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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 21

Wow! Twenty-one days into the NaNo event and I've written 42,000 words! That is TWICE what I wrote last year for the entire month! I may have the hang of this. Here's yesterday's addition to my novel.

"And you'd be even more starving had you wasted the food. I'm okay with eating; can we agree to discuss our plans while we do so?" Ellen waited for everyone's approval, then she helped Dermot set forth the meal. Dermot had sweet-talked the kitchen staff to prepare several containers filled with generous amounts of stuffing, gravy, candied sweet potatoes and jellied cranberries as well as rolls - all taken from what was being prepared for the special 'holiday' meal. On top of that, he convinced them to make eight large sandwiches, filled to overflowing with turkey, lettuce, mayonnaise and more jellied cranberries - and four slices of pumpkin pie. All the ingredients had been shipped skyward, at great expense, to provide the work crews with a taste of home as most of them had not visited Earth in more than six months - missing most of the groundside holiday celebrations.
As they laid the feast out in front of the others, Dora exclaimed, "How did you two manage this! Did you bribe one of the kitchen staff? J'Shawn? Answer me, I have got to know your secret! I've never been able to wheedle more than an extra ration bar or meal pack."
"Girl, don't go snoopin' for my secrets. A man has to have some tricks up his sleeve."
"He bought a couple of bottles of sipping bourbon for the head cook. The woman told him she wants to fix something special for an upcoming birthday." Dermot revealed.
"Damn, Bro'. You weren't supposed to tell anyone that. At least you said it over here, not back on the station."
"You're smuggling booze?" asked Ellen. "You can get in serious trouble smuggling booze. Singhman is death on alcoholic beverages up on station." She turned to Dermot. "You didn't help him did you? No. I don't want to know!"
"It's okay. If these two bums get caught and fired, we'll just find a smarter pair." Dora's smile at the two men held wicked promise. "Now let's enjoy this fine repast."
"Only if I get dibs on Patrick's slice of pie." Ellen snagged a second piece, pulling out of Dermot's reach. Dora mirrored her example, snatching J'Shawn's away from him before he could pull it to safety.
"Aw, Babe. Now that's just cruel. I'm a growing man; how do you expect me to maintain my fine-tuned physique if you go stealing all my food? Besides, you know I don't want you spoiling that beautiful figure of yours." He turned to Dermot. "Aren't you going to help me here?"
"Not me. I've learned my lesson; what say we enjoy what they left us?"
For a few minutes they tucked in and ate in silence. the only sounds that of hungry people savoring rich food. Finally, nothing remained but the desserts. Dora examined the two slices of pie in front of her, then glanced at Ellen.
"Can you really eat both slices of pie?" she asked.
"Not on my life. And my man has behaved himself during dinner." She slid her second slice to J'Shawn. "Here. I wouldn't want my sexy guy to get too weak on me. You need to build your strength." Dora placed hers in front of Dermot as well, motioning him to eat as she bit into her own.
As they ate their desserts, the men wolfing their down, Ellen asked, "Now what were you hoping to do with the OCVs? You mentioned providing 'taxi' services?"
"That's exactly my idea." J'Shawn replied. "Ryk Spoor was talking to me these last few days about how management has been getting requests to schedule in time and guest quarters for visitors - VIP visitors to start, but even some business types might come up."
"I've been hearing similar rumors," said Dermot. "The first groundside receiving rectenna is complete and they're going to have a ceremony when the power grid distribution substation comes on line. Supposed to have one of the bigwigs up here 'throwing the switch' - all captured on video, of course - at the same time as one of them cuts a ribbon down below."
"Okay," said Dora, "I've read about the groundside ceremony - it's all over the news sites - but I didn't know about the upper-level management person or the camera crew coming topside."
"That's great! All of you have heard about this and I didn't have a clue. I have to listen more to the chatter around me. You guys must think I'm not pulling my weight."
The other three gaped at her.
"Not pulling your weight?" Dermot responded. "Where did that come from? We all have seen how much work you put into learning about and then straightening out the legal aspects of our purchase. You're doing what you're good at, just as we do what we know."
"Still, I want to do more. I want to do something that gives me hands-on work, not just all the legal mumbo-jumbo. Yes, I know I work right alongside you guys assembling the power arrays, but that gets so mind-numbing after a while."
"Whereas I'm perfectly happy putting tab A into slot B all day. And I think Dora is as well. I guess you're a bit like J'Shawn."
"If you are, girl, maybe you should let Ryk teach you how to fly one of our OCVs. We need to have another one of us trained on them. Of course, that brings up the issue of finding time to train all of you on the tow boats. When can we do that? It will only take two days to do if you can schedule the whole class at once. If we have to break it down, there's about an extra four hours you'll have to do as a refresh of the first half, before you get into the heavy stuff in the second half."
Dora asked, "Are the bigwigs coming up within the next two weeks? Or do we have time to get one of us trained on the OCV? Because if we can't get OCV training, we have to decide whether we hire Spoor as our second pilot, even for a short-term contract, or accept we will not have use of the OCV for trips out here while J'Shawn is running them around."
"Good point, Babe. Patrick, are you hearing the same timeline as I am?"
"I'm hearing they should be up here in two to three weeks. It won't be sooner because while the camera crew has passed skinsuit training, the VIPs haven't. Plus, one of the VIPs has to have a custom suit made - something about girth. Or so I hear." He grinned as he told them.
"Which one is he?" Ellen asked.
"She. Definitely she. And I'm hearing she's Deputy Undersecretary for Space Affairs, Ekatarina Mishkova." he added. "She would have been fine with the regular suits, but she's about forty pounds over weight for a woman who only stands four feet, eleven inches."
"Ouch! How did she manage to pass the physical? I had a hard time and I was only five pounds over their chart weight." Ellen sleeked her hands down her sides. "Not that I have a problem any more."
"Elle, sweetheart. You were never overweight. They simply wanted to give you a hard time."
"Patrick, you are so forgiven for the booze."
"Thank you. No, Ms. Mishkova's problem is that she was a weightlifter, champion in in the Olympics in 2008. They never proved anything, but she's got the massive chest and abdomen of all serious heavy lifters, and I understand her chest augmented after she had and nursed four children."
"Bro'. Why am I visualizing a battleship?"
"You wouldn't be far off the mark, " Dora said. "I have read a lot of her public comments and position statements when I was working for my dad on the skinsuit development and marketing. She's a real hard-case. And if she's as vocal in private as she is in public, she's going to be a problem for everyone.
"That might work as an advantage for us. If we get J'Shawn hired as an outside contractor to ferry her and her entourage around, we will allow on-station management to distance themselves from any of her complaints, and management will find it easier to keep the dissident pilots away from her.
"When you put it that way, Patrick, you may have a point. J'Shawn, baby, can you keep your mouth shut about their issues?"
"I can. None of the pilots who are actually involved have talked to me about the guild. I can play dumb and happy. Ryk might have a problem doing so, because he just loves shooting off his trap whenever he gets a chance."
"Then we hire him to ferry the camera crews or other VIPs around and to train us to fly the rest of our wonderful new ships. That keeps him out of the way of management and gets us the training we need." said Ellen. "And I want first crack at OCV training. Do you two mind?"
"No sweetheart. I want to learn, but as long as we get me up to speed on the tow boats, I can wait."
"And I really need to dig into more of our paperwork and bookkeeping for the next few weeks. Go for it roomie. What about pay for Spoor? How much does he get from OPS?"
"Same as I do, plus ten percent additional for being a qualified instructor. And he's already told me that if he gets the same basic pay for any flight time, he'll waive other bennies. He already gets them on his UN-OPS contract, same as we do."
"But we will have to figure those in to our fee estimate to OPS management. They will expect the additional charges." said Dora.
"You know what's best."
"Is there anything else we need to discuss?" Ellen asked. "If not, I'd like a more complete tour of our habitat."
The business meeting broke up on that note.

* * *

"We're home. Everyone awake and shake a leg." J'Shawn's voice woke Dermot from the nap he'd been taking.
"People." Spoor's voice broke into their conversation, "could I have a moment of your time?" His tension came through very clear.
"Ryk, my man. Could it wait? I just got done shuttling Patrick and our two fine ladies out to our new offices for a Christmas surprise. We're all stuffed and tuckered out."
"This won't take but a moment. Please, I'm just outside the airlock. May I come aboard?"
J'Shawn and Dermot twisted around to look at Dora and Ellen. The two women shrugged approval.
"Sure, come on over. Patrick will meet you at the hatch."
Once inside, Spoor said, "Hi everyone. I had to know, quick-quick whether you people had a good time." At the same time he held up his finger to where his mouth was behind his helmet, in the time-honored signal for quiet. Then he pointed at his radio antenna and indicated they switch to channel four on the reserve radio. After they did so, he continued. "Okay, sorry for the spot of bother, but I needed to let you know. If you're going to bid on providing those taxi services we discussed, do so quickly. I've overheard from my friends that the OPG instigators are planning to brace our Very Special Visitor about the Orbital Pilots Guild and their request for changes in the working conditions when she gets up here."
"No! We were just discussing that, and we think it would be crazy even if she weren't here. She's known for taking harsh action against those she considers troublemakers," Dora said.
"That may be, but they will do it. They've voted unanimously in favor. I tried to explain to my friends it wasn't the right move or the right time, but they wouldn't listen. And I have no doubt that Singhman will lump me with the sods for quick dismissal."
"That won't be a problem." she replied. "We're going to hire you as one of our pilots. If that meets with your approval?"
"Bloody Hell! That's the best possible news for Christmas Day! You'll never regret this."


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