Monday, March 31, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 58:

“Docking in…” Lieutenant Commander Sinkh announced “5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …”

The station shuddered ever so slightly as the massive ship docked and locked clamps.

“Connection of data lines complete.” Ensign Zhou announced. “Confirming cargo transfer schedule.”

“Fuel lines connected and secured.” Lt. Vick stated.

“Very well, tell the crews to prepare for transfer.  We want to get this done smoothly.” Commander Johnson checked the transfer schedule. “Make sure those empty cargo containers are all lined up and everyone knows the rotation.”

“Should I inform the Captain?” Lt. Commander Sinkh inquired.

“No Need.” Captain Calhoun stated as he closed the airlock door. “As you were.”

“Captain!?!” was the universal response in the compartment.

“Commander Johnson,” The captain moved toward the central command console “I believe you need to prepare for a briefing.”

“Yes Sir.” He responded “Are you sure you don’t…”

“I’m absolutely certain.” The captain cut off the commander “I have full confidence in your ability to handle it.”

“And he doesn’t want to deal with it.” Ensign Zhou mumbled.

“Ensign!” The captain sternly barked.  Then he lightened up and smiled “Rank has its privileges.” He chuckled.

The entire compartment got a minor laugh from that.

“Alright people,” The captain settled into his control console “Let’s get this cargo operation underway!”

“Aye Sir!” The compartment resounded happily.

“Captain,” Lt. Commander Sinkh announced “Captain Grind wants to remind you that you owe him a drink.”

“Tell him to mosey on over and we’ll have that drink.” The captain chuckled.

After a minute or so Lt. Commander Sinkh looked up “He said he’s on his way, take a look.” He switched the main display to the observation camera focused on boom 2.  Captain Grind was walking along the docking boom in his space suit carrying a small case.

“Well I’ll be damned!” The captain shook his head “Alright, obviously I’m going to have to meet him at the airlock.  Commander Sinkh, you have the con.” He released himself from his console and floated toward the airlock.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 57:

The Reykjavik slowed to a relative stop next to Albatross station just over a kilometer away and centered up with the rings.  She extended her 500 meter long docking arms and adjusted position to align them with the cargo doors on the center section of the station between the rotating rings.  The docking arms contained transport rails, fuel lines and communications cables to facilitate moving cargo between the vessels.  The arms were just long enough to allow for 100 meters between the large ring on the station and the hull of the supply ship.  The ship’s captain slowly moved the ship into position, carefully guiding the docking arms between the rings and adjusting position to keep the arms aligned with the doors.  He was being extremely cautious and keeping the velocity low.  The docking arms had dampers but the safety clearance was very tight.

“Albatross Station, this is the Reykjavik.  We are initiating final docking procedures.” Captain Grind announced over the radio from the bridge of the Reykjavik. “Commander Dunst,” He looked over to his navigator “Keep a close eye on the alignment indicators.  We are on full manual for this one.”

“Aye Sir.” The commander was nervous.

“Reykjavik, Albatross Station.” Commander Johnson tried to sound confident “We are monitoring on our side.  Please tie in to data feed Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to receive all data we have.”

Captain Grind choked out a laugh and was quite happy he hadn’t just sipped his coffee “Acknowledged, Albatross.” He looked to commander Dunst “Our data link is available on feed Sierra Tango Foxtrot Uniform.” He cut the transmission short to prevent transmitting the entire bridge laughing.

The teasing banter allowed both crews to blow off a little steam and relieve the tension.  After a few short moments they were back to full capacity and professionalism.

“Alright people, let’s get this monster docked.” The captain was all business.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 56:

The station bridge was fairly quiet and most personnel were running routine equipment and systems checks.

"Albatross Station, this is supply ship Reykjavik.” The radio chimed.

“Go ahead Reykjavik.” Commander Johnson perked up.

“We are entering final approach and should be stopped in less than an hour.”

“Acknowledged.” The commander called up the maintenance and inspection schedule. “Be advised all of our tow craft are down for emergency inspections so you will have to bring yourself in close enough for supply transfer.”

“You’re going to make me earn my pay, you say?”  The captain of the Reykjavik was keeping it light.

“I hear you could do it in your sleep.” The commander knew that was not even close to accurate.  The Reykjavik was one of the largest ships in the fleet and was full with over two years of supplies for the station and a year’s supply for the ship itself, not to mention all of the repair materials it stocked for both.  It takes 8 to 9 months for the ship to travel each way between the station and Earth.  Bringing these two vessels within 500 meters of each other, holding them there and connecting the docking arms is a serious task for even the most experienced pilots.

“Tell Captain Calhoun he is going to owe me a drink when we finish docking.”

“I’ll let the Captain know.” The commander called up the navigational display with the ship and the station on it. “Alright everybody,” he announced to the compartment “We are now entering docking operations for the supply ship, so let’s keep an eye on that ship and a lookout for anything unusual.”

The bridge started bustling as everyone shifted their displays and started catching up on status of both vessels.

The commander switched on the intercom “T-Ops, Bridge.”

“Go ahead Bridge.”

“The Reykjavik has started docking maneuvers so keep everything grounded until she is done.  Then we can get back to normal ops.”

“Is the captain going to hold the briefing with the mining crews?” Commander Venkataraman sounded concerned.

“No, he left me detailed instructions for it and orders not to disturb him.  He needs some sleep.” Commander Johnson didn’t sound very confident.

“Are you sure about that?”

“No, but if I’m ever going to get those eagles I’m going to have to do the hard work sometime.” He was trying to be good hearted about it.

“Good luck.  I’ll let the crews know.”

“I’ll take care of the mining crews, you take care of the flight crews.”  He looked at the countdown clock “I’ll send you the briefing schedule shortly.”

“Aye, Bridge.  T-Ops out.”

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Friday, March 28, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 55:

Lt. Aiko double checked the repair record and instructed the repair bots to scan the panel seams while he slowly increased the pressure in the compartment.  He wasn’t worried so much about the new repair but about leaks elsewhere.

“T-Ops, maintenance.” The radio link chimed up. “We think you are ready to go.”

“Acknowledged, maintenance.” Lt. Aiko was quite annoyed now.  He hated space suits and he had now been in his for almost 12 hours. “I am bringing the pressure up slowly and I am going to be certain about leaks.”

“That’s our job sir!” The maintenance supervisor was annoyed.

“No sailor,” Lt. Aiko was as stern as he could be “It is everyone’s job!  I am responsible for the lives of everyone in this compartment, and everyone that will be in this compartment for not only the next shift but for the foreseeable future.  So I am going to be certain.  Is that understood?”

“Yes sir. Let us know when you are done.”

“Will do.  I’ll try not to keep your bot’s tied up any longer than necessary.”  The Lieutenant tried to lighten up although he was clearly stressed out.

“Full pressure sir.” Ensign Kahl reported. “Leak test is complete.  All seals holding.”

“Very well.” Lt. Aiko verified the report on his console “Ok, make one more sweep and then we’ll let them go.”

The airlock door opened with a slow hiss.  Commander Venkataraman floated into the compartment in her space suit, followed by four of her shift crewmen.  “Ok Lieutenant, it is shift change.  Captain’s orders!”

“Aye commander.” Lt. Aiko reluctantly acknowledged “I just completed the leak and hull integrity sweep, all is clear.”

“Very good Lieutenant.” She looked around the compartment and noted the locations of the maintenance bots. “Alright you guys, everyone out, we’ll take it from here.  Get your showers, get some chow, double seal your quarters and run a full sterilization cycle on your suits.” She waited for everyone to shift positions. “And I mean that last one.  You don’t know when you will need that suit again, or for how long.”

“Aye, Ma’am.” Was the unanimous response as the old shift headed for the airlock and the new shift took their positions.

“Alright, let’s get down to business.” Commander Venkataraman announced “Let’s get that pressure test, leak test and structural stress test run one more time, just in case.”
Lt. Aiko closed the airlock door behind him knowing the compartment, and the station, was in good hands.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 54:

Sam entered the airlock, closed the door behind her and activated the pressurization cycle.

Tim saw the indicators on the control panel signaling the airlock was sealed and started moving the shuttle in to the towing position.  The probe was positioned exactly opposite the position of the shuttle to balance the thrust.  This would insure the thrust from each craft was clear of the asteroid in tow allowing for maximum thrust and maneuverability while not eroding the asteroid or placing excess strain on the cables.  As he positioned both craft he adjusted the cable tension to keep everything balanced to maximize the pull and the safety factors.

The inner airlock door opened, Sam floated out and headed for the cockpit.

“Welcome back, Major Tom.” Tim started the playback of “Major Tom”.

“Very funny, space cadet.” Sam sarcastically replied.  She would have been annoyed but was entirely too happy from her trip outside even if she was quite tired from the work.

“Strap in and get set up to keep an eye on me.  I don’t want to mess this up.” He looked over and watched her slide into the control position next to him.

“How long is the burn?” She adjusted the restraining straps clumsily “I want out of this suit.”

“I want out of the suit too, but we have to stick to the safety rules.” He looked back to the panel, checking the cable tensions and the craft positions.  “We’ll start with a 5 minute burn and see how it goes.”

“That’s going to be a very long process.” She was not happy.

“You don’t want to re-set those anchors and cables do you?”

“Good point.” She conceded as she activated the control panel in supervisor mode. “Ready when you are.”
“Engaging thrusters, balanced load, 25% available thrust.” Tim was all business and running the checklist.

“Acknowledge balanced load, 25% available thrust.” Sam activated the radio “Albatross station, Shuttle 2”

“Go ahead Shuttle 2.” Captain Calhoun’s voice came through the radio.

“We have just started our initial pull and are adjusting to the course plot provided.” Sam was a bit confused “Where is Commander Dickerson?”

“Commander Dickerson and Captain Stewart are …” The captain searched a moment for the correct words “are a bit … indisposed of.  T-Ops is tied up with transport inspections for the next 4 or 5 hours, so we’ll be handling your flight directly from the bridge for now.”

“That’s our Commander,” Sam fought to keep a straight voice “bravely saving the fleet from a ravenous beast.” She barely cut the transmission before both she and Tim burst out laughing.

“Good lord Sam, don’t do that again!” Captain Calhoun shouted after a long pause “I just sprayed my console with coffee that should not be taken nasally!”

“Apologies Captain.” Sam struggled to regain composure “I couldn’t help myself.  The tension between those two could only be cut with a laser torch.”

“I am fully aware of that.” The captain replied “So they are going to get the time they need to work that out.  Keep us posted on your progress, and don’t take any chances.  Take all of the time you need.”

“Aye Sir.” Sam got back to business “We’ll let you know at each phase where we are.”

“Very well Shuttle 2.” The captain sounded relieved “Albatross out.”

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 53:

The airlock door to lab 4 hissed slightly as it opened.  Commander Dickerson heard it but stayed focused on her console, scrutinizing the transport inspection reports and correlating them to previous maintenance records.

Captain Stewart floated into the lab and closed the door behind her.  She had a container with her.

“Welcome to my purgatory, Gwen.” The commander greeted the captain without looking up.

“Hi Kimmie.” She was rather gloomy rather than her usual bubbly self. “Which console should I use?”

Kim pointed to the console Tim was using, directly across the compartment from her “That one, it already has all of the information you’ll need on it and it is patched in to T-Ops.”

Gwen floated through the hologram over to Kim’s console and flopped the container on top of it, activating the magnets to keep it there.  “I brought dinner.” She said as she started opening it.

“You didn’t have to do that.” Kim kept her head down.

“Yes I did.” Gwen pulled out to drink pouches “And you know why.” She held one of the pouches in front of Kim.

Kim looked at the pouch for a long moment, it was clear and the commander knew the red liquid inside was wine.  She looked up at Gwen with a blank look as she took the pouch.  “What is this for?”

“Reconciliation.” Gwen said flatly as she held up her own pouch toward Kim “To the future!”

Kim touched her pouch to Gwen’s and they both took a sip. “The future of what?”

“That is the question.” Gwen hesitated momentarily “I didn’t mean to push you away, and I have missed you ever since.  I was just trying to do my duty and pursue my career.  I didn’t even think about what that did to you until you left to come back out here.”

“So you came out here to apologize?” Kim looked skeptical.

“No, I came out here for that thing.” She looked out the port and pointed toward the asteroid “And I’m going to figure out what it is.” She looked back to Kim “But I am also going to take the opportunity to correct the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.” She looked directly into Kim’s eyes.

Kim looked back at Gwen “Am I the biggest mistake you ever made?”

“No, you are the best thing that ever happened to me.  Putting my career before you was the mistake.  And I want to fix that.”

The two looked at each other for a long moment then Kim pushed off from her console to grab Gwen in a tight hug and fierce lip lock.  Both of them squeezed their wine pouches squirting wine in all directions, little droplets spraying throughout the compartment.  The force of Kim’s launch pushed them both through the hologram and bounced them off a panel on the other side of the compartment.  The two turned the compartment into a pinball game as they bounced off of panels and activated controls.

“Lab 4, Bridge.” Captain Calhoun’s voice rang out from the intercom.  The observation camera spun around and tracked the two bodies for a moment. “Well it wasn’t that important.  Clean up after yourselves and get back to me when you are available.” Once again his laugh could be heard just before the intercom cut out.  He dimmed the lights in the lab for them.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 52:

The packed conference room was buzzing with conversation.  The discussions varied between safety concerns to anger for the operations hold up.  All were unhappy about the lack of information and the communications blackout.

The main screen in the room lit up with Captain Calhoun looking straight out into the room.  “Good afternoon, everyone.”  He paused.

The room slowly quieted down.

“I apologize for not being able to be there in person but we have a few important activities on the station that I have to attend to.” There were some murmurs around the room.  “I don’t actually have much to tell you except that we are working on the issues.  Commander Dickerson will brief you on the current status of transport and mining operations.  She is not able to be there in person at this time, however all of the information you need will be displayed on the screen and that room is crowded enough already.”  He paused for a moment for the chatter in the room to quiet down.  “So here is the commander with all of the information you need to have.”

The screen switched from the captain to the commander.  She was looking out from one half of the screen and the image of the asteroid on the other half.

“Here is what we know so far.” She dispensed with the pleasantries. 
“We have already established the fact that this asteroid is artificial, and we didn’t make it.” She paused a moment “We have also found another one like it just over 1300 kilometers away and we have dispatched a team to bring it to us.” Some murmers started around the room. “We have determined this section,” the image of the asteroid rotated around to show the high gravity section with its markings and the circles of 6 gold pads with the mount points in the middle of each one “is some sort of mount point.  The rectangle in the middle has a higher than expected gravity we expect is artificially created as well and we caution you to stay clear of that area.”

“Wait!” Mikhail Leonov of the Ukrainian Company jumped to his feet and exclaimed “Did you just say ‘artificial gravity’?” the room erupted in chatter.

The commander waited a moment “Calm down.” Another moment and she raised her voice “Calm Down!” the chatter grew a little more intense so the commander finally yelled “CALM DOWN!” She waited as the room quieted down.

“Yes, Mikhail, I said artificial gravity.  We should expect darned near anything when dealing with alien technology.  That is why you need to stay clear of this region and specifically those rings of gold circles.  We are setting up a bot to investigate those things to determine what they are and see if we can figure out what they do.”  The display switched to a list of the minerals detected and their content “Now to the question of all that carbon.” She waited for the room to quiet down again. “It is clearly too densely packed to be life forms.  In fact it looks like there is a huge diamond at the core of that thing.” Chatter started back up and the commander waited for it to calm down. “Don’t start checking your bank accounts yet, we still don’t know how to get in to it nor anything about any security systems.  Don’t forget, one of our surveyors was vaporized.  As far as we can tell he shorted out some power contacts, but we don’t know.  So just focus on retrieving that ice and keeping it as clean as possible.  Blast the dust off the outer shell and block it up while keeping an eye out for anything… interesting.  We expect operations to re-start in approximately 8 hours and we will keep you informed.”

The display switched to Captain Calhoun “Any questions?”

Chen Zhou of the Chinese Consortium stood up “What about the communications blackout?”

“Ahhh yes, that.” The captain cleared his throat. “The direct communications blackout will continue for at least the next 24 hours but you should probably expect at least 48 hours.” Chatter started back up “You are free to lodge your complaints with my office and you can still communicate with your groups by going through our channels.  But I caution you to please understand the very sensitive nature of the information we have here.  We don’t want a panic back home.  And if you don’t think it can happen, I will inform you that my wife here on the station freaked out and almost hurt somebody.  We don’t want any more of that here or back home.” He let them chatter for a minute “And George,” He directly addressed George Calvin of the African Alliance “Your crew will get their Amateur Radio back as soon as the blackout is lifted.  It is well protected and we want you to get back to talking to those school kids as soon as we can.”

“I’m going to hold you to that!” George showed remarkable restraint.

“I expect nothing less.” The captain smiled “That is all I have for now.  We will keep you updated as we have more information.”

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 51:

“YEEEEEEHHHAAAAAAAWWWWW!!!” rang through the bridge as it emitted from the radio.

“AHH, our tow shuttle has their first cable attached.” Captain Calhoun couldn’t help but laugh.

The entire bridge crew laughed as well.  They all knew who broadcast that yell and why.  All of them couldn’t help but feel a tad bit of jealousy.  The riggers always got a great ride with a great view during the process of setting up asteroids for towing.

The captain punched up the intercom “Lab 4, Bridge.”

“Go ahead bridge.” The commander sounded relaxed.

“Did you get out of your suit yet, Kim?” The captain lightly inquired.

“Sure did, and I just got back from the head.” She was keeping it fun with the captain.

“Glad you are comfortable now.” He let out a little guffaw “So what is our schedule with the tow shuttle?”

“According to their report just as they were starting to rig it up they should start towing in 30 minutes or so.” She paused a moment. “I have a plot for them to bring it along side the other one.”

“How long do you expect that to take?” He was checking shift schedules.

“Twelve to twenty four hours.” She hesitated “depending.”

“Depending on what?”

“Mass.”  She shifted her tone to uncertainty. “We have no idea how much mass those things have.  And we don’t know how much force we can really place on those anchors.”

“Understood.”  The captain switched to the transport schedules. “What do we know about that transport explosion?”

“The preliminary report says it was an oxidizer tank rupture that caused a leak in a fuel line.” The commander tried to sound confident. “I have ordered class 1 inspections of all transport craft before they can launch again.”

“Class 1?  Is that really necessary?” He was skeptical.

“I believe it is sir.” Kim was nervous now.

The captain thought it over a minute.  The extra time meant more information, and information is what he needed before dealing with the mining consortium. “You have my full support for that order, commander.  I will enter that into the log and inform the consortium that there is a delay until the conclusion of your investigation.”

“Thank you, sir.” Kim was relieved now. “We’ll get the investigation concluded as quickly as possible.”

“Take your time and get the job done right, commander.” He said with an air of full confidence.

Kim knew the captain was ‘pumping up the troops’ but she appreciated the support. “Yes Sir. We will have the full reports as soon as possible.”

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 50:

Tim helped Sam finish sealing up her suit and ran the enviro-pack systems check.  “You sure you want to set the cables?” he looked a little worried “I’d be glad to do it.”

“I’ll take it.” She smiled. “You’re the better pilot and you’ll be able to keep the shuttle closer so we’ll get this done quicker.”

“Alright, just don’t take any chances.” He blew her a kiss through their helmets since they were both fully suited up now for safety reasons.

The radio lit up “Shuttle 2, Albatross station.” Commander Dickerson’s voice rang out.

Tim checked his comm link and activated the radio “Go ahead Albatross.”

“I need a status report, I’m showing you should be on station now.”

“We are on station over the first anchor.” He checked the probe status. “Sam is about to set out to hook up the first cable.  The last two anchors will be set by the probe in 10 and 15 minutes respectively.  We should be able to start towing in 30 to 40 minutes, maybe sooner.”

“Why is Sam hooking up the cables?” The commander sounded concerned.

“She wanted to do it.” He looked over and saw Sam closing the airlock door and activating it. “She doesn’t like flying these things close to asteroids.”  He verified the airlock was operating properly. “And she likes surfing the hull when moving between the anchors.” He chuckled.

“I nearly forgot she was a rigger on her first tours out here.”  The commander chuckled herself.  “I’ll bet she’s gonna’ love skimming that thing.”

“I’m planning to give her the best ride I can.”  He saw the outer airlock hatch open indicator light up and activated the observation camera on the display just as Sam was exiting the hatch.  “Sam is leaving the airlock right now so I’m going to get busy now.   I’ll report back when we are hooked up and start towing.”

“Acknowledged Shuttle 2, we’ll talk to you when you start towing.”

Tim turned his attention to the control console and fed out the tow cable for Sam to take to the anchor point.

Sam closed the airlock and activated her EVA pack.  She navigated over to the end of the tow cable, attached a line to it and headed for the anchor.  Tim had the shuttle positioned a little less than a kilometer away and she could see her target without having to have it illuminated.

“You could have got us a lot closer.” She jibbed Tim.

“I wanted to be careful on the first run.” He was only mildly annoyed “I’ll move within 300 meters by the time you head back.”

“You can do better than that.” She scanned around the area.  The asteroid was over two kilometers in diameter and over twenty kilometers long so, as close as they were, it created its own horizons. “This thing is smooth as a bowling ball, make it 100 meters.”

“100 meters it is.”  He knew she just wanted the thrill of standing on the hull that close to the asteroid as the ship maneuvered to the next anchor, but he was willing to indulge her.

Sam wasted no time getting to the anchor, locked the cable to it with all of the speed and competency of the master rigger she was, and launched herself back toward the shuttle.  She navigated herself to the front of the shuttle.  She set her magnetic boots right behind the observation port of the cockpit on the asteroid side, leaned forward so she could look in at Tim and waved to him.  “Hit it baby!” she exclaimed.

Tim activated the thrusters and punched up “Born To Be Wild” through the radio for her.

Sam straightened up as the ship lurched forward and she shouted into the radio on the broadcast channel “YEEEEEEHHHAAAAAAAWWWWW!!!” with a huge grin on her face.
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Friday, March 21, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 49:

Commander Dickerson reviewed the few minutes around the explosion on transport 5 one more time then activated the radio link “Bay 1, lab 4.”

“Go ahead lab 4.” the operator was obviously annoyed.

“I need the preliminary report on what happened to transport 5,” She checked the mining crew rosters “And the status of the crews.”

“Sending it now Ma’am.” He tried to sound professional “But we have a real mess here right now.”

“Acknowledged.” She went into full command mode “We need to know as much as we can as soon as we can to prevent problems like this in the future.”

“Yes Ma’am, we’ll get all of the information to you as soon as we get it.  Would you like a live feed of the investigation?” That was clearly sarcastic, but it was a calculated risk.

“No, but I will need the full lab report of your next bowel movement.” She shot back.

“Excuse me?” He was definitely nervous now.

“Chill sailor.  I know you’ve got a lot on your hands but I am trying to prevent further problems and I need information quickly.” Her voice was calm and measured “And that means I need your help to do that.  Understood?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He was relaxed now “We’ll get you what you need as soon as we have it.”

“Very Well, lab 4 out.” She couldn’t wait to get out of the space suit but the alert was still active.

She activated the link to Captain Stewart “Gwen have you figured out which bot we should send out?”

“Hi Kimmie.” She cheerfully responded “I think I found the perfect one.  It has all of the instruments we should need.  I’ll send the serial number to you.  We’ll need one of the transports to take it out there for us.”

“I’ll set that up.”  She called up the transport schedule “Any idea what happened to transport 5?”

“It looks like the oxidizer tank ruptured.” She sounded thoughtful.

“They got a lot of thrust for a simple tank leak.” Kim was skeptical.

“If the oxidizer tank exploded it could have caused a fuel leak that ignited.” Gwen speculated. “We need that investigation report to really be sure.”

“I’m grounding all transports until we have that report.” Kim determined.

“Good Idea.” Gwen checked the flight schedules. “So have we heard from our favorite love birds recently?”

“I was just about to get a status report.” Kim noticed the shuttle was approaching the second asteroid. “I’ll get back to you when I have their report.” And she switched off the link.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 48:

The bridge was buzzing with activity.  All personnel were suited up and on isolated environment packs making the already tight compartment even more difficult to move in.

Captain Calhoun floated in through the airlock and closed the door.  He looked out the observation port in time to see fragments of the dome panel drift out in to space. “Commander!  Find out what is happening in bay 1 and get a repair crew ready to replace that panel.” He flipped his radio interlink to the transport ops channel “T-Ops, Bridge.  Status report.”

Lt. Aiko replied “All personnel accounted for and on station.  The compartment is depressurized and we are missing a panel from the dome.  Airlock is functioning and locked down. We are guiding transport 2 to bay 3 and transport 4 to bay 2.  We still don’t have status from bay 1.”

“Very well.” The captain switched back to the bridge radio channel. “Alright people, stay sharp.  This is about the time something really bad happens.” He was trying to be jovial in light of the events.

“Captain.” The commander announced through the radio “Bay 1 reports they have both transports secured and crews are working to rescue the miners now.  No information yet on injuries.”

“Stay on top of it commander.” The captain looked around the compartment. “Keep the station on collision alert until all of the transports are docked.” He made a cursory glance at the meeting schedule “Yeoman, push back all meetings 30 minutes.” He checked the transport schedule and switched the radio channel. “T-Ops, all operations are now delayed by at least 30 minutes, but expect that to be at least an hour.”

“Roger that bridge.” Lt. Aiko tried to sound confident “What is the estimate on the repair crew?”

The captain checked the maintenance crew status “A repair bot should be there in a minute to verify the panel and inspect the mounts.  The new panel should be ready in 2 hours and it will probably be installed before the end of the shift.”

“Thanks Bridge.”

“Commander.” The captain checked the plans for the remaining two transports. “Leave the collision alert on until the last two transports are securely docked. I don’t want to take any chances.”

“Aye Sir.”

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 47:

Transport 5 slammed into the back of transport 3.  Grappling arms on both transports grabbed on to the other ship.  Both pilots activated retro thrusters and tried to null the rotation.  Transport 5 continued to leak out the back producing forward and rotational thrust.  The scanners and cameras on Albatross station focused on the two craft.

“Transport 5, Albatross station.” Lt Xi was back at his post fully suited.

Lt. Brown fully suited and isolated from the environment floated by Lt. Aiko.  He activated his external speaker “Your turn, Sir.  Everyone else is suited up.”

“Transport 5, Albatross station.” Lt Xi repeated his hail.

Lt. Aiko pulled himself out of his station and headed for his suit.

“Hurry up Lieutenant!” Lt. Brown shouted through his speaker “They are coming in a lot hotter than we were expecting!”

Lt. Aiko struggled to get into his suit as he looked out and saw the transports bearing in on the station. He could see that they were headed in much faster than expected, but looked to be on course for bay 1.  That is when he saw the space suit tethered to transport 5 and that it was headed straight for the dome.  He hastened his effort to seal up his suit. As he slammed his helmet on and started locking it he announced through the radio link “Depressurize this compartment!”  His environment pack was not yet activated but he knew he had a few minutes to complete that.

Transport 3 had full thrust on all retro thrusters as the two craft headed toward bay 1.  The recovery net was stretched across the middle of the bay and could catch anything that crossed the threshold.  Emergency crews lined all sides of the bay.  Everyone knew the possibility of survival from this type of recovery was low.

Lt. Aiko struggled to strap himself into his control seat and fumbled with his environment pack just as the space suited body slammed into a dome panel, breaking it.  The remaining cabin pressure blew the plexi-panel outward and finished venting the atmosphere to space.  The body was pulled away as the transports entered bay 1, leaving an observation dome panel destroyed and the transport operations center in vacuum.

“All personnel check in.” Lt. Aiko was concerned about his crew.

Beginning of Story

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 46:

“Lt. Aiko,” Lt. Brown announced “The first transport is docking in bay 2.” He was reviewing the flight paths of the incoming transports.

“Very Well.” Lt. Aiko looked up to watch the transport enter the bay. “Remember that bay 4 is full up with ice processing so don’t send any transports there.”

“I remember that.” Lt. Brown rolled his eyes “I’ve been scheduling the ice transports all day.” He grumbled.

“Did you remember to change your socks and underwear this morning?” Lt. Aiko jabbed.

Lt. Xi was taking a sip of coffee at the time.  As a result, he spewed coffee through his nose all over his console in front of him.  The chain reaction of laughter around the compartment left the entire crew gasping for air.

The observation camera spun around and panned the room.

“What the hell is going on in there?” Captain Calhoun’s voice boomed through the compartment.

Lt. Aiko quickly composed himself. “Sorry captain, I inadvertently convinced Lt. Xi to wash his console with his coffee.”

Half of the compartment fought to choke back a laugh.

“Well I’m sorry I missed that.” The captain’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Just get yourselves together and keep track of those transports.  We are on a tight schedule with tired personnel and that tends to lead to mistakes.” He was quite serious.

“Aye Sir.” Lt. Aiko replied. “Alright people, back to business.”

Lt. Aiko looked up at the line of transports headed toward the station just in time to see the explosion at the back of transport 5 causing it to rapidly accelerate toward the station.

“Holy Shit!” Lt. Brown shouted.

Lt. Xi punched the radio “Transport 5, status report.”

Lt. Aiko punched the radio button “Transport 4, can you get a tow cable on transport 5?”

“We’ll try.” The transport 4 pilot responded.

“This is transport 3, I think we can get in front of them and help them slow down.”

“Do it!” Lt. Aiko shouted into the radio “Transport 2, abort your approach and get out of the way!” He checked the schedule and activated the intercom “Bay 1, get a net up and have damage and medical crews standing by.” He switched to the bridge “Bridge, T-Ops.  We have an emergency and a potentially out of control transport on the way in.”

Transport 3 maneuvered in front of transport 5.  The pilot skillfully matched the rotation and moved the grappling arms around toward the rear of the vessel.

“Albatross station, transport 4.  They got by us before I could launch the tow cable.  And they are still leaking something so they are probably accelerating.”

“Acknowledged transport 4.” Lt. Xi checked the flight paths “Abort your approach and hold off.”

“T-Ops, Bridge.” The intercom lit up “What is the severity of the situation?”

Lt. Aiko composed himself and activated the intercom “Transport 5 has had an explosion and is apparently out of control and accelerating.  Transport 3 is attempting to intercept and guide them in.  Bay 1 is alerted.  Prepare the station for collision.”

The collision alarm activated.  Klaxons sounded off, flashing amber lights lit up.  All of the airlocks activated and locked down tight.  Every person on the station headed for their space suits.

“Stay calm everyone.” Lt. Aiko used his best command voice “One at a time get to your suits and get back on station, we still have a problem to work.  MOVE!”

“Albatross Station, Transport 3.  We are in position and will intercept in approximately 2 minutes.”

“Very well Transport 3.” Lt. Xi checked bay 1 status “Grab them and head for the catcher’s mitt.  They are ready for you.”

“Got it Albatross.  We’ll bring them in.” The pilot sounded like he was trying to convince himself.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 45:

“Captain,” Lt. Commander Sinkh reported “The tractor shuttle is departing bay 3.”

“Very well.” The captain responded “Has the probe mapped out the gravity anomaly on the target yet?”

“Yes sir, it just completed the mapping.” The commander said while studying his console.

“Good.” He checked a few things “When is the mining shift change?”

The commander punched up the schedule and studied it for a minute “They just started departing. The first transports will be arriving in around 45 minutes.”

“That sounds about right.” He looked out the view port and watched the shuttle depart “Inform the crews the pilots need to be at the de-briefing as well.”  He looked down to check the departure schedule “Inform the next shift the pre-launch briefing will be in 90 minutes and the new pilots will need to be there as well.”

“Aye, sir.” the commander started sending the notifications out.

“Ensign,” The captain looked in her direction “Where is the Reykjavik?”

She checked her console “She is 20 hours out and has started decelerating.  She is reporting control issues with a few thrusters and wants to have a repair crew available to assist.”

“Hmmm,” He thought a moment “Tell her the crew will be ready, and guide her approach twice as far away as usual.  We’ll tow her closer once she stops.”

“Aye, Sir.” She started the communication.

The intercom lit up “Bridge, Security.”

The captain punched the button “Go ahead security.”

“There is somebody freaking out on the mess deck.” The guard sounded nervous.

The captain casually responded “Ok, knock him out and get him to sick bay.  Try to calm everyone else down.”

“It’s your wife, sir.”

“Oh shit!” the captain facepalmed.  He gathered himself a moment. “Then she gets a private room!” he tried to sound professional. “That reminds me, Commander Sinkh, please make sure the schedule for the resupply is posted on the doors to cargo 34, we don’t want to be bringing in supplies in the middle of an orgy … again.”

“Aye, sir.” The commander choked back a laugh.

“And Commander, you have the con.” He unstrapped himself “I have to go find out what is wrong with the Mrs.”

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 44:

Commander Dickerson entered the lab “So what have you discovered?”

“Hello Kim.” Tim rotated the hologram around “Take a look at this.” He gestured toward the markings.

“That looks like a docking reference.” She pondered.

Sam chimed in “That is also the region of the gravity anomaly.”

“Gravity anomaly?” Kim floated over to her console “How big of an anomaly?”

“The crew captain said he wasn’t Galileo,” Tim called up some numbers “but the best guess is 1/10th to 1/20th of Earth normal gravity.”

“Well we know what happened to Gwen.” Kim shifted around “OK, I’ll take it from here.  You two get to go on a little excursion.”

Sam looked up “Excursion?”

Tim scowled “I take it we aren’t going to the supermarket for milk and eggs.”

“Nope.” Kim tried to be upbeat “You get to take a tow shuttle and go get the other one.  You can use the probe out there for off side thrust.”

“That’s going to take a while.” Sam was frowning now.

Tim checked some figures on the tow shuttle “That’s going to take at least a day just for transport, plus the time it takes to get it rigged up.”

“So you had better get going.”  Kim looked back to her console “And make sure you take plenty of supplies, just in case.”

“What exactly do you mean by ‘just in case’” Sam was really not happy now.

“We don’t know the exact mass.” She looked over to Sam “We don’t know how much force we can exert on the anchors.  We don’t know how much offsetting thrust we can really get from the probe.  And there are at least a dozen other factors that we just don’t know about.”

“Fair enough.” Sam relaxed a bit.

“We’ll get loaded up and notify you when we launch.” Tim was resigned to this task now.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 43:

Captain Calhoun stepped into Captain Stewart’s room.  Commander Dickerson was talking to Captain Stewart when he walked in.

“How are you doing Gwen?” He tried to look cheerful.

“I’m doing better now.” She smiled.

“What was wrong?” He stepped to the side of the bed.

“They missed the ruptured spleen.” She rolled her eyes.

The captain was confused “How did they miss that?”   

“I was unconscious when I got here.” She shrugged “And when I came to I was doped up to the gills.”

“Did they get it figured out?”

“I think so.” She grabbed the tablet Sam and Tim gave her “We were just going over the plan of what we are going to do with that thing.”

“I want to go get the other one.” Kim spoke up.

“I agree.” Captain Calhoun concurred “We can park it next to the one we have now and figure out what to do with it then.”

“Send Sam and Tim in a tractor shuttle to go get it.” Gwen looked at her tablet. “I’m patched into the lab from here.” She checked the schedules “Kimmie, you take over the lab and let’s figure out if we have something to inspect that thing with.”

“What do you have in mind for inspecting it?” Kim looked expectantly.

“Something like the repair ‘bots that Tim is currently reviewing.” She smiled.

“Alright Gwen,” Captain Calhoun turned to leave “I’ll be on the bridge and leave these details to you.” He looked back with a stern face “But don’t stress yourself too much, you need to get your rest.” He smiled at the end.

“Aye Captain.” She looked up from the tablet. “I’ll take it easy, but we have work to do here.”

“Very Well.” He left the room.

“Ok Kimmie.” Gwen had a devilish smile “Tell Tim and Sam they are going on an …” she thought for a moment “excursion.”

“Why do I have to tell them?” Kim was not amused.

“Because I out rank you.” Gwen smiled and winked.

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Beginning of Story

Friday, March 14, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 42:

“Sam, take a look at this.” Tim punched up the overhead image from the probe on the hologram “Doesn’t that marking look like a docking target?”

She looked up, spun around slowly and floated up and around the image. “Sure does.” She drifted around a little bit “How big is that gravitational anomaly?”

“Roughly the size of those markings.”

“Hmmm.” She looked over it a bit more “Where is the pad that vaporized that surveyor?”

“Right here.” He lit up the spot on the hologram.

“It’s right in line with those markings.” She floated through the hologram to her console “Wanna bet there is another one on the other end of it?”

“You mean right about…” he punched some buttons lighting up a ring “here?”

“Exactly.” She turned back to her console “Let me get a team to that zone.”

“Don’t forget to tell them to be careful about those pads.” He reminded her.

“Already part of the plan.” She reassured him.

“Do we have anything out there that can analyze what is going on with those contact pads?” Tim looked up to the hologram.

“You mean like a voltmeter?” Sam was concentrating.

“I mean like a logic analyzer, a voltmeter, a signal generator and a digital interface with very high impedance.” He punched up the video of the surveyors last moments “With 6 probes and a way to lock on to that mount point.”

“You don’t want much.” Sam said sarcastically.

“I try to be easy.” He smiled over to Sam.

“I’m sure Captain Stewart would agree.” She jabbed, smiling back at him.

“Look who’s talking.” They blew kisses at one another.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

What happened to my Asteroid? Section 41:

“Captain,” Lieutenant Commander Sinkh called out “The report from lab 4 is available.”

“Thank you Commander.” Captain Calhoun responded “Let’s see what we are working with.”

The bridge crew worked to handle some resupply operations, bringing in ice for processing, mining operations crew shifts, and some long range probe operations.  In other words, a normal day.

“Captain,” Lt. Commander Sinkh reported “Supply ship Reykjavik is about 24 hours out and is requesting instructions.”

 “Tell them to remain on course to quadrant 1.” The captain checked his charts “We’ll check in with them in 12 hours with any additional information.”

“Aye Sir.”

The captain punched the switch for the intercom to docking bay 5 “Ok you two, sorry to cut you short but we are going to have a resupply in 24 hours and we need that bay ready.”

“Aye Captain.  We’ll be ready.”

“Get rested, and make sure the cargo compartments are ready to receive supplies.” The captain was clearly concerned about his crew.

“Yes sir.” The operator was confident “we will be ready.”

The captain shifted his focus to the report from lab 4.  He was not happy. He manipulated the image of the asteroid around and checked the locations of each of the mining crews.

“Ensign, how far away is that second asteroid.” He was concentrating on the image of the one they were working on.

“Second asteroid is just over a hundred thousand kilometers away sir.” He was adjusting his console.

“Thank you ensign.” He punched up the intercom “Lab 4, bridge.”

“Go ahead captain.” Sam replied.

“I need to talk to commander Dickerson.” He was focused on his console.

“She went to sick bay.” Sam said “Captain Stewart was asking for her.”

“Very well.”  He grumbled a bit “Thanks Lab 4.”  He checked his console once more “Commander Sinkh, you have the con, I’ll be in sick bay.”

“Aye Sir.” The commander shifted away from his console toward the captain’s chair.

The captain quickly headed for the door.

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