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General Art A Day in the Life


default setting: sarcastic prick
Dec 17, 2012
I used to write quite a bit of fiction but it's been years since I produced anything so I knocked out this in a few hours over the last couple days to get back into the swing of things. Enjoy (or don't)

A Day in the Life
Part 1

August 15th, 2110

Caleb's eyes flipped open, anticipating the familiar voice even before it reached his ears.

“Catapult armed. Hanger doors open. Diagnostic negative. Briefing in flight. Fifteen seconds to launch.” Syree announced softly. Pilots had been encouraged at the academy to name their flight computers and give them a familiar human voice in order to create a more natural bond between operator and the hopeless complex equipment they directed. At least that's how the psychologists explained it.

“Delta one go for launch.” Caleb spoke automatically from routine while holding down the communicator switch. “Delta two, status report.”

“Delta two go for launch. All clear, sir.” another female voice entered his helmet. Makoti had only been his wingman, and a commissioned fighter pilot for a few weeks, but was already matching his apparent robotic calm. Caleb tugged anxiously at the straps of his harness. What came next never approached normal nor felt any less terrifying, like a carnival ride built on thinnest margins of safety.

The five second warning light flashed twice. Caleb pushed down his radiation visor from the top of his helmet and squeezed the flight stick at his right hip. “Banzai.” he whispered.

No sooner had the word left his lips than the catapult on the flight deck fired, unleashed in a terrible storm of screeching metal and hurled his small Avenger fighter out the door into open space, propelling Caleb and his machine from a standstill to the speed of sound in a fraction of a second, the sonic boom swallowed silently by the vacuum. The sudden overwhelming pressure of being flattened into his seat accurately replicated the sensation of a boulder hurled onto his chest. Caleb gagged from the impact which sent a sudden rush of bile into the back of his throat as the g-force drained all the blood away from his brain. Seven years in and launches still induced dry heaves and momentary unconsciousness. The latter he could never admit. It would be the end of his dream, sentenced to purgatory behind a desk. Syree's voice brought him back to the present once again.

“Five hundred meters clear of the Bridgewater. Engaging thruster.” A secondary tug, pushed Caleb back again, though with much less force than generated by the deck catapult as the plasma engine engaged and propelled the Avenger forward with a sudden burst of speed unattainable in an atmosphere.

“Makoti, you still with me?” Caleb inquired casually, free of the rote protocol on the carrier.

“Aye, sir. Post-launch diagnostic shows a two point two percent loss in drive power.” Matoki reported stiffly. Still a rookie.

“You'll live.” Caleb peered through the ferro-glass cockpit screen that separated him from chill of space for an object to orient himself to. In outer-space, there was no 'up' to speak of, but the brain demanded a point of reference. He settled on the refueling station off the north pole of Obsidian IV and gently rolled his craft until the space station appeared 'above' the planet. “Syree, calibrate up and engage autopilot.”

“Reference 233 set as up. Autopilot engaged.” Syree parroted as the craft yawed to the left, picked up more speed, and glided towards the nearest navigation buoy. Data would be sent immediately to his wingman, her flight computer automatically matching orientation, speed, and heading. “Incoming transmission from Captain Oran on the Bridgewater.”

“Show forward, patch to Delta two.” Oran's image appeared on the cockpit glass. He was tall and filled out his uniform. Poster boy for the Navy – literally. “Any particular reason I'm not sleeping?” Oran would allow the comment. He had attended academy with Caleb's older brother.

“Indeed. It seems Governor Gaelen has hit a patch of rough road.” Gaelen was a political appointee, a friend of a friend with influence. His connections were of lesser quality or he would have garnered a better assignment than a fringe mining colony.

“Define 'rough road'” Caleb was all too familiar with Oran's propensity for understatement.

“His motorcade was ambushed thirty kilometers west of mine seven. Normally the militia units can take care of this sort of thing, but he's managed to wander a little off the beaten path.” A corresponding map appeared next to Oran's image detailing the area with a zoomed-in view of the area and a thermal overlay that pinpointed each combatant. “We think it's the cultists again, but it's too early to tell. They've blocked the roads and are firing on the vehicles from the cliffs. Assault troops will be able to relieve the position in thirty-five minutes, but we probably won't even have a corpse to recover by then.” Oran paused for a moment, reading from another screen. “Galen's escort has a target designator. You should be able to light up the entire ridge from two hundred kilometers. Once the threat is neutralized, maintain a standard patrol of the area at ten thousand meters until the assault platoon makes landfall. Operation control is under Lieutenant Urban. Oran out.” The captain's image disappeared.

“Makoti, Is this what you had in mind when you volunteered?” Caleb chided. “Saving fat governors with crooked beards?”

“I grew up watching the Nurcian war... It was Earth's first major conflict after the Eight Days and Incorporation Acts. We all wanted to be like Jason Knight... sir.” Makoti replied, somewhat unevenly. Syree had updated the flight plan and both Avengers banked towards Obsidian IV. ETA – seven minutes at maximum burn. A combat launch and atmospheric entry in one day. Fantastic.

“Jason Knight...” Caleb repeated, distracted.

“Did you know him? You were just coming out of the academy at that point” Makoti asked with a hopeful inflection.

“No, but my uncle did. He was a hanger sergeant on the Charlemagne when Knight won his fame during the Battle over Kazri. His squadron accounted for fifty-four kills finished off five enemy capital ships. Knight was the only survivor.” Kazri had been a messy affair. Caleb's carrier group arrived three days after the fighting had ended. The debris floated so thick around the planet that troop ships could not land to support the ground operations for several days. Scorched, ruined hulls of destroyed starships hung silently against the black of space and tens of thousands of corpses of the crewmen who had been sucked into space after hull breaches ran thick. It was later estimated that if the wreckage were melted down and converted to a sheet of metal that it would cover most of the land on earth. But those images never made it home. Just Knight's smiling face.

“Tell you what. You can be Jason Knight for the day.” Caleb said, trying to take his mind of the memories of carnage.

“Sir?” Makoti asked, not catching on.

“You're leading this run. Syree, designate Delta two flight leader.

“Affirmative. Delta two now flight leader.” Caleb's Avenger slowed slightly and fell in behind Makoti's.

“But Sir, I don't...!” Makoti protested

“Piece of cake. It's just a strafing run. The target doesn't even have air cover. You've done this a dozen times in the simulator. Let Carlyle do the heavy lifting.” He suggested, referring to Makoti's flight computer.

“If you think so.” her voice was wavering from nervousness.

“I do.” Caleb insisted.

“I'll do my best, sir. Heat shields up, prepare for atmospheric entry. Two minutes.” Both fighters angled sharply down and accelerated. Syree automatically began drawing energy for the heat shield from the internal plutonium oxide battery. Makoti wasn't ready to lead a squadron, but even Jason Knight had to start somewhere.
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