Earth Defense Base Delta - Flight Deck - March 3, 1982 07:16
Earth Defense Base Delta - Flight Deck - March 3, 1982 07:16
The base extended hundreds of feet underground, but the maze of tunnels was well laid out and it was actually hard to get lost.
In the lockers Captain Morris pulled on his suit and, carrying his helmet under one arm, stepped out onto the gantry. Before him the long tapered body of his rocket towered above and stretched down below him. Its smooth silvery skin only broken by the shape of the main hatch.
Before heading to the hatch, he did his routine once-around. X-4 was an Apollo-class Rocket-ship. The latest design and among the largest ships ever rockets. Nearly 50 feet at her widest and close to 200 feet tall from her powerful engines to the sharp tip of her nose. Morris did a quick walk around the outside visually checking out the silvery skin alert for defects.
In 10 nearly identical launch tubes, 10 nearly identical rockets were being looked over by their captains. Whether or not their ship was going up today, each captain wanted to make sure they were ready for the call. The thousands of men and women of Earth Defense Base Delta had their work focused on making sure these 10 rockets were ready to respond when needed.
He looked over the edge. 70 feet below him three fat fins held the engines off the floor. Looking up he could just make out the seams of the plates that covered the portholes - these could be retracted to let the crew look out during longer flights, but usually remained closed for alert calls like this.
He finished his walk around and made his way to the hatch where an ensign was talking with the deck chief and comparing notes on the chief's clipboard. Both came to attention when Morris approached before he waved them to relax. Ensign Taft handed the board and a collection of bright red "Remove Before Flight" tags to Morris, "Chief says everything is good to go."
Morris took the tags and clipboard and made a cursory glance over the checklist. Atomic fuel, oxygen, latest engine overhaul results. Everything looked good. He handed the board and tags back to the chief. “Looks good, Chief." Turning to Taft, "Crew onboard?”
"Everyone checked in, including our replacement radioman. He got here just before you did."
Morris whistled. “Wow. Major Williams can really motivate people when he needs to.” The deck chief nodded knowingly. “Is the new guy anyone you know?”
The chief shook his head, “Nope. He looks greener than a Nebraska cornfield, but at least he should know which end of the radio to talk into.”
“Well, so long as he can keep the radio working today we can worry about training him up later.” Morris gave the chief a quick salute and turned to his ship.
He stepped through the hatch and Taft followed him, closing the hatch. A pound on the hard metal wall was answered when the deck chief checked the seal and pounded the response. He then did the same for the inner door of the airlock, securing it and preparing it for launch.
Morris watched for the green confirmation light. He always waited for the light as confirmation of their first step - even though hundreds of little steps preceded this one to get his ship ready to fly.
He punched the ship’s comm button. “Alright crew. The boss is here. I’m heading up to the bridge now. We launch in 1 minute.” A chorus of “Aye ayes!” answered from up and down the central ladder-way.
He made his way up two decks to the bridge. Arrayed around the central access were the bridge stations humming with activity. He sat down in the captain’s chair and started his launch checklist.
To his left sat Lieutenant Ken Thompson at the operations and navigation station. He was speaking into his radio getting last minute updates that he was marking on the charts and sheets that were spread out across the chart desk in what looked like a haphazard mess but what was a form of order Morris had long since given up on trying to understand.
To his right in the pilot’s chair, Lieutenant Michael Taylor worked down his launch checklist. He flipped switches and watched for the corresponding ready lights.Checklist done he called “Pilot chair ready”. Morris had been flying with Taylor for 3 years now and knew that Taylor would now be doing a second checkover down his ready list.
Having gotten the pilot’s go-ahead, Morris pressed a button on his console. “Engine room, status?” It was redundant with the confirmation lights on his station, but he always did a verbal check with the crew before launch.
After a short delay space chief Green replied. “We are topped up and ready to go on your order.”
Morris hit another button. “Gunnery, status?”
Crewman Lewis replied almost over-eagerly, “Forward batteries are green across the board here. We’re ready to take out some rocks!”
Ward followed from station 2 “Gunnery station 2 reports ready for flight.”
Last was Jackson “Gunnery 3 reports clear for launch.”
“Good to hear it,” Morris replied.
One more glance at the bank of yellow status lights showed everything still clear. Around the ship, the crew of 12 were strapped in, their stations secure, and they were ready to go.
Switching the comm, “Radio, signal Space Control we are ready to go and request permission to launch.”
A shaky voice came back, “Aye aye, Captain. Requesting permission to launch.”
Morris heard some clicks and switches across the line followed by some mutterings and more clicks.
After a way too long delay, the radioman came back, “Space Control is on the line.”
“Thank you, radioman.”
“Space Control, this is X-4, we are ready to launch.”
“Roger, X-4.” Came back the voice of their launch officer. “We are clearing you now.”
Outside the ship, gantry ways were retracting, hoses were being disconnected, cables reeled in and blast doors were being sealed. Above the ship, the huge door covering the launch tube was rolling to the side, exposing the ship to the early morning sky.
“Deck reports clear.” Came the report from the engine room.
“Doors are clear.” Reported Taylor in the pilot chair.
Morris was waiting for the launch officer to give them the go-ahead to launch when Major Williams broke in the line “All ships, this looks like a relatively minor meteor shower, so we are going to send up just X-1, X-3, X-4 and X-7. The rest of you remain at ready state but stand down for training.”
“X-1, X-3, X-4 and X-7, you are cleared for launch.”
Morris hit the all-ship comm. “Ok, boys strap in. We are green to go.”
He watched a the last bank of 12 lights as each switched from yellow to green, the final confirmation that each crew member had securing their chair for launch. When the final light turned green, Morris gave the signal to Taylor and Taylor counted down. “5… 4… 3… 2… 1… and go!”
At the bottom of the ship, three huge atomic engines came to life and the ship started to climb out of her launch tube. Morris’ seat automatically tilted back as he was pressed into it by the force of the launch.
The ship cleared the top of the tube and the acceleration doubled again as the engines pushed to full throttle. In one monitor, Morris watched as the ground started to recede. In another monitor he could see 3 other rockets riding clouds of fire into the sky.
“Sending course corrections into the system now.” Came the navigator as he strained to enter the necessary coordinates.
“Passing 100 miles”. Called the pilot.
“Time to target?” Morris asked.
The navigator checked his dials. “We should be at target zone in 20 minutes.”
Morris switched on ship-comms as the force of the launch slowly ebbed. “We should be in the path of those rocks in 20 minutes. I want all positions ready for action in 15.”
A chorus of “Aye ayes” answered him.