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Moon Monitor

Ship’s Log Book  ~ Page 04

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   Colonel Kessler found Decker right where he expected to find him. It said something about the man to note the Colonel never found Decker sitting around. He knew better than to interrupt a welder at work and stared off at the wall to keep from looking at the light.

   Decker sensed the presence of someone but chose to finish the weld rather than stop. Once finished he let go of the electrode gun trigger and flipped up the welder’s hood. “Colonel what can I do for you?” he asked.

   “I just thought you would like to know the last of our fighters are arriving,” The Colonel replied. “They also sent up the rest of the surveillance system I ordered among other things.”
   It was the other things that interested Decker. “I think that’s got it. Pick up the stuff here. Then clear and seal the section and pressurize it, see if the weld holds,” Decker told his helper. “Well Colonel, shall we go see the other things you have brought us.”

   Three of the sleekest meanest looking aircraft you ever saw sat parked against the back wall of the alpha flight deck. In front of them were several small wingless spacecraft designed to shuttle work crews outside around the big ship. They also served as rescue craft for workers who got careless and lost their grip on the ship and drifted off into space. The beta flight deck was a mirror image of the alpha deck. Starfighter crews were busy unloading equipment from the storage bays of the fighters.

   “We brought up a couple of emergency backup computers in case that techno piece of junk you call a computer fails,” the Colonel said. Kessler was not the only one that hated their new computer.

   Decker had to smile. “Give it some time, they’re still working on her programming,” he replied.

   “What on earth possessed you to get a talking computer with a mind of its own anyway?”
   “It was cheap but had the power we needed to run the ship. The company we got it from practically gave it to us.”
   “Probably begged you to take it just to get rid of her.”
   Decker had to laugh. “Perhaps, but she is the future of computers and one of the first of her kind...”
   “And as stupid as they come,” Kessler said interrupting.

   “Did you get Andy his parts?” Decker asked to change the subject.

   “Yes I did. You know it’s getting harder to explain why I need some of the parts I’m ordering,” the Colonel replied. “I’ve got one or two more shipments left before I run out of ways to get stuff up here.”
   “That’s ok; once these parts are installed we can take this thing out for a test drive.”
   “Where to?”
   “Just to the moon and back.”

   A stream of matter and anti-matter barely an atom’s width in diameter collided in space resulting in a controlled explosion that pushed against the inner engine liner that protected the engine outer casing from the enormous amount of energy produce. This pushed against a central core of a massive ship and sent it out of orbit. The anti-matter drive took over as the ion engines shutdown but only for a moment.

   For more than a minute gravity was all going in the same direction. A continuous 1 gee burn for 90 seconds and then back into free fall. “We are in the grove,” the helmsman reported. “We can make any needed course corrections on the deceleration burn.”
   “Talk to me Andy,” Decker said into his intercom.

   “Everything seems to be ok. We’ll send a robot out to look at the engine liner when it cools down a bit,” the speaker built into the chair arm replied. “Right now we are doin’ fine and the ion engines are on standby.”
   “Good, well at least we didn’t blow ourselves up,” Decker replied. “I’m showing green across the board. Fire the Habitat Section rotation thrusters; let’s restart the gravity.”
   “Firing thrusters in ten..., nine..., eight..., seven..., six..., five..., four..., three..., two..., one,” the helmsman counted off. “Firing thrusters... All lights in the green.”
   Eighteen hours later the Galactic Enterprise swung slowly around for another 1 gee burn. This time they would let the Habitat Section continue to spin. “Bring the anti-matter engines online,” Decker ordered.

   “The anti-matter engines are on standby and we are green across the board,” the helmsman replied.

   “Ok, let’s go ahead and put on the brakes.” A moment later gravity kicked in as the big ship began to slow down. Decker watched the readout from stress meters all over the ship. “Ships status?” he asked.

   “All airlock doors are sealed and all sections are reporting no change in section pressure. The core pressure is stable and holding. We are still in the green across the board, anti-matter engines are shutting down and ion engines are on standby,” the helmsman reported. “We are still in the grove for a slingshot around the moon.”
   “I want this bucket of bolts gone over from top to bottom,” Decker said. “I want a visual inspection of every part of this ship. If we are going to spend a couple of years in this ship then we need to make damn sure it’s not going to fall apart on us.”

   Decker listened to the department reports as he watched a view of the moon on his computer monitor. “...We are as tight as a drum,” Andy was saying. “Every part of this ship has been checked and rechecked. The anti-matter engine preformed as expected. The ion drive did even better than what we had anticipated. I see no reason why we cannot launch this thing on schedule.”
   “The Communication Section and the various external sensors, radio telescopes, and cameras are good to go,” April said. “I’m with Andy, let’s take this ship out for a spin around the solar system and see how she holds up.”
   “The Medical Center is up and running,” Tony added. “Even our good Reverend is tired of waiting around up here. He’s running out of material for his sermons and is starting to do reruns.” That brought a short round of laughter from everyone seated at the table. The Reverend had at least ten versions of every sermon he did and his staff had accidentally run 5 versions of the same sermon back to back one week.

   “Colonel what about your people?” Decker asked.

   “I expect to reduce the number people to what is barely needed to remain operationally ready,” Kessler replied. “I’ve asked for mostly single men and women but your offer to house the families of key officers and men as helped reduce the pressure I initially felt knowing my men would be away from their home for several years. I have the best of the best the military has to offer. Your staff is equally up to the challenge. I’m a go.”
   “Well then, let’s finish the shakedown cruise, then pick up our passengers, load up, and head for the stars,” Decker said with a smile.


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