h1

“The Righteous Stuff” – Chapter 12

October 22, 2009

The Righteous Stuff

by Jeffrey D. Waggoner

based on characters and situations in the

“Domination of the Draka” novels written by S.M. Stirling

CHAPTER 12

ODENATHUS FLIGHT TESTING FACILITY

SYRIA PROVINCE

DOMINATION OF THE DRAKA

OCTOBER, 1949

The horizon was spinning dizzily, and Jaeger had to force himself to watch his instruments instead. The centrifugal force caused by the roll was trying to force him to push the sidestick to the right; he physically had to pull it back at the same time as he was trying to stay oriented. So far the roll was along the long axis of the aircraft – if other oscillations started to show up, Jaeger figured he would not even know it. He fully expected the plane to disintegrate at that point. All that liquid oxygen behind him would make for a spectacular explosion, if nothing else.

Jaeger fought to focus on the altimeter. He thought it said 8,000 meters and dropping, but he couldn’t be sure. The needle was spinning awfully fast. The roll was clockwise, and it was taking everything he had to hold the stick as far left as he could. Why couldn’t he pull out of the spin? It was as if the control surfaces were having practically no effect.

The roll had started so fast that Jaeger had no idea what caused it. One second the plane was climbing at full throttle at about 15 degrees, then the plane snapped into the roll and Jaeger instinctively slammed the throttle back. The plane arced over but if anything the spin increased, even with no power.

By now Jaeger’s vision was graying out. The altimeter showed under five thousand meters and the plane had to be diving almost straight down. Jaeger knew he should eject before he lost consciousness, but the unwritten rule of “save the aircraft” was a part of his life, and he was convinced the plane should be coming out of the spin at any moment.

Three thousand meters, two thousand nine hundred… Maybe it was time. Almost no strength left. Jaeger reached above his head and pulled the canopy eject lever. With a roar, the slipstream caught him and slammed his head back into the headrest. With the last bit of strength he had, Jaeger reached down and pulled as hard as he could on the ejection seat handle.

Almost every test pilot had spent some time in the hospital, and most of them had one of two similar stories.  They were dragged from an aircraft smoking in pieces on the ground, or they awoke in a hospital bed, with absolutely no idea how they got there.

This time Jaeger opened his eyes in a typical military-issue hospital room that could have been anywhere in the Domination. He had no earthly idea why he was there until he tried to turn his head. The pain in his neck was so severe he almost lost consciousness. He tried to groan, but was rewarded with only a weak, guttural growl. He faded out again.

The next time he awoke it seemed every muscle in his body was on fire. This time the groan was much more satisfying. He remembered enough that he didn’t even try to turn his head.

A couple of minutes later a serf nurse came in, smiling brightly. “Waal, Cohotarch, it’s lookin’ like y’all might live.” She was middle-aged and more matronly than a Draka female would be, and she moved purposefully around the room, adjusting equipment out of Jaeger’s view and talking to him as she went. “Youse was pretty busted up when they dragged yo’ sorry ass in heah. Concussion, bruises everwheres, busted ribs – but no major broken bones, and yo’ spleen shoulda been turned to jelly, but it’s not. Youse one lucky boyo, you is.”

“How…long?” Jaeger squeezed out of his throat.

“How long ya been heah? Three days, or thereabouts, since y’all made a big ole smokin’ crater in the desert outa that-there airplane. We kept y’all under for a couple days so you wouldn’t try to run around.”

Jaeger groaned again. And the airplane? Which airplane? He had no idea what had happened. The last thing he remembered was…well, what did he remember before this? He really wasn’t sure. He had memories, sure, but they seemed completely disjointed. Growing up, flying, the War, the wedding…Freya, he had a wife! Did she know he was OK? And what was her name? He could picture her face, smiling from the back of a horse, but her name was gone.

“Wiiiiiiife?”

The nurse was making notes on a chart. She looked up, surprised. “Sweet l’il piece o’ meat like you is married? I don’ know if she was called or not. You stay right here, I’ll go check.”

Jaeger would have chuckled if the painkillers weren’t knocking him out again. You stay right here. Sure.

The Technical Directorate team was a humorless bunch. Four of them sat in Jaeger’s hospital room, making notes and firing questions at him. He still couldn’t move much, and every movement sent fire through his limbs, but he could talk, after a fashion.

“So, Cohotarch, could you describe to us one mo’ time what the flight conditions were before the roll started?” The Tech Directorate investigator furthest on Jaeger’s right was speaking. He seemed to ask more questions than the other three put together. They had been at it over an hour as it was, and the truth was, he could barely remember anything at all. They didn’t seem to care, and just seemed to enjoy asking him the questions, the same damn questions, over and over again.

“Tole ya. Normal. No problems. Normal climb. Been ovah this b’fore.” Jaeger’s throat was sore. “Tele-telemetry?”

Tech boy #1 was obviously unhappy. “Nothin’ there. Seemed normal ta’ us, too.” He frowned even deeper. “And y’all din’ leave us with much to look at. Freya-damned thing is bein’ picked up with a spoon.” He held up an twenty-by-twenty five centimeter glossy photo.

It showed a crater and not much else. There were five technicians in the photo, so Jaeger figured the blast area was over fifteen meters in diameter. He suspected there was some fuel, and maybe liquid oxygen left in the tanks when the plane hit. There were bits of metal lying around, most of them unrecognizable.

Jaeger took as deep a breath as he could. “Taiil? Miss-sing?”

Tech boy #2 spoke up. ‘We was hopin’ yah could tell us about that. We can’t find it – any of it. It wasn’t blown clear. Pieces of the engine should be there.”

At least that explained why Jaeger couldn’t pull out of the roll. Maybe the entire back half of the plane had come off. But if it did, why wasn’t there an explosion? That much liquid oxygen should have made a huge fireball.

“Well, Cohotarch, you were a lucky so-an’-so,” the man Jaeger was thinking of now as Senior Technician said the next day.

Jaeger was a little more alert. “I know, but specifically, how so?”

“We foun’ the tail. It was four an’a  half klicks away…smashed up, but mos’ly intact.” He handed over a photograph.

“Sheee-it.” The tail was recognizable  but mangled like a giant had taken it in two hands and twisted. “It didn’t just fall off, did it?”

“No, Cohotarch, it surely did not. It looked like three of the main fuselage spars snapped – and they shouldn’t have. Somethin’ makes me think they had a little help.”

Jaeger sat up straighter in the hospital bed despite the pain. “Sabotage? Here?” It wasn’t unheard of, of course…but out here, away from everyone and everything, with all the precautions and security checks…it would be highly unlikely.”

The tech smiled. “Now, don’t be lookin’ foah Yankees unda’ every bush! It had to be done when the plane was bein’ built, an’ that wasn’t heah. We reported it to the Security Directorate and they will be investigatin’ back Egypt ’way.”

“Egypt? Heracleopolis?”

“The very same, “the tech agreed. They’ve been buildin’ aircraft for years down there, an’ doin’ some of their own testin’. Since the irrigation system got finished the sandstorms are a thing of the past.” He stood. “Anyways, Ah’m sure you are happy to know it wasn’t one of your own people.”

Jaeger frowned. “My own people? Pilots?”

“A competitive bunch. Ah would not be surprised. Not that Citizen murderin’ Citizen is unheard of…but it is rare, and usually is a crime of passion or revenge.” And with that thought, Cohotarch, Ah bid you good day.”

Jaeger closed his eyes. I never though about sabotage by my fellow pilots. I just assumed we all felt the same about flyin’…I suppose one of us could want it so much as to kill for it. Could I kill another pilot if he or she stood in my way?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: