The hold of the Cosmicana was not very far. Fuse had to board three internal elevators before he reached it. Evidently, the Dublins believed in stylish transport in the home. The travel made Fuse realise the scale on which the Cosmicana had been built, vast, meant for perhaps many people to live in. The next question that struck Fuse was, "Where are all the other people then?" Fuse rounded the last bend, struggling to keep up with Via, his right leg hurting from some minor cut he didn’t even know he had. But all the pain in the world couldn’t have meant much to Fuse now. If what the Earth-woman had said was true, the Dreamgazer had survived the explosion.
Fuse jumped the last three steps and hurried behind Via, who was rolling open the polished doorway to the hold. Fuse rushed in, not caring much for gentlemanly propriety. And the Dreamgazer came into view.
Fuse nearly screamed, half in exultation, and half in despair. He climbed down the small stairway that led from the door to the floor of the hold, not even daring to take his eyes off what rested a few feet further in the hold. The flames had charred the red and white sporting stripes Fuse had painted on the nosecone, many years ago. The metal grey paintwork was blistered in many places, covered in black splotches and sear marks in others. Slowly, Fuse neared the ship, and gingerly placed his fingers on the hull. It didn’t melt away into nothingness, as he had half been expecting. Fuse rubbed his eyes again, and then touched the ship again, almost caressing it. When he took his hand away, it had blackened with some of the soot. Fuse simply shrugged it off. That which had been thought lost, was now found, returned by the cosmic forces. In Fuse’s eyes, he could already see the Dreamgazer the way it used to look, in all its shining glory, the way he had built it, the way he would rebuild it, repair it, till it was the best starfighter to ever be rebuilt.
Via could see the look of wonder and surprise in Fuse’s eyes, and she smiled. She couldn’t help but admire that despite a nearly cataclysmic explosion, the ship that Fuse had built had come out of it with the hull and basic structure mostly intact. She walked towards the ship, looking at Fuse circling around the Dreamgazer.
Fuse was inspecting the ship for any other external signs of damage. None that he could really find. The main thrusters seemed functional. Fuse was feeling really proud of his design. Back on Earth, when he had built it, his mentor had told him that he needed to concentrate on speed and less on structure for an effective starfighter. But then, Fuse wasn’t one to conform. He had managed to work both speed and structure into the same design. And the Dreamgazer had quite literally survived the test of fire.
A man slipped out from under the starfighter, disturbing Fuse’s reverie. He seemed equally surprised by Fuse. Fuse looked at him for a while before he recognized him.
“Roget Dublin, pleased to meet you.”
“Roget, like the thesaurus?”
“Like the thesaurus.” Roget said it nonchalantly, as if he got that a lot.
Fuse smiled. “My name is Fuse Fervent. Thank you… for saving my life. And for saving…” Fuse gestured vaguely towards the Dreamgazer, the words showing a sudden reluctance to come out of his mouth.
“Hey, I didn’t have to do much. That there is a fine piece of work. Never seen anything like it. Build it yourself?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Well, you’ll be happy to know she’s going to be fine. Robust little beauty. Just a few cranks and turns of my tools, and she’s mostly ready to go. Some of the more delicate controls don’t look too good though, Mr. Fervent.”
“Please, call me Fuse. People who save my life and my ship are definitely allowed to be that familiar with me.”
Roget smiled a healthy smile, his eyes sparkling. Fuse couldn’t help but think that Roget was probably one of the finer specimens of Earth. Roget Dublin was tall, in the way sequoia trees were tall. Fuse barely reached his chest, and Fuse was no midget. He had the same reddish-brown hair as his mother, rippling muscles, a result of years of hard manual labour, which he wore lightly under his workman’s vest. Fuse could see Roget’s blue eyes sparkle when he laughed, and he also saw the glint of intelligence in there. Fine specimen indeed.
“So, Roget, do you mind if I take her out for a little spin?”
“Your ship, isn’t it?” Roget extended his hands out towards the launch port. “Go right ahead.”
“I don’t think so.” Via, who had been listening to the conversation, interjected, “You’re in no health to be flying a starfighter.”
Roget turned towards her and merely frowned, then muttered in a conspiratorial whisper to Fuse, “Mothers.”
Fuse smiled weakly. He turned to speak to Via, “Trust me; nothing could make me feel any better.”
Via appeared to think about this. Then her lips slowly curled up into a smile and she nodded.
Hurtling along at 85 gigameters per hour was not recommended treatment for convalescents, but Fuse couldn’t really seem to care. As he checked his rear views, he could see the trail of smoke his thrusters were leaving. He’d been wrong about the main thrusters, one of them was definitely sparking, causing a ridiculous stream of smoke. The hull was fine and still spaceworthy, as was evident from the fact that Fuse had not been sucked into the vacuum of outer space the moment he’d flown outside of the Cosmicana.
There were minor problems with the retro jets. Fuse was finding it difficult to balance the starfighter despite traveling at a relatively stable speed. He jerked the Dreamgazer to the right using the control joystick, and the starfighter responded sluggishly. The directional controls must also have been damaged. Withstanding all that, the Dreamgazer was in good shape and if there was anything lacking on the starfighter, it must have been ion fuel. The Dreamgazer’s refueling had after all been rather rudely interrupted by the destruction of a planet.
As Fuse launched into a massive dive, he felt free again. The sudden rush gave him an exhilarating thrill. He was trying desperately to keep the starfighter under normal limits, but a part of him just wanted to let loose, to ride the Dreamgazer to the extents she was meant to. With a lot of effort, he reminded himself that if he did that he might lose the Dreamgazer all over again, and there was a not a chance in hell he was risking that again. It was a new feeling for Fuse. He had believed that he was dead. He had felt like his wings had been clipped.
“Not anymore. I’m alive and flying!!!!” Fuse screamed mostly to himself, as he pulled sharply out of the dive and executed a near-perfect side loop.
“Thank you.” Fuse whispered, almost afraid that someone might hear him. Fuse had never really thanked a higher power, but that was the closest he had ever come to it.
When he finally found the time to look at the fuel gauge again, he was reminded that it was time to return to the Cosmicana.