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Test Flight

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Jessica Parker’s hands were slick on the steering wheel as she wound the great, black and chrome truck up the hills west of Freedom City. The narrow track switched-backed again and again, and the headlights shone on trees and brush as often as the dirt road. Still, it wasn’t feat that made the young woman’s palms sweat or her heart flutter; it was the excitement of the moment, and anticipation of what she was going to do.

The hilltop was grassy and deserted, which was perfect for Jessica. She pulled the truck into a turn-around and got out, looking around carefully. Convinced that she was alone, she thumbed a button on the key fob and watched the car’s tailgate rise; while the hydraulics worked, Jessica stripped out of her thin coat and the tee-shirt underneath it. They were tossed on the driver’s seat, and her jeans and tennis shoes followed. Soon the girl was clad in just a navy-blue bodysuit, gold lines making sharp geometric shapes on her body.

There were four aluminum cases in the back of the truck, and inside each was personalized high-tech, that Jessica Parker had designed and crafted personally. She snapped on the gorget and spaulders, then the fauld and cutlet – all new words she’d had to research – settling them comfortably before pulling on the gauntlets and boots. She shivered as her body’s nervous system synched up with the suit’s. There was a soft whisper of metal on metal as the segmented armor extended, covering her head and body.

Jessica opened the rest of the cases, handling the devices casually. They’d been designed and built to withstand much rougher treatment, and if they broke from being dropped on the ground she wanted to know now. The back unit fit nicely into place, neon-bright screen flickering to life in front of her face as the power unit slowly spun to life. The vambraces and greaves socketed into place and the diagnostics soon certified everything ready.

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Jessica feathered the flight controls and felt giddy and the armor’s weight lifted off her shoulders. There was a quiet humming in her ears and the energy levels fluctuated, but the magnetic-etheric drive had no physical backblast whatsoever; not a single blade of grass was bent.

Jessica pushed an invisible throttle forward and rose into the air on a column of magnetic energy. She rose ten, fifty, one hundred feet into the air. The young woman leaned forward and began moving slowly, bodysurfing on the electromagnetic field of the Earth itself. It wasn’t all easy –the armor itself was suspended fine, but she could feel her joints chafe where they rested against the metal shell. Still, the physical discomfort was a small thing, and she noted the need for padding distantly.

Jessica moved east at a good clip, and in no time at all she was among the city’s skyscrapers. A shift of her hips was enough to change directions, and she stabilized almost without thinking about it. The radio babbled endlessly in her ear, jumping from station to station. She was tempted to leave it on a rock or techno station and enjoy the flight, but Jessica didn’t build the rig to enjoy the city from a mile up, so she turned into the police band. There was an apartment fire in South Freedom that the fire department had under control; a domestic disturbance in the West Ed that she wasn’t equipped to handle; and a high-speed chase through the Mid-Town which sounded more her style. Not only could she outpace anything on wheels, she was already in the neighborhood.

Jessica banked and dove into the lights of Mid-Town.


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