Subject: Flight School (story) johnb
From: (John Benson)
Date: 1 May 1995 17:10:32 GMT

Flight School johnb

Jay Radditz was living his lifetime dream. He had always wanted to fly, not as a passenger, but as a pilot. Now at twenty, he was enrolled in the Trading Company's flight school on a full scholarship. Most of his friends from Beta Colony would probably never leave their world, while he was here on Xanadu studying the thing he loved most in the universe. The only thing that could have made it any more perfect was the girl in the room next door.

Mandy looked like whores were supposed to but seldom did. She was drop-dead gorgeous, with a hint of sensuality that was completely innate and unaffected. Everyone wore the white cadet uniform and Jay looked pretty good in his, but Mandy filled hers out so nicely and moved so smoothly that she was a sailor's dream. Not only that, but she was damn competent. She and Jay were frequently number one and number two. She beat him in the classroom two times out of three, and he beat her in the flight simulator maybe three times out of four. A handful of their peers took turns being a distant third.

They developed a deep friendship to go with their rivalry. There was no need to compete in any mean, aggressive sense. The Company was paying a shitload of money to train each cadet. Failure was possible, if you screwed up badly enough, but this was not a weed-out course. The staff would not lower their standards, but they only felt truly satisfied if 100% of their charges graduated. Otherwise, they considered the blame to be shared between the failed cadet and themselves.

No one needed or wanted a human pilot in subspace. If your Drive computer failed, you were toast, period. In settled planetary systems, pilots were there only as backups, in case the control grid failed. But on the Frontier there were still places where craft too small to support a high level artificial intelligence needed to go down a dangerous gravity well and be buffeted by even more dangerous local meteorological phenomena, and still make it safely to the ground. Here the human pilot was not an anachronism or a backup. He was essential. Jay wanted that Frontier every day. It had been his dream since he was twelve.

Mandy was perhaps a secondary target, but a dream as well. With a Betan's simple straightforward attitude towards sex, he just asked her. She was pretty, they got along well and liked each other, would she please sleep with him?

"Don't mean to rain on your parade", Mandy had said, "and I'm not saying I won't ever take you as a partner. But right now I don't need my heart interfering with my goals, so the answer is no. It's not you, I just can't do anybody right now".

Jay had no clue what one's heart had to do with it. Betan culture enjoyed sex, but didn't take it too seriously. They thought jealousy and obsession were senseless. So Jay didn't obsess on Mandy, although at twenty, with the hormones singing in his blood, he did spend a certain amount of time wishing things were different.

They got along famously otherwise. They often studied together, and both benefited from the differing strengths of their respective insights. They also spent time, as bright young people always have, studying the boundaries of their culture and their belief systems. Jay gave her many anecdotes about how it was to grow up on Beta, driven by will and talent to break out of the family mold and seek the stars which his social class usually never experienced without an atmosphere in the way.

They even touched on religion. Jay put forth the popular view that the Goddess was a metaphor or a literary conceit. "You might not feel that way", Mandy said, "if you talked with many telepaths. There are few strong telepaths who don't believe in Her. They say they can catch a hint of Her if they extend their awareness enough".

Mandy never explained how she had come in contact with many telepaths. They were scarce. She also never claimed to be one herself. Her family, she said, did not have any talents in that direction. She was not forthcoming about her family. Jay realized that her reticence was not a reflection on himself, but just a part of her, and with more maturity than he usually showed, didn't push.

Other than her family, Mandy shared just fine. She understood a lot about history and politics, which she gave to Jay, who was truly interested, not just patronizing a pretty woman. He in turn could give her a different spin on historical events that had pitted the Companies against the Colonists. She listened very closely and asked penetrating questions. She wasn't patronizing him either.

The nine month course was exhausting, but there was still time for young people to have fun. About half of the cadets paired off for sexual liaisons. Most of those were male-female couples, but by no means all. Many of the rest took advantage of Xanadu. In addition to housing their school, this was mainly a pleasure world, and between the tourists and the professionals pleasure was not hard to find.

Jay was at first among this second group, and took pleasure without guilt wherever he could find it. But as time went on, he did so less and less. Jay had always preferred his sex partners to be friends, so the whole thing wasn't so damn one dimensional. He pretty much quit the game when he caught himself blaming his partners for not being Mandy. His sense of fairness wouldn't let him lay a trip on someone like that, no matter how accidental. These were nice women, and if he couldn't relax and enjoy, he should stay home so they could find partners who would give them what they needed. His hand and imagination would have to fill in the gap. Being a Betan, he swore he wasn't obsessing, but the difference may have been academic.

The course eventually moved toward its endpoint, with more time spent on practical matters and less on theory. Simulator time was augmented by real flying, first of atmosphere only craft around the non-inhabited parts of Xanadu, and later in-system craft with a range of a few hundred million miles. Finally, the last flight before graduation. Teams of two cadets would take a pretty little Y-8 and travel from Xanadu to the next planet, orbit once, and come back, an eight day trip in all. Jay was paired with Mandy. That was a surprise because they were the top two students, and they usually paired a stronger cadet with a weaker one.

The Y-8 had room for five, but only Jay and Mandy were there. They performed the various tasks of piloting and checked each other's work. Surviveable accidents involving spacecraft were rare. All went well on the out bound leg, and most of the in-bound. Jay was in serious want from all that close contact with Mandy, but he kept his cool, and let himself enjoy her company. He had long ago stopped trying to change her pretty mind.

On the final segment before going back into Xanadu's atmosphere, Jay took the navigation calculations, and Mandy the environment and systems checks. Then they switched off,and checked each other's work. About one minute later, things got strange.

"Fuck", Jay yelled, "look at this". Mandy went over to see Jay looking at a computer display awash in red. "The backup field generator software core dumped and went comatose", Jay was yelling. "If we hit the atmosphere like that and the primaries failed, we'd drop like a stone. You must have never looked at screen three". Normally, computer cross checks would have alerted them to this problem, but they had been disabled, so the cadets could simulate running with less than perfect hardware. Mandy had fucked up big time, failing to check something essential to safety.

"Let's start by doing diagnostics, and then reload it's control program". Jay had taken charge. Mandy immediately moved to obey, and after the test sequence had begun, announced that it would take two hours to complete.

"Good", said Jay. "We need some time to sort this out. Mandy, you're the last person I expected such a bone headed beginner's mistake from".

"So now you'll report the discrepancy and I'll fail the course", Mandy responded.

"Not so fast", said Jay. I have to think this out. I know you better than this, and I don't think the Company would be better off if you flunked. You certainly wouldn't. But on the other hand, you could have killed us. I don't think I should just cover up for you either, no matter how much I like you".

"Ah", from Mandy. "So now I finally sleep with you, and then maybe I don't flunk the course".

"Tempting, but wrong", said Jay. "I want you to want me. A sexual relationship founded on blackmail would discredit us both. I plan to offer you a choice. Have me report your fuckup, or let me punish you. If you chose my punishment, you will have pain and humiliation, but then it will be over. We can still be friends, if you would like, and you'll never have to explain how you flunked out of pilot school".

"Punish as in what?", she asked.

"Punish as in spank", he replied, "hard and long, with you absolutely stark-ass naked. Remember, humiliation is part of the punishment".

"You're liking this, aren't you?", she asked.

"There's no way I can stop myself from feeling in some small way that this is pay-backs because you won't sleep with me, and I expect I'll enjoy the temporary power over you, but mainly it's just what I said: I don't think I should turn you in, and I shouldn't let you off just because you are cute. You have two minutes to decide".

It didn't take two minutes. It took about one minute before her clothes started to come off.

Jay led her by the hand and she went with him, accepting his lead and calmly awaiting her fate. His mind was working furiously. He had to find a way to pull this off so he stayed in control and seemed to know what he was doing. He had her kneel and rest her head and forearms in the seat of a chair. While she waited in anticipation, he cast his eyes around avidly, looking for a suitable implement. There. The ruler from the chart table. He grabbed it and hurried back to where Mandy's upraised rear was making an oh-so-tempting target.

He wound up and gave it a good smack, and was rewarded with a little grunt of discomfort. He kept it up. He smacked. She grunted. He was liking this. The color changes in her ass cheeks told a story of serious punishment, but she wouldn't cry or even yell. Jay stopped himself before he did her serious damage waiting for cries or protests that weren't going to come. His hard-on was becoming uncomfortable, but he would just have to live with it.

After the spanking was over, he let her stand up. Instead of putting her clothes back on, she stood there with her hands both reaching back to soothe her aching buns. This just accentuated her pretty breasts and made Jay even more aroused.

"Jay", she said, "I'm feeling very vulnerable right now".

"I think I like what I'm hearing", Jay said, "But I can't afford to make a mistake by misreading you, so you'll have to be very clear".

"Do I have to beg?", asked Mandy.

"No dear, just be clear. I don't want my need to overwhelm the data".

Mandy thought for a moment. She moved up next to Jay, so her nice breasts were brushing up against him. Her pretty blonde hair framed her face, and a few strands stuck to it, plastered there because the spanking had made her sweat. She looked up at him, her big eyes now looking enormous. Finally, she spoke.

"Hey, sailor, wanna get lucky?"

That was clear enough for him. He carried her to the sleeping quarters.

Mandy played slowly, intensely, as if it were a ritual. When Jay first entered her warm tight wetness she laughed, a soft, low, feral sound that he couldn't interpret.

"What's so funny?", he asked.

"Now I have you", Mandy's voice was still throaty, "once you get it, you won't ever want to stop".

He didn't want to stop. He pinned her wrists to the mattress and fucked with wild intensity. But she was right. He didn't have her. No matter her wrists were pinned, she had him. Probably forever.

They finally stopped fucking, fixed the computer record to agree with their story, and finished the landing. Mandy was changed. She admitted that whether her earlier decision not to have sex was a good one or a bad one, it was over. She wanted Jay long term, and he reciprocated. His dreams were coming true. Now there was only the debriefing, and he was a pilot.

Jay didn't expect any problems at his debriefing until he got there and found a strange woman in the room. She wore the gray Company uniform with no obvious badge of rank. The matching gray streaks in her hair put her at maybe fifty, in the unlikely case that there was no artifice in her appearance. She could have been an older version of Mandy, with black hair instead of blonde. "Jay, I'd like you to meet", his instructor began.

She took over. "I'm Sophia Collins, head of Company Security. Your friend Mandy has an egalitarian streak and doesn't like to admit it, but she is Amanda Collins, my niece".

Holy shit! Jay had heard of the matrilineal Collins clan, owners of about forty percent of the Company. He had just spanked a full member, and they had sicked Security on him. He was dead meat. Ms Collins waited a minute for this to register, and then continued. She seemed quite calm about the whole thing.

"Mandy's screwup with the checklist was a test to see how you would react. You passed. Faced with only bad choices, you created a good choice, and found a Middle Way. With beautiful irony, it was a way Mandy never expected. Of course you could have just reported her error, and we wouldn't be having this little meeting. You would be assigned to pilot duties. We need pilots who can obey regulations.

Jay saw the Frontier slipping away from him. "Then I have failed", he said.

"No, you succeeded", she repeated. "You showed loyalty to the Company's interests rather than to its regulations. You showed flexibility in the face of a complicated problem. You showed ethics and creativity. We need Traders with those capabilities. Your next assignment is to the five year program at Trade School".

"I'm going to be a clerk instead of a pilot?", Jay asked.

"That's the Betan colonist in you talking", she said. "If you think a minute, you'll know better. You knew Mandy was too good and too valuable to the Company to trash her career on one out-of-character mistake. That's the kind of judgment we need in a Trader. You came to us because you wanted the Frontier. But remember, we are Trading Company. What we do is trade where and when no one else knows how. That's why we are on the Frontier. And I'm sponsoring you to Trade School. It's where we make Traders. I have a prediction for you, young man. Someday, you will ride a starship to the Frontier. You will not be there as pilot. You will not be there as Captain. You will be there as Master. Ship, Captain, and crew will be there because you are a Trader, and it's their job to haul your ass around".

Jay heard her, but couldn't believe it. To do so would shatter too many of his cherished notions about the haves and the have-nots. "What's Mandy going to be doing?", he asked, mainly to temporize.

"She's going to work for me in Security", Sophie answered. "That's why she was in Pilot School. She needed to be able to run a one or two person covert operation. I'm going to be keeping her pretty busy, but I know you need time together. Most of her weekends will be free. You can visit me, or, if you're shy, you can use one of my vacation homes".

Jay realized he had little to lose by cooperating with the daunting Aunt Sophie and trying Trade School. At first, his mind was mainly on the sweet, sweet weekends with Mandy. But as the course progressed, he thrived and excelled. He was honest enough with himself to realize that if it weren't for his relationship with a Collins girl, he may never have had this chance, but he also gained enough self confidence to know that he belonged here, and that solving sticky social, political, and business problems was something he had a flair for.

Thirty years later, Jay and Mandy were still the loves of each other's lives, although they never compromised their careers, and often didn't see one another for months at a time.

She was Amanda Collins, head of Company Security, as her aunt had always known she would be. Master Trader Jay Radditz at age fifty was already well on his way to being a legend, though it was certainly not the one he had dreamed about in pilot school.

They met in her apartment for a rare and private dinner. She still filled out her uniform in a damned pretty way, Jay thought. As they embraced, her face grew a lopsided grin, and she whispered, "Hey sailor, wanna get lucky?"

Jay slapped her ass so hard that if her guard robots hadn't been turned off, they might have shot him.