First Flight

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(Written by Rob Kelk; posted April 2, 2007)

February 29, 2012

"Are you sure you want to do this, Ramona?"

The woman in question turned to face the man who had addressed her. "I'm sure, Jake. Look at her - she wants to fly. I know it. Besides, aren't you at all curious whether your drive unit will work?"

"I guess... but Hans and I only put that together to soak up the last of the goop! We never thought you'd actually use it!"

Ramona grinned. "You should know me better than that by now, Jake. Let's get this birdie in the air, and prove my grandpa was right to believe in the design."

Three years earlier

"Have you heard? They're terraforming Venus!"

"No kidding? Cool..."

"What, isn't ruining Mars enough for them?"

"And what's that supposed to mean, Hans Bachmann?" The only woman at the table glared at the taller of her two companions.

"I'm just saying those people are already turning one unique world into a copy of ours. Why let them do the same to another unique world?"

"Well, if you don't like it, why not do something about it?"

"Ramona, are you crazy?"

"No, Jake, I'm not crazy. I just want Hans to stop harping about the fact that some brave people are opening up new places for humanity to colonize; places that we won't have to take away from people who already live there, I might add."

Hans glared at her. Finally, he asked, "If you like what they're doing so much, why aren't you out there with them, Ms. Ramona Jackson?"

Ramona thought for a moment. "Tell you what - you and Jake help me build something that'll fly into space, and I'll go join them. Deal?"

"Deal. You won't do it, I'm sure."

February 29, 2012

"So, is Hans off sulking somewhere because I'm actually keeping my end of the bargain?"

Jake shook his head. "He doesn't want to see you crash."

"I'm not going to crash! Don't you trust the plane that the three of us built?"

"I trust it. I don't trust the goop. And I don't like that personality in the plane's computer."

"That's okay - she doesn't like you, either. You know she's only a vegetarian because you're a cattle rancher..."

Three months earlier

Ramona grunted as she reached for the dangling computer cable. "One more, and ..." She plugged it into the back of the laptop Hans had welded in place beside the seat. "... Done!"

The computer switched itself on. "Hello," it said in a pleasant contralo. "I'm Avril; who are you?"

"Um... er... I'm Ramona..."

"Hi, Ramona! Are you my pilot?"

"I... I guess so..."

Just then, Jake poked his head into the cockpit. "How are you doing in here, 'Mona?"

"Jake Turnar, how many times have I told you not to call me that?"

"Hey, you! Don't call my pilot 'Mona'! That's not her name!"

Jake's jaw dropped. "What the hell?"

A feminine face appeared on the laptop's screen. "And don't swear!"

February 29, 2012

Ramona put her foot on the lowest rung of the boarding ladder. "But it doesn't matter whether Avril likes you or not, Jake. I'm the one going into space. And even if you don't trust the engine you and Hans built, I do."

By the time she was in the cockpit, he was gone.

Three days earlier

"That's it - it's installed. And I'm washing my hands of the whole matter. You should have tried harder to convince Ramona to stay here."

"You know her better than that, Hans. Once she sets her mind to something, she goes through with it."

Hans shook his head as he gestured around with one hand. "And whose idea was it to build one of these? There's no room for a passenger, let alone any cargo!"

"Hers. It's what she wanted, after all. So..."


"So, what are we going to call this thing?"

"The aircraft?"

"My name is Avril," interrupted the cockpit speaker.

Jake groaned. "Not the plane, Hans... the engine."

Hans thought for a moment. "We built it, so we'll name it after ourselves."

"That sounds good to me," interrupted Ramona as she squeezed in between the two men. "But it's not an engine - it's a drive. No," she reconsidered, "it's an overdrive."

"Oh, hi, Mona." There was a crackle of static over the ship's speaker, and Jake quickly corrected himself. "Er, Ramona. So, it's the Ba... No. Absolutely not. They won't care that the spelling is different - we'll get sued!"

"Only if they find out," answered Ramona with a grin.

February 29, 2012

Ramona settled into the pilot's seat. "How are your systems, Avril?"

Avril's face appeared on the monitor. "I think the drive needs some music to work properly."

"What are you waiting for, girl? Play it!"

"Which song?"

"You know which song."

The speakers in the back of the plane came to life. "You wake up in the morning, from the alarm clock's warning, take the 8:15 into the city..." And the engines came to life.

Ramona finished the pre-flight checklist, strapped in, put her helmet on, and switched on the radio. "Wetaskiwin Tower, this is experimental aircraft CF-105-Z requesting clearance to taxi and takeoff."

"105-Zulu, this is Tower. You're clear to taxi and takeoff, Ramona. Good luck, and don't forget to call."

"Thank you, Tower. And I'll let you know when I've found a place on Mars, Mom."

Two minutes later, Canada saw the first Arrow flyover in over five decades, as it headed for stranger skies...