Before the Phoenix: Preparations

The sculpted hull of the starship rose impossibly skyward, looming over the queuing passengers as if it might fall upon them any minute. Gleaming chrome and gold, it shone in the sunlight against the black-painted metal of the stardock. The subdued roar of its warming engines, readying themselves to propel it to the farthest worlds of the Stellar Imperium, rose from the thrust pit and made the ground tremble…

Ienith Steamweaver sighed in irritation and tossed his copy of Wonders of Tomorrow aside. “Gleaming, sculpted hull” was, at best, a charitable description of the Initiative’s first – and, given their rapidly dwindling budget, quite possibly last – orbital craft. “Stardock”, for that matter, was altogether too grand a name for a concrete pad surrounded by earth berms, and the lashed-together dyanail1 scaffolding that would hold their rocket in place. But there was only so much you could expect when getting a decent spin assist meant being stuck out on an island at the far dawn-edge of the world and, he admitted to himself, when trying to work those wonders on that limited budget.

A clang from above announced that the engineering siblings had finally got the Skyreach capsule successfully mated with the main body of the rocket. Ienith walked over and patted its metal flank, chilly in Lormyrian’s tropical heat. The metal did gleam, at least, thanks to a lot of polishing, although it still bore an unmistakable resemblance to the pressurized tank it had started out life as, if you avoided looking at the tangled plumbing and bulging engine bell at its base. Pulling his circuit tester from his pocket, he began his part of the preflight procedure – checking and double-checking the burn-through clamps that held the rocket to the pad, and the explosive clamps that held the boosters –

The barrels of slow-burning explosive.

– to its side. Well, at least they’d been used before and were known to work. Although they’d never been used before with anyone sitting on top of them.

This would all make me pretty damn worried for whoever’s going to be flying this thing.

But then, that would be me.

1. A plant similar to Terran bamboo.