Stardust Stories, Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Convergence

“If only you could see me yesterday
Who I used to be before the change
You’d see a broken heart
You’d see the battle scars
It’s funny how words can’t explain
How good it feels to finally break the chains
I’m not what I have done
I’m what I’ve overcome”
What I’ve Overcome – Fireflight

As a child, Cassidy knew she was destined for greatness. Unfortunately, she was also born a minority. Being black, she was considered less than human by the Theocratic Confederacy. Being female made her even less of a person. Added together, Cassidy was likely to end up as a servant girl or if she was very lucky, a waitress or cook. But in the deepest heart of the Confederacy, a woman had few career opportunities and a black woman had fewer still.

Still, she felt a calling. Something in her heart just screamed to her that she could reach the stars. Cassidy came by that naturally though, through her father. He had been one of the last black crop dusters until pilot licenses were denied to minorities and women.

The day he landed the old crop duster for the last time, she felt like the world stopped turning. Her father looked like he aged half again in the months after. She had been up in it several times as a little girl. It was like a dream and she would play in the cramped cockpit for hours at any opportunity.

It seemed, therefore, like Gods will when she heard the news announcement offering the chance for women pilots to try our for courier service. The regular skirmishes between the Confederacy and the Northern Alliance were tying up the male pilots, so the Army was looking into using women as courier pilots, to ferry aircraft as well as cargo and troop transport pilots.

As she folded the sheets in her laundry pile, Cassidy tried to keep her smile to herself, but she had a hard time. Her father was very light skinned, her mother not quite so much. At times he was mistaken as Caucasian, and Cassidy was fortunate to inherit that. Her smile reddened her cheeks, spreading like a rose petal from cheek to cheek.

In a week, she would be leaving Shreveport Louisiana to join the Army’s Air Corps. as a Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilot, or WASP. The idea of the WASP’s was tried successfully in World War II. Cassidy was a bit amused at how much life today seemed like life then. Aside from some technological and religious details, life was very similar to life then for a black woman.

Louisville Kentucky: WASP training facility

The bus rumbled to a halt on a dusty stretch of road near some large round roofed buildings. They looked like some giant had buried several soda cans halfway in the ground. These cans however were huge. Standing three stories high and forty feet across, they dwarfed everything on the horizon, which really was not difficult, as there was little nearby that was at all large. A CH-7 Pawnee transport was landing with a plume of dust from its exhaust nozzles kicking up dirt from the recently cleared landing pad.

The Pawnee looked familiar to the assembled passengers, they had been the primary transport of the Confederacy every since British Aerospace bought the aircraft plant from the Alliance just after the end of the war. Of course, since hostilities continue, it was often argued that the war didn’t end so much as wind down into a meat grinder of a stalemate. The British had taken the side of the Alliance only after the tumultuous loss of life from the initial fighting. To say that the Alliance was really a Nation State would be generous, its little more than a few large pockets of resistance that are armed well enough to prevent the Confederacy from ultimately claiming whats left of habitable North America.

The Confederacy captured many of the Pawnee transports and began producing them without license from British Aerospace. The transport itself resembled a Hind-D military transport made famous, or infamous depending upon who you ask, in Afghanistan decades ago. The shape was what most people noticed was so similar. The Pilot/Gunner configuration was strikingly similar, though to be accurate, that configuration could trace its roots back to Vietnam era on the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter. Yet still further back, that configuration was used in early world war one bi-planes.

Further back on the rather ugly aircraft was the passenger compartment, which was rather unimaginative and simply an extension of the fuselage from the front. Two powerful thruster engines with vectoring trust perched atop the compartment. This arrangement made it possible to enter and egress the compartment without stepping on or around the engines, which tended to become rather hot during hover mode. Under the pilot, in the nose of the craft was a counter-thruster, which wasn’t as responsible for lifting the aircraft, as it was to balance the lift, preventing the ugly armored transport from simply nosing over and killing its passengers.

Behind, at a bit of a distance, on the end of the transports “tail” was the control surfaces as well as vernier thrusters. This gave the overall image of a helicopter without rotors, which was what most people considered the Pawnee. However, that was far from accurate. The Pawnee only resembled one, but under the hood, so to speak, it was as far from one as a Model T from a Ferrari.

As the passengers assembled, watching it land, a blond woman stepped in front of them. She was no taller than Cassidy, perhaps five foot three, no more than a hundred twenty pounds, but she looked powerful in her “Thumper Jumper” as the flight suit was known.

The name Thumper Jumper came from the history of the flight suit having been used primarily by rescue helicopter pilots.

“Ladies, we’re behind schedule, get in line on the edge of the road…Now!” she yelled as two equally rugged looking women, dressed in green fatigues stepped up along side her.

They yelled, shoved and eventually organized the thirty passengers into a line from smallest to tallest. Cassidy was one of the shorter girls and ended up very near the woman with short blond hair.

“Ladies, my names Lieutenant Kara Thrace and I will be your flight instructor. You may call me God.” she said with a slight smirk. “While you are with us, you will obey any and all directions given to you by anyone who is not one of you!” she continued. And thus started the flight training that Cassidy was so eagerly looking forward to.

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