It’s Friday Fiction time again, and Christina Banks is hosting this week over at With Pen in Hand. You’ll find the Linky tool there, with its wondrous list of reading material for your enlightenment and pleasure.
This is the final Friday before the start of NaNoWriMo, and this week I can’t post the prologue to my fifth WriMo novel yet, as I can’t start writing it until Monday. Instead, I’m sharing a sketch story I did to play around with three of the characters. This story establishes the “working relationship” between the three Voidship Technicians, and helps me get a better handle on these characters. This episode won’t appear in the Erikson Exigency, even though it would be nice to get a 1500 word headstart.
Violet Versak watched the Galileo recede in the distance. The old voidship – now part museum and part training facility – had been her home for six months, and her feelings were mixed as she left it behind. She was happy to be finished with her training, and ready to move on to actual duty aboard the CV Erikson, but there had been a charm to the old vessel, and she was going to miss her fellow trainees.
The hopper rolled, shifting the view through the window from the Galileo to the lunar surface below. With the vehicle controlled from a central tracking system in Earthrise City, the only thing for Violet to do was hang in the seat restraints and watch the scenery.
Passing over the lunar city of Frontier’s Gate, the hopper reached the lowest point of its arc and began to regain altitude. Erikson remained in synchronous orbit above Earthrise, and barren lunar surface appeared below as the small craft closed to distance. This soon gave way to outbuildings, before the main city of the Moon filled the view.
“Approaching CV Erikson,” the computerized voice of the hopper announced.
Violet stretched to look out the other window, and caught her first look at the colony vessel. Though still several kilometers away, the Erikson stood out clearly against the dark background of space. At this same distance, the Galileo would have been barely more than a bright speck – an exceptionally bright star standing out in a field of stars.
It was difficult to believe the first manned expedition to another star had been accomplished on a vessel the size of Galileo. The three hundred meter long voidship had traveled the four light years to Centauri Proxima and back, carrying a small lander craft and minimal crew. Erikson, on the other hand, measured just over two kilometers in length, and would carry hundreds of colonists and the equipment to convert a world into a livable habitat.
A pair of cargo boosters positioned one of the drop canisters into place on Erikson’s central beam. Several of the canisters were already secured to the ship, and from their size, Violet surmised they contained the atmospheric conversion units which would extract nitrogen and oxygen from the available sources in the system, releasing the gasses in the proper proportion for human respiration.
The hopper flipped end for end, and decelerated as it approached the docking collar on the starboard side of the forward superstructure. The diminutive size of the hopper only seemed accentuated by the huge voidship, and Violet marveled at what she would be taking care of for the next ten to twelve years of her life.
At least, as much of those years as she was required to be awake. With two other voidship technicians aboard, they would rotate duty cycles, and spend the rest of the time in SusAn sleep.
A gentle thunk signaled her arrival, followed by the hiss of the empty space between the two locks filling with air. “Docking complete,” the hopper said. “Restraints are unlocked. You may depart now.”
She slipped the restraints from her shoulders and legs, and floated free in the limited space. With the practiced ease developed over her previous six months in training, she moved through the open hatch and into Erikson’s outer airlock.
“Identifying,” Erikson said. “Violet Versak, Journeyman Voidship Technician. Duty berth, one-seventeen delta. SusAn chamber six dash kilo forty two. Technician Versak, please follow green indicators to preliminary duty briefing.” The inner hatch opened, and sequencing green lights flashed ahead down the corridor.
“Acknowledged,” she said, and propelled herself down the corridor.
Nearly a hundred meters down the corridor, the lights indicated a turn, and she pivoted to face the direction she needed to go. At the corner, she grabbed hold of the handle on the wall with both hands, and tucked her legs up. In the “cannonball” position, she flipped around the corner and held on. Once she was sure of what was ahead, she put her feet on another handle, and pushed off.
The lights led her to an equipment compartment, and she stopped just inside the room. “Hello?” she called.
An older man looked from behind a console. “Oh. You’re here. I expected you to take longer to get from the hopper to here. Hang on,” he said. He vanished behind the console again for several minutes, and then floated out to look at her. He let out a sigh, and shook his head. “You’re worse than I imagined.”
“Don’t take it personal,” he said. “I told the execs we didn’t need a third tech, but they sent you anyway. I had hoped at least for one with enough body bulk to handle some heavy tasks, but obviously you weren’t picked for your strength.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“They didn’t brief you at all, did they? I’m Senior Voidship Technician Lionel Brunfeld, and you work for me now. You might have had some illusion of working for the Voidship Commander, but you can forget that. The business of keeping the Erikson in prime condition is mine. I interface with the Commander, and you interface with me.”
“I know who you are – you’re the technician we don’t need but got anyway, so let me tell you how things are going to be for this mission. I’m the Senior Technician, and I’ve been working with Master Technician Rich Smythe for years. We make a good team, and we’ve been helping prep Erikson for departure for months now. We don’t have time to hold your hand while you learn the intricacies of this vessel, so you’re going to get all the grunt work. If we have to put up with you, at least you’re going to free us from the brainless jobs, so that we can concentrate on the important ones. If you keep your mouth shut and do your work without complaint, we’ll get along well enough to survive this mission, and you can take your pay when we get back, and do whatever it is you came on this mission to enable you to do.” He turned towards the back of the compartment. “Rich,” he called. “The scrub is here. Show her what to get started on, okay?”
“Sure thing,” the reply came from somewhere behind the equipment.
“Rich is back there,” Lionel said. “He’ll tell you what you need to do. By the way, if you haven’t guessed, you answer to him, too. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.” He disappeared back behind the console without further courtesy.
She made her way to the back of the compartment, where a younger man hovered over an electronics drawer. “Hello,” she said.
“Okay,” he said. “I have a circuit here that’s giving intermittent errors.”
“Do you want me to troubleshoot the circuit?”
“No, that’s my job. I want you to go to spares storage, and bring back a forty-twenty-two, ninety-one-fifty-five alpha assembly. Think you can handle that, or do we need to get a remote to babysit you?”
“I don’t know what I did, but why do you both have such a problem with me?”
He scowled at her. “Lionel told you; we told the execs we didn’t need a third tech, but then we were informed we were getting one anyway, and then we were told the tech was a woman. I don’t know if you padded some exec’s bed to get this assignment, or just led one to believe you would, but we don’t appreciate having unnecessary crew forced on us because some exec thought you were pretty.”
“I didn’t get this job by flirting my way into it,” she said. “I studied and worked, and had to do better than a lot of other candidates to get here.”
“Yeah, right,” he sneered. “I haven’t met a woman yet that didn’t think breasts and behind were their magic ticket to getting whatever they wanted from a man. You’re here, despite not being wanted or needed, which means some exec ignored the opinion of those more knowledgeable about this vessel, and sent you anyway. That means he had a reason to contradict the Senior Tech, and to obligate the expenditure of the pay you’ll receive for this mission. That’s a lot of credits, and the Corporation doesn’t just throw it around for no reason.”
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“I don’t need to, and what’s more, I don’t want to. Now, either go get the part, or admit you’re already over your head, and I’ll get a remote in here to hold your little hand while you try and do what you’re told.”
She left the compartment, and prompted the ship for directions to the spares storage. Is it too late to request a different assignment? She wondered. No. I won’t give them the satisfaction.