Authors: Michael John Olson
Tags: #Science Fiction
STELLA MARIS PUBLISHING
Copyright © 2013 by Michael John Olson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations for the purpose of review. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events are products of the author’s imagination and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events and people, living or dead, are purely coincidental.
Michael John Olson can be reached on Facebook at “Michael John Olson”
BREEZE CORINTH ADJUSTED HIS
goggles and checked the nav-compass on his wrist.
He had come to the fairgrounds without his father’s knowledge. The annual air show was here, and he had entered it. He stood in his hangar waiting for his turn to be called.
He looked around at the other participants in their hangars and saw crew members in color coordinated shirts representing various teams scramble over their aerocraft. They hustled with a heated urgency that was intense and vibrant to watch and feel. Wings were inspected while fuel was loaded into empty tanks. Engines were fired up and revved to ensure maximum performance. All around them lay a dizzying array of tools and equipment. The smell of fuel was everywhere. With each passing moment, the din of voices and machines intermixed, heading toward a fevered crescendo that never seemed to arrive.
Outside the hangars, the roar of the crowds was intense. It came and went like waves on the ocean. The sound of turbines roaring overhead were immediately followed by the crowd cheering its hearty approval of yet another daredevil act performed by a pilot.
Breeze looked around his empty hangar and felt very alone. There were no tools or equipment to be found or color coordinated teammates swarming around. It was just him and a jet pack that lay at his feet.
A wrangler showed up to his hangar. He glanced at Breeze then his clipboard as a puzzled look crept up on his face. He kept looking back and forth between the two, expecting to find something he was missing.
“Breeze Corinth? From Conception?”
Breeze nodded. “Yes, that’s me.”
“Oh.” He looked again at his clipboard. “A jet pack flier, huh? Any teammates, crew?”
“No, just me.”
“Oh.” He shrugged his shoulders. “All right son, you’re up next.”
Breeze reached down to grab the shoulder straps of the jet pack. He strained to lift it up and then struggled to secure it onto his back. The wrangler stood and watched with an expressionless face.
He adjusted the belt strap that cinched the jet pack closer to his waist, then stood up straight and tried in vain to adjust his flight suit. It was an odd patchwork of leather and fire proof material that was obviously stitched together haphazardly. His boots were mismatched and oversized. The jet pack itself was a mishmash of various sized fuel tanks that fed a series of nozzles spread across the lower part of the pack. On his chest was a panel that contained multiple switches and dials. A pair of handles were connected to the pack and jutted out at shoulder level.
The wrangler took in the sight of him with a vacant stare. “Are you ready now?”
“Yes.” Breeze heard himself say, but didn’t feel it.
The wrangler stepped back and made a waving motion with his hand toward the entranceway of the arena.
Breeze stepped out of his hangar and was immediately met with jeers from the surrounding teams.
“Jet Pack Boy! Watch out everybody!” a crew member from across his hangar shouted. His teammates laughed and pointed at Breeze.
“Get an aerocraft! Nobody cares about those jet packs anymore!” one of them shouted.
Breeze didn’t respond as he pulled down his goggles. He tried to walk with a dignified pose but the weight and bulk of the jet pack made him swerve to the left and right making it difficult to do so.
The wrangler signaled him to stop at the entrance to the arena. Inside, the announcer, a heavy set man with a sweat stained shirt was wrapping up the last pilot’s performance by whipping up the crowd into a frenzy over his death defying antics. “Are you ready for more high flying action?” he called out to the crowd. They responded with wild cheers as an aircrew guided an aerocraft to the center of the arena. The cheers grew even more jubilant as a pilot stepped into the arena wearing a colorful uniform. Tucked under his arm was a helmet. He strode with great confidence as he raised a hand to greet the crowd while the announcer spoke.
“Ladies and Gentleman from all across the Great Sands, it is a pleasure to welcome back a fan favorite. You know who he is. You can’t stop lovin’ this guy! I give you the Desert Country’s favorite son born and raised right here in our town of Conception, Buck Bonanza!”
The announcer whipped around and pointed at the pilot as the crowd erupted into a mad frenzy. Buck waved to them as he jumped onto the wing of his aerocraft and raised a fist into the air. The already adoring crowd could no longer contain itself as the entire arena was drowned in the deafening chant of “Buck, Buck, Buck!”
Breeze watched with a mixture of fascination and dread. He had been coming to these air shows since he was a child and he knew just how spectacular they could be. What started off as an informal gathering of local pilots to show off their latest creations and flying skills grew into an annual show that was massive in size and scope. Teams from all over the Desert Country would come to show off the latest aerocraft they created during the off-season and aerobatic maneuvers that had been mastered to an ever growing crowd of worshipers who came to see them.
The pilots were seen as modern day gods who drove chariots across the skies, performing feats of great daring that cheated death on a constant basis. The adoring crowds below were the faithful flock who admired them while wearing clothing that mimicked the garb of their favorite pilot.
The Desert Country Air Show was the crowning event that was preceded by a series of lesser gatherings all across the territory. The air teams would compete against one another for an entire season. They would earn points based upon their performance that determined their ranking. All of this culminated in the grand event that was the Desert Country Air Show. It was the final tournament for the season that would crown the winner for the year. It didn’t matter how low you were in the rankings. If a lower ranking pilot was willing to put it all on the line, he could make up the needed points and move up higher in the rankings to secure a better finish for the year. The higher ranking meant greater opportunity for the pilot in financial support and sponsorship for the next season. In the harsh environment that was the Great Sands, this was the big chance to make a better life for oneself. Even a pilot’s flight crew benefited from his good fortune.
Many young men looked forward to becoming pilots along with the wealth and glory that came with it. The desire was so strong they were willing to look the other way at the pilots who died in horrific accidents. In the quest to be the most daring and innovative, they would often face their doom in an unfortunate meeting of aerocraft and desert floor.
Buck Bonanza donned his helmet and lowered himself into the cockpit. It was a gorgeous aerocraft painted in red and blue with wings that swept back towards the tail. Under each wing was a turbine that spooled up slowly as the ground crew detached hoses and wires from the craft, then retreated to the safety of the bunkers that were partially submerged into the ground that lined the sides of the arena.
The turbines roared to life as flames spit out of the exhausts. Breeze couldn’t tell what was louder; the sound of the engines or the wild cheering from the crowd. He covered his ears and turned to look at the wrangler who was heartily cheering himself. “Whoo yaaah! Go Buck, go!” He kept shouting.
Breeze wobbled as the heavy jet pack shifted and he almost fell. He bent his knees to lower his center of gravity, and then steadily stood straight up. Meanwhile, Buck was hovering in his aerocraft as he lapped the arena, waving to his adoring fans.
The announcer hollered into the microphone. “Buck Bonanza, begin your championship run!”
With that proclamation, Buck throttled the engines and his craft leapt up into the wild blue sky above.
The aerocraft streaked like an arrow as it rapidly ascended.
Suddenly, both engines erupted with smoke and flame, sending the aerocraft tumbling to the arena floor. The crowd gasped and screamed as the aerocraft hurtled to the ground. Befitting of a daredevil, Buck brought the aeroplane under control and halted its descent inches above the ground. It hovered briefly, and then touched down onto the arena floor.
He immediately slid the glass canopy back and jumped up to wave to the crowd as they cheered him and expressed their relief. Fire crews swarmed the craft and doused the flames from the engines.
“Folks, Buck’s air crew will perform some repairs to his bird so they can get him back into the sky. In the meantime, let’s keep the action going. What do you say?” The crowd cheered in response.
“All right then, who do we have to perform? How about,” the announcer paused briefly as he looked down at his notes. “I see. How about some jet pack action? You guys like that, right?” The excitement level of the crowd noticeably dropped as a few boos spread across the arena. Within seconds, the chanting of “Buck! Bonanza! Buck! Bonanza!” began to grow.
“Awww, come on, I know you all are just kidding! Here we go everybody, local daredevil just dyin’ to entertain you, Breeze Corinth!”
The crowd half-heartedly cheered as even more boos and catcalls erupted across the arena.
The wrangler turned to Breeze and jerked a thumb toward center stage. “That’s you kid, show them what you got.”
Breeze swallowed hard as he felt sweat roll down his face. He took a step forward and almost tumbled to the ground. He entered the arena to an extremely disappointed and agitated crowd as boos and jeers rained down from the stands.
Breeze waved to the crowd. That made him lose his balance and he fell to the ground. The crowd laughed and yelled wildly as chants of “Bring Back Buck! Bring Back Buck!” rippled throughout the arena.
Breeze struggled to get up as the announcer shook his head.
“Well folks, I think Breeze here is trying to give you a little extra entertainment value by performing a clown act before his demonstration. I’m fully confident he is an accomplished jet pack flier. Come on son, step right up and give these people a show!”
Breeze managed to get to the center of the arena without stumbling any further. Against a growing backdrop of catcalls and boos, he adjusted his goggles again and began fumbling with the various dials and switches on his chest. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Buck’s aircrew scrambling over his aerocraft and rushing through repairs. He tried to not let the bustle of activity distract him anymore. He centered himself and closed his eyes.
He reached up to grip the handles that extended from the jet pack and tried to imagine soaring high above the crowd and the noise they made along with the smell of fuel that soaked the arena. High above everything and everyone and free from his troubles. There, in the blue sky where everything always seemed to be all right. He did this before and he could do it again.
He opened his eyes, expecting to find himself soaring through the air to the growing cheers from the crowd below. Instead, he was still firmly planted on the arena floor with the crowd growing more restless and angry.
“All right now folks, Breeze is just stirring up the anticipation. Now c’mon son, light that candle and let’s get this show on!” The announcer called out.
Breeze panicked. He realized what a mistake all of this was. He was used to flying when he was alone behind the shed of his father’s scrap yard. Alone, where he was free to concentrate without critical eyes scrutinizing his every move. Now, he was surrounded by a sea of judgmental glares. He could feel their searing glances as the crowd chanted “Go away! Go away!”
Breeze turned toward Buck and his crew. To his horror, they had stopped their repairs and were staring at him. Buck stood in front of his aerocraft shaking his head.
Breeze looked away. He never felt more devastated. The most popular man in the arena had just given him the thumbs down. He needed to get up into the air, and quick.
He closed his eyes and threw his head back while extending his arms out like wings. The crowd was in a frenzy of anger as the jeers and screams grew louder. He couldn’t concentrate. The voices were too overwhelming. He felt like he was drowning.
A tap on his shoulder from the announcer made him turn around suddenly. The weight of the jet pack was too much to handle and it sent him tumbling to the ground. The crowd laughed mightily as he struggled to get up. The announcer reached down to help him up. He pulled hard and Breeze fell onto him, sending them both to the ground.
The announcer rolled Breeze off in disgust and scrambled to his feet. Breeze lay helplessly on the arena floor while the announcer vainly dusted himself off and cursed loudly.
A figure loomed over Breeze. It was Buck. He held out a hand and carefully pulled him up while his aircrew helped to steady Breeze from behind.
“That’s quite a setup you’ve got there, son. Do you have much experience with it?” Buck pointed at the jet pack.
Breeze was tongue tied as he thought feverishly for an answer. It was hard to look at the pilot and think at the same time. Buck was a hero to him, and he knew what a fool he was making himself out to be.
“Umm, yeah. A few flights. Just behind the shed at my father’s—”
“Hey Buck, come check this out. I don’t even think he has fuel in these tanks,” one of Buck’s aircrew called out.
The pilot’s eyes narrowed, and the smile on his face faded quickly. “Check again Chet, I’m sure you’re mistaken.”
“No boss, no mistakes here. Take a look for yourself.” Chet was looking over the jet pack as Breeze stood frozen in place.
Buck stared hard at Breeze as he spoke. “I’m sure there is plenty of fuel in there. Let it go.”
Chet shrugged his shoulders. “If you say so boss.” Without another word, Chet and the rest of the crew left to finish the repairs on Buck’s aerocraft.
Buck placed a hand on Breeze’s shoulder. “You had a slight malfunction with your jet pack. It’s okay, it happens. Let it go and head for home. You gave it your best shot.”
The announcer waddled up to them as he spoke into the microphone. “Well, looky here folks! Buck is giving some sage advice to our intrepid jet pack flier. Tell us Buck, what are you sayin’ to him?”
Buck snatched the microphone and shot a harsh glare at the pudgy and sweaty man. The pilot closed his eyes and wiped his brow. When he opened them, a smile appeared as he took a deep breath and spoke.