CHAPTER 2: THE HIGH ABOVE
Bright blue and white light poured into the cockpit illuminating every panel inside. Even with the heavy filter to dim the light, a thunderstorm from orbit was truly a site to behold. It was a raging chasm from up high, churning and flashing as the clouds billowed with the storm. A constellation of lights occasionally twinkled through the blanket of gray and white as the storm marauded across the metropolis-strewn surface.
Emery’s view screen was replete with a panorama of Earth in its full splendor, alive and stunning in front of her. She sat lax in her harness in her full V.A.C. suit, transfixed on the view; her hands still clutching both the controls as ambient jazz was playing throughout the compartment. Even through a helmet’s visor, it was a spectacular sight, a sight she frequently observed. This far off the route, away from the lanes and impulse gates and the chatter, she was always reminded of why she loved being a pilot.
Emery hummed a sigh and closed her eyes. The fabric of her gloves made a creaking sound in protest as she released the yoke levers and moved to cross her arms behind her head. She pressed the white button near her leg and the restraining harnesses swiftly disconnected and zipped into the chair, releasing her.
“Hell of a view, that Earth.” she said out loud, leaning backwards and floating up and away from the chair, legs crossed.
Emery took a deep breath and exhaled, fogging her visor for a moment as she lay suspended in weightlessness. She took in the Jazz playing over the speakers. Sometimes it felt like there wasn’t much in the world that understood her, the people she met knew her face and occasionally her smile; those that were closer knew her more like a familiar song, but nothing quite so personal - and then there was Jazz. The music was felt, not heard.
As she lay suspended about the cabin, she drifted into a dazed stare at nothing in particular. She started blankly until the reflection of a flashing green light began to illuminate her ceiling. She leaned her head towards her dash to see the COMM hologram on her view screen glowing. Emery quickly snapped out of her daze when she read the name: PONCE, T.
She rotated forward and pressed gently on the ceiling to push her towards her dash. Still Floating, Emery reached over and pressed the glass, sliding upwards with her finger to open the channel. She was greeted by a cacophony of shouting, drilling, and metallic whines. Emery wasn't surprised.
“About God damn time Ponce, whatcha got?” Emery said with urgent concern.
“Kid, we just scanned down some heavy debris fields near the Yaris B gate,” A man shouted over the sounds, “The haul looks good by the initial analysis. I’m forwarding the coordinates on to you now.”
A series of coordinates populated the view screen, making quick course adjustments. The calculation stopped and read:
ETA: 17 MINUTES 12 SECONDS…
Emery smirked and reached for the projected course on her screen and slid it to the side with a fluid diagonal motion.
"We can’t confirm if it's been tagged yet, better get there quick." Ponce said sarcastically.
“Any other scavies inbound?” she asked as her hands moved deftly across the screen, entering in manual course adjustments.
Ponce responded with a throaty chuckle and spoke with some playful concern, “Someone picked up the Mantis en route near that sector about 30 seconds ago.”
Emery straddled the seat and pressed the white button; the harness restraints slithered around her, pulling her taught to the forwardly angled chair.
“Hell, that’s all you had to say Ponce!” She laughed.
“If that son of a bitch Layne thinks he can outrun the Ceryneian in his half ass ship…” Emery mocked, trailing off as she slightly shook her head.
Emery grabbed the yokes and snapped one back a few inches as she feathered the pedal at her right foot. The ship quickly rotated about its middle as the front and opposing rear vectoring thrusters fired in short corrective bursts.
“Give em’ Hell, Fawkes. Don’t get yourself killed.” Ponce said calmly.
“No Promises big guy.” Emery said as she closed the channel.
Emery made some quick motions to disable to thrust inhibitors, she diverted power from her life support to her engines and the particle deflector array and flicked a switch on her dash to begin preheating the burners. A saxophone solo came over her speakers; it’s swiftly ascending and falling melodies arcing through the cockpit. Emery reached for a panel to her left and slid a finger quickly from bottom to top and the music began to blare through the speakers as the soloist carried on. It was so loud she could hardly hear her own thoughts – just the way she liked it.
Emery tightened her grip and felt the Ceryneian humming all around her, as eager as she was. Her lips manufactured a wry smile and she felt her stomach lurch with anticipation. She curled the throttle on both yokes and felt the restraining harness begin to resist the motion.
Emery looked out at the darkness and with a fierce confidence she slammed the yoke levers forward, punching through space with speed and agility. At this speed, she was certain that nothing, no ship or person or ghost could ever catch her.