Twi'lek liquor or, I don’t know, a punch in the arm or something?”
“Yeah, those would be great gifts for normal Generals, but I knew you’d like this. Plus I wanted to show you how hot Elissa looks pregnant. Have you seen how big her—”
“Noted, thanks Zekk,” Hav laughed. “This means a lot. You know me well.”
“Glad you like it, General. Just don't get too cozy in that flight member role. You might get voluntold for a new command at any moment. Or sent to Airlock 11.”
Zekk drained his second drink, stood, and straightened his dress uniform, giving Hav a mock salute in the bar mirror.
“Hold on, I'll head back with you,” said Hav.
“What happened to 'nothing wrong with a little introspection’?”
“Even I know that's a little pathetic. C'mon.”
“More than a little, if you ask me,” said Zekk as he snatched an unfinished drink from the bar on his way out.
Part II: Passing the Torch
Back at Rho Squadron’s barracks, Hav was surprised to see the holomap active in the ready room. The squadron was enjoying some rare off time to celebrate their CMDR’s promotion, so there was no need for mission prep, much less late-night mission prep. Inside, Hav saw Commander acetiepilot—“Tommy” to everyone in Rho Squadron—reviewing mission plans and objectives, the Mandalorian looking completely natural at the CMDR’s lectern.
“General!” said Tommy, snapping to a salute, a smile escaping his crisp military bearing.
“As you were, Tommy,” said Hav, returning the salute. “Speaking of which, what are you up to reviewing missions at this hour?”
“I couldn’t sleep, sir. I am super nervous about making sure I do things right as CMDR. You’re a tough act to follow, if I may say so.”
Hav shook his head, blushing. He knew Tommy was up to the task of leading Rho Squadron. He’d served as an outstanding XO and been a model pilot. More than that, Tommy had become the touchstone for the squadron’s morale. Hav had opened up to him about things beyond life on the Warrior, things he’d rarely shared with his TIE Corps peers. Hav knew other pilots in the squadron looked to Tommy for support, as someone who would listen. It was funny to Hav that Tommy was nervous about leading the squadron, but it was further proof that he was the right officer for the job.
“You’ll be fine,” said Hav. “I make mistakes sometimes, but that’s why there are 12 pilots in a squadron. I know my flight leaders will catch anything I miss, and if they do miss something, I trust the flight members will spot it. And lucky for you, your newest flight member happens to be a sith-hot pilot.”
“Thanks, boss,” Tommy laughed.
“Of course, Tommy. Rho looks after Rho.”
Hav smiled, proud that he’d instilled wisdom and confidence in his successor and started walking toward his bunk. After a step, Hav turned on his heel and saw that Tommy was still at the control panel reviewing maps and mission data.
“Tommy,” said Hav.
“Sorry boss. I’ll call it a night.”
“You can keep reviewing, if you like. I just wanted to say…”
Hav scratched his head, unsure of what to say next. Tommy was much more prepared for his first command than Hav had been. He’d lasted less than two months of his first tour of duty for Epsilon and was busted down to Lieutenant Commander and flight member. Tommy, on the other hand, was a successful XO with former command experience outside of the TIE Corps. He’d helped shape Rho into the powerhouse that won Raise the Flag.
There was nothing Hav could say to calm Tommy’s nerves. Those feelings came from a desire to succeed, a belief in the squadron and not wanting to let it down. These were good signs, and Hav knew that experience was the only thing that would make Tommy feel comfortable.
“Sir?” said Tommy.
“I just wanted to say thank you again for your kind words at the promotion ceremony. And for the gift from you and the other pilots. It really means a lot to me.”
“Rho looks after Rho,” Tommy said, extending his hand for a fist bump.
Hav returned the gesture and retired to his bunk, clutching his General rank badge as he fell asleep to the thrum of the Warrior’s ion engines.