Test Flight by carlsojos

"Hey, you awake?" An elderly man in a flight suit nudges you awake, and you take note of his commander's bars. For a moment, you forgot why you're here. You're currently in a pilot's lounge waiting for your first assignment. You've been working here for a few days, for routine things like getting fitted for a flight suit and miscellaneous paperwork, but today's supposed to be your first time in the cockpit of a training ship. You get up and salute the man.

"I know what the plan was, but the guy you're supposed to work with just resigned. I'm transferring you to the test wing, and you're gonna fly with Pilot today."

"Pilot who?" you ask.

"He's a prototype of a new android. He's already on the tarmac. Go to VTOL pad 5, he'll be inside the ship there." Confused, you put on your pressurized flight suit, and walk outside to the spaceport just outside Piata. Indeed, you notice a brand-new ship waiting, so new that it doesn't even have its registration number painted on, yet. You board the ship and jump into the copilot's seat.

As you strap in, you look over to see a military android, relatively humanoid compared to most other units, sitting in the pilot's seat. "About time- you're new, right?" You indicate yourself as such. "Nice to meet you. I'm a Wren-P, type 8064. Word is that they plan to build more of me in about 25 years, but I'm not exactly ready for the market, yet."


"Them eggheads think I'm too smart for my own good, and I agree. Without external power, I drain a standard power pack in less than 16 hours, so I wouldn't last very long in a battle. However, the extra processor power makes me better equipped to handle testing the controls of new ships, compared to most machines." Testing new ships? You thought this was about training a new pilot! "You didn't ask why they were wanting to train new pilots, did ya? You're about to find out!"

With a laugh, Wren-P engages the hover motors, and fires the main engines as soon as the ship's nose ascended beyond the three control towers nearby. You are thrown into your seat as the ship immediately accelerates, and are entirely unable to move until the ship settles into a cruise over the central lake. "I go through a lot of copilots, and I've flown a lot of ships. Whenever a new airframe leaves the factory, they have me test it to make sure it'll handle to the specifications it's supposed to. This one's a real treat, though. Twin RAMJET engines, with adaptive diffusers to enable supersonic flight, gives off up to 900 kN of thrust in the air, and 6 130 kN rockets, plus turbopumps to boost output another 30 kN per motor, all strapped to a lightweight Ambassador chassis, and you've got something that'll outrun virtually everything. Its power to mass ratio is about 37 newtons per kilogram!" To demonstrate, the android slowly throttles up the engines until the radio comes to life, reminding him of the speed limit over land. He isn't even at half throttle!

"Go back and check on my passengers. We'll reach the testing zone in a few minutes." You unstrap yourself from the seat, and walk into the passenger bay. In every seat sits a testing mannequin, specially designed to require the same conditions as a human passenger, except that they also record the data on internal memory to assist in analyzing what does go wrong, if anything does. You confirm that they are all strapped in correctly and equipped with the emergency masks- even the emergency systems get tested during certification. You eventually make your way back to your seat as the land below is replaced by ocean.

"Arm the ejector seats." Before you can respond, "Don't worry, it's just a precaution. This is an untested ship, after all." You find a button on your side of the controls, and turn it from "safe" to "ready." The ship computer beeps at you to make sure you know what you're doing, and Wren-P immediately throws the ship into a corkscrew, manually setting the ship's variable-sweep wings into the forward position, and gradually works into a tight circle until warning lights start flashing, warning about wing stress. "Test 1, good." The ship then goes to a full throttle vertical dive, falling so fast that even the windscreen turns to a cherry red as the atmospheric friction causes the outside temperatures to go to 4 digit levels on the monitor screens. With a sudden yank on the stick, the ship pulls out of the dive, nearly knocking you unconscious from the sudden forces pulling blood into your legs. Fortunately, you recover quickly, and you manage to shoot an angry glance at the pilot, who simply laughs back before saying something into the radio.


"I said, I forgot you were human. I'll warn you next time I pull 10 G." You check to make sure your pressure suit is working, and happen to notice an unidentified vessel approaching the ship. You point this out to Wren-P. "Oh, I do believe I've attracted some attention. Hang on," the android pulls the stick back and engages the airbrake to drop the airspeed as fast as possible. As the vessel flies past underneath, Wren-P rolls the ship upside-down, and you notice the insignia on the vessel as part of the Motavian Air Force.

"Shit, it's a SAFA." You don't know your ships very well, but you understand that SAFA stands for Space/Air Fighter/Attack plane. The pilot closes the airbrake, and goes into a vertical dive to build more speed. "I hope you like G-LOC, man!" The android once again pulls out mere feet above the ocean, and the fighter winds up pulling out of its dive in the wrong direction to avoid hitting the water. Wren-P laughs again as he quickly arcs upward to thinner air. As the sky turns black, you can feel all the motors fire at the same time, the turbopumps working to generate maximum thrust.

Before the ship could build enough speed to escape the battle, the ship's computer goes bonkers, "Missile lock! Warning! Missile lock!" You glance nervously at Wren-P as you grasp the ejector lever, but he shakes his head.

"I still have a few tricks, so hang on!" Suddenly, Wren-P similtaneously fires the retro and hover engines, and when the ship begins spinning through the thin air, immediately turns off the APU, causing everything in the cockpit to go dark as the missile harmlessly flies underneath. You can't help but panic as the ship tumbles out of control, but Wren-P engages the emergency power cell, and reactivates some of the on board systems. As the radio is initialized, he turns to you, "You might want to use your emergency mask, the life support doesn't work without power." You don it, and with a test breath to make sure the air is coming out properly, you nod as Wren-P has you test his mask, too.

Once you've proved they both work, he calls out, "Alright, abort the drill. You almost had me there, Spitkill!"

"You're crazy, Pilot! Who the hell would willingly throw themselves into an uncontrolled spin like that?!"

"Someone with a missile going up the ass! Let me stabilize this bird." Wren-P engages the RCS, and manually forces the ship to point in the direction it's traveling so the air will start to travel over the wings again. "Piata, Pilot. Confirming that my vessel has passed the certification test. Complete the registration." He turns to you as he uses the emergency cell to bootstrap the APU. "I think Tyler will be very happy with his new ship."

"Pilot, acknowledged. Ship is now registered as Private Spaceplane Landale, Ambassador Class. Bring it back to Piata when convenient." Wren-P restarts the remaining systems, and cruises back to the spaceport, skillfully using the different thrusters to guide the vessel into a gentle vertical landing.