Pilot Training: Day 1
It looks so much smaller on the inside. Amieta stood in the middle of the - What do you call it, anyway? The cockpit? - the room in the middle of the capsule, and reached out her hands. She felt as though she was a hairsbreadth from brushing the walls with her fingertips. It looked like it was nearly the size of a small house, on the outside. All shield generators, computers, armor, life support, propulsion, and on and on. What was left was a round room just a little bigger than a standard airlock. A bit like an airlock. You step in, and then out into space.
It was 'dry'. Not full of the heavy, viscous hydrostatic fluid that would fill it once a pilot was hooked up. Once she was hooked up. Not perfectly dark. Dry, and well lit, and it was still... small. Close.
Amieta felt her heart whir a little faster; felt the beginnings of an adrenaline rush. She looked up through the open oculus above her, at the ceiling of the hangar far overhead and the vast open space in-between, and took a deliberate breath. Remembered Silver's words: You are only inside the pod for a moment, and then you are out among the stars.
Pilot Training: Day 18
The pod suit really was like a second skin. Amieta tugged at the collar, making it lay just a little flatter, and examined herself in the mirror. Shifted her weight. She had been afraid it might chafe or bind, but it didn't. It was form fitting, but oddly slick and it moved smoothly with her. She turned and studied the interface ports for the piloting implants. Twisted her arm back and brushed a hand along the line of them that ran down her spine. They were shiny and new. Still unused. But not for long.
She remembered what they had told her after her accident, almost 15 years before, when she woke up and found parts of herself replaced. Eating, cleaning herself, dressing herself all seemed like nearly impossible challenges, sources of incredible frustration. One of the surgeons who had done the work had looked in on her during the second week, The human brain is really remarkable. It can adapt to just about anything - does most of our work for us, really. It'll take the input and work with it, given a little time. We mostly just hook up the wiring. Be patient.
The talk had really helped. She had resolved to get capable enough with her new arms to smack the condescending smile off the man's face. She remembered it now, though, for its content. Just new input.
Pilot Training: Day 68
The Ibis slewed drunkenly to the right, and then over-corrected to the left. A grinding collision with a Badger set it on a slow tumble out of the station. Amieta managed to get it stabilized before it hit anything else, laboriously brought it around to alignment with the nearby planet, and activated the warp drive. It was the first time she had made it all the way out of the station in dozens of attempts. Amieta felt a surge of hope as the little ship leaped into warp.
She was abruptly hanging in the the simulator harness looking at a small status screen with a blinking *SIMULATION FAILED*. The warp she had landed her virtual Ibis 300 kilometers under the surface of the planet. If I was meant to be a pilot, Ishukone wouldn't have sent me to be infantry.
She began the process of disentangling herself from the simulator. It hooked into some of the pod implants providing a reasonable 'pod lite' experience with a direct neural link. At least until you make your ship part of the landscape. Amieta unhooked the last piece of the harness with a jerk and slid to the floor. A few dozen more Ibises to crash tomorrow.
Pilot Training: Day 104
The emergency access hatch stared up at her. Part of the training, in case you need to be in-pod immediately. Simple. Drop in and get fished out again. Amieta stood on the top of the pod gantry and stared down at the murky, utterly still pool of liquid. Just the same little space inside, of course. From above, filled up, it looked bottomless. She sat carefully on the edge of the opening, letting her feet dangle down into the pod fluid. It didn't feel like water. At all. It clung , thick and greedy, to her ankles. Not so bad. Just like hopping into a tub of high-density sweetener. That made her smile, around gritted teeth.
She tried to make out the space underneath her, but the goo wasn't particularly transparent. No use screwing around.
She gave the smallest push and slipped into the pod. It was just barely brighter on the inside. She moved as little as possible until they pulled her back out.
Pilot Training: Last Day
It was an absolute kind of blackness. Not even blackness, just absence. With the simulators it had been like flipping a switch, but with the real thing, there was this. Or perhaps something had gone wrong. Maybe this is what mindlock feels like. Amieta could not feel the mask on her face, or the crowd of interface cables. Could not see the walls close all around her, or taste the hydrostatic fluid pressing against her. It was terrifying. It was almost a relief.
Sensation, all sensations, returned in a flood. She had practiced 'being the ship', but this was nothing like practice. Amieta was sure she should feel like throwing up, but she couldn't seem to locate her stomach. For a long moment what she was seeing didn't make sense, but it finally resolved itself into a capsule, her capsule, sitting sedately in the hangar bay. She tried to swing the camera drone around the hangar and it complied, in a wobbly kind of way. It had not gotten much easier, but Amieta had finished. She'd done it. She was officially a capsuleer. Now with any luck, I won't need to undock.