I leap from my housing with a howl of mechanical joy, propfans already accelerating to their full cruising spin. I drop a full thousand feet before leveling out, intense acceleration tugging at my airfoils as I nail a near-right-angle skew-flip into horizontal flight, boomeranging and sideslipping my way through the other automatic flyers sharing the free-flight altitudes between the flitter lanes and the near-ground volume reserved for emergency vehicles –

I check structural rating across the local navigational mesh, engage in a quick passing trade of vectors with an Astroburger grill-drone, then reach out with a tethering field and swing myself around the First Distributed offices onto the city’s main drag, a long straight haul that will take me close to my target. Mindful of the monotonic tick of the payload-time-elapsed counter, I kick in my auxiliary rockets, feeling the thrust and the opposing forces as the shock cone begins to form. Warnings flash in my consciousness as the company externality-manager issues inconvenience payouts to the offices I thunder past, but I ignore them, shortcutting through an uncontrolled volume to make a minimal-delta skip onto the Outer Loop –

And I sense my target directly, no more than a mile ahead. I lock onto its transponder, kick in the auxiliaries again, then silence them and apply a touch of air-brake. The target is almost directly above me now as I cruise at the highest free-flight altitude. I receive clearance to enter the lane relayed through the company channels; noting my target’s lack of skydock equipment, I slip sideways a few feet, pip my transponder as a temporary skyway user, and rise alongside it.

I open a narrowband communications link, while the people inside the target are still turning to look at me in surprise.

“Citizen Minnis? I represent Capital Kinetic Couriers, ICC. I have a time-critical package for you – would you please follow me to the nearest parking hive to accept delivery?”

– adapted from the thought-log of Flight Lieutenant Siao 0xFE00DC9B (Retd.)