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Homebrew - A Blog Science Fiction Novel

Hand-tossing pizza in micro-gravity is an art. For one thing, even the slightest push to the side causes the spinning dough to drift away, far more rapidly than it sinks back down.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Homebrew - a NaNoWriMo Novel - Day 20

Not as productive on Monday as I'd like to have been, but I struggled through to 40,000 words. Here you go.

They crowded into the airlock by Dora and J'Shawn orienting to one floor while Ellen and Dermot moved to the other end, their helmets almost overlapping. J'Shawn managed to pull the outer hatch shut and secured it. Then Dora, facing the inner hatch, initiated airlock pressurization. The red lights continued to strobe until the lock's air pressure reached Earth-normal, at which time they switched to green. On that confirmation, Dora opened the inner hatch and they moved into the main cargo bay.
"Wow! Dora, look at this place! I can't believe how huge it is. We could put four of our cabins inside this place."
"You got that right. Say, Patrick, what are those things in the corner over there?"
"Those are the various attachment arms. We mount them on the bow of 'Vuffie' so she can grab onto objects too big to shove into her cargo bay. If we know the object is small, we can use one or two of the arms. Or all four if it's very big. And we can switch between five different clamps, claws or hooks, depending on what attach points the item has." J'Shawn replied. "But that's not the big surprise." He pointed to the opposite wall. "That is."
"What? The wall? And why is it so lumpy?" asked Dora. "Aren't bay walls supposed to be smooth?"
"That's not a wall. That's the passenger module for 'Vuffie'."
"Oh my god. You're kidding! Tell me you're kidding."
"Dora, I don't think he's kidding. That's a top hatch." Ellen drifted over to the detachable cabin and inspected its exterior. "But why does it have two sections?"
"J'Shawn explained that to me yesterday. When the original specifications were made, they asked for the ability to transport people in quarantine, because some of the downside officials were afraid we might discover bacteria or viruses up here which could infect us. Renault just made it impossible for the people inside their passenger transport module to move into the OTV cabin without exiting the module into space. Mitsubishi decided to add the ability to seal two people into the rear quarantine section, flush the chamber to space and hook them up to an independent air supply."
"What a scary and depressing thought. Not something I wanted as a surprise on Christmas Day. How about you, Dora?"
"Me neither. And while this is all well and good, it remains a cargo bay. I've seen plenty of those over at OPS-1. I want to see the rest of our new habitat."
She turned back to Dermot and J'Shawn. "Can we see inside? Is the power up and is the environment good?"
"More important," Ellen added, "can we take off our helmets? As Patrick said earlier, I'm getting hungry. You guys didn't feed us breakfast, remember."
"There's air in here and the rest of our new home." With that, J'Shawn unlocked his helmet and let it drop down his back, hanging on its retaining strap. The others followed suit.
"C'mon." He moved to the more distant of the two inner hatches. "We want to go this way."
As they entered the hallway beyond, Ellen noticed their breath didn't fog. She nudged Dora and demonstrated.
"It's warm in here." Dermot said, noticing Ellen's action. "That's one of the things we did yesterday, bring its environmental controls fully on line. And we brought over extra air and propane tanks. We topped off our reserves and filled the fuel cells. We have enough to power this module for about five months."
"Don't forget. We also replaced several worn-out light bars and changed out the CO2 scrubbers. But Patrick wants to bounce an idea off you gals." As they went down the corridor, J'Shawn pointed out various other features, including the emergency oxygen supplies and the power switching modules. After moving up two levels, he led them into a darkened chamber.
"Surprise!" he and Dermot shouted, as he flipped on the lights. The two women found themselves facing an elongated table behind which a series of round-cornered trapezoidal viewports looked out on the nearby orbital power station. Around the solar power arrays, skinsuited workers crawled, looking more like miniature aphids on rose petals than humans, while tow boats and personnel scooters flitted like mayflies. The nearer power array shone with reflected sunlight, throwing out a rainbow off it's panels.
"Oh my god! This is wonderful! You guys made a great gift!" Ellen threw herself at Dermot, crushing him in her embrace.
Dora followed close behind, wrapping herself around J'Shawn. "My Big Guy! Thank you! You sure know how to give a girl a gift worth keeping." She laid a passionate kiss upon him.
"Don't I get a kiss? I helped." Dermot pouted.
Ellen did not reply, save to pull his head to hers, relying upon her own wet and noisy lips to show her feelings.
After some time, the two couples came up for air and separated enough to move to the table. There, Dermot pulled up the bags containing his burden and opened them, spilling the contents to drift across the table's surface.
"Patrick!" Dora said, diving across the table to snatch two thermal packs before they had a chance to bounce off the far wall and ricochet under the table. "Those two are hot! That means they might bust open if they hit too hard!" As she moved past the rest of the items, she used one hand to push the other hot pack boxes towards Ellen. She barely had time to snag the errant boxes before her other arm touched the wall. She let her elbow bend slightly to absorb the recoil, tumbled to face back the other way and grabbed the edge of the table and pulled herself to the other three, frowning at Dermot.
"I managed to prevent a food disaster. The least you could do is say you're sorry."
"Yeah." Ellen agreed, elbowing him. "Say you're sorry. Or no goodies for you."
"Ouch! Okay. Okay. I'm sorry Dora. That was careless of me. Please chalk it up to exuberance and hunger." He grinned. "Now can we eat? I'm still starving."

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