Author : Patricia Stewart

“It’s called the Griffin Maneuver, and it’s going to make me famous,” said Stacy Griffin, a third year Earth Force Cadet. Her classmate at Jupiter Station, Marcus Rider, looked at her with dubious eyes, and a smirk that he knew would irritate her to no end.

“Look,” she said, “say you’re in a dogfight with a Kraken fighter. It’s hot on your tail, and you’re out of aft torpedoes. What do you do?”

“I can’t say I like my odds in that situation. I guess I’d make my peace with God.”

“You give up too easily. You need to think outside the warp core. You make a bee-line for a planetoid or large moon, and execute a steep surface grazing parabolic orbit at full throttle. At periapsis, you cut the main thrusters, tap the port lateral jets, and turn the fighter around so you’re facing backward. When the Kraken arcs into view, you blow it out of the sky. Then, you leisurely fly back to the barn to paint one of those little black Kraken stencils on the side of your fighter.”

“Are you nuts? A surface grazing parabolic orbit at full throttle? How many gees are you going to pull? You know you’ll black out at 10. It’s tough to shoot anything when you’re unconscious.”

“At closest approach I’d be pulling about 15 gees. But I’ve got that figured out too. You know the artificial gravity plates on the floor of our fighters. They’re there as a countermeasure to help us maintain our vestibular orientation during inversion maneuvers. Well, I reversed the polarity of the plates so they repel, rather than attract. I also boosted the gain by 800%. Therefore, instead of 15 gees, I’m only pulling 7. It’s so simple.”

“The commander will never approve this stunt.”

“He’s not going to know about it until after I do it. He can watch it on holotape. I’m on my way to try it now. Want to ride shotgun?”

“No way. I’ll watch you from the observation room.”

Stacy positioned her fighter 100,000 klicks from Callisto. She punched in the ignition sequence, and began accelerating toward Callisto’s southern pole. As she raced under the moon, the gee-meter crossed 9. She activated the gravity plates, and instantly felt the pressing gee-weight disappear. At periapsis, she cut the main thrusters, and activated the lateral jets. The fighter shook violently for a few seconds, and then exploded into a mini-nova nearly a bright as the sun. In the vacuum of space, there was no sound, only a plethora of expanding sparks that eventually winked out as they cooled.

Stacy sat motionless until the tapping noise broke her repose. She opened the simulator hatch to see the Marcus’ smiling face. “Not a word,” she ordered. “I think I know what went wrong. The reversed gravity field must have destabilized the plasma containment chamber. If I can strengthen the shielding, I’ll be able to…”

Marcus helped her out of the cockpit. “Come on,” he said, “we’ll talk about it over lunch.” As they exited the simulation room, Marcus paused.

“What now,” snapped Stacy?

“I was just wondering. In that virtual universe, is there a virtual Kraken painting one of those little black Earth Force Fighter stencils on the side of his virtual ship?”

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