“Ease up on the cyclic!” Piko yelped. “You’re going to cut us to ribbons before we even get off the ground!”
“The what?” Widge yelled, over the roar of the gyrocopter engines.
“The stick! The stick!” Piko pointed from a safe distance away.
“Why didn’t you just say ‘the stick?'” Widge snapped in exasperation, releasing the joystick and letting the gyrocopter’s top rotor return to its default position.
The test flights outside Toshley’s Station had not been going well.
“Let me get in there,” Ringo said, holding up his arclight spanner. “I just want to make an adjustment to the pedals. It’d be easier if you let me sit in the control seat …”
“NO!” Piko and Widge barked together.
“You’re too big!” Piko said.
“We can barely get it off the ground with its own weight, let alone yours,” Widge added.
With a sigh, Ringo handed the spanner to Widge and pointed at the pedal. The gnome nodded, took the tool, and vanished out of sight as he tightened up a connection.
“After we have it working with a gnome on board,” Piko said quietly, “We’ll upgrade it to handle the weight of a dwarf.”
Widge reappeared and handed the tool back.
“OK, I think we’re ready to go for the next try.” He lowered his safety goggles over his eyes. “Run me through the checklist.”
“Landing gear?” Ringo barked.
“We have some!” Widge called out over the roar of the gyrocopter.
“Wheels and breaks?”
“They’re here somewhere!”
“It’s burning my britches!”
“I really like this little hula doll we found in the Lower City!”
“You mean the outside? It’s still there!”
“OK, we’re go for take-off!” Piko yelled, giving a thumbs up. He and Ringo immediately sprinted for safety.
Widge pulled out a knob, pushed forward on the stick, worked the pedals, heard the engine noise increase in pitch and volume and …
He was ejected end over end out of the craft, into the dirt a moment before the gyrocopter exploded.
“Did you take it easy on the cyclic this time?” Piko asked, sticking his head around the corner.
“Next time … you’re the test pilot,” Widge gasped, staring up at the sky.