Monday, June 15, 2015

The Orbitals, Part XIV

This is Part XIV, the second part of the fifth chapter. Start at the beginning.
Spencer waited the twenty something seconds, grinning to himself.

Dad: What? There's no one scheduled to be there for another week. I could get there, sure, but I'd be trailing spacecops like breadcrumbs. Besides, how will you land without Space Traffic Control?

Me: The autopilot can land at AMSM, you've seen it before. Don't act like that's hard. Besides, it's my second favorite place on the Moon. It'll be fun.

Dad: Fine. But you delete your chatlog right now, and don't contact me on the net anymore. The Orbitals will be watching, for sure.

Me: Sure thing. I'll send you one last text with the radio frequency, and then we'll talk for real when I get closer.

Dad: I'll call you, you don't call me, because you don't know when it's clear over here.

Me: Over and out, Secret Agent Dad.

Dad: Haha. Love you son. Be safe.

The scene had changed over the last six hours. Zephyr was now in a sleep sack, strapped to the wall of the hallway, opposite the quarters. "Why would you sleep so close to the lav?" muttered Spencer to himself. He walked through the doorway to the cockpit. Jean-Paul was strapped into the captain's seat, in his normal blue jumpsuit. Spencer eyed the co-pilot seat suspiciously, as if it were a wild animal encountered on the road. He did not want to sit there again, and felt the bile rising as he moved into it. He tried to bounce gently in the chair, but it absorbed shock without much recoil. Jean-Paul smiled.

"You get a good night sleep?"

"Sure did," said Spencer. "I wasn't even expecting it."

"It was a hard day yesterday, friend. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that in my whole life."

"You don't do spacewalks for your research? I would think that examining ancient satellites involves being out in space all the time."

"No, you know what they have me doing? It's docked at Hermes all the time, and it's the old, old Sentinel 2 craft that was there for the first satellite cleanup mission. It's a historical tour all the way. And that thing has a huge robot arm and we use that to grab the satellite, and pull it into the bay," Jean-Paul was now mimicking the arm and satellite with his hands. "And then I check it out, and then usually we let it go. Catch and release."

"Usually?" Spencer looked at Jean-Paul intently while tapping virtual keys on his display panel.

"Well, part of the deal is that since I'm going out there, and the ESA decided not to salvage all of those satellites, and all the cleanup missions are over, that I have to throw away thirty percent of the pieces I pick up, plus any of them that are just too damaged or too mediocre to be interesting. We do the standard thing to those."

Spencer typed more furiously, looking at the panel on occasion to make sure he was right. "What's the standard thing?" he asked absently.

"Oh the same thing you do to your trash on the Moon. Launch it into the sun."

Spencer tapped a few more times, then brought his hands to his lap and leaned forward, craning his neck at Jean-Paul a bit in front of the display panel. "Interesting."

"Spencer, what are you doing?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing. know. Stuff."

"Ah, yes, all the random things you do with a shuttle's control panel. Come on, friend, I'm not completely stupid about space, and I might know one or two things about people."