I am walking toward it now, watching it carefully. There are times when if you don't pay attention the rotors will catch the wrong gust of wind and then suddenly turn flow downwards. I mean it's not like they aren't flying, that's the point of having rotors on the top of a helicopter. They fly, according to Bernoulli's Principle, and the result of them not breaking under stress is that they pull the whole works up and off the little postage stamp I'm standing on now. Not like a carrier, too big. This space, the flight deck, is about the size of a large California backyard. In other words, it's not very big. Takes about, oh, maybe five or six seconds to walk the whole length. The rotors flow like water in the winds shifting across the deck. A solid gray circle wavering slightly across a plane canted toward the nose of the machine. Sixty feet of titanium spar, jacketed in fiberglass honeycomb and aluminum, scythe through the night. Resonance from the blades turning is powerful enough that you can feel it pulsing through the ship three decks down. When the bird is there, you know it. For the rest of my life I do not think I will every forget that sound.

So here I am standing there, cranial on my head, scratchy clear lens goggles down, staring at the idiot that is supposed to be paying attention to me. I'm waving my arms back and forth, trying to get his attention and he still doesn't get it that I'm over here. I quit, start fumbling with the battery pack mounted to the left side of the curved green ABS plastic plate covering the back of my head. While I'm trying to get the green NVG light on the microphone boom drooping just below and in front of my right eye plugged in I notice why idiot couldn't see me. It's night, and I am standing in one of the shadows of the dim aquamarine lighting on the flight deck. Way to go Yurei, that was stupid. Who's the idiot now? Music pours into my ears through the totally illegal modification that I made to the harness currently dangling a cold finger down the back of my neck in the form of a connector about the diameter of a magic marker. How these things get that cold when it's this hot, I will never know. I finally manage to fumble the battery and connector into place and the piercing green light beams onto the non-skid coated decking at my feet. I swing my head at the person in the middle of the flight deck, he notices this time and waves with a green wand to go on ahead and do what I need to do. Still watching the rotors I duck a little and scurry to the front right side of the airplane, just behind the pilot's door. Reaching out I lay a hand flat on the skin of the animated beast. My surrogate god brought to flesh in aluminum, steel, composite fiber, plastic and titanium. Rendered from dirt into this, the processes that brought it here very much alien to me. I know how to rivet and that sort of thing, it's just how you take a roll of pressed aluminum metal and then bang it about until it turns it into an airplane is a bit beyond me.

It breathes. I can hear the scream of the engines a few feet behind and above me. The ship rolls a little in the sea and I can feel the dynamic forces involved in the rotorhead take over and try to pull the plane to one side. Straining against the chains holding it on the decking I feel it stretching to fly. Just a few minutes baby, you've got a brain tumor and I'm going to pull it out with a chainsaw and an ice cream scoop. This is technical stuff here, you need precision tools, see?

That's my job. I'm an Elite Toaster Repairman. Actually, the people that I work for don't particularly like it when I call it that, but hey, we're out here in the middle of the fucking ocean and you go a little nuts every now and again. Not nuts like running around mumbling gibberish and quoting whole pages of and alternating between the Whole Earth Catalogue and Maxim Gorky's 'Mother,' just a little slap happy. In all reality, I'm an aviation electronics technician. Son of a bitch geek. Fucking AT. Goddamn Yurei. Don't care what the hell you call me. I fix these wires. This is my child here. It's sick, in pain and Daddy's come to make it better. Laughing as I allow fingertips to trail down the skin of the aircraft, and feeling every rivet, every dimple in the paint, the screws holding panels in place. I walk past as air flowing at 450 CFM out of a cooling fan pulls at the legs of my coveralls, briefly snapping the fabric horizontal. Thing runs it's respiratory system pretty tight, has to with fifteen hundred pounds of wiring and electronics to keep cool. I reach the cabin door. One fluid motion undoes the latch and throws it into a locked open. It sticks and I grin a sick smile in the dim glow of the green display in front of the operator.

One of them later said I wasn't really happy unless I was bloodied and being hammered to finish fixing something. I never admitted it at the time, but he was right on both counts. I was on the back on the flight deck working ten minutes after having six stitches put in my scalp after trying to move something with my head. I managed to split two of the stitches and bleed all over the inside of my cranial. I didn't care. I was grinning ear to ear and loving every minute of it. The bird launched on time, I fixed the damn radar altimeter, and it went just like clockwork. Except I had to wash the fabric liner in my cranial. Hopping into the cabin the guitar solo from Razed in Black's 'Under My Gun' hits a cacophonic and resounding crescendo. That's when it really starts.

Electric tension starts in the shoulders, working it's way across my back and then splitting moving down my spine and up my neck. Ahh, lovely natural endorphin and adrenaline cocktails. Everything is running. Everything is moving, I'm moving, it's kinetic now and I can do nothing to stop it. Even if I would attempt, I don't think I could stop this. Glancing at the monitor, I run BCD into binary and just know what it is. I can hear the machines whispering to me through the fans and the scream of the pair of General Electric T700 C Turboshaft engines cranking over at twelve thousand RPM. I hear my baby call my name, she knows I'm here. She knows I'm here to fix the computer gone awry or the antiquated IBM/Loral Systems Magnetic Tape Memory Unit refusing for some odd reason to load. Probably something this operator did to hurt her. He did this. Anger. Rage at the injury. How DARE he. Moving to the point of becoming a blur, I begin removing panels, exposing the wiring. I can feel the machine creeping around the edges of my own consciousness, this is where I stop being what I am and start being the thing. She and I merge, become one. I breath 450 CFM natural cooling air, 115 VAC at 400 Hz runs the whole of my mind and body, I see 1.35-1.4 GHz at 6, 12 and 120 RPM, I interrogate at 1090 MHz in four modes. Finding my way around with Pulse-Doppler, GPS, and barometric pressure, I encrypt and decrypt my speech through multiple RF spectra, while binary warps language into a more pure form. On the fringes a wealth of data pours in from the ship currently hardwired to the aircraft. Multiple pairs of human ears wait for me to speak. All of this is mine, it is self. Data all I see machine all I perceive. Dead cold to the flesh now, there isn't anything human left.

Faster. Must go faster. Must think in MHz across 64 channels of digital and integrated analog data. There. Wrong. Bad. Need new one. White BIT ball. Go. Moving again. Outside. Sound of engines. Not waiting. Wands move frantically. Who cares? Running. Over fuel hose. JP-5, 592 gallons. 55-PSI allowed fueling pressure. 400 pounds or 60 gallons per minute fuel transfer rate. Fuel state leaving cabin: 2200 pounds. Conservative estimate approximately 4 minutes until maximum gross fuel achieved. Enough time. Running again. Inside hanger. People talking. Ignore them. Want answers. They can wait. Busy. Need part. Slam open door. Down hall. Third cruise box. Pull from shelf. Loud noise behind music as box hits steel decking. Floor damaged. Dent in bottom of box. Ignore. Latch stuck. Punch box. Latch still stuck, top of cruise box now dented. Kick box. Latch damaged, now free. Ignore. Kick box open. More talking. People following. Asking more questions. Shut up. Part not in this box. Pull next box. Kick open for faster access. Find part. Shoulder 45 pounds of part. Push past people. Gently. Authority figures. Do not make mad. Grunt unintelligible answer. Running. More people. More questions. Inquiry for possible necessity of assistance. Run. Outside. Wands waving. Over fuel hose. Inside. Fuel state: 3100 pounds. 2.5 minutes left. Move SAR equipment. Open panel. Disconnect data bus. I breathe and think for her now. Hand hurts. Moderate bleeding from two knuckles. Non-incapacitating, ignore. Hang on baby. See how much I love you? Smear of blood on equipment rack. Almost done. Viciously yank old box out, gently slide new box in. Straining shoulder. Reconnect data bus. Re-IPL. Proc IN PROG light. TEST light. Move. Check. Tape access light lit. Move. LOAD light. Load switch off. Close panels. Move SAR equipment back to original space. Screen blanking pulse, .25 sec. CMUX flexing, resets, generates video. Load good. AOP running 5.0. She's alive. Run limited tests. Must help her back onto her feet. Hex good. Reset nav sync with ship. She speaks. Move. Faster. Go. Limit. Hand stiff from injury. Push harder. Pain. Ignore. Hex to base ten. Receiver signal strength fluctuating between nominal 60-75 percent. I hear her siren song. So beautiful. So excruciatingly beautiful. Indescribable. Okay baby. I know. Just a little while longer. I'll have you back where you ought to be and out running again. See? Not so bad. Go. Move. Outside. Done. Inside hanger. Gently drop old part on floor. Collapse. Sound of rotors receding. Relax. Eyes close. Reach to pocket, turn the music off. Blessed darkness and silence fill everything.

I am standing on the back of the ship in the smoking area, slowly working the fingers on a dinged left hand through their full range of motion. Real bright move, punching a steel container. Seemed like the right thing to do at the time though. Dealing with it now though, that's for sure. Taking another drag off of a cigarette, light from the coal flares a bright red orange in front of my face and I flip the butt over the side. I work my way through the typical post flight quarters crowd, (can't smoke then,) and sink heavily onto one of the posts jutting up from the surface of the deck. I ignore the chattering, the laughing behind me. I ignore the humanity behind me and sit miles from where anyone else is going over what I have just finished doing. Why do I do this? Push so goddamn hard I don't even know my own name, only to have to drag myself back from the cold sterility every single time. Would it be easier to just lose everything and then forget it all forever, consign my soul to these machines? Lose everything, just like I lost her? Dammit, I can't stop the recriminations. That was my fault, I did that. I chose the wrong path. Now she's gone, married to another man and I can do nothing. The thing I hate about times like this is that it just compounds the sense of loss. Lost. Do I even know the meaning of the word? Yes, because that's where I am right now. I know the GPS coordinates for where I am at the moment, I could go look at some chart and point at a patch of blue while screaming 'Right There!' to anyone that will listen. I have no idea where I am nonetheless.

Water rustles quietly against the side of the ship like the sound of leaves blowing across a street. Staring out across the sea I can see a red flash, followed a quarter second later by another out on the horizon. Blink-blink. Blink-blink. Anti-collision light. My lover is there, flying, burning fuel and twisting through the night. Her radars running, illuminating everything around her for 160 miles in electromagnetic energy. Why did I substitute her for it? Laughing at me, rotors whisper on the wind.

Nine months.

Nine months and I never have to feel like this again.

Nine months and I forget everything.

Nine months and I get out. To hell with all of this anthropomorphizing.

Nine months and I will be human, I will be real. I will not allow this to steal what humanity I have left.

Goddammit. Jesus I miss her.

She's gone. Forget it.

No. Forget the pain, you don't need that shit. Never forget her.

Never.

back to Phase Maintenance

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.