The second brief installment of Hornet.
Hornet – Part 2
by Desmond Manny
Sara dreamt, and remembered.
On lazy summer afternoons all the children would run down the hill sloping from the back of Grandma Ora’s house to where the Slalom Creek widened into a middle-sized lake before continuing on it’s way to eventually empty into the Mississippi. The nearly half-dozen children, siblings and cousins, would plunge laughing into the cool water to escape the oppressive Southern heat. Often, Sara would distance herself from the general rough-housing, content to float on her back and allow the slight current to take her wherever it wanted. Every muscle relaxed she felt entirely herself, the coolness of the water that buoyed her a gentle reminder that the body was ever-present. The true her was all intellect and emotion. The year previous, at thirteen, Sara had discovered philosophy. Much of what she read was still beyond her, but she enjoyed the feelings that were inspired by the readings, and the questions she had never thought to ask about identity and self. Floating, she reflected on her true self being what she thought and learned and wondered, the body and its senses a source of raw data for the mind to interpret. Or something to that effect. She was precocious but it would be years before she could properly articulate her feelings.
Being in the telemetry rig in the moments before connection to Unit 03 she was reminded of distant memories. It was always like this. The sense of weightlessness and disconnect was one major deciding factor in washing out for many operators. For most the sense of being separated from the tactile sensations of their bodies made it difficult or impossible to retain focus. Without that focus the Unit and Operator could never function together efficiently. It had not been as easy for Sara to master as some. The sense of separation of mind from body wasn’t a complete one. Sara could feel her extremities, though it was a sensation similar to being in a dream. Present and accounted for yet still distant, with her mind and body connected by some indecipherable tenuous link. It could lead to distraction. Distraction was a danger.
Suddenly, the interface went live. Sara had a sense of speed, as though her consciousness were rising to fill a void represented by Unit 03. For an instance she felt doubled as though she had two bodies, one her own flesh and blood, and another composed entirely of sensory sensations. This ‘second self’ was the input from the various sensor arrays outfitted on Unit 03.
Sara’s brain interpreted the connection and the incorporation of the sensory array with her own natural senses in a number of ways. The most obvious was vision. High-definition cameras on-board the Unit relayed topography as digital information which the rig fed to Sara and her optic nerves interpreted as though she were seeing with her own eyes. Each of the Operators had a their own means of interpreting and making sense of the data. Sara’s background was as a pilot and her mind placed a HUD similar to that of an F-18 cockpit in order to help her make sense of everything. She had heard that another Operator’s sensor-feed took the form of the dash of a ‘76 Mustang. Another, constantly shifting orbs of varying colors. The form of the sensor-feed made little difference since each Operator was actually receiving the information directly into their cerebral cortex. A small device cradled within their gray matter by necessity. Otherwise operating the Unit at it’s peak speeds would be utterly impossible.
Unit 03 was making a good clip over the canopy of a dense forest. It was a safe zone in order to put the new prototype through its paces before assigning it to active engagements. Having piloted Unit 01 and Unit 02 on many occasions Sara knew immediately that there was something very different about Unit 03. The link seemed somehow more natural. Mentally directing more power to the engine Sara revved up Unit 03 and gave herself over to the experience. If they wanted to run her, then let’s run her!