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SEP-008, Chapter 8, Pt. 2

Posted 04-14-2012 at 05:33 PM by Scav

Mojoey told me it's "about friggin' time", so without further ado:

SEP-008, Chapter 8, Pt. 2.



Brian Adkinson nodded his thanks to the white-suited technician as he absorbed the wry look on the man's face. He opened the door, stepped through, and paused for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the light in front of him.

Looking like a sleeping white dragon, Constitution dominated the room he was now standing in. With the keel a full twenty feet off the ground from where she was sitting, she was a large spacecraft, and as his eyes drank in the sight in front of him, he smiled broadly. His mind briefly washed over the details of his last flight; how he'd taken her and seven other people higher than anyone had gone since the Apollo missions of the early 1970's. His mouth formed a wry smirk as he counted that detail, and he allowed himself to amble forward.

The ship was in a completely inert state. It had to be; the building she was hangared in was less than five hundred feet away from the runway that was her last stop before the heavens. It could be a dangerous environment, to be sure, but the most hazard anyone could hope for was something dropped from heights. He knew from experience that while the processing facility was a bunny-suit environment for the interior of the ship, hard-hats were also mandatory faire for certain areas of the exterior.

He stopped at the massive port-side landing gear. The tires dwarfed him, staring back at him menacingly as if to tell him they meant business. They had to. The ship spent most of its time weighing in at close to a million pounds; that was a lot of weight the rubber had to contend with. Fortunately he never experienced a tire rupture, nor had one been recorded yet.

He gazed upwards at the gleaming black surface of the hafnium diboride-imbued thermal protection tiles above him, and his eyes locked on the legs of an occupied bunny suit dangling from deep inside the landing gear well. He saw a bright orange personal fall protection cable clipped to a hard-point on the landing gear's strut. He heard the metallic rustling of stuff moving around up there, intermingling with the tinny sound of rock music playing from a small speaker above him.

He listened for a second, straining to pick out the words.

"Yup. Foghat. That's definitely her," He whispered to himself. Then, clearing his throat loudly, he called out her name.

"Jamie!"

The dull monotone of a metal object striking hollow metal rang out from the landing gear bay, and the woman above him cussed loudly as the object fell out of reach. Clattering sharply as it struck the floor, Adkinson darted to the side a little too late to try to catch the falling object. His eyes shot to the floor -- it was an alligator clamp -- and he bent over to pick it up.

"Who's down there?" He heard her growl furiously as he watched her monkey her way around the landing gear strut.

"John Young," He replied. "I'm here to talk to you about your performance on your last hop."

"Bull," She replied tartly. "If you were John Young, you'd be in a wheelchair." He noted that her reply was forthcoming even as her attention was latched firmly on what she was doing. She hadn't changed much at all in the last six months. At least not outwardly. Maybe a little moody when the Office had announced its moratorium on flights. That was a typical knee-jerk reaction in response to the last time he flew; they'd experienced one of the worst kind of survivable equipment failures imaginable, in one of the worst spots imaginable: An avionics failure in a stable five thousand mile orbit. On paper, the moratorium was conducted to study the procedures and modifications necessary to ensure the failure never happened again.

The damned failure shouldn't have happened in the first place, Adkinson reflected with sudden anger once more. He knew the avionics Constitution hosted was as redundant, if not more redundant than the Data Processing System the Space Shuttle used. He remembered spending an entire week pouring over both DPS technical manuals for Endeavour and Constitution. He could not find a single cause for the flight computers to not rule out the bad unit, and the fact they had to physically replace--

"Brian!" She suddenly crooned, and Adkinson grinned widely as Jamie Cunningham's face lit up. Her blue eyes, framed by a shock of blonde hair (which had grown considerably since the last time he saw her) danced with a sudden happiness, and he watched her wriggle her way down the remaining feet of the landing gear.

"Hi, Jamie," He grinned as she walked up to him and they shook hands vigorously.

"Whatcha doing here? I thought you were in Houston."

"I was. I got tired of the cockroaches. Say, do you have a second?"

"Yeah. I'm just testing some of the hull sensors before she gets released for flight nine."

"Ahh," Adkinson said. "Yeah, I'm glad they decided to ease up on us and let us fly again."

"Not all of us," Jamie replied darkly, and Adkinson cocked his head inquisitively.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm stuck on CAPCOM duty for the next foreseeable future," She whispered. "I don't know what I did wrong."

"How many flights?" Adkinson asked blankly.

"From nine . . . maybe all the way through to twelve. I don't know. They've been really short with me."

"Mmm," Adkinson murmured. CAPCOM duty wasn't the end of the world; it was, in fact, the preferred bailiwick of the NASA astronaut when they weren't flying. The only real duty was to communicate with the flight crew while they were aloft.

"I mean, I did my job, I got that satellite deployed . . . I don't know what more they want."

"I don't suppose it has anything to do with you bringing up the Carpenters, does it?" Adkinson intoned slyly, and Jamie looked at him sharply.

"Hey. Look. All they asked was, what was the weirdest part about being up in space. I didn't think waking up to 'Top Of The World' by Karen Carpenter was that crazy of an answer!"

Adkinson covered his mouth suddenly as he snickered, and she gave him a scalding look as she stabbed an accusing finger in his direction.

"They laughed, too!" She growled.

"Oh boy," Adkinson chirped as he remembered. He was sure at the time that Jamie Cunningham was well on her way to becoming the darling of the space program. At 160 centimeters tall, she was short, feisty . . . and everything one needed to add a little fuel for the presses when the space program itself was dwindling back into public obscurity all too soon.

The public was fickle, Adkinson noted sourly, and Jamie shifted her weight to a less aggressive stance as she noticed his own change of mood.

"What's up, Brian?" She asked pointedly.

"Right," Adkinson said as he cleared his throat. "So the guys and I were kicking something around in the office yesterday. I know you've been taking as much cross-training as you can handle the last few months, just to keep yourself sane, right?"

Jamie nodded slowly. She was a mission specialist by bailiwick, but her standard position was 'center-seater' on Constitution's flight deck. That meant she had become very well exposed to basic flight operations, and she remembered that slow tumble Constitution was forced into . . . how she bit back the constant urge to panic when even Brian and Greg had no idea what to do.

In spite of her quirkiness, she found the strength to do her job that day, and the experience did strange things to her . . . and made her start to think maybe there was something more. The next step up was for actual flight training, and she could fly a T-38 with relative ease -- mainly because she was so short.

". . . So, how would you like to go to the moon, as my pilot, on Flight Ten?" He asked conversationally.

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  1. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    I like.

    You humanize your characters pretty well. When I write all my stuff I read it back and hear it in a Miles O'Brian type voice (from "This Week In Space").
    Posted 04-14-2012 at 06:58 PM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Scav's Avatar
    I think I'd like that playback better with a Colm Meaney 'Miles O'Brien' voice. . .
    Posted 04-15-2012 at 01:51 AM by Scav Scav is offline
 

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