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Valet Parking

Posted on Wed Oct 4th, 2023 @ 9:34pm by Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Pilot Daniela Pareja & Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Medical Officer Florian McLennan & Ships Engineer Delphi Jammer & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Stories From The Expanse
Location: Hygiea Station Parking Swarm
Timeline: 2 months after the events of 'Good News'

Even from the parking swarm, the large red cross painted on the surface of Hygiea reflected back the weak light of Sol brilliantly. As the premier medical establishment in the Belt, second only to the medical facilities on Ganymede and Europa depending on who you asked, Hygiea Station took pride in its stock and trade. The pair of counter-rotating ring sections that capped both poles were shrouded in a brilliant aura of light, the artificial magnetosphere that allowed for safe child-rearing in the Belt.

It was a sight to behold alright.

But for the crew of the repair barge Baton Rouge and the Albatross, they only had eyes for each other. And one of them was definitely blackened.

The hull rang like a bell from the collision, the restraining harness on their gel couches keeping the crew from spinning away as the barge's manipulator arm missed the connector port on the hull and effectively 'punched' the wounded ship. Mickey snarled something unkind about the mech jockey manning the arm, and gently used the leaking RCS thrusters to get them stable again.

"Third time's the charm," Mickey grumbled and then chinned the crew channel. "How are we all doing down there? Anything come loose?"

"Pashang!" Delphi groaned as she was jerked hard against the restraints of her crash couch. The klang reverberating through the hull loudly all the way down in engineering. Her eyes glanced across her status board as she grumbled and got on the comm.

"Bosmang, im gonya burst da hull patches if im na setop crash into milowda" she said and muttered a few comments on the repair skiff drivers abilities. Nothing had gone yet, but the patches were not going to take too many high stress jolts without one popping.

"Still don't know what you are saying," Mickey said through gritted teeth. "Ken, we losing pressure?"

From his position on Ops just across from the captain, Wulf was quietly hooking into the comms channels and ents stations throwing themselves at the Tross' software defences. "Delphi's asking us to stop trying to crash and land," Wulf translated with a stalwart grin. They got this, and if they didn't, they were suited and booted for their own very real protection. And Hygiea had everything. Hell, he might even be looking at the last voyage where he was required to roll back the trial-edition of the Autodoc. Maybe. He wasn't about to be freaked out by whatever the fuck kinda upskilling the Baton Rouge crew needed. "Ken," Wulf added to Mickey's question. "Please say no."

"Sorry kid. Fucker punched through a spot we got riddled. Straight through the armour and into the inner hull." Ken reported from his own station as he studied the air recycler status reports. "Looks like we're losing about 0.02 atmo every minute. Delphi, can you put another patch over it? We'll be adding it to the list of fuck ups Baton Rouge has added to the ship so far."

"Sabaka" Delphi hissed as her board finally showed the puncture and pressure loss. They had hit the ship in one of the soft spots Delphi had been worried about when they were coming in to dock. "Ya, Mi get da patch" she said and unstrapped from her crash couch, grumbling as she gathered up her tools and the patch kit. "Mi oso gonya du kick da nakangepensa skiff pilota fo kowl hole" she said and rolled her eyes as she clipped the sealant dispenser to her belt and grabbed a few extra patches before kicking off to make her way up to the leaking patch and do the repair.

"Mi ere da way, have patch fash"

"On the way, patch fast," Mickey said, totally not phoning in the translation as he blinked away a translator app. He noticed a blinking notification on his screen. "Shit, they must have clipped a steam pipe. Ken I've got a half-degree arc second spin on the hull. Wulf grab Flo and find the..."

He flicked through diagnostic screens.

"Tertiary pump assembly. Cargo deck, maintenance hatch seventeen. I need you two to power it down before it gets us spinning like a top," Mickey said.

"Shutting off the pump. Should be cooled down enough to patch in about thirty seconds." Ken added from his own spot.

"On it, Mickey," noted Wulf as he unbuckled himself from his couch and planted feet on decking. Dark eyes sought the same location as the Tross' Captain, schematics offering up a blinking indication of 'maintenance hatch seventeen' without too much drama. "Doctor Flo," Wulf called over the comm to the medbay with zero attempt to disguise his friendly sarcasm. "Meet me in Cargo." He hit the central ladder without another word and made haste downwards, grabbing a tool kit en route to the hatch with the big '17' in friendly letters. Opening it with a practised ease, Wulf then regarded the mess of pipes and tech. Something nameless in there was definitely broken, he could hear it clattering loudly as the footsteps of another pair of boots entered the bay.

The kid's footsteps clanked their way towards the cargo deck, and he took a few minutes to reorient himself before finding hatch 17. Now he'd been given the job as co-repairman, at least for this instance, with Wulf. Being told he was the ship's 'doctor' felt like responsibility enough, but adding 'jack of all trades' into the mix brought a further round of stress and insecurity to the boy.

"How can I help?" he quickly asked upon arrival. "What do you need me to do?"

Wulf's gloved hands were in amongst the pipework, his helmet torch picking up the offending section fairly quickly now it was all steady and cooled - thanks Ken - but three hands in the mix were easy than two. "Hold this steady," he told Flo. "No, not that... there. Yeah that's it." Wulf grabbed the repair kit from his tool bag, unsealed it and carefully worked the patch into place. "K, look away or close your eyes," he instructed. "This'll just take a second or two." Pipework was nowhere near as tough to deal with as the hull plating, but it still needed a perfect seal in order to work efficiently. "There, done. You can let go now, Doc."

"Ken," Wulf called on the main ship channel. "Good to fire the pump back up again."

Flo took a moment to simply look at Wulf. "Is... is that it?"

He'd done exactly as he was told, and was surprised at how simple the task was. Surely there would be more? It didn't seem like something that definitely required two people. But then again, he was no engineer and probably didn't know enough to make such determinations.

"Hopefully," Wulf noted somewhat absently, as he rechecked the diagnostics for any other sign of trouble. "The hard part is finding where the problem is. Pipes, cables, hull sections, people... Everything practical is easy when you know how to do it. Trick is getting the knowledge in the first place." He paused, not wanting to replace the cover until he was sure nothing else needed help. "Hang fire until Ken restarts things up though. Could be more to be done."

The hull breach was just the worst. There was her neat patch, welded in place in a single continuous seam without any breaks or blemish. An Earther could come along, take the whole thing, and stick it in a museum along with the rest of Belter cultural appropriation it was that good. And somehow the repair barges grappler's arm had bent in the corner where the weld ends met, bending it inwards and pushing some of the foam insulation from the inter-hull gap with it.

It was a jagged, lumpy, leaky mess.

And of course it would have been this patch, Delphi thought to herself as she inspected the new damage that had destroyed her hard work. This hull puncture had been the worst and she had spent extra time and effort patching it and reinforced it and getting all the welds smooth and as strong as possible to ensure there would be no danger of a failure on their way to the yards. It had been a real work of art, as perfect as one could have ever hoped for in a temporary patch, and here it was with a big hole punched in it, leaking insulating foam like crazy.

Pashang..." she cursed and let out a long, long, looong sigh. This would not be a quick fix.

"Bosmang, Mi found da breach. Im na gut, gonya take tim fo Mi fix" she said and brought up controls on her vac suits wrist terminal, "Mi seal off section, setóp pressure loss ere rest ship" she said as she tapped in commands that closed and locked down the air tight bulkheads to the section she was in, shutting down air flow to her compartment and ordering the computer to pump all air from the isolated space back into the holding tanks, making sure no more air would be lost from the ship's supply while she worked to repair the new damage to the ship.

Delphi magnetized her hull patches, tool box and other things she needed to the deck, then grabbed her plasma cutter. There was no chance to safely bend the pushed in corners of the patch back out without risking puncturing her suit, so she would cut them off, then seal the hold with a new patch.

Carefully pulling the leaking insulation foam away from the puncture, she lit her cutting torch and went to work slicing away the damaged parts of the patch.

Mickey sighed but nodded in his suit, double-checking the pressure redirects were in place.

"Albatross to Baton Rouge we appreciate the stress test on the hull, but we're maybe tired of trying to use your arm to get us into the bay. Could your pilot move you to us? given we lack fine control?" Mickey asked the comm channel to the repair ship. Sat in the Ops Deck his sense of direction was off, being out of the centre line of the ship due to the fact the cockpit was...well, it just wasn't there anymore.

"Mister Gelphetti?"

Captain Farris's eyes had narrowed to the point they were now closed, his finger tips pushing against the closed lids as the master alarm was silenced again.

"Captain I don't know what to tell you, controls for the arm is way out of spec. I can try resetting the system, see if that jog's whatever is causing the signal lag, but my money is on a busted hydraulic shunt. Keeps getting hung up and then going full extension-" Vinnie began to explain as he worked his console.

"Thank you for the explanation Mister Gelphetti," Farris hissed. He opened his eyes and looked at Dani in the pilots couch. "Without the arm we can't bring that ship into its repair berth. The berths already nearly the size of the Albatross. At this point maybe moving us away and doing this with an EVA team with portable thruster units..."

"Dani could move us relative to the Albatross. Delicate work," Vinnie said, gesturing to Dani to sell herself up to the boss man.

Kicking her feet up off the console and scooting forward, the couch sliding into position for manual piloting. Floating in space over the last... who even knew anymore had most of the crew just waiting while they tried to pull the Albatross into the main berth.

"If we're able to match their rotation and speed we could slide them into the main bay, hard part will be getting them secured once we need to start moving again..." Dani's eyes traveled from the various readouts of their own course, speed and orientation compared to the smaller vessel. "But Vinnie should be able to use the internal cargo arms to secure them once they're in the hold... It'll be hours quicker than an EVA."

Farris thought for a long moment. In his mind spreadsheets of data whirled and collided: hazard pay, the fact this operation was exceeding the time budget and edging dangerously into the 'overtime situation' so many of the crew secretly delighted in complaining about. He gave a good whole seconds extra effort into coming up with a reason not to risk the Baton Rouge...

"Dammit all," Farris grumbled and drummed his fingers over the comm's panel. "Baton Rouge to all ship's in local space, we will be manoeuvring to capture a damaged ship for docking. Stay clear, I repeat stay clear."

He flicked the comm panel off and looked at Dani.

"This is a time for caution," he warned. On the plot ahead of her the Albatross floated as a holographic representation of itself. There was a mangled beauty in there somewhere. It was slowly rolling along its long axis, like a nice safe plastic bullet from a gun. But there was a noticeable wobble to that spin, the tip of the nose and the drive cone beginning to wobble. Capture it soon or it'll be too eccentric to dock with.

And then green tell-tales began to light up as the Albatross's spin came under control. It was a messy, wasteful cancellation of angular momentum, using the stern thruster quads to cancel out the spin whilst the remaining bow thrusters corrected for any shimmy the off centre thrust was causing. 'Target Stationary, Relative To To Ship' the computer terminal informed Dani from her couch.

"Ok... matching pitch and velocity to target." Dani tensed in her couch, hand taking the stick as she focused solely on the displays in front of her. "Taking manual control... brace for rapid acceleration and deceleration." Flipping several switches, her screen now displayed an overlay of both their control bay and the Albatross. "Turning, thirty-degrees, pitch up and firing thrusters..." She started to narrate, keeping Vinnie and their teams in the bay up to date with all the subtle changes made. "Vinnie get ready, they're coming in but we'll be rotating the whole time, you'll need to grab them on the move."

Ken was watching the pump flash yellow from red on his console. This would tell him that it wasn't leaking any more. "Wulf, Flo, back away from the pump. I'm going to run test-pressure on it. Better you two don't have your face in the line of super-heated water yeah?"

Making sure Flo was out of range of any sort of acquatic mishap first, Wulf then stepped to the side far enough to be confident he could still see anything break without injuring himself in the process. "Ready when you are, Ken," he sang back, mentally crossing his fingers that everything else in there was secure.

Then the Tross began to move under the guiding hand of the Baton Rouge.

"Running the test now." Ken called. A few toggles flipped, and the pump started cycling. The console flashed yellow, then cleared green. "Okay guys, we have a 98% seal. Some minor leakage we can check on when we're in dock. How about you come back up?"

"Whoop!" said Wulf, enunciating the word for some reason best known to himself. "Yup," he confirmed. "Looking good down here. No leaks yet at least." He gave Flo a light, but friendly shove. "You heard Ken, let's get back up there." As they went, Wulf called up the ladder. "What's next on the list?"


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