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Lunacy: Approach

06/08/12

  06:55:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 721 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Approach

Clod had been up for most of a day. She wasn't enough of a mathematician, or a navigator, to know exactly when they would arrive at the Lunar Station, and she was too proud to ask.

But she did know that by the time she could see the lunar docking station they were nearly there. Her eyes were blurry, so at first she didn't even see the station, a ball at the end of a long, thin cord. ?The lunar elevator. And I can see the Perseus,? Clod said.

It was the first time she'd seen her ship assembled in one piece. It had been launched in a dozen separate modules over the last few months.

?It's sticking out of the dock at the tip,? Levy said. ?It?s like, the moon has an erection- and that erection has an erection.?

?And does all that give you an erection?? Paul asked with a grin.

Levy cupped his crotch. ?Half-stock.?

?Originally,? Martin said, ?they wanted us all to pilot part of the ship up here in six pieces, and then we were going to assemble it in the atmosphere.?

?Like a low-tech Voltron,? Levy interrupted.

?They abandoned the idea as soon as someone pointed out that spreading us out like that also meant each module would have to have life support- that, and it would give us a whole slew of redundant thrust systems. It would have nearly doubled the cost of the mission.?

?I didn't know any of that,? Paul said.

?I've been with this mission since the beginning, back when it was a European endeavor. The Americans had given up on the idea of a man-first Mars mission; your people wanted to send more robots- a whole crew of drones. And then they cut even that consolation prize out of the budget. It wasn't until the British built an engine that made the mission feasible that you got back into the pioneering game. Of course, I wasn't captaining the mission, then, I was just the pilot. That's how long ago that was.?

Clod looked at him out of the corner of her eye. ?Touch my stick and you die,? she said, hovering protectively over their shuttle's controls.

?I?ve said much the same thing to Levy,? said Martin with a twinkle in his eye. ?We were in the shower at the time, and he would not stop staring.?

?He has salt and pepper pubes. I'd never seen that before. It was an oddity.?  

?All right,? Clod said, ?we're on approach.?

?We need to sit?? Paul asked.

?Seatbacks and tray tables up,? she said. ?And buckle in.?

?You mind if I?? Paul asked, gesturing towards the captain's seat.

?Knock yourself out,? Martin said, and stepped around him.

Clod touched the stick, adjusting their trajectory somewhat to align with the station.

?Do we need to slow down?? Paul asked.

?Marginally,? she said. ?But just enough to match the speed of the docking station. Objects in orbit are, basically, traveling away from the planet at enough of a speed that it cancels out the force of gravity pulling it towards the planet's surface. Relative to the planet, it's staying still, but it's still moving really fucking fast through the air- or the vacuum, or whatever.?

?Fast as in a bullet train, or fighter jet. Or?

?Just being in lunar orbit puts us in pretty rarified company. Basically, if you're not an astronaut, you never get to move that fast. And we had to go even faster than that just to escape Earth's atmosphere. So for us, this is easy.?

?It doesn't look easy.?

?Really? I was going for effortless.?

?You're not sweating it,? Paul said, ?but in the little ways, the way your hand shakes just a little when you're not touching the stick, flutter in your voice, quickness in your breathe. But you're guiding a comet into a pinhole. If you weren't even a little nervous, I don't think I'd trust you. You know, not to kill us.?

?It might be psychologically intimidating,? she said, reaching over and taking his hand. She used it to push the stick, ever so gently, watching the monitor to make sure the angle was right. ?But it isn't that hard.?

?Oh, sure,? Levy said from behind them, ?he gets to touch your stick.?

?Shut up, Levy,? Martin said.

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