Well, it’s Friday already; that means it’s time for your last dose of me for the week. You going to be okay?
Ha! Just kidding!
I have my post tomorrow too, with more of the stories that didn’t make it into the books. Okay, yeah, they’re mostly about Aiyana, but is that really surprising? I didn’t think so.
That’s tomorrow. Today is a chapter from the fourth volume, the one that’s coming out (officially) on April 16, although you can get the paperback now. Will someone explain to me how that works? Please? I don’t get it. If the book comes out on date this-and-that, then shouldn’t all the versions come out that day?
Oh, yeah, I might was well get this felgercarb out of the way now: blah blah blah, pre-order the book, blah blah, enter to win, blah blah, click images to order, and done.
In any case, in this chapter we get to go back out with Shooting Star and her Direwolf pilots. Of course, back then – that’s so weird, these pilots’ grandparents haven’t been born yet! – they were all green as fresh-cut wood, so she had a bit of a challenge on her hands.
“Landing on Endeavour is more challenging than landing on Njord.”
Ashlyn was addressing her – her – pilots as she ran them through the last item on today’s training. Every day they spent six hours in the cockpit, usually two sessions of three hours each, and an additional four hours in the simulators. Of course, sometimes the day started earlier than others, like today, when she’d awakened them with a 0415 ‘emergency deployment’. Now they were nearing the end of what they expected their first session to be. She also knew they were looking forward to coffee and breakfast.
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That wasn’t happening yet.
“But the Endeavour’s broken!” said a voice.
“This isn’t the squad room; use proper radio discipline!” snapped Locksmith. She’d been the right choice as XO, backing up Ashlyn at every turn in front of the flyers while not being afraid to speak her own mind in private.
“Sorry, Locksmith. This is Frye.” It was a male voice, which meant it was Kirk. His twin sister, Roberta, had also made it through training and was in the squadron.
“Frye, the Endeavour is temporarily out of commission, yes,” agreed Ashlyn. “But that’s her nacelle, not her landing bay. We’re going to land there today, rotate, launch, and then return to our bay on Njord before you lot get to have breakfast.”
“But the Endeavour’s still in dock.”
“That’s right, Frye.”
“Inside the bay.”
“Frye, you’re on a roll.”
“We’re going to do these maneuvers inside Njord’s bay?”
“Yes, Frye, inside Njord’s bay. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s just a little bit roomy in there.” The bay was nearly five kilometers across at the widest point, which provided plenty of space for the current Starfleet.
“Shooting Star, this is Armitage.”
“We haven’t landed on Endeavour before.”
“Congratulations, Captain Obvious! You just earned your handle. No, we haven’t, but she’s going to be certified to return to service soon enough. That means we’ll be stationed aboard her, not Njord, so we have to be able to land.”
“Sweet lords of Kobol,” said her AI quietly but fervently. “They are green. Too bad I can’t get out of this ship; I could clear out their bank accounts in a single game of pyramid.”
“Yup. You could. Now shut up.”
Ashlyn’s AI, like Double Dip’s, had adopted a very distinctive personality. It was one of the unintended consequences of the Admiral’s obsession with late 20th/early 21st Century pop culture. As the Federation had grown everything public about the Admiral had been scrutinized. Some of her interests found fertile ground in the people who had chosen to follow her. The Direwolf pilots had found a particular favorite in the various versions of ‘Galactica’, and a number had named their fighter’s AI after a person in the show. With AI’s the name defined the personality, so Ashlyn’s ‘Starbuck’ was a faithful recreation of the long-ago character.
“I’m just saying…”
She ignored him.
“We will land by Divisions. Locksmith, you lead, then Division Two by the numbers.”
“Aye, Ma’am,” Locksmith replied. “You heard the boss. Watch what I do.”
She managed to sound awfully confident for someone who’d only had weeks aboard the ship, but Ashlyn knew that Locksmith was capable and competent.
“And Wingbat?” she heard Locksmith add.
“No showing off. By the numbers, understand?” Wingbat was the hottest pilot in the squadron but had an unfortunate habit of hot-dogging.
“I want a readback, Wingbat.”
“No showing off, aye. Landing by the numbers, aye.” She actually managed to sound both contrite and offended.
“Endeavour, Red Leader. Confirm clearance for landing exercise.”
The reply of Endeavour’s Small Craft officer, Ensign Jadwinsky, came back instantly. “Roger, Red Leader. Bay is cleared for exercise.”
“All yours, Locksmith,” Ashlyn radioed.
One after another the veterans in Division Two came for smooth, controlled landings, which was just what she expected. Like Double Dip had done for her, Ashlyn gave her XO the more experienced pilots. She’d kept the ones straight from the Academy for herself in Division One.
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“Last time,” she said now, as Frak Me was on approach, the last of Div Two.
“Use your AI to stay on the right glide path. You want to be a couple meters above the deck as you pass through the doors, and come to zero relative motion just inside. You can’t miss it; there’s a big yellow circle painted on the deck. Then Ensign Jadwinski and Pollux, that’s the AI that controls Endeavour’s bay, will use their tractors to pull you into your slot. Don’t fight them or you’re going to end up a smear on the bulkheads.”
She got her expected ragged chorus of acknowledgements as Frak Me landed.
“Tate, you’re up first. You’ve got this.”
“Aye, Ma’am.” He didn’t sound sure, but he was one of the better pilots in her division. Not flashy, but solid, and he didn’t disappoint. His fighter flew straight into the bay if possibly a bit below the speed she hoped, was captured by the beam, and landed.
Two voices answered; she’d forgotten, again, to specify which sibling.
“Kirk! Okay, that’s it. Kirk, you’ve got a handle now: Jimmy. Got it?”
“That’s not a yes or no, Jimmy. Try again.”
“Good. Jimmy, your turn. Then you, Captain Obvious.”
Both pilots managed to land without embarrassing themselves, or denting the bay.
“Wilder, you’re up.”
“Aye, Ma’am.” Wilder was a bit of a contradiction; she did well in the simulators, but being placed behind the stick seemed to bring out her nerves. There wasn’t anything wrong with her flying, as such, but there was a jitteriness. It was as if her nervous energy was transmitted to the fighter.
“Hold her steady, Wilder,” she encouraged. “You’re doing fine.”
“You shouldn’t lie to the FUNs,” said the AI.
“Starbuck, shut up. There’s a time for truth, and a time to…exaggerate.”
“Yeah, well, if she doesn’t lift her nose she’s going to dig a trench in the deck in about ten seconds.” Ashlyn quickly confirmed the observation, then re-opened the channel.
“Wilder, pull your nose up about ten degrees and throttle back.”
“Aye, Ma’am.” The nose of the fighter rose visibly and the speed dropped.
“She’s good, well, she’s better. She won’t dig into the deck, at least, though she may clip the ceiling.”
“You’ve overcorrected, Wilder. Level off.”
A few wobbles later she was aligned again, and the rest of the landing procedure was successful.
“Well done, Digger,” Ashlyn commed when the Direwolf was safely stationary.
“Who?” Wilder asked.
“You. Frye, you ready?”
Roberta answered. “Ready L-T.”
Frye’s Direwolf leapt forward, then abruptly decelerated.
“No, Ma’am, just a bit eager. Won’t happen again.” And sure enough the rest of her approach and landing was as close to textbook as any of the squadron had managed.
“Endeavour, Red Leader. Got the demo prepared?”
“Roger, Red Leader. Drones released.”
“Thanks. I’m planning an unassisted landing at the end. You ready?”
“Red Leader, we’ll catch you if you fall. Clear.”
“Out. Starbuck. You know the plan.”
“Give the rookies a show. Yup.” She could almost hear the cigar moving from one side of his non-existent mouth to the other.
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“Red Squadron, you did well. Watch and learn.”
She pushed the throttle forward, giving her about 100 MPS, cut the acceleration, then she simultaneously flipped and rolled her ship. This left her engines oriented into the bay and her nose away. From around the bow of Endeavour six drones appeared on the squadron’s sensors. About two meters wide and four long, they were an adaptation of the planetary probes which the starships had been carrying since the first mission. Little more than engines, sensors, and underpowered lasers, they were beginning to be used in training. They swooped past the open bay doors, went out about five hundred meters, and turned.
Ashlyn already had her sensors in combat mode, giving her a firing solution on each of the small ships.
“Starbuck, point zero five percent on the lasers. Don’t miss.”
“Hey, do I miss?”
“Shut up and shoot.”
The Direwolf twitched back and forth, lining up on the drones and taking a shot before moving on to the next target, while never straying from their path into the bay. In three seconds all six drones had registered a hit and dropped out of the exercise.
“That’s the easy part. Now we have to parallel park,” said Ashlyn, careful that her comm was still off. Eyes glued to her scanner, judging the distance remaining, she opened the channel to the squadron. She wanted them to hear this.
“Three seconds. Two. One.” She gave a burst of full power to the engines, assisted by Starbuck’s faster-than-human cybernetic reactions, which brought them to a dead stop.
“OAS,” she said, and the orientation adjustment system, using bursts of compressed gas, lowered her to the deck.
“Holy shit,” said someone over the open channel and she sighed.
“Radio discipline, Jimmy.”
“Yes, Ma’am. That was some fancy flying, Ma’am!”
“And in a month you’re going to be able to do it too. Now, I’d like to have my breakfast before lunch, so get your asses in gear! Simple evolution: take off by the numbers, cross the hangar, and land in our bay. Follow me. Locksmith, you’re tail.”