She imagined flying in one of the original biplanes. You could feel the wind in one of those, as much an enemy kicking you down as a friend keeping you up. You had to fight every moment. She imagined it was like being born, clawing her way free of the birth canal, or like sex. She craved it. Not like this. Another two-day tour in her Interceptor, properly a PDC.SO.m32. For the uninitiated, that’s planetary defense craft, single occupant, mark thirty-two. There is no wind in space. No fight to survive, just smooth acceleration along precalculated vectors, two days on, two days off, watching for aliens sneaking into the system fleeing some genocidal tyrant. Sorry, can’t help you, go home.

Even this dogfight couldn’t rouse her blood. Execute preprogrammed maneuver two-epsilon-seven, activate countermeasure tango-two-two. Two more destroyed. Lasers grazed her from behind. She grinned, then flew low, scraped the atmosphere for sudden braking, then surprise, behind the enemy, boom.

She sighed. Now for one more sterile day of—

—screaming klaxons. Enemy debris damaged propulsion, computer navigation. Stuck in the atmosphere on half power. Nothing in the manual about that.

She smiled. Time to feel the wind after all.