Learning to fly

…. Vin yawned as he awoke from a computer aided sleep. Touching the pad next to the bed, the far wall of his quarters switched to displaying the planetscape below; it reminded him of a planet he had seen in his dream… the one with the frogs. Bloody frogs.

Hopping over to the desk (the floor was cold this morning, wonder if the maintenance bots were doing it deliberately), he opened the last update from his mysterious customer.

He’d been watching the video streams on the long run back and “Frontier” had been the company name the other pilots had been talking about. Radio chatter was busier than he had remembered for a long time.

His father had told him that hauls the likes of which he came back with were to be savoured, not squandered, but his own view was that life was for living…. The contract on the message boards had simply stated that ship testing was required (at a cost). What spacefarer didn’t want to play with new technology?

The money had bought a long term rental of the cabin, a simulator and daily access to the new ship. He had to remind himself that it wasn’t HIS ship, just the latest in a long line of prefab tests. Frontier had bought up a few areas of space for the testing – it wouldn’t be “the done thing” to go blasting around the wider universe in something that could stutter and fail.

The survival gear was part of the package. Get blown to bits a thousand times over and you were as safe as a baby swaddled in a cotton wool blanket. With an oxygen mask and “The Blue Danube” on an audio loop.

He hadn’t gained enough credits from the deal for any of the new flight control systems (there was a lot of one-upmanship going on in the Thargoid & FDL about this one). His trusty but slightly plastic stick felt like an old friend after all these years – he could hear them s******ing over that description in the bar. What was it with commanders that always ended up in inappropriate boys’ banter?

The flight assist was an old and trusted piece of software that he remembered from his time in space. Hopping into the new cockpit felt in some ways, very close to the old Cobra. Same radar (ok, prettier colours), same seat, same flight stick and of course, same roll, bank and throttle back to catch escaping drones.

Turning the flight assist off turned him into a spinning projectile. His brain really couldn’t get the hang of which way was “up” when flying with it off. Old videos of early astronaut training came to mind as he emptied his breakfast into a small plasticised paper bag every time he lost control.

Lateral thrusters? There was something he could get his teeth into. A couple of hours last night flying around the Impeccable and he felt he could apply for a DOP job in the next space epic.

The voice attack module was a little “under the radar”. It wasn’t supplied by Frontier – but seemed to work with both their simulator and in the new cockpit. Standard puerile behaviour had taken over at the outset and he’d programmed a few phrases from old Earth gaming into it just for giggles. Yelling “RUN AWAY!” to kick power to the engines was funny. The first 5 times. After that, he could swear that he could hear people laughing at him.

Right. Time for some practice using the new scoops. The old ones had been far easier – “fly at it” was about as hard as it got. The new ones needed opening first. That was something he had forgotten the first time he tried and ended up with Iron Ore scratches all over the nose of the ship. The new target radar for the scoop was handy – he imagined that in the larger and more unwieldy vessels they would have to fit a larger scoop, or a tractor beam. The anaconda’s bridge was so far away from the scoop location that it would be like trying to play catch with 12ft arms controlled by string.

First things first – into the simulator.

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