New Empire, Graduation 1

Jalia sat in the back of her group’s training shuttle. She was bored stiff back there, but she wanted to be the last to fly. She had realized a while back to watch others make the mistakes so that she could learn from them.

Tamea sat next to her and was reading over the navigational rules and standards handbook. She had been the first to go and hadn’t done a bad job.

The instructor leaned back and yelled to Jalia, “Trainee Quinn, you’re up!”

The trainee who was piloting clambered back though the seats to his original one. There wasn’t much room in these shuttles. The cabin was only 5 feet tall with a width of about 8 feet and it had about four rows of seats (including the pilot/co-pilots seats). Jalia also clambered through the group on the way to the front. She couldn’t imagine spending her career piloting one of these things, but she had to pass this class to become a Pilot rank. That was the lowest rank you had to be to serve in the Empire.

She sat down and the pilot handed her a pair of goggles. “These will display a virtual test course. I can see it through a display on my side so just take your time, be careful, and remember to not jerk the controls. These little shuttles are more maneuverable than they look. Just start when you’re ready.”

Jalia slid the goggles over her head and took a moment to look around and get used to them. Just could see everything normally but on what seemed to be a split-second delay. It was almost as if she was seeing the world through a digital camera viewfinder. When she turned her head the universe took a moment to catch up.

She glanced around the cabin. She could still see the instructor and everybody else, but the empty space in front of the shuttle was now filled with holographic asteroids and a large, semi-transparent tube winding through them. That was the course she had to follow.

The single control stick was very touchy. Jalia had learned that valuable lesson earlier in training. She gripped it lightly and quickly “tapped” it in the direction she needed to go. She’d seen experienced pilots jerk the controls all around and point the shuttle directly in the direction they wanted but she wasn’t near that experienced yet.

She reached down with her right hand and gripped the main engine throttle. This wasn’t as touchy as the main controls so she slowly nudged it forward.

The shuttle barely vibrated as the engines throttled up and Jalia slowly guided it through the test course.

She had a few close calls, but keeping it at a slow pace helped her out immensely. The only part about piloting in space that she hated was that for every motion you made you had to make a motion in the opposite direction to stop again. This was a simple concept to grasp, but when doing multiple maneuvers at once it started to get complicated. Her trainer had taught them in the beginning that most computer assisted flight systems these days compensated for the pilot and that “counter-thrusting” wasn’t necessary, but for training purposes older, vintage shuttles were used.

After the main part of the course there was a section full of moving asteroids. This was just extra credit. How you handled this portion of the test was just noted on your record. Jalia didn’t get very far at all, but she wasn’t upset about it. She had no plans on piloting again. She was just happy to have completed the main portion of the obstacle course and pass the class.

The instructor patted her on the shoulder. “You did well. You can take of the goggles now.” He marked a few things down on a clipboard in his lap. “Well congratulations everybody. You all passed.” He took and slipped his clipboard into a pocket over his head. “If you want to take your seat Ms Quinn I’ll fly us home.”

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