After ten years of flying freighter ships from planet to planet, Val Calendula never thought she would apply for a job as a combat pilot in a mercenary outfit. But her brother has gotten himself into financial trouble, and he’s heading to a mining prison if Val can’t pay off his debts. Mercenaries don’t always live long… but they make good money while they’re alive. A few combat bonuses, and Val could earn what she needs. The problem? She might have graduated from the military flight academy, but she hasn’t fought anything more dangerous than dust bunnies on the bridge lately. To make matters worse, the man in charge of hiring pilots was her instructor back at the academy. Commander Thatcher was almost as brilliant as he was arrogant and condescending, and he never seemed to think Val was smart enough to be there. She has no idea if she’ll be able to convince him otherwise now… or if she’ll be able to stand working with him.