Part two of the text I posted on Friday. Maybe the start of something longer?
Teej shouted as her dart was fired away from the building by the catapult. Shouted with that half laugh, half exhilarated terror she always felt when the Gs hit her. That was one hell of a launch though, using actual hand wound springs to send them zipping off into the clear air. Anything to save power, and they needed what they had to charge the darts. She had about two hours’ flying time now, but that had to include getting back to the tower. Landing was somewhat less fun, consisting of aiming at a massive patch of sticky webbing strung between two of the tower’s decorative projections – and hoping that the retrieval crew got to you with their hooks and winches before the sticky wore off and you just slipped down the side of the tower. She wondered whether one day the fear of that landing process would drive her from the sky.
In any case, that was not today. She was skimming along silently, climbing to about 3000 metres, just about to cross low marshland of the coast and head out over the sea. It was a crappy mission, really, the first reconnaissance of that sector since Jared had failed to return from a mission a month ago, but she was still relishing the sky. Because that’s what fliers did. Even if your lover – and, she’d thought, maybe future husband – disappeared while flying. Even if she saw his crumpled dart on a hillside below her, she’d still be a flier. And she knew suddenly that she’d never fear the landing more than she loved this.
The darts were small, one person craft with not much in the way of comforts. But as a flying machine using minimal power in an uncertain world, they were unbeatable. Light and manoeuvrable, almost invisible until you were right on top of them even before they deployed their built-in dazzle mode – and such sheer fun to fly. It was the closest humanity had ever come to being birds, and maybe that was why she always felt so giddy at the start of a mission.
She checked her heading, checked the transponders of the other darts – just six of them, now that Jared had gone. Everyone was in formation, and they were perfectly on course. She checked her heading again, rolled her shoulders and grinned at the blue sky, at the sparkling water and the uneven green bumps of the Scatter Islands running not quite left to right in front of her. She’d done her mourning, and no doubt would mourn some more yet, but just now everything felt perfect. Jared would have understood.
Whatever had happened to him, he’d gone while he was flying, and he’d always said that was how he wanted it to be. So had she, if it came to it.
An hour later, as she fell away from her dart and down, down, away from the blue sky and towards the sea where it crashed against the cliffs of Big Skerry, she wasn’t so sure she still felt the same way.