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SEP-010, Prologue.

Posted 04-21-2012 at 08:13 PM by Scav
Updated 08-31-2012 at 12:39 AM by Scav (Updated for re-work.)

Allow me to present:

SEP-010, Prologue

"Jamie. The launch director says it's time," The man's voice drawled into the darkness, and Jamie Cunningham moaned pitifully as sudden disorientation gave way to reality -- or at least, it tried to. The light blinding her from the hallway through the half-open door didn't do her any favors, and she nodded in irritation just to dismiss the hapless twit that woke her up.

She labored herself upright, using the arcane force of sheer willpower. Running her tongue across her teeth, she swallowed in disgust. She knew cameras would be on her like flies on roadkill from here on out, and she knew there'd be no way in hell she'd be ready to face that in her current condition.

As she stumbled her way into the adjacent bathroom, she flailed for the light switch several times before knocking it with her palm. The lights flickered on, flooding the room with antiseptic florescent light, and she took a moment to stare into the mirror at her cobalt blue eyes underneath her lop-sided, sleep-molded blonde hair.

She looked awful. In fact, as she probed her face with her eyes, it seemed as if every facial cut, scrape, scratch, bruise and pimple she ever had in her entire life was coming back all at the same time. She sighed forlornly through her lips; she needed a lot of work done this morning to make herself presentable.

As a quick shower washed away her lingering drowsiness, she worked on setting her mind in the proper track. She tried not to think about the details of how she was going to go to work today; she remembered the oft-repeated words of her mentor and mission commander Brian Adkinson in his own exasperation: "Don't think about it; just do it."

Those words became her personal mantra as her thoughts became jumbled once more as she left her room -- and came within inches of crashing into someone. She looked, and shook her head balefully at Brian Adkinson who flashed her an infectious grin.

"G'morning, Sleeping Beauty!" He said, snickering at his own joke.

"How late am I?" Jamie mumbled darkly.

"Oh, right on time," He replied. "Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'm going to be," She murmured.

"Alright then; let's go."

They walked the short distance to the cafeteria, and as the door opened, the sound of lively conversation assaulted her ears. She made her way through the room, stopping to share greetings and congratulations with everyone along the way, and her journey ended at the only table that had vacancies; the one reserved for a flight crew preparing to embark. Classical music played quietly from the room's intercom speakers, and she took her seat with Adkinson and swept her eyes across the room; her thoughts idly thinking about everyone who had sat where she was sitting in the last fifty years.

She realized she had no clear idea how she'd arrived at her seat just then; the last moment from the door to her chair was a blur, as faces she only half-knew, smiled at her. The thought occurred to her that she should know these people better; she spent the last five years of her life training and working with them.

Kyle Martinson, she recognized out of the crowd; he was an old hat at the Astronaut Training Corps, and she spent more than a couple hours with him refining her re-entry theory. She knew Constitution could practically re-enter and land herself given the right software, but the idea that one should forget the automation at all times stuck in the craw of her mind when it was impressed upon her that it was her back-side on the line (along with everyone else in the orbiter) if something were to go wrong.

She also picked out James Ahern; Constitution's first Mission Commander in the crowd, and as their eyes locked briefly, he nodded smartly to her. She nodded back, and he gave her a thumb's up gesture which she returned.

The soft music died abruptly, and a woman's perky voice intruded quietly into the room:

"This is Vehicle Launch Control at two hours, five minutes and holding. At the present time the flight crew for Space Exploration Program, Mission Number Ten has assembled in the lunch room at the Astronaut Quarters. They were awoken a few minutes ago when launch director Steven Pierczinsky gave the 'go-ahead' for that event. Mission Commander Brian Adkinson sitting at the table now, preparing for his third flight into space, followed by his pilot, Jamie Cunningham."

Her head shot upward from the empty table in front of her as she heard her name over the loudspeaker. Intellectually, she knew it was coming, but the reality of hearing herself mentioned over the NASA TV audio loop in that fashion hit her right in the ego. She smiled out of a sudden impulse as her eyes found and locked upon the camera centered upon her.

". . . and a big smile from Pilot Jamie Cunningham!" The woman's voice half-chuckled. "She is about to embark upon her second spaceflight; this time not as a mission specialist but as a fundamental operational member of the flight crew, and to her right are Mission Specialists Anthony Downs, and Sienna Morrison of the European Space Agency. Morrison is a geologist, and Downs holds a Master's degree in Engineering.

"It looks like we have an enthusiastic air in the lunchroom at this time, and the flight crew looks like they're ready to get to work today. Already the closeout crew, consisting of astronauts Jim Myers and Brandon Harris are performing their procedures at the Orbiter Processing Facility Building Number Four; their function is to ensure that the orbiter Constitution is ready in all aspects for today's flight into space. The countdown to departure currently standing at two hours, five minutes and holding; this is Vehicle Launch Control."

Jamie Cunningham nodded to herself. It didn't matter how much time and effort she had spent leading up to this moment; the full realization that this was actually happening was as apparent as the traditional astronaut's breakfast plate of steak, eggs and toast sitting on the table in front of her. She glanced downward, doing a double-take.

Yes, Jamie. Someone did sneak a plate of food in front of you, and you didn't even notice, she scolded herself gently. At least the food looked good, and it made her think about how hungry she was. She scanned her immediate table area, noting a filled cup of coffee, a glass of orange juice, a dish full of butter, jelly, and jam packets, and a dish full of coffee creamer tubs and sugar packets next to her silverware.

At least the morning was starting right, she reasoned as she dug into her breakfast.

* * *
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  1. Old Comment
    Samuel Edwards's Avatar
    And you thought my story was a good read? Your's is fantastic!
    Posted 04-21-2012 at 09:10 PM by Samuel Edwards Samuel Edwards is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Scav's Avatar
    Thank you.
    Posted 04-29-2012 at 08:58 PM by Scav Scav is offline
 

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