Following the Crews: Preparing for the Tournament
Just as the pod pilots must prepare for the Alliance Tournament, so too must the people who crew their ships. Depending on the size, class, and capabilities of each ship, preparations can take hours, days, or weeks.
"A lot of it is repetition," said Rozalin Fuma. "I'm in charge of one gun. Well, really, I'm in charge of the crew manning one gun. Depending on the size of the gun, it can be between five to ten people operating it. I have to keep everyone organized and make sure the guns fire when they're supposed to, that nothing messes up... It can be a tough challenge."
Rozalin allowed us to watch as her crew ran through a standard battle drill. Manning a single Electron Blaster Cannon, the crew watched the gun's heat signature, kept ammunition feeding into the reloading tube, and corrected the gun's firing arcs on the fly. At one point, the simulation threw in a wrinkle and the gun jammed. The mechanical ejector failed to dislodge a piece of the ammunition casing that had failed to vaporize completely. Rozalin ordered one of her crew to open the gun hatch, throw in an explosive charge, then close the hatch. The whole operation took four seconds... Which was still half a second longer than needed.
"Even a half second can mean the difference between life and death," she says. "If that hatch is open when the gun fires, or if the explosive charge goes off while there's ammo in the hatch, it could kill everyone in the turret room."
Meanwhile, Axel Adell is mostly relaxing. "Navigators don't have too much preparation to do, especially on a logistics ship. Sure, in the heat of battle, keeping moving is important and we have to make a lot of turns and sudden acceleration and moves. But the pilot controls most of that from the pod. The main thing I do is slight corrections and make sure we maintain our orbit and speed, should I need to. There's not much practicing you can do."
Instead, Axel spends the days reading or watching his favorite holoreels. "A lot of people think I'd like war movies. Really, I get enough of combat day in, day out. I like comedies more."
Unlike Axel or Rozalin, Shin Anko must spend most of his time on the ship and must do it alone. "I'm generally the only one crewing a stealth bomber. I get some help from the station crews, but really, I need to know every inch of the ship's electronic systems. If something happens in the middle of a fight, I have to identify the problem instantly and then fix it."
Shin wakes up and immediately grabs the blueprint for his ship and checks it over before heading to check each system manually. He falls asleep sitting in front of a computer screen displaying power fluctuations in the ship's cloaking systems; systems that won't be used in the Alliance Tournament, but that are vital to know nonetheless. "If there's a power short there, we might get power failures over the entire ship. So I have to know it, just in case."
Next time, we will see what the crew members do the night before the tournament begins.