Characters: Jack, Ianto.
Word Count: 1799
Summary: Jack throws Ianto a curveball when he suggests his lover take over the controls of their shuttlecraft.
Written For: Challenge 268: Take The Wheel at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Set in my Ghost of a Chance ‘Verse.
“Right,” said Jack, once the small craft was out of the Happy Wanderer’s shuttle bay. “D’you want to take the helm?”
“What? Me?” The words came out almost as a squeak and Ianto stared at his lover in disbelief. “I don’t know the first thing about flying a shuttlecraft!”
Jack snorted. “Like I believe that. I know you’ve been watching me carefully every time I’ve been at the controls and there’s no better time for you to learn. It’s a good couple of hours flight time down to Horgan’s World.”
The Happy Wanderer was parked in orbit above the new colony planet, to which they were delivering a consignment of tools and supplies. On larger worlds, or delivering more substantial loads, they could have taken the ship down to the surface even without a spaceport; all they needed was a decent sized area of level ground. But the cargo they were delivering here easily fitted in the hold of the bigger of the Wanderer’s two shuttlecraft so it was more economical to deliver it that way.
Ianto gave Jack a panicked look. “Yes, I’ve watched, but that doesn’t mean I know what to do! I’m not ready!”
“You didn’t learn to drive a car just by watching someone else do it either,” Jack pointed out. “You had to get practical experience; it’s part and parcel of the learning process. Anyway, the general principle is similar, so stop worrying; I’ll teach you how to handle the controls and understand the various gauges and readouts.”
“But there’s no air out there! What if I crash?” Ianto was on the verge of complete panic.
“Into what?” Jack laughed and waved his hand at the nothingness that surrounded them. “There aren’t even any asteroids around Horgan’s World, nothing you have to avoid; that’s why I decided this would be the ideal place for your first flying lesson. Besides, if you haven’t already noticed, there are two sets of controls, for pilot and co-pilot, so if you do happen to get into difficulties, which I’m confident you won’t, I can take over and get us back on course.”
Ianto gnawed on his bottom lip. “I just… I’m still getting used to being in space, it’s only been a couple of months, I wasn’t expecting…” He trailed off helplessly.
“To be thrown in at the deep end?” Jack grinned. “There’s really not much to it; most of the time it’s just a case of setting a course into the nav computer and letting that do all the work. Docking with space stations and making landfall at spaceports is usually handled by the docking masters, sort of like air traffic control except that their computers would be talking to our onboard computers and controlling the shuttle’s landing or docking manoeuvres. It’s the same with the Wanderer; you should know that by now. You’ve been right there on the bridge with me every time we’ve docked. Small colonies like this don’t have any of that though; landing has to be done manually.”
“You don’t expect me to land this thing, do you?” The panic was back in Ianto’s voice.
“Not this first time, but eventually you will. For now let’s just get you used to the steering, acceleration, and deceleration controls, okay?”
Ianto chewed on his lip some more; he’d known he’d probably have to learn at some point, he just hadn’t expected Jack to spring it on him like this. “I suppose so.” He still sounded dubious.
“Okay, here’s what you need to know.” Jack ran through all the controls, dials and gauges, knowing Ianto would commit each one to memory as he did so. Some wouldn’t be needed until they entered the small planet’s atmosphere and came in for landing, but there was no point in just explaining half of what was on the control panel. Once Ianto had it all memorised, Jack sat back, folding his arms. “Right, she’s all yours.”
“What?” Ianto squeaked again, letting go of the helm then hurriedly grabbing for it again, clutching it in a white-knuckled grip.
“Relax, Ianto; you need to hold it lightly, feel the ship through the controls,” Jack said with a chuckle. “We’re well out in space, plenty of room for manoeuvre. Were you this nervous learning to drive a car?”
“Cars only go forwards along a flat surface unless you put them in reverse,” Ianto muttered. “They don’t go up and down.” But he loosened his grip, tried to relax and feel the ship as Jack had instructed.
The helm controls were similar to those found on an earth airliner. Turning the control ‘wheel’, basically a curved bar with a handgrip on each end, one way or the other directed the shuttle to left or right, pulling it towards him raised the nose and pushing it away pointed the ship downwards. There were hand levers as well, and foot pedals, and at first Ianto had trouble coordinating his hands and feet because while there were some similarities to driving a car, there were more differences. Still, after an hour or so of steering from side to side, up and down, going faster and then slower, he was beginning to get the feel of the controls. However, according to the shuttle’s instruments, they were also fast approaching the outer edges of the planet’s atmosphere.
“I think you’d better take over now,” Ianto said. “Steering in a vacuum is one thing, but dealing with air currents…” He trailed off; he had no idea how the small craft would handle in the planet’s atmosphere, he’d never flown any kind of aircraft back on earth, and anyway, they didn’t know what the weather was like down there. It could be blowing a gale!
“I’ll bring us down, but I want you to keep your hands and feet on the controls. Don’t fight them; just feel what I’m doing and how the shuttle responds. Keep your eyes on the gauges. I’ll tell you where to look and what to look for, alright?”
Ianto nodded. “Yes, alright.” He loosened his grip on the control bar, relaxed his legs so his feet were resting lightly on the pedals, resisting the urge to press down on them; that was Jack’s job now.
Entering the planet’s atmosphere was jarring. The shuttle bucked a bit before smoothing out as Jack pulled gently on the controls, adjusting their angle of entry. He kept up a steady stream of explanations; what he was doing, why he was doing it, which gauges to watch and what they should ideally read, and Ianto paid rapt attention, feeling the minute shifts in the ship through his set of controls. It was like being part of the small craft, or like it was a part of him, an extension of his arms and legs. He might not be flying it himself, but neither was he merely a passenger.
When they touched down on a flat plateau approximately half a mile from the colony, they settled with scarcely a bump; not surprising considering how much experience Jack had with flying practically every kind of air and space craft imaginable. He must have landed this very shuttle on dozens, maybe even hundreds of worlds.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Jack asked.
“No, that was a very smooth landing; you’re really good at flying.” If he sounded a little envious… Well, who wouldn’t be? It was an impressive skill; Ianto could only dream of one day being half as good a pilot as Jack.
“Good, because you’ll be flying her back up. Now let’s get the cargo unloaded.”
“Wait, what?” Just like that, the panicked squeak was back in Ianto’s voice. “You expect me to fly this thing back up there?”
“Going up is a lot easier than coming down,” Jack said mildly. “No planet to run into for a start.” He was already releasing his seat harness and getting up.
“Assuming I don’t make a mess of it and go down instead of up.”
“I’ll have the other set of controls, and I could override yours in an instant, in the unlikely event it became necessary. They’re set up that way in case of emergencies. Now stop panicking and help me with the cargo.”
Fumbling at his harness release, Ianto scrambled out of his seat, following Jack out of the small cockpit area, through a four-seat passenger cabin, and into the hold, which could also be used for passengers if needed, although its seating was currently folded flat beneath the flooring.
“I’ll make a shuttle pilot of you yet,” Jack called over his shoulder. “And after that you can learn to pilot the Wanderer so you can earn your full spaceship pilot’s license.”
Ianto swallowed hard. “No pressure then?”
“You’ll be fine, Ianto; I have complete faith in you.”
“That makes one of us.” Ianto’s confidence levels were wavering back and forth between ‘I can do this’ and ‘AAAAARRRRGGHHHHH!!!’
Pausing just inside the cargo bay doors, Jack turned to his lover, taking him by both shoulders and looking into his eyes. “You’re out in space now, living aboard a cargo ship; knowing how to operate it is a necessary skill. But I know you, Ianto Jones; you learn fast and you learn thoroughly. I’m betting you’ll be ready to apply for your full licence within a year, probably sooner. You already know most of what you need to, it’s just a case of getting some practical experience under your belt.”
“Well, I suppose we’ll see.” Ianto couldn’t help smiling back at the man he loved with all his heart; Jack’s confident grin was contagious.
“Yes we will, and you’ll see I’m right.”
Jack just laughed and kissed him soundly. “Ready to walk on the surface of your first alien planet?”
In all the panic over learning to fly the shuttle, Ianto had completely forgotten this would be the first time he’d set foot on another world. He and Jack had visited a few space stations, but they hadn’t made planetfall since they’d left earth. He grinned enthusiastically.
“Lead the way, Captain.” A new planet to explore, and new people to meet! The colonists of this world wouldn’t be human; there were very few true humans in space at the present time since earth had yet to develop interstellar flight. There were plenty of humanoid races though, Ianto had met several on their various space station stopovers, and he had a passing familiarity with the race colonising Horgan’s World.
Already he doubted he’d ever grow tired of the wonders of his new life, and best of all he got to share it with Jack.
This was still only the beginning; he couldn’t imagine what adventures lay ahead for the two of them, but he could hardly wait to find out.