Author : Dan Hope

“Shut it down! SHUT IT DOWN!”

Officer Jepson hovered at a safe distance and watched as the man floated across the landing pad, bobbing up and down, bumping into the guard rail as he slapped frantically at the controls strapped to his forearm. Packs were intentionally hard to turn off–no one wanted to accidentally hit a kill switch while cruising to work at 1000 feet.

“Probably just turned legal and thought he could handle a pack,” Jepson thought. “The new ones are always shaky.”

“Shut it down, sir, or I’ll be forced to assume you’re hostile,” Jepson shouted over the roar of his pack. He wouldn’t, but it was nice to see the new guys squirm.

The unfortunate jumper managed to navigate through the shutdown menu and dropped the last three inches onto the platform. He wasn’t ready to support his weight; his legs buckled and he fell back on his rear, fuel tank clattering on the metal deck.

Jepson swooped in and landed gently on his toes. He tapped out the shutdown sequence from memory without taking his eyes off the man. A few other jumpers gawked as they streamed by on their commute home to backyard landing pads.

“Is everything alright, sir?” Jepson strolled over as the man picked himself up.

“Y-yes officer,” he stammered.

“Where you headed tonight, Mr…” Jepson waited through the awkward silence until the man realized Jepson was looking for a name.

“Oh, uh, it’s Thomson. I’m heading home. Just, um, getting used to this pack. Just got it.”

“Good for you. License and registration, please.”

Thomson’s shaking fingers reached for his display and tapped out the commands to transfer files to Jepson.

“Have any idea how fast you were going?”

Thomson’s head shot up. “Well, uh, I hadn’t checked my airspeed for a few miles officer, but, um, I don’t think I was going over 150.”

Jepson paused longer than needed. “You were going 148.” Thomson let out a sigh of relief.

“You been doing preflight before using your pack? You wouldn’t believe what happens to people. Just had to help clean up a wreck yesterday. Guy’s right thruster failed and the left kept firing. He did some pretty cartwheels right into the 37th floor of the Glandon building.

Jepson suppressed a smile as Thomson’s eyes grew wide.

“You wouldn’t happen to be jumping under the influence, would you Mr. Thomson?”

“No sir, absolutely not!” Thomson blurted.

“You just never know who’s had too much to drink up there. Last week some guy drifted out of the designated flight lane and crashed head-on into some poor commuter. We didn’t even find all the body parts, let alone pieces of their packs.”

Jepson watched Thomson take a nervous glance up at the jumpers scudding by in the afterburner lane. He allowed for another long pause while he stared Thomson down.

Finally, Thomson asked, “D-d-did I do anything wrong, officer?”

Thomson jumped as Jepson barked, “I don’t like jumpers who endanger others, Mr. Thomson. Do you honestly want to pretend you don’t know what you’ve done?”

Jepson leaned in close. Thomson’s pack rattled from his trembling.

“Your bottom left landing indicator light is burned out. Who knows if other jumpers would have seen the right-hand one. Someone could have gotten hurt.” Jepson tapped at his forearm and the display beeped. “I’ve sent out the citation. You be safe, sir.”

Jepson took off, leaving Thomson to collapse onto the platform. Jepson finally permitted himself a smile.

“The new ones are always the most fun.”

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