Running the wall
The sweat slowly ran down the walls of the cramped tube of a room where the pilots were bunked. One of the young pilots stood out in his gleaming new flight suit. The others looked old before their time. The once white flight suits of the veterans had long turned a dirty shade of yellow from many months being worn in the dirt and general lack of sanitation in the crowded bowels of ‘Remember Maine’.
Valence, at 22 one of the grizzled veterans, took a swig of ‘Melonies’ cringing at the strength of the on board brewed spirit. “It is the greatest fear I have ever known.. . I don’t mind flying, being shot at, that is just part of the job. Hell I’ve had 3 birds shot out from under me. No it’s the wall that scares the crap out of me.. and anyone who says otherwise hasn’t tried it.”
Tipsy took the bottle from him, effortlessly she took a long drink, before replying in the long drawn out words of a thick Asteroid belt accent “You just have trust issues, the wall is all about trust, as long as everyone else does their job properly you will be fine each and every time.”
“ ‘As long as everyone does their job properly’ ” Valence repeatedly in a snarky voice. “To hell with that. Everyone fucks up sooner or later, with the wall one tiny fuck up and you’re dead”
Tipsy replied slowly without letting the rising tension effect her in the slightest “Well, it isn’t like you can do anything about it, it is part of the job. You just strap in and *woosh* go for the ride”
Valence glugged the foul brew once more, gasping as it burnt the back of his throat “yeah a ride straight towards the wall. If they launch you too late the enemy guns pick you off as you leave the bay. Too early, you hit the wall and get wiped. It’s some fucked up bullshit.”
The new kid, marked out in his sparkling white spoke up with unchecked bravado “It’s what we signed up for, I’m looking forward to it, that thrill of danger”
“Wait till you’ve tried it Coinflip. Best case scenario you go flying into a battlefield. The best hope you’ve got the first time you run the wall is a hard fight and a 50 50 chance of getting out of there.”
Annoyed the kids voice turned into screechy whine “I’m no scrub, I aced training, I know what I’m going to face”
Tipsy spoke calmly with seemingly infinite wisdom “The last Coinflip said that and he got scrubbed by our own ships guns three seconds out of the gate.”
Valence wiped his nose on his sleeve while taking a moment to think. “Hey Coinflip, I thought I was the dogs when I got on a ship. First flight out, lost my ride. Second time I ran the wall, needed to grow a new arm. Passing training and getting a ride only says you’re good enough not to kill those on your own side. That reminds me Flip, don’t shoot anyone on your own side. You’ll want to hit the trigger the moment you get shot at – but if you aren’t careful and *blam* you shot your friend.”
“I wonder what it feels like if you hit the wall” Tipsy asked the room matter of factly.
“What kind of question is that!” The new kid was beginning to sound worried over the sanity of his new colleagues…
Valence rubbed the stubble on his chin, deep in thought over the question “I know how it feels.” He concluded, with the certainty of an alcohol induced philosopher “It feels like.. satisfaction.”
“You. Are. Nuts”
“Maybe it’s nuts, but I’d feel satisfied knowing that every pilot in the fleet would be on their way to throw that fucking launch controller out the nearest airlock.”
“Pilots first rule: Flush the wall controller!” a chorus cheered, suddenly all were smiles and laughter once more.