Author: Aubrey Williams

I’m such a lousy pilot— I really shouldn’t be given the responsibility of flying a ship ever again. And don’t for one minute think I’m kidding, because I’ve had a few scrapes before, and I know the big one’s coming. I’m not exactly sure what the deficiency is, but I have a feeling I get distracted by things. I also, and this is kind of funny, I also don’t realise how fast I’m going. It’s like I can’t quite appreciate the speedometer.

Should I tell you about my last two flights? So the first one was hauling cargo to one of the new mining rigs on Mercury. Most people assume that’s an easy flight, but the diagnostic system kept interrupting me, and every time it reported a fault, my attention went there. I can vouch for the other pilot’s flying skills, but he tends to leave things to me after take-off and before landing on most routes. Anyway, I’m flying the ship, and suddenly Diagnostic starts going off on one about an imbalance of cargo in the rear-right quarter, and how it’s increasing the drift. So of course, I start telling Diagnostic that they can shut the hell up because it’s not overloaded and I can compensate. But then Diagnostic says the course has been planned to use only a certain amount of fuel, so I have to talk to Course and tell them I’m changing things. And then Course makes such a big deal out of it, and wants my colleague to confirm. Look, we’re both pilots, right? I have authority over Diagnostic and Course, but no, I need to ask Mr. Smooth Landings over here if I can steer round a tiny bit so as not to make the sirens moan. Meanwhile, I barely miss a pleasure skiff that’s doing the big solar tour, and cause a fuel tanker to go into a barely-controlled dive in order to avoid me. They shouted at me a lot after that!

Now flight number two— the last one. For this we’re doing survey work, so it’s long and boring, and we have to keep the speed right down. The thing is, when you go that slow, the lift isn’t so good, and the anti-grav system goes into overdrive, which has a tendency to make the whole place too hot and smell of bad seafood. Don’t ask me, I’m not Mechanic. Anyway, once more Mr. Bigshot goes to relieve himself, because apparently he has to do that all the time, and tells me to deal with it until we get to Hubble Point. All these notifications and buzzers and bells, I feel like the fairy on top of a malfunctioning Christmas tree. So let’s go a little quicker, I say, and get to Hubble Point maybe ten minutes early— no one will know the difference. Of course, accelerating significantly after a lift drag like we had means the ship lurches, then gets a bit hard to control, and next thing I know we’re in the middle of Hubble Point. Literally. The old space telescope that’s now a marker. I’m told it was expensive.

I’m still here, though, so clearly there’s a use for me despite everything. The worst part is I’m doing a transport run, so there’s all these people in the back. We’re going to Mars, and that means the Asteroid Belt. Oh boy, I am not going to have fun with this. And guess who Mr. Top Gun put in charge because he drank a few too many mojitos?

And humans think they have it eas—