“You are out of your tiny little mind Darshan.”
Darshan Solo snorted as he walked. The ships around him stood like pencils laid upon their sides. At the other end of the field he saw one lifting toward space on the system drive. A pity that was not good enough to reach the stars. He followed the flight of the ship, and as it started to disappear from sight there was a flash of purple. Another ship had been cannoned to the stars. That ship would reach it in a few hours and join those that traveled between the stars.
“Do you even understand the risks?” His friend Koori asked plaintively. “No one has ever returned from such a flight.”
“Maybe they haven’t done it right before.”
“And you will?”
“Koori, you designed the engines, all I am is the pilot. Why are you the one worried.”
Koori tore at his hair. It was a lifelong habit as anyone looking at the mop he had would have recognized. “Maybe I built it wrong!”
“Like the kite?” Darshan demanded. The kite had been a laughing stock. Large enough that a boy could sit in it, and strong enough to hold his weight. Everyone had laughed until five year old Darshan had climbed on, and after a brief run against the windy field with Koori and four other boys on the string, had lifted gently from the ground. If the string hadn’t broken he would still be up there.
Darshan had never looked at the world the same again.
“Well that worked-”
“And the boat.”
When they were twelve, Koori had built a boat of paper. The sail had not been a sheet but a series of strips controlled by a simple line. Everyone had laughed, but Darshan had sailed across the Great lake in it, faster than the schooners that ferried people across. A pity it had gotten soaked and fallen apart on the way home.
“Well that worked, sort of. But-”
“What about the bridge?” Darshan demanded.
Everyone had laughed when the young university student had built the bridge across the strait to Bendar Island on contract. It had been too flimsy every one said. Oh it had held the traffic but what would happen when the Great Wind came in the winter? The first storm had come, the worst in over ten centuries, and the next day it was still there. Now five years later others of the same kind had proven themselves even against the waves of the Crimson sea.
“That was simple-”
“So you think now your engine will not work.”
“No the Professor thinks it will not work.”
“Why? Has he inspected the plans?”
“He doesn’t understand them!” Koori shouted. “He says no scientist he has shown them to understands them.”
“But you do.” Darshan said.
“Well, yes... Sort of.”
“What do you mean sort of.”
“No one really understands the original engine. It came from a ship that crashed thousands of years ago, and can’t work as it sits.” He tore his hair again. “Whoever made it didn’t use any fuel source known to us, and there weren’t even fittings for a fuel system.”
“So why is yours better?”
“It just feels right. The parts I machined should make it work. The fuel injection had to be designed right from the tubing. But I think it will work. Just nobody else does.”
“As I said. If it’s every scientist on the planet saying it‘s going to be clear weather, and you saying there’s a storm, I don’t leave my slicker at home.”
“But what if I am wrong this time?” Koori asked plaintively. “What if you go out there, and never come back?”
“Koori, if that happened I’d have to come back just to tell you.” Darshan started up the series of steps into the university science building.
“You’re not making me feel better!”
“I don’t have time for my mother to make some Keflaka cookies and mail them, Koori.”
“That won’t, well actually it would make me feel a little better, but it doesn’t make me feel any safer.”
“Why not?” Darshan opened the door, shoving Koori inside. “It’s not like you’re going to volunteer.”
“You know that isn’t what I meant.” Koori started gasping as Darshan strode across the room to the lift. The advantage of having Darshan as a friend was you got a lot of exercising just trying to keep up with him. “I would miss you-”
“You didn’t miss me with the Seeker Dart.” Darshan retorted pushing the button. The lift rose smoothly.
“Don’t give me that, You volunteered!”
“Yes I did.” Darshan agreed. He watched the indicator, then looked down at his friend with a roguish smile. “And I slept for a week.”
“Hey, I didn’t design the sleep compound.” Koori grinned. “Besides, I got some rest for the first time since we met.”
The doors opened, and they hurried down the hall to the room where volunteers were gathering to test the hyper drive.
The door opened on a silent room. Old man Shoorilik was reading a book at the desk.
Darshan hurried over. Instead of being first, he’d decided to come in about half way. “What, everyone’s all ready been here, Professor?”
Shoorilik looked up, put the book mark in, and set the book down. “Yes. Quite a while ago, actually. As soon as they found out your friend had made the modifications, no one wanted to even try the flight.”
“So... Why are you still here then?”
The old man harrumphed. “Darshan, as soon as we knew your friend made the design, we knew you’d be willing to jump off the cliff with it.” He looked at his chrono, and made a note. “Someone just won a lot of money in the professor’s pool.”
“We picked times for your arrival.” Shoorilik commented. “If you had only waited three more minutes...”
Darshan ran out of the room. Koori stood there confused. Three minutes later Darshan came back in.
“Professor, I would like to volunteer for the hyper drive test flight.”
“Very good, Darshan.” Shoorilik stood. “Since there are no other volunteers, it seems you get the chance.”
“And I think you owe me a drink.”
“That I do, Darshan.”