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Cosmetic Surgery

Posted on Mon Jun 22nd, 2020 @ 7:55pm by Comm Tech Wulf Edevane & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Medical Officer Alex Garcia & Client The Narrator

Mission: The Forgotten Arm
Location: Hull Of The SS Albatross, in the shadow of asteroid 2011 UN63
Timeline: Just After One Among The Vastness

Sound slowly bleed away in time with the hiss of the air pumps cycling the airlock down to zero pressure. The suits stiffened slightly, as the inner pressure fought to escape into the empty of vacuum. But modern suit fabrics were resilient and pliable. The three suits were Gagarin 3 models, second hand from Russian Economics Bloc who had bought them used from an outfit flying under the flag of Uganda. Heavy work suits, with armour and strengthening near the joints, painted an eye hurting shade of orange so as to be easily seen by a ships scope if they went overboard.

"Vacuum achieved" the Albatross's auto voice intoned in its nearly accentless English, and the outer airlock door reveal the expanse.

First, Ken checked that his net of tools was secured on his belt. Second he checked that his cannisters of welding gas were secured to rig. Finally, magnetic boots clonked as Ken was the first at the outer door. He hooked a tether to an inset rail and stepped out into the void. The short tether jerked a few heart beats later and Ken angled his body feet to the hull. The solid grasp of magnets on metal gave a gratifying feeling and Ken stepped away from the initial anchor point. "Okay, Alex. Hook on and step out."

Behind him, Alex activated his own mag boots, and felt the thunk of the metal of the soles of the boots as they slammed back into contact with the deck plates. Reaching out he attached himself to the rail, and then stepped out, letting the slack of the tether spool out and then pulling him back after hitting the end. "I'm out, and ready whenever you are," he replied over the coms.

A tone sounded in their helmets. This was accompanied by the appearance of a drone from the engineering hull. The bright yellow machine looked like a mechanical wasp, aided by the cluster of sensor lenses on its front and the bloated cold gas thruster fuel tank of its thorax. The drone was a simple machine and within its spindly manipulator arms were gripped the sheets of composite needed for the repairs. The tone sounded again as the drone fitted upwards, and came to a halt relative to the worksite, its powerful floodlights illuminating the dented gash.

This wasn't Wulf's first rodeo, but every time he stared out there into the abyss, it hit him just how really, really BIG space was. All that room between the bits of life clinging to rocks, distant stars and pinpoints of light surrounded by a sense of vastness that was impossible to appreciate until you'd stood with your toes on the edge of it and your life caught in a fragile suit.

The drone signalled its presence and the tech smiled. "Hey, Bob," he said and as 'Bob' chirped its auto-response, Wulf followed the Earther and the Martian out, whooping loudly as he swung outward and then snapped back to thud both feet against the Tross, all clipped onto the hull's safety line.

"Everybody clipped and magged on?" Ken called as he checked his own tether again, and then his boots.

Wulf fired him a messy, overexaggerated salute in response and tapped gloved fingers onto a control panel that hung from the side of his suit.

Alex tested the hold of his boots and tugged on his tether. Finally, he answered, "Tether, and boots secure."

With clunks that reverberated through his suit, Ken slowly walked to the damaged section. "Wulf, have Bob swing around and get an initial estimate of how bad it is. We're not leaking air, so it should only be the outer layer."

Staying where he was until Alex moved, Wulf tested the controls between himself and Bob while he waited. As soon as he was confident that they had a technical accord, Wulf instructed the little drone to trundle off and report back on the damage. As the graphs came back in dark shades of yellow and orange, the comms tech whistled. "It's not great," he told Ken. "But you're right, dude, just the outer layer for the most part. Couple of sections at the far end where it's seriously dented though." He winced as he scanned Bob's feedback. "We got lucky. Or maybe," he grinned. "It's just that Alliegator is that good."

Crouching as much as his suit would allow him, Alex looked over the damaged section. "I'd say she's damnd good, and we were also damned lucky," he replied, adding a low whistle as he took in the gashed open sections of metal sheeting.

"We're just blessed with a great ship." Ken chimed in as he studied the damage. "We're going to seal the hull with the composite plates we have. We're going to cut the bent sections out first, so that we have nice clean contact points. Bob is going to CNC cut the plates to slot in perfectly. Weld those in place." Ken looked at the dents. "Most of the big dents will need to be cut and swapped too. Too far inward to work out from between the hulls, plus it'll damage any LIDAR absorption and reflection we have there."

Standing from his crouch Alex took a few steps away from the gash in the hull so he wouldn't be in the way, or too close for safety when the drone began its work. "Sounds like a plan, just let me know what you need from me, and I'll get to it," he replied.

A few minutes later the small repair crew arrived at the start of the gash. The composite metals were bent into the inner hull, but hadn't perforated it. One of the reasons the crew was still alive. "Okay," Ken asked, "Everybody know how a plasma torch works?"

With a friendly pat of glove on hull, Wulf smiled and said a quiet thanks to the Tross for being awesome. Then he mostly paid attention to what Ken was saying about the task in hand, he followed both engineer and medic along the line, and kept a quarter of his focus on the ongoing link to Bob.

"It works by sending an electric arc through a gas that is passing through a constricted opening," said Wulf, helpfully. Then he spread his arms out wide to his sides in a demonstrative gesture to show his emotions despite the fact the others couldn't see his face. "But you hardly ever let me use one."

Alex nodded along with Wulf's response. He knew next to nothing about plasma torches, beyond what the man had just said, and had never had one in his hand before. It seemed fairly straight forward though. "Seems pretty simple. Never even touched one before, though," he admitted, not wanting to give anyone an unrealistic expectation of what he would be able to do in this situation.

"Okay. Wulf, grab your torch. Alex, come over here, you're getting your first lesson on using the sun to cut steel." Ken ordered as he unshouldered his cutting rig and secured it on the deck with magnets. "Can you get Bob to run us a topographical scan of the gash and surrounding hull, and map out where the bends start?" He then asked Wulf.

Walking to where Ken had indicated Alex took up a position where he'd be able to either watch or participate in the repairs as he was needed.

He didn't need to be told twice, so Wulf happily took the hard case on its safety strap and pulled it around to where he could safely open it. The magnets held it the hull, to the far side of where Ken had his own set-up going. He gave the universal okay sign with a gloved hand as Ken asked for more info, and knuckled down to instruct Bob. Control panel in both hands, Wulf watched the drone's data start to feed back into the simple imaging program and shared it via a projection that displayed directly onto the Albatross' hull.

"How's that?" The tech asked, his voice loud in the other men's helmets as Wulf regarded the light mapping overlay that hugged the damaged section, all lit up in cyan squares.

Ken's fist bobbed up and down in an affirmative. "Wulf, you start cutting on your side. If you notice you're straying off the line, take recover and take it a little deeper into the healthy hull instead."

Wulf's focus dutifully narrowed to his own little section of the major task at hand. Confident and sure, he chose his starting point, triple checked about himself for any obstructions, limbs, hands, fingers, toes etc that might be in the way, and then fired up his torch. Head lowered, visor down and dark, the comms tech began Mission: Band-Aid with the quiet intensity he reserved for serious work.

Meanwhile, the engineer then knelt down, and gestured for Alex to join them "Okay, rule one for the plasma torch. It will cut whatever it crosses. That includes hands, toes, and plasma torpedo warheads. Just like when firing a gun, be aware of what is beyond your target. There aren't any fuel lines or other incendiary objects here."

As if on cue the overlay Wulf had generated began to map out the more excitable portions of the innards of the ship that were currently under them. This included for Alex and Ken's enjoyment the revealing of a pressurised steam pipe feeding into the bow reaction control thrusters. It was below the inner hull, but it was still there, a red beam under the surface projected on the augmented reality HUD.

'DANGER' blinked on it ominously.

"I don't want you to cut that." Ken said, pointing out the steam pipe. He tapped a few keys on his wrist-mounted control panel, and the overlay adjusted to only showing what would be at risk of being cut by the plasma torch. "But as you can see, we don't have to worry about that specific pipe."

Alex looked at what the other man was showing him, and felt a bit more confident. The strident alarm had briefly unsettled him, but he recovered quickly.

Getting himself into a better position to use the too he'd been given he replied, "Understood, just tell me when."

Ken's suit comm lit chimed with an incoming vid-link. "Hey, Ken reckon you can spare the Doc for a spell? We have need of his very unique skill set," Mickey said with a sigh. The location metadata said the CO was in the reactor room.

"Yeah, hang on." Ken keyed his comm-link over to Alex, "You're needed in the reactor room Doc. We'll go over this next time we need to cut a hole in the hull."

"Understood, sir," Alex replied vocally, lumbering up from his position as quickly as his gear would let him. Securing the gear where it would be easily accessible to the other two men he began making his way back towards the airlock, curious to see what awaited him in the reactor room. It likely wasn't anything good, and as he walked he steeled himself more and more with every step.

A gentle tap with his chin allowed Ken to switch back to Mickey, "What happened in the reactor room?"

"Stowaway. Seems we have some who hid out in the undercroft of the reactor room. Must have gotten in just before we arrived back on High Elysium. Got in probably through the airlock service conduit. Stupid brave, but its the only atmosphere rated connection save the main lock. But then we rushed in and hit five gee's sustained. We had crash couches, this punk did not. Found the blood fouling up one of the atmosphere scrubbers. Any hey, it's under control. You do what you're doing out there, I learn anything we'll talk about it at the evening meal."

"Next port we hit someone is staying on the ship." Ken grumbled, "I'm surprised the kid's still breathing." He loaded the plasma torch on his own back. "Let me know if you need me?"

"Aye aye," Mickey said and cut the comm.

Oblivious to the undercurrent of private conversation, Wulf kept working. He adjusted his position slightly as Alex came past, unclipped and clipped to a secondary safe point, and then resumed cutting as the medic headed for the hatch. Face now raised up, yet still hidden behind the darkened protective visor, Wulf offered up a demonstrative shrug of curiosity as to this change of plan, then hit his comm with a bump of his chin. "What's going on?" The tech asked.

The mic was keyed, "They found a stowaway under the reactor. And he isn't a red smudge on the bulkhead. Alex is checking in on it. Want to bet he's glowing like a green Christmas light?" Ken replied as his own torch sprang to life and he began to work.

Wulf stopped, his hidden face courting an incredulous expression that partially reflected back at him. "A what?" He asked, unsure he heard that right. "Someone crawled under the Tross' reactor?" The tech's voice heightened with utter disbelief. "But..." They'd hit 5G on the way outta Mars' space. "He's alive," Wulf stated. "Then yeah, I'd say he's likely fluorescent by now." He didn't sound envious of that fact whatsoever. There was a long pause, in which he restarted working. Then. "Ken? Think the Autodoc can fix that?"

"You can't fix exposure to radiation. It damages the cells and their reproduction. So the kid'll probably have life long cancers. But with oncocidals he'll be fine. Broke, but fine." Ken shrugged with one hand. "Right up to the point that we dump him on Rhea and wash our hands of him."

It took a moment for Wulf to fully appreciate the magnitude of the crazy someone needed to be feeling in order to put their life in danger like that. "Unfixable?" He asked, though truly he'd known this. It was one thing to listen to the ship safety briefing and quite another to actually be this close to someone who had suffered from not taking heed of such. "Yeah..." Wulf said, as his brain considered this matter in its entirety. "That's kinda an expensive ticket to Rhea after all though, huh?"

"With this war brewing I expect Mick to raise our rates considerably. Won't be long until we're expending railgun shot and torpedoes to defend our cargo."

This war. Wulf sighed and, behind his visor, adopted a seriously unhappy face. "We're not in the war....You really think people are gonna shoot at us?" He asked. "How would they know what we're even carrying?" Which, he supposed as he asked the question, was kinda the point. "We got good countermeasures," Wulf muttered, but Ken knew that. The tech was really just trying to make himself feel safer. "And you and Allie-gator can shoot just fine."

Ken took a few steps as he continued his cutting, "We're in the war. Civvies rarely get a choice in these matters. And I expect piracy to spike as the military patrols are suddenly diverted for other operations. And let's be honest, we're a juicy target." Ken looked up and over Wulf's head at the armoured box hiding a PDC, "Luckily, we're a juicy target with very good guns."

He'd stopped cutting now, and Wulf was trying to reconcile this sudden feeling of helpless vulnerability that the newly very real conflict between superpowers had created. Earth and Mars had rumbled at each other for as long as he could remember, but he'd never felt so close to the front line before. And after Eros, and losing Soto... he was on shakier foundations for optimism. "We do have really good guns," he echoed Ken's sentiment, and went back to cutting with a stalwart and determined enthusiasm. "C'mon, we gotta get this done and get out of here," Wulf insisted.



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