The Rocket sits back in the Balian leather seat of his ship, Phoenix Dawn. He takes a deep breath and pushes his finger to a scan pad. A bright light flashes, around his finger and the pilot’s cabin springs to life. The reactor core of the ship roars before settling into a steady hum. Control lights blink all over the control panels, and the ship’s engines begin to roar to life.
“Welcome back, Max. It’s nice to see you again. Diagnostics are in progress and recalibrations are almost complete, sir.” The proper, yet jovial words come from the ship’s computer speakers. The display in the center of the dashboard shows various systems controlled by the ship’s artificial intelligence. The Guardians’ ships are equipped with artificial intelligence that helps control the main systems of their ships. These AI systems provide real-time feedback on the ships’ systems and help control them for peak performance when these complex, high-speed craft. The AI can also be welcome company on long assignments when Guardians can go weeks or months without speaking to anyone. It’s not uncommon for pilots to form a special bond with their ship’s AI. The Rocket has gone so far as to give the AI the personality of his favorite holo-comic hero’s butler.
“It’s nice to be back ART, good to have you online again. How about we get back to our own time and space? We’ve been gone too long, central command will be worried about us,” replies the Rocket.
“I couldn’t agree more, sir,” answers ART. “The engines have completed their warm-up cycle. Proceed to lift off?”
“Let’s do it,” says Rocket as he pulls back on the Dawn’s throttle handle and control stick. Phoenix Dawn lifts off into the air and turns, before leaping forward, leaving the planet’s atmosphere.
“Calculations for a dimensional leap are nearly complete. In 517 kilometers there is an asteroid belt. I would suggest turning around and flying over the planet’s pole instead, this should provide the needed distance to achieve the needed velocity to make the jump,” advises ART.
“Excellent ART, I don’t think I could do it any better myself,” says Rocket pulling the Phoenix Dawn into a sharp upward sweeping turn.
“If you don’t mind me saying, sir, obviously you do believe you can do it better, or else I would be navigating the ship,” answers ART smartly, with a touch of simulated offense.
“If you’re navigating the ship, then there’s no use for me to be on the ship at all and I would be out of a job,” jokes Rocket back to the ship.
“Touche,” replies ART, “Calculations are ready for the jump, ready when you are.”
“The ship is in position, here we go,” says the Rocket, flipping the auxiliary thruster switches to the “on” position, setting fins to jump configuration, and pushing the throttle to full thrust.
The ship surges forward. The surroundings of space seem to elongate as the ship speeds forward. Rocket watches the read-outs and the speed of the ship. “Almost there,” mutters Rocket to himself. “We’ve achieved dimensional warp speed,” informs ART. Suddenly, golden streaks begin to appear around the ship and the ship slips into a strange extra-dimensional space.
“Bringing us out in 3…2…1, decelerating,” says ART. As fast as the extra-dimensional space appeared, it melts away again this time revealing space familiar to Rocket.
“It’s good to be home ART,” says Rocket with an air of satisfaction.
“Simply fascinating,” comes a voice from the back of the pilot’s cabin. Rocket spins around, shocked by the voice he hears coming from the back of the cabin…
Narrated by Brandon Warner