“I’ll burn my ass off if I use this thing.”
“Have a little faith, Keisha. The uniform is fully heat-resistant, and besides, the thrusters work in combination with the Barsoonian charge infused in the rocket pack, so the amount of energy required to lift a person is much lower than it would have to be in your world.”
“You’re a great one for faith, Isaiah, but like I said, it’s my ass on the line.”
“I see a year away from our relationship, as you have lived it, has done nothing to improve your manners or your language.”
Sixteen-year-old Keisha Davis opened her mouth and shut it again. He was right about several things. Only a year had passed since she had last seen him, but for the engineer, it had been two decades, and he was now pushing sixty.
She trusted that he was also right that the rocket pack she was supposed to strap on her back wasn’t inherently dangerous, at least not because the thrusters sat just behind her behind. In the movies, these things looked impressive, but they’d also severely burn or kill the pilot without the mother of all protective panties or a liberal application of one million sunblock.
Keisha had also forgotten that her good friend didn’t live in a universe where high school girls said “ass.”
“Okay, I’ll give it a shot.”
She had already put on what he called “the uniform,” which was a pair of matching leather pants and boots, with a darker leather jacket that buttoned up the side. The gloves reminded her of the pair she had on the first time she’d flown the airship “Graceful Delight,” but although she’d had that experience just after her fifteenth birthday, the dirigible was from another era. Thinking about it made her miss her Grandpa again.
“Are you sure?” She had just finished strapping the pack on, and fortunately, the charge made it seem no more heavy than her school backpack. The ports on the back of the rocket harness hooked into those on her jacket, which used cables connecting to the controls mounted on her gloves. She’d read the basic flight instructions Isaiah had written for her, but having just finished flight school back home, she knew there was enormous difference between reading the “How To,” and practical experience.
“Are you sure you have the right girl?”
“You are one of the most courageous and capable people I know, and my family has not only come to depend upon you but implicitly trust you. You are the best person for the job.”
“Plus Josiah has a broken arm, Eralia’s a prisoner, and you’re getting too old to be jetting around the stratosphere.”
“I’d actually designed the rocket pack for my dear Leah. I have a great love for my son, and he’s become an engineer after my own heart, but it is clear to me that my daughter is the adventurer, very much like you are.”
“Your lab is guarded like Scrooge McDuck’s treasure vault. Are you sure no one’s going to see the rocket exhaust when I take off?” The blank look on the older man’s face told her she’d used the wrong metaphor with him this time. No “Duck Tales” in Dieselworld.
“I don’t know about the individual you have mentioned, but the skylight is open. Just use the Barsoonian charge to negate gravity, and allow it to carry you into the darkness above. A thousand feet should do it. Then activate the rocket. I’m counting on you to save her.”
“Leah’s going to be pissed when she finds out I got to test pilot the rocket pack before she did.”
“Your language aside, I’m sure she’ll come to forgive you since your task is to free her mother from captivity. We can only hope she safely returns from her own mission, which is just as hazardous.”
“She will. Like you said, she’s an adventurer. She kicks ass and takes names better than just about anyone in either universe.”
“Very well, Keisha. Here’s the helmet.”
“Art deco. Very nice.” She put it on. “How do I look?”
“I’m an engineer, not a fashion consultant. You’ve memorized the facility where my wife is being held, and in spite of your objections, you are armed, which is an absolute necessary. You’ve proved yourself a hundred times over, and I’m confident you’ll succeed. Then Tyson will no longer have a hold on me.”
“Got it.” It wasn’t her fault that corrupt millionaire industrialist Stanley Tyson had become a nuclear power, but he had gotten the designs and the prototype from her world. Otherwise, the atomic bomb might have never been invented here. But her world was responsible, and that meant Keisha had to do something about it.
She activated the Barsoonian charge and set its energy level to let her rise up and out of the skylight above her like a helium balloon. The high school student didn’t have an altimeter, so she silently climbed until she was above the cloud level. Then she pressed the twin thruster controls, lighting up the sky behind her with roaring flame. As she shot into the midnight-dark heavens, she cried out, “Rocket Girl rides again!”
I had no idea that Disney was planning on doing a remake or sequel of the 1991 film The Rocketeer using an African-American female lead. Of course, if it gets stuck in development hell, and if I can write and publish this fast enough, maybe I’ll beat them to the punch (that is, if I can manage not to get sued).
None of these “Dieselworld” stories are canon, and my Steampunk stories about Keisha are still being written, so this is deffo happening only in my dreams so far, but who knows? If I ever really do produce this idea into something marketable, I’m sure I’ll have to change a lot of things around.
I do like putting Keisha in a rocket pack. I like it a lot.
Oh, the image at the top was the closest I could come to finding an African-American female Rocketeer, but I’m not imagining a sixteen-year-old girl adventurer and engineer finding it practical to show a lot of cleavage while jetting around at 500 miles-per-hour and a thousand feet in the sky.