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Field Trip

Posted on Tue Jul 20th, 2021 @ 11:55pm by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Medical Officer Florian McLennan & Ships Engineer Delphi Jammer

Mission: A Knife In The Darkness
Location: SS Albatross/Cargo Barge
Timeline: A few weeks out from Saturn on route to Pluto

Mickey walked out across the umbilical bridge connecting the Albatross to the ISA cargo barge. Little more than a tube-shaped set of rings connected by guide wires, with a metal folding grid along one side to give it a 'floor', it looked flimsy. Each footstep he took in his EVA suit connected to the grate work, and he made it look easy.

He turned around at the halfway point and looked back to Jammer and Flo.

"Flo you doing okay?" Mickey asked. "Because if you're not, now's the time to speak up. You're still in the airlock, we can cycle it and you'll be back on the ship. Or you can walk out here and help me and Jammer doing a maintenance check on this barge as part of the contract. Good practise."

Delphi, accustomed to working in EVA, and crossed the distance between the Albatross and the barge with a quick grace that spoke of a lifetime spent in little to no gravity. The belter played her suit lights across the barge's hull, getting a good look at the vessel as she came to stop at the end of the connecting gangway. She glanced back at the others. The Captain seemed confident enough in this environment, but Flo, she was not so sure of and kept an eye on him near the ship's airlock.

"Oye Flo tu kang du xĂ­dawang, kopeng"(1) she called back to the kid. "Na ting gonna happen to you wit mi here. Mi look after you"

"We will look after you. When you're out on a EVA, everyone looks after everyone else. Same buddy system they've been using on the deep mineral extraction sites in Earths oceans for centuries," he pointed to the barge. "With the drives off we're just going to poke around the barge, make sure the cargo's strapped in and nothings come loose. Jammer's here to run the mechanical checks on the flight control system. Plus you want the credits towards any guild certified jobs, you'll need the logged practise hours in EVA."

Flo had never been on an EVA walk before and so, naturally, was petrified. The idea of a human body surrounded by nothing but the empty vacuum beyond the suit was far too close to the concept of people getting spaced. He'd seen people get spaced. He personally knew someone who had suffered such a fate.

He had no idea why the other two had enough trust in him to tag him along. Instead he felt like a liability. A fuck-up on his behalf had the potential to become a serious risk to his shipmates.

"Don't they..." he stammered, trying to focus on just looking ahead, trying to ignore the weird alteration in his senses of direction. At least inside a ship there was still some resemblance of up and down.

"... Don't they have, robots or drones to do this kind of work?" he asked, before realising not everyone had the financial means to acquire such things.

"They do. And in fact, we do too. We have a repair robot tucked away in the hold. But this is a job we can do better, faster, and get in those hours," Mickey said. "Look what you're feeling right now is your body trying to do what it's done for thousands of years: find level ground. Out here you never will. Just focus on me and Jammer, and put one foot in front of the other. The mag boots of your suit are just the same as the ones you wear on the ship. Just roll the heel up and it'll disengage."

The boy didn't feel any more reassured, and felt his palms continue to sweat underneath the thick space gloves. But he did his best to follow what bossman suggested, and focused his eyes straight ahead on the other two.

"Okay," he breathed. "I think... I should be okay. Let's... go get this barge check done."

"Good because we get to do this every other day for the next six months out to Pluto," Mickey said and turned back to Jammer. "Okay so this barge is set up like a cheap skiff. The central spine is hollow but has all the data runs and the access ladder. At the top, we have the navigation array and comm's gear, and bottom we have fuel tanks, reactor and the drive. In between those two are containerized perishables. No atmo anywhere, except for two pressurized cargo crates loaded with live soil. I'll run the comm's and navigation checks, Jammer you get reactor and attitude thrusters, and Flo gets this."

Mickey tugged a heavy bar from his backpack, and held it out to Flo. He then took it and placed it into a lug next to one of the cargo containers, where its bright orange paintwork met the grey steel of the barge. The lug looked to be part of a locking mechanism holding the two together. With a heavy he leaned into it, pushing with his shoulder as his boots clung to the deck... and the bar moved slightly.

"You get to tighten," he said, pulling the bar free and handing it to Flo.

Flo had widened his eyes when bossman mentioned having to do this every alternate day for six months. He hadn't quite expected that, just like how he hadn't expected to be going on a walk outside of the ship when he pulled his clothes on and brushed his teeth this morning.

The kid took the bar, which appeared far too thick and bulky for his small and gloved hands to handle, but then again there was no weight to deal with out in space. "How fast?" he asked, gripping onto the tool. "How much, and like... just whenever you tell me to?" He hated how stupid he sounded, hearing a subtle echo of his own voice through the crackly comm system.

"Ya bosmang, Mi work on skiff like this before" Delphi replied. "It take no time, Mi get reactor and thrusters all check out" she said, making the hand gestures of a nod, then turned to Flo, "If to need anything, we be right here for you. Tighten bolts nice easy job fo to" she said and gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze

Then she was off, making her way down towards the barge's stern with the grace and confidence of someone who was born into and lived an entire life in low to zero gravity.

The boy watched as she practically frolicked off, before turning his head back at Mickey. "Like... this?" he said, twisting the bar a little, only to stop suddenly when he felt the vibrating sound of grinding metal echo through the air within his suit sleeves, emanating towards his helmet.

"Just like that," Mickey said and tapped the side of his own helmet. "Conduction, you're hearing the barge. The vacuum might not have a sound, but ships do. All of them have a unique harmonic. Soles of the feet, your gloves. You'll get used to it."

He looked over to the retreating Jammer.

"She has the benefit of growing up here. This is her home, we just rent air in it," Mickey said with a sigh. "Now keep it up. Before you tighten the next one check the strapping for signs of fraying. You don't want to tighten one of these things and have the cable snap, libel to take a hand off if they are under tension."

Flo did exactly as he was told, or at least what he thought he was being told to do. He looked over at the straps for fraying, as advised, squinting his eyes a little when the brilliant glare that was the sun scattered across his helmet visor. Despite being so far away and appearing a little more than a bright dot, it managed to make its radiance known.

"Like the promise of a distant time," Mickey said, pulling himself up along the spine of the barge towards the bow. He looked back at Flo. "Every sight you've seen in your entire life was because of that uncontrolled fusion reaction. With its light, we saw the need for clubs, fire, and convenience vending machines. And now like children we run from the responsibility it threw at us."

Meanwhile, Delphi had made it to her first spot to work on, the reactor. She wanted to make sure it was all good with her own eyes, not just rely on the computer monitor's remote report that it broadcast to the ship. When one stopped paying attention to things and checking them out directly was when one started having trouble.

The belter engineer opened the proper access hatch that gave her access to the reactor control computer and brought up its simple amber on black display, her eyes taking in the small text that scrolled across the display as it called up the diagnostic order she punched into the keypad below the screen. So far everything seemed to be coming up within normal perimeters.

She hummed to herself softly as she made notes of various details from the report on her handheld terminal, then ran the diagnostic again.

(1) Hey, Flo you can do this, friend


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