Episode #243: Reading from The Thirteenth Hour on Flying Through the Clouds and Like a Hood Ornament 3 – the Rocketeer’s Rocketpack
This week’s show is all about flying, both in the traditional part of the podcast as well as in the Rocketeer segment. I’ll always aim for them to be related if possible, since, after all, The Rocketeer was one of the things that influenced the writing and creation of the Thirteenth Hour world.
In the first part of the show, I’m reading from the chapter where the main protagonist, Logan, is gifted a silver hoverboard he calls Lightning that has its own onboard magical “computer” (though that’s never exactly stated), allowing for a kind of magic artificial intelligence, and runs off the power of the sun (again, never exactly stated, at least not in this one).
Just to get us in the mood, I thought I’d include the intro from the 1984 film, The Neverending Story, for the quintessential audiovisual cloudscape experience:
Here is the passage from The Thirteenth Hour:
Lightning beeped cheerfully and drifted slowly forward down the lighted blue pathway that I had walked down earlier. She really picked up speed in the windy section near the entrance. I crouched down low, white–knuckling the board with both hands. Maybe I should have practiced a little first, I began thinking to myself. But Aurora was in trouble, and I needed to concentrate on that. The flight to Cordel would have to be my practice. Lightning shot out of the Palace and began to climb steeply. My heart plummeted into my stomach, and I prayed that we would slow down, eyes shut, knuckles even whiter as I gripped the edges of the board for dear life.
The board beeped then; I opened my eyes slightly, and by shielding them against the torrential winds, I was able to see a message flash across the complicated, yet impressive looking front of the board.
“Relax, Logan! There’s no way you can fall. Both your feet are now strapped in. You can let go of my sides if you want. Have fun!”
I looked down; my right foot was now securely strapped onto the board. I stayed crouched low, but let go of the edges, first one hand, then another. As soon as I did, I felt as if I were going to fall backwards and began to flail my arms. Lightning slowed down a little, allowing me to regain my balance. But at every dip, my stomach felt like it was shooting up to my throat. I wanted to grab onto something solid, but I realized that there was nothing but air to hold onto! In desperation, I gripped the side of the board again, but it didn’t do any good.
“This is harder than I thought!”
Another message flashed across the screen.
“Well, it really isn’t too hard once you get the hang of it. Just relax and let me do the work. Now, how about some aerobatics, my favorite?”
“Uh, wait a minute! Aerobatics? Is that anything like acrobatics? I don’t think I’m ready for that!” I yelled.
“Sure you are! You just don’t know it yet! All you have to do is hang on!” flashed the screen.
I yelled a succession of curses as my stomach shot up to my throat as Lightning spun around three times in succession. The screen read, “Barrel roll maneuvers complete.”
Whatever that meant! She ended up in an inverted position, with me looking at the sea, dizzy. I had paid so much attention to the insides of my eyelids that I hadn’t looked around to notice how high we were. We seemed to be traveling at an insane speed. The waves far below flashed by in a blur. The wind kept getting caught in my gaping mouth and bellowing out my cheeks while I struggled to close my mouth. At one point, I felt like I was going to fall out, dangling only by the straps holding my feet onto the board. Instinctively, I grabbed both sides of the board. Lightning rolled back over, and I breathed easier.
“This might help you out. I am going to deploy an invisible shield that will surround you and myself. It’s just like a big bubble. It will cut air resistance and protect you. And just in case you’re interested, it will prevent you from falling should you manage to slip out of the foot restraints.”
“We couldn’t have done this before?” I croaked, as wind caught in my mouth, hard that time, stunning my vocal chords.
“No, my programming instructs us to be at least fifty miles away from the Palace before I deploy the bubble shield.”
“If I overheat, I could self–destruct. The explosion would level anything in the surrounding area within a fifty mile radius.”
“Self–destruct?” I repeated, horrified.
“The shield has never been tested before. There’s a very slight chance that it will overload my systems.”
“Is it just me or is there an echo here? It’s alright. The shield’s up now. All systems are operating well within normal limits. However, it’s written in my programming to warn all passengers if they aren’t.”
As if they could do anything about it, except maybe jump off and die hitting the ground instead of in a mid–air explosion. The wind didn’t seem to be blowing as hard now, though I couldn’t see the shield, nor could I feel it. But I noticed that it was much quieter, and I could talk without shouting, although there was still a ringing in my ears from the rushing wind.
“It seems to work,” I said, feeling around tentatively.
I looked back; I couldn’t see the Palace. When I asked how far we were away from it, Lightning flashed across her screen, “About 75 miles right now.”
Jeez, we were going fast. We couldn’t have been in the air very long; under an hour, I guessed. I looked back again and noticed a plume of colored, sparkling mist in our wake. It looked just like a rainbow. I looked under the board; the mist was coming out of three separate locations on Lightning’s bottom side.
“Those are my engines.”
I realized that I had been so caught up in the excitement/horror of my ride with Lightning that I had never even questioned how she generated her power.
As if reading my mind, Lightning flashed, ”I can show you the owner’s manual later that discusses more of the specifics, but for now, all you need to know is that there’s a readout on my display that shows how much power I have left.”
I found the icon on her display, which read 95% power.
“You know, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or anything, because I really appreciate you going fast since you know I’m in a hurry and all, but do you think you could slow down just a little? I think I left my stomach somewhere behind the last mountain.”
“No, according to my scanner, you still have it.”
“Oh … it was just a manner of speaking, you know …”
I laughed. “Well, almost, I guess.”
“Tell me a joke then.”
“Oh, I don’t know any good ones. When we find Aurora, we’ll ask her. She’ll know some.”
“All right. Nothing like learning how to swim by jumping in the deep end, huh, Logan?”
“Right. Without a lesson.”
“Well, no one ever did learn to swim in a turtle pool.”
“What’s a turtle pool?”
“You never had one of those? One of those little plastic kiddie pools about a foot deep that you fill up with a hose?”
“Plastic? Kiddie pool? Hose?”
“Ehh, never mind. Probably just some stuff that hasn’t been invented yet. One of these days I really have to organize my files.”
“So … how long until we reach Cordel?” I asked.
“About thirty minutes. How do you like flying around like this so far?”
“I like it, especially with the bubble shield.”
“Good! We’ll always fly with it on from now on. I’m glad you like flying! I knew you were a flyer when I first saw you!” flashed the board, with a few friendly beeps.
“We’re going to take a little detour, and I think I’ll throw in a few tricks, just to keep things interesting. Wouldn’t want you to fall asleep or anything!”
“Oh, I really don’t think you’ll have to worry about …”
Just at that second, I tried to scream as Lightning shot upward suddenly, but my voice was still somewhat hoarse. All that came out was some kind of croaking sound. Then she hung a hard right, shot into a loop with a couple of twists thrown in, and straightened out high above the clouds. My stomach, however, took a little longer.
“Guh … give me a minute to recover,” I panted.
“Okay. It’s pretty much a straight trip from here, so we’ll take it easy so you can get used to doing turns and things like that. Of course, you can always count on me to fly, but I thought you’d like to give it a shot yourself.”
By shifting my weight left and right, I was able to make turns. By leaning forwards or backwards, I could either climb or dive. I even tried a tentative loop with all the grace of a one–legged stork.
“Hey, not bad!” flashed the message board. “See, it’s not so hard!”
“I guess …” I said.
“Logan, I know what you need! A little attitude! How about some music? ‘Cause there isn’t much to see up here. Just clouds, and when you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. And there’s nothing like music to boost your confidence!”
“Music?” I asked, a little surprised.
“Yes. One of my unsung talents.”
“Hey, Lightning, that was a joke! Well, kind of, anyway. I think that’s called a pun.”
“Really? Well, see, things are looking up already!”
I heard a sound suddenly. Or sounds, rather, but they were like nothing I had ever heard before. The music sounded slow, at first, then it picked up pace, until the speed of the music matched the speed of our flying. It was strangely futuristic, but at the same time, it seemed like I had always known the melody. [When I was originally writing this passage, I had the melody from When in Rome’s “The Promise” in mind.]
There were words sung, too, but in a language that I neither understood nor wanted to understand; somehow, the mystery of the words added to the mystique of the music. In a way, this is in vain, as my description here will do no justice to the melody, because there are some things that are perhaps impossible to describe in words and are better left unspoken.
I felt, at that moment, an incredible rush of energy and indescribable exhilaration. I felt ready to take on the world – or, at least, a dragon or two. All my fears of flying vanished like the mist of the rainbow behind us. The feeling of gliding through the air with the wind rushing through my hair, sleeves and pant legs flapping back and forth, and the music rushing up to meet my ears was indescribable. But it is perhaps best compared to that day, long ago, when, as I stood at the top of the hill near the castle, looking out at the landscape around – I let the wind take my hand and lead me to dance.
I later wrote a song for Long Ago Not So Far Away about this part of the book that became the song, “I’ll Fly Away.” It has two versions, both below – with varying levels of synth and tempo depending on your mood!
Today’s Rocketeer segment is also about flying – the Rocketeer’s rocketpack!
Today marks the third Rocketeer segment as a part of the podcast. Below are a few previous episodes about the Rocketeer:
–Ep 18 on comics (Dave Stevens)
–Ep 53 on rewatching the Rocketeer as an adult
–Ep 235 on making the resin miniature Rocketeer
This week, we’re discussing three versions of the rocketpack (in descending order below): 1.) the sliver-purple one with fins from the comics, 2.) the finless silver double barrelled Art Deco one from the movie, and 3.) the silver and purple double barrelled one with fins from the cartoon that came out this past fall.
Here are a few design ideas on the gloves and rocketpack from the film, showing the original prototype (closer to Dave Steven’s original drawings), then how it evolved into the double silver bullet shape seen in the film (these come from The Rocketeer Official Movie Souvenir Magazine).
Here are some excerpts from the original comic drawn by Dave Stevens about how the rocket pack was controlled and refueled. (The images below come from The Rocketeer: The Complete Deluxe Edition, which is unfortunately quite difficult to find now – look on Amazon and eBay for used copies at more reasonable prices).
This little animated .gif is, of course, from the point in the movie where the Rocketeer, not above a little self conscious vanity, asks how he looks. Peevy, not above a little blunt honesty, says “Like a hood ornament!” The Rocketeer blasts off for the first time, Peevy gets blown backwards into the hangar, and I get a name for this part of the podcast!
Stay tuned for more Rocketeer gear talk next week! Stay safe!
There are now Thirteenth Hour toys! If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThirteenthHourStudio) and get them there.
If you haven’t checked out “Arcade Days,” the song and video Jeff Finley, Brent Simon, and I finished one year ago, click on the link below to do so!
You can find more pictures and preview clips of “Arcade Days” on IG as well as this podcast’s FB page.
Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.
Stay tuned. Follow along on Spotify! There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.
As always, thanks for listening!
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