A Routine Takeoff
OOC: JP collaboration with @wanderingwolf and @sail3695
“You heard him; we’ve got the green light,” Cal traced Boone’s wide eyes out the viewport and produced his silver cigarette case, lighter already kindling the end. He breathed in his first pseudo-nicotine. The Captain raised his eyebrows at Yuri, exhaling a spout of smoke. He rapped his knuckles on the console, “Let’s see what you got.”
Boone nodded, checking the lights along control panel’s dashboard. “Yessir, Mr. Cal. Just a routine takeoff.” He checked off an internal list while scanning the ship’s dashboard, running his hands along the dials and buttons on the console, flicking and pressing a set of customizations into the system; All ports locked, thruster systems warming up, oxygen levels optimal, cryo tanks reading at full. “Just a routine… Takeoff.” Retrofire systems online, grav-field dampener at normal levels, power readouts in the green, pulse drive charging. “Yessir. Taking off.” Boone said, not taking off. Instead, he continued his long takeoff checklist, putting a few more seconds between himself and the moment of truth by punching more specifications into his board of lit-up buttons. Altimeter set for takeoff, radio systems online, stabilizer trim adjusted for flight, cockpit air conditioning on full blast.
Boone reached for the transceiver with his trembling free hand, holding it between his thumb and index finger like a pebble as he spoke into the intercom. “All crew and passengers, may I have your attention, please? This is your pilot speaking. Please be seated and secured for breaking atmo. Takeoff will be in T minus fifteen seconds. Thank you kindly.” Another unfamiliar wave of fear hit his gut, as he felt suddenly and entirely unqualified to be either the man flying the ship or the man in the intercom. SAM began the countdown.
Boone placed the communicator back on its holster, closing his eyes and marking a cross across his wide chest while softly muttering what Cal and Yuri could make out to be a prayer under his breath, with a “heavenly father” here, and a “safe passage” there. Boone opened his eyes and began to pull the yoke back as Sam’s countdown hit one.
“Just a routine takeoff.” He said, this time in a firmer tone. The China Doll lifted off the ground with a slow, alien steadiness, with none of the bounce or imbalance the crew had come to associate with in-atmo flight. For all his flummoxing and jitters, the giant in the cockpit held the yoke in his hand with the unwavering steadiness of a bull-rider. For a few moments, the ship drifted straight up like a giant steely balloon, bringing more and more of Urvasi’s greenery into view. When they were high above the prison, Boone gave the yoke a slow twist, pulling it back and causing the ship to slowly pivot sideways and upwards by 45 degrees, until the ship’s alignment felt like the business end of a catapult. Boone input a few more specifications into the dashboard buttons, with the thrusters beginning to whir louder and louder. Boone input a final three button presses on the dashboard before giving the single button on the yoke a press.
The China Doll began accelerating much faster than before, though the tell-tale rattling and shakes of breaking atmo were far softer than usual. Even through layers of G-forces whipping against the rapidly accelerating ship, Boone was still inputting commands on the vibrating dashboard, adjusting the trim and thruster positions for the black and diverting all excess power to the gravity dampening field. The ship broke through the clouds, skimming along their topsides like a knife spreading butter, before steadily pushing past the clouds and into the pure blue mesosphere. Slowly, the soft rumbling eased into weightlessness as the China Doll broke through Urvasi’s remaining atmospheric layers and into the black. Boone switched off the thrusters, riding their centrifugal force away from the planet as steadily as a bird gliding on an updraft.
With a wholly smug expression, the Captain intoned loudly enough for all on the bridge to hear, “How ‘bout that. Just a routine takeoff.” To his first mate, he reserved a single nod of ‘I-told-you-so’ before standing. “I reckon we ought to parade you in front of the crew. Meet the folk you’ll be cartin’ around. Stow your gear in berth three and circle up in the galley.” Strand palmed the com attached to the bulkhead, “This is your Captain speaking. I’d ‘preciate our passengers stayin’ in their quarters for a spell as the crew convene in the galley. See you there in fifteen.” Cal released the transceiver, taking a long drag from his cigarette as he looked Boone over again. His expression was pleased; he knew he was a good judge of character. This hulking teddy bear at the yoke had silently passed his muster, even with all that prayer muttering and crossing himself. Without another word, the Captain nodded to his first mate, then to his pilot, before following the tread toward the galley.
The man could put China Doll into the black; that much was proven fact…and there stood Cal, all ready to serve Yuri a fine plate of crow. The first mate took his comeuppance with a subtlest of nods. Cap’n’ll be a righteous pain in the pi gu after this, he mused, the smile teasing the edges of his mouth as Cal ordered a crew meeting.
Boone nodded back with a smile and a salute. He had flown countless times, in countless hazardous conditions, through asteroid belts and along the edges of radioactive clouds, and yet this takeoff from standard terraformed atmo on a near-windless day had him sweating like a particularly tall and tattooed whore in church. And yet, he had made it out the other side. With great effort, Boone extricated himself from the pilot’s chair and turned to Yuri, giving his plastic parcel a nudge with his shoe.
“They gave me back everything I had on me when I went in, but I don’t think I want to open it. I don’t think anything in there fits me anymore. It was all pretty expensive if memory serves correct – it’s yours if you want it. Should fit you better than the captain, I looked more like you before all the weights if you can believe it.”
Once again, Yuri’s five-foot-ten-inch build placed him eye to throat with the giant pilot. “Had a growth spurt, did you?” he asked, before brushing away a response. “Not a problem. I’m sure we can find use for whatever you’re not wearin’ these days. Abigail’s a regular little scrounger,” he volunteered as the three men made for the cockpit hatch. “She might conjure up a need.” Mayhaps a camping tent Antonov observed the broadly muscled back of the man before him.