Delta

Sixty-two thousand feet above the surface of Eliéra, Gaëlenén’s Cup coasted slowly in its perpetual circuit, seven of her eight fission-driven pusher fans only ticking over, yet still able to drive her through the air at a relaxed 480 knots. The Emergency Management Authority’s superwing was a massive delta of titanium composite, five-decked and fully 600′ from one of her wingtip vertical stabilizers to the other; her underside studded with the blisters of pod launchers, and the closed doors to the flight gantries from which she could dispatch, at need, her multiple wings of reconnaissance drones, rescue and clean-up craft, intervention vehicles, and heavy field constructors.

Today, though, Cup was not alone in the sky. A K-50C Roustabout paralleled her course only two hundred feet above, auxiliary thrusters battling the wake turbulence, such that it could keep station above and in front of the open dorsal hatch of Cup’s silent engine. The Roustabout had its rear hatch fully open, exposing the cavernous length of its fuselage, and its cargo crane extended, lowering lines down to where Cup’s aircraftsmen waited to catch them with rocket grapples, and hook them onto the pellet containment of the engine’s dedicated reactor. A second containment module, pregnant with fresh thorium and borate, waited inside the Roustabout.

Emergencies, after all, wait for no soph, and take no account of the necessities of maintenance or refueling.

And so Cup had never landed in her eighteen-year service life. And with proper care and attention, she never would.

 

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