“Shoemaker-1, Skytrain. You have been cleared to proceed to bay number three. Opening barn door. Over.”
Another routine flight is almost done. I look along Skytrain’s port side and see the odd numbers lined up, 1 to 15. Even number 13, second from the end. Under the number 3, a door is outlined in red lights, which change to green as the transmission ends.
“Skytrain, Shoemaker, roger. Proceeding to bay 3. Switching to RCS now. Over.”
I switch on my RCS thrusters to fine-tune my approach. Almost automatically, I go through my bay-landing checklist. I look out the cockpit windows to check my wing clearance and to verify that my fuel-oxygen engines are off.
I press the button for internal communications.
“Attention passengers, this is the pilot speaking. We are beginning our final run for docking in Skytrain. As rotational gravity will be present, please take care as you move about the cabin. Take extra precautions if this is your first time off-planet.”
I key over to the radio again.
“Skytrain, Shoemaker, I am transmitting number in 3…2…1.”
I press the “transmit” button on my computer’s modulator. I am treated – if you can call it that – to a squeal and a burst of static as my cargo and passenger manifests are sent over. After it’s done, I key again. “Over”.
Suddenly, the lights around bay 3 turn red.
“Shoemaker-1, this is Skytrain. Wave off. Wave off. Turn nine-zero port to co-align with Skytrain’s course. Do not engage your main engines. Escorts are being dispatched now. Out.”
I quickly reverse my RCS thrust to bring Shoemaker to a stop, then pivot as fighter craft come out from the unmarked bays along Skytrain’s length.
Looks like today’s flight won’t be as routine as I had thought.
Image Credits: Andree Wallin.