This part originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.
In the Med Bay, Quentin had just sat with his broken hand under the energizing field of some device the doctor called the Bone Knitter for the last two hours. Gruff Doctor Billings pulled the purser’s hand from the machine and checked it, happy with the results.
“Oh, this is good, Very good!” the aged Doctor told Quentin as he bent fingers this way and that, checking for proper range of motion. Quentin’s hand may have no longer been broken, but it still hurt like hell. He winced as the Doctor worked.
“What’s the problem, Mama’s Boy?” the Doctor asked “The discomfort you’re feeling right now shouldn’t last more than, oh, say a week.”
“What about my ribs, Doc?” Isaacs gasped in obvious discomfort.
“Bone Knitter can’t do a thing for ’em, Isaacs. They expand and contract as you breathe, you know, which means they’re pretty much impossible to immobilize for any knitting. The only way to knit them for sure is if you stop breathing for, say, six hours. Then you’d be right as rain.”
Quentin looked long and hard at the gray little man, unsure whether he’d just been joking with the purser or not.
“Now don’t get me wrong, boy,” the Doctor continued, “ I can still give you something for the pain, if you think you’ll need it.” The grizzled old Doctor smiled.
Doc Billings searched a few shelves before he found what he was looking for. Giving Isaacs a small bottle, Billings ended the session with “G’wan, get out of here, Isaacs.” As the purser left, Doc Billings called after him “Light Duty for two weeks!”
Tam leaned back against the door to her cabin, hands behind her resting at the small of her back; left knee bent with the sole of her boot resting against the door. Leaning against the door opposite, Hertzog’s hands had been thrust into his pockets; his black crush cap at a jaunty angle as he looked the brunette up and down. Tam smiled.
“Every time I see you, you’re wearing those pink greaves.” Milo stated.
“Salmon.” the girl corrected, “They’re salmon greaves. Part of an unpainted lot from some factory or other.”
“Salmon then.” Milo agreed.
“Do you ever take them off?” he asked.
“Sometimes, for special occasions.” she winked, laughing.
“You think this might be such an occasion ?” Hertzog asked.
The girl shrugged. “I don’t know yet. Don’t know if this is a good idea.”
The pair suddenly grappled in the hallway; groping drunkenly. Tam with her arms around Hertzog’s shoulders as she nibbled on his ear, then kissed down his neck. Milo grabbed her big butt and held on for dear life as they kissed. Wrapping her legs around him; the bulky plasteel greaves CLACKing together as her ankles locked put all of her sixty-odd kilos weight in his hands. Losing his balance, the pair fell back, slamming into a door with a loud THUD; the force of the blow to the back of his head had Milo seeing stars. Regaining his footing, Milo pushed them away from the door, but, overcompensating, sent them too far back, and they smashed into Tam’s cabin door instead, pounding her shoulder (and no doubt going to leave a nasty bruise). Still locked in a death grip, Tam put a foot back on the deck in an effort to help balance them. The act gave her more leverage, and as she tried nibbling on Milo’s other ear, the shift in weight caused them to roll along the wall, away from her door to the end of the hall. Putting her leg back up to lock behind Milo again made the First Officer lose his grip and drop her, which pulled him down as well. The tangled bodies crashed into the fire extinguisher; Tam’s head wrenching the devise from the wall on her way to the floor, and causing her to see stars of her own; Milo getting one of the greave’s bulbous knee guards hard in the guts as his right knee folded back.
Lying there in a battered, tangled heap, Tam moved enough to give Herzog a kiss, telling him “You sure do know how to show a girl a good time, sailor.”
“You too.” said Milo.
“Baby,” the little brunette said, wincing as she stood up, a hand pressed to the back of her head. “you had me seeing stars.”. She offered Milo a hand up.
“You too.” said Milo, as he stood there, gingerly trying to put weight on his right leg several times until eventually able to hobble about fairly well.
“You off to the Med Bay?” Hertzog asked as he picked his battered cap up.
“No, I’ve had enough excitement for one night.” said Tam, picking up her tam. “I am going to bed.”
The First Officer, limping, and looking as if he’d been mauled, slowly walked up the length of the Quarters Deck toward his cabin, only to see Purser Isaacs standing near in silence.
“Isaacs, how long have you been standing there?” Number One asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, ten, fifteen minutes I guess…Since you two were engaged on my cabin door, anyhow.” he said, pointing down toward the end of the hall as he walked past.
Laying on the mustard-yellow couch in her cabin, cold compress held against the back of her head, Tam sipped from a small flask, deciding “That was not a good idea.”
The following morning the Chicken and Waffles was exactly where it was supposed to be, having closed to within some ten thousand kilometers of the smaller debris that made up the edges of Nordic’s massive Oort Cloud.
Following a consult with The Professor, an appropriate icy body, one hundred meters high and almost three kilometers long and vaguely peanut-shaped, was chosen as a source to mine for fuel, and the trio of Mosquito Rigs were deployed from the cargo bay.
Flitting across the blackness in a half hour, the things’ legs grasped the ice while their heated proboscis made a slurry of the ice and sucked up the raw hydrogen.. Once each of these vehicle sized things were packed full, they’d disengage and return to the Waffles, inserting needle-like proboscis into a port near the ship’s bow, by the fuel scoops, to inject the raw fuel directly into the processors; after which the liquid would travel on to storage in the fuel tanks, ready for use.
Three hours into the estimated fourteen hour operation, the old Mk 11 began showing signs of a clog, with slurry pouring from its proboscis instead of ingesting the stuff . Being especially stupid, the Mk 11 wouldn’t acknowledge it required maintenance, (unlike the more passive, newer models) and Brodie, all dressed up in a heavy vacc suit, had to leap onto the twitching, skittering thing’s back from the ship’s side. Popping a small octagonal plate at the top of its head and then inserting fingers and thumb into its braincase, he threw the Maintenance Switch. It was easy enough when the damned thing was sitting still, but this…
The old Mk 11 was flailing its legs and wings, giving Brodie quite the drubbing as he wrestled. In a precarious position, Brodie’s bubble helmet was repeatedly slammed by one of the Mosquito’s strong, jointed, barbed legs. Several blows and first a chip; then, after a few more strikes, a long crack, then a second ominous crack. Brodie began panicking, as the plasteel resin used for the particular brand of bubble helmets aboard the Waffles was supposed to be shatter resistant
Throwing its off switch, Brodie pulled the now-inert Mk 11 with him as he entered the Waffles through the opened cargo bay doors. Sliding the thing into its corner, he went through the airlock, removed his helmet, and went to see the Captain.
“Yes Mr. Le Boucherre?” the Captain asked from the Big Chair.
“My helmet.” the chimp said, seething. “That ol’ Mk 11. It did that to my helmet in a few seconds while I was wrestling to find its maintenance switch.” the ape said, disgusted “That thing almost fucking killed me, Captain. All I know is I’m not touching it again.” he said, leaving the beaten helmet on the Nav console, and picking a bunch of grapes from the bowl on the bridge.
“And how would you say things are otherwise. Mr. Le Boucherre?”
“Just fine.” Brodie told the Captain around a handful of grapes. Captain Fyyg held out his Clove and Jasmine to the large ape, offering. Brodie took the offered butt and took a few drags; the euphoric’s properties filing away a bit of Brodie’s understandable nervousness.
“With the Mk 11 sidelined,” he said, “using the other Mosquitos, we’ll have enough fuel to make Transit in approximately twenty eight hours. Not counting purification time.”
“So we are looking at closer to thirty hours then. Possibly thirty six hours en toto.” Captain Fyyg quickly concluded, smiling.
“That is excellent news.” the Captain chuckled, bringing smiles to those nearby.
Sitting on the curve of the hull up front, near the nose, new helmet on, Brodie sat, cross-legged, watching the remaining pair of Mosquitos working as he drew on the suit’s hydration pack.
Brodie loved space; the deep, forever blackness of it; the uncountable stars. The way that, given a second or two of observation, one couldn’t help but feel small and insignificant under it all, Naked in the Hall of The Big Questionmark in the Sky.
Knowing the ape was content to just sit there for the next eight hours, Captain Fyyg contacted Brodie. “Brodie. Lad.” the Captain called. “I need you to do a walk around for me. See what the old Mk 1 Eyeball has to tell us, yes?”
“Jawohl, Herr Oberst.” Brodie replied in an outrageous accent that aped the Captain’s, as he got up and began clanking about on the outside of the ship. The only change besides a number of scuffs and gouges and the missing back-up antennae topside was the missing turret, of course. Stepping on the airlock door situated between the thrusters on the stern showed nothing wrong. Stepping onto the ship’s ventral surface—its belly—one could see the deep gouges the mass driver had left running the length of the ship, along with numerous mars from individuals firing at Waffles’ belly over the years.
“Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy, Captain.” Brodie broadcast, “Everything looks fine.”
“Roger on ‘Everything Looks Fine’, Mr. Le Boucherre. Come on in.”
The Chief Engineer and the black gang spent this time, pre-Transition, tinkering with and fine-tuning the power plant and drives.
The remainder of the crew who weren’t under medical care, brushed up on their service skills; some even resorting to crib notes to pass a test of Mr. Isaac’s creation designed to help familiarize new members of the wait staff with the proper serving pieces, their use, and general etiquette.
Down in Engineering, the Captain took Gibby aside, and, putting an arm around the big man’s shoulder, said “That little fellow, Erickson, the albino. If I ever meet him, I shall kill him!” Gibby and the Captain laughed. “No foolin’” the Captain said.
With a committee made up of the Captain and several others trying to remember all they’d been taught and forgotten, or heard about Transitional Navigation, writing a useable flight plan was a slow, laborious process that no one wanted to foul up. After some sixteen hours, and with the computer’s help, the committee felt that they had finally generated a worthwhile program that’d get them Insystem to Nordic Prime in something like eight days.