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Friday, March 6, 2015

Seaman First Class Hardaway ( A Tale of Earth 52.5)

The once white now grey mop head pushes the water around the endless curved corridor
The one centimeter slot that opened up as needed wherever cleaning was going on drained the excess water that found its way to it
Located dead center in the floor of the corridor
With a one quarter degree slope to the floor on either side
All the better to guide liquids where needed

The simple Maple wood handle attached to the mop was gripped in uncertain hands
That were not willing to lose their grip
Seemingly relishing the raising of several blisters from repetitive motion upon the wood grain

Water dripping into the drainage collected in small catch basins
To be gravity fed into the processing facility in the center of the ship
Which meant a vertical drop of 300 meters
Only fifteen meters shy of the radius of the ship sphere proper
Which would be measured properly from the other side of the thick bulkhead skin that formed the ceiling of the corridor

Gravity
Yet another relative luxury afforded the crews of the Pythia class ships
Equipped with powerplants based heavily upon those found on the Deimos a century ago
And having as a byproduct of their operation that little thing called gravity

It was artificial
Sure
But that almost made it all the more magical from an engineering standpoint

Need to have an area with low gravity or even no gravity for some reason?
No problem
Just adjust the prismatic controls in the deck plating
Which flies in the face of reason and logic

But no more so than a powerplant that emits a limited radius gravitational force

None of that mattered too much to our Janitorial Grade Seaman First Class here
(I know, the Naval ranking system makes little sense away from Earth sometimes; but the designation 'Spaceman First Class' never quite caught on)
As he was feeling some pretty serious pangs of homesickness

The Pythia was now sixteen folds out in her journey to an adjacent arm of the Milky Way
And currently in a fairly empty part of space

At the conclusion of each fold
Which was a fairly simple operation in and of itself
No different than going from Earth to Venus or Mars
But it was the magnitude of going one whole astronomical unit* at a go
Was what was giving everyone on board a bit of pause

Scout ships were sent to the destination coordinates each time 
Spaced one ED** apart
To take 360 degree readings and immediately return with the data
And after the area had been cleared the Pythia followed

After arrival
A minimum of seventy two hours had to be spent fixing their new position
Since the relative position to reference stars had changed so dramatically
To say nothing of the subjective position of the stars due to the change in their apparent positions from the hundreds of light years worth of position shift

After the present position had been approximated
A new bearing was taken to their destination
And a point two hundred light years further on was chosen
Scout ships sent out
Data verified
Fold performed

It was determined that they were taking a slightly curved approach to their target
But due to time and distance distortional relative movements of the Galaxy
Such a path couldn't be helped 
And all things considered
Was the safest way to go

Bringing us back around to our intrepid man in the corridor once again
Cleaning the floor
And now wiping away a tear
Feeling so far from what was once home that he gets a little dizzy trying to picture it

So he stops and puts the mop into the bucket firmly
Sitting himself down purposefully in the middle of the hall next to the drain slot
Bringing his left hand up to tap a light practiced rhythm on his earpiece
Calling out quietly "Janice?" as he did so

"Hello Jerry!" a perky brunette voice answered "How's it going?"

"Not great" Jerry replied
Sinking even deeper into his funk
"I need to talk"

"Always, honey" the disembodied woman reassured in a way that would have made anyone a believer

Jerry started pouring his problems out to Janice
His voice echoing softly down the corridor
Unapologetically sharing his fears with his personal AI

Pythia hung in featureless space
Her main flight deck alive with technicians tending to the slowly dwindling fleet of scout ships
Readying them for the next scout out which was only twenty two hours away

Six computers worked with each other across three decks
Networked with an ad hoc data cable system
Crunching the data imagery
Observations becoming numbers
Numbers becoming predictions
Placing the ship upon the map relative to points of reference

All the while
The mop water drained into the recycler
Going through strainers filters and tubes
Heated
Evaporated
Condensed
And poured into a glass for the Captain to drink

Held in a light grip
As his old eyes looked out at nothing

Waiting


*One astronautical unit; is simply a literary device at this point and a more realistic term and distance will be found

**ED = Earth Diameter