First Solo

Dammit. Where the hell did all these controls come from? I’m sure they weren’t here when I set off. 

Look, look, it’s fine. Think about it. It’s basic. You’ve done this a thousand times already. Okay. Pitch. Oof. Bleurgh. Yaw… uh-huh. Lefty-righty, that’s just fine. Rooo-oooollwheeeee! Yep, got that one… Hmm-hmm-hmmmm… thrust forward, backward, left and right… See? Dead straightforward. 

It’s not as if you really need to do anything much with the rest of this rubbish. That’s it, just tell yourself that. It’ll all come flooding back, no doubt. Hmph. No doubt as I bounce off the station hull and careen off into space…

No, godsdamnit. Stop with the pessimism. Do half-full for once in your life. She’d hardly have let you get out here if she didn’t think you were capable. And you know you are capable; you’ve watched you while you were flying circuits at Razynski Station, and you were pretty damn good, if you say so yourself. The only difference here, literally the only difference, is that Mayr’s not with you. It’s no more challenge than that.

And there’s hardly anything to worry about anyway: ATC know you’re out here; they know what you’re doing. They’re hardly going to let anyone fly into you. It’s not even as if there’s anyone about, anyway. Talk about backwater. Presumably why she brought us here. It’s quite safe.

Okay, so. Simple job. Once out here, get back in. So. Turn gently… No, gently! All right. Gently towards the station. Settle into new attitude. Gonna show her my new bloody attitude when I see her… No, look. Settle. See? Orientated correctly; and more or less the right distance to start approach.
So, what do we do now? We know this. Aviate; Navigate; Communicate. Aviating’s taking care of itself, for the moment; navigation we don’t need to worry about. But we do need to tell someone what we’re doing, don’t we?

“Macmillan Approach, this is Echo Yankee Four-Two-Five-Seven at Approach Alpha; request clearance to enter harbour.”

Come on, come on. You know I’m out here; I just told myself that you do. And you probably want to hustle me in before anyone else turns up I could potentially run into. Come on, come on…

“Five-Seven, Macmillan Approach; cleared into harbour, land at Platform Fourteen; clear traffic. Do not exceed four-zero metres per second inside the harbour.”

“Cleared in, landing Platform Fourteen, DNE four-zero; Five-Seven.”

Okay, so. Rotation. Gently! Keep an eye on the gate – it’ll try to get away from you; it’s a slidey, slippery little sucker. So keep it in the middle – little burn here, little burn there… Oops. No, no: it’s okay. You’re fine. Bit of boost – not too much. Ten… Twenty… Thirty… Okay, let’s stop there. Forty’s a maximum, not an absolute requirement.

Distance. What’re we on? Five thousand metres. Plenty of room.

Bloody Mayr. No warning at all. Just “Jump in; you’ll be on your own for this one.” What the hell kind of a way is that to prepare someone for their first solo? “Ah, but you wouldn’t have turned up for the lesson if I’d told you in advance, would you?” Would, too. What am I, some sort of coward?

Well, all right. Maybe I wouldn’t.

But even so.

“Mayr,” I’d said, “You do realise I’m going to crash this ship, don’t you?”

“Don’t see why you should,” she replied, all encouragement. Then, less so: “Besides, that’s why we have insurance.” And she’d grinned. And I hadn’t hit her. I was quite proud of myself for that.

Three thousand metres. Damn, but that gate looks really narrow. And I swear it’s drifting. Off to the… right? No – down! Down, down, down… But gently! Up! Bit of up, now… Little bit more up. Rotation… More down…

Two thousand metres. Aw, c’mon. Don’t start yawing on me as well…

One thousand metres. Slower, slower. Don’t have to speed. Aaaaand… we’re through! Well done, Cait. Now shut up, Cait. That was the easy bit. Now where the hell…

Ah, there it is. Fourteen. Hello, Fourteen. Come here: I want a word with you.


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