One hundred and ninety years after the Wiccans settle on Oz, another Earth ship arrives and tells them that the situation on Earth is bad and getting worse. The Wiccan Council sends an expedition to Earth on the Wicca Glory, to try to fix things, by bringing Magic to the Rescue.
Suddenly Julian pointed up toward the sky and said, "Look! Here come the thrusters." Four broomsticks could be seen moving through the air where he was pointing.
Hiram looked at them, then said, "Well, I don't know much about your magic stuff, but I thought a broomstick had to have a rider. I don't see anyone on those. And why are they moving so slowly?"
"They aren't moving slowly," Julian said. "It's just that they are still so far away you can't see much movement. And they do have riders, three on each broomstick. If you look carefully you can just make out three little specks on top of each one."
Stoltz looked carefully, then shook his head. "If those little specks are people, then those broomsticks must be, well, huge. Enormous. Gigantic. Is that why they need three people to fly each one?"
Zythra answered him. "One would be enough to fly the broomstick here from the mainland. But later they will be doing some complex maneuvers. That's when we'll need the extras. Mounting the broomsticks to the sides of the ship is kind of tricky."
"Mounting the broomsticks to the sides of the ship?"
"Yes. They are what will provide the power for takeoffs and landings," said Zythra. "Julian's great aunt Kendra had them land the Wicca Glory using its engines plus the lift from eighty or ninety ordinary broomsticks roped to the ship. Each one of these has the lifting power of two hundred ordinary brooms and we will have four of them, the equivalent of eight hundred broomsticks. Lots of extra flying power."
The giant broomsticks had gotten much closer, and now the three riders on each were clearly visible. They slowly sank to the ground and landed next to the shuttles at the base of the ship.
"The workers will install the framework that attaches the broomsticks to the ship's hull, and then the riders will take them up, one at a time, and hold them in position while the workers fasten them in place," said Zythra. "A real fun job. I did one of the ones on the other ship."
"Zythra is a very good broom jockey," said Julian. "That's why she is going to be one of the chief pilots. She's the one who will actually control the thrusters when they are in use. It takes someone who is very good at flying."
The rest of the day, the area around the ship was crowded with watchers. By late afternoon, three of the units had been mounted, but it was obvious that the fourth would have to wait for the next day. The workers put away their tools and boarded the shuttles for the trip home, and the watchers drifted away.
"We'll see you tomorrow," said Julian to Hiram as he and Zythra boarded their shuttle for the trip back to the mainland.
* * * *
The next morning all the workers were back, as were Julian and Zythra. They greeted Stoltz as they climbed out of their shuttle.
"Are you going to finish mounting your giant broomsticks today?" Stoltz asked. "And what happens when you do?"
"Once all the units are mounted and tested, Zythra will take the ship up on a test flight."
Stoltz looked surprised. "You mean you are going to let her do a dangerous job like that? I always thought that being a test pilot was a man's job."
Julian laughed. "I don't exactly let her do it. I wasn't given a choice. It was really competitive. There were a lot of witches trying for the chief pilot and assistant pilot slots on the two ships when they go on their missions, and the test pilots were chosen from those." He paused. "And anyway, it has to be a woman's job. It requires a witch and there are no male witches. I couldn't fly a broomstick if my life depended on it."
"Oh, I see," said Stoltz. "I guess I've got a lot to learn about this witchcraft stuff."
"At least you are trying to learn," said Zythra. "I gather some of your people are doing their best to avoid thinking about it."
The morning passed quickly, with crowds again gathering to watch the operations. The three witches who had flown the unit in boarded it and fastened the special harnesses that let them stay on no matter what orientation it assumed. They lifted it off the ground, swung it around until it was vertical, and then edged it carefully over to the side of the ship. Workers were hanging on the braces, calling out the position of the thruster, and which way it had to move to meet up with the mountings. Finally it was snug up against the side of the ship and workers fastened it in place while the three pilots held it steady. Once that was done, all four units were checked and tested.
After a short break for lunch, Zythra boarded the ship along with two of those who had been flying the thrusters, and shut the hatch.
"What are the other two for?" asked Stoltz.
"Just backup, in case of problems or emergencies. Those two ranked just below Zythra in the tryouts. They came close to qualifying for test pilot, so it's a good idea to have them along."
As everyone watched, the ship, now the Wiccan Seeker, trembled a bit then rose gracefully into the air. For the next hour it flew around, up into space and back down again. It cruised slowly across the island as it would on an observation mission. Finally it swung back to the vertical landing position and settled down, landing struts not more than six feet from where they had been originally. The hatch opened and Zythra appeared with her backups behind her. She smiled and gave a big thumbs-up gesture. The watching crowd burst into applause.