Under the Hooked Cross – 1: Countdown

Here’s a new series from the Eclectics: an old story of mine, Under the Hooked Cross sliced into 17 instalments, to be served up every Monday evening. If you can’t wait for the next one, the links to the full text version are below. For now, I hope you enjoy the adventures of James Silversmith.


Under the Hooked CrossThe shuttle’s main engines fired, rattling James Silversmith’s seat with a brute roar.

“Main engines good. Gimballing forward.”

Silversmith couldn’t make out the words in his earphones, but six months of flight training had taught him what to expect. He felt the shuttle sway as the pilot gimballed the engine nozzles. This had to be the definition of insanity. He was strapped on top of the supposedly controlled explosion that was a rocket engine, swaying back and forth because it was the only way to test the controls that would steer the shuttle in space.

“Five.”

Silversmith turned his head to lock eyes with Max Henkel in the next seat. Henkel’s face was white, his mouth slightly open as if begging for reassurance that sitting there was the right thing to do.

“Four.”

Whatever reasons Henkel had for sitting on top of a swaying rocket, they had to make more sense than Silversmith’s.

“Three.”

The boosters fired and Silversmith’s world dissolved. All corners and edges vanished into a vibration that shook Silversmith’s bones like castanets.

“Two.”

The noise was beyond anything that Silversmith could have imagined. He felt as though his head was in a vice.

“One.”

It was almost enough to make him forget what he’d heard a few engineers say about the wisdom of sitting between a pair of solid fuel boosters that couldn’t be shut down if they misbehaved. Almost.

“Zero.”

The vibration eased as the rivets holding the shuttle to the launch pad sheared.

Silversmith looked up at the blue blur of sky beyond the back of the pilots’ heads. For a moment, there was no sensation of movement, then a growing push in his back. The rockets’ roar fell silent. Silversmith felt a moment of panic before realising the vibration still rattled his teeth. The shuttle had just broken the sound barrier.

“We have lift off. Heil Heydrich!”

The Ministry of Enlightenment hadn’t been able to keep its heavy hand off the launch checklist.

Next week: Argus


Full story available from Amazon in Kindle format.

Author notes

Goodreads

Cover by Manda Benson

These other stories by DJ Cockburn available online: Steel in the Morning, Newgate Jig, The Endocrine Tyranny, Peppermint Tea in Electronic Limbo, Foreclosure, Cassandra’s Cargo and Mars One.

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