Thursday, 18 June 2009

ISRC Season 7 - Race 7 - Black Rise (I)

Half an hour until start time.

Natalie raised her head from her book and swept the busy hangar with her eyes. Organised chaos, as it was every Sunday night. And in the center, literally under the spotlight sat the Distortion, with its pretty green and gold design which looked like dragon scales, being tended by a team of mechanics busy with last-minute tweaking. Daniel was busy polishing the number 2 on the Ares' wing, now.

What she couldn't see was any sign of the pilot, Mrs Kayleigh Jamieson-Read - better known among the fans simply as KayJay.

"She's late," came the low voice at her elbow.

She set the book down on her lap and turned her eyes to the chief mechanic, Steele, a big Brutor and the only man in that hangar to manage making the Scuderia jumpsuit look uncomfortable. "Yeah, she is," she agreed, swinging her feet now. Perched as she was on a stack of crates, Natalie was still only just taller than him. "Tell your guys to watch out. I don't imagine she'll be in much of a good mood. It's not like her to be late for this."

Ten minutes later, she arrived. Natalie noticed, even with her nose in her book, because it was as if the spotlight had suddenly shifted from the interceptor to the petite jin-mei striding quickly straight toward Steele. She wondered if all capsuleers did that trick of getting all attention focused on them in a room full of mere humans. For a moment, Natalie watched the scene.

The mechanics themselves, usually a loud and lively crew, suddenly were keping their exchanges strictly to the business at hand. Natalie smiled wryly. No one wanted to get noticed by the capsuleer. She didn't mingle with the grunts, as a rule, and it was taken as fact among the team that when she did deign to speak to you, you were about to get fired.

When she saw the conversation was nearly over, Natalie put her book away and hopped off the crates. Sure enough, just a moment later Jamieson-Read started making her way toward the pod dock, greeting Natalie with just a little nod. Natalie followed.

At the smaller, more secluded dock, Natalie assisted the pilot out of her regular clothes and into the Scuderia flight suit. She noticed the pilot was pale, and had long dark circles under her eyes as if she hadn't slept in days, but the distant, hard gaze invited no questions. Despite the quick change, Natalie had time to wonder, glancing at the jin-mei's naked back, if it had hurt to get all the sockets, or how it felt having them on day after day, or even what it was like to have a ship plugged in there.

But there was no more time for wondering; Kayleigh had stepped onto the lower half of the pod. Natalie got the first cable, smiled faintly and asked "Are you ready, captain?" All she got was a nod in reply.

One by one, the assistant connected each cable to the appropriate socket. Then she stepped back. "All done, captain. Fly safe," she said, punching the button which would trap the pilot inside the egg and start up systems.

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