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Manual Override

By Adriaan Brae



Smashwords Edition



Copyright 2010, Adriaan Brae

It was decidedly unnatural to watch Mars shrink to a bright point so quickly with no more acceleration than the 1/8g provided by the transport's thrusters. In the old days I'd be struggling to breathe as the launch rail's massively powerful magnetic flux pushed the ship out of Mars orbit. Today, I sat comfortably in my euphemistically named 'pilot's chair' as the ship rode the slopes of a manufactured gravity well, essentially a ring of black holes orbiting a common center, parked in a wide orbit around Mars. Another ring, one of Earth's two, would provide most of the acceleration needed for capture into cis-lunar space at the end of my run.

With the gravity assist, a brand-new pair of heavy duty Boeing thrusters, and the current favorable Earth/Mars alignment, this trip would take less than 12 days. Far better than the 20 to 30 day transits of my youth. Certainly better than the miserable 3 month transits we'd made during the war. My body still bore the scars from nursing those old hulks back and forth.

My wife had not been so lucky. After the war, the Earthers had not felt particularly obliged to provide medical support for the Martian combatants that had fallen prey to their tailored diseases. Information had come out haphazardly after the Beijing disaster, but it was too late by then for most of the survivors.

After Helen's death, with the kids busy leading their own lives, I'd found myself at loose ends. Signing up as a pilot again seemed like the right thing to do, or at least something to do.

* * *

The required re-certification course was 7½ wasted hours in a small stuffy room tucked behind the cargo section of Mars Company's spaceport offices. I endured because it was the only way to get back into a pilot's chair.

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