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"Hey, Chief Gale. Got a minute?" Flight lieutenant Peter Mitch and Flight lieutenant Tommy Kanzy stood outside of Chief Gale's workshop.

The workshop lights were dimmed down, as the fabricators were on their downtime and the most of the mechanics were off day for the day. Chief Gale set his reading glasses down and gestured the two pilots into his office. "Wassup, gentlemen?"

"Well, Chief, me and Tommy boy here are plenty free at the moment," Peter said as he made himself comfortable on one of the chairs. "We were kinda wondering if we got to tinker around with the haulers."

"You meant you two are bored out of your minds and your hands are itching to fly and crash something?" Gale retorted back.

Both the pilots grinned sheepishly, "Yeah, we have been helping out the workshops and doing parts maintenance for one system after another. It's not what we signed up for!"

Tommy nodded vigorously at the side. "It's a waste of our skills. And since the two haulers are just collecting dust sitting there, we thought that if we could do some modifications or something and see if we can get it flying in the atmosphere."

Chief Gale rubbed his face as he gave their ideas some thought, to be honest, these two kids' skills were truly wasted here just doing basic maintenance. After a short while, "Oh well ok, we need all the edge we have against this planet."

The pilots high fived each other, excited to be doing something else.

"But, I wanna see your modifications and designs on file first before you can touch the ships," Gale gave his conditions. "After that, it gets passed on to the Captain. He has the final say. Get it?"

"Yes, Chief!" Both pilots saluted and filed out of his office.

"By the way, that doesn't mean you get off from doing maintenance!" Chief Gale yelled at the two pilots who stared back with a pained expression.

-----

"How's everything on your end?" Raman asked Ivan as they met up in private at the ship's armory.

"Well, I managed to pull several critical parts out as not meeting quality control and listed them as recycled in the system," Ivan said, pulling out a flask of potato vodka.

"I also got the stuff we need," Raman patted a large armory container on the side with a combi lock. "Now we just have to wait for a good opportunity."

"Well do you think it's a good idea?" Ivan took a drink from his flask nervously.

"We talk about it later," Raman gave Ivan a warning look as someone hit the intercom outside the armory. Raman glanced at the camera screen and pressed the hatch release, and two other burly crew members entered the armory.

They sat down next to Raman and Ivan and took out playing cards and chips. "Yo Ivan, any more of that vodka?"

Ivan removed a couple of flasks from his bag and handed them over. "20 creds as usual."

"Sure thing," The crew member with tattooed arms counted out a stack of red chips and slid it across the table to Ivan, who placed them in front of himself.

The other crew started shuffling the playing cards and doled out the cards to each player. "Same rules as before."

As the game progressed late into the night, Raman's pile of winnings grew larger while the other two men faces grew darker. Finally, the tattooed crew dumped his cards down and gave up, "I am out, you are lucky tonight."

Raman smiled, "Say, I heard something interesting lately, think it will benefit us all."

"What interesting news?" The tattooed crew member raised his eyebrows.

"Well, keep this between us strictly." Raman leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. "I heard that the Empire…"

-----

Magister Thorn bent over the laser engraver, watching the mana stone get laser-cut into a perfect circle.

The fire rune engraving started appearing like magic, etched by the invisible laser beams, burning the design into the surface of the round cut rune stone in seconds. Followed by an inking device which painted the runic symbol over with magical ink.

"What a wondrous machine!" Thorn who was wearing a pair of protective goggles looked like some crazed old man with his messy white hair and tinted goggles.

The runic symbol that he drew, was copied exactly and replicated onto a tiny surface in perfect detail! The magical silver ink that he had prepared to be used to write the runes of power, was inked along with the laser engraving.

If he wanted to do the same detailed work, it will painstakingly take him many hours or even days to carve the runic symbol out followed by inking it with silver. But this device does it all in seconds and even on a surface area as small as his smallest fingernails!

Thorn stood up and removed his goggles, thinking back to the weeks before that he told Captain Blake, that he needed days to prepare each fire rune for his thundersticks. Captain Blake just looked at his work and smiled, telling him not to worry at all. How indignant he was at that time!

But this device just made him eat his words and pride. He looked at the several chests of mana stones, which the Princess donated to the hoomans and wondered what other interesting toys can he make.

-----

Flight lieutenant Peter and Tommy sat hunched over the computer, looking at the plans of the Boeing 848 Super Spacebus. Both were the pilots assigned to fly the UNS Singapore and the Spacebus.

"Well, if we remove the cosmic radiation protection tiles, the airlocks, oxygen recycler and tanks, the directional thrusters, the dual wing main thrusters, and armor plating," Tommy pointed at various parts on the Spacebus drawings. "At least 55% reduction in weight can be achieved. More if we can hollow out the hull and cut away all unneeded parts."

The Boeing 848 Super Spacebus was introduced in the early 2070s as an all-purpose space hauler. The bulky and squat angular design comes with a forward passenger compartment capable of carrying up to 40 passengers and a rear cargo area with over 10 tons of cubic space.

The cargo compartment was also modular, allowing the boxy module to be removed, allowing an external cargo container to be carried or an additional passenger module, increasing the number of passengers to 200.

Powered by a Rolls-Royce Trident 800 helium 3 engine, it was capable of short-haul flights between space stations and starships. While not atmospheric rated and an outdated model, its durability, reliability, and ease of maintenance prompt the UNM Navy to continue its service even if it is a 40-year-old design.

"But if we remove the main thrusters how is it gonna fly?" Peter asked, staring at the drawings, "We should add in a flight surface controller here and here."

"Who said we are gonna need thrusters to fly it?" Tommy raised his eyebrows. "All the helium 3 fuel is taken by Engineering for fuel for the reactor."

"What we should do is to convert the engine to run on electricity instead." Tommy highlighted the stubby wings where the ends of the wings sat a thruster unit. "We modify the wings, add in a duct fan unit instead."

"Duct fan unit?" Peter frowned as he thought about. "You mean like a VTOL craft?"

"Yup, since the wings are tied to the flight control systems, we can recode the software to tilt the wings front and back," Tommy explained.

"It won't maneuver very well with it non-streamlined structure, nor fast," Peter stood up and stretched his back. "It will be like flying a tank."

"Unless we make the duct fan mounted wings capable of independently rotating forwards and backward," Tommy cut Peter off, "turning left and right is just a simple task of reducing the power of either one of the fans."

"Hey, let's check with that Indian marine armorer, see if he can design some rockets?" Peter's eyes glowed, his tiredness gone. "Strap a few rocket pods on it and voila! A flying tank!"

"That's a good idea," Tommy rubbed his weary eyes, they had been going through the plans for hours. "I'm sure the Marines will appreciate the fire support. But we need to cut down the weight more if we want more range and flight time."

"Hmmm, why can't we use magic to lighten the load?" Peter suggested as he laid down on the bunk. "I heard that magician Ton or Korn gave the idea of those rifles powered by magical runes."

"That's it!" Tommy slapped his head, "why didn't I thought of that! If magic can help reduce another 20% of the weight, we can increase the flight time and range of the ship!"

Tommy dived into his work, redesigning the Spacebus, removing non-essential parts and reducing the overall weight of hauler while thinking on how to convert the engine to run on electricity which will in turn power the dual duct fans. He also drew in plans for mounting of weapon pods.

Finally done, he looked at the 3D design on his computer. "Great, all done, now to find that great magician to find out if his magic can help."

Tommy got up from his chair and stretched, "Let's go find the magician!" and found Peter already asleep on his bed.

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