Heh, this leaves the question wide open if you end up with an immortal copy of the individual, or the individual itself, and all the debate over that idea. In this case, I am in the 'Copy' camp.
A different take would be a slow replacement, neuron by neuron, from organic to artificial, without anything being turned off. The replaced organic neuron would be re purposed automatically to low-value memory, eventually disposed of. At some point the brain would be wholly replaced. Now, what would that do the the individual? What would happen to their 'soul'? :)
It is a fairly good list of pilots, though it bounces around quite a bit in genre and era.
I am somewhat put off by the single female pilot being The Feminist, and includes rape. Female characters can exist outside of the domain of Feminism and sexual violence. While they are still rare, there are several decent female archetypes apart from The Victim.
My only problem with this is that the term cycle is already strongly tied to technology in the form of CPU cycles, and are vastly smaller than a second. They are also not fixed and keep getting shorter as technology advances.
An excellent submission. Love all the details.
The plot is good except for the forced nature of the shoot-down. I wouldn't expose the PCs own ship to a forced loss - better they be on some form of McCarron provided transport that gets knocked out of the air. If the PCs are in charge of flying and defense, you may have to 'force' them to fail at defense, especially against the crap fighters. I would personally hate that.
Mages/ wizards and such use cards (playing cards or tarot cards) as training tools. The patterns created by certain layouts of cards are mnemonic devices to teach key elemental associations and paths. With such interesting names as the Tree of Life, Phoenix's tail, Rythm of Heart, and Balance of the sphere, there pattern represent the matrices used by magic users to focus and present power. Spell processes can be represented by a sequence of cards.
So mages will often be seen handing around hands of cards.
Wizards will have a deck of cards with them. Since cards were used to train wizards in legerdemain, Since they have cards with them, they frequently know how to use them. Guild magic users often have a knack for fancy shuffles, palming cards, and a variety of card tricks and games.