by AJ Marks
Buck raced to the hanger as the alert rang though out the building. He had a feeling this one was a training alert based on how some other people were acting around him. He ran up to the fighter where the ground crew were already prepping it for launch. Jumping up into the cockpit he took the helmet put it on and watched as the fighter’s system booted up.
The fighter taxied out of the hanger and onto the runway along with several others as he felt his adrenalin pumping throughout his body. He got clearance to take off and he pushed the fighter’s engines to the limit and pulled back on the stick feeling it climb up through the atmosphere and into space.
“All right, everyone form up,” he heard Wilma’s voice say. “Time to do some training.”
“There was no alert?” another voice asked.
“Of course not idiot, if there was she’d be telling you where to go,” another voice said as Buck shook his head.
He already had a feeling it was a training exercise before they took off.
“All right, groups one though six, with me, the rest with Aaron, take them though a few maneuvers,” Wilma said.
“Got it,” Buck heard Aaron’s voice say as he turned to line up with Wilma being number five.
Sometime later they were heading back down to the air field to land after running though several maneuvers. He lined up after being given permission to land and looked at his fuel level, still very high which mean they probably would not do anything at this time.
The Thunderfighter was vastly different in fuel compared to other fighters he had flown. He was used to having to wait until they fueled the fighter, and then watching it as they flew, or needing to be refueled. Now he could fly into combat and be on alert for days before needing refueling.
Climbing out of the fighter he made his way over to where the rest of the group waited.
“See you did your usual best,” another pilot said as Buck walked up.
“I just try my best, some people have it,” Buck replied to him not letting the bickering get to him. He was used to it from his days in the air force.
“Surprised a cave man can do so much?” another one said.
“You two are idiots, aren’t you,” a third voice said as they looked over to see Allen looking at them. “You obviously know nothing of history, if so you wouldn’t be saying such stupid things, were you educated on an asteroid?”
Before anyone else could say anything Wilma approached along with Aaron who walked up to them breaking the groups back up as Wilma walked up to him.
“They giving you a hard time?” Wilma asked.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” Buck said. “Heard worse back in my training days in the air force.”
“Let me know if they get too bad,” Wilma replied.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“No, they are part of the squadron, if they can’t get along then it endangers us all when we have to go into combat,” Wilma replied back logically. “We can’t afford to have people who don’t trust each other.”
Buck opened his mouth to reply and realized she was right, they were going to have to trust each other with their lives. He would find a way to handle it before it became a problem.
Buck relaxed a bit in the lounge, having some time off at the moment. It was empty as mot others were off either getting something to eat or enjoying the time they had to go back home. He looked over as the door opened allowing someone he didn’t expect, Twiki walking into the room.
“Biggy, biggy, there you are Buck,” he said, walking over to where he sat.
“Ah, to what do I owe the pleasure?” Buck asked, sitting up a bit straighter wondering why they were here.
“We came by to see how you were doing, we’ve received some reports but nothing beside the normal from Colonel Deering,” Theopolis replied.
“Well, actually going better than I expected,” Buck answered. “Its amazing how similar the fighters are from my time era, guess somethings just never change. Though, I’d have thought all the fighters would be remotely operated, or some sort of drones.”
“There are some like that, but they are considered inferior to the human piloted fighters. Computers, no matter how sophisticated, still lack that ability which is called common sense,” Theopolis said. “It’s a strange quirk, the very thing which makes me so good as an advisor also makes me a poor pilot needing those feelings to make critical decision which could be the difference between war and peace, or victory and defeat. When a human has something to fight for, they can become almost invincible.”
“I guess so, never thought of it that way,” Buck replied. “Drones and such were becoming common when I was in the military.”
“Yes, such limitations were discovered shortly afterwards. As for drones, they’re communications were too easily hacked or cut to be of value in major combat situations,” Theopolis replied.
“Those concerns were being raised when I was testing them,” Buck said. The possibilities were tremendous but he guessed the technology to secure tem never rose above the technology to hack it.
“Those concerns were valid, fortunately they were not tested in real battle as the flaws were never overcome in tests,” Theopolis said and Buck realized he was probably part of those beginning tests before moving on to NASA. “”But we’re getting sidetracked.”
Buck heard that and was surprised that a computer could get sidetracked in the first place.
“There has been some progress in diplomatic areas with the Rizonian Empire, they’ve requested you to finish clearing everything up,” Theopolis said.
“Me?” Buck replied a bit surprised, especially considering the last time he saw them. They were the rudest people he ever met, and they wanted him to visit?
“Yes, we’re not sure exactly why, so you’ll be going with an official envoy, it was the only way we accepted,” Theopolis said. “Wilma and I will be going with you.”
“Biggy, biggy, don’t forget about me,” Twiki said.
“Of course not Twiki, I wouldn’t go anywhere without you,” Theopolis said.
“Darn tootin,” Twiki replied.
“All right, when do we leave?” Buck asked.
“We’ll leave in the morning, taking the Thunderfighters,” Theopolis said.
“Um, those are one man ships, how are you going?” Buck asked.
“I can fly,” Twiki said which surprised Buck.
“For such things there are several modified Thunderfighters for such occasions. They are more maneuverable and faster than a shuttle,” Theopolis said. “As such we use them when flying into an unknown situation.”
“You can fight?” Buck asked.
“The modified Thunderfighter has no weapons,” Theopolis stated. “The escorts are there to make sure we have time to leave again, and a shuttle’s engines takes much longer to charge back up.”
“So you’re taking the shuttle to get me was different,” Buck asked.
“Very, we knew they had a human, and we anticipated bringing you back which we couldn’t do with the fighter,” Theopolis said. “Meet us in the hanger in the morning and we’ll head on over to Rizonian space.”
“All right,” Buck said, watching as Twiki left. Tomorrow would be interesting indeed as he hoped this time they would be more hospitable.
Buck climbed out of the fighter and headed over to where Wilma and Twiki were waiting. Wilma landed first, followed by Twiki and finally Buck.
Off to the side stood three Rizonians, much like he remembered, and very stoic. He learned that they were a standoffish race, and one who viewed every other race with distain which stemmed from their view that other races were beneath them. For them to actually request someone was very rare but even then Buck had no idea how to act towards them.
“Well, let’s get this over with,” Wilma said, moving her eyes towards the Rizonian and Buck had to agree, the welcoming so far was anything but warm.
“At least they aren’t pointing guns at me this time,” Buck replied hoping for a bit of humor.
“That would at least be showing something,” Wilma said as they moved towards the group.
Buck managed to look around as seeing the planet didn’t seem that different from Earth, blue sky, clouds, and what could be considered planet-life all around. He would have to be careful anyways for anything which might be poisonous to him.
“I am Doctor Thropolis, my aide Twiki, and to my left is Colonel Deering and my right is Captain Rogers, who you requested,” Theopolis said speaking up for the group, something they agreed upon before leaving.
“Welcome,” the middle one said not giving any names before turning to Buck. “You are the one we wanted to speak to, the pilot of the primitive ship?”
“The one I used to find myself here by mistake, yeah,” Buck answered.
“We have questions, this way,” the middle one said motioning for them to follow.
Buck looked on as the three turned to walk away and looking at Wilma and Twiki he shrugged and followed along with the others wondering what questions they had. They reached a transport, not much different than the ones on Earth and whisked along the pathway past many buildings and such as Buck looked on with interest. The view was fascinating to him, to see another alien race and how they lived, something he never thought he would see.
Arriving at a building they exited in silence, which made him uneasy they made their way along the path, passing few others, all of whom never even bothered to look at them, almost as if they expected to see them, or as Buck thought, they figured these humans were unworthy of being looked upon.
Their society was too strange for Buck to really comprehend as the more he looked and observed the less he understood. They finally reached a room and were led in as the three left.
“Well that was friendly,” Buck said to the other two.
“Actually Buck, humanity is a very social race compared to many other races,” Theopolis said. “The Rizonians are not the worst out there.”
“I have a lot to learn,” Buck said. “They could have at least introduced themselves.”
“They only do that if they feel it’s important enough,” Theopolis said. “I did so because it’s part of our customs and they expect it.”
The door opened allowing two others into the room. They went over and sat down.
“Please sit,” one said surprising Buck at the tone. This one wasn’t one of superiority and Buck walked over and sat down, as did Wilma, Twiki remained standing. “I’m,” he said something which sounded like to Buck jeelaxialibrex.
“That’s a mouthful,” Buck said.
“Humans have trouble pronouncing the Rizonian language, their vocal chords are not like yours,” Theopolis said. “Biological limitation.”
“Yes, how about Jeeelax then,” he said.
“That’ll work,” Buck said. “You wanted to see me?”
“You’re the mysterious pilot of that wonderfully mysterious craft?” Jeelax asked.
“Yes,” Buck said.
“Amazing, we’re surprised you survived in one piece at all,” Jeelax replied, now buck wasn’t sure what to think as the other Rizonian spoke up.
“The engine had a major flaw in it, you were luck y to even reach light speed, and the reason why you probably survived at all, though the odds of if not exploding was low at best.”
“So a flaw saved my life and sent me to the future?” Buck asked.
“Yes, but we also need to know what you actions were during the test flight, we have all the information your government has, but not what you actually did during the flight,” Jeelax said.
“Ah, that makes sense,” Buck said, thinking back only a couple of weeks ago and wondered at in such a short time so much had happened.
“Can you run us through the flight?” Jeelax asked.
“Yeah,” Buck replied and went over how the day went. He climbed in, what the procedure was to start the engines.
“What fuel source did you use?” the other Rizonian asked.
“Um, not really sure, some sort of matter-antimatter converter thing,” Buck said. “I wasn’t sure what it was, only to regulate the flow into the engine to power it up and if the flow rose up too high to cancel the flight.”
“Yes, it’s what we thought,” Jeelax said. “An unusual design, normally such a converter isn’t mounted to a Thu’lue warp drive. The normal power plant is a type of fusion reactor, which might explain even more of why you survived.”
“We hadn’t discovered such a reactor yet,” Buck said.
“Yes, another unusual advance,” Jeelax said. “Please continue.”
Buck continued on saying everything was going fine, the engine looked good and right before the test was to start there was a sudden, and brief, power surge from the engine.
“Normal reaction of a Thu’lue drive, and typically happens only seconds before it explodes, why did it not this time when every other test has?” the other Rizonian asked, confused about the situation.
“Well, I did try to abort the flight as it started, but the abort wasn’t working,” Buck said watching as the two Rizonians looked at each other for several seconds.
“You don’t suppose?” Jeelax said looking at the other one.
“Its very possible, a very slim chance,” the other one said.
“Amazing, absolutely amazing,” Jeelax said.
“Um, what’s amazing?” Buck asked confused about what was going on.
“You theorize that his aborting at that exact moment prevented the Thu’lue drive from exploding by starving it from fuel at the moment it required the most?” Thoepolis asked, speaking up for the first time.
“Yes, its makes perfect sense, the fact he had the ability to with this drive, unlike a fusion drive which takes much longer to shut down could, theoretically, have saved him, and thrown him, as it should have worked, into warp,” Jeelax said.
Buck sat there listening to Jeelax and Theopolis discuss theories which all went over his head, but it sounded like his trying to abort the test actually saved his life, although it did toss him into the future by some four hundred years.
End part 16