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 A STILL MORE GLORIOUS DAWN AWAITS [18+], she blinded me with science!
carciofi
 Posted: Jul 26 2014, 05:08 PM
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The clear disorientation of the ship makes Kellen feel slightly queasy as she follows Jo down the passageway. Things like realizing the doors they step through are actually ceiling hatches, or that the windows that show her the close bright planet were actually meant to let in starlight from above. She wonders how it will feel when they depart and everything drops to one side - and then her stomach tightens in a fluttering thrill when she remembers that she's going to leave on this ship.

The unmistakeable smell of living things breaks through her thoughts. Kellen stares down the opened hatch at Jo and the green that fills her small square frame of vision, and is suddenly giddy.

Shouldering her pack, she descends the ladder and turns, in the cramped space, to survey the miniature greenhouse. A few steps further in and she trails her fingers over the undulating stem of a vine. It's humid in here, and the plants seem healthy and flourishing in the thick rubber mats that anchor them to the walls.

"I worked in the hydroponics lab on my campus for a semester," Kellen comments absently, squatting down to inspect the irrigation setup. Approvingly, she says, "NFT is the best way to do it, this is a good setup. Have you thought about replacing some of the inedible grasses with food supplements? There's also a lot of great benefits to incorporating an aquaculture complement, because it really cuts down on your waste water, and it's great for the plants..."

She trails off, embarrassed. "I mean, I'd be happy to, uh...help you maintain the greenhouse, if you want." Kell adjusts her glasses and scratches the side of her neck.
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bird
 Posted: Jul 27 2014, 03:56 PM
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“Good. It’s all yours,” Jo says. “I frankly have no idea how half this shit even works. " The corners of her mouth twist in a way that says not bad, and she claps a friendly hand on Kellen’s shoulder in passing on her way climbing back out into the hab ring.

The rest of the tour through the hab ring is short and circumspect; the Auriga is not a large ship, and most of its volume is given to the muscular sub-light engines, now freshly fueled with H/He harvested from Thales’s atmosphere. She leads Kellen through past the empty cargo bays and the cluttered cockpit, where a drone sullenly sprays a fine mist of zinc oxide over old grime on a bulkhead and Jo has forgotten a day-old, half-emptied pot of oily black coffee. The crew quarters are a hall of narrow, largely featureless cubbies, connected by a rattling metal catwalk to a cramped galley kitchen. “Ship’s got room for a crew of four, so feel free to take your pick,” she says, back out in the hall, “I’m back by the cockpit if you need me. And – oh, hey, I told dock control we’d be pushing off by nineteen thirty station time, if that’s okay with you.”

Below them, Clarke has passed into Thales’ night shadow. Radiant blue tendrils ghost across the poles, where the wind of a harsh sun brushes against the gas giant’s magnetosphere. Jo hooks her hands in her pockets as she waits for Kellen to follow. “Hey,” she calls, conversationally, back down into the hole, “you ever seen the aurora from up here?”

--------------------
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carciofi
 Posted: Jul 27 2014, 06:56 PM
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Kellen's neck feels hot as Jo passes, though in the glare of the UV lights she only looks bluish and pale. Her shoulder burns in the shape of a handprint.

She bends to give a small blossom-freckled plant one last sniff, feeling oddly nostalgic, as if this were her last taste of familiar earth, as if she weren't already aboard a big metal tube floating in the sky. As if Clarke were even familiar to her, five station-hops from home. As if she hadn't left behind anything she really knows when she left for uni. As if she weren't about to travel some untold number of parsecs out to P706-32. Somehow the smell of growing things is grounding.

Just when she thinks she is going to cry, standing stupidly here in this cramped sideways room, Jo calls her. "The aurora?" Kellen repeats, ducking her head as she clambers back up the ladder (she can already tell she'll be too tall for this ship). Her bag slips off her shoulder and comes to rest at her feet as she joins Jo at the porthole.

"Oh," she exhales, because of course she's read about it and answered test questions on magnetic field lines, but no, she's never seen that shimmering electric vortex, like ripples dropped into a vast gaseous pond. That blue is unreal. She is momentarily and acutely aware of the scale of things: how beauty is present in the enormity of electromagnetic fields and in the tiniest leaves. Her shoulder brushes Jo's, but Kellen is too lost to even notice.
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bird
 Posted: Jul 27 2014, 08:16 PM
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“Thales’s sole claim to fame,” Jo says, appreciatively.

Hydrogen storms big enough to swallow smaller worlds pulse with lightning around the equator, far below the blue tongues flickering between the gas giant and its tortured inner moons. “You know, I grew up orbiting a moon a bit like that one,” she muses, after a time, tilting her chin towards the outer moons: Maralis a faint light behind Hirundo’s distant, rocky crescent. “Still never really gets old.”

She casts a sidelong glance, then, at Kellen and her pale reflection in the Perspex. Of course Kellen and her ilk represent nothing short of the Core’s best and brightest, and of course she’s been selected for this so it would be pointless to ask her if she was okay, but it still occurs to Jo just how young she is, just how utterly far from home. A pang of sympathy curls in her gut that she doesn’t quite know what to do with. Jo had left the shipyards she’d grown up in for the stars maybe a little younger, but she was a Frontier girl and any one of humanity’s hardscrabble footholds could always be home enough.

“We have a few hours before we push off, if you need to send some mail off or something,” she says, not unkindly. “Do you want some time to settle in?"
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carciofi
 Posted: Jul 28 2014, 11:00 PM
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The tone of Jo's voice tears her away from the distant crackling display, a keenly honed sense for pity or condescension. Kellen looks at Jo square in the eye for an instant and then drops her stare to Jo's sweat-stained collar.

"No, I'm alright," she says. "I sent my last wave to my mom last night. Nothing else to send."

She shifts the strap on her shoulder and settles her weight into her other hip. "I grew up on Okara," Kellen ventures, naming the next planet to this one, "in one of the core-heated topsiders. It doesn't even have any moons. You could see a lot of stars at night, and some parts of the year you could see Thales really clearly, but you couldn't even tell what color anything was. I just couldn't -- I didn't want them to stay so small forever."

Her curls are residually damp from the humid hydrogarden, sticking to her forehead. Nasrin shrugs and squares her shoulders. "I'm ready to leave at nineteen-thirty."
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bird
 Posted: Jul 29 2014, 03:07 PM
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“Well,” Jo says, waving a reproachful hand as if to say hey, relax, didn’t mean anything by it. She has a worker’s hands, marked by pinpoint burns and scrapes from messy welds, sharp sheets and dropped lines; KI patch lines for the radiation and immunization scars for an assortment of manufactured plagues; the nick of a tooth from a scuffle over a drunken card game. Gooseflesh prickles where the sweat cools on her bare shoulders. She meets Kellen's eye unflinchingly, but abandons her line of inquiry, pitching her voice back to her usual shit-talking, good-humoured lilt. “That makes one of you, because I’ve been crawling around in the ducts for the last thirteen hours and I’m fucking starving.

"You hungry?”

*


Clarke's B-deck, seventeen-oh station time.

Freshly showered, Jo tucks happily into an enormous mound of thick, wide rice noodles and bean sprouts, slick with chili oil and afloat in a meaty broth fragrant with galangal and makrut lime. The tables are cracked, the upholstery on the bench seats faded, but the food is good, nutritious and conspicuously missing the usual nubs of metallic, rehydrated soy. Even the coffee is decent, if helped along by a finger of some amber liquid from a flask in her jacket pocket (she pours at least double into Kellen’s mug under the guise of preventative measures for the first skip ahead). A terse, stout woman with arms like ham hocks and her two nervous teenage sons serve the evening rush under a canopy crowded with chintzy paper lanterns. “This,” she says, to her noodles, “was definitely one of my better ideas.” Clarke, in her mind, has finally redeemed itself.

The view from their booth looks out onto the atrium, abuzz with new arrivals and station workers coming off shift. Vendors hawk everything from patterned silks and fried pastries to discount equipment and bootlegged simulacra beneath wavering projections of Maralis’s planet-side news. A young man with a pleasant, reedy voice busks by a decorative stand of yucca for a time, before the station guards chase him off for loitering. Gaggles of outward-bound colonist children screech past with mouths stained red and blue and orange by shaved ice, while their parents buy nav chips and practical boots and whisper to themselves about mining accidents and dangerous union gangs out on such-and-such a world. There are even a few straight-backed men and women in Republic military gray, Jo notices, but when she looks again they are stumbling and amorous, their collars loose and their faces flushed with drink.

“Might as well eat something,” she says, cheerily, cradling her coffee. “The first skip is hell on an empty stomach.” She looks almost halfway presentable now, with her hair in a loose, damp sheet over her shoulders and wearing a clean, cream-coloured blouse under her much-abused leather jacket.

"So, this is your first gig, right? I snooped around your file a little." She spears a few noodles with a conspiratorial grin. "Columbus clearly thinks you are some hot shit."
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carciofi
 Posted: Aug 1 2014, 11:39 PM
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The steam rising from Kellen's noodles fogs her glasses, making Jo a fuzzy fractal across the table. She sniffs. The noodles are pungent with garlic and lime, and her order floats with fat, glossy little dumplings that might even have real pork in them. "What black market drug front did you smuggle me into?" Kellen demands, only half-jokingly, after her first mouthful (her tongue burning happily on account of her extra splash of chili oil).

She doesn't need telling twice, since she's been eating rehydrated potatoes or bar food since she docked on Clarke. This tastes like ambrosia. Plastic chopsticks in hand, she scoops up huge mouthfuls of noodles, eating without finesse or tact for the pure pleasure of the act. Little spots of broth fleck her shirt, which is blue, masculine, and fastens wrist to elbow with a row of gleaming yellow buttons. It would look fashionable on someone who hunched less. The mystery liquor in her coffee is enough to make her head a little lighter, and in the buzz and clatter of the station rabble with the promise of adventure on the figurative horizon, Nasrin feels giddy.

"Columbus has a hundred dev scouts, all of them with a fancy degree." She dismisses Jo with a flourish of her chopsticks. "And if they thought I was such hot shit I wouldn't be going out to the Petri cluster. How long have you been flying around? Where did you come from?"
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bird
 Posted: Aug 4 2014, 04:02 PM
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“Oh no,” Jo says, grinning around a mouthful of noodle. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those boring fuckers that dreams of book-keeping asteroid belt ice just so you can work on rotation.” She swallows, gesturing expansively with her chopsticks. “You get the frontier! The glamour! The bleeding edge! And your own weight in freeze-dried bean curd rations.”

She’s being an ass and she knows it, but Kellen is just so serious, and they have a long and cramped journey ahead. Jo leans back and sets both chopsticks beside the bowl, warming her hands around her boozy coffee. She curls around it in the bench seat like a cat, content. “Pascal," she says. "I mean, if you want to be technical about it. It's a shitty little outpost moon around Koschei. I mostly grew up in the shipyards.”

She looks at Nasrin a little more carefully now, sipping. Maybe she’s too young to associate Pascal with its famous shipyards, the ones that built the Republic’s frontier fleet. Jo barely remembers the crackdowns herself: she was a kid during the wildcat strikes and the labour actions, still floundering about with electrical on her first apprenticeship. The politics don’t mean much to her, even if the shipbuilder’s union flag on her chip raises eyebrows in this part of the galaxy.

“I’ve been out here maybe, shit, eight, nine years now? Mostly working freighter runs, lifters, that sort of thing. I’m honestly not that interesting.” She empties her coffee. Now the EVA techs come off shift, still getting their legs after a spell in micro-gravity, and the young man with the guitar strums by a vendor cart tunelessly now that the uniforms have left. Jo grins, setting the empty mug down, reaching over to steal a dumpling. “Nobody’s ever named a planet after me.”
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