Challenge #00962-B231: Just Like Bricks Don't

On the training plane for the Space Shuttle, the gearshift had three setitings: “fly like a plane”, “fly like a brick”, and “fly like the shuttle”. Please note that “brick” was used as an intermediate step between “plane” and “shuttle”

(Prompt from RecklessPrudence on Tumblr)

"Now this," said the human in the tones of someone sharing something delightful, "is old school."

"It looks like a simple re-entry vehicle," Tarb'nathad tapped a wing. "Primitive, yet effective."

"You have 'primitive' right," Kanta, too, had to touch the vehicle. "Ablative ceramic tiles to withstand re-entry. Cable-dependent steering system. No navigational shielding at all. No COL systems."

"No Controlled Operational Levitation? How did they get it into space?"

"They strapped it to a rocket. Vertical launch on several tons of burning hydrogen." Kanta mimed take-off with associated noises.

Tarb'nathad boggled at her, her own feathers fluffing in alarm as she clearly pictured the potential for disaster. "And you survived this stage in your development?"

Kanta gestured to herself. "Dur..."

"You're going to want to escape in this, aren't you?"

"Well..." Kanta allowed, "it's not like anything else isn't guarded. We're only here because they think this thing is inoperable, unpilotable, and unhealthy."

"Is it?"

"Only if you haven't studied it," Kanta cracked her knuckles. "And you're lucky that I'm a history buff."

Tarb'nathad groaned under her breath. This was going to be an entirely human escape. Dangerous, deadly, and damn-near suicidal... and yet, also ridiculously successful. "Shall I take my calm pills now, or wait until you do something life risking?"

"Aaaah, you only need to panic when I shift it into 'fly like a brick' mode."

She wisely reached for her medication.

(Muse food remaining: 23. Submit a Prompt! Ask a question! Buy my stories! Or comment below!)