Admin’s note: A special treat for you! My husband requested to take a stab at today’s prompt and give me a night off, so to speak, so I could work on other projects instead. Enjoy!
What modern technological device takes up most of your time?
The steady pounding of feet on the parade ground isn’t the worst way to wake up. It sure as shit beats dulcet tones of a disgruntled drill sergeant. Aedan rolled out of bed and eyed the recruits jogging past his window, picking out which ones he thought might wash out, and those that already had the cut of career soldiers. Sometimes it was hard to tell, like when he saw a species he wasn’t familiar with or an atypical physique, but most of the time you could tell just by looking at the eyes. “Enough distractions,” he said out loud, lifted himself off the bunk with his tail, and got ready for the day.
He would graduate this evening, assuming his final exam went as planned. Three hundred hours in the sims and six weeks of daily flights had been leading up to today, and Aedan Grien wasn’t about going to let anything stand in his way. Loping down the hallway towards the hangar, he could see sergeant Davies warming up for his ritual pep talk. “Listen up, dirt bags! If you think after six months at the Guild Academy that any of you are ready for real action, you’ve got another thing comin’! Some of you may pass today, some of you may end up in two dozen chunks scattered across the training fields! And your sponsors will have to pay up for another batch of recruits, hah!” Sgt. Davies loved to exaggerate. The sponsors would certainly be… disappointed, scattered body parts or no, if their candidates didn’t make the cut. But a bonafide graduate of the United Contractors Guild Academy was worth their weight in platinum. “How nice of you to grace us with your presence, corporal ‘Leaf’,” the sergeant called as Aedan entered the ready room, “We thought you might be sleeping in again.”
“Reporting at 0800 as ordered, sir!” Aedan replied as he fell in with the other trainees. Davies grunted in approval. The sergeant was just doing his job, and being one of the top candidates meant garnering a bit of extra attention from one whose job it was to pound down tall nails.
But top candidates also usually came from sponsors with the deepest pockets, and he knew not to push things too far so long as you didn’t poke the bear. “Well then, let’s get started! You’ll be flying your final mission with me, but Captain Kane has final say on your graduation and he will be evaluating each of you from the control room. Make your way to your docking bays and prepare for launch!”
Aedan made his way to bay 27 and paused as he arrived to admire his craft. The Dartwing-F73 snub-nose fighter was relatively small, 12 meters long and standing 7 meters high on the sled, but it packed a punch and was a joy to fly. Techs swarmed around the hangar, getting every piece of equipment ready for flight. Chief Jones emerged from behind the nose, beaming with his usual crooked grin. “All ready for ya Leaf, filled the loadout m’self and warmed up the reactor.”
“Thanks Jonesy, I’ll go through the final checklist myself,” Aedan quipped, returning Jones’s contagious smile. “What’s the kit?” he asked as he climbed the ladder and nestled into the cockpit.
“Three Sizzlers, and a hundred rounds for the 50 mil. Got the full sensor suite active too, closest yer gonna get to combat-ready.”
The chief wasn’t kidding, as Aedan confirmed the loadout of missiles and cannon rounds on the cockpit displays. This wouldn’t be his first live-fire exercise, but it was certainly the most firepower the academy had let them fly with. All systems showed nominal on the display, and as Aedan affixed his headset and switched on the mic, Davies growl came over the radio, “While we’re still young Leaf, hotshots up first!”.
Aedan clenched the claws in his right hand into a fist and raised it above his head. Jones returned the salute signaling all crew were clear, and Aedan punched the ignition for the reactor core. As the machine hummed to life and the canopy closed, klaxons blared through the hangar. The sled lurched forward, then began a smooth roll out onto the launch track, carrying Aedan and his Dartwing with it.
“Spectre-027, confirm launch status,” came the familiar voice of the operator in the tower.
“Spectre-027, ready for launch!” Aedan replied with a bit too much force, his nerves showing a bit.
“Tower confirms, Spectre-027 ready to launch in T-20 seconds. After lift-off, proceed to flight level 140 to begin your assessment. Good luck candidate.”
This was his favorite part. The sled locked into position on the launch track, his Dartwing’s engines throttled up to 5%, just enough for him to see a faint red glow as the deflector panel angled up behind him.
“5…4…3…2…1…”. The force crushed Aedan into the jump seat as the engines throttled up to max power and the sled catapulted towards the hangar opening. Two seconds later the Dartwing leapt up from the sled, just as it cleared the hangar and burst into the sunlight, and Aedan pulled back on the stick. The g-forces eased as the craft began to climb under its own power. The velocity generated by the magnetically accelerated sled could get the craft airborne much faster and in a shorter takeoff length than his own engines could.
Aedan quickly reached the tower’s specified altitude and began a wide oval over the training grounds. A minute later Davies pulled up along Aedan’s port wing, his massive hairy frame looking scrunched in his tiny cockpit. How he managed to fit inside, Aedan couldn’t fathom.
“Grien, status report.” This voice was different, calm, confident and commanding. Captain Kane was also the only one to still use Aedan’s given name.
“All systems green, sir! Ready to begin the exam, sir!” Aedan hoped he sounded better on the radio than he did to his own ear.
“Acknowledged”, the Captain replied. “Show me what you got kid.”
Tuesday’s prompt: Have you ever had the rotten experience of having to put a pet down?