A02 ~ The Rebirth of the Phoenix
The elder Mitsubishi’s revelation took all their breath… Is Kira really the legendary Phoenix? What is with everyone’s reaction? What is going on? Find out more in this second chapter of SpaceHighway: The Awakened, The Rebirth of the Phoenix II.
4th version @ August 18, 2017:
- Edited: dialogues received a major formatting makeover.
- Fixed: minor grammar and typo fixes.
- New: Achievements.
Thanks to several anonymous readers.
Enjoy the reading,
Siggy Simon Jr.
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A02 ~ The Rebirth of the Phoenix II
“Now I remember who you are!”
We all turn towards the door. An elder Asian-looking man approaches us. He isn’t very tall, at least it seems so, he walks with a cane and his back is a bit stooped over. He inspects me carefully and happily nods to his own conclusion.
“Mitsubishi-san, do you know Kira?” asks Aia doubtfully.
“Yes, my Queen. He is Matsumoto Kira, one of the best truck-drivers from the twenty-first century… known as The Phoenix, the King of the Highways…”
Everyone looks at me speechless and flabbergasted…
Aia steps even nearer and inspects me carefully wearing an expression difficult to describe,
“Kira… are you… really… The Phoenix?”
I sigh, “Well… Mitsubishi-san is right, I was the Phoenix. But this King-thing… isn’t a—”
“Awesome! The legendary Phoenix, here, in my bar! Such an honor! A pint for everyone, it’s on the house!” Buz interrupts me freaking out.
“Aah~ No need at all. I was the Phoenix, not a king whatsoever… And it has been over a thousand years since I’ve driven my Falcon. Surely it has been destroyed during the earthquake or eaten dust…”
“No, that’s not true, young one,” the old man called Mitsubishi-san lays his hand on my shoulder.
“What do you mean? And, by the way, who are you, sir?”
Aia interrupts us, “Mitsubishi Hiato is the owner of the ISTM, the InterStellar Transports Mitsubishi, the biggest and greatest transport association in the known universe. With the best contracts, the best insurance, as well as the biggest in numbers of truckers associated and employed. I am one of them,” she giggles.
The old Mitsubishi nods, “Um. That’s right, Phoenix-san.” Now I am the one completely left in awe… “Once we finished the free beer, I invite all of you to a big surprise dedicated to the reborn Phoenix!” he looks back, over his shoulder, and shouts, “Yuuki!”
A young Japanese-looking women wearing glasses and with short black hair enters the bar.
She simply nods and he says, “Prepare a passenger-shuttle for this folk.”
“Hai, wakarimashita Mitsubishi-sama.”
“Yahoo!” “Great!” all got worked up.
Aia looks at me intensely, inspecting me from top to toes…
“Uh~ Aia. What’s wrong? Are you all right?”
She looks at me with sparkling eyes, “That’s why I felt like I knew you… I feel so stupid for not having recognized you!” with these words she jumps on me embracing and squeezing me tightly, very tightly…
“Aiaahh~ Can’thhh~ breathhh~”
“Ups, sorry… That’s fuckin’ awesome! I’m the first one who met the Phoenix this millennium! ^_^” Aia acts like a little kid in front of Santa…
“No! The best thing is having both the Queen and the King of the Highways in my bar!” Buz runs around the place serving beers, until he reaches us, “You two are always welcome in our bar,” he says with a broad smile.
“But I’m no king…”
He interrupts me with laughter, “You are, Phoenix, you are the King of the Highways. Nothing changes.”
“But…” Argh… I give up… How the hell I ended up being called king? Aah~ whatever…
Mitsubishi-san explains, “Young Phoenix, you are considered a legend under the truckers nowadays.”
“Really?” I’m baffled.
Aia nods and confirms, “Yeah. We all look up to you as one of the best, if not the best trucker in Gaian history.”
I blink, “But… I’ve never—”
She giggles, “Don’t worry about that, for us you are a legend come true! You have disappeared suddenly from the face of Gaia and now you’re here, that’s way more important.”
I don’t know what to say… We sit down at a table and Buz sits down too.
Aia and Buz tell stories about nowadays’ truckers and more stuff about the ISTM. They explain what this association does to be the most important one. And, above all, that nowadays space-truckers are considered a kind of heroes. Without their service, the expansion of the known universe wouldn’t be possible. No trade would exist with far away civilizations nor could a peaceful relationship coexist with many places. Silently and in awe, I listen to their incredible stories while I enjoy my free beer.
The elder Mitsubishi sits with us and confirms the stories, “That’s right. Nowadays, a good truck-pilot has a renowned status in society. They are not simple pilots shipping cargo from one port to another. The best ones, like Aia-chan, are famous throughout the known universe.”
I look at her, she blushes slightly and giggles, the old man goes on, “It is an utmost important job and not always exempt from danger… Um. Sometimes they have to ship hazardous or high valued cargo through unstable zones or through pirates’ hunting places… Our lovely Aia-chan, for example, shipped vital cargo through a dangerous route, preventing a civil war on her arrival…”
I look at her again and she blushes again as she happily nods.
“Incredible…” I’m baffled.
Passed half an hour, we go towards the shuttle. Around twenty other truckers come along with us. They act like children, even Aia, I can’t recognize her. Well, I don’t know her really well, to begin with…
“Where are we going?” I ask intrigued.
“It’s a surprise~” Aia sings happily.
I look towards Mitsubishi-san, he just blinks an eye… This shuttle looks more like a modern bus than a spacecraft.
It seems like a school trip, some are singing strange songs, talking about strange stuff…
After a rowdy, really noisy, flight, we reach a humongous building. A colossal sign indicates that it is…
“A museum? What is so important in a museum?”
“You’ll see…” giggles Aia.
She seems really happy as the shuttle touches down on a bus parking spot near the museum.
I’m getting more and more confused. What the fuck is so interesting for me in a museum? What else can I do? I’ll see it soon enough…
“Where are we going to?” I ask the happy Aia.
“We’re going to the hall of History of Gaian Terrestrial Transport, section Twenty-first Century,” she explains joyfully, Mitsubishi-san just nods happily at her side.
We’re truly an interesting group. We’re being eyed by all visitors. A strange group composed of around twenty strange looking guys and gals, truckers, an elder Japanese man with long white hair, a cute Japanese secretary and a unique bluish alien cross the humongous museum.
We reach the section Twenty-first Century.
“To the sub-section Transport Celebrities,” Aia smiles broadly.
We double a corner…
“My Falcon!” I shout freaking out. All visitors look at us startled. “How is that possible? My Falcon is in one piece!”
Truly, in midst several trucks sits my eight-wheeler Falcon on display.
Aia takes my hand and we get closer to my Falcon followed by the truckers, Yuuki, and Mitsubishi-san.
“I can’t believe it… It survived the earthquake and all these years. It’s in perfect conditions. Not even a scratch at first sight…”
“Yes, they took really good care of it. I’ve already told you, you’re a legend inside the trucking world,” giggles Aia.
The elder Mitsubishi is truly pleased with my surprise.
A guard hastily nears us, “Please, don’t cause a commotion. You are startling other visitors and–” he suddenly stops. He looks at me, then at something behind me… it’s a showcase in which a big picture of myself is displayed. “B–but… that’s impossible!” he takes something out of his breast-pocket, it looks like a lipstick… he shouts into it, “Mister Director! Come urgently to the truck-driver’s hall of the twenty-first century! It is urgent!”
Those words create an immediate reaction from the visitors. We’re being surrounded by a curious mass.
Shortly after, a short, somewhat chubby, man runs by out of breath, “What is happening here? Oh! Mister Mitsubishi, what is the meaning of all this?”
The venerable elder simply uses his cane to point at me and the picture behind me.
It seems as the director’s eyes would pop out, “This can’t be! The Phoenix is alive! This can’t be true! Isn’t it a trick? A clone? An android?”
“No, I guarantee you he is the one, the real one,” Aia defends me.
She, Mitsubishi-san and the rest of the truckers confirm my existence and my story.
“In that case, I apologize, Mister Phoenix, King of the Highways,” the director bows to me. Not that king-stuff again… “If you desire to retrieve your precious Falcon, we would hand it back to you, without a doubt.”
What? Can he really make such a decision on his own? Yeah, I was somewhat renown under the truckers for my stupid stunts… and now they consider me a legend… Even a fucking king! Yet…
I bow slightly to him, “I appreciate your offer. But I doubt I can accept it. I’m not a trucker anymore. Furthermore, my Falcon here couldn’t possibly make deliveries nowadays, that’s just impossible.”
At that moment, Mitsubishi-san points at me with his cane, “Work with us, Phoenix, in the ISTM.”
Complete silence falls over the whole hall… Aia and the truckers look at me eagerly, clearly waiting for a positive answer.
I blink surprised, “But, would it be possible? I mean, I have no chip, no ID and that stuff…”
“No problem. You don’t have any first job assigned yet, right?” I nod and he goes on, “With my powers and contacts, I am able to make you a fully licensed trucker in a few days.”
Aia takes, yet again, my hand and squeezes it indicating I should accept the offer from the old Mitsubishi. I take a deep breath. Go with the flow like always…
I bow deeply to him, “It would be a great honor to work for you, Mitsubishi-san, and with all of you guys!”
Hurrays, shouts and whistles resound in the vast hall of the museum with my old buddy Falcon at my back.
“But I have a big problem… I am unable to control one of those space-trucks, I haven’t even seen one from the insides… and less owning one…”
“That won’t be a problem, lad. Of course, we pay for your license and schooling. Furthermore, if you sign an exclusive contract with our association, we will pay you a basic truck. And if you want a more advanced model or a personalized one, we offer you a loan through the ISTM,” he smiles broadly.
Luckily Aia holds me, I was about to fall down of excitement.
“You have me at your side. I’ll teach you everything needed to update you to space-trucking,” she says smiling charmingly.
“Thanks, Aia…” I have to smile at her enthusiasm.
I turn to the director, “In this case, I have a special request to the director of this museum.”
“Yes, of course…” the director approaches me slowly.
“I want my Falcon to be kept here, in his present conditions.”
The faces he makes, something between happiness and surprise, truly comical.
I go on, “But I’d like to take some of my things, which might still be in the cab. Of course, I would pay for exact replicas of the stuff I take out.”
He opens his eyes wide, but nods, “The museum accepts your proposal with pleasure. Please contact me when you will come by,” he hands me something like a business-card. It is a business-card, just digital… such a strange thing… it clearly has a chip embedded or the like…
He goes on, “If you excuse me, I have to attend other important matters…” He takes a gadget, similar to a cell phone, out of his jacket and slowly leaves the place. I hear something like, “You won’t believe it, the Phoenix is alive! He just…”
Aia’s giggles bring me back.
“I think I’ll need that loan you spoke of. If I’m coming back into action, I want to do it in the best conditions and in style,” I laugh.
He only nods assenting, suddenly I feel a pressure on my right side, “Aiaahh~ Can’thh~ breathhh~!”
The very same moment Aia frees me, I lose my balance and I’m thrown into the air. The truckers lifted us, Aia and myself, upon their shoulders and celebrate my decision.
Back at the truck-stop-station, whatever-its-name, we keep on celebrating my comeback to the highways in Sue and Buz’s bar. More free beers ^_^ I’m being my old me again…
In all the commotion, Yuuki approaches me accompanied by Mitsubishi-san and shows me the contract. It’s yet another gadget, a tablet-like device called DigiContract…
As calmly as I can in all this ruckus, I read the contract. After going through it, she explains that to sign it I simply have to press my index finger against the incorporated fingerprint-reader. Pleased with my signature, she tells me that once I get the ID-chip, the contract will be automatically validated.
After a while, Aia decided, by herself, that I should get my new truck now and pushes me to say goodbye to all.
Mitsubishi-san hands me a data-card containing all documents Yuuki has prepared for me. With them, I am able to buy a brand-new truck.
In high spirits he tells me, “On Monday you’ll get your ID-chip and thus your contract with us will be active. When you are ready, you can begin your job, provided that you got your trucking license. Aia-chan surely will explain you everything in due time.”
I bow deeply to elder man, “Doumo arigatou gozaimasu. I really appreciate your efforts, Mitsubishi-san.”
Finally, we reach Aia’s Ferrari. Now I know how she could afford such ride. The Queen, eh? ^_^
We descend towards Earth—er… Gaia. Aia is visibly happy and ecstatic but maintains an awkward silence.
I look at her, “Aia…”
“Where are we going to?”
“Ah, sorry, I was thinking about how Ralph will react when I tell him that I leave the job at cryonics for good and I’m coming back as a trucker,” she giggles, “We’re on our way to the CreativeTruck, the best place to get you the perfect rig and a good tuning…”
“Oh, okay, surprise me…”
“Again?” we laugh together as we enter Gaia’s atmosphere.
It’s an absolute spectacle… the whole car is engulfed in yellowish orange flames. Yet it doesn’t seem to worry Aia, the AR displayed on the windscreen shows all other vehicles on route and switched to a kind of night vision or animation…
After a spectacular ride through the atmosphere and overflying San Diego, according to the AR, we reach a humongous lot filled with hundreds of space-trucks and other similar heavy vehicles. In midst of this huge lot, stands an enormous industrial unit, occupying about half of the lot itself. Aia lands on a parking space just outside the unit. A huge sign painted in graffiti indicates that we have reached our goal.
We get inside the huge complex.
“Kim! Kite! I’ve got a huge surprise for you girls!” shouts Aia.
“Who? Oh! Aia, welcome. Kite! Come, darling, Aia’s visiting us.”
A woman of an average height, but quite well built, approaches us smiling broadly. Another woman, quite high and really muscly comes from between two of those enormous machines called space-trucks and leaves some really strange looking tools on a metallic workbench. Both wear dirty blue overalls which show off their tattoos and part of their tits.
“Hey Aia, dear. What’s that surprise?”
“Who is this good-looking guy?”
“The surprise is him…” Aia smirks as she points at me.
“Aia, darling, you know perfectly well we’re not into guys…”
Aia giggles, “Fufu~ It isn’t about that, girls… Kim, Kite, I introduce you to the Phoenix in person…”
I’ve never seen such long faces in my entire life…
Aia goes on, “Kira, my friend, meet Kim and Kite. You won’t find a better pair of mechanics and tuners than them. By the way, they’re my best friends.”
“Nice to meet you two. I’m interested in buying a good rig and tune it up to the last screw,” I laugh and slightly bow to them.
Both inspect me incredulously, “Is he the authentic Phoenix?”
“You doubt my words, girls?” Aia explains and tells them what happened since I woke up. I can’t believe that I’ve gained such a renowned status… They look at me baffled and seem to check me out, without being rude, but it’s obvious…
“It is a great honor for us to prepare a rig for the Phoenix,” says Kim after the lengthy monologue by Aia, Kite only nods at her side.
“Come with me, I show you the latest models. The ISTM finances you a basic one, I really doubt the Phoenix would be satisfied by such clunker,” she laughs.
“Quite right, the rest will be financed with a loan from the ISTM. Show me just the best of the best, the most powerful ones.”
Kim laughs loudly, “You truly are the Phoenix. Mitsubishi would have been a fool not offering you such deal. What do you think of these?” she points at three gigantic machines of, at least, a hundred and twenty feet high. “These are the top three. There’s little difference in performance. It just depends on the style you like, I suppose you’d like a lot of room in the back, don’t you?” Kim gestures at Aia and blinks an eye.
“Kim! Don’t say such things…” Aia gets pissed off without being able to hide her purple flushed cheeks.
Kim laughs loudly, “Don’t take it to heart, Aia. C’mon, Phoenix, I’ll show them to you.”
Kim opens a latch and a touch-panel appears beneath. After a brief touch, a door opens at the upper part and a stair emerges out of the fuselage. Marveled, I follow Kim into the truck.
“This is the pressurization cabin, which works as a normal mini-corridor when it’s not needed,” explains Kim.
She nods at my question, “If you need to exit the truck in space, with a space suit, of course. Or if you dock to another truck or a space station. It only works if a difference of pressure is registered. In space, both doors are always sealed.”
“Wow…” I blink and look around.
“What’s that door?” I point at the door just in front.
“Ah, that’s the emergency capsule,” she explains and nods at my astonishment, “Yeah, if you need to abandon your truck in case of an emergency. It holds enough life-support for a week, including water, emergency rations, oxygen and waste disposal. You can use it only once, then the whole section has to be reinstalled. It costs a fortune, but if you are in a real emergency, the insurance covers the cost.”
“Good to know,” I blink overwhelmed.
“You can’t use it as storage nor in any other way.”
“Understood,” I simply nod.
“To the left, the front, is the cab. On the right, your living space.”
“Yeah, you might be on route for several days, even weeks. The living space is fully equipped with a kitchen, seating space, bed and bathroom, all mini sized.”
“Impressive, like an RV.”
“What’s that?” she asks me baffled.
“Oh, a camper, a motor home…”
“Oh, yeah. Both the shower unit and the toilet are designed as well as for zero gravity as with artificial gravity.”
Both Aia and Kim giggle at my astonishment.
“Of course! These babies are able to generate artificial gravity, but guzzles quite a bit of fuel.”
I blink thrice in bafflement. Is this even possible?
“The cab’s equipment is standard. Just the design varies between the three trucks, the same goes for the living space,” explains Kris.
With utmost patience, she goes on explaining the most important details about the dashboard and all other devices in the truck. I just hope Aia will be able to explain how and when to use all of this stuff…
After two hours and inspecting each of the three trucks, I came to a conclusion, “I’ll take this one…”
It’s the biggest one, the best equipped one. Also, it’s the only one which has its own separate bedroom, the others have it open and integrated into the living space. The kitchen is better suited for my needs and the living space itself is quite ample. The cab is also a bit bigger, with two jump-seats, one behind the pilot and another one behind the co-pilot seat.
I go on, “It has more space, seems more comfortable and it kinda has a similar feel to my old Falcon.”
“Good eye!” laughs Kim, “A really good choice. It’s great to see a client who knows what he wants and checks in such detail the product. The name Falcon really suits this baby well,” Kim is truly happy with my selection and Aia joyfully nods at her side.
Stepping out of the truck, Kite approaches, “So, it will be this one, doesn’t it?” she smirks, “In that case, we can discuss the tuning, mods and color. Come to my workshop.”
Following Kim, I look back at my new Falcon, Kim is putting on a sign over the hefty price tag, Sold. But underneath I read Exclusive unit.
“Exclusive?” I ask and Kite smirks, “Yup, it’s unique, a special edition and the only unit ever made of this model. It seems it was destined to become the Phoenix’s unique rig, it just arrived this morning.”
“No fuck…” Kite and Aia laugh, the former says, “It’s quite usual that the manufacturer creates unique pieces, just to sell it at higher prices as truckers love to display their uniqueness.”
“Oh… That’s quite right…” I laugh.
“Now, tell me what you want…”
After more than three hours of looking through examples, pieces and recommendations, we piece all modifications into one massive sketch. Many mods are about its power and maneuverability. However, most of them are just aesthetic mods.
“I’ve got some special gadgets to install in the cab, from the old Falcon,” I add.
“No problem, bring them over and we’ll see how to fix them in. Now, color…”
“Havin’ it clear, huh?” she grins, “But it has to be matte, it can’t reflect, nor pitch black, but slightly graded. You won’t notice much difference.”
“I don’t mind. The base color has to be black and the graffiti to be a firebird, a Phoenix.”
“Okay,” Kite laughs broadly, then she lays her hand on my shoulder, “I propose a deal, leave the design to me and I’ll do it for free, if you let me sign it.”
“Of course, nothing against it.”
“Cool!” she jumps up overexcited, “Kim! The Phoenix lets the design to me and can sign it! What a gift! Designing the graffiti and signing it on the Phoenix’s truck… Aaah~”
“Fuckin’ awesome! We won’t charge for the paint. It’s a true honor for us. Aia, darling, finally you found a great guy. You should take a bit more advantage of him…” Kim laughs.
“Don’t joke around!” Aia shouts blushing deeply.
The mechanic pair laughs at Aia’s embarrassment.
This pair is really interesting. Certainly, they are true professionals. They are perfectly able to advise me in every aspect. Both are really dynamic and show their love for their job. And surely, they don’t hide their love between them. Nor their deep friendship with Aia, it seems they love to see her distressed, most of their jokes are quite sexual and many include myself…
After a lengthy chat, we say goodbye and exit the unit. It’s already dark…
“We better eat dinner at home. I think we had enough alcohol for the day, don’t you agree?” suggests Aia.
“Yeah, sounds perfect, Aia.”
At home, Aia changes into something more comfortable and begins to prepare dinner. Even though I insist, she won’t let me help. She just explains to me how to use the TV set…
Oh, fuck! The jungle picture changes… The whole wall is the TV! And it uses voice and hand gestures to navigate through thousands of channels… Impossible… I already got lost at a hundred channels on cable…
“Kira, change to channel seven-oh-nine, there will be a classic space movie.”
I give the voice command and the Classic Sci-Fi channel comes on. It seems a series episode is ending… What a surprise! Doctor Who! And… I haven’t seen this chapter yet… Nor I’m familiar with this actor… Is this series still on air?
Just as Aia brings the dinner to the coffee table… A surprisingly well-known fanfare sounds from the TV… the movie just started… I can’t believe it… Star Wars, A New Hope…
My attentions immediately turn to Aia’s culinary masterpiece. The fabulous smell from the two plates reaches me as she sits down. I can’t stop showering her with praises for the delicious food, while she blushes happily. Her blushing face is truly beautiful… her cheeks turn purple, a lovely purple…
Finished with the dinner, Aia opens the sofa, converting it into a bed. Even for this simple action, there is a fucking touch-panel! At least now I know how to do it…
She gathers a huge number of cushions and pillows, and we make ourselves comfortable. Lying on the sofa-bed we continue to enjoy the movie.
Aia giggles a lot and comments about things that are quite wrong about the space… there is no sound in space, so you’re not able to hear the explosions and shots. And why do all the ships fly straight? You don’t have to, you just straighten your truck for reference… I smirk at her comments, of course, she has been there… in deep space, visiting other planets… And it seems that I will, in a not so distant day, too…
After an hour or so she begins to doze off…
She fell asleep… Many things happened today, she seems worn out.
I look at her, she is a true beauty… I can’t avoid repeating myself… I feel the attraction… Her silken hair glitters gently reflecting the lights from the TV, its bluish tonalities dance softly at the rhythm of the emitted images… Her relaxed face with her delicate nose and fine lavender lips project an utmost peace. Her silvery earrings on her pointy ears sparkle at the flashes of the screen. All her delicate and elegant features show an unparalleled beauty… she truly is gorgeous…
I’ve never thought I would feel attracted towards an alien… perhaps even falling for her… in just one day… Even if it is truly the case, I’ll have to advance slowly as I’ve discovered from her. But I have time, I am remaking my life, beginning anew from zero. I won’t do those crazy and stupid things I did a millennium ago, not anymore… nor fuck it up like then. I think I’ve learned my lessons. This should be the right moment to settle down somehow…
I let her sleep. After a few minutes, I find a way to turn off the TV, just be saying, “TV off…”
I begin to go through all what happened today… so many things… I am feeling tired…
I feel a gentle graze on my right arm and ear. Hmmm…? I fell asleep. Aia is sleeping peacefully with her head lying on my shoulder… my animal instincts are about to overcome me… No! I’ve decided to begin anew and take it easy… Fortunately, reason wins the battle and I relax. It’s morning already, but I don’t want to wake the bluish angel up, so I stretch myself out without awakening Aia.
I go over my past, I’ve fucked up so many times with women. I really don’t want to end the same way as… Not now, as life has given me another chance…
“Good morning, Aia.”
“Good morning~ Oh! Sorry…”
“You don’t have to apologize, nothing happened…” barely…
Aia stretches her arms, “It has been for a while I’ve slept so well. I think it was thanks to you,” she smiles heartily.
“Don’t flatter me Aia, I haven’t done anything special.” I was able to stop myself from it… and from fucking things up…
“Today I’ll show you how to pilot a space-truck,” says Aia happily during the breakfast.
Are all things going so fast nowadays? I’ve just awoken here two days ago… and I’m already going to drive a space-truck? I don’t mind, as I hate to do nothing, but stuff is going way too fast… I take a deep breath, go with the flow, go with the flow…
After the breakfast, we flit towards the CreativeTruck’s building on Aia’s bike, «My truck is kept safe there. Kim and Kite take care of it while I don’t ply the space-highways.»
Reaching the enormous workshop, Aia parks her bike on the opposite face of the building. We get off the Harley and Aia hovers her hand over a panel at the left side of the gigantic door. We enter as it slowly opens wide. Inside, we find hundreds of space-trucks stacked in huge lots at several levels.
Aia calmly wanders towards the right end of the impressive hall, there we find yet another gigantic door. She repeats the ritual in front of a panel to open it.
A space for, at most, three trucks open in front of us. One lone white truck is stationed in midst the empty space. It hovers at several inches above the floor. A beautiful silver-bird graffiti is painted over its front and sides.
“Phoenix, I introduce you to my Thunderbird,” proudly says Aia with a broad smile.
I take my time, about twenty minutes, to wander around the gigantic truck. It is beautiful… completely white with exception of the silver-bird.
“Incredible, this is without a doubt the most beautiful truck I’ve ever seen. A spitting image of its owner…”
Aia blushes deeply, “Don’t say nonsenses, climb up.”
We climb into the truck. It’s quite similar to the trucks I’ve inspected yesterday… similar to my future Falcon. But this one has a feminine touch in every detail.
Honestly, the cab reminds me of some twentieth-century sci-fi flicks. There is no steering wheel, a lot of small displays and a huge array of screens. I take a seat in the co-pilot seat.
“This is the main joystick. It corresponds to the steering wheel from your times. This second joystick is mainly used for docking procedures. With these pedals, you control the speed and altitude. This pedal corresponds to the breaks. This panel controls all related to cargo, the hitching, coupling and the containers’ safety systems. This one is dedicated to the autopilot. Most of the truck’s control is made through touch-panels. Some special features have dedicated buttons, like the emergency uncoupling and ejecting system… And a few are voice controlled, if you want to…” Aia goes briefly over all the main controls inside the cabin.
“Let’s go to outer space. There you can try some stuff, if you dare. We’ll see there, just keep your eyes on what I’m doing,” she smiles.
“Okay, I won’t miss a thing.”
Aia starts up the power-plants, as she calls them, and the truck lifts from the ground. Music begins to play, «…nothing wrong with just a little, little fun…» she smirks, touches a display and the music stops.
“These indicators…” she points at several numbers at the corners of the windscreen, “show you the distances to the nearest object from each side, top and underside…”
“Cool… uh… what measures are those?”
“Huh? You mean the measurement? Right now, it’s in centimeters and meters. Oh, right… I haven’t told… there are several colors for it, but you can configure it so you can read the actual measurements. Like this…” she runs through a menu on one of the touchscreens and the letters cm appear behind the red numbers and m behind the orange ones.
“If the numbers are in red on a white background, it means it shows centimeters. If it changes to orange with a light gray background, it’s meters. Dark green on white is for kilometers, if it turns white with dark red background, it means lightyears. And, finally, if the distances are white with a black background, it indicates distances higher than one parsec…” What the fuck?
“Uh… can it be changed to inches, feet and miles?”
“Huh? You mean those ancient imperial measurements?”
I nod slowly, fearing I have to re-adapt myself to the metric system.
Aia negates, “No, sorry… we don’t use those anymore… Uh, will it be a problem for you?”
I sigh, “Well… I’ll have to get used to it. I learned how to convert the units, but used to the imperial system…”
“I’ll do what I can to help you. The best thing is we do some distance exercises first. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll get it in no time, you’re the Phoenix after all.” She gives me too much credit…
With utmost care, Aia drives her truck out of the garage building. Once outside, she shows me how to activate the rear cameras to check if the door closed well.
Now she steps on the pedal, no, the pedals, pulls on the joystick and we blast off… I freak out… in no time we’re in outer space! But strangely, this time I don’t feel the lack of gravity.
“I’ve switched the artificial gravity on, so you won’t be distracted by the lack of it, for now.”
Bewildered I look at her, “Artificial gravity? It’s for real? That’s fucking awesome!”
Aia giggles, “Yeah… Big trucks such as my Thunderbird and your future Falcon have those. But it guzzles quite a bit, normally we only use it during sleep and while eating, or in other exceptional occasions. But for today, I’ll leave it on.”
My eyes are fixed on the controls Aia manipulates. Not only on the controls… My eyes wander every so often over her elegant curves… I simply can’t avoid it… Her tight-fitting bodysuit shows her impressive figure off. Each time I become aware of it, I force my eyes back on the controls. It doesn’t seem like it bothers her, or she doesn’t notices it… I doubt it, it’s too obvious…
After some time, Aia breaks and looks at me, “This space is outside any regular route. Here we can do whatever we want. I’ll drop some beacons for references. Ah, by the way, in this menu you can select trial mode. This way the truck emits a signal to nearby crafts informing them that we are doing exercises…”
She goes on explaining details about how to control a truck in space, how to navigate, distances, speed, abilities of a truck, dimensions and, finally, the autopilot. I try to memorize them… But too much at once…
My turn in the pilot-seat. I adjust the seat and the systems under Aia’s watchful eyes. She carefully guides me through the whole process. This doesn’t seem too difficult.
“Okay, now, try to accelerate just as I showed you. Pay attention to the beacons, the AR highlights them and the distances. This way you get used to the distances. Now, focus on the beacons and the distance covered with this indicator, it’s similar to your old-fashioned odometer. Try speed up to half the max speed until reaching the second beacon and stop completely just before the third one.”
“Okay, let’s try.”
For over an hour and a half, Aia instructs me to carry out maneuver-exercises. She is amazed, I get it extremely fast, I complete most of the missions at my second try, some even at my first one. It is truly easy, once I got used to the distances, the indicators and dimensions. And the best? No gravity, no friction. Thanks to automation and auto-assist, a space-truck is almost as easy to handle as an eight-wheeler, at least for me…
In no time, I get used to the basic controls, but the radar, the augmented reality projected on the windscreen, the autopilot, the onboard computer system and the cargo control system is still overwhelming for me. Even so, it doesn’t seem that difficult. Most systems are quite intuitive, I’m sure I’ll get it in given time.
“You’re amazing, Kira. It’s the first time I see someone ace so many drills on the first try. Well, you’re the Phoenix, I shouldn’t be surprised…” Aia smiles happily, just as I want to say that I am not that perfect, she goes on, “Let’s do some more drills and afterwards you should try in the simulator of the Alpha-XT. There you may learn the most difficult maneuvers with zero risk of damages,” she laughs.
Then why the fuck did she insist on using her own truck? A simple scratch surely costs hundreds of thousands to fix…
The AR highlights and labels the Alpha-XT way before we reach it. At about a hundred kilometers left, Charlie calls in and Aia negotiates a good parking-space. I carefully observe her inputs as she docks at an airlock.
Once inside that station, Aia drags me through the ample corridors towards the simulator room.
“Hi guys, can we borrow the simulator for a while? The Phoenix wants to try…”
“Hello, Aia. It’s a real pleasure to meet you in person, Phoenix. I am Whang, I am in charge of the simulations and trainings. If you don’t mind to wait for twenty-five minutes, you’ve got the simulator for two full hours.”
“Perfect! Can we watch?” asks Aia happily.
“Just a moment,” Whang turns around and speaks into a kind of microphone, “Jim, do you mind having spectators? It’s the Queen and the Phoenix.”
«No prob’ pal. Heh! Always happy havin’ famous spectators, heheh… We’ll talk later…»
“Thanks, Jim!” Aia shouts, then turns to me, “Jim is a specialist in dangerous cargo. He is really good. Check out his piloting. He is a peculiar and fun guy, I’m sure you’ll get along quite well.”
Quite right, he is good, he got many second places on the records tables, just behind Aia. The rest of second places are occupied by a girl called Enya, well, I suppose it’s a girl… Meanwhile, Aia dominates all records, now I’m truly impressed.
After the mentioned time has passed, this Jim leaves the simulator, “How’s it, Whang?”
“Quite well Jim, you’ve just broken your record. You are, at average, just at fourteen points behind Aia,” Whang grins.
“Ow… almost… Heh! I canna geddit into my damn skull on how yer able to be dat good, ma dear, heheh~” Jim looks at us and blinks an eye at Aia.
Yup, this guy is peculiar, he is dressed just like a cowboy from the old western flicks. He is quite tall and skinny, he even wears two handguns in old-fashioned holsters… aren’t they in his way while piloting? And what the fuck is with his accent? Finally I’m getting the hang of the overall changes, and now this…
“Ah, Jim. I introduce you the Phoenix. Kira, this is Jim, one of the three Aces of the ISTM.”
Jim takes my hand ecstatic, “Really pleased to meetcha, Phoenix. Heh! I completely freaked out ’en I’ve heard in da MaryQueens da legendary Phoenix was reborn… Heheh~”
“The pleasure is mine, Jim. I’m eager to work at your side,” I laugh.
“Heh! Da honor is mine! Aia, ma friend, hella big fish ya caught at yer vacations! An’ ya donna even know how to fish! Heheh~” he laughs.
“Fufu~ oh, Jimmie… Happy and exaggerated, as always,” Aia giggles, “Ah, let’s talk afterwards, we should take advantage of the two hours.”
“’course, good luck, Phoenix. It wonna be easy to beat dis beauty… Heh! She holds all records…”
“Thanks, Jim. But I came to learn how to pilot these things, not to compete,” I laugh.
Whang approaches us again, “I’m preparing some simulations for you. Do you know the basics?”
“Yeah, he knows the basics, he was trying out stuff on my Thunderbird and I was amazed how fast he learns…” confirms Aia.
“Phew~ If the Queen says so, I fix you some harder simulations. All right?” he asks me.
“Certainly,” I nod, “just load the most realistic ones. I want to see if I’m able to do it…”
“Perfect,” Whang laughs, “You will notice that the simulator transmits all movements and you will feel like you are in the real thing. Ah, yes, just one thing, the artificial gravity will be on the whole time.”
I climb into the simulator and regulate the pilot-seat.
«Okay, in this first simulation, you have to pilot a long cargo between other trucks without security system, only measurement indication and AR, if you scratch one truck or container, game over. Higher speed, more points, okay? It is a simple simulation to familiarize yourself with the dimensions, the width and length of your truck with ten container holds.»
I hear the laughter from the three outside the simulator while the simulation finishes loading.
«Ready. Whenever you want, you can start.»
The simulation starts in open space. I try to orient myself, luckily, the AR gives me some hints. Okay. I accelerate up to full power and suddenly several trucks appear highlighted in the AR. They all move in the same direction, but quite slower than myself. I locate the mentioned space and I close in without slowing down. The AR indicates the free space I will have, quite narrow…
«Kira! What are you doing? Slow down!» Aia shouts through the speaker.
I calmly keep focus on the trucks in front of me and speed into the open space.
“Don’t worry Aia, there are twenty centimeters extra on each side…” I laugh…
After about two minutes I pass the trucks, end of game.
«Heh… whatta fuck?» «This can’t be!» «Incredible!» comments blast through the loudspeaker.
«Kira! You just broke all records! You broke mine! You were almost half a second faster!» Aia shouts through the speaker.
“Lower your voice Aia, you’ll break the speaker… It’s an easy job, I did such stuff in my times with an inch to spare… Whang, please load another simulation.”
«Okay, here we go…»
Over the span of two hours, Whang loads numerous simulations and I’m able to pass many without a hitch… Perhaps I failed around a third or fourth of them…
Sweaty, I step out of the simulator. What the fuck? The spectator room is up to the brim with people applauding.
“What’s going on?” I ask Aia at the foot of the stairs.
She looks at me with a happy face and moist eyes, “You’re amazing! You just drew with me! In only two hours of simulations! We both have nine-thousand and one points!”
“Guys! Let’s party! Hehe!” Jim raises his voice over the cheers. Not again… Somehow, I have the feeling we’ll get drunk again.
Whang approaches me, “Congratulations, I have never witnessed anyone clearing so easily that many of my simulations. I will prepare some more extreme games for the next time. Now I have only the most extreme ones left… Better be prepared…” he smiles broadly and goes on, “We will have to make a new pot, don’t we guys?”
“Yeah!” “Sure!” “’course!” “Long live da Phoenix!” the horde confirms shouting.
“Heheh~ Yeah pal, eacha us puts fifty bucks into da pool if we believe we’re able to beat one o’ our beauty queen’s records. Heh! Ya jus’ won da whole pot,” Jim strongly slaps my back laughing.
“But I didn’t bet anything…”
“Not important. Dis pot is given to anyone who beats mor’ dan two records of da Queen, even if dey haven’t bet anythin’. An’ ya ended inna fuckin’ draw! Heheh!”
All nod and insist in accepting the pool.
“In this case, I invite you all to a jug at the MaryQueens, the rest goes to the new Falcon!” I laugh.
“Cool!” “Fuckin’ great!” “Long live the Phoenix!” “Yahoo!”
We all walk, quite rowdy, towards Buz and Sue’s bar, there we’re received with a dazzling welcoming…
“Congratulations! You’re awesome!” the huge bartender exclaims.
“How the hell do you know already?” I’m baffled.
“Look…” Buz points at a section of the screen-wall, “We’ve got the real-time record-tables always on screen. The moment you appeared on the tables, we switched to the simulator’s livestream and watched your feat live…”
No surprise this bar is the most popular one of the station, you get any info in real-time.
“Wow… then…” I hand Buz the pot-data-card, “a round for all, it’s on me!”
He smiles satisfied while his patrons roar excited, “Sure, Phoenix. Sue! Darling, help me!”
“Coming! Let me finish the croquettes!”
And the party starts… Each one inside the bar comes by and introduce themselves, congratulate me and toast for my health. Strangely, I haven’t met another alien yet, like those I saw from far away or mingled between others. I’m really curious…
This very same moment, I see feline-like ears…
A smaller girl nears Aia who hugs her, “Enya! Girlfriend! You came!”
Her ears are real! They just moved!
The feline girl giggles, “Aia dear, I had to see it with my own eyes…”
The blueish girl also giggles, “Ah~ I introduce you. Enya my friend, I introduce you to Kira, the Phoenix. Kira, she is Enya. One of the ISTM’s Aces. She is the specialist in express deliveries and rush jobs… the fastest of all.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Enya. Uh~ Excuse me for—”
She interrupts me smirking, “A true pleasure, Phoenix. You want to ask me about my ears, don’t you?” she giggles and her ears flick at her question…
She giggles again, “Don’t worry. It’s your first time seeing a Felii,” she smiles, “I am a mestizo between the Felii and Human species. My father is a Felii, my mother a Human.”
Aia explains, “The Felii are a feline species, she got the characteristic ears and tail of them.”
“Yeah. I’ve got only my ears, tail, eyes and some extra fur from my dad, the rest is from my mother,” Enya laughs.
“Incredible… So nowadays there is mixing between species? Cool!”
“Oh? Great! A recent awakened who doesn’t freak out by this…” Enya smiles broadly, “I think we’ll get quite along,” she takes a step forward and looks happily into my eyes, she truly has feline eyes…
I laugh, “I hope we can get along well, pal.”
Aia follows our conversation with a smile on her lips and says to her friend, “Imagine, when I said that I am an alien, still recovering in cryo, he simply smiled… as if it is the most normal thing in the world…”
“Hm,” Aia hums in affirmation and nods, “It’s great to meet people like him…”
“Absolutely!” Enya laughs, “Ah, thanks Buz…”
Enya takes her free beer and turns to me, “Let’s toast… For the Phoenix!”
“For the Phoenix!” all lift their pints and we all take a good gulp of the refreshing beer.
After a while, Mitsubishi-san and Yuuki join us.
“Kira-kun, congratulations. Now it is absolutely clear that you will be one of the ISTM’s four Aces,” he says solemn, then he raises his voice, “My friends!” all fall silent, “Now it is truly official, at least for us here present, the Phoenix will be the local Ace the ISTM lacked. Aia-chan, Enya-chan, Kira-kun and Jim-kun are the full ace of the Central ISTM, the Aces of Aces!”
“Hip, hip, hurrah!” one trucker shouts, many hurrahs and whistles resound in the bar.
The three named truckers are thrilled by his speech and also applaud with the rest. I am just flabbergasted…
Aia takes me back to reality hugging me tightly, “Aiahh~ uugh~”
She lets me free and giggles, “Welcome, Phoenix, I’m eager to work with you.”
What a beautiful smile!
I bow to her, “I hope I am able to learn a lot from you, Aia-sempai.”
She giggles again, blushes slightly and hums in affirmation, “Hm.”
Mitsubishi-san says to me, “On Monday, tomorrow, you will get your ID-chip and thus, you will be, officially, an employee of the ISTM and, more importantly, a legal citizen. When you are ready, you can take your pilot’s license exam for space-trucks, and when Kim-chan and Kite-chan finished in preparing your truck, you will be able to soar through the space-highways. Yuuki has already all the documents in order.”
She nods and hands me yet another data-card.
“Cheers!” “For the Phoenix!”
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To be continued in:
SpaceHighway ~ A03 ~ Flatmates
Daft Punk – Digital Love
Thank you, patrons!
A huge thank you to all patrons supporting SpaceHighway on Patreon!
all the Aces of the ISTM
and all the Instructors
- Ana del Hierro
- Siegi Simon Sr.
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Intertextual references found on this page:
A02 ~ The Rebirth of the Phoenix II Read chapter
- Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor - Star Trek: Voyager
Did you found it? No need for being a hardcore fan of Star Trek, but not easy ^_^
- Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson - Doctor Who
Mentioned by Kira
- George Lucas - Star Wars: A New Hope
Mentioned by Kira
- Toriyama Akira - Dragon Ball Z
A02 ~ The Rebirth of the Phoenix II Read chapter
- Daft Punk - Digital Love
TL;DR:The author does not identify himself with any character.
Any resemblance with reality is purely coincidence.
SpaceHighway: The Awakened
© 2004-2017 by Siggy Simon Jr. / Martin S. Siegrist
All rights reserved
This literary series is protected under the copyright laws of the Sol System and other galaxies throughout the universe. Planet of first publication: Gaia, Sol System. Any unauthorized exhibition, distribution, or copying of this literary series or any part thereof (including imaginary soundtrack) may result in civil liability and criminal prosecution. The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living, deceased or future), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.
No person or entity associated with this literary series received payment or anything of value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of tobacco, alcohol, drugs and any other health related products.
No aliens were harmed in the making of this literary series.
Copyright © 2017 SpaceHighway & Siggy Simon Jr. / Martin S. Siegrist. All rights reserved.