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 Cultural Exchange - Part 5

"I wonder what she's up to?"

It was really a rhetorical question and I didn't expect an answer. Fred and I were sitting in portable lounge chairs, taking a break from our labors this morning, under the nose gear that we had just finished. I was watching our doggy from the shade of my wide brimmed hat. Fred lifted his head slowly to see what I had disturbed his siesta for.

As we watched, Rortuvu opened the manual door latches and using the gear bypass valve, slowly lowered the strut. Sometimes she would stop it as it came down, and occasionally opened a large roll of schematics to check the mechanism against. What... couldn't she figure out a simple landing gear sequence? I clucked my tongue as I could see her writing notes on the prints and dictating to her comlink. My partner lowered his head again and spoke.

"Just leave her alone to play if she wants. It's not like there's anything we can do except tie it into the auxillary control backbone anyways, so what harm can she do? Leave me alone."

"I guess you're right. Go back to sleep."

I kept watching her though. After all, I hadn't seen her since I walked out of lunch yesterday. Friedrich had found me sitting in the old gunner's couch sulking and drinking my beer.

He wants to remove that old monstrosity, but I want to keep it. The Zho's had weird ideas about gunnery controls. They had couches that swiveled on multiple gimbals to keep the gunner aligned with the guns. I've been told that they figured it gave the gunners a better 'feel' for where they were aiming. They musta had iron guts to ride such a roller coaster while aiming and being wrenched around during evasive maneuvers. I would've thrown up in a heart beat. But now, I think its grand to have a couch that can be reclined in any position. I can use it to turn my back on the universe... literally.

All he wanted was to have me give the prints and data on the ship to the girly-pooch. Fine. Then let her translate them and put them in order. Less work for me. They're in a box under my desk now go away. She took 'em and I ain't seen her until now. Didn't even come to dinner or breakfast.

She let the gear drop and lock, then engaged the safety locks and tagged out the system. I laughed to myself as I watched her rig a sling and struggle with a small winch to lower the shock pivot with. She then rolled out her tool cabinet, set the prints to hang from a rack for easy reading, and set to work removing the upper shock pivot. What a waste of time. There aren't any spares on this planet, chickie. And with that thought, I dozed off for my afternoon nap. An hour or two is good, then back to work refreshed.

When I awoke, Rortuvu had the bad part out, measured it, and had it sitting on a small dolly. Fred had gone inside also, to do the daily logsheet; god I hate doing the paperwork. My advice to any newbie spacer is 'get a partner who is willing to do the paperwork'. After all, paperwork is evil. Only admin types and politicos like it, and that's enough proof of its evilness for me.

I got up, folded my lounge chair and leaned it against the gear strut holding the nose up and went back to work. Actually, Rory's tagout will let me avoid some paper...I'll work under hers. I mean, c'mon.. I'll have the whole ship wired before she'll ever find a replacement part for a donnie boat. Oh well, back to work at last; I got me some glass to splice.

I went up the ramp, grabbed some fiber-optic cable and made my way to the lower engineering deck. I passed Rortuvu's stateroom and glanced in the door. She had left the door open for ventilation. Besides, she wasn't exactly doing anything secret or private as far as I could tell, so it wasn't like I was spying on her.

She was hunched over her desk, studying her computer screen. The schematics for the shock pivot were next to her on the desk and so was a mike; an honest to god old fashioned one; the kind with a manual vernier and no digital readout. It must be very old. I'm impressed. But I had real work to do, so I left her to play without bothering her.

I was almost done hooking up the gear #2 interface to the system when I heard a sorta howl and yowl and yell. It surprised me and I hit my head when I jerked my head up. I don't think the goose egg on my noggin's going to go away for days. I cursed long and loud at the designers of this ship for making the access passages so small. Only half an 'm' high, under the deck plates isn't a lot of space to move around in, but I finally shimmied out and ran to see what the commotion was.

Fred got there at the same time I did and chuckled at my throbbing lump. The crazy mutt was dancing around and yelling like a center with the game winner in OT. The noise made my head hurt more still. When she saw us in the doorway, she picked up the prints, and waved them at us while yapping away in Gvegh so fast that I couldn't even catch but one word out of five.

"Fikhu gviu koellvaekedz lodfigh tsaekhs!! I found it!! Nounkhaevidz oedz dzodh khidz!! Hahaha!!"

"Slow down. What did you find?"

She just laughed and practically pranced over to her desk. She put the part down and pointed triumphantly to a small drawing of the gear strut that had some Zho notes and figures hi-lighted in yellow. Then she pointed to her comp screen where she had a translation program running. The hi-lighted notes stated that the landing gear for this class of scout leader was based on (stolen from) an Imperial Navy design used in standard 100 to 200 dton applications. In other words, Kugi probably had a warehouse full of them. Hell's Belle's, but even the primary dimensions were identical once the proper units of measure were used. Only the bushing inside diameter was off (3 mm too small), but ten minutes with a drill press can fix that. We're back in business. All we had to do was get the part and put it in within 20 hours. Piece of pie.

"Great! Pull up a serial number so I can order it. At least we can get the job rolling. Ish, you get going and finish the control section, and you, Rortuvu, get the things you need together to throw it back together."

Fred dashed back out and up the ladder to his office to fill out the parts request and run it through the system. As long as we get a 14 hour turnaround time from supply department, we'll make it. Rory searched the parts database and came up with a part that fit our requirements...99.9% dimensional match and equal strength. It only took 10 minutes. Then she sent the part number on our ship.net to Friedrich, who sent it out to supply. Time elapsed; 30 minutes. They had 17 in stock, too. Another hour later, I had the control section back in one piece and tested. Now we just had to wait for delivery.

We gathered down by the dolly that the old shock mount was resting on for a break and to wait and watch one of the suns set. Nobody spoke much because we were all tired and full of ourselves for solving our little problem. We just kicked back and sipped our beer, basking in the warmth of camaraderie. I could get used to this.

I strange feeling came over me and I leaned over and scratched Rory's ears and whispered to her. I didn't want Fred to hear. He might think I was going soft.

"Hey. Good job Rory. Oh. I'm sorry. Ya know, about the other day."

See? I said I'd apologise and I did. I can apologise with the best of them. I just don't like to.

"That's weird!"

I glanced over at Fred. He was just looking at me like I had three heads. I felt Rortuvu scoot away from me. She appeared to be unsure what I said. My face burned and I knew Fred had heard me. The barker-chick made me feel like I was going down in flames while on the make at the pub. Wait a sec...I wasn't trying to hit on her...I was just apologising dammit. Get your minds out of the gutter. No wonder I hate saying 'I'm sorry' or even talking to people at all. I gotta change the subject here and now.

"What're you looking at? Can't I tell our new engineer she done a good job?"

Rortuvu smiled a little, then giggled like a school girl behind her paw. Fred just watched me and shook his head sadly.

"Ree-ree-retard. I was looking at this."

He gestured to the gear part we were replacing. He made it a point to draw my attention to the main bushing while he repeated his comment.

" THAT'S weird. The bushing looks brand new. So tell me, How does the unit get cracks without affecting the main bushing? It's not even worn any, much less distorted. "

OK. That's a tough question. The only answer I know of has to be wrong. The back of my neck startled tingling.

" Another thing. Rortuvu? Where is the part number stamped on this ?"

She came over and peered along the curve on one side.

" The plans show it right here. But where is it? It is not here."

" Try looking for it where the drawings for the part we ordered says it should be. "

She checked her commlink and brought up the drawing. Then she followed it to where the ID# was supposed to be. I said 'supposed to be'.

" The part number is not here...it has been removed. You can see the file or grinder marks. I do not understand."

I checked my own commlink to compare the numbers. This unit is the same as used in class SX extended range scouts, 175dtons. The chunk of metal sitting at our feet wasn't even Zhodani. It was pure IISS. Maybe its just a coincidence. After all them zho's based their gear on ours and maybe they had to replace it themselves from captured stores. But then, why was the serial number scratched off? And then again, there is that shiny new bushing to think about. If we'd let her be set on the ground with a cracked housing, our ship would've keeled over on a broken leg. Maybe on top of somebody.

My mind flashed back to a conversation about a week ago. Friedrich suggested that our mission was to fail. It looked like someone was trying their best to help us succeed at that.

"I smell a rat."

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