Twentieth Anniversary Fox
Standing around HQ, there was much commotion as the early crew began preparations. Safety and comfort were of the utmost importance tonight. The total flight time would be lengthy, but so would the time spent on the distant star. We would need special provisions for the night. It was worrying as we noticed at 2000 that none had yet been delivered, but just then DeadBride arrived with the important package in tow.
This would be a mission for the tried and true, but so far it was looking as if a slew of un-tested maggots were dominating HQ. It started with a stray, calling himself Sherpa, looking for a "mentor". Oh sure we had Everest and MacGyver; we thought they could handle themselves, but they just hadn't logged the hours yet for us to be sure. These saplings had heard the stories; and who could blame them -- they wanted a piece of the action. This was more than a mission; it was a celebration. At 2100 hours, just when we thought we were going to be up to our necks in meal-worms, one more one-flight (a full year ago, I might add) hot-shot graced us with his presence. He'd brought his own ship, as if that would be enough to make us lick his boots. I dutifully gathered the requisite paper work. After-all, he'd followed the letter of the law, and I was in no position to tell a foolhardy greenhorn he couldn't lay down his life for the cause. I had agreed to show him the ropes a year ago and I intended to keep that promise. He knew it was a special night, and he clearly had something to prove. Hell, pilots we hadn't seen in ages showed up: moose, Rotwang, Zygoat, snarly, I could go on. A few of them Emeritus, if you get my meaning. This was sure to be an experience.
Shortly before launch the Admiral gave a rousing speech, talked about camaraderie, begged the unprepared not to be heroes, and begged the prepared not to be morons. We are worth more alive than dead to the cause. With this in mind, he led by example, saying he'd been cutting back on his hours, knowing getting himself injured or killed from over-work wouldn't be a help to anyone. He urged us to do what we needed to do to keep healthy. The Admiral had kept this regiment in constant cycle for damn near 20 years (pedants like dreadflint would keep counting until Tuesday), and that's what tonight's mission was all about.
On the launch pad Beetle Juice straightened her rear thruster with the help of dogi and a wrench from flat bag. The Admiral coated his own face in ceremonial purple war dust and offered to any other pilots, who shared his book of superstitions, colored powder to do the same. I'm not a god-fearing man myself, but I admire the (sometimes strange) rituals of others. Baptized in purple dust, 20 years a new man. As is the custom of a space regiment, the next order of business was for new ships to be christened in steering dampener. Space-pilots are often superstitious folks, and it's no wonder why. With the dangers of space travel as they are, it's probably comforting to believe you're not the only one in charge of your own flight-path. No telling when you might get sucked out of an air lock, or crushed by a near-flying heavy transport. Well, that hot-shot I mentioned earlier it seems went by the handle Dust, and his HARV Bronco that day was baptized in beer - a poetic symmetry whispered to me by the voodoo fly-boy of the Starchasers Shadow Man. What business he felt he had backing our asses in SCUL Prime territory I will never understand, but I certainly appreciate the camaraderie of any pilot who trained under my own mentor, and founder of the Starchasers, Civitron. Even so, I intended to remain cynical about the kid. Maggots are maggots 'til they grow wings.
The Admiral shouted "fall ranks!", counted us off, shook our hands, and looked each of us in the eye.
We flew from the launch pad to a fanfare, ships wired up with classic space flight tunes to amp us up for the difficulties ahead. Rocket trumpeted our departure proudly. Civilians cheered as we passed in parade manner. We play the superheroes they want us to be, and y'know, after a while, I think it starts to rub off on us, gets through our skin, and we start getting it in our heads we really are superheroes. As we traveled past the planet MIT, we discovered the the Cambridge system was honoring our journey and our 20 year celebration with a gorgeous array of fireworks. What a wonderful honor to know how much we mean to them. It's enough to melt this reentry-burn-hardened heart, for a few minutes anyway. Truthfully though, the beauty of such an outpouring of love from the civilians almost brought a tear to my eye as we approached the hyper-space byway over the Charles asteroid belt.
While crossing the hyper-space byway into Boston territory, we passed a gang of hyper-drive ships returning from a mission. We showed each other due respect, welcoming them home while they cheered success for our journey. The Boston system is an unruly no man's land. We played our music loud and hollered out our adrenaline to let the roving bands of space pirates know we were a force to be reckoned with. All we really needed to do here was find our refueling station and defend it long enough to get what we needed. Captain Lordmcfuzz, our fearless navigator, led us to a location that was new to me – not our usual brand of fuel – but I trusted his intel. The place was friendly, willing to barter with us for fuel. Fleet Admiral Skunk broke out the chalk so we could leave our mark on the place. We played our music outside to scare off rivals during the refueling process. Wombat, Threespeed and Everest sorted through the trash reactor outside a closed Dunkin' Grenades, and found various forms of perfectly good grenades and fuel. Amazing what some systems throw out. New pilots had time to mingle with the old over fuel. Dust, Shadowman, and Bacchus broke out their dance moves. It's important for a fly-boy to know a step or two. You wouldn't believe the places busting a funk can get you out of or into. Every formally educated pilot takes dance lessons as part of the official curriculum; the blue collar pilots however, sometimes come in without a single clue. But we learn'em.
ZyGoat passed around strange chips that were alleged to be sprinkled with black garlic. They tasted more like the flavor packet from Ramen Noodles Oriental flavor.
We made our way to the North Eastern system where we found ourselves sucked into many a black hole. Half the fun is circling, as it pulls you in, and getting out again. Deadblow rode Spitfire masterfully. Rotwang cruised through the trouble in style. Leotoard's Trinity sparkled with gorgeous spiraling flame. With the fuel in tow, all we needed now was to make our way to the lookout of Arbo Re Tum, to do our regular surveillance of the area, and to celebrate The Admiral's 20 years of space travel. Perhaps this mission may not seem so imperative to the food, but 20 years of peace in space and 20 years of scientific research our fleet has made possible are reasons for we hardened pilots to take a load off and enjoy ourselves.
Heading towards the J.P. system it became clear we had an unauthorized vehicle drafting in our wake. He called himself Proteus, and after thorough scanning, he was certified an ally and we allowed him to join us on our mission.
As we approached the giant gates of Arbo Re Tum, we flipped our blackout switches and initiated silent running. It took some time to adjust to the darkness of deep space, inhabited planets now so far away, but we had the smell of alien flowers to lead us into the warm coolness of this strange familiar planet. The nighttime chirp of amphibious creatures filled our ears and kept us on the path away from dangerous waters. The g-wells rose up in the dark, and we had to push our ships hard to keep them on the straight and narrow. Flying blind is always difficult. Stogie on Wadlow hovered at an unclear point as a guiding beacon and warn pilots where to turn. At the bottom of a negi g-well we paused and dumped fuel, waiting until everyone caught up. A few spacewalks had already started but as the H.G. Wells became bigger more and more pilots were forced outside their ships to space walk to the lookout point. Wombat on The Birthday Girl, Abandon All Hope, tried his hardest but was early in the spacewalk program, near the end Everest finally spacewalked to the top, Sprocket was soon ejected, and DreadFlint crashed on his first attempt to mounting Moneypenny at a fork on a posi g-well. Fortunately, he arrived to the lookout point just in time to help Rocket find his lung plasma thruster.
At the top, the view of the planets and moons of Boston, Cambridge, and the Charles Asteroid Belt lay out before us, glowing in the darkness of space. Pilots left their ships and a space madness over took them, many began disrobing. Keeping my cool, I explained to the maggots that space sometimes had this effect on pilots, and that to fly in this condition came with a medal of honor. Beer and libation was passed around as Tyrian unleashed his pink surprise, an inflatable plastic couch for lounging on. After making sure Dust and Proteus were comfortable at this altitude, I departed and soon found DreadFlint and Stogie working on establishing communication to Stogie's radio,. XXIII and Sewer sat on the edge of the precipice talking about pyschedelic pilot experiences they'd had when a maddened Tyrian came by. MacGyver, Rocket and DeadBlow reclined on the Pink Surprise, and Sprocket passed around an infused lilac gin to Shadowman and Everest.
DeadBride unveiled her glorious all important package, a cake for the (commander) Admiral, celebrating 20 Years of SCUL. With a single command (commander) Fleet Admiral Skunk ended the space madness so we could knight two maggots into pilotdom. Candles were passed around for the occasion. The glorious knightsaber, wielded by Skunk, knighted Shadowman, and Leotard knighted her maggot Everest. Then, the Admiral announced that we must celebrate the 100th mission of a brave pilot. The orange pilot AceHole was hoisted up and carried around to celebrate his achievement. Then Skunk announced that it was the 200th mission of a few pilots. He called out "Threespeed!" A Space Madness clearly had him, for Threespeed's 200th mission had occurred long long (long long long long long) ago. He gathered his thoughts and recalled "Leotard!" and many fellow pilots went forth to carry her a loft. Moose was next for the award of 200 missions and was lifted to the skies. (a suspicious number of pilots on precisely their 200th or 100th mission) Lordmcfuzz and Everest were given their colors. When this ended, a few pilots discussed the 40th Birthday of SCUL, and if Skunk would be around for it. This ignited a rousing round of "When I'm 64." Dreadflint started, Sprocket joined in, then Beetle Juice, Snow, Raleigh Stripe and others. When most pilots forgot the next verse, one would set them on the right page.
Mysteriously, Dr. Claw and Epoxy appeared on the scene. Skunk then gathered everyone around to quest for the long lost time capsule. Many pilots descended into the dark jungle of Arbo Re Tum. Threespeed had a map, but many lagged back at the landing site, believing the quest to be hopeless. I went along to record the events, but truthfully I don't know if there ever was a time capsule. Rotwang agreed. It could be fairy stories.
Soon after, half of our crew left, on the early train back to Fort Tyler. This was to be certain all remaining pilots would have enough fuel to continue the mission. For this mission to be complete, we would have to wait 'til the fort was facing the sun to evaluate the changes over the past year in the solar system properly. The precipice was cleaned up, and we waited for the right moment. Eventually, we headed back down to the floor of Arbo Re Tum but Rotwang accidentally left behind a sentimental anchor. While hovering in wait, someone asked "where's the Navigator?", and was told "I'm right here." Another pilot mentioned "yeah you can't see him cuz he doesn't have any colors!" That's when Captain Lordmcfuzz realized he left his colors behind, and immediately went back to grab them. Leaving us to waste fuel like that seems like a foolish move to me, but a pilots colors are sacred. Meanwhile, pilots entertained themselves trying Bronco, and were only too ready to discuss the sub-standard construction of the maggot's ship
We flew out silently, enjoying the smell of the flowers, and took the J.P. Way. We had to stop by the pond because DreadFlint crashed Moneypenny, yet again, bending the helm, yet again.
Returning to the Cambridge System by way of the planet B.U., and sailing over the Charles Asteroid Belt, we found some open space to derby. Everest joined in her first derby with Rotwang, Snarly, Dreadflint, Captain Lordmcfuzz and Nosepicker. There were wins and losses. It is a negative sum game. Ultimately Rotwang ruled the derby day. Everest, Sprocket and Raleigh Stripe joined the (commander) Admiral for Earl Grey and Darjeeling. In the meanwhile that darn hot-shot maggot Dust had to show us all how easy it is to ride Moneypenny, bent helm and all. I guess when your ship is a piece of space junk, anything calibrated by professional pilots is easy... ok so that kid's got talent, but that will only get you so far in space.
The daystar came within our sights and the path home was illuminated. The navigator led us back to the launchpad where The Admiral delivered an emotional closing speech for his 20th year and what a pleasure it's been to serve with us. Miraculously we didn't have one single mechanical difficulty the entire journey, and we all added one more mission pin to our coats.
20 Years of SCUL. Only The Admiral could really tell you what that feels like, but he's more of a visual artist.
The fleet set out from Fort Tyler with an exceptional 34 pilots to the outer reaches of the local star system. Lordmcfuzz led adventures down to the Northeastern Starsystem, where we refueled and truly busted the funk. Baked goods were recovered, and civies were introduced to our awesomeness.
We continued on through several of the wormholes in the Northeastern System, before continuing on to the Arboretum. Leotard and Dogi had a close encounter with a gigantic space rat. STs were noticed, but avoided. We made our way to the overlook, and took in the sights from the top. Spacesuits were doffed, fuel consumed, and fun generally was had.
Everest was knighted. Shadowman was knighted. Acehole was celebrated for his 100th mission. We rocked out for Moose's and Leotard's 200th missions, but we certainly didn't accidentally almost celebrate 3-Speeds 200th mission, cuz that would be embarrassing.
As the hours wore on, a scouting mission burned up in avoidance of the daystar. Along the way, Sewer's accursed ship found some turbulence, and caused a dismount. After a short stop to use the medibag, the "intrepid" scouting party continued on to Fort Tyler without any further (mis)adventures, having travelled 18.2 lightyears.