Friday, November 9, 2012

Flight

“It is just over here.” Eleya gestured to a ship tucked away at the back of the hangar. It was small, sleek and low on the deck, all sharp angles and languid curves gleaming in the overhead lights. The paint was as black as space itself with tiny flecks of mica shining like stars and fiery red lines tracing back from the nose that pulsed slowly. “A Masamune shuttle. I thought it would be nice for you to have your own ship, something you could use around the system in comfort. If you approve, we could take it today.”

Alex approached it with no small amount of caution. It wasn’t that it was dangerous, though it did appear to be restraining tremendous power. It was just that he had wanted one of these since he was a kid and didn’t want to get his hopes up until he was sure it was real. “It’s not a shuttle.”

That was a little confusing. “Yes. It is.”

“No, the Masamune GX8 is a burner, look at the size of the engines. And it’s got the double doubles!” He didn’t consider for a moment that she wouldn’t understand slang coined well over a hundred years ago as he inspected one of the two hydrogen intakes on the port engine cluster. “They don’t make them like this anymore.”

“Of course.” The confusion was gone. She was either actually well versed in early human stellar spacecraft or good at acting like she was always in her element. “I have often lamented that, myself. The past often has a pleasing aesthetic that new designs cannot match.”

“Oh no, it’s illegal to build them like this now. They don’t have any forward thrusters.” Alex waved a hand at the nose as he moved forward, past the row of small view ports. They were real, the ship being designed for atmospheric as well as space use.

There was a particular sort of caution in her voice, as though the idea of using it was much less enjoyable now. “Why are there not? How does it stop?”

“It saves mass, you can just flip it and use the mains to do a deceleration burn. That’s why the cabin seats rotate all the way around.” He moved on towards the split bow, fingers running down one of the fire-lines. “Wow, it’s been buffed.”

“It is very shiny.” Eleya cleared her throat and still sounded less than excited.

“Probably took a thousand hours to do. Is this the original paint?” He laid hands on the side of the split nose and wiggled it. There was no give, which was good. Allegedly. He’d never had the chance to touch one before.

“I was informed it has only received updates to the navigation and sensor systems, the rest is entirely as it was built and fully functional. Carbon herself inspected it when it arrived.”

“Nice.” He ducked under the nose and did a brief check down the starboard side and around the enormous four pack of thrusters at the back. If Carbon had checked it out, he was happy with that. “Looks good out here. Shall we?”

Eleya took a very casual step back from it. “I think, it would be best if we to... take something less unusual.”

Alex had the locking lever pulled free and he cracked the door open. It opened slowly, lowered to the ground on thick hydraulic cylinders, cool air scented with leather and wood flowing out of the dark portal. He turned back and gave Eleya stink eye as the stairs unfolded. “Less unusual? Like Tslao military shuttles? Sol is just awash in those, huh?” Like any child, he really wanted to play with his new toy.

There was a dangerous silence coming from Eleya. She folded her arms. “There are far more of them than there are of these.”

One foot up the steps. “How many do you have onboard?”

“Fifty.”

“Well, no problem then! There are 562 of these left. Seventeen crashed and another fifteen mounted.” It had always been his very favorite ship.

“Mounted?”

“Had the internals removed and put on display, like a taxidermied animal.” Another foot up. He could almost reach the cabin light switch...

“That is grotesque.” She sighed and relented. “Very well. The best engineer on board spent a day pouring over it, knowing who would be using it.”

Alex refrained from clapping with glee, but he was into the ship in a heartbeat. He didn’t even give the cabin a second glance, taking the steps up to the flight deck two at a time. He skipped the the navigation and officer’s stations and slipped into the pilots chair at the front of the deck.

Eleya huffed up the steep stairs behind him, the translator implant she received still giving her some trouble. “You have flown one of these before. Correct?”

“Sure. Not a real one, I mean. Just sims.” Alex clicked into the harness and cinched the straps tight. A quick glance told him he still knew exactly how the cockpit was laid out, all of the screens and controls on either side of him with a wide gap between the consoles. “I never crashed or anything.”

Eleya collapsed into navigation’s seat with a regretful whine that didn’t particularly suit her station. “Give me a moment, I-” She paused, out of breath. “I will take my normal shuttle.”

“Hey. I’m a good pilot, I’ve been flying similar craft for over a decade now.” Entirely true. He flipped up the cover for main power and twisted the handle one click to systems on. Arrays of switches and screens lit up around him, a cursory glance showing all green. “There was that thing where I drove your niece around for a few months, too. She seemed pretty happy with my skills.”

“So she was.” A short huff and Eleya belted in to the rear seat.

“Thank you.” Alex would have flown over by himself, but he was glad to have company... No point in showing off if there wasn’t someone to see it. He reached up and clicked main power over to engines, a quiet hum filling the cabin as the reactor spooled up and flooded the thrusters with energy. Still all green, hydrogen stores up over seventy percent. Good to go.

He fiddled with the seat, adjusting the back and then sliding it up to the instruments. His feet dangled over a gap in the floor, pedals coming up to meet his shoes, ergonomically angled control sticks sliding out to his hands. There was one last thing... He punched a button over his head and the canopy armor began to retract. Alex didn’t bother to try to contain his grin.

“This is... This is not safe.”

“It’s perfectly safe.” The hangar floor stretched out from beneath Alex’s feet, the ceiling overhead. Holo arrays flickered to life, a comprehensive HUD resolving before him. A few switches flipped and the cabin door sealed, gravitics pulled them up from the deck and landing skids retracted. He spooled the reactor up all the way and tweaked the throttle for a little forward motion. “You told ‘em we’re taking this yet?”

“Of course.” It sounded like she wished she had waited until never to give the shuttle to him.

“Great.” Alex spun the throttle pre-chargers under his thumbs and eased it towards the gaping bay entrance. “Tell them to keep up if they can.”

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