Blimpy Boy

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« on: <10-08-11/1137:13> »
Rich stood in the moonlit plains of Athabaskan cattle country and took a sip of water from a water bottle. He and the others stood next to the pallets of equipment that they had unloaded from the Fury, his parents' modified Lobo t-bird. Around him was a couple thousand kilos of equipment for his next job, his Big Job, his Career Maker.

“All right,” his father said. James Barnes was a big bear of a man, standing over two meters tall and built like a retired linebacker—a bit soft, but still more than enough to knock most trogs on their asses without a thought. He kept his aviator shades on even in the middle of the night as they stood in the wilderness, directing all of his crew's activity around his t-bird. Rich had watched as his old man spoke with his crew chief, and Rich's immediate boss, before coming over to speak with Rich. “We've got to run before anyone notices us out here.”

“Yes, sir.” Rich didn't get any special treatment from his parents for being on their crew—other than the fact that he was on their crew. His older siblings earned their way onto other crews. His parents ran a tight crew with little turnover, and they weren't about to make a spot for anyone. They were third-generation pirates. Their grandparents were hijacking loads on motorcycles and trucks and running from the U.S. government. Having a flying tank like the Fury was a pipe dream to their generation. They didn't make it easy for their kids, and Rich's grandparents didn't just hand his parents crew jobs because of their DNA. Rich lucked out, but just barely. And he had a sharp learning curve. Everyone knew why Rich was put on the crew, why he was made a crew hand at 15 when the average age of the crew was twice that, and why his parents rode him harder than anyone else.

Within five minutes, the Fury was gone. Four men stood in the grass, scrambling to unpack and prepare their equipment. Miles, the Fury's crew chief, took charge and began to prep the area so that they could lay out the canvas for the helium balloons that they would lift them into the stratosphere in less than six hours. He had Rich accompany him, making sure that the ground was clear as they dragged the rigging materials out. The other two, Ruiz and Omar, were busy checking the weather, timetables, and intelligence as they prepared the capsule and Miles generally let the EW/intel/tech guys do their jobs while he and Rich did theirs.

Miles was a tall, lean black man with a close-shaved head. As Rich understood it, he got the nickname from his Army days, when an officer remarked that he looked like an old jazz musician. He'd made it to crew chief on a Banshee LAV back then before he ended up running with the Fury. He was the most “outside” member of the crew, not having always been in the life; not necessarily as a pirate or jammer or whatever, but any part of the vast little underworld of smugglers and crooks that made up the community Rich and his family, and the families of the other two men, had been born into. Rich never knew what the catalyst was that drove him out west to Boise, but he didn't care. His parents trusted Miles with their lives, their crews' lives, and their LAV's well-being for over a decade. Rich watched him as they finished unfurling the bag, going over the fabric meticulously to ensure that there were no holes, rips, stretched areas, or flaws in general. He made Rich do the same thing on his side, and then double-checked Rich's while he had Rich go over his. Miles had no shred of pretension, and knew that no matter how good he was he was never perfect. Rich scrutinized the area because that's what was expected of him. He didn't have as much raw skill and experience, and so he made up for it with rote practice.

Once they were done, the two walked back to the capsule. Ruiz and Omar were going over every part of the capsule as a pair of cyberdecks with satellite uplinks ran information-gathering agents off to the side. This job was in most dimensions their baby. They had the specs of the mission calculated down to the millisecond. The helium would inflate on a timer to ensure that they spent as little time on the ground as possible before it took off. Like Rich, they were born into the life. Ruiz's family were coyotes—human smugglers who specialized in cross the Mexican, now-Aztlan, border and back—and he fell into the intelligence/techie side as a result of showing a remarkable prowess with devices and for hacking into border security nodes when he was young. Omar was a networker and a born linguist whose connections were responsible for the Fury having a leg up on other crews for choice targets and reliably profitable fences. Having an extensive knowledge of technology was his “in” to get a lot of these people to talk in the first place, since the transportation industry lived and died on technical logistics, as he learned from his aunt, a civilian who happened to work for Maersk Sea-Land.

Of course, that left Rich. He was born to fly. He and his siblings learned the ins and outs of aviation and terrestrial mechanics, and how to drive and fly anything that they could or would ever expect to fly or drive. His mother taught him how to shoot when he was five. She was not under any illusion that their world was one that was based in no small part on violence, and she more than the old man—who was too reliant in her opinion on flight and not on “fight”—wanted Rich to know how to fight and kill and survive. In that regard, his was actually more skilled than a lot of older folks in the business, and even among the crew. As the others checked the minutiae, Rich walked over to the gear pallet and broke down the various containers. The first thing that he checked was the most critical—the jump box.

If anything was fucked inside this box since they left the hangar 100 klicks away, then the rest of the job was moot. The first thing he did was open a box on the end of the pallet and pull out a large sheet of grey semi-rigid material with a black bar on the end that he used as a handle. Walking backwards with it until the whole three meters of material was unraveled, he pressed a button on the side of the handle, and there was an audible thump as the plastic hardened. He placed the safety on the button and extended the folding legs so that it made a flat table. Once he made sure the legs were secure, Rich went back and opened the jump box. He then removed a smaller container with was a complete parachute rig inside. He opened the pack and unfurled the chute, checking it for flaws. He then folded it back, and checked all of the parts of the rig and harness. Once he was done, he repeated the process three more times.

Once the jump box was checked, he checked the pressure suits. They had to remain completely intact, without any loose connection, dangling pieces, or flaw in the joints. This included the helmets, regulators and air tanks. At 90,000 feet AGL any flaw in the breathing apparatus would kill the user. He went over the suits meticulously, and once all four were checked he replaced them and moved onto the weapons and other gear. It was a thankless task, but it was his to bear as a member of this team. That these men were placing their lives in his hands never crossed his mind. It never needed to be said or thought because it was always there. He didn't need to tell himself that everything needed to work as demanded. The parachutes had to work. The suits had to work. The climbing/work harnesses needed to work exactly as intended. The weapons certainly needed to work as intended. This job had a million moving parts, and if one of them failed then it all failed. No pressure.

Right on time, the helium began to fill the bag. As the tanks did their work, the crew did theirs. They put on their pressure suits, parachute rigs, and climbing harnesses. Each man had his own gear, and packed it on themselves as they had practiced earlier. Decks were placed on chests beneath the reserve chute and oxygen. Firearms were holstered on hips. Everyone did comm checks. Each man slowly walked into the capsule and lowered himself on the narrow ledge. They didn't have, need, or want full seats. So they'd effectively be standing for the entire ride up. It was uncomfortable, just like it had been in the sims and on the practice jump. But that's the price for living the life of a criminal. They were all firmly locked in when the timer hit zero. Rich closed the hatch, and that was it. Within a minute the capsule was airborne.

As the crew ascended, Ruiz and Omar continued to check on the variables. Rich and Miles oversaw the flight, ensuring that they made any corrections to vector and angle as they ascended towards the stratosphere. The mission required them to be precise down to  the millisecond when they jumped out of the capsule at the edge of space. The two in the back checked to make sure the target was on the right vector and airspeed for the planned interception, and that the security measures were on ... until they weren't. Everything was checking out, and so no one had to say a word. Each man dealt with the stress of the situation personally, and privately. For Rich, he thought of his wife. She was the better pilot and better mechanic. But circumstances put him on a crew, and left her taking care of their son. She'd kill him if she knew what he was doing. It was just the way he turned out, it seemed, that he was on the path of choosing what was most likely to fuck up their lives if he failed. And while that hadn't happened, the Law of Averages was bound to catch up to him. He closed his eyes and silently prayed to himself. When he looked back up, he could see out the porthole. They reached space.

Above the hatch was a timer and two lights: one red, one green. The red glowed as the timer counted down to less than a minute. The capsule had already equalized with the pressure outside, and the four men inside stood up. The ass bars retracted so they wouldn't impede Ruiz's or Omar's exits. Rich opened the hatch, exposing them all to the thin, cold air above the Rockies. Everything was ready as far as they knew. Rich stood in the doorway, on the tiny step jutting from the bottom of the capsule just beyond the doorway. The timer went off, and the light turned to green. He heard the beeping in his comm, and as his heart was racing and trying to escape through his mouth, Rich took one last step.

And flew.

It wasn't like he was falling. Falling really seemed to need some relative change in circumstances. He was suspended in space with blue and white beneath him and blue and black above him. There was nothing that screamed out “You are at 30.5km (100,000 feet) AGL and falling at almost 200 kph.” He needed his instruments to tell him he was on the right vector and speed as he brought his arms and legs together and aimed towards where his target was supposed to be. He knew that behind him were the other three crew members, but his job was vital. He had to make the attachments on the hull for the harnesses. As information crossed his heads-up display, he had to mentally command himself to loosen up. Rich already had dropped 8,000 feet and could make out the vague shape of his target: a football stadium-sized plank in the middle of space. At 91,000 feet AGL his parachute automatically deployed as he steered directly towards the oncoming blimp. Even for as big as it was, he needed to hit the right spot to stop and catch the harness one of their people was kind enough to attach, or else he'd end up sliding right off the craft. And that was not good, because as soon as his feet hit the top of the craft he released the parachute into the aether. Sure, he had a backup. But it was really just a drogue chute that was only half-likely to keep him alive if he missed.

Running across the deck, he knew that Ruiz did his job. Nothing had shot at him on his descent, or as he ran towards and lunged at the tiny harness. His hand grips made contact, and he held on even while his body wanted to separate from his arms at the socket.  Rich shoved his right wrist towards a eyehole, and the hook on the outside of his sleeve snapped into the eye. As did the one on his left arm. The KleenTac grips on his boots and knees adhered to the rigid outer material of the blimp as he extended his arms to release the capture bars from his suit. He unfolded them again to make a black “V” on the white skin of the blimp, and watched as three figures screamed towards him and made contact with the blimp.

He didn't watch them land. He reached to his chest and placed two anchors down on either side of him, which adhered with instant-bonding KleenTac surfaces onto the skin. Behind his back, he removed two bags of rope and attached them to the waiting hooks. Locking them with carabiners, Rich opened the backs and let the ropes spring free behind him. Just in time as Miles hit the catch, followed by Ruiz and Omar. Within seconds, everyone attached their harnesses to the ropes. Rich and Ruiz would take starboard, and Miles and Omar would take port. The men crawled across the blimp carefully, taking any slight handhold they could using the craft's ribbed frame or connections between rigid panels as they maneuvered forward towards the giant bow turbines providing the craft with lift. They went slowly, but they had a timetable. Once at the turbines, they attached new harness points into the handholds the manufacturer graciously had installed for mechanics to use when working on the blimp. It was very unlikely that they expected them to be used in flight, but who knows. Maybe there was a crazy saboteur of an engineer working with the design team.

Rich was first to reach the bottom of the turbine housing and stood upside-down on the underside of the blimp thanks to the miracles of suction and adhesive technology. But so far, this was easy. They still had to take control of the flight deck without damaging or destroying the craft.

This was why Rich was team leader. The airframe surrounded the entire air bladder around the bottom of the craft to ensure that nothing sheared off due to force. As a result, Rich and his team were now in a position to enter the craft and crawl through the airframe. The operative word was “crawl.” Rich made his way to the access hatch, and slowly unscrewed the opening. It was cold, windy and everything was shaking from constant movement. Time seemed to drag on as he unfastened the hatch. Sweat was dripping down his face as the last bolt came loose. The power wrench fell from his hand down into the abyss beneath him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Rich hoped that the detritus landed on anyone. Another part hoped it would. But consciously, he was only concerned with dragging himself into the machine as fast as possible. Because regardless of anything else, he was certain that the rigger flying the blimp would definitely know they were onboard now. Hopefully Ruiz had attached and activated the jammer, but since everyone was maintaining radio silence he didn't know for certain.

After what seemed like forever, he and Ruiz were inside the airframe. Ruiz crawled ahead of Rich and found a control box between the engine frame and the airframe as Rich reattached the hatch. He quickly pulled out a small toolkit and removed the cover, finding a circuit panel and splicing into it so that he could connect his cyberdeck to it. And that's when Ruiz went limp and Rich kept moving. He knew that Ruiz and the blimp's pilot would fight like hell in cyberspace, but it was more important that he and the others take physical control of the ship no matter whether Ruiz succeeded or failed. But he was crawling through something with a footprint the size of a football stadium, and full of things that could snag him up and tear open his pressure suit.

There was a pressurized hatch inside the airframe, but it was down in the flight deck. The element of surprise was quickly waning, and it was taking longer than they had planned to reach the flight deck. Rich finally reached the cabin, and Miles and Omar followed up behind. Omar picked the maglock to the cabin and they all squeezed inside. The room quickly pressurized to 1 ATM automatically as Ruiz unlocked the door into the flight deck. Once inside, the three drew their weapons and quickly raced to take the craft. Shockingly, there wasn't anyone in the aft deck where they entered. Everyone was on the main flight deck.

With eight people onboard, including four guards, three split into two groups. Rich moved in from the starboard side and ambushed the security personnel. He fired onto all of them, taking out three with a rapid succession of head shots. From port, Miles took out the last guard and came around to round up the rest of the crew. Ruiz had killed the rigger in cybercombat, and after all of the work the craft was now under their control. There was still the matter of the cargo deck crew, but that could wait for now. They wouldn't come up to the flight deck, mainly because Ruiz locked them out, but also because they would have no reason to unless there was something amiss as far as they could tell. But for now, Rich would fly the craft. They were going to change course and land long enough to offload the cargo before anyone could respond.
« Last Edit: <10-08-11/1142:32> by James Meiers »


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« Reply #1 on: <10-08-11/1410:57> »
Sweet story excelent action and character involvment


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« Reply #2 on: <10-08-11/1848:20> »
Thanks. I've only gotten to play him once, but I'm hoping to change that. Though after you jump out of a weather balloon onto a moving blimp at the edge of space running in Seattle seems a little boring. However, boring can be good for some people sometimes.