NaNoWriMo excerpt 5

November 18, 2007 at 12:28 am (Writing)

The 5th excerpt from my still untitled novel.  Hopefully this will appease my wife – for now, at least.

‘Ensign Ramirez, you have the bridge’ said Jamison as he walked out.
He stood outside the bridge trying to decide what he needed to do.  Should he go to astrometrics and observe the scan? No, they would work better without him in the way.  Engineering?  They were busy also.  Doc Flores?  He seemed to be the only one that Jamison could bounce ideas off of.  Finally he settled on hydroponics.  When he arrived, there was a foul odor – somewhat chemical, but also rotting and sour.  Specialist Peres walked over to him.
‘Sorry about the smell, it’s feeding time.  Can I help you with something, captain’
‘No, just checking up on things.’
‘If you’d like to check on things with less of an odor, we’ll be done feeding in an hour, and the smell will be gone before lunch.’
‘Thank you.  I think I may be back then.’  said Jamison as he left.
He thought for a minute, and walked to the services section.  When was the last time he had been there – it had been at least a month, or was it two.  Actually it had been two, when one of his uniforms had failed to come back from the laundry.  That was one of the sections that he didn’t regularly visit.  He’d have to rectify that.  All parts of this ship needed to function, even the ‘invisible’ ones like laundry and housekeeping.
Lt Barlow was there when he walked in.  ‘Mr Barlow’ he said.
Lt Barlow jumped to attention.  ‘Captain!  Is there another problem with your uniforms?  I thought I made it clear that yours were to be treated especially carefully.’ Barlow said nervously
‘No, noting like that.  One of your staff, Mr Reynolds, is being awarded for meritorious service.  Since he is in your department, I thought it fitting that you present it to him.’
‘Of course, sir.  I’d be honored.’ he stammered
‘And another thing’ Jamison continued ‘Your stewards also serve as security aboard.  Their services haven’t been needed in that capacity yet, but I would like you to make sure that they are keeping up their training in that area.  Halfway through the mission can be one of the problem times for crews.’
‘Really sir?  I will have additional training scheduled at once’
‘Don’t over-tax your men, Mr Barlow.  Adding some security training gradually should allow you to accommodate that without requiring additional hours.  It’s obvious that they are being managed efficiently, they are nearly invisible and yet everything in your domain continues to run flawlessly.  You should be proud of that.  It can be difficult to lead a group where the best recognition is that no one notices the work being done.  Ship services are like environmental controls, if it works right you aren’t aware of anything.  You seem to be handling it well, Mr Barlow.  Quite well.’
‘I’ll inform you of the schedule for the ceremony.  I expect that it will be tomorrow.’
‘Thank you sir.’
‘Mr Barlow, Mr Reynolds does not know about this yet.  I would prefer to keep it that way.’
‘Of course, sir.’
Jamison left the services section, and went back to his quarters.  He sat down and flipped on his console.  There was a message from command.  ‘Oh great, what now’ he thought.  The message was brief, the nomination for Reynolds to be awarded the Legion of Valor was deemed excessive given that his action didn’t place him in any additional danger to himself.  And that the danger to the ship was not critical, given the size of the breach.  His action was noteworthy, especially considering his position as cook, and therefore he was being awarded the Fleet Meritorious Service medal.
‘Ok’ Jamison thought.  He knew that the Legion of Valor was excessive, and that the Meritorious Service medal was appropriate.  He also knew, as all military men knew, that you always ask for more than you want, because then you just might get enough.  It had proven itself again with this.  Reynolds was undergoing treatment, maybe this would be too much for him to handle right now.  Bring up bad memories or something.  Jamison called the infirmary.
‘Flores here, Captain.’
‘Is Doc there, Alicia?’ Jamison asked
‘Just a minute.  Here he is.’
‘Flores here, Captain.’ Doc said
‘I know that Reynolds is recovering from the after-affects of that meteor strike, and wanted to run this by you first.  He has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, and I was planning on a ceremony for him tomorrow.  Will that be a problem for him?  I don’t want to remind him of something that you are trying to get him to forget or something…’
‘Thanks for asking me, Captain.  It will most definitely not be a problem, in fact it may do him some good.’
‘Thank you, Doctor.  Jamison out’
Alone again, he scanned his console and saw that they were running the full scan of the system.  He resisted the urge to call astrometrics to see how they were doing, and went back to his messages.  The Venturer logs beckoned him, called him, begged him to open them.  He did, and started reading.
Standard stuff for the bridge logs – course, speed, technical stuff which he skimmed over.  The personal logs were a different thing.  Captains put things in personal logs knowing that the crew would never have access to them.  Reynolds’s personal logs were mostly notes about the crew’s performance and interaction.  He was really pleased that the profiling had worked so well.  The crew seemed like a reunion of best friends from the first time that they got together for training.  He had personally selected his senior staff, which was normal.  He had taken great pride in the ship and its capabilities.  They had pushed the gravity drive to the limits setting the speed record for Jupiter and back – and had cheated like all the other previous record holders by using the gravitational pull of the planet to assist them.  The excitement and anxiety level of the crew climbed noticeably as they approached the outer edge of the solar system and their first foldspace jump.
Jamison was interrupted by a knock on his door.
‘Come in.’  It was Commander West.
‘What can I do for you, Mr West’ Jamison asked
West carefully shut the door.  ‘Sir, the computer core is starting to get warm.’
‘How warm, and how long until it is critical?’
‘Only a degree so far.  At the current rate, it will be about three hours before it starts affecting systems’
‘Any idea what’s causing it?’
‘Actually, we are.’
‘The blackbody radiators are at the aft of the ship, port and starboard of the main sensors.  Excess heat from the ship is transferred through two sterling engines, and is radiated into space from them.  Sir, we’ve been pointing them at the sun for nearly an hour, and they can’t dissipate heat that way.’
‘I see.  So if we keep the sensors pointing at the only inhabited planet in the universe besides earth, we’re going to cook our computer.’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘I hope you have a suggestion, commander’
‘If we aim the ship about ten degrees away from the sun, that should put one of the radiators in enough shadow to maintain cooling.  Either that, or orient the ship so that both radiators are in shadow for 15 minutes of every hour.’
‘I’ll check with astrometrics to see which option is better for them.  Can you over-cool the computer so that we have a longer time before we have to turn away?’
‘Yes, I can do that.  I’ll have to run a calculation on that, but I think that would make 10 minutes every hour – assuming that the radiators are in complete shadow.’
Jamison hit his comm ‘Jamison to Ensign Yu’
‘Astrometrics, Yu here sir’
‘We are having a heat issue with the sensors aimed nearly directly at the sun.  Would you get better data with a 10 degree offset, or would you prefer  a 10 minute rotation every hour’
‘A ten degree offset will be acceptable for now.  Captain, are you available?’
‘I’m in my quarters with commander West.  You can come if you like.’
‘I’m on my way.  Astrometrics out.’
‘I wonder what that’s about’ said West
‘I have no idea.’
‘Jamison to Bridge’ he hit the comm again
‘Bridge here captain’
‘Realign the ship by 10 degrees outboard from the sun.’
‘Aye sir, aligning 10 degrees starboard.  Course unchanged’
‘Thank you.  Jamison out’
There was a knock on the door.  ‘Come in’ Jamison said.
‘Do I need to call the rest of the group?’
‘No, sir.  Just you two.’
‘Ok, what is it Ensign?’ said Jamison.
‘First, our scans of other planets in the system didn’t reveal any sign that they had bases.  There are two artificial satellites orbiting the 3rd planet, but they don’t appear to be emitting anything.’
‘That’s good.  It is unlikely that they pose a threat to earth if they haven’t set up stations on other planets.  Please continue’
‘I’ve been going over the scans of that planet.  The emanations appear to be spaced in a pattern.  Three emanations 2 hours 18 minutes apart, and then nothing for 32 hours 22 minutes, then it starts again.’
‘What does that mean?’ asked West
‘That there are three satellites evenly spaced over a continent, and that their rotation period is 37 hours – assuming a synchronous orbit.’ said Ensign Yu
‘Wow.  You can tell all that by a few flashes?’ said West
‘Yes.  Assuming that the flashes are communications from the ground to satellites.’
‘Can we tell anything else?’ asked Jamison
‘Not much.  The corona that hides us from them also keeps us from seeing them clearly.’
‘I think I know what you’re going to suggest, and our priority right now is to remain concealed.  We will discuss other strategy after mess this evening.’ said Jamison
‘Ok captain.  That’s all I had.’ said Yu
‘Thank you, Ensign.’ Jamison said as ensign Yu left.  ‘Anything else, Mr West’
‘No sir.  I’ll monitor the temperature and let you know if that isn’t enough’
Commander West left, and Jamison returned to his console.  He started to open the Venturer logs when he realized that lunch would be over in 15 minutes.  ‘Where did the time go.’ he thought as he locked his console and left.  He was almost to the galley when David caught him.
‘Heading to lunch, captain?  Mind if I join you?’ David said
‘That’s fine, David.  How is the analysis of the last scan coming?’ he asked
‘Oh, just fine.  That palladium deposit isn’t quite as rich as I was hoping for, but the finders fee should build you another ship when we get back’
‘Thats great, but you know that I’m not eligible for it, since I’m military’ Jamison selected a salad that appeared to have more cheese and meat than lettuce ‘But they may build me another ship anyway’
‘Probably.  I asked Ensign Ramirez when we would be arriving at the next planet, and he directed me to you.’
‘Yes, of course’ Jamison had hoped to put this conversation off until tomorrow ‘Well…’ he thought quickly ‘ we’ve been having a problem with our heat radiators that was causing a problem and overheating our computer core.  We think that it’s been solved, but I’ll know more tomorrow.’  Jamison didn’t like lying, and didn’t think he did it well.  Hopefully he did it well enough, at least this once…
‘Ok.  Anything my crew can help with?’
‘No, that won’t be necessary.  Thanks anyway.’
‘We’re having another poker game tonight, care to join us?’
‘Thanks, but no.  I’ve played before, but…’ Jamison’s voice trailed off
‘You lost big time, didn’t you.  That’s enough to sour someone for a long time.  Still, you shouldn’t bet what you can’t afford to lose’  David said jovially
‘No, I didn’t lose.  I folded.’ he paused  ‘With nearly a month’s salary in the pot.’ he paused again ‘And I was holding a straight flush, Jack high.’
‘For heavens sake, man.  What ever possessed you to do that?’
‘I was a Lieutenant, playing with a bunch of Lieutenants, and the captain had been invited to the game.  He was a disagreeable man at the best of times.  At the end of the hand, he laid down two pair, Aces and Queens.’
‘And you decided that the month’s salary wasn’t worth the hassle of beating your captain?’
‘Exactly.  I’ll never put any of my crew in that position.  Ever.  Now, if you’d like to play the air combat simulator, which is entertainment without investment, you’re on.’  Jamison knew that David had played, but didn’t like it – probably because he wasn’t good at it.
‘To each his own, captain.  I can sure respect your motives though.  Let me know if we can help with that cooling problem’  David walked to the door and turned around. ‘I wouldn’t have folded that hand’ he said.
‘You didn’t know captain Kruger, or you just might have.’
Jamison finished his salad in peace and was heading back to his quarters, when he encountered Dwight in the corridor.  ‘Mr Reynolds, how are you doing’
‘Just fine, captain.  I’m on my way to see the doc right now.’
‘Good.  I have a request, if it isn’t too much trouble.’
‘Well, I’m limited with supplies, but I’ll see what I can do’ Reynolds replied
‘Scrapple’ Jamison said ‘I haven’t had scrapple in years.’
‘That’ll be a week or so.  I’ve allocated the corn meal that I have for cornbread to go with the chili.  That’s lunch tomorrow.’
‘Good.  I just ate, and I’m getting hungry again.  How about biscuits and gravy.’
‘Is tomorrow morning OK.  Just like mom used to make?’
‘My mother made lumpy gravy.’ Jamison joked  ‘Just like your mom used to make would probably be better.’
‘You shouldn’t talk about your mom’s gravy like that, sir.’
‘You never had to eat her gravy, Mr Reynolds.’
‘Well, I have an appointment with Doc Flores now.  I don’t want to be late’
‘Carry on, Mr Reynolds.  Thank you’
Jamison headed forward to his quarters, and Dwight entered the infirmary.

I still haven’t worked in Stromboli or  Chocolate-chip cookies, but I’m working on it.   😉



  1. gingerporter said,

    If he is allocating corn meal for the chili, does that mean he is making the scrapple himself? Are you saying you have a ship with pigs on it?

    Okay…..where are the pigs kept…:-)

  2. Elaine said,

    Well I still don’t know what “this means” from the last installment!!

    Are you suggesting that there could be life on this planet and that the Captain doesn’t want David to know this…why?

    You are really going to have to continue with the writing so that this can all be resolved in a book, I think it’ll be too long for the contest.

  3. gingerporter said,

    Yeah….What Elaine said…..this will have to continue past the 50k so we get a decent book out of this……

  4. Elaine said,

    I’ll buy the book and help you host a book signing. 😀

    You could make a family vacation out of coming up here to promote the book, a good excuse to get away from ….uhh…..problems. 😉

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