50 Kilometers southwest of Whitestone
5 July, 3069
(The day of Ro Dover’s accident)
The Bonnie Lass was a Karnov UR Transport Aircraft. She looked like a standard airframe craft, but that was deceiving. She had tilt rotor engines and could take off and land vertically like a helicopter. In truth, she could not take off or land like a standard airplane. Her rotors were so large, that the engines had to be tilted up when she was grounded, or the tips of the rotors would strike the ground. Occasionally, foolish young pilots would forget this and try to land Karnov Transports horizontally, and would learn a very hard lesson when they snapped the rotors off before the plane made touchdown.
The Bonnie Lass was also an old aircraft. In truth, she was an old aircraft when she arrived on the planet Galava ten years ago. Valak Dover purchased her in 3059 to expand his transportation operations. Her ability to take off and land without an airstrip and her ability to fly like a standard plane made her perfect for his business operations in the Galava outback. And since she was perfect for his needs, she had been worked hard over the last ten years. She needed a complete overhaul. But as long as she would fly, Valak Dover kept pushing her to keep work hard.
Ro Dover contemplated this as he was flying his father’s plane. Someday, she would be retired, but not this day. Ro had to keep her flying one more day. So he rubbed his lucky rabbits foot, kissed his Saint Christopher medallion and checked the instruments. Altitude: 2,000 meters. Heading: 030. Speed: 100 knots. After scanning his instruments, Ro keyed his radio. “Whitestone Control. This is Dover Transport Bonnie Lass. Making final approach. Requesting landing instructions and weather conditions. Bonnie Lass out.” After a short pause, the radio replied, “ Bonnie Lass, this is Control. Drop to 900 meters and proceed on heading 030. You are cleared to land on Pad 13. Be advised of crosswinds. 100 percent cloud cover at 1,000 meters altitude, but clear conditions below. Control out.” Ro replied, “Aye Control. Drop to 900 meters on heading 030. Land on Pad 13. Bonnie Lass out.”
Ro pushed the control yoke forward and brought the plane into a gentle descent. As they got closer to the cloudbank below them, he yelled over his shoulder, “Oy! Fifteen mins. Plant yer frakin keisters inna don.” _ (Hey! Fifteen minutes. Sit your #$%ing butts down.) _ To which his brothers replied with various insults and jibes. All he ignored until his father growled, “Tongue lad. Watchin it or I be cuttin it.” _ And Ro meekly replied, “Aye Da. Pardons.” _(Yes Dad, sorry.)
Contrary to Ro’s instructions, his brothers did not sit down. Instead he heard them moving cargo around in preparation for landing. When the Bonnie Lass plunged into the clouds, he was too focused on his flying to pay attention his family. The cloud layer was not especially deep, so the plane emerged underneath it below very long. As promised, visibility was good below the clouds. Ro saw the spaceport ahead and could even see a grounded dropship from his location. He verified that he was heading to the proper landing pad, and checked his instruments again. The altimeter still read 2,000 meters. Ro frowned. He knew that he had dropped below 1,000 meters, so he leaned over and tapped on the instrument’s glass. It responded with a spark that shocked Ro and shattered the glass.
“Oy, Frak!” (Oh Dang!) he yelled in surprise.
Ro quickly scanned his instruments. As his eyes settled on the fuel gauges, the left tank gauge dropped to empty and the right tank gauge rose to above the full mark. Ro tapped the glass on the fuel gauges. Another spark flared, with the same effects as the first one.
Frustrated, Ro pounded on the console. “Frak! Frak! FRAK!” And in his outburst, he accidentally hit the emergency engines shutdown button.
“Oy Fraaaak…” (Oh Darn.) he whispered when both engines immediately silenced.
Behind him, Ro’s father screamed, “Ayee Boyee! Git der hyen frakin rotaries frakin runnin frakin NOW ya frakin daft frakin idjut! (Boy, get the engines running now.)
Ro immediately began the restart sequence. The engines did not start on his first attempt. They never did. After Ro repeatedly tried to get the engines to start, his father said, “Hash, git yer frakin arse up dar an flyin ussen!” (Hash, get up there and fly.) Ro kept trying to restart the engines as his brother Hash made his way up toward the cabin.
Hash almost made it to the cabin door before the Bonnie Lass was caught in a severe downdraft. If the engines had been working, Ro would have been able to pull up without much problem. But without power, the plane was pulled into a steep dive to the ground. Ro heard the cargo shifting and his brothers tumbling around in the cargo hold. Several of his brothers were injured and cried out in pain.
Ro frantically tried over and over to restart the engines as the ground came rushing up at him. Finally, the engines roared to life. Ro was able to pull out of the downdraft and start gaining altitude again. Behind him he heard his brothers groaning in pain as they began tending to their injuries. Before he could turn around and find out how they were, Whitestone Control called him over the radio. “ Bonnie Lass, report. What is your status up there?” Ro immediately replied, “Aye Control, this is Bonnie Lass. We have been having mechanical failures, but all is under control now. Bonnie Lass out.” The voice on the radio sounded quite annoyed when it replied, “Well quit screwing around up there and come back to heading 030. Control out.”
Ro leveled out and brought the plane around to the correct heading. He noticed that the clouds had become much darker during the time it took him to pull out of the dive. And then lightning struck the Bonnie Lass.
The thunderous crack left Ro’s ears ringing and the searing brilliance of the lightning flash made his eyes water. He was stunned for several seconds before the shocked cries of his family brought him to his senses.
“Oy, Frak.” (Oh Shucks) he muttered.
Trusting that his family could take care of themselves, he checked the status of the plane. There was a trouble light was flashing on the console: ENGINE was glaring on and off in large red letters. Oddly, the engines seemed to be running fine. Ro performed some simple tests to identify the problem. He almost convinced himself that the trouble light was faulty, but then he tried to tilt the engines. They remained locked in the horizontal position.
“Oy, Frak” (Oh Shoot) he groaned.
After a moment he called back behind him, “Aye, Hash. Commin up here ah. I’ma in needin ob some assist.” _ (Hash, come up here. I need some help.) _ A few seconds later, Ro’s father sat down in the copilot’s seat. Ro was surprised and said, “Da, I’ma needin Hash. Us havin here a prob.” _ (Dad, I need Hash. We have a problem.) _ Valak shook his head and replied, “Nay Ro. Hash mash er nog ona dann. Mickey tendin erim, abba Hash bein out cold an quiet.” (No Ro. Hash hit his head during the dive. Mickey is tending to him, but Hash is out cold.)
“Oy Frak” (Oh Heck) Ro sighed. “Da, der rotaries dinna roun uppa. I canna sessen der flyer inna don mit keis herek. _(Dad, the engines won’t tilt up. I can’t land the plane.) _ Valak considered what Ro said and replied, “Ya hafta sessen inna don liken es reg flyer. Flattish rotaries.” (You have to land like a standard plane. Horizontal engines.)
Ro argued with his father. “Nay Da, ya dinna kenna. I canna sessen inna don liken es reg flyer. Der blades be so largo. Der blade points mash der terra bes fore der sessen tubes. I’ma needen ta roun der rotaries uppa and sessen inna don liken a whirler.” (No Dad, you don’t understand. I can’t land like a regular plane. The rotors are too large. The tips of the rotors will hit the ground before the landing wheels. I need to tilt the engines up and land like a helicopter.)
Valak shook his head. “I kenna fine, Ro.” He reached over and tapped the trouble light. “This meanen nah sessen don liken a whirler. Ya hafta unrunnin der rotaries an slide in flattish. Aye? Now best ya brace an setten so as I livin an seein as a halden moor mark.” (I understand, Ro. This means you cannot land like a helicopter. So you have to shut down your engines and glide in horizontally. Right? Now get set so that I get out of this alive.)
Ro stared at his father. This old man who did not know how to fly had given him the only possible option out of their dilemma. He reached for the radio to inform Whitestone Control about the change in plans. But the radio was dead, another casualty of the lightning strike.
“Frak.” (Oh Poop) he muttered.
Ro cut the engines as his father suggested. In the sudden silence, Ro asked the saints to keep the downdrafts away. Ro had no problems as the plane glided toward the landing pad. Ro glanced at the rotors. They were spinning lazily as the air rushed past them.
The pad he was trying to land on was not a runway. It was a landing pad for dropships. As the Bonnie Lass glided closer to Pad 13, Ro brought the plane into a gentle decline and lowered the landing gear. When the plane was over the pad, Ro dropped the plane down to get it on the ground. Unfortunately, at that moment, the right rotor spun down and caught on the ferrocrete. The plane was spun sideways before the rotor snapped off. And then the left rotor swung down and contacted the landing pad, which stopped the plane’s spin, but caused the plane to “fly” sideways. But planes don’t fly sideway, and the Bonnie Lass dropped like a stone. The landing gear could not handle the shock of the sudden impact, nor the stress of the sideways skidding. All three sets of gear snapped off and the plane fell onto its belly. The plane continued to slide on its belly until it slid off the edge of the pad and grounded into the grass.
When the plane finally stopped, Ro leaned back in his seat and let the panic slowly ease away. In the silence, Ro’s father said “Oy, Me livin an seein. Spose I ah nah don tinkin do ya so Ro.” (Hey, I’m alive. I suppose I shouldn’t be so disappointed in a you Ro.) And then he went into the back to check on Ro’s brothers.
The rest of the day was a blur. Three of Ro’s brothers were sent to the hospital. Whitestone Port Authority was asking everyone questions. Valak was trying to avoid them and get the cargo off-loaded.
After sunset, Whitestone’s postmaster arrived with a packet of mail which he left with Mickey. He was going through the mail while Ro lay in the back of the plane trying to forget about the day. After several minutes, Mickey called, “Oy Ro! Here in be a note fer ya.” Ro looked at the letter that Mickey tossed at him. It was from The Warden’s Hall Academy. Ro tore it open quickly, desperate for some good news. Ro sighed in relief when he read that he had been accepted into the Academy.
Ro shared his good news with Mickey who immediately left to tell the rest of the family. While Ro sat alone in the plane, he wondered who else had been accepted. Ro applied to the academy when he heard that Pixie Jones had applied. He would be very disappointed if she did not get in. When he was with her, he felt like he could conquer the world. She never belittled him. Pixie teased him to be sure, but never made him feel small when she did so. In fact, Ro enjoyed the verbal sparring that they sometimes engaged in. And he enjoyed the physical contests even more. Especially wrestling. Ro enjoyed spending time with her and he couldn’t envision training at the academy without her.
The more he thought about it, the more he was sure that she had been accepted. He looked forward to training beside her. And he looked forward to leaving this horrible day behind him. He was sure that tomorrow he would start a new life and never have to think about this incident again.