There was a beep from my door.
I pried my eyes open, and waited for all my mental functions to come on-line.
The door beeped again.
"All right, all right, I'm coming!" Where the heck fire were my pants?
How the hell'd they get up there?
My grin was tempered with a bit of sadness. Terra had left in the early hours of the morning. I wish...
"I said I'm coming!"
With the lower half of me covered, I made a grumpy wave at the door sensor.
There in the door stood a man in military uniform, covered darn near chin to belt buckle in shiny medals.
"Mr. Black? I am Major Montgomery, I am in charge of the station here at Lave. I thought I would stop by and personally congratulate you." He said, as he took in my state of dress... or lack there of.
"oh umm... Thank you umm... Sir." I said, as I made a grab for my shirt, which had somehow ended up hanging from a light fixture.
"If you would like to finish getting dressed Mr. Black, I will show you to the flight training facility. You have an appointment there at thirteen hundred hours."
Grabbing my last shoe from the top of the vidscreen, I began doing the math.
You take the hours, and add them to...
No no, you take 12 and subtract it from...
Now wait, if midnight is zero then...
My head was buzzing when I finally came up with the answer. One o'clock.
"Well that should give me plenty of ti..." Why did the clock on the vidscreen say 12:45?
"Gosh Mr. Major umm... Sir. I'm sorry! I didn't realize..." Back to my suave self.
The Major stood, waiting patiently, as I hopped one legged around the room trying to get my last shoe in place.
The Major pointed out areas of interest on the station as we quickly made our way to the flight training simulators. There, he left me in the hands of Sargent Harding, a rather scrawny young man with thick glasses that magnified his eyes to ridiculous proportions.
"You're in simulator six, over there." He said, in a somewhat nasal voice.
The large room held about 8 spinning, bouncing, banging contraptions, that resembled nothing so much as old video arcade machines, strapped into spheres made of metal tubes. This allowed them complete, three hundred and sixty degrees of movement in all directions. They all appeared to be a few hundred years old as they creaked and groaned while spinning their occupants every which way. The smell of grease, oil ,and burning electrical components filled the air, as well as another smell... Was that vomit?
I followed Sargent Harding between the yellow safety lines on the floor, toward simulator number six.
Something resembling a joystick flew past my head.
"Clarence! What did I tell you about yanking on that stick!" Yelled the Sargent with out missing a step.
A retching, splattering sound came from a spinning machine to the right of us.
Yup, that was vomit.
Sargent Harding pressed a button on his communicator. "Maintenance, I need a mop up in the training room... Yes, it's Clarence again! Just get someone up here!"
"Here you go, climb up there and strap yourself in."
The simulator groaned as I climbed up through the pipes and into the chair. Sargent Harding clung to the outside of the cage like a big eyed lemur.
After a bit of adjusting and fumbling, I managed to get the straps around my shoulders and lap.
I looked at the simulator in front of me. Nothing more than a vidscreen, and a computer type keyboard bolted to a support within comfortable reach.
"Where's my joystick" I asked.
"Your going up in a factory stock Cobra Mark 3. No bells, no whistles, no joystick. Now look here and pay attention." He said, as he proceeded to point out each of the control keys.
"Got that? Pretty easy really. You got up, down, left, right, and spin. Those two keys control your speed, and that key fires your pulse laser, and that one over there dumps your cargo."
"That's all there is to it?" I asked innocently.
"Ya buddy, that's all there is to it." Grinned the Sargent. "Now, put on those headphones. The simulator controller will walk you through your training exercises"
I slipped the headphones on and presently heard. "Welcome Commander. You will be starting from Lave station. Press the F-1 key to launch now.
Commander hunh? Wasn't too sure how I felt about that, but whatever... I pressed the F-1 key.
The simulator vibrated slightly as my "ship" slid out of the docking bay.
Well, that was easy!
"To the starboard, you should now be able to see three targets. Please use your maneuvering controls to line up your sights, then fire your laser to destroy the targets." Commanded the voice.
Starboard...? Oh ya, right.
Maneuvering controls... Maneuvering controls... Now which ones were they again? Oh yes, those.
I pushed a button.
I found myself hanging upside down in the simulator with my "ship" pointing directly... away from the targets.
Let's try this button...
Twenty minutes later, last nights champagne and muto-fruit, were trying to get out the same way they got in. However, I had managed to get myself reoriented, and to shoot one of the targets!
And the docking buoy...
And the space station...
Press space Commander.
"Why did they shoot me?!" I demanded of the headphone voice.
"Attacking a Galcop space station is a major violation, punishable by death." Came the matter of fact reply.
Oh. Okay... Let's try this again.
I had much better luck my second time around. Launch, turn SLOWLY to the right, err, starboard, line up the little marks with the targets and fire!
Ha! Take that you evil umm, thargalonien... Whatever thingies! That wasn't so hard either!
"Well done Commander. Please proceed to the docking buoy. Bring your ship to a complete stop. Orient your ship toward the station, and then proceed to dock." Did the Voice just sound a little smug?
Whatever... So, all I gotta do is take the ship back home hunh? Easy Peasy!
Where's the docking buoy? Ah, there it is... I'm getting the hang of this driving thing now! Okay, stop, turn toward the station, give it some gas...
Wait a minute... that thing is spinning too! Wait I gotta try and spin with it? Wait a sec, which ones are my spinny keys again? Gosh it's getting big fast! Wait a sec!
Press space Commander.
"Oh, come on now!" I shouted at the screen in front of me.
I launched again.
"Please proceed to the docking buoy. Bring your ship to a complete stop. Orient your ship toward the station, and then proceed to dock." The Voice was definitely sounding smug!
"Ya ya, I got it this time." I muttered. "Go to the buoy... Turn around... Give it some ga...!
Press space Commander.
Son of a b..! Who put the laser and the gas buttons so close together?!" I demanded.
"Please proceed to the docking buoy. Bring your ship to a complete stop. Orient your ship toward the station, and then proceed to dock." The Voice had gone from smug to bored.
You peice of sh...!
Try number seven was the one...
With a screech of metal and a few assorted loud bangs, I managed to ricochet myself into the docking bay without blowing myself up!
"Congratulations Commander, you have passed the flight simulator training. Here is your pilots license." The Voice sounded relieved.
A small, credit card sized, piece of plastic slid out of the bottom of the view screen. On it, was my picture along with other bits of information, and at the top was plainly printed "Commander Morgan Black".
"Say wha...?" I said. "You mean that's it?! That's all the training you give before giving someone a spaceship?!"
There was no response from The Voice.
"That's it Commander Black, now if you would exit the simulator, I have other pilots waiting for their turn." Sargent Harding was standing beside the simulator, looking up at me with his big enormous eyes.
I managed to extricate myself from the safety harnesses and metal pipes.
"The presentation ceremony will commence at seventeen hundred hours. Someone will come to your room to escort you there." Sargent Harding said as I wobbled my way to the door.
"Seventeen hundred hours... Let's see if midnight is 0 hundre... Oh hell!" I muttered.
"What time is that in Normal People hours?" I asked Bug Eyes.
"That's five o'clock... pm Commander Black." Came the nasal reply.