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Bashar Mati: Apocashitstorm Tour, day 2. My father guest-lectured here, a 300-level military history course on the Age of Human Airpower. Might as well have been teaching medieval siege tactics. I was eight when he died.

Transcript

Hi Ma,

You brought me here once to see baba teach. I didn't know it at the time, but the class was like something out of the 20th century. He stood behond a lectern in a real-space lecture hall, raising his umamplified voice to be heard by flesh-and-blood cadets seated in plastic chairs. This being '45 or '46, our air forces must've already been 60-70% automated, but the academy was still old-school - literally.

I was suppose the quaintness of the setting fit the subject he was teaching: "The Age of Human Airpower, 1909 - ???" The cadets probably thought the question marks were wishful thinking - or willful ignorance. From their perspective, the era of the human pilot was already over. But not for baba. I can still see the medals he kept in that drawer in the bedroom, the inscriptions in Sanskrit ("Touch the Sky with Glory," you said one meant). Even as a Commodore in the IAF, he'd kept flying. He still remembered what it was like to sit in a cockpit with his hand on the stick and his finger on a trigger.

And that's how he died. June 5th, 2048. At the funeral, some Metallurgic International rep said we should be proud he died "defending free markets." Even then I knew that was a lie. He died defending M. Int's claim on a Tantalum mine - that's what he died for. And why stop the truth-telling there? Really he died because M. Int wasn't yet rich enough to afford a fully-automated fleet, because it wasn't cost-effective to upgrade a military-surplus Razorwing with improved electronics warfare gear. He died because human combat pilots were just as obsolete as the crates they put them in, and just as expendable.

Something had broken between us. I felt like an orphan, and nothing seemed to matter any more. Which is how I lived for the next seven years... until it almost killed me.

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