Random snippet…

As usual, straight off the screen. As always, comments and recommendations appreciated!

Colonel Gig Halvorsen’s attention was drawn to the small placard on the shuttle’s glareshield.



Japanese Astronautics and Space Administration, and our callsign is Shark, he thought. But it’s not pronounced the way it’s spelled…more like saa-may. And the ship kinda looks like a… His train of thought was disrupted by his pressure suit inflating, the master caution panel erupting in red lights, and Bitching Betty saying softly, “Pressure hull breach. Pressure hull breach.”

Gig looked to his left to see Captain Kimiko Sato slumped in her harness, the inside of her faceplate painted red with what had to be blood. Even as his mind stuttered over that, his hands were flying over the controls on the armrests of his couch. Bitching Betty started again, “Meteorite storm, meteorite storm, two seven zero, zero four five, two seven zero, zero four five.”

Left and up, nine o’clock high, Gig thought, even as he rolled the Same to put her belly shielding ‘up’ toward the meteorites. He glanced over at the track projected on the holoscreen in front of him, noting they were thirty minutes from touchdown at Mars Base One and still on track. Just as he did that, he was slammed to the right, then forward as the Same rolled violently to the left and pitched up.

“Dammit!” Gig said as he mentally ran through the emergency procedures, reaching up and punching two circuit breakers out, even as he used the joystick on his right armrest to counter the roll, slewing his body back to the left. “Come on you bitch. Straighten up!”

He felt himself get light in the couch as Bitching Betty said, “Grav plate failures, frames thirty through forty-nine.  Grav plate failures, frames thirty through forty-nine, random gravity existences greater than one hundred Gs.”

“Not going anywhere,” Gig muttered as he fought the nose of the Same back down and the nose slewed to the left. “Oh no you don’t! Come back here you sumbitch!” He punched out two more circuit breakers, and nudged the joystick to the right and up slightly. “Now, where the hell are we,” he asked, as he looked at the holoscreen. Seeing the flight track bending off to the right, and below the carat, he nudged the joystick to get the shuttle pointed more or less in the right direction. “Better,” he said softly, glancing once again at the left seat, then focusing on the master caution panel, pushing the alerts to shut them off.

Looking out the armorplast window, he saw Mars at the top of the window, okay, still inverted, meteorites? He quickly keyed a sequence with his left hand to bring up the threat matrix screen and raw radar, lidar, IR, and laser pulses. It showed clear, and he flipped through to the heat shield status. The heat shield showed forty percent ablation, and he snorted. “No biggie. Atmo is not an issue, two percent of Earth’s, so no heating expected, but that was a helluva shower.”

He bumped the joystick to slowly roll the ship back upright, using the HUD to align it with the track ‘needles’. Once everything was finally back on track, he keyed the comm, “Starship Four, Same.”

An irate voice answered, “Same, what the hell are you doing? You’re…all over the place! And why the hell are you calling instead of the captain?”

Gig answered cooly, “Starship Four, Same had a few issues. If you have comms with MB1 advise we need to be met by medics.” Just as he said that, the master caution lit again, a whooping siren sounded, and he saw the left engine fire light illuminated. “Oh hell…” Starship’s reply was lost and Gig ignored them, finally punching the comms off.

“Containment? Fuel? What the hell?” Even as he did the emergency shutdown procedures, he debated ejecting the left engine, in case it had lost containment. Moments later, he was slammed to the left and back as the ship gyrated into an out-of-control tumble.

Bitching Betty’s dulcet tones said, “Left engine containment failure. Left engine containment failure, radiation hazard frames two five five, two nine zero. Ship structure compromised frames two six five to two seven eight. Ship structure compromised frames two six five to two seven eight.”

As Gig bounced around in the couch, he shook his head and said, “Really?” He spent the next ten minutes slowly getting the Same back under control, and saw MB1 off the nose. “MB1, Same. MB1, Same, how copy?” He sniffed, and mumbled, “That ain’t right. I should have…” He glanced up and saw the comm window was red. “Not turned comms off. Idjit…” He flipped it to green and said, “MB1, Same, how copy?”

Same, Mars Base One copy you five by.”

“MB1, Same has you in sight, have some issues. Coming in with limited control, compromised structure, and single engine. Request crash crew and medic meet us.”

Same, Mars Base One copies all. Are you declaring emergency at this time?”

Gil chuckled. “Negative, MB1, it’s too late for that. Thirty seconds out.” He brought the Same in for as smooth a landing as he could and let it roll out without touching the brakes. It rolled to a stop and, as if to add insult to injury, the back of the shuttle sagged to the ground as the tail structure collapsed, tilting Gig’s couch and his view to the dark sky.

His suit deflated as a voice over the comm said, “Finex. Simulation complete, Colonel. Debrief in the conference room.” He felt weight come back on as his couch and the view leveled then settled. Unstrapping, Gig got up and glanced at the empty captain’s couch as he turned and walked aft.

Fifteen minutes later, clad in a worn flight suit he stomped into the conference room down the hall from the trainer complex. Captain Sato sat on the far side of the table, a cup of tea in her hand and he growled, “Kimiko, what was that shit with the hologram?”

He started around the table as she jumped up to keep away from him, as a small, wizened Japanese man walked through the door. “Haruji-san, save me from the mean baka gaijin!” Kimiko tried to hide behind him, but Gig stopped and laughed as she was a couple of inches taller and in much better physical shape. Hell, she was almost as tall as he was. But he wasn’t exactly a poster boy for USAF pilots. Short, squat, with a paunch, and balding, he lived up to his callsign, ‘Stump’. But many an opponent learned the hard way how well he flew. A double ace in War Three, test pilot, and former NASA astronaut, he was loaned to JAaSA for the Mars mission.

Dr. Haruji Kazuki, the head of JAaSA, chuckled. “You are on your own, Kimiko, Gig is no stupid foreigner, as you well know.” He walked to the head of the table and sat, pulling up the holo keyboard as the screen at the end of the conference room lit brightly. “Now, we debrief. And no, Kimiko, what you did was not nice. Now…”

Gig finished his autochef coffee with disgust as Haruji finally said, “Gig, why didn’t you tell either Starship or MB1 what was going on?”

Gig smiled. “First rule of aviation! Aviate first, navigate second, communicate third.”

Kimiko snickered. “Less chance of calling them idiots, too. Is that why you punched your comms off?” She cocked her head. “And one other question, why did you pop the circuit breakers for both the nose and aft thrusters? That…significantly limited your roll control.”

Gig scrubbed his head. “Um, FX Fifty-one tests. Got up in subspace and had a thruster go wonky. Pulled just that one out, had lots of control trouble with only a single thruster on that side vs. two on the other. Pulled them both and got control back, if a little slower rate.”

Kimiko asked, “Why didn’t you eject the left engine when you got the fire warning? EPs say…”

Gig held up his hand, interrupting, “My bad. Years as a test pilot. Bring the malfunction back to see if we could determine the cause. I should have ejected it immediately.”

An hour later, Haruji shut down the holo screen and said, “We are done. Normal time in the morning for water training.”

Gig sighed as he got up. “I’m gonna go find a good cup of coffee.” He stumped out leaving the two of them standing there.

(C) 2024 JL Curtis All Rights Reserved

Now the real question — Should I have identified this as a simulation earlier? Bouncing this off the supper crowd, some thought I waited too long to ID it.


Random snippet… — 29 Comments

  1. I was very much in the story, waiting for crash trucks on balloon tires and medics in atmosphere suits — then FINEX. That pulled me back to the other story: why he’s loaned to JASA.

    It works, maybe a bit long, but didn’t notice.

  2. I agree with Psychokitteh. The immediate action pulls you into the story, whether you like it or not. In the back of my mind, I thought it might be a training sim due to the number of domino emergencies. If the simulator is this bad, what’s his NATOPS (or equivalent) checkride going to be like?

  3. I’m with Psychokitteh and Ray, it is a great way of pulling you into the story.

    Once I saw it was an exercise, I was reminded of the Apollo 11 simulation just before launch where SimSup threw some arcane alarms at them on descent, and they made what was graded as the wrong call on aborting the landing (they recommended abort when they should have called proceed). Odd thing was they had the same alarms during the actual landing and that sim gave them the knowledge base to handle them correctly.

    I’m curious why he is on loan as well. Joint mission maybe?

  4. Perfect as implemented. Go with your gut after having read enough of your writing I’m of the opinion you are right far more often than not.

  5. This is great. I like it as is.
    If you are that worried about it, add a couple of words that the reader will likely miss, but look back on.
    Maybe have a meteorite impact on screen that doesn’t jar the ship?
    John in Indy
    I wondered for a while why I knew Gig Halvorsen, then I remembered Generations and The Grey Man.

  6. I think it works well, but then I’ve always loved Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and its opening.

  7. It worked for me as written. Just as you level off for cruise and are mellow, calm, and your mind starts to wander a lit— POP WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE! [horrible loud whistle as door seal fails]

  8. Keep it as written. I started to think that it was a simulation, but the pace of the story kept me reading.

  9. I’d say to keep it as it is.
    I dislike it when people don’t call emergencies when they should.
    Of course, I’ve done the same thing, when solo, as a student. So I probably shouldn’t talk 😛

  10. Timing good.

    IMNSHO, once you say “simulation”, any further narration is mere word-count padding. Gotta get Same‘s last wheeze in while it still has –albeit clichéd– impact.

    IMHO, Same vs Same could use a little work for those of us not so Japanese aware. Broke the flow, going back to the glareshield text once the “Japanese” and “saa-may” pennies dropped.

  11. Now have some other thoughts after comments. The simulator also needs testing, for operations and activation tree cascades. Who better than a test pilot, to find problems early?

    Depends on the story, but I have an inkling that having a Wild Card aboard may be vital for the mission. Pilot who can ignore the right warnings and a backup mission commander … someone up the chain is politely and quietly buying insurance.

    … and the piggyback now looks warily at me again.

  12. Agree with the others. Leave as is. The only difference between a GOOD simulation and the real thing is that in the simulation you don’t die.

  13. Couldn’t fault it.

    Was appreciating his professionalism. I could get behind this character. It’s not just the action that is a hook.

  14. I like the surprise of FINEX, however, it was kinda suspicious having so many things go wrong. The scene did pull me in immediately, though.

    Thrusters: perhaps “fore and aft” or “bow and stern”? “Bow and aft” sounds odd to me like saying “left and starboard”.

  15. 1) I like the overall story, quite a lot actually. This should be added to, polished, and published.

    2) I agree with everyone above who said keeping disclosure of it being a simulation until later is the correct call. You effectively hook and reel in the reader as it stands. Good job.

    3) I do have one spot where I got jarred out of my suspension of disbelief:

    Right after Gil is asked if he’s declaring an emergency:

    Gil chuckled. “Negative, MB1, it’s too late for that. Thirty seconds out.”

    He asked for medical AND crash emergency response teams, but he’s not going to declare an emergency with a simple “Confirmed. I am declaring an emergency” when it’s obvious it is, and when declaring is fully justified. Why? This would seem to put him in a vulnerable position of having his professional judgement questioned after the fact.

  16. Heh, my world every day. Not as violent but a lot more players.
    Love how you start in medias res. Sucks you in.
    Couple of niggling notes… my White Cell calls “knock it off” rather than FINEX. And I’ve never punched breakers off. I’ve had to pull them to disable the circuit and push them back in to reset and power.
    Can’t wait for more.
    Wandering Neurons

  17. Ag- The test pilots I knew were loath to declare an emergency unless they were literally on fire…

    WN- It’s the future… who knows what the next gen CBs are gonna be…LOL

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