Boost Live Trial 7
Subject Minx Delta
Full Suited Aerial Mission 1
The drone is on autopilot, screaming along at 15,000 feet, just barely subsonic, and I and my suit a wart on its back, tucked aerodynamically in place. The separation will affect us both, but the drone will use speed to steady its course, assisted by thousands of computations a second in the redundant computers both on-board and back at the base. I’ll have approximately a tenth of a second to adjust the glider and the suit to the abrupt lack of forward thrust. It’s more than I’ll need.
My display is dominated by a graph. I’m an arrow, heading toward a blue line, the point of no return, the best possible trajectory for my mission profile. Failure is not an option. Nah, that’s just what the engineers like to say. Failure would just mean I’d never get to do this again, whether I was dead or alive when it was over.
My timer displays numbers out to four decimal places of a second, every place past the tenth is just a flicker, strobing regularly.
Not for long. The speakers in the suit interrupt.
“Boost 1 initiates in 10, 9, 8…” I’m anticipating it already, hungry for it, like they never thought I would be, or if they did they never told me, “…4, 3, 2…” yes “1.”
It’s like ice in my veins, the rush of cold adrenalin, a whoosh of turbulence in my stomach as the flickering numbers slam to a halt.
As fast as thought, the graph zooms in on my ideal trajectory, and the disturbingly slow rate at which I’m suddenly approaching it. I can see the exact moment, and I have all the time I need, more time than I could possibly use, to watch.
This moment is already over for them, back at the base, watching me perform the aerobatics I’ve been training for in the now-distant future. I can rehearse it in my mind, ten, twenty times before I have to look at the display again and see I’ve got an entire half of my tenth of a second before I need to move. The grip release will pop my pod off the drone, I will flip and likely tumble for a moment before stabilizing, and that’s okay, that’s what I’ve trained for.
I feel like I have to pee. This happens every time, not because of physiology but psychology they tell me, the waiting is the problem, the synthetic adrenalin composite they’ve taught my brain to make has nothing to do with it. Sure, something they’ve only studied in lab rats and three other people besides me, I’m sure they know everything there is to know.
There. The time is … just about … Now.
The suit answers to my thoughts and with a machine-quick – and machine-precise – response, pops the pod off the drone. I hear and feel the click through the suit gloves, the vibrations play a drum solo in my ear, so far apart, not a buzz but distinct and discrete tappings. Wind forces tear at the pod, pulling, pushing me away from the drone as it continues forward at a faster rate than my momentum can sustain. I seem to move backward from it, as my suit allows a normal field of vision to superimpose over the graph. It’s dark, but the moon glints off the sleek skin of the drone, and makes the edges of my suit that I can see glisten.
I curl the pod over my head to shift the weight of the glider forward. The position needs to be perfect to achieve optimal stability, and I actually take a few thousandths of a second getting it just so as the drone eases out of view. I order the glider’s tail to extend and it snaps out with the speed of thought.
So do I.
“Boost 1 complete. T-3 minutes to Boost 2. Good job, Minx.”
By the time they’re done saying that Boost 1 has initiated, it’s already passed for them. I smile behind my visor, knowing the physios monitoring my every twitch will catch it, know what it means when those muscles follow those patterns. I think they’re scared of me. It’ll go into a file somewhere, but no one will complain about it. Just a smile, not a smirk, right?
The glider is stable, and to perceptions outside of Boost, it doesn’t glisten or sparkle in the moonlight high above the Nevada desert. It’s time again to wait, almost as bad as the test runs, the ground trials that gave me nothing to do but watch them stand around like statues while my suit and I put together thousand piece puzzles in less time than it takes one of them to think about speaking.
The graph has a new line, this one green, signal for the flip and land maneuver. I don’t have to pay attention to it. I’ll be Boosted before I get there, and if I’m not, then I’m dead.
A tenth of a second is not enough real time to land this; that’s why they came up with the Boost.
Except that isn’t the reason. Not really.
“Boost 2 initiates in 10…” Julio had told me the real reason, “…6, 5…” the only physio who’d look me in the eye after the implant, “…2…” he’s gone now, “1.”
It’s as if the ice never left. The clock begins to crawl again and I finally pay attention to my surroundings. 40 feet above the desert floor. I rotate the glider into brake position, the wind catches and pulls me slow, over the next tiny fractions of a moment, and up again, but not too far, and then I have to count, to wait, for the next peak in optimal trajectory, to, just so, click the glider underneath me and ride it down, like a cloud to the ground.
I hear every grain of sand as the glider plows into the ground, a pattering of tinks eating away at the friction resistant skin.
“Boost 2 complete.”
My balance, so careful and exact and precise just a moment, less than a moment ago, collapses at the return to real time, to reality, my knees crumple and my vision goes red, the suit is screaming alerts in my ear and the base is already blaming me.
“Can’t you put her back?”
“There’s no more, it’s not our fault, her body ran out, it’s—“
I’m Boosting again, for the last time, but there’s no clock to count, just the faces of my past as memories whiz by in an instant before it’s all dark.