Hydrofoil by carlsojos

You've been working on paperwork for nearly 3 hours when you hear a knock at the door. You look up as a young pilot wanders in. "Doing Pilot's paperwork, eh?" Indeed you are. The Wren prototype is skilled at pushing the limits of virtually any machine he can fit his cybernetic butt in, but when it comes to clerical tasks, his weak battery and lack of interest guarantees that he won't get anything done before he shuts down or disappears. After nearly a month of trying to get him to work on the paperwork in between flights, you finally gave up and added the various documents and forms to your already sizable mountain of paper. At least the commanding officer in charge of vehicle testing gave you a desk to hide the mess inside of, to celebrate lasting more than a week as his copilot.

You put down your pen and look at the young man in front of you. Spitkill, that's what his callsign is. Pilot says he got the name because he's as just as aggressive as the monster when he's at the stick of a SAFA jet. "You wanna play hooky?" A quick glance at your desk, and you decide you could use a break. "Go put on the fatigues from my locker, and meet me at the lake in an hour."

You quickly push your paperwork under the desk, and make your way to the locker room. After stowing your flight suit, you open Spitkill's locker and pull out a uniform. You manage to squeeze in without resorting to a shoehorn, and make your way out of Piata, unaccustomed to having military insignia on your shoulders.

You reach the lake where Spitkill was already waiting, trying to take out the ducks with pebbles. "Good, you made it here. If anyone asks, you're a Second lieutenant, 7th SAFA squadron, Echo Wing. Follow my lead, and keep your mouth shut unless you have to speak, got it?" You follow Spitkill a short ways, and join in a small formation of soldiers standing on the beach.

Just as you were starting to get bored, you notice a half dozen vessels approach on the water. They break into two groups, and come ashore, drifting to a gentle stop on either side of the formation. On the left sits three hovercraft, a famous design that the military's been using for nearly 30 years, but on your right sits strange machines you don't recognize. Out of the machines climb a few officers and scientists, who gather in front of your formation. An old man with general's stars on his hat takes the center of the group.

"Soldiers, at ease." You notice the others suddenly change stance, and you quickly copy them. “The reason why you are gathered here is to test a new machine. As you may know, the Motavian military has always maintained operational capabilities for amphibious assaults. For many years, the vehicle of choice for a theater such as this locale has been a weaponized variant of a consumer-grade Hovercraft. Of course, there are certain limitations for a vessel such as this, and we've been seeking to remedy the situation. Today, we are to determine whether we have found the eventual successor to the old workhorse.

"The Hydrofoil uses a plasma-magnetic system to develop adaptive wings to enable high-speed movement on water without sacrificing control, and it can redirect the plasma into a cloud to keep the vessel mobile on solid ground, and anything in between. This special setup improves the vessel's carry capacity by about 300 percent over the Hovercraft, and its responsive handling theoretically means that even a relative novice can pick up the basics of operation, which is why we've requested for some SAFA pilots to surrender their R and R time to join us. They will take the Hydrofoils, and to really test them, I've hand selected the best hovercraft pilots available to man their machines. Go ahead and inspect your steeds, gentlemen."

You carefully study the machines, noting the stark differences between the two types. As you climb atop one of the Hydrofoils, you notice someone watching you in the distance. You look over and recognize him as your commanding officer, apparently laughing about your little escapade. You pretend you didn't see him, and he walks off as you climb into the cockpit.

After you got strapped into the pilot's seat, you watch as the other soldiers do the same to the other machines. After you flip a switch to start the onboard systems, you hear the radio crackle to life, "SAFA Echoes, the Hydrofoils have a simple control scheme. The wheel works just like any wheeled forklift or handcart, and the pedals tell the thing to go. Right pedal is forward thrust, left is reverse, and both at the same time will deploy the airbrake. Go ahead and practice maneuvering in the center lake, and head to waypoint zero-zero-one via the East River when ready. Frog Alphas, do as you will, and rendezvous at the same point." You put the right pedal on the floor, and immediately get thrown into the padded seat so far that your foot slips off the pedal, causing you to oscillate back forward onto the pedal again. You hear laughter from the others as they pull onto the lake without incident.

"Echo 3, are you broken?" You apologize in the radio, and after finding the seat adjustments, you finally get out onto the lake yourself. The first thing that's apparent is the vast increase in speed as the plasma cloud underneath the vessel turns into underwater wings, keeping the ship just above the water's surface, while still letting you pull turns tighter than anything you've rode inside of in the sky. After you get the hang of driving at speed, you portage around the blue dam, and line your ship up next to the others where the ocean starts.

"SAFA Echoes and Frog Alphas, on scene."

"P, on scene." Who's P? You pull up a rear view camera to see a fourth Hydrofoil pull up behind you.

"Good. Since it would be unfair to do team verses team with uneven numbers, this is going to be a last man standing skirmish. Winner gets a promotion. Your cannons are loaded with dummy rounds, but the special weapons are live, so do NOT engage targets marked blue on your HUD. Ready?" You realize that the person behind you has an unfair advantage over you!

Just as you were about to interject, "Begin." Thinking quickly, you put the left pedal on the ground and drive into the other hydrofoil as fast as you can. "What the-" Your vessel goes airborne as the plasma generators get confused by the metal underneath, and you keep going as the others begin to fire shots at each other.

"Hey, that's cheating!" You reply with your best snide comment, and fire your cannons at the person, but he manages to spin out of the way before the shells could connect. You quickly accelerate through the battlezone to lose the person, and you watch with the rear view camera as all five other units get struck with a Thunder Grid that clearly was intended for you. You pour on the speed as the dented machine gives chase, and you soon feel an impact as dummy shells ricochet off your armored hull.

"Echo 3, watch your six!" You engage the airbrake, and watch as another thunder grid erupts mere feet beyond your bow. You spin around to face the other hydrofoil, and as you begin to question your own sanity, you power towards the other guy. He manages to pirouette out of the way instead of skittering backwards like you wanted, and you quickly have the obviously angry soldier hugging your back like a shadow.

"Nice try, but you can't beat the best!" Fresh out of tricks, you look at all the controls you've yet to touch. There must be a way to slow down faster than the other Hydrofoil... you find the circuit breakers. After a quick thought, you disable the front plasma generator....

The nose of the craft drops underwater and the entire machine begins to somersault across the ocean surface. "Roll rescue craft!" As you feel the world fly out of control, you arm your X-Burst, and when you catch a glimpse of the other Hydrofoil upside down, you fire the shell, and watch in slow motion as it splashes under the other craft, and erupts in a blast of light.

You could've sworn you saw the Great Light and had lunch together before your Hydrofoil finally stopped spinning and landed correct side up. You restart all the systems that had stalled during your unorthodox maneuver, and as the plasma generators begin to take over the work of the emergency floats, you hear the radio erupt with the sounds of everybody trying to talk to you at once. You decide to drive like an old lady back to shore.

As a medic shines a light in your eyes, you could hear that General person standing behind you, clearly irate over your small mistake. As soon as the medic walks off, a rough hand spins you around. "What the hell were you thinking?! You could've gotten yourself killed out there! Who the hell are you, anyway?!" The man tears your wallet out of your pocket, and pulls out your ID card. "A fucking civilian pilot? You gotta be shitting me!"

"That one's my copilot." You look over to see Pilot exiting the Hydrofoil you turned into a speed bump earlier.

"Wren-P, what are you talking about?"

"The testing commander assigns me civvies since I go through so many copilots, but I think this one just earned one hell of a pay raise."

"I think a tribunal would be more appropriate for this maniac."

"Hey, scientist guy! Are any of the ships permanently damaged?" One of the people overlooking the different machines trots over.

"No, it looks like the auto-repair mechanisms are functioning normally."

"Then no harm, no foul. Besides, this is the first time I've been killed in an exercise! This bastard here is the original Pilot Killer!" The android slaps you on the back, and you are almost sent flying. Before the officer could argue further, Pilot pushes you away, and leads you in front of the other soldiers and pilots. "Behold, PKer! The Pilot Killer!" Whoever designed Pilot's personality should be shot. At least the name's too dumb to stick, right?

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