And we have reached the finale – which is just a relatively short Epilogue. I hope you enjoyed the ride! Always happy to hear any feedback, reactions, moans (well, hopefully not that), etc. from readers. Stay safe and happy reading!
The most dramatic Pilot Tide of our generation concluded in tumult, scandal, and redemption. Jules has been relieved of her post at the Flight Academy and awaits trial. While an old Micanopy tradition dictated that dishonorable actions of active pilots should be punished by “suicide flights,” Jules’ loyal fan base rose up in protest against the outdated law. Eventually, Suri put the nail in that coffin, pleading mercy for her adversary.
Alai, the outsider contestant from Renova, emerged as a controversial figure himself. While many hailed him as a hero for his actions, insisting he more than redeemed himself, some of Suri’s biggest supporters are still campaigning for retribution. Suri briefly stated she would not press any charges.
And what can we say for Suri, the daughter of renowned pilot Mona? She has rightfully earned her own place in Micanopy’s story. When the final round of the Tide was called to a halt, she held the highest score among the three contestants. But given the circumstances, no victor will be officially declared this year. Instead, Suri has been offered a position on the board of the Flight Academy. Whether she will accept remains to be seen.
– The Micanopy Mirror, Galactic Date 2730.120
The Metropolis sprawled out below them in a landscape of lights with Rhiannon Square gleaming in the center. Micanopy’s moons hung in dusk’s afterglow. Suri glanced out the fiftieth floor window and felt a tremor in her knees. Her comfort in a cockpit never fully eased her problem with heights.
“How do you like it?” she asked, turning away.
“I like it,” Alai said immediately, sweeping his hand around the cherrywood floors and wine-colored furnishings. “I’m not used to it yet. It’s too—”
“You’re on the fiftieth floor.” Suri raised an eyebrow.
“And I could be looking out a viewport at the stars,” he countered.
She laughed. “I’m surprised you’re settling here. After everything.”
“Because I’m famous and some people hate me?” He shifted his head back and forth. “Yeah, I don’t love either reality. But after the Tide I feel tied to this place, in a way I never did with Renova or any other star system. It seems like the right place to figure out what I’m doing next.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re staying.”
And she meant it. The aftermath of Pilot Tide was overwhelming. Suri had stumbled helplessly out of her Apple Pod into an even more dizzying whirlwind of revelations. While Jules awaited trial, a serious investigation into Flight Academy politics ensued. She was bombarded with interview requests.
Alai’s betrayal stung, but she found it easy to forgive him. He made the deal with Jules before he really knew her, and his regret was prodigiously earnest. Suri felt a surprisingly sincere delight when he decided to rent a flat in the Metropolis. Fame was still new to her. Jules’ trial was still coming, and she would need to testify. It was good to have a friend nearby.
A flurry of knocks came from the front door. Alai unlocked it remotely and Dwarf Squadron burst through.
“Hey,” she greeted, smiling warmly.
“Thanks for inviting us over, Alai,” Ceet said. He paced the room, his gaze catching on the view. “This is an incredible end to our stint on Micanopy Major.”
Alai poured thin glasses of champagne for all of them.
“A toast to surviving Pilot Tide,” he said. “Especially Suri.”
“So Alai,” Veeta said, settling onto the plush sofa, “rumor has it they’re going to make a film about you. The newest heartthrob pilot of Micanopy.”
He groaned. “A heartthrob is an invention by those who don’t know you.”
“Oh, really? What do you think, Suri?” Veeta asked.
“I think he has no shortage of admirers,” she sidestepped gracefully, before tilting her head at him. “Perhaps that’s why you’re staying.”
“I’m sure Alai has other reasons for staying,” Deeta put in knowingly, before he could reply.
“Suri, are you going to join Flight Academy?” Atta changed the subject, to both Alai and Suri’s relief.
She sighed. “I don’t know yet. I’m going back to Nimrim first. If my father is willing to move here, then I might.” She thought of how Papa cried when she called him from the med bay after Alai rescued her. “Regardless, I’m petitioning the Academy to open eligibility to all people, Essgees included.”
“Would you attend the Academy, if you could?” Alai looked around at the team sprawled across his floor.
They exchanged surreptitious glances and Suri felt her chest tighten.
“Well,” Ceet began, “this is a very early idea, but we were thinking of opening up our own academy on Micanopy Minor.”
“That would be amazing!” Suri exclaimed.
She felt a swell of pride for them, but also a pang of melancholy. As trying as Pilot Tide was, the experience knit her heart with Dwarf Squadron. It would not be easy to say goodbye.
They spent the remainder of the evening eating and speculating about what the future held for each of them. Suri received more than one overt hint from her Essgee friends about Alai, but she brushed it off.
Maybe one day, when the dust settled and they both healed some more, she could think about it. But for now, romance seemed more in the realm of holoshows than reality. For now, his friendship was what felt solid, and sufficient.
“So, are we going to spend our last night here getting fat on cinnacoa cakes?” Deeta groaned, after they devoured generous helpings of dinner and dessert.
“I have an idea.” Alai swept up his keys. “Let’s go fly.”
They all cheered in response.
“This is even better than winning that lottery,” Neeta relished. “Flying with the biggest stars of Micanopy.”
“It’s better than that.” Suri smiled, warmth spreading through her limbs. “Flying with friends.”