1965-04-26 - Space Race
Summary: Cats in space!
Related: None
Theme Song: None
tigra tchalla 


Rain doesn't quite fall from the thick, cloudy skies. A driving sort of wind scours the city from the west, sending garbage aloft, tumbling along in lazy rolls of flashing foil or crumpled paper. Pedestrians slant under their black umbrellas where they have them to resist the worst of the light spatter thrown into the air.

A few kids kick around a ball. They should be at school, though why they aren't isn't really up to open consideration. More importantly, one of the boys kicking the ball swings it rather wide of the mark on the street occupied by a few rundown cars and shops in a similar state, still drab in the grey light of the breaking day. Mostly. The ball bounces up and smacks into a window covered in bars. The owner pokes his head out to shout at the kids. Not that the kids care. Something blue is descending through the clouds, stirring up surprisingly little disturbance. Vortices are limited when one has those kinds of engines. You know, the sort generally found in hard sci-fi.

Harlem isn't Tigra's usual haunt, but as a cat, she never feels that anyplace is closed to her. And if it is, well, that's only until she gets the door opened. Of course, not many cats would take advantage of an umbrella, though this one is, watching the street where kids play hookey in the rain, her tail limp and giving only a brief twitch now and again, her thoughts mixed. And then thoughts get very focused at the sight of…some -thing- descending from the clouds. "Where's Cap when you need him. Or Stark," she says to herself, the physicist in her noticing the lack of vortices.

No place is truly closed to cats. Isn't that the joy and delight of being a feline endowed with catlike features? The air pops up and around when the wind batters unseen fists on windows and awnings. Most of the neighbourhood's multi-ethnic residents left much earlier to get to work on time, but some remain. Shopkeepers go about their business. It's early enough to warrant unloading a few boxes here and there. Others might be slouching through the morning, coffee cup in hand and radios on to catch the latest news. They likely aren't prepared for a descending shape that spins through the space in the high buildings, their tenements graced probably by a machine about to get shot by someone. Because that's how it goes. The kids shout and point. It's to the tune of "What's that."

That as it happens: an oblong, sleek shape in black and glass, glowing rotary engines thrumming with energy. It might vaguely resemble a mask, that craft, and it nimbly maneuvers around to land past an intersection just as the light turns red. Wakanda has a flag. It is not anywhere on said craft, but the king is, so that counts.

Certainly much better than the despair of a feline endowed with doglike features. Tigra's umbrella flutters in the wind, and she finally snaps it shuts and leans it against a doorframe, where the wind promptly blows it over. Holding a hand up to shield her eyes from debris, she steps out away from the building into the street for a better look at the craft that's landing, looking for markings or identification. Even if it had a flag on it, she probably wouldn't recognize it.

The Royal Talon Fighter is large enough to be impressive, not quite up to boring old semi-trailer dimensions. It's far rounder than that, the principle of a Wakandan mask at play in the design for those who know what to look for. The craft settles easily enough, and then the domed glass hatch pops open to allow the young man to hop out. A bit of an unnecessarily playful way of doing things considering he could exit from the rear down the equivalent of a gangplank but why? With his highly patterned purple and black tunic, the threads gleaming in the dull daylight, the gentleman cuts an interesting appearance. He springs down rather effortlessly and gestures, sealing up the spacecraft — aircraft? — easily enough. He gives a light nod to anyone around, pivoting to find… a sandwich shop? Yes indeed.

The tigress can see hints of African design in the look of the craft, as it comes lower and she gets a better look at it. Doesn't mean this isn't a first contact situation, of course. Well, more likely -second- contact she admits. And then the hatch pops open, she braces a bit…wait, she's seen him before. Something was definitely unusual about him then, what with his…entourage. This is something, else, though. Wishing she could step between the raindrops like Uncle Martin, she moves closer to him and the…sandwich shop? Awful fancy just for a sandwich run.

Fan slats flatten along the outer curves of the craft, and those blue engines go stationary within their protective rings of metal, leaving the fighter craft as calm as one can be. The kids are gaping, of course, and being children, one of them goes running nearer to see whether any jets of air puff out or some kind of kalashnikov jumps out to trace him around. Nothing happens, other than T'Challa quietly chuckling under his breath. "Go look. Stay off the back; it may be hot." His English carries that refined accent best consistent with Cambridge, a tour in Great Britain great for refining his already memorable, melodious voice. The sandwich shop indeed might be open even if Stanley, the poor artist behind the counter, has a jaw somewhere around the hidden city at the centre of the hollow earth. Tigra closing in is something he definitely notices; he hears her well as any.

So he holds open the door and waits for her to pass in front of him. "It is early for lunch for you as well?"

Tigra pauses a moment to look back to the impressive machine, and then looks to T'Challa. "A little bit, but I can almost eat. Fast metabolism," she notes absently. Another look back at the machine. "That's not the new Ford sedan is it?" she asks before slipping inside, glad to be out of the rain and wind, and hoping nobody complains about wet fur. Seeing the slack jaw, she offers Stanley a friendly smile.

"A Ford? No, I am not licensed to drive a car in America yet." Which would imply T'Challa is elsewhere. The corner of his mouth goes up. A faint smile but not an unwelcome one shapes his features with a certain amusement. "I hear the sandwiches here are excellent and most generous in size. I will need a few." Turning to Stanley, he waits for Tigra to make an order first. By all sounds, he has the intention to get a few.

"That was a joke, son," Tigra says to T'Challa, still smiling as she quotes a cartoon rooster. "Haven't been here before, myself," she admits, turning back to Stanley to order a sandwich, selecting something with a fair bit of meat on it. Ham. Roast beef. Pepperoni. So on. Plus a bottle of Coke to go with it. "Having a party?" she asks of his statement that he'll need a few sandwiches, as if there's nothing unusual going on at all.

Stanley specializes in Scooby sandwiches. The kind that take a yardstick to measure, as an example, and come stuffed with everything a person could possibly want. Add a few layers of meat or corned beef, stick in any cheese and sauce, voila. Albeit the Wakandan king is, if nothing else, specifically favourable to carnivorous tastes, he manages more of the meat than the lettuce, though he's not turning his nose up. Merely multiply the request by six. "Going into space," he replies. "Or rather medium Earth orbit before attempting an inclined high Earth orbit. Always wise to have something to fill one's belly during the meantime. care to come along?"

As the sandwiches begin assembly, Tigra's tail starts to give an occassional flick at the smells thereof. The obvious size of the sandwiches is appealing also. At the answer she gets from T'Challa, she somehow manages to not to a double take. Instead, giving him a long look, and then a look at the machine outside. And then back to him. "You're serious," she observes. "That thing out there, it can go oribtal? Without a booster?" No joking now. She's looking and listening intently.

"I do not jest. It would not be proper." No, it wouldn't. Not when Stanley is building sandwiches and choking on his tongue, since the previous pinnacle of manned spacecraft was the ill-fated Gemini 2 shot out of the air some months ago by Kree, necessitating a rescue by a Phoenix, Iron Man, and Superman. Or someone like that. T'Challa opens up a fridge and helps himself to five bottles of water. He lays them out, and adds another Coke for good measure. "Yes. It generates sufficient thrust to allow for acceptable speeds. A lunar orbit would be acceptable, but I am measuring the performance in terrestrial orbits with design modifications." He gestures idly out the window. The kids are crawling over the craft, poking at inert metal. "I assure you the likelihood of any mechanical trouble is vanishingly low, and there are support measures in the event of trouble. Atmospheric friction and heat shielding are over engineered, as one may say the Hoover Dam is."

This just isn't fair. Tigra's supposed to be the one inspiring slack jaws, not fighting to keep her own from going slack. T'Challa, machine, T'challa, machine, sandwich, machine, her eyes bounce about from one to another. "Lu—*lunar* orbit?" she asks, not even trying to sound blase anymore. "You're pulling my tail. -Lunar- orbit?" She'd have to do the math, but she could tell you how much thrust that would require. "How… Who are you?"

Her jaw muscles can probably use working out. Most people can. It's a fad to be explored in future years, facial yoga and strengthening mouth and cheek muscles. All said and done, however, T'Challa pays for the sandwiches and requests a bag of Stanley, who really doesn't question these things. He may drop the olives about six times, but he doesn't question it.

"Lunar orbit," T'Challa replies with the ease of a man who absolutely does not joke. "Lunar orbit requires adjustments to manage, but it is possible. Of course, I have no reason or desire to land upon the moon. That would cause a certain dispute between the USSR and the US to end, and undermine the good work started by President Kennedy. I admire the goal to reach into the stars. It seems only fair to offer a ride into the blue of space without technically entering lunar orbit." Technicalities count. "Then they may claim their prize." He takes the bag, leaving all the tip money in the jar. It's a lot of quarters. "I am T'Challa, son of T'Chaka. I am the leader of Wakanda, and more importantly, I understand a need to provide assistance. There is an initiative I believe that might benefit from modified technology. But that means testing. So, would you care to come along? No space suit required, though of course we have some. Although…" A rueful look. "Tails may be somewhat cramped, I am afraid. Those tailoring modifications are hard to do on the fly."

Other muscles are in much better shape for her. She'll try to pay for her own sandwich, but if T'Challa insists, she gracefully assents. T'Challa, son of T'Chaka, now there's an impressive sounding name. "Wakanda?" she repeats, getting the pronunciation almost right for a first try. "I'm sorry, I don't know where that is." She would almost ask if it was even on Earth, except for what else he says. Her mouth opens and closes a moment, working out those jaw muscles some more. "Come along? Try to -stop- me!" she says eagerly.

"Wakanda is adjacent to Uganda in the central eastern portion of the continent. Draw a line southeast of Kenya." He's probably used to answering that question plenty often. T'Challa hoists the paper bag of sandwiches and drinks, his arms both full. "I would not like to try to stop you. I think it would crush this meal, which is a loss. Now the young men out there…" A thoughtful look at them follows. "Hmm. They seem interested, but it would be irresponsible. They are not trained to it. Maybe it one was older than the age of majority? That is eighteen here, no?"

Africa? In -Africa?- There's a country in -Africa- that can make a craft like -that?- Tigra probably hasn't had her world rocked this much since she bacame Tigra in the first place. "I…would like to visit Wakanda sometime," she says carefully. "Uhm, yeah, let's not crush the food," she agrees, offering a hand to take some of it if he'd like. "And yeah, 18's an adult here. Well, can join the army, at least. 21 to vote most places, though."

Indeed, a country full of herders and lovely weavers — a primary export being handicrafts and textiles — with an honest to Bast spaceship outside. Because the thing is real and he isn't blue nor a green shapeshifter. All the glories of the world pass beneath human eyes. "I imagine you might, and you would find a welcome as some kind of kin." He doesn't explain that thoroughly as he heads outside, long stride easy to keep up with. The bags blank out his face, but he will pass over the water and Coke. She seems to have a preference. Calling out to the young men, he says, "Is anyone older than eighteen?" Shaking of heads abounds, regretful, and they look both defiant and mildly like boys with their hands stuck in the cookie jar. "Ah well. Last chance, I suppose."

Kin? Tigra tilts her head curiously at that, but doesn't inquire further at the moment. Lord knows there's enough going on to keep track of already. SHe'll readily handle whatever parts of the lunch he hands over, even holding a bottle with a curl of her tail. "Technically, they're supposed to be in school right now," she says softly, looking at them. "You want to learn to build something like this?" she asks them mostly rhetorically. "Need to stay in school."

Two distinct gestures — a roll of the wrist, a spread of fingertips — wake up the Royal Fighter from its rest. Whatever T'Challa does might as well be Merlin swishing a wand, because no amount of replication will double the feat. The hatch stays shut but another opens and a long metal walkway forms, a shallow angle allowing for an easy walk up into the bay of the craft. As far as planes go, it's larger than the typical Navy fighter craft, but infinitely more futuristic in curved lines and primal configurations. This is how trouble begins. "Please keep back to the curb," he tells the kids in passing. "Or else I fear you might be blown off your feet. As entertaining as it sounds, I promise it is not. Your clothes could be vaporized." True or not, he's giving them reason enough to scram. Who knows, they might not.

Nodding to Tigra, he gestures to the plank of sorts. Walk on, pirate cat. "As soon as we get to the top, turn to the left. Once we are off the walkway, it seals. You can seat yourself anywhere you would feel comfortable, though the front may be the most comfortable for a view. Sitting sideways sometimes induces motion sickness."

Yeah, vaporizing clothes would be a bad thing. Wouldn't want to walk around practically naked, after all. Tigra's senses are all peeled as Puss-Not-In-Boots enters the ship, feeling it under her feet, smelling it, listening to it all. She follows T'Challa's directions, marveling at the interior of the craft, and definitely taking a front seat. "Definitely want to best view I can get," she readily admits.

The interior of the ship features the same blend of ancient and hypermodern mores. The central seating area, such as it is, returns wrap around benches underneath horizontal bars of metal and light, ones that flex in response to the needs of the pilot. Slanted windows hint at the windows overhead, even if Tigra failed to notice them immediately. The central faceted windows above a surprisingly plain set of sheet glass cabinets marks the front of the craft. At least it does until T'Challa sets the sandwiches in a totally different location, the shelves of a refrigerator behind the horseshoe of seats. He settles into a squared off seat, one of three that swivel easily enough in a triangle. As he does, the touch of his fingers brushes over one of the control panels and voila, illuminated interfaces awaken with the machinery. "Anywhere except the head would count for that. I cannot say we found aesthetic need to have a window in there."

"The head?" Tigra asks, head on a swivl as she looks around at anything and everything inside the ship. Even if it doesn't actually get into orbit, what she's seen so far is amazing. "Oh! Right. Head," she amends, remembering that term now. "Probably not the best place for a window." Unless one wants to scare the shit out of someone. "How is any of this -possible?-" she asks now.

"Lavatory? Washroom?" T'Challa translates through his familiar terms to those less. "It's possible by careful engineering and refinement of basic principles for most aviation. True for nearly everything created now. Trial and error, ingenuity, and some parts luck. Less that than I'd prefer you to think." He grins, and that reveals white teeth normal as any human being for the most part. His arms come to rest on the squared off supports of the seat, and the various bits of data scrolling across the screens — beneath them in fact — is the sort of futuristic exploration Star Trek will make with Mr. Roddenberry at the helm, instead of a Wakandan sovereign. He narrows his eyes and adjusts the kimoyo bracelet, and taps two fingers straight down. The back engines churn up, rotating up to a high hum audible to those with feline senses, or the enhanced equivalent. Subtle angularity to the back vents press to the cracked Harlem street, and the quiet chimes reckon on spinning up to the right temperature. "We have a few seconds. You can strap yourself in — although you do not need to. The belts secure in a cross if you activate the box next to you on the split between the cushions." Maybe he wants to see Tigra fly. Maybe there's really no need. He certainly doesn't have straps.

"Right, right," Tigra says as T'Challa offers synonyms. "And right, I get how research & design work, but this is all…I mean it's like it's out of the future," she says, marvling at it all. She pauses a moment, listening to the sound of the engines, and then settles into her seat. "If I don't have to, then I think I'd rather not." Bit of bravado on her part, perhaps. "I get R&D, but the energy budget for this has to be…amazing. And this level of control, that precise VTOL. This is decades of what I thought anyone was able to make."

"Someone's future, yes." This truth cannot be escaped, not really. The Wakandan king has to focus then on rotating the engines to the correct speed and half a dozen other immediate things, engaging support systems to a peak of readiness and complete a mental and physical checklist of dozens of activities before they set off. No one wants the pilot to ignore the pre-flight checks, after all. No rushing these steps, not at all. While he takes readings and activates the priority protocols, it all looks as though he's conducting a symphony. Except things happen, oh yes they do. The air whooshes; vents flatten; lights dim slightly and then the ground is hardly an issue at all when the fighter rotates fully around, facing the way it came. Cue stunned kids starting to shout loudly, arms waving, excitement heady on the air.

Tigra is officially airborne. "Now, as not to alarm people, slow and stately into the air." It's a bit like a hot air balloon, really. Up they go, nicely.

She can tell when he starts to concentrate and grows quiet, wondering at his enigmatic answer. Time traveler? Extraterrestial tech? She's got a lot of questions, and he's clearly skilled at gently deflecting them. She settles back in her seat, listening and feeling the ship's activity around her, her tailtip flicking with her emotions. "Not alarming people would be very good," she agrees with him.

Worse and none. Curiosity killed the cat, right? Save they're both cats in their way. T'Challa feels out the atmospheric conditions, which over the middle of Harlem, tend to be poor at the best of times. He endures the cloud cover suiting their upward trajectory, and the prevailing wind sends them out towards the ocean anyways. Just that it might be more helpful to hide in the clouds and stand out on radar, presumably, while headed away instead of being a lone gunman attacking the city.

"Generally, yes." He chuckles again and manipulates the projected dials, feeding a bit more energy to the engines and with that, up, up and away. It's surprisingly stable and smooth, not at all like a jetliner pouring on thrust to get up there. Mind, the glowing blue discs visible at ground level have something to do with that, considering the dissipated downdraft forms a steady displacement column.

Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought her back. She crans her neck about, looking out at the view, and then at him and the controls and so on, trying to keep track of it all, make sense of it. "This is amazing," she says softly, awestruck.

What is satisfaction if not a response to the stimulus of the unknown, the mercurial discovery rewarded? Grey clouds sweep over them and how T'Challa knows his direction without smashing into any buildings has a lot to do with the map visible to him, and reflected on the sheen of glass enveloping the front of the craft. Tigra can easily watch the outlines fall away and the numbers on them clearly indicating proximity or height. He weaves around them only when past a certain height that only the tallest skyscrapers approach, and this part of the island really isn't known for them. Behold the glory of engineering and human ability. The real kick hits at about a thousand feet, and then he opts to angle his trajectory, the engines rotating and a sharp, sudden burst of speed acquired without needing to level off the craft much. He doesn't angle the fighter higher than fifteen degrees tops, and giving an explosive burst of energy is a surprisingly easy task: press a few buttons, go.

The cloud deck soon enough will be left behind, the city with it, as they go racing for the Atlantic. Breaking out of the cumulus ceiling means seeing that ocean and the limitless blue sky in a different way. Not quite like dealing with a jet going to London, but something akin to it.

The map display is as amazing as everything else here, able to present imagery that crisply and that quickly. This obviously ain't a Zenith. Her breath catches for a moment as they race for the ocean, and then she leans back in her chair with something like a dopey little smile at the experience.

Not a Zenith, more is the pity. Not even like the green screens of radar, tracing pings under crosshairs. T'Challa lifts the fighter higher by a set of preprogrammed instructions, and then he relaxes back into the seat as much as his formal attire allows. "Now may be a good time to eat a sandwich. We have some time. I am not trying for an ascent speed record." And probably a good thing, too. Mind, Tigra may not be hungry, but such is life on that. "A fine view, isn't it? You will start to see the stars soon enough. The reminder of how precious our would is, when we hang in space."

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