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    P. E. Knapp
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
Mature Content. There are definitely scenes that require the use of the Violence, Sensitive Content, and Sexual Content tags. Generally spread through each book, but it’s only a small part of the story, not the entire story. If depictions of MM or MF sex, abuse and bullying or graphic fight and injury scenes bothers you, please don't read this story.

It All Started With A Shuttle Flight - 2. Chapter 2

Mature Content: If depictions of MM sex, abuse and bullying or graphic fight and injury scenes bother you, please don't read this story.
First off. Thanks for the warm welcome of the Prologue and 1st Chapter!
I am currently working out a posting plan that I can adhere too over the long run. For the first few chapters I will be posting daily then I think I will be dropping to twice a week. Thursday and Saturdays are usually my preferred posting days. If time permits, I may push one of the stories that is part of this world out under another title. Time is the controlling factor in everything I do. Somedays are just not long enough.

Finishing up the last of my course work for the day, I headed out to the living area of my family’s quarters.

“I heard you did well, Marc.” Said Dad. Pride clear in his voice. “Laura said you pulled a ninety-seven point eight on your second run through Track Seven-B.” Part statement. Part question.

“Yeah.” I replied. Annoyed because I felt it was fine to run the turn as I did. “They dinged me for using the afterburners coming out of the last turn.” Dad nodded as I was sure he looked at the Holovid of my run.

“I don’t think that will be a problem during the exam. Do you think you are ready?” Dad asked, and I almost rolled my eyes in the way most teenagers do.

“Yes. I’m ready.” I declared with a sharp nod.

“Good. You can take the test next week on Tuesday.” He said, which surprised me.

My neck, I am sure, made a cracking sound as my head whipped around to look at him with one eyebrow raised in question and excitement.

“O-nine hundred hours. You can sit the written exam and take the flight portion at ten-thirty hours.” Dad said. Trying very hard to hide the smirk that was trying to form.

“But…” I started, confused. “My Fourteenth Birthingday isn’t for two more weeks.” I asked with doubt.

“True. You can’t have your Shuttle Pilot/Explorer Pilot License until then, but you can take the exams now. And then at Twenty-Four Hundred hours on the First…” Dad trailed off as he finished spreading his hands open, palms up. Letting me add two plus two and come up with four.

In my excitement, I jumped out of my seat and ran around the table to hug Dad.

“What’s the occasion?” Mom asked as she entered the dining room, all smiles.

“Dad said I can take my shuttle exams next Tuesday!” I exclaimed, on the verge of bouncing in place. “Then at the stroke of midnight on the 1st of next month, I can jump up and claim my licenses for Shuttle and Explorer Pilot.”

She smiled as I hugged her, too. “Don’t forget your six-pack and solo Jump endorsements.” That was another set of exams I would take. My six-pack endorsement allows me to fly without another licensed pilot with six people onboard. The Jump endorsement allows me to plot and make Jumps. Which I’ve been doing for the past year, anyway.

“I won’t.” I said as I moved back to my chair to eat dinner.

Dad cooked tonight as is usual for Thursday nights because Mom had a late meeting. The wonderful smells of pasta sauce filled the kitchen and dining room. Exhaling at the thought that I couldn’t cook like that. But. I’m on cloud nine right now, so thrilled that I might even make breakfast tomorrow. That I can cook or at least not burn and I can’t study any more than I have been for the past three months, plus I have to go to the Station meeting tomorrow night, anyway. Not on the top of my list of things to do. Which has been the joy of my life, not, since I turned twelve. A few more months and I could push them off onto my little sister when she turns 12 stanyears old. I sighed happily at the thought, then frowned when I realized Mom would make me go, anyway.

When exam day came, Laura had volunteered to come down to the testing center with me. She is, after all, one of my favorite cousins and friends with my oldest sister. Also, very helpful when Caitlin or Dad couldn’t take me out in the shuttle to practice. After I checked in, which was the usual thumb print and retina verification, I wandered around the waiting area to greet the few people I knew while she relaxed in one of the comfortable seats. Returning to her side, I stood instead of sitting. Which meant…

“Relax.” Said Laura. Thinking, I was nervous because of dancing in place. Which is what I do when I drop into my thinking zone, and I am eager to get this over with. I looked around the room and nodded to a few people that had just arrived. Not well, but I know them. We all had the same look. Nervous excitement.

“I’m good. Just eager.” I said as I continued to dance in place as I smiled over at her, making her shake her head before I sat down.

My Link chimed, and I took a deep calming breath as I stood.

“Good luck, Marc.” Said Laura as she gave me a chaste hug. Which from her is a big deal. She doesn’t just hug anyone.

“Thanks,” I replied as I hugged her back. Before I turned and headed down the corridor to the exam room that was now assigned to me. I keyed the door with my Link and the hatch opened to a very familiar space for me. The small room had a very nice chair and desk setup with multiple screens available for use and the dreaded tablet. The one that I would take my exam on.

I slipped into the black and red, high-backed padded chair mounted on the deck track system and waited as it adjusted for my body. The screens in front of me came to life with the instructions for setting up the system to my liking. The chair was perfect when I hit the tab to move it into the desk. A few taps on the screens and they arranged the way I wanted them, as well as starting my favorite play list of music. The tablet came to life asking for my thumb print and retina verification to verify both my person and the exams I was taking today. It didn’t take long before I was ready and had the soft music I enjoyed playing in the background, providing me with soothing sounds that helped me relax. Dropping into my concentration zone as I began the three exams I had to take.

Hoping that I made the right choices for the engineering section. Fusion Bottles and Inertia Compensators are not my best subjects. The Jump plotting part only took me ten minutes, thanks to Grandma Armstrong taking me out on her Explorer and teaching me probe plotting as well as Jump plotting. Less than an hour later, forty-seven minutes to be exact. I exhaled in relief as I let out a deep breath, stretched out my body before I left the room and stepped down to the lounge to grab a snack and refreshments. Looking around at everyone chatting and eating. I found Laura with another student talking and a few other people I knew that gave me a friendly nod as I entered the serving line. Grabbing a fruit drink and a crunch bar for myself, the perfect blend of salty sweetness.

The testing center itself is large. Large enough that we can cycle hundreds of people through an hour and we do. With that, we also have this lounge with food service for the people like me who are waiting for another exam room or an exam proctor. In my case, I have a ten-thirty hours appointment for my Shuttle Flight Test. Which will be a thirty-minute hands on exam. Everything from the walk around before I even enter the shuttle to securing the shuttle and the last walk around when I return to the hangar. As with everything, you need an appointment. Normally, it only takes a week or less to get a spot for an exam and only twenty to thirty minutes to get the results.

I had just sat down with Laura when somebody smacked my back.

“Marc. How did you do?” Rhasta asked as he sat next to me. The seats provided a soothing and relaxing experience to ease the nerves of the trainees.

“Good. I should have the results soon, then off to the flight exam. What are you in for?” I said, as I turned to shake his hand.

“Recertification on my Fusion Plant three upgrade.” Which made me cringe. That exam took six hours to complete. “I’m on my lunch break. Later, I take the Hull and Structure First Class exam.” He said after saying hello to Laura.

Laura began a conversation with Rhasta as I finished eating. I used my Link to check my exam scores, but the scores had not posted. Which made me frown. Checking the time as I stood. Just a little tremble of nervousness before saying my goodbyes and wishing everyone luck in their exams. I headed off to the testing hangar. Bypassing the changing room as I was already wearing one of my suits of armor under my skinsuit, so I didn’t need to change into a flight suit. Not everyone has the Model V personal armor I have, but it serves as a zero-atmosphere survival suit.

The usual metallic tang greeted my nostrils as I entered the hangar, walking towards the shuttle that was assigned to me. The red shade of the shuttle resembled the red coloring of the bear claws on my heavy armor, making me smile. I had to check my Link to make sure I had the right red shuttle. I found it and waited. Looking around. All the shuttles in here were the same and the training hangar operated around the clock. Swinging to look down the flight line, I counted Eighteen positions with only 3 shuttles present. Standard flight training class size. My eyes wandered back to the shuttle itself. About the same size as Seven-Two-Eight Alpha. Somewhat larger in design, as it seated only 3 people, but had larger cargo spaces. Commonly used as a ship’s runabout. I was admiring the design until I heard the familiar voice behind me calling my name. Smiling as I turned to greet her. Lieutenant Molly Vickers. Not only to find out she was an instructor in our classes, but a Flight Exam Evaluator too.

“Good morning, Lt. Vickers,” I said as she approached and extended her hand. My nerves calmed somewhat as I thought she was an excellent instructor.

Later, walking away from the training hangar while running the entire flight exam through my head, trying to figure out where I lost the point-five points as I now know I scored a ninety-nine point six on the written portion. I shook my head. Lt. Vickers was what I would term as loud and rude during our flight. Which I was told to expect. Even though I understand the reasons behind it, my problem is that I will never perceive her in the same way again as an instructor.

“I heard you scored a Ninety-Nine point one on your flight exam.” Which made me smile as I turned to see my sister Caitlin walking up behind me with a gaggle of midshippersons.

I walked right up and hugged her tightly. “I. Did. Thanks to you and Laura.” Surveying the eight people behind her as I received some amused looks.

“Who do we have here?” I asked as I pulled away with my mischievous grin and one eyebrow raised. Which made her laugh.

“These.” Caitlin said as she half turned and waved in their direction. Speaking loud enough for all of them to hear. “My little brother. Are the training Midshippersons onboard ANS Endeavor coming in for exams this afternoon.” Before turning back to me. “And you are most welcome for the help. As for this group. Well. You scored higher on your Shuttle Pilot’s exam than any of them did. As I expected.” She said, which had more than one of them lower their eyes.

“Indeed. Refresher out on Track Seven-B then?” I asked, and her eyes twinkled.

“Perhaps. We’ll see.” Caitlin paused in thought as she looked them over. “You probably could take a few out to show them how you fly it.” She said as she turned back to me.

“I would love to. How about on the Second?” I asked, bouncing on the balls of my feet with my teeth bared.

“On your Fourteenth Birthingday?” she asked mischievously.

I drew my Please,” out across the corridor before continuing. “It would be the perfect Birthingday present from you.” I exclaimed as Caitlin chuckled while we looked back at the expressions on their faces. Everything from, are you kidding, to, no way, to maybe? Which amused me, too.

“By the way, people. If you didn’t catch it before. This is my little brother.” I snorted as I was half a head taller than her, which she elbowed me in the ribs. “Marc Alexander. I think you’ll find a flight with him through the asteroid fields very…enlightening. From someone who is younger than you but has more flight time than all of you combined.” She said before she turned to me and pulled me into a hug. “I’ll catch up with you later. We need to get running.”

“See you for dinner tomorrow?” I asked, as she moved away.

“Mom and Dad are taking you out to celebrate, I assume.”

“Correct.”

Caitlin nodded over her shoulder back at me as she led the group down towards the sign in station. “I’ll be there.”

Wandering the passageways of Low Point Station to relax, stopping into one of my favorite hole in the wall canteens for a quick bite to eat, before stepping into my family’s quarters, I went to my room to change out of my armor and back into a standard shipsuit. Mom came in and congratulated me. Telling me we would go out to dinner once Dad gets home. To one of my favorite restaurants up on the O-Three level. Fantastic views over the arrival and departures lane seldom disappoint.

My head spun towards her with a wide grin. “Can we do that tomorrow night, Mom?” I asked. “Caitlin is coming over.”

“Sounds good Marc. I’ll drop a note to your father and tell him not to hurry tonight. Check with Jessica and see if she can get home in time, too.” She said as she headed for the kitchen to start dinner. “Oh, and Grandma Armstrong is bringing The Stellar Hooligans for the party.” My head popped up as my favorite entertainment group would be performing at the Birthingday Celebration.

“I will, thanks Mom. For everything.” I said as I tapped out a Comm to Tom as I sat at my desk.

“Did you get it?” asked Tom’s smiling face as he accepted my comm. He, above all other people, knows the amount of training I have been pushing myself through the past year. Everything from fighters to standing Bridge Watches on various ships, industrial and military types.

Practically bouncing out of my seat. “Yes, and for my Birthingday, my sister is going to loan me a few midshippersons to scare out in the belts.” I said. Tom’s face turned red from laughing so hard.

“I’m not even going to ask,” Tom said, shaking his head before he looked back at me. “Does that mean we can rent a miner now?” Tom asked. Both of us felt the excitement and new opportunities about to open for us in piloting and engineering.

“Absolutely Tom. If I can come up with the funds to cover it.”

“We could just go out for a few hours at a time and build up the funds for two or three days of rental.”

“True, but we’ll need another person to go too for long trips like that.”

“Rachel?” Tom asked. My head tilted side to side as I thought about it.

“Yeah. She should work. Anyway, what about Valerie? Is she talking to you yet?”

Tom snorted, “No.”

I struck my best shy pose, looking at his image from under my brows with a high-pitched voice. “But Tommy. I need to study.” Which caused us both to laugh.

Valerie is the smartest person in our class. She only needs to read the training materials once and she can recall anything from it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the real-world perspective or understand that not everything is like it appears in the training materials examples. Sweet girl, indeed. Nice to talk to. Great to study with. Just don’t talk business around her or her father finds out. He’s always trying to broker a deal of some sort. He works well with my family, but is always trying to get his hooks into me. I’m not interested.

Tom and I disconnected as I started more of my course work for school. I’m down to being only one week ahead and I need to build up at least 2 weeks ahead by the time of my Birthingday. Classes are just social gatherings, with an instructor to assist as needed. You learn everything through your tablet. The only difference is physical training. That must be done in person or, like what I do, I join our marines for training, and they sign off on it for my classes. The best part is Hugo joins me most times. The marines get a laugh out of watching him toss me around the training mats like a rag doll because of the disparity in our sizes. People always think he is my little brother. I chuckled at the thought as I started the next set of Astro-Physics class problems.

Thanks for reading!
Copyright © 2024 P. E. Knapp; All Rights Reserved.
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Thanks for reading!
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

Sounds like Marc has done everything he can to prepare for these tests and was ready for both the written and practical parts of the exam.  

We need a full rundown on the family members, and what they do.

Nice chapter, can't wait to see what happens next.

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I appreciate the detailed explanation of Marc's training, testing and family life. You are creating an interesting world. He has done so much and have serious goals and he is not yet 14! I want to see how this story unfolds.

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More undercurrents to watch...

Valerie is the smartest person in our class. She only needs to read the training materials once and she can recall anything from it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the real-world perspective or understand that not everything is like it appears in the training materials examples. Sweet girl, indeed. Nice to talk to. Great to study with. Just don’t talk business around her or her father finds out. He’s always trying to broker a deal of some sort. He works well with my family, but is always trying to get his hooks into me. I’m not interested.

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20 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

 We need a full rundown on the family members, and what they do.

Thank you for the comments!

The fourth book was the actual beginning of my writing about Marc in this world. Then another idea came up and another. So, Marc grew younger instead of older. I guess you could say I'm writing from back to front as it was book 4, 3, 2 and then this one. And you are correct. As a standalone book, I probably should have dropped more tidbits on the family in the earlier chapters and will be looking at that, but I promise by the end you'll know them all. 😉

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18 hours ago, drsawzall said:

More undercurrents to watch...

Thank you for the comments!

Now I am curious. How many of my little surprises did you find in between the first three chapters? Val's father is one.

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19 hours ago, akascrubber said:

I appreciate the detailed explanation of Marc's training, testing and family life. You are creating an interesting world. He has done so much and have serious goals and he is not yet 14! I want to see how this story unfolds.

Thanks for the comment!

The characters and their lives where based, not only on real people, but different cultures in this world we live in. Things are a little different, but not far off from reality in my world.

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13 minutes ago, P. E. Knapp said:

Thank you for the comments!

Now I am curious. How many of my little surprises did you find in between the first three chapters? Val's father is one.

What about the 'newly appearing' bumps that Marc found under the shuttle as he was doing his post flight inspection....

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12 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

What about the 'newly appearing' bumps that Marc found under the shuttle as he was doing his post flight inspection....

That's two. And?😇 Just to clarify. In the Prologue, Ch1 and Ch2. I don't think I was able to get ch3 in on time for an update today.

Edited by P. E. Knapp
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From the prologue...

“Well, Maiju. How long do you think we have until the Core Worlds step into our politics and clean out the corruption throughout the Confederation?” Asked Mercedes.

Dr. Maiju Sarrat appeared taken aback by the unexpected question. “I’m not sure what you mean, Mercedes. The Core Worlds Republic will not intervene in our self-governance unless war breaks out.” If she only knew. Maiju thought as she responded.

Mercedes smiled with innocence. “Just something I heard a few months ago and I am looking into.” Maiju nodded as she turned and left the stage.

An hour later, back in Dr. Sarrat’s office, her Link chimed. A message from an unknown sender. She opened it. And? Tapping back her reply, Yes. As she sent a copy of her implant’s recording of the event. She closed her Link and returned to her work. On another world, the gravchair moved the lone figure to her table for lunch while she watched the recorded interview on her own implant. Smiling as she tapped out an order on her tablet.

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43 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

From the prologue...

 

Correct!

Dr. Maiju Sarrat, Mercedes Munoz, and the last unknown sender, who you can assume is the person in the gravchair, as written. That makes five.

1 or 2 more, depending on how you look at it as they are tied together even though they are mentioned separately in the prologue. But, specifically a clue is in chapter 1 that will point to the clue in the Prologue. Once found will bring into question the last undercurrent. Both can be either seen as separate or together. Hence the 1 or 2 more statement earlier.

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