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 A STILL MORE GLORIOUS DAWN AWAITS [18+], she blinded me with science!
bird
 Posted: May 23 2011, 12:33 AM
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It's as ugly as fuck. That's the first thing she notices.

From the perspex teardrop of a station window, the hull is a dirty matte gray, patchy and worn, nothing but a spindle with rotating parts, lit by the diffuse glow of the world below. The schematics make it look a little better, all clean lines and orange light, but she trusts them less and less the more she looks at them. The second thing she notices is the engines, sleek and muscular -- never seen a design like that before, she thinks, what's he doing selling custom? -- but Jo knows better than to spring for the trap.

"--- to point-seven c at hard burn, if you need it, really efficient, runs silent as a dream. In low atmo there's always the solid-propellants if you ---"

"Sorry," she says, blinking slowly, realizing that she hasn't listened to a word he's said. "I don't like torchers. Besides, customs like those go for way outside my price range." But it takes effort to tear her gaze away from the damn thing. Everything's all wrong, for a scrapper, and it wounds her grubby little soul not to be able to tear it apart and peek inside. She fixes a tight smile on the salesman. His name is Amos Hardy, a big, nervous man in a station coverall sealed up to the neck like the very worst kind of dryback. As she hands him back the data slice, the big smile he's been wearing drops right down through the floor. "But thanks anyway for the specs."

She turns away, shifting the bag on her shoulder, and starts down the concourse, knee-deep in mental arithmetic. Guess that leaves me the fucking Bull. Defeat curls a lead tongue in the pit of her stomach. Even with cargo, she thinks, that's still, what, two hundred each month in the hole?

�Listen,� says Amos Hardy, clapping a broad meaty hand on her shoulder. She wheels around, irritated at this offense, but he spreads the fingers of both hands out wide to placate her. Everything about him is big, big red face and big white hands and big watery blue eyes, everything but his voice, high and nasal. A sad excuse for a beard glimmers blondely on his chin. �You said you were good with a wrench, yeah?�

Careful. But her bruised pride swells in her chest instead, and she nods. �Damn good.�

�Say you put another two thou in,� Hardy says, and she rolls her eyes and starts walking again, not willing to get sucked into whatever game he's playing. �The components are good. Patchy, sure, but with a bit of love and a fresh mag coil you could really make something of her.� Jo stops then, because this isn't what sales pitches sound like, because outside the window, Thales is an impossible blue, and the ugly little ship is black against it, just as, behind her, Hardy wheedles, �Say I was looking to sell.�

*

Of course, Jo muses, kicking back in a booth at the Clarke's dingy station bar with a glass of something dark and malty, he'd meant to sell it in the first place. Somewhere, something didn't mesh. Lucky for her she'd had the wits to not sign over a single damn dime before boarding a shuttle and looking every inch over for cracks the next morning. But she sips her drink and stares at the schems and thinks, I have a ship; and she's looking at the mag coil and wondering why the hell it even needs a replacement when the only thing wrong with the damn engine is the intake on the ventrals and I have a ship; and she's ordering a second and a third pint and thinking I have a ship and the giddiness mixes with the alcohol until all she can do is think I have a ship I have a ship I have a ship and grin stupidly, like a girl in love, out at the lightless cosmos.

She sits alone. The bar is noisy. Her belongings occupy a single formless bag, kicked into a dark corner under her table -- two changes of clothes, some anti-nausea lozenges, and a rigid black plaz case full of the rudiments of her trade. Like most of the drifters and detritus passing through Clarke, she's not dressed like much; a thick, soft brown jacket drooping over shoulders rounded out by the lean muscle of a worker, her blouse a coarse pale blue undone just below the collarbone. The chip in her wrist reads JORDANA SEEK when scanned, and it's a good a name as any: pithy, easy to remember. The rest of her is much more indeterminate, though not unattractive; all dark almond eyes and wry broad lips and skin the colour of dust, darker now from a summer spent fixing harvesters on Chandil. She could be thirty. The orange glow from the schems, projected from the slice in three dimensions, lights her face as warmly as candlelight. She takes the projection and rotates it with a deft flick of her fingers, magnifies, sits her chin on the backs of her hands and stares.

A ship a ship a ship --

There's a card game going on at a nearby table. Regulars huddle around the bar, downing shots of watered down liquor from the distilleries on Zarb. After a time, she closes the projection, and nestles the data slice inside her jacket, sipping at the pint in front of her and trying her best not to taste. She's been told that this is where business gets done, on Clarke, and so she keeps an eye out for drybacks with stupid minds and heavy wallets, peering past the card game and the drunks and through the blue haze of toback smoke.

It's not long before she spots her quarry. Jo lifts her glass, then, and drinks merrily to dumb rubes, well-earned dimes and fresh intake valves. It's been a while, but the motions are familiar.

She's missed space more than she ever knew.

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carciofi
 Posted: May 24 2011, 02:28 AM
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A degree from the Calitur Interplanetary University isnt worth fifty creds to the big development corporations these days. Used to be that the five year immersion program at Cal-U put you in the most competitive position in the market, and you didnt have to lift a finger while the job offers came pouring in. You had your pick of the new territories. The galaxy was a fresh clean sheetthe New New Worldand all you had to do was pick a place to sign your name. Hell, theyd name five new species after you the first day topside.

Six months after graduation, Kellen takes a recon job with Columbus Geoengineering. They make her come all the way out to Peako for the interview, and that after shes never been more than two moons out from her own.

The problem is, specialization doesnt get you much of anywhere anymore. Who cares if you can describe the precise sequence of neuron differentiation in the notochord during fetal developmentwhat goods that gonna do you when youre on an unexplored rock with an atmo that wont hold onto breathable oxygen and nothing but dust under your treads? Now youre supposed to have a solid handle on xenobotany, chemistry, physics, geological formation principles, fuel combustion, and topsoil mining, to start. You gotta diversify. And most of all, you gotta have practical experience.

The guy behind the Assignments desk gives her a destination: P706-32, in the Petri cluster. Not even named yet. Kellens heart gets a funny little flutter when she thinks about this brand-new planet (the same one she used to get when she sat in her bedroom as a kid and looked up through the skylight at the stars).

Snot much of a place for girls, the guy comments bluntly, as he shuffles stacks of paperwork toward her, and Kellen decides she doesnt like this man and his little shaved goatee after all. You make sure to sign on with a crew what can look out for you.

She decides not to bother mentioning the four tattoos hiding under her uniform, or her daily pull-up routine. Instead she signs everything in triplicate, initials by every liability disclaimer, and admires her printed name on every page: Nasrin Kellen, development scout. Ready to get some practical experience of her very own.

Since shes got a corporate account linked to her chip now, she buys herself a first-class seat on the shuttle out of Peako. She gets lots of leg room and a beautiful view through which she can contemplate the pristine black coldness of space.

-

After a good two hours wandering helplessly up and down the docking concourse, Kellen makes her way in defeat to the pub. She knows a lot of things, but as she wedges her way in to the bar, she has to admit to herself that she doesnt know a thing about ships.

There are some big cargo ships in here, ungainly cows with big crews all over them like worker beesshes pretty sure those wont take on a lone scientist looking to head out to a near-empty cluster; there are little single-passenger skimmers that look like theyll crumple like tin foil the minute they break atmo; and theres just about everything in between. Clarke is full of loud arguments, coarse language and people worn down at the edges by a lifestyle that evolves quicker than they can catch up. The world of practicalities, of real-life business negotiations and profit margins, isnt one Kellen learned at university.

She might fit in here after some time to adjust. Awkwardly tall, she has learned since early puberty to slouch; her hair is cropped short to the nape of her neck, and it curls in small dark chocolate tufts towards her ears. Her coppery skin makes her no more or less a racial mutt than most of the drifters in this place. In a t-shirt and blazer (standard old-world prep style, common around her old campus) she might pass for a skinny boy, though her long-lashed doe eyes give her away. Really, though, what makes her stand out is how clean she is. Kellen hasnt seen so much engine grease under fingernails in her entire life.

Her own fingernails are squeaky-clean and chewed down to the quick. They drum on the bar counter as she waits for her drink. Top shelf whiskey tonight: shes going to treat herself before she ships off to some dry, lifeless rock in a new sky.

She takes her drink and her bag to an empty table as far as she can get from the smokers (the taback makes her cough). Peering nervously through her glasses around the crowded bar, Kellen takes a sip of her drink.

At twenty-three, she has never been so thoroughly on her own. But shes also never been so close to fulfilling the dream of that little girl in an outpost bedroom, looking at the stars.
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bird
 Posted: May 24 2011, 03:23 PM
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Through the bottom of a beer glass, as far as Jos concerned, the girl that sidles up to the bar doesnt pass for much of anything. Nice clothes, expensive whisky, a haircut that looks like it wasnt done in a bathroom mirror. Oh, fuck, she thinks, Clarkes going to eat you alive.

Usually, shed leave it at that. She almost does this, time, too. At this present moment Jo has her third pint in hand, telling herself to take it easy tonight grav changes do uncomfortable things to alcohol metabolism, and puking once in micro-g was enough for one lifetime. But after a moments careful consideration, she drains the pint and sets it down on the table. The clink noise it makes is pleasingly decisive, and she lets her misgivings drown with it. Shes never been good at listening to advice, least of all her own.

Shes careful not to seem too purposeful about it, at first. She meanders, jostling elbows, weaving through blue collars and bluer smoke, eavesdropping in on conversations in passing, pausing by the card table to watch someone lose enough money to make her tsk softly through her teeth. The crowd swallows her. By the time she pops out again, its as if she came from nowhere at all.

Hi, Jo says. She drops her bag on the floor and curls her hands around the back of a chair. Her teeth flash whitely in a grin. Mind if I take this?

Up close, the dryback girl looks lost and waifish, an opinion that isnt mitigated by the fact that she dwarfs Jo by the better chunk of a head. For a moment, she feels a little bad, maybe, just a little, but she gets over it fast enough. Jos a spacer, born to the black and bred in the dust, but even she knows what decent tailoring looks like. Even if her fingernails are clean, clipped short and well-cared for, theres grease on her jacket and already her hands are starting to itch.

She swings the chair around and straddles it, her arms folding over themselves across the back. The movement is executed with the smooth practiced motion of a drunk with a penchant for theatrics, and secretly, shes a little pleased with herself, because its just about the closest thing to grace that shes ever managed. The beer burns a pleasant fever under her skin.

Good luck trying to get anything in this place that isnt watered down." Jo waves a hand absently at Kellens drink. But I cant blame you for trying. She looks around the bar, then, as if shes noticing it for the first time, at the dingy light fixtures and the curlicues of smoke looping lazily towards the vents.

So, she says. "Wherere you going?" She looks back, her boundless grin at once conspiratorial. "Dont tell me youre planning on sticking around.
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carciofi
 Posted: May 24 2011, 07:17 PM
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The whiskey tastes almost like real whiskey, if Kellen squints and doesnt think too hard, and it burns on the way down. She shudders to think what the cheap whiskey at this bar tastes like. She nurses the little cup of liquid gold between her palms and listens to snippets of conversation.

Near her, a pair of weasel-eyed contractors are arguing about catalytic combustion versus compression engines. A wave of laughter bursts like a thunderclap through a small cluster at another tablesomeone telling a filthy joke. Another slightly desperate sip, and Kellen is just starting to feel really sorry for herself when someone drops a bag by her feet with a thump.

Startled, she looks up to a flash of white teeth and a glimpse of a slightly undone blouse. Kellen straightens her spine at the scrape of a chair on the floor.

I, uh she starts, flustered, but her permission is obviously superfluous.

The newcomer is drunk, energetic, and decidedly forward. She talks fast and doesnt show a hint of self-consciousness, and when she turns to gaze over the bar Kellen studies the angles of her profile. The stranger has surprised her into nervous silence, but theres nothing menacing in the other womans tone. Shes even (and what a stupid thing to think at a time like this) kind of pretty.

No. No, not around Clarke, she answers, with a nervous laugh. Im actually looking for a well, Im looking for transport. Im a development scout. (A stupid little bubble of pride swells in her chest.)

Now she notices the shiny black grease stains on the womans jacket, and it strikes her that maybe theres an opportunity here. Kellen reaches inside her blazer to dig out her palmtab. I need a lift out to Sector 35C, she explains, turning the thin little square face-up in her palm. To the Petri Cluster. Its about two hundred skips out, here. Her fingertips pull up a localized star chart that projects between themtheir current location on Thales pulsing in orangeand point to her destination.

Kellen looks up at the stranger, the chart casting blue slices of highlight on her features. Know anybody who can help me out?
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bird
 Posted: May 25 2011, 03:25 PM
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35C, Jo repeats, resting her chin on the backs of her hands to better peer through the star map. For a moment she looks a little stern, chewing the inside of her cheek; then she looks back up at Kellen, a small laugh bubbling up in her throat, shaking her head. Shit, that's out of the way. Development scout. Can't have been too long at it. Backwater worlds have a way of hardening people, and the few dev scouts she's met didn't take too long to slink back to the Core worlds. Jo's not sure what she was expecting, but she hopes for this kid's sake that she makes it okay out there. Long way to go for a hard, cruel little ball of dust.

But cash is cash, and ships don't run on nothing, so she leans up again, smiling like a cat. Oh, she says, teasingly, I might. Behind her, a table roars with laughter. Jo makes a big show out of playing hard-to-get, but she's not very good at that, either. She forgets the fact that she still hasn't even boarded the ship proper, forgets that she'll need at least a few days of elbow grease to get the damn thing flight-worthy, forgets that there is always the potential for no. Resource dev is one of the most lucrative industries out there, which makes Kellen's money better than most. And cute, she thinks wryly, watching the girl's face light up with projection-blue. Very cute, and it's not even the beer talking.

Tell you what, she says, grinning broadly, I've got this sweet little ship that just needs a new intake port to get it flying. Get you out of here well within the week. She shifts the chair a little closer to the table top, and puts out a hand to shake through the projected mess of stars. White dwarfs and dust clouds and jump points glow blue against her sleeve, and above them, she's smiling. Jordana Seek, spaceflight engineer. Maybe we can help each other out -- what do you say?
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carciofi
 Posted: May 25 2011, 06:57 PM
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Holding her breath, Kellen watches Jo scrutinize the map. Its pretty far out from the Core and shes afraid that shell get laughed out of townis anybody willing to take a lone scout that far into the dead zone?

The womans got a coy slice of a smile, a grin that teases and seduces and promises all at the same time and Kellen could follow a grin like that out into the black. She doesnt even know if shes been laughed at anymore and maybe it doesnt matter. Because the other woman is holding out a hand with grit worn into the creases of her palm, cutting right through the star chart and jumbling up the galaxy. Because the other woman is offering her a ride.

Kellen grins, and her nose creases under the bridge of her glasses. Yeah. Yeah, I think maybe we can. She reaches out and takes Jos hand in a solid, enthusiastic grip. Nasrin Kellen. Pleasure to meet you.

Is it the excitement or the whiskey thats making her feel so giddy? She turns off the star chart and tucks the palmtab away. Do you have, um, a crew around? What kind of ship are we talking about? Kellen tries not to look as though shell have no idea what difference it makes.
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bird
 Posted: May 30 2011, 08:05 PM
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Jo beams, and pulls her hand from the glowing gossamer of the cosmos sitting on the tabletop. You too, she says, and tilts her head to the side like an inquisitive housecat, eyes warm with lamplight and good cheer. Petri's far out, but not so far as to be a deterrent after all, Jo was planning on going there anyway for her own damn reasons, to the frontier, to the backwater worlds full of prospectors and colonists ekeing out a hard living, and the blacktop planets where the terraforming never took.

She thinks about ordering another drink. She thinks about it for a moment too long, because Kellen asks about a crew and at that a single dark eyebrow creeps up, wrinkling out a furrow. Jo blinks just long enough not to say oh god, you really haven't been in space, have you? How do they not mention these sorts of thing in dev scout training? Do they really send landlocked drybacks out into the black without even telling them how an engine works? Poor kid. She bites her tongue, and chuckles around it. Nah. Most things are automated these days. Jo rolls a shoulder and leans her chin into a fist, her elbow into the back of the chair. Cargo runners and freighters, sure, they're big enough that it's necessary, but they never break atmo. For the rest of us, every gram costs.

It occurs to her that any shop talk is going to go way over Kellen's head, but it doesn't keep her from digging into the breast pocket of her jacket and thumbing the little data slice into life. It looks a lot better in the schems anyway; with everything in wireframe like this, it's all sleek lines without any of the wounds inflicted by the heat of atmospheric re-entry or the constant battery of space junk. It blooms into orange light in her palm, and she flicks her other hand through the image to set it spinning. And it occurs to Jo then, too, that she probably looks like a lunatic, carrying around schematics in her front pocket to a bar as if she makes a habit of it, but self-consciousness doesn't suit her much so she lets it go.

Here, she says. The design seems unintuitive the human eye wants things that fly to look like things that fly. Instead the shape seems ungraceful, haphazard -- a ring of pods clustered around a central shaft, pushed as far away from the engines as possible, bristling with heat sinks. "Magnetoplasma impulse rocket built around a type-two Lorentz drive. Small, speedy. Not much to look at, sure, but she'll get you where you need to go.
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carciofi
 Posted: May 31 2011, 02:06 AM
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The silence and Jos stare are almost unbearably sympathetic, in that way people silently apologize for how much of a rockbrain you are. Kellen has to try not to cringe. She runs her fingernails anxiously over the pitted surface of the table, letting them catch in the nicks and grooves.

So its just you then, she says, and her voice betrays a quavering note of hopethe voice of a child who wants the teacher to tell her she got the answer right. Unable to help a quick glance out a nearby window, Kellen considers the vast silence of space and the prospect of being a lone passenger in its depths. Even two people alone in a ship seem like paltry company. For all that its so big, space is very small.

She has a way of biting the corner of her lower lip when shes concentrating, and it makes itself apparent now as she leans in to gaze at the glowing schematic. The skeletal lines of it have an elegant simplicity. Fascinated, Kellen murmurs, May I? and stretches out a fingertip without waiting for an answer. She stops the model spinning and rotates it more slowly, examining it this way and that with childlike fascination. What a funny little critter. Nothing like a ship ought to look like, really. How does it fly?

She resists the urge to ask that question. Instead Kellen flicks her gaze up to Jos face and tries to look engaged and informed. Magnetosomething with a type-two something something. Right. Kellen gives up.

Look, I wish I could pretend I have any idea what youre saying, she laughs. Kellen scrapes her fingers back through her short hair and offers Jo a self-deprecating grin. But I think whatever day they covered aerospace engineering in my lectures, I was absent. Im gonna have to take your word for it.

She sits back in her chair, her smile a little more at ease. Let me get you another of whatever you were drinking.
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bird
 Posted: Jun 1 2011, 01:33 PM
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Sorry, Jo says, and breaks into self-deprecating laughter. Clarke's full of gear jock assholes. You've probably been dealing with us all day. She extends the corner of her grin at the nearby table, and recognizes her people a thin lanky man with a shock of ginger hair is this close to decking someone else over the intricacies of zero-gee plumbing. She turns back, shaking her head. I forget how obnoxious we can be.

Which isn't really true. There's something about building something with your own two damn hands and trusting it to keep you safe in the most inhospitable of places, in the face of hard vacuum and radiation and the thousand other deaths of empty space that brings out both the best and the worst in people. It's exhilarating and terrifying and incredible and that's why Jo does it, why it keeps pulling her out into the black, away from the Core and the hopes of the money or fortune that an engineer of her capabilities could command there. Out in the black, bad mechanics are dead mechanics, but if you're good with a wrench the universe is limitless, and your only gods are Einstein and Newton. But in here, on Clarke, Jo is just another fanatic with an engine fetish and a chronic grease problem, and Kellen's too cute to scare off with macho-ass posturing.

Alright, Jo says, and pockets the slice again soon after Kellen's hands leave it. What's the worst that one more drink can do? She grins and rolls a shoulder, tilting her chin at Kellen's unfinished whiskey. So long as I'm not the only one."
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carciofi
 Posted: Jun 6 2011, 04:34 PM
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Kellen watches Jo cast a glance over the bar and reel it in full of benevolent affection. She tucks a smile down into her collar. Its a nice thing, to feel a camaraderie with people like youand the lab fellows at Cal U seem so far away now, even worse than before, and she hugs her tumbler a little closer to her body.

Her smile answers Jos, a little slice of genuine warmth. Hey, Im not gonna argue with that. Ill be right back.

She pushes her chair back and wades her way up to the bar. The night is suddenly not quite so lonely.

-

Half a week of downtime on Clarke is way too long with nothing to do. Clarke isnt a tourist destination, nor much of a city in its own right; its breath and lifeblood are the engineers and scouts and ship hawkers who pass through like birds of old, never settling too long, never putting down roots. If theres entertainment to be had, its in the form of impromptu card games, or the satisfaction of haggling over ships or engine partsthe assertion of knowledge, of skill, and of luck. Kellen is a small fish in this pond, and she keeps to the shallows.

Give me three daysno, gimme four, Jo had told her, and so the days crawl by with mounting impatience. She wanders the docks, but the ships are like exotic beasts to her, fascinating but unfathomable. She holes herself up with her palmtab and her databases, reviews over and over the names of chemical compounds, of sampling procedures; accounts from other scouts of territories in the same sector; plant genera that are most likely to take well to foreign biospheres. Studying is a comforting throwback to the nostalgia of all-nighters and lab reports. If she can only be prepared enoughshe thinksthis will all go smooth as engine grease.

But four days later shes got an itch in her palms, and shes more than happy to make her way down to Jos ship. Adjusting her bag nervously over her shoulder, Kellen makes her way down the long spider-arm of the small craft dock, where the little ship sits nestled cozy up for boarding. At intervals she passes little windowsoutside, a glimpse of the scattered lights of the main station, standing bright against the black sky.

She lifts her wrist to the keypad (a memory skates over her thoughts: Jos fingers, warm on her wrist, giving her chip access to the ships entry code). A pneumatic hiss accompanies the doors slide open. Kellen steps through cautiously into the interior of the ship.

Her head swivels slowly as she gets her first look at the inside of a real vessel. UhJordana? she calls. Its Kellen.
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bird
 Posted: Jun 11 2011, 05:22 PM
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Days pass. Jo loses track of them, letting them slip by hours at a time, elbow-deep in ship guts. She sleeps on a hammock stretched out in the engine room, emerging only every twelve hours or so for a new soldering tool or something warm and rehydrated from the vendors along the promenade. Her hangover fades into the rhythm of work.

Amos Hardy has done a damn good job of fucking everything up, or whoever Amos Hardy bought this piece of shit from. Occasionally she comes across milspec serial numbered parts, but she doesn't think much of it. Military surplus makes for good scrap. To Hardy's credit, most of parts aren't in bad condition, but it's clear to her than no one has bothered to do maintenance on this junker in years, and she curses him, loudly and abundantly, to the seeker drones slaved over to her command.

But by the third day, things are looking respectable enough, even if one of the drones gets torn to shreds by a mistake she makes during an engine test and the main computer crunches data more ineffectually than the soft gums of a pensioner. By the fourth, she's finishing up a piece of work in the hab ring, and manages to burn herself soldering some wiring only once. Like Clarke, gravity in the crew module comes from rotation, and so the plaz insets come in at unintuitive angles. Thales shines bright and blue below her as she works.

"-- Thales GCA investigating communications blackouts on Hirundo and Maralis. Tags: communications networks, policies, civil disturbance." Jo's palmtab sits amidst a collection of equipment and gutted parts, projecting a news broadcast. There's a thirty-second lag between surface and station orbit, and low bandwidth manifests as a certain shakiness of picture, an audible snap-crackle pop. "Continue?"

Jo puts the soldering iron into the kit. With the wiring done and the vents clear, she only has to weld the duct back together. She puts on a thick set of gloves and pulls the zip of the thick protective coveralls to the collar. "Skip. Next."

"Cormoran local authorities have seized over four hundred kilograms of buff at Farahmand through massive co-ordinated drug bust. Trial hearings follow. Tags: legal, narcotics, criminal arrests, local. Continue?" Jo heaves the metal up, grunting with the motion.

"Command not recognized."

She clamps it into place. "Skip. Next."

"Advertisement: gengineered ascaris eggs! Guaranteed to strengthen your body's immune system or your money back! Pharmasave special ---"

"Mute." Jo snaps the face shield down and picks up the torch. All things condense around the blue point of light, and then the palmtab chirps helpfully on the deck just as she gets a good arc and she entertains the idea of stomping it into pieces. "Nasrin Kellen at Airlock 1 requesting access."

"Well," she breathes, shutting the torch off. "Shit."

"Command not --"

"Grant access." Jo shrugs her shoulders out of her stained navy coveralls, tying the sleeves around her waist and tossing the shield down to the deck. She smooths her hair down with a sudden, self-conscious hand. I said four days, she thinks, and groans a little when she realizes it has been. She thumbs the palmtab dead. "One second!"

A few quiet moments pass, and the ceiling hatch of the airlock opens. Jo's head pops out of it, upside-down. A long, dark ponytail oscillates in a friendly arc. "Well, hey there." She grins. Then her head disappears, and a ladder rattles down from the side of the hatch, kicked down by a big black bootheel.

"Come on in," Jo says. "I'm just finishing something up."
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carciofi
 Posted: Jun 13 2011, 08:58 PM
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The soothing muted glow of guidelights mounted along the far wall greet her placidly. Lacking any other cue, Kellen sidles her way further inside. The airlock smells a little stale, like there hasnt been fresh oxygen in here in months, and she only has a moment to glance around at the rivet-studded walls before a panel pops open above her head. She jumps back with a start.

Jo appears like an inverted, ponytailed apparition. Kellens tall enough that they wouldve bumped skulls if she hadnt gotten out of the way. She cranes her head back to meet the other womans eyes. Sorry, didnt mean to ah, disturb you, she tries hastily, but the clatter of a stepladder muddles her words. Then its too late because Jo has already retreated back into the mysterious belly of her ship.

Kellen casts a dubious look behind her into the station, and then she turns to the ladder and leaves Clarke once and for all.

Gingerly she mounts the steps under the thick unbroken soles of her new workboots (shes never had workboots before but it seemed like a good idea). Squeezing through the hatch with her bag at her waist, she pulls herself to her feet and adjusts her glasses.

What are you She trails off at the mess of parts and tools and bits of detached spaceship that Jo seems to have scattered around her, like a magpie comfy in its nest, and just now seems to notice that the woman is drenched in sweat. Doing?
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bird
 Posted: Jun 18 2011, 07:27 PM
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It doesn't even look half bad now, Jo notes as she steps from the hatch to let Kellen past, even if her sense of aesthetics is skewed heavily towards the guts of things. Four days ago she was almost ready to go find Hardy in whatever watering hole he was huddled up in and hit him upside the head with the business end of a torque wrench, but between her own hands and the mindless ministrations of the seeker drones, it now looks like something that just might be ready to fly.

It's Clarke's rotation gives them weight now, not the ship's own, and it's quickly apparent that what they're standing on isn't floor, but wall, freshly sprayed with a new coat of zinc-oxide paint to keep the metal beneath from corrosion. Glowlights on both sides of the corridor eat up shadows, while handholds clutter across the hallway for use in microgravity, and the perspex shows metal station hull and the starless black beyond. The effect is neat enough, if industrial; where the wheel of Clarke's promenade is littered with neon signs and projections and human traffic and spreading clumps of gengineered kudzu, the interior of the ship is sterile and serene. The mess of torn out circuit board, some debris some dumbfuck left scattered between the bulkheads, coloured wires and scattered tools is almost garish by comparison. Under the shell of the hanging panel, wires and casings and chipboards clump together like the fibers of an exposed muscle.

�It's not as bad as it looks, believe me.� Jo says. �Just replacing some bad wiring in the air scrubbers.� She looks over and smiles, peeling the heavy gloves from her hands, tossing them into the kit box. Just some bad wiring has eaten the better half of the morning, but it's not the sort of work she minds. Wiring is easy stuff -- usually just step-by-step assemblage following the schems, as long as you don't make any mistakes or touch anything live.

�Let me show you around first -- I could use the break anyway.� Jo scratches her nose with a fingernail, unwittingly smudging black grease across the bridge. In the back of her mind she's still fishing for something to call it, but the enormity of the words my ship are still leaving her a little giddy with disbelief. She gestures a palm to the bag, figuring she might as well be polite. �You okay with that?�

With no occupants, the airlock door slides shut and seals itself, hissing a soft, pressurized sigh.
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carciofi
 Posted: Jun 30 2011, 01:46 PM
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Some of the words go over Kellen's head, because she's staring awkwardly at the cling of damp fabric around Jo's shoulders and chest. A few seconds pass. She manages to wrench her eyes away and rubs a nervous hand over the back of her neck, and tries to occupy herself with scouring the ship's interior, as if it's the most fascinating thing she's ever seen. Everything is clean, uncluttered, almost as if unlived ina suspicion supported by what seems to be a fine coating of dust on the walls. Or at least she thinks they're the walls. Something about this room is giving her a strange sense of disorientation.

In all this streamlined steel and carbon, smelling keenly of the acrid stink of paint, the exposed underbelly of the ship is all the more grotesque. Kellen stares at the tangled wires with quiet fascination. The ship seems, suddenly, like a living creature.

Im fine, thanks, she says, hugging the bag unwittingly closer to her chest. Shes loath to give up the only familiarity she has right now. Id love a tour, though. Ive never actually been on a ship like this before. Just the transport on my way over here. But this is different. Whatever eloquence she has ever prided herself on having, its deserted her now.

Still preoccupied with this sense of the ship as an organism, Kellen asks abruptly, Does it have a name? Shes still staring absently at the circuit boards and wiring.
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bird
 Posted: Jul 16 2014, 04:16 PM
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She gives Kellen the courtesy of at least pretending not to notice, though the wry twitch of her mouth betrays her. “Well,” Jo says, after a while, waving a hand at the ship around her, “She’s not a luxury cruiser or anything. But she cleans up alright.”

The passageway runs the breadth of the ship through several square, hatch-like doorways, the walls curving gently away. Clark’s inner ring slides past them on the right hand side, pale against the looming black. “You know,” she says, “I’m not sure yet. But I’m open to suggestions.” The registration papers in fact say HSV-IP-230459, and Amos Hardy or someone else had named it Auriga. Neither of those are particularly to Jo’s liking: a ship with a fresh intake port and a few coats of paint deserves better than a name that sounds like it was given by a convoy jockey or a Republic apologist.

“We’re on station gravity right now,” she says, wiping her palms absently against the grease-stained thighs of her coverall, “so things might be a little trippy until we get in motion. Left is down. Most of the time.”

This becomes readily apparent after a few paces, where the floor perforates into a square hatch. Jo squats to crank it open, stepping back to let it fall open under its own weight. The smell of green wafts sharply into the main body of the hab ring. In one smooth movement, she drops down to the chamber below.

It's as large a space that can be spared on a ship this size, but curving strands of ferns disguise the sharp angles of the bulkheads and make it seem almost infinite. Long rows of low, creeping plants panel the walls and stack over each other. Grasses and a few scant flowering plants grow rowdy under UV lamps and lengths of clear irrigation tubing. “Hydroponics,” she says, pulling an aluminum ladder down for Kellen. “Mostly just to give the air scrubbers and the water cyclers a bit of a break. Bigger ships can comp as much as sixty percent of their oxygen from a hydro set-up, which is nice. Tri gets expensive after a while.” Jo looks around, sticking her hands in her pockets. Absently, she picks a green leaf and crushes it between her fingers. “I’m pretty sure everybody else uses algae mats now, but honest to god, it smells like shit. Also... fifty creds says the last guy who owned this ship tried to grow weed in here, but, you know, whatever works.”
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