Trial by Fire by Nephedra
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Author's Chapter Notes:
This is set in the BOTP universe in a time before the team was on active duty. An arbitrary year was set for this story even though there is not year given in BOTP. The team is in high school or the Academy (depending on the character). Tiny is a year ahead of Mark at the Academy (hey, the big guy had to go to the Academy too). The team lives in a town called Crown Point, Oregon on the coast; they have not yet moved to Center City.
Trial by Fire
By Nephedra

The BOTP characters are not mine, the others are.

Part 1

The lounge was nothing special. It had the standard white walls, an uncomfortable couch, a few chairs, a card table, and a small vid screen that always had the news on with closed captioning and no sound. Mark was lying on the couch with his hands behind his head and eyes closed. He wasn't sleeping; he was trying to relax enough to meditate without much success. Pete and Tom, casually dressed in muddy shorts and t-shirts, came in from outside tossing a football back and forth. Tom launched it at Mark and it landed squarely on his stomach.

Mark grunted and sat up reflexively throwing the ball back at his assailant. "What was that for?" he growled.

"Just wanted to see if you were alive." Tom grinned as he caught the football.

"Yeah, you okay?" Pete asked.

"Why is everyone asking me that? I'm fine," Mark replied, a bit irritated.

Tom and Pete exchanged a knowing look.

"He really let into you today. That's all everyone has been talking about all afternoon." Pete walked over and sat in the tired lounge chair across from Mark.

"That's not all they're talking about. How did you do it?" Tom asked. "You tagged him today. No one has ever done that. I want to know how you did it so I can get him next week."

Mark ran his hand through his hair and a small smile crossed his face as he remembered what brought him to the foul mood he was in. Cronus had him in sights from the start; a quick 180 roll and fast decent followed by an abrupt change in air speed was all it took to turn the tables, at least until they got back on the ground. That's when the yelling started.

"Yeah I did, didn't I? That's something good that came out of today."

"I don't know why you put up with him. It's like Col. Cronus has something against you. It's not right. If it were me I would go talk to the Dean."

"But I am not you Pete. I will just stay out of his way for the next few days and it will pass. It always does."

"Yeah well let's hope you are still a student here in a few days."


Anderson sat at his desk staring at the large pile of papers and the cup of steaming coffee on his desk wondering when his job description changed to paper pusher. He pulled another paper off the stack and signed his name by the sticky arrow put there by his administrative assistant. The sooner he finished the paperwork the sooner he could get back into the lab where the real work got done. He was thinking about buying a name stamp when his intercom buzzed.

"Yes Nancy."

"Sir, I have Col. Cronus on the line. He sounds a bit, how can I put this? annoyed."

Anderson sighed. It was never a good thing if Cronus was calling him. It was even worse if he was annoyed. "Put him through."

"To what do I owe this phone call?" Anderson tried to sound relaxed.

"Michael, that kid is going to be the death of me!"

Anderson raised his eyebrows and shook his head slightly, "What happened?"

"He has no fire. None. He just stands there and takes it. If you expect him to lead you can forget it. I have tried everything to draw him out, but it's like talking to a wall."

Anderson considered a moment. "Keep trying, but don't be too hard him. He has only been there a few months. Give him some time."

"We'll see, Michael. I am not sure pushing will be enough."


Mark was reviewing his geometry homework for the next day later that evening in his small unadorned dorm room. Cronus was an ass today. Maybe Pete had a point. Maybe Cronus did want him out of the Academy. Mark couldn't focus on his studies so pushed one of the buttons on his desk to access the terminal. A portion of the desktop concomitantly slid back revealing the glass below.

Subject: just another crappy week
Date: Monday, October 22, 2118 23:41:07

Hey Princess,

How are things back in Crown Point? Things here are?well?the same as last week. Cronus may be my idol, but he is such a jerk. If this keeps up he will definitely fall from idol status. What happened you ask? What did I do this time? Nothing wrong I assure you (stop shaking your head, I'm serious). I tagged him in a combat game today. I *tagged him*. You should have seen his face. He was shocked. Hell, I was shocked. I admit I pulled a non-standard maneuver to get him, but it wasn't like it was dangerous. Not really. Okay, maybe just a little. But still?.I got him! What did I get for it? A whole lot of verbal abuse. Trust me, he has the Chief beat in this department by miles. He made a huge scene. These reprimands have always been in private in the past. You could only hear if you were the next guy in line. Today?it was out on the tarmac in front of everyone. Pete thinks Cronus is out to get me. I don't know what to think. Trials are coming up next month and they are not going to be fun.


P.S. Say hi to Keyop.


Subject: Re: just another crappy week
Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2118 08:15:34

Dear Mark,

Things are good here at home, though it is not with same now that you have joined Tiny at the Academy. With both of you gone Jason now thinks he has to keep an eye on me. Like I need his help. Apparently he heard a rumor that Chris Maken was going to ask me out and that sent him into a fury. You know how he can get. Now he shadows me all over school. He is driving me crazy! Chris is harmless. Jason needs to get a new hobby.

Keyop says hi and wants to know when are you going to write to him? Tiny writes him almost everyday. In fact the Chief wouldn't mind a letter or two. Now before you get worked up?.I haven't said anything about Cronus. I can't say that he doesn't know, but he didn't get it from me. Maybe you are over reacting? Maybe he just didn't like the thought of being bested by a student? I mean, if you were this legendary pilot would you want to be taken down by some high school kid? Keep smiling and things will be okay. I know you will pass the trials. I have faith in you.

Are you coming home this weekend? I have my ballet recital on Saturday. I would love it if you could come.

Love always,


Subject: Fwd: Re: just another crappy week Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2118 23:55:17 wrote:
>Apparently he heard a rumor that Chris Maken was going to ask me out and that >sent him into a fury. You know how he gets. Now he shadows me all over school. He >is driving me crazy! Chris is harmless.


Who is this Chris guy anyway?

> Jason needs to get a new hobby.

I like your hobby. Keep it.



From: Subject: Chris the football star Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2118 01:15:20


I thought you'd like it. He keeps my skills sharp since we have less training sessions now that you and Tiny are away. Chris is the new kid in town and the new wide receiver. He thinks he is the coolest guy in school. I assure you, he is not. I got him covered.

Hey I was thinking about what we talked about the other night. You might be right. It would be just like him to do that.

See you Friday, turkey.

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