She was a beauty.
Sleek and fast and a metallic silver that glistened in the artificial light of the hangar bay. No other rocket or plane could reach her speed. She was highly maneuverable, able to perform like nothing else anyone had ever built or flown, and she was his. His ship to command.
Commander Kyle Walker stood on the catwalk that led to the main hatch of the Ghost-2, looking at his machine, his plane, though calling her a plane or a jet was actually close to a sacrilege. She was a space ship. A wonder, a miracle, something out of a science fiction movie. No one had ever flown something like this.
He and his team would be the first.
Running a loving hand over the smooth finish, Kyle let his eyes travel over the unblemished exterior.
His father had flown the prototype, had made contact with these amazing alien life forms, had defended their whole world against the Decepticons, even if it was far, far from home, and he had died a hero. No one but a few knew about Commander Samuel Walker's true fate, his true greatness, but Kyle now did.
"She's amazing," a soft voice said behind him.
Kyle turned and smiled at Barbara, his pilot and second-in-command.
"Never dreamed of flying anything like that," she continued, joining him.
It was quiet in the hangar bay. Of course there were engineers and technicians walking around, but the noise of welding and forging had stopped long before the crew of the Ghost-2 had arrived.
"I had set my sights on maybe the last shuttle flight," Tanner continued. "Or one of the new Orbiters. But this… no way."
Kyle laughed softly. "Yeah. Know the feeling."
"The others whipped up a maiden voyage party," Barbara told him. "Wanna join them, Commander?"
He chuckled. "And get hopelessly drunk?"
"If you feel like it. Me, I'm going to get myself a huge piece of cake, a quiet corner, and later the biggest steak they can come up with."
"You sound like it's your last meal on death row," he remarked, frowning slightly.
Barbara shook her head. "Nah. My last real meal. It's food out of cans and plastic bags for the next days."
He grinned. "Aren't you the one praising MRE's?"
"I never said it's bad food, just… not like a good steak and some home fries."
They walked back toward the crew quarters and the mess hall. Kyle had to agree that astronauts' food was good but could never replace the real thing. But who thought about food when they were about to launch an alien-human hybrid ship to retrieve an alien vessel?
If he was still dreaming, he didn't want to wake up.
The day of the launch of the Ghost-2 was marked by nothing exceptional happening weather-wise, though several thousand miles further south the media was flocking around Cape Canaveral where the last space shuttle ever would lift off to its historic last mission. The forced retirement of the shuttle program had been discussed at length in the past several months and there were documentaries running around the clock.
Nothing was of interest to the people who had worked on the Ghost-2 in the past years.
The Project station was crowded with humans and Autobots alike, as well as one former Decepticon. The military transport plane had been flying back and forth for days now, bringing in Optimus Prime, Jazz and Barricade, who had come along with a low rumble and a flare in the red optics when Jazz had more or less pushed him aboard. The Autobot base was abandoned, aside from the human crew under Robert Epps.
Sam had spent the last few weeks in the Arctic, going over every nook and cranny of the Ghost-2 with his technopathic senses. His intake of sweets had grown exponentially and some days he went to bed with a headache or cramps in his neck. Bumblebee had followed his friend and charge a week after Sam's departure, mainly at Ratchet's request. Sam needed an anchor to even out his mind, to achieve a balance after solely concentrating on the Ghost-2, and Bumblebee was the best candidate.
Thankfully the base had a huge underground cavern it used for building and servicing the Ghost-2, and it easily fit the Cybertronians as well. At least to a degree. With Prime and Ironhide present as well, it was cramped. Jazz and Barricade had taken up posts outside.
The United States government had planned the launch of a Space Shuttle to coincide with the launch of the Ghost-2, diverting all media attention to Cape Canaveral. Should something go wrong, an Ariane rocket would be launched a week later and the Ghost-2 would use that event to take off, too. Hopefully weather and whatnot would be favorable at Cape Canaveral.
The crew of the Ghost-2 had been trained hard and thoroughly. Their mission was clear: fly toward Mars, contact the Ark, remote-start her engines and guide her towards Earth to hide behind the Moon. If all went well, the Ghost-2 would land in two weeks in the Arctic once again. Afterwards, Prime would talk to Banachek and whoever else was concerned to see what to do next. The primary idea had been to just salvage what was possible and leave the Ark in space. Especially since the government still wanted to keep the Autobots a secret. The other had been to set the Ark up as a kind of primary defense station in case of the Decepticons coming back to Earth again.
That idea required more work, more planning, and it depended on the condition the ship was in. They hardly had a service yard at their disposal and Optimus knew just how work-intensive such an idea was. Ironhide and Barricade found themselves agreeing on the concept, that it was the best idea, that they had to protect this world with everything they had, and it had amused Prime to no end to see the two former enemies agree.
For now they had to retrieve the ship first, then deal with the next step.
"Good luck," Optimus said, kneeling before Kyle, smiling at him.
"Thank you," the human commander said sincerely. "I appreciate what you told me," he added.
"Your father was the first of his kind to come in contact with our race. He was a pioneer in many ways. He laid the ground work for our first contact."
Kyle smiled sadly. "I never knew much about and now that I do, I can't even share it with my brother or mother."
"It's a small price to pay."
The human nodded in agreement. "I'll ensure that we will do everything to make this mission a success."
"I know you will."
Prime rose with a final nod, watching the human walk toward the shuttle bus that would get him to his ship where the rest of the crew awaited.
"Ghost-2 zero one, this is flight control," a slightly metallic voice sounded over the intercom. "We're ready when you are. Prepare for pre-flight check."
Barbara Tanner, strapped into the pilot's chair, acknowledged, then looked at her commander. Kyle smiled. All of them, the whole crew, had volunteered for this job. It was dangerous, but they had known risks and were- willing to take them.
Today was it. The big day.
Ghost-2 had been strapped on the back of their modified cargo plane, which had been given the nick-name 'Ghostbuster' by everyone at Project.
"Okay, then here we go," Kyle announced. "Control, this is Ghost-2 zero one, request clearance for take-off."
"Roger zero one. Hold steady for lift-off. Control, Ghostbuster-1, fire engines and taxi over to lift off position."
Underneath them, the huge cargo plane fired the engines. A low, steady hum could be heard as the thrusters warmed up, and she eased toward lift off coordinates.
"Ghost-2 zero one, you are clear for lift off," Control's voice then crackled through the intercom."
The low hum slowly increased into a full, deep roar. The frame of the Ghost-2 shuddered as she was lifted off, a natural behavior for the ship as it worked off the stress it was put under through the lift off procedure.
"Clearing ground area, adjusting course to preset coordinate," Barbara reported.
She was not yet in control, but Ghostbuster and Ghost-2 were interconnected. Both pilots could see what the other ship was doing.
"Control, Ghostbuster-1. Lift-off went without a hitch."
"Roger that, Ghostbuster-1. Chase planes have taken off and will join you in a moment."
Kyle looked at one of the monitors giving him a look of the outside and he discovered two F-22's closing in. The F-22's flew by left and right of him, waggling their wings as a greeting. Then they turned and took their observation positions as the pilot of the cargo plane started to ascend them.
Sub-orbital space ride, Kyle thought with a faint smile.
"Ghost-2, this is Ghostbuster. We are reaching separation point. Get ready, guys."
"Roger that, Ghostbuster. Thanks for the smooth ride," Barbara replied, smiling herself.
"Our pleasure, Ghost-2."
"Chase flight, this is Ghostbuster, we are now about to initiate launch program one."
"Roger, Ghostbuster," the lead pilot answered. "We have you. Will move back to safety positions. Initiate on your mark."
"Control, this is /iGhostbuster-1/i. Monitor check."
"Check confirmed. All working within parameters," was the answer.
"Okay, here we go!" Kyle called. "Mark!"
There was a little tremor as the Ghostbuster separate from the Ghost-2. The space vessel dipped for half a second, then the ship lunged forward. Kyle felt it buck slightly once more, then Barbara initiated the last stage of their flight into space. The engines began to scream as she forced the nose further up, going into a steep, straight up flight.
On the ground, Optimus Prime watched the monitors which relayed every single move the ship made. Tons of data were fed into the recording units and the engineers and technicians would have a lot of work on their hands after this.
"She is handling like a dream," Sam muttered almost to himself. His eyes were solely fixed on the read-outs, his body showing the tension he was under.
Prime had to agree, but he kept his silence. The ship was a dream, no argument from him.
"Control, this is zero one. Ready passing orbit," Kyle's voice announced.
"Roger," Control answered. "We have you on our monitors. Looking very good, Ghost-2."
Prime's optics were fixed on the monitor as he witnessed the Ghost-2 fly off into space, heading for the rendezvous point with the Ark.
He felt useless. He felt superfluous. He felt like he should do something, but there was nothing. All they could do was wait and see, and hope.
The end for this piece :)