2288: Chapter one

by Yoyo

How many missions had he flown since leaving the academy? His chief engineer Joe informed him during flight-prep for every mission. The procedure was always the same: flight assistants bustling around, strapping him in here, adjusting a monitor there and Joe listing off all the important information for the particular mission, which always ended with a rundown of his statistics to date. Confirmed and unconfirmed kills, burns, assists, interceptions, escapes, crashes and a slew of other numbers that Dave didn’t recognize, nor care to know more about. The reading of his mission numbers always coincided conveniently with the securing of his flight-helmet and the pneumatic screwdrivers whined just loudly enough to drown out Joe’s voice.

Though he never listened to the statistics he knew they must be impressive based on the looks he got from the flight assistants. Having survived as many years as he had was enough to make him a seasoned vet at just 27, but his list of kills was at least twice as long as that of fighter pilots with twice his mission hours.

Joe was a fanatic for protocol and Dave had quickly come to appreciate his professionalism. He had never so much as exchanged a single word with the little old Chinese man. They had never seen each other outside of the cockpit and he was sure that Joe had as much personality as a plate of Fujianese sea cucumber, but he was the best flight engineer in the business. Joe probably doesn’t take a shit without consulting a service manual thought Dave. Thank god he’s on my side.

Dave conducted a mental run-through of the launch procedure, though he had done it in reality hundreds of times. He exhaled slowly and opened his eyes to find old Joe framed squarely in front of his visor. Something was wrong…This had never happened before. He looked into Joe’s eyes for an explanation, and though he knew Joe couldn’t see through the reflective silver coating of his visor, their eyes somehow met.

‘This is your 88th mission.’ Said Joe, holding Dave’s gaze briefly before disappearing from view.

What the hell was that about? He thought.

Presently he could hear Joe and the assistants retreating from the cockpit and the sucking noise of the cabin door closing. It sounded just like what he had heard on old Star-Trek reruns from the 1970s. How did they know that it would sound like that?

T-minus 10…9…8……….and away. He could feel the bloodstream nanobots expanding in his vessels to keep them from bursting during the hyper-acceleration of the launch. From 0 to 800klm per hour in the same distance it takes the elevator to travel from the first floor of the Jinmao tower to the top. It was the exact speed necessary to clear the rapidly spinning electrical laser shield at the top of the launch funnel. A technology developed by the Africans, and the only thing keeping ‘them’ outside – nobody ever tried to get out of course.

Always in the back of his mind was the thought that he might never see earthShanghai again and he did a slow, lazy barrel roll coming out of the launch funnel that ascended straight from the heart of Pudong where the Oriental Pearl Tower used to stand. It wasn’t much to look at now that the city was covered in a massive hermetically sealed dome of steel and glass, but you could get a vague taste of the city’s former glory between the iron beams and through the skylights.

It must have been something else to see that sprawling cityscape before an Eastern sunset. He had once seen classified pictures of pre-invasion earthShanghai. Happy faces and sunny smiles on crowded streets. People coming and going, buying and selling, trading, laughing, loving, living. That was so long ago now. The last pre-invasion survivors had long since died. There was not a creature left on Earth that had not been born and raised within the confines of one of the five remaining domed city states, except for a couple of ancient sea turtles in the Parisian zoo. As a fighter pilot, and a successful one at that, Dave had actually been to Paris on several occasions. The number of humans moving between one city-dome to another on any given day could be counted on four sets of hands (or two sets if you were keeping count with one of the invaders’ appendages).

Today’s mission was fairly routine. He was accompanying a shipping vessel from earthShanghai to the newBeijing lunar colony. Dave was never informed as to the contents of the freighters he was guarding, but he could usually gauge their importance by the level of action once they broke out of Earth’s now toxic atmosphere. He could never fully fathom that there were actually traitors among those men still remaining on Earth who leaked and reported critical mission information to the alien invaders. Who can account for the actions of man? Dave certainly couldn’t.

Who would have guessed that the only way to stop us from killing ourselves was to have to concentrate our murderous efforts on a new common enemy? As a teenager, Dave had always cringed at ancient Hollywood’s juvenile treatment of ‘the good guys and the bad guys’. What a bunch of bloodthirsty playground bullies with their adolescent hero-complexes.

Ironic that he was now one of those good guys. Brilliant white flight suit and all.

As he came out of the barrel-roll he did a visual scan of the horizon. He could see hundreds upon hundreds of the invader’s car sized fighter vessels hovering several kilometers off in the distance, the signature of their glowing green hyper-drive engines casting an eerie light through the toxic orange atmosphere. Jesus Christ! – he thought – I’ve never seen so many of them before. This is going to be hairy…