19 January 2009

Lagged in Odotte

Somewhere in Odotte. University of Caille Campus Station.
Season 4. Two hours before ISGC race 10.

Locked, scrambled and webbed...

The man continued. "... and so, Miss Delorois, it is important to understand that this is now a team effort. This is no longer about personal ego..."

No, no no no... far worse than scrambled and webbed... Can't run, can't shoot, can't even complain for God's sake!

So I sat still in the chair and smiled. Doctor Juvaan Vesper, PhD, head of the Astronautics Department at the University of Caille, a methodic workhorse, devil of the details, an unstoppable force, had agreed to help out on our little project that season. The University racing team was going pro: Professor Ryder of UC Business School would contribute funds, blueprints, media and PR, Dr. Vesper and UC Astronautics would bring in the technical talent. I had somehow agreed to be caught in between.

And right then... I was finding out exactly how unstoppable Dr. Vesper could be...

"... find that things need to be a little different... the department trains some of the finest minds in the Federation, and we must take care to teach them well... failure to follow proper procedures... terrible mistake... this work represents an excellent opportunity for them... a real-life situation for extra credit"

Oh, come ON! I just want to race the thing, not understand it! Gimme my ship!

Doc Vesper was, of course, the right choice. He ran the Laboratoire Astronautique Gallentoise and his team of undergraduates was better than appearances would suggest, one of the very best. His garagistes worked on everything and anything: mining research, bike repairs, technology concepts for the Navy, pod modifications, airco, whatever you could think about. Also, he knew people, had contacts. I mean, not that people would actually seek him for a chat -oh gosh, no- but he could certainly get his hands on some pretty rare items. Maybe people gave him stuff to make him go away?

Maybe if I give him something he will let me go.

That was it. But what? Looking around his office for inspiration, nothing came to mind. Books, including a copy of Dr. Ishiguro's "Speed," unfinished papers, electronics. A photo of a much younger Doc Vesper, standing proudly with this ancient guy -his dad? grandpa?- in a workshop.

Others were trapped in the office with me, they were coping in their own fashion by either faking interest or discreetly snoozing, but I was the focus of attention while Vesper talked and talked. And talked. No wonder his own people called him 'Lags' behind his back, he could probably make a stone fall asleep. And then talk some more.

That's it! "Would you like some coffee, Doctor Vesper?" I interrupted, still smiling.

"Uh, good idea. Miss Ducasse, one cup with no sugar if you please?" Gina jumped off her seat "I will bring some for everyone..."

No, no, no! -I saw my chance walk away and just knew she was not coming back; I would have done the same- Run, Gina, save yourself!

Doc turned back to me. "You do not seem to understand. Let me explain how this works. While under the care of our team, this is not your ship; it is our ship. We will exercise all due..."

Explain?! Again?!? Kill me, please. Kill. Me. Now.

Time went on. I could hear him talking but I was no longer really listening. It was so hard to stay tuned, with things moving slower and slower and his monologue going on, I could make out individual words but no longer understood the meaning of it all. My eyelids were heavy. I nodded once in a while and responded with a polite "mmhm" or "I understand," just to show I was there.

But I was not. I was free. -We can fly- I was already reviewing the upcoming race in my mind. -We have wings- Sinq Laison, would we race through Rancer again? -We can touch floating dreams- I needed to be quick on my wings. -Call me from... so far...

"Miss Delorois?"

Everyone was looking at me. Had he asked a question? Merde. I gambled my sinking heart on a safe answer - "Yes?"

He did not skip a beat. "As I said, your ship is ready."

"My... ship?"

He looked at the time. "Being fifty-eight minutes to the race start, it is not our ship. It is your ship now."

I got up, thanked him politely and walked to the door. I am free!

"And, Catherine?"

Uh-oh... "Yes?"

"Be careful out there."

"I will. Thank you."

What do you know. He is human after all...

The holo rang. "Lags, was that really necessary?" "Hello, Ryder. What do you mean?" "Do you really have to lecture her like that? She is not one of your guys, you know..." "I know, but in case you have not noticed, she is not the type to be driven by a regular pep talk." "Was that your version of a pep talk?" "If it works, then yes. Look out your own window and tell me when you see her undock." "Actually, she went by a moment ago." "Well, that makes it under seven minutes. That is the fastest anyone has ever bolted out of my office and into space. I think she is going to do great this race."

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