Space Date: Part 2

Half an hour later I’d gone through the League jet’s flight checklist, moved through the passageway into Grand Lake, floated to the surface, and took flight.

I flew it over Lake Michigan, and then started to ascend. After we hit 30,000 feet, I started pouring on the speed, knowing that we’d have to be moving extremely quickly to get into space.

I learned later that the ship could be seen on both sides of the lake (Wisconsin and Michigan) because of the trail of flame behind it.

At the same time, the Heroes League message boards on the Double V forums had lit up as someone reported a jet sighting, and people speculated on exactly what sort of emergency we were rushing to meet in space.

I didn’t know it at the time, but if I had,  I like to think I’d have felt at least a little embarrassed.

Mind you, I wasn’t thinking about it at all.

I was monitoring our engines, the fusion reactor, life support, and watching the radar for planes (and other flying objects, identified or not).

When I had time to think, I marveled at how quiet the League jet was, and how different it felt from the Rocket suit. With the suit, I’d gotten used to feeling my stomach sink at take-off, and everything inside me shift with turns.

Inside the jet, the anti-gravity, and anti-inertial devices made it feel like we were at home using a flight simulator.

The windows, instruments, and information screens were the only way to know we were flying.

“Nick, is there anything I can do?” Haley asked.

“I don’t know.”  I tried to think of something. Haley had been training on the simulator, but the simulator only went so far.

Was there anything?

“Are you familiar with the weapons systems and the shields?”

She looked over at me. “I thought you said it was safe.”

“It is, but better to be cautious, right?”

I smiled at her, and she opened her mouth to say something, but stopped, and looked out the window. We’d flown far enough out that we could see Earth.

Haley stared. “I can’t believe it. There’s so much water.”

I followed her gaze. We were over the Pacific ocean. From here, the whole planet seemed to be water.

Past Earth, the stars were little pinpricks of light. Without an atmosphere, they didn’t twinkle.

“Hey,” I said, “I’m going to orbit Earth once. Tell me if you notice the International Space Station.”

“Once? Where are you going after that?”

“I don’t know. I’m still thinking about it.”

She frowned. “You’re lying.”

“Sorry. I was thinking we could fly past Lagrange point four, and take a look at the jump gate.”

“Don’t the Xiniti frown on that?”

“I don’t think so. We’re not going to try to use the gate. My grandpa took me on a flyby once when I was twelve.”

I took a wide orbit of the earth, letting it grow wider as we circled.

“There’s the space station. And a ship.”

A blocky, rectangular ship floated in space. Several times as long as the space station,  it orbited  further out from the planet.

The monitor on the instrument panel lab labeled it the UNS Jay. I wondered where the UNS Kay had gone. The Xiniti were loaning us both of them. I supposed they could have sent the Kay elsewhere in the solar system, or kept it hidden somehow.

I decided not to worry about it, and pointed us toward L4. Even if the Xiniti wouldn’t let us use it, the jump gate was pretty cool. The idea of it at least.

And it wasn’t quite true that the Xiniti wouldn’t let us use it. They were under orders not to let us use it until we could build ships on our own (without alien tech) that could handle the stress of going through the gate.

Grandpa had said we’d tried, had our work inspected, and been told it didn’t meet criteria. The inspectors wouldn’t say why.

In short, alien bureaucracy  sucked just as bad as any other kind.

23 thoughts on “Space Date: Part 2”

  1. So far so good, no big alarms or trigger-happy aliens just yet. 🙂 Maybe Nick will get away scotch-free.

    That said, I’d like to know more about the Xiniti. E.g.: when did they make themselves known, how did they do it, what’s the history behind it, and so on so forth …

    And I’m guessing that it happens after WW2? Seeing as how all the the early League stories make no mention of aliens (and in fact I think it was mentioned earlier that the Heroes League was among the first superhero teams …

  2. He should have filed a flight plan with the local Xinti bureau. Honestly, how could he not have know that? I think the rules are clearly on display at the local planning department in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard”. Now, it’s going to be like if some kid took his grandpa’s plane up and flew past the White House. Because, people used to do that, didn’t they? Years and years ago? I think you can still buzz the President in a plane if you want, I don’t think anything will happen.

    Ah, the naivety of the turkey who has not yet fully comprehended what Thanksgiving will mean for him. 😛

  3. ~ Bart: totally caught the reference.
    Also Jim there’s a typo where you say: anti gravity and anti inertial devices made us feel were were in a flight simulator.

  4. Ell: We’ll get more about how it happened that the Xiniti are there in the first place (and the League’s history with them) in the next post.

    Bart: “Beware of the Leopard” is one of my favorite bits in Hitchhikers.

    Jeremy: I tend to think of bureaucracy as inevitable in any intelligent species that’s not a hive mind. You’ve got to organize somehow. Unfortunately.

    Captain Mystic: Thanks. Fixed. I think.

    Hg: I was stuck for names. Then it struck me that the situation with aliens had some similarities to Men in Black…

  5. Just a missing word before the “only” in this sentence:

    The windows, instruments, and information screens were only way to know we were flying.

  6. Let’s see…ok, suction hose, good good…but why only one? What do you do for people with multiple excretory trunks?

    What’s with all this oxygen? You humans should really cut down on that. It’s bad for fires and it helps cause rust. Which brings us to the dihydrogen monoxide. Why do you bring it on your flights? It’s horrible and you can never get all the contaminants out. That’s why we recommend liquid nitrogen for any species using the jumpgates. We know some neat tips for making it taste like purple.

    I understand your food is dehydrated? Yes, that’s a problem, more things reliant on the dihydrogen monoxide. Plus you’re stocked entirely wrong. There’s not nearly enough liver, kidney, asparagus, and bovine tongue. You also lack appropriate amounts of the tentacle food group. No octopus, no squid, only 60% amounts of worm and even then, only in the beef. Don’t two-eyeball me. I’ve been two-eyeballing since before I grew my fourth! We know bovine tongue is good. Of course, you have some joker who decides to start spinning the ship around and dropping it to see what happens. Yes, we already apologized about the circle, but you shouldn’t bring that up. WE’RE the ones saying YOU can’t go into space.

    What? Well why would you bring that up? Listen, it was the 60s, all the marijuana in the atmosphere got into our environmental systems, next thing you know we have a few farmers on the probulator. Real mature. You keep this up and you’re never going to get this thing certified for the jumpgate network.

  7. I’ve always wondered what would happen to all these little (semi-)protected planets if the people protecting them were wiped out. If I knocked off the Xiniti could I ravage all the little technology backwaters like Earth that i felt like?

    Also, how would Xiniti be pronounced? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

  8. (continuing on Psycho Gecko’s thoughts)

    Now, let’s discuss who you’ve got to pilot this thing. No that won’t do at all. Too many blind spots…. You’ll need to find someone who can see out the back.

  9. @Kavu: Presumably, ‘Xiniti’ is an English transliteration of how they pronounce the word (which may or may not be the actual name of their race — consider how amusing they might find it to tell the backwater aliens to refer to each of them as “Exceptional Being” or perhaps “Mr. Large Reproductive Organ”). Given how the letter X has been used in as a first letter in other transliterated languages, it is likely pronounced as either “z”, “sh”, or “ks”. As for the rest of it, the N and T as almost guaranteed to sound just like you’d expect, but each letter I is likely to be pronounced one of three ways: short i (as in ‘pick’), long i (as in ‘pike’), or long e (as in ‘peek’). (Although, for the letter I, there is the small possibility that a soft consonant modifier is included in the pronunciation. This means that you pronounce the vowel as if you were going to include a consonant after it, but don’t pronounce the consonant. Think of the ‘ir’ in ‘bird’, but without actually making the ‘r’ sound. Other common modifiers are ‘il’ and ‘ing’. But again, given that this is English transliteration, it is most likely that the consonant modifiers would be written into the word. In other words, if an imaginary word, ‘dit’, was pronounced with an ‘r’ modifier on the ‘i’, in English it would like be written as ‘dirt’ — and subsequently mispronounced with a full ‘r’ sound, but that’s a different story.)

    Given these common variations, the possible pronunciations include (i = short vowel i, I = long vowel i):

    Zi-ni-ti
    Zi-ni-tI
    Zi-ni-tee
    Zi-nI-ti
    Zi-nI-tee
    Zi-nee-ti
    Zi-nee-tI
    Zi-nee-tee

    ZI-ni-ti
    ZI-ni-tI
    ZI-ni-tee
    ZI-nI-ti
    ZI-nI-tee
    ZI-nee-ti
    ZI-nee-tI
    ZI-nee-tee

    Zee-ni-ti
    Zee-ni-tI
    Zee-ni-tee
    Zee-nI-ti
    Zee-nI-tee
    Zee-nee-ti
    Zee-nee-tI
    Zee-nee-tee

    SHi-ni-ti
    SHi-ni-tI
    SHi-ni-tee
    SHi-nI-ti
    SHi-nI-tee
    SHi-nee-ti
    SHi-nee-tI
    SHi-nee-tee

    SHI-ni-ti
    SHI-ni-tI
    SHI-ni-tee
    SHI-nI-ti
    SHI-nI-tee
    SHI-nee-ti
    SHI-nee-tI
    SHI-nee-tee

    SHee-ni-ti
    SHee-ni-tI
    SHee-ni-tee
    SHee-nI-ti
    SHee-nI-tee
    SHee-nee-ti
    SHee-nee-tI
    SHee-nee-tee

    KSi-ni-ti
    KSi-ni-tI
    KSi-ni-tee
    KSi-nI-ti
    KSi-nI-tee
    KSi-nee-ti
    KSi-nee-tI
    KSi-nee-tee

    KSI-ni-ti
    KSI-ni-tI
    KSI-ni-tee
    KSI-nI-ti
    KSI-nI-tee
    KSI-nee-ti
    KSI-nee-tI
    KSI-nee-tee

    KSee-ni-ti
    KSee-ni-tI
    KSee-ni-tee
    KSee-nI-ti
    KSee-nI-tee
    KSee-nee-ti
    KSee-nee-tI
    KSee-nee-tee

    Of course, I haven’t included the possible variations in terms of syllable emphasis. Each of these combinations could be pronounced with a combination of primary, secondary and tertiary emphasis, including the possibility of three primary syllables (as if it we three separate words). I’ll leave that for you to play with. (Try saying them out loud.)

    Personally, I’m inclined towards an Italian-sounding, ‘Zineetee’, with the primary emphasis on the second syllable (like how ‘spaghetti’ is pronounced).

    Hg

  10. I typically think of it as Zinitee, but given that it’s meant to be pronounced by aliens, it’s also a given that it’s a human approximation of the real thing.

  11. Not even counting all the other sounds they could be using. Toss a ! in there. No, I’m serious, that’s a kinda sound you make for some African languages.

  12. Wow. How did I miss that middle ‘i’ in Xiniti all this time? I’ve been reading it as ‘Zin-tee’. 😛

  13. Jim, is that with the emphasis on the first (primary) and third (secondary) syllables, like ‘manatee’?

    Also, I’d love to see a transliteration of Lee’s real name. Heh.

    Hg

  14. Lee’s real name: Lgethuyxernitipaniniapottamucthuloyggdrmjolerjya.

    Proper pronunciation: Stephanie

  15. Hg: Right. Emphasis on the first and third syllables.

    Psycho Gecko/Hg: I like to imagine Lee’s real name as a combination of sound, images, and possibly elements from senses that only become possible for beings that perceive more dimensions than we do.

    And naturally, mere exposure to the full version would probably cause madness.

  16. Apparently Nick somehow missed that he’s flying a ship that has anti-gravity. He doesn’t need to fire off the rockets to get to space at all.

    Admittedly, if you reach orbital height without getting anywhere near orbital velocity any space trash you’re unlucky enough to encounter will be a much bigger problem. And it might just plain take too long.

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