Even ace pilots had to start somewhere; Cid's break was at the start of the Wutaian war. He was still just a kid, like so many who ended up caught up in the fighting, but sometimes it takes a kid t...
Only a dozen.
When the boy - for, really, he was still a boy even though he tried to play the part of a man - when the boy moved his hand, it almost seemed as if it weren't his own. It moved slowly, but deliberately. First the carburetor heat was pulled on, and then the throttle adjusted. And then the ignition, fingers pausing just a fraction of a second before they turned the key.
He watched through someone else's eyes and listened through someone else's ears as the single prop on the nose started to slowly rotate. Once, twice, and then suddenly it was spinning in an invisible whirl. And the engine was a roar, and he could hear it - loud, deafeningly loud - over even his padded headset.
The engine was still hot. It had only been cut off for all of five minutes, just enough time for the ShinRa instructor to step out and move back from the taxiway.
His mouth was dry. He licked his lips, but it didn't do any good. And right then the boy thanked Alexander and all the Knights of the Round that he didn't have to radio for clearance since the trainees were all being evaluated individually - and on the most remote airfield south of Midgar as possible. There was no way that he could've gotten out the right words, or even remembered his call sign. Even though it was the same plane he'd been using since he had started. Even though the numbers were engraved on the bit of metal right below the tach.
One hand clutched the throttle while the other rested needlessly on the yoke; with a bit of fuel added to the mix, he eased up on the pressure from his toes. Both brakes were released. He was moving - moving forward - and all he could concentrate on right then were his feet and the way he needed to stay centered right on that long white line.
It took forever for him to reach the end. Even so, he knew that he taxied too fast, because the plane jerked to a halt as soon as he pressed forward with his toes again. He eased up a bit on the right brake - just enough to turn into the wind. The engine was fine. He went through the mental list, anyways - first the left magneto and then the right. The engine roared during the test, and then quieted as he lowered both flaps.
And then he licked his lips again. It still didn't help, but at least the boy didn't stumble over his words.
"..Midgar South Point traffic, Wyvern Three-Oh-Seven-Six-Two. Departing runway Three-One. Over."
It took him a moment before he realized that he was still holding down the intercom even after he'd finished speaking, and he let go of the button with a start.
Oh, /Shiva/. It was now or never.
And here he had thought that the interview a week and a half earlier in the ShinRa Tower was nerve-wracking. He'd passed, but only just barely; they weren't too keen on letting some kid into the air unit, but he at least knew his way around an engine and had read every last bit of information on the public market on the latest aviation technologies. Plus, with the War just started in the west, ShinRa was really hurting for pilots. Even ones who were barely sixteen.
Just thinking about the interview had been so stressful that he hadn't slept the whole night beforehand.
But this? This was...
The boy eased up on the brakes and coasted onto the runway. It was narrow and short - nothing like the photographs he'd seen of the airport on Midgar's north end, or the massive ones by Junon. But it still seemed like it was large enough to swallow him whole.
He slid the throttle forward all the way, using his thumb to press in the lever to kill the carb heat at the same time. The engine roared even louder than before, and the plane shook, and it was all he could do to keep his feet steady to steer the thing as it raced forward - centered, then wavering, then centered again on the striped white line. It was loud, deafeningly loud, but he could still hear Rich's voice in his mind as if his instructor were still sitting next to him.
"Steady, steady.. Keep your foot on the line. Push forward on the yoke- Feel the way it's moving before you start to let it lift up. Keep your foot on the line- Steady, steady- Watch your airspeed- Steady-"
And then he was in the green and he eased up - just a hair's breadth - but it was enough and the front wheel lifted up off of the asphalt. He could feel the rear two still making contact as he raced forward-
"Steady, steady- Hold it there til you've built up some more speed- You don't want to float or bounce- It'll lift up on it's own- Steady-"
And then there was a slight lurch and he felt gravity shift down, deep in his gut. The engine was still roaring, loud as ever, and the plane was shaking - but now it was tilting left and right as the wind caught it here and there, and his hands were controlling where he was going now instead of his feet, and he didn't even realize that he was holding his breath until he gasped for air right as he saw Midgar's silhouette appear just over the ridge to his right.
He was /air born/.
He'd done it.
Oh /Ramuh/, he'd never felt like this before - not even the first time he had ever gone up in a plane just a week earlier. That had been amazing, but it had all been by Rich's hand. But this? This was..
This was the best thing he had ever felt.
It was his plane, they were his wings. It was his sky. It was pure bliss - pure freedom from anything and everything, and he knew - he knew right then that no matter what they'd send him up in the air to do, no matter what they'd send him to do in the war, the sky would still be his in the end.
He didn't even realize that he was crying til the skyline blurred and he had to blink to clear it. He didn't even realize that he was laughing til he heard Rich calling to him on the radio - /again/, because he'd missed the first five times.
"/Highwind! Highwind! Do you copy?!/ I said if you don't want to be failed for your eval, you get your skinny ass down here, NOW!"
The boy managed to stop laughing just long enough to choke out a, "Roger that," before he veered toward the left again on a long crosswind leg.