Canto 102- How to Fly a Dinosaur
Things were a bit crazy on the surface of Outpost as the airless planet began preparing for the coming space battle with Admiral Tang and the Imperial Fleet. But King Killer was certain it had to be like eating cake and ice cream down there compared to what he had to do up in orbit.
He paced back and forth in front of the ten pilots he had lined up on the flight deck of his command ship.
“You men are the cream of the crop of new pilots. You are already designated as wing commanders. And the ranks of ship captains and vice admirals above you are completely empty and waiting to be filled. And yet, between the ten of you, you have already crashed twenty ships. And you are lucky those were these bulky Triceratops cruisers. Their Ancient tech makes them practically indestructible and easy to repair. Every pilot who has crashed a Pterosaur fighter so far, all two hundred and fifty-three of them, are dead. And their ships are destroyed.”
All five cavemen from Don’t Go Here, and all three M’uduai from what King was calling Squidworld, and the idiot from Geogenesis, and the rockman from Dekastria nodded their stupid heads at the same time.
“Do you actually understand me? Or do your heads just do that because you see the others do it?”
“Yes, Admiral Killer, Sir!” they chimed in unison.
“Zukkuua. Kuakuua Killer, Kua!” shouted the rockman who didn’t know Galactic English yet.
“You mean, yes, you understand me? Or, yes, you are just imitating the others?”
“We understand you, Admiral Killer, sir!”
“Slikka ku Kikk kik?” said the rockman. Then he appeared to be thinking about it. “Zukkuua, Kuakuua Killer, Kua!”
“What did he say?” King asked.
“He said he understands, but wonders if you understand him?” said the caveman in the thick reading glasses.
“Teach him Galactic English, dammit!”
“Uh, yessir! Admiral Killer, sir!”
“Okay, now, these men will be your teachers, as they are some of the finest pilots anywhere on the frontier.”
King indicated the three pilots standing behind him.
“Elvis the Cruel has more kills in battle than any other pilot I have ever heard about. With the Pinwheel Corsairs he has killed more than nine hundred space ships and more than a thousand ground targets.”
Elvis stepped forward, gave a jaunty salute, and then said, with a cigarette stub hanging off his lip, “Thank ya, thank ya very much.”
All ten pilots clapped.
“Apache Scout has been the number-two pilot in the Lady Knights Corsair Band for fifteen years. He was one of the most effective fighters in the First Battle of White Palm. He also helped plan the overall battle plan for that invasion.”
The huge, well-muscled descendant of old Earth Apaches stepped forward and saluted with a stern face.
The pilots all saluted back and then clapped.
“And I hope the third trainer, Vince Niell will be the most help to you. He started as a rookie pilot from Don’t Go Here. He took up piloting aboard the first starship designed by Ancient technology, the Megadeath. He has swiftly become a peerless pilot, maneuvering that ship in ways I have never seen done before.”
Vince, still wearing his mirrored sunglasses inside the spaceship’s fighter flight deck, stepped forward and saluted.
They all saluted back and clapped.
“Perhaps, Admiral Vince, you can tell us a little bit about how you learned to pilot your ship in combat?”
“Um… yeah, well, you see, sir… um… Actually, the ship kinda taught me herself. I kinda developed a close working relationship with my baby and she sorta does whatever I can picture in my head for her to do.”
“Wait a minute!” King’s head was suddenly swimming in a sea of shock. “You mean your ship is telepathic?”
“Um, yeah. I think it’s kinda a feature of all these Ancient starships. The Triceratops I tried out after Tron first brought them here seemed to read my mind as easily as the Megadeath does.”
King Killer hit his own forehead with his gloved fist. Why was he just now hearing this? He had a sudden urge to punch Dr. Hooey in the face again. Too bad the stupid Time Knight was not present. And too bad the problem wasn’t really his fault.
“Willy! Willy Culver! Get out here this instant!”
The man who wasn’t supposed to survive the imprisonment on the planet Stanley came out of the tool room obediently. King punched him in the eye and knocked him out cold. King knew there was a good reason he had saved that man’s life.
“Okay. You all heard Admiral Niell’s advice. The next time you fly, think at your stupid starship until the damned thing thinks back!”