Thursday, December 3, 2015

Space Madness another chunk

National Novel Writer's Month is over. 50K target reached! Below is another chunk of the story. It's not contiguous with the first one. Enjoy!

SX Corp was lifting off when Rick Waylor's phone buzzed. He sighed when he saw who it was.
"Skip." he said when he had pressed the ANSWER icon.
"Rick," Skip said. "I know I put you in a tough spot earlier. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry I couldn't have been more help, mate." Rick said.
"Well, I want to believe that." Skip replied.
"Sure! Listen, you know if it was in my power to help, I would! C'mon, don't be a wanker about it."
"Really? You'd help if you could?" Skip asked.
"Oh, shit." Rick said. "I walked right into that one, didn't I?"
"The Russian cosmonaut on the station can broadcast to him." Skip said excitedly.
"I heard." Rick said. "I was told to get up there and end this mess right quick. And, if I were you, mate, I'd make myself scarce."
Skip rubbed his chin. That was probably the best advice he had heard all day.
"Listen, Rick. Yuri Potenko,"
"The Russian guy, yeah?" Rick asked.
"Right." said Skip. "He's telling Steve to pressurize his suit and jump out of the capsule. I want your guys to pick him up."
"Pick him up? In orbit?" Rick asked. "Are you crazy? If he doesn't run out of air a half a minute before we get there, how am I supposed to 'pick him up'? Just open a window? Jesus, Skip, this is in orbit, not the corner drugstore."
"I know, I know." Skip said. "Your guys are equipped with the latest pressure suits, right?"
"Yeah, but," Rick said.
"And they can depressurize the cockpit for cargo loads and unloads, right?"
"Skip, this is a dangerous game you're playing. Any number of things can go wrong with this scenario."
"Listen," Skip said. "If you see him, pick him up. If not, no harm, no foul. If the whole thing goes sideways, slam the hatch and fire away. Yeah?"
"Jesus H.... Okay, okay," Rick said. "You own me big, pal. And my crew, too."
"First round's on me." Skip said.
"All the rounds will be on you, mate."
"Done." Skip said. Then, "Hey, Rick."
"Yeah, Skip." Rick replied.
"Thanks, man. I appreciate it."
"Yeah, I know."
Skip pressed the icon and the call was ended. He let his hand holding the phone drop to the desk. He looked out the window into the clear blue sky. Skip looked at his phone again and found Molly's number in his contacts list. His finger hovered over the number for a moment. He closed the list and slipped the phone into his pocket. He hoped that he could call her with good news in about an hour.
His phone buzzed. Skip knew, without looking at, it who was calling. He ignored it and walked back toward Mission Control. He thought about his sister in Omaha. It's probably a good time to go for a visit, he thought. Maybe tomorrow.

Rick walked to the SX Corp. Mission Deck and pulled open the glass door. Inside, among the two dozen desks, each with a monitor and operator staring into it, stood a short redheaded woman. She was watching one of the large screens on the wall. In one hand she held a clipboard. In the other, a styrofoam cup. Rick guessed that it was at least half full of cold coffee.
Amanda Hamilton turned as he came in, and nodded. Rick nodded back.
"She's up." Amanda said, gesturing toward the screen with the hand holding the coffee cup. Rick followed her raised hand to the screen, which indicated that the blinking light was just breaching the upper atmosphere.
"How far up?" Rick asked.
"About two hundred fifty kilometers." Amanda said, turning back to the screens. They'll be in range in fifteen minutes."
"Get me a line to them." Rick said.
Amanda turned. Alarm was clear on her face. "You're not pulling them back, are you?" she asked. "No." Rick said simply. She waited for an explanation.
"The line." Rick said.
Amanda sniffed. Rick could tell that she wanted to know more, and on any other day, he would have told her. He knew she would figure it out when he spoke to the crew.
Amanda waved a hand at a desk operator that was watching her and waiting for a signal. He bent his head, and looked up at her a moment later. He held up two fingers.
"Line two." she said.
Rick stepped over to the podium, and tapped the button for line two.
"Centaur shuttle crew," he said. "This is Rick Waylor at the Mission Desk. Come in."
"Centaur here, sir," the voice said. "Captain James Smith."
"Captain," Rick said. "I know you have a unique mission ahead of you,"
"Unique." Captain Smith replied. "Aye sir, that it is."
"Well, I'm about to make it even more exciting."
"Can't wait, sir. The crew and I are all about the excitement."
Rick noticed that Amanda was suddenly next to him at the podium. She was looking at Rick in a very unfriendly way. Rick knew that Amanda hated surprises, as any good Flight Ops commander should.
"I have a request from our friends in the G.O." Rick said. Amanda placed her hands on her hips. "You are to keep an eye peeled for a man coming your way."
"Roger that," Captain Smith said. "What kind of craft is he in?"
"He won't be," Rick said. Amanda's mouth opened a little. "He'll be floating toward you in a pressurized flight suit. If you see him, de-tank and pick him up."
"Pick him up, sir?" Captain Smith asked. "Say again."
"You heard me, Captain," Rick said.
Amanda put a hand over the tiny microphone hole in the podium top. "What is this, Rick?" she asked. Her eyes blazed. Heads at the desks began to turn toward them. She dropped her voice to a whisper. "Are you trying to get this crew killed?"
"Believe me, I didn't think it was possible. I still don't. But, I promised Skip Mann I'd help if I could." Rick replied. Amanda's mouth dropped open. "You don't mean to try and save that civilian NASA put up there?" she asked incredulously.
"I do, if we can. If not, we blow the whole thing and head for home, just like the flight plan says."
"I strongly urge against this course of action." Amanda hissed. "You know how many ways this can go wrong! You want them to depressurize the cockpit to grab this guy and pull him in? What if there's a malfunction? What if they can't get the cabin pressure back up? None of them will have enough air to get back on the ground. If this goes south, you'll kill them all."
"Duly noted." Rick said. "I mean to explain that." They locked eyes, and Rick held her gaze until she moved her hand away from the microphone. "Captain, you reading me?" Rick asked.
"Aye, sir. Reading you now."
Rick explained the idea. He laid out the scenario and told the captain about Amanda's concerns, as well as a few of his own. Rick wasn't giving out orders. He was making a request.
When he had finished, the captain of the Centaur explained a few of the details to his crew.
When that was completed, Captain James Smith addressed his boss. "Sir, Centaur will pick him up if possible."
"Roger that," Rick said. "Keep us in the loop, Captain."
"Aye sir."
"And, Captain?" Rick said.
"Yes, sir?" Captain Smith replied.
"Thank you."
"Aye sir. Centaur out."
Rick watched the big screen for a few moments, doing the calculations in his head. It would take a miracle to time this right, he thought. This Hurburt guy had better have an angel on his shoulder today, Rick thought.

He turned and headed back through the glass doors. Amanda was close behind him.