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The Colonel glared at the new Starfighter applicants. It was a look that made seasoned Starfighters nervous. The kids that sat before him had already passed a battery of tests designed to weed out those with less than ideal moral character. “I’m Colonel Davison. I’d like to congratulate you on passing your first group of tests -- the first of many tests you will be required to take,” he said in a gruff but neutral voice. “Before I swear you in, we are required to inform you of the very real dangers involved in Starfighter training. We want to make sure you know what you are in for.” Davison walked around the podium and began to take off his shirt. He turned and tossed his shirt on the podium. His chest, back, and arms were covered with long, wicked-looking scars. “I got caught in an explosion,” he explained and it was true enough. “A little memento from my days as a recruit in training.” Davison smiled -- he knew the last part was a lie. His scars were battle damage. His body armor had saved him from death when the enemy fuel dump exploded much sooner than he had planned. “Starfighter training is inherently dangerous,” he said as he put his shirt back on. “We will take you closer to death than you have ever been in your life. The smallest mistake on your part could get you killed. We do this because a Starfighter must be able to stand face to face with Death and spit in his eye. The hundreds more tests you will take, every step you take, all your training, everything we do will be aimed at stripping away your fear of the world around you and your fear of death. The only way we have found to do that is to take you to the edge of life and death and give you the tools to overcome your fears.” The Colonel paused for a moment for effect. He looked over each of the applicants. It was hard not to notice the girl sitting in the back of the group trying hard not to be noticed. She was the only girl in this group. “Starfighter training requires commitment,” he continued. “It will take a year just to train you. After that comes the ten-year term of service you are signing up for. Just being a Starfighter requires commitment and sacrifice. One day as a Starfighter you may have to make the supreme sacrifice. It may be that the enemy just kills you or it may be that you choose to end your life by going down in a flaming ball of glory. Either way you’re dead, but know that we will hold your name in honor as a true defender of Earth.” Davison began to walk down the center aisle. “You may quit at any time during your training. After that, the only way to quit before your ten-year term is up is to die,” he said as he looked at the girl. “Any questions?” It was more a dare than a question.
His eyes came to rest on the girl’s paper name tag, Janet Lynn Andrews. To say the least, it was not a very popular name among the Starfighters. He was about to reach for her packet when a boy near the front of the room raised his hand. He walked quickly back to the front of the room. “Yes?” “Sir, do we get to keep the recruitment packet even if we quit?” the boy asked.
“You paid your $40.00, didn’t you?” the Colonel asked in reply.
“Yes sir.” “Well, then it’s yours to keep.” Colonel Davison had to smile. Even making possible recruits pay for their recruitment package was a test. One small test among a thousand small tests Starfighter Command used to weed out those less than worthy to be called Starfighters.