This is my entry into the Pod and Planet Eve Fiction Contest YC115 under the 8000 Suns in New Eden category.
“This is Khanid Military Transport delta-echo-charlie-one-five-niner requesting emergency landing. Multiple engine failure, repeat multiple engine failure–”
“This is traffic control, you are not cleared for landing one-five-nine, please reroute to-”
“Damn your routes, Control! This bird is coming down!”
The general shifted uncomfortably under the direct gaze of his superior. “The…uhh…flight in question, sir, arrived at the base today with massive mechanical damage. Air Control says that the pilot disregarded their orders, but that the pilot managed to bring the craft to rest without damage to the…uhh..primary subject. The controller reports that he’s never seen a pilot drag a craft back onto the landing pads with such-”
“I told you to make it happen General. So you will make it happen, or I will replace you with someone who can. Dismissed. ”
I used to love flying. The rush, the thrill of hurtling through razor canyons where only your skill saves you from certain death. Not like the cold, dead, weightless flight of spaceships. Real, buffeting winds threatening to tear control from your grasp, gravity ready to dash you against the rocks below in the blink of an eye. Those were good, pure memories. From a time innocent of the knowledge that no matter how skillful you are, when you number comers up there is nothing you can do to stop it. But who draws the lots? Sometimes luck determines a man’s death, sometimes nature, and sometimes he dies by his own choices. But sometimes a man’s death is decided by others.
Whatever they did to me during those surgeries, it worked. I couldn’t understand most of the medical technobabble they threw at me. Orders came down from Command and I was to go under the knife, so I went. It had happened to a few other soldiers I knew recently too. Upgrades, promotions, increased processing capabilities. Seems that they wanted to make the best better, if you believed the lines that Command was feeding us. When you looked at the psyche reports, it told a different story. Career soldiers, no families, no relatives that weren’t already enlisted. Edge cases, loners, Scripture reciting fanatics, adrenaline junkies, men who given any other profession would be deemed dangerous psychopaths. Every one of them extremely talented in their field of operations. The kind of men who could do immense damage given very scarce resources.
And they were turning us into super-soldiers. I didn’t know whether to be excited or terrified.
My senses were screaming messages to me as fast as my brain could process. Electricity crackled up and down my nerves. I felt like I could sprint for hours and run for days. Just the thought of dropping into the pilot’s seat made the hairs all over my body stand on end. If I didn’t crash entirely in the first few seconds of flight, nothing would be able to stop me. I thought idly about how many gee’s I would be able to take with this rebuilt body.
“None, at least not until you are fully recovered,” was the auto-doc’s answer when I brought it up to him.
Recovery took weeks. Weeks of tests, weeks of lab reports, weeks of therapy. The therapy I didn’t mind so much. I was allowed to push myself then, under the watchful monitors of the medical staff. Command paid a lot of money for me, and they wanted to make sure that I didn’t break any of the equipment. While they were watching, I was able to put on a show. It was almost a shame that such a finely tuned machine of sinew and ceramic and circuits was going to be jammed in the cockpit of a dropship until Command saw fit to give me a desk to ride.
Or I ended up as atmospheric pollutant over some God-forsaken low-sec world that Khanid needed to drop a package on.
Which ever came first.
I knew that something was wrong as soon as I looked at the dropship. Hadn’t been in the air for more than a month, but I knew. Asked the mechanic to go over every bolt, and when he was finished I checked them myself, just to be sure. Everything checked out, but something was wrong, I could feel it. Don’t ask me to explain, sir, I have no idea how I brought that bird down. When the vector linkage sheared, it was everything I could do to keep it in the air. I know how much the Old Man hates waste, and I figured cracking up all these pretty cybernetics would be one hell of a waste.
Another run so soon?
Sir, yes sir.
Didn’t even get off the ground before the bomb went off. They tell me it was a containment coil that failed. If that coil failed, then Jamyl is a Tash-Murkon. I checked that coil before I strapped in.
It was a bomb. Just like the broken vector linkage was sabotage. Bastards.
I woke up with a start in the medical bay of an orbiting Royal Uhlan’s warbarge. Unharmed. That was the strangest part. I remember the smell of searing flesh, the feel of being torn from my control yoke, but here I am unharmed. I guess I should have questioned the doctor’s medical mumbo-jumbo a little more closely.
I wasn’t the only one wandering around that ship trying to figure out what happened. It seems that few of us had been told what the implants they gave us did. Many of us had “accidents” shortly after our recoveries.
A few of the zealots were trying to come to grips with the fact that they had broken the laws of the Sacred Flesh. We were clones, born of heretical technology. One poor fool went mad after he killed himself a few times, ranting about visions of apocalypse until they finally refused to reactivate his clone.
Me? I’m just glad that I’m not a puddle of cooked meat on the tarmac. Old Man Khanid doesn’t give a slaver’s damn about the Laws of Scripture, so why should I? The only thing that being a clone means to me is that the Blood Raiders would love to get their hooks and tubes into me and suck me dry. Let them try.
As for flying? I’m done with that, just like I am done with the Uhlans. This enhanced body of mine wants to run, not be strapped into a flying coffin. Khanid tried to have me killed, twice. Unfortunately for him, he made me immortal first.