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You’re pushing the limits of your reactor engines, but you need to catch this ride. It’s the only one that will pull you out of this fucking sinkhole of a gravity well, where everything weighs too much, where the world is pulling at you all the time.
The skyhook is coming now, howling through the upper air, and the shiver passes through your body, the chilling sensation of hope riding along on brilliant, insanely ancient machineries and your own brutally perfect training.
You fight the shuttle’s built-in weaknesses, and push and push, and suddenly, you start to wonder if, today, you might just be in the right place at the right time. If you miss, it’s just another flub. If you make it, cool, but if not, you will try again. And again.
But what if you make it?
The grapples shoot out, and you hold your breath for a second until you feel the tug, gentle just because you’ve been pushing this crap shuttle as hard as you can. The tug turns into upward spin, and were the shuttle not completely pumped with smartfoam, the force would be enough to smash your bones to pieces, and squash the rest of you flat.
But you’re safe, for now, and you’ve caught the ride you needed. Today, you were in the right place at the right time, and as you are dragged up and out of atmosphere, you smile gently, faintly. It’s not just luck. The hours in the simulator. The days of thinking through this maneuver. All the missed hitches in the past.
Soon, the smartfoam will thin, and you will float free and stare out at the naked, distant faces of the stars. There’s a whole ‘nother world up here, whole economies you’d read rumors about but never seen in operation. You’re going to have to learn to work ’em, if you’re going to get the kind of ship that will survive any real trip. And then, you’ll have to figure out where to go next: the Oort Cloud? The Kuiper Belt? A holiday on one of the moons of Jupiter?
In hauling yourself up off the homeworld, you’ve just traded up for a better class of dilemmas.
And baby, it feels good.