Category : Various Text files
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 THE TEST FLIGHT
by john sheridan

Captain John Roman massaged his fingers into the sockets of
his eyes. He squinted at his reflection in the glass shield in
front of him. This had been one hectic and tedious flight. Test
flights were supposed to be boring. Real jockey trips.

Darn good thing that someone figured out a way to sus-
pend hair growth he thought as he considered his haggard reflection
with renewed vigor. I'd sure hate to have been stuck
out here this long in the old days when space was a real frontier
and those old, now stodgy, space explorers with hair down their
necks. The thought of all that hair made him wince and returned
him back to reality. Several monitors momentarily drew his
attention. He flicked a couple switches, rotate in his seat shield
and gave a long, yawning stretch.

John Roman had a passion for ancient history, actually
it was more like his second calling. In this day and age the
history which was his passion was refered to as sub-ancient Overall
he was an excellent pilot and this is what his rep was built on;
this is why most crewmen were honored to fly with him. Yet it was
the stories of ancient times about such people as Artemus, Caesar,
Hericles and Alexander which endeared him to his crewmen.

The flights could sometimes drag on for many parsecs and
the wealth and depth of his knowledge was more than a minor break
from the drudgery. He could call to mind the days when
men actually considered the earth as flat, when they'd thought
the universe as boundless as sight, when men and women allowed
their hair to grow to awesome lenghts. He could easily be enticed
to relive those days of yore for this brought him also much
solice as he was, after all, a historian a heart occupied as a
professional pilot.

He opened his eyes and squinted once again at his co-
pilot LT. Finnius MaCro a short rather wedge-nosed man of about
thirty. However, it was difficult to tell, after all, medical
technologies like electronics in dim past advanced by leaps and
bounds. Without getting technical let's just say many things can be
altered on the physical form. But don't let this get you thinking
that everyone was a god or goddess. Nope, thought Roman happily,
there's still ugly, there's still glamorous.

Finnius, or Finny, or the Finn, as he was called
affectionately had almost missed his chance at the academy during
his entrance entrance physical. It was his height. He was too big
actually and modern science came to the rescue and trimmed him down
to size. Roman compared this to getting a pair of shoes. you go to
the store and what the attendants actually do is fashion your foot
to fit the shoe. The medical staff had fashioned MaCro to fit the
ship just as easily.


Roman refelected on how in all of history neither the
leaders nor the systems had accepted that size and shape and looks
had nothing to do with ability. How this could be in a time when so
many miracles had become reality boggled the imagination. This fact
simply underscored the tragic irony and obvious incompatibility of
the subjective and objective views. No matter the shell, thought
Roman, I'd take a hundred like the Finn when the chips are down.
And given the events of this flight Roman was doubly sure.

They had had a harrowing experience. What had begun as a
run of the mill test flight had given rise to some incredible
surprises.

They had launched at 27-12.3 and had planned on taking the
ship out to a couple of near stars for the usual manuvers and shake
down excercises. All had gone well until they'd run amok of that
belt of asteriods. Roman had played back all the tapes more than

once to confirm the obvious. The belt had apparently appeared
spontaneously from the nothingness of space. It was completely
unknown and unregistered in this sector.

The ship had suddenly lurched at the encounter deeply
shaking both pilots out of their lethargies. The ship gyrated
wildly and pitched so violenly that circuits broke all over the
vessel spewing cataracts of sparks across the console. Circuits
supporting their seating shields went down and in a flash both were
dumped out onto the deck like apples from a basket. From there on
neither remembered much until awakening 45 solar days
later. Their automed units had dispatched medicines and sustenance
to them and had kept them alive. The shaking up they
endured must have been severe given the physical condition they
found themselves in upon awakening. According to readouts they had
been in a coma-like state the entire time. It was just one more
perplexing byte of data that the scientific types would drowl over,
thought Roman.

During their unconscious the ship had veered far off course
as the autopilot received quite a shock as well. Even the automatic
controllers and gyros had been no match for that bowlarama asteriod
belt. The ship had gone farther than it mathematically should have.
So said the navccom which Roman knew was as close to infallible as
any machine could ever get. This wasn't the most settling info he'd
ever heard. They were in a seldom traveled party of the universe
which was 250 solar years from the point of contact with the
asteroids. John Roman had played this taped information back
several times before the shocked of its meaning was to wear off.
For a few moments he sat in motionless contemplation. The situation
simply defied logic as he knew it to be. It defied what he knew to
be true in a historical sense as well. There had never been an
event even remotely akin to their predicament in recorded history
Even though he accepted that history is strewn with arcane
mysteries he was so stunned that knowing this was no solace.
What had occurred to he and Macro was not only hard to believe.
It was virtually impossible.

When he'd let the Finn in on this information MaCro
at first laughed. Many people laugh as a first reaction. The co-
pilot too took the information with the same seriousness and impact
that Roman had. Neither doubted the accuracy of their
instrumentation, this stuff was the latest sector-linked deep-
universal intergrators made. There was no error. Soon they would
come to know this in more profound way.

Resolutely they began the laborious task of resetting
the gyros, replacing circuitry and upgraded the navcoms for the
long voyage home. Whatever had occured to them they took confidence
in the fact that they were headed home. As work progressed they
discovered certain missing data for sec23. In short the navcom was
telling them "hey, I know all about everything but the sec23 data
is corrupted". This was a crucial sec and parsec area. Critical but
not the end, thought Roman. The L.R. transcievers had done their
job and broadcast a multiling wave
may day message and the command vectors some 250 solar years away
would recieve their message. The critical part Roman was
reluctantly admitting to himself was those 250 s.y.. Accuracy
gets stretches pretty thin over that distance. Sure he knew
there would be talk of mounting a search but he kept remembering
that this had never happened before. This far away in an area no
body had been in for quite some time. Well it wasn't a pretty
picture. Roman stared out into that inky well of space and saw
nothing more than goose eggs. There wasn't any use in worrying.
Both men by nature of their occupations were pragmatists. They knew
they were on their own notwithstanding the technological
accomplishment they drove through the starways. In a true analysis
the radio transmission would do them little good. They had been
thrown back upon their basic, rock bottom instincts and resources
much as the early space pioneers had when they'd explored the small
system of their home planet.

Soon they realized that the most pressing need was fuel.
Several types of metals and crystals which were mainly used for
energy storage had been drained by their journey and needed
replacing. This became their major task; to find these items. This
was a matter of programing, launching and retrieving probes. Using
long range scanners to investigate several target sectors which had
been discovered within their area giving good readouts for the
materials they sought. The probes were prepared and launched. Five,
so far, had been retrieved. These reported all but one or two of
the necessary materials.

Roman swung his power tray over to the Finn and closed
his eyes. He'd been having some terrible headaches since recovering
from the unconsciousness that followed the collision with the
asteroid belt. He hadn't mentioned this to the Finn didn't want to
alarm him needlessly. At first they were just too ordinary and even
expected. Anyone who'd been out for 45 days should expect a little
discomfort. Moreover during these headaches episodes he would be
racked with profound feelings of doom and gloom. Even the surreal
twists of perception experience from space fever could not compare
with the haunting feelings of desolation he experienced. And now
even as the headache waned he felt possessed by that growing yet
indefatigable fear. Akin to some dark revery, perhaps an unknown
type of melancholia. He shook his head as one does to return to
reality with out success.

Suddenly he hit the rock wall of wakefulness. The Finn
was shaking him and shouting unintelligibly. Thinking at the time
that he had actually been having some wild nightmare and that MaCro
was waking him because they were nearing the star Alpha-eletri he
awoke startled. Just as suddenly recollection set in which strained
his visage etching it deeply.

As it turned out probes six and seven had returned.
Roman even gave out a little cheer when the Finn told him that
number seven contained affirmative information. Figures, thought
Roman. Without wasted breath or motion both men locked the appro-
priate navigational banks. Both almost smiled as a small relief
ebbed across their features. This was a good omen, thought John
Roman. It reminded him of someone else who had sent out as dove
and it eventually returned with good news.

The return of probe 7 which Roman had dubbed "the DOVE"
had been 3.6 solar days ago. Their ships scanners were now
penetrating and probing the atmospheric doorway of the planet which
they had calculated contained the materials they needed.
They were scanning for the largest deposits of these elements
within the nearest proximity. That way they would economize their
efforts. Both of the needed metals were soft and though easily
smelted required a high level of refinement. The crystals would
be found in crude form and instrumentation aboard their ship would
easily facet and polish it. And finally the raw fuel could
be easily absorbed from the class 5mag yellow star which beamed
down this lush, blue world. All's well that ends well, thought
Captain Roman. For a second a vision of them gliding into their
space port so great a distance away appeared in his conscious-
ness. All is well, he thought.

The metals and crystal had been found in large enough
deposits in a small area and preparations went ahead to enter the
atmosphere. This in itself presented some operational dif-
ficulties. The skill of the pilot was always invaluable when
entering an atmosphere. It usually came down to hands on control
to make the final touch down even with all the technology. This
Roman found reassuring. Some things still required true human
spirit and Roman looked forward eagerly to bringing the shuttle
down upon the surface. If he had to say so himself he had always
been good at touch and goes in difficult areas; a level head and a
steady hand were as a pilot his stock and trade.

If it had been anyone else at the controls Finny
would have been a bit more than just apprehensive. Indeed had
this flight occured with anyone else at his side the Finn would
not have had the same optimism. Yet notwithstanding this small
optimism he too had been having some racking headaches and
depressed thoughts. He hadn't bothered the Captain with these
matters thinking it low priority and resultant of injuries from
the asteroid belt. Yet the sensation of strange imbalance continued
though he kept a stiff upper lip convincing himself also that
this was only a reaction to being in limbo for a month
and a half. He, as the Captain and unbeknowst to one another,
felt that these feelings would soon pass. Indeed MaCro had to admit
to more than a little elation since the retrieval of probe 7. What
was it Roman had called it, wondered MaCro; oh yeah, the DOVE.

The ship made a couple of soft bounces upon hitting
the planets outer atmosphere like the proverbial flat stone across
the surface of a lake. Their speed rapidly decreased. Slowly they
broke through swirling mists upon a sight which as break taking was
gross understatement. Before their eyes spread a world of
true beauty, as blue as Orion's belt. The sense of life was thick
on this planet.They'd felt this also immediately. It seemed to wash
out to them and greet them. MaCro switched on the visual scanners
locking in with the navcom. A multi colored world flashed into a
more detailed view. A rugged terrain wringing with the roots of
time flowed before them into a seemingly endless morass of green.
Quickly they passed over large expanses of blue liquid which
shimmered like the gaseous clouds of Centis 1. The scape was a
pallete of color and incalcuable surfaces of ups and downs which
would easily rival any they had ever seen or heard about.

The navcom which helped control the ship throttled
down sharply giving more vertical thrust causing the ship to change
flight attributes. In laymen language it was flying on its
side. They swooped down swiftly and alighted with some abruptness
in a series bouncy skids finally coming to rest in an easy see-
sawing motion on their side. No sooner had they touched down
than they hit the deck energizing the exit portal. It swung open
to a break-taking view and to a sound which caused their blood to
pound in like thunder in their viens.

All around loomed these massive walls and pillars of
stone. Large and white they crashed aganist the deep blue sky and
resounded in a chimming doomscape for the two ill fated pilots.

Suddenly a shape of motion approached the ship rapid-
ly from their left. Diving like maniacs they tumbled into the ship
and slammed shut the hatch without an instant to spare. They hadn't
planned on any Buck Rogers stuff. The thought of inhabitants hadn't
crossed their minds perhaps due to their intense focus upon getting
those materials and getting back home. Luckily they made it into
their seating fields when the ship began moving. Incredibly they
were being hoisted up into the air apparently by the life form
which they had barely glimsed.

The Finn in a major panic began feverishly working the
control panel. His immediate thought was to radiate the ship with
a current in an effort to gain their release. If they could get
loose for an instant they'd be able to escape. Captain Roman sat
seemingly oblivious to the Finn's wild mechinations. He began
laughing slowly and at first softly. It rose in volume quickly and
sounded then more like like sobbing. MaCro still persisted in
whirling knobs and flicking switches captivated by his own inner
karma.
Roman reached forward and energized the rear screens.
At that instant MaCro set loose a high energy charge across the
skin of the ship and gunned the engines to full thrust. In a
state of wild terror his only thought was that in a matter of
seconds they'd be well out of the sector.

For what may have seemed an infinity of several
seconds before impact he wished he hadn't looked up at the screens.
He could not comprehend what was happening the way Roman apparently
could.
The rear screen showed a view of an extremely large humanoid
with a single, wide band of cloth girding its mid section. It
appeared to be leaning awkwardly forward with its upper appendage
pointing in the direction of the fleeing ship. Yet as terrifying as
this scene was it was nothing in comparison to the one which loomed
ahead.

It was those huge walls of stone. Those sheer vertical
walls of white stone. Other monitors played the remainder of the
unfortunate scene. All around them rose those cold rock cliffs in
an oval pattern. Above them in row on row of ledges sat innumerable
similar humanoids. All seemed intent upon the fate of Roman and
MaCro who in their last seconds could not believe. All were
gesticulating wildly, competitively, defiantly as the saucer shaped
object glided effortlessly though erratically across the arena. The
last haunting sight Roman and Macro saw was the loin clothed
humanoid who stood head hung low, a picture of utter and complete
defeat.

 --30--







  3 Responses to “Category : Various Text files
Archive   : ATFLIGHT.ZIP
Filename : TFLIGHT.TXT

  1. Very nice! Thank you for this wonderful archive. I wonder why I found it only now. Long live the BBS file archives!

  2. This is so awesome! 😀 I’d be cool if you could download an entire archive of this at once, though.

  3. But one thing that puzzles me is the “mtswslnkmcjklsdlsbdmMICROSOFT” string. There is an article about it here. It is definitely worth a read: http://www.os2museum.com/wp/mtswslnk/