Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

“Doppler readings show primary vortex three hundred meters off starboard and closing fast on my position,” I radio to the control hub, half submerged into the desert mesa two miles away. “Wind speed… 400kph and rising. All systems green. Ready for takeoff.”

“Roger that, Indra 2-Whisky. You are clear for takeoff. May the wind be in your favor, Captain Chandra.”

I repeat the familiar idiom uttered before every flight to myself like a mantra as the storm rages outside the view port in all its chaotic glory.

I smile. The wind is a fickle mistress and favors no one.

The swirling debris kicked up by the storm reduces visibility to nil. I can only hope that the computer has put in the right alignment to the cyclone bearing down on me, otherwise my ship and its cargo of medical supplies bound for the plagues of America will be arriving late, if at all.

The ship rocks and rattles violently as the outer edge of the F5 tornado hammers sand and small stones nearing velocities of 600kph into the hull. I methodically check my instruments; land tether and stabilizers are holding fast. At this point all I can do is hold on and pray.

Compared to Storm Riding, traditional methods of flight are cake-walks, but airplanes and helicopters collect dust in museums now, relics of the past. Global climate shifts have left violent storms raging over most of the planet for the past two decades, many of which are accompanied by, as my father called them, “Fingers of Indra”, giant tornados, usually F3 or higher. These made contemporary takeoffs and landings extremely dangerous at the best of times. Nowadays, Storm Riding is the only way to fly.

All becomes suddenly calm, quiet. The winds still. I’m in the eye of the storm at the bottom of a deep well, the walls of which are a swirling tempest of cloud and dust. Constant flashes of arc lightning fills the cockpit with an eerie yellow light. High above, I glimpse a circle of pale blue sky. My exit.

Warnings chirp. I release the land tether and fire a short inertial boost from the ram-jet before the storm passes by, leaving me grounded. The sudden vertical hop shoots up the well until she becomes firmly caught in the twisting whirlwind, like a genie trapped in a bottle made of furious zephyrs.

I engage fins, which fan out to catch the insides of the cyclone, turning the ship into a massive windmill. A high-pitched whine begins as the outer hull spins rapidly around its core, super-charging batteries for the long flight ahead. Gyroscopes hold my cockpit relatively stable as spirals up, up, up the tornado’s lightning wreathed runway until, at last, she bursts through the troposphere into a new kingdom above the clouds; a continent of white mountains beneath a clear blue sky.

I disengage the fins, which fold neatly back into place against the hull. For a moment all is quiet and serene as reaches the zenith of her parabola and hangs suspended in sublime freefall.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” I mutter quietly.

“Indra 2-whisky,” Control cuts in suddenly, breaking the spell, “Did not copy that last.”

“Flight altitude achieved. Engaging gliders and setting course for TransLant crossing.”

“Bravo Zulu, Indra. Happy trails.”

May the wind be in my favor.”

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