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(Written by Cobalt Greywalker; posted 16 May 2010)

<...> - Radio Communication

Unnamed Shuttlecraft (provisional class F), Low Earth Orbit
Saturday 20 September 2014
10:27 HAST (GMT-10)

"Are you REALLY sure you want to do this?"

A.C. just rolled her eyes and put on her helmet.

"<Comms check.>" She stated over the comlink as well as spoke.

"<Check OK.>" Lebia sighed. "<Telemetry coming in fine. Couldn't you find another way to burn off steam from last week?>"

"<We needed to try out the new manufacturing capability anyway.>" The cyberneticist replied, checking the helmet HUD and suit systems. "<Final check. Cooling system, OK. Comms, OK. Arc reactor, OK. Suit sensors, OK. RCS, OK. Heat shield generator, OK. All systems green.>"

"<Coming up on drop point.>" Lebia acknowledged the other topic as tabled, closing the cockpit hatch as the starboard roof bars dropped into place.

A.C. stepped up to the bars and grabbed hold.

<Stand by.> Lebia warned as she pressed a button.

With a diapearing hum, gravity turned off. The suited figure pushed off with her toes to 'fall' onto her back on the roof of the cabin. Below her, the floor opened as showed the blue and white of Earth from space through the slight haze of the atmospheric containment field.

<At least we should get some orders after the Trekkies finish being jealous.> A.C. noted.

<Drop in Three.> Lebia counted down, the two of them watching the clock count towards 10:30 local time. <Two. One.> And she turned off the field.

At precisely 10:30, A.C. blasted out of the explosively decompressed cabin and dropped like the proverbial rock.

<Red Knight, deployed.> Lebia told the group net.

The silence as she dived head first was refreshing. Only 483km to go. With virtually no atmosphere to hold her back, she continued to accelerate long after a normal skydiver would have hit terminal velocity.

One minute in, she was rapidly closing in on 600m/s and had covered 17km. And she was still accelerating. This made it a bit difficult for the Tachikoma to track her smoothly with the Tri-D UHD digital camera.

At two minutes, she'd increased her speed to near double that and covered 70km, and still accelerating.

It was two and a half minutes in that the suit sensors started to pick up heat build up. It wasn't as though she was the first to space jump, she wasn't even the first to need re-entry shielding (which she powered up to standby, not wanting to put a drain on the arc reactor just yet). Only the slightest touch on the RCS thrusters was needed to keep her on course.

She probably was the first to jump from 483kms over Earth though, but given the talk of crazy things that STILL made the rounds about the early days no one could be sure.

Admittedly, she was the first person to suggest it to Suzumiya as a good publicity stunt for Skull Cove. It WAS the only way she'd got the clear skies necessary for it.

The hectic week spent setting up for this was to distract her from last Friday. And at that it worked spectacularly. Here, she could concentrate on the jump. Afterwards, well...

She shrugged it off as the timer hit three and a minutes and the suit sensors showed that the heat of re-entry was starting to make itself known. Having travelled just over 217km and passing 2km/s, the cyborg mentally activated the heat shield. Almost instantly her acceleration was reversed as the tightly sculpted ovoid field formed around her. She'd never seriously worked on force field tech before, so this was the best she could do. Now that she was in the soup, the bow wave formed by the field began to glow. At this point the Tachikoma handed off to another of its fellows to continue filming.

Five minutes eighteen seconds in, the beautiful genius punched through the Karman Line still doing about Mach 3 and lighting up the sky with her re-entry fireball. The ionised bow wave lasted until about six minutes into her space drop when she dropped below Mach 1.7. At this point her suit could handle the remaining thermal effects and she turned the field off.

She needed to begin steering her flight path anyway.

Two more Tachikomas were waiting at this point, one to act as chaser, and one for long distance shots.

More or less at terminal velocity for the height she was at, A.C. brought up the waypoint indicator and began to make sure she was on target. It took another three minutes ten seconds for her to reach her final terminal velocity due to increasing air pressure of about 53m/s and a height of roughly 1100 metres.

Now the cyborg began her final approach. For fifteen seconds the sometimes Super maintained her drop position before she finally pulled her parachute. With a jerk, she slowed rapidly as her parachute deployed and hit her with negative 4Gs of deceleration, halving her speed every second for two seconds before A.C. finally took control and started a spinning descent towards the 'X' marking the landing spot.

Finally with a flutter, she slowed and lifted herself a bit to drop the last half metre directly on the 'X' like a feather.

As she touched ground, the timer on the holo-board to the side and her drop timer both hit 10 minutes exactly.

The crowd of spectators and press burst into applause, and she hit the retract on the chute. Then she released the seals on her helmet and pulled it off, letting her hair fall over the red armour of her drop suit.

Haruhi scowled at her. A.C. waved casually back with a neutral smile. They both knew who won the bet.

It might have been a hectic week creating and building the shuttle and drop suit, and setting the jump up, but the satisfaction of showing Suzumiya up again made up most of it.

Of course, the look on Haruhi's face when she showed up in a copy of the fetishistic French Maid's outfit the SOS-dan leader had planned to put A.C. in when she lost the bet (along with the rest of her) was priceless.

Taking a glass of Jupiter Red Eye wine from the tray the struggling-to-remain-pleasant-faced temporary personal maid was holding, the emerald-eyed woman leaned back in her luxurious leather chair in such a way to both get a better look at Haruhi's cleavage but show off her own to the looser. Given that A.C. suspected the SOS-dan leader hoped the cyborg had forgotten that it was a night of service as the winner's personal maid, and not just an evening, she figured it was only fair the looser got something as well.

Let it not be said that A.C. was not a generous mistress. And Kyon would probably enjoy the pictures.