This is the 55th a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
A Rose Between Two Thorns, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 25th January 2012
Word count: 724
Theme: science, experiment, patience, right way, slow way, pioneer
“You need to go faster Paul, a lot faster,” a tinny voice said over the sub space comm output.
“I can’t,” Paul the pilot started to say while struggling to hold the ship on course against all the laws of physics it seems.
“Invert the port side thrusters, they’ll give you a bit more,” the tinny voice instructed.
“If I do that, forty percent of my active control will go,” Paul shouted back, barely holding the ship on the right course.
“Trust me, invert now, it’ll work out,” the tinny voice said.
Losing control of the ship, dropping vital speed, Paul rolled the dice. He grabbed port side thruster control and spun it round until it had stopped, then he pressed the override that at them to constant burn.
The ship was drifting off of course again, with much less control systems it was even more of a struggle.
Then as the speed picked up, the ship listed the opposite way, and suddenly became easy to hold to the course.
“It worked,” Paul screamed with joy. This was the twenty ninth simulator session, and this was as close as they’d come.
“Okay Paul, stay focused, threshold in three,” a new voice on the tinny speaker said.
Paul immediately set to the last second adjustments, his course was set, there was nothing he could do to alter it now. Already the outer hull’s temperature was reading in the red, but pressure remained with in tolerances. Paul opted to set the small ship in a slow spin on its long axis, spread the load between heat shields, then he put all thrusters that could face aft to aft, and set them for override burn, any extra speed would be a blessing he guessed.
“Simulation terminated,” a digital voice spoke out as the consoles all powered down. There was a popping sound as the air lock broke and the back of the ship fell away.
Outside a bunch of stressed, over worked, unkempt simulation engineers, scientists, and project management stood applauding, as if this were the return of a real pilot pilot. Paul couldn’t rob them off this moment, as tired as he himself was, they had all worked night and day for two weeks to produce a simulated ship capable of passing between the sun’s of a binary pulsar, at their closest point.
They had done it.
Paul stepped wearily out of the simulator.
“So that one was good?” the pilot asked.
“I’d say I couldn’t have done it better myself, but we all know that’s true of the other,” a giant of a man said, approaching the pilot. “Done good kid, done good. We need to repeat it a few more times, but you finally got the camel through the eye of needle.”
“Not today, right?” Paul asked, feeling exhausted just at the thought of another four hours in the simulator.
“Nope, night off,” the giant said, “For everyone. Get those results locked down, backed up, then get out.”
“How long now?” a man in a very expensive suit asked impatiently.
“You can’t rush science,” the giant said.
“You said we’d be able to make some real progress once we get a simulator run right. We’ve got one right, so how long? I’m not going to keep a blank cheque running Mr Klein,” the suit said.
“Two years,” the giant said, “We get another few simulators done, cross some t’s,dot some i’s, and then the science wigs can translate all that in to the design and specs for a real world ship, and then the engineers can get to work retrofitting a basic ship.”
“Two years? Can’t we do it quicker?” the suit asked.
“We can go tomorrow if you want,” Paul said, “You can be the pilot, because no one else would be daft to ride a ship through intensive heat and gravity between two very dangerous orbiting suns, without a lot of this long boring science stuff.”
The suit didn’t say anything, but walked off instead.
“I’d say thanks, but you’ve probably made his moaning ten times worse,” the giant said, following the suit.
Paul just shrugged, “He’s financing this, thought I’d give him something to represent the next two years.”
After that it was wash down, and out to the pub with the scientists and engineers to celebrate a job just begun.