Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Orbitals, Part XV

This is Part XV, the third part of the fifth chapter. Start at the beginning.
"Fine. I was frustrated that I haven't been told where we're going," Spencer lied. "And I was trying to figure out where that was."

"You and Miss Adamson have some serious issues to work out. You have no trust in each other. Do you fear she has a hidden motive?"

"No, I just..."

"Do you have a hidden motive yourself?" Jean-Paul asked, eyebrow raised.

"No! I just thought I was doing a fine job on my own, that's all. It has nothing to do with Zephyr's ability to be a leader or save our lives or whatever. I mean, we both know now that she can do one heck of a spacewalk, and that she knows how to fix an air tank sensor. I just—I thought I was doing alright on my own. I could have landed us at Hermes." He felt like he was falling down a hole as he built his story, even though some of the things he said were true. He started to think that the best thing to do now would be to shut up.

"Well, I have no quarrel with either of you, and I choose to assume that Zephyr didn't tell you where we were going simply as an accidental omission. We are going to your parents at Shackleton. I believe we are scheduled to reach the lunar south in roughly a day and a half. And there is no way that Space Security can reach us before we arrive, as we are in the fastest manned ship in the solar system."

"I think it's funny that you call them 'Space Security'."

"Is that not what they are called? 'Space Security Joint Task Force'?"

"Yeah, but everyone just calls them Orbitals. For 'Orbital and Lunar Operations'," explained Spencer.

"But then by that token, would not your father also be an 'Orbital'? He does operate the Apollo Museum under the auspices of OLO, does he not?"

"Yeah, but it's not the same. It's like how in the States we call the FBI 'The Feds'."

"I see. You associate them with the power of the organization that controls them."

"Well, I didn't until last evening. I just thought of them like security guards in the bank, only in space." Spencer stared out the window at the moon. It was the size of his fist, now, and he could even make out the quarry of small asteroids that now orbited it, pulled there by space tugs as the rocks made close passes to the Moon. That's where Zephyr's customers, the miners, worked and sometimes lived. He'd never seen their tiny twinkling as beautiful before, but something struck him.

"Are they dangerous, do you think?"

"The quarry asteroids? No, scientists keep their orbits stable constantly."

"No, no, the 'Orbitales'."

"Well, I don't know for sure. I'm inclined to trust them," he lied again. "But Zephyr sure doesn't seem to like them very much. Maybe we should humor her for now. After all, she's really good at saving our lives."

"I have a terrible question to ask you, Mr. Sanchez," said Jean-Paul, obviously restraining some hidden emotion. "Where..."


"Where is the food?" he smiled.

"Oh right, of course, I've totally forgotten. I had quite a bit at the party last night, so I hadn't thought much of it. Gosh, you both must be starving. Gosh, I'm starving. Also, I hadn't thought much about timing last night, but Zephyr's spacewalk ended at something like eleven-thirty. How miserable."

"Let's not talk about misery on an empty stomach. I presume you have gooey cookies and purees of things that should never be pureed?"

"That's the stuff. It's in my room—uh, the quarters, which you are welcome to use any time you want. I'll bring out a selection. Hold on."

Zephyr stirred as Spencer opened the door to quarters. He had forgotten the media drive in the computer again, so he sat down, closed some of the files that were left open, and put it back in his pocket. He opened the blue box in the corner, opened some cardboard packets, and pulled out a selection of bars and juices, along with a water pouch for everyone and a pack of cards that had been magged, and as such, felt strange as the only thing that had any weight in his hand.

“You’ve been holding out on me, Mr. Sanchez,” said Jean-Paul. “This one says it’s Chicken à la King!” And he waved a silver pouch in the air as if it were a winning lottery ticket. “Oh, where’s the heating element?”

“The galley cabinet is inside the quarters. Nella calls this a ‘flying bachelor pad’. I’ve been told the oven’s no good, but you’re welcome to try it.”

“Well, I think it can wait. I’ve also got ‘Healthy Cranberry Granola Bar’ and—what did I say?—’Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie’ to keep me company. I would like to avoid waking up the young lady. After all she did for me, it’s the least I can do for her.”

Spencer’s fears slowly dissolved in a sea of ‘Rich Fudge Brownie’ instances, chatter about Jean-Paul’s family (wife Sabine and two daughters, Jeanette and Anais, both older than Spencer, living in Toronto) and card games (gin rummy and a game called Circuit that was popular on Shackleton). Things were going to turn out alright. About one PM UDT, the stirring in Zephyr’s sleep sack got a bit more intense and by one-thirty, she emerged and floated straight into the lav.

“That explains it,” thought Spencer aloud.