“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.
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.
Whatever reasons Henkel had for sitting on top of a swaying rocket, they had to make more sense than Silversmith’s.
The boosters fired and Silversmith’s world dissolved. All corners and edges vanished into a vibration that shook Silversmith’s bones like castanets.
The noise was beyond anything that Silversmith could have imagined. He felt as though his head was in a vice.
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.
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!”
Under the Hooked Cross was first published by Lillibridge Press, April 2010. It is now available as a standalone Kindle edition.
Cover by Manda Benson.