Five days and change left in NaNoWriMo. One hundred and twenty-two hours and thirty-three minutes as I write this.
IT’S HERO TIME! *grabs mace and sword and attacks WordPerfect file, striking it repeatedly about the grammar and syntax*
While I normally put in a lot of internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.
CHAPTER EIGHT (concluded)
“Once we get up, running, and in contact with the ore deposits, we should be able to move up to the next steps in construction using the processed ore itself. But to get to that point, before we get to the ore, we’re going to need materials to bootstrap the process. While we might be able to do it by scavenging equipment from Cronus, instead I suggest that we use parts of Cronus herself.”
“I don’t follow, what parts?” Alsby asked.
Carson waved his arms at their surroundings. “All of this. The rock, the hull. You know that when they hollowed out this asteroid they left most of the material in there, over engineered it like crazy. We think that we can take a hundred metric tons or more of material out of the interior, making our habitable spaces bigger and processing that material to use to build the first parts of the Rhea station.”
“I would really prefer that you didn’t dismantle the ship around us while we’re a billion miles from the nearest help, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Captain, the main reason they hollowed out so little of the interior of Cronus is that they didn’t need to do any more. It’s not for structural reasons and it’s not for radiation shielding. We can do this safely, and it solves the initial bootstrap problems.”
Alsby was silent. She didn’t like to be second-guessing her superbly qualified crew with a kneejerk reaction. She also didn’t like people taking chances with her ship.
“I’ll give it consideration. Have SaSEM give me access to your plans and calculations and I’ll see how unreasonable and outrageous they are. But one thing you haven’t mentioned is how you’re going to dig down to these ore deposits. I know we’ve talked about using the Enceladus Digger probe, but that’s nowhere near big enough to allow access.”
“Correct, Captain, we’ll be using the Digger,” said Carson. “It’s only designed to melt out and keep open a channel a fraction of a meter wide. The key to using it on Rhea is the distance we’ll have to be digging. Since the Digger was designed to dig through up to fifty kilometers of ice on Enceladus to get to the interior ocean, the connection path to the surface would have to be quite small.”
“But here we’ll only be going down a handful of kilometers at most,” jumped in Phillips. “Since the connection cable keeps the passage clear by heating it, we can put a lot more power into a five kilometer cable than we can a fifty kilometer cable. That will in turn create a much bigger passage. From there we can have modified sample collection bots roaming up and down the cable to widen it even more. We figure we can support a passage with a diameter of nearly ten meters. That’s more than enough to run a pair of lifts and all of the data, supply, and communication cables we need, as well as the plumbing for bringing up gaseous volatiles.”
“You’ve run all of this past CeresOps as well?”
“Yes, ma’am, they’re the ones who thought of it. They’ve been doing the testing on the Digger’s connection cable materials to verify that it will handle the power and heat overload and they’re sure it will.”
“Excellent. Have SaSEM give me access to that as well. Now, you said that you had a personal request as well?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Carson took a deep breath, glanced at Phillips, and then pressed onward. “We’re aware that it’s against regulations, but Betty and I would like to get married. I’m sure you’re aware that we’ve been involved as a couple for some time.”
“Worst kept secret on the ship, Ben. We all know that these things happen, especially in tight quarters and a long mission. So long as it doesn’t get messy and cause problems to the mission, most captains, like myself, generally look the other way. But those couples always wait until they get back home to get married and solidify their relationships. Why do you want to do it here and now, and why do you think it would be allowed in violation of the regs?”
“We believe that the regs were designed and implemented under different circumstances, before the AHF plague hit Earth. We all know how many of the details in the regs are simply window dressing to keep the Earth governments and their taxpayers happy. Now that we’re on our own up here, we believe that it’s essential that we adopt a more pragmatic and realistic system. This would be an excellent, practical, and logical first step.”
“Great speech, Ben, but there’s nothing logical about getting married.” Alsby sighed. “I’m inclined to agree with you, but I don’t see why you have to get married. What’s the rush? Why not just keep the status quo while we loosen the regs onboard concerning fraternization?”
“That’s the other thing, ma’am,” said Phillips. “We’re suggesting that we stay behind to keep the Rhea station and mining operation going when Cronus returns to Ceres.”
Both Alsby and Miller looked stunned by the suggestion.
“It makes sense, Captain,” said Carson. “If we get this operation running, the whole system is going to be depending on us for volatiles, especially water. You said yourself that there will be others coming to permanently inhabit the station. We believe that someone will have to stay behind to keep it running until they get here. We’re the ones with the engineering experience to pull it off, so we should be the ones to stay.”
“How about the fact that we’re going to need your engineering experience on the Cronus?” Alsby asked.
“Once you’re done with Saturn and head back home to Ceres, ninety-nine percent of the engineering on Cronus will be routine maintenance. SaSEM already monitors and directs repairs there. We’re just her puppets who actually have hands, feet, and eyes to get the job done faster than a bot could. Almost anyone in the crew could do that, and you’ll still have Volkov and Simpson for anything fancy.”
There was a long pause as Alsby looked back and forth between her two Chief Engineers. Generally it was tough to squirm in zero-G, but after more than a minute of scrutiny, they were making a good effort.
“You’re asking for a lot,” Alsby finally said. “I agree that we will have to take some additional risks. Perhaps we will have to leave you behind on station. I’ll agree to at least putting that option on the table as we make plans going forward.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Phillips said.
“Don’t thank me, I’m just stalling to give you time to come to your senses. In the meantime, SaSEM, please tell Naoiki and the department heads that I want to have a conference in, say, two hours to talk about the issue of some potential changes in our regulations . Ben and Betty, I want you here there as well. Todd, you too. Any questions?”
“I hesitate to get overly personal,” Miller said, “but given the circumstances I feel that someone should ask.” He looked at Phillips. “Betty, you’re not pregnant, are you?”
“Jesus, Todd! Of course I’m not. We’re in love, we’re not insane.”